Monday, May 25, 2015

CELEBRATE THE U.S.A.

My family is filled with men who served our country. My cousin, Roger Hussey, a helicopter pilot, has done so many tours of duty in the Air National Guard he has flown everything from Huey Cobras to Black Hawks to Kiowas to Apaches. My brother-in-law, Arthur Roy Reed, is a veteran of the Korean War, and my uncle, J. C. Westmoreland, was decorated in three wars during his military career. During World War II he was a navigator in what was then called the Army Air Corps (later that was changed to the Air Force).  He flew in those huge B52 bombers in the European Theater, while his family back home prayed for his safety. He was also decorated in Korea and Viet Nam.

Uncle J.C. didn’t talk about his wartime experiences, but he did talk about having pride in his country and respect for the flag. He did talk about duty and honor and the sacrifices necessary for freedom. More than that, he showed all of us by example how to live a principled life.

Besides my daddy, Uncle J.C. was my biggest hero. He was also one of my biggest fans. He loved books of all kinds. He took great pride in reading my novels and telling everybody he saw that his niece was a writer. It didn’t matter to him that he was a strapping military man with a romance novel in his back pocket. What mattered was his love for his family.

I think that must be at the heart of every man and woman who has served or is now serving in the military – great love their family and a desire to see them continue to enjoy the freedoms our ancestors fought and died for. To all of them, I say THANK YOU! GOD BLESS YOU.

USA Today Bestselling author Peggy Webb loves her family, her friends, singing in her church choir and playing her antique baby grand that once belonged to a jazz musician. She invites you to visit her website to learn more about STARS TO LEAD ME HOME, the women’s fiction novel reviewers call the "MUST READ book of 2015." Preorder for only $2.99 till pub day, June 4. Details at  www.peggywebb.com.


   

Friday, May 22, 2015

Advice. Take it? Or leave it?

One of the things I love about RWA is the amazing amount of support. It's so nice to have a group of people who understand what you are going through, unlike pretty much every other person in your life. 

At times I now feel like the laundry room in my house. My family has a vague understanding of the workings but really only cares about the output. So, yes, I'm "writing," and that is great for whatever that means to them. But, where are the books on the shelves and the money in the bank? I'm 100% certain that I would not still be making an effort to write without the advice and support of my writer friends.

Another thing I've found is that EVERY level of author is willing to try to help you. No. They can't read your book and you shouldn't expect them to. But, I am an advice junkie. I admit it. And if an author can give you pointers or share information, then they likely will.

It's important to set aside pride for the sake of your career and the quality of your book (that's kind of advice so feel free to take or leave it!). Part of that is being open to this advice. Will all of it work for you? Will all of it be good? No. But, I'm a firm believer in "lessons learned" and failure analysis - which is basically a fancy way of saying advice! You probably do it already to some degree. You know when something isn't working.

I'm taking craft classes and learning about the business, based on all of the "I wish I had known" advice I heard.

I'm not rushing.

There are free and very reasonably priced classes. I'm really excited about Southern Magic offering Debra Dixon's Book in a Day workshop.(https://www.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=1592). A book in a day, people!  I recently took an RWA online class about creating a better opening for your book. And I would be lost without Suzanne Johnson's plotting and revision classes. The RWA conference workshops made me wish I could clone myself.

I still have a long way to go with craft, but I'm very glad I put in the time before trying to publish anything. I will continue to do so.

I took a lot of the processes I used at my manufacturing day job and incorporated them into my own writing process. Some of it worked and some failed miserably. And I learned from it and moved forward. Then I read a lot of advice on writing processes, and tried several things I never would have thought of.




Have you received any advice that changed writing for you? For me, it's the "write every day" advice. It made so much sense to me. So logical. But, I can't do it. I tried for eight months to make a habit of writing every day and have never been more miserable and less creative. But I know some people who took this advice and it was a game changer for them. My lesson learned was that I need to set a weekly (not daily) word count...and THAT led to more productivity for me. In effect, it was the advice NOT working, which led to something that did. And who knows, maybe in three years, my writing style will have changed and writing every day will be what's better for me.

