Thursday, January 29, 2015

Using Click to Tweet

Nowadays, it's all about shortcuts. Short attention spans. Being able to do things in a click. Yet we also want ourselves visible everywhere. So, how do we make it easy for people to find us, and help spread the word that we're out there?

I discovered a site that expands on the typical "tweet" button we're used to seeing on blogs. It's called "Click to Tweet" and it allows you to customize a tweet, include links, and make it easy for your readers to share information. It took some trial and error on my part, so I thought I'd share what I figured out.

It's the customization feature that attracted me. The typical tweet buttons that come with sharing packages tweet the title of the blog. But what if you want more? A long blog title uses up characters, and a short one might not convey enough to tempt readers to give you that magic click. What if you want to pull something else from your post? That's where Click to Tweet might help.

They have 2 options: free or paid. The paid version has some bells and whistles, like images, shortcuts, and tracking. The monthly charge for unlimited use is nominal, but I'm still playing with the free version. But their basic tweets, with a little planning, can let you track them as well.

How a Basic Click to Tweet works: On the site, you fill in what you want tweeted into their "message you want tweeted" box. This is where the creativity comes into play. Let's say I want people to tweet this post. I come up with the tweet I'd like to see on Twitter that goes beyond the title of the post. Maybe, "Easy Tips to Get People to Tweet Your Blog Posts." If I plug that in and get the link, the Tweet would bring people here. But what am I getting out of it? Very little.

I want to know if people are clicking. Since I'm not using trackable tweets, I need to get those tweets to show up in my tweet stream, and in the streams of anyone who's following me. So, I'll add "via @authorterryo" to my tweet. I can use links to the post, which I shorten first because of the 140 character limit. If I wanted, I could add hashtags. Now, it'll show up in my mentions, and I can see whether people are actually clicking. (I use TweetDeck, so I can't attest to how it works for other platforms).

This is what I used for this post: Tips to Get People to Tweet Your Blog Posts using Click to Tweet via @authorterryo at The Blood-Red Pencil http://bit.ly/1wuESP2

After you have entered your tweet (making sure it's within the 140 character limit) you click the 'generate link' button and Click to Tweet will give you a link that will send the tweet. You embed that link on your 'call to action' on your site. For me, it's just the words "click to tweet"

The only 'skill' you need to use this process is the ability to create a hyperlink on your blog, but if you're blogging you probably know how to do that.

The paid version has ways to make things even easier, but I opted to try it out for a while before I decide.

Give it a try. Like this post? Click to Tweet.

Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She’s the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When to Seek Professional Help (with Marketing)

Writing is a solitary profession. With the exception of a few remarkable people who work in writing teams, few people can conceive of an idea, draft it, and then edit and revise to create a finished project. This much is obvious.

But what about when that initial stage is over and your book is out there in the world? For those of us who are self-published especially, once you click “publish,” approaching a writing career as a solitary endeavor might not be the best plan of action. Only one person can bring a book into the world, but sometimes it takes a little help to get it to soar.

This is where publicists and author assistants come in mighty handy. You hear about a lot of the big names having assistants, but the truth is, even someone who is just starting out or who is building an indie career can use the professional help of someone whose job it is to build up the work you’ve already done.

Working with a publicist has been one of the best professional decisions I’ve ever made. My publicist, Anne Chaconas at Badass Marketing, is a fountain of knowledge and skill about the promotional end of the business. She, like other assistants and publicists out there, sets up blog appearances for me, organizes ARC readers, puts together my newsletter, make graphics for my social media sites and swag, and generally keeps me pumped about things when the going gets hard. The fact that she does all of these things for me means that I can do more of what I’m actually good at: writing books.

We authors can spend a lot of time buried under the nitty-gritty of all things publishing that are not writing. If you find yourself lamenting that hours of your precious time are sucked away looking for reviewers, interacting on social media, or generally selling your work instead of creating it, it may be time to call in the big guns. I’m not gonna lie, it can be a big expense, but in the long run it will pay off. The returns I’ve seen since hiring Anne had increased at a rate that I don’t think I would have seen otherwise. Plus, with Badass Marketing, at least, you can hire help for a particular project or on a more ongoing basis.

The world of publishing has grown more competitive than ever. You want to make sure that you’re using all of the tools you can to put yourself in a place you need to be. If you don’t have the time or money to do it all yourself, the time has come to seek help.

So where do you go to find an assistant or a publicist? Lots of places. But I would start by checking out Author’s Atlas, a site that has been compared to Craig’s List for freelance resources for authors.


Merry Farmer is a history nerd, a hopeless romantic, and an award-winning author of thirteen novels. She is passionate about blogging and knitting, and lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. Connect with Merry at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Piggybacking

You'd have to be living underground not to have heard of the successful erotic book, Fifty Shades of Grey, now turned into a movie. You'd also have to be living in a cave not to have recognized countless spinoffs, which for the purposes of this blog, I'll call Fifty Shades of Whatever.

There's a saying that success breeds success, and apparently many are quick to jump on the bandwagon and piggyback on others' successes. Some do it with similar titles. Others, with books in a similar genre. When that happens, what was once unique becomes one of many.

Actually, doing so is nothing new. What author didn't receive advice to compare their manuscript with a better known author's, when submitting to an agent or editor? Even in the library, I often see flyers saying, "If you like so and so, try so and so's books. You might like them."

In a way, it's a good thing to identify your book through comparison, and perhaps gain fans of like taste.

