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Monday, March 30, 2009

Markets

PARSEC SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY SHORT STORY CONTEST

Entry Fee: None

The contest is open to non-professional writers (those who have not met membership requirements for SFWA or equivalent). The best story which relates to and features the contest theme will be published in the Confluence 2009 program book, and the author awarded the first prize of $200. At the discretion of the judges a second and third prize in the amounts of $100 and $50 may be awarded, with possible publication in a PARSEC INK publication.

Theme: "Dark Glass" This can be used as a metaphor, literally or anything in between. Please remember, though, Confluence attracts many families and the story will be printed in the program book. A certain restraint and subtlety is called for. Too much explicitness will definitely count against you.

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror

Stories must be original, unpublished, unsold and no more than 3,500 words in length.

Deadline: April 15, 2009.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Birthday-A-Rama

Gakked from Dru when she had her birthday a few weeks ago.

What does your birth date mean?

You Are A Star.

You have a Type A personality so big it makes other Type A's shrink away in shame.
You never shy away from adversity - and you love to tackle impossible problems.
Failure is not an option for you, and more than a few people are put off by your ego.
You tend to be controlling, and you hate leaving anything up to chance.

Your strength: Your bold approach to life
Your weakness: You don't accept help
Your power color: Bronze
Your power symbol: Pyramid
Your power month: October

Most of this is true. I don't like leaving things to chance because I have a huge aura of Murphy's Law always hanging around me. And I do love a challenge. That's why I took up writing. LOL!

But ego? Peshaw! I have more self doubt than a blind rabbit on a Dallas highway.

Off to get educated at Tony Eldridge's workshop today. Then I'll think about forgiving Greg for thinking I was one year OLDER than I really am. He said he was sorry but all I can say is there better be chocolate cake at the end of that apology. Geez!!!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Intermission

I know...there's supposed to be a Killer Campaign post today, but I am beat!

And tomorrow is my birthday so I think I will give myself a little birthday present and take a couple of days off.

But don't think I will be loafing around during my birthday weekend. Greg has a fun-packed weekend planned remodeling the back breezeway, shopping for tractors, and working on the land. I'll also spend a good part of tomorrow attending a marketing workshop led by Tony Eldridge. Tony also has a blog with great marketing tips too, so be sure to bookmark it.

Talk to you soon!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In The Mail

Guess what I got in the mail today?


Sadly, nearly all of them are spoken for. I need to see about buying some more to give away. Greg grabbed his copy and I have six other copies promised.

***
Also today, I made the official announcement that I was retiring from my company.

Many jaws dropped. But there were also lots of hugs. I still have a few more days of work, but now everyone knows I'm leaving. There's no turning back now.

Chickens and weeding, here I come.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shelley Munro: The Dog Made Her Do It

I always knew dogs ruled the world
--or at least their owners.

I've been wanting to have Shelley Munro over for a while. (This is her first time here.) When she sent me this story about her dog, Scotty, I knew she was hitting all my buttons. LOL! I'd like to say that she was making this up, but I know how relentless some canines can be. I've had my own version of Scotty living with me so I believe her!

Please welcome Shelley Munro. And visit her blog. She always has a good thread going.


***

Thanks to Maria for inviting me to be a guest today. When I was thinking about a topic, I tossed a few around before deciding to talk about dogs and writing. Not much in common there, or so you'd think, but the truth is I own a dog, and she's directly responsible for my first sale to Ellora's Cave.
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Zap back to the year 2004. My husband worked most weekends, and I used to hurry through the housework on a Saturday morning and sit down at eleven with a coffee to watch an old black and white TV show called My Uncle is a Martian. I noticed a publisher call for stories about superheroes and decided to try my hand at a story featuring an alien. Some stories just don't work right, and I stopped writing after a few scenes.

About a month later, I was thinking about Ellora's Cave. I'd read some of their books and enjoyed them. Most of my reading was in the hotter, more erotic side of the romance spectrum. Yep, it was about time I tried to write the stuff I was reading. I pulled out my alien story and started writing it all over again. My story question--what would happen if aliens crash landed in New Zealand?

Enter the dog.

We adopted her from the Humane Society. She's a fox terrier cross and has never been a vocal dog. When she wants something, she does this intense staring thing. She just stands there and stares. It's very unnerving!

I was trying to write, but the dog kept staring because she wanted something to eat. And I have to add, just in case you think I'm a cruel owner, she'd already had her dinner but had decided it was time for a snack. I said to Scotty, “If you don't stop staring I'm going to write you into my book.” She kept staring and let out a pitiful whimper for good measure.

