Tuesday, December 16, 2014

New Year, New You, OCCRWA's January 2015 Online Class

Starting The Newest Yearby Laurie Schnebly Campbell 
Every new year means new opportunities, but that doesn't mean THIS January we're required to start doing yoga and losing five pounds and overcoming any writing hiccups.

We could do that in April or October just as well. For that matter, we could do it today. So what's the big deal about a new year?

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Ask anyone who's made some significant life change -- getting married, choosing a new job, deciding to publish a novel -- if they were inspired by a new page on the calendar, and chances are good they'll say no.

Even so, most of us like the idea of making SOME kind of change as a new year begins. And for writers, it makes sense that the change is frequently related to what or why or how we write.

A student on a laptop : Free Stock Photo

What do you write?

Do you still love it? Have you tried other kinds of writing? What would happen if you did? How did you choose what sort of writer you wanted to become?

Why do you write? What got you started? What does it DO for you -- aside from making you elated and making you frustrated, depending on how the story's doing? Why are you writing instead of, say, fly-fishing?

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(For anybody who explains that it's because their favorite fly-fishing stream is covered with ice in the winter, that's a perfectly good explanation!)

Finally, how do you write?

Aside from being a plotter or pantser, do you have rituals? A love or a fear of deadlines? A preference for plot or character, setting or action, description or dialogue, process or product? A particular place or time you like to think up plot twists, interview characters, get your outline or paragraphs down on the page?

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Some of what you're doing right now, some of what you've been doing ever since you began writing, works beautifully for you.

Some of it, maybe not so much.

Which is where we get into the idea of New Year, New You.

If there's anything you especially love about your writing, or if there's anything that bothers you about your writing, here's a good time & place to look at that.

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The past seven times I've taught this class, last-day messages have ranged from "it's such a relief to discover I'm not the only one who works that way" to "I never realized how much I needed this change" to "finally, I've discovered what I was missing!"

Everyone's reaction is different. Some writers are inspired to switch genres. Some might decide to take up fly-fishing (although no one's reported that yet). Others report a breakthrough, like those who've mentioned this class in their first-book acknowledgments.

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If you have any questions on whether "New Year New You" can help with some issue in your writing life, let me know here or privately at Book Laurie Gmail Com -- you can figure out where to email, right? -- and I promise I'll give you a straight answer.

Meanwhile, whether or not you use the upcoming new year to inspire any kind of changes in your life, here's hoping you love the results!
OCCRWA's January Online Class, "New Year, New You" begins January 5th. For more information and to sign up, visit the OCCRWA website.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Who's ever seen a Christmas Piano Tree? by Jina Bacarr

I asked myself that question when I was looking for ideas for a cover for my holiday romance, A Christmas Piano Tree.

You can’t stick a picture of a Christmas tree on a piano…and the story is a romance. Got to have gorgeous hero and pretty heroine on the cover…but where to start?

That’s when I decided to take a cover class from Andris Bear www.andrisbear.com and Lily Smith http://www.coversbylily.com through the Heart of Carolina Romance Writers.


Andris and Lily critiqued and gave suggestions to my cover until I got it right. Thank you, ladies!! I highly recommend their class if you want to do your own covers. Lily and Andris are awesome!

I love www.Dreamstime.com for stock photos, and since I have somewhat of an art background, I enjoy the process of cover design (once upon another life I studied design for the theatre). Here is a Spanish-theme sketch I did for a Vegas-type extravaganza.

Jina Bacarr's photo.
I’ve always had a love for design since I was a kid and I drew pictures in my dad’s encyclopedias (remember those?).

Here's a sketch for a dress design I did at age 11. Somehow it has survived numerous moves around the country and overseas…

What kind of covers do you enjoy for Christmas books?

I totally enjoyed putting the cover together for “A Christmas Piano Tree,” the story of a pretty young war widow who re-discovers the magic of the holiday season with the help of a homeless vet and an old piano. I hope you like it.

