Archive for the ‘WordDreams’ Category

A to Z Challenge: I’m in!

22 Mar

I’m in! This year, for the first time, I’ll participate in the much-applauded, highly-acclaimed writer’s blog hop called A to Z Challenge.

My theme:

A to Z: Literary Genres

a to z

…a genre for every letter of the alphabet. I’ll include:


Writing tips

Popular books in the genre

I skipped the genre tips I did in the past. Many of these were new to me (like Kitchen Sink–who knew?) and I’m amazed how much I learned researching for this blog hop. Here are the genres I will cover in April:
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44 Takeaways from the San Diego Writers Conference

08 Feb

#sdwcA few weeks ago, I attended the San Diego Writers Conference, sponsored annually by San Diego State University. It was my second time at this event (here are my takeaways from last year’s event) so I knew it would be cerebral, well-worth the time and money, leave me motivated to get back into the trenches with my keyboard and red pencil, and introduce me to lots of like-minded writerly folks. Keynote speakers included Jonathan Maberry, R.L. Stine, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and J.A. Jance. I can’t believe how entertaining these folks were while imparting some amazing nuggets that I will likely never forget.

Here are my top 44 takeaways:

  • Jonathan Maberry writes 4000 words a day, five days a week.  Here are a few tips from him:
    • He doesn’t believe in writer’s block. It usually means you’re facing a challenge.
    • He writes in a bunch of genres. Doesn’t see any problem with that and wants to try them all.
  • Audio books in 2015 were worth $1.7 billion.
  • Use social media to encourage efriends.
  • Focus on just a few social media platforms. Pick the ones that work best for you (I heard this from multiple people).
  • Champion and promote other people’s stuff.
  • Bob Mayer says end matter (the stuff you put after the end of your story) can only be 5% of the book. More from Bob Mayer:
    • Half million titles were uploaded to Kindle in 2016.
    • Self-pub authors make more than traditionally pubbed authors.
    • Don’t be an a**hole! Be polite, helpful, and convivial to online friends and acquaintances (I heard this from at least three presenters).
    • Have a good reason to break a rule.
  • Tips from JLStine (the author of the Goosebumps series):writing
    • There’s no good answer to the question ‘where do you get your ideas’. Start with a title and let it lead you to an idea.
    • If you get bogged down in the story and can’t get to the ending, start with the ending.
    • Always say yes to every opportunity (having to do with marketing your books).
    • He outlines his books first. He thinks that allows him to write more books.
    • He does no research for his books. He makes everything up.
    • Twitter is a great way to stay in touch with readers.
    • Social media provides good marketing tools.
  • Justin Sloan’s tips (this guy writes multiple books a year–he was amazing):
    • It takes a really long time to get traditionally published.
    • Your goals will help you decide which way to go. Traditional is better for winning awards. Self-pub better for quick publishing.
    • Bookbub is the gold standard for promoting your book.
    • What you get out of traditional publisher is heavily dependent upon the agent you have.
    • The average self-pubbed author sells six books a year.
    • What are called ‘Whale readers’ read several books a day.
    • Offer your first book free to get readers to buy the next.
    • Use Instafreebie to promote your book. You’ll get everyone’s email address when they sign up for your free book.
    • Add an offer at the end of your book, such as a free story if they subscribe to your newsletter.
  • Have a thirty-second elevator pitch. That’s five to eight sentences. Include who you are, what your book is about, what you want people to do about your book.
  • Have ten questions about your book that you are prepared to answer.
  • Have a short and long bio.
  • Develop three to five pitches.writer
  • Be quotable. Have quick blurbs that listeners find quotable.
  • Give your media appearance a second life on social media.
  • You must become a performer once your book is written.
  • A book trailer is 90 seconds and could be as simple as you answering the ten questions.
  • Tips from Penny Sansevieri:
    • 95% of book sales are from personal recommendation.
    • Number one thing readers want to do when they finish a book is to engage with the audience.
    •–add effects to pictures to make your marketing pop
    •–more photo editing tools for your marketing efforts.
    • You need seven touches to sell a customer.
    • You can sell on Pinterest now.

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How I’m Doing on Twenty-four Days I

31 Jan

indie authorI’m getting close to launching my latest WIP, Twenty-four Days:

A former SEAL, a brilliant scientist, a love-besotted nerd, and a quirky AI have twenty-four days to stop a terrorist attack. The problems: They don’t know what it is, where it is, or who’s involved.

If you read To Hunt a Sub and loved the AI Otto, you’ll be pleased to know that Otto gets not only a voice but a body. Also: Eitan falls in love, the only bad thing that happens to Sandy (the Labrador) is he gets locked in a closet, and another fearless woman is tasked with saving the world.

