Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Infrastructure Work and Michelle Howard

Not infrastructure like roads and bridges. I'm talking about my blog and the work I need to do on my blog, my Facebook pages and every time I get on Twitter. Over the next month I'll be following some recommendations given freely by numerous workshop presenters at the conference I attended almost two weeks ago.

Last year, one workshop on promotion was all about Facebook and how an author MUST have at least 1000 followers on their FB author page. Once that happens, your career will take off. I scoffed then and it seems this year that many of the professionals at the conference feel the same way. Many of them do nothing on FB. Instead, they concentrate on blogging, Twitter, Google+ and Goodreads. For today, here are a few general ideas to improve your SEO. I'm sure many of you already use them and none of this is breaking news.

1. Keep your bios on all those different media sites and author pages updated. And make sure they match for the most part. (I'm very guilty of not updating. Getting to it.)

2. Link everything to everything and link it all back to your website (blog) and use relevant consistent keywords in your profiles on every site.

3. Feed Google. Make sure you post there and share links there. Announce everything on Google+.

4. Don't bury you identity on your blog or website. Make sure you name is obvious and have your latest book cover there.

Those are a few generalities. I'm guilty of not feeding Google. But it's on my list to make sure I'm following the four ideas above.

5. Link to other writers. So to follow that bit of advice, for just a few cents, you can check out Michelle Howard's Torkel's Chosen.

What would you do if Earth didn’t have enough men?
Would you take a chance and leave the only world you knew behind?
This is the decision Faith Reid faces. Placing all her hope in a new government program, she seizes the opportunity that offers a chance for the women of Earth to find love among the stars, on a world beyond the one they know.

How many times can one man risk rejection?
Would you give up on your dreams?
Torkel Alonson has had enough of being ignored and looked over by females on his adopted home world of Enotia. His pride has suffered and he must accept the painful truth. Females will never choose a male with his evil lineage despite his honorable service to his government’s military.
 Can two people looking for the same thing find not just what they want but what they need in one another?

Michelle Howard enjoys a crazy life that involves wild kids, a loud dog, and a husband who tolerates the madness.  Like many authors, she’s dreamed of writing since reading her first romance novel many years ago.  She loves paranormal and contemporary romances and is a fan of the classic romances by Judith McNaught and Julie Garwood.
I love to hear from fans so please reach out to me. If the mood hits you, leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads      Twitter  Website   Facebook

Do you update your bios on a regular basis? Do you think Facebook should be a center of promotion? Do you like Google+? How do you feed Google?  Have you tried Michelle's book?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day, A Change of Mind, and Summer Discipline

I wish a blessed Memorial Day to everyone. I hope your loved ones are safe and nearby. This is a vacation day for many here in the States and usually marks the beginning of the summer season if not the official calendar start. I also hope every takes a moment to remember the reason for the day and thinks of those who have served and given their all.

"When it comes to the pinch, human beings are heroic." George Orwell

"One man with courage is a majority." Thomas Jefferson

I love the things summer brings. Outdoor exercise, swimming, taking care of my acreage, and sitting on the porch to read. My writing pace always slows down in the summer despite my determination not to slack off.  At the conference I recently attended, I sat in on a workshop about sprint writing. More about that in a later post but I'm hoping it is the answer to my summer slow down.

I'm pleased to feature Nick Wilford today and a blurb for his new release, A Change of Mind and Other Stories Speculative fiction published by Superstar Peanut Publishing


A Change of Mind and Other Stories consists of a novella, four short stories and one flash fiction piece. This collection puts the extremes of human behavior under the microscope with the help of lashings of dark humor, and includes four pieces previously published in Writer’s Muse magazine. 

In A Change of Mind, Reuben is an office worker so meek and mild he puts up with daily bullying from his boorish male colleagues as if it’s just a normal part of his day. But when a stranger points him in the direction of a surgeon offering a revolutionary new procedure, he can’t pass up the chance to turn his life around. 

But this isn’t your average surgeon. For a start, he operates alone in a small room above a mechanic’s. And he promises to alter his patients’ personality so they can be anything they want to be… 

In Marissa, a man who is determined to find evidence of his girlfriend’s infidelity ends up wondering if he should have left well alone. 

The Dog God finds a chink in the armour of a man with a megalomaniacal desire to take over the world. 

In The Insomniac, a man who leads an obsessively regimented lifestyle on one hour’s sleep a night finds a disruption to his routine doesn’t work for him. 

Hole In One sees a dedicated golfer achieving a lifelong ambition. 

