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

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Not Another Social Media!

I recently joined Pinterest after reading this article by author Jody Hedlund; a writer I greatly admire. I also read this article by agent Rachelle Gardner. If you have not read these articles, or researched this medium, here are just a few reasons you might want to consider joining Pinterest:
1)                  This infographic by TalkingFinger shows how important Pinterest is becoming:

• It has 1.36 million users DAILY.
• It generates more traffic to websites than Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube combined.
• There is a 145% daily user increase since the beginning of 2012.
• Over one-fifth of connected Facebook users are on Pinterest daily (which amounts to over 2 million people).
And here's another insightful infographic: Interest in Pinterest Reaches a Fever Pitch.
2) Pinterest provides key visual stimuli. A recent study shows that Pinterest drives more revenue per click than Twitter or Facebook.
3) Pinterest puts us into contact with more people than our followers. Every time you pin something that is “categorized” it will show up in that particular category under the “Everything” list which anyone can access. That means your pin has the potential to reach more than your followers.
4) Pinterest allows us to connect with readers in a unique way. On Pinterest, readers will get a better picture of my interests as well as my works. My boards display my love of reading, writing, creating, teaching, beauty and chocolate. I invite you to stop by and see what all the fuss is about.
(You need an invitation to join so ask a friend or colleague who is already a member).
Are you using pinterest? Why or why not? What are your tips for using this media?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Word Count Woes

My guest post Word Count Woes is on the Bayou Writer's Group blog today. If you have time, please stop by to share your thoughts, advice, criticisms etc.

Happy Writing!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

5 Books for Graduates

Graduation season is here! So what do you give your favorite student as they start out on this new phase of life? Here are five great books that you can buy as graduation gifts.

1) "By-Line Ernest Hemingway," edited by William White -  A collection of Hemingway's non-fiction work (i.e., as a reporter), there's something in here for everybody. From the serious (war reporting) to the silly (getting a free shave at a barber college), it's all sublime prose. And if you don't like one story, you can just skip to the next (there are more than 75). There are themes about growing up and wanderlust, both of which should appeal to the recent grad.

2) Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss - Always a popular gift:  "But on you will go though the weather be foul. On you will go though your enemies prowl. On you will go though the Hakken-Kraks howl." In the end, though, it's encouraging for anyone about to start a new chapter in their life: "And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)" If you have a little one just starting school, consider buying this now and having the teachers sign it at the end of each year, then give it for graduation.

3) Making a Difference by Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger - A household name since he executed an emergency airplane landing on the Hudson River in 2009, he has written this book about other people's outstanding achievements. His subjects - standouts in government, education, business and more - have all faced adversity, and their responses to difficult, even horrible, situations shwed character and solidified leadership. Aspiring leaders will find plenty to emulate.

4) Worth It...Not Worth It? by Jack Otter - This personal finance expert believes with emotions in check and information in hand, money matters can be managed well and with confidence. He addresses propositions regarding credit cards, loans, travel, real estate, investing and more. The "Getting Started" section is aimed at students, recent graduates and first job holders.

5) Getting from College to Career by Lindsey Pollak - Designed as a guide to everything graduates need to do before even thinking about job interviews. Pollack offers tips, commiserations and humor in this approach to success. This guide is meant to make resume-writing and job-interviewing a whole lot easier.

What books would you recommend buying for graduation presents?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