In another way, it's hard to compare your book with someone else's and still remain unique. That's walking a thin line, especially if you're determined to also follow the "Write the book of your heart" advice received from other quarters.

At least we're luckier than in the past, when books had to absolutely be pigeonholed into certain categories. Nowadays, it's possible to combine genres to suit our fancy.

So, if you wanted to piggyback and also be original, I guess you could do a book called Fifty Window Shades, Which One's Best?

After all, it's not easy to pick window shade styles, colors, or even gauge the width and length correctly. Some, you can tear off yourself to get the desired specifications, others you can't. Some are utilitarian, others fancy. Some block the light, some don't. Some you can see through, some you can't. Getting the wrong shade could lead to all sorts of trouble.

Now it's your turn. Do you have any either practical or nonsensical ideas for piggybacking on popular books or authors?


Experience the diversity and versatility of Morgan Mandel. Romantic Comedies: Her Handyman, its sequel, A Perfect Angel, standalone reality show romance; Girl of My Dreams. Thriller: Forever Young: Blessing or Curse,its sequel: the Blessing or Curse CollectionRomantic suspense: Killer CareerMystery:Two Wrongs.Short and Sweet  Romance:   Christmas Carol. Twitter:@MorganMandel Websites: Morgan Mandel.Com    Morgan Does Chick Lit.Com.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Social Media and Marketing: Does it Work?

We all hear how we HAVE to be on Twitter constantly, update our Facebook status often, post to Pinterest, etc., etc., etc. But do these social media sites sell books for us?

Marketing Maven Kristin Lamb has written several good posts about this subject. She writes the following in her blog:

Marketing, Social Media & Book Signings--Why NONE of These Directly Impact Book Sales

"In The Digital Age, we seem to find a lot of extremes. Either articles or blogs ranting how social media doesn’t sell books, it’s too hard, there are too many rules, whiiiiiiinnnnne. These folks might write books, maybe even great books, but I suppose they think readers will find them using telepathy. 

Or, there are those who worship the Oracle of Automation and the Lord of Algorithms. Instead of writing
MORE BOOKS, they tweet, FB, Instagram, buy flare, do blog tours, futz with the website, the cover, the algorithms…and then can later be witnessed crying in a corner with a pan of brownies and a half-finished bottle of rum.

Thus, I am here to bring some balance to The Force.

Social Media Was NEVER About Selling Books Directly—Who KNEW?

I’ve been saying this for about ten years, because the idea of using social circles for sales is NOT new. About ten years ago, I recognized that social media would soon be a vital tool for writers to be able to create a brand and a platform before the book was even finished. This would shift the power away from sole control of Big Publishing and give writers more freedom. But, I knew social media could not be used for direct sales successfully."

How? To read the rest of her blog, go to Kristen Lamb's Blog.




Shared by Heidi M. Thomas. A native Montanan, Heidi now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches writing, and edits. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreamsis based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series, Dare to Dream, and a non-fiction book Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women, have just been released. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Stepping Up Your Game

When a potential buyer thumbs through our novel in a “real” bookstore or peruses a sample of our e-book online, what does she see? What makes our printed pages (or e-book) stand out from all the others? A great cover garners instant attention. Name recognition helps. However, many of us aren’t well known; we haven’t developed a fan base. We need an equalizer.

Equalizer? How about graphics?

Most hard-copy books are printed with black ink on a cream or white background. Line art can be very effective, and a grayscale graphic can be surprisingly detailed in printed books. E-books, on the other hand, can be full color.

Are you captivated by a gorgeous sunset? A turbulent sea? Ducklings paddling after their mother in a pond? An elderly couple holding hands? As the cliché says, a picture is worth a thousand words. Just as a stunning cover may inspire us to pick up a book, well-placed graphics in the interior may incite us to buy the book.  

Look at two scenes below — with and without graphics. Do the graphics enhance or clarify the scenes in your mind? How do they help to tell the story?

Martha Hanson walked into the noisy classroom. Ninth grade boys and girls huddled in small pods, some whispering, some laughing, some tossing books and papers into the air and letting them fall to the floor. Miniskirts and shorts showed too much leg, and pants belted below the derrière rather than at the waist made her cringe. Fourteen years ago she’d left her position in a parochial school to raise her family. Her husband’s death had forced her back into the workplace. Public school wasn’t where she’d ever expected to teach.

The third time she tapped her ruler against the desktop, some students began to turn her way. “Find a seat, please.” Adjusting her glasses, she struggled to be heard above the din.

A roomful of mostly fair-haired adolescents looked in her direction, at least momentarily. A Hispanic girl and three Asian boys rounded out the group. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak.

***

Harry Samson left the college campus and began the ten-block trek to his apartment. The fresh air always invigorated him after a day of teaching. Following his recovery from a football injury, he’d returned to his alma mater to get his Ph.D. and stayed when a position unexpectedly opened up. At the end of this term he’d have tenure. Not that job security was everything, but positions in his field weren’t as easy to come by as they’d once been.

He stopped to light his pipe and leisurely crossed the street. Halfway home, he heard a noise in the alley. A quick glance made him want to run the other way. An old man, a derelict most likely, lay on the pavement. Two strapping young hoodlums took turns kicking him. The man curled into a fetal position and cried out. With each blow, the cries grew weaker.

Conflicting thoughts stampeded through his mind. What can I do? I’m only one person, but I can’t just walk away. It hasn’t been that many years since I was a star on the football field. I stay in shape. I lift weights…

He stepped out of sight, put in a quick call to 911, and returned to the alley entrance. Drawing himself up to his full six feet, he limped toward the bullies.

