Thursday, February 28, 2013

Start at the Beginning...

Website Design for Writers on a Budget, part 2

You've decided it's time to create a website, or perhaps you want to update the site you already have. Good for you! The natural inclination is to want to jump right in and start making changes — maybe you have new graphics you think you want to use, or you're tired of the colors on your site — or to start customizing that template you found online.

Whoa! Hold up, Skippy!

Take a deep breath and step away from your editor. You've missed a few crucial steps and jumped right to the end of the story. Before you ever look at a line of code — heck, before we can even talk about color palettes and graphics and all that good stuff — you need to start at the beginning. Because, you see, a website isn't just a pretty face.

What's the purpose of a writer's website?

Unfortunately, there isn't one answer to that question. The purpose may change depending on where you are in your career. If you're pre-published — i.e. a writer who hasn't sold or self-published your work yet — then your website may have a slightly different purpose than the website of an established author.

Just remember, a good website will look professional, will be easy to navigate, and will convey its information in a clear, easy to understand manner. Before you start building your website, you need to decide what information you want your site to convey. Don't worry about HOW the site will look, just make a list of WHAT will be on it.

Here are some of the things a writer's website might do.

Your website will be an invitation to readers:

  • A place to find reliable information about your books (including your backlist, if you have one)
  • An easy place to find links to buy your books
  • A place where you blog (regularly!)
  • A place where you post your twitter feed
  • A place where you post news about books releases, book signings, conferences, etc.
  • A place where you talk about your current work-in-progress
  • A place to sign up for your newsletter (if you have one) and/or contact you via a form

Your website will be a professional platform:

  • Expect Agents (business associates) and Editors (business partners) to visit your site
  • A place for publicity stills (if you have them) and professional contact information
  • A place for a short biography

Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Don't let it overwhelm you. Many of those things overlap, and not all of them are a requirement for every writer. Think about it. Make your list. Don't be afraid to add things that aren't listed above and don't be afraid to cross things off that don't apply to you.

Pro Tip: Knowing what information you want your site to convey is a crucial first step, even if you ultimately decide to hire a professional web designer. With this knowledge in hand, you'll be able to communicate your needs clearly and succinctly.

Next time, I'll talk a bit about taking your list and starting to create the blueprint for your website. I'll use the list I made for my website as an example. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions!

REFERENCES

Head First Web Design: A solid, if quirky, take on web design that's worth checking out.


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

 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Old Thing Made New

Simple Baby Quilt out of flannel squares
When my middle daughter was a baby, I decided to make her a quilt like the one I'd had as a child. It had to be soft, square, and have a satiny binding.

I took my daughter to the fabric store and we picked out flannels in girl-baby colors and patterns. I chose a high-loft batting and made my "quilt sandwich." I suspected this quilt would be washed many times, so I tied it with wool strings in several strategic places; wool felts when washed, which keeps it from coming untied.Then I bound it with satin blanket binding, which was a labor of love all by itself.

The quilt is wonderfully warm and soft, much loved, and has indeed lasted through dozens of illnesses, living-room forts, car trips, and washings.

Is there something you had as a child that you wanted to share with your own children? Have you ever considered using this idea in a book? A special toy, an item of clothing (like the pink cords I had when I was seven), or a favorite vacation could make a good comeback in a story, too. Happy Writing!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome! This is the Mid-Willamette Valley Romance Writers weekly progress check-in. We want to hear from you.

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

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Reality VS Real TV

Oops! I'm almost late putting this up. Thank you Deb for making the reminders that pop up!

I spent eight days with my dad helping him as he recovers from heart surgery. During that time I managed to make some progress on my mystery book. I also had to watch such shows as Pawn Stars, Swamp People, and  Pickers. While I know these are "made up" reality TV shows there was a portion of them that showed some great and not so great human characteristics.