10 Tips for a Better Writing Environment

Whether you are just getting to your spring cleaning or you are setting up a new place for everyday writing, these tips are designed to help you maximize the potential in your writing environment.
1. It doesn’t matter if you are lucky enough to have an entire room dedicated to being an office, if you work in the spare bedroom or whether you have to work at the dining room table – keep it tidy. If your desk is clear and free from clutter there’s a better chance that your mind will be too.
2. Have the necessary equipment. You can still write successfully without access to the Internet, or even a computer, but it does make life a lot easier. And we haven’t yet achieved the ‘paperless office’ so a filing cabinet – or some form of storage for files – is more or less essential. And don’t forget supplies of stationery and any necessary reference books. You might be able to ‘google’ any information you need but most writers still build up a library of their favorite reference books.
3. Be organized as well as tidy. When you sit down to write have everything you need at hand. There’s nothing more distracting than having to jump up every few minutes to get something you’ve forgotten.
4. You also need to be disciplined. Some people write better in the morning when they’re fresh. Others can burn the midnight oil when everyone else is in bed. Find what works best for you and then make sure that you fit some time for writing into your life. You might not manage this every day but the more regularly you write – just like exercising your body – the stronger your ‘writing muscles’ will become. In Bird by Bird Anne Lamott recommends setting a goal of at least 300 words a day.
5. Don’t be afraid to be anti-social. When you’re concentrating on your writing let the phone ring (consider shutting off the ringer during this time) and then check your answering machine later. Tell family that you want some ‘me time’ for your writing and make it clear to friends that you are working – so stopping by for coffee and gossip isn’t an option. Turn off email, twitter, facebook, pinterest etc. during this time.
6. Make sure you are comfortable. Are the light levels right? Is your chair at the right height? Are you sitting at the correct distance from your keyboard and screen? Is the temperature right? Is there enough fresh air/ventilation? Sometimes these factors can be difficult to control but try your best – it pays dividends for both your creativity and your health.
7. We hear so much in the media about ensuring that you drink enough water, and it is true. Nothing zaps your concentration and gives you a headache faster than dehydration. You might need a strong coffee or soda to kick-start your brain but then leave the caffeine alone and drink lots of water.
8. The same goes for exercise. If you settle down to write for a prolonged period, make sure you get up every thirty minutes or so to stretch your legs and take a few deep breaths. I find a ten minute walk or workout (something to get the cardio going) does wonders for both my concentration and creativity.
9. You’ll find that it really aids your creativity if you are surrounded by things that give you pleasure. A nice view from your window, pictures of people or places that you love, scented candles, books you love, etc.
10. Even the best designed writing nooks can become tedious or block creativity from time to time. Sometimes you need a new environment or at least the thought of one to jump start the muse again. Try visiting a library, bookstore or just imagine your dream environment whenever yours isn’t available.
What tips or tricks do you have to enhance your reading and writing environment?

Monday, May 14, 2012

5 Keys to Unleashing Your Imagination

1)      Draw on all of your life experiences – Anything that has happened to you or someone you know can be inspiration. Look for the nostalgia of the experience. Write about it. If you are writing fiction, go bigger. Add more perks or sacrifices to the scenario and pretty soon you can have a humorous or moving tale to share. If you are writing nonfiction, look for the moments worth remembering. Rick Bragg is wonderful at capturing those times.
2)      Remove the limits and consider all possible solutions – Writers often impose boundaries on themselves. You worry about what is “right” or “real” when the truth is, readers don’t want static narration (even in biographies). Explore, experiment and question every scene. Ask yourself what else might happen, even if it’s an absurd approach or new idea. Try it. Those are the works readers remember. Creative people look at situations from a variety of angles. They can visualize dozens, maybe even hundreds of solutions. Look for every possible idea before you willingly settle on one.
3)      Silence your inner critic – Perhaps the most difficult task for a writer is to stop editing themselves long enough to complete the story. A voice inside will always whisper “Is that right,” “Does this work”, “Will ___ think this is original enough?” These thoughts inhibit our creativity and can cause complete shut-down.
4)      To be creative, be courageous – Day dream frequently. Dream big and dream bold. Then be willing to risk everything to share those dreams with others. Don’t stick to the rules laid out for you, make your own. Walt Disney had a wonderful saying: “Let’s plus it.” His Imagineers would come to him with an idea or model for a new creation and no matter how good it was, he would ask them how they could “plus it”. Go bigger with your story, push the envelope, plus it.
5)      Work hard – Build on your dreams. Execute them. Show others why your dream is right. Ask yourself, “What if -?” Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird shows writers some beautiful examples of living for their dream and developing a story, forcing editors to see the worth in the tale. In this book, she offers some valuable insight and advice not just on writing, but for life itself.
What helps you unleash your imagination? Are there any particular places, people, music, movies or books that have helped charge your muse?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Free Writer's Digest Webinar: Blog Your Book

Event Date: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Event Start Time: 1:00 p.m. EDT
Event Duration: 60 minutes
Cost: $0 – enjoy the free webinar!
To register: click here.

Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the presentation and the materials for one year. The archived version will be e-mailed within 7 days of the live event.

Blogs provide writers with a quick and easy way to write a book. Blogs are also a superb way to build author platform and gain exposure to agents and publishers at the same time. The savvy writer, therefore, wants to use blogging as a unique way to not only write a book, but to also promote it—one post at a time. In this free webinar, you'll learn why you should be blogging your book and how to get started today!

Nina Amir, Inspiration-to-Creation Coach, inspires writers to create the results they desire—publishable and published products and careers as writers and authors. She is a seasoned journalist, nonfiction editor, proposal consultant, blogger, blog-to-book coach, and book and author coach with more than 33 years of experience in the publishing field. She is also the founder of Write Nonfiction in November, a blog and writing challenge. She also is a popular speaker on topics related to publishing, writing and human potential, as well as the author of 11 books. Her latest book is How to Blog a Book, Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer's Digest Books, April 2012).

Contact WritingWebinars@fwmedia.com

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Review: Mrs. Tuesday's Departure - Suzanne Anderson

Ms. Anderson has given us a fresh glimpse of the holocaust of WW II. Hungary's fragile alliance with Germany kept Natalie, an author, and her family out of harm's way during most of the war. Now, as Hitler grows desperate at the conclusion of the conflict, so does the threat to the people of Hungary. Natalie's younger sister Ilona married a Jewish man, putting her and her 12 year old daughter Mila at risk. Meanwhile, Natalie's twin sister Anna, is falling into dementia.
Ilona and her husband leave on the last train out of Budapest, purposefully abandoning her daughter and sisters. Natalie tries to keep what is left of her family safe, but Anna's paranoid outbursts threaten the possibility to escape. Natalie is forced to make a choice, should she save her niece, or her sister?
Ms. Anderson deftly re-creates the fear lurking among the occupied citizenry; fear that made them grow suspicious of one another, fear of starving due to the food shortages, opportunists who sold out others to ensure safety or obtain money and food, and even the horrible terror in waiting to see if they would be the next to be taken away to the Nazi death camps. Jews and Gentiles alike suffered.
The character interactions create tension, suspense, sympathy, and empathy that will keep the reader interested. However, some awkward or unedited dialogue may confuse readers from time to time. Ms. Anderson’s masterful use of description places the reader among the chaotic feelings of the time causing you to root for the main characters. This was a very compelling and haunting story, but was arranged and ended a bit awkwardly.  However, this book is still worth your time.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Western Roundup Giveaway Hop

First Annual Western Roundup Giveaway Hop

July 20th - 26th

Featuring books with cowboys! (or mountain men, or the old west, or cowgirls, rancher wannabe, historical, contemporary, etc) Cowboys are sexy and deserve a hop of their own. The western genre has exploded beyond old west and romance to include werewolves, wizards and other magical beings. Want to meet a charming cowboy or tough as nails cowgirl? Want to know what magic has to do with the old west? Want an old-fashioned historical western romance? Well then, hop on and enjoy the ride!

Hop Rules
  • You can feature any book in the western genre, with cowboys, cowgirls, mountain men...you get the idea. It can be paranormal, supernatural, historical, romantic, etc as long as it has cowboys. (Note: You don't have to be an author to participate, just a book blogger and if you're an author, you don't have to give away your own book-let's get creative and have some fun!).
  • The book cannot contain steamy covers or erotica.
  • Blogs must be 'family-friendly' (no 18+ over sites).
  • It can be a printed copy or an ebook.
  • You may feature just one book or multiple books that meet this criteria.  You may have just one winner or multiple winners.
  • No gift cards.
  • There can only be 3 possible entries per person.  1 mandatory entry and up to 2 optional entries. 
  • The Hop Image and Linky must be part of your post.
  • Your post must be live by 12:01 AM EST on Friday July 20th.  Plan to put your post up anytime after 3:00 PM EST on Thursday, July 19th.

There's a prize for participating blogs too! 