***

Now let’s add graphics to the same scenes and see how they might enhance reader interest and understanding.

by Shannon Parish
www.illustratingyou.com
Martha Hanson walked into the noisy classroom. Ninth grade boys and girls huddled in small pods, some whispering, some laughing, some tossing books and papers into the air and letting them fall to the floor. Miniskirts and shorts showed too much leg, and pants belted below the derrière rather than at the waist made her cringe. Fourteen years ago she’d left her position in a parochial school to raise her family. Her husband’s death had forced her back into the workplace. Public school wasn’t where she’d ever expected to teach.

The third time she tapped her ruler against the desktop, some students began to turn her way. “Find a seat, please.” Adjusting her glasses, she struggled to be heard above the din.

A roomful of mostly fair-haired adolescents looked in her direction, at least momentarily. A Hispanic girl and three Asian boys rounded out the group. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak.

***

by Shannon Parish
www.illustratingyou.com
Harry Samson left the college campus and began the ten-block trek to his apartment. The fresh air always invigorated him after a day of teaching. Following a football injury, he’d returned to his alma mater to get his Ph.D. and stayed when a position unexpectedly opened up. At the end of this term he’d have tenure. Not that job security was everything, but positions in his field weren’t as easy to come by as they’d once been.

He stopped to light his pipe and leisurely crossed the street. Halfway home, he heard a noise in the alley. A quick glance made him want to run the other way. An old man, a derelict most likely, lay on the pavement. Two strapping young hoodlums took turns kicking him. The man curled into a fetal position and cried out. With each blow, the cries grew weaker.

Conflicting thoughts stampeded through his mind. What can I do? I’m only one person, but I can’t just walk away. It hasn’t been that many years since I was a star on the football field. I stay in shape. I lift weights…

He stepped out of sight, put in a quick call to 911, and returned to the alley entrance. Drawing himself up to his full six feet, he limped toward the bullies.

***

Do these graphics enhance the scenes for you? How could you incorporate illustrations into your books? To step up your game, you can insert graphics above chapter headings, at chapter endings (line art can be especially effective here), or with a text wrap, as shown above.

Graphics reprinted with permission.
ShannonParish.com

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at DenverEditor.com.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

First Steps: Situation or Story?

I've heard a lot of great ideas for stories from people over the years. The problem? They describe a situation, not a story.

Writer: "This girl is in this really unhappy relationship. I mean the guy is an obvious psycho, but she just can't leave him."

Me: "So it's a woman in peril story. She has to escape the psycho boyfriend?"

Writer: "No. It isn't that kind of story."

Me: "So what kind of story is it?"

Writer: "It's about abusive relationships."

Me: "So what does your character do about it? What makes her realize the danger? How does she get away?"

Writer: "She can't leave. That's the point. Women get trapped in these things and they can't get out. There's no one that really helps them."

Me: "True. So what happens in this story?"

Writer: "This woman lives with his horrible guy. And he does (fill in list of awful things)."

Me: "And she learns to fight back?"

Writer: "No, no. She can't fight back or he'll kill her."

While all of this may be true, and the author could highlight this plight in a nonfiction article, this isn't a story with structure.

For it to become a story, the main character trapped in a hellish situation becomes the hero by finding a way out. A catalyst comes along that makes the situation untenable enough that she is forced to take action. It could be a literary story. It could be a thriller, or even a police procedural.

But, until the character defines a goal, makes a decision or takes action, and faces obstacles, it's just a situation. The story could have a down ending. The woman could try and fail and try again and end up dead. Not too many readers would love the ending, but it would be a realistic cautionary tale. The struggle for safety is the story.

A situation is Dick being in an unhappy marriage. The story begins when something comes along to make him want to leave it or fix it.

A situation is Sally hating her job. The story begins when she is fired, competing for a promotion, or finds the courage to start her own company.

A situation is Jane being betrayed by a friend. The story begins when Jane decides to do something about it: get revenge, confront and heal, or make her friend see the error of her ways in a misguided fashion.

A story goal with obstacles and responses are the gears that power narrative. You can write pages and pages of anecdotes that, while entertaining, do nothing to propel the story forward.

If you can't identify a central conflict and resolution of your plot, you could be illustrating a situation and that is how you lose readers.

Every chapter should include conflict represented by obstacles and responses. Every chapter should show characters moving toward or away from the goal until they reach the final outcome.

There's nothing worse than turning pages and wondering what the whole point of a chapter was. If I have to go back and reread it, looking for a point, the book goes in the "to be burned" pile.

As you go through your first draft, make sure each scene pulls its weight. Don't waste the reader's precious time, or you might find your book in ashes, your name blackened in the process.

To learn more about obstacles and responses, check out Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict.






Diana Hurwitz
 is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

When Characters Cross Ethical Lines


Up until my once monthly blog for The Blood Red Pencil, I had resisted blogging. I never thought I had anything to say that others hadn’t said better. I was wrong. Every writer has her own experiences to impart, her own twists on writing, whether it be genre-crossing, plot variations, or unusual characterizations. Mine is a little of all three, but mostly the latter, and because I’m self-published, no one can tell me I can’t write a character the way I want to. Readers can, of course, choose not read my books, but I hope they do.

It’s easy to write good, moral characters that readers root for to overcome adversity or to find his or her love or to get the bad guy. But what about those characters pushed into circumstances that make them do illegal or unethical acts? Even murder. Some crime fiction writers tread that line, and I love when they do. Crime is dirty and messy. Writers of the genre know that, and they expect a little line crossing. I do, but how much will a reader accept before slamming the book closed? How far can a writer push her characters without offending reader sensibilities?

