Monday, December 31, 2012

Writing Resolutions and Reflections

When it comes to New Year's resolutions, you either buy into them or not. Most of them fall by the wayside come February despite our best intentions.

Personally, I don't mind New Year's resolutions. I like the idea of starting fresh, of tackling new ideas, setting goals. True, some of my goals aren't always realistic. It really is too late for me to be a professional ice skater at the Olympics and I must let that dream go. Never mind that I never learned to skate in the first place...

As a writer, I'm a big believer in setting goals, but I also feel that it's important to spend time reflecting on what you've accomplished as well. Too often we beat ourselves up if we didn't quite make the daily word count or we didn't get that elusive offer from the super agent of our dreams. It's important to stop and review what you have achieved.

So...let's see. What have I achieved this year...

This year I published a young adult novel through Dragonfire Press and took it on two book tours that were really successful. I got to experience the control of lowering and lifting my book price, being responsible only to myself when it came to promotion, and trying out the KDP Select program (boo!)

On the ghostwriting front, I wrote three novels and got paid well for them. I also signed on to co-write a book with another novelist and that project should be wrapping up soon.

I reviewed and interviewed dozens of authors here on All Things Writing, and really learned a lot through the experience. Writing reviews that are meaningful are harder than I thought and understanding the way a writer interprets your words has been a challenge at times. I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity that Innovative Online Book Tours has given me to be a tour host and reviewer for them. It has definitely improved my own writing!

My goals for 2013 are simple: Keep writing.

Everything else will fall into place.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Don't get taken for a virtual ride - part 3

In the first two parts of this three part series, we’ve looked at why you should consider a virtual blog tour and what it consists of. In this final part, I want to explain to you a system for ensuring you get the service you require and not cheated along the way.

Let’s now look at the way in which you narrow down your choice of organizer by applying a 4-stage process. I'm going to assume you've made a list of the operators who offer tours that more or less match your requirements calculated using the above.

Here are some key areas to investigate when making your choice.

Track record Ignore their testimonials because you can never be certain of how genuine they are. Look at previous book tours and try to see what stops the organizer's sent the writers to. By all means ask the organizer for this information but don't be surprised if you’re firmly refused an answer because giving you a full list of their contacts kind of negates the need for their services, after all!

Most important about these stops is to ascertain:

  1. Roughly how much traffic they get. which you do by checking a traffic counter (if they have one), by basing it on how many 'Facebook friends' they have or by ascertaining how many of their posts have attracted comments. While no-one can promise you sales, the organizer should be able to guarantee you exposure and you aren't going to get that if only a small number of visitors actually view the blogpost.

  2. How relevant is the genre of the blog in relation to the books that are promoted there? It doesn't matter that the genre of the blog you’re looking at doesn't suit your book (unless you know for certain that this is one of the tour stops), it just matters that the organizer has sufficient contacts and has taken appropriate care when fixing up the tour stop for the other author’s book.

  3. Whether the book is properly presented - i.e. the text is nicely formatted, the links to the purchase pages and the author's blog are properly functional and that the blog-page is navigable from the home page.

If any or all of these are substandard, dismiss the organizer and move on.

Specify your minimum requirements

Draw up a specification in terms of what type of blogs you wish to appear on and include a statement as to the minimum level of traffic which you'll consider. For example, this might take the form of how many Facebook friends the blogmaster has to have or whether the blog is updated daily - another good indicator of how busy it's likely to be.

State your genre

A busy tour organizer will be arranging fixtures for a multitude of books and it may well not be obvious which genre yours belongs to, especially if your cover doesn't contain a subtitle such as 'A swashbuckling historical romance' or 'Book 3 in the Planet Zombie series'. Thus (taking a literary classic as an example) a book titled 'Robinson Crusoe' showing a male face and a backdrop of a tropical island might well be assumed to be a travel guide. It's easily done and you'll tie yourself up in knots afterwards arguing as to why your book was advertised in the wrong place.

Payments

The organizer will want paying - that's only reasonable - but it's not true to say that they do all the work at the outset. They do the majority of the work before the tour starts but a lot of it is winged once you're underway. Try offering stage payments - e.g. 25% with order, 50% a day or two before the tour starts and the remaining 25% once all the blog spots have been filled.

