"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween!

This is my pair of sweet little pixies - ages 5 and 3.

We've been celebrating with church and fall festivals, dance class parties, school parties and will be trick/trunk or treating tomorrow. (I'm so candied out!)

Now that the temperatures are finally dropping I just want to stay home cuddled up with a good book. (For a list of ten of my haunted picks, see here.)

Interested in a "Halloween Contest For Writers"? Try this one.

Need a last minute halloween costume idea? Try these 10-minute literary costume ideas.

How are you celebrating this season?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ready, Set, Write...

November is National Novel Writing Month: http://www.nanowrimo.org/  The goal is to begin with an idea on November 1 and finish a 50,000 word novel by midnight November 30. Obviously, the manuscript won't be error free on December 1, but your complete story line will be set down.

I know several of you have accepted this challenge and I look forward to reading your work. This will be my third year to participate. (I didn’t finish the previous two due to hospital stays – keeping my fingers crossed this doesn’t happen again!) I have my idea ready. You will be my accountability partners in seeing where it leads. Hopefully, this won't land in the dust pile with all of my other unfinished or unsubmitted works. I'm simultaneously trying to meet a few other deadlines.

Best of luck to everyone in their writing endeavors!

Will you be participating in NaNoWriMo this year? Have you in the past?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Writing Classes You Can Take at Any Age

by Nadia Jones
I'm utterly astounded by the number of people who think taking classes is something you stop doing after graduating college. A person should continue to learn and educate themselves long after they've left the ivory tower.
Taking writing classes is one of the greatest ways to hone and develop a writing craft, and you don't have to be enrolled in college or a member of an association to have these writing classes available to you. There are a myriad of writing classes you can take all the time – you just have to know where to find them. For those of you who have an interest in attending a few writing classes in your spare time, here are three types available to writers at any age and any experience level.
Community classes - Believe it or not, there are numerous writing groups in most every community and city. Every day, writers join these groups and associations as a way of meeting and collaborating with other writers. Many of these community groups also host classes where members will go over writing exercises, edit in groups, revise written pieces, provide honest feedback, host brainstorming sessions, and help other members move past their writer's block. Even though there might not be a designated instructor in these classes, the fact that you're a part of a fellowship of talented writers will greatly aid you in creating intriguing work.
One-on-one mentor sessions - If group classes aren't your thing, perhaps you should consider finding a mentor to look over your writing work from time to time. When I began my professional writing career, I came across published authors, literary critics, and freelance writers that I recruited as my mentors. Whenever I'd start working on a new writing piece, I'd ask them to tell me their honest thoughts about my early drafts. Even though my mentors weren't necessarily licensed teachers or professors, they helped me tremendously. All of my mentors gave blunt, sound advice that I may not have gotten in a traditional class. I trusted their years of wisdom more than I did my former college professors, simply because they had already found the success I hoped to one day attain. If you haven't already, seek out a handful of mentors you can reach out to when you need help with your writing work. These mentors understand the numerous professional struggles you face every day in writing, revising, editing, and publishing, so they're an asset you'll want to keep around.
Online classes - This last one gets a lot of debate, but I thoroughly believe in the power of online writing classes. Whether or not you're enrolled in college, you can still take online writing classes, and the good news is that many colleges and associations offer online writing classes for free. (For a list of some, see this link). Furthermore, many of the teachers that run these classes are respected experts in the writing field, such as published authors, magazine editors, literary critics, etc. Naturally, they are just as attuned and aware about what is going on in the writing field, since they also work in the industry. Lastly, online writing classes work well with a variety of lifestyles and schedules, so whether you're a full-time mom, part-time freelance writer, recently graduated newspaper reporter, etc., they can work for you!
Don't think you have to enroll in college once more to enjoy the benefits of helpful writing classes. See if any of these three class options suit your wants and needs.
Nadia Jones is an educator and freelance writer who writes for onlinecollege.org as well as other sites related to education. In her spare time, Nadia likes to research and discuss innovative ways to use technology in the classroom.

Monday, October 22, 2012

7 Free or Inexpensive Ways to Advertise

Unfortunately, not many of us have unlimited funding to get word out about our books. Luckily there are some free and inexpensive methods of promotion.

