Tuesday, August 23, 2016

It's easy to criticize

...but I wish there were rules—at least with any public criticism—that required the critic to present a viable alternative (and "viable" is a key word here!). A sort of Thumper-like commitment that if you are going to say something negative, you have to provide a reasonable positive alternative.  That would certainly shut a lot of people up (yours truly among others!).

Is there a better way of doing it?  Is there a better choice? Think about it. Actually think.

If you do, you may determine that the results you are complaining about (sub-optimal as they may indeed be) are the really the best alternative.

Every day we all experience the complex algorithms we work with in daily life to get something accomplished.  It could be the choices we make in getting our kids up, dressed, fed and out the door to school or it could be a business merger.  We balance encouragement, threats, incentives (bribery), etc. to get the job done as well, as quickly, as effortlessly, as humanely (or not), as possible to motivate behavior and get the results we want or need.

That can make for a lot of complex juggling of timing, personalities, personal values, choices, priorities, mood, costs, external pressures etc. The end result often may not be ideal or what we had hoped for. But that's part of being an imperfect person in an imperfect world.  Life doesn't usually give us "do-overs."

The situations we and others face are rarely black and white.  But especially with technology, we can make a judgment without any knowledge or context and we actually expect to be taken seriously.
Complaints—especially now about politicians and the political process—display a startling naïveté, absence of thought and a shocking lack of awareness of history.

I have to admit to being Kinseyan in my assessment of human behavior—if most people have been doing something for centuries, it is unlikely that any person, belief-system or rhetoric will be able to airbrush that behavior out.

It's not that change can't happen, it can.  But it's a slow and hard fought battle and all the incremental gains can be easily lost. There needs to be a realignment of incentives (and there's usually no incentive to realign them) so it takes real thought and effective politics to get something done.  If you can't read actual history, watch Lincoln or All the Way for an understanding of what it actually takes to get something done.

As a female, the history of women's suffrage is depressing—it's been less than century (19th Amendment was August 18, 1920) in the USA, something to remember as Americans finger-point other countries' lack of gender equality. That's about 150 years into our nationhood, and there are still a fair number of Americans who are feeling a bit sad about it & would like to turn back the clock. Change takes time.

Yes, it's easy to criticize. But it's far less appealing to be criticized, so before dishing it out, consider if there is a viable alternative (and "viable" is a key word here!) before excoriating the stupidity of others.  

Judge something on its own merits/demerits: don't blame the peacock for its tail or wish it were a chicken and provided eggs.

Isabel Swift 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Making Ads and Amazon Rankings Work for You

by Louella Nelson

I’m hoping this article on promoting free and 99¢  books helps your sales, and I hope you’ll take advantage of the 99¢  sale on my first historical romance.
Yesterday my book Rye’s Reprieve hit #7 on the Kindle Historical Romance Best Sellers list. Perhaps you are jaded by all the wonderful best-selling authors in our chapter who regularly hit #1 on all the major lists and don’t think #7 is all that much.
But consider: Rye’s Reprieve is my first historical and my first novel-length fiction to release in more than two decades*. Reestablishing a writing career equates to pushing a two-ton boulder up Mt. Baldy. So seeing your new book hit #7 is about as good as eating homemade blueberry ice cream made with blueberries you picked on the hill behind your house just that morning.
*In May 2014, my period short story Cora Lee achieved #6 in Literary Short Fiction, following behind stories by Stephen King and Lee Child. For that launch, the only promotion I did was to mention the book on Twitter & Facebook and in a newsletter to my email list of about 1200. I reissued my Harlequin titles and put out several short stories. My Amazon author page shows all fiction.
I didn’t achieve this recent modest success on Rye’s Reprieve without friends’ advice and a bit of luck. Here’s how I did it.

