Monday, February 20, 2017

How I Got Bit In The Butt And Survived!


This past year I authored my first fiction series, The Witches Of New Moon Beach. Like all new authors I was totally excited to share what I had written and couldn’t wait to see my books posted up on Amazon. I had such a blast writing the series and had fallen in love with both my characters and my newly created beach city. I felt confident that my book covers were strong and that I had a solid plan for marketing each of the three (now four) books in the series.

Unfortunately for me, I let my excitement to share override my common sense. Sure, I had checked and rechecked for spelling errors and I even had three different people read my first book. I knew that there were individuals out there that you could pay to edit your books, check for typos, misused words or grammatical errors. But since I hadn’t yet made a dime I was resistant to spend money on the above mentioned even though in the back of my mind, I had a pressing fear that I might just have missed something. Grammar is just not my thing!

And so I proudly posted my first book for all to see and was immediately bitten in the butt by reviewers. Yes, there were a few kind comments, but then the bite came as I read “the grammatical errors were sometimes humorous” and “the book is filled with typos that simple editing could rectify.” One reader said I wrote like a teenager. Ouch!

How had this happened? I had done more than simple editing. What had I missed? I immediately took the book down and got some help. I repeatedly read the book back to front searching for errors. I tried out several editing software packages before purchasing Ginger and I ran book one past a high school English grammar teacher who I respected. I agonized before putting it back up. But the cleaning apparently worked since 73% of my reviews from then on were 4’s and 5’s and I’ve not been hit with negative remarks on spelling or typos again.

Let me say this clearly, I deserved to be bitten in the butt for posting a book with internal errors. I own this and boy did that hurt! I’m sure that I lost more than a few readers who were disappointed by my poor editing skills and either didn’t finish reading book one or never ventured toward purchasing books 2, 3 or 4. I’m saddened that they never got a chance to get to know my characters, or to experience the magic within the pages.

Skip forward to my 5th book which will be out in early February 2017. I have spell checked it repeatedly, used my Ginger software for grammatical screening and had two different people read it for possible errors. However, this time, I’m also going to spend a few bucks to have a professional edit my book. Why? Because I can still remember how badly I felt when reading those negative reviews; reviews that I had earned. There is nothing worse than being disappointed in yourself.

I also learned something very important. It’s hard to see your own errors after you have lived with a story from birth to finish. I guess that I read right past mistakes more than once. My brain read the word site when I had actually spelled it sight. And semicolons took the place of far too many commas. I even failed to capitalize a word or two clearly by reading too quickly through the story.

In the end, I survived. Painful though it was, I learned a great deal from this experience. My counsel to you? Protect your butt - take your time, do your homework and then consider getting some professional help.

My best wishes to you as you successfully share your future stories with the world!



The one thing I know, after all my years as an elementary school principal, is that there is magic everywhere and in everyone. When I retired after 35 years in education, I longed to share all that I had learned and created several parenting books on topics from bullying to homework strategies. While I miss those enchanting moments with children and their parents, I always wanted to let my imagination run wild as I sought out my own magic and wrote about it. In short, I was lured into the world of fiction writing where I soon created my first series, The Witches of New Moon Beach. The first book, Morning Magic is currently FREE at amzn.to/2a6fbXN.

Inspiration isn't hard to find as I have lived in Redondo Beach, California all my life and New Moon Beach might have more than a passing resemblance to my hometown. Every day I walk on the path that runs along the beach, sometimes with my sisters, but most often with my thoughts as I plot out my next book. I am long married and mom to three great grown kids. When I'm not writing or walking on the beach, you'll find me sewing, reading or traveling and taking pictures.

Feel free to check out my website: www.meriamwilhelm.com 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Character Flaw(less)


Recently we celebrate my oldest son and my husband's birthdays. They are a day apart, much to the chagrin of my husband. Thirty-two years ago he brought home the biggest, spiciest burrito he could find in the hopes of jumpstarting labor so that our son would share his birthday. Needless to say, the burrito story was one of many we told at this year's birthday dinner. We laughed, we clarified details, and we took tangents and remembered those who had been part of our lives but were no longer with us.