1)      Email signatures – Most email programs include an option for a “signature,” one or more lines of text added to each outgoing message. You can include name, contact information, links to social media, quotes, etc. However, you should keep this short, possibly three to five lines, to avoid alienating readers.
2)      Review other books in your field - By becoming a reviewer on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Goodreads, Smashwords, etc. you can attract readers. Post reviews of other books in your genre and use your own name accompanied by “author of the book…  When people read your reviews some will click through to your book.
3)      Alumni notes  - College alumni magazines are always looking for graduates to brag about. Check the magazine or college website for submission requirements.
4)      Goodreads Author Program and giveaways – Features include prelaunch advertising, buzz-building, and book giveaways that they will administer for you (you still have to provide the actual books). Thousands of readers have been known to enter individual giveaways. Check out goodreads.com/author/program
5)      Create your own book trailer – For several years authors have been creating and posting book trailers on YouTube.  Now, http://animoto.com/ allows you to create a 30 second video with ease for free. You can use Animoto’s stock images or upload your own (or a combination). Longer running times and additional features are available for a fee.
6)      Make public appearances – While blog tours can be successful in allowing interaction with readers the best and often most effective advertising is still face to face. Any time you can connect with an individual you have a better chance at leaving an impression and making a sale. Check into local book clubs, writers groups and conferences where you can speak and give away or sell copies.
7)      Create your own merchandise – business cards, pens, pencils, notepads, magnets, post cards, calendars, mugs, and clothing are all popular ways to advertise. Look into your local printers as well as online sources who often offer free samples and reduced rate packages. Ex. www.vistaprint.com offers your first 250 business cards free if you use one of their designs. They also frequently offer some of their other merchandise for free.

What other free or inexpensive ways do you utilize in promotion?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Congratulations Winners!

And the winners are...

$25 in Reading - Jonathan Harp and Sherry Perkins

1,000 word critique - Mare Ball and D.G. Hudson

Congratulations to you all. Simply email me when you are ready. Have a great weekend everyone. HAPPY WRITING!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Blogoversary Celebration!

Friday is my two year blogging anniversary. I launched Writing In Wonderland as a way of motivating myself to devote more time to my craft. I already read voraciously, but my writing practices were sporadic at best.
Yet, my greatest "gift" from blogging so far has been the overwhelmingly positive feedback and enthusiastic support from fellow bloggers. You’ve read my thoughts, asked advice, and shared your own learning experiences.
Thank you to all who have encouraged me by leaving comments and following. I’ve had so much fun. It’s always a pleasure discussing and sharing with you all.

To celebrate, I’m giving away up to $25 in books to TWO winners. They can be in any format (hardcover, paperback, e-book, audiobook) from any retailer (Amazon, B&N etc.) and the winners may reside anywhere (not limited to US residents).
I will also give away TWO 1,000 word critiques of any work (resume’, poetry, essay, short story, manuscript, etc.)
To enter you must:
1.      Be a follower.
2.      Leave a comment telling me which prize you would like.
3.      Check back on Friday to see who won!
Again, thank you all for the support. Good luck!

Friday, October 12, 2012

3 Tips to Becoming a Better Writer

by Jillian Terry

Contrary to popular belief, writers aren't born great writers. It takes a hard work ethic and steadfast commitment to hone their crafts, and even when their crafts are honed, they must constantly maintain and polish them. Sure, people may tell you you're a good writer, but you don't want to be good; you want to be great! For those of you who aspire to improve your writing craft, here are three tips to help you become the writer you've always wanted to be.

1. Read everything you can get your hands on. - If you want to be a great writer, you're going to need to be a great reader, and the only way to do that is to read everything you can get your hands on: magazines, books, blogs, newspapers, and so forth. As you read these materials, jot down anything that catches your eye, such as catchy phrases, interesting storylines, unconventional structure, unique character development, beautiful language, etc. If you don't challenge yourself by reading, you'll start running into writer's block and creativity plateaus over and over again. Reading allows you to analyze other works, fires up your imagination, gives you access to outside opinions, and helps you identify what types of works have already been written.

2. Find your writing niche. - When I first became a professional writer, I had no idea what I should write about; over time, however, I discovered what my niche was. For most writers, identifying a niche is necessary. Establishing yourself as an expert in a subject will make you more credible and attractive to
both publishers and readers. If you haven't already found a niche, it's time to do so. How, you might ask? Well, think about where your expertise or interest lies: Do you have a college degree in a particular field; is there a subject or topic that you know well; is there a hobby that you absolutely love? If you're uncertain, take some time to figure out what it is you would like to write about, such as food, fashion, art, music, politics, exercise, or any number of other things. Identify a niche for yourself, and you'll already be on your way to becoming a better writer.

3. Embrace a writing routine. - Writing is like exercising: If you stop doing it for a month, you're going to be rusty when you jump back into it. With that in mind, I recommend writing at least five days a week, even if it’s only a few hundred words. You don't necessarily have to be writing professionally either. Anything from blogging, freelancing, journaling, or jotting down notes will do. By sticking to a regime, you’ll grow stronger and stronger in your writing abilities. Start out by sticking to a word count goal, such as 800 words a day. That might seem like a lot at first, but it's best to push yourself because over time you'll start producing more and more. Take your time to slowly build towards you word target, but if you start sticking to the same word count for too long, step it up a notch. As long as you stick to your writing exercises, you'll keep your technique in shape.

Writers are artists, and just like painters, sculptors, filmmakers, and musicians, writers need to work on their skills from time to time. If you're looking to improve your writing skills, try utilizing these three helpful tips.

Jillian Terry is a retired teacher and freelance writer who likes to help students improve their reading and writing skills. Jillian also actively contributes to a blog on www.teachingdegree.org. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to Jillian.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Texas Book Festival

The 2012 Festival schedule is live! From the tension between the White House and Supreme Court to the testy politics of Tex-Mex food, the 2012 Festival, which takes place October 27-28 at the Texas State Capitol and in downtown Austin, reflects the imagination and concerns of America’s most beloved writers and offers engaging writers and books for readers of all types.

Click on any writer’s page to find out where and when they’ll be appearing in the Festival schedule. Be sure to check out Lit Crawl Austin, produced by the Festival and the Litquake Foundation on Saturday night, Oct. 27. Festival events are open and free to the public.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Poetry of Plants

If you're going to be in southeast Texas this weekend, head on over to Shangri La Botanical Gardens & Nature Center for their "Poetry of Plants" day. Part of their "Saturday Adventure Series", October 6, 2012 is for those with a heart or eye for poetry.

Let the works of poets spark your own writing experience. Using orchids as inspiration, learn about and write your own Orchid Haiku. This program, presented by Amanda Noble, will start and end in the lab and includes a stroll through the orchid greenhouse. Brave participants might even share their poetry.

The event is intended for adults and children 10 years of age and older. This adventure series marks the beginning of the week long "Orchid Festival" and starts at 9:30 a.m.

For more information about this or other events hosted in the gardens, please visit the Shangri La website.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Faceless Characters

A reader emailed to ask me what one of my characters looks like. (Jake from Broken Angel). I had provided physical details about my heroine, but not my hero. After giving it some thought, I had to admit that I wasn’t sure anymore.
My vision of a character changes as I write. I know how they think, what they feel, how they view the world, but their faces? That can change. You’ve all read something where a character may have green eyes in chapter one and brown in chapter 10. For one reason or another, the authors vision changes and we don’t catch it in rewrites.
My characters are like well-defined silhouettes. They don’t always have faces in the beginning.
Some “experts” will go on at length about how to develop physical profiles for your characters. They argue you must be extremely detailed to engage the reader; that you need to know the real vs. perceived age, eye color, if they wear glasses or contacts, hair color – real or dyed and length and style, weight, height, body build, skin tone and type, shape of face, distinguishing marks, predominant features, and if they appear healthy. They will also tell you to “use known actors or your own acquaintances as prototypes.”
Others will argue that you should only give vague descriptions like “beautiful eyes” or “great legs” because readers will assign their own faces to characters as they read - which will make the story more personal to them. If you describe dark eyes and hair, the reader may picture Ben Afleck, Clark Gable or even their own spouse.
Nancy Cohen recently wrote a post about the "Male Perspective" which raises some interesting points about how men and women approach writing characters based on the fact that we think differently.
Perhaps this is why so many of my characters are faceless. While I can appreciate a good looking man or woman in real life, that is not what I remember most about them. I remember names and conversations.
So which is the best way to write? No matter how you describe your characters in your story what’s most important to me as a reader is the character’s heart and soul. Sell me on those, and I’ll hang on your every word.
Which way do you write? What do you prefer as a reader?