T is for Tools

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

T is for Tools.  Whether your tools are real or virtual, they will make your writing life easier and more productive.  Here are some you will want to add if you don’t have them by now:

Red BooksReference books such as dictionaries, a thesaurus, baby name books, grammar and punctuation texts

Craft books on writing, world building,

Useful websites (check my Links page), including your favorite search engines

Excellent word processing or manuscript composition software such as Word, Pages, Scrivener

Social media force multipliers such as Hootsuite for Twitter and Facebook

Foreign language dictionaries

550px-NZL_orthographic_NaturalEarth.svgMaps, atlases, or Google Earth and map software such as Mapquest, Google maps, or even Apple maps

Pictures of the locations in your book, or that look like the fictional places you’ve made up

If you write historical novels, histories, biographies, books for children on how things were back then (trust me – the explanations are usually clearer and provide more of the kind of information you need than wading scholarly tomes — unless you just enjoy wading through scholarly tomes)

Broadband internet (how can you do online research without it?)

ID-100131568Post-it notes, multicolored post-it flags, paperclips, a good supply of red pens – or bright blue pens – ink that will show up on the page so you can find your edits

To-do list notepads

And last, but not least, chocolate!Chocolate-Bar

 

 

 

S is for Street Team

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

Big-Army-Street-Team-ClickS is for Street Team.  A street team can be many things, but most simply, it’s a group of readers – fans and friends – who love your books so much that they want to help you get the word out.  

On the plus side, they network, tell their friends, leave bookmarks at libraries and bookstores, flood Twitter with hashtags related to your writing, help publicize book launches, etc., etc., etc.  You give them challenges and reward them with incentives such as books, t-shirts, or deleted scenes that no one else gets to see.  

A street team, like any group of special friends, can take a lot of time to set up and run. If you’re very lucky, one or two members will be so enthusiastic, they’ll wind up running the team for you.  Planning ahead and creating incentives and swag are critical to having rewards in place for your team.  And you need rules – what is acceptable and what is not for interaction with you, among team members, and with the public.  

Some authors disband their street team and then rebuild it in time for each new book release.  Others keep the same team for as long as any member wants to belong and be active.  How you run yours is up to you.  But you must weigh the pros and cons before you set up a street team and decide if one is right for you.

R is for Research

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

R is for Research. If you write in almost any genre, but especially if you write historical, research is a fact of your writing life.  

earth_and_magnify_glassI used to dread it, but I’ve come to enjoy following virtual rabbit trails around the internet as one interesting fact or tidbit leads to another.  You never know where your next story idea will come from.  Sometimes it comes from something obscure you find while looking for something else. 

So enjoy the time you spend on research.  You never know where it will lead.

 

 

 

Check out the others participating in this month’s A to Z Challenge!

Not Exactly Easter Eggs, But…

We interrupt the A to Z Blog Tour to bring you Happy Easter wishes!  And just look what the Easter Bunny brought to my house this weekend!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I think there’s a Goodreads Giveaway in our future!

Q is for Quotidian

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

20090226-calendarQ is for Quotidian.  There’s a word that doesn’t get used much these days.  It means recurring daily, which is what you should be doing as an author.  Writing, recurring daily.  

It’s a goal, one I admit I don’t achieve, either.  But it’s always in the back of my mind.  On days that I don’t write, I feel like I’ve wasted time that could have been used to accomplish something — word count, revisions, editing, any part of the process that leads to a finished, publish-ready book.  Yeah, I’ve got it bad.  I’ll bet you do, too.  

So remember this word:  quotidian.  It’s a good goal.

 

Check out the other authors doing the A to Z Challenge this month!

P is for Piracy

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

P is for Piracy.  There are few topics guaranteed to rile up a group of authors as much as this one.  Piracy is the illegal, unauthorized reproduction of an author’s work, usually for sale by the pirate, with none of the proceeds going to the author or legitimate publisher.  Piracy is so rampant, most publishers and authors cannot or will not do anything about it.

Let’s be clear.  It’s stealing.

