For the Criminally Inane

For the Criminally Inane

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Publisher's Giveaway

Want to win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards? Click here to go to The Wild Rose Press Instagram Hop where you can follow twenty authors in various genres of romance. Click here. For all rules see the posts. Good luck!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Top Ten Ways to Boost Your Creativity


It's the middle of the book. You have a smashing beginning. You have a dynamic and surprising ending. But somehow you got lost in the muddle in the middle.  Here are ten ways to boost your creativity.

10. Watch a movie in your genre. Movies can inspire you with twists and turns, characters. Even awful movies can inspire you to do something better.

9. Read a book. When the creative juices in your brain start to flow under the hand of another writers work, you'll start to image things for your book too.

8. Go back and reread the passages that excited you, the ones which inspired you to write it in the first place.

7. Go to a museum, a park, a restaurant and just observe people. Why do they do what they do?

6. Play with children. Kids are uninhibited in their play and ideas.

5. Exercise. I wrote many characters while I was walking. Moving the body moves the brain.

4. Draw. Drawing helps release the right side of the brain.

3. Listen to music. I've found character motivations, their life logo all inside a simple song.

2. Free write emotions. One of the best exercises I read was where I just wrote what I felt. Pure. Raw. Emotion.

1. Listen to other writers talk about their work. On line, in person. Creativity is contagious.

Friday, July 6, 2018

How to Use Social Media to Reach a Wider Audience

In preparing for this blog post, I reread my notes from a webinar from Jane Freidman on promoting your book.  I think a lot of authors are baffled about how to reach beyond their own sphere of influence and reach untapped audiences. I'm going to list a few ways to use certain social media tools and build a platform. Now with anything, this takes time, it takes work and constant vigilance. I've seen some great progress as I've used some of these tools. This is what I do. Others may disagree. I will also rate their shelf life ie how long you can still get likes, views etc.



Facebook

Facebook is still my number one go-to for platform. I've had that account the longest. I have the biggest audience still. However, when it comes to book promo, blasting my book on my Facebook feed over and over again may not create sales and in fact, may lose me a few friends. Why? Because everyone who is my friend who wanted to buy my book has already bought my book and just harping on it over and over is tedious and annoying. Does that mean that Facebook is dead and I can't use it? No!! (Probably if you are reading this, you saw it on Facebook). Shelf life is about a few days. And for social media, that's pretty good.

How to use Facebook.


*Exciting events about my life. 
*My big events, like book releases, praise for your book. Not a hard sell of my book on Facebook. * * I operate a private Facebook groups of my closest friends who don't mind hearing about my success. These wonderful cherished few (I'm up to about ten consisting of my closest dearest supporters and family) are the people I give the most attention to (in theory) for their support of my efforts.
*Facebook book or author page. Then share everything from your author page to your private page for more views/likes etc.
*Facebook is constantly changing the algorithm on how to use their platform, but for now, the more people who comment on your post, the longer it stays in their feed. Ask questions and reply to keep up conversation and keep it in their feed.
*Live feeds and "story" will be prioritized in their algorithm. So if you are gutsy or have fun information to share, try the Facebook Live (from a smartphone only) or add to your story.

Instagram

Instagram is my number two choice for social media. Shelf life is about a day. It's a picture-based, hashtag-heavy (searchable by hashtags) platform that can only be used from a smart phone. Sorry, I tried posting from a laptop and it just didn't work. 

How to use Instagram

*Unlike Facebook, you can follow people without their permission. 
*There is a feed post and a story like Facebook. However, in Instagram, everything is in chronological order of when things were posted by the people you follow.
*You can control some privacy like I have my settings where only people I allow (certain followers) can view my "story" and I post more personal stuff there (pictures of my kids etc) utilizing my feed for food, events, fun stuff and book promo.
*If you want other people to view your feed or images/videos you post, you have to be public. This is the only way to gain new followers who don't know you.
*You can categorize your posts with hashtags (#). For books some popular ones I've found are #booksofinstagram #instabooks #writerslife #writersofinstagram etc. These post are categorized with other "tagged" pictures for IG users to find and like.
*You can post up to 1 minute of video in your feed and nearly unlimited live footage in your "story".
*Stories stay for 24 hours. But your story can be saved to your profile.
*Access your story by clicking on your profile picture. This will take you to a place where you can either search your photos on your phone or you can take a picture with the IG camera.
*You can write, add stickers, add bi-modal polls and other effects with the IG camera.
*I'm still learning how to most stuff, so I'll update as I gain more knowledge.
*There is now IGTV too, which is a little orange icon next to your messages
*Oh, yes, you can also message people and message them about what you see on their stories. Or you can just make comments below the image itself.
*To stay relevant you should be posting every day to every other day. Fun stuff. Hahah!

