Does Your Protagonist Have to Have a Love Interest?

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Recently, I was tossing around some ideas for a WIP, and when I went back and looked at the outline something dawned on me: the main character didn’t have a love interest. The main thread of the story was about the change that happens to this particular character as she searches for the identity of a killer. From beginning to end,  the search for the killer. And I wondered: how would readers react to this story if I didn’t give her a love interest?

I started thinking about some of my favorite novels. Even when the main story isn’t about the character finding love, the character is involved in some type of relationship. Maybe my memory fails me, but I can’t think of a single story I’ve read recently that didn’t involve people in the pursuit of love. Even people who have given up on love seem to find themselves in some sort of romantic situation.

Certainly, I can write the story and not have the character fall in love or even think about romantic relationships. But how would readers respond? Is there some part of a reader that expects every story to have a romance subplot?

So, I went back and reworked the story to include a love interest. I didn’t want it to seem superfluous so I really tried to make the love story integral to the plot. But it got me thinking: does the main character have to have a love interest? Can you think of any contemporary books where the main character didn’t? Am I driving myself crazy for nothing??? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


5 Ways to Build Your Author Platform – Guest Post by Christina C. Jones

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Happy Monday, All! Today I’m super excited because I’m handing my blog over to the uber talented Christina C. Jones! Today is release day for Christina’s latest novel, Catch Me If You Can, and I have to tell you folks: I cannot wait to read this novel! I recently read Finding Forever by Christina and it made me an instant fan. In fact, Christina is probably one of the most talented and prolific writers I have the pleasure of knowing, so if you haven’t read one of her books, do yourself a favor and get your copy of Catch Me If You Can. Yesterday.

Christina was kind enough to stop by and share a few tidbits with us about marketing. I hope you enjoy!

 

Hello!
Hi!
I’m Christina Jones.
I’m a self-published author with nine (pretty well-reviewed, might I add *dusts off shoulders*) books under my belt. I write contemporary romance/women’s fiction, with an intentional, specific focus on characters with various shades of brown skin. And african ancestry. So… I write about black people. :)

When the opportunity to write a post here on Quanie’s blog came about, I was very, very excited. And then I found out what she wanted me to write about (to be fair, I kinda begged her to come up with a topic for me, cause I’m terrible at that), and I got really, really scared. Cause I’m supposed to be writing about marketing.
Take a wild guess at what else, besides blog topics, I’m terrible at?
Yep.
You guessed it.
Marketing!
Well… maybe not terrible, but I’m certainly no marketing genius. What I can do is share the things that I feel have worked for me, and if you’re an indie author, they probably will for you too!

1. Make friends. This would probably be first on list for any topic. (even though I’m really not listing in particular order.) You need other author friends, and your pursuit of these friends should have nothing to do with marketing. You need people who understand the frustrations, understand the pressure, and understand you. Period. You need someone on your side to tell you to take down that subtweet about your negative review, someone to (jokingly)tell you when you make a grammar mistake on Facebook, etc. It matters, really.

2. See also: Be a friend. Genuine, sincere interaction with other authors is one of the best things you can do. It’s not about being, or phony, you have to really mean it. I share book releases, cover reveals, sales promotions, etc for other authors often, and it has nothing to do with waiting on reciprocity (although if someone does this for you, you should do it in return. Because manners.). I do this because I want to see other indies authors succeed. If you think another author in your genre is your competition, you’re thinking wrong. I’ve talked about this before with a friend, using vacuums as an example. When you buy a vacuum, you’ll have that thing for years. Won’t need another. There’s competition in vacuum sales. But with books? A person is gonna read it, and guess what… they’re gonna put it down and want to read another. You want that fire to keep burning, so absolutely put other other authors in their path, so they’ll still be in the mood to read when it comes back around to you.

3. Don’t be a jerk. This is self-explanatory, but don’t be mean to people. And if you’re naturally mean… do it somewhere else. Snark is cute until you’re trying to sell a product. There are a handful of authors I will never read (or read again) because of the way they treat/talk to to people. Everything you put forth publicly is a part of your brand as an author. Respect your brand, and more importantly, your readers, by at least trying not to be an asshole. (Can I say that Quanie? Is that okay?)

4. Social media posting. I’m definitely terrible in this area, but I know it’s important. You have to make your books visible to readers, and these days (especially for an indie) the way to reach those people is via social media. I post on my fan page, my personal page, my twitter account, my blog/website, and occasionally on instagram. These are the places your readers will go to connect with you, so you should make those available.
I do a lot of teasers, excerpts, etc in groups and on my personal page, because that’s what seems to get a good response. OH and a newsletter! I typically only email my subscribers when I have a new release, but that’s why they signed up! Take advantage of that by not forgetting to reach out when you have important news. Please don’t email your readers because you finally got that popcorn kernel that was stuck in your teeth.