There's nothing like a good old-fashioned cash incentive to persuade people to deliver on their promises.

List out these requirements in an email and forward it to your chosen contenders and see what they say. By all means include a 'softener' such as "I'd be pleased to hear your proposals which either match or provide a good approximation to my stated requirements." That doesn't (or shouldn't) close any doors.

Not only is your blog tour an expensive outlay, it's your debut and you'll never have a second one. I'm not suggesting tour operators are dishonest in any way but they do get very busy and, like any human, can be prone to cutting corners. Just make sure that's it's not you they do it to.

Clive West is co-owner of indie publisher Any Subject Books and you can see more about them on their website or on Facebook. He has also written a full-length novel called The Road and a collection of short stories with twists in their tails called Hobson's Choice. Both are available on Amazon with Hobson's Choice being produced in paperback format as well as Kindle.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas from All Things Writing


We at All Things Writing wish you and your family a happy Holiday Season! We will return this Thursday with new insights on writing!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Forgive Me, Alex by Lane Diamond--Review

 
Okay, here's a read that I couldn't put down! Check this one out over the holidays!
 

 

Here is the blurb:

Tony Hooper stands in shadow across the street, one amongst many in the crowd of curiosity-hounds gathered to watch a monster's release. Seventeen years after Mitchell Norton, the devil, terrorized Algonquin, Illinois on a spree of kidnapping, torture and murder, the authorities release the butcher from psychiatric prison. Tony longs to charge across the street to destroy Norton--no remorse--as if stepping on a cockroach. Only sheer force of will prevents his doing so. The devil walks the world again. What shall Tony do about it? Aye, what indeed. After all, this is what Tony does. It's who he is. The devil himself long ago made Tony into this hunter of monsters. What a sweet twist of fate this is, that he may still, finally, administer justice. Will FBI Special Agent Linda Monroe stop him? She owes him her life, so how can she possibly put an end to his? Tony Hooper and Mitchell Norton battle for supremacy, with law enforcement always a step away, in this story of justice and vengeance, evil and redemption, fear and courage, love and loss.

Okay, I chose to review this one because there were elements of the story that reminded me of Dexter. I'm a fan of both the show and the book and wanted to see if this story could possibly hold up next to Jeff Lindsey's tale of  a serial killer who kills other serial killers.

It does!

And then some....

Let me just say that while, yes, there are some Dexter comparison's to be made here, Forgive Me, Alex is a great tale all on it's own. It's dark, twisted, fast paced and allows you to really understand what the main character, Toby Hooper, has become and why. I thought this was an extremely well written thriller with just the right twists and turns to keep me wondering about how the end would turn out.

As far as character development, you've got two distinct voices in this novel. The book is broken into sections where it is narrated by Toby and at other times, by Mitchell Norton. Though both men are considered killers, their mindset and reasons for what they do are vastly different. At first, I thought this technique of being inside their minds at varying points was a bit distracting, but it really hooked me as the book progressed.

There are also flashbacks in the book that take you back to 1978 when terrible things were afoot in the small town of Algonquin. These things are pretty graphic and not for the reader who isn't prepared for them. I have to say that the scene I knew was coming, the one the author sets you up for, was handled really well. It involves the death of a child, (I'm a teacher so the thought of that makes me flinch), and Mr. Diamond could have gone really far with the graphic nature of the crime. Instead, he chose not to and that particular scene ends up standing out for me as being very well written and memorable--almost comforting to the reader.

I enjoyed the female characters in this book. Both came across as strong women.

I did know what was going on when the new murders began in Algonquin. That's probably just my own writer brain working and it's pretty hard to pull one over on me. Of course, I say that, but I was surprised by the very end where there is a slight twist to the story. Obviously, I don't want to give away too much, but I noticed there is a second book in this series. Yes! I will definitely read it!

Christmas is coming friends and Forgive Me, Alex would be a great gift for someones Kindle this holiday season! Congrats, Mr. Diamond on writing a fun thriller that I would recommend to our readers here at All Things Writing.

Here is his author bio and book links:

I write fiction, long and short. My writings cross over many genres and focus on diverse subjects, ranging from the mysteries of the human mind, with its fragile psychological and emotional states, to the everyday joy and anguish of life on Earth.

