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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Get the Most Out of Writer's Conferences

Please welcome guest blogger Ann Roth

Luck can often mean simply taking advantage of a situation at the right moment. It is possible to make your luck by being always prepared.

Michael Korda, former editor-in chief of Simon & Schuster

A writers’ conference can change the direction of your career. If you’re serious about a writing career, you’ll probably attend at least one in your life.

Writers are by nature introverts in varying degrees. I happen to be an extroverted introvert. That means that around people, I act like your usual outgoing, enthusiastic extrovert. However, unlike a true extrovert who gains energy from interacting with others, I give away my energy. Put me in a convention center with a couple thousand people, and it’s a sure bet that by the end of the day, I’ll be exhausted and in need of alone time to recharge.

But that’s a whole other workshop.

Regardless whether we’re introverts, extroverted introverts, or true extroverts, it isn’t easy to put ourselves “out there”. Yet we all want to get the most out of our conference experience. Otherwise, why spend the time and hard-earned money to attend?

So here’s the sixty-four-billion dollar question: What’s the best way to get the biggest bang for your buck from any conference?

The answer is simple, but takes some preparation: Show up prepared.

This week-long workshop provides tools and tips to help you do just that.

You will learn:

How to prepare before the conference

What to do during the conference

Steps to take after the conference

Please join me from February 28-March 6. Stop by Get the Most Out of Writer's Conferences and sign up today. You don’t want to miss this class!

About me: I’m Ann Roth, and to date I have published 15 romance and women’s fiction novels, plus a bunch of short stories for True magazines.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stormy Times Ahead

Please welcome guest blogger Lynn Kerstan

Are you ready to sail into the Brave New World of publishing? At this point, can any of us be ready? After a long, slow buildup while practical and affordable e-readers were being developed, things are changing at a dizzying rate. No one can be sure what the new publishing models will be, except that--with a few exceptions--they will be different. And there will be more of them.

More opportunities as well, especially for writers and small presses. Backlist books and unpublished books, so long as they are formatted to e-reader specifications and company rules, can be put up for sale or even given away to help build an author's reputation. Meantime, brick-and-mortar bookstores are closing at a frightful rate or reducing the number of actual books for sale in favor of other merchandise. But with gazillions of books and novellas available online, how are readers to find what they want? And how are authors to separate themselves from the pack and draw attention to their work? It's a jungle out there, and no one has a map.

For sure, marketing and promotion will become the name of the game. Authors bought by major publishers will have support, if those publishers adapt to the new paradigm. Those writing for small presses or going it alone will have to be proactive about creating an eager market for their work, thereby stealing time from the actual writing.

But before we worry too much about the new demands on our time and talent, authors should focus intently on quality control. Here's a dirty little secret about a lot of small or startup popular fiction publishers, along with a too-large number of major publishers. With decreasing profit margins, they are devoting precious little effort to editing, especially line and copy editing. Ask any judge of contests for published books, including the RITAs. You'll be amazed at what makes it into print these days.

No one will mention specific publishers or authors, nor should they. But we've seen enough examples to make us wary about entrusting our books to publishers without the resources or competence to provide needed editorial services. Some, I know for a fact, simply run the material through spell-check and a grammar program like that provided by MS Word. Bottom line: minimal copy editing and no line editing at all. Books and novellas are being loosed on the world with all their warts on display. Is this how you want your own book to show up in the marketplace?

It should be said that a fair number of small publishers (I am writing for one and free-lance editing for another) take as much pride in the quality of their releases as do their authors. You may be fortunate enough to land contracts with dedicated professionals.

On the other hand, with the competition fierce, which authors are most likely to secure agents or be purchased by good publishers? Those who submit clean copy in need of little editing (meaning less work and cost to publishers) or the authors who have not developed editing skills of their own? And to which category do you belong?

