#TacoTuesday

tacoshells

Disclaimer: This post has absolutely nothing to do with food – sorry foodies!

Welcome to a new kind of blog hop, engineered by moi for anyone who wants to join in. This is for fun, creativity, mostly cuz-we-can and designed to work for both readers and writers!

Objective: Every Tuesday I will introduce a new ‘ingredient’ until we have the biggest and best tacos in town. The only things you need are your own WIPs, published works &/or favorite books you’ve read. Answer as a writer, a reader or both, it’s completely up to you. There are no rules against using a different manuscript for each week’s writer answer, but please make sure to tag them with the story’s title so your followers know which books to look out for!

Here we go…

Writers Menu

Taco Shell/Wrap: Share a moment when a supporting character played a part in keeping your protagonist held together, even if it’s in memory.

“The problem is the whole in so deep already, though,” Reyna admitted, once she’d caught her breath. “I mean, he’s everywhere! He even knows my boss, for crying aloud. There’s no place in my life where he’s not already involved.”

Serena paused and softened, giving her a sympathetic look. “You mean like me and Maddy?” she pointed out. “Do you think it was any easier for us? You’re my best friend and his sister. We all grew up together, our parents used to barbecue together. We went to the same schools, the same family outings. Even if we went out separately, the other turned up there or was friends with those who were there. Do you know how long it took for me to get up the nerve just to admit to myself how I felt about him?”

Reyna opened her mouth, then closed it. She’d never thought of it that way before, but Serena was absolutely right. Madison had already been such a huge part of every part of Serena’s life, just like Corbyn was turning out to be in Reyna’s.

“The hardest part was getting past the fear that I would lose everything I loved, everything I’d known, if we didn’t work out. You, your parents,” Serena continued. “At the very least, that nothing would ever be the same again.”

“How did you do it?” Reyna asked quietly, desperate for any kind of wisdom her friend could bestow.

“I just did,” Serena shrugged. “I knew that if I didn’t try, if I didn’t give him or myself that chance, I would regret it for the rest of my life…”

~ Hearthstone Alpha (The Úlfrinn series, #1)

Readers Menu

Taco Shell/Wrap: Which book have you read with a memorable supporting character, and why did you like them?

itbiotc-front-coverMargo from In The Best Interest of The Child, by Felicia Denise. I loved every moment she was on the page, because her character came across with such a genuinely supportive personality. Even though Olivia hadn’t let her in all the way with her traumatic past, Margo was still there for her, without hesitation or judgment. She brought laughter, a shoulder to cry on, advice and even a good ‘shove’ in the right direction whenever Olivia needed it. I really hope we get to see more of her in the second book. (hint-hint!) 😉

This probably goes without saying…but

IF YOU’RE READING THIS, CONSIDER YOURSELF TAGGED!!

 

If you do participate, please remember to leave a ping-back in the comments below, so I can read your post. Happy Tuesday Muses!

Advertisements

You Name It!

Your Next Bad A__ CharacterCharacter names are the topic of today’s post, for both readers and writers, so jump right in! The other day, I was given the option to check out yet another free book and being the cover whore that I am, I couldn’t pass it up. I skipped the blurb and went right for the “Look Inside” feature. I made it through a good portion of the beginning, before I was even given the young woman’s name.

It was my mom’s name. 😐

Not a popular girl’s name in this day and age, especially for an 18 year old – but there it was. Glaring at me. I instantly started picturing my mom in what I knew to be an Erotic Romance novel and hit the back-button so fast my mouse filed an L&I claim.

As a Reader

I understand that this awkward situation depends largely on your genre of choice. I read a variety, but mostly Erotic Romance. So, there are definite names that will immediately turn me off to a book. Main Characters who have the same name as:

  • Any of my parents (I have 4)
  • My Kids
  • One of my ex’s that I cannot stand
  • A real life arch-nemesis – though I love it when they’re the antagonist!
  • And, depending on the circumstances, my nieces and nephews

That’s a lot of names when you think about it. Which, is why I usually feel fortunate and grateful that writers can be so creative with names!