Twitter

Twitter has such a short shelf life--a few hours maybe for best results unless someone picks it up. Twitter can be good or bad. Of all the social media, Twitter is the scariest for me because if you say something stupid, it has the biggest potential of getting way out of hand, because of the ease of "retweeting" and the proliferation of what you write. However the potential to go big, I probably see the smallest results from Twitter. However Twitter is a great way to reach out to celebrities and other writers, agents and readers. I've never used it on my phone and refuse to download the app because I don't want it taking over my life. "Tweets" or posts come like a firehose if you follow enough people and it can be really distracting.

How to use Twitter

I should've labeled these, how I use X because I'm sure there is someone out there who is better at this than I am. However, this is what I do. I use a social media manager for Twitter because it moves so fast that it's hard to remember to Tweet everyday.

*A post or a "Tweet" is like 240 characters long. So you have to be brief. If you want to rant, you'll have to link to it on a different platform. 
*You can post GIFs, images, links, videos and any combination of those.
*Retweeting. If you like something you can RT something by clicking a retweet button. I usually say something original in the tweet so that it's now my own post, such as "Yes, this!" or "I agree!"
*Your Twitter account gives you analytics of how many "impressions" you receive from a certain Tweet. Impressions are how many people actually saw it. Then it gives you how many reactions. Reactions can be: media views, likes, retweets, etc.
*Find followers by following people who usually follow you back.
*A social media manager like Hootsuite can help you schedule Tweets so that you're not wasting a lot of time monitoring and posting Tweets.
*Post often. The secret to Twitter is that each post only lasts a few minutes before a slew of new Tweets overtakes your post in the feed.
*Thank people for following, for retweeting, reach out and comment, like and retweet to make friends. It's supposed to be social after all.

Blog

Some people thing blogs are a little passé these days. Although I think they hit their hay day in the early 2000's  I still believe having a blog presence never hurts (Unless it's distracting you from writing, which it is today!) And it has an amazing shelf life. If you create good content, people will be coming back for more and sticking around to see what else is there. 

How to use a blog 


*Content is king. Be helpful, be entertaining, be interesting.
*Create content that is "evergreen." In other words create posts that people can reference over and over again.
*Write about your platform. If you're a historical writer, write about history, costumes, customs etc.
*Post often. Ask people to share.


Website

This is your most important web tool from whence everything else springs. This is your hub. This is where you do your hard sell. Try to get people to come here and partake of the well springs of your creativity. This should represent you and everything you stand for.

How to use a website

*Add a smashing bio. This bio should reflect your character. The bio should have a call to action. "Follow me!" or "Subscribe to my newsletter."
*Speaking of newsletter, you should have one. I'll talk about that more in the next category. Have a place to subscribe.
*Show an image or avatar. People like to see who is behind the novel.
*Extras. Give, give and give some more. I have playlists, recipes, extra scenes. You can add all sorts of things to keep interested readers busy, and clicking around to find more.
*Make it uncluttered and organized.
*Make it relevant. Add images that reflect what you do. Don't confuse us with pictures of something irrelevant.
*Book covers, backstories, chapter ones, freebies.


Newsletters

If you are still reading this far, you're in for a treat! Actually, I'm just saying that to see if you're still paying attention. I guess you are. Newsletters are one of the most important tools for the budding and established author. Newsletters connect you to readers in a personal, real way. Collect emails at signings, on your website, through friends and referrals (forwards). This is your direct market. You can hard sell these people and they'll enjoy it. And if they don't, they should take themselves off their list. You only want serious fans here.