As I listened to all this in the company of my husband, my two sons and my ninety-two year old mother, I realized that my family is key to what readers tell me is my strength as a writer: characterization. After generations of evolving as an extended family, I know what makes each member of my family tick. I know why they are special - and why they aren't.  I know how they speak, how they think, how they will act and react, what makes them happy and what doesn't. I know who they love and admire. That means, if they act out of character, I know to dig deeper to find out why; if they act in character, I completely accept their actions and reactions because I know them so well.

If depth of characterization eludes you, try this exercise.

IMAGINE each of your main characters at a family dinner table.

IDENTIFY where that character fits in e.g. the bartender, the perpetual guest, and the lingerer-in-the-kitchen guy.

ESTABLISH where each character came from and whether or not they are permanent family fixtures or a family member who has distanced themselves.

TAKE their coats. Fur? Wool? Blazer? Sweatshirt? Notice what they're wearing. 

DETERMINE their purpose at the table: the joker, the commentator, the peacemaker, the witch, the politician, the philosophe, the put-upon wife or angry husband (or vice-versa).

LISTEN to the conversation around the table. Do not focus on just one character. Rather, close your eyes, hear all their voices, see all their gestures, listen to their words.

What you 'hear', what you 'see' at your dinner table will help you create fictional characters that are as familiar as family and as unforgettable.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Everyone Wants to Write a Book by Connie Vines

Topic for February: Everybody wants to write a book, but most do not. 
Writing is hard work. What got you started, and what helps you get through a complete story?


How many times have you heard someone say, “Someday I’m going to write a book?”  Many a time, I’m certain.  However, most do not.

Why? Because writing is hard work.

What got me started?  Like most children, I loved reading, drawing, and listening to the oral family history spoken by my grandparents.  I also like to write stories (not particularly good stories) but for a second grader I did have a handle on the concept of plotting.  Thinking back, I unnerved adults with my pointed interview questions, and thoughts about the meaning of life and life-after-death vs death-after-death.  Picture:  Tuesday Addams wearing glasses and constantly grumbling about receiving yet, another stupid doll instead of a filling cabinet for her birthday.

When, exactly, did I start and complete my first novel?

While I wrote short-stories, nonfiction articles for publication during my twenties, I didn’t get serious about completing a novel until thirties. My children were in school and I worked part-time.  That gave me a block of free time to write (vs the scribbling on 3 x 5 index cards when I was cooking dinner or a note pad during a child’s 1 hour nap).  I was serving on my church board when the choir soloist told me her sister was a co-president of the Orange County Chapter of RWA (Romance Writers of America).  At the time, I hadn’t every thought of writing a romance.  I wrote for the YA and middle school market and dabbled in historical fiction, but Shirlee convinced me that the networking and workshops would be beneficial to me.  She was correct.

Attending monthly meetings/workshops, exchanging rough drafts with my critique members during lunch, and input from the multi-published members gave me the confidence to persevere.  It also made me crawl out of bed after my husband left for work (at 3:00 in the morning) and write before getting my children off to school.
I also discovered that I couldn’t give up my YA stories while I found my footing in a new market.

“So, what did Connie do?”  you ask.

I work two novels at once—which I still do to this very day.

Crazing making?  Yes!

Writing romance isn’t easy.  Strong, well-developed characters, good plot (and multiple sub plots), sharp dialogue, and emotion—lots of emotion.

Writing is addictive.  The story unfolds, the characters present themselves, and away the writer goes—into a new Universe.

What makes me complete my novel/story?

The best way for me to describe the feel is I am driven to finish the story.  Native Americans say the story chooses the Storyteller.  It the Storyteller’s responsibly to bring the story to life.

Happy Reading and Happy Valentine Day!





My Rodeo Romances 🐎(Lynx and Brede) are on sale this month (click on my Amazon Author Page link).

💓
Even Zombies need love. 💘 Indulge in a little Zombie Valentine Romance   💋 For FREE!!

“Here today, Zombie Tomorrow” on Amazon.com




Connie


Saturday, February 11, 2017

How Mercy Street on PBS reminded me why I write romance by Jina Bacarr


It's been a rough week.

Make that year.

A lot of stuff going on in my life that sometimes makes me crumble in a heap and ask myself why I keep going.

But I do.

