MUSIC & MYSTERY – Guest blog by RJ McDonnell

The purpose of this blog is to show you how I relate my series theme to specific marketing and plotting efforts in hopes that fellow writers will find an idea or two that will help build readership. Most of these concepts apply to standalone novels as well.

I write a mystery series that features private investigator Jason Duffy, who worked as a club musician for 10 years before earning his PI license. Although he’s handled a diverse range of cases in his first few years of private practice, I focus exclusively on the ones relating to the music industry in the Rock & Roll Mystery Series.

Writing about music can be tricky business. In an ideal world most of my readers would be fans of the music I write about, enabling me to share insights that expand their understanding of one of their passions. Had I started my series when I was a child, that ideal might have been achievable. Rock & roll had a much more homogeneous audience during the American Bandstand era. Granted, there were those who favored rock and others who preferred Motown. But most radio stations of that period carried everything that appealed to a young audience, and most radio listeners were not inclined to abandon their favorite channel when a less desirable tune came on the air. Today, there are 51 subgenres of heavy metal alone. Music fans have grown accustomed to highly specialized programming.

For that reason I try to focus on common areas of the music business and the day-to-day life of musicians rather than attempt to capture the mindset and topical preferences of particular subgenres. In addition, I always try to include unique or cutting-edge plot elements to spark the interest of readers who are not fans of the genre portrayed.

For example, my first novel, Rock & Roll Homicide, featured a half-US, half-UK heavy metal band. Had I opted to delve into the inner workings of one of those 51 sub-genres, dropping clues that would be clear only to fans of that music, I would have alienated most of the readers I was trying to attract. Instead, I focused on a record company with an unhealthy tie to the Russian Mafia. The novel was written about 10 years after the breakup of the USSR. While the outline was being formulated I met a man at a college alumni association function who just closed an electronics manufacturing business in Russia because half of his UPS shipments were being hijacked. Prior to that day I had never heard of the Russian Mafia. The bent-noses of the Borscht Belt aspect of the book got a lot of attention in the pre-e-book era, enabling me to get placement in stores across the US. The fact that Rock & Roll Homicide has been on two Amazon Top 100 lists ever since June of 2014 tells me the subplot has held up well over time, even though the Russian Mafia is getting more exposure today than its Italian predecessor.

RR_Homocide

The 2nd book in the series, Rock & Roll Rip-Off, featured an emo band that failed to live up to expectations on its first album. I wrote the book on the assumption that most of my readers would be unfamiliar with the genre. Rather than spend time trying to get them to like or even connect with emo, I focused on something of interest to all music fans. The industry was forced into a sea change on how it made its money as a result of pirated MP3 files. Many record companies were struggling to stay alive. There was no money to give a high potential band a second chance after failing to gain traction on its first try. The rip-off noted in the title occurred to fund a record company executive’s bribe, which could have happened in any genre.

The whodunit was the unique element in that book. The reader learned in the opening that one of the members of The Tactile Tattoo engineered the rip-off. Careful clue analysis was needed to figure out which one. This is the darkest novel in my series. It’s also my least favorite. And, it’s the only one to win a Mystery/Thriller of the Year Award. Go figure.

RockRollRipoff

The next novel, The Concert Killer, is my favorite. A serial killer tried to shut down the concert industry by dropping bodies at venues throughout California. The concerts featured a variety of different genres. From a series arc perspective we saw an extension of the sea change mentioned above. Since pirated downloads cut heavily into album earnings, musicians now earn most of their livelihood from concerts. The Concert Killer built a dam across that earnings stream. Concert-goers stayed home in droves. The novel climaxed as the killer was about to expand his territory to a national audience.

Like with the emergence of the Russian Mafia in Rock & Roll Homicide, The Concert Killer featured a cutting edge element. Unlike its predecessor, this cultural phenomenon won’t get hot until later this year when the US begins exporting liquefied natural gas for the first time. I’m hoping it gains the same kind of lift that Rock & Roll Homicide experienced in June. One of the advantages to being an indie author is that we don’t have to limit our windows of opportunity to the six week shelf life afforded most traditionally published authors at chain bookstores. Theirs is a “do or die” situation where failure to sell five to ten thousand books in that period usually results in a parting of the ways with the publisher. The indie route enables us to build a platform before jumping into those shark-infested waters (or opt out altogether).

ConcertKiller

The Classic Rockers Reunion with Death saw a major convergence of the story plot and the series arc. Jason’s father, Jim, is a retired San Diego Police detective. He opposed Jason’s career as a musician from day one, supposedly because of working too many musician OD cases. In this novel, Jason’s estranged Uncle Patrick from Pennsylvania asked for help after his former bandmate was murdered a few weeks before a reunion show for his ‘60s club band. Jason filled in for the slain rhythm guitarist as they prepared for the classic rock show. A 40-year family feud between Jim and Patrick played out while the murder was investigated.

My favorite part of writing that novel happened while researching the venue for the climax, which took place at the Scranton Cultural Center (formerly The Masonic Temple). I was given a two-hour tour of the ten story facility that was built in the late 20s by the Masons, and continues to serve as a Masonic Lodge. I was shown secret passageways, hidden staircases, spaces below stages, and enough intriguing architecture to inspire a Dan Brown novel. I used a “best of” selection for the climax, and saw a nice return from incorporating that fact into my local marketing efforts. I think it’s important to look closely at thematic and marketing possibilities after completing a novel’s first draft. Then, try to develop them during the editing process.

ClassicRockersReunion

My 2014 release, Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll, also featured classic rock music. I did that for two reasons. First, it took place at an undersea club that was part of a resort for billionaires and millionaires. Demographically, classic rock fits better than any other genre considering that most people accrue wealth over time, and classic rock is popular with the 50+ crowd. Second, I wanted to bring Uncle Patrick to San Diego and needed him to work undercover with Jason in the club’s house band. I’m thinking about starting a second series that features Uncle Patrick and felt that the additional exposure would help ensure crossover among my readers.