Both of my kids have uncommon names. It’s very rare that I pick up a book and see my oldest son’s name. I have never seen my youngest son’s name used… as a first name… so it doesn’t have the same ‘scarred for life’ affect.

The rest of my family all have more common names. In the case of one niece and nephew, though, their names are sooooooooooo ridiculously common, that I know a dozen other people by their names and for some reason that makes it a non-issue. It’s like I have mental blockers for them, rather than the names, themselves. (Yeah, I’m a little weird).

More often than not, it’s that one ex-boyfriend situation that I run up against. I can’t even stomach seeing his name in print, let alone spend 1 to 300 pages reading it over and over again, picturing him in my mind, instead of the character I’m supposed to be seeing. A hero with his name is the last guy I’d ever root for, no matter what amazing qualities he supposedly has.

Just. Ain’t. Happening.

I’m probably missing out on some really great stories, but it’s not worth the nausea. Am I alone in this? Are you able to overlook these situations?

As a Writer

When I started writing in my teen years, I used names I wished I had, or that I could see myself naming my kids one day. Now that I have kids, I know better – especially with the kind of books I read and write! o_O

Typically, there are 3 different ways my characters can get their names:

1) It just comes to me and it fits. It might even come to me before the actual plot.

2) I get an idea for a story, and as I sketch that out a little more the character names start coming to me, usually as I imagine them be spoken aloud in dialogue. Actually, some of my ideas begin as dialogue, but that’s a whole other post!

3) The character is from another country and I research names until I find a combination that I like or feels the most fitting. I also do this with foreign sub-characters. Sometimes, it’s just their surname, because their first name has already made itself known.

With my Dark Day Isle series, Tessa’s first name came to me easily, then I had to wait for her last name, but I had to research to find Felix’s whole name.

The name Felix, itself, has been around long enough to have a very wide reach. However, in these modern times, it’s more commonly found in and around the kingdom of Luxembourg. My character happens to hail from Metz, which is nearby and politically linked to Luxembourg. I was excited when I came across the name during my research, and knew I’d found the perfect fit. Yes, I love Felix the Cat, too – stop aging us, gaw! 😀

While there’s no rule against using any name you want, it can be really useful to run a deeper search into a country’s various regions, for they each have their own unique traditional and modern list of names. Just searching for “French boy names” never would’ve given me Felix as an option. It only takes a few extra minutes of research, if you’re looking for something more authentic.

Of course, I’ve had characters whose names came to me first and only afterward revealed that they were of a certain heritage. For example: The main male character in my upcoming novel, Hearthstone Alpha (June 1st!) is Corbyn Bruschard. I didn’t choose his name – he did. I think I gave him a duck face, but he was 100% set on it and since he’s presumably ‘the boss’, I was in no position to argue. [insert exaggerated eye roll here].

Bruschard doesn’t even exist in Google’s world. At least not that I have found. Corbyn and his, ahem–pack–of guys, are Scandinavian, so I apologize profusely if Corbyn Bruschard is like the exact opposite of anything viking – you can take it up with the boss. Personally, I’d just let it go… I’ve met his cranky side. 🐺

Readers: Have you ever found yourself unable to read a book–no matter how enticing the blurb–simply because of one of the character’s names?

Writers: How do you come up with your character names? Is it different for each book? Do you have names before anything else, or do you have to flesh your characters out a bit first before their names come to you?

Whaddaya Mean I’m Not Superwoman?

one-does-not-simply-have-free-time.jpg

It’s painful to admit that I think I’ve reached the end of my multitasking capabilities. Everyone’s lives are busy and we all juggle overflowing plates–but to those who can be mom/dad, work full time, keep house, be rushed through back-to-back edits while battling a nasty head cold bent on destroying our planet and still find time to tweet every five minutes, I bow before you, and in the wise words of Wayne & Garth declare:

50291443.jpg

The good news is that I am recovering from the head cold at long last and hopefully will be getting back into my blogging routine, at least. I have a lot to catch up on, so bear with me…

Here’s to a better week for all!