This is what I wrote: (Janaya and Hinekiri, the aliens have just crash landed in the New Zealand countryside.)
To her right, the leaves of a fern shuddered. Janaya scented the air. Sweat. Torgon sweat.

“Come on out with your fingers poked inside your ears,” she ordered, aiming her neutralizing weapon at the dark green bushes that had moved.

“That would be, hands in the air,” her aunt said.

Janaya shrugged, not taking her eyes off the leafy plant. “Whatever. I have a weapon. Come out.”

The fern leaves shook, dried leaves crackled underfoot. Janaya's outstretched hand never wavered, the heavy weapon still pointing at the bushes.

“Don't shoot.” A black nose thrust past a lacy fern leaf.

Janaya's eyes widened.

A black face with black eyes poked into view. “Are ya gonna shoot?”

“Janaya put the weapon down. It's a dog. Nothing to get trigger-happy about.”

“Yeah,” the little dog said. It stepped into full view. The dog stood below knee height and had white fur peppered liberally with black spots. It trotted closer, tail wagging. “Do ya have any food?”
I read this back to Scotty. She didn't seem impressed. “Right,” I said. I wrote some more.
Janaya reholstered her neutralizer and rolled her eyes. “Talking animals?”

“I never met a human who talked back,” the little dog said. “Food? Do ya have any?”

Janaya glared. “The sooner we leave this blue planet the better. How long will it take for the ship to be repaired?”
“See,” I said to Scotty. “You're causing trouble for Janaya as well. Okay, now go away. I have to do some writing.” It didn't work. The staring thing resumed and I ended up giving in. I went to the cupboard and pulled out a handful of dog crackers, hiding them around the place for Scotty to hunt out, and then went back to my writing. I decided to keep going and leave the dog in. I could go back and take her out later. Or so I thought, but that didn't happen. The dog turned into a character in her own right. She introduced herself as Killer (Annie was her real name but she preferred Killer) and hung out with the aliens, periodically demanding food. She even had the last word in the book which turned out to be Talking Dogs, Aliens and Purple People Eaters.

Desire unfurled in Janaya. Pleasure points started to hum.

Without warning, the door shot open and Killer trotted in. She bounded up onto the bed and pushed between them.

“Hinekiri and Richard told me to visit. They busy,” Killer said.

“We were about to become busy too,” Luke muttered but he scratched behind Killer's ears.

Janaya grinned as the dog rubbed against Luke with a sigh. “I suppose you're going to Alaska with us,” she said.

Killer barked. “Might. I hungry.”

“You're always hungry,” Janaya said.

“Not. Sometimes sleepy.” Killer leapt from the bed and trotted to the door then turned back to eye them hopefully.

Janaya's giggle was drowned by Luke's groan.

“Why laugh?” Killer demanded.

“No reason,” Luke said, rolling his eyes. “Hell, I'm having a conversation with a dog.”

“Good conversation,” Killer snapped.

“See you in the morning, Killer,” Janaya said.

“Snack?”

“No!” Janaya and Luke shouted simultaneously.

Killer trotted out the door. Then seconds later, she poked her head back through.

“Killer!” Richard Morgan roared. “I told you not to interrupt Luke and Janaya.”

Janaya grinned again. Tonight there were no shadows in her heart. Instead, she felt a bottomless peace and satisfaction.

A family.

That's what she had with Luke.

“I leave them,” Killer said with a loud yap.

“Good. Go to sleep and give us all some peace,”
Hinekiri chirped.

Killer was quiet for a moment then Janaya heard her say, “Do ya have any food?”
I loved Killer. Readers loved Killer. In fact Killer featured in three books, which became known as the Talking Dog series. There's Talking Dogs, Aliens and Purple People Eaters, Never Send a Dog to do a Woman's Job, and Romantic Interlude. They're all available in e-book format from Ellora's Cave and books one and two are available in a print anthology called Romancing the Alien.
Scotty is fifteen now. She still does the staring thing and still has me trained well when it comes to food and walks. Although she's retired from the literary world, some heavy plotting occurs during our walks. We make great partners, and as she likes to remind me from time to time, she was directly responsible for my first sale to Ellora's Cave.

You can visit Shelley and learn more about her books at her website.


