Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How Do You Promote Your Book?

Jennifer talks about her promotional activities...

Miriam’s Surrender released last week and now I’m in the throes of promotion. Actually, I should have been promoting prior to the release, and I did, but I had some family things going on at the same time and, well, there’s only one of me and only 24 hours in the day, so, promotion frenzy continues.

Most of what I did involves appearing on people’s blogs, in the hopes that their readers, who aren’t my readers, will see my book, or read my blog post or interview and want to buy my book. It’s a fun way to meet other people. I’ve furiously answered a myriad of questions about myself, talked about why I wrote the book, and sent lots and lots of info about it.

I worked with my graphics designer to design book postcards—on one side, there is information on the book and on the other side, there is a recipe that goes with the story. Last time, when I wrote The Seduction of Esther, there was a recipe for hamentaschen (Purim cookies); this time, there is a recipe for Matzah Brei (Passover egg dish). My thought is that if someone collects all of them, they’ll have a cute little cookbook by the end of the series! I send them to everyone I know.



Additionally, I’m working with Goddess Fish Promotions on a blog and review tour, once a week for three months. Last time I did a tour that was every day for a month and it was overwhelming. I’m hoping this will be more manageable and also result in sales. Goddess Fish is associated with LASR (Long & Short Reviews), which usually generates some sales for me, anyway.

Finally, I’m trying something new, which so far, is not particularly successful, but hopefully will be in the long run. Before I was a writer, I was in public relations and I worked on many publicity campaigns for a variety of clients. The goal was long-term exposure. So, I’m trying some of my skills out on myself, and sending information out to publications, not only about my book, but on larger issues, like diversity in romance. Hopefully someone will be inspired to write about the issue either now or in the future and will think of me. We’ll see.


Well, those are my strategies. What are yours?

Monday, September 15, 2014

A short story by O'Henry


Short stories, like poems, seem have just the right number of words. They reveal a secret, or fresh way of viewing the world, at the last minute. What do you think of this O'Henry story?

