Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Does Your Book Have A Message?

By Susan Reichert, Editor-in-Chief, Southern Writers Magazine

Every writer has an opportunity to influence not only his/her community but also the world.

When a writer puts words to paper, those thoughts are like the “rocks” we fling out into the water that cause ripple effects. The ripples just keep enlarging.

We never know who is going to read something we’ve written. For the most part, we never know the influence the words will have.

We are impacting our culture whether we realize it or not. The quote, "The pen is mightier than the sword” is a metonymy adage (short figure of speech). English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton coined the sentence in 1839 for his play Richelieu.

When we are writing our books, it is important to know the audience––whom do we want to read our book?

I believe if we are fortunate enough to be a writer, that we have a responsibility to be mindful of our words to make sure we target the right audience.

I think sometimes we forget how powerful words are. I know I do.

This was brought home to me recently when I received a thank you note, from someone I don’t know. She took the time to write me after reading my book, Storms in Life, and thanked me for writing it. She specifically elaborated on how it helped her and the impact it had. She continued with letting me know she was getting a copy for a close friend of hers who was going through a tough time. She said she would also be sharing it with others.

I was humbled, to be sure, yet a realism hit me that as a writer, when I put those words to paper I am responsible for them in terms of the impact they will have on someone. It was an inspirational book and I wanted people who are going through hard times to know they can get through the storms that come into their lives. That it wasn’t hopeless.

Had I written a mystery, I would have needed to be clear in my mind how my words would impact that audience who likes mysteries. Was there a message I wanted to convey? Was there something of importance I wanted them to take away from reading the book? These things help make our books memorable.

I still remember messages from books I read in the 80’s. The impact they had on my life, my situation, my thinking and me. I even remember the author’s names.

As in life, we need to be mindful of our words. Are they words that will help the reader in their situation? Are they words that will give the reader enjoyment? Will they give them a much-needed break from their lives?

When I was younger, I heard a woman tell her friend that she chose certain movies to go to because they gave her a different world for a couple of hours. That for those two hours she didn’t have to worry about her situation.

For me, I believe God placed me where I am, and gave me the words to write in that book for such a time as that person needed to read it.

Write with purpose. Don't let your words be silent.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Get Feedback, Publicity, and Pre-Orders with a Contest!

By Kimberly Rae

We authors are always looking for ways to get the word out about our books. Marketing opportunities abound for writers willing to spend money, though from what I've heard, most of them do not end up being worth the investment. Social media is free, but requires an investment of time and, like so many other possibilities, the effort can end up costing more than the end result.

So what is an author to do? Most of us are learning through trial and error as the publishing, writing and marketing world continues to change in vast ways. I've tried several that flopped, but I recently tried one that not only provided free exposure and publicity, but resulted in actual sales. Here's how it worked:

My newest novel, Shredded,  recently released, but I could not decide on a cover image. I had posted both covers on Facebook and gotten lots of opinions, some of them very strong in one direction or the other. I've done so before and the results were always strongly in favor of one, making the choice easy. For this book, the results were nearly equal. Some people's opinions were so strong, I was concerned if I chose the opposite cover, they wouldn't want to buy the book.

Fortunately for me, my concerns resulted in a profitable idea. I decided to run a cover contest. Over a 
set course of time, readers could pre-order Shredded, choosing whichever of the two covers they liked best. When the time frame was up, the cover with the most orders would be the one chosen as the final cover for Shredded.

It was interesting, when it came down to actual orders, readers were much more in favor of one cover rather than the other. So the contest not only provided pre-orders and a reason for people to share about the book, it also gave me valuable feedback on what my actual readers liked better (rather than just random people commenting on Facebook).

To do the contest, I created images on Photoshop that I used in my Mailchimp newsletter and on Facebook. One image showed the two covers and explained the contest.

Other images shared endorsements by pre-readers or reminded people how many days were left in the contest. I also included a giveaway within the contest as extra motivation.

All in all, the contest proved a great way to share about the new book and get readers excited about it. They got to order the cover they wanted, felt they had a say in choosing the cover (which they did!), and I think didn't feel as you're-trying-to-sell-me-a-book as they might have with many other marketing methods.

You might want to give it a try. Perhaps a contest will prove as useful and positive a tool for you as it did for me!


