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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Branding—Even BEFORE You Sell! By Terry Spear

Are you an expert at anything? Scuba diver? Snorkler? (Hey, you don’t have to be an expert, but if you’ve done it, you can write about it!) Ghost Buster? (Even if you only see the ghosts and don’t bust them!) Lawyer? Been in the military? Hired a Private Eye?

So this sounds more like writing what you know. But actually, if you can sell an editor or agent on how you know what you’re talking about, that will give you somewhat of a boost in believability, even if you write about the unbelievable!

And that gets into branding—even before you sell. Here we go.

I write Highland romances. I have researched my Scottish background and have the perfect Highland story of love that knew no bounds. It did not have a happily ever after—Duke’s daughter runs off with commoner MacNeill, they end up in Prince Edward Island after having been married for about 6-7 years, and she dies due to the harsh conditions, leaving behind a baby girl and two young boys and the commoner MacNeill she loved.

But I LOVED the Highland struggles, yes, romanticized, because I crave happily ever afters!

So the MacNeills in my stories have happily ever afters, whether they are wolves in contemporary times as in A Howl for a Highlander, or in Medieval times, the new release: Highland Rake. What have they in common? Beside the MacNeill name? Most have some kind of paranormal aspect.

For the Highland part, I had to go to Scotland and visited seven castles and in the latest Highland wolf book, A Highland Werewolf Wedding, I actually used one of the castle ruins as the setting for the heroine. It was my favorite of the castles I visited, isolated on the Irish Sea, bitterly cold on the outside, yet within the walls of the castle inner bailey, it felt warm and I was at home. When I was at the other castles, I was a visitor. But at the first, I was home. So using the memories of that visit, and some of what I learned from tour guides at other castles, I wrote the book.

But I also use the concepts I’ve learned while studying about Highland life in my Highland Medievals. While we took pictures of some Highland cows sitting out in a field underneath a bunch of trees beside a river, no farmhouse anywhere in sight, no other buildings anywhere, just hills and trees and solitude, I heard Celtic music playing. It reminded me of a movie where the band is playing orchestral music to add to the ambience of the setting. When I reached the fence to get a closer view of the Highland cows, the music stopped. After taking the pictures, I mentioned to my two girlfriends about the beautiful music. Neither had heard it.

I haven’t listened to Celtic music in a couple of years, though I have tons of CDs, and never heard any Celtic music while we were there, except for that one time while we were in the middle of nowhere and the Celtic music played. I’ve had other ghostly experiences also.

So in Highland Rake, I have two ghosts who nearly stole the show. The heroine is the sister of one, the hero, the brother of the other. The heroine has seen ghosts all her life, but back then, she might have been considered a witch. Even today, many don’t believe in the paranormal, but back then, it was hazardous to one’s health.

I have branded myself as a writer of Highland stories, most of which have some paranormal aspect.

What about the wolves? I’ve researched them and try to base my werewolves off real wolves. Some of that means visiting wolf reserves and taking pictures, studying their behavior, talking with caretakers who can give more information that might not be generally known. Some of this I don’t include in my stories, as it won’t fit. Some I do. And some I just share on blogs with my readers.

Now I’m also writing about jaguar shifters. Again, it’s important to me to create a fantastical creature that’s based on something real, so I’m going to a big cat reserve in Texas in a couple of weeks, and visited the local Waco zoo and the Omaha zoo recently and took pictures of jaguars. Neither zoo had wolves. But I took a video and several pictures of wolves at a park in Omaha.

I share these pictures with fans on my blogs, and it helps to brand me. I’ve had an interview in a wolf magazine, and written several articles on wolves. Again, these help to brand me.

Why is branding important? If you look for a certain product and like it, a brand helps you to locate it easily. I LOVE reading Highland romances. When I go to the store, if the cover has plaid or Highlander on it, I buy it!!! So see? That’s branding and it helps to identify a product for a particular audience. With my wolf books, same thing. They have wolves on them. And of course the obligatory shirtless hunk!!!

Jaguar shifters, same thing.

Why is branding important BEFORE you sell? Let’s say you’re a scuba diver. You’ve been all over the world scuba diving. You write about a hero who salvages treasures from the ocean’s depths. And the heroine takes him out on her boat. She’s also a scuba diver. Your blog shows pictures of treasures hauled out of the deep. You blog about what you’ve seen on your excursions. You know something about it, and that gives you credibility.

Your website could have an ocean theme. A newsletter, same thing. You’ve branded yourself.

So how can you brand yourself so that agents and editors who might take a look at your sites to see how well you promote yourself see something that convinces them you are a viable risk?

If you’re a mystery writer/romantic suspense writer—I’d have a tape lined out body on my sites! Anything that will give a visual idea of what you do. Ghost writer? A hauntingly interesting picture. Vampire writer, fangs!

