Friday, August 29, 2014

4 Ways to use Pinterest to Promote Your Books!

A year ago I vowed I wouldn't get sucked in.

I wouldn't lose more of my valuable writing time by hanging out on another social media site.

Guess what I did today? Yep. I got sucked in. Pinterest has now gained my interest.

Many of my writer friends have been singing the praises of this social media system all along and I've certainly been aware of it. As a teacher, I've perused it a time or two looking for new ideas for my classroom. From learning how to create fairies in a jar to discovering some great lesson planning sites for early theatre education, Pinterest has really helped me in my day job.

But what about in writing? How can a site like this be of use?

If you are not familiar with what Pinterest is, let me lay it out for you. It's kind of like your own bulletin board or scrap book. You can create multiple boards and on each board you can post things related to that board's topic. For instance, maybe you're really into comic books. Create a board titled Comic Books. You would then post pictures of comic book covers or characters there.

The key is to think visually!

And that's where Pinterest can be really useful for a writer.

Authors spend a great deal of time working on describing setting, locations, character physicality, etc. With Pinterest, you can find pictures of those things and post them on boards for your readers to come look at.

Trust me. It takes the reading experience to a whole new level! Here are four ways an author can use Pinterest to promote their work to a reader. By the way, you can view how I've used these techniques at

1. General book info. With Pinterest you can create a board that is specifically for your book. On the board you can post things related to the novel, such as, pictures of locations or pictures of specific things in the book. For example, my YA series takes place on the Louisiana bayou. I pinned pictures of the bayou to my board. Bayou Myth has lots of objects in it that are important to the story line. With that in mind, I made sure to pin pictures that represented those items. Medea's necklace, an antique compact mirror, and an owl broach play a central part in the book. I found some great examples of what those things look like and was able to put them on my Pinterest page for the Bayou Myth series. I think this is a great way for readers to connect with your work in a way that is visual and which will allow them to get an even better view of what the world is like that your characters live in.

2. Character traits. Character development is so important in our novels. If the reader doesn't relate to our hero/heroine, we're in trouble. Hopefully, that's not the case in your story though! Sometimes when I've finished reading something, I want a little more. That's where having a character page comes in handy. You can create a board on Pinterest devoted entirely to the things that your character enjoys and likes. You could even include things that may not have been in the novel, but help develop the character even more. The nice thing about a character page is that it doesn't necessarily have to be a public page. You can create a "secret" page which means only you can view it. If you're a writer who likes to research and gather materials before the writing process, this is a tool that can help spark your imagination.

3. Tease your audience about an upcoming book. Your new book is almost ready to publish, but you're still tweaking those last minute details. However, you're aware that it's important to start spreading the word about this new project. Create a page for the new book that offers only visual clues as to what the book might be about. This is a great way to entice your readers curiosity and keep them guessing about the content of the new book. You could even offer a giveaway contest to the person who correctly guesses the theme or subject of the book.

4. All about you.  Create a board that represents all of your wonderful attributes and interests. Readers love to connect with authors in a personal way. Show your readers what's on your book shelf by pinning book covers of authors you love. Give them a glimpse of your dachshund obsession by letting them glimpse cute photos of your favorite dog breed. Maybe you're a fan of a particular brand of chocolate. Let the world know on Pinterest.  Little things like this help a reader relate to you and maybe even remember you when your new book comes out!

So....what are you doing still reading this blog? Want to go to Pinterest? Look up on the left hand side of the blog and find the Pin It button. Pin All Things Writing to your board and get started on creating your own!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Writing in Layers--Six Steps to Improve Your First Draft

I think the editing process is flat out a pain in the ass. I really hate doing it, and yet, I can't seem to get my prose perfect the first time. Over the years, I've been given lots of checklists and revision tips, but recently a ghostwriting client provided me with a writing layers tool that is excellent for when you finish the first draft of a novel. I'm going to share a few steps of this tool with you in the hopes that it will help make the second draft of your novel stronger.