It seems clear to me that the days of leaving the job to the publishers are pretty much over. To give ourselves the best chance of success, we dare not submit our work until it is ready for prime time. If we do otherwise, the errors and infelicities and bad habits we don't recognize in our own work will hang out in public like dirty laundry. This is no way to win fans in a crowded marketplace, nor does it do credit to our characters and their stories. I foresee (happily, because it's part of my business) a lot of work for free-lance editors in this brave new world. Even so, I strongly urge every author to maximize his/her own editing expertise.

And now for the really good news. Most common errors are easy or relatively easy to fix . . . once you've learned to recognize them. I'm not speaking of typos, grammar, and that sort of thing. Computer programs can help you there, but bribing a non-grammar-impaired friend to give your story a read-through and red-pencil job is also a fine idea. If you're broke, bake cookies or detail her car. If not, hire a pro.

But most writerly problems fall into the realm of line-editing, and this you can (and must) learn to do. Few friends have the ability, writer friends have their own work to do, and professionals--decent ones--don't come cheap. What you need to know is easy to explain. How to line-edit to good effect is less easy, but you'll be amazed at the amount of bad stuff you can quickly fix to great advantage on your own.

This is why I teach, and why my favorite of all classes is the one that will begin here at FF&P in March. Technically, it's a “Revision and Polishing” class, but I think of it as “Clean Up Your Act” for Smart Authors. The information, tips, guidelines, and examples provided in the class have always been useful. Now, as we enter the scary (but brave) new world, they have become essential.

No more business as usual. However you make it happen, take charge of your career and learn to steer your own course.

Lynn Kerstan, former college professor, folksinger, professional bridge player, and nun, is the author of nine Regency romances, eleven historical romances, and several novellas. She is presently developing a paranormal series.

A five-time RITA Finalist (one win), she is regularly featured on awards lists. Since Romantic Times launched its “Top Picks” feature, every Kerstan novel has been a Top Pick. The Golden Leopard and Heart of the Tiger were selected by Library Journal for its “Five Best Romance Novels of the Year” lists in 2002 and 2003, and Dangerous Passions was named to Booklist's Top Ten Romances of 2005 list.

Formerly a teacher of English literature and writing at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and the University of San Diego, Kerstan now conducts popular fiction workshops for writers groups, RWA chapters, conferences, and on-line classes. She also line-edits and copy-edits for authors and small-press publishers.

An Internet junkie before Google became a verb, she blogs with Anne Stuart, Maggie Shayne, Patricia Potter, Tara Taylor Quinn, and Suzanne Forster at www.StoryBroads.com.

Revision and Polishing, presented by Lynn Kerstan, runs from March 7, 2011 through April 3, 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

Exploring the Hero’s Forest

Please welcome guest blogger Robin Matheson

The Journey Cycle isn’t just a useful plotting structure. It is a metaphor for the transformation that we write about everyday in our stories.

When I talk about the Journey Cycle, I like to talk about it in familiar terms and so I turn to Fairy Tales—the original not the Disney versions, please.

The forest is a powerful metaphor for transformation in many fairy tales. Jack Zipes, an authority on the subject, states: The forest is always large, immense, great and mysterious. No one ever gains power over the forest, but the forest possesses the power to change lives and alter destinies. [Zipes, The Brother’s Grimm, p. 65]

Whether we write historical, contemporary, paranormal, futuristic or fantasy stories, our protagonists must enter some kind of forest, whether literal or figurative, to experience the power of transformation that comes from completing the journey.

From a worldbuilding point of view, then, it is critical that we choose the right kind of forest for our protagonist to journey through.

Consider Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) from the 2009 movie Avatar.

Jake, a paraplegic, is asked to take over his brother’s contract with the Avatar Program on the moon Pandora after his brother is murdered. His sole reason for being chosen as a replacement is because he and his brother were twins. He thus possesses the same genetic makeup as his sibling and can therefore link with the avatar specifically created for his brother and thus save the company that created the genetically engineered blue-skinned giant from losing its investment.