What if you don’t like the characters in a book? 2014’s bestselling novel has a husband and wife, that from reading writer blogs and reviews, almost every reader disliked. (Full disclosure: I have not read the book.) So what was it that made the book soar to the top of the charts and remain there to this day? Excellent writing, of course. The mystery, surely. But I believe what kept them reading was a perverse fascination with the unpleasant characters, characters so unlike themselves, that they had to keep turning the pages to see what happens. Kudos to any author who can inspire not only love for a book, but also hate. Would that I could.

Every one of my books has a character that treads an ethical line somewhere in the story. My work-in-progress, Indiscretion, has a thief as a main character and a woman who commits adultery. I’m sure both characters will turn off some readers, but many will persevere to find out the dynamic that caused them to take the path they took and what happens to them in the end. My protagonist in Hooked is a call girl, and the main character in Mind Games, book one of my psychic suspense series, spent more than half her life conning audience participants in her psychic act. A character in Threads enlists a dozen good people, cops and lawyers and doctors, to commit felonies, and they all do it, if not willingly, then for believing it is ultimately the right thing to do. A cop in one of my books (won’t say which one) murders someone in cold blood.

How does a writer create questionable characters so readers root for them in spite of their ethical lapses or downright crimes? Good question. The goal of a thriller is to put characters in situations that force them to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do in order to save the world or a loved one or themselves in the face of evil. Then as bad as it gets for them, writers must make it worse. In romance novel, the old chestnut of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins back girl is tried and true and meets the same requirement as the thriller, only differently.

There are always extenuating circumstances that put my protagonists in questionable situations. Okay, so becoming a call girl might not be one of those professions readers will understand or forgive, no matter what drove her into the life. Writing characters like her and my psychic can be risky, but I want readers to question their own moral code and wonder what they would have done in similar situations.
Polly Iyer is the author of six novels: standalones Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, and two books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games and Goddess of the Moon. A Massachusetts native, she makes her home in the beautiful Piedmont region of South Carolina. You can visit her website for more on Polly and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Go From What You Know



Hello again, dearies! The ugly sweaters and paper party hats are packed away, and we’re all back at our desks and ready to buckle down and do some fine writing.

I must admit, I’m not entirely focused on my own task; there’s a chocolate apricot cheesecake in the oven, and it’s not at all easy to ignore such a thing.

With a new year comes a host of new resolutions, most of them related to fresh starts and big changes. I am generally underwhelmed by the process, and tend to adhere to old habits. I still enjoy far too much coffee, I have a favorite shawl for chilly nights, and (my apologies) I simply adore that pair of well-worn jeans in the dresser.

Writing can be much the same, and that’s where style comes from. A standard, be it personal or professional. There are basic rules which one must follow, such as never divide a single-syllable word, or never wear a floral shirt with plaid pants. Once we’ve got the foundation set in place, we can go from what we know to what we like.

House style may fall in line with the CMOS, or it may veer off on a tangent. Some places prefer all the things, rather than all of the things, for example. If you’ve ever worked with a publishing company with their own house style, you’ve no doubt had some interesting conversations.

The next time you are considering a publisher, do a bit of research. Look at some of the titles in their catalogue. How does the editing style compare to yours? Are they very similar, or are there glaring differences? Do they seem to prefer established rules, such as from the CMOS, or do they favor a more bohemian style?

Dear, me. The oven timer is beeping, and my coffee cup is empty. I’m off to the kitchen for now, but I’ll be back next month. In the meantime, try a little experiment. Write a bite-sized short story, perhaps one hundred words or so, and use a completely different style than you are familiar with. Write a second version using your typical style. What do you notice? Share your findings (and a line or two from your stories, if you like) in the comments section. It’s not quite warm enough to get out of the house, but it’s always fine enough to think outside the box.


Keep writing, keep reaching, and remember: a well-turned phrase is always in style!

The Style Maven, in an attempt to ward off the winter blues, has been in talks to choose the perfect kitchen paint color. She spends most of her day curled up on the floor, weeping over samples and threatening to cover the ceiling with polka-dots.You can read about her other adventures on The Procraftinator page.

Coming Off the Sidelines


In September of 2011, I wrote a post for the Blood RedPencil about my 20-year haiku practice and how it fueled me, nurtured me, inspired me, and helped me realize that I am indeed an artist. Last year I wrote a series of blog posts for the excellent and helpful website Assisted Self Publishing about my trek through the wilds of self-publishing with the result of this 20-year haiku practice. The following is an excerpt from one of those posts:  

Twenty years ago I did not know that a haiku practice would change my life, but it did. At the time I worked for the marketing department of a large technology company, and tried to pacify my lifelong dreams of being a “real” writer by writing “on the side.” One evening while on a business trip and staying in a nondescript hotel, I was reading a book about writing I had brought from home. I have since forgotten the author and title of this book; the only thing I remember was that the author suggested would-be writers might try to write just one thing per day, no matter how small. Even a three-line haiku would be enough, the author said, to prove you were a real writer, a real artist.

“I can do that,” I thought. Even though I was a single mom with a demanding job, surely I could manage seventeen measly syllables each day. So I determined I would try. I wanted to fulfill the dream I’d had since childhood. I wanted to lay claim to that powerful statement, I am an artist.