A SERVICE OF LOVE


When one loves one's Art no service seems too hard.
That is our premise. This story shall draw a conclusion from it, and show at the same time that the premise is incorrect. That will be a new thing in logic, and a feat in story-telling somewhat older than the great wall of China.
Joe Larrabee came out of the post-oak flats of the Middle West pulsing with a genius for pictorial art. At six he drew a picture of the town pump with a prominent citizen passing it hastily. This effort was framed and hung in the drug store window by the side of the ear of corn with an uneven number of rows. At twenty he left for New York with a flowing necktie and a capital tied up somewhat closer.
Delia Caruthers did things in six octaves so promisingly in a pine-tree village in the South that her relatives chipped in enough in her chip hat for her to go "North" and "finish." They could not see her f—, but that is our story.
Joe and Delia met in an atelier where a number of art and music students had gathered to discuss chiaroscuro, Wagner, music, Rembrandt's works, pictures, Waldteufel, wall paper, Chopin and Oolong.
Joe and Delia became enamoured one of the other, or each of the other, as you please, and in a short time were married—for (see above), when one loves one's Art no service seems too hard.
Mr. and Mrs. Larrabee began housekeeping in a flat. It was a lonesome flat—something like the A sharp way down at the left-hand end of the keyboard. And they were happy; for they had their Art, and they had each other. And my advice to the rich young man would be—sell all thou hast, and give it to the poor—janitor for the privilege of living in a flat with your Art and your Delia.
Flat-dwellers shall indorse my dictum that theirs is the only true happiness. If a home is happy it cannot fit too close—let the dresser collapse and become a billiard table; let the mantel turn to a rowing machine, the escritoire to a spare bedchamber, the washstand to an upright piano; let the four walls come together, if they will, so you and your Delia are between. But if home be the other kind, let it be wide and long—enter you at the Golden Gate, hang your hat on Hatteras, your cape on Cape Horn and go out by the Labrador.
Joe was painting in the class of the great Magister—you know his fame. His fees are high; his lessons are light—his high-lights have brought him renown. Delia was studying under Rosenstock—you know his repute as a disturber of the piano keys.
They were mighty happy as long as their money lasted. So is every—but I will not be cynical. Their aims were very clear and defined. Joe was to become capable very soon of turning out pictures that old gentlemen with thin side-whiskers and thick pocketbooks would sandbag one another in his studio for the privilege of buying. Delia was to become familiar and then contemptuous with Music, so that when she saw the orchestra seats and boxes unsold she could have sore throat and lobster in a private dining-room and refuse to go on the stage.
But the best, in my opinion, was the home life in the little flat—the ardent, voluble chats after the day's study; the cozy dinners and fresh, light breakfasts; the interchange of ambitions—ambitions interwoven each with the other's or else inconsiderable—the mutual help and inspiration; and—overlook my artlessness—stuffed olives and cheese sandwiches at 11 p.m.
But after a while Art flagged. It sometimes does, even if some switchman doesn't flag it. Everything going out and nothing coming in, as the vulgarians say. Money was lacking to pay Mr. Magister and Herr Rosenstock their prices. When one loves one's Art no service seems too hard. So, Delia said she must give music lessons to keep the chafing dish bubbling.
For two or three days she went out canvassing for pupils. One evening she came home elated.
"Joe, dear," she said, gleefully, "I've a pupil. And, oh, the loveliest people! General—General A. B. Pinkney's daughter—on Seventy-first street. Such a splendid house, Joe—you ought to see the front door! Byzantine I think you would call it. And inside! Oh, Joe, I never saw anything like it before.
"My pupil is his daughter Clementina. I dearly love her already. She's a delicate thing—dresses always in white; and the sweetest, simplest manners! Only eighteen years old. I'm to give three lessons a week; and, just think, Joe! $5 a lesson. I don't mind it a bit; for when I get two or three more pupils I can resume my lessons with Herr Rosenstock. Now, smooth out that wrinkle between your brows, dear, and let's have a nice supper."
"That's all right for you, Dele," said Joe, attacking a can of peas with a carving knife and a hatchet, "but how about me? Do you think I'm going to let you hustle for wages while I philander in the regions of high art? Not by the bones of Benvenuto Cellini! I guess I can sell papers or lay cobblestones, and bring in a dollar or two."
Delia came and hung about his neck.
"Joe, dear, you are silly. You must keep on at your studies. It is not as if I had quit my music and gone to work at something else. While I teach I learn. I am always with my music. And we can live as happily as millionaires on $15 a week. You mustn't think of leaving Mr. Magister."
"All right," said Joe, reaching for the blue scalloped vegetable dish. "But I hate for you to be giving lessons. It isn't Art. But you're a trump and a dear to do it."
"When one loves one's Art no service seems too hard," said Delia.
"Magister praised the sky in that sketch I made in the park," said Joe. "And Tinkle gave me permission to hang two of them in his window. I may sell one if the right kind of a moneyed idiot sees them."
"I'm sure you will," said Delia, sweetly. "And now let's be thankful for Gen. Pinkney and this veal roast."
During all of the next week the Larrabees had an early breakfast. Joe was enthusiastic about some morning-effect sketches he was doing in Central Park, and Delia packed him off breakfasted, coddled, praised and kissed at 7 o'clock. Art is an engaging mistress. It was most times 7 o'clock when he returned in the evening.
At the end of the week Delia, sweetly proud but languid, triumphantly tossed three five-dollar bills on the 8×10 (inches) centre table of the 8×10 (feet) flat parlour.
"Sometimes," she said, a little wearily, "Clementina tries me. I'm afraid she doesn't practise enough, and I have to tell her the same things so often. And then she always dresses entirely in white, and that does get monotonous. But Gen. Pinkney is the dearest old man! I wish you could know him, Joe. He comes in sometimes when I am with Clementina at the piano—he is a widower, you know—and stands there pulling his white goatee. 'And how are the semiquavers and the demisemiquavers progressing?' he always asks.
"I wish you could see the wainscoting in that drawing-room, Joe! And those Astrakhan rug portières. And Clementina has such a funny little cough. I hope she is stronger than she looks. Oh, I really am getting attached to her, she is so gentle and high bred. Gen. Pinkney's brother was once Minister to Bolivia."
And then Joe, with the air of a Monte Cristo, drew forth a ten, a five, a two and a one—all legal tender notes—and laid them beside Delia's earnings.
"Sold that watercolour of the obelisk to a man from Peoria," he announced overwhelmingly.
"Don't joke with me," said Delia, "not from Peoria!"
"All the way. I wish you could see him, Dele. Fat man with a woollen muffler and a quill toothpick. He saw the sketch in Tinkle's window and thought it was a windmill at first. He was game, though, and bought it anyhow. He ordered another—an oil sketch of the Lackawanna freight depot—to take back with him. Music lessons! Oh, I guess Art is still in it."
"I'm so glad you've kept on," said Delia, heartily. "You're bound to win, dear. Thirty-three dollars! We never had so much to spend before. We'll have oysters to-night."
"And filet mignon with champignons," said Joe. "Where is the olive fork?"
On the next Saturday evening Joe reached home first. He spread his $18 on the parlour table and washed what seemed to be a great deal of dark paint from his hands.
Half an hour later Delia arrived, her right hand tied up in a shapeless bundle of wraps and bandages.
"How is this?" asked Joe after the usual greetings. Delia laughed, but not very joyously.
"Clementina," she explained, "insisted upon a Welsh rabbit after her lesson. She is such a queer girl. Welsh rabbits at 5 in the afternoon. The General was there. You should have seen him run for the chafing dish, Joe, just as if there wasn't a servant in the house. I know Clementina isn't in good health; she is so nervous. In serving the rabbit she spilled a great lot of it, boiling hot, over my hand and wrist. It hurt awfully, Joe. And the dear girl was so sorry! But Gen. Pinkney!—Joe, that old man nearly went distracted. He rushed downstairs and sent somebody—they said the furnace man or somebody in the basement—out to a drug store for some oil and things to bind it up with. It doesn't hurt so much now."
"What's this?" asked Joe, taking the hand tenderly and pulling at some white strands beneath the bandages.
"It's something soft," said Delia, "that had oil on it. Oh, Joe, did you sell another sketch?" She had seen the money on the table.
"Did I?" said Joe; "just ask the man from Peoria. He got his depot to-day, and he isn't sure but he thinks he wants another parkscape and a view on the Hudson. What time this afternoon did you burn your hand, Dele?"
"Five o'clock, I think," said Dele, plaintively. "The iron—I mean the rabbit came off the fire about that time. You ought to have seen Gen. Pinkney, Joe, when—"
"Sit down here a moment, Dele," said Joe. He drew her to the couch, sat beside her and put his arm across her shoulders.
"What have you been doing for the last two weeks, Dele?" he asked.
She braved it for a moment or two with an eye full of love and stubbornness, and murmured a phrase or two vaguely of Gen. Pinkney; but at length down went her head and out came the truth and tears.
"I couldn't get any pupils," she confessed. "And I couldn't bear to have you give up your lessons; and I got a place ironing shirts in that big Twenty-fourth street laundry. And I think I did very well to make up both General Pinkney and Clementina, don't you, Joe? And when a girl in the laundry set down a hot iron on my hand this afternoon I was all the way home making up that story about the Welsh rabbit. You're not angry, are you, Joe? And if I hadn't got the work you mightn't have sold your sketches to that man from Peoria."
"He wasn't from Peoria," said Joe, slowly.
"Well, it doesn't matter where he was from. How clever you are, Joe—and—kiss me, Joe—and what made you ever suspect that I wasn't giving music lessons to Clementina?"
"I didn't," said Joe, "until to-night. And I wouldn't have then, only I sent up this cotton waste and oil from the engine-room this afternoon for a girl upstairs who had her hand burned with a smoothing-iron. I've been firing the engine in that laundry for the last two weeks."
"And then you didn't—"
"My purchaser from Peoria," said Joe, "and Gen. Pinkney are both creations of the same art—but you wouldn't call it either painting or music."
And then they both laughed, and Joe began:
"When one loves one's Art no service seems—"
But Delia stopped him with her hand on his lips. "No," she said—"just 'When one loves.'" 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Refined Art of Borrowing