Pawn Stars is a family run pawn store in Las Vegas that has one of the dumbest employees. I'm surprised he's alive he is so unintelligent. It makes me wonder if he is that way in real life or a put-on for the show. I don't believe anyone can be that dimwitted. And his name...Chumley. What do you think? Is that character a completely made up character just to keep the show from being boring?

Swamp People. They have(can't think of the word) what people say written at the bottom of the TV screen. My dad said because they are Cajun and no one can understand them. I say it's because they don't have any teeth and no one can understand them. ;) And just like all shows they have the good gator hunters and the not so nice gator hunters. After all you have to have a villain or two to make the story/show interesting. What I found interesting was the team of two women is the easiest to understand(they have teeth) and the neatest dressed other than the father and son Native American team(who also have teeth). And of course the bully team are big burly guys who pull in the wimpiest gators.

I like Pickers.  It was interesting to see what the "pickers" deemed good finds and what they deemed junk and to see all the stuff some people collect. Again, great character studies of the people who collected. Why a certain item and how they lived.

While I'm not a huge TV or movie watcher, I did find my evenings watching theses shows at my dad's an interesting way to enhance my writing.

Do you watch a certain show or shows to help you gain insight into a character or an idea for a book?

As a reader do you like when characters have motivations for the way they act or do you take their actions for granted?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

IN BETWEEN...


Posted by: Genie Gabriel


I'm in the process of reading through the previous books of my Halo Legacy Series to be sure I find the loose ends and tie them up in the last contracted book of the series, which I'm currently working on. 

Yes, I have databases to track these threads, but I also like to reread the book so I get a better sense of what the heck I thought I was doing when I started the original plot line. Sometimes it's a surprise. :)

I also drafted a cover I like, but it's not going to be clear at the small sizes generally shown on the Internet. So I need to come up with something different. 

It's a bit odd wrapping up this series.It's been a big part of my life for well over a year, and I'm already feeling kinda lost. However, I'm sure I'll find plenty of things to keep me busy. I might even have time to play with my doggie herd again. I know I definitely have a big collection of books to read, which I didn't do.

What do you do when you're between books? Are there things you catch up on? New projects to dig into? Are these things related to writing? Or totally different? 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Carribean Baby


I read a blog by Paty Jager today*, and she inspired me to share a few of my own early quilts. This post was originally very long, which might have put people off. Who has time to read long blog posts? Not me! So probably not you either. Therefore, I've shortened it, and it occurred to me that each of my quilts has a story in it; why couldn't those stories be made into books?


Caribbean Baby
The very first quilt I ever made was out of bright Caribbean colors for a new baby in our family that was being adopted from Haiti. (I come from a family of petite red-heads, and this boy is dark like the best chocolate, and tallllll.) I understood the basics of quiltin, so off I went, entirely sans education. I worked from a graph-paper pattern, cut, pinned and sewed, and, for the most part, the quilt came out really well. Even the stitch-in-the-ditch quilting I did went well, except...I stitched it after I bound it. It warped, of course, but I'd had no training. Live and learn! I don't have a picture of the actual quilt, but I used the original graph-paper pattern and re-created it in my quilting program many years later.

Have you ever set a story in the Caribbean, or used the idea of foreign adoption in one of your stories? Until next time, Happy Writing!

*http://anastasiapollack.blogspot.com/2013/02/book-club-friday-guest-author-paty-jager.html

Monday, February 18, 2013

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome! This is the Mid-Willamette Valley Romance Writers weekly progress check-in. We want to hear from you.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Is It Still Paradise If You're Sick?

I thought about titling this post, The Vacation from Hell, but I realized that wasn't really true.

Here's what happened. Last week, the Spousal Unit and I had a week in Hawaii. We'd planned it several months ago, using the SU's Hilton points to book a stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, just north of Kona on the Big Island (Hawaii). We figured a little warmth and sunshine in February would be a pleasant break from the winter weather. Everything was going fine, right up until the night before we were supposed to leave — when I woke up feeling like crap.