Decoding the rankings
On March 9 after my initial email promotion, Rye’s Reprieve went to #6 in Kindle World Romance. In contrast, this go-round, August 7-11, with the 99¢ sale and some specific promotions recommended by friends, the book has been #1 in Kindle Worlds Romance and Westerns for days. It achieved #3 in Kindle Western Romance and held there; today it went to #4. And the book has been #1 in Kindle Westerns for a few days too.
The message? Make a study of Amazon’s ranking structure. It’s complex—more complex than what you see beneath your title’s descriptive data on the book’s Amazon page. Here is the link to see all the lists available under Best Sellers Kindle Store eBooks: https://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers-Kindle-Store-eBooks/zgbs/digital-text/154606011/ref=zg_bs_nav_kstore_1_kstore . From there, click on your genre and drill down until you find the various lists where your book exists.
Under ebook subcategories, Romance is the umbrella topic. I then checked Historical Romance as well as Western Romance. Clicking Westerns takes you to Western Romance.
Another ranking, Westerns, can be found by clicking on Literature & Fiction/Genre Fiction. Strangely, under Genre Fiction, Romance is not listed!
I found Kindle Worlds rankings in the Ranking area on my book’s page.
But also think seriously about placing relatively inexpensive ads on websites whose sole mission is to promote free and 99¢ ebooks.

What worked in promotion
First, because Rye’s Reprieve is published by Amazon as one of several novels released in February 2016 in Debra Holland’s Montana Sky Kindle World, Amazon put the book on sale without warning at the beginning of August. I’m assuming they did multiple email blasts that included my book, but even those didn’t keep the book up in the rankings for long.
In addition to my own Facebook and Twitter announcements of the 99 cent sale, a  member of OCC RWA and Novelists, Inc. (NINC), Lauren Royal, opened her Friday Freebies & 99-Cent Bargain Books and her weekly newsletter featuring historical novels to NINC members, so I submitted my book. She also mentioned my title on Facebook and Twitter. The promotion at www.LaurenRoyal.com hit on August 5 and was free.
Debra Holland recommended I try for an ad in eReader News Today (ENT) and I was lucky to be chosen to participate. The fee for an ad on a specific day for historical romance is only $60. You can pay by PayPal or credit card (as most of the sites I mention allow). The morning the ad appeared at www.ereadernewstoday.com, August 7, the book shot to #1 in the Kindle Worlds mentioned above and the top 5 in Western Historical and Western. Unfortunately, I did not think to check the Historical Romance category, but when I did a couple days later, the novel was ranked #22, rising to #7 in the past few days.
I credit Amazon emails, the ENT ad, and Lauren’s newsletter for Rye’s Reprieve’s initial rise in rank.
Meanwhile, I contacted Linda Carroll-Bradd and asked her advice about advertising. She recommended I look into www.JustKindleBooks.com and www.Ebookshabit.com.  The ad at Just Kindle Books costs $20 plus Add Ons (keep the book on their homepage for extra 3 days $20; Facebook post to 26,000 followers, $10) for a total of $60. The fee includes cover image/link on Pinterest, Tumblr, and other main social media.
That promo hit August 11. The book rose to #7 in Historical Romance, # 3 in Western Romance, as well as #1 in Westerns, and #1 in KW both Romance and Western. This is a pretty good indication that Just Kindle Books is worth the money. I did not get the bump I was hoping for from a $10 ad with eBooksHabit.
After reading a Morning Juice email and attending the PAW group at RWA on Saturday, I gathered the following advertising ops for ebooks that are free or 99¢ from Kitty Bucholtz, Vicki Crum, Shelley Bleackley, and others. I had spent $120 so far. With a remaining budget of about $250, I placed ads here:
Robin Reads (August was closed when I checked but I wrote to them about the success of the initial advertising efforts, they encouraged me to submit my book, and voila! A spot in their calendar opened up: Aug. 25. If they select me, the cost will be $45.)
Choosy Bookworm accepted me and will advertise Rye’s Reprieve on Aug. 18. Yay! The Rush Premium Feature costs $70, and the cover will remain on their Featured eBooks Page for a week.
Book Sends is pricey at $90 for the spot on Aug. 18 and just about ate up my budget—I have only $25 left to spend.
However, when you’re making 35¢ per book, money can’t be your main motive for promotion. It has to be gaining new readers, racking up a few more reviews and even cross-over sales to your other books and stories, and seeing your efforts pay off in a rise in rankings that you can share with followers. Some authors also experience a bump in sales when the book returns to its normal price, which in the case of Rye’s Reprieve is $3.99.
Did I mention BookBub? If they agreed to let me advertise with them—a slim possibility—the cost would be $500, and they anticipate I’d have roughly 2500 sales. If that happened, I’d clear $375 after costs, and the ranking would no doubt shoot Rye’s Reprieve to single digits on most coveted lists, plus bring a whole bunch of new readers to my author page.
I did not yet advertise with eBookWorth, Bargain Booksy, or Fiverr’s BKnight with its $5 price tag and 50,000 readers because I needed to meet Marianne Donley’s deadline for A Slice of Orange. However, I will at least check out their sites.
I probably don’t need to mention…most of the authors and professional newsletter editors want the authors they feature to put the newsletter link in their social media announcements.
I would appreciate having an email from anyone who wants to share their promotion/ranking journey, and if things really jump by the end of August, I may give a follow-up report in a future Slice.
Contact me at lounelson@cox.net or www.LouellaNelson.com. Follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/louella.nelson.1 and Twitter: @LouellaNelson