Whether it’s a book, or an episode of a television show (an episode of Game of Thrones just broke the series’s own piracy record), movie or music, if it wasn’t bought from a legitimate source, it was stolen.  And no, I’m not talking about loaning a paperback copy of your favorite book to a friend.  I’m talking about large-scale, deliberate attempts to make money from someone else’s hard work, sweat, and probably even tears by putting a digital copy of their work up on an unauthorized website and selling it.  Or even giving it away.  Without the author’s or publisher’s permission, their copyright is violated and — again — it’s theft.

pirate_flag_skull_bones_patchWhy aren’t these pirates ashamed?  Turns out most are international, are in it for a quick buck or ruble or whatever, don’t recognize copyright laws and don’t give a rat’s a–…well, you get my drift. These are not nice people.

There are things that an author or publisher can do – send cease and desist form letters, notify the site host, warn their readers to avoid pirate sites and so forth.  But they’re only temporary solutions.  Take down one site and another pops up right behind it.

Some authors take the philosophical stance that people who get books from pirates wouldn’t have paid for them anyway.  And once read, the book might intrigue them enough to buy more of the author’s work through legitimate channels.  That might be true for some fraction of books acquired at a pirate site.  It might also be true that more of the author’s books will be pirated and those readers will just keep looking for the pirated copies that are cheap or free.

My bottom line is this: if you see my books on a pirate site — and you will — don’t download them.  It’s stealing.

 

Check out the other authors doing the A to Z Challenge this month!

 

O is for Opportunity

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

O is for Opportunity. As with any other profession, those who work hard prepare to take advantage of opportunities that come their way.  For authors, that means writing, writing, writing.  But it takes a lot more than writing to be a successful author these days.  For example:

Build a brand by having a website and being active on social media.

Practice your 20-second elevator speech (your bio, book description, whatever you need) until you can recite it in your sleep.

Rehearse your agent and editor pitch until you’re sure they’ll be so impressed, they’ll just have to buy your book.

Attend conferences and network with other authors.

Make sure your book is as close to perfectly edited and formatted as you can make it before it’s published.

Then, when the chance to pitch your book, meet an author you love to read, or collaborate with other authors on a promotion project comes along, you’ll be ready. 

Check out the other authors doing the A to Z Challenge this month!

N is for Newsletter

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

newsletterN is for Newsletter.  Yes, I have one.  I’d love for you to join my newsletter mailing list.  You’ll get first crack at contests, exclusive content, and cool developments I haven’t shared anywhere else.  I only publish once a month, so your inbox won’t be inundated – at least not by me.  But you will be in the know, which is a great place to be.  If you haven’t already clicked one of the links above, click here!

Why do authors write newsletters?  For a variety of reasons, but here are a few:

A newsletter lets us share exclusive content with readers who really want to know about us and our books.

A newsletter lets us reward readers who really want to know about us and our books with exclusive contests, book excerpts, previews, and news before anyone else gets access to them.

A newsletter mailing list tells us who our most devoted fans are – the people who love our books and who help us get the word out when we have a new release or an exciting development to share.

If that sounds like fun to you, join my newsletter mailing list!

To see who else is Blogging from A to Z this month, click here.

M is for Making It Up

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

M is for Making It Up.  We writers do a lot of that.  Some more, some less, depending on the genre we write in, and how historically or factually accurate we want a story to be.  Mystery, crime fiction, police procedural and courtroom drama writers spend hours on research because some readers love to catch an author in a mistake.   It’s part of the fun of reading those books.  I imagine the same is true for Regency historicals that are filled with period details of costume, customs and furnishings.  

Scottish historical writers have more freedom to incorporate fantasy elements, and to forego real locations in favor of places and events they create.  Irish historical romances go even further, as most of them incorporate some form of the Fae of Irish myth and legend.question-mark-112390_640

No matter what you write, you depend on your imagination.  But as Tom Clancy famously said, unlike real life, fiction has to make sense.  Your story has to have some logic to it, even if it’s only its own internal logic.  Worldbuilding is a science as well as an art.  What’s the geography?  Who are the people?  What are their customs?  Religion?  Politics?  You may not incorporate all of those elements in your story, but you’ll think about them as you make up the details of your world, if you want the story to make sense to you and your readers.

To find other authors participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge, click here!

L is for Love What You Do

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

L is for Love What You Do. You know the old saying – A person who loves what they do never works a day in their life.  

Love to write but hate marketing?  Write more, market less.  

Love meeting readers?  Do more book signings and personal appearances.  

Love having a book release but hate social media?  Write!  Keep writing good books.  Recruit your friends and readers to spread the word for you.

