Monday, July 28, 2014

Know What You Write

Today's post is compliments of debut author Brad Seggie, who allowed me to be the cowriter of our soon-to-be released conspiracy thriller, The Simulacrum. Brad did all the research for that novel, much of it amazingly detailed and intense. He developed an exciting plot from his research, and the resulting book was a blast to write.


Details help to bring a reader into a story. A little bit of local color can go a long way toward bringing your readers into the story. The flip side is that some of the readers know a thing or two about the subjects and places that you are describing. If your details are inaccurate, it will cause readers to lose faith in your writing and give up on your novel. In order to ensure accuracy, you will need to research.

The first place to go is the internet. An internet browser and a search engine is the quickest way to find information that you need. When it comes to describing the locations in your novel, you’ll probably find that there are plenty of photos and videos of the place you want to write about. When I was researching a scene involving the National Academy of Sciences building, I was able to find lots of pictures that helped me to describe the pagan imagery that adorns the building. And the same applies to technical, medical and scientific issues. When I was researching arguments concerning creation and evolution, I was able to read a large number of creationist sites and a large number of Darwinist sites. All in all, I found the Darwinist sites to be the most helpful. By reading both sides, I was able to identify the strongest arguments to present to the reader.

Another way to research is to hit the books.  Although we like to believe that everything is available on the web, there is still some information available in book form that isn’t available on web pages. In researching The Simulacrum, I purchased a number of books about the Royal Society and the issue of creation and evolution. It’s probably a lot cheaper, though, to visit your library.

You can also travel to the locations described in your novel. As it so happened, I had visited Washington, DC in the recent past, so I had some idea of the layout of the city and the location of the bedroom communities.  Although I have lived in Texas, I have never visited Paluxy, the site of the so-called “man tracks” and the location of the novel’s key fossil find. Some of the action takes place in the Nashville area and I had the opportunity to visit Nashville for the first time this month – just a month before the novel is set for release. Although I didn’t see anything that would require us to change what we wrote, I was happy to see another location of some of the key scenes in the novel.

Finally, you can talk with people who know about your subject. In The Simulacrum, there is a scene involving a plane flight. I was lucky to have a friend who is a commercial pilot and who has substantial experience flying smaller planes as well. We sat down and discussed the appropriate terminology. I asked him how a pilot would react to certain difficulties happening while he’s flying the plane, and how the plane itself would react. I shared the details with my co-author and it gave us a certain degree of confidence in writing the scene.

                We’ve all heard the old saying, “write what you know.” I believe you should write what you want to write, but “know what you write.” If you do your research, you will earn your readers’ trust and you have the opportunity to draw them into the story.

~~~~~
Keep an eye out for The Simulacrum! Release date, August 15!



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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Content Marketing with Karen Cioffi

This article originally appeared Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing on Monday, May 19, 2014. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


Become a Niche Powerhouse - Build Relationships with Your Audience and Subscribers with Content Marketing

Part 1 of this three-part series discussed finding a niche and working it. Part 2 discussed finding your audience and building your list. Now, it’s on to establishing relationships with your audience and subscribers.

This element of niche building actually goes hand-in-hand with finding your audience.

To find your audience you need to search them out and share valuable information. To develop a relationship and create trust, you need to continue to offer valuable information on a regular basis.

Part of your marketing strategy should be to genuinely want to help your subscribers succeed. You should want to help people by giving them the answer to their problem or question. 
So, how do you build a relationship with your audience, your subscribers, and leaders in the industry?

Simple. Through content marketing.

Blogging - Providing regularly scheduled content on your website should be the foundation of your content marketing strategy and the first rung in your relationship building tactic.

Keep your blog posts focused and give your audience ‘useable’ information.

The Freebie – Your ethical bribe is the primary tool that will ‘hook’ the visitor into becoming a subscriber. At this point, you will be able to develop a stronger connection.

Since you took the time to find a ‘doable’ niche and searched for your audience, you know what they want . . . what they need. Your content and especially your freebie should define their want or need and provide the solution.