So, what's your advice advice? ;-)  Is there one piece of advice that sticks out to you, good or bad?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Confessions of a Reformed Lurker; Or, How I Finally Committed to Writing Romance



A few days ago, I actually attempted to clean out my book collection.  (I use the word “attempt” deliberately. I’m not sure I ended up culling much of anything!) I have books in way too many places, but one of the semi-organized spaces where I store them is in an unused hall closet. It has these amazing shelves…I love it! Anyway, as I stacked books and reached back further into the closet, praying that I wouldn’t grab a spider rather than a book, I drew out the first romance novel I ever read: Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower


THIS BOOK. Oh, my. So many people trace back their love of the genre to this book, and I still remember the experience of reading it. My mom’s beat up 1970s paperback of The Flame and the Flower changed my life. It is not only the catalyst that led me to writing romance, but it is also the source that opened the door to a community that has become one of the best I have ever known…even though it took me a while to join that community!

I was always writing stories, but The Flame and the Flower awakened the sleeping romance novelist inside of me. I first read it in 1993, but I wasn’t quite ready to write romance at this time. However, I was ready to devour any romance novel I could! After finishing every Woodiwiss book in my mom’s collection, I would sneak glances at romance novels in bookstores, drugstores, grocery aisles—anywhere I saw them. I was too shy to buy one with Fabio on the front, but I really wanted to. Soon I said to hell with it, though, and got over my shyness. I proudly marched myself up to the counter with all kinds of romances, and after a while, I could even name the cover models. :)

It wasn’t long before I had a small group of friends (roommates, booksellers, people I met browsing in the romance section) connected through my love of romance, and what I noticed most about this group was that we were tightly bound by something deeper than an appreciation for a new release by a favorite author. There was a built-in support network there. The enthusiasm was contagious, and we lived and breathed romance novels.

Even though I actively participated in a small community of romance readers, I found it harder to tell them that I wanted to write. I also had no clue where to find others like me, and I was terrified to let anyone know that I had already started writing my own novel. This was approximately 1994, and it wasn’t like I could just go to Google to look something up. (Yep. Wait for it: Google wasn’t launched until 1998. I officially feel old.) I didn’t even have an email account or dial-up internet service at this time. So, I went as old school as The Flame and the Flower and started researching in magazines and the library. I even remember going to the Readers Guide to Periodical Literature (yes, the old, huge print versions), and looking up every article I could find about the romance industry.

I don’t remember how, but I found out about and became a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) in the late 1990s—but I went through years of allowing my membership to drop off. It was expensive, and I was way too shy to even think about joining a local chapter. The thought of actually publicly stating that I was trying to write a romance novel and then having someone actually want to read it? TERRIFYING.

So I was a silent on/off-again member. As years went by (and, yes, I had internet and knew what Google was by this time), I lurked on websites and chat rooms and forums, finding out what I could about authors, books, and the industry. I learned a lot, but I wasn’t really involved. I continued to write, but I wasn’t dedicated to it as a professional should be. Life got in the way—as it tends to do. Jobs, family stuff, graduate school: there was always something in the way. Still, always pulling me to the side, was the little angel (or devil) on my shoulder, saying, “Write! Write!” So write I would…for a little while, at least. But I knew that in my “day job” professional community that no one would really understand why I would want to write romance novels. So, as always, I hid that part of my life and let it get buried underneath all of the other daily concerns I had.

But in 2013, I decided to make a change. Why? Maybe I saw a part of my life coming to an end and it looked like a great time to make a new start. Graduate school was over and I did not have the stress of finding a job, because I was lucky enough to already have one. I committed myself to my “day job,” of course, but I also committed myself to making a change in terms of my writing life. I picked up those old issues of the Romance Writers Report (yes, I hoard those, too), and I started communicating online with other writers and romance novel enthusiasts. Soon, I felt energized and ready. I reinstated my RWA membership, went to my first national conference, and actually joined my local chapter. At nationals, I remember thinking, with a sigh of relief, “These are my people!” And they are.

Officially delurking! At RWA nationals, I met author Vicky Dreiling for the first time in person!
We had been chatting for a long time on Twitter, and it was a great experience to see her face-to-face.
Authors like Vicky are the reason I am proud to be a member of this community.
Recommitting myself to my writing career and getting involved in the community are the best things I ever did for myself as a writer. Sure, I have ups and downs (who doesn’t?), but at the end of the day, I know that I have a community behind me. Each month, I get to spend a few hours with people who love the same thing I love, who understand the passion behind the passion, and who form a diverse but inclusive village that helps in so many ways—on the page and off. Those few hours make all the difference. So, my advice? Stop being a lurker and get involved.