Her Talking Dogs series is available at Ellora's Cave.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Markets

DESTINATION: FUTURE

Science Fiction anthology to be edited by Z.S. Adani and Eric T. Reynolds
Hadley Rillie Books

Submission Guidelines:
We are looking for Science Fiction stories, particularly Hard SF, Space Operas, Alien Worlds, Alien Encounter, Exploration, and Quest Stories. (We prefer not to receive alternative and historical fiction, fantasy, steampunk, or horror for this anthology, but other than that it's pretty open.

Length: 3000 – 6000 words

Electronic Submissions Only. Send as an attachment to an email message. Microsoft Word .doc file is preferred, or .rtf is okay (please contact us if you need to make arrangements for another format). Please virus scan your document before sending.

Payment: 3 cents per word

***

Catastrophia Anthology

Catasrophia will be a collection of short stories based around the theme of catastophes, disasters and post-apocalyptic fiction up to 6,000 words.

Payment: £0.03p per word (approx 6c per word US) to a maximum of £100 ($200).

No reprints.

Deadline: 31st May 2009

***

Shine Anthology

Shine is an anthology of optimistic near-future SF, published by Solaris Books. Stories should be under 10,000 words and should be set up to 50 years into the future.

Payment: 5 cents per word on publication.

Reading period: May - June

***

Not a market, but a resource for romance writers (and readers).

WRDF (Writers and Readers of Distinctive Fiction) is a group I've joined recently. I haven't had a chance to spend too much time there, but it is a pretty nifty place. They also have fairly reasonable workshops, discounted if you become a member. Membership is free.

What I like is that they send you an email to let you know what is coming up. I generally don't have time to visit during the week, but I do visit on the weekends to see what's new.

Check it out if it interests you. It costs nothing to look or join.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Swami Maria

Today Swami Maria stopped over at Allie Boniface's blog and offered her thoughts on successful publishing.


Check out, "Swami Sez...". We hope it takes you to a higher plane of existence--or at least makes you smile.

***

Are you following me? Why the heck not? Add your avatar to the list (right side of the page) and be recognized.

***

There is a rumor going around that another author is planning to hijack my blog in April. My spies are on high alert checking on every lead. We'll see if there's any meat to this pie.

Stay tuned!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Storm Of 2008

A friend of mine showed me a book about the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. The book is called STORM OF 2008 and was created by Brian Starr. It is a phenomenal documentary that trails the path of Hurricane Ike and all he left behind along the Texas Gulf Coast in 2008.

It is 400 pages, over 1000 color photos and printed on heavier than normal coated matte paper. Considering the subject matter, the book is coffee table beautiful.

This is a self-published book which is why it is more expensive than other books, but the quality of the physical book along with professional photography makes it well worth the price. You can't help but feel mesmerized by the images. Some of them defy imagination. It's a testament on the power of nature and the tenacity of human beings to survive.

For buying details go here.

For more about Storm Of 2008 go here.

Unless you've lived through a major hurricane, you cannot imagine devastation on such a grand scale. This book makes it come alive.

Great job, Brian Starr! It's not easy to impress me.

Killer Campaigns: Book Reviews

When Touch Of Fire first came out, the advice I got from other authors was to obtain as many reviews as I could. The idea was to get the book into the hands of people who could spread the word.

Kind words are great for the ego, but even sharp words can be helpful—though it might not feel that way when it happens. What's the old Broadway adage? It doesn't matter what they say about you as long as they spell your name right.
Of the eight reviews I've netted so far, seven were pretty darn good. One, while not terrible, felt to me like she missed the point of the story. The thing to remember is that not everyone is your audience. Your book will not appeal to every living soul, even to those who claim to like your work. Sometimes the shoe doesn't fit.

As a potential marketing venue, I have mixed feelings about reviews. Many people base their buying habits off reviews. For me, it totally depends on who's doing the reviewing. If it's someone I've read for a while and who has earned my respect, I might be willing to invest my dollars on their recommendation.

But I am more likely to buy on the recommendation of a friend. And even more swayed by the quality of the excerpt--but that's a topic for another post.

The professional reviewers I like tend to be fair, honest and passionate about their work. I might not always agree with their assessment due to a difference in taste, but I have never bought a review-recommended book that fell too short of their appraisal.

For the author, the real question is: Where can you get the most exposure?

Big review sites like Coffee Time Romance or The Romance Studio have a lot of reviewers. You have no control over the quality or impartiality of the review. You could wind up with a very thoughtful and articulate reviewer or you could find your book in the hands of a newbie. But big sites have a large platform. You could potentially reach thousands.

