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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

5 Easy Questions with P.W. Creighton!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.


Thank you for joining me in welcoming… P.W. Creighton!!

Phillip is one of my favorite friends I met through Twitter. He's genuine, supportive, and a tremendous writer--and get this, he just signed a contract with Astrea Press for his debut novel, Nightfall,  a supernatural and psychological thriller, which will be released in early fall. You can read more about Nightfall after the interview. Congratulations, Phillip, and thank you so much for being my guest today!
 
Let's get to it!
 
1. Beverage of Choice? 
 
When I'm not up to three in the morning or suffering withdrawal from still having our local Dunkin closed I prefer to keep the caffeine levels up with a Mt. Dew Whiteout. There's just something about a high dose of caffeine and grapefruit/citrus.


2. Any Pets?

Three fat contented house cats. Camus Hubert, a 20lb lazy tiger; Tristan Marie, Camus' slim little silver/grey sister (Also the alpha); and Issie Niamh their other sister, a polydactyl black tortoise shell long-hair. Yes she was named after the Japanese sea monster.

3. Dream Vacation?

Trip to Europe. Riding along the coast of Ireland, exploring Scottish castles, the Tower of London, Liverpool (for the Beatles), sailing on the English Channel, walking along the Seine River in Paris and of course driving on the Nürburgring in Germany.

4. What are you listening to now?

I usually alternate between stations on Slacker Radio. Depending on the scene it can vary between 80's pop/New Wave or darker mood music like Poet's of the Fall, Porcupine Tree, Poe, Nick Cave or it could be club music to the likes of Daft Punk, Kevin Rudolph, Kylie or Paul Oakenfold. Really depends on the scene and mood and my music switches with it.

5. What's for Dinner?

Tonight the plan is for tropical chicken. Grilled chicken in tropical fruit over rice with a few spices. Sounds a lot more elaborate and complex than it is to make.

Phillip, your cats' names crack me up! They sound adorable and quite the characters. And, I'm completely with you on caffeine via Mountain Dew. You've got me intrigued about your music choices--several are new to me, and I will be checking them out. Tropical chicken has a nice, summer ring to it!

Thank you for being my guest today! And I must say your biography fascinates me. Sounds adventurous!

Nightfall ~

Three years after everyone important to Connor Maitland was murdered by a fanatical cult he is still attempting to put his life back together. Accompanied by his ex-girlfriend and business partner, Alison Herne, he is making a living as a jack-of-all-trades running a security company, sailing charters, and even photographing weddings out of Dolliber Cove, Massachusetts. Connor’s world is finally coming back together until they find one of Alison’s ghost hunter friends murdered.

When a childhood love he thought was dead, appears on his doorstep during their investigation, Connor is forced to confront memories he convinced himself were the delusions of a man deep into grief. They are being stalked by a mysterious man who appears to know far too many of their secrets, as well as Connor’s. After Alison is almost killed confronting her occult past, it is impossible for Connor to deny the connection between the cases. Someone is attempting to end Connor’s life and the lives of all those who surround him.

The crazed rantings of the murderous cult may be the key to his survival.

P.W. Creighton
Originally from California, I moved frequently, living in many places including Vermont, Tennessee and currently New York where I took my interest in adventure to college earning a Bachelors in Folklore Anthropology, Archaeology and Art Studio. Between rock climbing, sailing and paranormal investigations, I was able to produce content for a wide array of media outlets including regional publications, Fox News and PBS TV.



After having my work displayed as gallery exhibits and in many regional books, I returned to college for an MSed as a Communications Specialist in Media Production. Now, I write bi-monthly articles for Town Square Media in Central New York while working as a marketing specialist for Site-Seeker Inc and writing a series of novels. 

For more information about P.W. Creighton, check out his blog, Writing Files, friend him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter!

How do you celebrate the fourth of July?
 
Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Magazine Layouts and Your Blog/Website

Websites and magazines have a lot in common. Both lure readers in and attempt to keep their attention as long as possible. Both aim to have the reader come back for more, and both provide interesting content.

Magazines
Photo by hectoralejandro

Since I'm in the process of redesigning my website, I've been studying website design manuals and blogs by designers, and I've spent hours evaluating other author sites (mainly in the genre I write) to get a feel for colors, themes, appropriate pages, and content.

I came to the conclusion that our websites and/or blogs should emulate magazine layouts. They should be colorful and pleasing to the eye. The feature story (blog or note from author) should be placed prominently, and the reader shouldn't have to flip ahead (or click through links) to finish the entire piece.

Break Up the Text

It's also a good idea to include white space, or a buffer zone around the elements. Readers can't handle boxes and boxes of information crammed together with little separation. Make it easy on them--allow ample space between the elements.