Do editors and agents look to see what you’re doing that might help sell them on you? Absolutely!

So your goal for the New Year, if you don’t already do this, is to brand yourself.

“But wait!” you say. “I write a million different genres.”

So do I! But pick one to really sell yourself. And then you can make separate pages for different genres. I have a collection of contemporary humorous wedding stories—Marriage in the Works, Vampire adult romance stories, YA paranormal romances, Historical romance, werewolf and jaguar shifter stories, and novellas. Periodically, I’ll blog all about vampires—and that includes my YA vampire stories and adult vampire stories. Then I’ll do one on pure fantasy. I brand by collecting like-stories and using a theme that works for them.

Branding can be a lot of fun! And it can help fans of your kind of work find you!

So if you brand, what do you do? If you don’t, give me some ideas of what you could do!

"Giving new meaning to the term alpha male where fantasy IS reality."

About the Author

USA Today bestselling and an award-winning author of urban fantasy and medieval romantic suspense, Terry Spear also writes true stories for adult and young adult audiences. She’s a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and has an MBA from Monmouth University. She also creates award-winning teddy bears, Wilde & Woolly Bears, personalized that have found homes all over the world. When she’s not writing or making bears, she’s teaching online writing courses or gardening. Her family has roots in the Highlands of Scotland where her love of all things Scottish came into being. Originally from California, she’s lived in eight states and now resides in the heart of Texas. She is the author of the Heart of the Wolf series and the Heart of the Jaguar series, plus numerous other paranormal romance and historical romance novels. For more information, please visit www.terryspear.com, or follow her on Twitter, @TerrySpear. She is also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/terry.spear .

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Musing from the Monkey Bars by Rhenna Morgan

You know the expression, “Time flies?”  Sometimes, it’s a gross understatement.  Sometimes, “Time ripped past me at Mach thirty digging a deep, dark trench in its wake” is more accurate.

I was driving to my day job a few days ago and tried to remember, “how far back did I join RWA?” 

My aging, mental historian wrinkled up her forehead like it might force things into better focus and scratched her head.  “I thiiiink it was March.”

“Yeah, but March of what year?” I asked.

She flayed me with an irritated expression that said she hadn’t had as much coffee as I had.  “I dunno.  This one.  I think.”

Wow!  Only eight months?

I almost wrecked.  Downtown Tulsa is nowhere near as crazy as the infamous streets of New York or LA, but even here it’s a bad idea to slam on the brakes and jerk your steering wheel during rush hour.

It feels like years since I started pursuing publication, a process I lovingly refer to as swinging from the Monkey Bars.  (Don’t ask me where it came from, I’m just weird that way.)  It doesn’t feel like years because of drudgery or disappointment—though I’ve had my share of wine and chocolate—but because of the learning I’ve crammed into every minute.  The writers I’ve met through RWA, my local group, and in FF&P have deluged me with a wealth of knowledge and advice…and it’s been euphoric. 

Still, if I had it to do over again, there are a few things I’d share with fellow newbies…and to old-timers as bits of nostalgia.

1)     Find a pack.  You will always need them.  Trust me.  When something works right and you need to sing about it, they’ll listen.  When your spouse looks at you like you’ve grown three new heads, they’ll remind you, “that’s normal.”  When you get another rejection letter, they’ll pat you on the back and bring you Haagen-Dazs.  A few of mine will sit at the bar with me at happy hour and observe/appreciate/ogle the male clientele in the spirit of research…but that’s a different blog.

2)     Nothing beats a good critique group.  What do I mean by good?  For me it means working with people who:

a.       Get my genre.  Critiquing with writers who have a hard time envisioning folks flying through the sky will probably end up a downer for you.

b.      Write what I enjoy.  Critiquing is a two-way street.  If you can’t appreciate what they write, you probably won’t value their critiques…and giving them a helpful critique will be rough.

c.       Don’t just blow smoke up my bo-hiney.  No matter how good we are, we can always be better.  Your critique partner(s) are the equivalent of people who won’t let you walk out of the restroom with your dress wedged in the waist of your panties.

3)     Write.  Since I don’t have a deadline (yet), it doesn’t matter what it is, so long as I do it.  We have to practice for those deadlines….

4)     Sit with any new information for a while.  This is more about savoring what we’re taught.  Think of it as letting a sip of wine rest on your tongue before you gulp it down.  If we discard a suggestion we’re given too quickly, we might end up throwing away a gem.  If we take advice as gospel and rearrange our whole manuscript, our unique voice may be eradicated.  Our lessons need time to breath and grow so they become our own.

There is one more, but it deserves its own paragraph, not just a bullet point.  Those of you who’ve been around awhile have heard it countless times. 

Don’t give up.