It worked – boy did it work. Five years after I began writing my one haiku a day I left my corporate job and became a full-time freelance writer, writing not only haiku, but many books of fiction and non-fiction, blogs and articles – both for me and for others as a ghostwriter. And despite my – and my family and friends’ – fears of poverty, this is what I am still doing today.

But until recently I thought of my haiku practice as “just for me” and had no plans to put my haiku out into the world, although I often shared one on my blog. The conventional wisdom is that poetry does not sell, so what would be the point? Then I began to wonder if my children would find my disorganized haiku files after I was gone, and maybe they’d like to preserve them as a family keepsake. Perhaps I should make it a little easier for them.

Most writers want to be remembered (we’re all Shakespeare-wannabes) so this seductive idea took root in my mind. And maybe the conventional wisdom was wrong. Even if it wasn’t, even if my haiku did not sell, so what? The reason I wrote haiku was not for money or admiration. It was because I am an artist and this art form is beautiful.

That brings me to this new project, the Haiku Books of Days. When you write one haiku a day for twenty years you end up with a lot of haiku – like over seven thousand of them. Of course not all of them are good haiku – some are pretty bad. (However, many are excellent.) But what was I going to do with seven thousand haiku?

The Haiku Book of Days is the answer. I reviewed my seven thousand haiku and winnowed out the bad ones, then the mediocre ones, then the almost-really-good ones (that was hard), and ended up with more than 2500 haiku that I thought were my best. Now, these haiku are not always upbeat or inspirational. Some are full of sadness and grief, some are angry. Some are funny. Some are just puzzled by the contradictions of life.

As I sorted the haiku, I took note of the broad themes that recurred often, and eventually came up with seven. Therefore the Haiku Book of Days series consists of seven books, each book containing 366 haiku, one for each day of the year (including February 29) organized into eight seasons. Each book’s haiku reflects a different theme. The books, all of which are now available online in both print and e-book versions, are:


My vision for this series is that readers can read just one of the books, or all of them, or some of them, in any order. They can read one haiku a day, or a bunch of them whenever they want. However they are read, I hope readers enjoy and ponder them.
 
My hope is that these books might inspire others to write their own haiku. I know from my own experience how powerful a haiku practice can be. I also hope aspiring haiku-writers will visit my blog, www.FromTheCompost.com  – especially on Fridays, since that is the day I dedicate the blog to haiku, asking my readers to play a game of Haiku Friday with me.

In the seventeen syllables of one of my daily haiku:

come when you are called

on the sidelines of your life


nothing will happen

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit Primary-Sources.com.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Interview with Benny Hung The IF List CEO and Co-Founder

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Benny Hung, co-founder of my latest favorite creative writing tool - The IF List. Read more to find out how you can use it in your writing life. ~ Dani Greer/Chief Red Pencil

So, Benny, tell me first what "The IF List" means.

The IF List stands for The Imagine Film List. The “IF” also refers to a hypothetical “what if” movie proposal and dream cast. My co-founder Noel Spangler had brilliantly come up with the name after we spent months brainstorming different possibilities.


http://www.iflist.com
Why did you decide to create this site? And how long has it been around?

Ever since co-founders Noel Spangler, Ian Spangler, and I first met over twenty years ago, we've been passionate about all kinds of stories. We’re huge movie fanatics, and have often discussed our original movie ideas and actor dream casts. So we've held the core concept of IF List close to heart for a long time. The idea for a website first took shape three years ago, after I read The Meaning of Night, a novel by Michael Cox. I was so enamored by the story that I wanted it to come to life on the big screen, and was convinced that actors Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Keira Knightley, and Jude Law were the characters incarnate. This inspired our vision for a communal platform that enabled all readers to dream-cast actors, share their ideas, and vote for their favorite stories. We had full-time jobs at the time, but agreed to work after-hours. From our living room, we would stay up into the wee hours of the night, wire-framing, and designing the prototype site. After working like this for half a year, we met our first investors Denise Stabenau and Jo-Ann Sickinger, who enabled us to pursue our this venture full-time and helped make The IF List website a reality. Our website has now been in public beta for five months.


What is your movie industry background?

Ian worked previously as a production assistant with Dream Works and in post-production with the TV show The It Factor. Noel had researched for and edited various screenplays for the NYC based Benjamin Productions. They have also both worked on the live set of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”. Denise’s career includes all aspects of film and television production, including editing and distribution for companies such as HBO, MTV, Janus Films, Nickelodeon, CBS and The Criterion Collection. In addition, our investors in Dubai have close ties to Hollywood.

Who uses the website besides actors?

Right now, many authors use The IF List to promote their books. Their fans are also very involved, dream-casting and sharing their proposals. Writers on Wattpad and other e-publishing platforms are using our site to publicize and visualize their stories as well.

As we continue to grow, we will develop more exciting features for producers, casting directors, and film industry professionals to gain more insight into the public preferences and statistics captured on our site. 


Once people make movie proposals, what happens to the suggestions?

The movie proposals will be visible for others to see, like, dislike, comment on, and share. As the proposals gain popularity and fan support, they move up the rankings on The IF List, where they are in better position to gain the attention of producers. We also try to inform the actors so they can further promote themselves for these roles. Many new models and actors are now gaining supporters and recognition on The IF List!

If someone is interested in an actor proposed for a role or a story, how does a movie executive contact them?

We do have an info section in each actor’s profile to place official website and social media links so that they can be contacted. They can email The IF List team at info@iflist.com to include and update their contact information. In addition, we will soon implement a messaging platform.