Susan Sierra is a historical and contemporary romance writer. She loves books and old letters, adores her dog and family, and has a deep and committed love affair with coffee. She spent time as an undergraduate studying (having fun) in Mexico, went on to work for a large regional magazine as a copyeditor, and then decided that she hadn’t tortured herself enough in life...so she went to graduate school. After many years, she walked away with a PhD and an unhealthy relationship with Charles Dickens. She hopes to complete her first full-length novel in 2015. FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER!



Monday, May 18, 2015

What is expected from a published author?

The other day, a friend of mine, newly published, was shocked to learn of all the things expected from her. She said, "Why didn't anyone tell me?"

Well, we did. But in the middle of struggling to become published, we concentrate so hard on the story and submission process, we forget to listen to the other stuff. I know I didn't listen.

So in case you're in the process of being published (writing, submitting, etc.), keep in the mind the following. Let me know if I missed anything. And of course, it's a list. Love them! *sing-song voice*

10. Judge contests: books and unpublished manuscripts.

For me, after so many years entering contests, I felt it was important to give back by pitching in. I had to say that I've learned just as much as I taught. And hopefully, I was helpful and kind in my comments. I do know I was always lenient in my scoring. HATED to give less than 80 out of 100 for any manuscript and rarely did. The person did write the story from the heart. Don't we all? 

9. Giveaways

Lordy! I learned so much about giveaways. Of course, what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. Giving away gift cards are helpful for international fans (mailing books are expensive), but will not guarantee they'll buy your book. Giving away your book will most likely guarantee it will sit in the horrible TBR pile. (Check out my feelings about that here.) This month, I'm doing a big giveaway of an iPad Mini. Be sure to go here to find out more. Everyone has to read CIRCLE OF DEFIANCE to have a chance to win. I'll let you know later how it works. Thanks to Kelley at Smut Book Junkie for giving me the idea during her presentation.

8. Swag

Boy, oh, boy, you can spend SO MUCH MONEY in swag. Seeing your name on a book is totally exciting, but adding pens, cups, and so on can be wonderful too. Yet, the return (readers) is so low. Lynn Ray Harris said something to me the other day that is so true. Buy swag to give to your fans as a thank you. So I've decided pens and my favorite (and inexpensive) car cup-holder coasters are the only freebies to anyone. The really nice stuff (bags, dolls, shirts, cups, etc.) will be given to my fans.

7. Ads

Up until this year, I've done a few ads. I've decided to do more and see if it helps with my name recognition. We all know that we have to see a name (or brand) at least three to five times to become interested. Only then we'll get curious enough to spend money. So I'll let you know.

6. Website and blogging

For myself, I do my own website. Presently, you certainly can tell. As time has gone along, and I have more books and information to place on it, it has become messy. Time to revamp, but I'm still writing my book and one more to write this year. So I plan to redo the website in December. If a miracle happens and I have some money, I might pay someone else. It's my blog that I enjoy working with the most. My little way of communicating with the masses. Of course, there is social networking (see number 2 in a minute), but really, if a person hasn't signed up for Facebook or Twitter, they won't see what I have to say. Did you know that Google+ had more users than Facebook? No matter what people want you to believe, they are not the be all, end all. Other countries have their own social networks. You didn't know that? Oh, yes. Check it out here. While most everyone, in any country, can look at blogs.

5. Book signings

Love to do book signings, but they're sometimes a lonely affair at book stores. So it's best to have author friends there too. Need someone to talk to besides family and friends. Unless you're like me and have neither show up. *Violin playing* The best book signings are at conferences and conventions. Then you have a captive audience you could say. But don't be surprised if you sell only two or three books. Now if you're giving the books away, that's a whole different ball of wax. You might have to grab a few people walking by (if you don't have a sign saying "FREE BOOKS"), but they'll be gone in no time. The books will then sit in a TBR pile. (Go back and look at number 9.)

