Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Submission Tips - Guidelines

When you submit your book for consideration you can contact agents or publishers, I have looked into both. When considering an agent you will almost always send a query letter while publishers may have different needs. Regardless of which you pick it is important to do your homework in order to send exactly what they are looking for. Most agents and even a majority of publishers do not want to receive your entire manuscript right away. Their websites often times will even say that unsolicited manuscripts will be discarded.

Not only will it get your work thrown away but it makes you appear extremely unprofessional. So once you pick out your agents and publishers it is vital to not only get their addresses, email addresses, names and agencies but also to know what they will accept. Starting with the query letter for agents I came across dozens that only wanted the letter. In facts about seventy percent of the agents I queried desired a query letter as an email and nothing further unless I was contacted by them.

Because they are busy and constantly being bombarded with queries they will tell you that they may not respond to everyone and while some do give an expected response time there were a handful that I simply never head from again. Once you have the letter printed and the envelope stamped you may include a few pages if the guidelines call for them. In the case of an email follow the given instructions. It is easy to just add an attachment but because of all the viruses online many will ask for the first chapter or so many pages pasted into the body of the email itself.

Publishers can be even more specific. Not only will they tell you what they want in a query letter, how much of the manuscript to include or not include but also they will tell you up front exactly what kinds of books they publish and then you can figure out if they may be a good match. They will give brief examples of the types of books found in their lines and I have seen a number that are giving word count ranges because they may or may not consider novellas or epics depending on the branding of their company.

Make sure when you are preparing to submit that you read all of the information carefully. If you are like me and submitting to a number of publishers and agents simultaneously it is also a good idea to make sure you keep the information organized so you don't accidentally send a single letter to an agent looking for the first three chapters or send the entire manuscript before you were asked by another. Knowing who wants what and keeping track of who you have contacted will make the road slightly smoother and you travel your publishing journey.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Book Profile - Washington's Spies

AT the beginning of 2015 I started a reading challenge at which I failed miserably. The goal was to read books from a number of different categories as a well rounded reading list. There were books like a classic romance, a trilogy, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a memoir that were relatively easy to pick and then there were ones that were more difficult to find such as a book based in your home town, a book with antonyms in the title and a book with bad reviews.

I only successfully read about fifteen books over the last year which I am ashamed to say but I have decided to try again for the coming year and each week I will do a promotion for the book I am currently reading that week. I will also post reviews on Goodreads for them and will be adding the entire collection of books to my To Be Read list. I am still in the process of picking all of them out though I have a very good start.

Right now even though it will not count toward the list for next year I am reading Washington's Spies - The Story Of America's First Spy Ring. It is somewhat like a text book in that it is packed with information during the revolutionary war and entails not just the spies and their duties but also discusses the war and politics of the country back when America was first asserting its independence. Because it is non-fiction and reads somewhat like a text book it is somewhat slow to read but since I have always been interested in history I find the information intriguing.

Alexander Rose eloquently paints a picture of the harsh winters and epic battles that plagued not only the military but also the colonists of the time. He writes about family ties and faith based politics while also capturing the fear instilled by the enemy. The American military had to fight now only the British but also many of their own that stood by the mother country. There were significantly fewer colonists that demanded freedom from British rule than I had known. I had always believed it was mostly a universal desire because my history classes focused solely on the battles and not the inner working of the country at the time.

I am closing in on half way through the book and looking forward to seeing what other facts I am able to pick up as I continue to read and then starting on Friday I will be starting on my list beginning with a book set in a place I have always wanted to visit, Paris. I am planning on reading the Count of Monte Cristo next.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Creating A Business Plan

Many years ago when I was first beginning my college experience I took an introduction to business class. Throughout the course of the class we did a number of projects that involved acting as a start up company and the final exam was for each of our companies to create a business plan then present it to our teacher as though we were asking a venture capitalist for the start up capital to make our companies a reality.

I do not remember much of what we did in that class or even what company I was a part f but I do remember that when we presented our plan we received an A as well as a certificate stating that he would have invested in us if we had planned to move forward with our idea. I am now researching and doing my best to create a new business plan for my future as an author and hopefully someday that will be my only job.

I started by making a list of all of the aspects I have learned about and feel would be vital to incorporate into the plan such as having a website, specific financial goals and distribution channels as well as making sure I have a path laid out to reach each of these milestones. On top of simply making a list of goals and eventually the steps needed to reach them I also want to make sure it is a progressive plan of at least five years so that I can not only reach the initial stages of what I would deem success but also have points that I can modify if needed and continue to build on each and every year.

Once the business plan is created I will be focusing on another document that goes hand in hand which is the marketing strategy. Business plans touch on marketing and distribution but truthfully they are rarely in depth when it comes to this important part of growing a business. I have a degree in marketing so I am eager to utilize what I studied to help turn my goals into achievements. It should be a good test to see what I have retained, though for the parts I may have forgotten I found research materials on that as well.

Finally I have my list of projects because as a writer I can create a marketing strategy, I can draft a beautiful business plan however if I have to books to submit it is all just a waste. It should be an exciting and interesting year. Now I just have to get to work as soon as I make a good cup of coffee.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Marketing Tips - Know Your Audience

When a business of any kind is planning its marketing the most important thing they must ask themselves is "Who is my target customer?" In order to market correctly you have to know who it is you are selling to. For a writer this can be tricky however because unless you are writing only one specific type of book your audience may change with every new publication. There is certainly a different type of reader for sic-fi than for erotica. Romance readers tend to be very loyal to their genre and wouldn't necessarily pick up a random thriller.

