Saturday, December 27, 2014

Guest blogger Pendrah Gilson: No Shoulds

Back in our 'hippy' days, my husband and I were 'seekers'. We studied so many Eastern and Western spiritual paths, we could have become smug. We went so far as to give up all our stuff and go to an ashram in Arizona with our two year old. To make a long lived life short, no matter what we studied, it always boiled down to three actions to have a calm, spiritual, happyish life: eat good stuff (see Longevity Kitchen by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson), meditate (any kind that works for you), and exercise (whatever kind keeps you moving 30 or more minutes per day without causing the dreaded ennui). All of which helped lead us to right thought which is everything.

And so it is in writing. No matter how much I write (a  lot of skits, poems, songs for school; guest blogs-only two so far; letters; essays and stories-not yet published) or how much my friends write (and get published--Sunny Fraizer, Christy Bristol mysteries and Che Gilson, Carmine Rojas, Dog Fight) it all seems to come down to the same things:

1. Positive self-talk. Tell yourself what you want to hear: "I can...", "I am...", "I will..." Forward thinking. See yourself where you want to be whether it's giving a book talk for your newly published book or going on a spending spree with your earnings, or sitting at home reading an e-mail from a friend thanking you for writing. Revel in even the thought of success (no matter how you describe it to yourself) not failure.

2. Ignore the 'shoulds', even those that come from you. You are you and it is okay to write how much you write each day, how many websites you peruse, how many contacts you make. Your style, your format, your energy. You will know when it's time to try something else. You can listen to 'experts' without shoulding yourself to death, Assimilate what you are told then decide what you will try. "If you want to be successful, you need to write six (five, ten, one, etc.) hour per day" is merely a suggestion. No matter what you think success consists of, there is more than one way to achieve it.

3. You don't have to be the best writer in order to make a living writing. If that were the case, there might be a hundred or so writers per generation and as you all know, that is not the case. Like any other joyful work people do, you learn your craft, practice, and keep learning.

4. Focus on the joy of writing and you will have the energy and clarity to see opportunity. Focus on what you want out of writing, not what you don't want.

5. Be prepared to be challenged, to move out of your comfort zone. Whether you see success as making a living writing, writing for your own edification, or writing letters to the editor, there will be opportunities to move beyond where you are now.

No matter what you are doing, whether it's writing or doctoring or whatever, making your life successful (however you define that) will usually consist of positive self-talk, focusing on the joy of the job rather than 'shoulds', realizing that you don't have to always be the best to contribute, and being prepared to be stretched beyond where you are.

Hey, mostly, just write!

Pendrah Gilson is a native Montanan, one-time teacher on a Native American reservation, GATE teacher/trainer, VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts Resource Teacher), 'regular' teacher, now a sub trying to be a retired person so she can write and do other stuff.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Setting as Character

I recently had to write an article on setting and this made me reflect on some of my writing. Most reviewers of Café au Lait, from professionals in magazines to random readers on Amazon, have commented on the role of setting in the novel. This is not something I set out to do intentionally--at least not that I can recall--but the setting of that story, Trinidad and Tobago, is so much a part of my psyche that there was no way I could write a novel where the place, time and social context were not significantly intertwined with the psyche of the main character. Setting is ever-present, not simply as a picturesque backdrop but influencing the thoughts, feelings and actions of the characters. The impact of the setting was brought home to me when one reviewer on Amazon UK said she followed the characters around on Google Maps while reading the story.

When I compare that novel with my second romance title, there is a striking difference. This one is set in South Florida, and although I spent close to two years there the place is not so much a part of me as my homeland is, and this distance shows. Is the setting a character in Give Me the Night? I like to think it is, but here it plays the role of a minor character and not a main character as in the first novel.

When I look at other stories I have written that are set outside of Trinidad and Tobago, the settings tend to play minor roles (with the exception of one post-apocalyptic story). Then I glance at my recent short stories set in my country and here again, the setting tends to play a major role. In two works in progress, now that I think about it, the setting is the main character. How does this happen? With me it's an intuitive process that apparently depends on my familiarity with and attachment to the setting.

What elevates setting to the status of character in a story? Based on my own experience, I'd say it's a combination of the following:
  • The use of telling details that create images of place, time and context (the basic function of setting).
  • The use of elements of the setting as symbols of important themes or issues within the story.
  • The use of pathetic fallacy which is the perception of nature as sentient--sympathetic or responsive to human issues in the story. (Examples: the angry sky, stealthy shadows, uncaring desert, the rain as tears...)
  • Characters' emotions, thoughts, and/or actions being affected, catalyzed or constrained by elements of the setting.
  • The setting changes over time, just as a well-drawn character must.
  • In other words, making the setting personal, and not simply a static background. 
My favorite stories are almost always those in which the setting lives and breathes and deepens the tales in memorable ways. In my own writing, although much of it is still intuitive--at least in the first draft--by the time I get to the editing phase one of the things I check for is an active setting that works as a reflection of, an ally, an antagonist, mentor or source of inspiration to the other main character(s).

How do you handle the issue of setting in your writing, and how important is it to your enjoyment of a story?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Holiday Gifts for Writers

Yep, it’s that time again! The festive season once more is upon us, and depending on which holiday you care to observe, chances are that gifts are going to be exchanged.

It’s also that time of year when you receive a lot of wanted and/or unwelcome advice about what gifts to get for those special people in your life. Gifts for kids, for parents, for significant others, the mail carrier, the guy who cuts your grass or cleans out your gutters, your kid’s teachers, and so on and so forth. We also get a lot of tips on gifts to get for someone based on their chosen vocation, which brings us to why I’ve gathered you all here today.

(Yes, I know that, “Gathered you all here today,” really means, “I posted this and hoped you might read it on your way to something more interesting,” but the other way sounded so much cooler when I read this out loud.)

So, what to get the writer in your life? Maybe you’re the writer in the lives of those around you, and you’re hoping they might see fit to give you something useful or desired as you chase your muse. With that in mind

NOTE: Some of these are “for realz,” and others less so. I leave you to decide which is which:

Books! Every writer loves books, right? We all need to let our mind recharge after a long day at the office or a weekend spent pushing through to meet a grueling deadline. Leisure reading is still a preferred method of relaxation for many people, especially writers. One suggestion I’ve seen elsewhere is giving a book that has a special meaning to you, as a cherished title—perhaps something you’ve loved since childhood—offers insight into your own reading tastes. Meanwhile, an autographed copy from the recipient’s favorite author is usually a guaranteed home run.

Tea, Coffee, or other Favorite Beverage. Whether it’s black coffee, herbal tea, and/or hot cocoa, we all have our fuel; the special elixir that helps get the words moving. I’m partial to vodka, served intravenously, with the occasional diversion toward Monster Energy Drink if I’m really in the zone and want to keep typing until my fingers bleed. Whatever the nectar of choice, just start it flowing. We’ll tell you when to stop.

Water bottle. Carrying on from the previous idea, I’m not talking about those designer bottles with the formed handgrips or the retractable straws or the ones with a compass, survival matches, emergency poncho, lightsaber, and ninja stars packed into the lid. Instead, I mean one of those jobs like they use in hamster cages, with the tube extending from its bottom and the little ball on the end. These should hold a gallon of water (or, again, preferred beverage), and be mounted above the writer’s desk or other workspace. Be sure to follow the instructions for proper cleaning.