Because I like I what I do. Writing. Some days I love it, other days . . . well, you know the drill.

Recently, I've taken on a deadline to write a new book for a Kindle Worlds series (there's nothing more gratifying than when you're asked to write for a line), but it's a short deadline and it's a genre that's different than what I've been doing (vampires as opposed to princesses -- more about that as we hit that March deadline).

But I'm also in a box set with a novella I wrote that releases next week. Now, you're probably wondering what this has to do with the PBS Civil War series, Mercy Street. It's simple. After a grueling week of staying up as late as 6 a.m. every night to write my novel and make videos (I do it all -- from the voiceovers to the production of the videos with music and graphics), I finally got to watch Episode 3 of Mercy Street.

But not until I uploaded video #18 tonight -- yes, I made 18 + 2 more videos in the past week to promote the box set (a 60 second video for each author). Yes, 20 videos in all.

I was bleary-eyed, slumped over, sick of listening to myself on the videos, and crazed over trying to make them perfect little gems (they're not, but I try).

Then I watched Mercy Street.

***Spoiler alert -- if you haven't seen Episode 3 of Mercy Street, you may want to come back when you have.


Now I love Dr. Foster, the hero. He's a lot like the hero in my Kindle Scout winner, Love Me Forever (a Civil War time travel romance) and Nurse Mary is like my time traveling heroine. Mary is sick -- and the new meanie on the show, a Union officer whose name I don't want to remember, is sending her away from the hospital (and Dr. Foster).

This is where the resident female rival comes into play. You just can't help but want to kick Nurse Hastings in the petticoats most of the time, but on this episode she's a true romance heroine. We find out she lost her soldier love in another war and she has a change of heart about messing up the lives of our doctor and nurse. She sends Dr. Foster back to the hospital hotel in time for him to go to the docks to see Nurse Mary.

Here's the moment that made my week:

When Dr. Foster jumps onto the steamboat taking our Mary away, he claims her as his patient and comforts her. When he takes her hand and their eyes meet, I wanted to cry. Then he gives her a book. Ulysses. As they quote from the Tennyson tome about not giving up, you know they love each other. He kisses her on the forehead and their hands try to hold onto to each other, but they're forced to break away. But in spite of the war and the mean old Union major, we know somehow these two will be together again.

Made me proud to write romance.

Because love endures. In spite of everything.

And ain't that grand.

============


Thanks for listening! And in case you're wondering about all those videos I made, here's the promo for our Facebook Party next Wednesday, Feb 15th 7:30-11 p.m. (CLICK here to see the vids)


Happily Ever Alpha Facebook Party February 15, 2017 from Jina Bacarr on Vimeo.

See you next time!

Jina

PS -- I'm worried about Nurse Mary. She may be sicker than we thought. Tune in next week to find out. I know I'll be watching . . .



PPS -- if you're curious about the Kindle Scout program:

***You can read my posts about my experience with the Kindle Scout program by clicking on Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5


blog: www.jinabacarr.wordpress.com
www.facebook.com/JinaBacarr.author
https://twitter.com/JinaBacarr
www.pinterest.com/jbacarr
https://instagram.com/jinabacarr/



Thursday, February 09, 2017

Planning Your 2017 Calendar by Kitty Bucholtz

I teach a time management class called Going the Distance, and one of the major things we do after we write out our Goals Master List (read about it here from last month) is to get out the calendar and start crossing out all the days that you know you can't work.

Plan For What You REALLY Can Do
It might seem in December when the new year is looking bright and shiny and empty that you can get everything done you ever imagined! But when you look back over the last year, you may realize that you are often overconfident about what you can do.

Get a Calendar!
Being disappointed in yourself erodes your confidence for the next year, which erodes it for the following year, etc., and I want to help you keep that from happening. So this is what we're going to do: go get a calendar. Any calendar will do, but one you like and can use easily will be the best one for you.

Cross Off Days You Can't Work
Starting in January, cross off every day that you know you won't be able to work on your goals. For instance, if weekends are always for family, cross off all the Saturdays and all the Sundays from the year. Your 365 days just came down to 261 -  poof! Just like that!

Do you have a vacation planned? Go find the dates on your calendar and cross them off. Do you have kids in school? Go find their school calendar and cross off days you know you won't be available, like for sports and music and drama and other events that you're committed to attending.

