Monday, January 28, 2013

Please, Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself Blogfest, An Interview, A Giveaway, and an Incredible Review

Today, I’m participating in Mark KoopmansElise Fallson, C.M. Brown, and Stephen Tremp’s
where Stephen suggests we take a moment and re-introduce ourselves to the world.

In years past, I typically spent the last few minutes before I dropped off to sleep fantasizing about…well, just…stuff, really.  Making up little dramas in my head, motivating a dream, you might say.  But I never imagined myself to be a writer. 

Then an idea wriggled into my brain one day in 2010, inspired by a song, and from that moment on, I was obsessed.  I wrote an outline, a first draft, really, handwritten in a notebook.  Then I typed it out, titled it The Mistaken, got busy revising, did all the things a writer was supposed to do if she wanted to get published, like find critique partners, set up a blog, query widely, and make a book trailer (thanks to Carrie Butler!)

I suffered a lot of rejection, but I never gave up.  I learned instead, from other writers, authors, agents, whoever had a bit of advice.  I read it and I took it.  And then I found a home for my book, at Sapphire Star Publishing.  It’s not exactly what I thought it would be, but I’m making steady progress.  

In the mean time, I’m still working as an interior designer, barely, but I also took a job as a book editor with my publisher.  So, that’s me…

Who are you?  Please, re-introduce yourself!

Also today, I’m over at Maine Words where Marcy Hatch is conducting a little interview.  We’d both love it if you’d drop on by and leave a comment.

Next, in case you missed it, if you're a writer in need of a little social media marketing savvy, scroll down to the post below this or click here for my review on Social Media Just Writers for Writers – The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books by Frances Caballo.  It's chock full of invaluable information on using popular social media platforms as marketing tools and it's tailored especially for writers.

Finally, last Monday, a book blogger posted a review of my book on Goodreads and Amazon, with pictures and everything, at least on Goodreads.  

Now, I’ve had my share of good reviews, but this one knocked it out of the park.
I’m thinking she liked it.  Check it out and tell me what you think.  She even made a pretty picture with a quote from my book.  

 Pretty cool, huh?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Review: Social Media Just for Writers by Frances Caballo

It’s hard being a neophyte at anything, especially something tech-based.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total Luddite—I embrace technology as much as the next guy—but I also struggle with it at times.  Mix that lack of knowledge with my abhorrence for all things related to marketing, and you have an author drowning in dread.

I’ve done many of the things an author is supposed to do to build a platform—I blog, do Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads—but I’m not always the best at using them.  Then there’s LinkedIn and Google+, which I’m on, but do not use.  There’s also Pinterest, which I haven’t even attempted yet.  It’s all a major time-suck, and they each require a level of expertise to master and make productive.

So while I hardly had the time, when Trish Collins, owner of TLC Book Tours, asked, I jumped at the chance to review Social Media Just Writers for Writers – The Best Online Marketing Tips for Selling Your Books by Frances Caballo

After all the time I spent writing and polishing my novel, then finding a publisher and getting it ready to be released, I wasn’t even remotely prepared for all the hands-on marketing I’d have to do.  And even though I already had a presence in some of the most popular social outlets, I wasn’t entirely sure how to best use them.  But Social Media Just Writers for Writers clarifies much of it, makes it easier to understand and use. 

This book delves straightaway into the monster that is Facebook, how to join, create a profile, start a fan page, and manage security and settings.  Caballo also advises on how to best use it to help sell your book using SEO and effective posts.  While I already had a firm grasp on Facebook, she explains quite a few features I wasn’t even aware of, including the creation of tabs, measuring results, the plethora of third party applications, and the best practices for writers.  There were a few inaccurate numbers in there, though, like the total number of Facebook users.  It’s not 900,000, but more like 1,000,000,000.  That’s billion, not million.

Next, Twitter.  Oy, I hate Twitter.  Seems like so much work to put into something that literally only last a few seconds before it’s buried in an avalanche of new tweets.  Caballo explains, however, exactly why it is the place to be, and goes into detail about all the basics on tweeting and retweeting, following and unfollowing, linking and hashtags, DM and @replies, proper lingo and etiquette. 

She takes you step-by-step on how to setup an account, develop a profile, and show some style.  She dissects everything you need to know about the dashboard and how to navigate it, lists the most popular and helpful hashtags for writers, and provides tips to get started.  After that, it’s all about the apps, the best to use for whatever purpose and how they work, though she didn’t discuss how some are not entirely accurate, like the unfollow apps, ManageFlitter to be precise.