I wasn't sure what I had — food poisoning? a stomach bug? — and I honestly still don't know (though I suspect a bug, since it lasted so long). Since we had an early morning flight, we'd booked a room at a hotel near the airport (one that has a stay & fly package, so we could leave our car there). I couldn't eat and all I felt like doing was sleep, so I just crawled into bed and hoped I'd feel better before getting on the plane.

I didn't.

I'd managed to get up in the middle of the night and eat an apple and a slice of bread with some turkey that the SU had brought along in case I actually got hungry. Since I kept the food down, I had hopes that the worst was over even though I still felt lousy. Alas, that was false hope. The only saving grace for the flight was that we had first class seats (gotta love those companion tickets). If I had to feel bad on an airplane, at least I had plenty of room and a toilet close by (and boy did I need it).

The warm weather and sunshine were very welcome when we landed in Kona. The taxi to the resort and checking in remains a blur. I did manage to walk around the resort a bit, and I have to say, it's a beautiful place. But mostly, I slept that first day away. And the second. By the third, I insisted the SU go on the Circle-the-Island tour we'd booked and paid for before we left home. I was feeling marginally better, but not well enough to sit on a tour bus for 12 hours. I'm glad he went — he saw pretty much the entire island, including the volcano, and I got to sleep some more (in between forcing myself outside for some sunshine every once in a while).

On the second to last day, I felt marginally better. Enough to walk all around the resort (all 62 acres!), so long as we took rest breaks.

I finally felt mostly human on the last day - enough so that I even went swimming! Yay! We enjoyed our last day of paradise, and I didn't dread the flight home. It took a few more days before I really felt like my stomach had settled down. I still feel a bit woozy every once in a while.

Even though this last trip wasn't what I was expecting, I ended up having an OK time — and I had a lot of time to think about backstory for the next book. Most of that time was just daydreaming about the characters, but I did write up those notes on the flight home.

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

 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Do You Judge a Book By Its Cover?

Of course you do! We all do.

Book covers: I don’t know why I’m thinking about this right now. My book isn’t finished and I haven’t even TRIED to find an agent or a publisher yet, so I don’t need a book cover yet. And yet...
 

There are several sources online for how to design a cover. Font advice. Image types. Treatments. Color. It’s great. So of course, that’s not really what I’m looking for. I need software.

“Use Photoshop.” Even if I used my daughter’s identity it would cost about 450.00. How many book covers is that? At least two or three. I’ve used this program in school myself, and it’s a complex thing with a learning curve. Hours of my writing time.

At the rate I write, it would be a maximum of three covers a year. Um, no.

“Use Gimp. It’s just like Photoshop, but free.” Yes, it’s free. It seems to work pretty well. If you already know how to use Photoshop. Same learning curve, less money. Better…

An online search gives me these choices:

  • http://www.trueboxshot.com/ 80.00
  • https://www.createspace.com/ I’m waiting for them to let me in so I can see what their software is like.
  • http://www.ecovercreator3d.com/ I’m not sure what the 3D is all about, but it’s only 47.00. No idea how hard it is to use.
  • http://onlineecovercreator.com/ 10.00 bucks a month or 49.00 per year. That doesn’t sound too bad.

The more I look, the more software I find. Many of them are online-only. A few have reviews that are more like adverts. Each and every one would take some kind of learning curve, an unknown which is a little daunting.

So, friends. What do you think? What do you use? How do you go about making your covers?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome! This is the Mid-Willamette Valley Romance Writers weekly progress check-in. We want to hear from you.

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

Friday, February 08, 2013

I'M COMIN' OUT--MORE STORY THAN SEX


by Genie Gabriel

Yes, two blogs from me back to back! I'm obviously between stories and have too much time on my hands--and have been doing too much thinking. LOL!

This week has been a series of epiphanies for me. One of those epiphanies is around how I have struggled to "label" what I write. 

I finally realized why struggle? Just tell is like it is--I mean, like they are. 

My books are more story than sex. 

