Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Adventures in Self-Publishing: Some Quotes and BSP



A few quotes and some blatant self-promotion...


I released my third book this week.  I started this particular book when I was a teenager.  All these years, it's been back and forth, in one form or another, never really finished and never really in a form that seemed to be what I wanted it to be.

"There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." (Maya Angelou)

But I could never let it go.  It kept coming back, needing to be told.  There was something way down in the heart of it that I had to work out.

"The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them -- words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it. That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear." (Stephen King)

Eventually it became a whole book.  When it was done, I was kind of surprised at what the story ended up being about, because I hadn't consciously set out for where I ended up.

"Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It's a way of understanding it." (Lloyd Alexander)

It made all the rounds of agents and editors, and got a lot of positive feedback, but it just "wasn't commercial."  It just "didn't fit the market."

"Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators." (Olin Miller)

So now, out it goes into the world.

"The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all." (Mark Twain)

Will it be a success?  Who knows.  So far it's starting to sell without me even announcing it's been released, including two copies sold in Germany on the first day (who knows why).

"Stories may well be lies, but they are good lies that say true things, and which can sometimes pay the rent." (Neil Gaiman)

It served its original purpose, which was purely personal.

"I write to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear." (Joan Didion)

Now I can just hope it serves some purpose in the world, and isn't just a waste of pixels on someone's overstuffed Kindle.

"There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts." (Charles Dickens)

Happy writing, everyone!  May your journey be smooth, and may all your stories find an understanding ear. :-)

Barb

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Countdown to Anaheim: 4 Weeks and Counting

One month from today I'll be on an airplane headed for Orange County. This will be my fourth RWA® National Conference, but my first time as a Golden Heart® Finalist. I have to say, I still can't believe it when I type those words. The time since the Finalist announcements in March has passed so quickly, and it feels very much like a dream.

I attended my first National Conference in San Francisco, shortly after I joined RWA. I've spoken about it before, but I have to say I was totally unprepared for the experience. I've attended conferences before--bigger, even--but all of them were related to my previous career in High Tech. I was used to huge, noisy crowds, so the RWA conference should have been old hat. Shyeah, right!

Those other conferences? 90-to-95% male. I was used to walking into a room filled with guys and being one of a handful of women, and I was comfortable with it. I didn't realize how much I'd internalize that experience as the norm until I attended that first RWA® conference! The emotional impact of entering a room filled with upwards of 2,000 women, all there to advance their writing careers, was overwhelming. I'm sure there were men in attendance, but unlike the tech conferences where I could pick out the other women, I had a difficult time seeing them.

I went against all my previous conference experience and tried to cram every minute full. Not surprisingly, I spent a lot of that first conference in a bit of a daze. Thank goodness for the conference recordings! Learning to pace myself was a lesson I've since taken to heart.

I attended the Washington, D.C. conference the following year and that experience was just as incredible. I made sure to take some time for myself. I'd been to D.C. before, so I took the Metro to the Mall on a couple of afternoons and spent time revisiting the monuments and the Smithsonian. I don't regret a moment spent away from the sessions. My head was clearer when I returned and my energy level was up. I'm a card-carrying introvert, you see. I enjoy the energy of the conference, but I eventually feel drained if I don't recharge with alone time (and alone can mean being out amongst strangers, so long as it's by myself, if you get my drift).

2010 was the year of personal setbacks and heartaches that I won't go into here, but suffice it say, I skipped the 2010 conference. I have, however, listened to the conference recordings. May I say, getting the recordings, especially if you don't attend the conference in person, is a GREAT way to get the workshops and stay up-to-date.

I almost didn't go to last year's conference in New York. I'm very, very happy I did attend. I credit Chapter-mate Barbara Cool Lee with encouraging me to not only attend, but also to pitch to an agent--as well as for all her invaluable advice on preparing my pitch! I'm not sure I would have committed to entering the Golden Heart® if I hadn't gone to New York. And if I hadn't, I wouldn't be here now, feeling as if I were living a dream!

I already know the Conference in Anaheim will be special. I'm one of a group of over 60 other incredible women--my fellow Firebirds*--many of whom I've had the privilege to get to know online since the Golden Heart® announcement. I can't wait to meet them in person. I have a feeling I'm going to have to learn that whole "pacing myself" business all over again!

