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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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday Grammar Tip Capitalizing family names

Image result for capital letters

When to capitalize those family nicknames - you know, when Dad says, "Son, you've gone too far this time!" or daughter says, "Aw, Aunt Lulu would have let me..."

There is a trick to it. And it's easy!

Ask yourself:


  • Am I describing someone or using his or her proper name? Not substituting for a proper name, but actually using the name or title?
  • Am I using the relationship word (brother, bro, sis, uncle, grandma) as a NOUN?


Here are some examples.

My brother Dillon likes to give me knuckle rubs, but I hate it. Oh no, here he comes.
"Yo, bro," Dillon says to me and tries to grab my head.
At least Grandma comes to my rescue this time.
"Dillon, that's not nice," Grandma says to him. I just love my grandma.
Uncle Joe walks into the kitchen. My uncle is the nicest guy I know, not counting my dad.
"Son, take it easy on your little brother," Joe says.
Mom and Dad went on vacation, so Grandma, my aunt Babs, and uncle Joe are staying with me and Dillon.
It's just us boys, we don't have any sisters, though Aunt Babs has a sister who's a sister, like, a nun. Sister Joan.
"Your mother called," Grandma says. "She and your dad want to know how you're doing."

In the examples above, when Dillon is described as the brother, the usage is lower case. When Dillon talks to his younger brother, he uses the description, "bro," or "brother," so the usage is lower case.
When Grandma is first introduced, she's called by her proper title without a relationship identifier ("my") so the usage is uppercase. When "my" is in front of the description later, grandma is lower case. When Uncle Joe calls Dillon "Son," the only reason the word is capitalized is because it's at the beginning of the sentence; otherwise it would not be capitalized.

Questions? Comments?
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Monday, September 18, 2017

Guest Post with Lisa Hannon

I’ve been a member of more than one writing group, including groups who read their work out loud for critique, and groups who submit in writing and then discuss, either face-to-face or online.  A good group can be of enormous help in inspiration–in fact, a throw-away sentence from another writer actually inspired my first book. I asked him what inspired him, and he said that it allowed him to kill his boss–not in reality, but in the third chapter. It sparked “This Little Pig,” and I’ve been addicted ever since. Anyone who’s ever been part of a read-and-critique writing group has witnessed the differences in how writers address each others’ efforst.  Some seem harsh, some don’t, some seem focused on how the writing can improve, some seem focused on how to improve the writer, rather than what’s been read.  Few groups actually help writers learn how to critique another person’s work verbally or in writing, and fewer still help writers learn how to deal with the critiques of their own work.
In my experience, the biggest issue with not having instruction is that group members tend to confuse critique and criticism, and end up leveling the latter.
In the environment of a writer’s group:

The primary definition of criticism is: “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.”
The primary definition of critique is: “a detailed analysis and assessment of something, especially a literary, philosophical, or political theory.”
Differences:
Criticism, in a writer’s group, is largely destructive:
  • Example: This story is scary and dark and I really didn’t like it. I just don’t understand people who write really dark stuff like this.
Critique is acknowledging your filters, followed by pulling out the positives and mentioning them first. Then you can follow with constructive suggestions for change:
  • Example: I may not be your first audience for this story–I don’t often read horror. However, I thought your story arc was good overall, and your characters were well-drawn. You might want to take a look at your beginning. You’ve put a lot of details about the setting there, but I think if you start your story right in the middle of the action that begins on page two, second paragraph, it will draw the reader in immediately. Then you can weave the setting in as you go, to give us the sense of place.
This is just one example–the second in the series will discuss details in what you’re looking for to build a critique that can actually help your fellow writer’s improve, and the third will discuss how to accept critique from other writers and build on it.


About Lisa
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Friday, September 15, 2017

Two for Tea by Carrie Turansky

Tea for Two is the first in a novella duet by Carrie Turansky. Allison Bennett and her older sister Tessa Malone run the Sweet Something Tea Shop in Princeton, New Jersey. The shop is struggling financially and hurting for customers during the worst winter in 30 years. Nevertheless, Allison is content to help her sister. She finally seems to be getting her act together after the love of her life, Tyler Lawrence walked out on her 6 years before. She enjoys the attention of  Peter Hillinger, a wealthy, handsome business owner.

Just when Allison feels her feet are on solid ground, Tyler moves back to Princeton, and what's more, he offers her free advertising for Sweet Something. Although she's not sure if she can trust him again, his presence makes her realize she only thinks of Peter as a friend. This frees her to see if she and Tyler can make their way back to each other. He has definitely changed.

This is a super sweet read, undoubtedly Christian in its worldview, and a quick, enjoyable read. I look forward to reading the second offering in this pairing.