5. Write more books. I know, I know, you’re sick of seeing this advice for indies, but SERIOUSLY. Write. More. Books. And I’ll even go one further and say: Publish more books. SERIOUSLY. Sitting around looking at your finished, formatted, edited book doesn’t do anything for you. (And neither does chasing down flaky, super-busy agents, waiting three months at a time for reject— wait a minute, this post isn’t about that.) Reading about publishing can only do so much. Reading about writing can only do so much. You need practice. You need critique. You need readers giving you their feedback. I firmly believe that in indie-publishing, experience is the best teacher.

So… there you have it! I sincerely hope that you were able to pull something good from my randomness. I’m certainly no expert, but I’ve done pretty well in the year that I’ve been publishing, and I’ve got a good solid fanbase that seems to be growing pretty steadily.

Obviously, there’s things I haven’t mentioned, like purchasing ads, and getting into one of those mega-newsletters, etc, and that’s because I haven’t had any real experience with those. Someday, maybe I will, but for now, I’m pretty happy with what my laid-back approach to marketing has done for me so far!

You can find me on my blog: Being Mrs. Jones
on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeingMrsJones
on Twitter: https://twitter.com/beingmrsjones
and if you feel so inclined, on Amazon:

Thank you so much to Quanie for having me, and thank YOU for reading! Have a great week!

 

cmcover

 

Diligence. Focus. Agility.

For Naomi Prescott, it’s not just a cute little saying. It’s a critical mantra, words to live by if she wants to retain her freedom, and more importantly, her life. Impeccable planning is the only way to ensure she sets off the small flutters that will trigger the big ripple she needs to pull off the score of a lifetime — no matter the stakes.

FBI Agent Marcus Calloway is a straight-shooter… if you overlook his sometimes unconventional, law-skirting, expensive ways of solving a case. A big arrest would do wonders to restore his reputation, and he has one woman in mind: Jolie Voleuse

Unforeseen circumstances force them into a closer proximity than either — especially Naomi — would like to be. Sparks fly, and as surely as fire ignites,eventually their undeniable chemistry combusts into a passion that neither expected as they join forces in the dangerous pursuit of a common bounty.

christinajonespicture

Author Bio:

Christina Jones is a budding author on a mission to show the beautiful — but not always pretty — journey of love in all stages, with a focus on people of color. When she’s not immersed in writing it, Christina is an avid reader of her favorite genre, African American romance.
Her first published work was released in November 2013, and since then, she has released nine titles:
Love and Other Things
Strictly Professional
Unfinished Business
The Trouble With Love
Finding Forever
Chasing Commitment
A Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Didn’t Mean To Love You
Catch Me If You Can


Should Authors Write in More than One Genre? Part 2

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It’s the first Wednesday of the month (woo-hoo!) and you know what that means: another installment of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This month’s co-hosts are: Heather Gardner, T. Drecker from Kidbits, Eva E. Solar at Lilicasplace, and Patsy Collins! Please stop by their blogs and say hello:)

Okay, so…last year I wrote a blog post called “Should Authors Write in More Than one Genre?”.  At the time, I was concerned about branding and building an audience. For example, if I wrote something funny (and people liked it), should I consider writing another funny book for the sake of branding? Or, should I throw caution to the wind and mix it up, and write whatever my little ol’ heart desired since every book idea I have seems to be in a whole new genre? In the post, I also pondered writing different genres under different names (and I even pondered having different social media accounts to keep the “brands” separate. Yikes!) and all of you awesome folks chimed in and assured me that I could write what I want without worrying about branding because people would decide, based on the book cover and blurb alone, whether or not they wanted to read the book.

Well, here I am a year later, grappling with the same issue. I think it’s one of the reasons why I’ve been having such a hard time deciding what to write next. Seriously. My WIPs and other novel ideas are all over the place: one romantic comedy with a male lead, a paranormal story, a mystery that just might be a thriller, a dystopian novel, one book that’s freaking me out because it actually might be horror, and something that even feels like it might be science fiction (never mind the fact that I don’t even read science fiction. #problemswritershave).

So I’m sure you can see my dilemma. With all of these different stories in different genres running around my head, my concern is that I’ll never write enough stories in one genre to build an audience. Brenda Jackson? Romance. Stephen King? Horror. Gillian Flynn? Psychological Thrillers. Quanie Miller? Sometimes funny, other times scary, might just be a mystery, you might even get some paranormal thrown in there, rom coms on Tuesdays, thrillers on Fridays, jambalaya on Saturdays–do you see what I mean? I’ve been pulling my hair out over this issue. I’m trying to decide which book is going to be the best decision for moving my career forward, but of course, since my crystal ball is broken, I don’t know the answer.

What about others? Do you know of any other authors that successfully write in other genres? Do you read those authors and enjoy their work? And authors: what’s your take on writing in multiple genres? Have you done it successfully? How have readers responded?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Oh! And before you go, I have an announcement: The Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond is now available. And it’s free! (I’m looking at you, Faith Simone). Check it out!