What about you? Will you be attending the RWA® National Conference in Anaheim this year? Do you have any Conference experiences or advice you'd be willing to share? Or, if you haven't attended Nationals yet, and/or aren't planning on going this year, do you have any questions about the conference?

Deborah Wright
www.Deborah-Wright.com
Twitter: @DeborahBWright
Facebook: Deborah.Wright.Author

* Each Golden Heart® class chooses a name for itself--one which they feel represents the feelings/experiences/etc. of the group. We have chosen the name FIREBIRDS. Our motto is: FIREBIRDS: Forged in fire and flying higher!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome!  This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA chapter's weekly progress check-in.

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

(The best prize is achieving your writing goals, but as an extra incentive, we will award gift cards from Powell's bookstore to the chapter member and the non-member who check in for the most weeks in 2012.)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

INSPIRATIONAL JOURNEY

Current Project: LEGACY series
Status: Doing edits to book #6
Posted by: Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel




I wanted to share this inspirational story with you that I came across while researching classic rock bands to feature on my Rock'n'Romance blog.


I'm older than most of you, so remember the rock band, Journey, the first time around. :)


I wasn't a die-hard fan, but I enjoyed their music and memorized their hits. These were in the days before kids and writing and a lot of other commitments. But I digress…


This band has had many huge successes. A quote from their Web site <http://www.journeymusic.com/home> states, "Since the group's formation in 1973, the band has earned 19 Top 40 singles and 25 Gold and Platinum albums. The band's Greatest Hits album is certified 15 times Platinum, bringing Journey into the elite club of Diamond-certified album holders." 


Starting as an all-instrumental act, the band finally found big success when it hired the legendary Steve Perry as a vocalist. A string of hits followed, such as "Don't Stop Believin'," "Faithfully," and "Open Arms." They went through a number of changes in the band's members, and their lead singer developed health problems and eventually left Journey permanently. The band seemed to fade away.


However, when their song, "Don't Stop Believin'" was featured on the finale of the TV show, "The Sopranos," interest in the band flared again.


But they had no lead singer. 


Desperate to find someone who could recreate the classic Journey sound, one of the founding members turned to YouTube, and discovered Arnel Pineda fronting a band in the Philippines that mimicked classic rock bands--including Journey. 


Impressed, he called the other band members and they flew Pineda to the U.S. for an audition. Within a few songs, Pineda was their new vocalist, joining the band in 2008. I especially enjoyed this CBS News Sunday Morning interview <http://www.metacafe.com/watch/1378774/arnel_pineda_cbs_news_sunday_morning_interview/> that mixes an interview with the band, old Journey clips featuring vocalist Steve Perry (in the earlier days), and footage of their new frontman Arnel Pineda. 


If you watch the entire interview, be prepared for a touching story. Pineda's mother taught him to sing from a very early age, and his parents entered him in singing contests, which he said were torture for the shy kid he was. His mother died when Pineda was 13, leaving the family bankrupt after her illness. Pineda ended up homeless, gathering pieces of metal for food.


Eventually he ended up singing in nightclubs, as he was doing when Journey saw the video of him. The band has released two albums since Pineda joined them, which contains some new material written by several of the band members including Pineda. They have been touring extensively around the world, and in the United States and Canada for the rest of 2012--fronted by a formerly homeless teenager from the Philippines. 


His mother's gift of song lives on in Pineda and is giving new life to the incredible journey of this band. As Pineda says, he's not just singing "Don't Stop Believin'," he's living it. And the band who had faded is once again sparkling in the spotlight. 


Love the happy ending (or new beginning :) to Pineda's story, and I find inspiration in several ways from what he and the band have accomplished. Learn your craft, take advantage of opportunities, look for answers in unlikely places, and "Don't Stop Believin'."


Hope you enjoy the interview and the music, as well as the inspiration!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Ruby Slippered Sisterhood Synopsis


When I recently went hunting for help writing a synopsis, I found that many people write them after the story is already written. The idea here is that you have already made all the decisions about the story, already know all the details of the plot, and already understand your characters. But I also found that many writers hate writing a synopsis for these very same reasons. You have written thousands and thousands of words; getting all that into five pages is a challenge.