I was a bit overwhelmed by this app portion.  It would have been nice if she had rated these apps in some way, but I did find some awesome new ones to help me pre-schedule, flush out unfollowers, and find old tweets.  Best of all, Caballo provides twelve tips on tweeting with your tweeps, though I must say, I do not agree on her stance of not cross-posting to Twitter and Facebook.  As long as you compose it properly, what’s the big deal?

Then there’s LinkedIn.  I joined this platform years ago, so my profile was tailored primarily for my design business.  I realize I could start a new one just for my publishing and editing career, but in all honesty, I don’t see the point.  It’s too technical and has more of a Job Fair atmosphere to me.  But Caballo fully explains its usefulness, how to setup and use it, useful applications, and a dozen best practices.  Personally, while I do keep my account updated, I really only use it for the groups.

Next comes Google+.  While Caballo gives a bunch of good reasons why to use it—like its connection to the most widely used search engine in the world—I’m with the majority on this one.  It was nice to get an invitation when it was in beta, but it’s too unwieldy of a site.  I have a Google+ account, but most everyone I know has abandoned it.  When I land on someone’s G+ page, I’m not sure how to use it and exit as quickly as I can.  But Caballo explains all the ins and outs and features of G+ that make it worth a look at least, including why it works better than Facebook in some ways.  So if you want to know more, she has a lot to say, but even that confused me, because G+ is just all around confusing and not very user-friendly. 

And then comes Pinterest.  My thought when Pinterest first blew up was, oh God, not another social media platform.  You’d think I, an artist and designer, would embrace it, but I already spend so much time on the others that I didn’t want to get sucked into it.  And I’ve heard it is very addictive.  Great, just what I need.  But, actually, I’m thinking of giving it a try, of using images to tell the story of my book, The Mistaken.  That could be fun and productive.  My publisher swears by it.  So when I’m ready, I know I can refer to Caballo’s instructions on how to setup and use it.  Dry reading about this, however, without any prior knowledge or use of the site, left me a little confused.  She used lingo that meant nothing to me and I was left scratching my head, but I’m sure it would make more sense if you were actually doing it play-by-play. 

Then Caballo dives into blogs, how useful they are, and the best way to utilize them to increase sales.  However, she didn’t go into the different sites where one can setup a blog, only mentioning WordPress a few times as her preference.  I disagree on this somewhat.  If you’re a beginner, Blogger is the perfect site.  It’s where almost all my thousands of blogger friends reside.  It’s easier to use, yet she doesn’t go into it at all.  But there is a lot of good info in there, including prompts, using keyword-rich articles and titles, applications, plug-ins, and resources for photographs to make your posts richer and easier on the eye, and ideas on how to make your blog successful.

Lastly, Caballo discusses the angles of offline promotion, though several of the items listed, like email, websites, author networks and hangouts, are all online.  One platform she didn’t discuss enough was Goodreads, an invaluable tool for any author today.  It’s the best way to directly connect with your readers and potential readers.  It is the platform for readers.  Other than that, Caballo discusses actual shelf space (something that’s not always an option,) bookmarks, fliers, CDs, book fairs and festivals, business cards, ads, press releases, media kits, PR directories, radio and TV, reviewers, and Amazon and Listmania.  A lot of the work I’ve been doing recently is in these areas so I found this section particularly helpful. 

All in all, this book is chock full of info, ideas, and tips on how to connect with readers and help sell your book.  The instructions were typically easy to understand.  Even the most experienced and savvy will find new things to learn and experiment with.  And there are so many resources listed that you are sure to find something to help with whichever social media platform you use.  One thing though, I wish throughout this book that the author would have taken novelists more into consideration when giving tips.  Most were geared toward non-fiction writers.  But still, I can tailor most everything to fit my needs.

So if you’re a writer and as overwhelmed as I am by social media, this book is worth a look and the $16 you have to pay for the paperback.    

On Monday, February 4th, using, I will award one commenter (of this post) within the continental US with a paperback copy of Social Media Just Writers for Writers.  Any winner outside of this area will receive a PDF.  Make sure your profile includes an email so I can get your mailing address, or include it in your comment. 