As an author it is vital to know who would buy each style of book you may create so that you can tailor your marketing plan to that audience. By presenting images and teasers from your books you can draw the reader into the story but you wouldn't want to post something frightening to a group that buys children's picture books. I have a number of books and have files for each genre with subfiles for each book that fits into that category. I am still learning the how of making teasers and promo pieces but when I figure it out I will also keep them all separated.

Another thing to keep in mind is when you do a promotional event the audience is one of the biggest factors to identify. A few months ago I held a book launch at my work, The Venetian Hotel & Casino on the Las Vegas Strip. The book is about domestic violence and I partnered with a local shelter I support very strongly. The Shade Tree celebrated its twenty sixth year along with Domestic Violence Awareness Month and in conjunction with Sands Cares, the philanthropy side of Venetian we held a raffle, shared a reading and even enjoyed a delicious dessert while launching my book.

I had to keep many things in mind while planning the event. I had to know who my potential readers were in order to spread the word about the book. I had to remember things important to Shade Tree so as not to offend them or those they worked with. When gathering raffle items and working with different promoters I also needed to focus on stores and restaurants that were within the Venetian so as not to create a conflict of interest.

It can be difficult to know exactly who your audiences and how to reach them but if you take a moment and ask around you can find out what your friends read and build on that. Go to book stores and watch as people browse the shelves. If your are outgoing enough strike up a conversation with other book lovers or even ask the cashiers about who buys what. You can go and observe readers at your local library as well. Once you have a basic idea you can begin to look at the covers of the books. What makes them appealing? What books seem to make people stop often and which ones are passed by all the time? Identify a few books and look them up online to see what kind of advertisements have been created for them. Are they mass marketed to several types of people or are they specific? You can build your personal database book by book and reader by reader to help understand who to market each of your books too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Character Profile - Asmara Syntel

When I first thought of writing something outside my comfort zone I looked into several different possibilities. I could change genres or try a series of short stories. I had never done either of those before. I had also never done a series of full length novels and so I decided to try and make that happen. I landed on the seven deadly sins as my inspiration and as soon as I committed to it the first book in the series took control.

The first book centers around the mother Persyphone and introduces us to her seven daughters. I have written a profile of Lucasta before because she will be the second book in the series and her sin is pride. along with Lucasta however there are six other girls; Levana, Asmara, Samiya, Maryn, Belicia and Beatrix. The last two are the youngest and are twins. Even though Levana will take the third book in the series I wanted to focus on Asmara because she is the essence of stepping out of my comfort zone.

Asmara Syntel is a fifteen year old beauty that possesses the power to seduce people through the sin of lust. I always wrote clean young adult books though one of them did have a slight romantic angle. I never attempted anything remotely erotic until this series came to mind and while they all have elements of erotica it is understandable that the Lust book will be the most hardcore in the sensual sense. I have gotten a few erotica books to read in order to make her as realistic and sensual as possible.

What makes Asmara even more scandalous than just being the source of lust and having the power to control it within people is that the books take place during the time of the Salem Witch Trials when society itself was significantly more prudish. There is nothing wrong with the values of those days and even though I am very accepting and open with my own sexuality I can agree that today's society maybe be less drastic and chaotic if some of those values were still in place.

I am looking forward to seeing exactly how Asmara channels her gifts and to feeling her take control when I write her book. She is a feisty girl and as her powers grow within her she will be more than a handful for anyone that crosses her.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Submission Tips - Going Indie

It is true that in today's competitive world of traditional publishing an agent is almost a necessity. There are those however that for any number of reasons choose instead to self publish and become an independent or "indie" author. Many will tell you that because this route has grown in popularity that there is no longer a stigma associated with it. That is not true. Many still question a self published author because of the ease with which someone can publish. There is no guarantee of quality when anyone can publish anything at any time.

As Indie authors we must work harder and smarter to set ourselves apart from our fellow authors. We are in a way competing with other indie authors as well as traditionally published authors because we are trying to get noticed but instead of looking at it as competition try to see it as association. The beauty of readers is that they tend to devour books one after the other so if you can get an association with a genre or author that they already like it is that much easier to stand out. With books most times it is not one or the other so much as it is one of many.

I have written about the importance of editing and making sure that when you do publish yourself you still go through the diligence of a traditional publisher in order o give your readers a product they will respect and want to follow with more of your work. When publishing on your own you have far more creative control as well as all of the rights to the book and for those reasons alone it is a very attractive option. I just want people to be aware of the level of commitment required to promote the story when going down this path.

It is not impossible, far from it. In fact there are a number of well known indie authors that have done well and live the dream so many of us have to be full time writers. It is however, more work to be an indie author. You are in charge of one hundred percent of promotions, marketing strategies, sales, networking, distribution and anything else that may arise. Without the branding of the traditional publisher and their team it can be significantly more difficult to break in to a number of locations. If you are willing to put in the effort though it can be worth it because you are able to retain all of the rights and keep every cent of the royalties without anyone else trying to take a cut.

There is no one right way to publish. There are several paths within each journey. It truly is just a matter of finding what works best for you and being willing to put in the work to make it once you have found the road you feel most comfortable traveling along.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Book Excerpt - Breathe

Breathe. Back in the shower Kelsey realized that while reminiscing she had been lightly tapping her forehead against the wall and now was getting a small headache growing behind her eyes. She stepped back and rubbed her eyes groaning internally as her aching muscles rebelled against any and all movement. She stretched her arms out behind her and let them fall again feeling every fiber of her being longing to simply lay down and relax.
            She reached up and turned the shower head adjusting it to kneading and turned around trying to smile as the powerful flow struck her back and attempted to burrow the heat deep into the knotted mass of her shoulders. However as quickly as the smirk danced across her lips it fell away again. There, drifting across the back wall of the shower stall was Naomi’s face. Her limp hair now tangled and her glasses askew but the nervous glance had been replaced with fear and a twinge of anger.