I found a post by Hope Ramsay on the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood’s blog that breaks the whole story into seven paragraphs. It looked really good, but when I saw that I had to come up with the Big Black Moment during the synopsis process, I ran screaming from my computer and ignored the website for a few months. What, now? Can’t I come up with that when I get there? I was a big chicken about it.

But the structure of Hope’s synopsis is wonderful, and every step is very well-described. It helped me focus on the core elements of my story, allowing me to let go of setting, secondary characters and plot lines, and even lots of the backstory. I was able to distill my character’s conflicts into clean understandable ideas and get them concisely into the computer.

There are lots of websites and books that can help you write a synopsis. For my story, though, this one was perfect. It’s designed specifically for romances, and it actually helped me pin down some ideas that had been elusive. Now, my draft synopsis can act like a story outline, too. Yes, it will have to be dressed up, changed and polished after the story is fully written, but the synopsis itself will help me write the story.

I already like having the synopsis, a sort of mini-draft of the story, to work from, and I will work this way again. How do you feel about writing synopses? Do you write them first or last? Somewhere in the middle? Do you dread them, love them? Do you have a favorite resource for help with writing them?

Myself, I don’t dread them anymore, thanks to Hope Ramsay and the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood.


http://www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com/writing-comedy/

Monday, June 18, 2012

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome!  This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA chapter's weekly progress check-in.

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

(The best prize is achieving your writing goals, but as an extra incentive, we will award gift cards from Powell's bookstore to the chapter member and the non-member who check in for the most weeks in 2012.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Adventures in Self-Publishing: Goodreads


Here are a few tips I've learned about Goodreads in the last couple of months:

*To become a Goodreads author, you simply "claim" your author profile.  Search for your books, and then where the author name is listed, click on it, and there should be a place to click to claim the profile.  Fill out the form and in a day or so your status will be changed from reader to author, which opens up a lot of promotional opportunities.

*Set up an author user profile for each separate pseudonym.  Unlike a lot of social networks, which limit you to only one account, Goodreads actually encourages you to set up a separate account for each pseudonym, since they don't have a way to link various pseudonyms to one author profile.  To do this, you need to sign up as a new user with a different email address, then "claim" your profile by clicking on the author name on one of your books.  Do this for each pseudonym.

Having a bunch of accounts (or two, in my case) makes it more difficult to keep up, so I set up my pseudonym to link to my real name.  I wrote in my author profile for "Barb Lee" that I could be found under "Barbara Cool Lee" (my main name), and wrote a blog post referring people there, and put that information in the pseudonym book's description as well.  That way I don't have to spend much time logged in on the pseudonym account.

*If your books aren't listed (common with small press or self-published books, you can manually add your book at http://www.goodreads.com/book/new.  But be sure it's not listed already before you do this!  Adding a duplicate could mess up things, so do a thorough check before adding.

*Dashboard.  Once you have claimed an author profile, and Goodreads has validated it, you can do a lot of things to promote your work.  Start at your dashboard:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboardYour profile is listed, showing the number of books you've written, the number of people who've added your books to their lists, the number of ratings, reviews, etc. Then each book is broken down individually, with the same information.

You also have a blog.  This is easy to create (just write a post), and you can make announcements about promotions, releases, and/or just copy the same info you post on your regular blog.

*Next comes the Advertising section.  I have used Goodreads' self-serve advertising, but honestly I'm not seeing much response to it.  It's easy to do:  just follow the directions and it'll pull the cover photo and link from the isbn you enter.  You have a very small space to enter advertising copy, so think about what you want to say and play with it a bit.  They recommend a "call to action," for example, "click here to add the book," instead of simply telling about the book.  You can also target specific genres and authors, which they recommend (this means the ad will appear when people who expressed interest in those genres and authors are surfing Goodreads).

As I said, I didn't get much response to my ad for The Honeymoon Cottage:

but I did get some results from my Cat's Blood giveaway ad:


*Which brings me to Giveaways, one of the best promotion tools I've found.  On Goodreads, you can give away a copy of your book (must be a printed copy, not an ebook, and must be published with the last 6 months or be an advance copy).  How is that a good promotion?  Well, you simply list a giveaway (they walk you through the steps from your author dashboard), and they do all the work.  They list it, gather the entries, and pick the winner.  When they inform you of the winner, you mail it to the person (do NOT add the winner to your mailing list, by the way; it's against the rules to ever send them anything but the book they win), and that's it.  

