Friday, July 29, 2011

Are Personal Deadlines Important?

Ah, guilt. Anyone familiar with social media occasionally comes down with a crushing case of it, and I'm no exception. You may or may not have noticed I haven't been around blogs, Facebook, or Twitter much this summer, and my children have definitely noticed I'm spending more time than usual in my office.

Clock for the railway at Whipsnade Zoo
Photo by mdpettitt

I'm striving to meet a personal deadline.

No, I don't have a contract with a set date on when my manuscript needs to be finished. I don't have a boss. I don't even have another obligation coming up to spur my current progress. But I do have a set of writing rules I live by. The most important?

Act like a published writer.

Published writers are given deadlines from their editors. They have to organize their projects to fit into this time frame. Three years ago, I decided I would do the same. When I start a new project, I decide on a finish date and plan accordingly. My finish date for this project is the end of next week.

Trust me, there have been many, many times this summer in between shuttling my son to baseball tournaments and my daughter to tumbling sessions that I've yawned, rubbed my bleary eyes and thought I'll skip revising this afternoon. It's summer--we need to go to the beach.

If I didn't have a personal deadline shouting at me, I would have slacked off this month and set my project back until fall. Instead, we skipped the beach, headed to the pool for quick jaunts, and I squeezed in revising during hours I normally wouldn't. Do I regret it? No. Once I finish this book, we'll have almost three weeks to relax and enjoy the rest of summer.

It's important for me to know I can meet my deadlines. I don't want to stress about this when I do get a contract. When we get used to finishing our projects in the time we allotted, our confidence grows. By acting like published writers, we're assured we'll be able to handle the responsibilities a book contract brings.

Do you set personal deadlines? Do you think they're important? Why or why not?

I would love it if you would stop by MVRWA's blog today to read my post, "NFL and Publishing: Shaking It Up."

Have an amazing weekend!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

5 Easy Questions with K.B. Owen!

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… K.B. Owen!!

I initially came in contact with Kathy through Twitter where I found a link to her amazing blog--a humorous mix of fascinating history, fun quizzes, and writerly observations. We quickly connected and am I glad we did! She is such a generous, friendly author. Kathy writes mysteries, and I can't wait until the day I can pick up one of her books!
Let's get to it!

1. Beverage of choice? 

All year ‘round, it’s iced tea, unsweetened (I know, I’m odd that way) with lemon. It’s funny, though: expecting access to iced tea no matter what the season must be a southern thing, because once I tried to order it in Massachusetts in March, and the waitress shook her head, gave me a strange look, and said: “You’re not from ahrahnd here, are you?” 

2. Any pets?

We have a lot of allergies, so we only have a guinea pig and a gerbil (different cages, promise!). They each had companions who died a while back. The guinea pig wheeks at us as if we starve him, and the gerbil runs on her wheel as if she’s terrified of getting fat thighs. (It’s the guinea pig who could use the wheel. He’s a bit hefty.) But they are both adorable. We recently acquired a beta fish who isn’t nearly as interesting. He just floats around.

 3. Dream vacation?

There are so many (I don’t get out much). Pick one? Hmm…

I’ve always wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise. Alaska seems to me to be one of those places where we don’t always get things our own way, and can’t quite conquer nature. I’d like to see that.

 4. What are you listening to right now?

If I’m writing when you post this, it will probably be my favorite artist, Andres Segovia, who plays classical guitar: the works of Bach, Purcell, and Handel, among others.

5. What's for dinner?

In the summer, I’m the queen of the grill around our house. Hubby was never interested, and as an only child, my dad taught me all his grilling tricks. Probably a thick, juicy steak, corn on the cob, and a salad. Maybe I’ll have some tomatoes ripened by then!
***
Kathy, you're right about year-round iced tea being a southern thing. I've worked at restaurants in Michigan, and we only brewed it in the summer. Our family has a guinea pig too. Maybe he could have a playdate with yours and they could hijack the gerbil's wheel? Ours is a chunky monkey! And a squeaker. I've never listened to Andres Segovia, but his music sounds inspiring--I'm adding him to my list of artists to check out!