Debra takes a look at how we take others' ideas and make them our own.

I have friends who talk about and browse Pinterest all the time. For me, I haven't quite got there yet. Mainly because I'm a bit afraid I'll get addicted and it will be one more thing to do on the computer that isn't writing a book. And believe me, I don't need any kind of distractions or procrastinations there.

And while the site itself is a fairly new idea, the theory behind it has a much longer history.

Everyone knows the mark of a good teacher is to take an idea from someone else and make it your own. I love doing this. Next month I'm heading to the IL Reading Conference, which is absolutely my all-time favorite teachers' conference. My curriculum is chock full of things I've garnered from this yearly event.

One of my favorite winter holiday traditions is our Historical Society's Christmas Housewalk. Each year about a half dozen homes in a local neighborhood are opened to the public to tour. On these walks I've gathered a lot of great holiday decorating ideas. Last year, I came across a year round decorating idea, which I implemented this past summer. I'm sure it's not a new idea, but after seeing it in one of the homes on the Walk, I knew I wanted to do something similar in my own home. It's simple, but it's become one of our favorite spaces in our home.



Black framed sepia-tones prints from the places we've traveled to. These aren't pictures of us, but photographs of scenery, monuments, and historic places we've visited. It was fun tracking down old photos for the project this summer, and I can't wait to expand the gallery with more photos of upcoming vacations.