Email Marketing – This is an essential element of turning a subscriber into a customer/client.

You need to set up an autoresponder series, beginning with the Welcome Message, that establishes you as the go-to person in your niche.

After the automatic email series, continue to provide valuable information on a regular basis. This cultivates trust and authority, and leads to sales.

Article Directories – Publishing on article directories, like Ezine Articles, is an excellent strategy to broaden your visibility and increase your audience. This allows you to develop new relationships.

If you provide valuable information that’s actually useable, news sites may very well pick it up. This in turn leads to even more visible and a larger audience.

Guest Blogging – This is one of the most powerful article marketing strategies when used to create authority and credibility, create connections, increase your audience, and build relationships.

The important factor when guest blogging is to query major blogs in your industry or niche. Take the time to get acquainted with the type of articles the blog publishes and then pitch an article.

One of my favorite adages is, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So, don’t be intimidated, just go for it.
Using all these strategies helps build authority and credibility. This in turn, makes you more valuable to your audience and helps strengthen your relationships.

Becoming a niche powerhouse through these strategies will help you build a successful business.

P.S. If you liked this article, PLEASE SHARE IT!

To start at the beginning, read Part One: Become a Niche Powerhouse – Find a Niche and Work It

Karen Cioffi is a multi-published author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, and acquisitions editor intern. Visit her at http://karencioffiwritingandmarketing.com for writing and marketing information and be sure to sign up for her FREE monthly newsletter--you'll get two FREE e-books in the process and two more for just stopping by.
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Book Review: How to Succeed In Business Without Really Crying

I love books that offer lessons about getting ahead, writing, and managing a business, and yet aren’t about those things specifically. What I mean is, I enjoy reading about how people are succeeding in the writing life in a totally unique way. That’s one reason I picked up How to Succeed In Business Without Really Crying by Carol Leifer.

Emmy-Nominated Writer and Producer

Leifer has been nominated for four Emmy’s for her writing work on shows like Seinfeld, Saturday Night Live, and the Academy Awards. She’s been on Late Night With David Lettermen over two dozen times, as well as a host of other talk shows. I was interested in her take on things given that she’s in the male-dominated world of comedy.

Part Memoir, Part Business Advice Book

This book was filled with advice combined with Leifer’s own personal stories and photos. It was interesting to see some of the comics and talk show hosts of today (like Paul Reiser, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jay Leno) in early pictures from their college days. It was a testament to the power of relationships that Leifer held on to these friendships. Many of these guys were very helpful in encouraging her and teaching her about the craft.

Often, she learned by observing, taking things that worked for others and making it her own. I related to this advice because I think very often we try and copy what someone else’s is doing as writers and it just doesn’t work. You still need to do what’s right and works for you individually.

Being Present

A lot of the advice centered around being “present.” This means paying attention, noticing opportunities, and taking care of yourself. These are big points for writers because you’re not always given an opportunity that is clear cut. Very often you need to hammer it out for yourself, and in order to do that you need to be tenacious and take care of yourself mentally and physically.




Trying Again and Again Without Getting Held Back by Failure

So often when I read these books, the advice is about counting your successes and letting the times you fell flat on your face fade from your memory. This is true of Leifer’s book as well. She even mentions walking up to a famous Hollywood star and not having him remember her. She could have walked away mortified, but she held her head high and chalked it up to experience.

One time she mentioned being on Celebrity Apprentice and being the first one eliminated. Awful! Yet instead of getting down about it, she asked Donald Trump for a donation to her charity as she was being asked to leave. He obliged, and her charity benefited from her appearance on the show.

I think as a writer persistence is key, and this book breezily talked about how to keep pitching, keep tossing ideas out there, keep contacting people, and doing it as if it’s just part of the daily job. And it is. Writers will find that part very valuable.

_________________________________________

Cherie Burbach has written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, and more. Visit her website, cherieburbach.com.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Details, Details, Details!