Use headers and different colors to train the eye to various sections. Pictures add to the overall tone of the site--use them to set the mood. And, naturally, be specific about the tone you're setting. Authors of light romances should shy away from goth-looking sites with red accents, skull pictures, or lightning bolts. Help the reader match their expectations.

Make It Easy To Find Your Content

The navigation bar is similar to the table of contents--keep it prominent, consistent across all pages, and make it easy to understand.

To keep readers coming back, update your content. If you have a blog, post regularly. If you have a website, update it in a timely manner and make sure the updates either appear on your home page or are referenced there. It won't do you much good if you're adding a new article on your Articles page each week but you're not announcing it on your blog or home page. Most people head straight to your home page and if the content remains the same from January to June (or your last blog post was six months ago), they assume you aren't updating the rest of your site either.

Glossy Paper/High Performance

The quality of paper counts, and your operating system does too. Are you using a basic template for your blog? I recommend it. These often are optimized for quick loading times and for SEO performance. Is your website sized for popular browsers? Does each page have keywords and descriptions for search engines and readers to find your site?

Stay Current
My favorite magazines often add new features and tweak the overall look on an annual basis. Freshen your site every six to twelve months by cleaning up your side bar or tweaking your theme.

Subscriptions and Sharing
Those postcard subscription inserts in magazines? Think of them as your social media buttons. Feature a button to subscribe to your blog through an RSS feed, by e-mail, or through Google Friend Connect. Also, you want people to be able to be able to find you wherever you are online. Prominently display links to your Twitter page, your Facebook page, your Goodreads page, or anywhere you network. And the same way magazines encourage people to give gift subscriptions, simplify your blog's sharing process by including a "retweet" button and 'Facebook Like" button.

How Magazines and Websites Differ
On the flip side, I read a fantastic article by Thomas Umstattd Jr., CEO of Umstattd Media, on the differences between print design and web design. "Why Print Designers Fail at Web Design" is linked and worth a read. In fact, I recommend his entire site, Author Tech Tips, for any writer.

What did I miss? How can a blog or website benefit from magazine layouts?

Enjoy your Monday!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Minor Adjustments for Major Impact

The ball whooshed through the air toward my son who waited with a wide stance and a baseball bat near his shoulder. He swung...and missed. The next time he was up to bat, the same thing happened and, again, he struck out.

Baseball at Dodgers Stadium
Photo by rafamado

What happened? His form looked great. His swing? On time and powerful.

At the next practice, the coach came up to him and said, "You're pulling back a fraction of a second on your swing." Then he showed him the minor adjustment to make, and my son's strike-out streak ended. The next game, he made it on base every time.

It occurred to me that writing is the same way. We study craft books, articles, and workshops to fix the big problems, but often, minor adjustments can have major impact. Often we understand how to create a fascinating plot and we have dynamic characters in our head, but little things in our manuscripts prevent us from making it to base with an agent or editor. We're a fraction away from hitting the ball, and we don't even know it.

Minor Adjustments Worth Evaluating in Your Manuscript:

Technical:
* Have I varied sentence structure? Read a page out loud to verify the writing doesn't sound sing-song-ish or choppy.
* Am I repeating phrases and words? This is where critique partners come in handy. They'll pick up on any offenders.
* Do my modifiers modify the right word? Take half an hour to brush up on basic grammar.
* Have I used sharp, unique words? Avoid vague, generic descriptions.

Beginning of Each Scene:
* Have I given enough information to ground the reader in setting? (Who, what, where, when?)
* Does the reader have a clear reason for reading this scene? (Why? or Scene goal?)
* Does the reader know whose point of view the scene is in?

Characterization:
* Have I shown the main character through a mixture of dialogue, action, and thoughts? All three are necessary.

Showing vs. Telling:
* Do any passages take me out of the character's head? If yes, could I be telling instead of showing? Find a way to get the information across through the character.

Pacing:
* Am I slowing down dialogue with too many character thoughts, descriptions, or action tags? Pare down.
* Could the dialogue benefit with more thoughts from the character, descriptions, or action tags? We're aiming for a full-bodied read. Dialogue alone is necessary in some scenes but too bare-bones for others.
* In any scene with only one character (usually a sequel), have I included actions to ground the reader? If the character sits on the couch and ruminates over a fight, have her physically doing something every few paragraphs as she broods.
* Is the tension mounting at the right times in the book? Tension should ebb and flow, growing stronger as the book progresses.

Formatting:
* Is this manuscript formatted to basic standards (1" margins, easy-to-read 12 pt. font such as Times New Roman, double-spaced, proper header, chapters begun on new page)?

I know I've left out many other areas we can evaluate the strengths of our books. Will you need to adjust every detail I listed? Of course not! Chances are, you're agile at most of them. But one or two might have you wondering, and those are the ones worth looking into.

