Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Helping Fellow Writers

Part 2 of Lisa Hannon's Guest Post on Writing Group Critiques -Reading (and listening) to help another writer.

For both the person giving and the person receiving the critique, there are a number of things that can become apparent in the necessarily short pieces that are read aloud in a read-and-critique group. No one is going to address every possible item of the following lists in a few minutes of verbal critique, but keeping them in mind allows the person giving the critique touchpoints, and allows the writer the ability to strive for the positive points and correct those that should be changed before putting their work in front of others.
For those trading manuscripts online for critique, the lists can be valuable reminders, both to the writer and the reader, as well:
What to look and listen for when writing, or when listening or reading to critique another writer.
             The villain who isn’t just a stereotype.
             The hero who isn’t a stereotype either. A hero without weakness is boring! Some weakness makes them human, and the reader needs to identify with him or her in ways that make them keep reading.
             Dialogue that works.
             Plots (and subplots) that are clear and compelling.
             In non-fiction, there should still be a story arc – you’re trying to get from Point A to Point B, whether it’s a biography or a history.
Changes to look for:
             Plot – Is the plot clear, is it believable? Is the piece read out or handed out to the workshop driving that plot?
             Subplots – Are they necessary to the story? Do they drive the story, or are they distracting? Are they convincing and well-drawn?
             Setting – Does the reader know where they are? Is the setting used as another character within the story, driving the action, or is it a thruway?
             Characters – Are characters motivated, are they individual? Are you able to tell them apart by how they drive their dialogue? Or do you simply not care whether a character lives or dies?
             Characters – Does each character have a defined arc? Every major character, and any character that drives a subplot, should go through some form of change between the beginning of the story and the end, or a reader will feel incomplete.
             Names – The names of the characters are part of the overall setting—are they appropriate? Do they help define the characters?
             Consistency – Do the characters adhere to the facts we learn about them during the story?  Take a look at continuity, in the sense that a character who exhibits a trait in one part of the story still has that trait in another, unless it’s part of their own arc. A stoic may break down before the end of their arc, but a character with an amputated leg should not grow it back, unless it’s science fiction or magic.
             Length – if the piece is a short story, every word should drive the story arc. If it’s a novel, or part of a novel, there is more time and ability for character development, backstory, etc.
             Language – are some phrases confusing? Are the words chosen well?
             Lack of conflict—a story without conflict isn’t a story, it’s a monologue.
             Too much conflict – the reader needs some moments of calm in order to breathe.
             Description – Places where more description is called for (or less).
             Dialogue amount – Places in the story where more dialogue is necessary (or less).
             Dialogue attributions – Be sensitive to passages where more attributions are needed so readers don’t get lost in figuring out which character’s speaking, or fewer “he said/she saids.”
             Action tagging – Places in dialogue where an action tag would be appropriate.
             Pacing – Areas of the story where the pace is dragging, and you just want the characters to get on with it.  Alternatively, be aware of sections where pacing is racing so fast, the reader doesn’t have time to breathe, and can quickly get lost and frustrated.
             Information dumps – When a character or the narrator simply tells what’s happening or gives backstory without weaving it into the narrative of the story. This is where the person giving the critique will often say, “You need more showing and less telling in this section.” This is also often where an observer will say, “This part was a little boring.”
             Show don’t tell – Telling and not showing is also an issue when you see the word “felt.” Naming emotions can distance the reader. “She felt sad,” doesn’t give the readers what they need. But showing them will: “Covering her face with her hands didn’t stop the tears. Nothing did.”
             Dialogue reality – Unbelievable dialogue, whether it’s stilted or simply unlikely from the way the character has been drawn, is another character issue. It’s often when the person leveling the critique will say “I don’t believe the character would say something like …”
             Point of view issues – Swapping points of view mid-sentence or mid-paragraph can leave a reader confused or annoyed. No reader should ever have to wonder whose head they’re in or whose eyes they’re looking out of while they’re reading.
             Tenses – Tense confusion, from past to present and back should be noted.
Writer’s workshops can be even more valuable with a guideline to follow. Hopefully, this will help your workshop be even more valuable to its members.