Google Free Images     
( Can you find the 16 differences between these images?)


My husband and I sometimes like to watch movies that include story note pop-ups. We enjoy that there are some interesting and little known facts to be learned that enrich our watching experience. Last night during an action adventure movie, a subtitle appeared that announced the current location of the characters. They'd traveled to a new city in a few hours.

The story note pop-up shared that the characters would have had to drive for 16 hours straight at 120 miles an hour to arrive there within the plot timeline. Oops.  "My wonderful editor would never let me get away with that," I told my hubby.

Continuity in fiction can be a challenge. Plot blunders are best noticed in the revision, not after publication. (Duh) A cat named Mitzy in Chapter One must not be referred to as Muffin in Chapter 32. Here are four ways to keep on top of those pesky details.


1. Keep a detailed list of the physical features, birthdays, etc. of each character. Most of us do this anyway as we flesh out our characters. The list helps with continuity as well. Have you accidentally changed your heroine's eye color later in the manuscript? Is her name spelled the same way throughout?

2. List details about your settings in the order in which they appear in your novel.  Have you made the same blunder as we discovered in our movie? How long would it actually take to get from one place to the other? Does the weather match the season portrayed in the story?

3. List the events that occur on a timeline. I like to use a calendar and jot down in the squares the things that happen on specific days and times.

4. Devote one read-through exclusively for fact checking.  Medical issues? Sure, you've done your research, but it couldn't hurt to run the details by a  healthcare professional.Things change rapidly in some professions. My medical contact did a read-through for me and highlighted places saying "We don't do it that way anymore."

Lists such as these really help in the revision process. Blunders may not be as easy for readers to catch as in the children's picture above, but I have stumbled many times as I've been reading a novel because something wasn't right. Any other ideas on how to keep things straight?



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Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: Runaway Hearts by Karen Cogan


Review of Runaway Hearts by Karen Cogan

c. Oct 2013 Prism Book Group
ISBN: 9781940099194
e-book $0.99
p-book $10.99
Buy on Amazon


From the Publisher: Lynn thought putting distance between herself and her mother was healthy. Then she met Greg. He not only understands the meaning of running away from his problems, he's about to give her a painful lesson on the subject.

My Review:

Two lost souls find more than love when they meet as teachers at a small school on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico.


Lynn Martin arrives at the beginning of a school year as a long-term sub for the fifth grade teacher. She meets Greg Martin, in this third year of teaching sixth grade, and share a laugh and weather speculations about sharing a last name.


Lynn is taking a break from wealthy and privileged students where’s been teaching at an exclusive school in Houston, Texas, while Greg is taking a break from life in general and faith in particular after losing a special friend and later both of his parents. Right from the start sparks fly and romance is in the air and Lynn and Greg start to share their lives in this little community. Lynn isn’t afraid to live out her fairly new faith, while Greg, much to her dismay, is reluctant to discuss his issues. When they realize it’s only one obstacle to sharing more than love, Greg makes excuses and starts backing away.


Although Lynn has come from a life of privilege, that’s not what defines her character. It takes a frightening accident for Greg to realize that a life without her isn’t something he looks forward to.


Both of them are good teachers, and I enjoyed reading the lessons and interactions in this special part of the country. Cogan doesn’t hide the beauty or the troubles the people face, nor does she try to reach deeper into reservation life than in order to tell this story of two people who meet there, realize they can’t run from their problems, and are better when they listen to God together and help each other become the people He calls them to be. Told from both Lynn and Greg’s viewpoints sometimes without breaks, Cogan’s lovely sweet romance is a natural, nicely-told story to relax with and spend a few hours on a virtual visit to the southwest US.
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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Lofty Semicolon

As in all professions--all of life, actually--there are people behind the scenes known only as "the powers that be," the nebulous and unidentified "they." The same is true for authors. Whoever "they" are, those powers that be, they have deemed the semicolon to be too formal for fiction writing. I'm not certain I agree; all writing tools should be available for all authors, and that includes tools of punctuation.