How to use a newsletter

*Announce sales, promotions, events, releases, book covers reveals, anything you want
*Thank your readers
*Reward your readers with bits of content, timelines. Publishing is a long and tedious profession. Keep them entertained between book releases.
*I add a excerpt of my work in progress.
*I talk about what victories and progress I've made.


I still have more to share on how to get the word out there, but this is all I think I can write in one sitting and probably more than you can read in one sitting. Anybody have any questions?



Thursday, July 5, 2018

Being a Creator

Creating is more work than consuming 


Ask anyone who creates. A movie can take months of filming with work on costumes, set design, script all before the camera rolls, then there's the editing and special effects, all for a flick that lasts less than two hours. Just watch an Lord of the Rings bonus features and you'll see the colossal effort of many people.

Writing is a special kind of creation 


While it takes little more than a computer and some ideas--a small investment comparatively speaking--writing does require a whole lot of time. And that's where people get stuck. My best years of writing were when my kids were little, our schedules were more free and no one had to go to school in the morning. I'd write late into the night and let my kids eat cold cereal for breakfast as I pried my eyes open in the wee hours of the morning--around nine a.m..

How to be a Creator


Have a vision. Creative beings start with a vision, what they want to accomplish in their creative session. This may be in the form of an outline, an idea, or a desired outcome. Having a vision is essential to creation. 

Give yourself permission to be creative. We live in a logical world. What we do must bring results. Creativity doesn't usually come with a huge monetary reward. But creativity brings us a different payout: happiness. Often we forget it. And sometimes we worry. We worry no one will like what we create. Look at children who are natural creators, look at how happy they are. They aren't worried about whether anyone will like what they create. They create because it comes from their heart. Dismiss worries, eye rolls and critics. CREATE!

Brew your thoughts. Creators have to have time for their thoughts to ferment. To others it may look a lot like daydreaming. 

Exercise your creative muscles. Let your mind wander, imagine what if, create space in your life to think about fun things. Sometimes I use pockets of time when I'm doing chores, driving or other mindless activities to ponder things I want to create.

Create. Now do it. Carve out time to move into fruition all your ideas. At first they may not all work out, but as you practice, it becomes better.

Share. I heard a story about a man who'd written nearly twenty novels but had never shared them with anyone. This story makes me sad. I create to share. To inspire. To heal. 

Last, be patient with those who are creative. If you are married to a creator, bless you! You know how chaotic creating can be. My house is usually messy, my life littered with little pieces of paper where I caught a spark of passing creativity. My life sometimes gets placed on hold while I work out some inspired thought. I want a sign that says, Forgive the mess, I'm creating today.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

My Advice to Aspiring Writers

Why Write?


Writing brings your dreams to life. Or your nightmares. Depending on what you are writing. When I first started dedicating time to writing ten years ago, I read scores of books, mostly from the library, about writing. So here's the short list of my advice for aspiring writers:

1. Write everyday

You may say, every day? And I'll say, every day. If you start making excuses, it's easy to get out of the habit. Now, I didn't say you have to lay down a bazillion words that day. But you should write and keep in the habit of writing every day. On Sundays, I write letters to loved ones instead of working on my story.

2. Learn the craft

I think too many people assume you either have writing talent or you don't. Writing can be learned. Check out books from the library. Read articles and blogposts on line. Do everything you can to improve your skills. I enter contests for feedback. 

3. Don't try to publish too soon

When you've worked so hard to write a book and you've finished, the first thing you should do is celebrate. Writing a novel/book is hard work. Finishing one is a miracle! Then you should let it sit, at least two weeks, before going back over it again. Have patience with your work. Make sure it is in the best possible shape before sending it out to the world.

4. Don't wait too long to publish

This may sound anti-thetical to #3, but don't wait for perfection either, because it ain't gonna happen. I think you'll know when you are ready. Don't give up, but don't keep putting off something until "it's perfect." Be patient, don't be a perfectionist.

5. Don't be jealous of others' success

The green-eyed monster of jealous is an awful creature. He steals your happiness and your energy. Don't let him do it. Be happy for others. Celebrate their success. You cannot become what you secretly despise. Bitterness doesn't make friends.