1. If you are writing a romance, check to make sure that every scene makes the reader worry about whether or not the main couple will end up together. If we aren't worried, if things are too perfect, change that scene until we are worried or cut it altogether.

2. Is the main character doing something he/she wants or is he/she just sitting around waiting for something to happen? We want to root for our protagonist so make them proactive.

3. Step into your antagonist's shoes and think about things from their point of view. Make a list everything you'd do to stop the protagonist.

4. Are your characters doing what you'd want to do in their situation or scene?Keep in mind, I'm not talking about what we would do, but what we would want to do if we actually had the courage or guts to do it.

5. What is the worst thing that could happen to a character in each scene? It doesn't have to happen, but it should make us worry that it might.

6. Every scene should make us feel like we walked in on the middle of a conversation--not the beginning of one. Start as close to the conflict as you can.

I have many more tips to share with you regarding cleaning up that first draft, but the above should be enough to get you started. You can either do them one at a time or you can do them all as you go through the novel. It's up to you!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Managing Your Time as a Writer

Do you hear that? Yes. It's the sound of the children making their way back to school after a long, lazy summer. Many parents breathe a sigh of relief while us teachers prepare to batten down the hatches and start a brand new year.

I love what I do, but I'm always sad about the end of summer. My prime writing time happens during those two and a half months where I'm not thinking about my students or their creative development. Instead, I'm focused on mine.

Managing your writing time no matter what career you are in is tough. Most of us don't have the luxury of sitting at home all day and escaping to another place with our imagination. The bills aren't going to pay themselves. So what's a working writer to do? After all, we're supposed to be networking, Tweeting, Facebooking, maintaining our websites, Pinteresting, and making ourselves available to readers--and writing! How do you do that on top of a full time job?

It ain't easy!

Everybody has their own method, of course. For me, I schedule my daily writing time for early in the morning. I put in about an hour before I have to start thinking about breakfast and getting the kiddo up. At night, I usually spend another hour editing. Weekends are my big days to push hard. I close the door which signals to the rest of my family: Don't bother her or she'll freakin' kill you. I also use those days to schedule tweets or to schedule my blog posts.

Yes, there are times when I lapse from my schedule. Honestly, as much as I love blogging and connecting with readers, I really need my writing time even more. So sometimes my blog posts may suffer, but I think the writing, getting the words down, is the most important thing.

So to those of you in the same predicament as me, good luck to you! Hang in there!

You can follow Mary Ann Loesch at or find her on Twitter: @maryannloesch!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Ashford Affair by Lauren Willig--a review

At RWA, I attended a fantastic workshop on the roots of historical romance. It was presented by two authors, one of which was Lauren Willig. After hearing her talk about the evolution of the historical romance, I was curious to check out her writing.

I'm so glad I did!

The Ashford Affair is a stunning romance that takes place in the 1920s and in the late '90s. It is a stirring look at the "titled" life and how the events of the past can change our lives in ways we never even imagined. With settings in Kenya, England, and New York, The Ashford Affair takes the reader on a whirlwind tour.

Clemmie is in her mid 30's and a successful lawyer. She comes from a unique family who have issues with the basics: sitting down and speaking the truth. Her grandmother, Addie, is celebrating her ninety-ninth birthday and the family has gathered together. However, Addie mistakes Clemmie for someone she knew in her youth: Bea. When Clemmie inquires who Bea is, no one wants to give her a straight answer. Confused by everyone's reticence to talk, Clemmie embarks on a journey of discovery that leads her to her grandmother's childhood in England where she grew up in the shadow of her cousin, the elegant and much sought after Bea.