I can't believe you teased us with your grilling tricks and didn't share any! I grill often, but my tricks are limited to: getting the grill to light, occasionally burning our food, and handing the tongs to my husband. Thanks so much for being my guest today, Kathy!
***

Historical mystery writer K.B. Owen fell in love with the Hartford region during her years at The University of Connecticut. She was inspired to begin a mystery series set at a nineteenth-century women’s college in Hartford, a vivid period world of plucky heroines, quirky and beguiling characters, and mischief mixed with murder.



K.B. Owen holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature and taught college literature and writing courses for more than a decade.  Her delightful and varied experiences with students served as inspiration for the classroom interactions of her novel’s protagonist, Professor Concordia Wells. Thankfully, unlike her main character, she did not have to lecture in a bustle and full skirts. She is working on her second novel in the series, blogs about mystery and history (with a pop culture slant) at kbowenmysteries.com, and tweets as @kbowenwriter.

***
It's county fair season around here. Are you attending a local fair this year?
 
Have a magnificent Wednesday!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Zucchinis and Writing

The other day I snooped around our garden and found two enormous zucchinis. I wasn't expecting them. Sure, blossoms had appeared for a week or two, but I didn't think they would grow so big, so quickly.

Organic Zucchini
Photo by jdickert

Writing can be similar. One day we decide to write a book, just as we plant the zucchini seed. We water our writing by studying the craft, writing pages regularly, and learning about the publishing industry. At times our progress seems non-existent, or maybe we have a small break-through like the first tender leaves shooting through the earth.

We continue to write, study, learn and the plant grows. Through our careful, sustained work, a crop appears--maybe we've written a few books, articles, or short stories. Rather than pick the small vegetables, we leave them on the vine, allowing them to find their full potential as we utilize critique partners or enter them in contests.

And one day, we realize our writing is ready for submission. We head to the garden and pluck the ripe zucchini.

Some zucchini gets shredded for bread or muffins--an agent or editor represents our work. Some sits on the counter too long next to a large pile of other zucchinis--the dreaded slush pile ending in rejection. And some is given away to neighbors--we make peace with the fact not all of our stories will be published.

How is your writing like a zucchini?

Have a great Monday!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Do Telemarketing Tactics Build Readership?

Every weekday I log onto my Twitter account and check for new followers. I scroll through a few of each of their tweets to get a feel of who they are. Lately, I've noticed a marked increase in authors using telemarketing tactics.

Telephone
Photo by TaxBrackets.org

Telemarketers cold call people to either sell a product or to obtain a donation for a charitable cause, and they use a targeted list of potential consumers. While telemarketing a legitimate product is not illegal and can be successful, many people on the receiving end of the call are angered to have their time wasted.

I loathe picking up the phone to a telemarketer.

Like telemarketers, some authors are targeting a list of potential consumers on Twitter (it's simple to find like-minded folks through hashtags and profiles) to promote their books. Nothing wrong with that. However, the relentless sales pitches hurt them.
***
I do not follow back people who are solely self-promoting.

For example, this morning I reviewed the first three tweets of an author who recently followed me. Every tweet was a variation on the same:

#Nameofbook is #2 on Kindle. Who will be the first to review #good #fiction #nameofbook on #Amazon? Go to bit.ly now! #Crime #Readers

#Shortstory on #Smashwords. Guaranteed you'll love it. #Books Only 99cents! #Buyit!! #Share this!

This is not effective. It makes me want to run and hide.

If the author is trying to spread news about his book through Twitter to increase sales, he needs as many followers as possible to help him share the message. By treating people on Twitter as wallets instead of friends, this author loses his chance for people to connect with him, and he loses avenues to help him promote his book.
***
I do follow back people who carry conversations and self-promote.

You know the old adage--for every criticism you give, you should give five compliments? We can apply the same strategy on our social networks. For every self-promotion post, write five conversational posts.

Frankly, I'd caution even less shameless plugs. The majority of what we share on social networks should be conversational or informational. By this I mean, we're either talking to someone (@coolauthor Thanks for the coffee! What are you working on today?) or sharing information (Great tips! RT @coolauthor 5 Writing Helps bit.ly #amwriting).