Twenty-four Days was briefly represented by a wonderful agent who put an awful lot of work into editing and rewriting, making the story tighter and more exciting than when he first became involved. Ultimately, we parted ways, but I’ll always appreciate the time and effort he expended on me.

With a planned publication date of May-June, here’s how I’m doing.

  • I’ve completed substantive changes like checking timelines, plot points, and character development (thanks to my wonderful former agent).
  • I’m self-editing using Grammarly and Autocrit, in preparation for submittal to my editor. This includes spelling, grammar, word use, adverbs, dialogue tags, and more.
  • My cover folks are working on a spectacular cover, with an expected completion date in February (the cover on this blog page is simply a place-saver).
  • I’m having banners, logos, and that sort of marketing created, to be used as needed.
  • I’m getting pre-reviews that will inspire readers to purchase.
  • When the book is complete, I’ll submit it to Kindle Scout. Lucky winners there get free publication!
  • I’ll have a blog hop to officially release the book to the world in May/June. Want to help each other? I’d be happy to trade honest reviews when you promote your book.

If you have any steps that help you get your book out, please share in the comments. I just know I’m missing something.

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Top 10 Book Reviews in 2016

06 Jan

top ten 2016There are two parts to this post:

  • my top ten favorite books I read in 2016
  • your (as reader) top ten favorite book reviews I wrote in 2016

My Top Ten Favorite Books

I read 198 books according to Goodreads–blasting through my goal of 162 books.

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My Research at the Library of Congress 

07 Dec

LIBRARY OF CONGRESSMy current WIP, Lucy, is complicated. It delves into the life of earliest man with all of its threats and dangers, as well as the inventions of those big brain ideas that changed the world (like stone tools and fire). I’ve read everything available on the topic from my local libraries and online. The big resource I hadn’t  yet plumbed was the US Library of Congress. It is the largest library in the world, with more than 162 million items on approximately 838 miles of bookshelves. The collections include more than 38 million books and other print materials, 3.6 million recordings, 14 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, and 70 million manuscripts.  It’s had only 13 Librarians of Congress, the current one in that position for almost thirty years. In my case, I sought answers to questions like how did man discover music. How did s/he first organize a system of law? Who was the first person who thought, “I have free time not required to hunt and sleep. I think I’ll draw a picture.”

This is the sort of stuff that keeps me awake at night.

Many of the books are not digitized and none of them can be checked out (by non-Congressional folk) so in my recent trip to visit my daughter in DC, I spent a glorious day researching in this amazing building. You can tour the library as a visitor (which I did on a previous trip) but to use the books requires a library card. They’re easy to get, though you must go to a hidden room down a long hallway in a completely separate building. Once I found the right door, it took only about ten minutes to take my picture, input my data, and print the card.

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12 Surprises and 4 Take-aways I Found Marketing My Debut Novel, To Hunt a Sub

02 Nov

quirksMarketing To Hunt a Sub, my debut novel, is a whole lot different from my non-fiction pieces. In those, I could rely on my background, my expertise in the subject, and my network of professional friends to spread the word and sell my books. Fiction–not so much. For one thing, I don’t have prior fiction novels to buttress my reputation. So I did what I have always done when preparing for the unknown: I researched. I read everything I could find on how to market a novel, collected ideas, made my plan, and jumped in without a backward glance (see two of the books I devoured here).

Well, now that much of the marketing is done, there are a few pieces I wish I’d done differently:

  • I participated in the Kindle Scout to mentally kick-off my campaign. That took longer than I expected which set me back a few weeks.
  • Uploading my manuscript to Kindle was easy, but took more preparation than I’d planned. The preparation was along the line of ‘tedious’, not ‘complicated’. No brainpower required; just time.
  • Many fellow bloggers offered to help with my blog hop, and I wish I’d kept better track of that aspect. I did have a spreadsheet, but I didn’t include enough detail.
  • I wish I’d included interview questions in the blog hop articles. Several bloggers I follow did this, but I skipped it to save time. I wish I hadn’t.
  • I should have used Facebook and Twitter more. Here’s what Stephanie Faris, efriend and published author of the Piper Morgan series, says this about a Facebook account:

Facebook is where you’ll find your friends and relatives. You’ll also find your fourth-grade teacher, your kindergarten best friend, and pretty much everyone who has ever mattered in your life. These are the people who are most likely to buy your book and tell everyone they meet about it. All you have to do is post a picture of your book and your real supporters will ask where they can get a copy.

Stephanie actually suggests the same sort of approach for Twitter. I have a Twitter account, but I forgot to use it enough!

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Two Valuable Books on Marketing Your Newly-published Book

28 Oct

I have a plethora of books in my library on writing, but a dearth on marketing what I’ve written. That’s a mistake. Most authors I know end up spending as much time marketing their books as writing them. Why don’t we get professional guidance as often for the latter as the former?