Insecure_Cover

ISBN 9781939844088
235 pages, FREE
Find it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Goodreads.


6 Easy Ways to Grow Your Blog Readership

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When I first starting blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. In my mind, a blog was like that line from that Kevin Costner movie: “If you build it, they will come.”

Well, I built it, and honey, let me tell you: they did not come. I put up a post and waited. And made pie. And checked my blog stats to see how many people came to visit until finally, a system error message popped up on the screen: “Nobody came, and stop checking because you’re overloading our system.”

Duly noted.

What was I doing wrong? Didn’t people realize how spectacular my blog was? Didn’t they want my expertise despite the fact that I wasn’t an expert in anything (and despite the fact that they didn’t know me from Adam or Adam’s cat)? What was the deal?

Well, fast forward a couple years and I’m finally starting to “get” what a blog is supposed to do and how to maximize it. A blog is supposed to –get ready for this—share content.

Quanie, dude, everybody knows that! Why don’t you tell us something we don’t know!

Well, did you know that most bloggers quit blogging because they build it, and nobody comes?

Did you also know that most posts don’t get clicks, not because of poor content, but because the title of the post doesn’t grab people’s attention and therefore doesn’t prompt people to share it?

Did you realize that your blog boils down to you, the blogger, being the brand?

Well, Ms. Smarty Pants, if you have all the answers, then why don’t you share them?

Dude. If you insist.

  1. This might seem like a no-brainer but ask yourself: who is the audience for your blog and what types of things are they interested in? For example, I’m a writer, and so are most of the lovely folks who visit my blog. As a result of that, I write about all things writerly: the process of writing a novel, marketing, publishing, etc.
  2. Be relevant! Find out what’s going on in your industry and blog about it. You can do this by subscribing to other authors’ blogs or following them on Facebook and Twitter to see what others are talking about. Then write about those issues and give your own two cents. For instance, I just ran across a Goodreads thread titled, “Are Indie Authors Really Authors?” Is that conversation worthy or what?
  3. Does the title of your blog post catch people’s attention? Does it give folks the retweet fever? Example: you’ve just written a brilliant post and you’ve titled it, “Marketing for authors.” Snooze fest! Better: “8 marketing tips for the cash-strapped author.” You’ve written another post and you’ve titled it, “The importance of encouragement.” Better: “How a shady donut vendor helped me to finish my novel.” And after someone clicks on the link to read the article, the content should be so engaging that people want to share it.
  4. What makes people want to share a post? Not only the content, but also, you! Remember: when you blog your personality should shine through, so ask yourself: what’s the “voice” of your blog? Are you inspiring? Funny? Insightful? Snarky?
  5. Share the love. Yes, this means visiting other blogs and leaving meaningful comments. Not just “Great post, dude!” It helps if you actually read the post and say something insightful or funny enough to make the blogger and their commenters interested enough in you so that they want to find out who you are. It’s likely that they’ll visit your blog and leave a comment. Do this enough times with any particular blogger and bam: a friendship made in blogger heaven.
  6. Be visible. How can people visit a blog that they don’t know exists? There are many places where you can promote your posts: Twitter (by using hashtags like #amwriting, #MondayBlogs, or #wwwblogs. In fact, blogger Paula Reed recently wrote a blog post called “Using Twitter Hashtags to Grow your Blog Traffic. It’s very helpful. You should definitely check it out.), Shewrites,  Insecure Writers Support Group, Google+, Goodreads groups for writers, Facebook. Remember: your goal is to connect, not spam people from here to eternity. There’s no better way to get unfollowed than to keep hollering out, “Buy my book!” Your goal should be to connect, engage, and build relationships. Otherwise, what’s the point?

This should go without saying but I’ll say it anyway: your blog should also be easy to read and navigate. If people have to squint to read your posts or scroll for eternity to get to your content, it doesn’t matter if your posts are Nobel Prize worthy. It’s likely that people won’t stay long enough to see what you have to say.

Having a blog is a great way for any author to build their platform but it definitely takes time to build. It’s not always easy but if you stick with it, you’ll eventually see some growth. What about others? What things are you doing to grow your blog or increase your blog traffic? What do you find works best or doesn’t work at all? What’s the thing you wish you knew at the very beginning of your blogging journey? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

And Happy Thanksgiving Week to All! :)


How Not to Respond to a Negative Book Review – Part 2

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Happy Monday, All! I’ve been tagged by editor extraordinaire, Christie Stratos, to share the things I keep by me when I write, so here we go: my laptop (duh, right?), my flash drive, and a cup of coffee. Pretty simple, eh?

Now on to today’s topic. A couple months ago, I wrote about how not to respond to a negative book review. In that post, I told you all about the author who went ham, cheese, and bologna on a blogger over a negative review, but this next story takes the cake: an author showed up at a reviewer’s house over a one star review. Have you guys heard about this?

