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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Curing the Blogging Blahs

Let’s face it. If you’re a blogger, you are probably in one of three phases:

1)      Excited and spending a lot of time both posting and visiting other blogs.

2)      Burned out because you are out of ideas or have realized it has become a huge time-suck and you are neglecting other things.

3)      A realist who understands the benefits and how to balance blog time.

To get yourself into the third category, think about:

1)      Personal Goals – Once you determine your own agenda, the rest will be easier. Be honest with yourself about why you are blogging. Is it for the writing practice, to win points with an editor or agent or to gain popularity with readers? What information do you want to convey. What FOCUS do you want for your blog? WHO is your audience?

2)      Consistency – Readers, editors, and agents want to see you are posting at a steady rate. If you can’t commit yourself to posting on the same days of every week, at least dedicate yourself to posting the same number of times a week (Most people feel 2 to 3 is ideal).

3)      Variety – Change things up. If we’re bored with our blogs, then chances are high that our readers will be too. Take some time to brainstorm and make a list of things we can do to change the tone. Write about something different. Have a guest poster. Post about something controversial. Stir up discussion. Be creative and do something fun. Create or try participating in a blogfest. (Two examples are the Top Ten: http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/2013/02/overcoming-adversity-blogfest-ninja.html and the A to Z: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/)

4)      Benefits – Consider what you can both get and give to the blogging community. I have connected with some creative and talented individuals, developed a new system for my blogging, refined my communication skills, and initiated what turned into an amazing relationship with some of my readers! Other benefits might be to establish accountability partners, develop your writing skills, cultivate a habit of writing, create, authenticate and advertise your personal brand, build relationships with fellow readers, increase your confidence and motivation in writing, educate yourself through reading blogs in different niches, build back links through comments on other blogs, grow your social network through the syndicating of posts through social media sites, increase blog traffic, develop new marketing ideas from others, and receive constructive feedback on ways to make your blog/platform even more effective.

So, employ and enjoy blogging, but keep it in its proper place.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Author Interview: Kent Conwell

The following is in memory of my friend Kent Conwell. He passed on February 14, 2013. This interview was the last chance I had to visit with him. He had a wonderful way of sharing his stories as well as his love of reading and writing. This mentor to countless students of the craft will be greatly missed.

Author of more than forty books, Kent Conwell grew up in the wide-open Texas Panhandle during the Dust Bowl era, and considersed himself very fortunate. Penning the popular Tony Boudreaux mystery series by Avalon Books he also published numerous westerns, wrote Young Adult novels, screenplays and a weekly newspaper column. He won awards for short stories, screenplays, mysteries, and westerns.  
Born in the small town of Wheeler, he moved to Fort Worth where he earned a B.S. and began teaching. Later, he moved to Port Neches where he acquired a M.Ed. and Ph.D. He spent more than forty years teaching.

A successful educator, his first love of writing about the West, a period in history unique to America, never waned.  He kept a blog at http://kentconwell.blogspot.com/ 
My blog is just a way for me to vent and perhaps preserve some memories for my kids and grandkids. The forties and fifties were exceptional periods in our history.”

How did you develop an interest in writing? I've always been interested. I read constantly. In the fourth grade I wrote a three page mystery on one of those old ‘BIG CHIEF' writing tablets. Then came college and English Literature. Over the next few years, I wrote a couple of really bad novels, and then life got in the way. It wasn’t until ’71 I wrote another. The serious stuff I started in 1984. Writing is my own private world.

What else do you write? After being published in 1990, I've seen thirteen mysteries and thirty-four westerns published by Avalon and five by Leisure. Curmudgeory is my forte, and the weekly columns I write for local newspapers offer me a venue to vent my spleen.
I see you are working on a few manuscripts. What can you tell me about them? I switch back and forth between westerns and mysteries; the latter is getting hard to sell. I also write horror. I am currently working on a horror manuscript for one of my three editors.
How long did it take you to write your most recent manuscript? That is hard to say; somewhere from four to eight months. I can do a first draft of a western in four to six weeks. After that I put it aside and start a first draft of a mystery. When I finish, I go back to the western. Back and forth.