Now with writing, this borrowing from other people can get a bit tricky. After all, no one wants to mess with that little thing called plagiarism. It's definitely not okay to blatantly take someone else's idea or words and use them as your own. However, as we all know, there really aren't all that many unique and original storylines out there. Think back to Freshman English class: You have your basic man vs. man, man vs. nature, etc. How many millionaire/secret baby romances have you read? These days it's shapeshifters and vampires and zombies. It's what we do with those traditional story lines and conflicts that make our stories unique. And with that, the possibilities are endless.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Deep POV

Paula thinks about Deep POV (Point of View)
 
I read recently that “Deep POV has been increasing in publishing for the last 20 years or so, and it’s getting more popular every year.” In fact, deep POV was being long before that. Even in the 1960s I was using deep POV, although I didn’t realize it at the time.
 
In its simplest form, Deep POV means that everything must be shown from the point of view of the character whose POV you are in at the time. This clicked with me when I read some advice (many, many years ago - can’t remember where now!). The example given was: “She didn’t see the flash of irritation in his eyes as she flounced out of the room,” and the comment was, “If she didn’t see it, you can’t say it.” That simple comment has stayed with me. Basically, it means that if you are in (e.g) the heroine’s POV, you can’t refer to anything she doesn’t experience for herself. Otherwise you, the author, are intruding, and telling the reader something your heroine doesn’t know about, which takes the reader away from identifying with her. The best word I have heard to describe Deep POV is ‘internalize’ so that everything comes from the character’s point of view.
 
However, Deep POV now goes further than that, and I must admit I tend to use a mix of limited and deep POV. In both cases, I stick to the ‘if she didn’t see it, you can’t say it’, but there is still a difference between limited and deep.
 
Here’s a (very simple) example:
Limited: She heard the door slam and wondered why he was so angry.
Deep: The door slammed. Why was he so angry?
 
Leave out ‘heard’ and ‘wondering’ and you’re no longer telling the reader what she heard and felt. Instead you’re allowing the reader to experience and question, just as the heroine is doing. This allows the reader to identify more closely with the character.
 
We are advised to avoid the ‘filter’ words like thought, felt, saw, heard – and I have been trying to avoid them in my writing, although I must confess there are times when I feel they are necessary. I take comfort in the fact that ‘avoid’ doesn’t mean ‘don’t use them at all’ but rather, ‘see if you can find a better way to express the thoughts or feelings.’
 
Sometimes I’ll use limited POV immediately followed by deep, e.g. “Luke pondered about the different signals she seemed to be sending out. Why was she friendly one minute, and hostile the next? And why did it matter anyway?” At least this avoids phrases like ‘he asked himself why’ or ‘he wondered why’.
 
I’m still getting to grips with the deepest of Deep POV, but, in the end, I believe that if you ‘deeply’ identify with your character while you are writing about him or her, then your readers will too.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Where to start?

Book openings are hard.By this I don't mean breaking in a thick paperback or turning on the Kindle app.

Opening with the hero dangling from a window ledge makes for a great mental image, but what then? Once he saves himself, it's hard to top that action. So you want to open with action, but not too much action.

Definitely do not open with," It was a dark and stormy night." Setting should color the action.

Is it best to open in the protagonist's POV? You need to introduce the protagonist, reveal his initial need / goal. Hint, if not show, who or what opposes her? Whom can s/he count on for help?

The reader needs to be (get) hooked.

I cut chapters from my WIP's opening. Then paragraphs. I'm still trimming words. Striving for that just-right opening that entices a reader to keep turning the pages. To read the opening and say, "I want to buy this book."

What do you think makes a perfect story opening?










Friday, September 5, 2014

Friday Friend : Jessie Clever



Warm welcome to Jessie Clever! She shares some great editing advice and an enticing excerpt from her new release, To Save a Viscount: Book Four 

Editing in Color

I can still recall a time when I did each round of editing on a manuscript on paper.  It was just what was done, and it was so much easier than reading on a screen.  But with the advent of e-readers and the ease and accessibility of loading one’s manuscript onto an e-reader for editing, it became easier to forgo the paper option and study one’s work on the e-reader.

I will freely admit that I was one of those writers to fall victim to the e-readers ease as an editing tool, and it wasn’t until recently that I rediscovered the benefits of editing in paper.  And not just any paper.  Colored paper.  When editing on paper that is a color other than white, your eye is perplexed by the difference in hue, and you are more likely to spot an error.  For myself, I opt for pastel blue and different colored pens for editing in paper, and it’s a step I no longer skip in releasing a manuscript.

And while I recommend editing in color, I would not let editing on a e-reader fall to the wayside.  Reading your manuscript in various forms is a must when editing as confusing your eye is the best way to find mistakes.