About Lisa 
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Friday, November 17, 2017

Book Review of Memoir Miracle in My Living Room

Miracle in My Living Room: The story of a little Mann
Evelyn Mann
 Miracle In My Living Room: The Story of a Little Mann by [Mann, Evelyn]
Memoir
Her Purpose Press
c.2016
ISBN 9780998394404

Print: $12.95 Buy on Amazon
E-book: $2.99

From the publisher: In this inspirational story of hope, a first-time mom is faced with unthinkable circumstances. This was not the pregnancy any woman would have planned. This mom was forced to face the option of abortion while medical professionals said her son would never survive a day outside the womb. There were many harsh words used to describe her precious unborn child, including the devastating declaration “not compatible with life.”

Miracle in My Living Room chronicles a nearly 11-year journey for this mom who, when faced with absolutely no hope, found that there was ONLY hope.

My review: It’s hard not to sit back and feel guiltily grateful for only being violently sick during pregnancy after reading books like Mann’s memoir of her pregnancy and motherhood experience. Already in her late thirties when Evelyn and Ralph married, they wanted a family right away. Getting the welcome news of being pregnant was short-lived when a few months in, the first ultrasound showed issues, followed by a diagnosis of an extremely rare genetic condition. Evelyn was even discouraged from searching for more information about it, which she eventually ignored. The Manns chose to carry through with their pregnancy, searching for the right medical team and occasional heavenly intervention to help them. Samuel was always a real person in utero, through surgical birth and early months of love spent in hospitals and medical facilities. Evelyn and Ralph sacrificed their careers to watch over him, running interference through medical personnel when needed. They make it clear that while doctors, nurses, and aides for the most part did what they were taught to do, some were better at their specialties than others. While church and family gave unwavering support, questions still arose from their supporters and professionals about whether they were doing the right thing for their child. The Manns rightfully questioned themselves. Was Samuel in pain or too much distress? The special medical devices that kept him alive and in the most comfort were expensive and not always readily available. Constant supervision was critical for his care. Could they learn to care for him themselves at their own home?

Evelyn found other families touched by this condition and created a network of hope. Despite a “lethal” outlook, Samuel has lived over a decade, and their story offers inspiration.

My only complaint is about the treatment of editing. Numerous errors, even in the back cover copy, deflect a little from the book. Mostly typos which should have been caught before publication, perhaps a future edition would also correct naïve errors which work against the sincerity of the script.


About the author: Evelyn Mann is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Tampa Florida raising her special needs son, aka the “Miracle Mann.” Receiving inquiries from around the world, she offers other families hope and encouragement showing that a negative diagnosis is not beyond God’s reach.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Nanowrimo Tips

Many writers are smack in the middle of National Novel Writer's Month - 50,000 words in 30 days. It seems a daunting task, but it's my 9th year to participate, and I love it. No, it's not a "submittable" project on the last day, but you have something to work with, which is better than nothing.

I usually start with an outline, but no matter how much I prepare, I get stuck. I'm tackling a historical fiction this time, a first for me, and so I did extensive research before November 1. Even with all that preparation I stumble over something that needs to be historically accurate, and I don't have the answer. I'm trying to remember to just focus on the story, and not get bogged down with questions. I jot down a note within my document so I know what I need to follow up on. I will lean heavily on my critique group later. They saved me from submitting something awhile back that had me stuffing my main character in the back seat of an El Camino. Yeah, I don't know anything about cars. The point is, the book was written. The bugs can get worked out later.

So...I tell myself:

1. Just keep writing.
2. Hook up with other Nano nuts for inspiration.
3. Take breaks. (I will put the work aside and watch a favorite program, jotting down words and phrases that catch my ear, and then go back to my project and try to incorporate them.)
4. Keep writing.
5. Remember that it's a draft, and you can write anything you want. Anything. Have fun.

Who's doing this with me? If you need an extra Nano Buddy, my handle is jodybooks. What's yours? Got any Nano tips?
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Friday, November 10, 2017

Domain-tenance

It started out innocently enough. All I wanted to do was switch hosts for my website because my computer, in all its glorious idiocy, suddenly wouldn't let me log out of my account with my Gmail address (where I do everything but my two blogs) and then sign in to my Yahoo account where my two blogs live. I spent an entire day doing everything to this computer other than tossing it off the balcony. Nothing worked.

