Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Naming your Secondary Characters

Paula thinks about the names for her supporting and minor characters.

Most writers take care when naming their two main characters, and we all have our own methods, whether that involves studying lists of baby names popular in the decade our characters were born or choosing names with ‘significant’ meanings. I don’t actually have much difficulty choosing my heroes’ and heroines’ names. As soon as I start thinking about a story, their names seem to appear out of nowhere.

I’ve discovered that choosing the names of my secondary characters often leads to more brain-searching than the main ones. This was definitely the case when I was writing my novel set in Egypt. I wished I’d written down all the names of the crew members on our cruise ship, or the staff at our Luxor hotel. Lists of Egyptian baby names produced names of ancient gods and goddesses, as well as more modern names. In the end, I found Egyptian newspapers online, and looked at the names of the reporters or correspondents.

Similarly, when needing Irish names for ‘Irish Inheritance’, I had to tread a fine line between the ‘obvious’ Irish names of Paddy and Mick, and the names that sound nothing like they’re spelt (e.g. Caoimhe - pronounced Kee-va). In the end, I went for middle-of-the-road names like Daniel, Eve, and Rose.

My heroines usually have a ‘best’ friend in whom they can confide, and for these I quite often use the first name that comes into my head. That was certainly the case when I had my heroine mention her friend on the second page of ‘Irish Inheritance’: Maybe Charley would lend her the money for a quick trip to Dublin. At the time, even I didn’t know whether Charley was male or female (and neither did the hero until later in the story).

Now, however, I’m writing a new story with Charley as the heroine (yes, she is female, Charley is the nickname for Charlotte). When my editor suggested a spin-off story about Charley, my first reaction, was that I didn’t really want a heroine called Charley, but by then it was too late to change her name in ‘Irish Inheritance’, so I was stuck with it. Having said that, I’ve now become used to Charley as my heroine – and couldn’t conceive of her being called anything different.

The other friends in ‘Irish Inheritance’, Liz and Maria, have also reappeared in this new story. Again, those were names that jumped into my head and, as they were only minor characters, I didn’t give them much more thought. They are not names I would normally think of giving to one of my heroines, but if I eventually decide on another spin-off Irish story, one of them might become my new heroine. After all, a likeable young taxi driver has just appeared in the story and the hero has addressed him as ‘Ben’ – so who knows?

I’ve now made a mental note to myself: Choose your secondary characters’ names carefully because you never know if you will eventually write another story about one (or more) of them.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Time Suck?

I had some free time the other night. Actually, I probably didn’t, but I was too worn out to do anything productive, so instead, I signed up for Pinterest. I sigh just looking at that word.

I’ve heard numerous people talk about how wonderful the site is and I’ve seen lots of friends’ Pinterest activities through Facebook. I’ve resisted in the past because I already spend way too much time on social media and I don’t need to waste any more time.

And most of what I heard people doing on it was entertainment—even my daughter uses it to find craft ideas. But I started hearing about authors using it and I was intrigued. Maybe there’s a way to use it for my brand without it turning into a waste of time.

I polled some author groups on Facebook and I received some interesting answers. Many authors I like and admire use it as a visual board to represent different parts of their books. So I decided to play.

I created a board for each of my books and I put the covers up. Those covers link to my Amazon page, so anyone who clicks will be directed there. Then I searched and found visual inspirations for my characters—some that I thought of at the time I was writing them, and some that I thought of as I was searching through photos the other night. I also found photos of places that are in my books.

I haven’t made my account public yet. I’m still playing. But I think it might be worth a try. What do you think?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Amazon taking down reviews

 Ana posts (with permission) a comment by Carol Hughes, Deep Story instructor. 

 Just a comment on Amazon’s policy of taking down reviews by folks who were paid by authors via gift certificates and other types of remunerations - I know that there were a lot of bad feelings by a lot of authors - and the folks whose reviews
were impacted by that policy. And I can certainly sympathize with them on one hand.
 But, from a practical point of view Amazon did make a good business decision that benefits all of us writers in the long run.