Award-winning author of 20 books, Kimberly Rae lived in Bangladesh, Kosovo, Uganda and Indonesia before Addison's disease brought her permanently back to the US. She now writes from her home at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where she lives with her husband and two young children. With her trilogy on human trafficking, Rae has become a sought-after speaker and trainer on the topic. Recognizing the lack of books about slavery and trafficking that focus on those who are making a difference rather than glorifying the evil or being overly graphic or despairing, she has also since created a series on modern day slavery for teens and pre-teens (Capturing Jasmina, Buying Samir, and Seeking Mother), and is currently working on a project for adults to help train children to recognize and avoid childhood sexual abuse (I AM SAFE), a major risk factor in childhood and adult exploitation. Since Addison's disease brought her permanently back to the US, Kimberly's created a series on living joyfully despite chronic health problems. Though Rae could find deep, heavy books on chronic illness, she wanted a book that was funny and encouraging. When she could not find one, one night when she couldn't sleep from her medication, she started writing one! "I want my Sick & Tired series to give empathy, encouragement, and a little practical help," says Rae.Find out more at www.kimberlyrae.com

Friday, November 20, 2015

My Writing Crystal

By Ashley Scheller

To be new at writing can be both exciting and intimidating. I can say with confidence my journey to becoming a new author has been long but also worthwhile.

 I penned my first rough draft of my debut novel back in high school. I would write a bit, let it sit for a month and repeated this process. When I went to college in the fall of 2005, I didn’t write anymore, I was too busy, I didn’t have the time. Then in 2013, years after graduating, I revisited my manuscript.

I think my mistake was trying to write when I didn’t have the ambition or the patience I needed.   I would have made the time to write if it had been important to me.  Saying you don’t have the time is one of the hardest excuses to break. It’s also one of the most popular excuses people use.

I believe a writing habit has to be developed.  You have to train yourself to complete the page, or to get that one sentence scribbled on paper, to meet a word count. Creating any good habit– writing, eating well or getting into an exercise routine is a process. Start small and work up.

When I started, I’d write for short periods.  Now, hours of writing pass, to the point my husband wonders if I’m ever going to stop and eat.

For me, productivity is being there for family and/or friends while completing my writing goals each day.  We each have to determine our own goals of productivity.

I do know, however, that novel isn’t going anywhere until I  sit down and get to work.

Ashley Scheller has always liked creating. Currently residing in Omaha with her family, if she isn’t sewing costumes inspired from medieval times or anime characters she is writing. Passionate about both hobbies, she loves to connect with fellow costumers and writers through social media. The Wielder Diaries: My Crystal is her first book and has planned an exciting trilogy for the title.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Creating the New Norm

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Recent news coverage, talk shows and the like have brought to my attention the phrase "the new norm”. To think on some of the things described as the new norm or new standard can be very alarming¸ frightful even depressing. To think that if our only expectations were to think this is normal could be discouraging but if used in a positive hopeful manner could be amazing.

Then I thought how a writer may use this new standard, this “new norm”, as a tool in your writing. Something seen as unthinkable or uncommon in the past is now considered common. I first thought what if we had seen this coming and used it as a theme some years ago could our readers have wrapped their minds around it. Well why not attempt that now? Why not take a look at all the norms today, change them and make that the new norm in the future. Has that ever been done?

I would have to say yes it has many times. We recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future. A great deal of time was spent on searching for things in the movie that were farfetched 30 years ago but are common place today. Dehydrated food was one. Rehydrated pizza was enjoyed by the McFly family. At that time dehydrated food was uncommon unless you were an Astronaut and NASA had you in orbit. Today you can order a year’s supply of dehydrated food for a family from your local Costco. We have yet to have anything as complex as pizza but there are many choices.

One of the many things referred to in the movie dealt with electronics. Wireless computer games, hand held computers or pads and ones obsession with all things digital. Spot on! And of course the big item is the Hover Board. Yes, even though they are few and far between, there are hover boards today. We can’t overlook the flying car, compost fuel aka bio-gas, or performance enhancers in sports. Today performance enhancers in sports tend to be drugs and not a pitchers bionic arm as in the movie. All exist though none are common place but they served their purpose in the movie.  

