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Sunday, May 31, 2009

And Baby Makes Four

We have a new baby in the house. One we weren't expecting.
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We're on the waiting list for a female rottie in Georgia. She's three years old and sounds like what we've been looking for.
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But Saturday, after a long day of shopping for this and that, Greg saw a sign for an adoption event for a local rescue group. We screeched to a stop and turned around.
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I'm still looking for an Australian Shepherd, but once again I turned up empty. Then my eyes locked onto this pathetic little rottie puppy.
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I got Greg's attention and pointed to the puppy. If there had been wings on his feet, the man couldn't have gotten there faster. He picked him up and latched onto him immediately.
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HE was a boy and because of Tank's intolerance for other males we promised ourselves we would stick to females. But this little guy looks like everyone had given up on him. And we are suckers for hard luck cases.
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The little guy ADORES Tank and follows him around loyally. Tank seems okay with him. Maybe he likes having a minion.
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We signed on the dotted line and brought him home. He doesn't have a name yet. I'd like to call him Mouse because he can whine and eat at the same time. Greg likes the name Moose. We're hoping he will name himself, like our guys normally do.
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Until then, let me show you our new baby. Isn't he adorable? The second picture shows you the size difference between him and the Tankster.
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I'm nameless...so far.


Check out the size difference. Tank is currently 137 pounds.
---and no, the title of this picture is NOT "Guess What I'm Having For Dinner?"
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Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.
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Friday, May 29, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Author Interviews

We've all done them. Some of them turn out okay. Others, we'd sooner forget. We want our interviews to be memorable--in a good way.

The first time anyone asked me for an interview I read the email twice. Who me?

I'm not famous and while my lifestyle may be on the unique side, my writer's story is very much like so many others. What could I possibly say to make me stand out? And when I started to accumulate multiple interviews, what could I say that won't make me sound like a broken record?

I took part of my cue from real celebrities. One week when I was recovering from eye surgery, I had the tv on. I couldn't see it, but my hearing was just fine. As a matter of fact, hearing their interviews without the distraction of what these celebrities looked like was a blessing in disguise.

I listened for what they said and what they didn't say. The dull celebrities were saying the same things about themselves from one tv show to the next. But the more interesting celebs, usually had little anecdotes that they peppered inside their canned speeches. It was the same spiel, only packaged more attractively.

The other thing I learned was that it wasn't so important what the anecdote was about as long as it covered something not generally known about the interviewee and it wasn't too longwinded.

Having interviewed quite a few people for OWW, I can tell you I try to customize my questions to the individual, which means I usually have to do some homework. Bear in mind that most interviewers won't do that for you unless you are a high profile author. The majority of your interview questions will be canned, the same questions they send out to every guest.

That can be a plus if you turn it around and use it to make yourself stand out. For example, in a recent interview at Greta Wheeler's blog, I let Tank, the Wonder Dog answer my questions. I had fun and any animal lover in his right mind would get a kick out of it. I also added a little inside information about me by mentioning Tank's story as a rescue.

Other people let their characters answer questions about you (or them). That can be cute, but unless your series is really well known, it doesn't play too well for me. Your mileage may vary.

You can be funny in an interview. Funny people are always welcomed whether it's the interviewee or the interviewer. JK Coi did an early interview with me and she was hilarious at the way she phrased her questions--and then turned my answers around. That to me is the mark of a very good interviewer. Everybody wins if s/he can make you (and the readers) feel comfortable.

Whether you are approaching your interview with serious intent or a lighthearted look into your tortured soul, here are some tips to carry with you the next time someone asks to interview you.

• The questions may be the same, but the answers don't have to be. The next time someone asks you where you get your ideas for your books, throw them off kilter and say you get them at the men's latrine down the street. Be shocking, irreverent and bold and people will be glued to the page to see what other wacky thing you'll say next.

• It's okay to be imperfect. If you can't spell worth a darn, don't be afraid to admit it---and then reassure your readers (and your editor) that spell check is wetwired to your brain. Readers like to know that you're not omnipotent.

• Easy on the verbiage. We don't have to know your entire life's story. Leave some for next time.

• Ask a question at the end of the interview. I learned this too late. But I learned this trick from Shelley Munro and her very excellent blog. The question does not need to be deep, just something people are likely to respond to.

• Easy on the sales pitch. Another thing I learned late. In the beginning, I followed the example of lots of other writers, but it finally dawned on me that a sales pitch is like dropping your hand in a bucket of pudding. By all means mention your books, but do so gracefully. I am more likely to look up an author's bibliography if he tantalizes me with an interesting story about himself than if he pimped his books as if the circus was in town.

• Link a lot. I love links in interviews. It's like going on a scavenger hunt. You'll never know what you'll find.

• Attach a photo of yourself. I cringe every time I see a photo of myself. (and I really need to post an updated one) but an author photo is important. It lets the reader connect with your story.

• When your interview goes live, make sure to check all the links. Interviews, especially on the internet get very limited exposure, so it pays to check the links as soon as you can.

Good luck on your next interview. Make each one a slice of author pie.

For more Killer Campaign posts go here.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/

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

Find it on Amazon.
 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

In The Public Domain

Every time I want to grouse about something, fate has a way of thunking me in the head and setting me straight.

I have a short fuse when it comes to copyright, both for written and art work. One reason I so rarely put photos on this blog is that I'm afraid of accidentally picking up a photo that is copyrighted. When I do put in images that are not my own, not only do I make sure they are copyright-free images, I also take them into Photoshop and change them up slightly--just to make sure it's not the same image.

Imagine my surprise when I read Anne Wayman, Yes, I CAN Use Your Picture. I didn't realize that you are giving blanket rights when you publicly post your photos unless you specify otherwise. Now, Anne Wayman has been a freelance guru for a long time and I respect her tremendously, so when she makes a statement like this, I listen.