The thing about social media is if we're doing it right, we only have to post a "look what I did, Ma" type of message once, and our followers do the rest for us. It's the power of re-tweeting and re-sharing. If we get the message out, our friends help spread the good news. I routinely re-tweet and re-share other authors' celebrations, whether they're announcing a book contract, landing an agent, winning a contest, hitting a best-seller list, or even finishing a first draft. I'm excited for them, and I want everyone else to get excited too.

What's more effective? One telemarketer calling a stranger, or a fundraiser attended by thousands of people?

People buy books from people they like. Telemarketing tactics don't build a readership.

What makes you want to follow someone on Twitter, Facebook, or blogs? What turns you off? 

Have a fabulous Friday!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Julie Musil!

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…Julie Musil!!

Julie burst onto the blogging scene with a bang, and I noticed her media-savvy right away. She has a knack for building platform--any writer can learn from her. It came as no surprise to me when, earlier this year, she announced she'd landed an agent--Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary Agency. (Congrats again, Julie!) Julie's kindness and generosity are evident everywhere she goes. I'm blessed to have her in my life and can't wait until the day she announces she has a book deal!
 
Let's get to it!
 
1. Beverage of choice? 
 
Thankfully it's water, which I guzzle all day long.  If I'm eating out, I'll order iced tea. And if I'm feeling especially saucy, I'll have a strawberry margarita when I'm out with friends.  


2. Any pets?

Our sons have two leopard geckos, which eat live crickets. Yuck. And we have two cute little rescue doggies, Stubby and Pete, who sit at my feet while I'm writing.

3. Dream vacation? 

Caribbean cruise with my family.  My husband and I took that trip for our honeymoon, and I'd love to share it with our three boys.

4. What are you listening to right now? 

Spongebob and Patrick going jelly fishing. Imagine Spongebob's cackle...that's what I'm listening to.

5. What's for dinner?

Chicken and veggie stir fry. Yum.

***
Julie, I've been drinking wa-a-ay too much soda this summer. You've inspired me to drink more water. You're a brave woman for allowing reptiles as pets. I can't even handle the idea of the crickets, let alone the geckos! And I would love to take a cruise with our kids. There's so much to do, endless food (as a mother of an active son, this feature is a big plus!), and stops at some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Heaven!!
 
Oh, and I'm pretty sure I know every SpongeBob by heart, and if I know them all by heart, then surely my kids do too...whoops! Guess I should turn the television off. :) Thanks so much for being my guest today!
 
Julie Musil ~
 
Julie Musil is the author of young adult fiction, an e-picture book for young readers, and articles for Scholastic MATH and Highlights magazines. She can be found at her website, Julie Musil: Children's Authorher blog, and on Twitter. She is represented by Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary.



Are you working on a project this summer? Writers--what stage is your work-in-progress?
 
Have a fabulous Wednesday!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sneaky Ways Reading Impacts Writing

A best-selling, mega-successful author finished her keynote speech, and though inspired, I scratched my head on one issue. Had she really just claimed she never reads fiction?

Book collection
Photo by foolstopzanet

I've read enough blogs to know there are many writers who, due to the fear of emulating another author's voice, refuse to read the genre they write unless they are between projects. I also have met writers who never read the genre they write. We all have to find what works best for us.

As for me, I read as many books in my genre as I possibly can.

I read them when I'm working on a manuscript, between projects, at the beach, in the car as I wait for my kids to get out of school, at sports practices, and any other time I can squeeze out. I don't only read my genre; I also read classics, non-fiction, and magazines.

Reading helps my writing. I'm currently two-thirds through Kaye Dacus's Love Remains, and it's helped my current WIP in several areas.

1. The tone and characterization are similar to my book, which reassures me that what I write is marketable.
2. Her use of secondary characters helped me utilize one of my critique partner's suggestions as painlessly as possible.
3. She introduces new, surprise conflicts as the book progresses. I'm not always confident I'm springing a new conflict properly, and by analyzing how she hinted at them, I've gotten ideas on how to ensure mine make sense.
4. Kaye's book features clear religious themes and prayer. Not all Christian contemporary romances show a character praying or worshipping. My book does. Again, reassuring that I'm on the right track.