Keep your fingers wrapped around the monkey bar no matter how bad they ache.  Watch for those emails zinging through the loop that tout, “I did it!” and know it can happen to you.  Pause a moment after closing a book by your favorite author to re-read one of your own chapters.  Slide your fingers against the cool page, close your eyes…and believe.

Rhenna Morgan writes what she loves to read—paranormal and cotemporary romance.  A confessed triple-A personality type, Rhenna’s background includes a degree in Radio/TV/Film, radio DJ, promotion director, skip tracer, collection agent, real estate sales, singer/songwriter, business analyst and IT Application Manager. 
A closet writer for the majority of her life, Rhenna began the publication gauntlet after completing her first, bucket-list induced manuscript in February of 2012.  Since then she’s become actively involved in RWA, the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Special Interest Chapter of RWA and Smart Women Writers of Tulsa and hopes (soon) to find a publication home.
Rhenna Morgan



 Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/rhennamorgan

Twitter - @rhennamorgan


Thursday, November 22, 2012

RESPECT! We deserve it. We owe it to ourselves by Mona Karel

***You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than you are yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe deserve your love and affection." Buddha***

            Recently I was speaking with a person I consider one of the best Arabian Horse artists in the world.  She had just returned from the Arabian Horse Nationals, and she commented how much she loved going to events since she could concentrate on her art and the people who appreciate it. She gets a lot of work done while sitting in her booth, or in her motel room at night. Once she’s home, she’s generally too busy being a wife, a homeowner, and someone with far too much responsibility. 

            I had one of those epiphany moments that do come to me once in a while when I realized I was hearing from her what I’ve said to myself so many times in the past.  I just never seem to have enough time to get anything finished since I’m doing so many other things at once.  So I dash from emergency to emergency, and somehow the last thing on my schedule is what I should have attacked first, my writing. As though I am seeing everything else as more important than what should be the most important. 

            I’ve learned some great tricks lately to get the most use from the limited number of hours available to us. One is the digital timer suggestion I learned from Susan Elizabeth Phillips. She sets her timer for two hours, and writes for that period of time. If she leaves the keyboard, she turns off the time. For me it works a bit differently. I set the clock for an hour, and write for that hour.  Instead of thinking I must write a full hour, my takes seems to be I have only an hour to write, and getting to the last fifteen minutes the words pour onto the page.

            But for that hour, I am writing. Period.  Not fixing a cup of coffee, not answering the phone and not not not checking my e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter. Not.  Well, sort of not. When I do I lie to myself about how I just need to check, to be very sure the world hasn’t come to an end while I was creating great works of fiction. When in fact I’m allowing my mind to wander into the realm of “I’m not really a writer, how dare I think this hour of writing is more important than the outside world.”

            And we get back to the crux of the matter, and the topic of my phone conversation.  Whenever I let the doubts slide in, whenever I lose respect for what I’m doing, then I’ve let the doubting side of me overcome the creating side of me.  We can call it left brain/right brain, or give it any fancy title we want.  Fact is, when we lose respect for ourselves and our craft, we give permission to others not to have that same respect.  And they will take advantage of our lack.  Not necessarily with malice, maybe they think it’s for our own good since obviously we don’t really think we’re writers if we aren’t fighting for time to create.

            My friend has taken the timer pledge, and I’m going to indulge myself in a few days to ensure she stays on the path to self respect.  She’s too darned good to fall off road.  So am I. And so are all of us.

About Mona

Mona Karel is the writing alter ego of Monica Stoner, who wrote Beatles fan fiction and terribly earnest (read just not very good) Gothics in her teen years. She set aside writing while working with horses and dogs all over the US, until she discovered used book stores and Silhouette Romances. Shortly after that she also discovered jobs that paid her for more than her ability to do a good scissors finish on a terrier, and moved into the “real” working world. Right around then she wrote her first full length book. It only took her twenty seven years to be published. She writes looking out the window at the high plains of New Mexico, with her Saluki dogs sprawled at her feet. Distraction much? ? Sometimes these silly dogs take over her life, but there is always room for one more set of characters in one more book



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Even if she’s a shape-shifting, telepathic starship captain for the Fae, MARY SUE MUST DIE! by Carol A. Strickland

Mary Sue is such a lovely woman. She’s witty, extremely talented in multitudes of fields, gorgeous, and can rise to take command of any occasion. Everyone she’s ever spoken to, adores her without limit.

And that is why she must die, die, die!

According to the never-wrong Wikipedia, “A Mary Sue... is a fictional character with overly idealized and hackneyed mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the author or reader. It is generally accepted as a character whose positive aspects overwhelm their other traits until they become one-dimensional.”

It was with immense horror that I recently retrieved an old manuscript from its “resting” drawer to discover that the heroine was a bona fide Mary Sue. Though she’d begun life as an introverted native of Earth—a rather backward planet in the galactic scheme of things—in this novel when she unexpectedly traveled off-planet she became a Grand Leader of Men (and Women), and deftly handled all things Intergalactic and mega-tech that faced her. The people around her stood slack-jawed in wonder at her marvelousness. And beauty, of course.