With thousands, if not millions, of writers trying to get published, and many writers deciding to self-publish, it's worth spending time on minor adjustments. Clean, powerful writing can only help us stand out from the crowd!

What minor adjustment has made a major impact on your writing?

Have a fantastic Friday!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Janna Qualman!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.


Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Janna Qualman!!

Janna is one of those bloggers whose voice captures you immediately. It's hard to describe: mellow, soothing, sophisticated, and smart. I've enjoyed watching her journey over the past few years. She's a contributor and prose editor of Rose & Thorn Literary Journal, a contributor to An Army of Ermas, and a talented novelist. I know it won't be long before Janna's books are on shelves! 



 
Let's get to it!
 
1. Beverage of choice?


I have several favorites, but if I had to choose just one? A fountain Dr Pepper. Especially with pizza or a delicious loaded sandwich or something. But then if it’s more a treat-type thing I’m after, and there’s not really any food involved, I’d take an iced mocha (made with whole milk, please).

 2. Any pets?

Here’s where I mention caring for and cleaning up after my husband, right? (Kidding.) We have a dog who’s getting old, and who loves to get up in your space for a nice long stare. Really, she wants to see into your soul, and if you are too busy reading a book, say, she will rest her paw on your forearm until you give her your fullest attention and deepest secret.

3. Dream vacation?

I have plans which include a beach house rental somewhere in Maine, food and drink and shopping and lazing about, with stacks of DVD’s and novels of women’s fiction. My best girls will go. This will be a celebration of sorts, a treat to all my encouragers, after books have been published and a long-held dream has been tasted.

4. What are you listening to right now?

From my balcony perch I hear lots. My new wind chimes are playing outdoors, and many birds are singing along. (They’re just so happy these days.) My husband and our sweet five-year-old daughter are chatting in the living room. I can hear my dryer turning and working in the background, and then there’s this clack of my fingers upon the keyboard.

If you were looking for an answer less literal, I’m loving OneRepublic’s newest CD, Waking Up. Those dudes rock, and I mean it.

5. What's for dinner?

Hamburgers, because this morning it seemed easiest to thaw a log of beef. I’m going to roast diced potatoes and baby carrots in the oven, with ranch seasoning and butter. Will probably add a fruit to the plate, as well, because it seems the thing to do.

Thanks, Janna, for being my guest today! I love that your dog can see right through your soul and demands all your secrets. My dog can see the plate to my right and demands the bagel on it. :) And what a dream trip! I love the idea of gathering friends for a retreat in Maine to celebrate how far we've come and just relax, laugh, and enjoy. Your description of what you're listening to is exactly what I'm talking about when I mentioned your voice--it sucks me in. Plus, you have excellent taste; I'm off to order the OneRepublic CD from my library...

Janna Qualman is a typical woman with the usual sorts of titles: wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend. She's also a freelance and fiction writer, and she's sure that words are her best ally. Visit her blog, Something She Wrote, to say hello and learn more and follow her on Twitter.


If you could plan a "celebration trip" with your besties, where would you go?
 
Have a lovely Wednesday!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why a Scene List Improves Your Writing

Have you ever created a scene list of your book? Did you form it before or after you wrote the book?

I'm a HUGE fan of scene lists. I always create one before I write the book. Since I'm a plotter, I know the main turning points and have a basic idea of subplots before I begin writing. The entire list might not be fully fleshed out when I tackle chapter one, but 75% of it will be.

Map of the mountain
Photo by kimba

Isn't a scene list a lot of extra work? Doesn't it take the fun and discovery out of writing?

Yes, to the first question. No, to the second.

It does take time and energy to fill out a scene list, but we have to figure out our story at some point--why not do it right away? And again, I'm a plotter. I find graphs, charts, and plot worksheets exciting. They don't take the fun and discovery out for me--they allow me the stress-free zone I need to work. If you're a pantster, you might want to plug your ears and leave the room for coffee now.

(If you're confused about what needs to be in a scene or how to plot one, feel free to check out my article, "Plotting the Scene," which is linked.)

So exactly how does a scene list improve your writing? Isn't it just a summary of your book? Why not write a synopsis and call it good?

Scene lists, although time-consuming to create, save you time throughout the life of a project, and they keep your book focused.

A scene list is much more than a synopsis. It's a map. It tells you the exact number of scenes (or sequels) you have in your book. It shows you how many scenes in a row are told from one person's point of view, alerting you that you may need to switch it up. At a glance you'll see overused setting locations (whoops, guess they were in the park five times already!) and vague plot goals. If you have fifty scenes, you'll know you've hit the mid-point too soon if you're writing it in scene thirteen.

Scene lists help you keep track of plot threads, sub-plots, pacing, and proper turning-point placement. They also give you a reference point each day when you sit down to write. That alone saves me ten minutes every writing session.