In the past year, the following authors have taught me better writing techniques and they don't even know it. They taught me by being excellent writers. Their books wormed their way into my heart, and I couldn't help but analyze how they did what they did.

*in no particular order*
Jenny B. Jones
Sarah Sundin
Denise Hunter
Jody Hedlund
Kathryn Springer
Laura Frantz
Susan May Warren
Robin Jones Gunn
Jillian Hart

The list could go on! I can't imagine not reading the genre I write. In fact, two more books are staring at me from the coffee table. :)

What author's books has had an impact on your writing?

Have a great Monday!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Committed Writer

The committed writer makes many sacrifices with no guarantees of rewards.

Copic Pen Point
Photo by digitalalan

Willingness to not be understood

I write full time and stay at home with my kids. Many people do not understand my job or even know if it is a job, considering I don't get paid for it. If you're an aspiring writer, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. Since I set aside hours to volunteer at school and I drive my kids to practices and games, it appears I have an open schedule. Maybe you work a full-time job? Many people probably have no clue how much you give up to make time for your writing.

I'm blessed. My friends and family do understand and encourage me, but I struggle to get everything done.

Devotion

If you're like me, you spend a large chunk of every weekday--winter, summer, spring, and fall, writing and all the responsibilities that come with it. Building a fiction platform can't be set aside for months like a half-finished quilt. Story ideas still need to be written down, plots fleshed out, manuscripts revised, queries polished, proposals created. Right now, during the summer, I struggle the most.

But the mornings when I'm tempted to shut the alarm off and sleep an extra seven hours, I open my eyes, brew the coffee and turn on my laptop. On days my kids have sports' practices, I squeeze my writing in even if it means we don't go to the pool. Every member of my family sacrifices for my writing.

Worth it

It's commitment. The day-in, day-out. The knowledge that I could be using those hours either having more fun with my kids or working at a part-time job makes the sacrifice all the sweeter. Writing is my privilege, my passion, and I am willing to not be understood by acquaintances, to let my children figure out how to have their own fun every morning, and to not have the extra income if it means I have a shot at succeeding in the one profession I don't want to live without.

What do you sacrifice in order to write?

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Jaime Wright!

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… Jaime Wright!!


A few years ago, Jaime and I met through blogging. I instantly fell in love with her sassy voice, addiction to coffee, and her understanding of brutal mid-western winters. I can always count on virtual coffee from Jaime on Twitter! To say she brings joy to my days is an understatement. :) Jaime writes a humorous blog in addition to inspirational novels.
Let's get to it!
 
 
1. Beverage of choice?


Anyone who knows me is well aware that COFFEE defines who I am. Well, not really - that would be sad - but close. My first preference is a hazelnut soy latte or a cup of Highlander Grogg with some cream. I will drink Folgers even though it tastes like dirt - but only in the event that we're in the Tribulation and that's all we can find. Yes, I'm a coffee snob.

2. Any pets?

I DO have pets. I capitalize the "DO" because anyone who knows my husband knows now that miracles DO happen since we just adopted two kittens and have made them a part of our family - albeit outdoors due to allergy reasons. It was a toss up - keep the husband indoors or the cats - husband won because he also does dishes. Mister Darcy is my new little tiger kitten with white nose and paws. Lizzie is our fluffy black kitten with white toes and tail-tip - I think she may have long hair - which is only appropriate since she's a female and we should rejoice in our crowning glory. :)

3. Dream vacation?

I've taken a few dream vacations as I love to travel/adventure! About twelve years ago I spent three weeks in Thailand and Nepal and three years ago, I backpacked Europe with my sister-in-law, starting in Germany and ending in Roma, Italia. That's not saying I don't have a new dream vacation. It's a toss up between wandering through Egypt and touching a pyramid or visiting one of my critique partners in New Zealand.

4. What are you listening to right now?

The coffee pot beeping at me. No, actually I'm listening to a fan as it's 99F outside and the A/C in our office went out. Oh. You meant music?? Lately, I'm getting introduced to Anthem Lights, a new Christian band - sort of a boy band, but not really. My standbys though are some Jack Johnson, Jeremy Camp, or Kutlass.