I've been an avid reader my entire life, and started writing at the age of 12. I love a good story, of course, a compelling plot and satisfying conclusion. Yet as a reader, I've always been drawn to great characters. The characters bring me back to an author time and time again. This shows in my writing, where I attempt to create authentic, complex, real characters you can come to love, and in whose company you feel at home. Or maybe you'll despise a character and want to stick a fork in his eye. Hey, bad guys are fun too!

I did my tour in the real world, serving in the U.S. Air Force, then working as everything from a forklift operator to a bartender in my youth, before settling in as Business Services and Project Manager for a large manufacturing and distribution concern. Now, at long last (Man! Why did I wait so long?), I'm putting pedal to the metal in pursuit of the author's life.

After many years as a Freelance Editor, with several clients published or aspiring to be so, I co-founded Evolved Publishing, where I wear hats as Publisher, Executive Editor, and Author. As an author, I started with a few short stories, and released my debut novel, a psychological thriller called "Forgive Me, Alex," in December 2011. The sequel, "The Devil's Bane," is under way and due Spring 2013.

You can find out more about me at my website: www.LaneDiamond.com.

FORGIVE ME, ALEX KINDLE EDITION
FORGIVE ME,ALEX PAPERBACK






Thursday, December 20, 2012

Don't get taken for a virtual ride - part 2

In the first part of this three-part series, we looked at why you should consider a virtual blog tour to promote your book. We’re now going to investigate the three different types of stop which make up a typical tour.

These are:

Interview

You will be sent a list of standardized questions which you will then need to turn to suit your book without appearing over-pushy or spammy. Once you know which blog you'll be appearing on, notice how many of the answers are actually used in the finished interview of other writers. Remember, these interviews aren't like articles where you can happily include a short bio at the end that ensures you get a plug. Try, wherever you can and without appearing too commercial, to refer back to your novel because that might end up being your main selling point.

Book review

You send or gift a copy of your book to the reviewer who will then write an independent review. Given that these people usually work on the margins, you would do well to send it along with a 1 to 3 page synopsis so that they can (theoretically) ‘get away with’ reading a chapter or two and the synopsis. Before anyone flames me, I'd say to please note I'm not condoning this type of reviewing, I'm just being realistic about what can happen.

Guest posting

You'll be (typically) asked to write a 400 to 600 word piece on a different and specified subject for every guest posting. This post will then conclude with a bio (your only selling point so make it interesting and include backlinks to your book, Facebook page, Twitter account etc).

Now you need to work out how long the tour should last.

Remember that only the middle one of these three options will require little input from yourself therefore you need to consider very carefully how much time you have to commit to the blog tour. It can easily take 3 to 4 hours of preparation and administration per stop - how much time can you set aside?

Once you've done this, you'll be in a position to decide which type of tour you want. As a rough rule of thumb, allow between $5 and $20 per stop to cover the organizer's costs. Thus a tour with 3 interviews, 1 to 3 book reviews and 3 guest posts will probably set you back between $50 and $150.

But, is cheapest the best?

In part 3 we’ll look at how you establish which blog tour operator is for you and how to make sure that you get that much-needed exposure for your book.

Clive West is co-owner of indie publisher Any Subject Books and you can see more about them on their website or on Facebook. He has also written a full-length novel called The Road and a collection of short stories with twists in their tails called Hobson's Choice. Both are available on Amazon with Hobson's Choice being produced in paperback format as well as Kindle.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dream On by Renita Pizzitola--Cover reveal!

I'm one lucky girl today! I get to do a cover reveal for one of my favorite Lyrical Press authors, Renita Pizzitola. Isn't her last name just fun to say? As many of you know, book covers are a hot topic for me because I believe they can make or break a book. A cover tells the reader so much about the genre of the story. So check this smokin' hot book cover out and let it tantilize your senses.....


Nice, huh?

Okay, here's the book info for this upcoming release! I don't have the book blurb at this time, but I promise to post it soon.


Title: Dream On

Author: Renita Pizzitola

Genre: Paranormal/Romance

Publisher: Lyrical Press

Release Date: May 2013

 

 

Author Bio:

 

Renita Pizzitola writes Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy. An avid reader herself, she has always enjoyed stories with witty humor, romance, and fascinating characters. Renita lives in Texas with her husband and two children. When not writing, she enjoys reading everything she can get her hands on, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and playing referee to her two typically adorable children.

