Thursday, July 28, 2016

TBT Writer - An OCD'S Worst Nightmare

It's #TBTWriter! Time to share some writing throwbacks and awkward pics. If you’ve got a writing throwback, post it with this hashtag so we can all read your story.

When I was ten, we were given a class assignment to write a creative story about our bedroom. Being the OCD neat freak that I was (and still am), I guess my little mind thought it would be a fun experiment to write about a completely disorderly room. I mean, look at the picture below! Not a scary porcelain doll out of place. Apparently, I thought run-on sentences would also be fun. :D Enjoy!

Is it just me, or does it look like a Disney princess threw up in here?

My Room Was Messy

I walked in my room. It looked like a tornado hit it. I saw crunched up papers, mud on the carpet, my encyclopedia missing a few pages, my socks I put in the laundry were on my bed torn up, my drawers were open with clothes thrown everywhere, my lunch box was torn in half, my sheets to my bed were hanging on my blinds, my homework assignment I put on my desk was no where in sight, my puzzle I did was missing a few pieces, my dirty clothes had bites on them, my pillow had mud paw prints on it. That could only mean one thing, "Millie." I found her outside with all of my stuffed animals circling around her and my homework assignment right beside her. I said I love you Millie, and I also think I saw her wink.  

Here's the culprit of this story - Millie.

There's not a single picture of me in the 90's without a funky bow in my hair. Will they make a comeback? 
I hope not!

Have you checked out my other TBTWriter posts? You might find these amusing:

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

How to Write Historical Fiction Without Really Trying - Guest Post by Christie Stratos

I'm very pleased to have met Christie Stratos. We actually met serendipitously after I posted one of my very first #TBTWriter stories (Confessions of a Sugarholic). She reached out to me and was eager to participate. Since then, she's shared a bunch of her writing throwbacks, complete with funny pics. You can check them out here.  I'm told that she'll also be posting one this Thursday. Yay! 

I eventually picked up Christie's book, Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, and couldn't put it down. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I started to read it because I had never been a big fan of Victorian-era or historical books in general. I always suspected that they were boring and dry, but after having read Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, I can tell you that myth is bunk! I was absolutely and totally addicted to this book from the very first sentence. Whenever I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it and dying to know what was going to happen. As the story unfolded, it became darker and even more haunting (my favorite!). Now that I know that Victorian/historical books can be enjoyable, I seem to be reading them all the time now.

After that, we partnered on a few projects, including the GoIndieNow: Women in Publishing/Exhibiting Strong Leadership panel, and the editing of my latest book, The Nightmare Birds via her editing business, Proof Positive. So, as you can see...I'm very pleased to have met Christie and I'm excited to share her guest post about writing historical fiction with you today. Enjoy :)

How to Write Historical Fiction Without Really Trying

I never thought I would write historical fiction. In fact I specifically thought while reading a Sharon Kay Penman book, “I could never write historical fiction. It’s way too hard.”

Then I sat down to write Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, my debut novel that takes place during the Victorian Era: 1840-1861.

“I’ll just write the book for now and do the research later,” I thought. That was my plan so that I didn’t get bogged down in basic research and slow my creativity. Note the phrase “basic research”. I really wasn’t planning to include enough Victorian-specific objects or traditions to need to do much research at all.

Wrong again!

I found that I couldn’t more forward through some parts of the manuscript without checking to see if something was possible, whether it existed, or if it was believable for that time period. And when I did pigheadedly plow ahead prior to doing research, I heavily regretted it later because I had to do massive rewrites to make that section fit into the Victorian period (for example, using candles for nighttime lighting in a home instead of the time period appropriate oil lamps), and sometimes the consequences of that lack of research spread their tentacles farther through the book than I’d anticipated. I then had to clean up and sometimes drastically alter multiple parts of the book.

Then something strange happened. I got excited about inserting exact descriptions of real things that existed in that time period as well as only using accurate terms and words that were used then. It became one of the most exciting parts of writing the book. I changed words like “rug” to “floor cloth”, found out how Victorians cleaned a wood floor, researched exactly what kind of materials were used to make wallpaper and far more. While these things sound trivial, they’re part of what makes the book authentic, realistic, and visually accurate. And now the same excitement has spread into writing the rest of the four books and three short stories in the Dark Victoriana Collection.