I've talked about my use of Microsoft OneNote to keep track of all research for a book. One of my pages is the scene list. I open the file alongside my Word document and flip back and forth to make sure I've covered everything necessary in the scene. I also leave notes in the scene list where I've left off for the day. For me, there's nothing worse than staring at a WIP with blank eyes and confusion. A quick peek at my scene list fires my brain, reminding me exactly where I need to pick up the story.

When the first draft is finished, the scene list can be extremely valuable. You can use it for a quick search of your manuscript--when did Aunt Betty give Jimbo the key again? Oh right, scene 23 in chapter 14. If your critique partner, agent, or editor asks you about a plot element and you can't remember the location, you can check your scene list.

Personally, I find the scene list to be helpful after I've completed a book. When I start a new project, I don't always remember off-hand how many scenes and chapters to aim for. It helps to scan an old scene list to refamiliarize myself with the number of scenes, turning point placement, and the types and placement of sub-plots.

Do you create scene lists? Why or why not? I'd love to hear your opinion!

Have a magnificent Monday!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Leave The Love Boat Alone!

The other night I saw an ad for the new television series Teen Wolf based on the popular eighties movie with the same name. This version looks edgy, dark, and exciting--the exact opposite of the original. I loved the movie and might like the television series if I ever get around to watching an episode, but the similarities between the two probably stop at the title.

I often enjoy the new directions old movies or television series take, but there's one show I hope doesn't make a comeback.


The Love Boat.


The Love Boat - ABC Daytime
Photo by flashbackwiki

As a kid, I adored The Love Boat. I may have even had a small crush on Gopher (but not Doc--yuck!). It was exciting watching the relatively innocent love connections being made on the ship. The Love Boat was honest-to-goodness family entertainment.

Can you imagine what The Love Boat would look like today?

I'm picturing a mix of Jersey Shore, The Real Wives of Anywhere, Bret Michaels' Rock of Love, Sex and the City, and Celebrity Rehab. I'm shuddering at the thought.

The cast would be barely clothed teenagers passing as cruise employees--Suite Life on Deck, this wouldn't be!--and if current hit shows on the CW or MTV can be trusted, the storylines would not be the family-oriented episodes I remember. Just because the words Love and Boat are in the title does not mean we need to have a debauched cruise!

Please, television producers, take Fantasy Island, take Charles in Charge, but leave my Love Boat alone!

Are there any movies or television series you consider hands' off for a remake?

Have a fabulous Friday!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Tana Adams!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.


Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Tana Adams!!


I've been following Tana's clever (and funny!) blog for years and am thrilled she's here today! Although we live on opposite ends of the country, her household and mine look very similar. We both even married our high school sweethearts! Tana is a super supportive, hilarious woman, and I'm so excited to see the new developments with her writing. Earlier this year, she accepted representation from Rachelle Gardner of WordServe Literary.





Let's get to it!
 
1. Beverage of choice?

Coffee please! Extra creamy and sweet. I’m a kid that way.

 2. Any pets?

No, but do furry people count? One 12 year old Golden and a pekingese. =)

3. Dream vacation?

Hawaii!!! The island of Kauai to be exact. I love that place. More please.

4. What are you listening to right now?

Adele! Isn’t everyone? I just love her angst. And who the heck cares what rolling in the deep actually means. I can feel what it means.*sigh*

5. What's for dinner?

Depends what the kids feel like ordering. I sort of wish I was kidding.

Tana, even our beverages match--I barely function without creamy, sugary coffee! And, yep, furry people absolutely count. My furry baby (Sophie the mini-weenie dog) is snuggled on my lap as I type this. Golden's are such sweet dogs and Pekingese--aren't they fluffy? I'm a softie when it comes to fluff! Kauai? Sign me up. Now.

Thank you so much, Tana, for being my guest today! I know you've just become someones hero by admitting you're ordering out. Hey, my kids have a busy, summer activity schedule--pizza is on the menu often!

I’m a writer, mom, homeschooler, wife of one amazing, super handsome man (who is also a genius, but I don’t dare tell him I think so) and most of all I heart Jesus. How so people survive without him, again? I don’t get that.

To learn more about Tana and her writing, head to her blog, White Platonic Dreams, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter!
 
So...do you use your local library often? Why or why not?
 
Later, I'm picking up Bossypants by Tina Fey from our library, and I'm curious how many other people stalk their libraries!
 
Have a fabulous Wednesday!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Marriage is NOT Outdated

When I log onto the Internet each morning, a slew of headlines attempt to grab my attention. I ignore the Kardashian news and the endless health-care reform debate, but before I click on my e-mail account, one headline succeeds.

"Cameron Diaz says marriage is outdated."