            This simple girl with a family Kelsey had never met or even known about before today, now a glaring memory that would follow her forever. She tried keeping eye contact but it was impossible to win a staring contest with a figment of her imagination. With a sigh she gave up and backed up into the flow of the shower letting the water run all the way through her hair. The heat was intense but she was barely unaware and with her eyes closing once again, heart beating faster than it should, she reached for the shampoo and thought to herself again, just breathe.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Getting Ready For 2016

At the end of this week it will be Christmas and just a few short days later we will be ringing in the New Year with thousands of different celebrations around the world. I am excited as I look not only back over the past year seeing all of the things I have accomplished and learned but also as I prepare for the year to come. I am hoping to take all I have learned and start putting plans into action. The first step of this of course is coming up with the plan.

Earlier today I went to my local library and raided the shelves in search of books about business plans and marketing strategies. I was able to locate five that I am hoping will be helpful in creating a pathway to being even more successful in the coming year. A number of things on my list include items I am unfamiliar with but that is one of the main reasons to include them. By continuing to learn I will hopefully continue to advance.

I need to create a website which is one of the things I am most concerned with. I do not know how to make a website nor stay on top of it but I know that I need to in order to grow my brand. Branding is another aspect I need to work on. Once I have established the website and figured out how to maintain it with updates and specials I will focus on building my brand. I am currently an Indie author and I intend to keep that aspect for my charity writing but I am hoping to also break into traditional publishing for my novels.

Building a platform and having an established audience is tremendously important so I am going to be looking into seminars and conferences that focus on building brands, marketing strategies and networking so I can broaden my reach. Part of the marketing is going to be learning how to do promotions and specials along with teasers from my already published books. I have a number of anthologies working on collecting submissions as well so that will be an area to continue to grow.

The last major aspect will be finishing current works that I have begun and picking two to three new books to complete next year along with the ones I have finished that will be going through the editing and submissions processes. These are also areas that while I a familiar with, I need to fine tune my skills. I am thrilled to be moving forward I am just curious how the journey will go.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Character Profile - Annora Simon

About a year ago I was part of a group that published monthly anthologies. Each month had a different theme and I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a poem or short story to fit each of them. As one might expect the themes tended to follow the holidays that appeared in the different months such as Love for February and Luck for March. Of course what else could have been done for July but Freedom but this one threw me for a loop.

I had anticipated the theme. I had found a poem I had written several years earlier that had received recognition and planned to update it for the anthology. It was created in response to my feelings following the attack on September 11th 2001. Everything was planned out. Then a few days into the month I was shopping with my boyfriend at the Apple store and decided to kill some time playing around on the computers while he looked for a new tablet.

I played a few games then tried my hand at the photo editing but he was still not ready to go so I did what I always do, opened the writing program. I was thinking about the Freedom theme and out of nowhere the following sentence flowed out of me - "Annora never set out to be a hero but there was nothing else that properly described her."

I had no idea who Annora was or what she had to do with freedom but it was clear that she was a character I was supposed to get to know. It was one of the strongest pulls I have ever experienced by a figment of my imagination. Persyphone Syntel is the only one that ever captured me more completely. I deleted the sentence from the computer and did my best to put it out of my head knowing there was no chance she was letting go of me.

As it turns out a fifteen year old with a stormy past is about as likely to let something go as a two year old with the latest toy. She invaded my dreams as well as my waking thoughts. It was eventually revealed not only the she was fifteen but she was a victim of human trafficking. It is perhaps this past that has kept me from telling her story but she is on the list of the books to be written next year and while I do not what happened to her I am looking forward to sharing her experience hoping it helps others out there.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Pitch Madness

Tomorrow is the quarterly pitch celebration on Twitter known as #PitMad short for Pitch Madness. It is the opportunity to share a pitch for our finished work with agents and publishers through a brilliant and captivating 140 character tweet. No big deal right? I wish. Not only do you have to same room for the customary #PitMad as well as the genre designation but you must create a tweet so compelling that it stands out among the thousands of others constantly being loaded onto the site.

Of course the hashtag will help identify you as a contributor for the event an not just another tweet happy teen posting their latest selfie. It is still a large pool to swim in and you are only allowed three different tweets to promote your project without repeating them. I participated a few months ago though I struggled to find a pitch that would catch an agent's attention and so decided to try again tomorrow. Now as the hours wind down to the beginning of a new round of Please Pick Me tweets I find myself struggling once more.

This is the essence of an elevator pitch. Crafting a perfect tagline that will motivate those with the power to effect my writing career to contact me. I have been trying for the last few days to find just the right way to sell my story but everything I can come up with are either too long or sound a little too generic. Along with the need too include the hashtags it is so limited. You want to sound intelligent, sincere and of course interesting. I have always been one for longer explanations so I find myself in the predicament I had hoped to avoid.

I will try to figure it out though I am getting the feeling that it will be something that manages to keep me up slightly longer than I would prefer. I need to develop three solid pitches that I can offer for consideration. I am hoping to at least find one or two publishers and agents that will show interest in me and if not offer further partnership than perhaps at least give me some advice moving forward. Writing and publishing are constant learning experiences but this is a step I need to make soon in order to reach the next level. Fingers crossed tomorrow goes well.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Submission Tips - Crafting The Perfect Pitch

The most important part of finding an agent for a traditional publishing route is mastering the query letter. The query is a sales pitch to the agent capturing their attention and pulling their interest into your story. There are a few parts that it you should be aware of when it comes to the query - the hook, the log line and the actual pitch. Lets take a little closer look at each aspect of your query.