We must also acknowledge things they got wrong. The Cubbies will not win a World Series by 2015 especially against a Florida MLB team. Due to her unfortunate early demise Lady Diana will not be Queen Diana. We won’t have a Female President by 2015 nor do we have Pontiac dealerships. Last but definitely not least the Fax machine is not the most efficient way to communicate today.

The point to all this? As a writer you don’t have to be correct. You don’t have to use an existing standard nor a believable standard. You can create the “new norm” that fits your story, or helps your character along the way. We all have thought of things that if existed would be useful. We all have thought of things that no longer exist and the hardship without them.. We all have thought of a new order existing that was encouraging, hopeful and peaceful. These things a writer can use.

So give it some thought, there are no limits. Bring us the next Hover Board of the Future. We are waiting.                  

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Polishing the Stone

By Lisa Asenato

How does one transfer thoughts, emotions and passion from their heart to the page in a publishable manner?  That is the question I hope to answer today.

I have been writing for a little over thirteen years, and one of the most important things I have learned is that the process cannot happen in a vacuum. 

When writing, we sometimes chip away at a scene word by painful word, or we hit a beautiful stride and the words are flowing and the story is magically popping onto the screen before our very eyes.  As the artist placing each noun and verb in its appropriate place, we sometimes lose our ability to critically judge our own work.

We may think it is simply not working, or we may believe it is perfection, the next NYT bestseller.   As much as I strive for the latter, I have found I am often not in a place to determine whether or not the story is working and flowing as much as I might think I can.

That is where the value of a good critique group comes in.  For me, my critique group is not a luxury but an absolute necessity.  I am fortunate enough to belong to a group of published professionals representing many mainstream genres.  This provides a sense of balance with each piece of fiction written.

Our group consists of 12 members, although all do not come every time we meet.  We are all pursuing publication, not just writing for self-fulfillment, which tends to make critiquing the manuscript easier and more cohesive.

We meet on a regular basis, twice a month.  Our leader is not only brilliant, but fantastic at keeping us on task and enforcing the rules.  We do not deviate during a critique to other topics.  The person whose work is being critiqued cannot speak.  They must only listen, and apply those changes to their manuscript as they see appropriate. Only constructive and specific comments are allowed.  We also do not bring the same chapter or scene twice.  We bring it once, have it critiqued and move on. We usually do not bring more than 2500 words unless we are trying to get something out for a contest or a deadline.  We have other rules which are strictly enforced, but rather than providing an atmosphere of inflexibility, the structure provides an excellent place to learn and think.

If you do not have a critique group in your area, perhaps you can start one yourself?  Gather some genre writers together, forge rules you believe will work best, or feel free to use our rules, and begin to meet. 

Your work will evolve, becoming smoother and cleaner. The dead weight will be eliminated, the plot and motivation will be sharpened, and the story will shine in a way you envisioned it.  You will also find yourself staying on task more during your working hours as you will want to have your 2500 words to bring to your next critique group meeting.
Lisa Asenato would be delighted to visit your bookstore, library, or function to read, speak, and/or sign copies of her newest release, “Pirate by Night”.  Lisa is from beautiful and often snowy, upstate New York, and is a lover of romance, happy endings, and her Creator.  She is published in both fiction and non-fiction and loves to encourage those who are also seeking publication. Her latest novel, “Pirate by Night.” Social Media Information: Website:  www.lisaasenato.com Email:  lisa@lisaasenato.com Facebook:  Lisa Asenato, Author of Inspirational Historical Romance

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Epilogue, the Underdog

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

While watching the new James Bond movie this weekend, I was reminded of a storytelling trick that is used repeatedly, especially in action movies. After the climactic face-to-face battle between the hero and the antagonist comes to a close, the dust settles on a lingering distant shot, the music resolves, and the screen fades to black.  You know from experience that there's one more scene to come.  But the black lasts longer than you would expect . . . long enough to make you wonder if indeed it is the end and the credits are about to roll. 

When the closing scene did eventually rise up, I thought, "Ah, you got me again."  But, as always, I was glad to see it.

Whether we're kept in suspense waiting for it or not, the epilogue is reassuring in its familiarity, and a chance to give the audience time to recover from a big finish before they jump out of their seats and head to the car.  More importantly, from a storytelling standpoint, it's their chance to assess what they've just experienced and learn what it means to the characters and the world they live in.