5. What's for dinner?

It's Wisconsin, so it's grilling season here. Tonight it'll be hamburgers and brats (yes, Wisconsin) on the grill with baked beans and cheddar cheese. Throw in some iced coffee and yep - we're good to go! :)

Thanks, Jaime, for being my guest today! So Folgers only in the event of the Tribulation? I'm going to hint to your hubby that Folgers is a great stocking stuffer. Heh-heh! And it's nice to know your kitten Lizzie is rejoicing in her crowning glory. The cutie! Wow, your travels sound wonderful. I would love to head to Egypt and New Zealand with you. Can you imagine all that gorgeous history? Mmm... Oh, and I grilled beer brats a few weeks ago. They're a Wisconsin/Michigan staple!

Thanks again for your fun answers, Jaime!

Jaime Wright ~

After finishing her first novel at the age of seventeen and receiving a wonderful letter of encouragement from an editor at a major publishing house, Jaime has spent years honing her skills through research, voracious reading, and a study of the craft.

She is currently a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), 19th Century Writers Yahoo Group, and partakes in the numerous educational blogs offered by agents and fellow writers. Jaime has consulted in regards to several scenes with James L. Rubart on his most recent novel Book of Days and received an honorable mention in the acknowledgments. 

Jaime currently has three completed manuscripts. She is un-agented and has managed her desperation with large amounts of coffee consumption.


She and her husband, Nathan, live in WI and welcomed their daughter in 2009. Jaime has been an active youth leader in her church for over 17 years, including roles such as speaker and worship leader and director of the middle school program. She fits right in with middleschoolers as some argue that is the level of her mentality, so all is well and good. :)  Jaime is very involved in discipleship within the youth group and ministering to young adults ranging from ages 11 to 22. Jaime reaches them with her frank sense of humor, honesty, and nurturing heart. On the side, Jaime enjoys hours of rock climbing, fly fishing, and travel/wilderness adventuring!

To learn more about Jaime, head to her blog, The Jaime Reports, be friends with her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter!

So, do you grill? What's your best meal in the summer?

Have a fantastic Wednesday!

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Nemesis: My Counter Top

Breezing through a Better Homes & Gardens, I halt at a mesmerizing picture of a kitchen with gleaming surfaces, gorgeous lighting, and plenty of clutter-free room to cook. It's lovely. Really, lovely.

Kitchen Renovation additions
Photo by swimphoto

Slowly, my brain registers something odd. The counters...they're visible. And sparkling. Sure, a toaster, coffeemaker, and a knife holder adorn the surfaces, but where is the junk?

My kitchen and the dream kitchen differ in one main feature. Mine is a clutter magnet.

On section of my counter top routinely boasts the following:
- purse
- unread magazines
- bug spray
- baseball hat
- paper parachute from fireworks
- three empty water glasses
- bug bite stick
- iPod
- nail polish in assorted colors
- swim goggles
- LEGO people with or without heads/legs
- scraps of paper
- paper clips
- loose change
- crayons, pens, markers
- socks
- dog toys
- suntan lotion

I toss the Better Homes & Gardens to the side, my mood heading south. I realize no one would feature their kitchen with all the clutter on the counter tops, but I question my belief that most people have a catch-all area.

Do most people have an area that collects random items like dogs attract fleas?

I, along with my kids, clean the counter off at least every other day. You would think it would remain pristine. But no, as soon as it's clear, something finds its way there within minutes.

I would love to have the tidy, inviting kitchen in the magazine, but I can't imagine it would stay beautiful long!

Is your kitchen spic-and-span with zero clutter or do you struggle to keep the counter tops cleared too?

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, July 8, 2011

1 Odd Cure For Writer's Block

Have you ever opened your work-in-progress, fingers poised to add words, but nothing comes? If you're like me, you sprint through a cycle of emotions.

panic
Photo by nate

1. Wariness: Oh no! I wrote all of the good stuff already. What in the world is supposed to happen now?

Time ticks by.

2. Anxiety: I've read through the previous scene and have no idea where to go next. Only one sentence congealed in my brain and it stunk.