In the voice over prologue Jake tells the audience he dreams of flying—

His first mental link with the human/Na’vi hybrid avatar gives him a freedom he has lost and he, not surprisingly, takes immediate advantage of his mobility.

But he was a marine and despite the loss of his legs, his training and instincts, which include obeying orders, remain intact. As he later tells Mo’at, he’s no scientist and, because of his late entry into the program, hasn’t logged any training time with an avatar or learned the Na’vi language.

Note that, before he fully understands either side of the issue, Jake falls back on his default inclination and agrees to use his unique position in the Avatar Program to collect intelligence on the Na’vi for Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang). The Colonel’s promise that he will see that Jake receives the operation he needs to restore the use of his legs is a powerful incentive.

Given these factors, what kind of forest does Jake need to face?

In this case Jake enters a literal forest on Pandora. One that is indeed large and mysterious, full of fascinating foreign plants and predatory animal life.

But Pandora’s forest is a place Jake is ill-prepared for and ill-equipped to survive in, in spite of his previous tours of duty as a marine. Both these points are crucial to the ultimate success of his journey.

Why? Well, for one thing his lack of preparation ultimately brings him into direct contact with the Omaticaya clan simultaneously allowing him to fulfill his assignment for the Colonel and offering him the rare opportunity to really learn about the Na’vi and their world.

In examining Jake’s relationship with the forest and the Na’vi, notice how his internal and external goals intertwine like the roots of Hometree. The forest journey offers difficult challenges. It is by accepting, meeting and conquering each challenge that Jake is finally transformed, literally when he is permanently transferred from his human body to his avatar at the end of the film.

© Robin Matheson

Award winning author Robin Matheson holds an honors specialist degree in Classical Civilization and English and a Master of Education. She's taught numerous courses at college, overseas and more recently online courses on writing. One of Robin's greatest passions is traveling. In addition to their home base, she and her family have also lived in South East Asia and South Africa.

The Journey Cycle, presented by Robin Matheson, runs from January 31, 2011 through February 27, 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Story of Stubborn Hope - Part One

Please welcome guest blogger a.c. Mason

Not born to write, but blessed with the heart of a storyteller.

I should start at the beginning. French is my maternal tongue, and I spend most of my youth in Quebec, Canada. No matter how much time and effort I put into writing I struggled to get words on paper. Then the devastating news came. I had learning disability that affected my ability to write. This seemed quite impossible because, I came from a gene pool of strong writers. Why did I get the raw end of the genetics deal?

This isn’t a story about me feeling sorry for myself so read on.

Around the age of thirteen I went from French to English school. I even picked up a nervous stutter when reading in English out load. Seems I had a nice stack of excuses for myself. What you don’t know about me is I’m more stubborn than a herd of raging bulls during a stampede. So I drew comic strips, wrote stories in notebooks, and orally told them to friends and strangers. People really enjoyed them. I was lucky my Dad instilled the belief in me that where there is a will there is a way. The only person that could hold me back was me if I didn’t try.

It would seem fairly simple. If you aren’t born to write, but you have the heart of a storyteller you would find other means to tell stories. And I did. I excelled in art, math, and science. I had an ear for languages. I trained as a camera operator, worked in T.V. Later I went to school and became a Web Designer. Life happened but the storyteller in me never went away. I never stopped writing. These days I get to tell people about history.

In 2007, I decided I would try the impossible mission. I was going to attempt to get published. With the support of my family, I took up my second job, writing where I would put no less than 37.5 hours every week. Now some cool things had happened since I was kid. There weren’t the tools for individuals like me when I was a younger but Word possessors with dictionaries and accessibility applications were a huge help. The word was underlined when misspelled, and I could have the computer read the text back to me.

I joined a critique group and boy did some of those writers slam my work. But there were some writers that were tough yet fair, pointed out what I was doing wrong and told me positive things. I knew at the end of the day that those slamming me represented what I would face with editors and agents. If you remember this is a story about stubborn hope. I haven’t accomplished anything in life that I haven’t earned through blood and sweat. Not so much tears as I’m one to redirect that energy into the bleeding and sweating. Lol.