If you want hot sex in what you're reading, I know many wonderful writers who can deliver that. If you want sweet romances, those also abound.

While my books may not be scorch-your-eyeballs hot, neither are they sweet romances. I was scanning back through LEGACY OF ANGELS, book #2 of my Halo Legacy Series, for a PG excerpt between the two main characters--a former priest and a former prostitute. That was a challenge! 

Yet there was no consummated love scene in that book. The story ends shortly after their first kiss. 

On the other hand, the first love scene in LIVING THE LEGACY comes less than halfway through the book, when the two main characters are on their honeymoon. Their physical attraction for each other is part of what binds them together when they realize how different they are after they marry. Yet the second half of the book isn't one sex scene after another. They resolve their conflicts AND continue to appreciate each other through love-making. 

So my epiphany was the realization I didn't need to struggle to "label" my stories. The ground between sweet, chaste romances and fiery, burn-up-the-pages sex offers an incredible world of sensual, emotional stories exploring real life issues--and a few fantasies. Oh, and sometimes mystery and humor. :)

Do you struggle to label the stories you write or read? Or are you smarter than me and simply enjoy the story?

Thursday, February 07, 2013

PROMO/SHARING + NOT DOING IT ALL MYSELF

ONE OF MY NEW COVERS!

First I want to share some wonderful news--all my Halo Legacy Series books have new covers! I am so excited to share these! I'm posting just the first one here so I'm not a total blog hog. However, if you want to see all of them, please visit my Web site at <www.GenieGabriel.com>. I've laid all of them out on a wonderful Valentine's Day background that I found at an online photo site.

Which brings me to the NOT doing it all myself part of this post.

I'm not a total control freak, but almost. In addition to a lot of intense writing over the past year or so to produce enough books that can be released every two months, I design my book covers, design and maintain my Web site and my blog, and coordinate most of my own promotion. 

I've discovered a couple things: (1) I can be very productive; and (2) I don't want to exhaust myself being productive.

That means deciding where it's cost effective to pay someone else to help produce and sell my books. Or doing the things I like to do and letting someone else do what's not so fun for me. :)

Though I design my own covers, I rely heavily on a number of online photo sites for pictures and graphics to make up the pieces of those covers. I gladly pay a reasonable price so I don't have to set up my own photo shoots or draw complex graphics from scratch.

Yes, I could self-publish, but I prefer having a publisher to format my books and upload them to e-tailers--and switch the covers. (Woo-hoo!) 

My publisher also carries some of the load of promotion, and I've purchased ad space at online sites as well as paid for someone else to set up blog tours for me. 

This list only touches on some of the things involved in producing a book that an author can do--or NOT--for herself. If you're published, how do you decide what you do or don't do in producing your books? If you're not yet published, do you have a plan on what you want to do yourself or let others do?

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Downton Abbey and the Power of Familiarity


My local chapter mates convinced me to give Downton Abbey a try. So now we've just been through a marathon of Downton Abbey-watching: one episode a day from the very first one up to the most recent one.

And it has been making me think about series. What is it that makes us so addicted? Why do millions of people get so excited to watch the latest escapades of a fictional family who lived far away and long ago?

There's the fun of the settings, the costumes, the hairstyles, and the slang, of course. The fun of taking a peek into a world far removed from our own. But that kind of curiosity wears thin quickly, I think.

I think it's not the distance from our own lives that keeps us coming back week after week. I think it's the recognition of ourselves in the people: haven't we all known an Edith, who struggles to find a place for herself in the world while being overlooked by most around her? Haven't we all met a stalwart Mrs. Hughes, or a gentle but a bit out-of-touch Cora, or a crusading Isobel? Do we recognize the bitterness and rejection behind Thomas's nasty actions? And I hope we all have been lucky enough to know someone as quietly heroic as Mr. Bates.

I think the power of a series like Downton is in the links the audience builds with the characters over time. We argue over the choices they make, we root for them, we cheer and we boo at every new development in their lives.