The Loner ends the collection on a note of hope as two family members try to rebuild their lives after they are torn apart by jealousy.

Meet the author:

Nick Wilford is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Once a journalist, he now makes use of those rare times when the house is quiet to explore the realms of fiction, with a little freelance editing and formatting thrown in. When not working he can usually be found spending time with his family or cleaning something. He has four short stories published in Writer’s Muse magazine. Nick is also the editor of Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew. Visit him at his blog or connect with him on Twitter or Goodreads.

Does summer slow down creep into your writing schedule? Does Memorial Day seem like the start of summer to you? Are you purchasing Nick's book today like I am?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Watch For Those Sharks!

I have so many things I want to share with you all about the Pennwriters' Conference I attended this past weekend. There were so many generous and talented workshop presenters who shared their knowledge with us.

There is always something more to learn about writing and I will share some of that but I tended to attend the sessions geared toward promotion. One interesting hour I chugged coffee through was titled, Options in Today's Publishing. Dixianne Hallaj, acquisitions editor for S&H Publishing,Inc. talked about the many different paths to publication and the pros and cons of each.

Most novel writers have heard the goods and bads of big traditional publishers versus the same for small presses. Dixianne didn't mention anything I didn't know about those avenues and I won't go into them here since I've written about them before. Instead, I'd like to share some information that I did learn a little more about.

I never ever considered paying a 'fee-based publisher' to get my book on the market. These type of businesses make their money on fees they charge the authors and not on sales of books. As you can imagine, that means they charge authors desperate to see their books published, extraordinary amounts of money to do things such as edit, design covers, set up distribution, format and then publish a book. And then these sleazy companies do those things quite poorly and the writer makes no money and probably ends up in debt.

And here is the kicker, most of those differently named companies are really one big scam business called Author Solutions. If you google, Find a Publisher, almost all the links will be to Author Solutions or one of their branches. Even better, Author Solutions, is part of Penguin Group. At times, Author Solutions mislead writers into thinking if their book sells well, it will be picked up by the parent group.

Many watchdogs such as Writer Beware, warn authors away from these parasites but people still get stung every day. And Author Solutions operates world-wide, bilking people everywhere regardless of nationality, gender, race or religion. They're equal opportunity crooks.

Forbes originally reported a lawsuit against Penguin Group and Author Solutions. Writer Beware has this update on the lawsuit. It's frustrating that it takes the courts so long to act against these scammers and that companies like Penguin reap the rewards of preying on inexperienced writers.

Dixianne's last words of wisdom was to remind us as writers that this business isn't a get rich quick scheme. Statistics show that 54% of traditionally published authors and 80% of Self-published authors make less than $1000 per year. Very sobering.

And I'm still catching up on my rest after this past weekend. I could use a nap though not as much as a cat.
The average cat naps for 16-18 hours per day.

Do you know any writers who fell victim to a scam? Have you heard any horror stories about Author Solutions or one of its partners? Can you nap as much as a cat?

Monday, May 18, 2015

Blood, Boobs and Carnage Blogfest

After a very busy weekend, it is so nice and normal to come home to the Blood, Boobs and Carnage Blogfest. This event is sponsored by Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather M. Gardner. To participate, share a movie, TV show or book that fits the self-explanatory title of this fest.

I'm rather sure I'm not going to be the only one to pick this TV show and the books it is based on certainly fit the description too. My children bet on how many minutes into an episode of Game of Thrones the first nude scene will occur because lots of skin will be shown every week. Usually full nudity and not just of boobs. Blood and Carnage! Can I say Red Wedding? Too many examples to even name them and more will follow.

I can't wait to see what everyone comes up with.

The Pennwriters' Conference this past weekend was wonderful. You know I'll be sharing lots of information with you on this blog over the next few weeks with the first installment showing up this Wednesday. The only bad part of the event was driving through road construction. Pennsylvania does road work in a manner designed to torture commuters. I believe my home state to be the bozo kings of road construction.

I'm looking forward getting back to my WIP, the first in a new science fiction romance series. And it is time to get some yard work done. I haven't planted anything yet.

How does your state handle road construction? Do you think I picked the winner for the blogfest? Have your spring yard work done? Can I sign you up to attend our state conference next year?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blogging Highs, Future Lows

To my extreme delight and surprise, Ninja Captain blogger, Alex J. Cavanaugh honored me on Monday with one of his annual You Rock Awards. Not only am I humbled by Alex's kind words but also by being in the company of the bloggers he's listed. Thank you a million times over, Alex.