Weddings? Bridal showers? Baby showers? If you are just attending one of these, you might only lose a day or half a day. If it's out of town, you may lose several days due to travel. If you are part of the planning committee, rest assured you will be spending more time than you realize, so try to plan accordingly.

Plan For Sick Days and Mental Health Days
About how many days were you home sick last year? How many days were you taking care of someone else who was sick? Plan a few sick days into your calendar, subtracting them from the total days left but leaving them "available for use." There is no point in feeling guilty about being sick, and we both know that a good rest will often get you back to work sooner and better than trying to work through it.

How many days have you got left? I often end up with only about 180. That's only half a year! But the fact is, you have a life outside of your work and your goals. Now you can adjust your goals to accomplish them in the time you actually have. Planning this way will keep you from over-committing and being disappointed later.

Planning Forward
Now look at your list of the 5 to 10 goals you wrote down since last month. You can either plan forward or plan backward. To plan forward, look at each goal and figure out about how much you can accomplish per day on that goal. Then plot it out on your calendar to see what date that last day lands on. Put a sticky note on that date with the goal. The sticky note is so that when things come up, you can move the goal without scribbling all over your calendar.

Planning Backward
Or if you already have a goal date in mind, you can plan backward. Say you want to finish the first draft of your next book by May 1. How many days do you have left on your calendar, the ones that are not crossed out, between now and May 1? And how many words do you expect your first draft to be -  50,000 words? 100,000 words? Take the word count and divide by the number of days. This is your daily writing goal.

Planning this way from the beginning of the year can help you see if you started out with too many goals in the first place. And it will also help you to adjust as you go. (Again, that's why I use sticky notes!) The fact is you are planning for your own success this way, instead of not truly planning at all. And you know the saying, failing to plan is planning to fail. Let's not do that.

How Does Your Calendar Look Now?
Continue in this way, planning forward and/or backward for each goal, until you've plotted everything out on your calendar. Now look at each of the twelve months. Is it challenging but doable? Does it make you break out in a cold sweat? Do you need to move a few things around? Did you schedule in a little down time, "you" time?

Only you know what will encourage you and make your brain believe that you can do this. And you do need to believe it. If it seems just a bit much, move one of the goals that you plotted out onto your "maybe" list. If you get everything else done, you can come back to this goal later in the year.

Looking at your goals in a big picture like this will encourage you, and that will give you more energy to start now and keep going. Trust me, go do this exercise this week. You are going to feel like you can conquer your world! Good luck!

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 superhero books for women and romantic comedies are available wherever ebooks are sold, as well as in print and audiobooks. Check out her new Valentine's Day novella, My Bullheaded Superhero Valentine.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

TITLES UNBORN

Have you ever been too tired to think or create? That's how I feel right now, but unfortunately, I can't relax. Or rather, I tried to take a little time off from writing and creating, but my mind refuses to cooperate.

After the full writing year, I had last year, I figured I'd take some time off from writing and become more of a reader. For the past few years, I’ve been doing the GoodReads Reading Challenge. Last year, I read forty-five books, ten were my own. Not a lot for most romance readers, but for me, it was a lot, and I struggled to get those read because of my production schedule. This year I pledged to read forty-eight and decrease the number of titles I created. Unfortunately, the joke is on me. Instead of relaxing my creative muscle, I've been writing. What's even more bizarre is I don't know how to turn off my writing muscle or even if I want to.

Like most writers I use or follow a Production Schedule. Last year it was easy to follow or stay motivated with my schedule because I set a challenging goal, 12 Titles in 12 Months. This year, I knew I wasn't going to set such a lofty goal for myself, so I was able to breathe a little.

When I sat down to do my Production Schedule for this year, I looked at the titles that didn't make the grade last year. Although I published 12 titles last year, I had actually started and brought close to completion four additional titles. Technically, last year I wrote approximately a half million words. For some that may not seem like a lot, but for someone like me that hasn't been writing that long, that's a lot.

Those titles that don't have 2016 as their birth year have become the stars of my 2017 production schedule. Now the question is, when will they be born? I'm not quite sure. So far, I have one of the titles completed, a non-fiction lifestyle book. I'm very excited and passionate about this title because it deals with a subject that is dear to me…being a fabulous Christian single.

