"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Monday, February 27, 2012

Benefits of the Blog Challenge

Many authors struggle with keeping a blog. Writers lose focus and let them fall stagnant. One successful way to inspire blogging is to participate in a blog challenge.
What is a blog challenge? A blog challenge is when you decide to write/publish/post to a theme during a determined time frame. This could be done in a solo or group atmosphere. The rules of the challenge vary depending on host, but often include: topics, length, syndication, and/or publication date.
For example, this will be my second year to participate in the “A to Z” challenge: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/p/2012-to-z-challenge-sign-up-list.html  This is the third annual “A to Z” challenge. In 2010, there were 100 participants, last year there were approximately 1,000 bloggers and this year, approximately 800 people have already signed up with more than a month left until the event begins.
The “A to Z” challenge is held in April. Each day a post is inspired by a letter of the alphabet. Ex The April 1st post will be inspired by the letter A, April 2nd by the letter B and so on. There are 26 letters and 30 days in April, so you will have Sundays off after the first week.
What did I get out of the challenge last year? I connected with some creative and talented individuals, developed a new system for my blogging, refined my communication skills, and initiated what turned into an amazing relationship with some of my readers!
What are some benefits of a blogging challenge?                                 
  1. Establish accountability partners.
  2. Develop your writing skills.
  3. Cultivate a habit of writing.
  4. Create, authenticate and advertise your personal brand.
  5. Build relationships with fellow challenge participants.
  6. Increase your confidence and motivation in writing.
  7. Educate yourself through reading blogs in different niches.
  8. Build back links through comments on participant’s blogs.
  9. Grow your social network through the syndicating of posts through social media sites.
  10. Increase blog traffic.
  11. Develop new marketing ideas from other challenge participants.
  12. Receive constructive feedback on ways to make your blog/platform even more effective.
Whether you decide to participate in the “A to Z” challenge with me or not, I hope I’ve given you a bit of encouragement to participate in any blog challenge, even your own!

Have you participated in a blog challenge before? What was your experience?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

5 Qualities of a Successful Self Promoter

Most writers have a hard time selling themselves. We’re solitary creatures by nature. The act of writing requires an individual’s effort. We’re alone when we dream up our characters, when we put them in peril and when we drive them to achieve their goals. Even if you’re writing an article, memoir or working on a compilation where you must seek the aid of others, ultimately you are still a solitary figure at the keyboard when it’s time to tell the story you want.
So, how do we break out of our comfort zone and successfully promote our creations? Whether you are taking the first steps to sell your work to an editor/agent or you are published and trying to attract readers, keep these five qualities in mind.
1)      Honesty – Remember, this isn’t about you, but your readers. Whether promoting yourself through social media or face-to-face at conferences, workshops, or book signings, all great salesmen are people of integrity. An author can live on repeat business. The key to repeat readers isn’t just a great product, but the ability to deliver on your promises. So always tell the truth about your product. Don’t describe something your book can’t deliver.
2)      Enthusiasm – All great salesmen are excited about their product. Enthusiasm is contagious and can infect everyone around you. You can only motivate readers to buy your work if you are excited about it yourself. Your energy will sell your dreams.
3)      Confidence – Successful salesmen are full of confidence even in tough times. This means believing in yourself and your product enough to know why someone else would want it as well. Ignore the inner voice causing you to doubt yourself and trust you have researched, worked and made the best story. Selling is about attitude and the ability to inspire others to want your creation.
4)      Courage – Perhaps the most daunting obstacle to writers is the fear of rejection. You must realize if you sell anything, you will face rejection. It’s not a question of if, but how many times you will be rejected. Psychological studies show that high-achieving, successful people are not overly concerned about what others think. They exhibit:
5)      Persistence – Most important is to stay focused on your product and goals. It takes perseverance and faith in your own abilities to be a success. Nothing worthwhile comes easy, you must be determined. Finish what you start.
Which of these qualities do you struggle with the most? What has helped you to achieve these goals?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Snowball Fight