There is so much to this story! Betrayal, love gone wrong, murder, a safari, and true romance---I couldn't put this one down. As many of you know, I like my romance to be steamy and full of heat. This tale actually does have sex, but it's what I would call elegant sex, behind closed doors, nothing to graphic, darling! Yet, what really pulled me in was the romance of it. Think Out of Africa with a dab of the modern world! The characters were so well built that I felt like I really was peeking into their private lives. Ms. Willig created a world of splendor tarnished by World War I.

If you like your romance with a dash of Downton Abbey, check out The Ashford Affair!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Q & A with Esmae Browder

All Things Writing has a few questions for our latest blogger, Esmae Browder! 

What is your story's heat level? How do you approach the sex scenes?

I’d say the heat is pretty darn hot in Ophelia’s Lessons! Since this is one of the stories in my Naughty Shakespeare series, I go on a Quill Pen system. This tale gets five Quill Pens! That means it was hot enough for Shakespeare’s quill to catch fire. When it comes to sex scenes, I let them unfold naturally. My erotica is very character driven so the style and type of sex they have is based on their personality.

How do you maintain activity as a writer when sitting at a desk all day?

Lots of breaks and I have an IV drip of caffeine that goes directly to my heart! Just kidding. It can be tough to sit behind a screen for long periods. I take walks, I go to the store, and I sometimes close my lap top and walk away. Those things help me keep my sanity and let me puzzle out my story.

What is it that you loved about the main characters in your story?

In all three books of the Naughty Shakespeare series that are currently out, my favorite thing about the main characters is that they aren’t who we’ve been led to believe. You know, the original stories that Ophelia’s Lessons (Hamlet), Ravishing Rosaline (Romeo and Juliet), and The Taming of the Prude (The Taming of the Shrew) are based on are all over 400 years old. We’ve certain preconceived ideas about them. It’s fun to change up those expectations and give each tale and character a new little twist.

What do you feel is your strongest type of writing? Humor? Angst? Confrontation scenes? Action? Sex? Sensuality? Sweet Romance? And why?

Humor. If you can’t laugh at yourself or situations, you’re in trouble. I think that’s especially true in novel writing, too. If your characters don’t have a bit of humor now and then, than it’s hard to identify and connect with them.

Are you social media savvy? If so what do you suggest for others? If not, why not?

I try to be. I love me some Facebook time and Twitter time. I’m constantly fiddling with my website because it’s fun. I love going to book signings and showing off my business cards with the QR codes on them. I think social media is an important tool for writers. It’s not going away, so if you’re serious about promotion, you gotta jump on the bandwagon and start learning about it!

What are some things from your life or things you have observed that you've infused into your stories?

That it’s important to take risks! All my characters take a risk of some sort. Maybe it results in good things, maybe not. But they take the chance instead of lamenting what could have been.

If you had an unlimited budget, where would you like to visit for story-related research?

Hmmm….so many places. However, I think jolly old England would up first. So much history and culture there. Of course, I’d never survive the plane ride. I’m way to anxiety ridden about flying.

Finally, tell us a little about your newest release!

Ophelia’s Lessons is a fun, erotic, modern day prequel to Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet. Ophelia is a sweet, innocent girl. Or is she? When her roommate, Portia, comes up with a plan to “educate” her on the ways of love, Ophelia discovers there’s a lot more to life than she thought. With the help of Horatio, Ophelia’s eyes are opened to a world of sexual delight that she hopes will help her capture the love of her life, Hamlet. But her new found world could also be her undoing. There are lots of secrets and lies surrounding Hamlet’s family which threatens to suck her in and crush her hopes and dreams…

Gotta question for Esmae? Feel free to ask!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Challenge of Writing Erotic Fiction

When people ask what genre I write in, I tend to hesitate and giggle…

I know  the moment I say “erotic fiction” the person will start to look at me differently.  So I like to hold onto those final few seconds before I let the truth drop.  It’s fun to see the comprehension cross their face as they realize what the word erotica means.

Next question is usually something like, “So do you write porn?” or  “Isn’t that like smut or something?”

