Thursday, August 21, 2014

Boost Your Blog's Presence

Want to get more readers, more followers and more comments on your blog?
Michelle Hauck has one of the most interesting and thriving blogs around. I asked her to share how she does it and this was her response. 
Blogging. Everyone in writerland tells you that you should be doing it. But there are so many blogs, so much content. How does one go about driving readers to your blog? Is it worth the time and trouble?
The answer, of course, is it depends.

By the time I was writing my second manuscript, I’d gotten this same advice and fumbled my way onto Blogspot, totally unsure of the technical aspect or even what I was going to do with a blog. My early attempts at posts revolved around funny things that happened to me at work. Not exactly a crowd pleaser.

The only ones visiting my blog were other members of my writing group at Agent Query Connect and spammers. I posted when I felt like it or when inspiration struck. I began doing a series I called Getting the Call in order to bring more established writers to my blog with stories about their success with agents. That helped a little, but really, my range of friends was small, and these posts were tough to find.

Blogging wasn’t really high on my to-do list. I did it because it was sort of expected. The post bounced around from subject to subject as I had no particular readership in mind. Then that second manuscript got an offer of publication from a small press. Suddenly I had rather a bigger reason to blog. I had to get myself known. Marketing would be up to me.

That’s when two lucky things happened to me, and they made my blog take off in a gradual upward climb. First, I joined twitter. Like blogging, twitter was more miss than hit. I stumbled around there too, getting to know the ropes, slowly building up a following. But there I met other writers and I learned, learned so much about the business of writing.

I could now do more of those Getting the Call posts because I knew more people. I added posts about editing and helped people with their cover and release day posts. My pageviews began to climb.

 The second lucky break was when SC and Mike asked me to be part of a contest they’d invented called Query Kombat. None of us had done a writing contest before. None of us had agents. I didn’t even have Kindar’s Cure out yet. Happily, we gathered a group of gracious agents willing to join the fun. That first contest was a modest success.

After the contest, I did a string of query critiques on my blog with queries offered by people I’d met on twitter. My blog began to have a direction, an audience. I cast around for more ideas to fit that audience of newer writers. Agents had been very kind about the contest, maybe they’d be up for being interviewed about query slush. Turns out they were. I started by asking agents I saw often on twitter. Interviews began to roll in.

My pageviews climbed steadily upward, becoming regularly a hundred views a day. Mike and SC and I hosted other contests. I did giveaways with agents of query critiques. Then I had the great fortune to accept an offer of representation from Sarah Negovetich a few months after Query Kombat. My pageviews went to three hundred a day and then six hundred. But I was posting something pretty much every week day. My blog was busy. I began to add a few book reviews, trying to keep to speculative fiction, to direct my audience more toward readers.

I discovered that I really loved blogging. I loved interacting on twitter. The two were one and the same for me. Keeping up a steady stream of blog posts was fun, and I enjoyed it. And here we are today barely a year later and my audience continues to grow. (I hope.) It’s great to meet new people and to help other writers in any way I can. Giving back is awesome. For me it’s all about the fun! Thus my blog title and my twitter handle: Michelle4Laughs.



So what do I think are the keys to successful blogging?

—Have a specific audience in mind and give them something they can’t get elsewhere. Whether it’s romance readers, travel stories, or beginning writers, come up with unique ideas and see if you can’t create a series of it. One thing I’ve seen recently from Dan Koboldt is bringing in experts to discuss aspects of writing, such as people who know horses to help writers with truths about horses in their books. That’s a fabulous idea.

—Use twitter. Use it to meet people for guest posts and use it to pimp your blog posts. Twitter can bring people to your blog. Or Facebook or Tumblr if that’s your thing. (I ignore my Facebook too much.)

—Don’t bother unless you enjoy it. There are all kinds of social media out there. Blogging may not be your thing. You may not have the time. That’s fine. Go with what you like. I started a Tumblr and decided it wasn’t for me.

—Post regularly whether that is once a week or every day. Have some kind of schedule.

—Be positive, but let your real voice come through. Let your personality shine in your posts and don’t be afraid to be a little silly, or exuberant, or sarcastic if that’s your thing.

—Don’t be afraid to try new things and take chances. I’ve recently added a newsletter to my blog, incorporating giveaways to get it started. I was pretty nervous about trying that, but it worked out well.

—Don’t expect to be an overnight success. A good blog will grow slowly. Do things to bring people back.

I learned by trial and error, and I hope some words from someone still learning can help. Come visit my blog, I’d love to see you.

What are your favorite things to write about on your blog? Do you have any tricks I missed?