In 2008, I joined RWA. Why? Because no other organization I’d come across provided the range of access to information to unpublished authors the way RWA does. I went from writing contemporary to fantasy. This would probably be a good time to tell you I like to push the envelope in my storytelling. I decided I would write a short length novella/novel and attempt to get epublished to work with an editor to further my learning. I wrote the first story in the Aequitas trilogy Aequitas I Betrayal, which isn’t a romance. Remember, I’m an envelope pusher. I submitted it a few places. I do something I call staggering my submissions, meaning I send one every three weeks. Why? Gives the places I’ve sent it to lead time to read the submission. Helps me avoid getting a bunch of rejections all at once, because honestly who enjoys that.

I was mentally prepared not to sell my story, but stubbornly hopeful.

Dec 20th 2008 I get an email on my BlackBerry that makes me question my ability to read in English.

So I got up and opened my computer and reread it. I tossed my computer in the air and started to scream. Yes. I really did toss my computer in the air. Needless to say the people I live with thought someone had broken into the house and came running. Here is the part where I cry and I can’t see any more, I had to get someone else to reread the email out load. I was neither going insane, nor still asleep. Aequitas I Betrayal was extended a contract and it was released in June of 2009.

I didn’t rush into writing the next book. I took what I learned from my fabulous editor and applied it to my next story.

I’ve since contracted the sequel Aequitas II Punishment, and novella one and two of the Wolf-Spirit Series Chocolate Damsel and Chocolate Temptation. I’ve also contracted novella one in the Soul Food Diner Series Surrendering To The Right Man.

I love telling stories in written form. I have overcome a lot of the second language barriers, applied myself to the rewrites, and am mindful of my learning disability. I push myself to do better every story. I’m in good company as there are famous author with learning disabilities that affect their writing too and that didn’t stop them either.

My writing path might different than those of other authors wind in strange and thrilling ways, but what you can be sure of is I’ll continue to put one letter next to another and weave tales for others to enjoy.

Don’t give up! Don’t let other people tell you, what you are capable of doing. You are the master of your own destiny. Believe in you, because if you don’t, who will? There are no easy roads or shortcuts.

Love your journey, it’s uniquely your own.

Part one of stubborn hope ends here and part two now begins.

Darkness ♀♂ Desires

At the age of nine, a.c.Mason made up a zombie story at summer camp. It scared the other kids so much that the camp counselor called her parents asking them to ensure she never did such a dreadful thing again. From this, she learned the power of storytelling, and the seed of the author was planted.

Born from the union of her Scottish and Belgian mother and an African American and Cherokee father, her youth was filled with dichotomies and moving from place to place. She developed a curiosity to explore through writing the seedy side of our nature and desires. Add to that her fascination with theology, politics, history, horror, and erotica. And voila, her distinct voice surfaced; described as a unique mélange of complex characters, well-crafted suspense, and mesmerizing visceral erotica. Her stories are the place where darkness meets human desire and fairytales endings are not promised but earned.

She wrote on and off since her early teens as a hobby and for friends. She enjoys delving into the realms of the unknown and blurring the caution lines.

Mason is fluent in French and English. She’s an avid traveler, including most of Canada, both of the United States seaboards, England and Europe. Her studies were in the computer field. She advocates the preservation of our natural and cultural riches for future generations.

Take a journey with her characters and come face to face with what lays beneath their illusions. Emerge…on the other side changed.


Will the battle for aequitas freedom cost the balance between good and evil?

Aequitas—part angel and demon, fight for their freedom and march to heaven’s doorstep.

Rebel leader Etienne Grant kidnaps his wife and vows to punish her disobedience. Once retribution is paid, Auria will command his army in a most ambitious venture—defeating all the angels in heaven.

Auria can do nothing but surrender for the safety of her sons. Once in Grant’s clutches, she realizes he wields an even greater whip as he fights for her heart and loyalty.