 

Visit www.renitapizzitola.com for more information

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thought Provoking Fiction, An Underserved Market

Today's guest really struck a chord with me as I read his blog post. This is someone I hope to hear more from soon! Be sure to check out his books, too!--Mary Ann



First off, I’d like to thank Ms. Loesch for giving me this guest spot on her blog today. With the number of literary blogs out there now exceeding the magnitude of the national debt, I am tickled to death to be on a good one. All Things Writing is one of the few that I keep coming back to. In time, maybe my own blog will rise to this level but in order for that to happen I’d have to replace myself with guest bloggers. Hmm… Now that’s a thought.

At any rate, my name is John C. Brewer, physicist, craftsman, and the author of several books published with the micropress PlotForge, Ltd. I grew up reading fantasy and hard science fiction, and then moved into techno-thrillers. I even went through a Louis L’Amour phase there for a while, but who hasn’t? My favorites were Tolkien (of course), Eddings, Brooks, Anthony, Asimov, Bradbury, Clancy, Coonts, Crichton, Follett and perhaps my all time favorite, which you’ve probably never heard of, James P. Hogan. That guy could write some hard science fiction. All these authors crafted stories that were well-researched and deep. Except for Clancy, they had strong character development and usually a subplot that made you think. Clancy was always just... Clancy.

But in college I stopped reading fiction for the most part. Between books on particle physics and astrodynamics (partly inspired by those great Hogan stories), I was hoping to make science fiction a reality rather than just words on paper. It took a dozen years as a rocket scientist to realize that my employers didn’t share my enthusiasm and were primarily interested in making money, not creating cool stuff. So somewhere along the way, I started writing and reading again and recovered most of my brain. Still searching for a few bits and pieces.


Hogan inspired my decision to become a physicist and he’s still inspiring my penchant for melding scientific advancement with social impact in my writing. But in those years when I was absent from the literary world, this kind writing seems to have fallen out of favor. I don’t see the thought provoking kind of fiction one used to find at my local bookstore. Where are the Asimovs, Hogans, and even the Clancy’s? Who is filling Crichton’s massive shoes? In large part, the literary world seems to have been taken over by sound bite inspired marketing - books that offer little in the way of intellectual challenge and appeal primarily to a crowd that Tweets loudly and often.

I understand why this is true. With a bulky, expensive century-old business model, the remaining large publishers simply can’t afford to take a loss. By catering to the sensational whims of the social media crowd they can quickly recover enough of their investment to keep the whole operation creaking forward, or at least sideways. However, this business model does not produce much thought provoking fiction - an underserved market that I am convinced still exists. 

Regardless, I’m not really capable of writing anything else. That is why I ultimately went with PlotForge, dedicated to publishing and marketing thought provoking, intelligent fiction. Plus, they had a cool name and logo.






It is also one of the reasons I like Mary Ann’s blog. She, and her guests, understand and respect this emerging business model. In today’s world, it is a common misconception that publication by one of the big six (or soon to be big five) validates a book. A lot of book bloggers and reviewers fall into that same trap. That’s unfortunate, given the quality of storytelling coming from the major publishers. While it isn’t universal and, in fact, The Darlings, Mary Ann’s latest reviewed book, sounds pretty cool, it is a trend that can’t go unrecognized by a serious reader. So if you are looking for the kind of fiction that makes you think, then small presses and even some self-published authors have the upper hand. And checking out these alternatives isn’t much of a risk these days. The prices for ebooks are lower than their big publisher counterparts, and if the book has mostly four and five star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads you’re safe giving it a look. Most of the time you can even read the first few chapters online so there’s no risk at all.

Fiction is meant to explore the world of ideas. That is its power and my passion. Publicly traded companies with antiquated business models are stifling those ideas in pursuit of quick profits. Fortunately, technology has come to the rescue giving authors a way to get quality, thought provoking fiction into the hands of readers. So, if you’re like me and have been looking for a great story with ideas that stick with you, check out some indie authors. You might like what you find.