-----------------------------------------------


Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two teenagers. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack.

She is a co-host of the yearly query contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, New Agent, PitchSlam, and Sun versus Snow. 


Her epic fantasy, Kindar's Cure, was published by Divertir Publishing. Her short story, Frost and Fog, was published by The Elephant's Bookshelf Press in their anthology, Summer's Double Edge. Elephant’s Bookshelf Press also published another of her short stories, The Unfinished Task, in their winter anthology, Winter’s Regret. She’s represented by Sarah Negovetich of Corvisiero Literary.

Goodreads: Kindar’s Cure




   

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thirteen Things I Learned About Self Publishing And MY BEST FRIEND DEATH

Have you ever glanced at a book blurb and known, just known, that the story’s one you must read?




That’s what happened to me with My Best Friend Death and I’m happy to say the book more than met the blurb’s promise…so I invited the author Michael Anthony to share his story and his self publishing tips with us.




Thirteen Things I Learned From Self-Publishing
1. Writing is fun. Querying is stressful. Given enough time (and rejections) the stress of querying can spill over into the joy of writing. When that happens, writing stops being an outlet, and starts being a chore. No one likes chores.
2. Many people (myself included) call a new book or WIP their 'baby'. What few realize when publishing traditionally is that you are giving up your parental right to 'raise' that 'baby', to nurture it. But when you e-pub, you have full custody. The well-being of that 'child' is entirely in your hands. Yes, it's scary, but it's also liberating.
3. Criticism can beat you to the ground if you let it. But only if you let it.
4. You can judge a book by its cover. Especially if it's a self-published book. Publishing a novel isn't cheap. Don't get me wrong, it isn't particularly expensive either. With that being said, from my experience, there are two types of e-publishers: those who invest in their novel (this includes time as well as mullah) and those who don't. Quality of cover art is a HUGE indicator of which category the author falls under.
5. Based on #4, you might be wondering how much e-publishing cost. Well, I spent about $1000 publishing my novel. That paid for an editor and cover designer, marketing, website/domain name, and a few miscellaneous things that don't really matter (paper, ink cartridges, etc). I spent that over the course of four or five months, so it wasn't all upfront. 
6. kdp.amazon.com, createspace.com, and smashwords.com are a self-publisher's best resources. Period.
7. It is SO important (no matter how you publish) to give your readers a way to communicate with you. A single compliment can truly lift your spirits. Also, if there is ever an error (however small) they will likely point it out if they otherwise enjoyed the book. Readers WANT to help writers they 'discover'.
8. Not scoring an agent doesn't mean you're not a good writer. It's so easy to slip into the defeated mindset and second guess your talents, but you have to fight it. You have to believe in yourself.
9. Self-publishing isn't taking the easy way out. Not by a long shot. Aside from looking for an agent (which the NSA recently reclassified as a form of torture), it is insanely time consuming and physically and mentally draining. You don't have a network behind you (Can you hear me now? Good). It's just you and the 857 different hats you have to wear to get the job done professionally.
10. This goes for self-publishers and traditional publishers alike: DON'T READ REVIEWS OF YOUR NOVEL. Now that I've made that blanket statement, allow me to amend it: Don't read negative reviews. If the review has a star rating, don't read anything at or below three stars. If it doesn't have a star rating (or something similar) don't read it at all. A bad review can and will ruin your entire day no matter how many good reviews stand around it.
11. Along the same lines, critics can be incredibly harsh, especially over the internet. They have to ability to say whatever they want because they can hide behind a username. But because we are trying to build a name for ourselves, we have to remain composed no matter what. When senseless hate is spewed, the hardest thing in the world is to unload your cannon of vicious insults and paint on a smile. But you MUST do it. What's said on the internet is available for everyone to see. As writers, people judge us by our words.
12. Jumping back to number 5, let me say this: you get what you pay for. This is especially true when preparing your novel for publication. The more you pay (usually) the better the quality. The opposite can also be true. Trust me, when you think your work is near perfect, there's nothing worse than someone pointing out glaring issues you paid someone to fix. You lose faith in the quality of your work, and that's the worst feeling in the world.
13. There is truly no greater feeling than seeing a complete stranger reading your book. It makes you feel...eternal. Infinite. Limitless. It makes you feel like you've made your mark on the world.

Michael’s tips are really helpful and almost as inspiring as his blurb for My Best Friend Death is compelling.

Here it is:

Damien Crown devotes his life to being his brother's superman. Like all heroes, he's locked in a deadly war with a formidable foe—his brother's depression. Instead of perishing in a climactic battle as comics suggest, he dies at the screech of tires and the blare of a car horn. But in those last precious moments, he regrets not taking off the cape and living his own life.
 