And so without meaning to love writing historical fiction – or rather without meaning to write anything more than fiction that was generally accurate for the time period – I ended up with a 10-year publishing plan that revolves around historical fiction in different time periods. Because getting those details right so that you feel you’re really in the time period is more than just satisfying – it’s fulfilling.
Awesome post, Christie. Writing historical fiction is something I'm definitely interested in, so this certainly gives me hope. I can't wait to read your upcoming book - Locke and Keye!

Christie Stratos is an award-winning writer and editor who holds a degree in English Literature. She is the author of Anatomy of a Darkened Heart, the first book of five in the Dark Victoriana Collection. Christie has had short stories and poetry published in Ginosko Literary Journal, Andromedae Review, 99Fiction, and various anthologies. An avid reader of all genres and world literature, Christie reads everything from bestsellers to classics to indies. 

Book links:
Or buy the paperback directly from the author for the same price as Amazon, but signed and with a personalized note!

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

It's So Pretty - Book Giveaways and Other News

Yay!!!! It's finally here. :D
August 2 seemed like forever ago and now it's less than two weeks until my new book, The Nightmare Birds, will be released. I'm BEYOND ecstatic! My first response was to stare silently in shock and then squeal "It's soooooo pretty!" You can watch my excitement HERE.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Self-Promotion – An Author’s Guide

We all have dreams of a publisher who does everything for us, but the reality is that authors are responsible for almost all publicity and outreach to the general market. This means that you have to put in the work and fork over the $$$ if you want to do a book signing, or place an advertisement. Only under rare circumstances…like your name is Stephen King…do they do everything for you. Whether you’ve signed with a publisher, or you are an indie author, it’s time to make your marketing plan. Let's get going!

Focus on Your Story/World: Until you’ve gained some traction, and fans, try focusing on extra content for your readers and going from there. If you’re a social butterfly and really want to get out there and share yourself with the world right away, it’s best to take a 50/50 approach – 50% of the time on your book (world, characters, etc.) and 50% of the time on you (interviews, events, etc.). 

I'm Ready for my Close-Up: Start locally. Look into book signings and author talks at local coffee shops, bookstores, schools, and libraries. Once you figure out what you’re doing and how to do it well, move to panels, online interviews/videos, major author events, etc. If you’re kinda shy, like me, the important thing to remember is to stay within your comfort zone. Do things that you really want to do, not the things that you think you should do. 

Set A (Realistic) Budget: Book advertising and appearances can get pricey fast, and it’s really easy to overlook this when you’re excited and full of GREAT ideas. Pick an amount you won’t go over and stick to it, then decide where to focus your marketing. All online? All events? Merchandise? All of the above? 

Don’t want to break the bank? You can still promote your work for free…it’ll just take some effort. There are tons of book sites out there where you can advertise your work for free (or for cheap). Start Googling similar authors/books and see what you find. Book reviewers will also read your book for FREE and post a review with links to purchase it. Almost all reviewers accept ebooks or PDF formats, so you don’t have to pay to ship your book. You get free advertising and they get a free book. :)

Where to start?
Get Social: At the very least you should have a personal website and/or a Facebook page. You can create an author website using a number of free templates like Weebly (this is what I use) or even Wordpress if you want to include a blog component. If you're not tech savvy, hire someone who can get the job done. It doesn't have to be fancy schmancy. Update your content frequently and be sure that links to purchase your books are easily accessible. Your domain name should be something simple like your name (if it's easy to spell or it's abbreviated) or the name of your book (again, if it's easy to spell). If you have a popular name, or just want to stand out more, try adding the words author, writer, or your particular genre to your name. For example, or

If you’re able, try to use at least one or two more methods of social media for regular promotions. Different media means different audiences. Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, they’ll all work. If you want to take it one step further, get Google Analytics, or utilize the tracking metrics provided by your website carrier, and monitor where traffic is coming from and tweak your promos accordingly. I try to look at my metrics at least once a month and noticed early on that my audience varies widely from each of my social media accounts. I get the most traffic to my personal website from Facebook and subsequently more clicks to Amazon. I also get the most FB clicks when I post pictures. I limit my posts to once or twice a week. I don't get a lot of Twitter traffic to my site in general, or click-troughs to Amazon, but  I do get a lot of retweets and likes if I'm doing a giveaway or promo. My Twitter audience has also been more likely to sign up for my newsletter. Again, it varies depending on what you're putting out there, your intended audience, and your social media platform.  

