Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rhyming Challenge and Wisdom

You know I like to share wisdom from my Old Farmer's Almanac planner. A few weeks ago I shared the definition of nephelococcygia which is the word for finding a shape in a cloud. As a joke, I issued a challenge to Pat Hatt at It's Rhyme Time. If you visit Pat on a regular basis, you know he throws words out there that are not in your every day vocabulary. Today Pat has picked up the glove. Hop over there and see what he came up with it. It will be good!

Some interesting news I stumbled on this week. How about this cave in Wyoming? Apparently animals fell into this death trap over the course of thousands of years. All kinds of cool but now extinct animals like mammoths landed in the bottom of this pit. Scientists expect to learn things from their DNA and even reasons why these animals went extinct and what the climate was doing during those eras.

The this week the almanac claims that blueberries slow aging. I need to eat a few more. I won't be posting tomorrow since I posted today. I'll be back on Monday. (August already.)

Do you see things in the clouds? Did you visit Pat yet? Want to know more about that cave in Wyoming? Did you have your blueberries today?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

One to Rule Them All

This October will mark the 60th anniversary of the publication of The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Not many would argue with the idea that Tolkien invented the epic fantasy genre. Not only did he inspire millions to read the genre, but a lot of writers got into to the game because of him. Tolkien wrote the kind of stories he liked to read, an important lesson for all of us.

He did things with languages, like inventing them, that is beyond my dreams and capabilities. His day job was teaching languages. In his books he used a number of Old English Words such as Ent and Orc. Did you know he made up the plurals of elf and dwarf that we use today? The runes that were used for the elves and dwarves were an alphabet he created. That all wows me.

Perhaps the thing I have most in common with Tolkien is that he really was a pantser and not a plotter. Meaning he had to revise like crazy. Sounds familiar to me. I'll keep working trying to catch up to him in those other areas. Maybe someday we'll have a Gourley Society but in the meantime, you can check out The Tolkien Society.

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
The Fellowship of the Ring

I'll be using my time this week to write the first rough draft. Tomorrow if you have time, Pat Hatt at It's Rhyme Time is using a word I challenged him with a while ago.  Visit him to see what he does with it.

Do you know Pat? Are you a Tolkien lover? Did any of the facts about him I shared surprise you? Do you think anyone will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of your writing in the future?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Let's Be Real

As a writer of fantasy and science fiction I can use my imagination to create new unique things in every part of the worlds I create. My characters don't have to human. They don't have to need oxygen to breathe or food as we know it to live. But readers love stories where they can identify with or at least understand the hearts and minds of the protagonists. If the reader struggles to understand the world I've created because it's so different from the real world, they might put the book down and never pick up anything I've written again. There must be a balance.

I've never written historical fiction though I love reading it. I too big a coward to tackle historical fiction. Readers will spot those mistakes and let you know or worse let the whole world know in a review. But since the epic fantasy I write is set in a medieval setting, I try to insert some realism into the cultures I create.

A book I keep on my desk, What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank by Krista D. Ball, covers loads of interesting facts. For example, how long does it take to make a stew over an open fire? Two hours to get that meat tender. What vegetables and roots could travelers find in the woods? Does the hero carry a thick, metal cooking pot and the big knife needed to field dress game? Great answers in this book?

Getting enough to eat was a real concern during medieval times and malnutrition often made people vulnerable to other illnesses and diseases. Of course there was the scary bit one, the plague, that wiped out a third of Europe. And it's still around today though not nearly as frightening. Read about modern outbreaks. Of course in a fantasy novel magic is always an option for health woes but I can add some depth to my society by also including real methods that might be used in a medieval society. The History Learning Site has lots of interesting information on medieval life. Another resource I use is a book of herbal remedies, many that are served in teas. Doesn't every medieval book need to serve up a little tea now and then.

Did you ever read a historical novel and spot a glaring error? How about a fantasy novel or science fiction novel where you just didn't buy into a piece of the story? Ever read a novel like I did last week that was so confusing in the world building I couldn't get interested? Had you heard about the recent cases of plague in Colorado?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Do Your Thing

Just a short post to carry us into the weekend. There's lots of advice out there for writers and some of it is from very successful and famous authors. Buzzfeed shared this list of 30 Indispensable Writing Tips from Famous Authors. It makes interesting reading and covers a variety of areas. And those famous talented people don't always agree. I shared two of their quotes here but you can follow the link to read them all. They're short and enjoyable.