The hook is also known as your tagline. Think of it like the quick line on a movie poster. It is something that captures the reader's attention and pulls them in making them have to know more. My most recent book Survivor had a tagline of A nightmare hidden in a dream. It is at the top of my synopsis on the back cover as well as the bookmarks that people bought along with copies of the book.

Immediately following your tagline is the log line. This is the part you would find written in a tv guide for those that remember reading such things. It is the part that gives a few more details, offers some hints about what happens. You want to make sure not to give away too much while also keeping them interested. It is a very fine line but with practice and several drafts it can be achieved, it is just a matter of practice.

Then comes the official pitch. Basically it is the full synopsis and even gives away parts of how the book will pan out. You want the agent to know it is the type of book they will not regret getting into. Of course because the query is only one page you will not get into too many details but it is important that to also make sure that the agent finds it compelling. It will also make the book easier to sell if there is a well written synopsis so make it as easy as possible for your target agent to see themselves taking on your business.

The last thing to include is the about you section. Make sure the agent knows about any awards you have achieved, any audience you have created or anyone in the industry that you have made contact with. It is absolutely what and who you know because they can help others know you and your work better than you alone.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Excerpt - Voice In My Head

Unedited excerpt from my recently finished Nanowrimo novel Voice In My Head

“I regret that you ever met him. He destroyed you and is nothing but a waste of humanity. You are nothing now and I regret that I even know you.” She shouted from the ground.

Gritting her teeth Scarlett stood up straight looking down on the girl she now loathed. “Take that back. For your own good, you better take that back.”

“He is nothing but a worthless bastard and if you are going to choose him over me and everyone else that can see how terrible he is then you deserve all the misery you get. Get out of my house you stupid bitch!”

Before she knew what was happening Scarlett had a butcher’s knife in her hand. She squeezed the handle as her rage overtook her. She fell on top of Elizabeth plunging the knife deep into her chest. Blood sprayed her as she pulled the knife back but she barely noticed. She stabbed the blade into the body over and over until she was exhausted.

Jonny sat in the recliner along the wall watching her. He smiled. Elizabeth was gone and now Scarlett was all his forever. As long as she cooperated they would live on in infamy. She wanted to be a star and remembered forever. He intended to give her exactly that. At the moment he simply enjoyed the sight before him. Elizabeth lay in a blood soaked heap on the floor and Scarlett was holding her coming to understand what it was she had done. She had killed her best friend and now there was no going back.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Working On My Goals

For the past week I have extremely sick and unable to function much beyond what I had to for my day job, a few times even falling short in that respect. Now with Nano coming to a close for another year I am frantically playing catch up once more. I had been on track to complete my novel last Monday breezing into the winner's circle. Now, as has been my habit the last few years, I will scuttle across the finish line most likely on the last day of the month.

I will finish and for that I am grateful to my extremely supportive team and the encouragement of my family and friends, writers and non-writers alike. Like any hobby, passion or dream it is vital to surround yourself with the right people. The team I have is incredible. They are always pushing me to do things like finish Nano, hold live events, attend conferences and have the faith to submit my work. I owe them the largest debt of gratitude for the fact that they keep me going.

As December approaches many of us from the Nano community will be looking ahead to what comes next after we are done with the initial creative process. For me that actually means a little more writing before I can take another step. I have two other books that I started and I want to finish both of the drafts by the end of the year so that when I dedicate January and February to editing and refining I can work on all five of my drafts. As each book becomes ready for submission I will be working off lists of agents and publishers for all of them to try and make the connection for a traditional publishing contract.

I love being an Indie author but it has been a dream of mine since I began the journey so many years ago to reach the traditional level and find an agent I can work with to find a wider audience. I will continue to publish as an Indie author as well for my charity books and short stories. I enjoy being a part of the anthologies and of course my friends and fellow Domestic Abuse Awareness Warriors I believe we are just getting started. It may be a month early but I am considering this to be the first declaration of my New Year's goals. I have several others but my writing and publishing goals will definitely be one of the biggest priorities in 2016.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Building A Perfect Team

I have been very fortunate in my life to have had extremely supportive family members as well as friends that have stood by me. When it comes to my writing I have friends that are willing to help by reading and promoting my work and family members that buy my books but the two people I would be lost without at this point are my two managers also known as my mom and my boyfriend.

My mom has always believed in me. She would read and help critique my poetry and short stories even encouraging me to enter competitions as early as elementary school. I made a promise to her as I got older that as soon as I was able to land a traditional publishing contract with a large enough advance I would take her on a cruise to Alaska. It is a dream trip that I still fully intend to take her on someday.

My boyfriend has been my artistic director and one of the largest supporters and promoters of my work. He has helped create some amazing posters and flyers when I participate in signings or book festivals and he was instrumental in putting together everything from room setup to online raffle prize promotions. He also acted as MC at the book launch event held last month for my my recent book Survivor.

While they are both invaluable from a business aspect they have been there for me even more from an emotional level. When I was fighting through the nerves to finish the draft of m first book they encouraged me. When I sent out the queries and received rejection after rejection they held my hand and told me to keep trying. When I wrote Survivor and my PTSD flared up sending my into anxiety and depression they held my hands, hugged me and told me I was doing something brave by sharing my story with the world.

I am grateful for my team and everyone in my life that has been a part of my writing journey and I hope everyone  out there finds their support network, it can make all the difference in the world.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Wrapping Up Week 3

I have been a member of the Nanowrimo group on Facebook for over four years and the local group for at least three. I have always wanted to join in on the group writing known as a write in but for one reason or another I never made it until today. At first I am sure nerves had a lot to do with it. Oddly enough I am quite the extrovert but because I suffered from a debilitating fear of looking foolish in front of people stemming from my PTSD for years I can slip back into that mind set in certain situations.