6. Be patient with your success

Writing and publishing take a long time. It's not an overnight success for most people. Work to build your audience, your fans. Be gracious and generous every step of the way. When you do reach success, mentor others. There is room enough for us all.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Why I write comedy

Why I love to write funny books

One dark January day after I had my third child, I was in the throes of Post-Partem Depression. Mix baby blues with the grays of January and you get a terrible color. Thankfully, we had a family tradition of going to the library on Saturdays. While there, I was browsing the Young Adult fiction and I came across a book, a third in a series. I had read the first book previously and wasn't impressed enough to pick up the second. However, I opened the third book and started reading and it was pure yumminess. It had a light-hearted love story, fun action-adventure and comedy. It was like eating after a fast or melting shaved ice on your tongue during a hot day. It was delicious to me. It hit the sweet spot in my brain. I was so rude to the people who came to dinner that night. I literally opened the door with the book in hand, waved them in and went back to reading.

It was healing

To me, laughter is healing. Fiction connects us with people, with humanity. Even more than film, fiction in book form gives us compassion. It helps us to see the world from a different point of view, experience a different life. Walk in the proverbial shoes of someone else. I lived another life between those pages.

And I wanted to do that for other people.

Books change us

Do you have a book you reread often because it is just so well-written that even though you've read it a thousand times it still makes you feel something? I have a list of my favorites. Princess Bride is one of them. I love it because it is again, the comedy, action-adventure and it has a love story. 

What is your favorite funny lines from Baker's Dozen or from any other book?

What's a book you love that you read and reread?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Ten things you can do to help a writer friend

Ever wondered how authors get the word out about their books? The answer may shock you: it's you! Doing a few simple things for your author friend can help promote their book with little effort or time on your part. And since you are such a good friend, you'll want to help *wink*. Even if you haven't bought book, there is something you can do! I've made a list of small and simple things you can do today help authors in big ways.

Little time, no money

*Go to Amazon and mark all of their reviews as helpful. This helps those who have reviewed to earn more "cred."

*Do the same thing on Goodreads. If you don't have a Goodreads account, you should get one ;) Click here. Goodreads is a great place for readers to hang out and discuss and review books.

*Add your friend's book on your Goodread's shelf or in a list, group. This helps get the word out about the book. Plus me posting it to Goodreads is self-promotion. If you do it, it's helping someone find a book they'll love.

*Write an Amazon review. If you've bought the book, even if you didn't buy it from Amazon, you can write a review (up to once a week on non-Amazon purchased items). Reviews should be honest and as short/long as you like. Even a simple "I liked it" will count. In the algorithm, the number of reviews count more than what's written. 

*Sharing is caring. Like/share/comment on writer's posts on Twitter, IG, Facebook. This gives the writer more visibility because all of your friends can see your comments.  

*Request your friend's book at your local library. Not only is it a purchase of your friend's book, (thank you!) but it also increases awareness of the author. Most people are willing to check out a book because of the low-risk involved before they buy a book. I was able to fill out a form on line for my local library. *Warning* It may require a phone call.

*Recommend friend's book. Nothing is more persuasive than a recommendation from a friend. Word of mouth goes a long way!

*Join their newsletter. Then, if you feel generous, forward their newsletter to other readers. It's an easy, non-intrusive way to help spread the word. (Find my sign-up on my website here.)

*Comment on their blog.

*Take pictures of yourself reading the book to share on social media. Social media is one of the best methods of getting the word out. Selfies reading the book on Kindle or paperback would be awesome. Tag the author. A few helpful hashtags #amreading #reader #booklover #books etc.

I have to say a HUGE thank you so much to those friends who are already doing this! You are amazing and the best! I am forming a team of people who can  help me spread the word and possibly earn rewards like Amazon gift cards or swag. If you'd like to be a part of this team, let me know and I can add you to my private Inner Circle, called the Z-Pack. I have a private Facebook group for special opportunities like helping me chose titles, character's names etc and have Facebook LIVE events.

Comment below with anything that has helped you or a suggestion I missed.