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Structuring a Story by Connie Vines

Please excuse my late post--blame it on first week school overload!

As many of the readers know, I write in multiple genres of fiction as well as nonfiction.  Therefore, it only goes to reason I have attended workshops, conferences, enrolled in extensions classes, and networked with other authors to discuss the topic of story structure.

So many ideas, so many strong opinions, but no fail-proof map to success.  What I have discovered is that many authors (Note: my personal findings only), agree that there are thirteen basic plots.
The following are common plot motivations that have appeared in written literature for centuries.  Of course, more than one of these plot motivators may exist side-by-side, affecting the story.  Take your story idea, add one or more of these motivators to it, and, so I’ve been assured, you’ll have a plot and a storyline.

Catastrophe                     Vengeance
Love and Hate                 Persecution              
The Chase                      The Quest
Grief and Loss                Rivalry
 Rebellion                       Betrayal
 Survival                         Ambition
So, is this true in my own novels and fiction stories?  I have three books published at Books We Love, Ltd., as well as an anthology featuring five stories to be released this fall.  Let’s see if this is programmed into a writer’s psyche, or if it is a learned skill.

With my Rodeo Romance, Book 1, “Lynx”.  I have added Grief and Loss into my basic storyline for my heroine.  While my hero deals with Ambition, and one other (I don’t wish to give away too much of the story).

In Rodeo Romance, Book 2, “Brede”, Survival, Vengeance, are added to my romantic suspense novel.

“Here Today, Zombie Tomorrow”, obviously, deals with Catastrophe and Survival (with a light-touch).

Not the result I was expecting. Why?  Because, if you’ve been following my blog posts, you are aware that I follow Joseph Campbell’s “A Hero’s Journey” when plotting my stories.   Joseph Campbell based his teachings/writing on the power of the ancient myth.

Of course, there is more to a story than just a great plot!  So, using the accepted rule of thirteen, let us progress to adding another layer or two to our storyline.

 These added layers to the story do not appear to be genre specific, though some are more commonly used in romance than, say, mainstream fiction. 
 Authority                                      Conspiracy

Criminal Action/Murder                Deception
 Honor/Dishonor Making Amends
 Poverty/Wealth                               Rescue
 Mistaken Identity                          Searching
Suspicion                                        Suicide
 Misplaced Affection (or unnatural if it is a human and supernatural being)

I believe, for a story to be an excellent story, which of course, is every author’s goal. These plot motivators with the added layers to drive the characters in the story, result in the depth (landscape) and richness (emotion) we all crave in a good story.

Readers, do you agree that all the stories you’ve read and loved these plot lines and motivators?
I admit was able to spot many of these plotlines and layers in the works of Homer, Shakespeare, and may of the Classic Greek Myths.

What do you think?  Are there certain plotlines that appeal to you more than others?

Thank you for stopping by today.
I hope to see you here next month.

Connie Vines

Purchase Links:     Amazon.com

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Shades of the Blue and the Gray: Love Me Forever is on sale for $1.99 by Jina Bacarr

I love film noir.

