Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How can readers help authors? Reviews and Social Media!

I love when a reader emails or Tweets "I loved this book! How can I help spread the word about your work?" You know you've made a connection in some way and that feels good. No, not good. Amazing!

So if you're a reader and you want to help an author, what do you do?

1. Write a review--Places like Amazon and Goodreads are great places to leave reviews for authors. This helps spread the word about a book you especially enjoyed and can help you connect with the other readers with like minded interests. Will the author read your review? Depends on who they are, but personally, I like to read mine. Even the bad ones. How else will I be a life long learner if I don't hear it all? Some authors may not like to admit it, but reviews--good and bad--are important. They are what get others interested in the story.

By the way, it's always great to leave a text review, but even a quick review where you just star the work is fine, too. It all helps!

2. Social Media--Did you just love that book? Did you relate to every character? Feel like you were living their lives? Then don't keep that inside. Hurry to your Twitter account and post your emotion right now! Or update your Facebook status asap. Snap that Instagram pic of the book cover and share it with the world.

Authors are always told to use social media as a way to connect with their readers, but it's also a way for a reader to express how they felt about they read. If you want to help out your favorite author, tag them on social media as you talk about their book. If you see that author's name in a Tweet, retweet it. This is spreading the word just like leaving a review. Share the author's post on Facebook. Like their photos.

You'd be surprised how these simple acts can help an author out!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Writing Basics 101: Setting the Scene

“Set the scene.”

I remember hearing those words way back in middle school when I was first learning about how to write a story. My teacher wanted us to mention where the story was taking place and add in details like “They sat in a chair” or  “The house was made of brick.”

As I got older, I understood that setting the scene meant adding in more sensory details. “The smell of fresh lemon was in the air” or  “The rough grain of the wood against her hand was uncomfortable.”

I’ve been writing for a long time now. You’d think I’d have “setting the scene” down.

But I don’t. In fact, an editor I’ve been working with recently says “setting the scene” is the number one thing she comments on when it comes to my writing.  I set the scene, but not quite enough. There are always sensory details and descriptive wording I leave out.

If you don’t “set the scene” properly, you’re missing a valuable opportunity to provide insight into your characters. Setting the scene gives us juicy details we don’t even realize help shape the inner workings of a character’s mind.

Let’s go back to this example: The house was made of brick.

What kind of brick? Is it a one-story home? Two story? Is there a balcony or a porch? Is the house close to the road or faraway? Is it a cookie cutter house in a suburban neighborhood or an older home in the country?

Pretty basic stuff, right? Why does it matter?

Little details like that can give us information about a character’s socio-economic situation. It can tell us what part of the country they live in. It can tell us if they are snobby or down to earth.  It builds a picture of who they are that isn’t built on just dialogue. We can make inferences about them based on setting information.

Go back and look at your work. It’s basic Writing 101, but you might be surprised to see how much you are leaving out in your scene setting. When I write, I typically write hard and fast, trying to get the basic plotline done quickly. Then I go back and look at each scene, making sure to set the scene every time a location changes.  Sensory elements are woven in here, too.  It is worth the time in the editing process to do this and will strengthen your story more than you can imagine.

So dig a little deeper! If you do this, your writing will be that much richer!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Last 5 Days to vote for Butterfly Suicide on Kindle Scout

Okay, this is it! The final five days until my Kindle Scout campaign is over....

It's been an interesting journey. I've watched my stats go up and down. Like way down. Realistically, my chances of getting offered a contract--despite how much I believe in my book--are not great.

That's okay. Live and learn, right?

I really appreciate all those who have nominated my book, and no matter what happens, I hope to be able to get a copy of Butterfly Suicide into your hands soon! Here's the synopsis of the book and after you read it, if you feel so inclined, head on over to Kindle Scout to read an excerpt and nominate it.


Butterfly suicide.

The blood on the cafeteria floor has been washed away and the bullet holes plastered over, but those words carved deeply into the back of the worn auditorium chair will always be a reminder for the students of Rockingham High School of what happened there last May. For Stephen Valley, the brother of infamous school shooter Jude Valley, that day is one he will never be allowed to forget—especially since the small town blames him for the loss of the seven students killed in Jude’s rampage. Tormented by cruel late night phone calls, vandalism to his home, and a growing reputation as a bad boy, Stephen longs to escape to a place where no one has ever heard of Jude or his deeds. Unfortunately, poverty has a firm grip on his mother’s finances, imprisoning him in the bigoted town with no options to leave.