I had no choice. I'd have to switch to a host that wouldn't require me to sign out and then sign in to another host to post on it, and then try to re-create my blogs on the second host. But in order to do that, I had to have a few questions answered. I asked a question and received a ticket at the new site. After several back and forth emails and a phone call, I finally figured out I'd have to have the old host point my domain to the new host's name servers. Of course, all this felt like pudding had been injected into my brain, but with the very friendly agent, I was able to initiate a website with them. All I had to do was contact the old host to tell them where they should point my domain in order to make my website live and able to be created.

Simple, huh? It might have been except the old host site is apparently manned by only a computer or maybe some talented monkeys. No humans, no place for a talk with an agent, nothing but a continual series of answers ("does this answer your question?") that almost, but not completely answer my questions. I asked for a ticket, but have yet to receive an email acknowledging that I'm even in the queue, so I'm in limbo until someone from the old site contacts me. I don't even know if I outright own the domain. Perhaps it's part of the old host and I'll have to pay for it forever, which is fine, but I have to know. In the meantime, I'm not able to start creating my new website until those darned domain thingies are pointed at the name servers.

My point (aside from a personal rant)? Please, please be careful when you choose a host for your website. There are attractive and free ones out there, and if your computer isn't as stubborn (dumb?) as mine, perhaps you'll never have a problem. But my advice is to talk to a human, if possible, then write down what they tell you about your domain (unless you bought it independently), because sure as shootin' you won't remember when you need to.

This might not be the best writing advice you've ever received, but it pays to ask other website owners how they like their hosts, the good and bad about them, and what they would do differently, if anything. I was naive and relied on only my limited knowledge of domains and websites, then went for the cheap fix to my problem. Yes, I got a website, and I liked it. But needs change, and technology advances daily (by the time this post goes live everything I've written above will no doubt be obsolete). As a result, I forgot important things that, had I written them down, wouldn't have left me in a holding pattern at the mercy of a computer or pack of talented monkeys. If ever I needed to talk to a human being, this is the time.

Even after I get all this needed information and get that domain pointed in the right direction, I still have to create the new website. I can feel the pudding now.
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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Single Quotations – American English Literary style


Image result for image of quotation marks 
When do writers use single quotation marks?
 Lisa Lickel
  • In NON-Fiction AP style – that is, if you’re writing a newspaper article and the editor puts a title of a book or other such piece of work in the headline
  • In languages other than AMERICAN English – like, Queen’s or British-style
  • In quotes within quotes


Pay Attention, Authors!

If you’re writing an American English piece of literature no matter the style or genre or length, you only use a single quote mark when one of your characters is quoting something while speaking. Seriously. That’s it.

Please, I beg you, Horatio—nevermore use a single quotation mark by its little itty bitty self. There may be an exception, but just…really, don’t do it. Okay? 

If you’re using “air” quotes – double; if you’re using internal and feel like you have to use a mark – double; if you’re going for emphasis, gently, once in a very great while – italics.

Example:

Maude uncurled her long legs from the chair and pushed upward. “Honestly, Rupert, if I’d wanted to hear another method of movement, I would have called Helen. She’s always telling us to ‘get a wiggle on,’ or some such nonsense.”

Rupert guffawed. “Ha! Just the other day she told me to move my ‘blooming arse.’ Said she’d heard it in a movie.”


“Ye-es,” Maude drawled. “My Fair Lady. Elisa tries to show how refined she’s become until she attends a race and is about to lose a bet. She ‘shocks’ some of the ladies with her course language, though the ‘gentlemen’ get quite a kick.”
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Friday, October 27, 2017

Why Does My "To Do" List Always Turn into "I Didn't"?

Our household, consisting (besides me) of my daughter, six-year-old granddaughter, along with two cats, a bird, and one hermit crab have been sick for the past five weeks. I mean "coughing, gagging, spiking fever, aches, pains, runny noses" sick. As a result I haven't done a lot of writing in the past few days, and the animals are barely getting by because we're all too weak to do anything but toss some food in the dish and throw some water at them.