The tough heroes with the beautiful, wisecracking dolls glammed up with dark lipstick and tight suits. Not to mention high-heeled pumps that showed off a great pair of legs.

There's something about black and white photography that puts you on edge, waiting for something to happen. Maybe it's the subtle play of shadows that hides dark secrets . . . and the slow reveal when the camera pulls back to uncover the villain ready to take out the hero.

Until he gets the drop on him first.

Writing is like film noir. The shades of gray slowly reveal the story, the romance, the thrills.

There there's the blue and the gray.

A time in our history that will never be forgotten. Civil War re-enactments are more popular than ever. What if you dressed up as a Confederate officer and--

Found yourself whisked back to 1862?

That's what happens to my heroine in LOVE ME FOREVER.

To celebrate LOVE ME FOREVER being on sale for the month of August, I thought it would be fun to take some b&w RF stock and pair them with colorful backgrounds. I've included two of them here.

LOVE ME FOREVER takes place in 1862 during the Civil War  when my heroine, Liberty Jordan, a beautiful time traveler from the future, tries to warn Union Army Major surgeon Flynt Stephens that more soldiers from the both the North and the South will die of disease than battle wounds.

Does he believe her? And fall in love with her?

And who is Pauletta Sue, her beautiful twin in the covered wagon above -- oh, my, she's the major's fiancée!

Till next time...



Love Me on Forever on Sale for $1.99 for August 2016 from Jina Bacarr on Vimeo.

Website: www.jinabacarr.com
Blog: www.jinabacarr.wordpress.com

She wore gray.
He wore blue.
But their love defied the boundaries of war.
And time.
I'd love to hear from you. You can find me on social media:


Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Two Classes For Writers - Self-Publishing and Book Promotion by Kitty Bucholtz

This month I'm teaching a brand new online class for OCC - "7 Ways to Market and Promote Your Book Without Breaking the Bank." I'm excited to share the things I've learned about inexpensive promotions - including having an author newsletter - with my writer friends!

The 4-week class starts next Monday, August 15, 2016, and costs $20 for OCC members, $30 for non-members. You don't have to be a member of RWA to enroll in the class. You can read more about it and sign up for the class here. I hope to see you there! [Note: Signing up is a 2-step process. You must hit the purple "Yahoo Groups Join Now" button AND then come back to the page and pay via PayPal. If you only do one step or the other, you won't be in the class until you complete both steps.]

This week I also re-opened my full-sized online course, "Your How-to Guide to Self-Publishing." I'm so excited about everything I'm doing on the new website! There are five modules covering every step you need to take to get from finished manuscript to published book. I've spread it out over eight weeks, which should be plenty of time to learn what you need to do in the lessons and then go apply it. And you'll have lifetime access so you can come back to the lessons as often as you like.

I've included videos, audio downloads, text-based lectures, and worksheets to help you through the entire process. There's also a private Facebook group where students can ask questions and share their experiences. Two of the three tiers give students access to weekly/monthly live video-based Q&A calls, and those in the upper tier also get a private coaching call with me.

There are payment plans for all three tiers, and bonuses for anyone who signs up by August 15. You can learn more about it all at WriteNowWorkshop.com. If you have any questions, please email me at kitty AT writenowworkshop.com.

I'm looking forward to helping more writers self-publish their books and find new ways to promote them. I hope to see you in one of my classes!

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 LovesickA Very Merry Superhero Wedding, and Unexpected Superhero are currently available on Amazon. The free short story "Superhero in Disguise" is available wherever ebooks are sold. You can find out about her courses on self-publishing, marketing, and time management for writers at her website Writer Entrepreneur Guides.

Saturday, August 06, 2016

More Romance

Things got by me last month, and I didn't post here on Slice of Orange. I thought about it when it was just a little late but decided I didn't have anything as exciting to say as the posts already there, so I chose not to say anything.

But here I am. I'm back! And this is a special month.

Yes, it's August--can you believe the year is going so fast?

