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Showing posts from June, 2015

Just the Facts, Ma'am

“Who cares if it’s accurate? It’s fiction .” A writer whose book I was editing said the above when I questioned something in her manuscript. I suggested she research the subject, and she became irate, a bit rude even. Because I was also contractually obligated to publish the book, I did the research myself and corrected the information in the story. Later, the writer mentioned my “absurd” request to another author who informed her that fiction must, indeed, fit the facts, be accurate, and pass the plausibility test. After a contrite apology, my writer never again challenged me when I advised her to confirm her info. What does this have to do with blatant self-promotion? Think about it. If our stories don’t ring true, we can lose our readers. If we lose our readers, we won’t have an audience. If we don’t have an audience, we won’t sell books. If we don’t sell books because our stories don’t ring true, all the BSP in the world isn’t going to make any difference. Why is accuracy so

Beat the Bully… Stand Tall With BSP

Remember that kid in the back of the class who was never talked to? Who was never picked for teams? That nerdy runt who was stuffed in lockers, got food thrown at him, got pushed around in the halls? The boy all the girls laughed at while saying ‘Not if he was the last boy on earth’? That was me. I was bullied on a regular basis. I had the freckles, goofy haircut, skinny frame, and I was smart. I was the student who always raised his hand for questions, and always gave the right answer. Until I decided being smart wasn’t cool. It seemed my intelligence played a big factor in getting the crap kicked out of me. So I stopped raising my hand, stopped showing my intelligence. I tried hiding even deeper in the vague identity of ‘that boy”. But it didn’t help. It was freshman year when I reached my breaking point. I had enough and one unlucky bully got every ounce of frustration and anger I had inside me. He put me in a headlock and laughed. I didn’t find it funny at all. I wormed m

Tips For Book Promotion

Promoting books is all about exposure. No, I don't mean running around the neighborhood nekkid, although that might get a lot of attention. What I mean is that people have to know about your book in order to be interested in reading it, and that entails spreading the word far and wide on the Internet and in the real world. In my earlier post here at The Blood-Red Pencil this month, BSP - It's All About Buzz, I mentioned how much I dislike this promotional part of the writing biz, and most of the comments on that post shared the same sentiment. So it was kind of ironic that in my research for this article I came across this bit of advice from Tony Levelle in a blog post on the Writers Store Ezine.    He suggests that we change that negative to a positive.  Think of book promotion as storytelling. The story you are telling is why you wrote your book, how it can help others, and how the world will benefit from your book. If you can develop a positive attitude about bo

Cowgirl Up!

“…Rearing, bucking, fighting, a frenzied bronco tears at the burden on its back. Claimed by a thousand devils, he kicks and plunges with the fury of the damned. The rider, a woman, is buffeted and tossed like dust in a storm…” While we are not likely to see this scenario at modern rodeos these days, it was not uncommon in the 1920s and ’30s for women to compete in the same rodeo arenas and draw from the same rough stock as the men. The first cowgirls learned to ride out of necessity to help on their family ranches. At an early age they learned to ride horses, rope cattle, and stay in the saddle atop an untamed bucking bronc. The 1920s are known as the “heyday” of women’s rodeo, producing more world champion female riders than any time since. These cowgirls were products of working-ranch values, where athleticism, skill, competitiveness, and grit were acceptable traits in women. Some cowboys were skeptical of women rodeo riders, and society in general branded them “loose wome

Being Your Own Text Doctor

Image by Oliver Symens , via Flickr Not long ago, I came across a folder of materials I used while I was teaching at the University of St. Andrews. Among the files was a questionnaire I devised for my Creative Writing students to help them assess their own work from the perspective of an editor (or, as in this case, the members of their academic examining committee). There are four categories of five questions apiece: Plot,Characterization, Setting and Atmosphere, and The Writer’s Craft . It occurs to me that this self-assessment questionnaire might be helpful to fiction writers in general who are trying to gauge whether their manuscript is ready for submission. A) Plot Does the work feature a strong/striking central idea around which the action of the plot revolves? Is the central concept sufficiently robust to be conveyed in a single "pitched" paragraph? Is the action well-paced, reflecting a balance between incident and exposition? Does the main pl

