Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Podcasts for Indie Authors

My new favorite thing? Podcasts.

Holy cow, there is so much information available for writers on podcasts. Call me a slow learner, but before reading a post by another blogger, I hadn't considered podcasts as a learning tool for writers. (I wish I could remember the blogger's name who turned me on to podcasts for indie authors. If I ever find out his name, I'll be sure to update this post.)

New to podcasts? Here's what you can do:
  • Go to or download the free Stitcher app from the app store
  • Create a Stitcher account
  • Browse shows based on your interests (publishing, writing children's books, current events, whatever)
  • Sift through the many choices (I typed in "Indie Publishing" and over 500 shows popped up)
  • Add interesting shows to your list
  • When you're ready to listen, download a show and play
The blogger-I-can't-remember had given a few suggestions, and so far I've tried four. I like them all and would highly recommend them. Here they are in the order of my preference:
  1. Joanna Penn from the Creative Penn--Most of us have read Joanna's blog, The Creative Penn. Her podcasts are produced with the same topics in mind. She asks pointed questions in her interviews and boils it down for all authors--the small time and big time. Her podcasts focus on indie publishing, but there's plenty of information for all writers and publishers. Plus she has a cool accent.
  2. Rocking Self Publishing--Simon, a guy who also has a cool British accent, has great interviews with successful indie authors who offer inspiration and nuts and bolts ideas. His style is relaxed and friendly. He has a great way of turning the conversation back to the topic at hand.
  3. Sell More Books Show--This weekly podcast, hosted by Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen, has a nice back and forth style. They go through the top five publishing news events from the week and offer their opinions. It's interesting to see their take on current publishing news, like Amazon's new preorder option for indies.
  4. Self Publishing Podcast--This podcast, hosted by Johnny, Sean and Dave, is entertaining but packed full of colorful language--just a warning. They do a bit of self promo, but it's done in a way that gives authors ideas of what can work and what's worth trying. These guys are fearless and innovative.
Listening to podcasts is an entertaining and productive thing to do while walking or hiking. I simply download a show before my workout, then learn while I'm on the go.

Do you listen to podcasts? If so, are there any you can add to the list? Do you listen to other podcasts? Please share!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Writing lessons learned from CAPTURED BY LOVE

Time to share some important writing lessons I've learned from reading great books! This time it's all about Captured by Love, by Jody Hedlund.

It is 1814 and the British have taken hold of Mackinac Island and its fort. American residents were forced to swear an oath of loyalty to the British crown in order to retain their land. Pierre Durant is a voyageur--a fur trader who left his family home to find freedom and adventure. He's been gone five years and when he returns, his family's farm is at the mercy of the British invaders.

Torn between the life he's grown used to and guilt over leaving his brother and mother, he's drawn back into the loyalist fight against the British--and into a relationship with Angelique MacKenzie, a beautiful local girl who's been befriended by the daughter of the British commander. As tensions mount and the threat of violence increases, both Angelique and Pierre must decide where their loyalties rest, how far they will go to find freedom, and how much they will risk to find love.

Warning: if you haven't yet read Captured by Love, and don't want to know any plot points, read no further!

  • Open with intriguing action: The novel opens with Angelique on the run. She's barefoot, at night. The reader is instantly curious. Where is this girl going? Why is she barefoot? Who's chasing her?
  • Reveal character with early action: Angelique is running because she's sneaking coveted food to an ill friend. This shows bravery and kindness from the very beginning.
  • Bring on the love triangle: I'm a sucker for love triangles. In this case, two brothers care for the same childhood friend. If one of them was a bad person, it would be easy to choose sides. But that's not the case. They're all likable. Tough choices are inevitable.
  • Love interest isn't just a pretty face: Too often romance novels feature a hunky love interest who's just eye candy without any depth. Not so in this story. Pierre is a nice person with conflicting loyalties. He's a double agent who's helping the Americans. His good character adds another layer to the love story because it's not just about love. It's also about duty and country.
  • Create an anchor: Pierre is a young man who wishes to come and go as he pleases. But now he has an obligation at home--his ailing mother and her decrepit farm. This binds him to the island long enough to fall in love.
  • Tighten the noose: Hedlund does a great job of creating several ticking clocks for Pierre and Angelique. The oncoming winter, when Pierre must leave to do his work. The threat of an American invasion of the island. The imminent arrival of Pierre's brother, Angelique's fiancee. These multiple ticking clocks add tension throughout the book.
I love Hedlund's books, and Captured by Love was no exception.

What do you think of these writing lessons? Have you tried any of them yourself? Do you like reading historical inspirational romance?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Grateful for Gratitude #IWSG

Welcome Insecure Writers! Big thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and his crew for giving us this awesome group hug called Insecure Writers Support Group. Click here to sign up.