After reading them all on top of all the other advice I've read and listened to over the years, I think I'll just say trust yourself in your writing. Use the process that works for you even if one of those famous authors was your inspiration, you don't have to do it the way they did.

I realized I hadn't shared any wisdom from my Old Farmer's Almanac Planner this week so you should know that, 'it is unlucky to part with a friend on a bridge.' Yesterday was Pioneer Day in Utah where the square dance is their state folk dance.

Enough wisdom from many sources for the day. Any of those famous authors on the Buzzfeed article an inspiration for you? Ever part with a friend on a bridge? Do you know if your state has an official folk dance? Does your state have any odd 'official' thingies?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

MDQ of the STORY

I jotted the acronym, MDQ, down in my little tablet where I keep track of possible blog topics more than two months ago. I don't think I'd ever seen the acronym used though I did know what it meant.

The Major Dramatic Question is what I've always thought of as the big plot question that the story seeks to answer. It's the goal of the protagonists, the driving force behind the action and drama leading the reader toward the end of the novel. Where the lovers end up together in the romance novel? Will the forces of good overcome evil in the fantasy novel? Will Earth's spacecraft stop the alien invasion? Will the detectives stop the bad guys in the suspense novel? Joe Bunting makes it very simple in this short article.

The reader might buy into the MDQ, after all they picked up the book because they wanted a romance, fantasy or mystery novel. But what will keep them reading and have them buying the next book are the obstacles and conflicts that prevent the MDQ from being settled until that last chapter.

Analyzing a TV show or a movie is good way to visual the MDQ and the conflicts in the way. Any police procedural show will have false leads, events that confuse or create more questions, interesting characters or settings that influence the protagonist striving for the answers to the MDQ. Inspiring curiosity in the reader is a guarantee to keep them flipping pages.

Have you ever heard the acronym, MDQ? Do you love or hate acronyms? Is there a particular TV show that does a great job of demonstrating the Major Dramatic Question? Do you see how knowing your exact MDQ can help you write a one-liner for your novel?

Monday, July 21, 2014

Starting Point

As a reader of fantasy and science fiction novels, I'm a big fan of prologues. I love them. Despite what some writers have been led to believe, the most recent statistic I saw claimed that 95% of readers not only read prologues but enjoy them as I do. Don't be put off by that out-of-date but still spouted nonsense about never writing a prologue into your novel.

One of my favorite fantasy novels of the past year, Blood Song, by Anthony Ryan, uses a different technique. Ryan divides the novel into a different parts and starts each part with the viewpoint of an historian recording what is expected the be the death of the main character. These short insights are told from someone who hates the central protagonist while the majority of the book is from the protagonist viewpoint. The story bounces from the present view of the historian to the past as experienced by the protagonist. I really enjoyed this technique and am starting the second book, Tower Lord, tomorrow.

Some books start in the middle and then have flashbacks to where the story actually started. TV shows often do this, starting in the middle and then flashing a 'three hours earlier' sign. I'm not such a big fan of this in books but I believe if done with skill it could have the same suspenseful usage as on TV.

A piece of writing advice I was given a long time ago and that I usually follow is to start my books with action. In romance novels this is often the first meeting of the two protagonists or the event that will lead to their meeting or start of their relationship.

The most important thing about that starting point is that it captures the reader's attention. Lots of readers are like me when it comes to finding new authors to try. I read those first few pages, getting a sense of the author's voice and the pace of the novel. There also needs to be a hint of the conflict, an interesting one, and at least a brief sense of setting.

Where do you start your novels? Do you like prologues? Did anyone ever tell you not to include one in your novel? Do you put action on those first pages of your book? Don't forget to visit IWSG blog today for some great insights into the writing life.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jet or Snail

My husband made fun of me a few days ago. I bought new running shoes, expensive shoes because I have old knees and I need good shoes. They felt so wonderful on that first day out on the road. I returned home after an hour's run (dripping sweat, not a pretty picture) and told my husband I ran fast and felt great in my pretty new footgear. He laughed and said steady might be a better description than fast. Okay, so I resembled more a snail crawling through peanut butter than a world class marathoner, but the pace felt perfect for me at my present stage of life.

Our pace at many things changes at different stages of life and career.  Seven years after my first publishing contract, I write much faster (and I hope better) than I did all those years ago. I was satisfied with finishing one novel during those early years of being a writer. Now I'm trying for four per year. It's the pace that fits me now.