While I didn't do much actual writing, I did try to fine-tune my "to do" list. This is what it usually looks like:

TO DO 

  • Make a list. (This guarantees I'll have something to cross off.)
  • Go to the bathroom, then shower.
  • Enjoy a cup of coffee while I peruse the news and my emails. 
  • Nod off
  • Wake up (See? Already I'm making progress!)
  • Go to the bathroom
  • Think about getting to work on a blog post, batch of emails, current WIP, etc. 
  • Eventually consult my list 
  • Take the easiest, most desirable project I can find and procrastinate on the not-so-fun ones (which will undoubtedly find themselves on my next day's list).
  • Get a snack and a drink
  • Go to the bathroom
  • Find something--anything--I can do other than what I should be doing. (It's a skill I've honed over the past few years.)
  • Finally settle down to get something written/edited/marketed/blogged.
  • Work until I can justify stopping to do something more important--fluff the couch pillows, check the driveway to make sure no serial killers are lurking out there (so far, so good), check to be sure there are no wrinkles in my bed sheet, scan the refrigerator, talk to the bird, etc.
  • Look at the clock and gasp! Time to make supper already? (I just hate it when the day flies by and I never get anything done.)
This is me trying to keep my head above water. I look a little
like an otter, don't I? Hm-m-m, never noticed that before.
Then I make a new list and vow I'll get my act together tomorrow. But I've discovered--and this is the actual point of this post--is that "to do" lists seldom work. At least they don't for me. A list of upcoming obligations and the dates they're due and a few things you know you'll get done is just fine. But I've found that the words "to do" intimidate me because I know darned well I won't. I always overestimate what I can do and underestimate the time it will take to do them. And that's not taking in consideration those spur-of-the-moment things that pop up--an email I have to reply to right away, phone calls, appointments. As a result, I fail. Daily. Every stinkin' day. And that makes me feel bad about myself.

Now I'm not advocating not jotting down the important things (and obviously the list I showed you above is a silly exaggeration), but I think "to do" lists should be limited to plans for a party, errands to run, banking, grocery shopping, and the like.

Writers face enough obstacles without setting ourselves up for failure. If you have the fortitude to follow your "to do" list, and if you feel you really need it, then go for it. I applaud you for your determination and gumption. My inner "crack-the-whip muse" lets me know when I really need to buckle down, and I find myself working like a fiend for hours upon end at times. Other times resemble the list above. But I can't, and won't, add guilt on top of my writing obligations.

I say we do whatever makes us, as writers, feel the best. We have enough competition, time-gobblers, and roadblocks in our paths without us putting other things in the way. I guarantee the more you do what you can to feel good about yourself, the better your writing will be. As for me, I'm abandoning the "to do" list habit and trusting myself to get it done without being nagged.

It doesn't matter what method you use. It's a personal choice and probably won't wreak destruction and havoc across the nation no matter which you choose. All you really have "to do" is remember that you're a writer, and be proud of yourself and your work.






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Friday, October 13, 2017

Becoming an Expert (at Being an Expert)

Are any of us "experts" in the field of writing? I'm not referring to being a leading authority in a field you're writing a non-fiction book about, but rather an expert in the act of writing itself. I've given this question a lot of thought in the past few days because I've been feeling unusually inadequate lately. That could be attributed to the grandpappy of all head colds and my not being able to accomplish anything more daunting than brushing my teeth some time during ten-minute periods I was upright during the past ten days or so. Or it could be that I'm just feeling the stress of marketing a new book, editing a children's series for publication early next year, and working on two other manuscripts simultaneously.

In any event, it's a valid question.

Do any of us who write for a living (or for fun or as a mission) qualify as experts? Certainly there are those authors among us who are better than I am at many things in a writer's life--perhaps all things. It guess it comes down to how we define "expert" and what parameters we use to distinguish an unusually skilled writer from one who isn't.

While it might be a moot point because we can never really nail it down to bullet points, educational degrees, bestsellers under our belts (or number of pages written, for that matter, in which case I'd be the head poobah), it warrants our attention because one of the worst things we writers can do to is compare ourselves unfavorably to those we look up to. Yes, we should aspire to be better at what we do each time we do it. Every book, article, short story, poem, newspaper article, or whatever form in which we write will ideally be better than the last. Hopefully we learn something, whether consciously or not, from each foray into the printed word. But just as our target audiences, skills, experience, genre, voice, and everything else that goes into our work will always differ in some, or perhaps, many ways from other writers, so too will our personal takeaway from those works.

It would be easier if there were a reliable rating scale to which we could aspire. For instance, someone who has written twenty books might be considered an expert in the field of writing, yes? But what about those who have written one hundred? Does that make the 100-guy/gal more expert than the 20-guy/gal? What if 20-guy sold ten times the books that 100-gal sold? Does it even matter? We can't calculate the pleasure or information imparted to the readers, so figuring out if either one of them is more expert than the other is an exercise in futility.