Sometimes I worry about blogging. Are as many people doing it as before? Is the hey day of blogging over? I've heard both sides of the issue and still don't know the answer. I've known bloggers who've stopped but I also have met some new bloggers through A to Z and IWSG. My blogging network keeps expanding, not shrinking. I think the real question is not whether blogging is withering away but why I blog in the first place.

Like so many writers, I first started blogging because I was told by a publisher that I should have a blog. I had no idea what to do but thanks to some contacts I made early on, I learned. Learned how to make posts more readable. How to meet new people. How to keep followers and make friends. Two of the bloggers who really helped me with advice early on were Alex and L. Diane Wolfe.

But the reason I keep blogging is because of the friendships I've made. I feel like I know my blogging buddies more than I do most of the people in my writers' groups that I meet face to face once a month. My blog friends make me laugh, give me reasons to think, and sometimes give me cause to cry. I've grieved for the loss of their pets, a parent, or their battles with illness. I've mentioned them in my prayers many nights.

Last fall, I mentioned many times on my blog how I worried about my daughter studying in Morocco. All those 'she'll be fine' comments helped a lot. Starting next week and continuing for six weeks, I'll probably mention my stress as she once again travels overseas. This time she's going to Oman for an intensive study of the Arabic language. Her selection to the program sponsored by the King of Oman is impressive and I would never hold her back but my poor blood pressure. I know many of you will keep her in your prayers. Oman is just a little too close to the troubles for me to relax. Read Kelley's thoughts on her trip on her blog, The Open Roof.

I won't be posting on Friday while I'm at the writing conference but I'll be back on Monday for the Blood, Boobs and Carnage Blogfest.

What bloggers influenced or helped you at the start of your blogging career?  What is your primary reason to keep blogging? Do you think the heyday of blogging is over or is it still going strong? Did you know where Oman is before you saw this map?

Monday, May 11, 2015

Conference Stalker

After a week and a half to catch my breath, I can turn my mind from The A to Z Challenge and start looking forward to the Pennwriters Annual Conference being held in Pittsburgh this coming weekend. I'm beyond excited.

Conference are all about networking. Many of the writers I know met their agent or editor at a writing conference. Pennwriters, like many conferences, offer chances to sign up for a one-on-one meeting with the agent or editor of your choice. But that's not the only or even the best way to meet those people who hold such power over your career.

First off, do your research and know if the agent or editor you set your sights on is likely to be a good fit for your  work. Look at their website and check them out on Twitter and Facebook. See what authors they've worked with. Are they part of a big organization or the head of their own smaller press or literary agency? Do you want one based in New York or closer to your home? Lots of questions to ask yourself. Are they long established or just starting out and perhaps willing to take on an unknown writer?

Most agents and editors will lead at least one workshop or take part in a panel with their peers. Attend the sessions given by your target agent or editor. Sit near the front, take notes and prepare some questions. Act and dress professional for the entire conference not just during your face to face meeting.

Often mealtimes mean finding your own seat. Try to get one at the same table as your target. Don't pitch your book unless they ask. This is the time to have your short elevator pitch ready. Or cozy up to the bar with that elusive agent or editor. Again, be friendly, not pushy. They won't be offended and will appreciate a free drink. Conferences are mini-vacations for them with some work involved. They want to find the next great bestseller. Make sure they want to work with the interesting, professional they met over dinner or drinks.

And don't expect too much. They're unlikely to sign you on the spot. They don't want any hard copy to carry on the plane home with them. But they might ask you to email it to them or submit it to their agency or house. You might find you don't click with the person you stalked for two days. At least you learned before anything was signed that you weren't a good fit.

My very first appointment with an agent at my very first writing conference was a huge shock. I can look back on it and laugh now but I was stunned at the time. The agent was very well-known in the field and I was excited to meet her in person. My appointment was her first one after lunch. She came in almost five minutes late to the room where I waited. She carried a drink in one hand, with the amber liquid sloshing over the sides as she set it down. Her slurred words made almost no sense. I couldn't believe it. I'd been so nervous and here I was, faced with a drunk who wouldn't even remember my name after I left. Very disappointing but it also taught me to remember that those agents and editors are just people too.

"Great people know how to take care of their people. For a great person does not become great by themselves."  John Maeda

Have you ever pitched your writing to an editor or agent face to face? Was it a good experience? Do you have more suggestions of how to stalk an agent or editor at a conference? Care to share your worst experience at a conference?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IWSG: May Version

Today is the day writers of all skill and experience share their woes, insecurities and even some triumphs to give us all encouragement. The Insecure Writers Support Group monthly blog hop is Alex J. Cavanaugh's child and it is growing up. Please join us and add your name to our members and visit more writers from this list.