Check out my Christmas Piano Tree Pinterest board!

 Cyber Santa is asking for your vote...

"The Christmas Piano Tree" is included in the December Cover Wars on Masqueradecrew.blogspot.com!

Check out all the wonderful covers and vote for your favorites... 

Thanks for listening! 


Vote for The Christmas Piano Tree or one of several others: http://buff.ly/1vD4xsW


Monday, December 01, 2014

Lynn Lorenz Talks Writing Craft at December OCC/RWA Meeting


9:00-9:50 am:            Doors Open

                                    Ask-an-Author — Beth Yarnall & Jewel Quinlan
                                                                Do you have a question that a published author can answer? Then plan to come to the meeting a little bit early. Each month one or two published authors host an informal round table discussion group and you are welcome to sit in.
                                                Critique of the Month — Shauna Roberts & Elena Dillon
                                                Free for OCC Members Attending the Meeting--Monthly Critique Drawings!  Print out your FIRST chapter and bring it to the monthly meeting! Then add your name to the list of critique hopefuls, located at the membership table.

10:00 a.m.                  Meeting begins; Announcements

10:30 a.m.                  Morning Workshop:            Lynn Lorenz
                                   “Front-End: Load Your Manuscript”
   If you're a pantser, you've experienced this...you have a wonderful idea for a book, then set off to write it. Several chapters in, you're wading in a swamp, not sure where your story is going or how to get there, who the characters really are, what makes them tick, or how you can work secondary characters into your story or if you should.
   You muddle through, only to reach The End and realize you need some serious rewrites, cuts or additions. Where's your character arc? Sub-plots? It's turned into a series, but you didn't plan it?
   All that drama could have been avoided if you'd front-end loaded your manuscript.
By taking a step back and a deep breath before you put your fingers to the keyboard, and using a method Lynn calls "targeted brainstorming," she'll show you how to make all the decisions you need to front-end load your manuscript - before you're too deep in the weeds and looking for a machete to hack your way out.
   You can use this brainstorming method for all your stories by yourself, without a room full of people, to help you discover the path you should take out of the swamp.
   Come prepared with an idea, paper and pen, or a computer, and Lynn will walk you through front-end loading your manuscript to avoid all the pantser problems.

11:30 a.m.                  Lunch Break
To order a delicious box lunch from the Corner Bakery in Brea, Click here.

12:15 p.m.                  Meeting resumes: Chapter Business, etc.

12:45 p.m.                  Afternoon Speaker: Lynn Lorenz
“Plotting By the Seat of Your Pants”

   If you're a pantser, hearing the word 'plot' might make you itch. Do you hear people talk about programs like Schrivner and can't breathe, feel the walls of the room close in, and are overcome with the urge to flee? We think if we plot, it will suck all the creativity and life out of our story.
   Often, pantsing leaves us let down, stuck with a premature beginning, a sagging middle and less than satisfying ending, and knowing we're going to have some work to do to whip our manuscript into shape.
   Plotting isn't a scary thing, if you think of it as guidelines and not hard and fast rules. By using a few easy techniques, Lynn will show you how to decide how to structure your book, build a spreadsheet of your chapters, and create a "loosey goosey" guide, one that gives you all the breathing and wiggle room pantsers need to feel creative, yet keep it all together.
   By adding the elements from the Front-end Load workshop, you'll build your plot, know exactly where your turning points, black moment, climax and happily ever after need to build the story you see in your dreams.
   Lynn will provide a matrix for you to fill in, and show you, once your loosey goosey guide is done, how to transfer it to a Word document so you can get started writing with confidence that your story will have all the elements for success, and when something new pops up, it can be easily incorporated into the story.

   Lynn Lorenz lives in Texas, where she’s a fan of all things Texan, like Longhorns, big hair, and cowboys in tight jeans. She’s never met a comma she didn’t like, and enjoys editing and brainstorming with other writers. Lynn spends most of her time writing about hot sex with even hotter heroes, plot twists, werewolves, and medieval swashbucklers. She’s currently at work on her latest book, making herself giggle and blush, and avoiding all the housework.