- John C. Brewer

Bio:

John C. Brewer grew up in a navy family and has lived all over the United States. He has worked as a physicist, rocket scientist, cabinet maker, carpenter, soccer coach, submarine driver, auto mechanic, video game designer, gunsmith, and his favorite job, author. He is happiest when devising elegant solutions to problems, whether it is crafting his latest novel, building bookcases for a customer, or just learning something new. His hobbies and interests are no less varied ranging from writing, science, motorcycles, martial arts, spirituality, soccer, history, wood working, fitness, astronomy, explosives, shooting, and pretty much anything that goes bang!
John has always been fascinated with the natural world and our place in it. Like his boyhood heroes, the scientists and explorers of old, the basis of John’s insatiable curiosity is his belief in a knowable, divinely-inspired creation filled with order and chaos, good and evil, darkness and light. It is these timeless themes that drive his personal ethos and pursuit of excellence in all he does.
John currently lives in Huntsville, Alabama with his wife and sons, where he is at work on a new novel, a set of high-end book cases, and his BMW motorcycle.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Don't get taken for a virtual ride - part 1

You've written your book, uploaded it, fine-tuned it and promoted it. Now you've got to the stage where the best way of getting sales is for people to seek out your name - be it the real Mc Coy or a nom-de-plume. Unless you're lucky enough to get featured in the mainstream media (national newspaper or television), the most cost-effective way of achieving this is to go on a virtual blog tour in much the same way as self-pubbed authors used to traipse from bookstore to bookstore with a car-full of their books to sign.

The most basic of tours starts at around $25 - a sum which it would be easy to blow on a single advert elsewhere and something which instantly makes it sound good value. This, along with the amount of effort required to build up contacts in order to arrange your own tour, makes it a no-brainer to put yourself in the hands of one of the many virtual book tour organizers who tout their services on the internet. Of course, if you know someone who's had a successful and pleasant experience with an organizer then your choice is probably already made. That said, I'd guess the reason why you're reading this is because, like me, you weren’t sure where to turn.

In fact, the choice can be quite baffling. Each operator (and there are dozens and dozens of them) will have a whole battery of options which are most likely to be a combination of the number of tour stops and the reviews which your book will (hopefully) get. There's no guarantee, of course, that these reviews will be good ones so make sure you've had friendly (but honest) people look over your book first so that you can make any editorial changes that they turn up. The last thing you need from a morale perspective is to pay for a tour organizer to then grant you a lousy review which they won’t take down for love nor money. Not only that, you’re quite likely to find the reviewer piously using your bad review to justify their 'honesty'. Such that:

"I didn't like this book ... etc etc ... I was given this book in exchange for an honest review."

Let's face it, if they keep giving people five stars, it looks fishy.

But I digress.

The first part of choosing the right tour is to understand that not all blog stops are the same. This is where virtual blog tours differ significantly from traditional author book signings with its 'another day, another butt-crushing chair in another corner of another draughty bookstore'. No, with virtual book tours, there are three main possibilities for blogstops, these being:

Interviews - where you will be asked a selection of (usually) standard questions such as your favorite authors, why you wrote your book etc.

Book reviews - where you provide a copy of the book and synopsis. The book is then either read and reviewed by the blogmaster or your synopsis just uploaded 'as is'.

Guest postings - where you will be required to write a 400 to 600 word posting (usually) on a topic relevant to both your book and the blog's target readership.

It makes sense to get a balance of these as anyone seeking to know more about you can then get a fuller picture. You also don't know exactly what's going to work so it's worth trying all the options.

In the next part we’ll look at these in more detail and then, in the final part, we’ll see how you can make sure that you get the best value for your money.

Clive West is co-owner of indie publisher Any Subject Books and you can see more about them on their website or on Facebook. He has also written a full-length novel called The Road and a collection of short stories with twists in their tails called Hobson's Choice. Both are available on Amazon with Hobson's Choice being produced in paperback format as well as Kindle.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Darlings by Cristina Alger--a Review

I freely admit that I have no head at all for the world of finance. Wall Street need ever fear I will swoop in and start trading. I admire people who live in that environment and can thrive from it though. After all, it's a great place to make lots of money---or lose everything.