Insert heavy sigh here.

I never liked Star Trek TNG’s Wesley Crusher. He is usually cited as the perfect example of a male Mary Sue. Smirking sunnily, he could get the Enterprise out of any jam in which it found itself, tra la. The one episode that gave him a significant flaw occurred too late in the series for his salvation. To me he remained the Great God Wesley.

I do not want any Great God Wesleys in my books, nor do I want to read others’ books with him (or her) in it.

We deal with fantasy, even if it should get a bit scientific around the edges (what Heinlein termed “pseudo-scientific fantasy”). More importantly, we deal with characters and shaping stories around them. I’m a plotter; it took me far too long to admit that character is the most important part of a novel. A great character can set a reader’s imagination afire even when given a poor plot. The same can’t be said for the opposite.

A Mary Sue is a kind of shortcut character cliché, but more importantly she is cardboard. In her utter perfection, she has no weaknesses. She isn’t human.

Recently I read an FF&P novel that had received high praise. How surprising to find that the heroine was a blatant Mary Sue! Of course the triple-alpha hero (and his band of merry alpha men) adored her, but we really didn’t know the why of it, other than who wouldn’t adore Mary Sue? What made her particularly special to him? Why did he love her as a person instead of worship her from afar?

Worse, this particular Mary Sue reshaped herself according to plot needs. Since she held so little substance, the plot defined her instead of the other way around. If she began timid but then had to show P.T. Barnum-level chutzpah for the plot to progress, she easily did so. Then when the plot demanded that she be meek and helpless again, she did that.

This character didn’t go through a character arc. She morphed a handful of times, flip-flopping and never developing a real direction. She was never tested by anything because she was always an expert. As a result—and this is the worst of it—the reader never got a chance to root for her learning a new and better way to interact with her world. The reader couldn’t hold their breath and then celebrate the final breakthrough with her. She was perfect in the beginning as well as the end and all points in between. Where’s the fun for the reader in that? Where’s the entertainment?

A great character should reveal definite faults and limitations so that the reader can identify with them. Not necessarily with the same exact faults, but with the shared humanity that those faults imply.

In the same way that the story shifts through its phases from Act I through the Big Black Moment and into the climax and resolution, the characters in it need to grow, returning in the final act to the original plot question to view and react to it differently.

To misquote Spock: the needs of the character outweigh the needs of the plot and the original story outline/idea. Just because Mary Sue has to get from Altair to Vega by Sunday doesn’t mean that in addition to all the other marvelous things she can do, she should have graduated top of her class in starship navigation. Instead, she can encounter problems trying to find a pilot who will get her to Vega on time. Perhaps he’ll teach her a little navigation along the way so that when next she needs to be somewhere, maybe to save his kidnapped hide, she can muddle through by herself. Or not. Perhaps, defying the original premise, the character will rebel to learn her story lesson better and much more entertainingly by not traveling to Vega at all. She can thumb her nose at where the plot wants her to go. She can force it to follow her in new directions.

The plot should support her arc and hint of multiple possible paths for her. (An entertaining heroine will of course choose the most difficult one.) A plot shouldn’t pick her up and transport her to her goal while she sits around in cushioned comfort eating bon bons.

The character also needs to “share the wealth.” For my own precious Mary Sue, I’ve already made notes to make her less skilled—in fact, completely clueless in many areas—to allow the colorful characters around her to show off their own talents while she sits back to learn from/appreciate them. Instead of coming up with the entire idea of how to prevent a world invasion by bluffing the enemy, she can say something that gives Our Hero the idea of a bluff, and then add her own ideas along the way of how they can play aspects of the game. This not only lessens the Mary Sue-ishness, but gives Our Hero more spotlight time, allows Our Heroine still to have an active hand in the deviousness, and gets them to share on many levels in formatting a plan—which may lead later to sharing hijinks in bed!

So if it’s true that character is the most important element of a book (it is!), and that Mary Sues are cardboard characters without depth and thus diminish the entertainment a reader wants when they hit that “buy” button—We should all set our cursors to “kill.” Death to our own Mary Sues!


Thanks, Rebecca Zanetti, for having me here today!

Blurb for Applesauce and Moonbeams, whose hero and heroine are both rather hopeless non-Mary Sues:

After a hit man blasts telepathic psychiatrist David Lumen’s mind into the body of a pampered kitty on its way home to the moon, David’s desperate plan to make himself whole again is hampered by his new feline life. The only person close enough to communicate with is struggling avant-garde artist, Pippin Applegate.