Some of us are still reeling from April's A to Z Blogging Challenge. If you wonder if you should join, read some of the reflections posts and check out how the participants feel about it. The experience is awesome.

But onto insecurities for the month. I've had many thoughts over the last few months that I've taken on more responsibilities that take time from my writing. I took on the role of co-host for A to Z this year and it took a lot of time. As co-host of IWSG, I have another role to fill for this group. Earlier this year, I was asked to take on the job of secretary to Pennwriters, the state-wide writers group I belong to. The work associated with that position ebbs and flows but a big requirement is coming up a week from now when we have our annual writing conference in Pittsburgh, PA. And I try to post on my own blog three times per week and visit my friends' blogs. And I'm starting a new science fiction romance series. Yikes! Have I taken on more than I can handle? At what point does social networking hurt my writing career rather than improving my online presence?

I know there has to be a balance, except in April, but most of the overwork I've suffered from is of my own doing. At many times during the A to Z, I thought I just can't do this next year. But the Challenge is like childbirth. While in labor, you swear you'll never go through that agony again. But once you hold that baby in your arms, you forget how bad it hurt. Until you're there again. Normally I have a pretty good memory, but I did give birth to four children, so maybe not.

I'm dedicating May to writing. Non-crazy blogging will be my norm and I'm going to relax as much as I can at the writing conference. My daughter is attending also, so I'm expecting a good time and to learn something that will help my writing. And we'll have fun on the four hour ride there. We travel well together.

"He who asks a question may be a fool for 5 minutes; he who asks no questions stays a fool forever."
Chinese Proverb

I won't be posting Friday as I'll be driving to Boston to pick my daughter up from Boston University. Another fun 7 hours in the car.  I'll be so thrilled to have her home for a few days before she starts off on her next adventure.

Have you felt over-scheduled? Did you do it to yourself? Is it interfering with your writing? Is the pain from A to Z fading into a maternal or paternal glow? What are you insecurities for this month? And does anyone want to help me spread some tanbark? I offer all the ice tea you can drink and dip in the pool that has warmed up to a balmy 63 degrees.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A to Z Reflections for 2015

Wow. I'm still alive. It was a busy frantic month of April. I hope you'll share your thoughts on the A to Z Challenge this year at some point this week. After you do, add the link for the post to the linky list at the A to Z Blog and then visit others and see how the challenge treated them.

I also want to thank my wonder Dragon Soldiers who helped me more than I can say.
L. Diane at Spunk on a Stick
Sabina at Victim to Charm
Ann at So Much to Choose From
Shantala at Shanaya Tales

This was my first year as co-host. Some reflection on that:
1. The veterans on this team are amazing. So many of them have done this year after year. There's so much work behind the scenes and in previous years they did it with few co-hosts than this year.
2. Being a co-host is a lot of work and it takes up a lot of time.
3. The first two weeks were crazy busy but I became more efficient half way through the month.

As a co-host, I really had insight into how many bloggers signed up but didn't participate. I was shocked and that was what made the most work for the people running the Challenge. I'm sure some people had excellent excuses. Life just gets in the way sometimes. Some probably just forgot they signed up.  Also a number of bloggers didn't finish. Again, many probably had really good reasons. Family issues, job demands, illness, internet failure or an unexpected deadline can all derail the best intentions. And a good number probably underestimated the amount of time the challenge can take.

I also enjoyed the theme I picked more than I expected. It was my turn this year to suggest books and make other peoples' TBR lists longer. I really appreciated the bloggers who visited me nearly every day. In the weeks ahead, I intend to highlight some of those blogs.

I hope for next year, all those who dropped out will try again. I hope all those who made to the end line will join again in April 2016.

Don't forget you get reward yourself with some actual A to Z Survivor Gear. You know you want one of these shirts designed by co-host Jeremy Hawkins.

Don't forget this Wednesday is the first of the month so that mean it is Insecure Writers Support Group day to post. Share those insecurities with us. I'll try to keep my list short.

A last piece of advice for A to Z'ers, don't stop the momentum you've gained from this month-long marathon. Now you know you can keep your blog on a schedule, keep it active. It doesn't have to be every day. Three time, two times even one time per week so visitors know what to expect. Keep it going.

Did you order your tee-shirt yet? Have you learned something from the Challenge? Will you sign up next year? Any advice to make the entire affair run smoother? Don't forget to add your link on the A to Z Page.