Of course, there are many, many writers who excel at what they do, and oftentimes they stand head and shoulders above the rest of us. They have paid their dues, earned their keep, and produced time and time again. But even a gifted wordsmith might lack organizational skills or need a little help with dialogue or backstory or any one or more of a thousand different aspects that add up to a great writer.

What it boils down to, in my opinion, is how we feel about ourselves and whether or not we apply every single iota of skill, talent, perseverance, and wisdom into our work. No, I will never be the world's leading Christian humorist, but I'll make good and sure I'm the best I can be (with apologies to the United States Army for stealing their tagline), and get better each time I let one of my works out into the world. And while I will always feel there is someone (more than likely millions of someones) who are more expert at writing than I am, I will have the satisfaction of knowing I'm the most expert writer I can be. Some things are just out of our control.

What about you? What would it take to make you feel as though you're an expert at whatever it is you write, and how do you go about accomplishing that? You can, you know. You really, really can.
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Creating Worthy Side Characters


Sub Characters Need a Purpose

by Lisa Lickel

I was recently asked about what makes a good, solid side character. I happened to be reading this debut novel with excellent examples. As a writing mentor, I find it helpful to pick apart worthy published works as examples, and this book, Picking Daisy, by Kimberly Miller, fits the bill nicely. You can read my review here.

In general, your side characters need a purpose and a personality without being able to disappear or take over a story. 

It's not a bad idea to set up a general background for these characters like you do for main characters, but it certainly doesn't have to be as involved. At least figure out why you're making up this character at all. "Comic relief" and "expendable" aren't sole worthy reasons.

The importance to the plot line and main character development must be obvious--as obvious as any other aspect of story. If your main character's pants will fall down without the sidekick to hold them up, the sidekick is necessary. If your main character wears a belt and the sidekick is merely an ankle-biter, ditch 'em. They're not necessary. 

Side characters must be memorable and unique without disappearing at any time without notice, or taking over the story. Even one interesting thing, such as fashion sense, accent, tattoo, does the job.

How many are too many? Well, if Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a standalone, there would be too many characters. Sometimes one is enough; sometimes a larger cast, as long as they're necessary and unique enough to keep separated, is fine. In Picking Daisy, each main character basically had two sidekicks (though I put together an engaged couple as one sidekick, since they acted as a unit). One other sidekick character was essential to both of them.

I recommend getting out a book you like a lot that has a fairly large cast and pick it apart. Think Wonderful Wizard of Oz, or A Man Called Ove, or Gone With the Wind. These are the questions to ask for a good Side Character study. The questions may seem obvious, but think about it carefully and seriously. We authors tend to love our people, and the thought of them not be important to someone else is heart-breaking. I've been there. I understand. But I have learned to wield an ax.

ASK THESE QUESTIONS OF EACH CHARACTER

Why is (this person) in the book?
What role do they play?
Will the story still make sense if this person/setting/object/quest is not in the story? (What would happen if they/it weren’t in the book?

Alert readers noticed that a side character does not have to be a person. It can be a setting (think Tara or Oz), an object (think sorting hat in the Harry Potter books or A in Scarlet Letter), or a quest (think revenge in Moby Dick).

So, to show you an example of how to analyze characters and think about them in your own work in progress, I give you the following study from Picking Daisy. First, here's the blurb about the book. You'll note there is absolutely no information at all about side characters in this teaser. You'll note in my analysis I considered this book might birth other stories with these characters, though along with being expendable and humorous, potential serial fodder is not reason enough for a character's presence. You don't need to read the book to get something out of my analysis, though the book is a pretty sweet read.

From the publisher about Picking Daisy:
Daisy Parker isn’t the woman that rock star Robby Grant would have imagined himself falling for. She’s soft-spoken, sweet, and lives by a strange code the struggling musician is recognizing as Biblical. And he’s helpless against it. Even if Daisy is hard-pressed to believe that a man like Robby would see her—a woman long forgotten by the rest of the world—as anything more than a step back to his career. But Robby challenges Daisy in ways she’d long avoided. With their mutual love of music, it seems nothing can separate them—not Daisy’s wheelchair or Robby’s ego. As Robby grows into the man he’s long dreamed of being, Daisy dares to trust again. But will this sweet melody last?