Does this sort of contact happen often?

I am not aware of producers proactively contacting actors through our site, but authors have contacted actors based on fan input from The IF List! For instance, author Bonnie Burgess contacted actress Ryan Newman, after she became the IF List favorite to play The Mystic Series protagonist. Most recently, author Colleen Hoover contacted actor Nick Bateman, since he was unquestionably the fans’ first choice to play the male lead. Bateman is now officially cast in Hoover’s Ugly Love movie.

How do you see the IF List developing and growing over the next year?

Over the next few months, we are focused on releasing actor profiles and social networking features to further engage users in a fun and exciting way. We will fully integrate these features for desktop and mobile devices. We also aim to continue growing our database of stories and user-generated content so we can provide greater value and entertainment for our community. We will be preparing for and exhibiting at the exciting Book Expo America conference this May.

How can authors use the IF List site creatively?

The IF List provides a unique and innovative marketing tool for authors – it engages fans to explore the psyche of the author’s characters, and empowers them to be an active participant and author their own creative proposals. Fans love discussing dream casts with their favorite authors! The celebrity branding our site offers is very powerful, and is a great way to promote books and attract new readers.

What suggestions can you make to authors to make the best impression in their proposals.

The most successful and supported stories on The IF List were campaigned by authors on their Facebook fan pages and official websites, where they have the greatest social media reach. The fans feed off of the author’s excitement. Authors I have worked with have indicated that contests and giveaways are great incentives for fans to support, dream-cast, and write endorsements for their stories on The IF List. Since no social media post can reach every fan, periodically reminding their fans to vote for their story on The IF List has shown to be very effective.

What is the best way to share the IF List with others?

Throughout The IF List site, there are share buttons, so users can share their favorite content with friends, and post on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Users can also share direct links of their favorite IF List pages. Authors and actors can share The IF List link on their fan pages and official websites.

I notice you are doing a lot of work with the Dragonlance books at The If List. I'm a dragon lore fan (mostly Anne McCaffrey).

Yes, I grew up reading the Dragonlance series! It is actually the only fantasy novel I've read aside from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But Dragonlance is the very first story that had ever inspired me to dream-cast! Through the years, my dream cast for this series has changed, but as always, I find myself going back to it. That’s what I enjoy about this site – the ability to revisit my childhood and all my favorite, timeless stories. But perhaps what I cherish most is connecting with other fans – supporting and sharing visions for our beloved stories.

Readers, I'm working on the synopsis and character descriptions to add my novel to The IF List ~ why not add your book for movie casting? Be sure to connect with The IF List on Facebook and Twitter


Please leave us a question or comment! Which title of yours do you see as a TV series or movie?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Don't Make Resolutions. Set Goals

Every year at this time, people resolve all kinds of things. I notice this at the exercise classes I attend. The first week in January, the rooms are packed. By March, things are pretty much back to the way they were the previous October. Most of these people have probably (I haven't surveyed them, so I can't be positive) decided they want to "lose weight" or "get in shape" and figure a workout at the gym, or a yoga class, or whatever they've chosen, is the way to go.

Some may drop out because they're not a good fit for the exercise routine, which is certainly acceptable. The others probably drop out because they're not seeing the results they expected. But what were those expected results?

Resolutions are lofty dreams. "I will make the NYT Best-Seller List." Or "I will make enough money writing to quit my day job." Or even, "I will finish three books this year." What people need to do is set goals. Around my house, resolutions are things I make for my husband.

The difference between a dream and a goal is that you can measure the latter. You can control it. You have absolutely no control over most dreams. They're nice, and they make a great starting point. But you have to break them down into measurable bits. The key word here is measurable.

Let's look at that last one. "I will finish three books this year." How? Let's look at the very basics. How much do you have to write to produce three books? First, based on the genre you write, you need to know about how long each book will be. My mysteries run about 85,000 words; my romantic suspense books come in at a little over 100,000. My romantic suspense books sell better than my mysteries, so assuming I'm still thinking I can crank out 3 good books, it makes sense to write 2 romantic suspenses and 1 mystery. That's 285,000 words.

There are 365 days in the year. There are 12 months in a year. Fifty-two weeks. Each week has 7 days. Each day has 24 hours. Everything that you have to do in your life has to fit in there. Family, day job, household routines—everything. Writing is one part of that day.

I'm no math whiz, but 285,000 divided by 365 comes out to about 781 words a day. That's every day. If you want one day a week off, then it's more like 910 words. If you're writing 5 days a week—well, you get the drill. Is that reasonable for you? Because you CAN measure it. You can look at how many words you write each day and see whether you're meeting your goal.

And goals need to be flexible. If you can't handle 800-900 words a day, then you decide whether you can find another hour in your day, maybe by getting up an hour earlier or staying up an hour later, or working through your lunch hour, or (gasp!) not playing on Facebook or watching television! If you can't handle that, then you can change your goal to something you can manage. And it can go the other way, too.

The important thing is to look at your goals regularly. Daily, once a week, once a month, three times a year. Get a 'goal buddy' and egg each other on. It doesn't have to be for writing. I now have a FitBit and I've found the "My Fitness Pal" website which sync together. They track exercise and food. They make those dreams of losing 10 pounds into goals because you can measure them. It's not measuring what the scale says, it's measuring how many steps, how many flights of stairs, and what food actually goes into your mouth. Stick to those goals, and the scale will follow.

What kind of goals do you set for yourself? How do you track them?

Don't make resolutions. Set goals. Click to tweet.