Vows
Photo by psd

Hmm...must read that one. I head to UsMagazine.com for the scoop. "Cameron Diaz: Marriage is a Dying Institution," (full article is linked) references Cameron's interview in June's Maxim issue where she claims marriage is a dying institution.

"I think we have to make our own rules," she explains. "I don't think we should live our lives in relationships based off old traditions that don't suit our world any longer."
I'm always leery of hearing "we have to make our own rules." And I'm cringing double-time at the assumption that old traditions don't suit our world any longer.

Look, I believe the Bible is God's word, and because of my beliefs, I disagree that we should create our own rules or that we should go against God's teachings to suit current circumstances. If you don't share my beliefs, I understand why you would be more open to Cameron's philosophy. But even if you don't live by the Bible, marriage doesn't have to be tossed out like a primitive washboard.

Marriage is the single biggest blessing in my life. No marriage is perfect, but there's a lot to be said for weathering years of ups and downs and still smiling at each other over an episode of Storage Wars. Marriage anchors me--gives me a security and trust that envelope me every day. Do I worry about the laugh-lines around my eyes or the fact I'm not always the spontaneous, nurturing girl I once was? Yes. But that girl still peeks out for the one guy who thrilled her way back when and continues to make her heart beat faster now.

Marriage is not outdated. Not for me, anyway.

Michael Hyatt has an excellent article, "How to Become Your Spouse's Best Friend," for all those in favor of outdated institutions! Check it out!

Also, the incredible Jessica R. Patch is interviewing me today! If you get a chance, stop by her blog and say "hi"!

Have a magnificent Monday!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Celebrity Best-Sellers: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

I read this article from NYTimes.com a few days ago, "Celebrity Books and Ghostwriters: In Their Own Words? Maybe" (full article is linked and worth a read) by Julie Bosman. Although nothing in it completely surprised me, my emotions churned--none of them good.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire
Photo by bradgillette

The piece left me a little bitter, irritated, and maybe even a tad angry. I realize life isn't fair (that fact has been pounded in my head from birth) and I wouldn't say I'm all that envious of these celebrities with hit shows, huge endorsements, clothing lines, and who now have taken the publishing world by storm.

What bothers me is that these celebrities are taking credit for skills they do not possess.

The article shares that Nicole Polizzi, "Snookie," from MTV's hit Jersey Shore claims she's only read two books in her entire life. I continued on and found the following:
When Ms. Polizzi appeared on “Today” in January, Matt Lauer asked, “Did you really write this book?”


“I did,” Ms. Polizzi said. “Because if you read it, you’ll know the first page that I wrote it. Cause, like, it’s all my language.” (When pressed further, she admitted that there was a co-writer.)
It seems many of these celebrities claim to have written their own books, but when pressed, admit to a collaborator, aka, a ghostwriter.

Further on in the article:

Ms. Richie promoted her second novel, “Priceless,” in an interview last year with USA Today, describing her writing routine: write early in the morning, before the rest of her family wakes up. “I write all my own stories,” she said.


But Ms. Richie’s publisher, Judith Curr of Atria Books, indicated otherwise, saying that a ghostwriter did most of the writing of Ms. Richie’s book. (Ms. Richie did not respond to a request for comment.)
At least Snooki eventually owned up to having a co-writer, although I wonder how "co" the co-writer could be if Snooki's only read two books. Nicole Richie wouldn't even give her ghostwriter a sliver of credit! These celebrities enjoy perks most average people will never see--I guess they want to eat their cake and claim they baked it too.

So why does this incense me so? After a round of self-analysis involving Coke and brownie bites, I figured out my problem.

It's the lying.

Lying about "writing in the morning" and passing off a book as their own belittles the years of work most writers put in to become publishable. Taking full credit for a book when one only contributed "all of the ideas" is wrong.

Ideas are easy. Executing them into a readable book is hard.

Am I a writer snob? Yes. Yes I am.

If you claim to be the sole writer of a book and state you put the time in every morning to write, then watch said book climb to #1 on best-seller lists--well, you'd better be telling the truth, and you'd better be writing and revising every last page. If not, then admit it. Give the real writer credit, if not in name at least with a reference to your co-writer.

How do you feel about celebrities taking full credit when someone else wrote the bulk of the book?

I'm guest blogging over at Maumee Valley Romance Writers of America today! Stop by for "How Much Sizzle in the Summer Romance?"

Have a fabulous Friday!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Erica Vetsch!!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.


Thank you for joining me in welcoming…Erica Vetsch!!

I connected with Erica through mutual friends before her first book was released. I was immediately drawn to her love for history, her entertaining blog posts, and our shared connection with men in the lumber business. (How many women can say that? Ha!) Since then, Erica has published several more books--inspirational historical romances, all with incredibly gorgeous covers--and continues to awe me with her dedication and talent.