 A couple of weeks ago I was at a gathering of writers where one of them insisted that she was going to ignore the economic realities of publishing via a legacy publisher vs. controlling her own publications by using a platform like Amazon. Her
reason - she wants to be able to one day claim that she is a New York Times Best Selling Author. And she was under the mistaken belief that could only happen if her books were published by a NY legacy publisher.
 There was utter shock on her face when I informed her that listings on the NYT B-S List are bought and paid for. Unless you are an indie author whose books actually are selling in the numbers required to qualify for the List.

 I know this from personal experience. As a publicist at a big Hollywood publicity agency it was my job as the junior team member to make the rounds of the NYT linked book stores and buy stacks and stacks of our author clients' books so that they could make the List. Either the client him/herself paid for this service as part of their PR contract with the agency. Or else, if they were mega stars (I won’t list their names here), the publishers footed that bill.
 Either way, I used to end up with hundreds and hundreds of copies of client books that I then had to figure out how to get rid of since the clients didn't want to store them in their own garages.

 When I moved over to the studios and went to work in their PR departments - guess what job I ended up with there?
 Yep, I was Hollywood’s official “Book Girl” (or “The List
Bitch” to those whose books the studios weren’t putting on the NYT List as part of their planned PR campaign for the linked film projects). Keep in mind at that time all of the studios owned all of the legacy publishers so the book/film linkage was part of their vertical revenue business model.

 But now that the publishing world has been turned on its ear and we indie authors are selling directly to our readers - and since 93% of all books are now sold on-line - The NYT has been forced to actually list books according to their real sales figures - and not the fake ones we had been creating behind the scenes for

 So what does all of this have to do with Amazon’s insistence  that reviews on their site need to be honest reviews?
 Simple - The folks at Amazon are very much aware of the fact that readers and shoppers coming to them expect to buy quality products.  Jeff Bezos and his team knew all about the fakery behind the NYT B-S List. And they were determined that all authors on their site were entitled to the same opportunity to gain readers - whether or not they had the funds to pay for reviews or not.  In short, we all have a level playing field to work with.

 Add to that the fact that when writers began turning to e-publishing in droves ~ the business of buying fake reviews exploded and was growing exponentially to the point that the majority of writers had no chance of standing out in the crowd based solely upon the actual quality of our books. Instead, the handful of writers (many of whom actually were not really writers - but were business people who saw a way to take advantage of the transition from legacy to indie publishing provided by the
direct access to the market place) - these non-writers had the business funds to pay for a torrent of fake reviews that, in turn, drove the sales of less than stellar quality books they were turning out to meet their manipulated demand by
readers hungry for new books.

 With the explosion of fake/bought reviews - came the corresponding explosion of Readers’ outrage over  the poor quality of the books they had been buying based upon the fake reviews. The number of complaints and returns began to pile up at a staggering rate.
 Meanwhile, the nascent indie author movement was in grave danger of being destroyed before it could firmly establish itself in the minds of both true writers and dedicated readers. A fact that the legacy publishers - who were suddenly faced with the reality that we writers had discovered that we actually controlled our own
books now that we had direct access to the marketplace thanks to the electronic revolution of on-line sales - loved. And they loved it because, for a short time, they mistakenly thought that they would be able to regain complete dominance over
writers once again.

 Then the John Locke Scandal broke wide open - and in the wake of the outrage that triggered - there was no looking back for us writers because Amazon took action to halt the fake review practice dead in its tracks with its new review policies and
procedures. Which meant that authors could not directly pay for their reviews (by presenting gift certificates to reviewers).
 Now for those of you not familiar with what Locke did - a brief recap. Locke owned a very successful insurance company. And when the e-book breakthrough opened up the marketplace directly from writers to readers - Locke, being a very smart businessman, immediately realized that this was an unregulated business
opportunity that he could manipulate to generate millions of dollars in income to him as a businessman. As a salesman, he instantly recognized the sales potential of direct access to buyers that Amazon provided.
 All he had to do was churn out a stream of “books” ~ even if some of them were only a few pages long. As long as he sold them as a “book” - readers would buy them.
  And to ensure that readers would buy what he was selling - since he was completely unknown in the book/reading community - he simply hired several fake review companies to churn out thousands and thousands of fake reviews about his “books”. And since he was already a salesman, he often provided the sales
copy for those fake reviews.