I have overcome it in many respects working in a field that constantly puts me in front of people to perform and make conversation with strangers. I speak in public as often as possible and when handed a radio microphone or put in front of a television camera I am just as comfortable as I would be sitting in my own living room. But when it comes to sitting with other people involved intimately in something I am passionate about like writing I feel the butterflies stirring.

Today I made it though. I am sitting amongst fellow wrimos writing and trying to drastically increase my word count. I am not sure how well it will work because now I have more people to talk to about writing whereas the coffee shop I tend to spend most of my time in is public but solitary at the same time. I may end up back there this afternoon but at least I can finally say I faced the concern of looking and feeling out of place.

I also stopped making excuses like I have to work, it is too far away or the time doesn't work with my schedule. While they have almost all been legitimate concerns at one time or another the truth of the matter is that they are the same reasons many people give to not write at all. I am already a three time and hopefully soon to be four time winner of Nanowrimo so my dedication isn't in question but just as I push myself beyond my comfort zone in genre it is important to do so in life and my writing experiences as well.

For anyone thinking about joining a group, whether for hobby, work or even sports but you have reservations I suggest you take an honest and objective look at the reasons you have for hesitating. Are they real or just excuses because of some underlying fear? If it is fear then I say suck it up and jump in feet first. Now that I am here and working I wish I would have done it sooner. Worst case scenario I do say or do something embarrassing or my word count doesn't improve. If either is the case I simply will know better and not return but at least I can finally say I tried. Take the chance, you never know what opportunity you may be afforded.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Book Promo - Upcoming Projects

With a goal to finish the first drafts of not only my current Nano novel first draft but also the drafts of two other books by the end of the year I thought instead of doing a profile of a single character or discuss one of my stories I would just do a small preview of the five total drafts I will be working hard on editing in the new year. The five books I will have hopefully finished are Sharing Strength, Welcome to Syn, Chocolate Covered Cherries, Voice In My Head, and Breathe.

Breathe has been shared before and is the first of three Nano novels in the group. It follows the journey of assistant bank manager Kelsey Matthews as she gets caught up in a nightmare situation. The bank is being robbed and her coworkers and customers have been taken hostage. She is trapped with no means of escape. She hides, trying to figure out a plan because she too is a helpless victim. Or is she? Was she in on the robbery from the beginning? Does she know what is about to happen to the hostages hidden just out of sight or will she join them losing her life to the madmen terrorizing everyone? Keep an eye out for the twists and turns as Kelsey does her best to work under pressure and remember no matter how crazy things are you just have to Breathe.

Welcome to Syn is the second book. It is also a completed draft and the second Nano novel. This book has also been highlighted in parts and follows the tragic story of a woman that has just lost her husband and must now care for her seven daughters and the family farm without knowing how they will survive. Set during the time of the Salem Witch Trials in nearby Tyler, Mass. Persyphone Syntel stands her ground against societal pressure and a deviant head of town council all bent on destroying her. She and the girls must fight to prove their innocence in a series of strange happenings in town including the death of her husband. With the madness of the trials arguing nearby and suspicion growing all around them, can any of the girls prove they have nothing to do with the chaos and escape or will they become more victims to the hysteria sweeping through the town?

Voice In My Head is the Nano novel from this year and will soon be completed. It is about best selling romance novelist Chelsea Perella that has been struggling to hear the voices of her characters. She admits in an interview that writers talk to the figments and tells everyone that she just needs a short break. The truth is though that she does believe in letting characters take control of the stories and when she gets nothing but static and silence from inside her mind she decides to step back. That is until a new voice comes in and begins to tell her a story. He is the new guying the town all of her books have been set in and he is madly in love with one of the young women named Scarlett. Chelsea is thrilled until she begins having nightmares about the characters. They are not behaving they way they normally do and she is worried that her creations are taking on a life of their own, a very sinister one. Her friends and family notice the change in her but have no idea what is causing it. Are the characters really making her crazy? Do they even have that power? Or is something else entirely taking control of Chelsea's mind? Check out Voice In My Head to find out.

Chocolate Covered Cherries is my first dedicated romance novel and while I have done a character profile on Jessica, the main character before, this book is the furthest from being completed. I do not read romance generally and am not familiar with the genre so writing one has been a challenge to say the least. In CCC Jessica has recently moved to a small town and plans to open a candy and dessert shop. She is guarded about her past but is doing her best to create a solid future. She has even caught the eye of the local mailman Charlie. Charlie is a great guy and falls for Jessica quickly though because he has been hurt he struggles when she is secretive and doesn't openly return his affection. After a particularly tense consultation he witnesses Jessica disappears from her store and he finds her hiding at the local bar. He does his best to be a friend but is horrified by what she reveals. Can Jessica overcome her past? Does Charlie have what it takes to break through her barriers and does she truly deserve his adoration? Check out Chocolate Covered Cherries to find out if either of them can find a way to trust again and exactly where the name comes from.