Originally, I wanted this book out in January because that's when most people are searching for help on how to change their lives. Unfortunately, I didn't finish the book until the end of January after rewriting the last chapter three times and adding an additional chapter. Now I'm waiting to proof it before I send it to my editor.

The other book I'm struggling to finish was originally supposed to be my December 2016 release. What started out as a five book series became a short story which has been reborn again as a novel. In its resurrection, it's also undergone a name change and protagonist change. And one of the biggest changes about this book is voice.

I started writing this book in third person, but as the protagonist developed, I felt the need to tell his side in first person. So now, the story is being told by both the heroine and protagonist in first person. When I made that simple change...who am I kidding, that was by no means a simple task. Changing the voice meant I had to go back and rewrite and add some chapters after being thirty-thousand plus words into the story. I’m very curious to know how this story ends.

So here I am with a production schedule that's taunting me because I’ve already missed my first release date. I want to move forward with the stories. However, I'm creatively tired. If you've ever experienced that, post or email me [tracyreedwriter@icloud.com] how you worked through it.

As for the other two titles, one is approximately thirty thousand words away from completion. The other story so far is charting the opposite path of the one I’m currently working on. It started out as a short story, but after writing the first three thousand words, I fell in love with the character and see he has more depth than a short or even a novella. His story will definitely be a full-length book, and if he talks to me correctly, he’ll become a series.

Let’s see how my unborn stories turn out.


Happy writing and creating....
Tracy
Tracy Reed
www.readtracyreed.com

Fiction for Women Who Love God, Couture and Cute Guys

Friday, February 03, 2017

Visual Content Marketing for the Confused and Terrified Writer






Visual Content Marketing
for the Confused and Terrified Writer
Instructor: Elena Dillon 
February 13 – March 10
$30  or  OCC/RWA members $20

What is visual content and why do you need it for your marketing strategy? And how does this apply to your author business? The answer is fairly simple.

Visual content is anything that uses pictures, graphics, video, etc. When you see a GIF of cats falling off tables? That’s visual content. A pretty graphic with a quote from a book? Visual Content. Those fabulous cooking videos where they make a cinnamon roll apple pie in twenty seconds? Visual content.

It’s what will get your content seen. As a matter of fact, statistically your readers are 44% more likely to engage with visual content. Hmmm. 44%? Hard to ignore. We all want to work smarter not harder, right? In this class, you will learn:


How to decide what kind of visuals will work for you and your business
How to create all kinds of visuals
How to make one piece of content work in many different ways
Drive traffic where you want it to go (your website, lead page, Amazon or other retailer page)
Save time and effort in your marketing efforts


This class for you if you’ve never created any kind of graphics on your own. It’s for authors who need to learn how to create visual content for their author business and are unsure about using new technology. We will go over:


Strategies for smarter marketing
Tools that make visual content easier to create and more manageable
How to plan out your content and marketing so it takes up less precious writing time.

And believe it or not? I’ll make it fun. I’ll teach you how to create a graphic while you’re standing in line for coffee. =)

Join me for the fun in the February 2017 OCCRWA Visual Content Marketing for the Confused and Terrified Writer class!


About the instructor:


Who Am I?

I’m Elena Dillon, an author of the award winning Young Adult “Breathe” series. When I’m not writing, I love to help my author friends with technology and social media. I’ve taught Social Media for the Confused and Terrified, Pinterest for the Confused and Terrified, Visual Content for Authors and spoken at numerous conferences, chapters and groups about social media and indie publishing.

Most of the time, I’m a wife to my husband of twenty-six years, mom to my two grown kids and servant to my high-maintenance English bulldog, Brutus, while I wait, not so patiently, for grandbabies.


Enrollment Information

This is a 4-week online course that uses email and Yahoo Groups. If you do not have a Yahoo ID you will be prompted to create one when you join the class, but the process is not difficult. The class is open to anyone wishing to participate.
The cost : $30.00 per person or, if you are a member of OCCRWA, $20.00 per person.
Enroll at: http://occrwa.org/classes/february-online-class/
Class dates: February 13 – March 10