I probably will continue to hunt specifically for copyright free images, but it's good to know that anything I post is subject to being used by others. Since I do plan to post some photos of my day to day homesteading adventures, I'll be adding a small copyright symbol, along with the blanket copyright notice after every post (since I've been scraped in the past).

Adding a simple statement and © should be enough to protect me, but some bloggers go overboard to protect themselves - in my opinion.

There is a gardening blog I have on my reader that delivers very little information but gorgeous photos of their garden. I am {this} close to deleting it from my reader though.

In huge text, they have 'COPYRIGHT (name redacted)' boldly pasted across each and every photo. I understand they want to protect their property, but it takes a lot away from the post. Not only does it look unwelcoming, it looks downright threatening. To be honest, I can see stunning photos in any gardening catalog. They aren't providing any background information on how they achieved their beautiful plants, just a lot of pictures.

They do want you to attend their seminars and workshops, so you can "learn" more.

Thanks, but no thanks.

This post is primarily focusing on photography, but artwork that is created by an artist is a different ball of wax. Under no circumstances should you be swiping actual artwork without the artist's permission. Artwork is automatically copyrighted from the moment it's created unless otherwise noted.

The digital age has made it very difficult for writers and artists to hold on to their property. Our work is constantly being pirated and there's no easy solution, but to educate people.

Think twice before using copy or art. All that work belongs to someone somewhere. And when you do use stock art or photos, be gracious and try to credit the photographer when possible.

***

Tomorrow is the last day for my contest. It might take me a while to tally up the number of times I've seen my tagline: The Apocalypse Is Closer Than You Think, but I hope to have a winner by this weekend.

You can still tweet, review or mention Touch Of Fire. Just remember to follow the rules, listed in the blog masthead above.

***

Poor Tank is getting his teeth cleaned today, which means he'll be anesthetized. I hate when that happens.

He's still relatively young so he should be fine. But my wallet won't be. The cost of a teeth cleaning has gone through the roof. And you would not believe what they charge to anesthetize a BIG dog.

But that's a grouse for another time.

*****
Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.
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Monday, May 25, 2009

Markets

Editor's note: They seem to be very specific about what they're looking for.

Juno Books

Juno is currently looking for novels from 80,000 to 100,000 words in length. We are interested in fantasy featuring a strong female protagonist set in a contemporary (or a very few years in the future) world quite like ours except for the intersection/transgression of the numinous (that which is "wholly other") with/upon the mundane. This world can be open ("magic", the "supernatural" is known to exist) or closed (where "otherness" is concealed from common knowledge).

This type of "urban fantasy" (sometimes called "paranormal/urban fantasy") is typically crossed with mystery, action/adventure, and horror featuring a woman with supernatural power (or some paranormal connection). Romance/relationship is usually an element in this mix as is humor. We want original, imaginative, well-written novels with fascinating characters interacting in a plausible (if fantastic) world. We aren't particularly interested in characters who feel that violence solves all problems, but they will, if needed, defend who and what they love.

We are not interested in "paranormal romance" where the plot revolves primarily around a romance. We know that many folks are confused by the terms used to describe such fiction and there are no firm boundaries. But if you read this type of book, then you probably know the distinctions. (And we wonder why anyone would try to write it if they don't read it.) We hesitate to mention specific authors because we do not want books "like So-and-So writes."

And, although we once published a wide variety of diverse fantasy, we aren't looking for that now. No historical, epic, sword-and-sorcery, low, high, dark, etc. fantasy.

***

Hourglass Books: Themed Short Story Anthologies

We publish anthologies of short stories assembled around a common theme. We are interested only in literary fiction. The category of literary fiction excludes genre works, such as science fiction, mystery, romance, westerns, etc., since these works already have many other outlets available to them.

We are now accepting stories for our fourth anthology, Occupational Hazards: Stories From the World of Work. If you have a wonderful short story on this theme, we are interested in seeing it now. You also may join our mailing list to learn about our themes for future books and other news items.

***

From my CP, Sharon.

Leisure Books, Rue Morgue magazine, and ChiZine are joining forces to present "Fresh Blood", a writing contest for unpublished horror authors. The winner will receive a contract for publication in Leisure's 2011 lineup, as well as a contract from ChiZine Publications for a limited-edition hardcover release, also in 2011.

They're looking for "finished horror novel manuscripts, either supernatural or non-supernatural, of 80,000-90,000 words. A panel of experts, including Leisure Executive Editor Don D'Auria and editors at ChiZine, will judge entries. The finalists will be announced in November 2009."

Following that announcement, from December 2009 through July 2010, monthly competitions in categories such as "Best Summary", "Best First Line", "Best Title", and "Most Frightening Scene" will run on ChiZine.com. Readers will have the opportunity to vote for their favorites, and after each deadline, entries with the fewest votes will be eliminated.

• The winner will be announced in August 2010.
• Entries should be sent to submissions AT dorchesterpub DOT com by 30 September 2009.
• "Fresh Blood" must appear in the subject line of the email.

For full entry details, see Dorchester's web site or ChiZine's web site.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Word Of Mouth

Truly, if there is any better form of advertising, I don't know what it is. Word of mouth is not only the purest form of marketing, it is almost always the most sincere.

I say "almost always" sincere because there are a few cases where someone will try to manipulate the consumer via the media or cross-promotion, but true word of mouth promotion is done at the grassroots level. And it's hard to force it to bloom. That's the beauty of word of mouth. It only generates through the effort of the individual.

Take "Twilight" for example. It went viral almost from the beginning and it reached a particularly receptive audience of tweens and teens. Even if Stephen King didn't like Twilight, there are legions of fans that will disagree with him vehemently, and that's the way it should be.

Word of mouth has no boundaries. It doesn't rely on experts, authority, or the media. It is one person telling another person: "Yeah, this was pretty good. Try it."