These powers also say that the semicolon has no place in dialogue: "No one speaks in semicolons," someone once explained to me. That hit me as rather bizarre at the time. If we were to describe what people "speak" in, we'd be limited to dashes, periods, and long strings of run-on sentences. Dialogue is supposed to be natural, but not necessarily realistic, which is why hesitation utterances are kept at a minimum regardless of how often they are heard in real discourse. But I can see the point that a semicolon is too formal for written dialogue. Which is why, as an editor, I mark it every time.
I'll mark it just as quickly in the prose when it's used incorrectly, and what I'm discovering is, more often than not, it is used incorrectly. Like every other punctuation mark, the semicolon has rules, and apparently fiction authors need to be reminded what they are.
A semicolon can be used:
      1. instead of a conjunction (and, but, or) to join two complete sentences together that have different subjects: I wanted pizza; he wanted hamburgers. 
      2. to introduce a clause beginning with therefore, however, indeed, namely, etc.: We couldn't agree on what to eat; therefore, Suzanne offered a different choice. 
      3. in front of therefore, however, namely, etc. when a list is involved: We had three choices then; namely pizza, hamburgers, and Chinese take-out.
      4. to join two complete sentences along with a conjunction when one or more commas are in the first sentence: Since we were in Suzanne's car, we decided the choice should be hers; so she drove us to Pei Wei's.
Nonfiction and scholastic authors should learn all four of these uses, but I think fiction writers would agree that numbers two through four are too formal. Using words like therefore, however, namely, and any of their equivalents in fiction adds a stilted formality to the prose that few authors strive for--unless they are presenting a stilted, formal character. The semicolons can be replaced with commas, the clauses can be split into two sentences, conjunctions can be used.
Number one should be the most common use of the semicolon for fiction writers. Tying two sentences together into one thought with a semicolon is sometimes necessary for the mood or tone the author is trying to set, so I'm not as quick to mark out its use.
Unless it's used so often it becomes distracting, which I've discovered in many of the manuscripts I've edited lately. So, along with the four listed above, the big rules for the use of semicolons are: 1. use sparingly and 2. use correctly.
Novelists are ruled by The Chicago Manual of Style. If ever there is a doubt about the proper use of a semicolon, check out sections 6.54-6.58.
I know this was dry and boring--just like my old grammar classes were. I'll try not to do this often; but meantime, thanks for letting me get it off my chest.
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Monday, July 7, 2014

Things Never to Put In Your Author Bio

I interact with a lot of authors, many of whom contact me about getting interviewed for my writing site. I see a lot of author bios, some that wow me and many that make me cringe. I’d even include myself in that mix.





Don’t Throw Words In That Have Nothing to Do With Being a Writer

When I published my first poetry book ten years ago, I had just come off a 20-year career in marketing. I felt this was important somehow, mainly because I didn’t have many other writing credentials. I did have several freelance articles published, but didn’t feel that “made me a writer.” (Don’t we love it when we seek permission to define ourselves that way?)

So my writer bio went something like this: Cherie Burbach is a poet and marketing professional.
So far so good, right? Not so fast. In reviewing my book, one reader wrote on her blog something like this: “I enjoyed her poems but I don’t see what being a marketing professional has to do with anything.” She then went on to offer up some of the things she liked about the book, but I couldn’t get past her statement. What a great lesson for me. Who cared that I worked in marketing? My readers certainly didn’t.

After this I became more aware of my bio. I still tweak it. I try and make it sound pertinent and interesting, but I’m sure I’ll be updating and changing it as long as I’m given the opportunity to write.

Problogger

Once upon a time, the word “problogger” was really cool. It was arguably started by Darren Rowse who named his site that way and described what he did as professional blogging. At the time, people were experimenting with blogging, just using it as a means of expression (before every writer on the planet realized it was a way to get a platform) and Rowse helped show that you could make a serious living that way.