Here’s a quick rundown (from Salon):

On Friday, a YA novelist named Kathleen Hale published a personal essay in the British newspaper the Guardian, recounting her obsession with someone who had criticized her first book harshly. Hale admits to combing the Internet for information about the woman, a blogger who, while reading Hale’s book, posted a derisive running commentary to Goodreads, an enormous social networking site for book lovers. Hale confesses that she scrutinized the woman’s Instagram feed and Facebook page, as well as engaging in subterfuge to obtain the blogger’s home address. In doing so, she discovered indications that the blogger’s actual identity is quite different from the one she presents online. Then Hale drove to this woman’s house and knocked on her door. Receiving no answer, Hale later called the woman she suspected of being the blogger at work, twice: the first time pretending to be a fact checker and the second under her real identity, trying to get the woman to admit that she was, as the Guardian headline put it, her “number one online critic.”

What in leopard print hell?

And here’s an excerpt from Hale’s article for the Guardian titled ‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic:

“Before I could change my mind, I walked briskly down the street toward the Mazda parked in (The Reviewer’s) driveway. A hooded sweatshirt with glittery pink lips across the chest lay on the passenger seat; in the back was a large folder full of what looked like insurance claims. I heard tyres on gravel and spun round to see a police van. For a second I thought I was going to be arrested, but it was passing by – just a drive through a quiet neighbourhood where the only thing suspicious was me.  I strolled to the front door. A dog barked and I thought of [her] Instagram Pomeranian. Was it the same one? The doorbell had been torn off, and up close the garden was overgrown. I started to feel hot and claustrophobic. The stupid happiness book grew sweaty in my hands. I couldn’t decide whether to knock. The curtains were drawn, but I could see a figure silhouetted in one window, looking at me. The barking stopped. I dropped the book on the step and walked away.”

My question is this: what was Hale going to do had the blogger opened the door? I imagine if it had been me. I’m in my house, minding my own business, when there’s a knock on the door. I open it, and on my doorstep is an author who wants to talk to me about the one star review I left on Goodreads. The conversation would have probably gone something like this:

Me (smiling, assuming she’s selling Mary Kay): Can I help you?

Author: Yes. I’d like to talk to you about that one star review you left for my novel on Goodreads.

Me (confused): And you are…?

Author: A disgruntled author.

Me (taking off my earrings): Okay. Give me just a second.

Sidenote: If a woman takes off her earrings during a confrontation, this is probably an indication that an ass whuppin’ is in your near future.

I wonder what would have happened if that blogger had been home. Things seriously could have turned ugly. Everyone should have the freedom to express their opinion about a book without fearing that someone might show up at their home and do God knows what. And over a book! As far as we know, the blogger didn’t call the author’s mama ugly. Didn’t toilet paper her house. She simply expressed her opinion about a book, a collection of pages that are bound together and may or may not have words on them. Geesh!

I have said it before and I will say it again:

  1. Reviews are NOT for the author.
  2. If you can’t handle your reviews don’t read them.
  3. A critique of your writing is NOT  a critique of you as a person.
  4. Somebody’s opinion of your novel is actually none of your business.
  5. It is not a reviewer’s job to lift you up. This is what your family and friends are for.
  6. Never respond to a negative review! Never. Even if you feel you’ll combust if you don’t. Simply do not.
  7. And lastly: do NOT find out where the reviewer lives and show up at their house. I don’t care if you’re just bringing them a chicken pot pie. Please don’t. It’s creepy, and said reviewer just might feel violated. And just might call the cops and report a stalker. Or just might give you a lovely, twenty-four ounce can of whup ass. Just sayin’…

Everybody is entitled to their opinion and just because one person doesn’t like your novel means diddly squat. In fact, I can’t recall an instance where a negative review has kept me from reading a book. I typically make my reading decisions based on the book’s first page. If the writing pulls me in, that’s all that matters. It’s scary to think that, in this day and age, someone would go to such great lengths over a negative review. Scary!

What about others? Have you heard about this? What are your thoughts? And I’d also love to know: what would have happened had the author shown up at your house?

To read more about this story:

http://www.salon.com/2014/10/21/battle_of_the_trolls_kathleen_hale_reveals_the_war_raging_between_authors_and_readers/

http://www.killyourdarlingsjournal.com/2014/10/nepotism-bullying-stalking-online-reviews/

http://dearauthor.com/features/essays/on-the-importance-of-pseudonymous-activity/

http://bibliodaze.com/2014/10/haleno-blogger-blackout-and-the-non-existent-war/


Are Your Publishing Expectations Far-Fetched?

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Happy Monday, everybody! So today I woke up to a pleasant surprise: Coffee Bookshelves shared a lovely review of  The New Mrs. Collins. *fist pumps*

And I’m also excited because Leena Williams, the novel’s protagonist, is being interviewed on author Melissa Maygrove’s blog! If you have a moment, stop by and check it out! :)

So a couple weeks ago I blogged about why you should consider independent publishing and today I’m talking about having realistic publishing expectations.