At the end of the hop, we'll have a drawing where one participating blog will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card and a western ebook of their choice ($5 value).
To sign up or meet other participants, please click the button in the sidebar or here.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Free Download: Crafting Novels and Short Stories

It’s been a while since I’ve shared news of a free download. So, here you go. I’ve been hearing good things about this book for quite some time, but had not yet purchased it since my “To be Read” pile is so high. Luckily for us, this is now available as a free download to both Kindle and nook users.
From the editors of Writer's Digest, with a forward by James Scott Bell, the overview states:
Learn How to Create Stories That Captivate Agents, Editors, and Readers Alike!
Inside you'll find the tools you need to build strong characters, keep your plots moving, master the art of dialogue, choose the right point of view, and more.
This comprehensive book on the art of novel and short story writing is packed with advice and instruction from best-selling authors and writing experts like Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Sims, Hallie Ephron, N.M. Kelby, Heather Sellers, and Donald Maass, plus a foreword by James Scott Bell. You'll learn invaluable skills for mastering every area of the craft:
  • Define and refine your characters.
  • Make your plot and conflict high-energy and intense.
  • Hone your story's point of view.
  • Create a rich setting and backstory.
  • Craft dialogue that rings true.
  • Select the right words and descriptions throughout your story.
  • Revise your story to perfection.
Throughout you'll find supplemental sections that cover special topics like getting started, beating writer's block, researching your work, and getting published. They'll help you integrate your skills into a balanced, productive, and fulfilling career.
Whether you're writing flash fiction, a short story, a novel, or an epic trilogy, you'll come away with the tools you need for strong and effective storytelling.
Happy reading and writing!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Opportunities for Writers

During the "A to Z" challenge, I missed sharing some information with you. First, if you have time, Southern Writer's magazine published one of my articles for the week of Shakespeare's birthday. You can find it here. 
Below are three opportunities for writers. If you know of any others, please share in the comments below or shoot me an email. Happy Writing!

1) Military Stories - Share with the public any short stories you may have with a humorous and/or enlightening experience in military life. These stories will be published by Publisher’s Syndicate of California in an anthology titled Not Your Mother’s Books: Military Life. Consisting of real-life stories written by individuals 18 years and older, the Not Your Mother’s Books series is tailored for a mature-audience readership; stories may contain language and situations akin to a PG-13 or TV-14 rating. While not all stories will fall into this rating system, the series will not focus on death/dying, cry-your-eyes out sad selections, but only hip, fun, modern and very-much-today type stories that will entertain our readers. We are looking for short stories (500 to 2500 words) from veterans, active members of the military and military family members who have the kinds of fun and interesting tales about the side of the military life that most civilians will never hear, but would certainly appreciate if they did. Tell us about those special actions or programs that helped a local family or community or one of your own, whether in a war zone, an overseas base or back in the States. We need stories about the lessons learned when you went out of your way to do good. And the joke you played on a comrade-in-arms (or that were played on you) that he or she also laughed at. While military history is important, it's not the focus of this book, so please do not submit detailed accounts of military operations and campaigns. Compensation and submission guidelines are on the web site with other important information at www.publishingsyndicate.com

Once on the web site click on GET PUBLISHED in Box 1. Then click on Submit your stories for Not Your Mother’s Books. Be sure to read and follow the submission guidelines as well as the do's and don’ts, hyperlinked in the guidelines. All entries must be submitted through their site electronically. Also on the guidelines page, please note the book cover Not Your Mother’s Books: Military Life in the right hand column. In the left column is a listing of other book titles asking for submissions. If they don’t have a military story, perhaps one of the other titles is more to their liking.

2) Inspirational -  www.agreatplace.ca is collecting inspirational stories from everyday people. If your submission is chosen as a feature, you can reference your blog or web page and include an author's photo. Please know they make no money from this site. You can submit a story about any moment, small or large, that you feel inspired you or perhaps couldn't forget...something that made you thankful or changed your perspective.
Submit something that comes from your heart.

3) Local Library - Many libraries are looking for speakers and writers to help with summer programs. Audiences would include both children, teen and adult programs. If you are interested, please contact your local librarian.