The music got a boost from an alternate source in this novel. When live music was not playing in the club, the sound system was synched to a holography show on the floor of La Jolla Cove.

Songs like “Barracuda,” “Octopus’s Garden,” and “Yellow Submarine” were synched up with what was happening outside the club and sometimes inside the plot.

DCRR_eBookCOVER_FINAL.indd

I’m a firm believer in the benefits of cross marketing. As a former band manager and musician, I do all that I can to bring a back stage pass to each murder mystery. My best newspaper exposure came from a library/bookstore tour AFTER I started bringing my guitar and PA system to the events. On site book sales quadrupled and feature articles appeared in four newspapers. The idea of including live music came after reading a social media post by a cozy mystery author who did knitting demonstrations during her tour. Authors with a particular theme would do well to brainstorm as many ways possible to engage readers with similar interests either in person or online. Hopefully, one of those ideas will help you chart in the Top 40.

Many thanks to Lisette Brodey for inviting me to pen a guest blog at her Writers’ Chateau. I am a fan of her novels, and of the effort she puts into helping her fellow writers. Hopefully, one of the marketing tips that I shared today will help you too.

RJMcDonnell

Thank you, RJ! It’s been a pleasure having you back at my writers’ chateau! I hope readers will check out your wonderful books, starting with a free copy of Rock & Roll Homicide.

(Links below)

Rock & Roll Homicide (FREE)

Rock & Roll Rip-Off

The Concert Killer

The Classic Rockers Reunion With Death

Diamonds, Clubs, and Rock & Roll

RJ’s June 2013 Writers’ Chateau Interview

Writing Crime Mysteries: Guest Blog by Christina James

 

Well, I’m honoured indeed to have been asked to Lisette’s Writers’ Chateau, where the dishy gardener is only too keen to show me his beds. Lisette also has a Bentley: he has the most amazing eyes and barks a formidable welcome, whilst Le Chat, the resident feline, takes her eau with delicacy and purrs as if I’ve been a lifelong friend. The châtelaine herself, of course, presides over all guests with the genteel refinement of the hostess of a superior literary salon, but then, you knew that!

She has asked me to talk about my writing of crime mysteries and I hope that what I have to say will be of interest to all visitors to the Chateau.

First, may I say that there are horses for courses and crime novels for crime addicts; I’ve read enough gruesome gore and nasty noir to confirm me in my belief that there is a limit to how much of that I and others can take and I set out to write for an audience which, like myself, prefers depiction of the psychology of the criminal mind to the painting of horror and the painstaking attention to police procedures. I wanted to develop character and use dialogue to point up the interest of interactions between people and, most of all, I sought to avoid stereotyping both detectives and villains.

In the world of my books, things are not cut and dried, nor necessarily tidily rounded off with everything sorted and satisfying. Life just isn’t like that. In a series, there are definitely some aspects that will be pursued in subsequent stories, but I still aim to make the books stand alone and have their own individuality, regardless of the presence of the same police personnel. So, readers of DI Yates know that I’ve used first person as well as third person narratives in two of the books, whilst in the other I’ve ‘got inside’ the head of one central character. I’ve also depicted different kinds of people to provide at least a sense of the human tapestry of the society of South Lincolnshire. As for the police themselves, I like to focus on different members of Tim Yates’ team; it’s interesting that Juliet has an enthusiastic following amongst my readership, some of whom were disappointed that I did not develop her much in the first novel, In the Family. Sausage Hall may go some way to address that.

Sausage Hall

I’m often asked about how I plot my books and this is a matter of huge importance to me, as my early unpublished work definitely needed the rigour of tight plotting. I try to fit plot design into our annual holiday, when I can escape from the interruptions, non-stop emails and telephone calls that my work-a-day existence always throws up. I have to spend time on clear thinking and working out how the layers of action will be interleaved and how to prevent the reader from guessing the outcome too soon. I’ve said many times that I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to writing, as, so far, I haven’t written chronologically and that has meant it’s all been much harder to control the detail and the connections. However, I’m always very much aware of the total concept, to deviate from which would of necessity mean significant changes to the entire narrative.

9781907773464frcvr.indd

Readers seem to like my use of language and to enjoy the dialogue, so I try to include plenty of that, enjoying the cut and thrust of conversation, especially when I can create humour in the relationships between the police officers, for I know that what one reader has described as ‘zesty banter’ is often the way by which those hard-pressed men and women cope with the stresses of their jobs. Character voice is always important and quite a challenge when it is to be sustained from one book to the next – I’m acutely aware that readers pick up on inconsistencies and I have to revisit previous stories to check up on my accuracy.

I can’t avoid giving my work what some readers have remarked on as a ‘literary’ quality. As long as it doesn’t lead me into dense passages of purple prose, my style does lend itself to touches of irony, subtleties of meaning and elements of theme and symbol that help to tie the narrative together. I don’t want to have the sequence of events dictate the terms of the books, for events themselves, though of course important, are not my prime concern.

9781844718771frcvr.indd

I’ve been delighted to have built up an enthusiastic following. I started out as an author and, although most people now know that I am the commissioning crime editor for Salt Publishing, I wanted to be read for my writing alone, not because I might be ‘useful’! For one thing, I think it’s vital that an editor has credibility; after all, making judgements on others’ work is difficult enough as everyone is sensitive to criticism. Having myself ‘been through’ the harsh experiences of those who try to get published is very helpful in handling difficult moments with authors… and there are plenty of those. I also wanted to establish relationships with virtual friends on the social networks as a writer, not an editor, and I’m so lucky to have formed many of those with people around the world. They are an enduring and reliable support; I enjoy interacting with them and doing my best with what time allows to support them in their writing endeavours. I’m thrilled when they achieve success. And my blog is my writer’s showcase; I aim to make every post as perfect as I can, as well as to convey aspects of my own character and opinions. Though I’ve never said this before, there’s a reference on the blog’s author page to those see-through police boards that appear on TV crime programmes and I set out from the beginning to provide over the entirety of the posts little clues to me and my real life that regular readers could, if they bothered to do so, use to form a complete picture of Linda Bennett, as well as Christina James.