by Beth Savoie

          The New England winter sped by as the sun glinted through the window off a blanket of snow.  The people in the car were silent.  Sounds of mechanical chirping came from the glove box.  Neither made a move towards the noise, but each was poised, waiting for the other.  The sound stopped for a few moments, then started again.
            “This is ridiculous,” Jackson said, reaching across Pamela to get his cell from where she put it in the glove box.
          The car swerved as she pushed his hand away.  Jackson had to pay attention to the road.  The phone chirped again. 
            “You’ve texted more than you’ve talked to me.  It stays in there,” Pamela answered, covering the latch with her hand. 
            He reached for the box.  Even with one hand on the wheel they swerved and skidded.  He came to a stop on the side of the road and tried to reach again.  Pamela blocked him. 
            “What do you want from me, Pamela? What do you want me to say?” 
            Pamela didn’t answer right away. The phone sounded more insistent.  “I want a snowball fight!” Shejumped out of the car, slamming the door behind her.
            “Are you crazy?”  Jackson got out.  Before he could say anything else he was pelted with snow.
            Pamela had picked up more snow and was packing it together. He ran to her and grabbed her stopping her from launching another attack.  With his arms encircling her waist he twisted her around and they both fell back into a snow bank, Pamela landing on his lap.  They were both laughing like idiots. 
            Pamela tried to get away from him.  He held fast with one arm and with the other hand grabbed some snow to rub in her face.  He brought his hand up, but she realized what he was going to do and stopped him, grabbing his wrist with both of her hands. 
            He rolled her into the snow, facing her.  She was so beautiful, her dark hair dusted with snow.  Work had been so hectic he hadn’t taken the time to remember how much she took his breath away. He wanted to fix that now and leaned in to kiss her.  She put her arms around him as their lips met. 
            “I love you,” he whispered. 
            That’s what I wanted you to say.” 
            She kissed him again.  They got back in the car and continued on to the bed and breakfast. Pamela watched the snow pass by.  She traced a heart in the fog her breath left on the window. In her fog heart she put JTY’s PT. Jackson reached over and took her hand, enclosing it in his. The mechanical chirping became nothing more than background noise. 

About the Author:  Beth is the author of many short stories, poems, and partial novels. To date she hasn’t had anything officially published but her work is out there for consideration. Beth’s a big fan of snowball fights. You can find her at http://www.creatingwordlenik.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"1000 Words of Love" Winner!

Congratulations to Beth Savoie for winning the "1000 Words of Love" contest. Watch for her story "Snowball Fight."

Author Interview: Chrystle Fiedler

Chrystle Fiedler’ newest fiction release Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery is available for pre-order on her home page or on www.amazon.com. The book will be available on February 21, 2012 . Chrystle is the author of the non-fiction title THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO NATURAL REMEDIES (Alpha, 2009), co-author of BEAT SUGAR ADDICTION NOW! (Fairwinds Press, 2010), currently in its fourth printing, the BEAT SUGAR ADDICTION NOW! COOKBOOK (Fairwinds Press, 2012) and THE COUNTRY ALMANAC OF HOME REMEDIES (Fairwinds, 2011). Chrystle’s magazine articles featuring natural remedies have appeared in such national publications as Better Homes and Gardens, Natural Health, Vegetarian Times and Remedy. She is a native of the North Fork on Long Island.  To learn more about her fiction and nonfiction work, visit: www.chrystlefiedler.com

1)      How did you develop an interest in writing? I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil! When I was younger I wrote children’s book and plays, as I got older I became a copywriter, then a journalist, a non-fiction author and now, a cozy mystery author. 

2)      I see you are working on a MS - please tell me a little about it. My fiction debut is DEATH DROPS: A NATURAL REMEDIES MYSTERY (Gallery/Simon and Schuster) which will be published on February 21st. I’m very excited! The book is the first to feature a naturopathic doctor (Willow McQuade) and a wide variety of natural cures. Naturopathic doctors take a holistic view of patients, treating body, mind and spirit. It’s set in my hometown, Greenport which is an idyllic village on Long Island’s East End. Dr. McQuade takes over her Aunt Claire’s health food store Nature’s Way Market and Café when she is murdered and sets out to find the killer with the help of a hunky cop on disability, Jackson Spade. Sparks fly!