Small review sites on the other hand have a much smaller audience. The reviewer may be experienced and professional, but if the site doesn't get a lot of traffic, that great review will fall on deaf ears.

My publisher, Samhain was excellent in getting me started by sending my book to different review sites. I relied on them heavily because I didn't know who to ask or even how to approach a reviewer.

I haven't sent my book to too many other places on my own, but when I did, I write a very short email introducing myself, my book and asking whether they have a place on their roster for a new book.

In my email, I include:

• a short blurb
• my genre
• the book's tagline
• publisher's information

From there, I leave it to the reviewer to tell me whether they're interested in pursuing it further.

I always do my homework. Some sites won't review e-books. If it's not on their site's "About" page, I will often email a note inquiring to make sure.

Poke around the website before you ask for a review. Read previous reviews to get a feel for the reviewer's voice. Snark makes me very irritable. Not because I don't admire snark—me being a prime disciple—but because it seems out of place. As a consumer, I'm not interested in the reviewer's clever repartee. I just want to know whether a book is going to be worth the money—and more importantly, my time.

Avoid casting your book to any and all reviewers. And make sure they aren't swamped. I made the mistake of sending my book to a review site that had such a backlog of requests that the glut of books seemed to homogenize in the reviewer's mind. What shot them in the foot is when the reviewer wrote to tell me the review was up for "NOT MY TITLE" and told me how much she enjoyed "NOT MY CHARACTERS".

Thanks, but I don't need that kind of help.

Cast your net widely, and wisely.



Want to get a whole book with this information for $2.99?

Find it on Amazon.
 


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ready to Plant

When you look at these pictures it doesn't seem that we have much to show for all our labor. You'll have to take my word on it.
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This is only one half of the house. The sun was right in my way, otherwise I would have shown you the left side. It's a pretty long house. I get my exercise going from one end to the other. We've cut down several of the trees in the front which we thought were dangerously close to the house. After Hurricane Rita we try not to let any big tree get too close to the house. I never want to go through that again!




Side of the house, blessedly free of giant windows.



This is the wide view of the tilled land and the naked greenhouse next to it. It appears to be excellent soil. I can't wait to find out how it does this year.




This is a little bonus building we got in the deal. The interior is wired and there's a great potting workbench inside. We haven't decided yet if we'll raise rabbits, but if we do, the side of this building has a nice concrete slab and an overhang to keep the rain out.




No weed is safe when Tank is on patrol. Of course, none of my good plants are safe either.

We'll probably buy the plastic sheeting the next time Greg is in town. This greenhouse is 20 by 40 feet. It should keep us in greens nearly all year long.
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That's all for now. I'll try to be better about documenting our progress. Most of this will be on the other blog dedicated to homesteading, coming next month.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Author Interrupted

I had every intention of writing a post for today and then homesteading got in the way.

In the past four days, we have burned brush, tilled land, got the lawn tractor stuck four times, met more of our neighbors and decided that this was a lot harder than when we did this twenty years ago. Ouch!

But it is so gratifying when you can see your signature come over the land. Things are finally starting to turn around. It's killin' us--but it's coming around.

I'll try to post tomorrow if I can. Maybe there'll be pictures. You never can tell.

We are planning a housewarming party in early May and expecting a lot of people. How do I feed a hungry horde? I wanted to do BBQ, but Greg kind of frowned on that since BBQ means he does the cooking. hehehe....aren't I insidious?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Markets

An inspirational market

White Rose Publishing

We only publish ROMANCE. Although we take all romance sub-genre, every story must have romance as a strong element and in ALL lengths. This includes short stories.

As in every romance, the focus of a White Rose story should be the conflict between the main characters. These stories encompass protagonists who may, or may not, be spiritual at the onset, but come to realize that faith is a cornerstone of love. Protagonists should possess layered, three-dimensional, personalities. They should be people who struggle with decisions on a regular basis, using their existent or burgeoning faith to augment their growth both, together, and as Christians. Remember, Christians are emboldened by their faith, not burdened by it. Protagonists' backgrounds do not have to be exemplary, but in the current story line, protagonists must have already come to terms with those issues which do not live up to Christian morality and virtue; their past immorality should not be overtly displayed on the page, but should be the catalyst for their internal conflict and growth.

***

Allen and Unwin Publishing

I recently cyber-met Deborah Kalin (author of SHADOW QUEEN) and she told me the story on how she earned a publishing contract with Allen & Unwin.