2:00 p.m.                    Meeting concludes.

Next month’s meeting will be on Saturday, January 10, 2014
Candace Havens
She’ll be here to give a workshop on Fast Draft in the morning
and Revision Hell in the afternoon
December Online Class:
There will be no class in December

January Online Class:
New Year, New You
with Laurie Schnebly Campbell
January 1 - 30, 2015

For More Information on Upcoming Events, please visit us at http://www.occrwa.org/comingattractions.html

Monday, November 24, 2014

You're Welcome....

I know I will sound nostalgic for those putative good-old-days, but I must voice my ongoing surprise that in a time when communication has never been easier—email, text, SMS, phone, letters, c’mon, you don’t even need to actually waste time speaking to someone—there is a profound lack of what seems to me to be basic consideration.  

No acknowledgement of information received, thanks for an event attended, confirmation of receipt of package or card.  Emoticons were invented for the terminally inarticulate—a heart, a smiley face, or just thx—but don’t hold your breath.

I thought I would share an excerpt from a delightful book titled:  Good Form:  Manners, Good and Bad, at Home and in Society © 1890, p. 31.  Yes, that’s the kind of book my friends give me!  While it's not about acknowledgement, I found it a powerful reminder of what seems so missing from our discourse.

I also have a great 1942 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette.  It notes in the front pages that “This book is manufactured under wartime conditions in conformity with all government regulations controlling the use of paper and other materials.” The book is filled with excellent advice in general, and timely advice on how to bake a wedding cake by borrowing friends ration cards for butter.  Belt tightening indeed.


“Unfortunately, it is sometimes the man "who don't know that he don't know," who is most insistent upon being listened to. This fault is not confined to men, however. It is the ignorant who are inhospitable to another's opinions. Entertaining alien views long enough to judge them fairly is not adopting them, anymore than it is including a person in one’s family to ask him to dinner. The scoffer at any seriously formulated judgment shows bad manners. Another bad mannered person is the one who boldly or baldly contradicts.  Dissent is allowable if cautiously expressed, but denial or contempt is bad form.  Those who differ from each other in opinions, are in very bad form if they cannot meet in society and find harmonious topics upon which to speak to each other.”

But I realize that in addition to sex, conflict sells, and when you’re looking to gain, retain and monetize an audience, the Xtreme, the outrageous and polarizing positions capture our attention, our time and our clicks.  Unfortunately, we often even believe it. 

On the positive side, I would note that Jon Stewart usually displays a level of tact and decorum that might be a model for a 21st Vs 19th Century self presentation. And worth channelling as we head for those fabulous family meals....!

Thanksgiving is a good time to say

Thank you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day with "The Christmas Piano Tree" by Jina Bacarr

Veterans Day is for healing...let's not forget our wounded warriors who suffer not only the physical pains of war, but the mental as well.
PTSD was first talked about during the Civil War by physicians who described it as nostalgia, while others believed it was a disturbance of a soldier's mental capabilities caused by severe trauma to the brain.
After World War II, John Huston directed a documentary called Let There Be Light, about the care of soldiers with mental disturbances suffered during wartime.
These are wounds you do not see.
But they are very real to the soldier with PTSD.
In my holiday romance, "The Christmas Piano Tree," the hero is a wounded warrior suffering from PTSD.

The gate is the entrance to the Mary Huber School for Girls where my heroine, Kristen Delaney, works…she’s been feeding homeless vets with leftover food as a way of keeping her husband’s memory alive (he was killed in Afghanistan)–this is a very difficult Christmas Eve for her and her little girl Rachel…until this soldier shows up!!

Here’s a short scene where we first meet him. Kristen gets a funny feeling when she sees a tall man walking toward her… 
      "She pulled her steering wheel hard to the right to avoid colliding with the tall man bundled up in a black field jacket and khaki pants, a duffel bag strapped on his back, his broad shoulders dusted with falling snow.