Pippin has problems of her own. The Fashion Police ticket her unmercifully for appearing disheveled in public, even though her accidents are never quite her fault. Her aunt is pressuring her to quit art and become VP of the family’s Lunar apple business. And now Pippin has to deal with a telepathic cat?
Together they spot David’s body walking around... with the hit man’s mind inside. Can David regain his true body when it’s leaving a trail of chaos and murder that leads to Pippin’s make-or-break art show?

About the author:

When you think of fiction's strong women and strange worlds, think Carol A. Strickland. Carol has published four novels, three of which are FF&P. She has also become an award-winning painter from her home in North Carolina. She exercises this skill in her secondary hours (both of them) along with writing as she waits for the lottery to free her 9-to-5 time to more fulfilling pursuits.
The e-versions of her books are inexpensive. Carol reminds all that readers who post honest online reviews get a free pass into Heaven (if needed). http://www.carolastrickland.com/fiction/index.html

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What to Do When Your Books Aren’t Anything by Jeffe Kennedy

             My agent emailed me last night. She’d just finished reading a novel I wrote a couple of years ago and wasn’t able to sell. I sent it to her because we’d recently gotten passes from Big 6 (Big 5?) editors on a newer novel. Both loved the writing, the concept, the characters – but one said there was too much romance in his fantasy and the other said there was too much fantasy in her romance. (Does anyone remember those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercials? Well there was no joyful joining of the chocolate and peanut butter in these cases.) So, I sent her this other novel, because she thought, since they liked my writing, hitting them with something else might be successful.

                She emails me and says:
I love you. I love that your books aren't anything. [This novel] is like urban and traditional fantasy had a baby.
                It’s a funny message to get from your agent – one that makes you laugh even as your heart clutches at the confirmation that, yes, this is yet another hopelessly cross-genre novel.
                I did warn her. I met her at RWA after she read Rogue’s Pawn and loved it. I told her it took me years to sell that book, because it was neither fantasy nor romance, an urban fantasy, kinda, that takes place in a non-urban landscape. So, I wrote her back and told her I know I’m hopeless, that I don’t try to be this way. She responded with strategy to sell it to the perfect editor.
                Which is why I signed with her. At least she gets me.
                And then I commiserated via IM with one of my critique partners, who is also hopelessly cross-genre and she wondered what is wrong with us, that we write this way. Why we just can’t help ourselves. Why we can’t just color inside the lines for once.
               Which made me remember back when I was six years old. We had a special art project to paint acrylic flowers and then go over the painting with black marker, making big, swooping outlines around the petals and leaves. It was supposed to be kind of abstract and free (this was the early 70s, after all).
                I painted my flowers, bright orange petals circling a yellow center. The image is still strong in my mind, those colors so vivid and perfect. Those paints had an intensity I hadn’t encountered before. But, when it came to it, I couldn’t disrupt that lovely color with big, careless loops. Instead I outlined each petal with a precise black line.
                The teacher gave me a C, for not following instructions. And the painting won the grand prize in my school art show. My mother had it hanging up for a long time, too, in a lime green frame that matched my carefully outlined leaves and stems.
                I suppose the moral here is obvious. As much as I would enjoy getting an A+ from those editors who pay the big bucks, those bestseller list nods, there’s something in me that values the story more. Ultimately, I make that choice to honor the story and characters over the genre rules. It might feel to me that it needs to be that way—just as those orange flowers needed to be that way—but I’m still making that choice.
                At least my agent loves me.
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook.  Her fantasy BDSM romance, Petals and Thorns, originally published under the pen name Jennifer Paris, has won several reader awards. Sapphire, the first book in Facets of Passion has placed first in multiple romance contests.
Her most recent works include three fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns, the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and the post-apocalyptic vampire erotica of the Blood Currency.  
An avid user of social media, Jeffe engages daily with thousands of fans on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.  She frequently guests on publishers’ Twitter-feeds and reviewers’ blogs. She’s been an active member of RWA since 2008. She served two terms as president of RWA’s very large Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal special-interest chapter and continues as an advisor to the current board.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com or every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

For Love of Things That Go Bump in the Night by Devon Ellington

I’ve always loved what most people consider the “unknown.”  Ghosts don’t particularly bother me, although they can be irritating at times.  I’m not afraid of dusty attics or murky basements.  I’m comfortable around a lot of things most people fear.

Many of these exterior entities are either manifestations or projections of what we fear.  When we face our fears, when we accept the parts of us we don’t necessarily like, we become more “whole” (at the risk of using psychobabble), more complex, and more interesting.

As a writer, manifesting fears does two things -- one, it provides a physicalization of what remains unnamed, helping me create a character and therefore giving it a form that is more easily understandable than a theory.  For instance, when kids at school tease my godchildren and tell them, “Santa doesn’t exist”, I remind them, “Yes, Santa DOES exist.  Santa is the personification of giving.  Every time you give someone a gift from the heart, no strings attached, you ARE Santa.”