Keeping it short this month. When things get crazy, I like to take a moment and focus on what I'm grateful for.

Besides family and good health, which I'm thankful for every day, I'm grateful for:
  1. Opportunities. I love that we're writers in this day and age. Opportunities and choices abound.
  2. Skill. My writing abilities have come a loooong way, and they still have a looooong way to go. But I'm so thankful for writing skills.
  3. Sales. When even one person buys one of my books, I'm so thankful. I'd write them for free, without ever receiving payment, so I'm extra grateful when someone puts faith in me.
  4. Mentors. I'm thankful for brave writers who try new things and tell others about it. 
  5. Gratitude. Sounds weird to be grateful for gratitude, but I am. It's easy to dwell on all you don't have, but I like to dwell on what I do.
How about you, fellow writers? What are you grateful for today? Please share!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teen Boy Readers: What They Like and What They Wish Writers Knew

Big thanks to everyone for your support with my latest release, The Summer of Crossing Lines! Also, my redesigned web site is live and looking fresh. If you want to check it out, click here.

I have twin 14-year-old sons who will be high school freshmen this year. *sigh* I honestly can't believe my little premie boys will be in 9th grade.

As a writer of YA novels, it's helpful to have teen sons in the house. As kids head back to school, I thought it would be fun to ask both of my boys and two of their friends some questions about what teen readers like and what they wish writers knew. It's good for writers to hear from their target readers, yes? So here's Nathan, Loker, Blake, and Garrett.

1) What are your favorite types of stories? Science Fiction? Fantasy? Dystopian? Real life/contemporary?

Nathan: "I don't care too much about the type of book as long as it is fun to read. But if I had to pick something that would immediately catch my attention, it would be Dystopian."

Loker: "As long as it catches my attention, I'll be glad to read just about anything. But I like Dystopian because it's a twisted version of our world. I like fantasy because it's a completely new world."

Blake: "Fantasy, because they let me get lost in a book and a new world."

Garrett: "Dystopian, because those plots are interesting and keep me in suspense. They show a messed up world that can possibly happen. I like fantasy because I like the thought of an imaginary world."

2) Do you like to read "older" books--books with main characters who are older than you?

Nathan: Yes is the simple answer, but they can also be my age. Once again, if it's well written, I'll read almost any book."

Loker: "If I can find a book with characters who are my age, I'm glad because I can picture myself as the character. If I had to choose between characters who are younger or older than me, I'd choose older."

Blake: "Sometimes. But the age of the character doesn't matter to me, as long as the story is good."

Garrett: "Yes, because those characters are more mature and they can think through problems."

3) What do you wish writers knew about teen readers?

Nathan: (Spoiler alert!) "Sometimes a happy ending isn't always exciting. It makes it predictable. I have read a series where the author throws many unpredictable twists. I like this as long as there was not so many that it made the story hard to follow. This author's name was Darren Shan, and I liked is work a lot because not only did he create an intriguing story, but throughout the series he created a future that had been laid on the main character that in the last book he changes in an unbelievable way that killed him. The ending of that book has made me a fan of all of his books."

Loker: "Sometimes when I'm reading a book and a hear about a new, imaginary religion, I'm curious to know more about that religion and their customs."

Blake: "I wish writers would write more action in the beginning. Some stories begin too slowly. Most stories have big battles at the end, but I wish there was more of that throughout the story."

Garrett: "I wish there were more books with extreme suspense that builds, like in The Maze Runner. I like it when there's action to keep me interested."

So there you have it! A small sampling of teen boys--what they like and what they wish writers knew about them. Did any of their answers surprise you? Were they on target with what you assumed? Any other questions you'd like me to ask them?

photo credit

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Release Day! The Summer of Crossing Lines

Guys, I'm soooo excited to share my next release with you! The Summer of Crossing Lines is available at all the regular places. Are you looking for a summer read before summertime ends?

When her protective older brother disappears, sixteen-year-old Melody loses control of her orderly life. Her stuttering flares up, her parents are shrouded in a grief-induced fog, and she clings to the last shreds of her confidence. 

The only lead to her brother’s disappearance is a 30-second call from his cell phone to Rex, the leader of a crime ring. Frustrated by a slow investigation with too many obstacles, and desperate to mend her broken family, Melody crosses the line from wallflower to amateur spy. She infiltrates Rex’s group and is partnered with Drew, a handsome pickpocket whose kindness doesn’t fit her perception of a criminal. He doesn’t need to steal her heart—she hands it to him.

With each law Melody breaks, details of her brother’s secret life emerge until she’s on the cusp of finding him. But at what point does truth justify the crime? 