      "She stuck her head out of the window to give him a piece of her mind and then stopped.

      “Something about him made her stare at him. He had that swagger she knew so well. Military. Seeing him touched a nerve. Another homeless vet. Kristen shook her head, understanding. He was the third one this week looking for a hot meal.

      "Not surprising on Christmas Eve.”


Who is the handsome soldier? And how is he tied to Kristen's past?
 Sgt. Jared Milano is suffering from PTSD from his last mission in Afghanistan: 

"His brain went into freefall and he couldn’t stop it. No matter how hard he tried, how much he squeezed his mind, the memory stayed lost in a thick, suffocating fog swirling around in his head.


Dead and forgotten.

Angry, frustrated, he tried to reach out and grab it, but whatever his buddy said to him before he died remained silent and still in his mind.

When would he remember? When?"
"The Christmas Piano Tree" is the story of a pretty young war widow who re-discovers the magic of the holiday season with the help of a homeless vet and an old piano.
I'll never forget the Christmas I spent stationed overseas in a small town in Italy. The hot chocolate and cookies I baked and gave to the soldiers who signed up for my Christmas Eve Midnight Mass tour. Off we went on that wintery night in an old military school bus...
We were a motely group of military and Special Services personnel attending the service in a medieval cathedral that was cold and damp, but filled with song and hope for a better future.
Many of those men had seen the horrors of combat and suffered from PTSD (what we called DSS--delayed-stress syndrome--back then). Their stories as they told them to me have stayed with me always...
Thank you for spending part of your Veterans Day here with me. We thank all those who have served for their courage and bravery in keeping us and our families safe. God bless you.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Value of Advertising a Single Self-Published Book by Kitty Bucholtz

We’re all trying to figure out what kind of advertising and short-term discounting works to increase sales and readership. I am at the beginning end of the self-publishing curve with one stand-alone book out, and one series with a free short story prequel and a book one. In October, I did several different things and tracked sales daily. Here are my results.

The Specifics
I put Unexpected Superhero (book one of a series) back in KDP Select for 90 days in July, ending October 21. I used my five free days in October with three days on a Wed/Thur/Fri and two days a week later on a Fri/Sat. It was also on sale for three days for 99c at the end of the month (Oct 31 – Nov 2).

I used advertising on several of those days. I purchased the InD’Tale Bargain Book Ad for $25 on October 8, the eBookSoda ad for $10 on October 10 (the first and last day of the first free period), then Ereader News Today for $20 on October 17 (the first day of the last free period).

On another author’s recommendation, on October 31 I used Ebook Boosters’ $25 service where they submit my book’s 99c sale information to 25 other free-newsletter sites (sites similar to BookBub and eBookSoda). I didn’t try to figure out for sure which sites picked up the book, but I know it went out on at least a few email newsletters that day. (I was at a convention all weekend so I didn’t have time to do Google searches or keep track of Amazon rankings.)

Non-Advertisement Promotion
Additionally, I participated in an author book swap with 19 other authors on November 1. We all put one book on sale for 99c, then blogged, Tweeted, and posted to Facebook about all 20 books, and we all bought each other’s books. (So that accounted for 19 out of 25 sales on book swap day.)

I mentioned all of this to my newsletter list (122 people) once at the beginning of October on the day the book was first free, and on the last day of October when the book was 99c. I did one guest blog, and wrote three other blogs on my own two sites.

I also was at Comikaze, a comic book and pop culture convention, October 31 through November 2, and I told attendees that the book was 99c on Kindle that weekend.

The Finances
Altogether, I spent $80 on advertising. Royalties from Amazon (the only place the book was for sale) were about $38 for 27 sales in October plus about $30 for 15 borrows from the KDP library, and about $20 for 32 sales in the first week of November.  Financially, I broke even, about $8 ahead.