Enemy alliances are forged as they prepare to bring down the Kingdom of God. But the archangels won’t let victory slip from their grasp so easily.

The battle for freedom might cost the balance between good and evil, but will it damn their souls for eternity?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Secrets to Success that Authors Rarely Spill

Please welcome guest blogger Kimberly Llewellyn

Everything you need to know about writing a novel can be found in books, at workshops, on the web, and within novels themselves (that’s why reading them is so crucial). And yet, despite writing, critiquing, contesting, and submitting, making a sale can still seem so elusive. Why does one author make that first sale and another doesn’t? What does a successful published author have that an unpublished writer doesn’t? What does she do that gives her the edge? And what doesn’t she do that helps her to make a sale?

Are authors keeping secrets from unpublished writers? Is there a secret sisterhood devised to keep those in-the-know on the inside and the outsiders out? Fortunately, the answer is no. But first and foremost, writers who go on to make that first sale and continue on to successful careers have unlocked open secrets that have helped them on their way.

That’s right. Open secrets. Meaning, available to you, should you choose to use them. Below are some open secrets that you can start using today.

A successful author understands the market she is targeting. No matter how fabulous your paranormal time travel erotic novel is, an inspirational imprint like Harlequin Love Inspired is not going to buy it. While this advice seems logical, many writers submit inappropriately anyway, cross their fingers, and hope for the best. Additionally, a novel that straddles two categories of books usually doesn’t fit either one, resulting in a rejection. Avoid that pitfall. Targeting your novel goes beyond mere word count; you need to consider tone, level of sensuality, favorite hooks, number of hooks, and story content. The best way to do that? Read, read, read. If an author isn’t spilling this advice, it’s usually because she’s too busy reading. Voraciously. Some writers have been known to read 100 books or more in a given line or imprint before writing for that targeted market.

The successful author is a professional, in person and online. Remember all those adages taught when growing up? If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything all. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And my favorite, Never say anything about a person that you wouldn’t post publicly on a bulletin board. Those so-called “bulletin boards” still exist online. We call them chat rooms, discussion groups, and forums. Sure, with keyboard courage, it’s easy to spill your guts online, but the successful author knows when to remain silent. Why? Because she knows that walls have ears. If you mention something negative about an editor or agent at a writer’s meeting, during a conference, or online, chances are very good it will get back to that person (probably later that day!). And guess what? You just lost a chance to work with that industry professional.

A successful author knows that networking is about building relationships. These relationships may even turn into friendships, but let’s be honest, publishing is a business. Networking is about give and take, but it’s not about using people. If you try to make a connection solely on what someone can do for you, or what information you can squeeze out of a person, then that’s not a relationship at all. Giving back, helping others, volunteering, supporting authors, offering your skills/talents to others are good ways to show you are part of a networking support system and what you get in return will be amazing.

The successful author’s critique of your work doesn’t make your novel ready for submission. If you have the good fortune to have a busy published author read your work (even if just the first few chapters), then you have been given amazing insight into the craft of writing. But don’t go submitting your work yet. After receiving the critique and doing the suggested revisions that are right for you, be sure to follow up with your critique group. Your manuscript may require further in-depth revision. The author might have only focused on the basics for now. You will probably need more work later on. The author understands that you must have the foundation done well before you can move onto deeper revision. For example, if you have lots of confusing “head hopping” of characters in your story, you need to have a basic understanding of point of view before you can move onto more advanced craft techniques, like deep immersion third person point of view or stronger emotion and characterization.

The author’s critique most likely will tell you what you do well in your book and what requires some strengthening. The author, just like anyone, wants to be liked and respected. She wants to be upbeat and encouraging in this tough business. She doesn’t want to hurt you, overwhelm you, or destroy you. Because of that, she can only focus on those elements you need to work on most before you can move onto the heavy stuff. This is a process and an author’s critique is but one step in that process. It’s not the end-all and be-all.