CJames

CONNECT WITH CHRISTINA

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon Author Page (U.K.)

Amazon Author Page (U.S.)

Salt Publishing

Chat with Christina James (original writers’ chateau interview)

Email: christina.james.writer@gmail.com

MANAGING A SERIES by Deborah Nam-Krane

 

My New Adult series The New Pioneers has a huge cast of characters. Each of the four full-length books is at its heart a romance with a different hero and heroine. That’s eight right there, and just about every character has a parent who plays a big role in their story, even if they’re deceased (two such parents are the subjects of my short story). Because no romance is much fun without a spoiler, that’s at least four more. And while not every character is going to carry a story on his or her own, it’s important to have friends who fill out the major characters’ lives.

SmartestGirl

In other words, I have close to thirty characters I manage in my series—and that’s just in the books I’ve published so far. Books five and six are going to open up into an entirely different area of the New Pioneers’ universe. The challenge there is to respect the history and important of the people who introduce them while making the new characters as compelling as our old favorites. (Then again, the last half is always part of our job.)

So how does a writer manage such a large cast over multiple books and with that many more storylines? In two ways: first, knowing the characters — second, always keeping sight of what the series is about.

FamilyUChoose

Knowing our characters is our number one requirement when we are creating a story around them, whether we’re writing a standalone or a series. The story is not the plot; the plot is just the vehicle that we use to help our characters on their journeys. The better we get to know them, the easier it will be to understand the plot they need. As far as I’m concerned, all of the discussion we have about whether we’re going to plan our stories ahead of time or whether we’re going to write by the seat of our pants is missing the point. The majority of whatever time we’re going to dedicate to planning has to be spent on figuring out what makes our character unique and what went into making him or her that way. Just as in real life, that’s nature and nurture: figure out that character’s origin story and then figure out what pivotal events, however small, went into shaping him or her into the final form.

An Engagement  ebook cover

But this is also a series, and just as a book isn’t its plot, a series isn’t just a collection of books with the same characters in related settings. It’s has to tell a larger story. In my case, that story (as cliché as it may sound) is about the American Dream. Every character is after it, in their own way, and they bring their own talents and limitations. Jessie, Richard and Michael may be from old-monied families, but in some ways that means they understand better than anyone what it means to lose everything. Emily may hate Alex more than anyone else in the series, but maybe that’s because they both know what it is to be an outsider looking in. Mitch and Emily may butt heads as they play Will They Or Won’t They, but part of what draws them to each other is their shared understanding of what it is to be a second- or third-generation immigrant. Zainab may not have been born in the US, but she’s the breath of fresh air and energy that motivates everyone to stay positive and keep pursuing their dreams. And finally, there’s Miranda, an orphan in America who keeps her sanity by making an effort to connect with her father’s family in Israel (and that connection will come in handy for everyone later).

How is everyone going to realize his or her dream? By working together. That is the series, but for each character it means different things (some people have to accept help, and some people have to learn to get out of their own way). My challenge, then, is not only understanding each character, but understanding how they help—or hinder—everyone else.

ChinaDollNEW

I use the word “challenge” facetiously. The truth is that it’s exciting to figure out how my characters are going to walk in and out of each other’s lives and what roles they’re going to play. And if I’m completely honest, at this point I know these folks so well that I’m not making decisions as much as I am watching them play it out. My real work then? Getting to know the new characters my old ones demand to meet.

God, I love my job.

Deborah Nam-Krane’s latest book, Let’s Move On, is the fourth full-length novel in her New Adult series The New Pioneers. She’s been a guest at the Chateau before, to chat and to give her thoughts on how indies need to market. She’s very excited about her review tour with Juniper Grove Book Solutions this month. Please check out this link if you’d like to participate.

MoveOn

CROSSING GENRES by Eden Baylee

 

Lisette has generously offered me space to guest blog about my latest book, Stranger at Sunset, so before anything else, I want to thank her for hosting me.

I’m very happy to be here because I’ve known Lisette for some time and have recently started to delve into her work. I have enormous respect for her as an author as she writes in multiple genres—from YA to literary fiction to romantic comedy.

I’ve always maintained that any writer with a talent for words can create a story. A genre is merely made up of ideas dropped into a funnel. If enough elements fall out of it under a specific category, that’s how the book will ultimately be labeled. There are no hard rules, and many novels stagger multiple genres.

As an author, I don’t have any great attachment to whether my book is labeled a mystery or thriller or suspense. Labels give readers an idea of what to expect and they help marketers promote books. I started as a writer of erotica, and then took a hard turn to pen Stranger at Sunset, a psychological mystery/thriller. It helped that I had written flash fiction and short stories in multiple genres previously. It’s been a challenge but not impossible to gain acceptance into a new genre.

As a reader, you might be asking: What is a psychological mystery/thriller? And what can you expect from Stranger at Sunset?

STRANGER_SUNSET

In brief, it is not a traditional mystery because although there is a crime, you will not know who the victim or perpetrator is from the start. It’s not a “whodunit?” There is no detective.

The story stimulates mood with a focus on moral conflict. I use unreliable narrators to drive the psychological tension in unpredictable ways. What I’m exploring are the characters’ motives and how they view the world, which is different from how you and I may see it. Multiple characters are revealed via changes in point of view and scenes that involve each separately.