But those regrets don't last long when Death becomes his life-coach.
 

Given a new body and one more year to live, Damien seizes the opportunity to reinvent himself. Forbidden by Death from making contact with his old family, he knows the trek will be hard, but he's happy to leave behind the pressures of his old life.
 

Until his brother attempts suicide.
 

Now, the only way to save his brother is to break Death's rules. But with a life any kid would kill for, Damien finds himself stuck between who he was, and who he wants to be. He can don his cape and die for his brother, or hang it up and finally live for himself.

If you’re like me and you'd like to read this story, you can purchase it on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KTJ2UUK



And if you want to know more about his self publishing adventures and his writing you can find Michael Anthony at the following places:





Thanks for visiting.  Feel free to leave a question or a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Playing Gladys Kravitz


By Eilis Flynn

I have a home office that I sit in all day (try not to at night; paying attention to one’s spouse seems like a good thing to do when he comes home, right?), and it faces due south. If I didn’t have curtains and a lot of detritus in the window there, I’d be staring into the house next door. (I live in the city; there are only feet between domiciles.) But there are all sorts of things sitting on the window sill, so it’s cutting off my view.

There are other windows that don’t, however. That house next door has changed hands a few times since we moved in two decades and some ago. The kindly couple who lived there when we first moved in have been gone for a few years, and the house has been sold and flipped and foreclosed on and currently, after several months of intense renovation, is for sale again. (And unlike the previous owners who bought it with the intent of flipping it, this owner has done it right, with updates and painting and lots of landscaping and taking care of the egg stain on the front of the house and so forth. I’m hopeful. It’s a nice house.) Watching the renovations have been my entertainment for the past few months, and it also forces me to get up and snoop out the other windows that aren’t pointedly blocking my view. Depending on what kind of work I had at the moment, sometimes that was also my exercise. (I run my editing and writing business out of my house. It’s cozy.)

“I realized I’m Gladys Kravitz,” I told my husband when he came home one day. “At least I’m not seeing weird things happening when I look out and screeching about it.”

“But I feel like Abner,” he responded. And he did look exhausted.

For those of you not into 1960s sitcoms, there was a show called BEWITCHED starring an actress named Elizabeth Montgomery who played a witch who married a mortal and he forbade her to use her powers because, after all, she was a housewife. (This was the 1960s. Take it as you will.) She promised, but it didn’t work, and all sorts of magical things ensued anyway. The neighbors across the street, Gladys and Abner Kravitz, saw things they couldn’t explain, but when Abner did, he just assumed he was imagining things, while Gladys was pretty sure she wasn’t and got upset about it. In my case, I’d step out and find out what was happening. If I felt my house shake a little, I’d check to make sure my house was intact; sometimes it was a shock wave, sometimes the ladder actually bumped against my house. No harm, no foul. And I got a chance to see what was going on! (And of course I got a tour of the place.)

The guy who bought the place was around a lot, and we became cordial. He wasn’t a pain, and I wasn’t going to be (he was providing my free entertainment!). And because my backyard was hard to look at (as in “wince”), he offered to replace my fence that divided his backyard and mine—and made sure the fence blocked the view. Okay with me; that fence really was on its last legs. (The other three sides of the fence, however, are still our eyesore to take care of.) But the best part was when he hired a landscaper to do up the back and front—and they gussied up OUR front lawn. They mowed our lawn! Tore down dead things and cleared away things and put down mulch! Our front yard still doesn’t look great, but it still looks better. And then, they even washed off the roof of our back porch because it was visible from that house! I’m going to miss them when the place sells!

In return, when the Realtors forget to turn off the sprinklers and leave them on overnight, I go over and shut them off. It’s really the least we could do.

At no time have I seen unexplainable things. I’ve kept an eye on the place when it was empty, I’ve kept an eye out when it was being torn apart and put back together. Nope, nothing supernatural, nothing paranormal, nothing unexplainable. Unlike Gladys, I always hoped, just so I could use it in a book. I can always hope, right?

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com. If you’re looking for an editor, you can find her at emsflynn.com as Elizabeth Flynn. Either way, you’ll find her online somewhere!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Looking For the Silver Lining

Last time I posted, I told ya'll about the difficult time I'd been having getting my writing groove back after some very difficult life events. Just when I thought I might be hearing the thump-thump-thump of a regular writing rhythm returning, the unthinkable happens. My trusty laptop presents me with the black screen of death. Accckkkk! You probably heard my screams in all corners of the world. After spending a day trying everything I could think of to bring it back to life, I admitted defeat and took it to the local Geek Squad. They gave me hope when they said they should be able to retrieve my files that, procrastinator that I am, had not been backed up in a long, long time. Those hopes were dashed when they called and said it was so fried it actually locked up their system. *sob* Good thing I was going old school and emailing myself copies of my WIP draft. I lost some, but not all of it, thank heavens. Now me and the Cloud are very good friends.