A successful author has never been spoon fed. She actively seeks out the information she needs to constantly improve her craft, often keeping her too busy to spill secrets. Today, information is readily available to you. Learning to write is similar to the student going to university, taking classes, studying for exams, and writing papers/theses for four years. She also goes back and studies her notes often. She applies what she’s learned and builds upon that knowledge. And yes, help is there for you, but it is up to you to be inquisitive, look for answers, and be ready to hear them. And that is why being spoon fed doesn’t work. If you are not seeking the information, actively writing your manuscript, and constantly on the lookout for ways to improve your writing and solve problems in your book, then spoon-fed information is useless. Different writers are at different levels. And that’s okay. Sometimes you might hear information and it may not be important to you at the time, but if you are actively pursuing your dreams, then chances are, a year from now, that same information just might become the ah-ha moment that will take your writing to the next level.

The successful author looks at her work objectively and critically assesses her story based on constructive criticism. If you receive a critique that suggests you have to bring out the heroine’s internal conflict more, what is your response? Many a writer has said, “But I mentioned the internal conflict right here, that she was dumped, on page 35, at the end of this one sentence.” (I’ve witnessed this time and again.) Or, if your standard response is, “It’s coming, it’s coming,” (or anything like that), then you are missing the point. You need to layer more and bring the internal conflict to the forefront of the story.

The successful author understands this, although she may still ask questions to clarify a critique. But she doesn’t waste time arguing or explaining away what’s happened in the story. She knows she has to get it on the page. She learns that the internal conflict needs to go beyond a mere mention of what happened to the heroine on page 35. She realizes she has to dig deep emotionally. How is the heroine feeling about what happened? What are the emotional consequences of such an experience? How has it shaped her as a person today? How does it intrinsically affect her relationship with men, and more importantly, her relationship with the hero? Suddenly a mere mention of internal conflict on page 35 seems inconsequential when the entire fate of the heroine’s future depends on it, doesn’t it?

Sometimes a successful author may not spill about the secrets of writing success simply because her mouth is closed. Why is it closed? So she can listen. It’s a skill she developed early on and has served her well. Listening lends itself to learning…about craft, about the market, about future trends.

Talking about your book won’t help your writing. Talking a good game won’t help your writing. Nor will it get you published. But a funny thing happens when you close your mouth. Your ears open up and you hear stuff. Good, juicy, delicious stuff that can lead to a fabulous ah-ha moment that can skyrocket your writing. If you are a good listener, are a captive audience, sincerely intent on the person (author!) you are talking with, then that person (again, author!) has a chance to slowly open up to you and share a wonderful wealth of information. Even if she is talking about her own work, this is your chance to learn as well as support her by lending a supportive ear. It’s about give and take, without the squeezing of information. A lot of learning can go on, especially over cocktails at a bar or in the smoking area during a conference, just by simply listening.

The successful author constantly learns and adapts. She takes her hits and takes her falls, but she gets up, dusts herself off, learns from it, and goes at it again. She knows that the more times she screws up and the more rejections she gets, the more chances she has to improve, and better her chances of making a sale.

Adapting includes balancing the book of your heart with the book of the market. Due to the volatile nature of publishing right now, industry professionals are hunkering down, not taking too many risks, and seem to be relying on tried-and-true stories loved by readers. So, watch your favorite authors. They are not static. They take their voice, their writing strengths, and strong work ethic and use it to write compelling novels that will sell well in today’s current market, no matter what that market is. Finding that middle ground between writing what you love and writing what readers crave will serve you well.

A successful author has patience. She is in it for the long haul. This is good because getting published doesn’t happen overnight. Neither does developing your craft. Take your time with your writing. Working on your craft, truly understanding the elements to creating a great work of fiction, is a never-ending, constantly evolving process. A successful writer refuses to release her work out to the world before it is ready. It’s important to let the manuscript “cool” and come back to it with a fresh set of eyes weeks later…maybe even months. Why? Because it’s not the writing, but rather, the rewriting that can make a novel great.