One reason for me: I have trouble finding books that address the types of online marketing that are affordable (or free–that’s nice) and doable for an author who’d rather write than market. Recently, I found two books I think assist with marketing the newly-published book:

Online Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-By-Step GuideOnline Marketing for Busy Authors: A Step-By-Step Guide

by Fauzia Burke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

I met Fauzia Burke when she was presenting at a San Diego writers conference and came away with no doubt she knew her stuff. I wasn’t surprised she has marketed books for some of my favorite authors (Jeffrey Archer, Dean Koontz, and Daniel Silva to name a few). When her how-to book, Online Marketing for Busy Authors (Berrett-Koehler Publishers 2016) became available on NetGalley, I grabbed it.

Based on what I’d seen at her presentation, I expected expert advice that would kickstart the online marketing campaign for my latest novel  in a down-to-earth voice with suggestions achievable even for the novice marketer. And that’s exactly what I got. It’s important to note: If you’re looking for a palette of marketing options that includes physical events such as book tours and radio interviews, this may not be the book for you. If you’re looking for online events you can participate in that are low-no cost and the payback on time spent is excellent, this is the right book. Fauzia specializes in showing authors how to use readily-available online tools to market their books such as blogs, websites, social media, and more.

She calls this an introductory book but don’t let that confuse you. I consider myself pretty savvy with online marketing–I’ve published dozens of ebooks over a decade–and I found nuggets that I can make use of immediately. Fauzia organizes the book into three parts:

  • Getting organized
  • Turning Your Thinking Into Action
  • Staying the Course

Each has relevant subtopics like personal branding and know your reader, as well as worksheets to help writers organize their efforts around the specific topic. Here are some of my favorite ideas:

  • The best part about online marketing is that it levels the playing field.
  • How do you prevent your brand from getting lost in all the social media noise? The answer: Be uniquely you. Aim for authenticity. 
  • …building an effective brand is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Over the years, authors have told me interesting things when it comes to their audience. Most of the time it’s half the planet. “My audience is women…” [this is part of the chapter on knowing how to narrow your audience].
  • Develop a long-term relationship with your readers…
  • You don’t have to be an early adopter and chase every new social media tool. Use tools that have a track record for success.
  • When you look at all the different elements of online marketing, you may feel overwhelmed. But here’s the thing: You don’t have to do it all. You can start slow and small and grow gradually.
  • Double down on what’s working and ditch what’s not.
  • The bottom line is this: Don’t spam ever, on any network. Always show respect for others and their time.

Overall, this book is highly recommended to all authors who are trying to market their book and just need a few meaty suggestions to make that go well.

Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-By-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your SalesYour Book, Your Brand: The Step-By-Step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales

by Dana Kaye

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

View all my reviews

Dana Kaye’s Your Book, Your Brand: The Step-by-step Guide to Launching Your Book and Boosting Your Sales (Diversion Books 2016) came recommended by several friends when I was whining about the lack of success I was having marketing my latest novel. While Kaye doesn’t have even a decade of experience in publicity, she does have a fresh eye and addictive enthusiasm. Once I got started reading, it was easy to see why her ideas were so valuable to writers.

Rather than the linear approach to marketing in Fauzia Burke’s book above, Kaye writes about typical problems writers might have with marketing and how to fix them using both online and physical solutions. She includes topics such as branding, online media, pitching, social media, in-person branding, and promotions, often with worksheets so readers can determine how to fit the topics into their world. A nice inclusion is a sample campaign and a suggested timeline for events.

Here are some of my favorite suggestions:

  • Book promotion is more of an art than a science. What works for one author may not work for another…
  • The first step is to always write a good book.
  • All authors, regardless of audience, will need an author website. This serves as your online business card,
  • All websites should include the following: [and then Kaye tells you what the critical pieces are].
  • …always pay for your images through stock photo companies; never pull images from the web.
  • To stay focused, answer the following questions: Does your audience prefer print or e-books? Where do they get their information (TV, radio, websites)? What else do they read (newspapers, magazines, blogs)? Where do they buy their books (online, grocery stores, chain bookstores)? What social media platforms do they utilize (Facebook, Twitter…).
  • There are many companies that will charge you thousands of dollars to boost your SEO, not telling you about the many easy ways you can do it for yourself. One of those ways is securing online media coverage.
  • A press kit is like a highlight reel, an expansion on the one-sheet that encapsulates all aspects of you as an author. It should feature all your books, showcasing the most important titles, as well as a longer bio and more in-depth talking points. It can also include any or all of the following: [and then Kaye lists those for readers].”
  • …Google+ is less about social networking and more about search engine marketing.

Overall, this could be an important part of the professional library for authors who are new to marketing.

–I received free copies of both of these books from NetGalley in return for my honest reviews.