Do what you love.  The rest will take care of itself.    red-rose-heart

K is for Kilts (I Couldn’t Resist)

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

K is for Kilts.  I know, I said I wouldn’t, but I could not resist.  It’s time for some kilt pictures.  Enjoy!

J is for Judging

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

J is for judging.  Whether you participate in a critique partnership or critique group, write reviews, or judge contests, you’re called upon to judge the work of other authors.  Yes, it’s tough enough deciding if your own writing is good, bad or indifferent.  But we writers depend on honest feedback from our peers to help us sort through plot problems, identify word repetition and grammar mistakes, and on the plus side, to gain attention from agents, editors and readers.  

The old adage “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything” doesn’t serve us well when we’re called upon to help another author improve their writing.  Nor is it fair to anyone in a contest to give only positive feedback. Judging implies recognizing both positive and negative aspects of a work. But there’s no need to be mean, either.  Honesty can be couched in kind words, helpful suggestions, and critical feedback that leaves room for the other person to grow as an author while protecting their ego.  images

Judging another’s work is fun when they’ve done a great job, you enjoy their story, and you can easily give them positive reinforcement.  Most of us don’t enjoy the flip side of that coin, when we could not finish the book, when there are so many errors that it looks like we bled all over the page with our red pen, or when we have to score a contest entry so low that we know the entry has no chance of advancing.  But if we’re determined to help our fellow authors ensure that manuscripts are truly ready to be published, then we have no choice.  

 

I is for Indecision

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m taking a break from my focus on Scottish historical romance to participate in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge. The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays. Last year, my theme was Scotland. This year, my theme is The Writing Life. Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year. For instance:

I is for Indecision.  We writers grapple with it all the time.  In fact, I faced it in trying to come up with a topic for this post.  Finally, it dawned on me that the indecision I felt made for the perfect topic since writers deal with it all the time.  So here’s a list of some of the things we writers have trouble deciding.

  • Are we really a writer – or not?
  • Who’s POV should a scene be in?
  • Who is our hero?  Our heroine?
  • What plot twist should carry us past the sagging middle?
  • Should we take our critique partner’s advice and radically redesign the scene they just read?
  • How do we know when a book is really finished?
  • Is it good enough to submit?
  • Who should it be submitted to?
  • Traditional publish or self-publish?

Space-Shuttle-Columbia-STS-087-039.previewAnd the list goes on.  You get the idea.  It’s not just putting words on paper.  It’s more like navigating a stream with lots of tributaries.  Where your story goes may differ depending on which decision you make at any moment.

H is for Hero

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

H is for Hero - Who is the hero of your story?  In Romance, the convention is to have a hero and a heroine (or a hero/hero or heroine/heroine, or hero/hero/heroine … you get the idea), both of whom get relatively equal time in the story.  Romance is written from the hero’s and heroine’s point of view.  The reader sees what they see, hears what they hear, knows what they know.  Often, those are the only two viewpoints in a story, but sometimes the antagonist (the bad guy) or an important secondary character gets a few scenes, too.

securedownloadRomance readers love an alpha hero – large and in charge describes this type of man.  But beta heroes have their followers, too, who prefer the more sensitive, cooperative male.  Heroines, thankfully, have gone from simpering, empty-headed missies the hero must save to kick-ass women who can not only take care of themselves, they often save the hero, or work side-by-side with the hero to resolve the conflicts in the book.  While the definition of hero, especially the alpha variety, hasn’t changed much in Romance novels, the definition of heroine certainly has.

G is for Genre

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

G is for Genre – What is a genre?  The dictionary definition goes something like this: a category of literature or other forms of art or entertainment, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. In other words, it’s the type of book you’re writing, whether it’s a mystery, a western, science fiction, or some sub-genre of romance (e.g., science fiction romance, historical romance, contemporary romance, etc.).

Traditionally, publishers liked nice clean divisions between genres.  Well-defined genres make books easier to shelve and to market.  But there are some authors (me included) whose books cross genres.  Mine are Scottish historical paranormal romance.  Say that six times, fast!

Red BooksCrossing genres makes marketing more of a challenge, though digital booksellers can get around that with well-chosen keywords, but it also provides opportunities to reach more readers.  My readers might like historical romance, or Scottish historical romance, or paranormal romance, psi-focused science fiction or even fantasy, but they find elements of their favorite style in my books.  So my readers come from all of those preference groups, not just one.

The secret is out.  As writers find their readership expanding, crossing genres is becoming more common.

F is for Finish the Damn Book!