The “psychological mystery” part reveals a battle of wits between the characters, and more importantly, a struggle within individual minds. The themes of identity and raison d’être are important.

The “thriller” part defines how the reader rides along with the protagonist, Dr. Kate Hampton, experiencing things as they happen to her. You will be just as surprised as she is when the “monster” jumps out of the closet.

Suspense is essential, and it builds between characters in a place where you would not normally have conflict—a tropical resort in sunny Jamaica. It’s the antithesis of where you would expect to find human foibles such as intolerance, inhibitions, and insecurities.

And of course, there is always the element of a twist ending, just because I love twist endings. 😀

I hope this synopsis gives you an idea of what Stranger at Sunset offers. I would love to answer any questions or discuss thoughts about genre barriers or writing a psychological mystery/thriller, so please don’t hesitate to comment.

 

* * *

 

Thank you, Lisette, for giving me this opportunity to share with your readers. I really appreciate all you do to connect authors to an audience.

My pleasure, Eden. As you know, I’ve read Stranger At Sunset and just loved it. You write beautifully and your characters were wonderfully complex and intriguing. I’m very much looking forward to the next in the series.

For readers who may have missed your interview at my writers’ chateau in December, 2012, it can be read here.

EdenBaylee

 CONNECT WITH EDEN

Website

Blog

Amazon Author page US

Amazon Author page UK

Twitter @edenbaylee

Facebook

Goodreads

YouTube

Pinterest

Linkedin

To stay apprised of Eden’s book-related news, please add your name to her mailing list.

BOOKTASTIK: Helping Authors Sell Books

BooktastikHeader

BOOKTASTIK: Helping Authors Sell Books by Dionne Lister

Hi, Lisette, thanks so much for having me as a guest today. I’m excited to be here representing a fun new site that connects readers with books — Booktastik.

Did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of new ebooks being published each year? So if you’re an author, it’s obviously becoming harder and harder to get your book to stand out from the crowd. As a self-published author, I know the difficulty in getting a book noticed — if no one knows your book exists, they’re not going to buy it.

In my desperate scramble to sell books, I’m always looking for new ways for my books to be seen. I’ve tried a few different avenues; including guest blog posts, interviews, Twitter, Facebook, podcasts and paid advertising. Paid advertising has given me the largest sales numbers, but there aren’t many sites that actually work. And if you Google “advertising for authors” there’s not much out there to point you in the right direction.

Call me crazy, but I’ll share with you the site that has worked for me, the site I consider Booktastik’s largest competitor: Bookbub. If you’ve been around the traps as an author, you probably know someone who’s used them — and they work. But how does it work? Well, readers sign up for free to receive a daily email for books on sale in genres they choose. When an author pays to advertise with them, your book goes in a once-only email and appears on their website. That’s it. Simple.

booktastik

The problem is that they are pricey — a few months ago I advertised my Fantasy book, which was on sale for $1.99. That cost me $270, and since then the cost has risen to $330 — figures that not many self-published authors can afford (and fantasy is a cheaper genre than, say, mystery or romance), especially if you’re just starting out. To add to that, the last three times I’ve applied, I’ve missed out, and it’s also been impossible for most of my friends to get approved because Bookbub is always booked out.

How annoying! I’d finally found something that worked, but now that avenue seemed to be closed too. Trying not to get depressed at times like that is hard, so I was having a rant to another author friend about my frustrations (ranting to other author friends who understand is a great way to keep your sanity). During that conversation I said something that set me on the course towards Booktastik: “It’s just not fair. If you want anything done, you have to do it yourself. I’m going start my own company so us indie authors have somewhere to advertise!” And so the journey to creating Booktastik began.

I knew that if I was going to do this, I had to do it better and offer more than what was currently out there. I contacted a web designing friend of mine and told her what I wanted — a friendly, welcoming site that didn’t just deliver ebook deals, but had other relevant stuff like vetted book reviews and a blog. I pictured Booktastik becoming a community, rather than solely a middleman. I also knew that authors didn’t just need a place to advertise a book that was on sale or free, but we often wanted to get the word out about our new release or competitions and giveaways, so I added those categories, which have been very popular with the subscribers.

I know no one really wants to know the nitty-gritty of what it takes, but we spent months designing the site and getting it functional (with a few nightmares along the way), although if it was easy, I guess everyone would do it. We’re spending money on advertising to get subscribers who authors can’t normally reach — readers who are outside the social media sphere of Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, and I’m happy to say that after just one month we are getting over 500 visits a day (and growing), and we’re already selling books for our advertising authors.

And that’s our story so far. We’ve got exciting plans for stage two of Booktastik, but that will have to wait a while. But right now, I’d like to extend an invitation to you all to come and check out www.booktastik.com. There’s lots to see and read, and I hope you love our little animal icons (there’s one for each genre) as much as I do. See you there!

 Follow Booktastik on Twitter

 Like Booktastik on Facebook

-1ABOUT DIONNE LISTER

An avid reader of many genres, including fantasy, for as long as she can remember, Dionne also loves writing and has attempted to emulate such greats as David Eddings and Raymond Feist – with … interesting results. Dionne has studied creative writing at Southern Cross University, works as an editor, runs Booktastik, and counts cats and panthers as her favourite animals and dragons as her favourite flying creature (notice ‘flying’ not ‘mythical’). Dionne writes young adult fantasy, women’s fiction and thriller/suspense. In 2013 iTunes Australia named her one of ‘ten emerging fantasy authors you must read.’ You can find out more about Dionne and her work at www.dionnelisterwriter.com.

 

Chat with Dionne Lister here at Lisette’s Writers’ Chateau

Doris

Who would you turn to if your love life, or life in general was a mess? Jemma’s not sure, but she’s lucky that Doris is looking out for her. Who’s Doris? Doris is Jemma’s vagina, and she’s determined to help Jemma put her life on track, but is the job too much for one vagina to handle?