Notebooks/writing pads. There’s something about good, old-fashioned pen and paper that almost always gets my creative juices flowing. Many a story has begun as a series of hastily scribbled notes on a legal pad or one of those composition books like we used in elementary school. I still use them today. Something a bit fancier, though, makes for a simple yet elegant gift. Oh, and they’re also handy for making lists, such as things to buy at the grocery store, or household chores you hate doing but suddenly find compelling when faced with getting some actual writing done. Tell me I’m wrong.

Food. Face it: Writers tend to eat like crap, particularly if we’re neck deep in a story and all other considerations and priorities have been rescinded. If we’re not skipping meals, then we’re eating junky snacks. Feed us, for crying out loud. We’re writers, so we’re poor. Take us out to lunch once in a while. This has the added benefit of exposing us to social interaction with other members of our species, which works out for everybody.

Shock Collar. You know the ones I mean: They link with a wire that’s run around the perimeter of your yard, and if you put the collar on your dog it gets a little jolt if it wanders too close to the “invisible fence.” I think something like this is marvelous for writers who are always finding excuses not to write. You can zap them when their fingers stray too far from their keyboards. I have friends who tell me these things can also be used recreationally, but that’s none of my business.

Sweatpants. Because the best writing is always accomplished in a soft, comfortable pair of sweatpants, assuming you haven’t yet mastered the art of writing without pants of any kind.

Chocolate. For better or worse, I think this one’s rather self-explanatory (see “Food”).

Books About Writing. These are always appreciated by serious writers, who are always students and never stop learning how to improve their craft. However, serious writers also tend to hate those plodding, pretentious tomes that spend too much time whining about how writing is art and it has to grow and suffer and be nurtured, blah blah blah. Writers who write want to know how to get on with the writing and finish what they’ve started so they can get on with writing something else, while figuring out how to repeat those first two steps as often as possible. They want books with titles like Get off Your Butt and Write Right Now, which may not be the title of a book anywhere in the known universe except my head. Still, I figure there’s something out there following a similar theme.

Massage. I have to admit, I saw this one on another list and thought it was a great idea. There’s nothing better for working the kinks out of shoulder and lower back muscles after you’ve spent a month or more pounding your keyboard to finish that novel. I happen to be a big fan of Thai massage, which lets the therapist bend and twist me in all sorts of innovative ways while allowing me to retain my clothing (see “Sweatpants”) and therefore some small shred of dignity. Your mileage may vary.

Okay, as you’ve hopefully deduced well before now, I wanted to have a bit of fun with the typical lists of this sort we see every year. However, most of these actually do make great gifts for that writer on your shopping list (I’m still on the fence about the shock collar). Be you gift giver or hopeful recipient, do you have your own suggestions, sincere or otherwise?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Blogs: The Good, the Bad and the Boring

(I wrote this piece for Buried Under Books and Liane asked if I would re-post it over here. I'm glad Liane liked it so much and felt it was worth sharing. Oh, and I gave a shout-out to Novel Spaces!)

The word “blog” is the abbreviated form of “web log.” First appearing in the mid-90's, they became an equal opportunity promoter. Here was a chance to explore one's thoughts and share with the world.

I'm one of these people who holds back when new things appear on the horizon. Unless the idea is of my own concoction, I wait and watch the pros and cons play out. I had a suspicion that writers would burn out quickly if they tried to keep up a daily or even weekly blog. It would suck up time and the well would run dry of ideas.

Yep, that's what happened. Bloggers started reaching out to other writers to fill their pages. I was willing to hop on board that train. When Lelia asked me to be a returning guest blogger, I was more than content to contribute content every 6 weeks. I also committed to blogging over at Novel Spaces once a month and the occasional guest blog elsewhere.

I believe less of me is more than enough. I want readers and fans to look forward to my rants just to see what I'll say next. If I'm going to take the time and energy to blog, I'm going to make it an EVENT. By using compelling titles and promoting with teases, my goal is to lure people over to read what I have to say. Site owners love a hike in readership, which is one way to become a valuable blogger.

The important thing is having something real to say. Before posting, I ask myself “Would I take time to read this blog?” Ego aside, I gear my topics to what is important to my life and career: the writing industry. Not how to write but promotion, social media, reaching fans, helping other writers, sharing my tactics and offering food for thought.

While I'm serious about the subject matter, there's no reason not to have fun. People who follow me know I'm a brat. I don't mince words while making mincemeat out of conventional wisdom. I'm okay with rocking the boat and causing people to squirm. It's just one person's opinion. Write a retort, riff off my thoughts. Let's get a dialog going!

That's what I look for in blogs I read.


  1. Don't water down your words.
  2. Take a stand knowing you will please some and offend others.
  3. A little humor never hurts.
  4. Offer fresh ideas. Give a new spin on old topics.
  5. Don't point out problems without offering solutions.
  6. Don't make observations on the obvious.
  7. Promote compellingly.
  8. Use interesting verbiage.
  9. Attitude is everything.
  10. Keep it short. This article is 457 words. I've said enough.          

Sunday, December 7, 2014

How to Not to Write a Novel #3

And I'm back with the next installment of "How to Not to Write a Novel." So. Word count. When starting out writing a book is a pretty daunting task. Especially for the beginner. There is a lot of pressure to get those words out! Authors post about getting thousands and thousands of words a day and the NaNoWriMo tallies are even worse! 

So what happens when you aren't cranking out 10K a day? Well, feel awful for one thing... But, you aren't alone. Some authors can get two or three books out a year. Some get out one, some maybe one every other year. 

The hardest thing to accept, if you aren't fast, is respecting your process. Maybe you can get 1K a week. Maybe only 250. Maybe you go for a week or two without writing anything then get 3k in a day. 

It's easy to compare yourself to other writers. To feel bad that you aren't doing more, writing for five or six hours with only a fifteen minute lunch break. But not everyone writes the same way. Maybe you edit as you go, working carefully before putting new words down. Maybe you just charge to the end and vow to fix it later. 

No matter how you write, books get written one word at a time. 

Lastly for the interested- I already did the bloghop! It's on my Wordpress Blog!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Blog Hop 4

I'm excited!! I was nominated by my fellow Novel Spaces author, Carol Mitchell, to Blog Hop reading my current work (in this case recent work) - and so here I am, ready to hop, write and roll!!! Thanks, Carol!!

1.   What is the name of the character?
The main character is Mahogany Cooper. She's been with her husband, Julian Cooper, a prominent sportscaster, for ten years, and married for seven. On the first Sunday of the New Year, Julian tells her he's leaving for his side chick, a female friend from college named Golden Thomas, and he's moving out. That is when the drama begins - the first word, sentence, page, chapter.

2.    When and where is the story set?
This story is set in the south, in Atlanta, GA.

3.    What should we know about him/her/them.

Mahogany Cooper is the youngest of two girls, born in Atlanta, GA to a white father and a black mother. Their father died in a car accident, and Mahogany has anger issues with her mother, Aretha, because her mom did not allow them to attend the funeral. Unlike her mother who now only dates married men, Mahogany is determined to be a wife, and have a happy home. Being the side chick, like her mother, is a situation she will never accept, nor understand.

4.    What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

The main conflict for Mahogany is that her husband Julian wants a divorce. Mahogany feels as though their marriage was just fine, and is trying to accept his decision and figure out what went wrong, and also understand how Golden could have stabbed her in the back, when she had been so nice to Golden through the years. After Julian moves out. Mahogany struggles to keep it together, missing work, feeling depressed, drinking, and feeling as though she won't make it without him. At times she's sad and at times she's angry. Her sister, Garcelle, and her best friend, Desiree, try to encourage her to get it together and move on, but in spite of what they say, she prays to God to save her marriage.