When The Da Vinci Code came out, I was stunned at how people raved about this book. It took me several chapters to invest myself, but when it finally happened, I understood what people loved about this book.

Had I NOT heard the constant endorsements from regular people I would have never picked up the book. The writing style didn't appeal to my comfort level and it didn't get interesting for me until further into the novel. It's not a book I would have purchased without a nudge. And I think that's the greatest advantage for word of mouth advertising. It urges you try something even if your initial reaction tells you not to.

Can you create word of mouth?

In small ways, yes.

While a lot of authors hang out on writers' loops and will rave about a book that particularly appealed to them, writers' loops are the least likely to stir demand. They are an audience, but not your mass audience.

If you want people to talk about you, hang out with the average (non-writer) reader. That's the soccer mom, the policeman, the janitor and the office worker. Reach out to the people who have nothing to do with writing, people whose only interest is to find the next good book to fill their lunch hour or their commute home.

Book signings, community meetings, book clubs, parties, and non-writer groups are all excellent ways to expand your visibility. From there, you have to let nature take its course and let people decide whether to buy your book or not.

Encourage word of mouth
• Meet people either in person or online.
• Be yourself
• Don't talk at people, talk to people.
• Be excited about your work. Enthusiasm is contagious.
• Personally thank those who mention you or your book.
• Invite them to visit your website or sign up for your newsletter so they can read previews of your next book. (business cards come in handy here)
• Talk about your process, research, or funny stories about your writer's journey. People love hearing about the inside scoop. It makes them feel closer to the author.

And the most important tip…

• Talk about OTHER people's books.

Sounds like the antithesis to what you're trying to encourage, but quite the contrary, it fans the flame. People who share their passion for reading aren't limited to genre or author. Talk about the books you love and the conversation may very well turn to something closer to home--like your books.

For more Killer Campaign posts go here.

Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/


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

Find it on Amazon.
 

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Housekeeping

Starting in June you will start seeing posts about our homestead, saving money, and the assorted animals we are planning to accumulate, along with the usual writing posts.

Markets will continue as a series, but Killer Campaigns will be coming to a close. Not to worry though. I plan to do something special with my articles.

I also plan on doing a quarterly newsletter. There won't be any advertising or book pimping, but there will be a fresh article on the writing life, more writing markets, as well as the occasional guest. This will be a short and snappy newsletter with bulleted items you can read in a hurry. Look for it in late summer.

Authors: If you would like to be a guest on my newsletter, email me so I can get you scheduled.

• Articles must be under 500 words, not including your bio.
• Articles can be about any useful writing tip or topic.
• If you'd like to write about something else--email me and we can talk.

PS--I do not care if you aren't published yet. If you have an interesting idea that you can present in under 500 words, I want to hear from you!

***
I'll be out of town for some of next week. I'll try to get my posts scheduled beforehand, but if I miss my due date, you can beat me later.

I know. Suzanne and Mike are probably warming up those cricket bats.

I've seen those bats. I never realized you Brits had such large crickets over there. *grin*

***
My garden is in full glory but I still have several empty rows for later crops. I made some mistakes along the way, but overall I'm happy with the final result. Next year should see an asparagus bed, a fully functioning greenhouse and several active compost bins.

And chickens! We must have chickens. I'm still bugging Greg to build my chicken coop. I miss having fresh eggs.

Okay, that's it for now. Come back tomorrow for another Killer Campaign post.

Labels

Michelle Miles had an interesting post recently on the three words that described her both when she was in grade school and now. How people view us can change over the years, but I think the elements of what describes us are always with us.

My grade school teachers often described me as shy, quiet, and studious. But people nowadays tend to label me as determined, dependable and demanding. That makes me a triple D threat. :o)

Those early traits evolved into Determined/Dependable/Demanding. I was shy and quiet because I could neither speak nor read English very well, which subsequently forced me to be studious.

That same work ethic taught me to be determined. It's not in my nature to give up.

And because I am so demanding of myself, I tend to expect as much from others.

The dependable part is a side effect of the other two traits. Staying the course to reach my goals has made me steadfast and reliable to the nth degree.

Still…if I could change myself I know which three words I would like describe me. If my fairy godmother could wave her magic wand I would like to be articulate, charismatic and charming.

Even though I speak and write English fluently now, I've never felt particularly articulate.

Charisma is another pipe dream. I don't have it in me to be charismatic, and perhaps because of that I like to write about characters who are. I am also insanely jealous of charismatic people. My best friend falls into that category. If I could inject myself with one ounce of her people power I would be giddy to the gills.

As for charming…

Cue crickets chirping. :o)

What three things describe you? What would you like differently?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Crossroads

I've been wanting to change my blog layout but I haven't decided on a template. My artist side wants something bold and dark, but my practical side knows better. Simple might be boring, but it is easier to read.

And let's face it, if you visit a blog, you are only going to be impressed by the graphics the first time and then you'll ignore them. So maybe I'll stay the course unless I find an easy to read template with a little oomph for my vanity.

***

My mother has been visiting and I have been overly distracted. The woman can wear out a saint. But I think she's had a good time despite her eccentric daughter.

I know she didn't believe me when I told her we lived in the wilderness, but I think she believes me now. She worries that I am too isolated, but that's only because she thrives on lots and lots of people. Something I try to avoid.

All this musing has got me to thinking about the writing community as a whole and where I fit into this picture.

Coming from an art background I was used to pecking orders and faux hierarchies, those little make believe groups that insulate you from all the artists that haven't reached (in your opinion) your level of expertise. But the writing community seems even more cliquish than the art community. There are multiple skill levels, multiple acceptable genres (and that changes depending on who you talk to), and untold numbers of peer groups within peer groups.

I'm sure each of us can point fingers at one group or another for playing the elitist. This was fine when I was twenty and green as grass, but today it feels silly and pretentious. And the blunt truth is, I don't want to play that game.