Before I published my first novel, I had all of these unreasonable publishing expectations. For starters, the book would sell so well that I’d end up on the Oprah show, despite the fact that the show was off the air (because of course, she would bring it back, just so she could interview yours truly). And when I went to parties and told people that I was a bonafide published author, they would look at me like I was up there with the Einsteins and Newtons of the world and say, “You?”

“Yes, me,” I’d reply proudly, with my Nobel Prize stapled to the front of my shirt (I’d also be sipping martinis and signing copies of my New York Times best selling novel).

Fast forward a few years and this is how it actually went:

I published a novel. My mother called me and said, “Now how do I get it? On YouTube?”

“No. It’s an eBook. You’ll have to read it on a Kindle.”

“A what?”

I had a few blog tours and garnered several positive reviews, met several fantastic authors who helped me to spread the word of my novel, and actually sold several copies of the book without having to twist anybody’s arm. But there was no Oprah, no Nobel Prize, and sadly, no martinis. Why not? Well, as you can probably imagine, my publishing expectations were probably just a leetle far-fetched.

I heard Bella Andre speak at the San Francisco Writers Conference last year and she said she believes that book number five is the “sweet spot” for authors, meaning that, this is the point at which most authors are able to make a living publishing books. She was speaking specifically about writing a series, but I think it applies to non-series books as well: after people know who you are (and like your work), they will probably go back and buy everything you’ve written since kindergarten. But until that time comes, most authors struggle to build their audience.

Here are a few sobering facts:

  1. There’s a chance that no one, not even your friends and family (at gunpoint) will buy your book. In fact, you might go days, weeks, or months without selling a single copy and may potentially end up hitting the bottle and singing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.” Dude: I’m here for you. We all are.
  2. Most books don’t sell well, whether traditionally or independently published, so if you were thinking of quitting your day job (or buying that house in the Hamptons on credit because you’re, like, so sure your book is going to sell a million copies) you might want to hold off on that for the moment.
  3. Even after people read your book, there’s a chance that (gasp!) they won’t like it. Yes: I know. You think your novel’s the best thing since War and Peace and that the people who don’t like it are obviously delusional, but keep in mind that not everyone has read War and Peace. And that probably includes yourself.
  4. You might have a hard time getting reviews initially. What not to do: send out a nasty email to reviewers telling them how they’re going to regret not reviewing your work because your book is going to be bigger than Twilight, Harry Potter, and 50 Shades combined (and then when they don’t respond, send a follow up email asking if they received your previous message. No beuno). What you should do: Write your next book. Keep networking and building your platform and eventually, once you start building your brand, people will begin to recognize your name and this won’t be as big of an issue.
  5. Social media does not exist for the sole purpose of you promoting your book. I know this may come as a bit of a shock, but if all you do is tweet, “Buy my book!” people might come to regard you as a spammer. And we all know what happens to spammers: they get deleted. Or unfollowed.

“But Quanie,” you say, I’m in a hurry to become an overnight success. What shall I do?” Write, boo. And once you’re done writing, write some more. Got one book? Well, get started on that second one. And if you’ve already gotten past book number five, then book seven might be the sweet spot for you. So get crackin’.

And in the meanwhile? Surround yourself with positive, supportive people (including other authors), and if you wake up one day and find yourself feeling particularly blue, do something nice for someone else without expecting anything in return. That probably won’t help your book sales but doing something nice for someone is always a good thing. Besides, if you sow positive things you are bound to reap them—and you might even reap them in the form of stupendous book sales.

What about others? What’s been your publishing experience? If you haven’t published yet, what are you expectations? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

 

 


How to Deal with Plot Bunnies

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It’s the first Wednesday of the month and you know what that means: another installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group! Haven’t heard of IWSG? Click here to sign up! This month’s co-hosts  are LG Keltner, Donna Hole, Lisa Buie-Collard and SL Hennessy. Make sure you stop by their blogs and say hello!

Now, let’s get into my insecurity for this month. *Rolls up sleeves*

I was online the other day when I ran across this blog post by author Reese Ryan called “My Quest to Tame the Monkey Mind and Find Focus.” In the post, Reese talks about something I’ve probably been doing for the last year: chasing plot bunnies.

For those of you who don’t know, a plot bunny is a story idea that a writer chases but can’t catch. And because we can’t catch it, we either abandon it, or worse, get distracted by another plot bunny. The cycle repeats itself until one day, a writer finds herself surrounded by a pile of half-finished manuscripts (and candy bar wrappers because, hey: chasing plot bunnies makes you hungry) and asking herself the following questions:

Am I ever going to write a novel or will I spend the rest of my life trying but failing?
Do other writers experience this?
What in the world am I going to do with all these candy bar wrappers???