Buy links:

Thanks so, so much for your support and encouragement!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What makes a great first page? Plus other helpful advice from author Marcy Hatch

Only six days until the release of The Summer of Crossing Lines! You can help celebrate by downloading my previous ebook release, The Boy Who Loved Fire, for only $.99 from any retailer. The Kindle version is here.

Today we have the kind and talented Marcy Hatch, author of West of Paradise, here to share a little about her own publishing journey.

First, a look at West of Paradise:

When Jack McCabe gets the opportunity to go back in time, he jumps; it's the adventure he's always dreamed of--until he meets a beautiful but deadly train robber. Katherine Kennedy can't believe an ignorant bounty hunter has mistaken her for a criminal--until she sees the picture, which looks exactly like her. Neither of them imagines how the past has a way of catching up with the present. Set in the old west, this is a tale of mistaken identity, romance, and murder.

Fun, right? And now some Q and A with author Marcy Hatch.

1) You’ve teamed up with Dianne Salerni to offer critiques of first pages for other writers. We all feel the pressure of getting that first page just right. Can you tell us what you’ve learned from these first impressions? What makes a great first page?

For me, a great first page has to have at least one character I can immediately connect with. Give me a reason to care about what happens and I’ll gladly turn the page.

2) Your debut novel, West of Paradise, was published with WiDo Publishing. Can you tell us a bit about how you connected with them, and what it was like working with a small publisher?

WiDo was one of the first small publishers I queried and the first to get back to me. I liked how excited the acquisition editor was about my story. She was also very up front about the changes I would need to make, which I appreciated. I also loved my editor, Amie McCracken (www.amiemccracken) and even though she made me cut my share of darlings; I know she made West of Paradise a hundred times better for it.

3) West of Paradise is a time-traveler western/romance. What inspired you to write such a story?

The book that comes to mind is A knight in Shining Armor by Jude Derveraux. I loved that book so bad I wanted to write something like it. I also wanted to have a famous event tie in to my story and Tombstone fit the bill. It was fun to research.

4) Any advice you can offer other writers about writing, submissions, publishing, and perseverance?

My number one piece of advice is to write as much as possible, even if it isn’t a story. Write about your day or a time you were stuck or in love or your first kiss. Every bit of writing is practice and all our experiences are grist for the mill.

Second piece of advice is to read as much as possible because only by reading do we discover what is good and who we want to emulate. 

As for submissions and publishing…ugh. Some people get lucky and it happens easily for them, but there are so many more of us who only succeed through sheer persistence. It can be a long road and I’ve only just begun what I hope to be a long career. 

Marcy, thanks so much for sharing advice about first pages, writing, and publishing.

Friends, how do you define a great first page? Have you read West of Paradise? What do you think about Marcy's advice for writing and publishing?

From Marcy: My grandfather was a storyteller, and I like to think I got the gene. I started telling stories as a kid when I shared a room with my little sister. At night I’d offer her three titles from which to choose, and then make up a story on the spot, using the chosen title as a guide. Later this progressed to written stories, then typed, and finally – an actual manuscript. Along the way I had the help of some great teachers (Mr. Wallace, Mr. Bouchard, and Mr. Elliott) and some fabulous writers, most of whom I met through blogging. I live in the lovely Midcoast area of Maine with my goofy lab, Jonah, and four cats. I currently blog at about a variety of subjects, including writing, zombies, Skyrim, books, birds, and history. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

What to Remember While Building a Writing Career #IWSG

Welcome, Insecure Writers! If you haven't joined the Insecure Writer's Support Group yet, please, please do so here. You'll be glad you did. I can't imagine a more amazing group of people. Big thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for being an awesome leader and bringing us all together.

Today I want to highlight a blog post written by someone else. It was listed on Elizabeth Craig's weekly Twitteriffic post (if you don't yet follow Elizabeth's blog or Twitter feed, you MUST! She shares such valuable information).

Here's the link to the amazing post: 39 things to remember while struggling to build your writing career, by Kimberley Grabas on the Your Writer Platform blog.

Kimberley's post was such a breath of fresh air for this insecure writer. I don't know about you, but I'm struggling to keep up with all the information flying at me so fast. It's difficult to sort it out and decipher what will or won't work for me. I worry that I'm not pushing hard enough to reach more people, because the "marketing chip" that is naturally embedded in others is noticeably absent from me. I'm afraid of missing that "thing" that will guide me and help make sense of this rapidly changing publishing world.

This amazing list of 39 things helped me so much. I hope it'll help you, too. I was reminded to stay focused and determined. I was reminded to keep writing. I was reminded to be fearless, even in the midst of feeling so. much. fear.

Read the entire list.
You'll breathe a sigh of relief.
You'll be inspired.
I promise.

Did you read the list? What helped you the most? Do you have any advice to add to the list?