Both questions make me laugh. If you are an erotica fan, you know that there are all kinds of books that fall within this category. True, some of it can be pushing the envelope of being something else, but good erotica, the kind that gets your toes curling and your engine revving, is about creating a story where the sexual elements enhance the tale, drive the story even, but the end result is a well written book that keeps the reader’s interest.

One of my challenges as an erotic fiction writer is to show readers that the storyline is just as important as the sex! Without a strong narrative,  the sex becomes boring. We want an emotional investment in our erotic characters just like we do with any other genre of fiction out there.

I hope the books in my Naughty Shakespeare series manage to hook you emotionally and get you hot and bothered at the same time. Shakespeare wrote these characters 400 years ago. All I did was provide them with a back story and spicy sex life. Ophelia’s Lessons is the first book in the series and is a modern day prequel to the play Hamlet.  You may recall that Ophelia was a tragic, doomed character driven to madness by Hamlet’s treatment of her. Ophelia’s Lessons explains why she was so infatuated with Hamlet and the lengths she would go to in order to capture his heart. Gone is the innocent young ingĂ©nue! She is replaced by a sexually vibrant young woman ready to explore all the acts of love--even if it means sleeping with Hamlet’s best friend, Horatio.

This erotic book is definitely not the story you read in high school English class!

So what category of erotic fiction does my Naughty Shakespeare series fall under? Good question! Because of the name “Shakespeare” it may be tempting to think this is historical erotica, but actually it’s best described as erotic romance. However, there are certainly many subgenres of erotica out there like steampunk erotica, fantasy erotica, paranormal, etc. You get the idea!

I encourage you to dive in to the Naughty Shakespeare series! Start with Ophelia’s Lessons and then venture on to Ravishing Rosaline (a prequel to Romeo and Juliet). Round it all out with The Taming of the Prude (a retelling of Taming of the Shrew). Look for new titles to be joining this series soon!

 May all your nights be erotic ones--Esmae Browder

Monday, August 11, 2014

A World Apart by CD Brennan---a review

Ah...young's so much fun to read about! Especially when you've already been through it and come out the other side. I love finding a sweet romance where I'm totally hooked by the end of page one and am reminded of what it was like falling in love for the first time....

Once again, Cd Brennan has pulled me in with her Love Where You Roam series. About a year or so ago I read and reviewed the first book in the series called Watershed and loved it. I was excited to get my hands on a copy of her latest release, A World Apart. What I liked about Watershed and the idea of this series in general, is that it blends people from many cultures together, binding them in love.

In A World Apart, the reader is introduced to Australian Lizzy (who actually made a cameo appearance in Watershed) and Scottish Hamish. Lizzy is currently working as a bar maid in a Scottish pub and researching her family tree. She is headstrong, fun loving, adventurous and unafraid of a challenge--which of course, makes her the exact opposite of serious Hamish. Hamish is the local hottie (his nickname is Hottie Hamish), but he is a shy guy who comes off as being a bit brusque and reserved. He may have the money and background that Lizzie doesn't, but he is seriously lacking in social skills.

He offers Lizzy a job as his house keeper which she accepts. Her first day on the job is not exactly a stellar one--she manages to take his dogs for a long walk and gets lost in the process. Hamish comes to her rescue, but ends up stranding them on the side of a mountain overnight. Well, this leads to some intimate cuddling, which leads to feelings of desire, which leads to...well, you get the picture.

Turns out Hamish is angling for a job at a university but when he interviews for the position, he discovers the university wants more than just a "by the books" teacher. They want someone who can relax, relate to the students, be a human being. Shy Hamish feels out of his league, and when the Dean invites him to a black tie affair, he definitely doesn't know how he will get through the event. However, it occurs to him to take Lizzy who is able to charm the pants off of anyone. Unfortunately, the dinner doesn't go exactly as planned and leads to a series of misconceptions and self doubt.