Unpleasant stuff also exists.  Blood sacrifice has been around for centuries, and many of those sacrificed didn’t choose to be the sacrifice.  Exploring the concept of immortal life through someone else’s blood sacrifice -- vampirism -- is a way to go deep into the fears and the somewhat taboo pleasures the power of taking someone else’s blood presents.

My protagonist in the Jain Lazarus series, which starts with HEX BREAKER, is a practical, butt-kicking heroine who handles paranormal anomalies.  In this particular book, it’s zombies.  I am not a fan of zombie tales -- don’t like reading them, don’t like watching them.  Yet, BECAUSE they are one of the manifestations that makes me squirm, I wanted to explore them in a book.  I wanted to explore the different possibilities involved in making a zombie - and in potentially curing one.  I had to give Jain a previous high, personal stake in the matter in order for her to have had the motivation to work on these aspects.  Both in HEX BREAKER, and in the second book, releasing shortly, OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK, the theme of having one’s choices taken away and having to fight and take action to get them back are central to the conflict.  We are afraid of losing choices -- that’s why elections have become so important and contested.  We want control of our own destinies.  Yet, since ancient times, the concept of “other” having more power over us than we have over ourselves, whether as a way to refuse responsibility or fight for what we want, is deeply ingrained.

Setting the book on a film shoot came naturally.  I worked backstage on Broadway and in film and television for many years.  My paranormal romantic suspense, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT (written as Annabel Aidan), takes place almost entirely backstage at a Broadway show.  I’ve worked on film shoots similar to the one in HEX BREAKER - it was comfortable territory.  I used the comfort of a familiar setting to explore aspects of human/non-human that were unfamiliar.

One of the exciting things about being a writer is that, once you start personifying these ideas and ideals, they evolve into complex and interesting individuals.  Billy Root, the actor who’s always the “sidekick” wound up being more complex and interesting than I ever expected, and with hidden talents revealed during the book.  Originally, I toyed with the idea of having Billy or Nick, the lead actor, be Jain’s main foil in the book.  However, Wyatt walked in, and it was all over.  The chemistry between Jain and Wyatt is undeniable, and only builds throughout the series.  Billy, however, became a fan favorite.  He’s got his own blog now (http://billyrootblogs.wordpress.com), and is central to the third book in the series, CRAVE THE HUNT, where he really comes into his own.

Writing is about exploration, about manifestation, about discovery, and about learning what makes us human -- even when what teaches us isn’t.


Devon Ellington is a full-time writer, who publishes under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction, and teaches writing all over the world.  Her Jain Lazarus Adventures are handled by Solstice Publishing (http://hexbreaker.devonellingtonwork.com) and her romantic suspense novel, ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT (as Annabel Aidan) is out with Champagne Books.  “Sea Diamond”, featuring Fiona Steele, is included in the DEATH SPARKLES anthology, released in Fall 2012.  She’s published hundreds of stories, articles, speeches, and scripts throughout her career, and is on the Board of Directors at the Cape Cod Writers Center.  Visit her blog on the writing life, Ink in My Coffee (http://devonellington.wordpress.com) and her website, www.devonellingtonwork.com.


Hex Breaker Jain Lazarus joins the crew of a cursed film, hoping to put to rest what was stirred up before more people die and the film is lost.  Tough, practical Detective Wyatt East becomes her unlikely ally and lover on an adventure fighting zombies, ceremonial magicians, the town wife-beater, the messenger of the gods, and their own pasts.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Social Media and the Author by Lynda K. Scott

In the interest of saving space, I'm going to skip MySpace and Bebo…while I do have a presence on both places, I've found that as far as promoting your work, they're not as good as they used to be. That said, you can still network your blogs to them to give yourself a bit of presence there.

The big boys are Facebook and Twitter. Since Twitter is 140 characters short, I'll start there.


Yes, you want a presence on Twitter but not to just tell the world that you had a mocha cappuccino for lunch or had to get up early and it rained on your new hairdo. But no, you don't always want to be yelling Buy My Book on Twitter anymore than you do anyplace else. But when you do tweet out your book news, you want to use hashtags.

What are hastags? They're a way to identify what your message and its audience is about. People tend to follow hashtags and that's great because that shows an interest - theirs. If they follow Science Fiction and Romance, they'll likely see your tweet. If you don't use a hashtag, well, you might have a few of your followers see your tweet. So it pays to find the best hashtag for your message and use it faithfully.

Example Scenario:

- You have 100 followers

 - You tweet "New SciFi Romance on Kindle by Happy Author [link]"

 - 100 people see it (if they happen to be on when you post it and if they don't have that many people in their feed). More likely, of your 100 followers, only 50 will see your tweet, maybe less.