Can you write a novel in one month? Two months? One year? Four years? I feel more comfortable every day with my pace as I settle into being a full time writer. When I was working on the day job full time and as my children grew up, I'd advanced to a two novels per year pace. But those were first drafts. There was still a lot of editing and rewrites to be done. Being comfortable and enjoying the journey is part of the fun of being a writer. There's plenty or room in this world for jets and snails.

In case you're worried about young people and the state of reading and writing in our society, let me introduce you to a young man, a teenager actually, who is celebrating some of his short, short stories being published. Patrick Stahl's drabble titled, Trying to Make a Living is featured on Specklit. I hope you'll stop by and leave a comment for Patrick. He's a very cool young man and a gifted writer.

Every write a drabble? Are you comfortable with your writing pace? Has it changed over the course of your career? Ever see a snail gliding through peanut butter?

Monday, July 14, 2014

A Place At That Table

The war between Amazon and Hachette continues. Most of the writers I know haven't taken sides. The specific facts are being held secret but one thing we can all be sure of is that it's about the money. And by that I mean how much Hachette makes and how much Amazon makes on the books they sell. Both love writers only in so much as they make money for their companies. Both love readers because they buy the products Hachette and Amazon are selling.

Like many writers, when I started bleeding out that first novel, I imagined it on the shelf in bookstores and libraries. Book tours and signings ... and of course those lovely paychecks that would allow me to quit the day job and write full time. The dream slammed into the heavily fortified gates of the big boys of publishing. At that time, about eight years ago, they had no place for a science fiction romance though perhaps it would be labeled dystopian today. A small publisher took a chance on it and on my next ten romance novels. Shortly thereafter, speculative fiction romances took off.

I would love to sign a huge money contract with a big publisher but I'm content to be where I am, working with two small publishers. If they would ever listen to someone like me, I would tell the traditional publishers to get off their entitled asses and catch up. They jumped into the paranormal romance trend after small publishers made it popular. They dragged their feet getting into the digital market. And now Hachette is selling books right from their website? Did I hear that? Well guess what, Hachette, my small publisher has always done that. And not only do they sell them at a discount, when they sell a book directly from their website, they make more money and pay me a higher percentage. Win for them and win for their writer. Is Hachette paying their writers more if they skip the middle man? Or are they only providing links so readers can go to a different middle man than Amazon. Didn't investigate that.

It's not that I'm not concerned about the ongoing publishing war. There are probably ways it could affect those of us with small publishers too. Is Amazon a bully? Sure. Just like Walmart is to their vendors. Do most writers sell most of their books through Amazon? Sure. We all have a place at this table but we won't have much say in what is served.

So my romance books are available on my publisher's website at a discount. Here is an interesting article from The New York Times titled Amazon, a Friendly Giant as Long as It's Fed.

Do you feel like this battle affects you? Any advice to traditional publications if they want to stay in business? Do you shop at any of the 'bully' stores like Amazon and Walmart?

Don't forget to visit the IWSG site today for another enlightening post. Check out the new links found on all the pages.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Week Wrapup

Thanks PK Hrezo for her great post on how having a newsletter is an important part of promotion. And good luck to Cate Masters on her ongoing promotional tour for Goddess, Awakened.

A few words of wisdom from my Old Farmer's Almanac planner.

If there be no remedy, why worry? (Old Spanish Proverb) I tried to pass this on to my students shortly after 9/11. Three Mile Island, the nuclear plant, is actually in our school district. There was lots of extra security there for a while and a few false alarms when fighter jets took to the sky looking for threats. There is an airport not far from TMI and for weeks after 9/11 most of what we saw in the skies while we were outside for PE classes were military aircraft. Some flew very low. Now our school has a intricate evacuation plan if anything happened at TMI but truthfully, no way would the buses get out on the congested highways they'd have to travel. So when those low flying planes would go over and my students would get nervous, I told them not to worry. If the worse happened, we were all going to die and rather quickly. There was nothing we could do about it so why worry. For some reason it didn't comfort them the way it should have. Kids!

Tomorrow is also the full moon, known as the Buck Moon this month. And if your garden tools are rusty, the Almanac suggest you soak them for several hours in a bucket of cool, strong black tea.

Hope you enjoyed my Almanac wisdom and carry it forth into your weekend. Would you have been comforted if you were my students. Ever try that cure for rusty metal? Did you design a newsletter yet?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Marketing Funnel by PK Hrezo

The Marketing Funnel
Thanks so much to Susan for letting me take over her blog today. I always enjoy her posts so it’s a pleasure to be here. When she told me she thought a post on marketing would be good, I got all excited. That’s because I just finished a month long course on the subject, and want to share it.