5.    What is the personal goal of the character?
The personal goal for Mahogany is to get her husband back and keep her family together so that their 3-year old daughter can grow up with her mother and father in the same home. She believes that getting him back will take her out of her misery. But, there is someone from her past who appears, who could be just the distraction she needs. And, there's something else . . .

6.    Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Never Breathe Again is the title. You can read more about it on my website, at

7.    When can we expect the book to be published?

Never Breathe Again was just released on 12/2/14.

For the next Blog Hop I nominate Velda Brotehrton to take up the challenge - hey Velda!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Blog Hop 3

I know there’s been quite a bit of blog hopping first with Sunny, then Liane and Carol.  Two of them were within the past two weeks.  But Liane has extended a challenge to me, and somehow I can’t refuse.

 My last novel, I deviated from my first love and wrote a children’s story, under my alternate name: Jewel Daniel.  This new novel takes me back to my first love: writing romance as Jewel Amethyst.


                    Hurricane of the Heart
                                                                             By Jewel Amethyst

1.    What is the name of the character
There are two main characters that share the spotlight: Alia Graneau and Kyle Robinson and they are both fictional.  Alia Graneau is an indigenous Caribbean woman of Kalinago descent, who despite working at a small hotel is very ambitious and desperate to achieve her lifelong career dreams.  Kyle Robinson is a hard partying American tourist who is satisfied with mediocrity and shuns responsibility.

2.    When and where is the story set

This story is set in the twenty-first century in the Caribbean Island of Dominica, dubbed “Nature Island” for its many mountains, rivers and rainforest that gives it an aura of natural beauty.

3.    What should we know about him/her/them.

Alia:  Alia’s driving force in life is her ambition to be a world class journalist. She tries to achieve her goal at all cost and has no room in her life for men, much less hard partying irresponsible men like Kyle Robinson.  But when Hurricane Harriet destroys her whole world leaving her homeless and jobless, she is forced to make some very tough choices that involve trusting the same person that she shuns.
Kyle: Beneath Kyle’s laisez-faire exterior is a very strong yet sensitive leader.  The only problem is that Kyle doesn’t know it.  It takes the destruction of Hurricane Harriet and being stranded on the island, cut off from everyone else for Kyle to realize his strengths, his leadership qualities, and his need for Alia’s love.

4.    What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

The main conflict for Alia is whether to leave her home in the face of disaster and trust the irresponsible man she was falling for, or stay with her people to rebuild her country at the time they needed her most.

5.    What is the personal goal of the character?
The personal goals for Alia and Kyle are quite different.  Alia wants to escape a past of poverty. Kyle wants to escape the stifling clutches of his family.  How they go about achieving their goals are quite different, but their paths to achieving those goals do overlap in a very intimate and intriguing way.

6.    Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Hurricane of the Heart is the working title for this novel.  As with most of my books whose final titles came after submission, I suspect this working title may change.

7.    When can we expect the book to be published?

It should be available sometime in 2015.

For the next Blog Hop I nominate KeVin Killiany to take up the challenge.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Blog Hop 2

Never one to back down from a challenge, I am taking on Liane's request that I do a blog hop. I must confess that I'm still a little bleary on the details (it's been that sort of week), but here goes as much as I know about my work-in-progress.
Barberry Hill 
I came across the Japenese Barberry plant (tree? shrub?) in a beautiful garden in Virginia and fell in love. I later found out that it is an invasive plant not recommended for your garden, but even that didn't diminish its appeal. Since then I've been writing a series of books (in my head) set on Barberry Hill, a fictitious place in St. Kitts, and I have several story ideas for the young people who live there. I have actually (and literally) put pen to paper on one of them and I hope to finish it by the middle of next year.

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historic? 
Marcus is the main character in this Barberry Hill novel. He is fictional.

2) When and where is the story set? 
The story is set in the present day in a fictitious town on the island of St. Kitts.

3) What should we know about him/her? 
Marcus is in his mid-teens. An outdoorsy type of boy. His favorite activity is biking. He has two best friends who really have his back when things get rough during the course of the book.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life? 
When we meet Marcus he is going through a difficult time in his life. His brother and his grandmother have both recently passed away, his brother under suspicious circumstances. The police and the community believe that his brother's death was a result of his involvement in a gang. Marcus doesn't believe this and is determined to find out the truth. He's dealing with a few other issues as well including his relationship with his parents, the social stratification on the Hill, and his changing relationship with one of his friends.

5) What is the personal goal of the character? 
He wants to be independent, make his own decisions, and to be free of the social pressures of living on the Hill.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
In my head it is Barberry Hill, however, since there is another young lady who wants her story on the Hill to be told as well, this will have to change.

7) When can we expect the book to be published?
It should be available late 2015.

I nominate Marissa Monteilh for the next blog hop.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Another (potential) Marketing Resource

This month's column is a few days late because ... Well, insert excuse of your choosing here. Though I'm known for having the organizational habits of a magpie, I hit deadlines – present example excluded – reliably enough to find constant work in the media tie-in and write for hire industries. I'll do a column about time management, deadlines and the hitting thereof in the near future. Right now I want to cue off the second half of that third sentence; the part about writing for hire and media tie-in.

Writing media tie-in, which I usually liken to being one musician in an orchestra, is a specialized field that requires an attitude and skillset quite different from writing original fiction. It also does not require – or teach – skills essential to the career of most writers. Among those neglected skills are self-promotion and marketing; skills I am slowly and awkwardly learning by working with Kevin J. Anderson, his wife Reecca Moesta, and their WordFire Press as they publish – and promote – the novels of my uncle, Allen Drury. (And yes, I know marketing and promotion has more to do with October's theme here at Novel Spaces and that this is November.)

Case in point is Story Bundle, a company that works with indie writers and small publishers to get great books into the hands (okay, e-readers) of people who might not otherwise see them. Rather than sell individual books, Story Bundle, as their name implies, creates "bundles" of novels based around a central theme – whodunit, intrigue, period romance, etc. – that include novels from several authors. Thus followers of one author can discover other writers of similar novels, or someone new to a field can sample a variety of novels and writers for a low price, and in that way broaden both their own reading and the indie writers' market. Pricing is the key, because while each bundle has a "bonus threshold" no bundle has a set price. Readers pay what they think the books are worth and how much they want to encourage and support small publishers and indie writers. They can also designate a charity to receive ten percent of their payment. Pay more than the "bonus threshold" and receive additional books at no extra charge.

I'm a former teacher who worked in community services for decades before becoming a full-time writer, so it's a given that I don't understand how marketing works. I would not expect a business model that depended on the customers' perception of value and sense of fair play to flourish, but Story Bundle seems to be working. At no cost to the writer – other than its percentage of sales that probably would not have been made otherwise – which is important.

I was introduced to Story Bundle by KJA and WordFire when Uncle Al's Advise and Consent was chosen as the political thriller for their 8 Ways to Thrill bundle, but it's a connection I'm going to keep open as I develop my own original and indie writing career. Just as I'm going to be on the lookout for other innovative marketing and promotional opportunities – because none of us knows what might open the doors we want to go through.