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post, on April 1, was A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

F is for  - Finish the Damn Book!  If you’re like the majority of would-be authors, you’ve started and abandoned many manuscripts.  Starting a book is like starting a love affair.  It’s all mystery and excitement at the beginning.  The possibilities seem endless, and at the beginning, they are.  But like any love affair, the fireworks fade.

Therein lies the rub.  You get confused, lose your focus, your characters don’t cooperate and your plot (if you even have one) seems trite, or it’s going nowhere. So what should you do? Get over it.  Break ranks with the wanna-be’s and finish your first draft.

You’ll have accomplished what 90 percent of writers fail to do.  And if you succeed in editing, polishing, submitting and getting published, you’ll join the elite ten percent of the ten percent who finished their draft. Congratulations!

Easy-reading-is-damn-hardA quote attributed to Nathaniel Hawthorne says “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”  It’s true.  You can’t escape doing the work.  But type “the end” on the last page of that finished first draft, second draft, or polished manuscript and you’ll find out that it’s also amazingly rewarding.  Go ahead.  Do it.  I dare you!

E is for Ergonomics

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

478px-Alphanumeric_keyboardE is for Ergonomics – Face it.  We spend hours in the same chair, staring at the same screen, typing on the same keyboard.  Sitting in the same position.

Can you spell repetitive stress injury?

Unfortunately, I can.  I’m battling carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar (elbow – funnybone) nerve damage from my dedication to BICHOK (Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard) and a tendency to lean on my left elbow.

Do yourself a favor and get away from the desk every once in a while.  Stand up.  Move around.  Forget the big, wooden executive desk and get one that you can adjust up and down.  Ditto for the chair.  You’re an author.  These are your tools, just the same as pen and paper.  You’re going to spend hours a day for (probably) the rest of your life with them, so get the best you can afford and remember to take a break — often.

D is for Draft

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

9678365189_6288a55d46_mD is for Draft, First Draft  - What takes a lot of time and effort, and possibly blood, sweat and tears, not to mention a martini or six? Not Bond, James Bond.  It’s draft, first draft.

Trust me, it’s going to hurt.

In fact, there’s an excellent chance your first draft is going to suck.  You won’t want anyone else to see it.  You’ll wonder what you were thinking, calling yourself a writer.  That’s okay.  Once the first draft is done, you’ll have a better handle on the size and scope of your story, the personalities of your characters, and what you need to add and delete and change.  Then, you can transform that hot mess into a fabulous book.

It’s all in that much-maligned first draft.  Write on!

Image courtesy of Shawn Budemer/Flickr

C is for Collaborate

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first post is A, the next is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

C is for Collaborate – You know the old saying: A rising tide lifts all boats.  It’s true for authors, too.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe more we collaborate and cross-promote by tweeting, re-tweeting, joining book release parties on Facebook, and so forth, the more our reach grows.  I’ve gained new readers that way, and I’m sure my readers have found some new authors, too.

If you wonder why you would want to help your “competition,” think again.  Readers love similar books.  Mysteries, contemporary romance, historical fiction, even Scottish historical romance.  Once they’ve read everything by their favorite author, they go looking for similar books.

Don’t pass up an opportunity to cross-promote.  Retweet other authors.  Participate in online book release parties. Create opportunities for other authors by hosting your own online party and inviting them to “appear” to talk about their new book, run a contest and give away a prize.  If you’re not sure who else your readers would enjoy, ask them.  Or explore bookstores to see whose books are similar to yours.  You never know how many great authors, great stories, and new readers you’ll find!

B is for Burr

A2Z-BADGE-0002014-small_zps8300775cThis month, as I did last year, I’m participating in the AtoZ Blogging Challenge.  The first is A, the second is B and so on every day this month, except Sundays.  Last year, my theme was Scotland.  This year, my theme is The Writing Life.  Check back here every day this month to follow along and find out what I’ve learned in the last year.  For instance:

B is for Burr, or Brogue.  That lovely Scottish accent that sends chills from our fingertips to our toes.  What is it about rolling Rs vibrating from deep in the chest of a male speaker?  Whatever it is, we can’t get enough.

B1895_HighlandHealer_DAudiobooks to the rescue!  Highland Healer came out in audiobook format just last month.  When I listened, I was amazed at what a different experience hearing the story gave me, instead of reading it.  You can find out for yourself at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Tantor, and Audible.