So what’s a marketing funnel? I’m glad you asked. It’s what every author needs in order to maintain an active relationship with readers, fans, and customers. This is done by having an email list or newsletter.
I know you’ve all heard how important it is to have a newsletter/email list before, just as I had, but having its relevance broken down to me over the recent course really drove it home. Here’s why:

It’s a proven fact that email recipients are more likely to buy your book over anyone who sees it on social media. Social media is NOT a reliable marketing tool. Most of the time ads and promos just pass by as white noise or don’t get seen at all. Someone who signs up for your email list/newsletter, however, is actively agreeing to become accessible to you.

How does the funnel come into play? Well I mentioned that social media isn’t reliable for selling books, but it is reliable in harnessing potential email recipients, therefore turning all your social media outlets into a single funnel for your main marketing tool: the email list/newsletter.

They work together. Let’s say you run a clever blog, but don’t get on Twitter or Facebook much. No problem. Just make sure you have a place for people to sign up for your email list on your blog. Make sure it’s visible.

Same for Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn … If you use them regularly and have fun status updates and participation, make sure your home page filters back to your email list. You’re collecting and funneling potential customers and clients into this list, so that when you do send out your newsletter announcement of a new book or special offer, they will absolutely %100 see it.
Everyone uses email. Everyone.

If you’re like me, you’re inundated with emails and the thought of getting more makes you cringe. But not everyone out there is a writer who gets the amounts of email we do, so give them the chance to connect with you in a reliable way that will make your contact with them personal, and allow it to grow.
Think of social media as your tools and use them to funnel in strangers so that they become real fans. This allows you to connect with new readers.

Make a plan and stick to the tools you’re good at. You can’t do all of them well so don’t try. And if you want a surefire way to bring people into your email list, give away something for free when they sign up. Things that work well are first eBooks in a series, or PDF reports of what works for you--like tips on craft or cover designs. This is the age of DIY and if you offer something useful, they will come.
You don’t want your newsletter to be JUST promo stuff either. Give your readers something of value each time, whether it be content you’ve already shared on your blog or directing them to a recent post ON your blog. Then, include your latest announcement or offer. This will keep the people on your list opening your emails.

Share what you’re learning while you’re on this journey and offer to help others.
Many of you are like me and have worked hard on maintaining a blog presence, so this idea of adding another job to an already time consuming one is a bit daunting. I get that. But the problem with blogs nowadays is that people are not going out to look for them anymore. Your followers may or may not see your posts, but the same details in an email list WILL be seen when it’s convenient for the person to open their email.

This is some of what I learned from Tim Grahl’s marketing course. I took it because I’m not good with marketing—I’m a creative person, an artist, and I’m better at the actual production. But I knew I needed to change that attitude, especially since I’m indie and in charge of ALL my marketing.
If you’re not familiar with Tim, he’s the successful author of Your First 1000 Copies, which he indie published last year and has just hit 10k in sales. He shares his story here in this link—about what worked and what didn’t, and I highly suggest listening to it.

Thanks so much for stopping by here today! If you have any questions on using email and newsletters as a marketing tool, just ask in the comments and I’ll answer to the best of my ability. If you’d like to sign up for my email list, here’s the link:
I give my email list an exclusive first peek at what I’m working on and special offers only available to them.

Tell me, what have you found to be a successful marketing tool? Is there anything you dislike seeing? Do you think we’re too overloaded with promos on social media? Please share … 

 PK Hrezo is the author of Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc. and Diary of a Teenage Time Traveler. Her sequel, Induction Day, is due out late summer. You can find her on her blog:
Or website:

Thanks, PK, for taking over my blog today. You're very convincing about the newsletter. You've given my so much to think about. What do all you readers think?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Goddess, Awakened

Congrats to Cate Masters on her newest release. Her latest is set in a contemporary world but prepare yourself for all kinds of magical shenanigans. Here's a short blurb from Goddess, Awakened.

With a little help from a goddess, battling evil is a piece of cake for Jocelyn Gibson.
A descendant of the goddess Isis, Jocelyn Gibson may have forgotten about the realm of magic, but it hasn’t forgotten her. When Eric Hendricks is targeted by a demon, Joss must step in to battle the evil and save the town’s awkward, but endearing, vet…who also happens to be the man she loves. Joss’s new inn, a culinary career specializing in cooking with lavender and a new love all make for a fine recipe of disaster. She needs to embrace her inner goddess and harness the powers she never knew she had before it’s too late.