Find out more about her new release, Idaho Brides, below the interview!







Let's get to it!

1. Beverage of choice?

If I had to choose just one, it would be caffeine free Diet Coke. How one can be addicted to something that has no caffeine, no sugar, and no nutritional value whatsoever is a mystery, but I surely am.

2. Any pets?

I have a cat who rejoices in the name of Pookie. The vet thinks she's named Mittens, and she is since that's the name that came with her, but I called her a cute little Pookie once and the name stuck.

3. Dream vacation?

I have always wanted to see New Zealand, but I would have to go via air with a layover in London so I could see the British Museum and and a layover in Cairo so I could see the Pyramids.

4. What are you listening to right now?

I just got back from a walk and I was listening to Taylor Swift's self-titled debut album.

5. What's for dinner?

I'm so glad this question came on a night when I actually have a plan and it's being executed. :) Taco Soup is in the crock pot. The house smells spicy good.

Erica, you inspired me to make Taco Soup tonight! My family loves it with sour cream and Doritos. Now I'm hungry... I understand your Diet Coke addiction. At least yours IS calorie free and decaffeinated! And Pookie is such a cute name--much more cuddly than Mittens. :)

Who else wants to tag along on Erica's dream vacation because I know I do! Cairo, London, New Zealand--let's make this happen!

Thank you so much, Erica, for sharing with us today and a huge congratulations on your latest release!

Idaho Brides!!
 

Experience the Wild West through the eyes of the three McConnell brothers who long to overcome their troubled childhood as drunkard’s sons. Can Alec show that he’s worthy of the ranch boss’s daughter? Can Trace help a distraught woman trust again? Will Cal prove his innocence to a U. S. Marshal in disguise? Will they each find a woman with whom they can trust their tender hearts?

Justice is demanded from the McConnell brothers who are tainted by association with their abusive father. Can Alec show that he’s worthy of the boss’s daughter? Can Trace help a distraught woman trust again? Will Cal prove his innocence to a U. S. Marshal in disguise?

Available June 2011, find it now on Amazon.

 
 
 
 
About Erica:
 
One day a few years ago, I turned to my husband and said, "I don't know if you know this, but I spend an awful lot of time in my own head." He patted my hand and gave me his this-is-not-news expression. I had just verbalized something my parents, teachers, friends, children, and spouse had known about me for years.


Though I have set aside my career teaching history to high school students in order to homeschool my own kids, my love of history hasn't faded. My favorite books are historical novels and history books, and one of my greatest thrills is stumbling across some obscure historical factoid that makes my imagination leap. I'm continually amazed at how God allows me to use my passion for history, romance, and daydreaming to craft historical romances to entertain readers and glorify Him.

Whenever I'm not following flights of fancy in my fictional world, I'm company bookkeeper for our family lumber business, mother of two terrific teens, wife to a man who is my total opposite and yet my soul-mate, and avid museum patron.

To find out more about Erica, check out her website, her blog, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

So, what movie are you dying to see this summer? Or do any catch your eye?

Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Monday, June 6, 2011

17 Simple Steps to Build a Fiction Platform

Way back in 2008 when I started this blog, I knew next to nothing about how to build a fiction platform. It's a good thing I don't embarrass easily because as I kept my eyes open and learned more, I realized how many things I could be doing better.

Waving Panda
Photo by greggoconell

We have so many fantastic, free media sites to help us with our networking, but we don't always understand how to use them. Fear and ignorance hold us back. And I can only speak for myself, but I was overly cautious. I wanted to build a platform but didn't understand the fundamental mindset behind one.

If you're unsure where to start or how to grow a web presence, I'd like to help.

With that in mind, here are 17 simple ways to build a fiction platform:

1. Decide on your author name. Real name or pen name? Your author name is the foundation of your fiction platform.

2. Get a good head shot of yourself smiling. Use this picture on all social media sites.

3. Fill out a Blogger profile under your author name even if you don't have a blog. Include an e-mail address. Create a new e-mail address if necessary, but include one. Upload your fab picture in your profile. Why do this? Many blogs are hosted by Blogger. When you leave comments, you want your pen name and your picture to be associated with your comments. Also, if the blog host or someone else wants to contact you, they can e-mail you.

4. Start reading author and agent blogs:

    a. Leave comments on blogs (use your author name--an anonymous comment won't help you)
    b. Read the other comments--there's a wealth of info in them
    c. Click on the commenters you enjoy and check if they have a blog
    d. Read the blogs of commenters you enjoy
    e. Go ahead and follow blogs either through Google Friend Connect or by clicking on the RSS feed.

5. Purchase a domain name with your author name. Ex: http://www.jillkemerer.com/

6. Brainstorm topics you consider your strengths. If you decide to start a blog, this will help you narrow down what to focus your posts on.