 He was so good at this - and since there were no rules in place as far as this exploding marketplace was concerned - Locke actually ended up eventually making over 1 million sales in one week’s time. And he was able to repeat this performance for months on end.
 What triggered his downfall - and led to the current “no paid” reviews policy that now exists in the indie marketplace is that Locke actually penned a non-fiction book on “How I Sold 0ne Million Books in a Week” - in which he bragged about what he was doing and how much he was hauling in from unsuspecting
readers who had been tricked into buying  his “so-called books” due to the glowing reviews he had been planting on Amazon and everywhere else he was doing his ebook business.

 Since he was normally only charging 99 cents/books - most of the disappointed buyers felt it was more work to get their 99 cents back, then it was to do nothing about demanding a refund for being defrauded by him.


 It wasn’t until he was arrogant and foolish enough to brag about his deception - and do it in a book that he was selling - that he and the fake review businesses were stopped. And they were stopped by the corps of outraged professional writers and Amazon who all demanded an end to fake - or paid for - reviews.

 And who exactly were these professional writers who banded with Amazon to establish equitable industry rules that ensure all of us now have a level playing field when it comes to publishing and marketing our books? It was writers just like you and I
who are now - or are in the process - of making our living by the books that wework so hard to write.

 Now, to be fair and honest, one of the fallouts from the death of the fake review industry was the fact that many of the reviews we were doing for our fellow writers were also purged from Amazon’s site. And that left a lot of unhappy writer/reviewers as a result.
 But it was necessary in order to scourge the entire system of fake or paid for reviews so that we all could start with a clean slate. And that was absolutely needed in order to regain the trust of millions of readers who had been previously defrauded by the flood of fake/paid for reviews on books that were pure crap since they were not written by writers who had put in the time to learn their craft.

 And it was because of these non-writers initially flooding the e-book market that the legacy publishers mounted several years of multi-million dollar publicity campaigns decrying the rise of e-publishing and pushing the false claims that indie writers were far less talented and professional than the handful of authors they were publishing in New York.

 And it was this 400 year old tradition of those gatekeepers totally controlling the marketplace and the destinies of writers worldwide - that laid the groundwork for their joining forces with the late Steve Jobs to price fix ebook sales in order to
bring down Amazon and shut off direct access to the market place for all writers.

 But time marches on - and the voice of writers now suddenly freed to directly reach their readers - can never be put back into that locked box ever again.

And that means that you, both as an author and as a businessperson, control your own future through the words that you write. And through the words of your readers telling other readers about the latest great story that they read - or the latest new writer they have just discovered.
 It is your readers “word of mouth” news that other readers trust. 

 And that reality explains why all of those wonderful folks yammering at you to spend hours and hours of your precious writing time  - basically begging total strangers to like you and buy your books - is such an utter and complete waste of your time and efforts.

 Instead, focus upon writing the best book that you are capable of at that moment. Put it out to the world - and then sit yourself back down and start the next book. And you repeat this process until you have a growing list of books to fill the
equally growing demand of more and more readers discovering your wonderful stories and happily - and honestly - sharing that news with the people around them.

 Fake reviews and intrusions by strangers do not build a loyal fan base for any writer. Nor does it expand that fan base. Only your growing list of wonderful stories that readers can fall in love with - and the happiness that readers experience by reading one of your books - is what is going to build your writing

 Give your readers what they deserve - your honest, best effort. And they will pay you back tenfold by telling everyone within their reach about how much they like you and your books.
 And if you take anything away from this class - never, never, never ask people to review your book for you.

 That instantly triggers an instinctual negative reaction from the primitive brain stem since it is an incredible intrusive action on your part. You have, in effect, invaded their personal space with that question.

 The most powerful and influential reviews you will receive are spontaneous and heartfelt on the part of your readers. And they will work far  harder to spread the word about you  - not because you intruded and asked them to do this. But, because they have forged an emotional bond with you through your story and see you as a “friend”. A “friend” that they are excited to share with everyone they know since by sharing - they look good to the people they share with. So they benefit by sharing news about you and your books.