Do you do much research? Constantly; I know I’m doing a western and mystery, so I make sure to read both fiction and non-fiction in those areas.
Do you consider this a hobby or a career? I wish it were a career. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll hit. Just recently, Harlequin World Wide Mystery bought one of my first mysteries for its subscription program. I always caution my students to “WRITE, WRITE, WRITE, BUT DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB”.

What do you do when you have writer's block? No such thing. If you’re stumped, just start writing. After a page or so, you’ll slip into the current.
What is your writing routine like? I write every day, as much as I can and I like to have a rough outline to work from. Sometimes I may only get in thirty minutes, but on average two to three hours or ten pages.

Are you part of a critique group? Not currently, though I have worked in them before.
What's the most difficult part of writing for you? At first, it was the discipline—making myself plop in front of the typewriter, then computer, but after a few years of forcing myself to start each day, it becomes such a habit that I experience a surge of guilt if I don’t.

When teaching, what do you want the students who take your novel writing course to learn? There is no deep, dark secret to writing a novel. It is simply a logical sequence of steps to a conclusion. At the completion of the course, each student will have a premise, a beginning and an end. All he has to do then is fill in the middle by following Bedford-Jones’ advice, “put the hero in danger and keep him in danger.”
What can we expect from your newest release? Murder in a Casbah of Cats - Nov. 2012:

It should’ve been an easy job for a private investigator—housesit some cats for a couple weeks and rake in a few thousand bucks thanks to their eccentric owner’s bottomless bank account. Practically a vacation. At least, that’s what Tony Boudreaux figures until he finds himself trying to herd a veritable horde of cats, navigate a sprawling mansion with hidden tunnels, and deal with an eccentric staff who all harbor their own secrets. And that’s before the murder…

After witnessing a homicide on his first night on the job, Tony soon finds himself fending off attempts on his own life, unraveling a massive drug-dealing ring, and dealing with the not-entirely-unwanted attentions of a spoiled heiress—all while keeping the mansion’s many feline inhabitants alive and well.

Now Tony must dig up clues on a fifteen-year-old murder mystery and determine what it has to do with the recent death. And the cats themselves may be his only chance of getting out of this deadly predicament alive.

After using traditional publishers, what made you decide to self-publish? Three YA books for which I could not find a publisher – it’s a neat experiment. This is the only way you have control over the finished product.
How did you choose your illustrator/cover design? I did them myself.

What authors do you admire? Steinbeck, Koontz, Collins - I could name a bunch.
What music, places, people inspire you? If you have to wait for inspiration nothing will get done.

Favorite book from childhood? Hardy Boy mysteries.
What are you reading right now? Anything I can get my hands on.

Advice for other writers? It’s a lonely profession. You’ve got to be so certain of yourself that you’ll ignore the chances of failure.
Would you care to share your opening paragraph (hook) with us? THIS IS THE OPENING PARAGRAPH FROM MY WESTERN, 'SAN SABA SHOWDOWN':

Hanging’s not one of those historic events a jasper looks forward to; neither is being hounded by a posse; neither is being pursued by Comanches; neither is looking after three orphan children. Put them all together, and you’ve got an idea of just what kind of hand Fate dealt me when I rode into San Saba, Texas, three years after the War of Northern Aggression.

Conwell’s books, including his November 2012 release Murder in a Casbah of Cats can be found in bookstores and online.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fresh or Frazzled?

I started last week with a fresh wave of ideas and an influx of completed writing tasks.

This week I feel completely disorganized, overwhelmed, and uninspired.

Such is the life of a writer. If you find yourself in the frazzled category, try these apps: http://www.william-belcher.com/blog/uncategorized/apps-for-the-frazzled-writer/ and these tips: http://terriglong.com/blog/2011/04/the-frazzled-writer-5-strategies-for-alleviating-the-guilt/

Happy Writing!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Free Conference - IndieReCon

IndieReCon is a FREE online conference for anyone interested in self publishing. Bob Mayer is a guest speaker.

IndieReCon is happening from February 19-21, 2013. If you're interested, but cannot committ to the time, transcripts will be available to those who sign up but can't make it. If you wish to sign up, go to the site using the link below, and put your email in the left side bar to receive notifications.