Meet Doris, Jemma and their friends in this hilarious romance/chick lit. Here’s what some readers had to say:

A delightful, funny, and heart-warming read!

…a charming book, fast-paced and funny, with a very brave concept.

 

Close Call: A Doris & Jemma Vadgeventure

Amazon U.S.

iTunes

Kobo

B&N

 

A Winning e-Strategy for Authors

 

A Guest Post

by Deborah Nam-Krane

As writers our primary job is to write, and every credible marketing expert I have spoken to says that content is much more important than any Search Engine Optimization tweaking we can do. But self-publishing is just like any other new job or new business—networking is important if we want to find new opportunities.

There are three places we all must be, and surprisingly those have been constant for about three years (an eternity in web-years): a Twitter account, a Facebook page and a blog. As far as I’m concerned, all other platforms are gravy. But simply setting up those accounts isn’t enough. You have to tweet on Twitter, update your status on Facebook and write posts on your blog.

And then you’re done?

No. Because you can write the most brilliant content the internet has ever seen, but if you’re not interacting with anyone else, the chances are small that anyone is going to find it.

If you’ve been on Twitter for any amount of time, you’ve run into at least one person who tweets several times per hour about how great his or her product or book is. “My book is so awesome!” “Check out my five-star review!” “Look at how great I am!” I always cringe when I see this, because it’s exactly the wrong approach and doesn’t convince anyone of anything except that you really want to sell something—and that can just come off as desperate if you and I don’t already have a relationship.

A better approach on Twitter? Find people with similar interests and start reading what they have to say. Don’t jump in with a reply or to start a conversation until you can say something relevant to something they’ve put out there. I guarantee, that person will be much more receptive to your thoughtful, personalized approach than they would to your advertising blast.

Facebook has been compared to the mall on more than one occasion, and not in a flattering way. It’s bad enough that they sting us with advertisements and selectively decide what we can see; don’t make it worse by trying to turn your page into a billboard. Don’t just post links to your book or blog; talk about what you’ve been doing that day (as it relates to your writing); share news and information that might be relevant to your fans; and finally, share information for other people. Even better? Comment on other people’s pages and have a genuine conversation.

Finally, your blog. This is where the c-word (that would be content, in case you’re wondering) is most important, if only because it’s easier for people to skate through your blog archives than it is your Twitter and Facebook accounts. But even on blogs, it’s not enough to write great content: you need to interact. Want people to comment on your blog? Then start commenting on theirs, and not simply, “wow, great post!” but something that shows you read and were paying attention.  But please, I beg you, don’t comment with something along the lines of “How are you doing?” I talked about exactly this on my blog, “http://myblogisbetterthanyours.com/ImTheMostImportantThingOnTheInternet.” Because in addition to irritating everyone else who reads the comments, you’re also not going to convince anyone that you are all that and a slice of toast.

Want to take it to the next level? Then start thinking like a small business person again and figure out what your value proposition is. In other words, what do you have that most other people on the internet don’t, and why should anyone care about your opinion? How can you be useful to the people you’re trying to talk to? Do you have a collection of helpful writing prompts? Have you been following a certain aspect of publishing? Do you have a collection of articles on editing or formatting? Tips on how to break through writer’s block? Then share them—and your thoughts on them. Do it consistently and people will start to think of you as a trusted resource that they’ll be on the lookout for—and eventually may seek out.

In some ways, social media is a lot like real networking: be polite, pleasant and useful, and people will want to be around you. And the more people are around you, the more likely they are to offer you help, whether it’s being hosted on their blogs, sharing information about your work (the best advertising is still word of mouth) or letting you know about opportunities to publish. And if you should happen to make some genuine friends? The possibilities are endless.

`*`*`*`*`

-1

Deborah Nam-Krane was born in New York, raised in Cambridge and educated in Boston. Her series The New Pioneers debuted in March of 2013 with the release of her first book,  The Smartest Girl in the Room. The sequel The Family You Choose will be released in late September.

 

SmartestGirl

Nineteen-year-old Emily wants her college diploma fast, and she’s going to get it. But when the perfect night with perfect Mitch leads her to a broken heart, Emily is blind to her vulnerability. When the person she cares about the most is hurt as a result, Emily’s ambition gives way to more than a little ruthlessness. She’s going to use her smarts to take care of herself and protect the people she loves, and everyone else had better stay out of her way. But shouldn’t the smartest girl everyone knows realize that the ones she’d cross the line for would do the same for her?

 

FamilyUChoose

Miranda Harel has been in love with her guardian, Alex Sheldon, since she was five years old, and Michael Abbot has despised them both for just as long. When Miranda finds out why she wants both men out of her life for good and questions everything she believed about where and who she came from. Finding out the truth will break her heart. Without family or true love, will her friends be enough?

CONNECT WITH DEBORAH

Please join her mail list to find out first about new releases and connect with Deborah on any of the following sites:

Written By Deb

Amazon Author Page

Smashwords Author Page

Twitter

Facebook

Google+

Goodreads

STAY OUT OF YOUR CHARACTER’S HEADS

A Guest Blog

by M. S. Kaye

Fight Princess blog tour September 2nd – 9th: on an adventure to meet fun bloggers and readers!

Staying out of the characters’ heads is the most momentously important thing I’ve learned about how to “show, not tell.”

Obviously, sometimes offering a morsel of a character’s thoughts is instrumental in helping the reader understand, but it should be limited to one morsel. If you have to write a paragraph of explanation, you need to find a better way to show the information in action or dialogue.

Or simply cut the information—oftentimes, leaving something unsaid is more powerful. Ask yourself if the information is invaluable, if it truly impacts the story. If it’s not essential, CUT IT.