Monica Monroe, a self proclaimed Theatre Nerd, hates being known only as the sister of Jude Valley’s murdered girlfriend, Simone. The constant questions about what really happened the day of Simone’s death, the sympathetic looks from strangers, the way her parents are falling apart—it’s all become too much. Even though she’s never believed Jude killed her sister over a lover’s quarrel, she does blames herself for not seeing what a monster he was.  Her mother and father have decreed she never talk to her secret crush, Stephen Valley, but when she is partnered with him for an acting scene in Theatre class, Monica views this as an opportunity to finally get some answers. Being paired with Stephen proves to be dangerous for her emotional well being and her heart. When he is beaten up for being on her street, Monica realizes his life after the actions of Jude has been as traumatic as her own.

When they look inside Jude’s Artistic Bible—a collection of Jude’s most private and graphic art work—Monica and Stephen decipher a devastating secret which threatens to rip their families apart and destroy their blossoming secret romance. Together they must decide whether to confront the truth or keep quiet the reason for the “butterfly’s suicide.”

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Creating Love Triangles in Young Adult Fiction

Nothing takes me back to my youth more than reading a great tale of unrequited romance in high school or  young love gone bad. As someone who was falling in love at every turn in the road as a teenager, teen heartache is something I remember all too well. The highs, the lows (oh god, the lows)--it's how we learn the basics about relationships. My latest book, Butterfly Suicide, has a love story in it, but not a love triangle. I love a good triangle, but in this book, it just wasn't necessary. In a story about the aftermath of high school shooting for the shooter's brother and the sister of one of his victims, the drama is pretty strong without adding in an additional element. Currently, Butterfly Suicide is part of the Kindle Scout program! Please click on the link to nominate it for publication! ONLY 9 DAYS LEFT!!!! BUTTERFLY SUICIDE NOMINATE HERE

But I digress from the topic...

Love triangles...they certainly do make for interesting reading material. It seems like every young adult fiction series has one, too. Not that I'm complaining. Let's face it: a little love intrigue can really spice things up!

But what are the elements of a good love triangle? Here's one simple formula that we will look at today:

Girl has best friend who has the hots for her and she sorta reciprocates. He is nice, good looking, and makes her laugh. Then the new guy enters the scene. Like Guy 1, he is good looking, but with a devil may care quality that she finds fascinating and repellent all at the same time. Usually, he's hurt and burdened by a dark past. Guy 2 still sweeps our Girl off her feet, though at some point he will screw up so that she can fall into the arms of Guy 1. However, Guy 2 will redeem himself in some way and that's when the decision moment happens: who does she pick to be with?

Spoiler alert---it's probably going to be Guy 2. As much as we like Guy 1, somehow he always gets overlooked.

How did I do? Does the above scenario sound familiar? Have you encountered it in your reading or perhaps in your own writing?

While there are always variations to the love triangle scenario (hey, sometimes Guy 1 might win after all), it's usually pretty much the same thing. And that's not necessarily a bad thing! The fun part is seeing how it all works out in the end and what the author does to hold the reader's interest.

I'm talking, once again, about the emotional connection.

I love it when an author can surprise me with the love triangle scenario or more importantly, get me emotionally invested. Now, most of you are probably familiar with the whole Bella, Edward, Jacob situation from Twilight.  The thing is--that triangle is so famous because the author was able to make a strong connection with her readers and they couldn't stop talking about it. Heck, they were even picking teams, hence the Team Edward/Team Jacob phenomena.

Another example of this is The Mortal Instruments series and The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. Both tales sucked me in, but for different reasons. Both also had strong love triangles that evoked an emotional response from me.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: Do not read further if you don't know how this series ends. I'm going to be talking turkey here and I don't want to ruin it for you.

In the Mortal Instruments, our triangle is Clary (Girl), Simon (Guy 1), and Jace (Guy 2). They pretty much fall in line with the earlier example I gave you. However, there are some cool twists that I didn't see coming like...wait for it...the possibility of incest. Clary and Jace are supposedly brother and sister though they don't know that at first. This throws a kink in the relationship and drives her back to Simon. However, the author doesn't let us get too comfortable with that since she turns Simon into a vampire and introduces a werewolf that has designs on him. There's also a possible distraction to the triangle from Alec who is Jace's best friend and his sworn "soldier" partner. In the end, everything works out fine and readers everywhere celebrate when we discover that Jace and Clary are not related to each other and free to love. Simon and Alec both find other love interests so the reader is left with the feeling that all's well that ends well.