Author info from Amazon.com: Bestselling Inspirational Romance Author Carrie Turansky writes heartwarming historical and contemporary novels and novellas. She has won the ACFW Carol Award, the Crystal Globe Award, and the International Digital Award. Readers say her stories are: Heartwarming and inspiring! I couldn't put it down! . . . Touching love story. It captured me from the first page! Rich characters, beautifully written.
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Testing Amazon Sweepstakes GIveaways

Trying out Paid Marketing Promotions
by Lisa Lickel

We're all about fresh and new marketing tips when we're in business--how to move product into the hands of those who need it. Trends change so fast it's so hard to keep up. Authors need to let Readers know What they have to offer. Amazon, love it or hate it, is one of the largest book sellers in the world, so it makes sense to try a few of their friendly, helpful tips to move product. One of the latest marketing tools is giveaways and sweepstakes. I've also worked with my publishers on Net Galley and I'll report on that tool in the future.

A couple of weeks ago I signed up for a three-week Amazon Giveaway Sweepstakes. Since the e-book I'm promoting was priced at 99 cents, and sales had pretty much slowed to zilch (mostly because I'm not actively promoting), this seemed like a fairly painless and simple way to light a flame under the book. Amazon does the heavy lifting, I'm supposed to shout about it. I decided on a three-week time period around my birthday (just because I felt like an excuse would help, and my birthday was coming on). I decided to give away 10 copies, which I was charged for in advance. If for some reason all of the copies weren't given away, I'd get vouchers to those books to give away on my own. Amazon then collects names and chooses the winners, and notifies them. Seemed like a good deal.

After the first week I had over 150 sign-ups; after two weeks, today, I had 183. My only requirement was asking folks to follow me on my Amazon profile. Although I have a collector for a possible future newsletter/e-mail list and know its supposed to be a good thing, I'm having a hard time convincing myself to do it. Knowing that an open rate for mass mailing lists of any kind is a small percentage makes me tired, and I've lost two fans from my Facebook author page since the sweepstakes started. Though I can't prove any correlation, it still hurts to lose anyone for any reason other than death. My Amazon profile has the potential to showcase my books, and isn't personal, so I figured it was a fairly low-cal thing to ask folks in exchange for a chance to win a book. I tweeted a few times, posted the link on my website landing page and asked for help tweeting from my marketing group. The book came out September 2016. When the sweepstakes started, the book hovered closer to the 2 M mark on the "best seller" list; now it's around 1.1 M. I had few reviews, the last one 8 mo. ago. I asked only readers I know to review; a couple of folks I had approached the year before to endorse backed out. I had another book release November 11 last year, so I purposefully saved some momentum for that release.

Below is what the Sweepstakes message looked like. They also offered promotional language for posting, and sample Tweets and Facebook links. I had to write a brief welcome and a brief thank you for after the sweepstakes was done. I'll report back after the Sweepstakes is over to let you know what I thought and how it worked. I received one sale that I know of that's directly related to the promotion.


Your giveaway is live.
Share this link to let the world know.
Reminder, eligible persons with this link can participate in your giveaway and anyone can share it with others. Only share it when you are ready. If you or your participants share the link on Twitter or any other public forum, anyone can discover your giveaway and participate. We suggest using email or other non-public means if you want to limit entry by strangers.
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Or here is some suggested copy:
See this #AmazonGiveaway for a chance to win: Requiem for the Innocents: a novel (Stories from Paradise House) (Kindle Edition). https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/7b3a0e0e519a3de2 NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Sep 21, 2017 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See Official Rules http://amzn.to/GArules.
Giveaway Summary:
Title:
Entry Message:
It's my birthday and I'm celebrating by giving away 10 e-copies of my novel Requiem for the Innocents. Enter the Sweepstakes, and I hope you win!
Duration:
Aug 31, 2017 12:22 PM PDT - Sep 21, 2017 11:59 PM PDT
Prize:
Requiem for the Innocents: a novel (Stories from Paradise House) (Kindle Edition)
Number of Prizes:
10
Reminder, Kindle giveaway prizes are not eligible for refunds. Reference our FAQs to learn more about our policy.

This giveaway adheres to the Giveaway Services Agreement


@2017 Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Amazon, Amazon.com, the Amazon.com logo and 1-Click are registered trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. Amazon.com, 410 Terry Ave N., Seattle, WA 98109-5210.
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Friday, September 8, 2017

Promoting Good Mental Health by Writing

There's little that takes on more importance during times like these than togetherness--as families, communities, states, a nation, and even the world. As the country waits with bated breath to find out just where in Florida Hurricane Irma will make landfall, it seems wrong to post on anything other than the potential danger so many Americans are facing, and how resilient American citizens are facing such tragedy.

But maybe that's all the more reason to do just that. No, a post about writing won't change the course of Irma, won't diminish the damage, whether emotional, physical, or material, and certainly won't rate up there with weather news. It won't lessen the losses of those in Texas impacted by Hurricane Harvey. But it will give us a brief respite from the woes of the nation, in particular, and the world in general. Before these massive storms, politics took center stage in the news, and battles between Trump supporters vs. his detractors reigned supreme on social media. The news is seldom good, and I don't suppose that will change once Harvey and Irma have passed and we're left with cleaning up what they've left behind.