 

The Other Side of The Coin

003-stephen-king-quote.png

We all started as readers, didn’t we? Long ago, back when books could only be purchased in print and the idea of corresponding with our favorite authors was a pipe dream that earned us generic letters written by fan club volunteers–yet, we cherished them anyway.

All the late night hours, oversleeping for school the next morning, because we just couldn’t put that book down. We didn’t know how much money the author made, what they preferred for breakfast or the name of their beloved pet, until someone was lucky enough to get an interview with them. Authors were as distant as the stars and we worshiped them for their creative brilliance. We were awed and spellbound by the masterpieces they were able to create with words. We would wait months, years for their next novel, because that was normal.

Now, we’re the authors and we’ve come into this fast-paced, on-demand, high-tech industry with the same hopes and aspirations as the writers who came before us. We have the advantage of a self-publishing market and being able to personally connect with our readers through various social media platforms.

What’s a fan club? (I think she meant Street Team) Oooh, gotcha.

We aren’t distant or mysterious. Our readers not only know what we prefer for breakfast, they get before, during, and after photos on Instagram.

The disadvantage, is that the reader mentality has adapted to these modern times. Instant gratification has become the new norm and they’re no longer willing to wait months or years for your next novel to come out.

Are you?

Now that you’re on the other side of the coin, has it changed the kind of reader you are? Do you find yourself more sympathetic to the time and cost, or is there a switch in your brain between writer and reader?

a-ha-ha-wr-be-a-writer-funny1

You know exactly what goes into each and every one of your books. The writing, the beta readers, re-writes, blurbs, covers, the editing, promoting and tours. No matter how small your budget, you publish at a loss, unless you’re skilled enough to do 100% of everything by yourself.

Do you wince at paying $2.99 for an eBook? Oh, I don’t know about that, I think I’ll wait for it to go on sale. You know that cover alone cost at least $45 if it was pre-made or author made (royalty free stock photos can cost that much for the right size). Upwards to $499 if it was custom ordered by a top professional.

“Yeah, but $2.99 is half the cost of my favorite espresso or 2 cheeseburgers off the dollar menu at McDonalds and I already know I like those, no risk of being disappointed.”

Instant gratification is worth the cost, but a new author we’re not sure we’ll like…um…maybe not so much.

Plus, there’s no resale value on an eBook, but you can always sell a paperback used on Amazon, at the flea market, yard sale, or trade it for credit at the paperback exchange – yes, they still have those.

And this isn’t a dis on technology, our spending habits or the new times. The world changes and we adapt. We have a lot of things to be grateful for as authors, that our predecessors only dreamed about – I’m just curious if becoming a writer has changed the way you behave as a reader? Are your reactions more lenient when you find a typo in someone’s book or harsher? Do you find yourself reading as a writer; critiquing plot, flow and character development as you go – or can you still fall into these things from a reader’s perspective alone?

Do you find yourself reading more or less? Do you have writer envy? Do you find yourself discouraged more often than not by other authors’ successes?bestwriter

Want a free book?

Uh…..

Bet you never thought you’d pass up on a free book, huh? These days, there are so many free book promotions that a good 50% never get opened in emails; click-delete, delete, delete, because we already have 1,000 free novels bogging down our Kindles from the last 25 promotions and we’re not even sure we’ll ever read them…like ever. 90% of them sounded good at the time, but they’re not even on our TBR list. They’re just sitting there, collecting cyber dust.

Do me a favor and look at the bookcases in your house, you know those beloved shelves you treat like a shrine, and tell me – is there a single book on them you haven’t already read at least once?

Does that make you feel guilty? Do you wonder if your own novel is sitting on someone’s Kindle, where it will go unread…possibly forever? Ever fear that karma’s gonna bite you in the ass if you don’t go above and beyond to support as many fellow authors as possible, even at the sacrifice of your own precious writing time?

Is your mind filled with:

“Read? Who has time to read?! I’m not writing fast enough, my readers are going to leave me for all those other authors, because they’re publishing books once a month, attending signings, giving out SWAG (where do you even buy that?) and still find time to post a new Tweet every five minutes!” (?)