3)      What other styles do you write? I also write non-fiction books that feature natural remedies including: THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO NATURAL REMEDIES (Alpha, 2009), co-author of  BEAT SUGAR ADDICTION NOW! (Fairwinds Press, 2010), currently in its fourth printing, the BEAT SUGAR ADDICTION NOW! COOKBOOK (Fairwinds Press, 2012) and  THE COUNTRY ALMANAC OF HOME REMEDIES (Fairwinds, 2011). My magazine articles featuring natural remedies have appeared in such national publications as Better Homes and Gardens, Natural Health, Vegetarian Times and Remedy. You can see my non-fiction work at www.chrystlecontent.com and my fiction at www.chrystlefiedler.com.

4)      What authors do you admire? Laura Childs who write the Tea Shop Mysteries and two other series. I don’t know how she does it! She’s also been on the NY Times Bestseller List, a place I’d like to be someday! I also love Diane Mott Davidson, author of the catering mysteries. Her book Dying for Chocolate inspired me to write my first mystery.

5)      What do you do when you have writer's block? I rarely get writer’s block but I did so when I started Scent to Kill, the sequel to Death Drops. My friend who is also an author for Gallery Books suggested I relax and let the words flow instead of “trying” to MAKE something happen. Writing comes from a different place than thinking she said. I know now that it’s true! 

6)      When working on your current MS did you complete an outline first or did you just start writing? I have never outlined before Scent to Kill. I just started and let it flow. The characters told me what they wanted to do and say. I didn’t want to know who “dun” it. But after Death Drops, my editor wanted an outline for the second book so I had to do one. It was so much easier to have that framework. It makes it easier to get started every day and to keep going if you feel like stopping.

7)      What is your writing process like? My best writing happens in the morning until I have lunch usually around noon and after 4. For some reason 12 to 4 aren’t as productive. I don’t set a number of pages that’s too much like a real job! It’s usually difficult to get started but once I do, I feel like I’m transcribing, the words just come.

8)      Do you have an editor or agent? Yes, my editor is Kathy Sagan at Gallery Books and my fiction agent is Ann Collette of the Helen Rees Agency in Boston. Both of them are terrific at what they do!

9)      Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us? You bet! Here it is:
 Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery - Call me a nature nut. I love nature. I like to walk in nature, I use natural remedies, and I practice natural medicine as a naturopathic doctor in Los Angeles. So my “green exercise,” walking in the forest, this Friday morning fit right into that theme. It was part of the reason I’d traveled to Long Island, two hours east of New York City at the beginning of June, wanting to absorb by osmosis nature’s finest in a preserve the Nature Conservancy called one of nature’s last, best places. I’d come back to my hometown of Greenport, New York, an idyllic fishing village turned tourist mecca, to stay with my beloved aunt Claire, master herbalist and owner of Nature’s Way Market and Café, for my annual summer visit and to rest and recuperate. Death Drops: A Natural Remedies Mystery Dr. Willow McQuade, N.D., a twenty-eight-year-old naturopathic doctor specializing in natural remedies, has decided to take sabbatical and visit her Aunt Claire, the owner of Nature’s Way Market and Cafe in idyllic Greenport, Long Island. But the idea of rest and relaxation is quickly forgotten when Willow arrives from a morning meditative walk to discover her Aunt Claire dead in the store, a strange almond-like smell emanating from her mouth and a bottle of flower essences by her side.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Last Chance for 1000 Words of Love

Today is the last chance to enter the 1000 Words of Love Contest. Please click the link for more information.

Best of luck, Happy Writing and Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pen Names: Reasons for Having a Literary Alter Ego

This is a guest post by Harriet Larkin.

Throughout history countless famous writers have worked under a pen name, that special pseudonym chosen to represent themselves in their literary life. In fact, some writers have more than one pen name, allowing them to surf across genres and spread their fictional talent in many different ways.