Time-zones and days of the week are also something to be mindful about. I've read tons of articles about the best days/times to post for particular social media accounts, but never felt they were accurate. It's all about trial and error. Even then though, there is no set pattern. My what you want when you want

Look into writing guest posts on book blogs. You can write about writing, genres, reading, etc. Almost all book blogs are always looking to do author interviews as well. This is a win-win because you get free promotion and they get fresh content.  

Did you say free?
Free Stuff: Giving away anything, especially free autographed copies of your book, is a great way to gain free exposure from people who might not otherwise pick up your book. You can kill two birds with one stone if you implement a required call to action, like entrants have to sign up for your newsletter in exchange for entering your contest.

Amazon giveaways are my go-to for giveaways. It’s super easy to set it up and they ship everything for you. In addition, you can make it required for entrants to follow you on social media, etc. Score! You can also try hosting giveaways on Goodreads or on book reviewer websites. You'll have to package and ship your books/merch though.

Give your books to other authors in your situation. Why? Because authors know what it’s like to, well, be an author. They know it’s hard to get reviews, so they will be much more inclined to sit down and write a well-written review for you. They know how hard it is to promote books, so they will most likely promote your work. I’ve yet to encounter a fellow author, in my genre or other genre, that wasn’t helpful in this way. It can take awhile though. Most authors work a day job, in addition to having a buzzing personal life, so don't take offense if they can't get to it for quite awhile. If another author is kind enough to review your book or provide you with a blurb, always be sure to return the favor. Don't be afraid to make the first move either. Buy their book, read it, post your review, and tell them what you thought. I absolutely LOVE IT when other authors reach out to me in this way! I always add their book to my reading list and tell them I'll review their book within a certain timeframe. If you're not getting a response, you might be targeting authors who are too big and/or only allowed to review books that their publisher tells them to. In the beginning, I foolishly contacted some big names for a review and had to learn the hard way that not everyone will review my book.

Create Some Hype: Teaser trailers are super popular for a reason. If you can’t afford it, or just want to do it yourself, you can download a movie making program, although almost all computers and iPads already have a program on them. iMovie is probably the easiest. Everything is already programmed (music, transitions, etc.), so all you need to do is add your content. Get stock images/videos from a high-quality stock image websites like Shutterstock. You can also find tons of free stock images/vids, like on Photype, it just might take a little bit more time to find them. Before you publish anything, be sure to run it past your publisher first. If you’re an indie author, run it by other authors or friends to make sure everything looks as intended.

Other Stuff:
Bookmarks: Include your book cover, short summary, the ISBN numbers, and your name. Give them to booksellers, librarians, and pretty much anyone who you think would enjoy it. 

Introduce Yourself: Get out in your community and introduce yourself to booksellers and librarians.

Send Out ARCs or Advanced Copies: You can easily set up a template for readers to request a copy.

Thank Those Who've Helped You: Thank the people who read your book and took the time to leave a review. Thank your fellow authors who’ve supported you. Thank the people who took the time to promote your work on their blog, Twitter, or You Tube channel. Thank everyone who has helped you get where you are today. Having said that, I have to give a BIG thanks to the following authors who’ve helped me tremendously with writing advice, promotion, and awesome support: Christie Stratos, J.D. Estrada, Penny Warner, and J.E. Plemons. All of these authors are amazing writers and I highly recommend that you check out their work! Also, thank you to all the people who’ve walked this journey with me, especially to all those kick-ass book bloggers out there. And, a giant thanks to all those who’ve read and posted a review of Strange Luck. Your words mean the world to me. 

Have you checked out my other posts on writing? You might enjoy these too:

Comments? Questions? Marketing tips? Share below.