For the Criminally Inane

For the Criminally Inane

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Opposite of Clean Is Not Dirty

Yesterday I saw a tweet on Twitter that saddened me. One author claimed that she didn't like the term "clean"to reference romances without intimacy, claiming it implied books with sex in them are dirty.

I didn't respond because I flipped away for a second and it was lost. Twitter is a fast game. So I want to write my response here and I hope she'll see it and understand.

The opposite of clean is not dirty.

The opposite of clean is free from...

Have you ever had a practice and said, "Whoah, that was a clean practice," meaning free from error? I have.

Clean romance doesn't mean we think intimacy is dirty between two consenting adults. It means a book "free from intimacy." I write clean romance because I like to give my characters their own space. I am not judging anyone else for writing intimacy in your books. So, please, don't think we're prudish, or judging you. We're not. At least, I am not. It's just my personal preference.

Friday, August 31, 2018

My Writing Process

I have a weird writing process. In the 'biz, there are two types of writers. "Pantsers" who write by the "seat of their pants" and "Plotters" who make extensive outlines and character sketches. While I think about my characters a great deal, I don't ever write an extensive outline and although I like to discovery write, I can't be completely open ended or I'd go crazy. Hence, the hybrid term: plantser.  I like the term because it sounds like I might be plantsing through the pansies or something.

Anyway, usually I start with an idea, a premise, a character or even a title. And I plant it like a seed in fertile imagination watered with fiction and non-fiction alike. And I start my first draft. I call this a discovery draft and on bad days a crap draft.

I write about 20,000 words, exploring the world, and characters. Then I show it to my husband to see if my idea shows promise. Thumbs up, I continue.  Thumbs down, I can it. For now.

After my surely brilliant work of 20,000 I ask myself, what am I trying to say? What is the book about? Now I start to think. Writing looks a lot like staring out the window. But I also think about my book, my plot and my characters when I'm not doing anything that requires great mental energy: in the shower, while driving on errands, while punching a weighted bag (I wrote a lot of Baker's Dozen in my head while hitting the bag and listening to U2 in the basement of our house in St. Louis.) Exercise for me is a great time to "hear" my characters. My body is busy, but my mind can wander.

Most often I write dialogue first. I think it's my years of theater training, or perhaps because until sixth grade I hated wearing my glasses and depended largely on my auditory senses to gather information about my world. (I was as blind as a naked mole.) Whatever the reason, I write a scene in dialogue first, then go back and fill it in with setting and description. Details bring a story to life. The right details at least.

People ask me where I get my ideas. Well, they come from all over. I wanted Andy Baker to be a marital artist. I took Tae Kwon Do for a semester in college and loved it. All those hits on the bag in my basement was Andy's character getting stronger. When I wrapped my hands, the make-out scene in the workout room was born.

Hugh/Christiaan was born from an Imagine Dragons song. I had the idea of him, but I heard "Demons" and I was like, that's his essence. He's afraid of letting Andy inside because of what's there. Also "Monster." He's afraid of what he'll become and Andy, although she's tough, keeps him from going off the edge.

Publishing a book is scary. It's letting the reader (you) into my dreams. I'm giving you a part of my heart, my hopes, my fears. Writers face all sorts of rejection before we get published. It's encouraging to hear people enjoy my book, because it means we share the same dreams.  If you like action, adventure, romance and comedy then you'll enjoy my books.

What else would you like to know about writing?  Would you like to know the nuts and bolts of getting a manuscript published?

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Balancing Life

Photo Cred: Monica Brown


Balancing your family and work is tricky at best. As a writer, I am plotting one manuscript, writing another, and editing yet another all while promoting the most current book. How do I balance that with all the demands of a wife and mother? One word: Prioritize.

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I ask myself is what time shall I take my nap. Just kidding. Mostly. Actually nearly every week for several years, I write a list of priorities for that week, sometimes by the day. Anything with a deadline has priority, and anything not done will be moved to the next week. (I've had some things that have moved from week to week for several weeks until the items just fall of my lists completely.)