Deciding whether to use a pen name is a difficult decision and there are multiple reasons to deciding to or deciding not to use one. Historically, female authors have chosen to use a male name to further the chance of their work being published, with the most notable women including the Brontë sisters publishing under the names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell and Mary Ann Evans using George Eliot as her chosen pen name. In the 19th century some of the most popular authors were women masquerading under men’s names, as this tended to ensure their work would be accepted by publishing companies. There are many other reasons a writer may choose to use a pen name and there are additional benefits from doing so. 

The Tool of the Prolific Author - An author who can produce several novels in one year is not necessarily seen positively by publishers but if you’re good, they may publish your works under a chosen pen name or if you self-publish you can make it seem less like one person publishing book after book. This technique worked for Stephen King who was discouraged from publishing more than one novel a year under his own name managed to convince Signet Books to print seven novels under the pen name Richard Bachman. The true identity of Bachman was revealed in the mid-eighties and it didn’t detract from King’s success. Prolific authors can protect their integrity and keep producing the work they have to give.

To Fit in with Genre - Novelists switching between genres sometimes choose to use an original pen name that fits better into the genre. For example, a bestselling thriller writer may choose to use a different name when trying their hand at romance as their name is already synonymous with the thriller genre. Similarly, there are supposed norms in some genres, which many authors take up to ensure their works, are recognized. One such example is in fantasy and science fiction writing where many authors choose to use their initials as opposed to their first name. Although this isn’t strictly a pen name it is really something we have come to recognize within that genre, famous authors include J R R Tolkein, J G Ballard and H G Wells. Pen names are very popular in writers of the romance genre. Publishers and authors alike believe that romance novels are best penned with names which would suit their characters with pseudonyms of romance authors including Constance Heaven, Lael St. James and Jacqueline Diamond. It seems in this genre authors really do sell novels on the basis of their name as well as their story.

Taking the Plunge - If you’re a new writer and you’re still a bit dubious about sharing your first publication with your friends and family, then a pen name is great choice. Being a published author is a great accolade but is something that could interfere with your everyday life, especially if you are prominent across the web. It’s not unknown for prospective employers to look up potential employees online and some people believe that having published works in their name available may adversely affect their chances in the job market. This seems a pretty fickle reason really as all authors should be proud of their works but it is understandable if someone working in a particular industry and indulging in self-publishing or fiction in their spare time wants to protect their identity. It’s common amongst bloggers and other online platforms and these are all just a step forward from fiction writing.

Some people decide they need a pen name to produce their best works whereas with others it becomes a part of their career as they grow. Deciding whether you need or want a pen name is a key part of your writing process as it will stay with you for all time once you’ve published under it. Think about it on a personal level and a professional level and from there you should be able to decide if a pen name is a good idea for you.

Harriet Larkin is the pen name and alter ego of a full time saleswoman who freelances and blogs in her spare time. Although she spends her days selling leather sofas and beds, she has an extensive back catalogue of literary and informational blog posts and feature articles to her (pen) name.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Smart Cookie

Thank you Rebecca Kiel for awarding me this yummy prize. Of course, now I'm craving chocolate chips!

Rules for recipients:
1) Thank and provide a link to the persona who awarded you.
2) Share 4 interesting or little known facts about anything.
3) Pass the award on to other "smart cookies".

Hmm...four interesting or little known facts... since this is a "sweet" award, it seems fitting my facts be about sweets.

1) Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, like many women,  I LOVE chocolate. However, there is ONE non chocolate candy I am prone to buying repeatedly: NECCO's.
2) NECCO stands for : New England Confectionery Company.
3) The company dates back to 1847 and
4) It's the oldest multiline candy manufacturer in the US.

And the award goes to:

1) Paula Martin
2) Jess Ferguson
3) Sherry Perkins
4) Jan Rider Newman
5) Beth Savoie

Share the sweetness - Happy Writing!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Author Interview: Jan Rider Newman

Jan Rider Newman was born and raised in south central Louisiana, in the heart of Cajun country. Her family members were farmers and oilfield workers, most of whom spoke Cajun French as a first language, English as a second -- if at all.