For me, the emotional connection in this book was that I was not rooting for Jace. I actually didn't really even like him. I wanted Simon to win Clary's heart and the author briefly gave me that satisfaction only to jerk it away. I should have stopped reading right then, but damn---the emotional connection made me keep going.

In the Infernal Devices we have something a little different. Tessa is our Girl. Will and Jem are Guy 1 and 2 but they are a little different. They were close friends which made the love triangle even more interesting because you knew it would probably break up a strong relationship that had been established prior to Tessa's arrival on the scene. Once again, I had trouble liking Will and rooted for Jem. However, to my surprise I started to really like Will and that complicated my feelings. Who was going to win her heart? Who deserved it more? Was it possible she could have a relationship with both men? Without giving it away, I have to say that the author did a good job of giving me what I wanted in the end.

But again, she stuck to the basics of the love triangle rule and established a strong emotional connection with the reader.

So what can you take away from this? What's the point? When writing a love triangle, find ways to deviate from the formula, but give us solid, developed characters that are flawed, but still easy to relate to.

Take a look at your own work. Do you have the love triangle? What are your characters doing that make us care about them? How are you establishing that emotional connection? Is your heroine torn about who she should be with? Is the reader supposed to see things about the men that she doesn't? Are we privy to the inner workings of the minds of the love triangle members?

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sex in YA novels: How far do you go?

Nominate Butterfly Suicide for publication at Kindle Scout: http://amzn.to/2qWYnFx

How far can you go when writing about romance in young adult novels? What kind of love are young readers looking for? Is sex allowed? How graphic should it be? Should it be in there at all?

It's a big debate for some writers, as well as, some readers.

Remember when the Twilight book series first came out? Keep in mind, I'm talking about before all the craziness of the movie versions. Most of the people I talked to about this series were really into the romance of it, the lingering looks between the two main characters, the blatant yet unsatisfied desire, the sexual tension! This is the type of romance that many older YA readers(20s-30's) remember experiencing in high school or really wanted to experience. It's just one of the reasons they like romance in young adult stories.

But then comes the sex.

I recall sitting around with a group of women at lunch and one of them was talking about how Edward and Bella were getting to the point of having sex in the book. This woman didn't have a problem with the progression of the relationship, but she'd decided that she would not allow her daughter to read any further in the series until the daughter was much older. She also felt like once the writer brought sex into the book, the romance factor was gone. To me it sounded as if the story had taken a turn into adulthood that the reader wasn't willing to follow.

I think that's an interesting phenomenon and really very personal to the reader. And as a writer, it's something you have to be aware of. Romance and sex can make or break your young adult book depending on how you use them. Sometimes it’s the factor that sells books. Sometimes it’s the factor that turns your audience off. It all depends on how you weave those things and what style of YA book you are writing.

When I write YA, I usually don't set out to have a romance in the story. However, because of the age group, because of the hormone factor, because it's virtually impossible to put two teenagers in the same room and not have them notice each other, some sort of relationship usually develops. That's life though. That's reality. That's what YA readers cling to.  When it comes to sex, I only let my characters get there if its part of the natural progression, but it's still something I'm cautious about. In my young adult novel, Bayou Myth, sex is a factor in the story, though it's not something my main character is doing. However, we do learn a lot about my protagonist's thoughts on the subject! Though my book is mainly a YA horror novel, it does have a romance in it that helps drive the story along.

In my latest novel, Butterfly Suicide, sex is certainly a factor in the story line. While my characters are grappling with the aftermath of a high school shooting and how it affects their lives, they can't help but notice each other, too. In fact, they begin to question if they are attracted to each other because of what happened or are they're feelings of desire real deeper than that? It's a tough question because we're dealing with two people whose sphere of experience in the romance department is limited. Isn't that how it starts out for most teens anyway?

In the end, a writer should let the romance and sex angle develop how it will. What would be the natural progression for your character? Put aside the audience you are writing to (yeah, I know lots of people will contradict me on that one) and allow your characters to just develop!

Butterfly Suicide has been accepted into the Kindle Scout program. That means if it get enough nominations and attention, it might be published by Kindle Press. Readers who nominate it also get a free copy of the ebook as well. If you're interested in helping a writer succeed, please click on the link provided and nominate Butterfly Suicide for publication. Thanks! Butterfly Suicide Kindle Scout Nomination