They seem particularly proactive for new work and even more exciting, they are from New Zealand! Each Friday, they have what's called The Friday Pitch. You can pitch them any novel (see guidelines) on Friday only and they promise to get back with you within a week. I love that part!

If you are on that side of the globe, I urge you to check them out. Even if you're not in the same hemisphere, what have you got to lose?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Book Trailers

I had mentioned on Sandra Ulbrich's blog that I was going to discuss book trailers this go round. I was actually putting it off for a couple of reasons.

I've never made a book trailer though I know what steps are involved for the typical trailer. Many, many of my friends have book trailers, so I want to make it clear that I am not judging anyone's work. I'm merely weighing the pros and cons on whether it makes for a good marketing ploy.

From what I've seen, even by the most accomplished authors, I don't think trailers are worth the time. If you can locate the appropriate stock art and music, they are next to free to produce, but in my opinion, it gets an "F" for doing its job, which is: promoting your book.

Before everyone gangs up on me, hear me out.

Nearly all book trailers involve static art that is rotated, dissolved, flashed or what have you, and it is paired with appropriate music. Let me first state that as a creative effort, MOST book trailers are pretty good.

The music is good, the choice of art is well thought out, and the sequencing is readable and intelligent.

But it fails in one very important aspect.

It has almost zero mobility. Most book trailers are parked at various video locations, on authors' websites and the occasional blog tour--and stay there. They are viewed by friends and the interested viewer and pretty much languishes there for perpetuity.

A good book trailer should do two things.

1. It should tell people about your book.
2. And it absolutely, positively has to go viral.

Nearly everyone gets the first part right. But hardly anyone can claim their book trailer went viral. The closest one I can think of is this one for Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas, and it only got 4,391 views when I located it just now. That's hardly what I'd call viral, but it's better than most people get.

I took a moment to examine what Thomas did right. Unlike most trailers, she went with paper dolls as her artwork which I thought was marvelously clever and unique. As much as I like attractive and sensual models, they all seem to run together after a while. Thomas' take was original.

The music was also good, in keeping with her time period. The quick tempo played off well with the gossip balloons and the paper dolls. All of it fit together not only with Thomas' book but her subtle humor as well. By the way, if you haven't read Private Arrangements, get thee a copy. It is one book that is on my keeper shelf. And I don’t say that often.

I've had a "screenplay" of my book trailer for months. It is humorous, uses my dog and my friends and it has very little book pimpage. It talks more about the process of selling Touch Of Fire rather than a blow by blow of what the book is about. It is also a real video and not screen shots.

My thinking is if people find the story on how the book got published amusing, they'll take a chance with the book.

Why isn't it up on YouTube or various other video parking facilities?

Because I asked Greg to shoot the video. I even bought him a very expensive editing program. Methinks, he is stuck on the editing part. (Aren't we all?)

I've called Spielberg for some help, but for some reason he's not answering my calls.

I realize we've been rather busy here the last few months, but I have had this idea since before Touch Of Fire debuted. Oh well…that's my tale of woe. I really don't want to do the regular screen shot book trailer. I think my idea is pretty unique. It might not go viral, but I definitely think it will entertain.

A real video is also a bit more expensive. And then there are the enormous egos of the (unpaid) actors (my friends). We'll see how friendly we all are if and when we ever shoot this thing.

Bottom line: Book trailers aren't a waste of time because they could inspire someone to buy your book. And the price is right. You could put together the video yourself for very little money.

Just don't expect it to get a lot of attention. The market is glutted with book trailers. If you make one, make it stand out from the others.

Tips for interesting book trailers: (Bear in mind, these are my suggestions coming from a consumer's vantage point.)

• Consider Sherry Thomas' idea. Instead of the amazingly sexy and half naked models, go for something different that still tells your story.

• Keep it short. My attention span is at best three minutes. How about yours?

• Keep the text short and give viewers enough time to read it before dissolving to the next slide.

• If you have the skills or money, consider shooting a live action video.

• Pick one aspect about your book and go with that as your theme. For example, Touch Of Fire is a post-apocalyptic romance in a world that knows only magic. I could use the Elementals in my book as a theme, but I might go for something less obvious, like pictures of what the Earth looks like after an apocalypse. I think that might capture interest quicker. Instead of telling you something, it makes you ask: What happened here?

• The trick to going viral is making it so interesting that people feel the need to pass it on to their friends. Think about all the links to videos you've sent to others. What made you do that? Once you figure that out, make your video do the same thing.