You can find Frances Caballo here:

If you’re interested in reading other reviews, check out the rest of the TLC tour here:

01/08:  Write Stuff
01/15:  Writing Fiction
01/17:  TheWriteGame
01/28:  Tossing It Out
01/29:  allison writes
01/30:  Mina Burrows
02/04:  My Bookshelf

Monday, January 21, 2013

Cover Reveal: POLAR NIGHT by Julie Flanders

It is my pleasure to present
Polar Night
my friend and fellow thriller author
coming 02.07.13

When Detective Danny Fitzpatrick leaves his hometown of Chicago and moves to Fairbanks, Alaska he wants nothing more than to escape the violence and heartbreak that left his life in pieces. Numbed by alcohol and the frozen temperatures of an Alaskan winter, Danny is content with a dead-end job investigating Fairbanks' cold cases. That all changes when a pretty blond woman goes missing on the winter solstice, and Danny stumbles upon some surprising connections between her disappearance and that of another Fairbanks woman three years earlier. Forced out of his lethargy, Danny sets out to both find the missing woman and solve his own cold case.

The investigation points Danny towards Aleksei Nechayev, the handsome and charming proprietor of an old asylum turned haunted tourist attraction in the Arctic town of Coldfoot. As he tries to find a link between Nechayev and his case, Danny's instinct tells him that Nechayev is much more than what he seems.

Danny has no idea that Nechayev is hiding a secret that is much more horrifying than anything he could ever have imagined. As his obsession with finding the missing women grows, Danny finds his own life in danger. And when the truth is finally revealed, the world as he knows it will never be the same.

Besides being all-around AWESOME, Julie Flanders is a librarian and a freelance writer who has written for both online and print publications. She is an avid animal lover and shares her home in Cincinnati, Ohio with her dog and cat. Polar Night, a suspense thriller with a supernatural twist, is her first novel. It will be published by Ink Smith Publishing on February 7, 2013. 

Find Julie online at her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook


On a personal note, I'd like to thank all of you who voted for my book on the various Goodreads lists last week.  Because of your help, THE MISTAKEN climbed higher on all 14 lists, especially
Best Romantic SuspenseThrillers You Must Read, and Thrillers.

As a result, over 155 readers added
The Mistaken to their TBR lists in the
last day and a half alone,
over 755 total. 

And I haven't even announced my January giveaway yet.
(BTW, it starts next Monday, 01.28.13)

So thank you all!  And please let me know if I can ever return the favor!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Do an Author a Favor...Pretty Please???

You guys know how much I’ve been complaining about the whole marketing thing.  It’s such a pain, so much work, and I’m terrible at it.  Last week, my very good friend, Alex Cavanaugh, went out on a limb and asked his followers to vote for his two books, CassaStar and CassaFire, on the Goodreads’ Best Space Opera List.  I and many others voted, and CassaStar remained at #1 and CassaFire moved to #2. 

I found that very inspiring, and while I don’t have near the following Alex does, it doesn’t take much for a book to move up on a Goodreads list. 

As it happens, though well received and reviewed, my book, The Mistaken, needs some serious help in the sales department, and raising awareness via Goodreads is a good way to do that.  So I’m asking for the same favor. 

The Mistaken has been added to 14 Goodreads lists by readers.  That’s a remarkable feat I can be proud of, but I’d like it to be as high on those lists as possible so it’s more visible, which, hopefully, will help sales. 

So, for you Goodreads members who wouldn’t mind, use this master list link for all 14 Goodreads lists The Mistaken appears on, then click on the lists individually, as many as you want, and wait for The Mistaken to appear, usually at the top of the page.  All you have to do is click on the “vote for this book” button next to my title.  That’s it.  Very quick and easy peasy!

The lists (below) are in order of importance to me, especially the first 10, though all have immense influence. Unfortunately, except for the lists where my book is near the top, as people vote, the book moves up and these individual links will not be accurate for placement, so click on the master link for all 14 lists then click on each individual list to vote.

·        Best Romantic Suspense
·        What To Read Next
·        Kidnapped
·        Psychological Thrillers
·        Thrillers
·        Thrillers You Must Read
·        Can’t Wait Books of 2012
·        Come Out Already!    

Thank you in advance!
You have no idea how much I appreciate your help!

Monday, January 7, 2013

What the World Can Learn From Writers

I’ve hated bickering ever since I was a little kid.  Where most siblings relish the chance to needle and annoy their brothers or sisters, I was always the peacemaker.  I avoided the situations that seemed to cause arguments, like where my brothers and I would sit in the car.  No one wanted the middle seat, but I always offered to take it so we wouldn’t fight. 

As an adult, I can be considerably more confrontational when crossed, and I’m in no way a pushover, but I still try to avoid conflict.  Or rather, I work around it, try to find a peaceful resolution by getting one side to see and understand the other.  That’s just my nature. 