So I find myself at a crossroads of sorts.

We writers are a tender bunch, always worried about what everyone else says about us. But I think from now on, I'll worry less about which people I should be schmoozing with, and more about giving the reader what he really, really wants--a good read.

Mom would like that.

*****
Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/

Monday, May 18, 2009

Markets

For all ye pirate types.

Skulls and Crossbones

'Skulls and Crossbones' is a collection of short stories that feature women pirates in any setting and any time period. All stories should be between 4,000 and 7,000 words. Editors may consider reprints. Stories should NOT focus on romantic hook-ups or erotica - rather the editors prefer stories that feature adventure, intrigue, battles, trickery, thievery and/or assorted banditry and outlaw behavior.

Pay is $35 plus one contributor copy of anthology.

Deadline is 1st September 2009

***
And a contest

Tony Hillerman Prize

Deadline: June 1, 2009

Genre: Books

This competition is open to writers who have never had a mystery novel published. Mystery Novel set in the Southwestern United States including at least one of the following states: Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Southern California and Utah.

60,000 words or 220 pages minimum.

Prize: $10,000

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I've Been Scraped

Until today, I had no idea what "scraped" meant.

I have a Google Alert set up to search for certain keywords, like when my name or book is mentioned out in the ether. But every once in a while I find one of my blog posts copied almost VERBATIM on another blog with no information as to who the blog belongs to or why it exists.

With no way to contact the blog owner, I was forced to allow the piracy to continue. The occurrences were rare and random and sometimes they appeared to have been translated to another language and back to English. Surprisingly, this last one inadvertently gave me credit as the author, but only because my name was listed within the article.

Today I found out there are scraper bots that harvest information off blogs and re-post them on other blogs. According to BlogCoach these are completely robotic operations.

I generally delete my old Google alerts, but I decided to check out the most recent capture. I checked out the link yesterday morning and did some minor sleuthing.

I didn't get far but I promised myself I'd dig deeper when I got back to my computer that afternoon.

On my return, I discovered the blog was suspended. Hmm...

I will be keeping a much closer eye to my alerts from now on. I suppose it is a backhanded compliment that someone wants to steal my content, even if it is a robot. There's gotta be a human behind the curtain somewhere. I will be on the lookout for him from now on.

BlogCoach gave some good suggestions to dissuade these thieves which I will start to implement.

The one protection device I will not use is to truncate my blog posts. These show up as a headline or a short paragraph. To read the rest you have to go directly to the blog. I absolutely HATE this. I don't like being coerced to visit a blog. If you want people to read you, put it out there.

I put blogs on my Google Reader for my convenience. If you make it inconvenient for me you'll lose a reader, not gain one.

I'm sure people do the partial feed to protect themselves, but BlogCoach had much better ideas for that. From now on after every one of my posts I will place a copyright statement and try to add more links that come back to one of my older posts--at least for my favorite posts.

I'm glad people like the information I share, but please link back to it. There's no honor in stealing.

How about you? Have you had content stolen? Have you done anything special to protect yourself?

It's us against the bots and their despicable owners.

*****
Copyright © 2009 Maria Zannini -- http://mariazannini.blogspot.com/.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Killer Campaign: Press Releases

Today, you get to see me use myself as a guinea pig.

Press Releases are short, tight news items that you send out to spur the interest of librarians, newspaper editors, tv and radio shows, and booksellers, etc.

In my study of book releases, it seems the average book release is 400 to 800 words. You write the release to fit the venue. For instance, a release sent to a bookseller will be longer than one you'd send to a radio show. Keep in mind who is going to read it and how they will use this information.

Booksellers might make a decision to buy copies of your book from reading your release, whereas radio shows might use a shorter version of this information as a special interest piece to pass on to their listeners. Use your best judgment for each individual venue.

At the top: The very first thing that appears will be these words in all caps: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Information: The next section should list your contact information. You want whoever gets this to contact you. Make sure you give him exactly what he needs.

Headline: In my opinion, this is probably the most important part of the release. I know speaking for myself that if the header doesn't grab me, chances are I won't continue reading the rest of the copy.

Body Copy: The body copy is your chance to describe your book in the most exciting way you know how. But oh, boy, can it get tricky.

Fiction as a rule is NOT newsworthy. Pitching your murder mystery is not going to make the newspaper editor hold the presses for you. But pitching a murder mystery that is set in the town where that newspaper calls home might.

A news release must be intriguing.

What you're looking for is that core that ties everything together, that little bit of oomph that brings it to the level of the average person reading that newspaper or listening to the radio.

A news release could describe the novel, or it can describe one part of the novel.

For example, in TOUCH OF FIRE, instead of describing the story, I could talk about the apocalypse, or religious intolerance, or the danger of hallucinogenic mushrooms. All of which happens in the story.

For grins, let's try a modest news release for TOUCH OF FIRE and see how I do.

I like mine short, primarily because I have a short attention span and I have to assume editors, reporters and library directors have even less time and patience than I do.

Since I like the tagline I've been using, I will use it for my headline.

***
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact Info Here

THE APOCALYPSE IS CLOSER THAN YOU THINK
According to the Mayan calendar, time abruptly and inexplicably ends. Speculation abounds on what happens next, but the apocalypse theory is gaining ground. Author Maria Zannini takes it to the next level and tells the story of an Earth 1200 years in the future, an Earth that knows only magic.
Infrastructure has deteriorated, buildings have collapsed and people have forgotten their roots. History, languages and religions have fused. Technology has all but vanished. In its place, a race of magical humans have risen from the ashes of the Great Apocalypse, fey witches who will do whatever it takes to keep the plainfolk in their place.
When an ancient book surfaces, it threatens to reintroduce technology and tip the balance of power once more.
Maria Zannini is an author and future history connoisseur. A native born Texan, she weaves her tales in and among the vast and colorful Texas panorama.
ISBN 978-1-60504-160-5
To place orders for the book, contact: Samhain Publishing, Ltd. 577 Mulberry Street, Suite 1520 Macon, GA 31201
www.SamhainPublishing.com
To arrange a book signing or interview, contact Maria Zannini at XXX-XXXX or mariazannini AT gmail DOT com
***
I excerpted this ultra short version as an example, but maybe this will give you some ideas to start with. Try writing some practice releases. One for a newspaper, one for radio and one for the bookseller. I'd love to hear your headlines. And if you'd like, post an excerpt of your pitch too.