Remember - it is human nature to focus on the benefit that is coming to you. Not what you can do to benefit someone else.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Spring Fling 2014 Here I Come

Debra gets set to head off to a conference this weekend.

It's just about that time. Every two years my RWA chapter hosts a conference, and this is the year...and the weekend! Friday morning I head out to Spring Fling 2014 for the beginning of two days of networking, workshops, keynote speakers, gala dinners, and a book signing.

This year I'm not pitching to an editor or agent, so I don't have to worry about my elevator pitch. I am volunteering as a time keeper for the editor/agent appointments, so I will get to rub elbows as it were.

I submitted my ad for the program months ago and delivered a conference set of swag (bookmarks) to be distributed to all conference attendees in their goodie bags.

Tonight I'll finish gathering and organizing my supplies:

boxes of books for the book sale/book signing

bookmarks galore

postcards for e-books

And then all I need to do is choose my outfits and I'll be ready to go. Yay!

I'm sure I'll have lots to report next week!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Promotion - what works and what doesn't?

Paula wonders what promotion works and what doesn’t.

In case you think I might have the definitive answer to this, I’ll start by saying I have absolutely no idea. All I know is that sales of my latest novel ‘took off’ in April –but I don’t really know why.

‘Irish Inheritance’ was published at the beginning of February. The sales by the end of that month were disappointing, to say the least, despite the pre- and post-publication promotion I did on Facebook and in the yahoo groups. I also set up my own blog tour, and guested at various blogs, usually one per week (in an effort not to overdo it!). But I was so disappointed by the end of February, I seriously considered giving up writing altogether. There seemed to be no point in continuing to write if only a handful of people were going to read my stories.

In March, my blog tour continued, and I’ve already told you about a successful few days around St. Patrick’s Day. After that i.e. during the last week of March, sales slowed down – and then, WHAM! At the beginning of April, sales took off again. So much so, that by April 13th, I had sold more than I sold in the whole of March, and at the moment it looks possible that April sales will be double the March sales. I track the sales on Novel Rank, by the way, and I'm not talking about thousands or even hundreds of downloads, but there have still been far more this month than any of my other books have achieved.

The e-book is selling mainly on Amazon’s USA site – and I’m mystified as my others have usually done better in the UK than in the US. I’ve only done a couple of blog visits in April and I haven’t done much advertising on Facebook, apart from occasional mentions when a new review appeared on Amazon. A couple of people have let me know that they have recently downloaded it, but I have no idea about the other sales.

Not that I’m complaining, of course, but it would be interesting (and useful!) to know just what has led to these sales. The book has an attractive cover, and it's set in Ireland which, I know, has attracted some readers who have Irish ancestry or who have visited Ireland. It has had some good reviews on Amazon, but then so have my other books. I don’t think I have promoted it more (or less) than any of my others. The only difference seems to be that my publisher has left it at the ‘sale’ price of 99 cents. That might explain why people are buying it – but doesn’t really explain how they are actually finding it on Amazon.

So I remain mystified (but happy, of course) about the sales so far!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What To Do...

Jennifer is in between projects.

I feel a tiny bit in limbo right now. I’ve completed two manuscripts and both are in various stages of editing. One, the sequel to The Seduction of Esther, is in the final stages of editing—four more chapters-worth of comments from my critique partner, and the subsequent edits, and I’ll be able to submit it to my editor.

The other one is a standalone book that I want to submit to agents—more out of curiosity than anything else. It’s in very rough shape and needs a lot of work. I’d like to start heavily editing it, but I’ve put it aside for so long, I’m going to need to reread the entire thing, and I don’t want to focus on it until I complete the sequel I mentioned above.

I’m also starting to get glimmerings of ways to start the third book in my series, which is good, because I’ve been completely stuck regarding that story. But it needs to percolate some more and I need to focus on the two other manuscripts before I start a third!

And therefore, I’m in limbo. Working in spurts and starts, giving my subconscious creative room to grow and trying to shut out that stressful voice that keeps poking me, saying, “You should be working!!”

Just another day in a writer’s life!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An Easter gift for writers

Ana has an Easter gift for all writers:

It is not bad grammar to split infinitives!
Don't believe me?
The grammar girl says so at
She references wikipedia

I am relieved! I have struggled for several years to retrain my brain and my ear to hate split infinitives, and I still stumble when I read un-split infinitive phrases like, "She decided not to go."