 Example Scenario with Hashtags:

 - You have 100 followers

 - You tweet "New #SciFi #Romance on #Kindle by Happy Author [link]"

- 100 people see it PLUS every person who is following the hashtags for #SciFi, #Romance and #Kindle, which could be thousands. The #Kindle and #Nook hashtags are very popular and have lots of followers. If your book is an ebook, it would pay you to always use the #Kindle or #Nook hashtags when promoting it. You'll get more mileage for your 140 characters.

There's a hashtag for just about everything. You just have to find one that is popular and relates to your book. To do that, just use Twitter's search function. Try different spellings and make sure the tweets that appear are ones that you want related to your book.

Word of caution: The followers for #BDSM are plentiful and so are the ones for #menage. But if you write Inspirational or regular Romance, then you're wasting the 5-7 characters using those hashtags. Your tweet will go to a market that may not be interested in what you're offering. So make sure your hashtags accurately reflect your message.


Currently, Facebook is the BMOC. It effectively kicked MySpace and Bebo and a few others to the curb. While FB is huge now, always be on the lookout for the next BMOC because, yes, there will be one (Can we say Google+?). This is an ever changing world and we do need to be on top of the changes.

Facebook has 950 million users so the opportunity to promote your work is huge.  But what do you do first? Make an author page. Yes, you need one. Always separate your personal page from your professional page. It looks, well, more professional.

Your Page should be a warm inviting place for people to come and should give potential Fans (those who Like your page) a clear picture on what your business/genre is about. The first thing to add to your author page is a cover photo shown at the top. I use the jpg of one of my book covers (they can be edited for size so you can get just the right look for your cover photo,)

You can do many things to make this cover photo creative and interactive.

1. Connect the profile picture to the cover photo.

2. Highlight a book.

3. Highlight a fan of the week.

4. Show some creative aspect to your book (a scene works nicely if you can find a jpg for it).

You may want to add some additional Apps to jazz-up your Facebook Page. Here is a list of some Apps, select the ones that make sense for you.

NetworkedBlogs - http://apps.facebook.com/blognetworks This application will import your blog automatically into your Wall whenever you have a new post. (This works GREAT)

RSS Graffiti - http://apps.facebook.com/rssgraffiti  This application will import any RSS feed into your wall.

Booshaka - http://www.booshaka.com/  This application shows a list of all your top Fans by how much they interact with you.

Fan of the Week - https://apps.facebook.com/fanofthe/ - This app automatically picks a Fan of the Week based on interaction and posts the message about the new Fan each week.

 I particularly like NetworkedBlogs. It's easy to use and opens up your blog to a larger audience. I've only used the other apps a short while and don't have enough data to say how well they do what they say they'll do. The good thing is that if they don't work for you, you can remove them.

Head over to www.Involver.com for some more great app choices. They have a YouTube application and a Twitter application that will import information from those social media sites into tabs on your Facebook Page.

After that, check out your peers pages. But don't limit yourself to just your friends. Look up the big names in your field. Start by doing a search, ie go to www.Facebook.com/search to start your search. Select the Pages option to filter your results by Pages. You can also use Keywords, ie Science Fiction, Romance, Writing, Authors - there are a host of words you can use to broaden your search. Caution: Realize that the Facebook Search bar is not very robust and sometimes does not find the Facebook page you are looking for - even when you enter the exact name of the page! (I've had difficulty trying to find friends who I knew were on FB.)

If you can't find the Facebook Page of your peers, head over to their websites to see if they have a link to their Facebook Page on their site. Many will. Once you've located several authors you admire, 'Like' their page but also pay attention to what they do there.

What exactly are you looking for on their pages? You are gathering information about what is working and taking note of these key points:

How often is the page posting? What times are they posting?

What are they posting? What is getting the most interaction – pictures, links, videos, questions? What is working for them? (Hint: copy what is working) How many people post directly on the page? How many respond to a post?

What can you do to increase your Page activity?

Create a Content Calendar

Make it your business to spend some time planning your editorial calendar, deciding what content you will post and when. One of the biggest challenges authors face is “What should I post?” An editorial calendar gives you a road map you can turn to without having to start with a blank page trying to figure out what you want to communicate to your customers while there’s a million other things gnawing at your mind and fighting for your attention—you know, like every day when you write.

A content calendar gives you an overview of what you’re posting so you can ensure that you cover all the topics you want covered. It ensures that you’re not repeating yourself. It forces you to think about what’s important and what’s not so you don’t fall into the trap of posting content just to fill a void.

You can have two types of content calendars. One is a larger roadmap of promotions and special events throughout the year to highlight. The other is a weekly calendar that can give structure to your exact daily content such as 3rd party links, photos, a Fan of the Week, etc. This is what your weekly content calendar could look like:

• Monday morning: 3rd party link to an interesting relevant article (could be a blog post on writing, on reading, on history (if you write historicals) or science (if you write Science Fiction)

• Monday afternoon: Photo (could be a book, behind the scenes event or something you think your readers will like.)