Or do you actually take the time to stop and think:

“Oh my God, I did it. I’m a published author, and there are people out there, right now, reading my book and I don’t care that they downloaded it for free and may never review it or buy the next one – they’re reading something I wrote – That’s all I ever wanted. I never thought this day would come!” (?)

Curious minds want to know…

quote-great-writers-are-indecent-people-they-live-unfairly-saving-the-best-part-for-paper-charles-bukowski-37-21-32.jpg

Save

Dear Indie ♥ Weekly Resource Post

IndependentHappy Independence Day to all of my fellow Americans! The perfect day to get back on track with my Indie posts. 🙂 The last you heard from me, I talked about the importance of Beta Readers and all of the steps that will help you during your Post-Rough Draft, Pre-Publication process. I’m going to pick right up where I left off and move into possibly the most difficult step you’ll ever face in your journey: Dealing with constructive criticism.

First, it’s important to understand what a Beta Reader is, what they do and what you’re essentially asking them to do when you request their help. The easiest comparison is:

You’re the CEO of your own company (Author Name) looking to market a new product (Your Book) and Beta Readers are your test subjects. They’re trying your book out for size and filling out a customer survey (Beta Read Questionnaire) at the end.

Beta Readers are usually experienced and know what to look for, what critiques will help polish your book. Some are more thorough than others, but they’re looking at some or all of these points: Character development, sentence structure, plot holes, flow, grammar, punctuation, style and overall enjoyment. They can be a lot like editors, only from a readership point of view.

Now, that you’ve gotten the results back, your first reactions and questions may be along the lines of:

  • What? They didn’t like it? But how can anyone think poorly about the blood, sweat and tears I’ve put into this precious new creation? Easy. They didn’t put any blood, sweat and tears into it. They are not emotionally invested in the story, the characters or even the success of the finished, published product. Therefore, their opinions and suggestions are unbiased, clear-headed and unfettered. As much as you might loathe or even downright despite them, this collection of outside feedback is crucial to your book’s success.
  • But, I chose to publish independently so that I could write what I want – or – because none of the publishers or literary agents were interested, despite the fact that I know it’s good! – Yes, but now you have the opportunity to make it even better. To polish your story to the point where it’s no longer good, but phenomenal! [insert flashing text and raining glitter here].
  • All of my friends and family love my book just the way it is! – No, they’re either afraid of hurting your feelings or they really do love it, because they don’t know any better. By that, I mean, they’re not familiar with your specific genre, or they aren’t aware of those critical points I listed above (character development, etc.) and therefore have no way of critiquing those things for you.

The important question you should be asking yourself is this: Wouldn’t you rather know these opinions now, rather than in bad reviews after it’s already published?

I completely understand your desire to hold fast and try to protect your hard work. We inherently possess a knee-jerk reaction that sends us right into defensive mode whenever our work is criticized. It’s natural, and it’s okay to feel (not to act on). However, I also know from experience that it’s counterproductive to stay in that mode for too long.

So, how can you get past it and turn all of the criticism into something useful? By remembering that you’re a CEO of a company looking to market a new product. It’s as easy, and as difficult as that. Allow yourself to have your initial, natural reactions – but then step back from the personal, emotional hold of it and put it into a business perspective.

The worst possible feedback you can ever get is “OMG, I loved it!” and nothing else – In no way does that help you. It’s flattering, yes, and we all love to hear that kind of praise, but that sentence alone is not going to help you sell any books. Besides, that’s more of a Review than a Beta Read (we’ll cover Reviews later on).

The best feedback will be a combination of positive and negative points. Most (not all) beta readers like to highlight the things they loved about your book, just as much as it’s their job to point out all of the things that didn’t work well for them. It should be a balance, but you have to keep in mind that beta reading is time consuming, so there may be those who only give you back the critiques without any praise – that doesn’t mean they didn’t like anything, though.