Terry Odell is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels, mystery novels, as well as contemporary romance short stories. Most of her books are available in both print and digital formats. She's the author of the Blackthorne, Inc. series, steamy romantic suspense novels featuring a team of covert ops specialists, the Pine Hills Police series, set in a small Oregon town, and the Mapleton Mystery series, featuring a reluctant police chief in a small Colorado town. To see all her books, visit her website. You can also find her at her blog, Terry's Place, as well as follow her on Twitter, or visit her Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Time Out For Some Fun

We're starting a new year and looking for new opportunities for fun. Between the Yoga links from Dani, and the humor from Elspeth, as well as my humble offerings, we are doing our part here at The Blood-Red Pencil to help you stay healthy and relieve stress. When I read the following from humor writer, Slim Randles, I couldn't help but think of those few writers who have a penchant for using such big words we have to read with the book in one hand and a dictionary in the other. I really don't think that is the way to win over readers. Just saying...

“I can’t stand winter,” said Herb Collins, who had dropped in at the Mule Barn’s philosophy counter for a quick cup. “There’s nothing to do.”

"Get out and enjoy it,” suggested Doc. “Go skiing. Go ice fishing. Build a snowman. Do something. Then you’ll feel better.”
 “I don’t think your advice will take,” said Dud. “Herb seems to be intransigent on this one.”

We all looked at Dud.

“You see, he said he couldn’t stand winter,” Dud continued, “which shows he has a proclivity for intransigence on that particular subject.”

We looked at him some more.

“If he were to take up a winter hobby,” he continued, “he could stop being intransigent and enjoy things more.”

Even Herb was staring at him now.

“I usually,” said Herb, “enjoy a proclivity in that direction, but winter is pretty boring, so maybe I really should be intransigent on this point.”

“Well Herb,” said Dud, “even though you might have a proclivity this season for being intransigent on your attitude about winter, you could kinda ease up and consider a hobby. That way you’d be showing a proclivity for transigence.”

“Transigence?” said Doc. “I thought those were people who lived under bridges. You might want to look that one up, Dud.”

Dud blushed as we laughed.

“Say Dud?” said Steve, the cowboy. “Wasn’t proclivity last month’s word?”

“Yes,” said Dud, “and I believe I’ve used it a couple of dozen times already.”

“And now this month’s word is intransigence, right?”

Dud nodded.

“Well then,” said Doc, “it looks like you are going to have a proclivity for saying intransigence this month. That’s a veritable plethora of proclivity my friend.”

Dud pulled out a pencil and grabbed a napkin.

“How do you spell it, Doc?”

“Spell what?”

“Plethora.”

We just groaned. Sometimes education can be ugly.

--------
Slim Randles writes a nationally syndicated column, Home Country, and is the author of a number of books including  Saddle Up: A Cowboy Guide to Writing. That title, and others, are published by  LPD Press.

Posted by Maryann Miller - novelist, screenwriter, editor and sometimes actress. Her most recent mysteries are Doubletake and Boxes For Beds, both available for Kindle and in paper.  Stalking Season is the second book in the Seasons Mystery Series, hardback and digital, along with Open Season, the first book in the series. For her editing rates, visit her website. When not working, Maryann likes to take her dog for a walk and work outside on her little ranch in East Texas. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Something Old, Something New


I have a new Daisy Dalrymple mystery, Superfluous Women, coming out in June. And in March, the first of the series, Death at Wentwater Court (originally published in 1994), will be reissued in trade paperback. Something old and something new.

I was surprised and pleased that Minotaur sent me the page proofs of Death at Wentwater Court to be checked—for the nth time.

Before publication, each ms has already been edited by me before I send it off; read by my Minotaur editor, whose purpose is to make suggestions for improvements, but who also marks typos that jump out at him; by a copy-editor; by me again, reading the copy-edited ms; and finally I get the page proofs, aka first pass pages or what we used to call galleys. In spite of computerization, new typos are sometimes introduced by whoever passes for a typesetter these days.

Most of the errors that turned up in the new proofs of Wentwater Court were the result of the changed format, in particular hyphenization. I don’t care what the Chicago manual says, you cannot hyphenate Wentwater as Wen-twater. It’s obscene. Literally.

One change I asked for was because of a historical error in the original, brought to my attention by a reader: in 1923, British railways had long since abandoned 2nd class carriages.

The other change I hope they have dealt with was a matter of character development. I didn’t know, when I wrote the first book, that Detective Sergeant Tring would be an important recurring figure with his own particular view of the world. One remark he made in Wentwater Court was completely inappropriate to the person he turned out to be. Luckily I was able to find an alternative that wouldn’t completely mess up the pagination, something one has to take into account at this stage of the process.

Of course, the same consideration applied to the page proofs of Superfluous Women, which arrived on Christmas Eve. The author who decides to rewrite at that point may be on the hook for the cost of reformatting/resetting.

Again, there were not many corrections, and most were a matter of a word or two, even a letter or two. Practice/practise was one. I write British English. Practice is a noun; practise is a verb. As both have the -c- in American English (Don’t they? Now I’m thoroughly confused!), I was surprised when the copy-editor changed my noun from -c- to -s-. I changed it back, but the wrong one somehow survived.

The only major error I found was entirely my own, but how it wasn’t caught by anyone in the process I described above beats me. Two major characters in the book, a young woman and her aunt, are surnamed Hedger. Yet on page 305 of the manuscript, I called one of them Hewitt.

Where on earth did that come from?