It’s not a new phenomenon. For centuries authors have been trying and failing to write novels (and then questioning themselves and their ability to write because of that). As the French say: Ain’t nothin’ new under the sun. But as authors, how do we deal? I think the important thing is to allow ourselves to “fail” and not beat ourselves up about it because some of those half-finished manuscripts may very well turn into finished manuscripts one day. Or: you may end up plucking a character out of one of those unfinished stories and using them in something else. I don’t think any story idea is ever wasted. We can always use something from an unfinished project. We just have to figure out what that something is.

So that brings me to my current WIP. Without giving too much away for fear of pissing off my muse, it’s a paranormal story set in a small Louisiana town about a girl whose life changes after a traumatic event. I’ve been chasing this idea for so long I’m embarrassed to tell you. I’ve chased more bunnies than I can count but all roads have led here: I have what seems to be a solid outline and when I put the characters on the page (knock on wood!) they seem to work. But I’m afraid that somewhere down the line, a shinier, newer story idea is going to come along and say (in a Brooklyn accent): “Pssst! Quanie: over here!” And I’m going to look up and go chasing that new idea and abandon the one I’m working on now. Sigh.

What about others? What are you working on currently? And how do you deal with plot bunnies? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 


Why You Should Consider Independent Publishing

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Happy Monday, folks! Today marks the third and final week of my blog tour and I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who participated! Today YA Author Dawn Brazil is sharing a book review along with author Melissa-Barker Simpson. And editor extraordinaire Christie Stratos is sharing a book spotlight. If you can, please hop over to each of their blogs and say hello!

But in the meanwhile, let’s get to the nitty gritty of today’s blog topic: indie pubbing.

Before I independently published my first novel, I had several unrealistic publishing expectations. For starters, I would get an agent for my first book right after my first query letter, that agent would land me a three book deal, and after the book was published, Hollywood would come a-knockn’, and I would be a bonafide, rock star author extraordinaire.

Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t happen. I spent a few years sending query letters into that black hole where query letters go but never return, and I spent even more time waiting for responses that never came before I started getting out and networking with other authors and attending writers panels and conferences and other such events and really getting an understanding of how the good folks in New York City (editors) make purchasing decisions:

  1. They hate your story. In fact, they think you’re such a terrible writer that you should be banned from writing anything, including grocery lists.
  2. They liked your story, but in order to buy it they need to love it.
  3. Your story is about cats and gosh darn it, they just purchased a cat story and can’t justify buying another one.
  4. Your story is about vampires, and though it has a new twist (vampires in Vegas! Woo-hoo!), the trend has been done to death and they can’t take a risk on it.
  5. Your story is about a philandering wife. The editor is secretly cheating on her husband and your book makes her feel guilty. She says, “No, bueno, dude,” and sends you a rejection letter.
  6. They like your novel but can’t possibly figure out how to market it. It has nothing to do with your talent: they just need to know how to categorize things in order to feel confident that they can sell it to the masses. They don’t tell you this in the form rejection letter, however, so you’re left thinking that you’re a terrible writer when really, that’s not the case.

There are a million and one reasons why agents and editors can’t take on every book that crosses their path. And if you’re a writer with publishing aspirations, you might find yourself a bit disenchanted after spending some time in the query burn house. You might find yourself asking the question: why don’t they like my novel? But it’s not about them not liking your novel. The question is: do you like your novel?

Traditional publishing: somebody else feels your novel is good enough to be published.

Independent publishing: you feel your novel is good enough to be published.

Now, indie pubbing isn’t for everybody. If you’re sitting there reading this and think that Createspace is a furniture moving company (or that Smashwords is something you do with a hammer), you probably have some more research to do. But if you’ve done your research, have a good product, and don’t mind doing some of the legwork yourself, then why not publish your own book?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you a good writer who has spent years developing your writing craft?
  2. Do you have some hard-hitting critique partners who LOVE your book? (And these people aren’t close friends or family members who think that everything you write is plain ole superb. These are people who know their craft and can spot the big picture issues.)
  3. Do you trust your gut and know that your book is good?
  4. Do you believe in yourself?

If you’ve answered yes to the questions above, then why not publish your own book? Here’s what I think is most important: connecting with readers. And you don’t need an agent or an editor to do that! If you know your story is good, you’ve gotten some stellar feedback from readers, and you believe in yourself, I want you to hear me loud and clear: the good folks of New York City are not responsible for your writing career: you are. Write the best damn novel you can, market it with due diligence, and then write another novel. It’s up to you to build your career. Don’t leave it in anybody else’s hands. If you believe in your novel, you owe it to yourself and your potential fans to get your book out into the world and let your voice be heard.

Now having said that, please don’t slap your book together and show up at Createspace with a flash drive talkin’ ‘bout, “Quanie told me to come down here and publish my novel.” Please do your part and make sure that your novel is professionally edited and that it’s formatted correctly and has a nice cover. You spent months (or years!) writing your novel. Make sure that when you present it to the world, it’s the best product it can possibly be!