By turning the negative feedback into the positive tools they really are, it will help soften the blow, but I won’t promise it will be easy. Remember that each opinion and suggestion are the necessary bolts and screws that are going to make your book stronger for the marketplace. The fruits and veggies your story is going to need in order to flourish. Call it tough love, if you will, but when you trick your mind into a more positive, constructive and essentially productive perspective regarding your beta reads, you’ll be able move past it faster and get onto the next step you need to take.

Okay, so what step is that? Hopefully, you’ve already shopped around and decided on a professional editor, but if you haven’t, now would be the time. Most editors are willing to do a sample edit for you, so that you can see how thorough they are. They’re usually able to give you a time frame of how long it will take them to get the first pass back to you, as well. Choose the best editor for your needs and send your MS off to them.

Congratulations! You’re now halfway through your self-publishing journey! Take a moment to celebrate and pat yourself on the back for such a job well done! Especially, for managing to get through your first collection of criticism – it never completely goes away, but it might get easier for you over time.

Next week, I’m going to cover some optional pre-marketing steps you can take while you’re waiting for your edits to come back that might save wear in tear in your floors from pacing! 🙂

Weekly Accomplishment: I’m happy to announce that this week, I’ve finished the 3rd Chapter for Scavenger, book 2 of the Dark Day Isle series and have moved into the 4th. Hint: When Master Felix orders extra pineapple, things are bound to get a little… messy. 😉 What are you drooling… er…cheering over this week? Please share with us in the comments below!

 

Dear Indie ♥ Weekly Resource Post

Independent

Publishing Part 1

This week, I’d like to start covering Publishing, but it turns out I have more to say about it than I thought, so I’ve broken it down into separate posts.  Maybe you’ve already begun looking into how you wish to publish, or maybe that day is still so far off you figure you have time to do that boring, time-consuming step later.  Hopefully I can help cut some of the dullness and time down for you here, while advising you not to wait until the last minute.  For this first part, I’m only going to talk about:

SMASHWORDS

The #1 Indie Publishing site in the world. If you’re still unfamiliar with their services, allow me to reveal what I know so far.  In essence, Smashwords is a one-stop platform that does all of the work for you.  Before I go any further, this is very important: You CANNOT successfully upload your book to Smashwords unless it meets their formatting and book cover criteria.

Fortunately, the CEO has put together a step-by-step walk through on exactly how to format the interior layout of your book (this can also save you $$$ on paying someone else to do it) with this Smashwords Style Guide.  He also went a step further and created “Mark’s List” of professional formatters and cover designers that follow their specifications, if you feel better not going the DIY route.

Formatting aside, you have 3 immediate options with Smashwords:

  1. Assetless Preorders: For up to 12 months in advance, you can create a link for readers to preorder your book without having to upload the manuscript or book cover at all.  This gives you an additional 12 months of possible sales on a book you’re not even done writing yet!
  2. Regular Preorders: This is where your book is already finished and you upload it and your book cover exactly as you would for normal Publishing, only Smashwords allows you to choose “Preorder” and then has you set the future date of publication.  For however long that is, your book is not only available for early buyers, but up to 30% of your content is available as a Free downloadable sample – which potential readers love more than just a blurb. (It’s the equivalent of the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.) I don’t know about you, but I use that feature quite a bit.
  3. Direct Publishing: Publishing on the day your book is scheduled to be released. *NOT RECOMMENDED!* And this is why:

The first thing Smashwords does with your book is send it to their Meatgrinder to check for formatting errors.  This lists your book as “Pending Review” for their Premium Catalog.  That beautiful list is what allows your book to be distributed to their retail associates (i.e. Kobo, Barnes&Noble, iBooks, etc.), so you want to make sure you check your Dashboard for “AutoVetter” notices and fix them right away.  The sooner your book is accepted into the Premium Catalog, the faster it reaches all of those other retail sites.

So, choosing to wait until the exact date of your book’s release is taking the very real risk that your book isn’t even going to be available for sale anywhere other than Smashwords until they’re through approving it.  I would advise using one of the Preorder options, so your book is already approved prior to the publication date, plus it gives you a jump start on both sales and exposure!