(Wait! I forgot the self-promotion bit. Um. "Click on the link above and go buy the bundle with my uncle's book!" How's that? Needs work? Okay. Practice, practice, practice.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Blog hop

Thank you Sunny Frazier for asking me to take part in this blog hop! I've got two works-in-progress and had a hard time deciding which to choose. I decided to go with my new romantic suspense novel, Driving Karina.

Driving Karina
 by Liane Spicer

1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or historic? 
Karina is the main character in my WIP. She is an attorney who has just come out of a brutal divorce. She buys a sports car and goes on vacation but is injured and scarred in a car crash. She has to hire a driver when she goes back to work in the city, and to her dismay finds herself becoming attracted to the gruff, former soldier who is nothing like the smooth Ivy League types she has always been attracted to.

2) When and where is the story set? 
The story is set in Fort Lauderdale and a Caribbean island.

3) What should we know about him/her? 
Karina is a high achiever from a comfortable background for whom life has been smooth-sailing and success came easily. She is a woman of integrity but is ambitious and more than a little spoiled--until her husband drops his facade and her entire world crashes. She finds out she never really knew the man she thought she loved; that he has been unfaithful throughout their relationship; that he does not wish her well. She can't find reprieve in work because she and her ex co-owned the firm and the staff now has divided loyalties. She feels friendless and betrayed; her secure world has become an alien place where she feels she can't trust anyone.

4) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life? 
Karina's ex is a nasty piece of work, and he is determined to wrest the company from her. She is forced to rely on her driver more and more as the sand keeps shifting under her feet. There are problems with a client, and she suspects her husband of tampering with her cases. Having to cope with her injury while working through all of the above is extremely challenging for her as she has no patience with weakness, especially her own.

5) What is the personal goal of the character? 
After all the subterfuges, betrayals and illusions of the past, she wants to discover what is real and valuable in herself and in her life.

6) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
Driving Karina is the title, and this is about all I'll say about the story at this time!

7) When can we expect the book to be published? 
It should be available in stores Spring 2015.

And now, to continue the blog hop, I nominate Jewel Amethyst and Carol Mitchell.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Taking the Plunge

I haven’t been without some sort of regular paid job since I was 16 years old. In the thirty odd years since then, I’ve worked as a groundskeeper at a swim and tennis club until after the summer I graduated high school. After that, I was in the service for eleven years and racked up quite an eclectic collection of job titles and work experience, and then I spent the next eighteen years in the private sector, working for a handful of different companies as a software developer.

I didn’t get serious about writing with an eye toward publication until my late twenties, and even after I sold my first short stories and started writing novels on a consistent basis, it was still something I did “on the side.” Writing was always “the other job,” which I fit around my normal work schedule, and it bent even more once my wife and I had our two kids. There were lots of late nights and early mornings, or weekends squirreled away at the library or some other place of refuge as I worked to meet this or that deadline. If I slept more than four or five hours a night, it was a cause for celebration. Still, I was making it work. I’d reached a point where I was almost always working on a novel and maybe a few other things like short stories or magazine articles, and the money earned from these projects was going toward my kids’ school tuition and college funds, or our retirement nest egg.

Then, earlier this year, I got word that I probably would be laid off from my “real” job.

Naturally, I was at first gripped by uncertainty. I’d been dancing in the layoff minefield for the better part of a decade at this point, surviving IT outsourcing, mergers and workforce reductions of one sort or another across three different companies. I’d known for years that my number, sooner or later, would come up, and that was the major reason that my “day job” had ceased being a career and had instead become just a job. I’d been in IT for almost thirty years, and I was good at what I did, but I didn’t really love it anymore. That wasn’t always the case, of course. As a developer, I relished the challenge of figuring out how to create software to meet a client’s needs, or just to see if something harebrained could be done.

With the ever-present fear of layoffs, that enthusiasm had started to wane, replaced by the need to just hang on by any means necessary. I no longer had any real passion for the work, and it certainly wasn’t creatively fulfilling. Writing had already long since moved in to fill that void, and for years I’d been wondering and dreaming about the idea of writing full time. However, it was hard to walk away from steady employment that paid extremely well, and once our kids came along the idea of abandoning that to chase a dream seemed ludicrous. I was supposed to be an adult with responsibilities, right? The time for running off on some crazy quest had passed, perhaps not to return until after my children were in college, and maybe not even then.

It’s amazing how the prospect of being laid off changes your perspective.

With the decision now at least partially made for me, pondering my options became a lot easier. As I began perusing want ads and job listings and updating my resume, all while less than enthused by the idea of “starting over” at another company with all my seniority a thing of the past, I knew that I was doing it because I “had to” and not because I wanted to. Thankfully, my wife—who is much smarter than I am—saw in my face that if left to my own devices, I would eventually find some other IT job that might pay our bills, and I’d do it because I thought it was what I had to do, and continue on as I’d been doing the last several years. It was she who said to me, “You should just write full time.”

Wait. What?

“You’re happier doing that, anyway. You’ll be able to turn your full energy to it and write more, and faster. You’ll get more sleep, you’ll have more time for me and the kids, and you won’t be so grumpy all the time. Let me emphasize that I’m very much on board with the whole being less grumpy thing.”

After a long conversation one night after dinner, we weighed the pros and cons of this bold idea. Could I do it? Sure. More time to write is more to time to write, right? What about the money? That part would be a little tricky, but the upside to having written professionally for fifteen years is that I’ve had those fifteen years to build something of a reputation and a network of contacts. Reaching out to a few of those contacts was enough to tell me that the opportunities were there. I just had to seize them.

So, with my wife’s backing and support, I’ve cast aside caution, dared to spit into the wind, and taken the plunge into writing full-time. After taking a week off to recharge following my last day of “regular employment,” I hit the ground running and completed a couple of contracted writing assignments while laying out plans for future work. As November approached, I elected to double down and take on National Novel Writing Month, with an eye toward completing at least half of my next contracted novel during these insane thirty days. I've been contracted to write three novels after that, along with a handful of other projects, and things farther down the road are starting to come into focus, too.

It’s early yet, and in many ways I’m still undergoing the transition, but there already have been tangible benefits. Remember what I said about sleeping more (and better), having more free time for the family, and generally being less grumpy? It’s all true. Am I nervous about the future? Absolutely. Then again, I was nervous about the future at the other job, too. At least now I’m doing something I truly love doing, and I feel reenergized and ready to take on all comers.

I guess we’ll see what we’ll see.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Let's Hop Around Novel Spaces!

I was asked to do a blog hop and then nominate two other authors to carry it forward. I nominated Liane and hopefully we can hop around Novel Spaces to talk about Works In Progress (WIP). Would love to know what all of you are working on!

I've been pretty mum about my third novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries. Time to let the rabbit out of the hat! 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Judging a Book

I'm going to repost from the "Heard on the Backseat" section of my much ignored blog.

Me: You can't judge a book by it's cover.
Eleven year old daughter: Unless it's the back cover.

This comment was timely because it came at a time when a slew of emails were going back and forth about the blurb of the upcoming book Musical Youth. The blurb is one of the more important components of a published novel. First the reader checks out the cover and if that intrigues them enough, they flip it (whether in reality or online) and read the back. If you can't hook them with the blurb then you may as well give up right away.

So I'm going to write about what I've learnt about writing a blurb and how we constructed the Musical Youth blurb.

1. (Optional) An eye-catching header. We went with "Music, Discovery, Love"  centered and large at the top.

2. (Optional) A Tag line. This can be in question form, something that intrigues the reader. For Musical Youth we asked the reader their opinion "Can one summer make the difference of a lifetime?"