Over the years, I’ve come to believe I might be in the minority.  Everywhere I look, people are badgering and bickering with each other.  It’s typically the source of every news story where someone gets shot or stabbed, and it’s the norm on nearly every reality TV show.  Viewers think it’s boring unless one person is railing at or tormenting another.  We find it amusing for some reason. 

It’s no wonder so many little girls turn mean at the age of five, why some kids are bullied so mercilessly.  For all the complaining we do about the issue, all the time we spend teaching our kids not to pick on others, the example they often see is what we leave running in the background on the TV while they eat dinner, do their homework, or just plain horse around. 

And don’t even get me started on the politicians, those inept, contentious tools who, on camera, say how they’re trying to work together, but, in secret, bully their party colleagues into vowing to never cow to the demands of the other side.  They won’t even entertain the idea of compromise to deal with the issues they were elected and are paid to do.  I’m not surprised though.  They act the way their constituents act.  So perhaps they’re just doing what they’ve been hired to do after all. 

Frankly, I’m sick of it.  I keep remembering poor Rodney King, God rest his soul, saying, “Can’t we all just get along?”  Well, can’t we?  I, for one, think we can.  The world just needs to look to the writing community for a good example.

I’ve worked in various industries, and while I never had any enemies, in the end, it was always about looking out for number one.  You’d think in an industry such as ours, where we, as writers, don’t operate as a team, but rather as individuals, that we’d be more cutthroat, more backstabbing and winner-take-all.  Yet that’s about as far from the truth as you can get. 

Perhaps it’s the ambiguity of the prize, the fact that what we each have to offer differs so much and that makes it seem like we’re not truly competing with each other, but it hardly explains why, as a community, we’re so…friendly and helpful, so cooperative and supportive.  I’ve heard of a few writers who got jealous when someone they knew landed an agent or a book deal, but those are rare. 

I’m not entirely sure why but, I think what we share is something akin to how disaster survivors are seen and treated by those unaffected, kind of a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God mentality.  Or maybe it’s just that we know what it’s like to fail, to be rejected, and our hearts ache.  That would mean we are compassionate, as humans are wont to be.  We see the other side as something more than just competition, more than the enemy, more than the scavenger trying to steal our nuts.  We see them as we see ourselves, and that is what the world needs more of.       



Wednesday, January 2, 2013

IWSG: The Courage to Go On

Today is the first Wednesday of the month, time for

Being insecure, I’m usually a taker during these little IWSG sessions.  I typically gripe and moan about all the things moving against me, most of which I have no control over.  And while I feel no differently this month than I do most any other, I’m not going to give in to it this time.

As a newish writer, I’ve gone through all the normal ups and downs, the doubts about my talent and skill, my loathing of querying, landing a book deal, its eventual launch, and, most recently, less than stellar sales, plus every blip imaginable in between.  And now, when I should be focusing on what comes next, like my second book, I’m instead obsessed with my lack of serious marketing skills and how I should rectify that. 

It never ends.  The worrying, the doubt, the insecurity…no matter how much success I manage, there’s always the big unknown looming ahead.

So what’s an insecure writer to do?

First off, focus on those small, hard-earned successes and remember where you were just prior and how far you’ve come since starting out, especially how high the odds were that you would even make it this far.

Second, once you’ve identified where and what you lack or what the next problem is, set into motion a plan on how to fix it.  For me, that meant finding a book tour company better suited to my genre.  Even a repped author can’t solely depend on an agent or publisher to know what’s best for you and your book.  It’s true what they, you know, that authors must learn to market themselves and their titles.  That’s a big chore if you know nothing about marketing, because before you even put a plan into motion, you must teach yourself what those components might be. 

That’s most daunting, I think, ‘cause this is serious business we’re talking about, incredible potential you don’t want to slip through your fingers due to ignorance.  It’s all in the baby steps, I say.  Yeah, sure, that tiny step might not work or be in the right direction, but you learn something when you make a mistake.  Even better, you might meet someone who can help you out, point you in the right direction, or give you a referral to another who can. 

So that’s my message.  While I know it would be pointless to say don’t worry, I will say this, don’t let it get it you down.  Don’t let it consume you to the point where you can’t move, can’t take another step for fear of failing.  Just taking the step is a measure of success.  Go ahead, pout, cry, stomp your foot and rave like a lunatic.  Then pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and take another teeny tiny step.

Yes, it takes time and patience, and I mean a lot of patience. And you should measure success in millimeters not miles.  But don’t quit.  You never know when things will turn around, when you’ll meet that one or few people who will make a difference.  You really have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

And remember...