What about others? Have you published independently? What’s been your experience? And if you haven’t, what’s stopping you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 


Shadow Stalker Blitz Tour!

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Shadow Stalker Button

So today I have the pleasure of participating in the blitz tour for Renee Scattergood’s Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3)! Woo-hoo! I got a chance to read the story and I have to tell you, folks: it’s a fast paced read with an ending that will leave you on the edge of your seats!

The book is available today so hop on over to Smashwords and get yourself a copy (and add it to your shelf on Goodreads:)

Renee was kind enough to drop by for a quick Q&A session with me. So sit back, relax, and let’s get to know Renee!

1. How’d you get the inspiration for your Shadow Stalker series?
I first got the inspiration to write Shadow Stalker after reading The Celestine Prophecy. That’s actually how I came up with the character, Kado, and then it grew from there.

2. Are any of the characters based on people you know?
Not entirely, no. I do tend to pick certain traits from people I know and characters from other novels, but they’re usually just little things I think will fit the character.

3. What are you working on currently?
Well I publish an episode of Shadow Stalker every month, so I’m always working on that. I’m also compiling the episodes (every six episodes I write) to write a novel based on them. The novel will have the same story as the episodes, but they will be written in third person as opposed to first person and have a lot more elements involved. I’m also working on a prequel novella for the Shadow Stalker series called Demon Hunt. I’ll be writing that one during NaNoWriMo this year.

4. I was actually going to ask you if you’d be participating in NaNoWriMo. Can you tell us more about the project you’ll be working on this November?
As I mentioned, Demon Hunt is a prequel novel based on the Shadow Stalker series. It takes place the year before the series starts when Kado takes Auren camping on Luten Isle. Something goes wrong, and Auren ends up having to face her worst nightmare. It will be a lot of fun to write.

5. What does your family think about your writing?
They love it. Even my mom, who hates to read, has been eager to read my stuff. My husband gives me ideas and feedback on ideas, but he refuses to read them until the series is done. He can’t stand the suspense of waiting for the next novel. So he’ll read it all at once. LOL

6. Do you write in other genres?
I haven’t yet, but I’d probably consider it if inspiration struck.

7. What’s your writing process?
I always start with a character. Once I have developed the main character and that character’s back story, the plot usually starts coming together in my mind on its own. When I have the plot worked out, I start writing summaries of each paragraph. Other characters and subplots start to form during this process. Then I’ll start writing the first draft once my outline is done. I don’t use a very detailed outline because things tend to change too quickly during the writing process.

8. How do you deal with fear and doubt as a writer?
Whenever it rears its ugly head, I start thinking about everything I’ve accomplished so far or my goals. That always puts me in the right mindset. I don’t have very lofty goals, so I can’t be too intimidated by them. LOL

9. Have you ever had a particularly harsh critique? How did you deal with it?
Not really harsh, no, but I’m pretty laid back and don’t get offended easily. I get frustrated easily, though, when people point out things or offer suggestions and I’m not sure what they’re talking about. I always seem to figure it out, but it drives me crazy until I do. I also get really frustrated when someone says that I haven’t previously established something, then I’ll read back and find it two paragraphs before the one they pointed out. It’s good at the same time, though. Most of the time I find I can expand on it and make it more obvious so people don’t glance over it.

10. What’s some of the best and worst writing advice you’ve ever received?
The best advice was to write what you know, don’t over-complicate things, and don’t be afraid to experiment.

I don’t know if I have ever gotten any bad writing advice, but I have been told on more than one occasion that it would be a mistake to self-publish. Apparently, it lowers an author’s credibility.

11. Have you ever gotten inspiration for a story from something truly bizarre?
I have thought about writing a series of children’s books based on a cat I used to have. I think he thought he was human or something. He certainly didn’t act like a cat!

12. Any advice for aspiring writers?
Get to know people and don’t be afraid to help them. This is the best way to get your name out there. Also, spend some time learning your craft. It will go a long way to saving you time and heartache in the long run.

Renee, thanks so much for stopping by and chatting with me! Now, here’s my review of Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3):

An adventure set in the mysterious Dark Isle, the story begins with Auren seeing a disturbing vision about her future. Auren wrestles with what is supposed to be her destiny—and vows that she’ll do all she can to change it. Will her mysterious past be revealed? And most importantly, will the deadly prophecy come to pass? Excellent world building makes this an enjoyable read. Some of the descriptions were so vivid that I felt my skin crawling. Here’s an example:

I turned to see what I had tripped on to find that something had wrapped around my leg and was snaking its way up my thigh. It took me a moment to realize what was happening. The plant was about three meters from where I stood. It was at least as tall as Kado with a huge bulbous flower on the top. The purple pedals were opening to reveal…were those teeth?