And even better: keeping to only morsels of thoughts can be intriguing. People think in segments naturally, so choose to offer intriguing bits, just enough to pique the reader’s curiosity, without explaining too much. This is what keeps readers flipping pages. See the below opening to Fight Princess:

“What if I told you I loved you?” Floyd the bartender asked as he rested his elbows on the ring-stained mahogany.

Celisse was standing across the bar from him. “You love sex, Floyd.”

“There’s a difference?” Floyd grinned.

Celisse rolled her eyes. She really didn’t know if there was a difference. “Blackberry—” she started.

“Whiskey,” Floyd finished. He stood straight and poured her usual shot.

In these five paragraphs, only one sentence expresses a thought. She really didn’t know if there was a difference. Now you know something about Celisse’s love life, something powerful and interesting—and only that one sentence hinted to it. Also, notice the sentence does not go on, does not continue with that evil word “because.” I would say “because” is as dirty as a four-letter word, but four-letter words are generally more impactful. It is almost always better to cut the sentence short. “Because” takes away the intrigue. Let the reader wonder, leave them feeling curious.

And speaking of “show, not tell,” what else do you learn about Celisse? She can brush a man off with ease, and without being a bitch. That shows the kind of person she is. It also shows she’s likely attractive. We find out she’s discriminating, not slutty. And, of course, her usual shot is whiskey: she’s a tough-ass. All of this was conveyed without diving into the character’s thoughts.

Notice the overlapping of information. We hear so much today about multitasking—people are used to several things going on at once, and they can be impatient if not much is happening. If you have information you want to convey, try to find a way to give the information while other necessary events are going on.

If you choose to show strong details, your writing will be impactful and addicting. Hearing soliloquies about a character’s childhood, and how she feels about herself, and how she adores the guy down the hall is not impactful. If your character is gazing out a window THINKING, cut the scene, decide if the information is necessary, and if it is, find a way to show it.

Read my latest book to see how my method works…

FightPrincess

Fight Princess – Published by Liquid Silver Books

Things aren’t what they seem. Don’t get involved.

Celisse is too headstrong to listen. Her best friend’s boyfriend is dead, and she does not heed Cullen’s warning, slipped to her in a note as he’s being arrested for the murder.

Cullen tries to keep Celisse out of danger and also tries to avoid her, both unsuccessfully. He can’t deny his feelings for her anymore, but he knows if she ever discovered the truth about his past, she’d surely hate him.

While struggling with her intense feelings for Cullen, Celisse uses her skills as an ex-prosecutor to investigate, all while continuing to fight for Ogden, the organizer of an underground fight ring. She eventually realizes things are connected—the ring, Ogden, Cullen, the murder, and herself. She races to uncover the truth before she’s arrested or becomes the next victim—or perhaps, the next culprit.

EXCERPT

Through the peephole she saw Cullen staring her down, as if he could see through the door. “I know you’re in there, Celisse. Your car’s outside.”

Celisse grumbled under her breath. Then she spoke loud enough for him to hear. “How do you know where I live?”

“It’s not that hard to get a person’s address—as you damn well know.”

Crap. How did he know? “What are you talking about?”

“You made it downtown so quickly because you were already in my apartment.” His jaw flexed as he continued to glare at the door. She was almost impressed he was able to maintain that intense, pissed-off posture and expression when she saw in his eyes that he was barely hanging on through the exhaustion. Like riding a bike, if he stopped, he would probably fall down.

She turned the bolt and opened the door. “How would I have gotten in your apartment—and why would I want to?”

“You flashed a beautiful smile at Alfie. Don’t tell me you don’t know exactly what you’re doing.”

Celisse hesitated. Hearing him say that… She wasn’t sure how to react.

He pushed the door open a bit further and slid past her into the apartment. She didn’t think to stop him until he was already past her. She turned and looked at him standing in the middle of her little living room, like a storm cloud in her usually calm and cloudless space. This small, cheap apartment was the first place she had ever lived where she felt completely comfortable.

She realized he was looking at her, not at her eyes. She crossed her arms over her chest. “What do you want?”

His jaw tightened again, and he met her eyes like lightning flashing across the sky. “Don’t ask me why in the hell you’d want to be in my apartment.”

It took her a second to realize he was answering her previous question.

“What did you think you’d find?” he asked.

“Certainly not stacks of hundred-dollar bills.”

“It’s none of your goddamn concern how much money I have and why. Stay out of my business.”

“No.”

“Excuse me?”

“My best friend’s boyfriend was murdered, and then the accused slips me a note that says things aren’t what they seem. What did you think I was going to do?”

He paused, and the glare in his expression that had about blinded her a few seconds ago dulled to the glower of the moon in a clouded sky. He turned and looked around her apartment—her TV stand with a couple movies on top, the potted plant next to the sliding glass doors, her one pathetic attempt at gardening, and then over to the bookshelf where he started reading titles.

She stood next to him. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Does it annoy you?” He took a book from the shelf and flipped through its pages. “Someone going through your things, invading your privacy?”

Celisse snatched the book out of his hand, before he realized what it was.

“Are you pissed yet?” he asked.

“I wonder how it would look to the court if the police were called on you the same day you posted bail.”

He took a step toward her, and she backed up with her hands in guard position.

He stopped, and his voice was inside out from what it had been. “I would never hurt you.”

“You were arrested for murder today.”

His expression sobered, like fog pulling across a jagged cliff face. “I’m sorry. I never meant to scare you.” He walked across her living room, out the door, and down the stairs.

MSKaye

M. S. Kaye has won several writing awards and has been published in literary journals. She is a 4th-degree black belt and certified instructor of Songahm Taekwondo. A transplant from Ohio, she resides in Jacksonville, FL with her husband, Corey, where she does her best not to melt in the sun.