Now, I see this word used all the time by authors who blog here and there (guest posts on their friend’s blogs, promotional posts, blog tour posts) but don’t really do “professional” blogging.

Why do I care? Because I am a paid blogger and there’s a big difference. Stating you’re a “problogger” implies that you’re an expert at SEO and the latest Google algorithm. It means companies pay you big bucks to create blog posts for them, and that you’re probably also really good at social networking (which is the other piece of professional blogging.)

Fans don’t know or care about this term. If you’ve got a blog or appear on a couple of their favorite sites, that’s what they care about. Mostly, they just care about your books.

Active Member

Be careful about saying you’re an “active member” of an organization. I see this constantly with one or two organizations in particular, and think it makes you sound like you’re a national chapter leader when maybe you’re just a member… like everyone else.

I first saw this listed on a new author’s bio for an organization that I had recently joined. I excitedly asked her how she was involved (hoping to get more involved myself) and she told me she commented on the group’s email loops. That’s being “actively involved”? I don’t think so.

The danger in listing this is it makes you sound like you’re trying to sound more important than you are, and readers don’t care about this stuff. Your bio should tell a reader about yourself, not fluff up your credentials.

__________________________________________________________

Cherie Burbach has written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, and more. Visit her website, cherieburbach.com.
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Friday, July 4, 2014

Friday Book Review: The Projection Room: Two from the Cubist Mist by Carol Golembiewski

Master story-teller Carol Golembiewski hooked me from the opening World War One battlefield scene. She weaves a thriller making excellent use of her subject matter expertise in the field of art. She beautifully visualized scenes. This is a rare skill. Her use of blending art and technology had this geek intrigued.

Meet struggling artist George Bosque. He has a brush with death while attacking the German soldiers during World War One. During his charge toward the enemy lines, he sees two men collecting the souls of those killed in action. Obsessed by what he saw, Bosque draws them in his sketchbook. In late life, he does two large paintings, one of each of them.

His widow sold both paintings many years later. The purchaser is a Milwaukee museum. The museum has in the testing phase a new technology projecting images and allowing patrons to experience art in 3-D. They see great potential. However, a mutinous employee and his friend experiment on the two paintings with the technology. The results are horrific.

The men recognize that artist George Bosque incarcerated something from the other side of the grave. Dreadful consequences await everybody who cross the threshold into the Projection Room.

In this spellbinding account, two paintings out of sight from humankind for years let loose their powers onto an unwary museum and community absolutely not ready for what lies ahead for them.

The Kindle version of "The Projection Room: Two from the Cubist Mist" by Carol Golembiewski was purchased, read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.
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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Are You A That?

I don't know about you but I don't want to be referred to as a thing. I'm a person, a human being, not an inanimate object or lesser life form. I am a who. As I read fiction the reference to a person or persons using the word 'that' has become commonplace. This disturbs me on several levels. 

1. Our school system is broken. We know that. Grammar is undervalued as is punctuation. Rather than convincing students to speak properly the emphasis is on teaching to the test. But I won't rant on that.

2. Devaluing humanity. By referring to people the same way garbage is referred to devalues human life.

3. As writers we need to use correct grammar as a way to influence others who do not know better to correct their own way of speaking.

4. It eliminates an option in developing characters.

"Maggie told them about the man that had come to the shop."
"Maggie told them about the man who had come to the shop."

It may seem like it doesn't make any difference, but to me the man in the second sentence is now just that. A man, a human being, someone with purpose, personality, perspective. He isn't something that has been delivered. He can effect Maggie and those whom she is speaking to.

"But that's the way everyone talks today." Not a valid reason. I don't speak that way and neither do others. Remember your mother saying, "Just because everyone is doing it doesn't make it write."

In my humble opinion, I believe writers have a responsibility to use our language correctly. Lowering our standards to the common denominator devalues not only ourselves as writers but devalues our readers. Making sure our writing is of a high standard shows we care about the readers because we took the time to make sure what they read is good quality in every aspect.