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

Find it on Amazon.
 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek Review

There might be spoilers so if you haven't seen the movie, come back on another day.

***

Everyone else seems to be talking about this movie so I might as well fall into line too. Unlike all the rah-rah reviews from elsewhere, I was not that easily impressed. This is primarily because I am a stickler for credibility and plot logic. Smoke and mirrors did a good job of masking the inaccuracies, but I still noticed.

Star Trek is more fantasy than SF and more character driven than it is plot driven. Characterization was excellent. Except for Uhura, they really did do justice to the original crew.

Uhura, sadly ended up in the sex kitten role which stirred my dander to no end. Did the woman have no purpose on that ship but to chase after her love interest? They alluded to her mastery of language yet they did nothing to build on that.

Oh, yeah.

She intercepted a highly classified message---yet failed to deliver it to her superiors or headquarters. She mentions it after the fact and only to corroborate Kirk's allegations.

Somebody give me an aspirin. I was really angry at the waste of talent.

Time travel: Star Trek is famous for concocting incredulous ways to go back in time. (Slingshot around the sun, anyone?) They did it again, but the story moved so fast that most of the non-SF fans missed the planet sized logic holes.

But that's okay. Everyone gets one pass to disregard believability. Even if it was a whopper.

They did do one thing right and that was breathe new life into the franchise through the use of alternate reality. This was a brilliant move that was both elegant and efficient.

They also did a wonderful job in re-introducing the crew.

Kirk was okay. A little too hotheaded for captain material. And how the hell do you get promoted in ONE day?

Spock was nearly perfect--even better than the original, though I thought an actor with a deeper voice would have worked better. Spock sounded a little too boyish at times.

McCoy was adorable and my favorite of all the crew. I was ready to dismiss him because I didn't think anyone could do the original justice, but he pulled it off flawlessly.

Chekov, Sulu and Scotty were spot on. All of them were delightfully fresh, yet loyal to their origins. (I was hoping Chekov would mention a Russian Shakespeare or something, but oh well.)

Uhura missed the space port by a mile. Disagree if you want, but I thought she had too much potential to be cast as simply a love interest with no discipline to duty.

I loved the gentle nods to the original. But I wanted to replay the scene where Scotty mentions Archer's beagle. (Only true Star Trek fans will know this.) There's a hundred year difference between this Enterprise and Archer's time, so unless Archer lived to a ripe old age, I don't think Scotty could beam Archer's beagle anywhere.

I'll be buying the dvd if only to catch the little references. If you want to know about other galactic sized misfires, check out Sci Fi Wire.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Workshops

Instead of markets, let's do workshops today.

Editor's note: I've had a workshop with Cindy Vallar. She's an outstanding instructor who really knows her topics. --Highly recommended.

Workshop title: Norse Scotland
Instructor: Cindy Vallar

Workshop dates: Monday, 1 June – Tuesday, 23 June

Workshop description:

In this year dire portents appeared over Northumbria and sorely frightened the inhabitants. They consisted of immense whirlwinds and flashes of lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air. A great famine followed soon upon these signs, and a little after that in the same year on the ides of June the harrying heathen destroyed God’s church on Lindisfarne by rapine and slaughter.
–Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, 793

As in England, Vikings invaded parts of the Western and Northern Isles of Scotland. They ravaged the monasteries and enslaved the people. But the images we conjure up of the raiders provide only a small glimpse into the world of the Norse people, for the Vikings were pirates. Those who followed were settlers who established homes and integrated their way of life with that of the Gaels and Picts. By examining the history and archaeology, ships, raiders, famous Norsemen, women, marriage, the Norse in the Northern Isles and Hebrides, and life in general, participants will have a better understanding of Norse Scotland.

Cindy enhances the participants’ experience through discussions and assignments. She also shares excerpts from her novel, The Scottish Thistle, and her short story, Odin’s Stone, to illustrate how aspects of Norse culture survived into the 18th century and how she weaves fact into fiction. A list of terms, a resource list, and a timeline accompany the lessons. There are discussions and assignments to enhance the twice weekly lessons. At the end of the workshop, Cindy provides a free edit of a chapter from participants’ manuscripts set in Scotland.

To Register, go to this website

***

Writer U presents:
Magic, Monsters and Amour: Creating a Believable Paranormal, Fantasy,or SF World

Instructor: Marilynn ByerlyWhen: July 6 - 31, 2009

Cost: $30 per class.

Are vampires, fairies, and space aliens real? If you create the rightbackground for your novel, they will be to your reader. Marilyn Byerly,lauded by reviewers for "building a world that combines both integrity anddepth in an entertaining way," shows you how to develop a fantasy, sciencefiction, or paranormal world from scratch...how to invent creatures topopulate it...and how to make your novel utterly believable. She'll teachyou the ins and outs of research, fresh ways to use creatures like vampires,and the means to avoid various traps many authors have fallen into.

Topics include:
* The three methods of world-building--their advantages and disadvantages
* World-building questions and resources
* What not to do in building your world* How to create the perfect alien or magical character
* Putting your world-building on the page
* Avoiding SF hazards, magic messes, and info dumping

Marilynn Byerly's two passions are writing and teaching. She has taughtwriting, reviewed books, and published writing articles. Her articles havebeen used as course work for writing and publishing programs at severaluniversities. Her romance, science fiction, fantasy, and suspense novelshave won awards including the National Readers Choice Award, the Sapphire,the Affaire de Coeur, and the Write Touch.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Pirate Winner

And the winner of A Pirate's Passion by KS Augustin is...
.