As usual, Cd Brennan brings her characters to life through great dialogue and accents. It is easy to hear Lizzy's Australian voice which is a contrast to the Scottish brogue of Hamish. These characters felt real to me, very believable. Her book is rich in description of the local scene, but it's the interplay between her characters that really makes this tale fun to read. I wished it hadn't ended so soon! I just wanted to go a little further down the road with these two characters.

While there is some sex in the book, it's nothing graphic. This is a sweetheart book where the romance is the focal point and shows the development of the characters relationship and growth as people. I would give it a low rating on the heat level, but high on the romance!

Here is the Amazon link for the book! Can't wait to see where this series roams next!

A World Apart

Friday, August 8, 2014

How Much Do Book Covers Matter?

Mary Ann has covered this in several of her posts, but after going to RWA Nationals this year and really taking a look at the covers publishers put on their romance books, I have to agree with her--book covers can really draw a reader in!

Ah, the book cover. I firmly believe it can make or break a book.  It’s the first thing a reader sees, the first thing that draws them to your little tale, incites their curiosity, and says to them “yes, this is the book I want to read next.”

A bad book cover can cause all sorts of problems.

If the cover is boring, you gotta depend on the title. If the title stinks, too, then you’re in big trouble. It doesn’t matter how great of a writer you are--unless of course you’re already established with a large group of readers--if the book cover isn’t working, you won’t see much in the way of sales.
Book covers should also reflect a little bit of what the genre is, too. Especially if you are a writer just starting out.
Here’s my own example of why I feel so strongly about this point in particular:

My first book was bought by a small, but well known, press with a great reputation. The book was an urban fantasy with slight romantic overtones. The book cover was of this super hot, shirtless guy in front of some office buildings. It looked like this dude was ready to sex you up and take you home to mama! The twinkle in his eye, the coldness of his chin, the well developed abs, and bulging front of his pants promised a book with lots of hot sex and down and dirty love. But remember, the book had only romantic overtones…so of course, a few people bought the book thinking it was going to be erotica. Luckily for me, the writing did pull me through here, but many people felt that the cover was misleading as to what kind of book it was. 

However, my latest books in the Naughty Shakespeare stories all have book covers that hint at the characters and the genre of book.  In fact, one of the things I wanted to make sure of was that all three books had some similarities. I wanted all covers to have a woman with her back to us and just a hint of profile. All covers also had to in some way reflect a character trait of the story, too.

In Ophelia’s Lessons, a modern day prequel to Hamlet,  I wanted the image to be wistful and romantic. The open back of her dress hints at sensuality as well. Notice the trees in the background? Well, an important scene in the book happens beneath the trees. Even the colors were important to me. The miss of greens and blues is calming and relaxing. We don’t see the woman’s face and are left wondering, who is she? What does she really look like?

I wanted a little different tone for Ravishing Rosaline. Rosaline is a prequel to Romeo and Juliet. In the play, she is the character Romeo is in love with before he meets Juliet. She also happens to be her cousin. This is a story about everything not being as it appears and the search to express oneself with sexual freedom.

Again, the woman is looking away, but we
see her fiery red hair and that she is
unashamed of being naked. It’s being
openly sexually and tantalizing at the
same time. Kind of like Rosaline…

And then there is the Taming of the
Prude. This time we see a little of our
leading lady’s face. That’s a reflection
of Kate alright. She would never
turn her face away or be ashamed
of her nakedness. The flowers hint
at being one with nature, and if you
read the book, you’ll see that this is
true. A retelling of Taming of the
Shrew, Taming of the Prude is a
fun, humorous tale of a freshly
married couple and their discovery
of how delightful married sex can be.
Especially if you add a partner....

Will your reader notice all the little things I just pointed out when they pick up the book? Probably not. But they may notice enough to make them read the synopsis or get an idea of what kind of book it is. That can be the difference in making a sell or not!