Twenty minutes pass.

3. Panic: I only have so much time to write and I'm blowing it! What's needed here--dialogue, action, introspection--what??

Now, I'll be the first to admit I don't believe in long-term writer's block. When we make writing a habit, somehow the words make it to the page. But I occasionally have bouts of the above, where everything that comes to mind could be read in a Dick and Jane book and I want to pile my laptop, notebooks, writing craft books, and every pen, pencil and paper into a large paper box and throw them in the river because I'm not worthy.

I have an odd solution.

One Odd Cure for Writer's Block

Pamper yourself for a few minutes. Concentrate on something that makes your soul sing.

When I can't find the words, I grab the softest blanket I own, wrap it around my shoulders, and sit on the couch for a while. I focus on how the blanket feels as I rub my fingers over it. Ahh...soothing. And as I relax, my brain gets unstuck. I realize I need to write the Dick and Jane sentence because it's better than nothing and I can fix it later.

Not everyone has the same pampering-pick-me-up. I'm a tactile person. Softness matters to me a great deal. My husband's place of business sells carpet among other things. If he and I head to the showroom, he'll select five random carpet samples and lay them down on the floor. Then he'll ask me which one is the softest. Based solely on touch, I can determine the most expensive carpet, and I can figure out the order of price of the remainding carpets. (Hey, I can't juggle, but I know soft!)

I must pet every fluffy dog or cat who cross my path. I've purchased sweaters based solely on how they feel, and yes, some have been on the ugly side. The rabbit barn at the fair? My kids have to drag me out. Soft things act like a balm to me, and they trigger my creative side.

Maybe yours is oratory--certain sounds or music relax you. Or maybe it's taste? A special cup of tea, a soft drink, a beer might be just the thing to wake your muse. What about scents? Could a mandarin orange scented candle tease your senses? Or maybe you're visual. Browse an online museum for ten minutes and bask in the beauty of art.

The next time you're stuck for words, pamper yourself for ten minutes and see if it helps.

Have you ever stared at your manuscript and had no idea what to write next? What pampers you? Could you take a break and use it the next time you're stumped?

Have a fabulous Friday!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

5 Easy Questions with Elizabeth Spann Craig!

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… Elizabeth Spann Craig!

I connected with Elizabeth through Twitter, and I urge any writer to follow her. Her fabulous blog, Mystery Writing is Murder, features clever, personal posts on writing and mind-blowing Twitter mash-ups full of blog links. Each installment is like a mini-conference! Elizabeth also founded the Writer's Knowledge Base--The Search Engine for Writers, which is continuously updated and a treasure box for writers. And, hooray, her new book (under the pseudonym Riley Adams) Finger Lickin' Dead is now available!

Let's get to it!


1. Beverage of choice?

In the morning, it's a dark coffee with a couple of heaping teaspoons of sugar.  By afternoon, I'm gulping down ice water as I do aerobic housework (afternoons are for vacuuming and scrubbing) and write in my head.  I'll have a glass of wine with my husband over supper (red, white, rose, any year, any vineyard.) :)


2. Any pets? 

I have a somewhat overweight corgi, Chloe, who listens intently to everything I say, hoping to hear the words 'play,' 'ball, 'kibbles,' or 'leash.'  I have a decidedly overweight cat, Mr. Shadow, who sometimes eats bits of my manuscript--usually character trait lists.  And I have a cat, Mr. Smoke, with a fondness for padding across computer keyboards (or, as he thinks of it, helping me write.)

3. Dream vacation?

I'd love to visit any crumbling village in Europe.  Sometimes I'd like to see something that's seriously old.

4. What are you listening to right now?

I listen mainly to 70s rock music when I'm not writing.  When I write, I listen to lyric-free jazz or new age.  And I listen to a lot of Radio Disney because of my 9 year old daughter.  If we're in the car, Radio Disney is on.  And I don't recognize any of the songs, because they all seem to blend together! 

5. What's for dinner?

It's hot as the hinges here, so I'm planning not to turn on the oven.  I'm thinking we'll have a tomato sandwich with a tomato from our garden, and some fruit since the berries at the store are so delicious right now.  And a bowl of chocolate ice cream for dessert.  With chocolate syrup on top.  And maybe some sprinkles.