7. If you decide to blog, weigh the benefits of using Wordpress or Blogger. Go to blogs using these services, do an Internet search of Wordpress vs. Blogger, or ask bloggers their opinion. We all like to share opinions.

8. Create a Facebook page under your author name for networking and accept all friend requests (keep your personal info out of this account)

9. Whenever you log on to Facebook, friend request one or two people it suggests to you. Easy way to grow your network! Don't be offended if not everyone accepts your requests.

10. Create a LinkedIn account under your author name.

11. If you create a blog, use your author name in your URL (http://jillkemerer.blogspot.com/)

12. Check out your favorite author's websites and analyze what you like and don't like about their sites. Take notes on the types of pages they feature, the wording and length of the biography, and the overall look and theme of their site. Bookmark the sites for future reference.

13. Write a short author bio to use on your social media sites

14. Determine how much time you can devote each day or week to building your platform (if you only have 10 minutes a week, stick with a Facebook account. If you have three hours, consider blogging.)

15. Join a national writing organization and attend local chapter meetings. Romance Writers of America has given me priceless information, great contacts, and plenty of opportunities to "get my name out there" by networking in person.

16. Willing to speak at a local writers group? Draw up a list of possible topics. It's never too early to plan for speaking engagements. Remember, a fiction platform doesn't have to be contained to an online presence.

17. Create a Twitter account under your author name. If this terrifies you, see my articles Twitter 101: Creating an Account and Twitter 101: Beginner's Tips. And e-mail me with any questions (jill(at)jillkemerer(dot)com) I'd love to connect with you on Twitter!

Breathe. You don't have to build a platform over night. Just add to your knowledge, add to your social media sites--and keep learning!

I've recommended her book before, and I'll recommend it again. Kristen Lamb's We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media is my favorite book on social media and building a platform. She's also created a hashtag on Twitter to connect the We Are Not Alone tribe--#MyWANA. Just do a quick Twitter search and you'll find tons of like-minded writers plus oodles of great links!

What is your best tip on building a fiction platform?

Have a super Monday!

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Surprising Truth About Romance Characters

You've read the advice, right? To craft a compelling story our characters must grow. I read this over and over, and I agree. If our characters start and end in the same emotional or mental state-of-being, the reader will probably pitch the book across the room before finishing it. I think I actually just heard the thud of it hitting the wall.

Love kiss
Photo by titlap

But...not every genre calls for the same type of character growth.

In a thriller, readers will put up with a gruff, hard-drinking, hot-tempered hero if he's dead-set on finding his daughter's abductor. In a women's fiction novel, readers will put up with a spoiled, self-centered heroine if she's going through a painful divorce and just found out she has breast cancer.

Throw either of these characters into a romance novel, however, and you might have a very tough sell.

The surprising truth about characters in romance novels?

The reader has to fall in love with the characters in order for the reader to believe the heroine and hero will fall in love with each other.

Well, sure, of course the reader has to like the characters. That's true in all fiction, right?

Wrong. I'm not talking about liking the characters. I'm talking about flat-out swooning for them. When I read a romance novel, I want to experience the rush of falling in love. How can I do that if the hero acts like a jerk? I don't love jerks. I'm not attracted to them. I'm going to have serious doubts about the heroine if she is attracted to them. **I've written jerky heroes before, and guess what? Editors didn't like them either.**

What about the heroine? Do I like abrasive, self-centered women--or needy, desperate ladies? Not really. I'm friends with caring, strong women who know the difference between standing up for themselves and acting like a shrew.

Writers of romance have a tricky dilemma with this. How can we show character growth AND make the reader fall in love with our heroes and heroines?

Jody Hedlund wrote an excellent post, "How to Avoid the Trap of Creating Unlikable Characters," last week. The full article is linked and I highly recommend reading it. She gave three tips:

1. Avoid giving our characters too many negative traits
2. Avoid giving an unforgivable trait or action
3. Bring out likable traits too

My first books had likable characters but boring plots. I knew nothing about goals, motivations, and conflicts, and I knew less about scenes, sequels, and turning points. As I studied, I took the "your character needs to show internal growth" concept too far. My next books featured unlikable characters and interesting plots. If my heroine was likable, my hero was obnoxious. I couldn't seem to figure out what I was doing wrong.

I'm not sure what turned the switch--maybe all the romance novels I've devoured for years seeped into my pores or something--but I made a connection that's made a big difference for my characters.

In romance, our characters can become better people without overcoming a terrible flaw. If they have a very bad flaw, make sure they've experienced the growth before the story begins. Their character growth can be an offshoot of this, but it shouldn't be the main conflict.

What do I mean?