3. Then we briefly introduce the protagonist and characters. It's a good idea to introduce them by name, so that the reader connects to them right away. Give a bit of their essence and the relationships that make them interesting. With Musical Youth the name of the protagonist is interesting in and of itself, so we're already way ahead of the game.

Zahara is a loner. She's brilliant on the guitar but in everyday life she doesn't really fit in. Then she meets Shaka, himself a musical genius and the first boy who really gets her. They discover that they share a special bond, their passion for music, and Zahara finds herself a part, not just of Shaka's life, but also that of his boys, the Lion Crew.

4. The Problem statement. What is a book without a problem, something which affects and fundamentally changes the protagonist? The blurb should give an idea of what the protagonist has to overcome so that the reader (who now considers the protagonist among their best friends) is drawn in to the meat of the book. This was the biggest challenge in the development of the Musical Youth blurb. It was difficult to balance giving away enough to create interest and not giving away too much of the plot. Check out the end result on Amazon. #MusicalYouth

5. Finally, there is the conclusion that gives the readers an idea of the type of book that they are about to read. We could have gone with something like "Musical Youth is a beautifully crafted novel with a musical thread running through it" but someone beat us to that, unfortunately.

And that's the end of that. Of course this is just one approach. Tell me about your experience with blurb writing? How important is it in the process to publication?

Friday, November 7, 2014

NaNoWriMo No

This month, if you are an author, a lot of people are probably asking you if you are participating in NaNoWriMo, AKA National Novel Writing Month.

My reply is an inevitable "No." It's not that I don't think it's a good idea, or that it's a waste of time. I just know how I work. For starters I hand write my manuscripts which is slower in and of itself. Then I just work slowly. I tend to write a bit in the morning and then do other things the rest of the day. I don't spend hours writing. I'm not sure I could. 

None of that adds up to 50,000 words in 30 days. But it does add up to the occasional novel and or novella. 

But it does leave me on the outside for an entire month while other people freak out over word counts and plot problems. 

Sometimes, just sometimes, I wish I could participate. I can see the appeal of the challenge. And it must be satisfying to see the words rack up and have something to show for a month of hard work. At the same time, most of the authors I know reach the end of NaNoWriMo, and promptly metaphorically shelve their NaNo novels in perpetuity, never to see the light of day.

So what exactly is there at the end of all that stress? Bragging rights? A sense of accomplishment? Well, I don't exactly know. But I do know that if you get to the end and make word count, have yourself a treat! You've done something at least. You wrote.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

National Authors' Day - 11/1/14

Below is a little info regarding National Authors' Day, which was on Saturday,11/1/14. I had never heard of it, though from this info from The Free Dictionary, it's been around for a while. A day to honor authors, well if that ain't something special!!

I celebrated the day with fellow GA Peach Authors, Rhonda McKnight, Marian L. Thomas, Darrell Mitchell, Ravry Sloan, and Lesley D. Poet. We had a great time at the SW Library in Atlanta, answer questions from readers, discussing our books and the literary business, and Darrell and Lesley performed a couple of spoken word pieces. It was a great day. (a few pics below)

So Happy National Authors' day - here's a high-five, a pat on the back, and a cheer for each and every one of you! Write on!

Author's Day, National

November 1
The idea of setting aside a day to celebrate American authors came from Nellie Verne Burt McPherson, president of the Bement (Illinois) Women's Club in 1928. McPherson was a teacher and an avid reader throughout her life. During World War I, when she was recuperating in a hospital, she wrote a fan letter to fiction writer Irving Bacheller, telling him how much she had enjoyed his story, "Eben Holden's Last Day A'Fishin." Bacheller sent her an autographed copy of another story, and McPherson realized that she could never adequately thank him for his gift. Instead, she showed her appreciation by submitting an idea for a National Author's Day to the General Federation of Women's Clubs, which passed a resolution setting aside November 1 as a day to honor American writers. In 1949 the day was recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Sue Cole, McPherson's granddaughter, was largely responsible for promoting the observation of National Author's Day after her grandmother's death in 1968. She has urged people to write a note to their favorite author on this day to "brighten up the sometimes lonely business of being a writer." Flying the American flag on November 1, according to Mrs. Cole, is another way of showing appreciation for the men and women who have created American literature.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Grow or die- the evolution of a group blog

There is a saying, “If you don’t grow, you die.”  I believe that.  And I believe that growth involves evolution, or simply put, change. 

A few months ago original novelnaughts, Liane, KeVin, Marissa, and I did a podcast interview with LaShaunda Hoffman of Sormag.  It was all about Novelspaces blog.  One of the questions she asked was how is it that Novelspaces group blog is still going strong after five years when so many group blogs have arisen and disappeared in that time.  The answer that was given is that Novelspaces is a drama-free zone where the authors involved actually like and respect each other.  While that is true, now that I’ve had a few months to meditate on it, I think another reason for the success of our blog is our ability to grow and evolve; the ability to change with the time.

Five years ago when the group first started, most of the members were traditionally published.  The blog posts had a lot of discussion about writing, writers’ lives, office space, experiences being published, storytelling, editing and organization.  There was a lot of information about the writing process and writing as a craft which reflected where we were at that time.  There was also a pervading almost elitist view that traditionally published authors were more “validated” than indie authors.  And as for vanity presses: frowned upon.

A few years ago I started seeing a shift in blog posts.  As authors left and were replaced by others we saw more Indie authors sign on.  We saw some who previously questioned the authenticity of indie publishing going that route.  We saw traditionally published books being re-released independently as rights were reverted.  But more telling is the tone of the blog.  We saw quite a few posts validating indie authors, and extolling the advantages of going the indie route.  As a group, novelspacers were evolving.

Today I see a lot of posts about marketing and promoting.  That tells us a few things: 
1.    The changes in requirements of an author
 Whether indie published or traditionally published authors are expected to market themselves.  Once ago a traditionally published author wrote the book, submitted the manuscript and the publishers took on the marketing and promoting.  Now even with the major publishing houses, the author has to do a hefty portion of the marketing and promotion.

2.    Where novelspace authors are in their careers
Both those of us who are traditionally published and those who were originally indie authors have now in some way or other dappled in publishing whether it is independent or small press.  We no longer see writing as merely a hobby, but as a career whether we hold other jobs full time or part time.

3.    It is a reflection of the diversity we now find among novelspaces authors
Just like in the larger universe of authors, novelspaces authors are not only writers.  We are writers, publishers, illustrators, promoters and marketing specialist.  Sometimes one person wears so many hats it’s tough to distinguish the different offices.  It also tells of the complexity of the authors’ roles in today’s market.

I also see a lot of posts about social media.  A few years ago, the prevailing Novelspaces view of social media seemed to be that of a ‘time sink” where people were too distracted by it, many claiming they had to disable their internet in order to write.  Quite a few authors told of their discomfort using social media because they were private persons.  Since then I’ve seen discussions of social media as a marketing tool.  Many extol its use as a marketing tool, but I can see some people already questioning its effectiveness.  Is that an indicator for the future of social media in marketing?

The point about all these observations is that the success of Novelspaces as a group blog lies in its ability to evolve.  I’ve seen the evolution and that evolution reflects the changing markets, the changing roles of authors, the changing perceptions.  The reason why we have not collapsed is because we as a group have grown. 