*** JK Coi ***

JK, I will contact you with your prize as soon as I get back to my home computer.

Congratulations!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Killer Campaign: Author Quotes

Do author quotes work? It might, if the right author plugged your work.

I have to admit author quotes do nothing for me. But I am obscenely jaded. And I've heard too many stories of famous people giving glowing remarks even if they never laid eyes on the book in question.

But let's assume you have a respected and admired author willing to say nice things about you. How would you go about asking them for a quote? How do you choose which author to ask?

I've had the privilege of interviewing quite a few famous authors in the SFF community. In the early days, my inexperience at interviewing made me feel a little uncomfortable, but I have two advantages that have worked well for me.

#1 I've been in the corporate world a long time. I'm used to dealing with professionals at all levels of success. Also, I entered management at a fairly young age and had to deal with subordinates much older than myself. I'm comfortable in my skin.

#2 I'm old. Famous people don't make me nervous. And if they're my age, we actually become peers in the restricted club of old timers.

So my biggest tip to you is a simple one.

We're all people. And we are surprisingly more alike than different. No matter how famous someone is, chances are s/he knows what it's like to have a toddler get sick on his shoe. He knows about forgetting to set the clock, dreads edits and deadlines, and worries how well his next book will sell.

I'd like to think that most famous people also understand kindness and karma.

When you find an author whom you think would be perfect as a spokesman for your book, be polite and treat them the way you would like to be treated.

When contacting your prospective author for a quote:

• Respect their privacy. Use only legitimate, publicly known addresses or their PR person.

• Introduce yourself succinctly. They don't need to know that you have three kids and a box turtle.

• Don't fawn. You are peers, even if he is a superstar. Treat yourself with respect the same way you respect him.

• Be clear about what you want. If you want a quote, ask for one. Don't waffle.

• Keep your letter short.

• Enclose your book or chapters.

• Give them enough time to reply.

• Be sure to supply the timeline of when your book will be released and publisher name. (If you share the same publisher, it might give you an edge.)

• Thank him and close with a tight ending.

How to pick the right author to quote your book:
• Choose someone in your genre

• Be aware of their reputations. If they're known to be jerks to their public (yes, we can all name a few of those), stay away from them. We are judged by the company we keep.

• Look for authors who are approachable. The chances of getting JK Rowling to say nice things about you are slim, unless you went to school with her.

•This is going to sound terribly elitist, but if you are going to get a quote, vie for those with clout. The quote has to do a job. It won't work if you get someone who is still scratching his way to the top.

Use an author quote if it becomes available but don't rely on it. Treat it like a cherry on a sundae. It makes a nice presentation, but it's the ice cream that counts.



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

Find it on Amazon.
 



Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bloggy Buffet

I'm in a quandary. As some of you know, I am planning on spinning off a second blog about the homesteading life, as well as tips on saving serious moolah.

I can write all day long about life of a back-to-the-lander. I think those stories will be fun and quirky all by themselves, but I don't want it to diminish my blogging about writerly stuff. And while I originally planned on writing two blogs with posts on alternate days, I am thinking more and more about creating one almighty blog that divides the week between writerly topics and day in the life stories.

Lynn Viehl does a pretty good job of that, as does Marianne Arkins and Shelley Munro.

In my Spock-logic thinking, I imagined two blogs could reach two different audiences and that's a good thing, but when I think about the blogs I like most, they are usually the ones that speak not only about the business, but also about what's going on in their lives.

I'm still on the fence, but I am leaning toward one blog now. There will be lots more pictures, anecdotes and me re-learning how to live in the country. It's been 20 years! I promise you hilarity will ensue--and injuries. Lots of injuries. I am the poster child for klutzes.

***
Killer Campaigns

We are on the cusp of finishing up this series. I suspect another couple of months and we'll be done unless I think of something new. Is there anything marketing related you'd like to see?

Anything else you might be interested in reading about on this blog? According to my stats, Markets are a big draw, but for some reason, the dog posts bring in the most people. Go figure.

***
Reviews

I need some. I contacted the people I knew bought TOUCH OF FIRE and asked if they would write a review if they liked it.

If you've read TOUCH OF FIRE and enjoyed it, I'd be ever so grateful if you said a few kind words on its behalf.

Here are some review sites where you can say a few inspiring syllables.

www.Amazon.com

www.BN.com

www.Borders.com

www.BooksaMillion.com

Thanks!

***

I was reading something the other day about "The Greatest Job in the World".

Some 34,000+ people applied for a job that asked you to explore the islands of the Great Barrier Reef for six months and report back to Tourism Queensland and the world.

While I am hugely jealous and congratulatory to the winner, one Ben Southall, I couldn't help but shudder at the media clown that he and others had to become in order to win this job.
The number of applicants was cut to a top 50 who competed to develop online followers, holding stunts to promote themselves that included scuba diving in a tank in an Amsterdam square and riding the London Tube in scuba gear.
Stunts...headdesk

***
I think my favorite job was when I worked as a veterinary anesthesiologist. I learned so much from a man who wanted to mentor. He almost talked me into becoming a veterinarian.

Your Turn:
What's the best job you've ever had?

PS Don't forget that I am giving away a copy of "A Pirate's Passion" for comments posted here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Less Hype--More Meat

A few years ago I joined the OWW (Online Writing Workshop for SF, Fantasy and Horror) Yahoo group along with the critique group. There was a comment from a regular there that stuck with me over the years. I don't even remember who made the comment, but I remember he had published some short fiction and like the rest of us struggled to catch the eye of an agent or editor.