The last book in the group is Sharing Strength. I began writing this book early in 2014 and it has stalled several times. It has been the source of numerous firsts for me. My first non-Nano novel. The first time I wrote a book truly involving my own experiences and the first time I wore certain scenes before they were to be featured in the book. I have covered parts of Sharing Strength extensively because it is a very important story for me. Sharing Strength is the collective story of a six member support group for those suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. They each have their own reasons for being there and all represent different aspect of those i have known while dealing with my own diagnosis a decade ago. With only a handful of characters and a deep need for support and acceptance this book delves deeply into the painful world of those living with the issue. I can admit that not everyone in the book survives the diagnosis mentally. It has a very profound effect on people and there are thousands in the world that deal with the emotional and physical side effects of having this disease everyday. I hope you will take some time and get to know the characters of Sharing Strength and perhaps find that there are people in your own life that it inspires you to get to know better. Having someone to lean in can make all the difference in the world and I would not be here today if I hadn't found my own network of people willing to share their strength with me.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Proven Quality

Not long ago I wrote about ways to get in touch with the media. It is of course important to make sure that you and your work find as wide an audience as possible in order to grow. It also helps when introducing new books if you have the contacts to bring your new work in front of that same large group. There is in fact another reason to work with the press though.

Once you have done an interview or had something written about your work sales can temporarily increase. That is great but what many people fail to realize is that if someone with credentials is willing to vouch for you than it makes your work more appealing. I have been involved in a number of online discussions as always happens during Nano that are about publishing our books after the challenge is complete. It is a wonderful ambition but there are so many aspiring writers that have no idea how to do it and will simply upload a draft and hit publish that Indie authors as a whole get a bad reputation.

I will admit that even being a part of the proud tradition of authors that have decided to take the indie / self publishing route for the sake of learning more about the craft I still see the stigma involved. I have even been guilty of hesitating before purchasing a book that I knew to be self published. Anyone can do it and therefore it makes it a little unsettling not knowing what quality level you are going to get.

Authors like myself and my friends take the responsibility of being writers and publishing our work very seriously. We incorporate beta readers, editors and cover artists as well as rewrite and revise our work countless times before we begin to consider the publish button. It is not just a hobby for us it is the makings of our dream career. By having the reviews and the media coverage to back up your work as legitimate it helps the readers see you are one of the serious ones with quality control at the top of your priority list.

I am working on getting more press coverage and I am fortunate enough to have an education that gives me a marketing edge in some cases but having a team that can assist you is vital to making it in any industry especially one so competitive and saturated. It is a fantastic adventure being a writer but please for anyone aspiring to join us, remember that this is who we are and respect the craft as we do in order for us all to prosper together.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Book Profile - Veneri Verbum

I have talked about my own books and several charity anthologies that either I or writer friends have put together. I believe in all of the causes as well as the people that are behind these books and while I will continue to share them, today I wanted to do something a little different. With the month more than half over and Nano progressing as it does with some people posting about why they fell they will never be able to cross the finish line and others proudly proclaiming that they have finished, in some cases for the first time, I wanted to share a book that for me has been more accurate describing the experience than any other out there.

There are a number of books about Nano from No Plot, No Problem and Ready, Set, Novel but all these books do is give advice about how to overcome writer's block or fill in plot holes. They are good things to know but they do not demonstrate from the writer's point of view what it is we experience with our characters. On the other hand there is a book that was written by my friend Zanzibar 7 Schwarznegger called Veneri Verbum and reading this book made me laugh and say out loud repeatedly how familiar the experience sounded.

Schwarznegger takes the main Character Christopher Collum on a journey through the world of characters and figments as he does his best to get home after falling through a plot hole in his own lack of story. It is a fun and interesting read that accurately captures the intricacies of authors fighting through the November challenge. I highly recommend it to anyone thinking about joining us or that simply knows someone that writes in general. Check out Veneri Verbum on Amazon and the synopsis below.

Writing a book may be the perfect solution to all of Christopher Cullum's problems. He's currently living at home (at age twenty-five), but his mom fears she'll be doing his laundry forever. If he doesn't accomplish something notable soon, she may invoke some tough love. He might even have to clean his room. 

If he can write a novel in a month and get it published, maybe he can continue living at home. Unfortunately, Christopher is more in love with his main character, Elsa, than he is with writing. His book won't get done by itself-- and neither will his laundry. When he falls through a plot hole into the pre-published world he finds character Figments-- including Elsa-- who aren't very happy with the Writers who've made their lives a literal hell just to finish a story. Oh, and that plot hole is tearing up the very fabric of space-time-space. Can he survive parody flux, plot bunnies, and Nana Romo to get back to his own world before he destroys the one he's created?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Finding The Time

I knew it would happen. I had plans. I made drafts and thought I was ready. Still somehow I knew it would happen and sure enough it has. I was positive that going through nano again this year I would struggle to keep up on my blog posts. I had created a few drafts that I could publish later in order to keep up and designed a schedule so I would know what I was supposed to be writing at any given time but as always seems to happen, I fell behind.

I am not just behind on the blog though, I am also only halfway to current word goal for Nanowrimo. I find it very difficult to get much written when I get home from work instead preferring to have dedicated days but I only get a handful of those each month making it a challenge beyond just writing the allotted number of words. I am still somewhat confident that I can complete this story and even that I will be able to finish at least one other started draft for a book by the end of the year but I do not want to slack in another area for the sake of finishing.

I see fellow authors that spend upwards of two or more hours per day promoting their work on Facebook and I would assume other social media outlets as well everyday and I know many of them have blogs as well as find time to write new books. I am in awe of their abilities. I am even more impressed with their time management. I need to learn to be better at scheduling my time.

Right now I am working to finish this year's nano novel as well as two I have begun so that I will have several projects to edit and submit for agents and publishers to consider. Then next year I will be spending about two months dedicated to editing along with utilizing my wonderful beta readers for their feedback before I begin the onslaught of queries. I am also hoping to learn how to create teasers for my current books and schedule some more live events which I have found I am far more adept at.