Getting fancy, the epilogue is known in some circles as the denouement, meaning "the final resolution of the intricacies of a plot."  It's all about cause and effect. When something happens, we are inherently curious to know the result.

The epilogue is exactly where you'll see the other end of the character arc our hero's been through. With that in mind, you're doing yourself a favor if you anticipate what an ideal epilogue for your story would be, and put the means in place as you write everything that precedes.

Some authors dismiss the epilogue as being too cliché.  However, bringing a story to an abrupt ending without providing the aftermath is like taking the reader on a journey and not giving them a ride back.

So really, the big finish isn't really the finish at all.  That final confrontation is only a momentary thrill. The real takeaway is what it means once it has taken place.

As Dune author Frank Herbert said, “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” Providing a closer that leaves readers with a satisfying sense of the aftermath is the secret to making ends meet.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The Myth of Writer’s Block

By Kathi Daley

People often write to me asking how I deal with certain aspects of the writing process. One of the most popular questions I’ve been asked has to do with writer’s block and how I deal with it. The reality is I don’t have to deal with writer’s block because I don’t believe in it.

Don’t get me wrong—there are days when I feel uninspired, and there’s at least one point in every book I write when I feel stuck, but if I allowed myself to give in to the luxury of being blocked I never would have been able to write 32 books in the 24 months I’ve been a writer.

So what do I do when I’m stuck? I write. There are days when I write an entire paragraph filled with “I’m so stuck, so very, very stuck”—yes, those actual words—but I’ve found that as long as I keep writing the nonsense starts to make sense and from the rubbish magic appears.

Another method I at times employ is to let the character in the book I’m writing be as stuck as I am. I then team up with the character to work out the direction of the book. When I was writing Hopscotch Homicide, I was quite a ways into the book and had no idea who the killer was or where to go with the story. I was scribbling on my notepad, making little happy faces and asking myself the obvious questions, such as who did it and why. I decided to have my character, Zoe, mimic my movement, and the text below is the end result.

(Text below is from the book; Zoe is narrating the passage late at night.)

Who killed Mrs. Brown?
I looked at the question for several minutes without anything coming to mind.
Why was Mrs. Brown at the school the day she was murdered?
I tapped my pen on the pad at least a hundred times. Then I drew a happy face, as well as a few random squiggles.
Why was Mrs. Brown making a huge pot of hamburger gravy?
This last one should be solvable. There were most likely only limited answers. The correct answer might lead to the killer. Unless some random person happened along and killed Mrs. Brown on impulse, the killer had to have known she would be at the school that day. It seemed likely the person or persons she was making the gravy for would know she planned to use the school kitchen to make the large batch, ergo, the person the gravy was intended for was the killer.
Long shot? Maybe. But at this point it was all I had to go on.
I clicked my pen open and closed. I drew a series of random shapes on my tablet. I was really, really stuck.
I looked at Charlie. He glared at me. It was obvious he thought it was time for us to be in bed. And he was right. I was getting nowhere.
“Are you ready to go back up?” I asked Charlie.
He lifted his head and wagged his tail.
“I’m really losing my edge,” I complained. “Maybe I do have too much going on and there really isn’t room left in my brain for sleuthing.”

So in answer to the question: “How do you deal with writer’s block?” I just keep on writing.
Kathi Daley lives with her husband, kids, grandkids, and Bernese mountain dogs in beautiful Lake Tahoe. When she isn’t writing, she likes to read (preferably at the beach or by the fire), cook (preferably something with chocolate or cheese), and garden (planting and planning, not weeding). She also enjoys spending time on the water when she’s not hiking, biking, or snowshoeing the miles of desolate trails surrounding her home. Kathi uses the mountain setting in which she lives, along with the animals (wild and domestic) that share her home, as inspiration for her cozy mysteries. Kathi has been a top 100 mystery writer for Amazon for over a year and she won the 2014 award for both Best Cozy Mystery Author and Best Cozy Mystery Series. She currently writes four series: Zoe Donovan Cozy Mystery, Whales and Tails Mystery, Tj Jensen Paradise Lake Mysteries, and Seacliff High Teen Mystery. Stay up to date with her newsletter, The Daley Weekly. http://eepurl.com/NRPDf Kathi Daley Blog: publishes each Friday http://kathidaleyblog.com  Facebook at Kathi Daley Books
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