May all your nights be hot and steamy ones beneath the covers!--Esmae Browder

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Quirky Writing Habits

I consider myself a bit of a quirky person.

For example, I don’t like wooden spoons--can’t stand them! If I know one is in the house, I can’t sleep.  I also don’t like people touching my feet.  Yeah, yeah, I know how great foot massages can feel, but the idea of someone kneading or pressing on the bottom of my feet makes my toes curl in fear! The other big quirk of my life revolves around birds.  I hate birds. They fly too close, poop in midair, and certain birds will even peck at you in order to steal your hot dog.  I refuse to go anywhere near an aviary.

I’m sure my long suffering husband could go on and on and on about my zillion other quirks!

I do have a few writing quirks, too.

I struggle every day with what I call “writing resistance.” I love writing and nothing makes me as happy as the joy of putting together strong characters and fun plot twists.  Every moment I spent writing the Naughty Shakespeare series was wonderful--when I made myself settle down and write. You see, like many writers, I find that there are many things that make me resist sitting down and writing like I should. Facebook, Twitter, email--they are the bane of the writer resistance.  One of my quirks is that I must read all emails, update my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and check my emails again before I get down to the business of writing. If I don’t do it, I feel oddly guilty...

Another quirk for me is that I can’t write if someone else is in the room.  My favorite writing space is in my bedroom. It’s a plain little area with nothing very exciting about it, but if someone enters the room or is lying on the bed, I get agitated.  I can’t fully immerse myself into my work. I’m constantly thinking they are looking over my shoulder, reading my erotic scenes, about to bop me on the head.  I usually have to minimize my screen and give whoever is in my space ugly looks until they leave.

My favorite quirk is my candle ritual. I have two tall “Jesus” candles on my desk. I do my best writing when they are both lit. Don’t know why. Don’t know how. But there it is! When Jesus is lit, my mind gets creative!

I suppose I should be grateful for these little quirks because they do keep me productive.  I couldn’t have written my Naughty Shakespeare series without being aware of them! In fact, I like to think because I have my quirks the characters in Ophelia’s Lessons do, too! However, their quirks tend to be much sexier than mine! 

Any other quirky writers out there?

Monday, August 4, 2014

Thoughts on RWA Nationals 2014

I loved RWA! It was like finally finding "your people."

Writers, agents, editors, publishers...ah, the mother ship had landed in San Antonio! And what a ship!

I've been to many other writing conferences, so I knew sort of what to expect, but this was entirely different. Most conferences you wander around, meet some other writers at the bar, and then you take a few classes. You exchange business cards, maybe pitch an agent or editor and then you go home feeling ready to write again.

RWA was like that, too--only bigger and better! This was a conference where you got to brush elbows with big names and big publishers. The keynote luncheon speech was given by Sylvia Day, best selling author and attended by lots of other best selling authors. There was a "Chat with Nora Roberts" where she answered questions candidly about her writing process and her series. My favorite piece of advice from Nora?

"Stop whining and start fucking writing!"

And then there were the books. Free books from the big publishing houses. Signed by their authors who were there happily signing away, ready to chat one on one with you. There were free books at lunch, free books at breakfast, free books in the Goody Room!

Mary Ann and I both came home with over a 100 books.

I also attended workshops presented by writers who were all on the best seller list. I discovered the importance of doing what's best for my career--that there is no one size fits all when it comes to publishing anymore. Hybrid authors and their ability to publish traditionally and self publish were all the rage. I learned the roots of historical romance and was reminded of why I started writing romance in the first place--Rosemary Rogers and Sweet Savage Love.

One of the highlights was attending the Rita Awards. This is like the Academy Awards for Romance Writers. It was a big, flashy affair and lots of fun!

Did I come home invigorated? Hell, yes. Inspired. Ready to work. With more faith in myself than ever before.

Will I attend RWA next year? Hell, yeah! Bring it on! NYC here I come.