August is the publication month of my latest Harlequin Romantic
Suspense, COVERT ALLIANCE. It's part of my Identity Division mini-series about a non-witness protection program. As with the last story, the heroine has had her identity changed for her protection. But now there's a critical reason for her to ignore her promises and return to the place she learned of criminal activity that resulted in threats to her life, but that she couldn't help prove if the bad guys were arrested. Someone else from the Identity Division is now in town collecting evidence--and of course, the two of them meet. And clash. And are highly attracted to one another...

As you may know, these days I've been writing more cozy mysteries than romances, but that may be about to change. The book I'm working on now is one of my Harlequin Nocturnes, a paranormal romance about Alpha Force, a covert military unit of shapeshifters. Looks as if I may be writing another Alpha Force story, too. And a different Harlequin Romantic Suspense series as well. It's not completely decided yet, but I'm excited.

Meanwhile, I had a great time at the RWA National Conference last month. Hope you did, too. And I'm planning on attending this month's OCC meeting, and I hope to see you there as well!

Friday, August 05, 2016

Coming Out of the Writing Closet

Hi OCC Family. I am still recuperating from my first RWA Conference last month. The conference reminded me of one of the trade shows I attend. It’s also like going to a place you’ve always wanted to go. You’re exhausted, but want to see and do everything because it’s your first time and you paid for it.

This month, I wanted to introduce you to a new writer, John Bucholtz. If the name sounds familiar, it should be, because it’s Kitty Bucholtz’s husband. John is new to writing, and I think you’ll enjoy hearing from him.

Enjoy the post and I’ll update you next month on my 12 Titles project.


Heeerrrreee’s John…

Coming Out of the Writing Closet 

A couple weeks ago, I chose to come out of the writing closet.

No, Mom, I haven't lost my mind. 

No, my marriage to my wife is okay. 

I have decided to come out and tell everyone – I'm a writer. I have spent years hiding the fact that I write fiction from most of my friends and family. For some odd reason, I associated some sort of stigma to it. I always pictured stoop-shouldered figures bent over their computers writing for hours on end, finally emerging into the sunlight to scuttle off and toil away at their day jobs. People would look after them, shaking their heads and whispering to each other, "Oh, he says he's a writer, but he still has a day job. He must not be serious." 

But I discovered I was completely wrong. 

Writing is a passion. Writing is an art like painting or drawing that you want to share with the world. Writing isn't just about trying to get published and make lots of money. (Well, okay, I would be lying to say I wouldn't mind something like that.) It's about sharing an adventure with someone else. It's taking someone and showing them a world that you find interesting, amusing, and yes, maybe even scary. You write because there are these voices in your head that whisper to you to tell a story. (Please be careful what kind of voices they are – some require therapy.) 

But I guess writing is a type of therapy for many of us. We do it to quiet the voices in our heads. We do it to finally put words to the pictures and images we see that we think the world might find interesting, to situations that we find humorous, or to an adventure we want friends to undertake with us. 

I went to the Romance Writers of America (RWA) National Conference in San Diego in July with my wife. It was my first ever writing conference, the first time I thought about trying to be taken seriously as a writer. This conference was good for me on so many levels. Not only did I meet seasoned veterans of the writing world, but I had the opportunity to meet a handful of literary agents and a smattering of book publishers. 

I ran into a surprising number of wide-eyed and slightly frightened first-time attendees like me. It was comforting to see their mutual excitement and nervousness at being at a national conference attended by their peers. The classes not only catered to the romance crowd, but many of the classes could be applied to the writing of any genre. (For instance, I write books for junior high boys.) And the energy and plain helpful attitude of the more experienced attendees and staff quickly made me a little less nervous and more excited in attending the first of what I hope will be many writing conferences and seminars in the future. 

My wife told me something after my first day there that I quickly found true: "I think you're going to find that these are your people." I was surrounded by other people who heard the little voices in their heads, who created strange worlds and the many characters who inhabited them and the adventures they went on. My wife was one hundred percent correct. 

So I'm here to say to the world: Hello, my name is John Bucholtz, and I am a writer.

John Bucholtz 
Middle-grade author, husband, artist, funny guy but easily distracte...