“If you don’t grow, you die.”  The parallel cliché is “if you don’t evolve, you become extinct.”  Novelspaces didn’t die, we didn’t become extinct, because we've grown, we've matured and we've evolved.

What say you? Do you agree?  I would love to hear your take on this.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Creating a Buzz

In the world of social media, it feels like it is all about the hype. Whether you like it or not, social media is a great place to get your readers excited about your upcoming or existing book. One way to create this hype is to get readers involved in the creative process.

'Like' your favorite image.
If you are in a situation where you have some control over your cover design, or if your publisher is willing to consider this marketing approach, you can post three or four acceptable versions of your cover and have your fans vote on the cover that they like the best by Liking it.

'What would you do if ...?
You can create a buzz about your book by presenting a synopsis of your protagonist's main problem (perhaps a little more than hat would appear on the book's blurb) and asking readers to discuss ways that they would extricate themselves from the situation.

'Like' if you would try this ...
Get your readers excited about your characters by revealing one of their more unusual qualities and asking your fans to like if they also do the same thing, or if they wish they could!

It's true that the aim is to sell books, but sometimes giveaways are necessary to get books into a few readers hands and getting them to start talking bout your book. So for any of the challenges that you post on your social media sites, whether it is one of the ones I suggested above or another, a giveaway is a great way to get readers excited about interacting with your page.

Have you used other social media methods to get your readers excited about your book even before publication?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Guest author Richard Brawer: What is the most important aspect of a novel?

Richard Brawer
Richard Brawer writes mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels. When not writing, he spends his time exploring local history. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife. Read book jackets, excerpts, reviews and find links to the Amazon for all his books at his website:

What is the most important aspect of a novel?

To me it is creating conflicted characters. Characters in conflict and how they will resolve their conflicts keep the readers turning the pages.

Conflicts can be anything from mild all the way up to knock-down drag-out fights. They can be scolding, bickering, differences of opinion, veiled threats, hurt feelings, sarcasm, warnings, silently questioning a person’s veracity, loyalty, truthfulness, and inner torment.  Conversations can start congenially and end up in confrontations.

The more the conflicts characters have and how the characters get out of those conflicts, the more depth the characters will have.

For example in my suspense novel a woman is falsely accused of murder and sentenced to death. The outward conflict is obvious. She has to escape prison and prove her innocence. However I also added a highly “flammable” inner conflict. As a teenager she was responsible for her sisters dying in a fire. It is her internal conflict about how she eventually comes to terms with being responsible for their deaths that runs throughout the story.

Conflicts can also change your story. I started writing my latest book, “Love’s Sweet Sorrow” as strictly a conspiracy/suspense novel tentatively titled, The Bishop Committee. The protagonist is a vice president of a large armaments company.  He uncovers evidence his CEO is in league with arms dealers selling weapons to terrorists.

To me that one conflict was not enough. I needed a strong female character who is opposite of the protagonist and therefore the two of them have conflicts they must work out. I made her a Quaker. What could create more conflicts than having the protagonist work for an armaments company and his love interest a pacifist? Their love and her faith are severely tested as they are drawn into kidnappings and killings to expose arms smugglers. As I wrote I realized I had a romantic suspense novel. My publisher and I worked to create a new title. The result was “Love’s Sweet Sorrow.”

How do you know you have created great characters in conflict? The simple answer is in the reviews of your novels. Here are assorted reviews from my eight novels.

“A Sympathetic Character” “A Strong Female Protagonist” “Characters are Uncomfortably Realistic” “Complex Characters”  “Excellent Characters” “A Very Resourceful Character”
“His characters are magnificent.”  “The family was made up of flesh-and-blood characters. They laughed, loved, argued, fought, and had adulterous affairs.”  “I loved this book.  The characters are so real.” “Quaker character adds a unique twist”

Conversely, this is what can happen if your characters are not conflicted: My wife was having a weekly Mah Jongg game at our house. I overheard the ladies talking about a book. One said the characters bored me so I stopped reading after 100 pages.

But reviews come after the book is written. What can you do to create conflicted characters while you are writing?

I think the best thing you can do is read books by major authors. While you read, analyze how the authors create characters and their conflicts.

Find a critique group that will give you honest feedback on character development, dialogue, voice, plot, conflict and setting.  But don’t automatically take anyone’s critique as gospel.  Remember, it’s your story.  Analyze the critiques to see if they have merit.  Say you have a six person group.  If one person criticizes something then it may or may not be valid.  But if three or four in the group say the same thing about a segment then you should take it under serious consideration.

I will give away Mobi format for Kindle or an epub format for Nook and other e-readers to everyone who wishes to read my latest book, “Love’s Sweet Sorrow.” I would hope you would then post a review on Amazon. This book is also available in trade paperback. I can give away the paperback to the first two responders to Liane’s blog. Please contact me at: 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Social Media: Personal vs. Professional Persona

Folk occasionally ask me about my website. I invariably direct such inquirers to Novel Spaces – adding that I don't have a site of my own. I do this because usually the people asking know me as a writer and are, I think, imagining a site replete with pithy insights into the craft of writing and/or step-by-step instructions on how to become a bestselling author. I explain, if pressed, that though I've been known to pith unexpectedly, I've never been accused of being bestselling and there's little evidence I have clue one on how to go about becoming so. Also, and folk have to be pretty persistent to get to this line of defense, I'm a media tie-in writer and there is no need for yet another site devoted to the various intellectual properties for which I've written.

There's a bit more to my lack of sitefulness – some of which is germane to this month's theme of social media for writers. I once had a Live Journal page. On it I blogged about my writing, my family, my work in education and mental health, and just about everything else that came to mind. There were posts made during my vigil at my father's deathbed. Posts about my youngest daughter overcoming a childhood heart condition to be on her high school's cross country team. A tirade or two on society's treatment of people struggling to overcome mental and emotional handicaps. My racially blended family's encounters with southern culture. The stresses of partnering with Child Protective Services in dealing with a toxic family – with way too many toxic families. Or my soapbox positions on theology, spirituality, philosophy, and politics. Lots of politics. I'm a political junkie. The odd piece about the publishing, gaming, and media tie-in industries. And, yes, every so often I'd wax thoughtfully on the craft of writing, the life of a writer, and lessons I've learned about both over the years.

In short, it was a personal journal, not the journal of a writer. And, on rare occasion, someone who came looking for me because of my writing, was very disappointed with what I had to say about the education and public health industries, or things they found about my family or my faith or my politics (usually my politics).

When I went full-time as a freelancer, I killed my Live Journal. It was too easy to find, and eliminating it was easier than restructuring it to be reassuring and attractive to potential clients and publishers who might Google me prior to doing business with me. (Yes, I know there are privacy settings, but excising the thing entire was easier than going through and deciding what should be available to whom on a post-by-post basis. It's not like I don't know my own opinions or can't articulate them on demand if the situation requires.)

I do have a Facebook page, but it's a pale shadow of my former Live Journal. Those of you who aren't among my Facebook friends will only be able to see are pictures of my granddaughter, human interest stories, personal anecdotes, and humor. The closest thing to political opinion pieces you'll find are posts reaffirming my unbridled support of teachers.

Could I create a site that's all about writing, particularly my writing, that's filled with articles about the life of a writer, how to build a writing career, the tricks of the craft, and analyses of great works? Could I create a site that presents me as a professional writer, that showcases my talents without being pushy while providing interesting and useful content for readers, fellow writers, and potential clients? Of course. I'm a writer, that's what I do. And when my career goals move me in a direction where such a site will serve my needs, I'll do it. Already have the domain name for it. But right now it's not a tool I'm focused on developing.