I wasn't sure whether or not I would enjoy The Darlings by Cristina Alger, but when the publisher sent me the paperback version and I started reading, I was hooked! For the most part, it's a fast paced tale ripped right from the headlines and seems to mirror the Bernie Maddoff scandal. Here's the blurb I received on it:

The Darlings is one of the first novels set during the fall of 2008, when New York is reeling from the financial crisis. Bear Stearn, Fanny and Freddy, Lehman Brothers, and AIG have all collapsed. Hedge funds are closing in droves, and Howary LLP, the storied Wall Street law firm where Paul Ross has worked as an attorney for seven years, has imploded after the managing partner is indicted. Fortunately, Paul is married to Merrill Darling, daughter of billionaire financier Carter Darling, who offers him a job as head legal counsel for his massive hedge fund. Thrilled with his good fortune considering the dire economic circumstance of the time, Paul accepts his father-in-law's offer. But shortly thereafter, just as the Darling family is about to depart for Thanksgiving in the Hamptons, a tragic event places them at the center of a media firestorm, a regulatory investigation, and a red-hot financial scandal.

As I read the first half of the book, I found myself really caught up in Paul Ross's world. The Darlings are a prominent family, one that people like to be seen with, and Paul has carefully mastered the ropes of living with them. That being said, he definitely feels the pressure of working for his father-in-law. What I really liked about Paul's character is that you could really feel his stress and worry about his life and his love for Merrill. When things start to fall apart in the family's financial world and it's revealed that a Ponzi type scheme has been occurring, the reader feels just as torn as Paul does over what he should do. I think Ms. Alger did an excellent job of making him a believable character that we can care about.

In fact, I would say that all of the characters are well developed and I suspect from reading Ms. Alger's bio, that this is a world that she has traveled in herself. She has an inkling or two about what is going through the mind of the "good" guys and the "bad" guys in this tale.  It's that unique perspective that makes her writing flow and keeps the page turning.

That being said, I did feel that the novel slowed down a bit in the middle and I had some trouble keeping the character's straight. After all, it takes a lot of people who may or may not know anything about what's really going on for a scheme like this to work and sometimes sorting out who's who was a little tedious. I found myself wanting to skip ahead a bit to get to the action and find out the answer to the big question--what will Paul do? This story does have a twist at the end which I won't reveal, but I sort of suspected the surprise. I've read too many mysteries, too many thrillers, not to see that one coming.

In the end, this was a book that I really enjoyed. I hadn't kept up with the Bernie Madoff scandal as well as others. Hey, I'm a teacher--it's not like I have any money to invest! So for me, part of the charm of this story was learning more about the intricate world New York finance. I suspect that for those who are familiar with those things, this story may not be all that new.

The paperback version is coming out Dec. 21 and would make a great last minute stocking stuffer! Here is the Amazon link in case you are interested in pre-ordering.

The Darlings--Amazon Paperback Pre-Order

Thursday, December 6, 2012

In Medias Res

You see what I mean, confusing isn't it? And how does one remember which is which?

The real beginning of this blog starts here.

I've just begun this blog with a couple of sentences which should really be placed in the middle of this article. As a result, my opening didn't make a lot of sense to you, did it? Despite that, authors are constantly using this device to try to make the initial snippet of their books more exciting than they would otherwise be.

Capture the eye of the browsing buyer and it does wonders for your sales figures. Fact.

In Medias Res means 'in the middle of things' and, in literary terms, it's the transplanting of a section of text from the middle (where it belongs) to the beginning in order to make the book look particularly exciting/interesting etc.

Yes, in medias res is a proven technique and, yes, it can work. However, it can also backfire on the author. I'd like to look at a few types of case where the use of this device can really fail to deliver.

Geographical

Long before package holidays, electronic communications and Google Earth came on the scene, the notion of traveling to exotic or mysterious places was a surefire way of getting a reader interested. It was a popular technique in many genres but particularly effective with spy and crime stories. For the reader, this was ‘good stuff’ and the pages of such a book would be as near as they could ever hope to come to visiting such far-off destinations. Nowadays it's 'yeah, been there, done that' so the act of flitting from one location to another just to spice up a book's opening only serves to disorientate.

Technical

Another favorite opening involves completely baffling the reader with science (often of a highly spurious nature). Typically, the opening describes a complex process which is well underway in order to grab the reader's attention. This is a popular way of beginning horror stories (everything from traditional Gothic to modern vampire and zombie tales). Unfortunately it can easily become so technical that the only message which is conveyed is that the book’s too hard to follow.