Later in life, she moved to a larger town in southwest Louisiana, attended university, and earned three degrees, including a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing. She has published short stories, poetry, and nonfiction, and has earned prizes for her work as well as grants from the Louisiana Council of the Arts.
1)      How did you develop an interest in writing? I didn't. It developed an interest in me. I started pretending and acting out stories as a small child. My mom taught me to read at four, and I could never get enough—still can't. We got a TV around the time I was nine, and that further fired my imagination, though not always in a good way. I sometimes think I've spent my writing life overcoming some very bad TV influences. I wrote my first story at eleven or twelve. Writing has never been a conscious choice.
2)      Please tell me a little about your blog and website. My website is recent and something I gave a lot of thought to before launching: http://janridernewman.com/. The final product pleases me, and I hope it will be well received in general. I'm a country girl to the core, but I have been to college and live in town now. I hope the website and blog speak well for both experiences. I've blogged at Beyond Acadia: Reading, Writing & Living Well http://janridernewman.blogspot.com/ since 2009. I write about experiences, books, writing, and gripes. My approach was scattershot—still is to some extent—and not always successful. I've taken a hiatus or two but never given up altogether. Lately, I've focused more on books, publishing, and writing. But there is more to living well, and I try to get into that by posting things I'm passionate about or find odd or funny or worth caring about.
3)      I see you are working on a MS - please tell me a little about it. The End of All Roads is complete! It's a fantasy/paranormal novel of about 70,000 words set in 16th century Hungary and Transylvania—there are no vampires in it! The two regions at the time were under Ottoman rule, though Transylvania had more autonomy. It's a fascinating time in history, a very bad time to be a nobody. So naturally my heroine and her family are nobodies caught in forces and conflicts beyond their depth. I got the idea, a whole scene really, in a dream. I dreamed a scene. At the time I was writing a historical literary novel about the 1755 Acadian expulsion from Nova Scotia, something I've gone back to now that TEOAR is complete and out looking for an agent. The fantasy novel intruded and demanded to be written—it was pretty obnoxious, really.
4)      What other styles/genres do you write? Short stories, poetry, book reviews, and other nonfiction. If you look up my CV either on the blog or the website, you'll see some of the places where I've published.
5)      What authors do you admire? Got a couple of days? Lori Roy, Margaret Mazzantini, Sarah Dunant, Ann Patchett, Reginald Hill (who recently died), Elizabeth George, Joseph O'Connor, Oscar Wilde, William Trevor, Frank O'Connor, and W. B. Yeats (as long as we're on an Irish roll!), Ray Bradbury, Charlaine Harris, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, John Crowe Ransom, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Leslie Schultz, Barbara Kingsolver, C. S. Lewis, Louisa May Alcott, the Brontë sisters, Jane Austen—and are you bored now?
6)      What music, places, people inspire you? The rural/small town landscapes and people where I grew up: the south central Louisiana prairies where rice fields, Cajun music, families, churches, and honky tonks thrive. You can see so much sky in the country, but the horizon is limited by trees. I have always loved the sounds of blackbirds and remember ribbons and ribbons of them migrating, miles of blackbirds. My fingers start itching for a pencil when I think about those days, that birdsong, and those people—so, so many of them gone now.
7)      Have you ever attended a writer's conference? I've attended several of the Bayou Writers' conferences. In 2009 I went to the NOLA-STARS RWA conference in Shreveport—really terrific. When USL, now UL-Lafayette, had conferences I went to several of those and won/placed in three of their contests. I've attended Writers Guild of Acadiana conferences, and I went to the Santa Fe Writers' Conference once—fell in love, love, love with Santa Fe and New Mexico and also met a poet who's still a friend. The biggest, and longest, conference I've attended is the one at the University of the South at Sewanee, TN, where I fell in love with Sewanee, TN, and met some great writers, one of whom is still a friend. When the Golden Triangle Writers Guild had big, big conferences, I attended a few of those. I recommend writers conferences to beginners and those with a finished book to shop around. Conferences can be fun and helpful for anyone, of course, but I think those two classes of writers benefit from them most. Also look for conferences with contests. If the fees aren't too high, enter, enter, enter.
8)      When working on your current MS did you complete an outline first or did you just start writing? I can't outline my way out of a grocery list. I'm a pantster.
9)      What are you reading now? The Last of the Mohicans, that classic I've been meaning to read. As an exercise in patience, it's terrific. (My advice: see the Daniel Day Lewis and Madeleine Stowe movie.) Seriously, the book is better than I expected. The guy just goes onnnnn. Tell me what happens next, already.
10)  If you could subscribe to only one literary journal or magazine, which would it be? The Missouri Review is the best literary journal for the kind of writing to which I aspire. I believe in reading better work than I've written, which isn't all that hard. It inspires me, goads me, to do better. Always do better, or what's the point?