If Susie can't say no to men who treat her poorly, the reader will struggle to like her. So don't make Susie's main internal growth  hinge on her getting out of a doomed relationship and into Mr. Right's arms. Instead, have Susie realize she has a problem before the book begins--maybe even six months ago--and now she's single. She knows she needs to change, but she's not sure she's up to the task. Mr. Right won't be fixing her problems. She'll be working through her issues because Mr. Right is worth the trouble.

We are tempted to show Susie in a bad relationship and making dumb decisions to prove she's changed at the end. This alienates the reader--we don't want to read about doormats. Susie can still grow if she's already learned her lesson before the book starts. Now, the reader sympathizes with Susie's struggle to find a worthy man.


Or...

If John has a hot temper and can't hold a job--this should not be his growth either. We're tempted to start the book with him slamming something against a wall and getting fired to prove he's changed at the end. But what women is attracted to a guy with such a short fuse?

Maybe a year ago, he lost his job after punching the boss. Now, when the story starts, he's learned how to rein in his anger, but his lack of recommendations keeps him unemployed. His internal growth will be honing his patience and proving he can be a trustworthy employee as opposed to controlling his rangy temper. Who knows, maybe the heroine is his new boss? Hmmm....must write this down...

Readers will love John if he already dealt with these issues before we meet him. They will sympathize with him having to deal with the repercussions of his past.

Do you see how tweaking the main internal conflict can create a swoon-worthy character?


As I said earlier, different genres call for different character conflict and growth. If you write romance, strive to create believable characters who readers can fall in love with. Tweak their growth arcs until you find one that casts your characters in the most sympathetic light.

What genre(s) do you write? Do readers of your genre have specific character expectations?

Have a fantastic Friday!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Jessica R. Patch!

Every Wednesday, I ask a writer the same five easy questions. In an effort to support and promote fellow wordsmiths, I feature authors who write a variety of genres, from sweet inspirational to mainstream thrillers. The writers themselves may be aspiring, published, or best-selling--all have made an impact on my life.


Thank you for joining me in welcoming… Jessica R. Patch!!

Jessica and I met through e-mail, and am I ever glad we did! I feel blessed to have such a supportive, hilarious, like-minded writer in my life. Jessica is a true encourager, and if you stop by her blog, you'll see what I mean. Some posts are deeply spiritual, others showcase her wicked sense of humor, but all leave you with a sense of having been hugged. Jessica writes inspirational contemporary romantic suspense.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
Let's get to it!
 
1. Beverage of choice?
 
Coffee with Belgium chocolate toffee cream or a diet A&W root beer


 2. Any pets?

Besides my husband and kids? :) I have an irksome dog. She's a blond Schnorkie--half Yorkshire/half Schnauzer. I'll sell her to the lowest bidder!

 3. Dream vacation?

Me and hubby in Scotland, staying in an old drafty castle--rumored to be haunted. I want a large window to gaze out into the fog so I can spot old Nessie. Bagpipes are a must. Kilts are optional.  Then on to Ireland where we can eat at real Irish pubs built into cliffs and I'll dare my husband to take up clogging for a good laugh. Before we come home, we'll have kissed the Blarney stone and chased a rainbow to see if there really was a pot of gold at the end of it. If so, I'll share some with ya'll.

4. What are you listening to right now?

Mads Langer Fact Fiction--I'm writing a sweet romantic scene to it!


5. What's for dinner?

Chicken nachos drowned in Pancho's white cheese dip, refried beans, and french fries for my son (picky eater).

I'll bid on your Shnorkie--how adorable! I'll bet she's a little cutie! Your dream vacay sounds fantastic. If you want to ditch the hubs after a few weeks and head south to England, I'll join you! Okay, your dinner is about 495,000 times better than mine tonight. I might have to pretend I wasn't cooking and run to Taco Bell. Nachos...yum! Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Jessica!!

Jessica R. Patch writes contemporary suspenseful romances. Using witty humor and unusual twists, she brings flawed, but redeemable, characters through trials and triumphs while drawing out biblical truths.

Jessica attended Central Bible College, where she met her husband, and now resides in the mid-south. She has devoted her time to her local church having served as a Biblical Studies teacher, Women’s Ministry leader, Regional Women’s Representative, and volunteer co-pastor with her husband of the Young Adult Ministry. She’s written Young Adult studies, labeled “Patch Packets” and many of her articles are published in her church’s newsletter The Current. Before she decided to write full time, she worked as an Academy Director for an early childhood education center. She belongs to the CWG, ACFW, and BCW (a local chapter of American Christian Writers).

When she isn’t crashing into police cruisers, getting stuck on her fridge or sneaking off to movies with her husband, she enjoys embarrassing her tween daughter by wearing pajamas to take her to school and play-sword fighting with her six-year old son.

You can learn more about Jessica at her blog, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter!

So...it's June 1st!! Do you have big plans for the summer?

Have a fabulous Wednesday!!