The one thing I prioritize is family time. This comes in the form of family scriptures and family prayer. Family meals get tricky with busy evenings, but we try for them.

I also prioritize my personal time to refill and recharge. Every morning I spend fifteen minutes in personal spiritual study/meditation and prayer. I also exercise daily for physical and mental health replenishment. I find if I don't do these things, I am not nearly as effective at wifing, mothering or writing.

The last thing I prioritize is time with my husband. He works a demanding job. We both volunteer time to our church. Making sure we connect is a priority. As a couple, we also take time to read the scriptures and pray every day. We also make sure we have a weekly date. Often the "date" is my husband reading my latest WIP and giving me ideas.

If I make sure I prioritize properly, then everything else falls into place nicely. Anything falling off the list, falls off the list.


Monday, August 6, 2018

Top Ten Tips for Fighting Discouragement

I asked my most ardent fans (my daughter and my husband) what I should write about on my blog and my daughter said I should write about encouraging others to keep writing. I feel like I've learned a lot in writing for the past ten years, and I'd love to share.

Writing, and almost any other creative endeavor is a long process. From the spiritual creation or idea of it until its execution and finished product can take months if not years. Keeping going during that time can become a challenge. Here are my tips to stay motivated.

1. Remember why you started in the first place. I am a storyteller. I always have been. I'm horrid at asking questions but learning. But I think of funny scenarios. I'm the dreamer. Someone tells me a detail and I create a story. I don't write for the royalty check. I don't write to be famous-- although that would be nice. I write because I believe fiction can heal. I write because I believe we all need to safely escape. I write because I want to create happiness for others.

2. Don't listen to the critics and the nay-sayers. There are weak-minded people who will always tell you what you can't do. These people have little imagination and I think they are cowards. Be the brave person who defies the odds, who conquers the mountain, who stands at the top and yells, "I did it!"

3. Find your tribe. This is so important to me. I love finding like-minded people who have the same goal. They will lift you up and remind you about your number one reason for creating. Communicate with your tribe, bear your soul to them let them lift you up.

4. Encourage others. No matter where you stand on the platform, you can always find someone to encourage. Creating isn't a competition or a race. It's a shared experience. And someone can always use an uplifting word.

5. Share you talents. Don't hide your candle under a bushel. Share to me means two things: one, let other people see your work and two, teach someone else how to do what you are doing. You'll be surprised how much you grow from either one of these two exercises. Musicians don't wait until they can preform the Moonlight Sonata before they play in public. "Swans on the Lake" is a concert piece as well as "Für Elise."

6. Just keep going. I lived in Switzerland in my twenties. True story time. Once, a friend and I were painting a bathroom for service in the back of hairdressing shop. While we were painting, a man came in to take a shower. I glanced at my friend, my eyes widened as this man started revealing flesh. "Just keep going," she said. We never would've finished the bathroom if we'd let every little thing stop us. Thankfully, he only took a "spit" bath, but the lesson is still the same. "Just keep going." Don't let anything stop you. Create through good times, through hard times, through sad times, through happy times. You'll be surprised what comes out when you do.

8. Get feedback from the right sources. One of the most discouraging thing for me at the beginning of my writing was rejection without a response. Why was I getting rejected? I wished they give me some clue as to why my work didn't meet their standards. It really couldn't be that "My story didn't resonate with them." I knew that was code for something else. I just didn't know how to decipher agent/editor-ese. At a writer's conference, I found out that there were contests I could enter and I could get feedback from judges who were agents, editors and other novelists. For a mere $25 entry free, I could find out why they would reject my manuscript. That was money well-spent!

9. Ask for help. I'm religious so this is something ingrained in me. I believe that God is a Creator and he wants us to be like him. When I am stuck, I ask Him for help. If you're not into praying, you can ask the universe, the Cosmos or a paid professional.

10. Believe in yourself and in what you are doing. Everyone has a unique perspective on life. If you don't believe me, just ask my kids who started the fight and they'll both give you different answers. You have something unique to give, something that no one else has. Give it, give it generously and it will come back to you generously. You are needed. Your art is needed!

What other tips help you fight discouragement?

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?