He said (and I'm paraphrasing): I'm not looking to write the next big epic nor do I have visions of being a best seller. I just want to write a good story that people will enjoy.

In my quest for authordom, sometimes I forgot that wisdom. While it's nice to write the next BIG thing, there's nothing wrong with writing just a plain good story.

On my bookshelf is a novel by Suzanne Frank, called 'Shadows On The Aegean'. It was a book I found in a discount book bin. It looked a little beat up but the subject and genre captured my attention and I bought it on the spot. The thing I remember most about this book is the way Frank merged science and fantasy. I loved the story too, a time traveling couple who end up in Atlantis.

It's the kind of story I liked curling up with in bed, the kind of story I looked forward reading every night after a brutal day at the office. And I hated when it ended. It was the kind of book I never considered donating or chucking into a garage sale box. It was a plain good story--one I might read again.

Now that I'm in the business and I read all these posts about agents wanting the next BIG thing, I shake my head. As a reader, I'd much prefer a good solid story that is intelligent and original. I can't say that's always the case with the BIG books.

Sometimes it's the little known books that stay with you long after their day in the sun.

In that vein, I want you to check out KS Augustin's latest.

A Pirate's Passion just came out this week. I read it yesterday and I was a happy camper the rest of the day. It's just one of those stories that satisfies.

In celebration of Kaz's release I am giving away a gift voucher for "A Pirate's Passion" to one lucky person who comments on this blog post. Deadline is Saturday 5-9-09 at 12 noon.

Your turn:
What kind of stories have satisfied you the most--the BIG idea books or the lesser hyped stories? Has there been one book that's stuck with you for years?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

In Hiding

I think I will go into hiding for the rest of the week. Yesterday, a simple fifteen mile trip from the closest town, took an extra 30 miles of getting lost.

For those of you who don't know, I live in the wilderness. Fifteen miles from anything in any direction. I like it. The noise is minimal. The traffic is virtually non existent. And the only neighbors you hear are the horses and cows. Oh, and the lions. I have lions that live in a sanctuary about a mile away. I've gotten used to them too.

But over the weekend we had the mother of all storms blow through. The artery leading to the main road was closed due to high water, but our little road, the only public road leading home, saw some serious washout. The water was so tremendous it destroyed one side of the road where a pond fed under it. We needed civil engineers and heavy equipment to repair the damage.

I should have known it was going to be a big deal.

Monday, I left early in the morning to run some errands and by the time I got back, a quarter mile of the road was blocked by trucks and heavy equipment. Go around, they said. The next road will circle back into this one.

30 miles later, I was back to the blocked road. By this time two other people were stranded there. Neither one had the sand to ask the head honcho how to get around. So I limped over there, past the humongous front-end loaders and the grading equipment and found someone who gave me better directions.

Evidently, there was a way to get through. It's a private road and the people in charge had gotten permission for the rest of us to use it. Too bad nobody passed that information on to the residents that lived there.

It was a rough rock road with no visible signs other than the "Keep Out or Else" sign. The road got thinner and thinner until it was little more than a foot path, but I kept going. My frozen shrimp was thawing! I had to get home.

Finally, I saw an exit to a blacktop road. Freedom! And better than that -- I recognized the road. It was MY road. I was going home. My shrimp would live to see pasta primavera.

Now that I'm home, I am staying put. I have food, wine, dog and movies. The husband is out of town, but I'll put his picture across the dining room table and pretend he's mocking my cooking.

I have plenty to keep me busy until he gets back.

We've been working all week on a couple of remodeling projects. I'd post pictures, but I'm saving them for the new blog coming soon.

The people who owned the house before us punched a hole in the wall on one side and through the built-in bookshelf on the other side so they could install an aquarium. I like aquariums, but we travel too much so I'm not ready to put another one in just yet. This left us with the problem of what to do about the hole. They really made a mess of things when they tore the aquarium out.

Greg, who could easily work as a professional remodeler rebuilt the built-in bookshelf even better than before. It's gorgeous. You can't even tell there was ever a hole.

The man never ceases to amaze me. (I did good choosing him. LOL.)

He sheetrocked the other side and plastered it to a smooth finish and it's now awaiting me to retexture and paint it to match the rest of the walls.

Our other project is the back porch. 52 feet (I measured) of screened back porch. Greg once again worked magic and took out the floor-to-ceiling screens and built a short wall so that no dog or human can walk through the screen by accident. Evidently, it happened a lot before. The screens were in a raggedy state.

The redo looks fantastic. We still need to install the new shorter screens and Greg has decided he wants to tile the floor too. I think it will be quite elegant when we finish. I am on the hunt for suitable outdoor furniture to balance the room out.

There's always something to do when you own property. Fortunately, both of us enjoy working with our hands. And at least one of us (not me) is good at it. *grin*

Have you remodeled recently? Anyone want to share their experience?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Markets

We have contests today.

There's still time for this one! From Query Tracker's blog. Deadline May 5th.

Can You Query A Tune? Query Contest

1. The contest will run for one week.
Submissions will be accepted until 9 am EST on 5-5-09
2. Your song should include at least one verse and a chorus.
3. An actual tune is optional (but STRONGLY encouraged)
4. Parodies are totally cool with me, so you can just say "To the tune of ___".
5. Since this is not an agent contest, query songs for unfinished (or completely imaginary) manuscripts are acceptable.

Post your query lyrics as a comment on this thread. If you have an actual tune of your own, you can upload it to imeem.com or similar and include the link. And I wouldn't discourage any youtube performances, either.

Go to Query Tracker for more info.

***

Cleveland Rocks Romance Contest

We’re now paperless—entries and responses all electronic.

Deadline: June 1st, 2009

All entrants receive first-round judges’ scores and comments. Finalists receive a 1-page critique from the judging editor/agent. Winners receive refund of entry fee and winner logo graphic.