Banding Together for Promotion

With this month's theme being promotion, instead of promoting my own newest release (because I've already hyped Deadly Production in my last post ), I thought I'd give a plug to my author group, Booklover's Bench. BSP—Blatant Self Promotion—gets old in a hurry. If all anyone ever sees from you is Buy My Book , you'll lose them in a hurry. And, quite frankly, especially if you're an indie author, a great deal of your time—time that could be spent writing—has to be devoted to marketing. If not your time, then you'd have to hire someone, which costs money. A couple years ago, at the Novelists, Inc. (NINC) conference, a group of established authors presented a panel on their "Lifeboat Team." Ten of them banded together to share marketing efforts, including social media time. During my usual conference recaps, I reported on this panel, and had several authors asking if I wanted to form a similar team. We were not the NYT best-selling authors the

Making a Book Trailer

I had always wanted to create a book trailer. I’d seen others do it and thought if they could do it, so could I. Microsoft Movie Maker came loaded on my computer, so why not give it a try? I figured out how it worked by trial and error and a tutorial, then made an outline of the story, something I don’t do with my books. I’m strictly a pantser with an idea of where I’m going. A vague idea. So which book did I want to present in visuals? It really was a no-brainer— Hooked . It’s the book in which I see my characters more clearly than the others. Plus, the story lends itself to a trailer. Hooked is the book I chose for my first, and last, effort at writing a screenplay. I even entered it in a competition, getting nowhere, but it was another challenge I wanted to try. I thought it would make a fun movie, because if you have a certain sense of humor, parts of the book are funny, and there’s enough suspense to keep today’s impatient viewer interested.  I used four different sources f

Stress Relief for the Deskbound

Greetings, duckies! Anyone who has ever totted up the checkbook after a shopping spree knows about the tension that can settle around the neck and shoulders. Take that tension and multiply it by several hours each day, every day, and you have an idea of what authors often deal with. If ever you find your shoulders clamped against your ears (and you’re not at a rock concert or fending off bargain hunters at a closeout sale), consider having a go at these simple yet effective moves.  Questions, comments, considerations? How do you deal with muscle tension at your desk? As a devotee of Chocolate Therapy, The Style Maven was originally skeptical of yoga. Having lived through one of the Padded Shoulder fashion eras, she is now convinced of the benefits of muscle-relaxing practices.

The Synopsis Dread

I finished my new novel, The Masks on Grandmother’s Wall , months ago. I had it edited. The editor suggested I expand some parts. So I did. The novel is now complete, and I am very happy with it. But now comes the icky part. I have to write a synopsis for the book proposal. I’m okay with writing the promotion plans, my bio, competitive analysis, all that stuff. But for some reason I just detest writing synopses, at least of my own work. So for nearly six months I have been putting this chore off. And The Masks on Grandmother’s Wall is still patiently waiting … So finally I made myself write a synopsis. But because of my issues around writing synopses, I don’t know whether it’s a good synopsis, or a bad one, or just mediocre. Therefore I am sharing it on this blog, to see if someone will give me their opinion. So here it is, the synopsis of The Masks on Grandmother’s Wall . What do you think? Would you want to read this book? Please comment. (But be gentle.)     The

Family Connections

A heartbroken widow sacrifices her dream job, an angry daughter attacks her mother, the premature birth of twins threatens to cause yet another loss, an abusive relationship devastates the family, and a brother sets out to collect all that is “rightfully” his — these are just some of the family connections that pepper this cozy thriller. Interactions among family members always provide great grist for our writing mills. Powerful emotions and situations that many people relate to create strong hooks for readers. The following excerpts from A Brother Betrayed play on this theme. The book is scheduled for release very soon if all goes as planned. Katherine Kohler shivered and pulled the Afghan up around her neck. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep on the couch again, but her bed felt so empty without Ed. Sleep had come fitfully, and now, in the first cold rays of dawn, her eyes popped open for the umpteenth time. As the room came into focus, her gaze rested on the photograph that