I would appreciate any suggestions for things I could do to help promote and increase my visibility for my work. I believe very strongly in my writing and while I know it is a craft that is always evolving and improving I think I can really make this happen someday. I am willing to do the work I am just not always sure what exactly it is that I need to do. So I ask you fellow readers and writers, whiter things you have seen that are effective as well as not? How can I take my writing and promoting to the next level.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Profile - Authors Against Bullying

I have done several profiles on anthologies. The first was of course my own animal charity book Rescue Me that I am immensely proud of creating. The next was the first of a series that actually inspired my own, Rock & Roll Saved My Soul. This series was put together by a good friend of mine Kate Marie Robbins. She has been not only a great friend and inspiration but has become one of my favorite writing partners in crime most recently organizing the online portion of our two part event for Domestic Violence awareness.

The third member of our team in many ways is Bree Vanderland. She is Kate'a partner in the indie publishing group Pure Ice that published my first novel Never Give Up and had her short story Finding Rachel as part of the event last month. But today I want to focus on her charity anthology Authors Against Bullying. She is passionate about shining a light on the worlds bullying problem and pulled from her talent as a writer asking her friends to do the same and collected stories about fighting bullies.

All of these stories were formed into a book that can now be found on Amazon and donates all of the proceeds back to a charity to bring awareness and help end bullying once and for all. There are currently two volumes available on Amazon. Please take a moment to check out the books and help end bullying.

Upon seeing how bullying affects people, many have come together to help shed light on the issue. In the first installment there is no set theme, but stories focus on bullying in general. All profits will be going towards a charity to bring awareness o n the issue and help put an end to bullying. Authors included in this volume: Brittany Tucker Derianna Thomas TJ Loveless Riya Yadav Mark Mackey Elise Barlow Bree Vanderland E. Montgomery Sarah Tackitt Georgia Faye Pope Airiel Hawkins Lee Ryder Amanda Lynn Renee Jean Rachel Carlyon Cody Lee Powell Ella Dare E.B. Black Aimee Carnegie Yvonne K. Anderson Damien McManus Chadd Hawkins Cassandra Jones Cindy J. Smith Courtney Ernste

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Put A Face On The Title

There is a wealth of information out there for anyone interested enough to look it up when it comes to query letters. While doing my own research I found several examples of letters but even more samples of email queries. There are of course numerous similarities between the two but there are a few differences. One of the biggest differences is how you address the letters. Being professional and using specific names is important in either letter.

It is also important to be professional when submitting in another way. While reading a blog post recently on author.pub I saw that the blogger mentioned he had a significantly better acceptance percentage when he submitted in person as opposed to through the mail or online. He noticed that when you get the chance to put a face on the project as well as pitch verbally people have a greater chance to stop and talk about your book with you.

This is the same reason I prefer selling / promoting in person. Digital may be the way of the world with a few holdouts going through snail mail but there is still nothing that compares to shaking hands, exchanging a smile while presenting not only your book but also your brand, in other words, getting the chance to sell you. Of course the next big question I can imagine is on your mind now is "If I am going to try to submission person, where do I go?"

There are different choices for that endeavor. You could choose to locate any agents or publishers that may be somewhat near you and go to their offices. Make appointments or just show up and hope they have a few moments to talk, there is always a chance that could work. I however would recommend attending conferences and conventions anytime it is possible. Agents, editors and publishers regularly attend such gatherings and are far easier to track down for a little one on one time at a location specifically set up for those types of meetings.

If you are going to attend then it is imperative that you bring copies of your manuscript with you. Make sure there are several copies and that they are edited, polished and presentable. Most will only want a partial copy of the manuscript along with your contact information so if you have business cards it would be a good idea to bring those along as well. Practice how you would present your book, your elevator pitch, but make sure you are prepared to actively discuss the story and not just sound rehearsed. For introverts this can be a scary concept but I promise you that it can lead to wonderful things if you just take the chance to present your book face to face.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

End of Week 1

This time last week I was doing my best to focus through the excitement that Nanowrimo had once again started for the year. This week I am staring at the screen at the end of week one having the usual panic attack I always seem to encounter at this time. I always seem to struggle when getting started each year.

I start with an idea I am thrilled to be writing but somehow the realization that I need to write fifty thousand words is always daunting and puts me in a fearful mood. I get so overwhelmed in spite of the fact that every year I have accepted the challenge I have managed to complete it and cross the finish line, in a few cases with time to spare. The book this year is quite different from the ones I have written in the past. That in and of itself could be contributing to the anxiety I feel about this project.

I have mentioned in the past that all of the stories I have done for nano were already quite established before I made the commitment. Never Give Up was started nearly a decade before I finally completed it, Breathe was originally a short story that I extended into a full length novel and Welcome To Syn was a story I had started developing almost a year in advance but came to fruition when the main character basically took over my mind insisting on telling me her story. The outline was without question the most detailed I have ever created.

The moment that I was, for lack of a better word, possessed by Peryphone Syntel the mother from Welcome To Syn, was also the moment that I came up with a plot bunny for a new book. I was inspired to take a closer look at the relationship between writers and the voices in our heads. Our characters take over telling us their stories. Because I love thrillers and suspense novels I wanted to write one myself and this book idea gave me the perfect excuse. Oddly I can honestly say that working on this book concerns me slightly.

Writers open ourselves up to our characters. Whether you believe that they are from other dimensions, figments developed over time and brought to life in our books or beings that truly do possess us the fact that we become a medium can be intoxicating but also scary. We feel what they feel, know what they think and our emotions become entangled with theirs. Channeling the characters from this book will be a challenge to say the least.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Review Me, Please

You wrote a book, that is awesome! You celebrated with champagne and caviar, or if you are like me a chocolate sundae and some kool-aid. You took a well deserved break from the writing cave to soak in the serenity of completion. After your break you took your baby and destroyed it slowly editing it through the tears and red pen marks left from proof reading and beta readers. After the reconstruction of your story you decide to submit query letters.