Carola Dunn is author of the Daisy Dalrymple Mysteries, Cornish Mysteries, and multitudinous Regencies.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Breaking Up Is Easy (and Good) to Do: Line Breaking Can Positively Affect How Readers Read

Years ago, a dear friend read my MFA thesis, a novel titled, The Greyhound Chronicles. He told me how much he enjoyed seeing my use of line breaks throughout the story and how the breaks affected his read.

My response?

“Uh, thank you.”

You see, I wasn’t consciously doing it as I wrote. I had no idea I was doing it.

After my friend’s comment, I reread the book and saw the breaks and realized it was something I just did while writing, something I learned in studying fiction and poetry and the importance of the word and white space and how readers may be affected by not only what we write, but also how we write it.

Lines breaks are not just for poetry.



We writers of short stories, novels, novellas, articles, essays – we, too, can use line breaks to great effect.

For this post, I’m going to use two examples, both from great reads you’ll find on the site SNAPS 1000 Words, a site that publishes weekly stories of 1000 words that are inspired by photography.

Let’s look at the first graph (first draft) of A Christmas Wrench, by author P. R. Spates:
My mother served my father divorce papers on Christmas Eve. Needless to say, after that Christmas became my least favorite holiday. I didn’t care to put up a tree, hang a stocking and all that bull; I preferred staying busy, and everyone knew that and respected it. Everyone, except Tristan.
I really like this graph; I learn a lot about the narrator (and her family) in a short span of time, and I'm eager to know who this Tristan is.

A very little edit could provide emphasis to the graph (and the story). See below:
My mother served my father divorce papers on Christmas Eve. 
Needless to say, after that Christmas became my least favorite holiday. I didn’t care to put up a tree, hang a stocking and all that bull; I preferred staying busy, and everyone knew that and respected it.

Everyone, except Tristan.
I like this revision for two reasons. One, that first sentence is just very intriguing to me, and the line break and white space help me as a reader to think on that for a moment before moving on. Two, the “Everyone, except Tristan,” separated by the line break, makes Tristan important to me as a reader. I want to learn what role he plays in this story.

In author Jennifer Coissiere’s story, Meeting at the Christmas Tree, we get another example of how to use effective line breaking. Here’s the first graph (first draft) of the story:
This would be the first year without her. Daniel walked through the mall aimlessly. He had no one to buy for. No one in his life to love. Ciara had died two years into their marriage. They hadn’t the chance to produce their own children before she fell ill. Now, Daniel was all alone.

There is a lot of good material in this graph that connects me to Daniel and his life. A little line breaking could open up that connection between reader and Daniel. See below:
This would be the first year without her.
Daniel walked through the mall aimlessly. He had no one to buy for. No one in his life to love. Ciara had died two years into their marriage. They hadn’t the chance to produce their own children before she fell ill. 
Now, Daniel was all alone.
Breaking that first line by itself leaves great impact for the reader. Who will be without her? Who is her?

Having "Now, Daniel was all alone" on its own line also adds impact, but more than that, it connects to the words "all alone" that are in the line because the sentence is "all alone" from the graph before or after it.

Keep in mind this is not something I think about while writing. I’m too busy trying to get words on the page. However, in the rewriting, revising, and editing stages, I do think about how my words read aurally and visually on the page.

The way lines fall in your story can give readers additional space to think and to feel as they read your story.

Do you consider how your story lines break when editing your story?

What techniques do you use to aurally and visually connect your readers to your story?


Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her author website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Let’s face it: a resolution often involves little more than changing a habit—typically a bad one—to somehow improve one’s life. We are, however, creatures of habit, so most resolutions are forgotten within days or weeks of making them. It seems that many of us “old dogs” aren’t into learning new tricks.

by John Hernandez on Morguefile
It’s January 2015, and resolutions are all the rage. With that in mind, does it make sense to take another look at developing new habits and setting new goals? On the other hand, it didn’t work last year or the year before or the one before that.

Change is hard—and intimidating. But the benefits can far outweigh the difficulties—a lesson I managed to put off learning until very recently.  

For many years, simplification of my life, though sorely needed, has fallen victim to the Scarlett O’Hara Syndrome: tomorrow's another day. (Procrastination is one of those bad habits.) Now health issues dictate that need has been upgraded to requirement. Procrastination time is over. After unsuccessfully trying to retire—I was bored out of my mind—I have “resolved” to work part-time and write part-time. Because editing and nurturing other writers are special joys of mine, giving that up left a significant hole in my joie de vivre. Aha moment: With making some adjustments, I don’t have to give them up!

by jppi on Morguefile
While continuing to downsize and/or reorganize all areas of my life, I’m discovering that old habits can be discarded and new ones learned. Practical but exciting goals can replace old ones that no longer fit the need or meet current constraints. This old dog is learning some new tricks in order to do what she still wants to do.  

The hardest part for me has been changing the mindset. (I cannot do everything, so it’s time to choose what means the most!) Writing novels has been my goal since childhood, but I have long had a bad habit of letting too many (often less important) things get in the way. Now that treasured work will get its fair share of time. Already, past bad habits pound at the door; tempting as it is to return to my previous comfort zone, I’m not answering. The thought processes have shifted; I think differently. My writer within screams to be heard. She’s getting very hoarse—and quite out of breath—but I’m finally listening.

by dave on Morguefile
Do you have issues with keeping resolutions or cultivating new habits? What are your goals for 2015? Is forsaking old habits necessary to realize those goals? Please tell us what works for you.

Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at DenverEditor.com.

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