Hope over to Cate's blog. She has a lot planned for the next few weeks in promotion.

The summer if flying by and I'm loving this warm weather. It does distract me from writing so I'm back to doing most of my creative work at night after the sun sets. My next book has grabbed me and the word count is mounting quicker than I expected. I wish I could write as fast as Cate and some other writers I know but I've learned to accept my own pace. If I write two to three thousand words per day I feel like I'm flying.

Have you visited Cate yet? How many words a day do you usually write? Does a pretty day distract you? Don't forget to visit the IWSG blog today for some bits of wisdom.

Please make sure you visit on Wednesday when PK Hrezo guests on my blog with a compelling post about marketing.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy 4th and Dog Days

Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans. I hope we all remember what the day means as we indulge in cookouts and perhaps some swimming. I hope my east coast friends don't get stormed out as Hurricane Arthur spins his way up the coast.

My trust Old Farmer's Almanac planner told me that the Dog Days of summer started yesterday, July 3rd and will extend through August 11th. At least for us in the Northern Hemisphere. Here in PA, this humid sultry season will extend deeper into August. As I mentioned before, I love this weather. The moniker of 'dog days, goes all the ways back to the Romans and even the Greeks who associated the dog star, Sirius, with this time of year. Wikipedia explains that the Sirius no longer rises at the same time as the sun in the summer so we don't have to sacrifice a red dog anymore to forestall the evils of the hot weather such as spoiled wine, dogs going mad and all those killer fevers that plagued mankind during that era. Good to know.

I'm working on my next romance novel, another space adventure, and weather is going to come into play as it did in one of my previous novels. In The Marine's Heiress, the first part of the novel was set on a planet that had a peculiar but predictable weather cycle. Every tenth day, drenching downpours would move across the occupied area of the distant world. Of course the weather issues came into play in the novel's plot. There are lots of things to consider when world-building for science fiction or fantasy. Weather can be a minor or major factor an author needs to create.

So what fun are you having this holiday? Did Arthur hit you? Are you familiar with the term 'dog days?' Did you cook out today?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

IWSG: July Version

Welcome to this month's IWSG post. This supportive group was started by that energetic writer and musician, Alex J. Cavanaugh. And now the group is supported by a blog all of its own and a Facebook page. Find the entire list of participants in the hop here. Try to visit a few new friends this month.

In this sometimes lonely business of writing, most of us develop online friendships with other bloggers. I can't imagine doing this without the support of the blogging community. How do you select the bloggers you follow and visit often?

I can't highlight all the blogs I love here but I'm going to give a few examples of blogs I visit numerous times per week and why.

Some blogs have a little bit of everything such as Alex J. Cavanaugh's blog. Movie reviews, promotion, support of other writers, occasional music stuff and links to other interesting sites. I almost always click on a link I find in his posts.

Some blogs have content that I find very interesting. I love science and Stephen Tremp feeds my curiosity with the variety of facts he puts together on his posts.

Some bloggers have a lot of craft advice and I learn something every time I visit. Such as Anne R. Allen's blog or L. Diane Wolf who keeps me updated on the latest industry news.

Some bloggers impress me with how supportive they are. If you want to make a friend who will appreciate your friendship in return, visit Robin. You haven't known blogger love until you appear on her Here's to You Thursday.

One of my ongoing goals that I'm not even close to reaching is to break into the short story market. Shannon Lawrence posts links to all kinds of short story markets once per week. Recently I've been sharing them with my daughter who is considering sending out some of her writing.

Then there are the blogs that make me laugh. I just enjoy them. These bloggers just have an entertaining way with words. There's Pat who prepares his posts about two light years ahead of time. Mark Koopmans gives a delightful insight into being a stay at home dad. Ivy amuses me in so many different ways I can't describe them all and she's my heroine in couponing savings. Then there's my friend, Ava Quinn, former Possum Queen. I still haven't tried those recipes.

Those are just a few of the blogs I follow and as you can see, it's for a variety or reasons. Most of them are loosely connected to writing though not all the posts are about writing. I couldn't stay active in the blogging world if the blogs I frequent weren't entertaining and fun.

What do you look for in the subject matter of blogs you decide to follow? Do you enjoy a variety or do you stick with one subject? Is there a blogger that makes you laugh? Have you visited more of the IWSG bloggers?