I don't know if this post helped or not. As usual, I'm just analyzing these things, weighing the pros and cons.


If you've seen an exceptionally unique video, I'd love to hear from you.



Want to get a whole book with this information for $2.99?

Find it on Amazon.
 
 




Thursday, March 12, 2009

Adversity Isn't Forever

It's been an incredibly difficult week. Friday should be better.

I am juggling quite a few things more than usual. And the economic news has been bumming me out too. I don't like the patterns I'm seeing. The only thing that makes it worse is that I'm usually right about these things. I don't want to be right this time.

As I told one of my buddies recently, all I can do is outlast adversity. It's my only defense.

In the coming months I should have more available time for writing. Huzzah!! I want to make it count. I also need to make it pay, otherwise it will drain our resources.

MySpace: They get one last chance to do right by me. You can still see my site. But I have no way of getting messages from MySpace administrators. When I moved, it was one of the sites I forgot to change to my new email address.

Now I am stuck. I sent them everything they asked for in order to change the email address to the new one. My email seems to go through a computer filter and I get an automated message that seems to have nothing to do with what I'm asking it to do. My guess is the computer is picking up keywords like "email address" and sending me MY old email address and password as if I had forgotten it.

This is my third attempt to try to get them to update my email address. If it doesn't work this time, I am deleting the account. I don't think it's worth the trouble.

Twitter: I have to admit, I do like Twitter. I don't post a lot and I have only a few followers, but that's okay. If you'd like to follow me, this should take you there.

Painting: I have totally immersed myself in the study of writing, but every once in a while, especially when I hear news about a painting workshop coming up, I get this pang of guilt and nostalgia. I miss painting. I don't have time for it anymore, but I do miss it.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Insider Look: What Starts Your Novel

All right all you vampire lovers, here's a book you won't want to miss. I invited JK Coi to come over and talk a little bit about how she started the Immortal series.
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For her, it started with Rhys.

While I shudder to call JK normal (sorry, JK, couldn't help it--grin) I think most people do start with a particular character in mind.

Take a first peek into JK Coi's latest novel and read how it all started for her.


The Immortals

When I set out to write my first book, I really had no idea what I was doing. It had been a very long time since I’d even written poetry. But I had this idea burning a hole in my brain and I finally decided to see where it might take me.

The IDEA.

Everyone always asks “where do you get your ideas?”

There were a lot of things that influenced what I decided to sit down and write that first day; the shows and movies I had recently watched probably played a part since I’m a fan of urban fantasy and action flicks. It could also be because I had been reading a lot more paranormal romances and started to wonder if I could do it. But mostly it was a character that drove me—and I think it’s like this for quite a few writers.

In my mind, I first saw Rhys’ character in a dark and bumping dance club. With people grinding and moving all around him, he stood separate and apart. Tall, dark and forbidding. He was looking for someone, and at first I thought that it would be the heroine. But in reality, I didn’t meet Amy until many days of writing later.

As soon as I saw Rhys, he started talking to me. (Not great long sentences, because he’s a pretty tight-lipped guy, but enough that I started to get a feel for who he was looking for and why.) When he took off his shades and I got a good look at the old soul behind those crystal eyes, I was even more intrigued. Where had he come from? What was his story?

The rest of the book—like the plot—started coming in little bits as I learned more about Rhys and then later, Amy. You see, it’s my strong conviction that no matter what kind of book you’re writing—whether it be a thriller, paranormal, contemporary, etc.—the characters are what drive everything. When you think of what makes you remember your favourite books and go back to read them again and again, it’s not the detailed research the author did, or the beautiful descriptions and action-packed plot that call to you. It’s going to be the depth of emotion that the characters bring out in you. If an author can make you laugh and cry and feel love and pain as they read your book, that’s what you’ll remember. Motivation, conflict, depth. The rest is necessary, but can only work properly when intricately tied together with the characters’ emotional journey.

That’s what my writing is all about. Emotion. If I’m known for anything (besides a sometimes inappropriate sarcasm and snarky attitude), it’s for providing my readers with a rollercoaster of emotion. And I’m good with that. It works for me, and hopefully it works for the people who will pick up my books.

So it was Rhys that started me on this path, and I’ll always have a special soft spot in my heart for him because of it. He dragged me into his world and showed me what he wanted to say. Along the way he introduced me to a few of his buddies, and I had the opportunity to introduce them to some pretty amazing women...