Here's the link if you want to sign up or learn more: http://www.indierecon.org/  They are also giving away prizes.
Here is a list of their 20 Reasons to Register.
Have you signed up for IndieReCon this year or in the past?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Happy Valentine's!

For a sweet love story, try "Snowball Fight" by Beth Savoie.  I hope you have a lovely week spent with a loved one or enjoying a passion. Happy Valentine's!

Friday, February 8, 2013

For Love of Reading

Valentine's day is in six days. Most of us love to read so I thought I would share ten of my favorite books with a love theme. There are many forms of love and passions - that between a parent and child, between siblings, for a significant other, for friends, for your country or beliefs, and that for a hobby. Here are ten of my favorite books of love... in no particular order:

What books do you love?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

14 Ways to Promote Your Book (Part II)

You can find part one of this article: http://bayouwritersgroup.blogspot.com/2012/03/14-ways-to-promote-your-book-part-1.html

1.      Create a mailing list/newsletter - Start collecting email addresses. Your email list will be the best and fastest way to get word out about your new book. To get addresses offer a free chapter, a unique bonus chapter, discounts, extracts, input, etc. Whenever you go to an event, seminar or workshop collect business cards and email addresses. Remember to ask if you can add them to your email newsletter list. Premium Content is limited-distribution, high-octane information that you send readers in exchange for providing their e-mail address and permission to contact them again in the future. Examples of premium content include articles that focus on particular problems that have been brought to your attention since your book appeared or in-depth treatment of topics too specialized to be included in your book. Premium content can also consist of your reflections on your book in the light of current economic and social trends. You can do your readers a favor, as well as maintain your awareness and pre-sell your next book, by publishing an e-mail newsletter. Make your e-mail newsletter as genuinely helpful as possible. Instead of a long, infrequently published newsletter, offer short nuggets of information that appear on a regular basis. Readers are busy and will respond favorably to concise, easily digested information. When soliciting reader e-mail addresses, always include your privacy statement, which should state that you will never rent, sell or share your readers' e-mail addresses. And make sure you live up to your promise!

2.      Create a Blog or Virtual Book Tour - Blogs, on the other hand, can easily be found through the search engines and often have a loyal base of readers. And more importantly, they’re viral. Great posts are often picked up by other bloggers and linked to through articles and websites. You can take advantage of the power of blogs by going on a virtual book tour: http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2012/03/setting-up-your-blog-tour.html

3.      Offer products and services based on your book – e-mail and your web site permit you to offer readers personalized assistance and opportunities for on-going relationships. These relationships represent win-win situations for both of you. Readers get access to your knowledge and expertise, while you get to develop additional sources of profit. Opportunities include telecoaching -- where you offer personal assistance based on weekly one-on-one telephone calls. You could also develop four, eight or 12-week training programs based on your book delivered via e-mail and weekly telephone calls. Each week, participants call a single number, called a "bridge," and discuss the reading and assignments which you sent out as e-mail attachments. A listserve permits participants in a telecourse to send e-mail to all other participants, exchanging ideas and promoting a sense of community. You can also use the web to serve your readers by developing e-books -- short electronic books that you sell directly from your web site. These can consist of in-depth treatment of specialized topics that are not appropriate for book-length treatment.

4.      Create your own advertising – There are many ways to advertise inexpensively or even for free. http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/2012/10/7-free-or-inexpensive-ways-to-advertise.html

5.      Study other authors – Most writers are more than happy to share their experiences. Read what works for them and adapt to your own needs. Ex: http://www.davidlouisedelman.com/book-promotion/book-promotion/ and http://www.subhub.com/articles/50-ways-to-promote-your-book

7.      Speaking Engagements – You can read from your work, teach lessons on your theme, talk about your inspiration or just share what you learned on your journey to publication. If you can engage and hook a reader with your speaking then you are likely to make a sale. Places to speak include at book stores, libraries, places mentioned in your writing, conferences, book clubs, writing groups, schools or businesses if the topic is appropriate. Finally, you could consider using the book as a platform for launching your speaking career. You will need a different set of skills to succeed here but the book can make an excellent starting point and every talk will help sell more books.

What promotions worked for you? Which ones failed?