Here are even more reasons to love Smashwords:

  • They assign an epub ISBN number to your book for FREE, if you don’t already have one.
  • You upload your book once, and they send it out to all of the retailers for you. (They only send out the epub version to retailers, that is why you only get the one ISBN number.)
  • Nothing is written in stone:  With their Dashboard feature, you will never have to ‘Republish’ your books.  Found a better cover? Just update your book from your Dashboard.  Realized your book had proofreading errors? No worries, just upload the corrected version of your book through the Dashboard and it’s taken care of – Smashwords will instantly send out your updated files to all of the retailers for you!

Here’s what Smashwords will NOT do for you: Distribute to Amazon.  Unless your book sales have reached $2,000 and even then, I think there is a waiting period or selection process that doesn’t guarantee you a spot.

More on Amazon next time!

Recommended Reading: Smashwords FAQ page. They have to have the easiest FAQ page to read and navigate that I’ve ever seen – and very thorough about answering any question you might have.

Publishing fun fact: Did you know that ePublishers don’t require you to have a literary agent and that you can submit to them directly?  Did you know that most brick & mortar Publishing houses have jumped on board that bandwagon and now offer their own ePub services that also don’t require you to have a literary agent?  Harlequin is one of them and you can find their non-agented ePub site here.

Help Unspoken

TheCall

The woman has had a hard day.  One of those days where Murphy’s Law is in full affect.  Now, after a work day she thought would never end, she just wants to get dinner done so she can sit down and unwind.  Unfortunately, her luck isn’t any better at home.  The pasta’s boiling over, and she can’t get the jar of sauce open to save her life. Getting dinner done by the time her husband walks in the door is something she prefers, so they can relax together and talk about their day.

He comes home and has no idea how her day went.  He only knows how his own has gone and it wasn’t the greatest.  Stopping on the threshold of the kitchen, he sees pots boiling over, timers going off and his wife standing with her back to him, crying and cursing the jar in her hands.

Three different men have stood in this very spot.

The first man doesn’t care how her day went, because there’s no way in hell it was any worse than his! He views this scene as an extension of his own bad luck, not hers and storms into the kitchen, going off at the mouth about how much he needed to come home to his sanctuary, and instead finds it in chaos! Why can’t she just give him one simple good thing in his day of horrible?  He puts himself right in the middle of everything, completely taking over. Opens the jar, dumps it in the pot, turns off the boiling pasta, jabs the timer button and looks at her to say, “Now, was that so damn hard?!” Before storming back out of the room.

The second man is worried, but not about her.  He’s worried about his own safety.  All he sees is a volatile situation that could possibly explode in his face, if he says or does the wrong thing.  He slowly enters the lion’s den and asks, “Hey, honey. You need any help?” To which, she either snaps “No!” or explodes, beginning with the jar she can’t open and escalates to the rest of her crappy day, while slamming around the kitchen.  He doesn’t really hear a word she says, he just wants to escape in one piece, so he quickly opens the jar and rambles off some apology, before running out of the room, throwing a “It smells great, hon, I just gotta do [insert lame excuse here] real quick…” over his shoulder.

The third man takes quick stock of the situation, recognizes that his wife is also having a bad day and waltzes into the kitchen.  Setting his stuff down on the counter, he comes up behind her. Placing his hands over hers, he helps her open the jar, moves the boiling pot to another burner before turning it and the timer off, then squeezes his wife into the kiss he places on her cheek.  “Love you.” Turning away, he grabs his things off the counter and leaves the room to go deal with his own mess before dinner.

The moral of the story:

  • You shouldn’t have to ask permission to help the person you love.
  • Never make their bad situation about you.
  • Helping someone shouldn’t make them feel worse about themselves. A little help can go a lot further than just taking over and doing it yourself.

And never pass up an opportunity to let someone know you love them.  It’s amazing what kind of positive difference that one little word can make!

p.s. Only one of these men has a chance of getting sex tonight. That’s food for thought, too. 😉