And the rest is...a series you don’t want to miss.

J.K. Coi writes dark and edgy paranormal romance, where love is all consuming, the stakes are always high, and the immortals are to die for... Book 3 of the Immortal Series, Dark Immortal is available now.

DARK IMMORTAL

Five years of happiness, erased in one vicious act of violence.

Diana freed Alric from his prison and the insanity of his own mind, offering him the kind of love only a fool would deny. Now she lies broken and comatose from a vampire attack, locked deep inside herself where he cannot reach her.

Awakening in a strange bed, Diana has no memory of how she got there. The huge, muscled man leaning over her is straight out of nightmares full of blood and pain. Married to him? It can’t be true…even if her body craves his touch, and the anguish in his eyes shatters something deep inside her.

Alric has no intention of giving up on the woman who never stopped fighting for him. His one hope is that time will heal her mind. But with a demon god poised to tip the balance of power, time is not on their side…


Talk to me: What starts your novel? Character? Place? Scenario? Does it drive your novel? Are you in control, or do your characters tell you where to steer?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Free Books

No Markets today.

Instead I am bringing you a couple of ways to net yourself some free books.

If you're interested in doing some reviewing, HarperCollins has a program set up where they will send you books in the genres you're interested in. Join the HarperCollins First Look program to preview books in literary fiction, general fiction, suspense, biography, cookbooks, and other genres, for readers who make a difference – like you!

Each month, Advance Reading Editions (AREs) of great books by fabulous authors are offered that you will have the opportunity to review. Reviewers are selected at random, but you must register to be eligible. In joining the program you may select your favorite genres and we will let you know when a book in your preferred category is offered.


Random House has a program where selected few can email them and win a chance to receive the book they're currently hosting.

I don't know how often their selection changes. I suppose if the book du jour is of interest to you, it's okay, but it seems to require you visit their website regularly. Still, it's a free book if you are chosen. (I noticed they would not list how many people would receive a book.)

What could be better than learning about great new reads? GETTING FREE ADVANCE COPIES OF GREAT NEW READS!

Email us to request this book—(link on the site, upper left).

I find it interesting that big publishers are trying to lure readers through a grassroots movement interacting with the average reader person by person.

As a consumer, I am more likely to buy a book through the recommendation from an average reader over that of being on the NYT bestseller list. But maybe that's just me.

Does being on the bestseller list skew your buying habits? Or will you buy more readily or pass on a book because of a personal recommendation (or pan)?

Friday, March 6, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Contests

There's seems to be a split among authors on whether contests work or not. When I first started promoting myself I asked a far more experienced and well published author for advice and she really put the kaibash on contests.

She said she never noticed contests bringing her any new readers, but she did notice "contest trolls" people who deliberately search out contests so they can win goodies.

I enter very few contests. As a matter of fact I had mentioned that very thing to an author who holds quite a few giveaways. I absolutely adore her blog and wouldn’t mind commenting more often, but I try to avoid her posts when she's giving stuff away. I don't want to make it look like I'm only there for the prizes.

I've also taken myself out of the running from a couple of contests with authors in which I had a business relationship with. My motto is never mix business with free stuff. I never want to be accused of having an "in" with someone and winning on account.

Other than that I disagree with the advice from the first author just a little. It's true that you might have to suffer contest junkies who only come for the prize, but I think the odds are good that a well publicized contest might bring you new readers, and that's what we all want.

The trick I think is the "well publicized" part. Unless you're a well known author, you need to expand your reach and get OTHER people talking about your contest.

Sadly, it's a crime that I'm guilty of as well, so I want to make amends and announce at least three contests that are still fresh in my memory. If you sign up for JK Coi's newsletter, she's got a question at the bottom of her newsletter that "should" be easy to answer. (I think.) Hurry and sign up because her contest ends March 10!

And Allie Boniface is having a big juicy contest coming up on her blog in honor of Small Press Month.

Patricia's Vampire Notes is hosting a drawing for a Kim Harrison book for new subscribers to her newsletter.

I view well over 300 blogs a day. I see a LOT of contests.

Back to what makes a good contest. Good publicity is a must. But the contest should also make the reader work for it (just a little), otherwise it's just a lottery. The bigger the prize, the more work is involved.

Random drawings can backfire if a contest junkie wins too consistently. (I've seen it happen.) But random drawings do work if you have scads of readers, increasing the odds of a new person winning every time.