We learn that Daisy is in a wheel chair, and Robby is a rock star, that Daisy has trust issues and Robby a giant ego They both love music. What we learn provides ample excuse for side characters.

Uncle Nick – he was the catalyst to getting Robby and Daisy together. He's an older man in his seventies, widower, romantically inclined toward Daisy mostly to give her security though he also wants her to meet up with Robby because of their mutual love of music. His accident brings Robby into the setting. If he wasn’t in the book, there would have to be some other set-up to bring the main characters together.
My reaction: I knew him, could picture him, he had a personality with a manner of speech and character that showed stubborn and big-hearted, quirky humor. He would marry Daisy just to help her out; slightly creeped out that Robby accused them of being intimate and then kissed her.

Sadie – Daisy’s single friend, café owner; was in the book to provide aid to Daisy and provide a place for her to perform; also to provide some toughness and dose of reality. She also served as the love interest for Jazz and later brought Robby and Daisy back together. If she wasn’t in the book, Jennifer, Daisy's other friend, could act alone, or even Nick could take on the role of caregiver or hire someone; they could find a place for Daisy to perform.
My reaction: I probably read too fast and missed knowing she was the café owner who brought Daisy coffee regularly – by the end I knew she was the owner. She had a feisty personality who wanted to challenge Daisy more, but was softened by the quieter Jen. I loved that she and Jazz were working on a relationship and were role models for Robby.

Jennifer and Steve – Daisy’s engaged friends. Jennifer was a longtime friend who stuck by Daisy through the ups and downs, and Steve helped look after Daisy and Nick. They were good sounding boards, and Steve challenged Robby, the famous rock star, to be good to Daisy. Their wedding helped Sadie and Jazz grown closer. Jennifer seemed more quiet. I didn’t know her as well as Sadie, though they were good role models for Robby to watch and learn about relationships. Jen provided activities for Daisy to help her and keep her busy. She also loaned Daisy money. If they weren’t in the book, Daisy, to be realistic, would need some kind of aide on a regular basis due to her health status. She could talk more to Nick, but there should be someone to challenge her and listen to her woes.
My reaction: I thought they were necessary to show both Daisy and Robby hope for a good, solid, serious faith-based relationship. Steve was a mature contemporary for Robby to look up to, since the other men in his life (Nick, Warren) were relatives or hired men (Jazz).

Warren - the perfect big brother for Robby, stable, mature, yet needing to grow. The nicknames they used and actions toward each other were great natural examples of how they came to be the way they were, and needed each other. His role was to shame Robby into going to check in on Uncle Nick after his accident. If he wasn’t in the book, a lot of good example for background would be lost. He provided some hard-nosed touches in not letting Robby continue to be such a jerk, and was also a role model for Robby. He was unique in personality—tough military—and used clever nicknames that kept Robby grounded. Robby admired his physique and relied on his brother to get him out of messes. He was a man of faith. Was he necessary? If he wasn’t in the book, Nick could have called Robby to come, and they might have shared some of the background, but it would have been forced.
My reaction: I liked him; he had good personality and was one of those people who helped me see that Robby was redeemable. He and Jazz were somewhat alike in build and temperament; whereas Jazz was a hired employee and a friend who took a lot of guff from Robby, Warren didn’t have to take anything and kept challenging Robby.

Jazz (Jason) – Robby’s best friend and hired body guard. He was in the book to provide a little bit of “realism” in the life of an international celebrity, and to serve as a reality check. He also became a love interest for Sadie. It’s possible more “companion” books will come out with the stories of Jazz and Sadie, and perhaps Warren (who got engaged to an unseen woman, Daphne, who has a child), and Uncle Nick, who developed an interest in his nurse, an unseen woman, by the end of the book. In that case, these people perform necessary plants for future books while still being necessary in this book naturally. He had a definite personality by letting Robby know of his concern; he escaped being cliché by challenging his boss and talking to Daisy, and by falling for Sadie.