Besides, if you're interested in reading up on what I know about writing, all you have to do is click on "Kevin Killiany" here at Novel Spaces to see an archive of 80+ columns.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Finding the Happy Medium With Social Media

This entry originally was posted in April 2013, and is reposted here as part of our continuing "theme month" discussions about social media.
Ah, social media. So much fun. So much danger.

In April 2012, I wrote about the potential traps and other hazards which await you when you decide to wade into the social media pool. However, that piece focused on the more obvious pitfalls: privacy, how not to let time spent in these venues eat up your writing schedule, how to acquit yourself when in the midst of self-promotion, reacting to reviews from readers and/or critics, and so on. One thing I didn’t touch on the first time around but which I think deserves its own bit of attention is the tightrope we walk when advertising ourselves and our wares. It can be hard to find the right balance between “hanging out” on social media sites and using these venues as promotional tools.

Everybody’s always going on and on about how we as writers need to be “out there,” building a “platform” and all that. Websites, blogs, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube...all these are viewed as prime territory for attracting readers and attention to our work. X number of Twitter followers, Y number of Facebook “friends” or “likes,” Z number of subscribers to our blogs, all of these—supposedly—have weight when a publisher is considering an author’s book. Some of the “advice” I’ve read almost makes it seem as though we need to be beating our drum with every Tweet and Facebook status update, or else we’re just not working hard enough to promote ourselves.

Of course, the people who are the targets of these marketing efforts may just end up thinking we’re a bunch of annoying prats. So, my attitude with this stuff is to tread carefully.

I've spent...let’s inordinate amount of time in the trenches of social media over the past several years, and I’ve seen what happens when that balance isn’t achieved. You know what? It ain’t pretty folks. In fact, I’ve unfollowed writers and other creative types who do nothing but promote themselves and their latest book, or who only post links to their books for sale or articles they’ve written for web sites or crowd-sourcing efforts they’re championing. The constant barrage devolves into an irritating drone after a while, which can really harsh my net-surfing mellow when all I really want is to see a picture of a cat who can’t spell, or a video of a guy skateboarding into a fence.

The point of social media is to socialize; to communicate with other denizens of these virtual realms, whether you’re chatting about shared interests or commenting on issues of the day or simply commiserating because Life chose an inopportune moment to kick you in the gut. When readers follow authors in these venues, they’re not interested in seeing the “sales pitch” 24/7; they want to interact with the people who write those books they love so much. They want to get to know the person, not the brand.

Now, me? I blog throughout the week, and I try to keep my choice of topics varied and (hopefully) entertaining. I tend to have more fun on Facebook and Twitter than normal people might consider healthy. Most of the followers I’ve attracted have found me after reading my books and checking out my website or blog. Others follow me because we have mutual friends, and we’ve found that we have common interests. I engage in the usual sorts of behavior you see everyday on Facebook and Twitter, such as sharing funny pictures or links to news articles, or commenting on other people’s links and updates.

Do I promote myself and my work to this audience? Of course, but as with all things, I believe moderation in this context is the key to success. Sure, I alert people that a new book is coming or has been published, but I also tell them when I take on a new gig. I give teases about the chapter I’m writing that day. Sometimes I solicit input, like what to name a character or if I need help researching some bit of trivia. Chatter usually results from these sorts of postings, and we have fun with it. Once, I even had a contest calling for readers to post photos of them holding one of my books while on their summer vacations. I got responses from Disney World, beaches, cruise ships, and other locales around the world. I turned it into a contest and readers voted for their favorite pictures and the winners received signed books. Sure, I’m promoting myself, but my goal is to seamlessly weave it in and around the rest of my online blatherings.

How do you approach social media? Do you love it or loathe it? Is it fun or frustrating? What tricks do you have for integrating promotion into the mix?

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Do You Bring to the Table?

Independent presses have a lot to offer today's aspiring authors. The slush pile is smaller and the chance for an unknown, untried author to get a contract is greater. Unlike large publishing houses, there's still very personal interaction between editors and writers. Unlike self-pubbed books, the publishing house takes care of cover art, lay-out, printing and distribution. Authors are nurtured and a bond builds between the author and publisher.

What most authors fail to realize is that they are expected to don the hat of promoter once the ink has dried on the paper. The job's not finished when THE END is typed on the last page of the novel. In fact, the hard work has just begun.

Anyone aspiring to a career in publishing cannot be blind to all the posts and forums talking about book marketing. It's the #1 topic discussed today. Yet, when the long-awaited novel is finally on the shelf, there it sits. Why? Because authors are unprepared or unwilling to dirty their hands in selling the book to the public. Isn't that someone else's responsibility?

Depending upon the contract, the average amount a publishing house gets is less than $2 profit per book sold. It takes the sale of approximately 200 books before a small outfit sees any profit on a title. That covers production cost, plus Amazon gets their cut and the author gets royalties. Industry stats say the average book will sell about 500 copies. Nobody is out to get rich, but in order to keep producing more books, money has to come from somewhere.

Independent houses exist only when authors and publishers work side by side to do book promotion.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Help! Social Media Isn’t Working For Me

It's Social Media month on NovelSpaces. (Wait ... isn't that every month? Every day?) Anyway, I get many subtle hints and nudges from my dear friend and media expert, Nerissa Golden about my lack of a strong social media presence. So, I figured that you all would be much better off hearing from her on this topic than from me. Here are a few of her tips on making social media work for you. Check out her most recent publication Like. Follow. Lead. Mastering Social Media for Small Business for more, simple but very useful tips on how to get the best experience and results from your social spaces.

Here's Nerissa:

With all of the attention social media gets, the message seems to have spread that it would be easy to get results and customers loaded with cash would roll right up and spend, spend, spend.

For every guru telling you they can teach you how to make a million a month using Facebook, there are a million people wishing they knew the secret for free. Here are a few tried and true ways to increase your level of exposure and gain those all-important fans and followers.

First off, social media will only work if you work it. So post frequently. You won’t get any traction and build an audience if you only log on periodically to browse or retweet someone else’s work. As an author these platforms are ideal to let your audience see how creative and quirky you are. They may not become fans overnight but as they watch your continued engagement they will become a follower and hopefully a loyal customer. Use your electronic calendar to remind you to post at specific times. You can also schedule posts on some of the social spaces so no need to feel attached to your phone or computer.

Step outside of your comfort zone. All of the authors you know say Facebook has been the missing link in making those all-important sales. You’ve tried what they’ve tried without the same results. Why not step over to Twitter or Instagram and create a new space all your own? Research the various social media and find one that appeals to you and which can help you connect with your audience in a more entertaining and meaningful way.

Spend a little to get a little. You will only get out what you put in. While setting up an account on social platforms is free, it will cost you time and money to build and position your brand. Costs can include taking ads targeted at specific audiences, having professional photos taken so you can display an impressive profile image and graphics to promote your books and products. If you don't have the time to manage your social spaces, you may need to hire someone to do it for you.

Know where your audience hangs out. Ladies tend to hang out on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter more than men do, so if your potential customers are most likely male then find the platforms where they spend most of their time. Most popular are Google Plus and LinkedIn but check out Vine and Instagram as well. There are thousands of others so do your research.