CONTACT M.S. KAYE

Website

Twitter

Facebook

 

KOOMKEY: A Community of Givers Paying It Forward

 

by Joseph Lacko

Even the most carefully outlined project can surprise us with unexpected turns and unforeseen adventures. It is the nature of creativity.

When I created Koomkey, the only method of sending unsolicited cash to people through Twitter, I experienced a few of these surprises.

If you’re new to the concept, Koomkey enables you to send what we call, “Kashkeys” to other people, in values between 25 cents to 10 dollars, without creating any sort of new account. Think of it as a virtual tip jar sitting on your worktable.

When Twitter followers appreciate the efforts you make in social media, or admire your offline creative outpouring, a quick “Kashkey” of encouragement can be sent your way.

Throughout development, I told myself: “I know what I see as the usefulness of this tool, but I will always be ready for the different ways social media users ultimately take it.”

When we launched Koomkey July 1, 2013, the Twitter users who’d tweeted, “How do I turn my social media efforts into cash?” didn’t respond. In fact, some of them blocked me.

My wife, Rebecca, began her own venture, offering “latte & muffin” cash to her favorite authors. And there was my surprise; the first niche to latch on to the power of Koomkey’s usefulness was the writing community. Now I have befriended more wordsmiths than I ever imagined I might.

It makes sense. The intention of Koomkey is to empower social media users to instantly support others on a reasonable scale. This fits perfectly into the intimate world of writers networking and building an author platform.

KoomKey

More useful than merely clicking, “Like,” a humble thanks in the form of 25 cents can quickly add up. Anyone who sells a product in units—books, for instance—understands how quickly small numbers can snowball. Kashkeys are real income earned simply by maintaining your current online platform through social media.

If just 10% of your Twitter followers sent you a quarter, or maybe a dollar this month, and every month, how would it benefit you?

I’ve discovered the unexpected joy of joining others in giving heartfelt $10 Kashkeys to an author who found herself in a sudden bind. Together, we helped a stranger in need, and now count her among our friends. I have personally found the writing community the most receptive to random acts of generosity.

It stems from one of the key principles that went into the creation of the service: allowing people to simply be themselves and get financially rewarded for it.

Relationships are the cornerstone of social media. Readers love to interact with writers. In our first month of operation, two book fans, strangers in different countries, connected with their favorite author on Twitter using Koomkey. An exchange of Kashkeys was sent between them, and this small gesture was so appreciated, the fans teamed up to support the author’s Blog Tour of her latest book release. Their enthusiasm and partnership amazed me, and I was happy to donate Kashkey prizes for contests offered throughout the author’s tour.

What has been created in Koomkey is a simple way to cheer on a hard working writer, artist, charity, comic, blogger–whoever inspires us. Koomkey users have sent donations to favorite charities, students struggling to make ends meet, and educational programs in need of funding. Other Koomkey users notice these donations and join in giving—to both the worthy cause, and the original giver. I look forward to the time when a 25-cent Kashkey is as common as a retweet.

Signing up is as easy as logging in at www.koomkey.com with your Twitter handle and password. Claiming your cash is a matter of one click. You can use your funds received to send Kashkeys to others, or direct the money to your bank. It’s your choice.

If you have only a quarter or two to spare, try it. I challenge you to brighten someone’s day using Koomkey.

CONNECT WITH JOSEPH AND REBECCA

Koomkey

Joseph on Twitter

Rebecca on Twitter

How It Works

Why send someone cash for no apparent reason? (by Joseph Lacko)

Connecting, Writing, and Paying It Forward with Koomey (by Rebecca Lacko)

Facebook

YouTube

WHEN YOU ASSUME… part 2 in the series EDITING: MORE THAN I BEFORE E.

.

 

“When you assume, you make an ASS of U and ME”

By Laura Daly

When you’re editing, whether it’s your own work or someone else’s, you may find there are common problems in the writing that boil down to this: assumptions being made about what readers know.

Readers don’t know what you know. They don’t have plot outlines in front of them, detailed character sketches and descriptions of scenes. With a nonfiction book, other than an index and a table of contents, they may not understand fully what the scope of your book is. They don’t know what’s coming up, what’s happened before page 1, what’s possibly going to happen in the epilogue. If they’re reading a nonfiction book—a biochemistry textbook, for instance—they don’t know that a term that comes up in chapter 2 is going to be fully defined in chapter 6, so they don’t have to worry that in chapter 2 they’re totally lost in the language. Whether you’re dealing with a work of fiction or nonfiction, you owe it to your readers to set up scenes, set up information, fill them in on what you know.

Readers, for instance, won’t know what something looks like until you describe it, which doesn’t mean you have to go into minute detail, but you do have to establish the details so that THEY MAKE SENSE. They won’t know, for instance, why the protagonist, Joe Blow (Who’s he?), got in the car (What car? Where? How? Why?) and drove to Slobville (From where?) to visit a sick friend, Thelma (Who?), who lives on the block near the abandoned factory that has the big ready-to-crumble smokestack that … Where were we? And it’s not because you’re the omniscient narrator and know all, and therefore they couldn’t possibly know what you know. I mean they don’t have the facts, Jack.

{Yeah, I know, creative writers in Iowa are waving minimalism banners right now. But, see, minimalism, or the lack of details, has to have a point. And not providing details—information, definitions, description, context—can be really annoying to readers when there isn’t a point to the writing and when the lack of details is because of a writer’s (fill in the blank) sloppiness/laziness/ignorance.)

BooksEditing

Readers don’t know about your characters, for example, their backgrounds and traits. And by characters, I’m not just thinking of fictional characters. For me, living, breathing people in works of history are characters who, even if they’re well known, need to have details established—personality traits, say, or events in early life that can be seen as influencing the person’s later decisions. A common approach taken in historical biographies these days is to assume that readers are already fully familiar with a figure’s general life facts, so there’s no need for the writer to review them. I understand that not every biography should be a multivolume work, but I wonder how helpful it is to not set facts within a context, to instead assume that readers know that context and can make their own connections.