That's one reason I feel authors do such a great thing for humanity. We provide entertainment and knowledge, two things that fuel good emotional health. If we're armed with truth, facts, and information (provided by non-fiction books) and excitement, romance, mystery, thrills, inspiration, and humor (through fiction), our lives take on more balance. Yes, bad news will most likely win the battle in mainstream news sources because so much of it exists, but good news is out there. We may not hear about it often enough, but in times of national tragedy, we see the inherent good in others. In the meantime, writers need to remember what an important role we play in the lives of our readers.

Have you ever retreated to your favorite spot to read and bury yourself in the plot of a good book to get away from your daily strife? Do you find yourself aching to get back to that novel that has you spellbound? Do you look forward to getting back to that non-fiction title on your favorite subject? These are all examples of readers needing what we writers produce. We may not change the course of hurricanes, stop the stream of bad news coming at us daily, or make life wonderful. But we can alleviate stress, bring smiles, entertain, inform, and inspire.

And don't we need that more than ever right now?
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Friday, September 1, 2017

Book Review Uncharted Series Keely Brooke Keith

Uncharted Hope by Keely Brooke Keith

Uncharted Hope
Keely Brooke Keith

Book five in the Uncharted series
Sept 2017

$3.99 Ebook
$12.99 Print
Buy on Amazon

About the book
Sophia Ashton’s new medical assistant job comes with the perks of living on the Colburn property, which include being surrounded by a loving family—something she’s never known. During the job’s trial period, a patient puts Sophia in a questionable position. Now she must prove her competence or lose her job and home.

Nicholas Vestal is working on a sheep farm to earn a starter flock, but before his contract is up, he inherits a house in the village. While fixing up the old house he pursues Sophia Ashton, believing she is the woman God wants him to marry. But when her difficult past blocks his plan, he must find a way to her heart.

Meanwhile, outside the Land...
When plant biologist Bailey Colburn is offered a research job, she knows Justin Mercer is playing her somehow. Working for the former naval flight officer sounds better than her other options in post-war Norfolk, even though Justin says he once met her long lost relatives. But when Justin introduces Bailey to the mysterious gray leaf tree, his unbelievable claims change her world.

My review
In this book, readers finally get a look at the state of the current state of the world outside of the Land. We’d had peeks and glimpses and hints before, but now we learn not what happened, but some of the results as the author takes us back and forth to Justin Mercer’s experiments with the gray leaf tree seeds.

Keith introduces the reader to a planet earth future ravaged by disease and war, not a too-fictional plot point the way things are going. The Uncharted series are not exactly stand-alone serial stories, so I can’t recommend picking one up and starting anywhere, though I think a reader would quickly pick up the threads. In the first book the Land is introduced and we meet a castaway from the outside world who fits himself into this curious lifestyle. The castaway’s friend, Justin, however, can’t forget that he saw his partner disappear and manages to fight his way to the Land. They’re not a good fit and Justin returns to the outside world, rife with disease and despair, to experiment with a potential life-saving and highly lucrative cure-all. It’s this point Uncharted Hope picks up. Each story is built around a founding family of the Land and characters from previous books, so although a reader can step into any story, the context has be built. In this story, a young lady works with the community physician to research the mysterious gray leaf’s curative properties, and also uncovers a potential understanding of why their Land has remained hidden to the outside world.

Meanwhile, Mercer connects with a descendant of one of the founding families who stayed behind, who curiously is a biologist and reluctantly agrees to participate in Mercer’s experiments. Once she realizes the potential, philosophies clash and meld in beautiful ways in their ugly world.

Keith’s stories are inspirational and very gently romantic. Sophia, our heroine in this story, takes her time—a long time—to accept a suitor. Nicholas has a bit to learn about society and social graces as well, as their relationship takes time to root, with a lot of help from their friends and family. The Uncharted series is ultimately about grace and a simple life lived with appreciation for all God’s great gifts, especially salvation.

Told from multiple viewpoints, Keith’s story-telling skills continue to grow. In this novel of weaving between the Land and the Outside, she creates mystery and intrigue and shows glimpses of hope in dark places. Reminder, this novel is part of an on-going series.

About the Author
8475319Keely Brooke Keith writes inspirational frontier-style fiction with a slight Sci-Fi twist, including The Land Uncharted (Shelf Unbound Notable Romance 2015) and Aboard Providence (2017 INSPY Awards Longlist). Keely also creates resources for writers such as The Writer’s Book Launch Guide and The Writer’s Character Journal.

Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, Keely grew up in a family that frequently relocated. By graduation, she lived in 8 states and attended 14 schools. When she isn’t writing, Keely enjoys playing bass guitar, preparing homeschool lessons, and collecting antique textbooks. Keely, her husband, and their daughter live on a hilltop south of Nashville, Tennessee.
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