What’s in a name? Everything. Make it easy for readers to find you on any social platform by using the same handle. Here’s an example using the handle #1author.,, and your website then should be If you already have a popular handle on one platform but it’s already been taken on other social sites, then find a version of the handle, which will be memorable and ensure it is visible on business cards and other promotional products. Use to see which social spaces your handle is available on.

With focus and lots of perseverance you can build a social media audience which can have the long term results you are after. Grab my new book, Like. Follow. Lead. Mastering Social Media for Small Business, for more, simple but very useful tips on how to get the best experience and results from your social spaces.

Nerissa Golden is an award-winning media strategist, business coach, and author who helps her clients accelerate their business growth by leveraging high impact communications solutions and income generating strategies. She is the author of four books: Like. Follow. Lead. Mastering Social Media for Small Business, Island Days, a collection of illustrated poems about growing up in the Caribbean; The Making of a Caribbeanpreneur: Strategies for Overcoming Fear and Building Wealth as well as Truly Caribbean Woman’s Guide to Good Love.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tumblr 101 (What is it and should I want one?)

It's social media month! So if you'll pardon the interruption in "How to Not to Write a Novel" I would like to share with you a little a Tumblr 101.

I stayed away from Tublr for the longest time. Despite having a mouth like a sailor in real life I was put off by the fact that every single Tublr seemed to be name F*ckyeah (insert noun here). So there was F*ckyeahbjds, F*yeah Illustarions, etc. But when Facebook started getting cluttered with ads and autoplay videos a friend of mine encouraged me to get one.

Tumblr is very much it's own animal. It is unlike any other social media I've ever been on. An author I know once said that Tumblr, like Pinterest, is more about curating content then a necessarily useful tool for self promotion, and I would have to agree. Unless you have some sort of stunningly original content to offer, are already a well established author it's probably not going to serve you as well as another format. However, the crowd on Tumblr is young. If you write YA, diversity of any kind, or want to try connecting with a younger audience, it might be worth your time to sign up and join the madness.

Unlike Pinterest it is politically charged as well. If you don't know what a privileged able-bodied cisgender white male is it might not be the place for you. If you are a cisgendered white male then I wish you luck... Tumblr is a place of diversity and politics. There are Tumblrs like Medieval PoC, Cosplaying While Black,  Black Fangirls Unite ,  and Writing with Color . There are a lot of resources for white people who want to write characters of greater diversity. Tumblr is not always a comfortable place, but if you can bear with your discomfort you will learn a lot about race relations, what the I and A are in LGBTQIA, and most importantly, yourself.

Now, it's not all serious political discourse and angst. I follow a TON of fashion blogs, illustration blogs, and illustrators to find inspiration for my own work. I follow my friends, and a number of literary agencies which regularly post. 

Best of all, if you (like me) don't LOVE updating your Facebook every five minutes, you can post your Tumblr activity on FB and Twitter- so it looks like you're updating more than you really are. I also have my Wordpress site send all my Wordpress posts to Tumblr and I can update Tumblr from my Deviant Art Gallery!

So, how does Tumblr work? After you sign up for an account- which is free, you can pick a theme, leave it as is, or customize your page if you have the know how. Then you find other Tumblrs pf interest to follow. Their content shows up on your "home" indicated by a house icon. If you see a photo or post you like you can 'heart it' which will add it to a list of posts you have hearted. If you want to share the content on your Tumblr- the one everyone sees (which is separate from your 'home') you can 'reblog' the post. Reblogging the post will share it on your Facebook and Twitter. You don't HAVE to share them, but they are options you can turn on in the settings, and then use or not as you choose. Unlike Pinterest the posts you heart are just kept in one long list by date. So you may end up scrolling awhile to find what you want.

At the same time you are reblogging content you like, other people can reblog posts that you make, sharing said post with their followers. There is also an option for "Asks" which you can turn on or off. Asks allow anyone looking over your blog to ask questions- either under their username or anonymously. But there are also plenty of trolls looking to Ask really insulting things. But it can be a good way to answer questions from fans. Just beware. Personally I leave the Ask off on my Tumblr because I don't want to get trolled. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

SORMAG interviews Novel Spaces members

Our regular Day 4 poster, the lovely Marissa Monteilh, is recovering from surgery and won't be able to blog today. Get well soon, Marissa!

Last month, LaShaunda Hoffman of Shades of Romance Magazine (SORMAG) interviewed Novel Spaces members Jewel Amethyst, Kevin Killiany, Marissa Monteilh and Liane Spicer. Here is the full podcast of the interview in which we discuss the running of a group blog--how we got started, why we do it, how we do it, what's behind our longevity, and more.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Reflections on Baltimore Book Festival

 As authors we get to participate in many different events that promote book sales, book writing and of course, ourselves.  For this, there is no better place than a book festival or a convention.  This weekend Carol Mitchell and I, along with the co-author of “Zapped!” my daughter, Lynelle Martin, had the opportunity to participate in the Baltimore Book Festival which ran from October 26th - 28th. For CaribbeanReads Publishing and all three authors, it was our first book festival as a vendor/participant). It was definitely an experience to remember.

Unlike past festivals that were held at Mt Vernon Place, this one was held at the scenic Baltimore Inner Harbor, a great location for tourists and Baltimoreans alike.  CaribbeanReads Publishing shared a tent with a group of teachers from Baltimore City, quite an advantage if you are selling children’s educational books.

One of the things about festivals is that you have to have something to draw people in.  Think about it, all of the hundreds of tents have the same thing: books.  People are coming there either for the well known speakers (Tavis Smiley was the highlighted speaker this year), or to get free stuff.  We had a great activity in keeping with the theme of “ZAPPED!"  Kids got the opportunity to make an edible model of an animal cell out of candy.  We used that as a jump off point to promote the children’s book, CaribbeanReads newest publication: Zapped! Danger in the cell". 

Now here is the dichotomy.  While the kids were quite engaged making (and eating) their model cells and some of the parents were inspired to purchase books, many adults were just coming for the free candy.  Some were quite rude in fact and would just grab the candy without asking and run without even glancing at the many children’s books on display.  Others were quite courteous and would listen and take a flyer with the faint promise of purchasing the books online (been there –done that…  I know what that means).   It did not translate into windfall sales at the festival, but…

…Lynelle and I were invited to give a talk and have a book sale and signing at school in a different county, we met and established contact with local NPR affiliate, and we met several bloggers and got our information into their hands and we got our information into the hands of a coalition of libraries and librarians. 

The highlight of Lynelle’s experience however came after the book festival.  She was playing “Words with Strangers” at a booth adjacent to ours when a family came and purchased her book.  Though we pointed her out as one of the authors, her back was turned and the person never got to meet her.  The next day she came home from school quite excited.  One of the girls who purchased the book was her class mate and was quite excited to discover that Lynelle was the author.  And here I was looking for a way to introduce it to Lynelle’s school without putting her on the spot.  Problem solved; it was introduced (unofficially).

Over all it was a great experience and I learned the power of free.  A booth had books selling for $5.00 for the entire three days of the festival.  That booth enjoyed a trickle of patrons for those three days, who would browse and occasionally purchase.  On the last day, within the last ten minutes they put up a sign: “ALL BOOKS FREE”.  I could not even get to the booth for the crowds that flocked it.  People were grabbing books they would never read.  Even Lynelle squeezed her small body between the throngs and got a few books that we have little interest in.  Yes, there is power in FREE.

I don't know if our experience as vendors/participants in book festivals is typical, but it sure was an enlightening experience.  If you have experiences with book festival do share them.