More books on the business end of writing:

29+ Ways to Market Your Book

4 Reasons You Want a PLN and 13 Ways to Build One

Top Ten Marketing Tips for Your Ebook

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.


17 Ways to Describe Work Spaces

28 Sep

For the next few months, weekly writing tips will include word choice suggestions. That includes:

  • colorful and original descriptions
  • pithy words and phrases
  • picture nouns and action verbs
  • writing that draws a reader in and addicts them to your voice

I keep a  collection of descriptions that have pulled me into the books. I’m fascinated how authors can–in just a few words–put me in the middle of their story and make me want to stay there. This one’s on how to describe work buildings.

A note: These are for inspiration only. They can’t be copied because they’ve been pulled directly from an author’s copyrighted manuscript (intellectual property is immediately copyrighted when published).


office descriptionsOffice

  • My office looks like IKEA threw up in it . . . except for my black Kathy Ireland computer armoire which houses stacks of paper and office supplies and a bunch of real estate contracts I haven’t filed yet. I have a brown-black IKEA corner desk with metal legs, a high-back leather chair, and a laser and ink jet printer on IKEA tables on the opposite wall. I have brown-black IKEA corner book shelves – one shelf has literature and the other side has textbooks from grad school and my degrees which are collecting lots of dust. I have a view of my deck and the woods in my back yard where deer and rabbits frequently romp. I can also see my crazy neighbor in his thermal underwear while he’s letting the dogs out. It’s not pretty…can’t wait until the leaves come in.
  • When you enter my office there is a dark walnut bookcase lining the entire left-hand wall. There is a leather sofa with a fur rug over the back and an Indian blanket draped over the arm. The far wall has a large fireplace and mantle dominating the center, with bookshelves lining it on either side. On the mantle, I have two antique clocks and a painting of three jazz musicians. There is a television on the shelf to the right, but I only use it for XM radio. In front of that shelf is an upright piano and bench in dark walnut. Hanging on the wall above the piano is an abstract painting of jazz musicians. There is a double door between my desk and the piano which leads out to the patio. The view through the door panes is a southern pine forest. This side of the door is my desk. It is a large walnut piece — rather imposing, with glass over the top. Think early 1900s. My chair is Captain style on wheels with leather seat and back. To the left behind me is another bookshelf atop a matching file cabinet. The ceiling fan keeps the air moving in an otherwise enclosed space.
  • If you leaned way back in the chair and cranked your neck hard over, you could see the sky from my office window, delft-blue and cloudless and so bright it looked solid.
  • Inside, the office was small and cold. Four cubicles shared an empty common area. The carpet was sea green. There was one window, vertical, narrow and fortified with chicken wire.
  • The office was cluttered with the detritus of scholarship. There were books piled everywhere, and manila folders on the top of a long mission oak table under the windows. A Macintosh word processor sat on a corner of her desk, hooked to a laser printer on a small end table beside her.
  • Surveyed the office: big messy desk, file cabinets, an old wooden wardrobe, a poster on one wall, a gruesome photographic blowup of a man’s face beside it.
  • A hive of activity
  • Cracking the door allowed me to squeeze into the room. eight by eight, with a lav half that size; all the charm of an MRI chamber
  • Knew what I would find inside—faded curtains, a limp buffet for breakfast, and a pair of potted palms clinging to life

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We Remember

11 Sep

America, we love you.

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.


Book Reviews from New Indie Authors

31 Aug

This week, I have three Indie books (in Carrie Rubin’s case, she has a micro-publisher) that stand out in that crowded field:

  • Conflicted Hearts is the story of a damaged child who struggles as an adult to make sense of a childhood where she always seemed to be the problem
  • Brothers in Arms is a futuristic science fiction story about a world where men and women are brothers in arms, both struggling for the same goals, be it personal or national.
  • Eating Bull is a medical thriller about one obese teen’s struggle to fight the food industry, even when he becomes the target of a madman

Conflicted Hearts: A Daughter's Quest for Solace from Emotional GuiltConflicted Hearts: A Daughter’s Quest for Solace from Emotional Guilt

by D.G. Kaye

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The preview for the book reads: A lifetime of guilt — What does it take to finally break free? And that’s exactly what this story is. A young woman’s guilt over parents who couldn’t love her, a childhood that included none of the nurturing events so critical to children, and mistakes made by the child–because she was a child–which she believed caused her parents to be distant and uncaring. Add to this horrible mix heartbreak, abuse, an incurable immune-deficiency disease, and almost losing the love of her life.– thank God children are resilient. You will want to hug this child and tell her it’s just not her fault.

Told with DG Kaye’s typical honesty and openness, and a writing style that draws readers right into the emotion. Plan to give this book to anyone suffering from childhood issues that simply aren’t their fault and they can’t fix.

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