So, now I am the proud owner of a new laptop. It's a major step up from my old one. It has a touch screen, plus I can flip the screen over and the whole thing turns into a tablet. Too cool! But that's not what's got me so excited. This thing also has Dragon Assistant, so I can dictate my writing instead of typing. I'm still practicing (sometimes it has a hard time understanding my southern twang) and I'm not sure it increases my speed and productivity since I have to pause so it can process what I've said (it'll only take 60 second chunks at a time). Still, anything that makes writing fun again is a bonus to me.

Another thing is since I have the new Windows 8, I figure its time to upgrade my Microsoft Word to the most recent version (I've been using 2007). I haven't done it yet. Instead, I imported what I could salvage from my draft into Scrivener. I took a class on it a month or so ago and thought now would be a good time to give it a try. I'm still in the learning stages, but I can tell the visual organization the program does with scenes and chapters is much to my liking.

So there you have it. My version of the silver lining in the face of an otherwise very depressing dark cloud. Here's hoping that whatever I lost and have to rewrite is better the second time around.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

In Celebration of Vacation

Mom raccoon checking out lunch leftovers.


It’s summer and I’m on vacation. To celebrate I've found thirteen quotes about taking some time off.



  1. In matters of healing the body or the mind, vacation is a true genius!~ Mehmet Murat ildan
  2. Every man who possibly can should force himself to a holiday of a full month in a year, whether he feels like taking it or not. ~William James
  3. A vacation is like love — anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia. ~Author Unknown
  4. We hit the sunny beaches where we occupy ourselves keeping the sun off our skin, the saltwater off our bodies, and the sand out of our belongings. ~Erma Bombeck
  5. A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking. ~Earl Wilson
  6. I do not really like vacations. I much prefer an occasional day off when I do not feel like working. When I am confronted with a whole week in which I have nothing to do but enjoy myself I do not know where to begin. To me, enjoyment comes fleetingly and unheralded; I cannot determinedly enjoy myself for a whole week at a time. ~Robertson Davies
  7. Holidays are enticing only for the first week or so. After that, it is no longer such a novelty to rise late and have little to do. ~Margaret Laurence
  8. No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one. ~Elbert Hubbard
  9. When all else fails, take a vacation. ~Betty Williams
  10. The alternative to a vacation is to stay home and tip every third person you see. ~Author Unknown
  11. A good vacation is over when you begin to yearn for your work. ~Morris Fishbein
  12. I think people need hope when times are tough. I think they also need escape and adventure and fantasy. Books are like cheap mini vacations. ~ Michelle M. Pillow 
  13. To work for the sheer joy of it, to wake up and be really excited on a Monday, to love what you do so much that the idea of a long vacation looks boring - that's living. ~ Manoj Arora

What are you doing this summer? Do you have anything fun planned? Please share.


 
Raccoon babies waiting for Mom 

Sources
http://www.quotegarden.com/vacations.html
http://smilingsally.blogspot.com/2007/09/blue-monday-all-you-need-to-know.html




Monday, July 21, 2014

Getting My Writer's Groove Back

Sorry I haven't been around lately. The last time I posted on this blog was back in October. Shameful, I know. I wish I could blame it on plain old writer's block, but it's not so simple as that. A lot has been going on in my life in the past year and I found myself in a deep, dark hole, trying to claw my way out. I won't go into detail, but I lost two people I loved within months of each other (my dad and one of my best friends). Needless to say, I found it hard to write about love and happily-ever-afters. I think I'm finally getting back to a place where I can focus on my writing again, but it's been a struggle. I miss the ease of writing when my characters would not shut up, elbowing each other out of the way so that I could tell their stories. The characters in my current WIP (the sequel to my last book) won't tell me a thing. I'm actually re-reading the first book in my series in an effort to get myself back in the 'zone'. Hopefully that'll bring my muse back from wherever she's been hiding.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Changing Twilight of Summer


By Eilis Flynn

Light is an ever-changing thing during the spring and summer and autumn (not so much during winter, when there’s precious little of it, and around here, it’s mostly in shades of light gray and dark gray, probably more than 50, even), and that’s so clear in the days leading up to June 21, the official start of the summer season and what’s confusingly referred to as midsummer.