My reaction: If he wasn’t in the book, I would need some healthy realism from another source. The author already made too light of the female protagonist’s wheelchair-bound life in not sharing any intimate details of life as a paraplegic, so making some of the problems Robby faces as an international celeb are more focused. I wouldn’t believe in Robby as much without Jazz.
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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Sweepstakes Marketing Results

Testing Marketing Methods part two

by Lisa Lickel

Two weeks ago I announced a trial of Amazon's Sweepstakes giveaway "offer." You can read about it here. My novel, Requiem for the Innocents, was languishing due to self-inflicted ennui, and I happened across an ad from Amazon for a marketing ploy--yeah, I'm an occasional sucker for the easy way--that seemed relatively painless for both me and my audience.

Authors need to find answers to:
How to make your work known?
Where does your audience lurk?

My book isn't only offered on Amazon--it's available on many online store sites as well as for order in bricks and mortar stores. But how to help readers find it when you're painfully shy, too poor and invisible to professional marketers, and frankly tired of stalking people, is a burning issue.

The following information and pondering are the results for my Sweepstakes, which was an offer of 10 ecopies of my book, which I paid for in advance, to randomly chosen (by Amazon) winners.

When the sweepstakes started at the end of August, the book's stats went from about 2 M to 1.1 M on Amazon's tracked sales "bestseller" list, so I know I had a couple of sales, which was nice. When the Sweepstakes ended on September 21, I had a total of 217 entrants (I suspect that might be quite miserable, but I have no way of knowing for sure), so at least there was a pool of more than 10 people to choose to receive a copy. The entrants had to "follow" me on Amazon, so supposedly I got a bunch of new followers, though I can't find the number on my author page. It used to be pretty visible, but I must be looking in the wrong place. I checked on a couple of other author sites and couldn't see any numbers either. I know on Facebook I lost at least five "fans" from my author page, but I can't prove it was due to the advertising of the contest. 

Image result for marketing

On the morning of September 22, 2 of the 10 prizes had been claimed after the verification process; on Saturday, 8 of the prizes had been claimed; as of Monday afternoon, 9 prizes were claimed. I don't honestly know how the entrants have to claim the prizes, whether there's some sort of ordeal involved which would make it difficult, but I don't have to be the one to verify or choose. Oddly enough, names are displayed, but I think it would be too creepy to try to follow up with them, although it might be worth it if they are easy enough to find. I assume they have to have an Amazon profile. The bestseller rankings are rising again, so sales never organically took off. In my "thank you" note to the recipients I asked for a review if the reader would be so inclined. 

Was it worth it?
Time will tell. It cost me little pain, although I should have done more promoting (I did some). I got one confirmed fan buy, though I lost Facebook followers which is moot as far as I'm concerned. If I get a couple more reviews that are positive I'll be content. Would I do it again? Maybe...but with a plan in mind of better and more consistent promotion. I need to spend some marketing dollars as part of my business plan, and this helped.
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Friday, September 22, 2017

Why Addiction Is Good for Authors


I have a confession to make. I'm an addict. Yes, I'm addicted to geodes. You know... geodes? Those little rocks that look downright ugly on the inside, but hide beautiful surprises within? They're formed in cavities in the earth or in bubbles in volcanic material. 
Over time minerals form inside the outer layer, which is stronger than the material around it, and survive after the surrounding rock erodes. We're left with an intriguing spherical-shaped (or close to it) rock which, when cracked open reveals beautiful mineral deposits. My daughter, granddaughter, and I love to crack them open with a hammer (be sure to wear eye protection or at least wrap the geode in a towel while hitting it) to reveal what this little gem (no pun intended) has hidden for who-knows-how-many-millions of years. 
Here's just one of the geodes we have on display in our home.
No, it doesn't contain valuable gems, but it gives us such
pleasure to know we're the first to see what's been so
lovingly created within its humble covering over the millennia. 
And that's exactly how I view my work as a writer. I want to surprise my readers with what I've created within the covers of my books. Mind you, I'm not calling my covers ugly--they're beautifully rendered by a very talented publisher--but who knows what a book holds until you crack it open and take a peek inside?

If we can give readers a surprise every time they read our work--whether poetry, journalism, literature, non-fiction, novels, short stories, or any other kind of writing--we'll have done our job. And by surprise, I'm not talking necessarily about "scaring them out of their socks" surprised, although that's always fun, but any one of a number of great things with which we can use our talents to give our readers a thrill, a laugh, shock, inspiration, or even fear. 
If we can do that we'll have people addicted to our work in no time. After all, isn't that what we're trying to do? Give readers a thrill every time they read one of your works of art and they'll be hooked for life! 

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