I’ve come across this same problem in memoirs. Now, in a memoir, the reason why details aren’t given may be because the subject doesn’t want to spill the beans on everything or doesn’t quite remember the events or wants to gloss over details that are, oh, embarrassing. But a memoir should feel honest to readers, and that means details should be connected and built on, and readers’ familiarity shouldn’t be assumed. A guy can’t be describing with relish his bachelorhood and sexual exploits with numerous womenfolk in various parts of the country while on the road with his band, say, then throw in, “By the way, I got married.” To whom? When? More importantly, why? Then the wife doesn’t show up again until five chapters later, when wife number 2 comes on the scene after the divorce. Say what?

Set up details early so that later details have a context, have meaning.

This assumption problem reminds me of a pithy rebuke by Felix Unger in an episode of “The Odd Couple”:

“When you assume, you make an ASS of U and ME.”

(A friend of mine recently groused that he never agreed with Unger’s dictum: “The first part makes sense. But how does what U do make ME look bad? It’s on U.”)

Whether we agree with what Mr. Unger says or not, we can all agree that making assumptions can be very bad in writing. Don’t do it.

Oh, and don’t be an ass.

285005_250819414929166_5880600_n

Laura Daly, a freelance editor, writer, and proofreader based in Maywood, NJ, has worked on fiction and nonfiction trade books, textbooks, trade magazines, and journals. She can be reached at laurajdaly@earthlink.net.

It’s Only Logical: part 1 in the series EDITING: MORE THAN I BEFORE E.

 


It’s Only Logical: part 1 in the series EDITING: MORE THAN I BEFORE E
by Laura Daly

Tomorrow is the last day of Words Matter Week, so it seems appropriate to start a blog entry on editing and writing. My friend Lisette had suggested a while ago that because I’ve been a freelance editor since 1984, I might have some knowledge, tidbits, tricks of the trade, or advice to give on the subject. I believe my initial reaction to her was “Huh?” because, from my perspective, I’m still learning how to be an editor. The longer I work at it, the more I realize how much I don’t know, how much there is for me to learn. But she persisted, and I can never say no to Ms. Brodey, so, what the heck, I’ll give it a shot and put out some ideas and offer some suggestions and probably some two-bit opinions that I hope may be helpful.

Where to begin: Well, I think I’ll start with internal logic and why it’s a very good thing to watch for in any writing. Now, I’m not using the term in the strict Introduction to Aristotelian Logic sense. I mean it in the sense of maintaining coherency and consistency. So, for example, when writing a work of fiction, that means paying attention to the details: the descriptions of characters, their backgrounds, their traits (character A is X, Y, and Z); the main developments in the plot and their relations to each other (plot point B happens because of points C and D, which are foreshadowed by point E); the time, both within the actual boundaries of the plot and before and after the storyline (plot point F occurs at X location on the story’s timeline); the locations—where events in the narrative take place, where characters are from or are going, that kind of thing (character G came from place H and currently is in place I and will wind up in place J); and the influences on the storyline, or why things occur (plot point K happens because of L, M, and N). (Being a J school grad, I resorted, if you noticed, to calling on the 5Ws: the who, what, when, where, and why of the story.)

CandleGlassBook

Writers have different ways of keeping track of these details. Many do up copious lists, outlines, and descriptions, per character or chapter or major developments in the plot. Some do character sketches that may include details that never make their way into the story but that act as biographies for characters and help to keep traits, descriptions, and so on, clear. For a story covering a particular period of time, whether 24 hours or 3 months or 200 years, a timeline showing the plot points is helpful. Not all of these recorded details may wind up in the final story, but they help a writer stay true to the characters and the plot.

Editors can keep track, for instance, of descriptions of characters: Susie, 24, blonde, lives in Aberdeen, Maryland, hates crab, came from Dubuque; Butch, 39, wears flannel shirts, speaks with a drawl, once worked as a carny; plot point O takes place on planet Zoltar, which is two light-years from Boldorf—whatever details the author provides. With an involved storyline, editors may want to keep some notes or rely on the very helpful find feature in Word. Also, quick fact checking is very important and useful (even though publishers these days don’t seem to bother having fact checkers on staff). I’ve been asked to submit lists of characters, with descriptions, along with place names, as part of style sheets. As a matter of course for works of nonfiction, I keep lists of place names and proper names, along with a basic timeline, when needed. I also do fact checks, which are speeded up thanks to online sources. (A discussion on finding reliable sources might be good for another blog entry down the road.)

WomanReadingUnderTree-300x240

More importantly, things have to make sense within the context of the work. They have to be logical, even if a story itself is not meant to be realistic. So, for instance, a character who is in his late 20s in a story, which takes place now, can’t have been the set designer for a movie from 1985; that would mean he would have to be at least in his 50s, unless he was a child genius set designer, in which case he could be in his 40s. (This kind of discrepancy actually came up in a recent project.) A villain who is creeping up the stairs to a second-floor bedroom can’t suddenly be downstairs in the basement burying a body unless a gap in time is acknowledged in the story. An Edwardian gentleman can’t recite “In Flanders Fields.” You get the idea.

So, the lesson today is be consistent, be coherent, be logical. Oh, and don’t forget: words matter.

If you’ve come across odd internal logic problems in anything you’ve read recently or want to share some ideas on how you maintain internal logic in your own writing or editing, join the discussion.

285005_250819414929166_5880600_n

Laura Daly, a freelance editor, writer, and proofreader based in Maywood, NJ, has worked on fiction and nonfiction trade books, textbooks, trade magazines, and journals. She can be reached at laurajdaly@earthlink.net.