An Author's Two Paths To Happiness

Photo by Cara Lopez Lee I’m living a double life: promoting the new edition of my memoir while also pitching my novel to agents. In one life, I’ve arrived at a pinnacle. In the other, I’m standing breathless on a false summit, staring up the steep slope ahead, wondering if I’ll ever reach the top. The view always promises to be better up there, but I find it important to pause and appreciate the climb. Back in 2006 to 2007, I began researching my historical novel. I explored East LA and El Paso from my grandmother’s and father’s point of view; interviewed family, locals, and historians; read books about Chinese-American and Mexican-American history; and studied archival photos and articles. That same year, I sent fifty queries to agents to pitch my recently completed memoir, They Only Eat Their Husbands . In 2007, I registered a synopsis of the novel I planned to write, Daughter on the Borderline , with the Writers Guild of America, West. That same year, I landed an agent

Superfluous Women

My new book comes out today, June 9 th . Superfluous Women is the 22 nd Daisy Dalrymple mystery, my 25 th mystery, and my 57 th book (not counting four collections of novellas).

Writing with a Dash of Bacon: Upcoming Works

[ amazon link ]

Why Do You Write That Stuff?

It still vaguely surprises me when I tell people I write Romance and they get that startled look. That look like Romance isn’t “real” writing or that it somehow cheapens what I do compared to what other authors do. Fortunately for me, that look generally only comes from fellow authors and academics, not readers. Readers love Romance, as proven by the gigantic percentage of the book market that Romance takes up. But do I write Romance because it sells so well, particularly in digital format for Indie authors? Nah, that’s icing on the cake. I write Romance because I love a good love story. I adore watching my heroes and heroines fall in love and overcome obstacles. And for the naysayers out there, yes, it’s escapism, and one could even argue it’s wildly unrealistic. But it’s the dream we would love to see become a reality. I love to dream. Okay, but why the heck do I write Historical Romance, let alone Western Historical Romance? Aren’t those genres, like, really, really dead? Tho

Backing Up Your Babies

Nothing causes showers of tears, and violent bursts of expletives, more than losing a file you’ve been working on, whether it is a chapter or an entire story. Backing up your files is easy to put off. Once you've lost important data, though, you are left with scars that are slow to heal. Last time, we discussed how to organize your files to make backup easier. Let's look at a few ways to backup them up. 1. You can purchase a cloud storage program which backs up daily. Pros : There are many cloud services to choose from. Some of the programs, such as Carbonite, automatically save every file every day. You can access your files from virtually any device. You don't lose the saved data if your computer crashes. You tell the program which files and folders to backup and they stay in that configuration. Cons : There are usually monthly/annual fees.Your notebook, laptop, or PC needs to be on and have access to the internet to perform the backup. You can s

Author Self Promotion: 6 Things to Remember

It is one of the ironies of the writing life; most writers are introverts who must morph into extroverts when it comes time to promote their wares. This isn’t just about changing hats, it’s more like changing skin. Keep in mind though…(and in no particular order) 1. There’s a slim (very slim) line between effective self-promotion and annoying pushiness. Tweeting ‘Buy My Book’ every two hours is the latter. 2. Building a writing platform takes time - in every sense of the word. Do you need a writing platform? Yes.  However, before you strap on that tool belt, remember that the time you need to write that blog post, compose that tumblr presentation, tweet and retweet, snap that photo for sharing on Instagram, and update your Facebook and Goodreads page, can devour a great deal of the day. This can prove somewhat problematic if you also have a word count to produce and you’re not one for working into the wee hours of the morning. There's also the very real danger of falling

Hailey's Chance Coming Soon, or Else!

This month at the Blood-Red Pencil, we're promoting our new releases. Well, I had hoped to finish a Women's Fiction book, called Hailey's Chance , by Easter. Then it turned into Mother's Day, and now, it looks like it'll be ready either this month, or maybe by the 4th of July! At least I have a cover to show you. Turns out I had more thinking and researching to do about adoption in Wisconsin, a topic which I knew little about. Though the story is purely fictional, I don't want to present misleading information. After various attempts, I finally latched onto Sandy Otto, a helpful social worker at a Wisconsin adoption agency. For her efforts, I'm including her name in the dedication. Hailey's Chance is a standalone prequel to my December, 2014 release, Christmas Carol , and takes place in the same fictional small town of Deerview. I've become attached to that town, and plan to contribute more books taking place

BSP Anxiety

Most authors hate the idea of Blatant Self Promotion (BSP) of their novels, but it's an increasingly important part of publishing success, for indie as well as legacy-published authors. To help, simply stop and breathe on a regular basis. Here's a yoga video that can help you: