Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Author Interview with Crystal Collier

Friends, today I'd like to welcome Crystal Collier, author of MOONLESS, to the blog! Can't wait to read MOONLESS? Download it right now, right here. Or mark it "to read" on Goodreads here. MOONLESS is described as Jane Eyre meets Supernatural. Cool, right?

Below, Crystal and I chat about writing and publishing. But first, a little about Moonless:

In the English society of 1768 where women are bred to marry, unattractive Alexia, just sixteen, believes she will end up alone. But on the county doorstep of a neighbor’s estate, she meets a man straight out of her nightmares, one whose blue eyes threaten to consume her whole world—especially later when she discovers him standing over her murdered host in the middle of the night. 

Among the many things to change for her that evening are: her physical appearance—from ghastly to breathtaking, an epidemic of night terrors predicting the future, and the blue-eyed man’s unexpected infusion into her life. Not only do his appearances precede tragedies, but they are echoed by the arrival of ravenous, black-robed wraiths on moonless nights.

Unable to decide whether he is one of these monsters or protecting her from them, she uncovers what her father has been concealing: truths about her own identity, about the blue-eyed man, and about love. After an attack close to home, Alexia realizes she cannot keep one foot in her old life and one in this new world. To protect her family she must either be sold into a loveless marriage, or escape with the man of her dreams and risk becoming one of the Soulless.

Yikes! I'm intrigued. And now some Q & A with Crystal Collier:

1. From idea to final product, how did Moonless come to be?

MOONLESS happened. I didn’t have any notions of writing another book, just sat down and it wrote itself in a matter of days. But then, (as with all first drafts,) it went straight into the folder labeled “never to see the light of day.” 

Fast forward several years. I hosted a major beta reading (30+ readers) and my readers pushed me into querying. After winning a couple contests and earning enough attention, Raybourne Publishing picked MOONLESS up. 

2. Can you give us a brief summary of your writing process? Plotter? Pantser? Somewhere in between?

I dream a dream, binge write for 10 to 20 pages, make plot notes, then go away and let it sit. My subconscious is constantly rotating back and building on what I have. By the time I’m ready to seriously plot, I have the beginning, ending, and at least 3 major plot/turning points. From there it’s a question of taking a week to fill in the blanks, then writing a consistent 1,000 to 2,000 words a day until the first draft is done.

3. Moonless is published by Raybourne Publishing. Can you tell us a bit about your experience with a small publisher?

I’ve had a great deal of independence, and WAY too much say in the process. It’s been awesome! 

4. Can you offer us any advice about book promotion? What's working for you and what isn't?

Being a relative newbie at this… I believe book promotion starts with personally inviting those you know to get involved. Ask their opinions on covers, blurbs, taglines, etc. When people are invested, they’re going to share. Your personal reach only goes so far, but the six degrees of separation can extend you to any corner of the world. 

5. Is there any writing or publishing advice you'd like to share with us?

Love what you do. Read, read, read. Do your best, and when all else fails, eat cheese and be happy.

Friends, what do you think of Crystal's book blurb? Her writing process? Her take on book promotion? Her obsession with cheese? Please share!

Want goodies? Click here for a Rafflecopter giveaway

Click here for a peek at the MOONLESS release blog tour.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Characterization 101: Anti-Heroes

Friends, today I have a special treat for you. My new friend, Cassidy Leora, is helping us understand the often misunderstood anti-hero. Before we get to Cassidy's post, please clicky clicky over to her blog and give her a follow. At the end of the post, I have a question to ask you, plus a bonus morsel of useless information. For now, let's learn more about anti-heroes.

Take it away, Cassidy!

Severus Snape.
Jay Gatsby.
Sherlock Holmes.
What do these legendary characters in literature have in common?
Is it that they are all equally mysterious? Non-expressive and somewhat emotionless? Extremely intelligent?
Sure, I suppose they have those things in common, but I’m  actually referring to the fact that they are all anti-heroes.
I have a soft place in my heart for all anti-heroes—they are the characters in the story that often draw you into the words in a deeply meaningful way—who enjoy being rebellious and belligerent, are almost universally mysteriously unique, and are easily captivating.
You may be asking yourself: What’s the difference between a hero and an anti-hero?
It’s really quite simple—a hero is a hero for others, while an anti-hero is a hero for their own personal gain, and generally only a hero when it suits their own mood. They may do the right thing sometimes, but their motives and methods are twisted.
Anti-heroes are usually designed with a heartbreaking history that makes them the way they are. Whatever forces for good and evil exist in their world, they make their choices based almost exclusively on either a traumatic past, or a history of personality flaws that cause them to be socially inept. They are known for being heroes with un-hero like motives.
Anti-heroes can be selfish, deceitful, hateful, condescending, smug, and sometimes the most compulsive of liars. What they do may be the righteous and noble thing to do, but the reader—and the anti-hero’s fellow characters—are not completely sold on the methods they use to get their way.
One of the issues that creates a fondness for the anti-hero is the fact that they’re often without the qualities of typical heroes—such as bravery, courage, idealism, nobility—instead they have an abundance of what would be considered negative qualities—often creating at least a superficial amount of pity for them. They are known to run from authority and would save the damsel in distress, only if they gained something from their good deeds, not solely for the sake of being good. Unlike typical heroes, they are never satisfied with a vague ‘thank you’—if they are involved then they will certainly demand payment of some sort.
They can be reckless in their methods of rescue and it is of little consequence to them if bystanders are killed, monuments destroyed, or cities turned inside out in the process of deliverance. Anti-heroes fight for themselves, to benefit themselves even if it involves another person, and usually are quite opposed to being on a ‘team’ or a ‘side’. They save people only if they WANT to save those people, and that’s that.
And NOW you may be asking: what’s the difference between an anti-hero and a villain?
To be honest, there is a very fine line between the two and it is often very difficult to make the distinction. While heroes and villains see in shades of black and white, your anti-hero tends to see in varying shades of grey. They will do anything to convince you their bad motives are right, and their good deeds wrong. Lines that are very clear to the hero and the villain are quite blurred with your anti-hero.
Just to be perfectly clear: there is a difference between the anti-hero and a villain with a tragic backstory, or the villain you ‘love to hate’.
Both of these characters may suffer the same amount of tragedy and heartbreak, but how they handle their pain is completely different—and it is the way they handle adversity that makes the distinction between the two.
The villain is the hero who has been completely broken and can never work outside of the evil thoughts that consume them. The anti-hero is the hero who is hanging onto their touch of humanity by a thread, turning them often sour, rude, angry, and bitter, but not entirely evil.
Anti-heroes will do anything to distract away from talking about their emotions and their ‘feelings’ and would rather go shoot something for no reason than have to reveal any insight to their past or deep thoughts.
Personally, I love anti-heroes.
They are manipulative, obnoxious, self-centered and sarcastic, but they still have a way of making you root for them, despite their questionable motivations.  Sometimes it just feels right to cheer on the unlikeable character who is, in a way, completely lovable.
The very best anti-heroes will win you over in the end and will find their own happy ending when they are accepted—often changing from the rogue outlaw or outcast to slowly becoming one of the heroes despite their own protests.

Ultimately, whether you view a character as an anti-hero is just a matter of opinion based on how you personally interpret their actions, behaviors, and personality traits. 

Thanks, Cassidy!

I don't know about you guys, but I sure learned a lot from this post. Have you ever written an anti-hero? Do you have a favorite anti-hero from books you've read? I recently watched The Great Gatsby, with Leo Di Caprio, so he's on my mind :)

And now a fun fact and useless information:

After reading this post, can you guess how old Cassidy is? 25? 30? 35? Nope. Fun fact: She's 14! Talk about a bright future ahead of her.

Useless information: The name Cassidy was on our short list of girl names if my husband and I had a girl. Boy. Boy. Boy. No Cassidy!

"Cassidy Leora: I'm a writer, a Hobbit, a Demigod, a Wizard, a Sun Summoner, an Elf, and a Shadow Hunter who enjoys Winter and Fall, sleeping, and marshmallows. I suppose you could say I'm a dreamer in many more ways than one. I'm really a total nerd and speak cat fluently, scarves and boots are my favorite for no apparent reason, my favorite language is Italian and Sarcasm, I like to laugh at my own jokes, and dance clumsily when no one is watching. I have been writing since I was eight years old, and now at fourteen I have written more novels than I can count. I hope to be published one day, but until then I will continue to do what I love."

You can also follow Cassidy on Tumblr and Twitter!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Marketing Your Independently-Published Novel

Friends, for today's IndieLife installment, I'm happy to share a guest post by fellow author and blogger, Rachel McCoy! You can connect with Rachel on her blog, on Facebook, and on Figment.

Rachel is tackling the subject of marketing our indie work. Take it away, Rachel!

Getting Out There: Marketing Your Independently-Published Novel

You’ve slaved away for months or maybe even years to develop your baby from notepad scribbles to polished gem. You’ve had it proofread, edited, reviewed and wrapped in a show-stopping cover. You published it through one of the many self-publishing venues. But so far the only sales are the three copies your mom bought. Here are the quick and dirty tips to developing a reader platform and creating visibility for your novel.

Starting and maintaining a quality blog is your first line to reach readers. Identify a topic to concentrate on. Releasing a cookbook? Blog about recipes and restaurants. Did you write a book about the Civil War? Focus your blog on military history, weapons technologies and soldier biographies. A well thought out blog with a specific topic will earn more followers than a jumbled mess of daily musings.

Some other tips to keep in mind:

                         1.       Blog well and blog often
                         2.       Post links to related blogs
                         3.       Invite guest blog posters and make yourself available to guest post on other blogs

Author Website
A website is a must-have for any author. You have a defined space to promote your novel, offer promotions and even make sales. Unfortunately, unless you are a true tech expert, you’ll need to hire a copywriter to get the site up and running, which is often more than aspiring authors can or will spend.

(Julie's note: Some alternatives to consider--For my web site, I use web hosting by Yahoo. Cheap and easy to use. Other people have had success using WordPress, which is free)

These and other forms of social media are easy ways to keep in touch with established readers and maintain visibility, but do not offer much in terms of gaining quality contacts. You may get hundreds to follow you on Facebook, but if they haven’t read your work, they are unlikely to go buy your book based solely on a status update.

Writing Forums
Forums are great for authors who are still at the writing, editing, or reviewing stages. Members can post excerpts or whole chapters to receive feedback, get reviews and helpful suggestions. The key to these sites is to go often and participate in meaningful discussions. Critique the work of others. Offer feedback. Let the other members get to know you as an author. When the time comes, the announcement of a book release will be met with support and interest.

Some forums to consider:


If in doubt, a quick Google search will give you a long list of forums that focus on virtually any topic you can imagine.

Writing Contests
While these may take a bit of time and initial financial investment, entering, and hopefully winning writing contests can be your best ally in selling your next book. Contest winners receive a wide range of prizes often including cash, gift cards, interviews, guest appearances and even publication. Aside from the prizes themselves, you can market your book as an award-winning author, and who wouldn’t buy that?

Above all, marketing for any product cannot be accomplished in a day or a week. It takes time to build up blog followers, get to know authors on other sites and develop a network of contacts. So you need to start soon. Better yet, start now. Ideally, marketing for your book will begin in earnest no less than six months prior to publication. That means you have to work on marketing even while you work on your novel, but in the end, marketing your book early will pay dividends. Good luck!

Rachel, thanks so much for these tips!

How about you, fellow writers? Do these marketing tips jive with what you've done in the past? Anything different you've learned through trial and error? Please share!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Weirdo Writer Insecure About...Readers? #IWSG

Welcome, Insecure Writers Support Group friends! I love this amazing group, which was formed by the awesomely fantastic Alex J. Cavanaugh. If you'd like to join, click here. Your insecure writer self will thank you for it!

This month, as I prepare to release my YA novel, I'm insecure about...Readers.

But wait. We're writers, right? What is our goal? Readers! How in the heck can it be that I'm insecure about that? I mean, having readers is what we want most. It's what we strive for. It's the end game.

I'll tell you why I'm insecure about Readers. Because I'm insecure about what they'll think. Will they like my story? Hate it? Will they be inspired by my words? Roll their eyes? What? WHAT?

Here's the deal: I know my stories will not be loved by everyone who reads them. I know that some readers will give me a shot, but will be disappointed. What else do I know? There will be someone out there who connects. Someone out there who will be inspired. Someone out there who will come back for more.

Stories can't please everyone. We've seen examples of one star ratings for favorites such as The Help, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Hunger Games. Thankfully, those authors wrote the stories within them, without censoring themselves based on this fear.

As author Kurt Vonnegut said, "Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia."

Let's write the stories within us. If it's a story we love, there is someone out there who will love it, too. We shouldn't fear Readers. We should embrace them and their outspoken opinions, even if their opinions don't work in our favor.

Do you share this fear? Have you overcome it? Have you ever let this fear alter your writing? Please share!