2009 Categories and Editor/Agent Judges

Contemporary Series/Category Romance ~ Brenda Chin, Harlequin
Single Title Romance ~ Susan Yates, The Wild Rose Press
Erotic Romance ~ Kelli Kwiatkowski, Ellora’s Cave
First Declaration of Love ~ Raelene Gorlinsky, Ellora’s Cave/Cerridwen Press
Historical Romance ~ Rose Hilliard, St. Martin’s Press
Mainstream with Romantic Elements ~ Diane Parkinson, The Wild Rose Press
Paranormal Romance ~ Ethan Ellenberg, Ellenberg Literary Agency
Romantic Suspense ~ Christine Witthohn, Book Cents Literary Agency
Young Adult ~ Danielle Poisz, Pocket Books

Due to the publishing market, editors are subject to change without notice.

Contest Rules

Entrants must be unpublished in book-length fiction (minimum 40,000 words) in the last five years.

Actual computer word count is used for all entries and contest categories.
Submit the first 6000 to maximum 7000 words, to a clear story break (such as a chapter break). A synopsis is optional; if you choose to include one, it may be no longer than 750 words, is not counted as part of the entry, and is unjudged.
“First Declaration of Love” category: Scene where the main protagonists first declare their love to each other. Maximum 500 words.

Entry must be in DOC or RTF format, and emailed as an attachment to ClevelandRocksRomance@gmail.com. Each entry must be accompanied by a completed Entry Form/Contestant's Agreement.

Fee: $25.00 ($15.00 for NEORWA Chapter members or contest judges)“First Declaration of Love” category: If scene is from same manuscript entered in another category, there is an additional fee of only $8. If entering in this category only, regular fee is applicable.

***

From Carol Burge's blog
Age Of Elegance Contest

We want to know what the Age of Elegance means to you. Fulfillment? Exploration? Discovery? Tell us! To enter this contest, simply follow these short and simple guidelines before submitting your story.

CONTEST GUIDELINES: Using 500 words or less, and using these helpful questions below, tell us; What does the “age of elegance” mean to you? Have you embraced this time in your life? If so, how? Have you used this journey to define yourself as a new woman?

Please submit your entry in a WORD document AS AN ATTACHMENT. Include your name, email address, and short bio (no more than 75 words) INSIDE the WORD document NOT IN THE BODY OF THE EMAIL. SUBMIT to - contest@nabbw.com with Age of Elegance in the subject line.

Deadline – May 31, 2009

***

Not a writing contest, but a terrific author's contest.

Drop a comment on Suzanne McLeod's blog for a chance to win her latest book Cold Kiss Of Death. She is running a contest EVERY week for 11 weeks.

one comment = 1 entry
A mention of the giveaway on your blog/live journal/myspace/facebook/twitter/etc [post the link to the mention into the comments again] = 1 entry per link

Which all means you could end up with more than six entries into the metaphorical hat, so what are you waiting for? Get posting and linking!! Good Luck!!

Go! What are you waiting for? This is an author that will end up on your auto-buy list.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Are You a Loud Writer?

I'm back! At least until the next time my internet provider works on their tower.

swine flu update: Another school system in Texas has shut down. This one is closer to the neighborhood I used to live in. Many events have been canceled.

writing update: My mother is coming to visit. What does this have to do with writing?

LOL. I find it hard to write when I have people standing behind me. The blogs won't be a problem since I usually write them very early in the morning when everyone else is asleep.

But I am what I call a demonstrative writer. I write my lines. Say them out loud. I retype words, rephrase sentences, walk around and sometimes play-act certain scenes so I get a feel for how it might go down.

I can't do that with an audience. They simply would not understand.

Do you talk to yourself when you write or read? Do you practice your scenes? Please tell me I'm not the only one.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dead in the Water

Is there a swine flu going around for computers and internet connections too? I can't even reach my email server right now and have no clue what else is new in the blogosphere.

At least it waited until after my book released to go kaplooey. Thank goodness I posted early. Two days in the dark!

I did check my stats and found out this blog has been pretty popular lately, due in no small part to Marcia James.

Thank you, Marcia! You are a real treasure. I'm nominating you the patron saint of author marketing.

And guys...if Marcia gave you some good marketing advice, return the karmic goodness by ordering "Tails Of Love" for your favorite animal lover or library. Remember that 100% of the proceeds go to the Animal Adoption Foundation in Hamilton County, OH

Buy it at:

Borders
B&N
Amazon

I should be back soon. Meanwhile I will give you the only real news I have right now.

Swine flu: The Fort Worth school system has shut down ALL its schools. Some people think they're overreacting.

Maybe. Maybe not.

There is NO vaccine for this flu which makes it different from the other flus that have made the rounds. I say better safe than sorry. I keep wondering why we still have the US/Mexican border open.

One child has died from swine flu in Texas, but he was a Mexican National visiting the states. The other Texas cases have all been treated and are recovering. It sounds like New York has far more cases than we do.

The only good news about all this is at least we are more connected than people were during the 1918 pandemic. The internet is keeping everyone informed and tracking the virus with pinpoint accuracy. We also have drugs that seem to help those afflicted--so far. I worry a bit if it will mutate before a vaccine is grown.

What you can do:
• Buy enough groceries to last you 2-3 weeks so you don't have to expose yourself needlessly.
• Avoid large crowds, places like grocery stores, movie theaters, malls, airports and restaurants.
• Wipe down surfaces that are touched regularly.
• Keep antibacterial moist towlettes or waterless hand sanitizer in your car, purse and office.
• Remind everyone in the family to wash their hands often.
• If you think you're coming down with something, make sure it's not the flu. If you see your doctor within the first two days of symptoms, you have a better chance of making a quick recovery.

Stay safe, everyone. I'll talk to you soon.

I have plans for the coming month, my darlings. Stay tuned!