But keep in mind that I had 3710 free downloads as well. If those downloads translate to reviews and newsletter signups, that’s worth the cost of advertising. A bigger newsletter list means more sales when new books come out. I’ve had about the same number of newsletter signups already that I had after a BookBub ad last year yielded 17,561 free downloads of the same book. Last year’s free downloads added about 35 new reviews over two to three months. It’s too early to know how many reviews I’ll get due to the 3710 free downloads last month.

While traditional wisdom is that advertising with so few books out isn’t worth your time and money, check out the difference in sales and in reach between the month before the sale, the sale month, and only one week after the last sale.

September (with no sales or advertising) – 6 purchases, 6 borrows, 0 free, about $27 in revenue

October (with three sales and lots of email ads) – 27 purchases, 15 borrows, 3710 free, about $68 in revenue

November (1 week only, end of last sale) – 32 purchases, no borrows or free (not in KDP Select anymore), about $20 in revenue

While my numbers are small, the percentage of increase is excellent. Because last year’s BookBub ad was for a free book, the reviews were easily worth the $90 I paid for the ad, but there was a very small sales tail after the five free days ended. I believe I sold 24 books in the month following. I ended up with a negative net income that month despite the wild “success” of so many people choosing to download the book.

This time, I spent nearly the same amount of money, reached fewer people but over several different audiences instead of one, and had a positive net income for the month. Also, my book was being promoted over the course of three weeks rather than five days. I will likely derive value from that later since people need to hear about a product a certain number of times before they decide to buy it.

Specific Advertisers
If you’re interested in the results from specific advertisers, these are my stats:

InD’Tale $25 ad to about 10,000 readers = 1238 free downloads that day
(NOTE: There were also 551 free downloads the day after the ad came out, and 245 on the third day, on which I also used an eBookSoda ad.)

eBookSoda $10 ad to 700+ readers = 245 free downloads that day
(NOTE: I used eBookSoda in April and May of this year, and had 0 sales and possibly a few sales, respectively with books priced at 99c. I emailed them and was told Little Miss Lovesick was advertised to 681 subscribers in April with 37 click-throughs to retailers, and Unexpected Superhero was advertised to 714 subscribers in May with 43 click-throughs to retailers.)

Ereader News Today $20 ad to “thousands” of readers = 1277 free downloads that day
(NOTE: There were another 391 free downloads the following day.)

EBookBooster $25 ad to 25 sites and potentially thousands of readers = 8 sales at 99c that day
(NOTE: There were 10 more 99c sales during the 3-day sale, and a lot of word-of-mouth promotion as well.)

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions. This is data based on having only one book in a series and advertising that book without the next book out yet. I’ll let you know what happens when I do this again when book two comes out.

Meanwhile, please leave a comment with your thoughts, or your advertising experiences. Your input could be very helpful for others contemplating advertising and short-term sales.

Kitty Bucholtz decided to combine her undergraduate degree in business, her years of experience in accounting and finance, and her graduate degree in creative writing to become a writer-turned-independent-publisher. Her novels, Little Miss Lovesick and Unexpected Superhero, and the free short story, "Superhero in Disguise," are now available at most online retail sites.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Missing the Next Meeting

This will be a quick post, because most of what I want to say is how great the next OCC meeting sounds... and how I regret that I won't be there.

I'm not sure why things seem to happen together, to conflict, but this time I have a commitment that I need to honor instead of attending OCC.

Wish I could do both, but that's not going to happen. Instead, I'll just say... have a great time without me, OCC.

Linda's current release
In case you're wondering why I'm sorry I won't be there, just scroll down and see what's scheduled to occur on Saturday. A great chapter meeting! Lots happening, and all of it fun and helpful. Plus, I'm always happy to see my friends at meetings and find out what's going on in their lives. Not to mention letting them know what I'm up to.

Anyway, just know I'll be thinking about you. And I'll keep my fingers crossed that I'll see you all in December.

Linda O. Johnston