• Tuesday morning: Your own blog post (assuming you post weekly)

• Tuesday afternoon: Question of the day (could be around a news event, a

social question, or to find out what your audience is struggling with or really likes about your niche)

• Wednesday morning: Fan of the Week (highlight a Fan or Fan Page that has contributed to the conversation) You can use a Facebook App such as Fan of the Week for Pages or Booshaka to help you decide.

You get the idea. As you develop your weekly content calendar, your community will also get to know your pattern and they will look forward to certain weekly events. Again, watch what works for your audience.

Here are some ideas that you may find you need to adjust for your audience:

• Post every day. That may seem excessive but as people make more friends and Like more pages, your posts may be missed. If you are only posting once or twice a week then it could be a long time between posts if your fans miss one or two of them. There are studies that show posting between 3-5 times a day can be good amount for Pages (make sure you are varying your posts and also watch your statistics to see what works best for your community). You can decide that you might take the weekend off but also realize that the weekend is when many people are on Facebook.

 • Focus on engagement. You are trying to connect and get response from your community. Ask questions, post helpful tips, links to articles that your audience will Like and Share. When you make the posts about your audience and what they need rather than selling, you will develop a richer and deeper relationship with your community Set aside time to follow up on posts and respond to questions on your Wall.

• Have a call to action. Tell people to click the Like or comment on the post. Have them watch your video or go to your website or Like your cover.

• Don’t oversell or undersell. No one likes a never-ending sales pitch. By the same token, make sure you do highlight your books from time-to-time! Use the 80-20 rule for content/connection posts vs. sales messages. So if you decide to post five times a week, one of the posts should be a sales message and four posts will be other helpful or fun content for your community. If you have a blog outside FB, you'll want to use NetworkedBlogs to send it outside your regular viewing area. Your blog will automatically post on your author page to create interesting content. You can also sync your Twitter account to interact with FB (both incoming Tweets and your posts can be set to go out to your Twitter account.)

• Make it fun. Facebook is a social community. People are there to have fun. This is a place where you can let your hair down a little. Stay true to your brand but think of ways to entertain your audience.

These things are a good place to start but do what works for you and do what you have time to do. If you spend more time on FB than writing, you have a problem. Just remember, there is no one “right” way to do everything on Facebook.

As I said, have fun and make sure you watch the amount of time on Farmville!

About Lynda:

In her family of Kentucky 'ridge runners', oral tales were a tradition that even children participated in. She spent many nights with her brother, cousins and friends telling tall tales to excite the imagination. Now she creates award winning science fantasy romance filled with despair, hope, love and courage

Where to find Lynda on the web:

To join my newsletter, send a blank email to: LyndaKScott-Newsgroup-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Facebook Author Page:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lynda-K-Scott/201599553208653

Book Blurbs

Magical Mayhem is the first of many anthologies to come from new tween/teen publisher Ambush Books. This anthology truly has something for everyone featuring short tales that will twist your brain and wrap around your soul. "Heart of A Dragon" a heart-warming YA adventure by Lynda K. Scott. Magical Mayhem is the perfect bedtime companion for a cold autumn’s night.

Heartstone - Eric d'Ebrur is out of time. He must find the legendary Heartstone and fulfill the ancient Gar'Ja bond he shares with the Stonebearer. But when he finds her, he discovers that love can be more dangerous than the Gawan threat. Eric can defeat the mind-controlling Gawan but will it cost him the woman he loves? After terrifying episodes of hypersensitivity, Keriam Norton thinks she's losing her mind. When handsome shapeshifter Eric d'Ebrur saves her from the monstrous Gawan, she's sure of it. But insane or not, she'll find the Heartstone and, if she's lucky, a love to last a lifetime.

Altered Destiny - Stranded on an alternate Earth, architect and Jill-of-all-trades, Liane Gautier-MacGregor must find her way back to her homeworld before she's enslaved...or falls in love with a man who is the exact duplicate of her ex-husband. Devyn MacGregor's alter ego as the Reiver Lord is the only way he can fight the Qui'arel and their nefarious Bride Bounty, a tax paid with human females...until he meets the oddly familiar woman who claims he is her husband. And who sets in motion the rebellion that will either free his countrymen or destroy them.

Great Escapes: Valentine's Day - The heartbroken and lovelorn come to Great Escapes B&B in search of a relaxing getaway, only to embark on a weekend of sexual self-discovery, courtesy of the inn's resident ghosts, who bring to life each guest's deepest desires. In Great Escapes: Valentine's Day, Rose's best friend gives her a weekend stay, where an invisible lover helps her to rediscover her sexuality. But will she open her eyes enough to see who is right next door?