Thank you, Elizabeth, for being my guest today! A cat who "helps you write," a desire to see something seriously old, and double chocolate ice cream sundaes? (Let's not forget the wine!) Yes, I knew I liked you for a reason. I also enjoyed your description of aerobic housework. Kind of takes the guilt out of not formally exercising. You should really patent it and sell a DVD. "Ladies, grab your vacuum and back, forth, back, forth..."

Huge congrats on the latest in the Memphis Barbeque series!




Finger Lickin' Dead ~

When an anonymous food critic blasts several local restaurants—including Aunt Pat’s—Lulu Taylor and her customers are biting mad, especially when they learn that Eppie Currian is the pen name of their friend Evelyn’s cheating boyfriend. When “Eppie” gets his own fatal review, the list of suspects is longer than the list of specials at the best BBQ place in Memphis.



Elizabeth’s latest book, Finger Lickin’ Dead , released June 7th.  Elizabeth writes the Memphis Barbeque series for Penguin/Berkley (as Riley Adams), the Southern Quilting mysteries (2012) for Penguin/NAL, and the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink.

To learn more about Elizabeth, check out her blog, Mystery Writing Is Murder, and follow her on Twitter. Also, be sure to bookmark the Writer's Knowledge Base--the Search Engine for Writers.


What about you? Is it "hot as hinges" where you're at? Are you avoiding the oven too?

 
Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

For all my American friends, have a safe, exciting, fun fourth of July!!

Happy 4th of July! The American Flag in Fireworks
Photo by walkadog

Everyone else, enjoy your Monday!!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Social Media Panic? Chill!

Just when you feel comfy-cozy with your platform efforts, something happens--like say Blogger goes offline for three days--and uneasiness sets in. Every new blog you head to seems to be powered by Wordpress. Someone mentions their site got tons of hits from StumbleUpon, and you don't even know what StumbleUpon is or how it's used.

Panic sets in.

Goa beach chairs
Photo by miqspix

All of your hard efforts now look shabby, worn, as out of date as pinafores. You wonder if you should switch to Wordpress even though you may lose many of your followers. You consider looking into StumbleUpon and Tumblr and a shiny new Facebook Page.

The panic morphs to stress.

Can I just say "Stop the Insanity!"? (Anyone else remember Susan Powter's work-out mantra?)

I realize we all want to do the right things--the smart things--to grow our platforms, and maybe switching to a different blog service or learning a few more social networks is the right thing to do. But I'm not going to, and here's why.

Jill Kemerer Opinion alert!!

Blogger has been good to me. It's free, simple to use, and terrific for networking. I've made countless connections through its use of Google Friend Connect, Blogrolls, and ease of subscribing. My pages load quickly, and I love how simple it is to post and update. It's a gem for non-technical bloggers. (Disclaimer: I've never used Wordpress, but it has terrific features also.)

As far as the slew of other promotional sites like DiggIt, StumbleUpon, Tumblr, and such--I'm sure they're fabulous. I, however, took a hard look at my schedule, realized I have too much on my plate right now, and won't be utilizing them. Will it hurt my platform? I don't think it will.

The bottom line?

It's easy to feel competitive with other authors, but jumping on every bandwagon doesn't necessarily help our platform or fit into our life. Does the average reader find our book if it's been Stumbled? Will the reader buy more books if our website looks more up-to-date? Will the reader find our blog quicker if we use Wordpress or Blogger? I can't answer these questions. I don't know.

I do know that search engines find my blog without any problem. My website and blog are the first things that pop up if you type my name into search engines. I'm easy to find on Facebook and Twitter. And that's good enough for me.

There isn't one best way to build a platform.

Do what you're comfortable with. Weigh the benefits and costs of any major decision, whether it's switching blog services or trying a new social media network. But most of all, sit back and chill. We're building name recognition, not saving the world! (My apologies to you if you are saving the world. I'm writing romance novels. Big difference. :)

Do you ever feel pressure to expand your platform? How do you react?

Enjoy your Friday!