Prizes don't have to be books, though it does seem to be the common favorite. I plan on having a contest in April when Touch Of Fire comes out in print. While I haven't decided exactly what the prize package will consist of, the book will only be one part of the prize. Since I don't hold a lot of contests, I do plan on making the prize for this one special. And yes…you'll have to work for it. All right, don't start whining. It won't be that hard.

Tips for a good contest

• Tell everyone you know about your contest.
---heck, tell me. If it's publishing related, I will give you a mention the next time I blog.

• Set a deadline. Before the Google Reader I was always a week behind. Keep the occasional blog reader in mind who may only read blogs once every few days.

• Make the prize fit the labor involved. If you make people go on a scavenger hunt, it better be worth it. If you're just doing a giveaway to get your name out, the prize doesn't have to be too extravagant.

• Don't make the contest too complicated. I have a simple brain. If you make it too hard, you'll drive traffic away, not gain it.

• Take into account what it will cost you to ship your prize. If you ship internationally, it WILL be expensive. But remember too that (at least in the States) it is tax deductible.

• Acknowledge winners publicly. Other people want to know who the winner was.


• Contests are not mandatory. Don't feel obligated to have a contest because everyone else is doing it. They are as much for you as for the reader.



Want to get a whole book with this information for $2.99?

Find it on Amazon.
 




Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Free Books

My days have run together. Tuesday's post should have run today, and I don't even know what will happen the rest of the week. ...I can't wait to find out.

Most of you have probably already heard about the free downloads from Random House. What are you waiting for? Go and get them.

I fully support giving away free books. It's the perfect way to introduce new readers to your work, but it makes you wonder how far it will go. Interesting too, that NY publishers are no longer snubbing their collective noses at e-books.

Told you it was coming.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Epiphanies

Did you notice that I'm not posting a More For Less article? A couple of days ago I mentioned I might like to spin off my frugal tips to its own blog. It looks very probable now, but it likely won't start until April.

There's a matter of logistics. In April I should have more time, but I want to use it wisely. The frugal blog will probably only run once a week, unless there is an event in real time I need to talk about.

The writing blog will continue on a 2-3 post week, unless something is worth blogging about on off days.

This blog has always been geared toward writers. I think that will continue. But something happened recently that made me think about the general public.

Touch Of Fire has not come out in print yet, but recently I had mentioned it to a non-writer in a place of business. The next time I walked in there, a handful of people came up to me and started asking me about the book and for my business card. A couple of them even went the extra mile and visited my website and followed the link to the excerpt.

I was stunned at the attention, and it made me look more seriously into making my website geared toward the everyday reader—readers who aren't writers.

I can talk to you guys about writerly things and you know exactly what I mean. But non-writers aren't too interested in what Amazon is doing (most aren't even aware of the kerfluffle). They don't care about promotional venues or publishers closing shop.

Do you know what the people I visited wanted to talk about?

They wanted to know about the magic in Touch Of Fire. Since this was a futuristic fantasy, they wanted to know how I envisioned the future. They wanted to know about the characters.

Important stuff.

We authors worry so much about reviews and getting our names out that we forget that the regular reader is only interested in the story. Writers worry about passive sentences. Readers want to know what happens next.

This is what I call an epiphany.

So what will take place on Wednesdays here? Guest blogs!

If you are an author, editor, agent, bookseller, or anyone else in the publishing industry, I want to talk to you. If you want to reach all five of my readers and their imaginary friends, email me at mariazannini AT gmail DOT com. I will give you a forum to talk about writing stuff (or your pets). You get more blog space if you talk about your dog. *g*

Monday, March 2, 2009

Markets

Ray Bradbury Creative Writing Contest

Deadline: March 20, 2009

Fee: None that I could find.

Genre: Short Stories/Nonfiction

Details: Since the inception of television our society has become increasingly more reliant on it with each generation. In his prescient novel, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury anticipated this trend in which reality programming impacts our daily lives. Respond to this theme of social sedation/apathy brought on by the evolution of television by entering the newly revised 25th Annual Ray Bradbury Contest. Categories include responses through writing, visual arts or multimedia.

Prize: $200 in each category for Waukegan residents and $100 for non-residents.

Rules and mailing information.


*****

For all you cat lovers...

Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover

Another wonderful collection of heartwarming and humorous stories about what we learned from our feline family members. The deadline date for story submissions is March 31, 2009.

If your story is chosen, you will be a published author and your bio will be printed in the book if you so choose. You will also receive a check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book, worth more than $100. You will retain the copyright for your story.