I’ve noticed this year, more than previous ones, that I’m more sensitive to the earlier lightening of the day (as opposed to lightning, very different). And it’s not just me: my hub has noticed it too. It’s weird to wake up at something like four o’clock in the morning and be able to see because it’s light out already. He’s sensible in that he rolls over and goes back to sleep when that happens to him, but I tend to be an early riser and I have to fight not getting up. Because, you know, if it’s light I should get up. But no! It’s too early! It’s not as if I have to get up, because right now I work at home. I could sleep in. By the time I do get back to sleep after this internal argument, I doze for a while and finally wake up for real by six o’clock, because, you know, the hub has to go to work.

Biorhythms are tricky things, and your internal clock is your own. Mornings are tough for me, because I have to work at not waking up too early. Night is another challenge because I get tired while it’s still light out, because in this area and at this time of year not only does the light present itself early in the morning, it goes away late in the evening. It’s light until almost ten o’clock, and by then, I’m ready to doze off. It’s embarrassing, I tell you.

And the summer twilight is a fascinating thing. Seeing it (when it’s not overcast around here) makes me appreciate the rich imaginations of composers who wrote music about it in earlier times, playwrights who used it as fodder for their work, and novelists who let it inspire them to reach into a magical otherworld (hey, like here!). It’s the time of day when the eye plays tricks on you, making you wonder if you indeed see what you thought you saw. Or did you? If you’ve ever seen Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, you know what that’s about.

But summer light ends quickly enough, and before too long (unfortunately, so, so soon), the twilight of magic is done. Autumn light is very different, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve never glimpsed a magical otherworld where autumn is the norm. Come to think of it, why not? I guess I’ll have to keep an eye out for it as I watch the summer light shift and change!

Eilis Flynn can be found to argue with at Facebook, Twitter, or at her website at www.eilisflynn.com. If you’re looking for an editor, you can find her at emsflynn.com as Elizabeth Flynn. Either way, you’ll find her online somewhere!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Fireworks: Thirteen Facts I Bet You Didn't Know

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fireworks


Hope you have a happy Fourth of July. If you’re like me, you will probably  see a ton of fireworks. There’s something fascinating about those splatters of light in the sky --something that tugs at the emotions and captures the imagination.

Everyone in my family has a favorite. A nephew especially enjoys the salutes. My aunt likes the ones that twinkle as they fall.

Ever wonder how these displays came about? Here’s what my research turned up:





1. Most people trace the invention of fireworks/gunpowder to an unfortunate Chinese alchemist who unintentionally heated sulfur and salt peter (potassium nitrate). It was an explosive discovery.

2. The Chinese call gunpowder "huo yao," which means fire chemical.

3. Early fireworks gave off more bang than light. As they exploded, people saw only a brief golden light.

4. Apparently the Chinese made the first fireworks by shoving gunpowder into bamboo reeds. They exploded them during their New Year’s celebration in hopes of frightening away evil spirits.

5. It’s believed that Marco Polo introduced gunpowder to Europe.

6. Around 1830, Italians began to add trace amounts of metal into the gunpowder, which “colored the explosions.”

7. Copper, for example, creates blue tinted light.

8. Aluminum and magnesium make a golden light.

9. Not surprisingly, other metals make other effects. Zinc creates clouds of smoke and titanium causes sparks.

10. Although onlookers have always enjoyed fireworks, they continue to be dangerous. May 16, 1770, is the date of one of the biggest fireworks tragedies. A fireworks display celebrating the marriage of King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette went awry and caused a stampede, which killed some 800 people. Not eight or eighty but 800!

11. Even in recent years, the danger element hasn't disappeared. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that “fireworks devices were involved in an estimated 8,800 injuries treated in the U.S. hospital emergency departments during the calendar year 2002.”
12. Here’s an interesting statistic. Three times as many males are hurt in fireworks-related incidents than females, according to data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

13. Although I enjoy watching fireworks, I don’t encourage people to set off their own. My suggestion: Consider attending fireworks displays put on by professionals in local parks or on lakefronts.


Correctly handled, fireworks can be a stunning way to celebrate special events. In the United States, we've used fireworks to celebrate Independence Day since 1776. 

That’s when John Adams declared, "The day (Independence Day) will be the most memorable in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. … It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade...bonfires and illuminations (fireworks) from one end of this continent to the other, from this day forward forevermore."


But I’d like to hear about your holiday. Are you planning to see the fireworks? Which ones impress you most?

Sources


 
ja