4. Conferences, conventions and luncheons

They are fun. Love going, but they take time away from writing and cost lots of money. A good tax deduction. But I've decided if I can't provide a workshop or be on a panel or do a book signing, I will most likely not go. Just some miscellaneous opinions: RWA National is great for networking; RT Booklovers is the best for Authors and getting their name out there; Moonlight and Magnolias (Georgia RWA) is my favorite conference. So much fun. I love going to luncheons. Though often the people who sit at my table don't know me from Adam's housecat, I feel there is a chance one of them will be curious about my books. Be sure to fill your basket (most luncheons require you to bring one to raffle off) with the best of goodies and overflowing. It can cost you anywhere from $50 to $200, but will be worth it. Make an impression while you can. Looking successful impresses readers. If they believe you're making good money off your books (even if you're not), your books then have value -- worth reading -- but always be friendly and SMILE BIG.

3. Libraries

I wanted to make sure everyone understood the importance of our local libraries. When you're at the library, who do you ask what's good to read? The librarian, of course! Libraries are important places for our books to get recognition. Most readers will buy copies to save and read again after reading it at the library. Or they can't wait until the newest shows up there and go out and buy it. Donate a few. Bring them all the swag you collect from all of those conferences, conventions and luncheons. Be sure some of your own swag is in it. And be sure to leave some of the good swag in it too. They will love you and remember you. Make sure you make time for them. If they ask you to participate in a program, do it! This is how your community finds out what you do for a living (or at least hope to do for a living).

2. Social networking

Really, I can't tell you how much this part of being a writer can be such a time suck, but a necessary evil. Yes. I know some of you LOVE Facebook or LOVE Twitter. Just make sure you're not spending hours on it, playing games, watching cat videos, etc. Be entertaining without wasting your valuable time. I would suggest once in the morning for thirty minutes to click likes, make comments and post one or two statuses, and then get away. You can even connect your Twitter account to Facebook. Multitask.​ In the evening, do one or two more statuses, likes, etc. and then off. You can answer comments and click likes the next morning. Keep it to a small amount of time. And NEVER PLAY GAMES!

1. Write the book(s)

Really, do I have to explain this?


Be sure to check out Carla's month long contest. You might win an iPad Mini!  Click here.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Carla Swafford loves romance novels, action/adventure movies and men, and her books reflect that. She has three romantic suspense novels with Avon Red and recently sold a hot motorcycle club series to Loveswept. She's married to her high school sweetheart and lives in Alabama.

Look for me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, & Google+
Time Magazine, [Circle of Danger] ". . . involves deadly assassins, drug lords and doing it."
Action-Adventure-Romantic-Suspense

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Sea of Torsos

WARNING: This post contains BOOK COVERS

It's an open secret that skin sells.

This is true in all kinds of marketing including romance novels. As much as the writer in me wants to be decorous and refined, I know in my heart of hearts that naked torsos mean more sales.

Take for example the New York Times best sellers I'm perusing while writing this blog:
    
#11 The Mistake by Elle Kennedy    #15 Double Dare by R.L. Mathewson


















Or the Amazon best sellers in romance:
    
#1 Kindle Romance Contemporary    #1 Kindle Romance Romantic Comedy


















And don't even get me started on gay romance...
    
#1 Gay Romance    #3 Gay Romance


















So while I'm trying to convince myself that my stories are deep and compelling, filled with emotion and meaning, exploring what it means to be human and to love, I'm confronted by the fact that readers are still buying books because a naked chest grabs their attention.

Of course, there are really good reasons for this scientifically. A shirtless man is easier to smell. Humans are primates, after all. We rely on scent to help us choose our mates. And a male without all those clothes covering up their scent is easier to evaluate via our noses.

Also, a shirtless man exhibits sexual attractiveness. Due to the rise of the female gaze, we're seeing more and more of what women like--broad shoulders and slim hips. A book cover with a sexy guy on the cover says, "Come read me. I'll be your boyfriend for at least 200 pages." Can you really resist a guy that's so willing and eager?

So with that in mind, my publisher created the cover for my upcoming novel, The Klockwerk Kraken. It's a little bit scifi (one of my heroes has tentacles), and a lot romance.

I'm adding to the sea of naked torsos, but at least the view is nice.

====

AIDEE LADNIER is a writer who loves quirky characters. You can visit her website at http://www.aideeladnier.com or meet her at some of her favorite social media sites:
Twitter  |  Tumblr  |  Pinterest  |  Facebook