It's a powerful thing for an audience to be invested in the happiness of fictional characters.

How can we bring that power to our own writing? How do we get readers so invested in the characters' lives that they boo when something goes wrong and cheer when it goes right?

I'm still learning, myself, but I think Downton Abbey shows that the flaws in the characters, their foibles, their little triumphs and losses, are at least as important as the main plot of the story.

I think a scene where Anna and Mr. Bates are kept apart is only powerful because we know of their long struggles. And watching Thomas cry real tears for the loss of another person is much more moving because we know how rarely he allows himself to care about another. It's the history we share with the characters that gives meaning to those small moments.

How do you build a connection between the reader and your characters? If you have the luxury of writing a series, and revisiting the same characters over time, how do you try to keep the reader invested in the lives of your story people?

~Barb

Pinterest:  http://bit.ly/12FqCXq

On my own blog this month I'll be profiling the "People of Pajaro Bay" on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and highlighting joyful things in life in my "Good Fridays" feature. You can follow the posts through any of the links above.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Eat At Joe's


When I first write a scene, it’s always pretty spare. I write my characters’ words and thoughts along with their actions, what they do with their hands, the expressions on their faces. Next I add some “where”…the room, the light, the chair (or bed) they’re using. As I go, I usually try to add a little of what they look like, what they’re wearing, even if there’s already been a full description earlier.

Later I go back and beef these up, try to keep my characters from being disembodied voices in an empty dark room. Although that might be fun…

Lately I’ve been paying close attention to a character’s senses. What does he smell like to her? What does the carpet feel like under his bare feet? Is that ferret making noises, or it that a cricket? Is she in pain? Does her heart ache?

And today’s topic: how does it (he, she) taste?

I’m writing a fantasy set in a distant magical/agrarian future. I figure they still have some of the same foods we have now, but the names might have changed. Language shifts, after all. So I've left some of the words the same as what we use now, and changed others so they leave a flavor…heh heh…of the original food in the reader’s mind.

Salmon and colouka eggs.
Kaf and carrots.
Plumjon juice, either plain or sparkling.

What do your characters eat and drink? Is food a big part of their lives or just something they handle on the fly? Have you ever made up entirely new tastes for your characters to experience? If you're not a writer, or even if you are, what are some favorite flavors you've read about?

Inquiring taste buds want to know.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Weekly Progress Check-In

Welcome! This is the Mid-Willamette Valley Romance Writers weekly progress check-in. We want to hear from you.

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

Friday, February 01, 2013

Chris' Rules To Write By


Spring Is Coming

Cleaning house, cleaning up the work place and finding the time, it seems we all have issues. When my characters come to life, putting them on paper is sometimes easy but often difficult. Thinking about them does not create the words. So I have made up Chris’s rules to write by. These are things I need to do to get the work finished.

Rules to write by:

1.    Derrière in chair.
2. Manuscript up, waiting for words of wisdom.
3. Get rid of all and I mean all distractions.
4.If you’re a gamer, don’t forget to lose them too.
5. Set a goal and stick by it. (unless there is a fire or some catastrophe
6. Workout after finishing designated writing assignment…ah the teacher in me.
7. If  you research well… you can ask too many questions and receive more answers than you have time to use.
8.    


What are your rules?

I struggled for some time to find the seconds, minutes and even hours to write. I find I am happiest when I’m creating stories and the characters are taking prevalent places in my head and on my computer. My rules of course are working for me. Writing more than I have since before my full time job in the school district. In present times I now have a record four pages in one day. Alas in my past I could write ten to twenty pages a date.

I am having so much fun with my McKenna Clan series. Catching Meara’s release date is March 10, 2013. The second book in this series is Sweet Sexy Sadie. It’s release date is August 20, 2013. Woo hoo…

And an FYI, I’m celebrating a new cover for Star Crossed. This is my novella, which is part of the Angels St. Patrick’s Day anthology. I am so happy to have this cover. 

Star Crossed is free today at Amazon.