Allowing myself to be distracted by the plant was a mistake. I didn’t notice the vines that had been wrapping themselves around my body.

Yikes! But carnivorous plants are the least of Auren’s worries, as there is danger everywhere she turns. Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3) is a quick and entertaining read by a very talented author. While reading the story the reader has to wonder: what is waiting for Auren in the dark shadows of the forest??? Well, you’ve got to read the story to find out!

Well, that’s it folks! Make sure you head over to Smashwords to get your copy of Shadow Stalker: Shadows’ Betrayal (Episode 3), and in the meanwhile,  check out where you can catch up with Renee online!

Social Media Links:
Website:
Google Plus: /+NayaScattergood/posts
Until next time, folks!

How (Not) to Deal with Constructive Criticism

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Happy Monday, All! Today marks the second week of my blog tour and I’m excited to announce that 3 fanfriggintastic authors have been kind enough to host me today!

Mel Kin over at A 5-Minute Piece of My Mind  is sharing a book spotlight and Emma L. Adams at From the Writer’s Nest is interviewing yours truly. You can see past and future tour stops here.

But in the meanwhile, let’s talk about an issue I’m sure all writers have dealt with: criticism.

I’ve been seeing a lot of requests for critique partners and beta readers online lately, but I’ve been hesitant to volunteer because you never know how some folks are going to react to criticism.

I’ll give you an example:

Back in the day (way back, before Facebook), I took a creative writing course. In this particular class, there was a student who was very vocal about the “mistakes “in other people’s writing. In fact, prior to reading her work, I thought she was some creative writing guru because she was so knowledgeable about the craft of writing (translation: she nitpicked our poor manuscripts within an inch of their lives, and she wasn’t always so nice about it). So when it was time for us to read her manuscript, I sort of assumed that her work would be…well, perfect.

But everything that glitters ain’t gold. When I took that manuscript home, I was shocked.  I don’t like to disparage people’s work (because, hey: we’re all God’s children), but honey, you talk about the biggest mess you ever wanted to see! I’m talking characters who were so unbelievable you wanted to toss the manuscript out the window (and I’m sure several of my classmates probably did), scenes that made me laugh out loud (and they weren’t supposed to be funny), and the ending? Let’s just call it the plot twist from hell. Now, did I tell her this in my critique? Of course not! I mean, I love keeping it real just as much as the next gal,  but mama ain’t raised no fool.  You never know how some folk are going to react to criticism and I would hate to really “let somebody have it” in a critique session and then walk outside and find them waiting. By my car. In a hoody. Holding a baseball bat.

But I digress.

As you can imagine, some people in the class (probably remembering how mean she’d been with their critiques) really let ole girl have it. And what ensued was a blood bath like I had never seen. She became completely belligerent despite the fact that, in the past, she’d critiqued the work of her fellow authors with such vecerosity (I just made that word up. It means “exceedingly crass, even for an asshole”). Anyhoo, I sat back in my chair, cringing, and when it was finally my turn to offer my thoughts, I really tried to be positive with my critique. But others were brutally honest, and the person got so upset she eventually started crying. Do I say all of this to celebrate the blood bath that occurred that day? No. I say let this be a lesson to us all: critique unto others as you would have them critique unto you.

I know this is an extreme example, but it’s one of the reasons why I don’t always volunteer to beta read: some people might take the criticism personally. Letting other people read your work can be nerve-wracking, but if someone is kind enough to give you feedback on your writing, here are a few things not to do:

  1. Get defensive.
  2. Say: “But it really happened!” Doesn’t matter if your story made the front page of the paper. If it doesn’t ring true on the page, people won’t buy it.
  3. Say: “Well, you’re all just a bunch of idiots and aren’t intelligent/hip/socially aware enough to ‘get’ what I’m doing here.” Listen, someone actually took the time to read your story and just because you don’t like what they say doesn’t mean you have to berate them. Don’t agree with the criticism? Say thank you anyway and keep it moving.
  4. Cry. Please don’t! We’ll hand you a handkerchief but it won’t change how we feel about the manuscript (really, it won’t). Besides, if you think your critique partners are harsh, wait until you’re published and reviewers get a hold of your novel. It takes tough skin to be an author!

As authors, we have to learn to accept criticism and separate ourselves from the things that we write, so I want you to repeat after me: “I (insert your name) fully recognize that a critique of my novel is not a critique of me as a person.”

I’ll say it again for those of you in the back who didn’t hear me: a critique of your novel is not a critique of you as a person. If someone takes the time to give you feedback on your novel, be grateful. Even if you don’t agree with everything they say, there’s a chance that there’s something in the feedback that can help to make your story better. After all, if you didn’t want people’s opinions, you wouldn’t have asked for it. And if you thought your story was perfect, you wouldn’t be asking for feedback…right?

Right.

What about others? Any critique session horror stories (As an author, critiquer, or both)? I’d love to hear your thoughts!