Impatience will tempt you to hand a manuscript to your critique partner (CP) although you know of its weaknesses. You hope your CP won’t notice. But if she is a good, honest CP, she won’t let you get away with it. She will critique it, hand it back, and then tell you to take your lovely-but-lazy butt back to the drawing board and do what needs to be done to get the story to be the best it can be. There are no shortcuts; that’s why patience will take you far.

The successful author isn’t spilling this next secret because she’s is actively “doing” this secret. The biggest secret to writing is writing. Writing and fulfilling a daily new-word count remains on the top of the successful author’s to-do list. Building a web site? Not the same as writing a novel. Blogging about writing? Still not writing a novel. Neither is researching, revising, editing, nor polishing. Posting on an email loop may give you a sense of accomplishment, but it’s not writing a novel either. In fact, as you read this, answer this question: did you write your daily new-word count today?

A successful author doesn’t spill these secrets to success too often because she simply isn’t standing still long enough; she doesn’t rest on her laurels. She is too busy on her next project. After completing a novel, taking some time to fill the well is one thing, but once your manuscript is submitted to your dream editor or agent, do you already have an idea for your next novel? Get started on it as soon as possible because an editor wants to know she will be working with a professional writer, not a one-book wonder. Also, working on a new project will help you endure the excruciating waiting game, which could take months or years. When you do get “the call,” the editor may already be chomping at the bit wondering what your next project will be. If you’ve started a new novel, you will be prepared to answer when she asks, “What are you working on now?” You might even be able to turn that single-book contract into a two-book contract. And that is a tell-tale sign of a successful author.

Known as “the Wedding Writer,” Kimberly Llewellyn is the author of five contemporary novels, including her last two published as humorous women's fiction in trade paperback by Berkley Books, Tulle Little, Tulle Late and The Quest for the Holy Veil. Her online workshop, Cracking the Romance Code, will be available at the FF&P Chapter in February. Her website is www.KimberlyLlewellyn.com.

Cracking the Romance Code, presented by Kimberly Llewellyn, runs from February 7, 2011 through February 25, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Okay, you’ve got a blog –now what?

Please welcome guest blogger Maeve Greyson

As an author, how many times have you heard the following? Get a website. Set up a blog. Get on Facebook, Twitter, blah, blah, blah. Get your NAME out there. Hop to it!

So, you dive into the fray. You’ve got your blog up and running by using either Blogger, Wordpress or some of the other available blogging options. You’ve agonized for hours over backgrounds, templates, widgets and gadgets. Squinted for days to decide which font is easier to read until you’ve gotten it juuust right. But now that you’ve launched the result of your blood, sweat and tears, how do you get the rest of the world to find it?

I don’t claim to be an expert but I thought I’d share a few things that have worked for me. I can only speak for Blogger because that’s what I’ve found easier to use.

Submit your URL:

While Blogger eventually submits your link to various search engines, I found that if I submitted the main link myself, I popped up much quicker on searches. I resubmit the link approximately every three months to ensure the web crawlers continue to find me. Be advised; do not submit your URL more often than every thirty days or you run the risk of being tagged as a spammer and your URL will be removed.

Here’s the links to submit your URL to Yahoo, Bing, and Google:




There is an additional site that will submit your link to various smaller search engines for free. It is: http://www.submitexpress.com/free-submission.html However, this site does require your email address and your phone number. You guessed it. A barrage of spammers are waiting in the shadows. If you decide to use this site, I highly recommend setting up a secondary email account through gmail or hotmail and registering on this site with that email. Then the spammers won’t have access to your primary account and fill up your inbox.

Blog Surfer:

This site was recommended to me by a friend. I’ve been using it approximately three months and my site stats have improved dramatically. I can’t honestly say it’s changed the number of comments I get but visits to my site have increased tremendously. I’ve gotten a few new followers but of course, I can’t be sure whether it’s from Blog Surfer or not. But the more hits my site gets, the better my odds of increasing my readership. Here’s the link to Blog Surfer: http://www.blogsurfer.us/ I’ve not had a problem with spammers from this site.