If your letters went anything like mine then once again you broke out the handkerchief after receiving the collection of rejections. I knew I wasn't ready to keep pushing for traditional publishing and felt that I might value from some lessons learned by going the self publishing route. Lets say for the sake of this post that you made the same determination I did and went with self publishing. Just a few short months after you decide to go for it you finally hit publish on your beautiful book.

You attend any event you can and tell people about your book. You launch on social media and obsessively track your sales. Once you have popped the bubbly on your first few books sold you wonder now what? You can spam social media day in and day out but you realize quickly that you are simply showing the same material to the same people repeatedly. You can keep talking to people at events but those events are few and far between. So what is another way that your book can get out there? Reviews.

Have those that have purchased your story take a few moments and jump online to give you a rating and review. The more reviews you have the better because it raises your profile during searches. Also good reviews can help you stand out against other books with similar titles. It is also helpful for future readers to get a perspective on your work that does not come solely from the author. By making sure your book is listed on Amazon, Goodreads and any other reading and review site you can ensure that your story reaches more people through the amazing network of referrals created by these sites. So just remember anytime someone mentions that have a copy of your book, make sure to ask them to drop by a site and leave a review. You would be amazed at how much a simple rating candy.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Too Ambitious?

I have always struggled to follow through on all of my plans but anyone that knows me well would probably say it because I am far too ambitious. I tend to notably bite off more than I can chew but also choke about halfway through. At some point I am forced to admit defeat or I get so overwhelmed by what it is I have taken on that I simply go blank. I realize I have no idea what I am doing or how to proceed and I retreat to the warmth and comfort of my office hiding from the world.

The largest example of this could easily be the book launch event I held last month. This one was different in one respect though, I finished what I started. I asked my mom if she thought my dad would be surprised. She said yes which I had expected but it wasn't that I had pulled it off or that it was successful but just the fact that I took on an event so large. That part did catch me off guard. I have always had tremendous sized dreams I just rarely was able to pull them off, if ever.

Now as Nanowrimo is underway I find myself working again on something that seems beyond my reach. I am planning to complete my newest nano novel Voices In My Head but also finish my romance novel Chocolate Covered Cherries as well as my PTSD drama Sharing Strength. All of the books are distinctly different but because of that I have to finish one before putting myself in the mindset of the others. It will be time consuming especially since I cannot seem to make the words flow recently.

Last year I felt that I was taking on too much trying to complete Nano while working two different jobs mostly as double shifts but I was able to finish Welcome to Syn anyway. In that case though I entered the month with a full story already prepared and it was just a matter of typing the words and filling in the details. This year I am working off a slight outline with a somewhat helpful main character but she hasn't been talking. Her silence is beginning to make writing this book like the proverbial pulling of teeth.

I am determined to continue the trend of finishing my projects and blowing my goals out of the water I just have to dedicate myself and push beyond my comfortable limits. Sometimes we need to take a vacation from our comfort zones.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Your New Best Friend - The Media

Press releases are not the easiest to write but practice makes perfect and once you hit publish you should get a lot of practice. Contact the media as often as possible without harassing them. Comment on stories. Become a part of the local literary scene. Attend events that the media are going to be at as well. Make sure you are visible and if possible study up an subjects surrounding your book so that you can discuss them at these events.

Start with the press releases. Your first one should be the announcement of your book however it shouldn't stop there. Any time you hold a signing or will be at a fair or festival make sure the media is aware. If you partner up with someone or something in the community that is newsworthy be the first to let them know. It can be overwhelming when you are not familiar with these types of announcements so if needed you can hire a publicist to assist you.

My suggestion on press releases and the publicist is that if you do hire one have them sit down with you to show you what they are doing. Learn with them so if in the future you decide to take control of the publicity yourself you will be better able to create such items. Hiring professionals can be expensive but it is important to make sure things like that are done correctly so at least having someone advise you in the beginning may be a good idea.

Next is commenting on stories. Follow the news and watch for stories that fall into categories that would include your book. Submit comments to newspapers, online articles for television and radio stations. It is also a good idea to follow their social media pages to make commenting easier. The more often people see your name the more recognizable you will become for future events.

Going along with that is making sure you become a sort of expert on topics relating to your story. If you can comment often and offer insight others may not have thought of already you could become a go to for the reporters which only raises your visibility. Take every opportunity to promote yourself and your work so that you continue to grow your audience. Promotion is time consuming but one of the most important parts of being a writer.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Book Promotion - Rock & Roll Saved My Soul

A good friend of mine, Kate Marie Robbins, put together an anthology that would share stories of music and how it influenced the contributing writers. Once the stories had been gathered, formatted and laid out with a great cover the book was ready to be published. Now if the description stopped here it wouldn't be that remarkable. Even the fact that the book is an anthology only raises the uniqueness slightly.

What makes this book and the series that was created along with it stand out from all the other anthologies out there is the fact that all of the proceeds are donated to charity. This series is actually what inspired my own charity series Rescue Me - Animal Anthology. I wanted to say thank you to all of those that participated in either series, in fact many have stories in both. Below is the synopsis for the first book.

Changing the World, One Story at a Time
Has music had a positive impact on you? Changed your life? Or even saved you? For us, it has.
In this book, you will find a collection of stories, letters, and poetry about how music has personally changed our lives. Each story is unique, each story is true. Filled with emotion, passion, and love for the bands and songs that have touched our lives. 
All proceeds from this book will be donated to Rock the Cause. Rock the Cause is a Minnesota based charity that use the power of music, community, and social media to create a new generation of stewardship for other non-profit causes.