Friday, February 3, 2012

1000 Words of Love Contest

They say love is priceless. Here is your chance to prove (or disprove) it in 1,000 words or less. I cannot offer payment at this time, but the winning story (in 1,000 words or less and with a theme of love) will be printed in a future post on this blog.

This makes a great writing exercise and provides another listing on your resume'. 
Submission Guidelines:
1.) I am open to most genres as long as the main focus of the story is based on love. You may submit fiction or nonfiction. Ex. Love of family, love of reading, romance, unrequited love, Why I hate Valentines etc.

2.) Please, NO erotica, graphic language or scenes; No gratuitous sex scenes or shock-effect vulgarity. Nothing "X" rated. Any stories with these qualities will be disqualified. I reserve the right to edit (with your final approval) before posting the winning story.

3.) Send as a Word Document or RTF attachment – if neither of these is possible, you may submit in the body of the email.

4.) This must be an original story and previously unpublished. You will retain the rights to your story.

5.) Must be 1,000 words or less.

6.) Send submission to writinginwonderland@gmail.com with the subject line “1000 Words of Love Contest".

7.) Include your title and byline/writing as name below title.

8.) Include a short (2-4 sentences) biography, written in the third person, following your story. This will run with your story (if selected for publication). You may include your personal web or blog address if you wish.

9.) Please send only ONE submission. Subsequent submissions will be discarded. Be sure you are finished with your story before you submit it.

10.) I will send a short reply to let you know I have successfully received your story. If you don't receive a reply within 24 hours of submitting, please try again.

11.) I will NOT offer individual feedback or critiques on your submissions at this time.

The contest runs from today until February 13, 2012. I will accept any entries that are dated February 13. I will announce the winner by February 15, and publish the winning piece as soon as the author is happy with any necessary edits. If you have any questions, please leave them in a comment below or send them to the email address above.

Good luck and Happy Writing!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How Important is Social Media?

We live in a society that has gone virtual. In 2011:
-          More than 100 trillion emails were sent on the internet
-          Approximately 300 million websites were updated
-          More than 2 billion internet users worldwide
-          Approximately 200 million blogs on the internet (BlogPulse)
-          More than 2 billion videos viewed on Youtube
-          Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30
-          More than 96% of them utilize social media
-          Facebook added over 200 million users in less than a year with
-          60 million status updates happening daily on facebook
-          Approximately 40% of posts and comments left on social media are about products and brands
I have not included the stats for twitter, Google+, LinkedIn etc, but I believe you get the picture.
If so many readers, editors and agents are online, it makes sense that we should be there too. If they can’t find you, guess how much quality time and sales you’ll earn. If you are serious about becoming successful, you cannot afford to slack off on social media. You need to appear in as many places as possible to build your platform.
Of all the social media sites, most authors will tell you their blog has helped them stand out the most. They are a home base for socializing. You can engage people by sharing issues you’re passionate about. You can solicit interest, inspire, educate, encourage and entertain. Guest blogging can increase traffic to your own blog as well.
A friend of mine often says, “The more mud you sling, the more will stick.” The same is true in social media. The more places readers can find you, and the more frequently, the more loyal customers you will attract.
Yes, social media can become time consuming, but not if you manage it correctly. Limit your time online to one or two hours a day, post on your blog at least once a week with maybe a guest post on another site once a month. It is possible to market yourself effectively without sacrificing your main passion: writing your book or articles.
What are your thoughts or tips on social media?