When speaking, "Decide to not go," sounds better to me, probably because when I say it, I emphasize 'not' for clarity.

The fact that the rule against splitting infinitives is imaginary doesn't mean it is a good idea to do it in our writing, though. It invites nasty comments from misguided, but well-intentioned critiquers.

Star Trek stood up to be counted when each episode opened with, "To boldly go where no one has gone before."

It's good to know I am grammatically correct when say to my significant other, "Well, the next time you want to accidently forget to take out the trash..."

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Friend: JL Oiler

Guest Post:
Hello and Thank You for having me here! For those who don’t know yet I am JL Oiler a Paranormal and Sci-Fy Romance author with Rebel Ink Press. When I sat down to ready this post I struggled with what topic to talk about, but after cruising about the various book sites and reading all the latest gossip about the latest releases I decided to address Reviews. Now some authors cringe at the word alone. Why? Because the opinions of readers drive our art. That being said, all in all what I want from a review is simple....honesty.

A review regardless of being good or bad should be based on true facts. I received a review one time that basically stated the reader enjoyed the story and characters but gave a poor review mark because it was "short". Hmm well when you get a story from most places it gives you either the word count or number of pages. So this complaint is like throwing a fit when you buy a box of Lucky Charms and discovering it has marshmallows. That information was right there at the start, you simply failed to read or look for it.

I can honestly say I enjoy someone who gets into the meat and potatoes of what I did right and what was wrong. Both let me sharpen my art and improve from one story to the next. It was one of the best forms of feedback we receive. With that in mind I honestly don’t like getting reviews from "friends" because it makes me question the validity. When reading a review of a fellow authors work I have on occasion searched out other reviews by the same individual to see if they are one of those nice folks who go through and give all their friends a shiny 5 star review. That’s just bullshit. It’s not an honest review and does the story or readers no justice.  I have the same opinion about reviews for rewards (such as money, or gifts). They by far remind me too much of the TV commercials where the guy starts off by saying “I’m not a doctor but I play one on TV” We already know the individual will say exactly what pleases those footing the bill.

So tell me, have you ever purchased a book based strictly on a review? What was the result, were the reviewers dead on or dead wrong?

Let me know and I’ll drop your name in a drawing for this snazzy SWAG package!

Thanks for Joining Me!

High Tides

Before the world we know rose above the waves, there was another. A world of magic, myth, and mayhem with Atlantis its crown jewel.

 Ruled by brother’s Kia and Finn, it was a place of indulgence and indifference to the rules of humanity, until the brothers allowed their pride and pleasure to rule them. Too late they discovered their triviality would curse all of Atlantis to an unimaginable fate.

 Alana Merrick always felt more at home with sand between her toes than shoes on her feet. Now calling the small islands off the coast of Belize home, she's living her dream. Little does she know the peace and relaxation she finds beneath the waves is about to become very turbulent. As the present and the past collide, Alana may find that there are fates worse than death and the lines between fact and fiction are blurry.

 You might never look at Atlantis the same way again…

“You have grown as cold as the creatures you use so easily. They are what you have grown to love. For your indifference to those of your own, I curse you all. May the oceans come forth and consume you. Fins replace legs and arms as your kingdom disappears into the depths of the ocean floor. This is my gift for your indifference. You all shall become what you worship until you can be loved as both the men and beast you are.” She called out from beyond the winds and rain, which now pounded them. Waves began to slam the walls, the earth quacking moments before searing pain gripped both men as they watched in shock as Oceana transformed into a seagull and flew straight up and away.
The grand pillars and walls surrounding them split and crumbled, splashing into the now turbulent water. Kia felt himself free fall, his arms and leg flailing about as he descended with large chunks of stone into the cold, dark waters.

The ocean stifled the scream that attempted to flee Kia’s mouth, pushing the last gulps of air from his lungs as he attempted to fight his way back toward the surface.  His mind began to fog, his vision becoming clouded. His body felt strange, as though it were stretching, twisting, changing. Minutes passed, and with them confusion of why he was still alive.