I did my first giveaway last week.  From June 5-10 readers could enter to win a copy of The Honeymoon Cottage.  Results?  507 entries, 1 winner, and... over 90 people added the book to their to-be-read list.  That's the big payoff.  All of a sudden, 90 people became aware of my book, thought it sounded interesting, and put it on their list of possible future reads.  The intriguing thing is that when they did, their 2000+ friends saw  a message that said "Jane added The Honeymoon Cottage to her to-read list."  So those are the numbers from a mere 5-day promotion:  507 entries, 90 adds, 2000+ potential readers who at least had a chance to glance at the book.

Last week I had my highest sales of the previous 6 weeks.  I don't think it was a coincidence.  Good return for a promotion that only cost me one paperback and postage.

My only mistake I think was doing such a short giveaway.  I noticed the books with the most contest entries were not just from famous authors; they also were giveaways that ran for at least a month or two.  So I've listed a second copy of The Honeymoon Cottage, and a copy of Cat's Blood, and am running the giveaways for a long time.

*The last three items on the author dashboard are E-books (you can actually sell your ebooks directly through Goodreads, unless you are doing the KDP Select program which restricts sales outlets), Q&A groups, and Facebook Fan Page tab.  I haven't done any of these yet.  I'll write another blog when I get to them.

So that's what I've learned so far on Goodreads.  I'm finding it one of the best places to directly interact with readers, but I've barely put my toe in the water so far.  There's a lot to learn.  If you're on Goodreads, stop by and enter my giveaways, and be sure to "friend" me if you haven't yet so we can follow each others' journeys!

Happy writing, everyone!

Barb

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Thank You, Mr. Bradbury, and Good Night

Quite a bit has been written in the last week regarding the passing of Ray Bradbury. I didn't know Mr. Bradbury personally, but I loved his writing. When I first heard the word "voice" applied to writing, he was one of the writers who immediately came to my mind.

I've read that he didn't think of himself as a science fiction writer; that he's stated he only wrote one science fiction book (Fahrenheit 451), and that he regarded his books such as The Martian Chronicles as fantasy. I didn't make that distinction when I was a kid raiding my brother's bookshelves or devouring the scant rack of SF/F in the library — it was all the same to me. Wondrous tales about far-off places, be they about outer space or Mars or Green Town, were all I was looking for in those days. And Mr. Bradbury's stories fit the bill in spades.

I know the "Big Three" of science fiction are generally considered to be Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert A. Heinlein. Well, I had my own "Big Four" of speculative fiction: Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, and Bradbury. Asimov wrote fascinating novels that were as dry as dust. Clarke wrote inspired stories that seemed to be only a few steps away from today's reality. Heinlein wrote amazing tales that dealt (sometimes sneakily, sometimes not) with social themes. Bradbury...Bradbury wrote evocatively of the fantastic in a way which made it at once familiar and utterly alien. And it was Bradbury who taught me to appreciate the short story.

Even the titles of his stories — and his collections of stories — are amazing. Some titles are taken from poems, some, I assume, are his own. Who could resist wanting to read The Illustrated Man, The Golden Apples of the Sun, The Machineries of Joy, or A Medicine for Melancholy?

One short story of his in particular has stayed with me all the years since I first read it as a child: Dark They Were, and Golden Eyed. This story could so easily have been turned into horror and left me shivering. Instead, I read it and was filled with a sense of wonder. Which isn't to say that he couldn't write horror. Something Wicked This Way Comes scared the bejeebus out of me in a way that only two other books — Dracula and The Shining — have ever done.

I was sad when I heard Ray Bradbury had died. However, it would've have been sadder still if the world had never heard his stories. So, thank you, Mr. Bradbury, wherever you are.

A bit of trivia for you: Did you know that Elton John's song Rocket Man was based on Ray Bradbury's short story, The Rocket Man? You can find the story in at least a couple of Bradbury's short story collections, including The Illustrated Man and the 1997 edition of The Golden Apples of the Sun.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome!  This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA chapter's weekly progress check-in.

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

(The best prize is achieving your writing goals, but as an extra incentive, we will award gift cards from Powell's bookstore to the chapter member and the non-member who check in for the most weeks in 2012.)