What is your favorite method of editing?



New Release: To Save a Viscount: Book Four of the Spy Series


Blurb:
When an assassin threatens England's spy network, Lady Margaret Folton must find the killer before it's too late.  But when Commodore John Lynwood is accidentally granted a title meant to be used as bait to lure the assassin into the War Office's trap, Margaret must face the tragedy of her past and decide which is more important: the assignment or love?

Excerpt:

London
August 1815

He had grown so accustomed to the sound of gunfire that he did not hear the shot that was meant to kill him.

This would have worried Richard Black, the Duke of Lofton, if he had had time to think on it. But as the situation inherently required immediate action, prolonged and abstract thinking on the subject was neither prudent nor wise. So he refrained. Instead, he wondered who it was that smashed into him at incredible speed, sending him tumbling backwards off the walk along the Thames and into the bitter, black water below.

He had been meeting his contact there along the water at an unholy hour, and darkness had lain all about him. The exchange had gone as planned, and he now held the knowledge that he knew would prove key to his current assignment with the War Office. But as the inky water of the Thames closed over his head, he wondered if he would ever get that information to the necessary people.

And then as the last of the light disappeared, he thought of Jane, his wife. His Jane. He did not think of her in specific instances or certain memories that lay in his mind. He thought of her in pieces. Her smell. Her laugh. The sound her hair made as she brushed it at night. The way she always laid her hand on top of his whenever they should find themselves sitting next to one another. Her amazing talents with chestnut roasters.

He would have laughed if such an action would not speed up the inevitable drowning that suddenly became all too real, flushing thoughts of Jane from his mind. His arms began to push against the water as his feet began to pulse, driving him toward the surface. Only he did not move. Whoever it was that had slammed into him still held him about the waist, dragging him deeper into the water. He began to struggle, the need for air and life and Jane surging through his veins in a way he had never felt before.

And then a hand brushed against his cheek, and slender fingers came to rest across his mouth. He wanted to open his eyes, but he knew it would do no good in the black water. But he let the feeling of his attacker’s hand brush against his skin, the shape of it press into his face, the narrowness of limb and the delicate arch of bone.

It was a woman who held him beneath the water.

And he stopped struggling.

Buy Links:
Amazon: http://amzn.to/1tddN6P
Kobo: http://bit.ly/1zHa0gJ
Nook: http://bit.ly/1otXb34
All Romance eBooks: http://bit.ly/1p9aExk
iBooks: http://bit.ly/1pjfhe7

Bio:

In the second grade, Jessie began a story about a duck and a lost ring.  Two harrowing pages of wide ruled notebook paper later, the ring was found.  And Jessie has been writing ever since.

Armed with the firm belief that women in the Regency era could be truly awesome heroines, Jessie began telling their stories in her Spy Series, a thrilling ride in historical espionage that showcases human faults and triumphs and most importantly, love.

Jessie makes her home in the great state of New Hampshire where she lives with her husband and two very opinionated Basset Hounds.





Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Characters' Occupations

Paula looks at her characters’ occupations.
 
Earlier on today, I had no idea what I was going to write for today’s blog. However, I’ve just watched an hour long TV programme about young vets completing their training at an animal hospital. Not because I enjoy watching fairly gory surgery on animals, but because my latest hero is a veterinary surgeon. Yes, I did make some notes about diseases or injuries I could possibly use in my story, including details of a constipated cat!
 
I started to wonder why I decided to make my hero a vet. When I started this story, I had no real knowledge of vets, apart from occasional visits to a local one when I had a cat many years ago. So why did I choose this occupation? Why not something simpler like a pub landlord or even a hotel owner? The short answer is that he chose his own profession! Don’t ask me how or why, but in the first chapter, when he’s introducing himself to the heroine, he tells her he’s a vet – and after that, I couldn’t change his job to anything else!
 
Thinking about my other heroes, I’ve had a theatre director, a journalist/novelist, an archaeologist, a deputy head at a high school, a volcanologist, and a sign painter/artist – and in every case, the hero’s occupation has proved to be central to the story.
 
My heroines have been less varied – I’ve had three actresses (albeit all at different stages of their careers), a school teacher, a college professor, and a cruise ship tour guide. But again, their occupations have been essential in the development of the story.
 
I’ve read stories where the main characters’ occupations have been fairly incidental to the story line, so I can’t quite decide why all mine have had their particular jobs, even though in most cases, this has involved me in a lot of research.
 
I’ll be interested to know how you choose the occupations of your characters, how big a part those occupations play in your stories, and how much research you need to do.