When we use grammar correctly whether it is that or who or any other we expand our character development possibilities. If the majority of the characters speak correctly the ones who need to be shown in a particular way can easily be developed by their use of incorrect grammar. Their personality, background, etc. can be shown and not told by the way they speak. If all the characters use incorrect grammar that type of development of the character is absent.

Think of the play and movie 'My Fair Lady' based on the story 'Pygmalion' by George Bernard Shaw. The entire premiss is that hope we speak distinguishes people and thus how people treat us. The movie starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison is a classic and no doubt easily found for you to watch. It is worth it.

I'm a who, not a that. Who are you?



Sophie Dawson is an award winning author of Christian fiction. Her latest novel, Seeing The Life, has garnered numerous 5 star reviews for its unique perspective on the life of Jesus.
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Monday, June 30, 2014

Read, Write, Edit, Rewrite, Submit, and Repeat

Summoned to my high school guidance counselor’s office, I learned not everyone thinks being a writer is a good idea.  I still recall the meeting as if it were yesterday.

"Why can’t I be an author?" I asked. I wanted to be the next Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, or Ray Bradbury. They were the best-selling authors of the day.

Her career choices for me came from the father role models on the popular television programs of the era. She wanted me to be the next Mike Brady (the architect dad on The Brady Bunch) or an aerospace engineer like Steven Douglas (My Three Sons).

"Jimmie, you’re a boy. You need a college degree in engineering, math, science, or accounting. You have to earn enough money to support your future wife and family. Forget your silly notion that a man can support himself by writing. It is okay to write for a hobby, but you will need a real job. With your grades you could even aspire to be a doctor or dentist," she said.

I was heartbroken. Raised to believe I could do anything, now I wasn’t so sure.

Has anyone ever laughed at your vision of writing? Perhaps you have been told you lack life experience or you don’t stand a chance because everyone is writing now that they can simply self-publish on Amazon.

You may have feelings of doubt, thinking if only you had an MFA. If only your family and spouse supported you more. If you could quit your day job. Maybe you are in your sixties like me. You think it is too late. You say I am just too old. If only...

We all experience self-doubt. Friends and family do not always understand our passion.

Everyone faces such challenges. My faith as a Christian also helps me overcome such thoughts. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned.

Some people will never understand your passion for writing. Don’t bother trying to explain. Just let them watch as you write.

Read. Reading is necessary for writing. Not only is reading the fodder for writing, it is fun. It also helps me relax as well as grow.

Write. I know it sounds silly, but to become a writer you have to write. I have heard for years that it takes 10,000 hours to master something. 10,000 hours is five years worth of forty-hour weeks. Maybe that is why it takes ten years for so many to get that first traditional book deal. Do not be a want to be a writer. Write.

Edit. This includes proofreading, rewriting, and polishing. No one is perfect. Critique groups help as well as reputable professional editing services. Rewrite as needed.

Submit. To your surprise, someone may like and buy what you wrote.

Rejection.  Being rejected is not personal. Your writing may be bad. It may be good, but just not meet the publisher’s or editor’s needs. You may have submitted to the wrong market or not followed the submission guidelines (both guarantee a rejection). Every writer gets rejections. The photo is a rejection I received from the New Yorker Magazine. I've been rejected by the best.

Acceptance. Selling a book or an article doesn’t guarantee success. Many times it means the real work is only beginning. Having your work accepted by a publisher feels good. It feels very good.
  
Writers’ Groups. Consider joining a writers’ group. I have belonged to three over the years. I have changed groups as I have changed. Some groups I have belonged to were for critique. Some have been to learn the business of writing. Some have been for the encouragement.

I know the thoughts I have shared are all items you have heard many times before. Sometimes a reminder is good.

We all have people like my old high school guidance counselor in our lives. Do not let their negative words keep you from writing. If you have the urge to write, write! It’s not too late. 

The formula really is simple. It is read, write, edit, rewrite, submit, and repeat. If your writing is good enough and if what you write matches the publisher’s need, you just may see your story in print.
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