Friday, June 08, 2012

Continuing the search

Current Project: Untitled but considering the title: Catching Mera
Status: On Chapter 3


I love research so it is not a surprise I typically write historical romance. I have a very hard time with people who don't like to learn. As a teacher of high school students I particularly disliked the question "When will I ever use this?" Many times I replied, this mostly concerning math, "You can use something you haven't learned." 


I love to learn new things and delve into the unknown. With my newest work, an erotic fantasy romance, I have injected a shape shifter. He shifts into a jaguar. I learned that even the black cats have what is called are called rosettes. It just harder to see on the black cats. I also placed him in the Sierra Madre Mountains. One parent being an Apache the other white. 


My Lakota/Pinkerton series was based on the Lakota Sioux. I learned some basic language and a lot about their history. So now I'm taking on the Apache. It's fun but time consuming yet I'm loving every moment.


Oh, and I learned something very important about the jaguar. This big cat likes water. And most of my books have swimming scenes in them. I was thrilled to discover this.


Where is your research taking you?



Thursday, June 07, 2012

WRITE WHAT YOU (DON'T) KNOW

Current Project: My LEGACY series
Status: Edits to book #6
Posted by: Genene Valleau, writing as Genie Gabriel


I am one of those writers forever delving into things I know little about. 

I may start out with good intentions: I know dogs. I know small towns. I know dysfunctional families. I know government bureaucracies and plants and--well, there are many other topics and careers I could stick with that I know. 

But I'm innately curious. I want to know about lots of "stuff." And sometimes a character comes up with a hobby or a childhood interest or a career that's just too perfect not to use. 

What's a writer to do but learn all she can about that topic or experience or career? 

In-person research is great--like visiting a certain city. Or getting a taste of a cop's life by attending the Citizen's Police Academy and going through some of the same training scenarios used for police officers.

However, what if you can't or don't want to experience something? The heroine of book six of my LEGACY series is burned in a fire. I don't want to personally experience that. 

I had already interviewed someone who was a burn survivor many months ago. However, when I started edits to book #6 this week, as usual I wanted more in-depth emotions and details. So I turned to what has become one of my favorite research avenues--the Internet. 

Snicker if you want to, but I found stories from burn survivors that gave personal details I want to add depth to my stories. I don't want gory stuff, but I do want readers to live in my character's skin while she drifts in and out of consciousness from painkillers; while scabs form and new skin emerges from the itchiness of healing. 

So tonight I've been reading personal accounts from burn survivors, and I'm about to start watching videos of firefighters battling blazes. All from the grateful safety of my computer chair. 

Do you write what you don't know? If so, what are some of your favorite ways to get into your character's skin/mind/emotions when you haven't had their particular experiences?

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Beware Formatting

Current Project: Re-building my world
Status: Fun!

One of  my favorite authors just came out with another book in one of my favorite series, and since I have a Nook now, I bought it electronically. I tore through it, as I always do. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

But there was a formatting issue, one that was surprised me, considering that this author is published by one of the big houses. Sometimes, when I turned a page, I just got the same page again. And again. And again. And it was only this book, not my Nook; I checked.

I found a work-around, the "go to page" feature in my Nook. But I had to do this half a dozen times. The first time I panicked; would I be able to read the rest of it? The second time I was still surprised, but not as panicky. The third time I was annoyed. The fourth time I was a little pissed. And on it went.

How could this happen? How could one of the biggest, best-selling author's books have this formatting issue? ANY formatting issue? I would expect that such a large company would have people on-hand to prevent this very thing. Don't they have e-editors, or something? Even with a new-ish technology--and let's face it, it's not that new--it seems like they could get this right.

It's probably a good thing that I'm so addicted to this series, or I might have put it down and maybe even left a bad review.

So, here's the moral. It may be unnecessary to say it here, because we all know better, but EDIT! TEST! TRIPLE CHECK! Make sure that the formatting of your e-pub is right. You might lose a reader, who might post a bad review, and no author can afford that.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome!  This is the Mid-Willamette Valley RWA chapter's weekly progress check-in.

Did you meet your writing goals last week?  What do you plan to accomplish this week?

(The best prize is achieving your writing goals, but as an extra incentive, we will award gift cards from Powell's bookstore to the chapter member and the non-member who check in for the most weeks in 2012.)