Identities

One of my bĂȘte noires if ever there was. A number of characters (whom you don't know, of course) are discussing something in a particularly vague manner and, after a few pages, they are suddenly phased out in favor of more unknown characters whom you do get to know. You then follow these new characters until you catch up with the mysterious ones who appeared in the opening scene. This type of start is popular across just about all genres and it's invariably pretty dire to read. Who is this person? Who/what are they talking about? What's going on? Pass me another book ...

I'm well aware that in medias res can work so I'm not knocking it per se, I'm just saying that it's a dangerous weapon to wield so use it wisely.

Think not just of grabbing the reader's attention, but also of keeping it. With Amazon, it's so easy to return Kindle books and, if your opening is confusing or unrepresentative of what follows, you'll find the ratio of these returns to actual ‘bought and kept’ sales rising dangerously. Enough of these and you risk having the book or even your account suspended.

When you're creating the opening, think of the overall reader experience from the first few lines to the end of about chapter 3. A good rule of thumb is to use Amazon's 'Look Within' guide. Everything that you can see constitutes 'the opening' and it has to sell the rest of the book to the reader.

It's two of the big advantages of the electronic publishing age. From the author's point of view, moving great chunks of text around is a simple job. From the reader's point of view, a full refund for a purchase that didn't live up to expectation is just a click away - no shop assistant to convince about a creased cover, no having to remember to take it with you when you go near the bookshop.

So, next time you 'jump into the thick of things', think carefully about what it is you're jumping into and how and where you should jump.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Become a Guest Blogger at All Things Writing

Here at All Things Writing, we love having guest bloggers share their views and opinions on a variety of topics. It's also interesting to see how others approach and view the writing process.  Some of my favorite posts have been from guest bloggers or guest interviews.

This is how I look when I get ridiculous emails.
Lately, I've been getting some strange blogger requests. They all want a chance to talk with our readers, but I don't think they all want to talk about writing.

What gives me this clue?

Well, it starts when I read the email and it's full of bad punctuation or misspellings. Sometimes there are weird capital letters in the middle of words or the sentence structure is just not good.

Can you say spam boys and girls?

Rule of thumb, people: check your email for the above things before sending in your request. If  you really want to be a writer, you should be able to write a paragraph in an email that makes sense!

Secondly, some of them want the chance to write a blog piece that solely promotes a company or business. Now, I have nothing against self promotion. Heck, I do it all the time, but our readers are interested in things related to writing! Not your car dealership or your cosmetic company. Hence the title of the blog: All Things Writing.

However, that doesn't mean that if you want to blog for us that you can't promote yourself if you are a writer. I encourage you to send in book cover pics, bio information, or links to your latest work. That's the kind of promotion that is of interest to us.

So, if you have a great topic on writing, a fabulous interview idea, or a review of something phenomenal that you've just read---email me at maryannloesch@hotmail.com.

Just check your email before hitting the send button  and be sure to put Guest Blogger in the subject bar.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hire an Editor!

As many of you know, I like to review books. I'm willing to read almost any genre and this is one of the reasons I enjoy being a tour host for Innovative Online Book Tours.

I also enjoy supporting Indie authors. This is a tough time in the world of publishing. Getting an agent, getting your book published by a major house--these things are hard to come by. But there are so many talented authors out there! It's good to see them rise up and do well as Indie authors.

However....

A message to all authors who choose to pursue their dream of being a published author and self publish their work: hire an editor.

Suck it up and pay the money to have someone who knows what they're doing look over your manuscript. Nothing is more annoying than seeing beginning writing mistakes in a book you've paid for. It's one thing to have a crappy story line, but a whole other thing to have sloppy writing, too. While both can be fixed, the easiest to work on is the basics.

Cut the word "that."
Don't argue with me. Just do it.

Stick with "she said" versus "she said loudly."
Let your dialogue explain how loud it is. Make your reader work their imagination a little bit.

Watch out for things like, "he stood up." Drop the up. The only way you can stand is up so it's implied.

I guarantee if you start with those three things, you'll clean up a lot of things and make your writing tight.

Then hire an editor. An editor's job is to catch the pesky mistakes like the ones I just mentioned and to make sure your story is going in a believable, solid direction. The story shouldn't wander around like the muddy back roads of the Texas Hill Country, nor should your characters switch emotions every two paragraphs.

Indie authors get a bad name when they don't take care of the basics.