The good news is this site is free. It works both with Blogger and Wordpress blogs. List your link and your blog joins the “roll”. Install the widget on your blog. Whenever you post a new topic, click the Blog Surfer widget to shoot your blog back to the top of the continuously rolling blog roll.

Facebook – Networked Blogs:

Don’t forget to register your blog with Networked Blogs on Facebook and also connect it to your Twitter account. Every time you submit a new post, Networked Blogs will share it on your Facebook profile and will tweet it to your peeps –automatically. And as busy as everyone is these days: automatic is good.

Visit other blogs:

I know you’re busy. But if you’re too busy to visit AND comment on anyone else’s blogs, why would you expect them to take time out of THEIR busy schedule to visit and comment on one of your posts?

Be nice when you’re a visitor to another blog:

Yes. Nice does matter. Visiting someone’s blog is akin to visiting someone’s home. If you leave a comment, don’t say anything you wouldn’t want someone to say to you. Even then, THINK about the comment you’re typing. It’s very easy to give the wrong impression since your intent might not come across in a brief comment. I know we’re writers but it’s still VERY easy to be misunderstood when we’re keeping it brief. What you intend as a positive comment might be perceived as a hurtful jibe. Choose your words carefully.

Also, if you feel the author has posted incorrect information on their blog, either let it go or email them privately. Don’t post a comment on their blog telling them they’re wrong or misinformed. Think of it as going to a fancy restaurant with your best friend. While there, you make a trip to the ladies room and manage to tuck the back of your skirt into your pantyhose, revealing the satin thong Santa brought you for Christmas. Would you rather your friend shout across the dining room that your butt is hanging out or would you prefer she quietly slide to your side and yank your skirt back into place?

Announce your posts:

If you’re a member of any yahoo groups, announce new posts so folks will know there’s new content on your blog. Be certain to follow each group’s rules regarding blog announcements. Failure to do so could result in moderation or suspension from the group.

Acknowledge comments on your blog:

If someone takes the time to comment on your blog, respond to that comment as soon as possible. A commenter likes to know they’re not talking to a void. Don’t ignore them.

Tag your posts:

Don’t forget to tag your posts with key words pertaining to the post. This will help search engines pick it up. If you’re blogging about POV, some of your tags might be: writing, characters, point-of-view.

Invite guests:

When you feel ready, open your blog to visiting authors, editors or agents. Invite them to post or ask if they’d do an interview.

These are just a few of the things that have worked for me. Like you, I’m constantly on the lookout for more ways to improve traffic. I’ve yet to be a part of any of the large blogmania tours or have any contests. (My book doesn’t release until February.) But I hear good things about those things when it comes to drawing interest to your blog. Remember - in no way do I claim to be an expert.

Of course, the MAIN thing you need to do? Keep your readers entertained.

Bio: I'm a writer of paranormal romances, enjoying life in my wooded sanctuary with my husband of over thirty years and my writing partner, Jasper the rat terrier/chihuahua mix.

Beyond a Highland Whisper

The last time Latharn MacKay walked among his kinsman was in Scotland of 1410. Sensuous and charismatic, all the women wanted him, but none could capture his heart. Latharn's charm became his curse when a dark sorceress didn’t take rejection well. She snared his soul into a crystal globe until the one woman destined to be his love whispered his release. Now all Latharn has to do is find her and guide her to him without speaking a word.

One of the youngest archeologists in St Louis of 2010, Nessa credits one thing for this achievement: the recurring dream of a heart-stopping Highlander since the summer she turned eighteen years old. Little does she know, he's not some fantasy cooked up by her subconscious. He’s a trapped soul determined for Nessa to end his six centuries in hell. Can love prevail over the dark magic of a woman scorned?