Friday, June 29, 2012

Twitter Awesomeness-or How I'm Now BFFS w/Keanu Reeves

I had to be dragged onto Twitter kicking and screaming.  On my strictly personal Facebook page, I usually went at least 2-3 days without posting anything.  And those posts were geared towards my close friends, who actually care about the minutiae of my life.  The thought of posting all day long about who knows what to total strangers just stymied me.  What on earth would I say?  Why on earth would anyone care?

But then I sat through a long presentation on the glories of Twitter by my friend and fellow author Eliza Knight.  She is a true believer, and thus very persuasive.  She badgered everyone in the room for over an hour about increasing our social media profiles.  Frankly, she scared me a little.  So I caved. 

I opened an account and spent a day just reading posts.  Funny posts.  Posts with informative links.  Snarky posts.  Lo and behold, some of my favorite authors were in, using the same delightful voice that resonates in their books.  Eliza swore up and down it was okay to respond to famous people I'd never met.  Still, I'll admit to a fair amount of trepidation the first time I sassed back to Victoria Dahl.  Amazingly enough, she answered me! 

The way Eliza really pushed me over the cliff was at the end of our meeting.  I'd just toured the Ben & Jerry's factory in Vermont, and spent ten minutes raving to anyone who would listen about their Late Night Snack ice cream, an homage to Jimmy Fallon.  Eliza pointed out that if I'd had that conversation on Twitter, Jimmy Fallon probably would've seen it, and retweeted to his gajillion followers, who then would all buy my books.  More or less.

I didn't really expect anything like that to happen.  Yes, I'm Twitter friends with a few big name authors now.  And yes, when I raved about Angry Orchard cider, I made sure to hash tag it, and they retweeted me.  But then, two nights ago, I watched a surprisingly good Keanu Reeves movie.  I tweeted about it, using exactly those words.  Since it was quite the back-handed compliment, I didn't bother using a hash tag.  Nobody but my followers should've seen it.

To my amazement, frickin' Neo from The Matrix retweeted my post!  And (although I can't prove it is directly related) I picked up two new followers that day.

Which means now I'm the one urging everyone I know to get on the social media bandwagon.  Maybe someday a cast member from The Avengers will tweet about you.  If it sells even one copy of my book, I say it is TOTALLY worth it.  Anyone else have good Twitter stories to share?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Writing a Trilogy - 3rd Time Is The Charm!

I wrote - and published - three other books before I sucked up my courage and began to write a trilogy.  I knew how to churn out a book, but worrying about laying groundwork for the next two, and interconnecting the myriad of secondary characters proved to be an interesting challenge.  In fact, it was a heck of a lot of fun.  World-building is one of my favorite things, so world-building times three kept me in perma-grin for a month while I worked it all out.  And the book, Planning for Love (releasing August 1 - I'm super excited!), rolled out fairly quickly.

But then came book 2.  Did I love the story?  Yup.  Love the characters and want to sleep with the hero?  Well, don't tell my husband, but - yup.  Have the entire thing plotted to the nth degree to make writing smooth and easy?  Yup.  And was...sticky.  Like trying to mix oatmeal cookies by hand with nothing but my own weak biceps and a wooden spoon.  To borrow a golf term, I think I had the yips.  I'd never written a sequel before.  Everybody said it would be hard.  That it required a whole different level of talent.  On top of that pressure, my publisher was expecting it to be AT LEAST as funny and fabulous as book 1.  All these things swirled in my brain, like hot tar poured on my creative path.

Needless to say, I finished.  The surprising point to this story is that now I've begun book 3.  And it is a delight and a joy.  Rolls out of my brain like the words are on a slip-n-slide.  Which is surprising, because it is the most complex plot of all three books.  Even requires quite a bit of actual research, which as a contemporary author, is pretty rare for me.  Looks like I've gotten over that hump.  Will it happen again on my next trilogy?  Can't say.  But for now, I'm going to enjoy the smooth and easy ride.  Has anyone else gotten stuck in the middle of a series?  How did you handle it?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Start Reading a Spectacular Series!

Did you ever have a book grab you by the scruff of your neck and completely own you until you turned the last page?  Well, it just happened to me with Alma Katu's The Taker.
This book flips back and forth between present day and many centuries ago.  If you love a mash-up of history, action and romance, this is the book for you!  It deals with the horrible weight of immortality, how some people will do anything for love, and a dash of magic.  The author calls it "a gothic tale of desire, obsession, and the need within us all for redemption".

Sexual, dark, fast-paced and utterly absorbing, I don't want to spoil a single word of the plot for you.  But the book begins with a mystery, in rural Maine, when a woman is brought into the hospital covered in blood and calmly claiming to have killed a man.  Before you can blink, she and the doctor are on the run while she fills him in on her history.  And when you've found a way to live forever, that takes a while.

You won't be entirely sure who is good and who is bad.  You will be sure that you can't stop reading.

The best part about this book?  Its sequel, The Reckoning, releases on June 19.  Which means you've got just enough time to plow through Book One before gleefully jumping into Book Two.

Friday, June 8, 2012

So What If My Brand Isn't Unique?

I don't have an artistic bone in my body.  No matter how bored I got, I never doodled, because even my stick figures came out wrong.  So when it came to redesigning my web page, I panicked.  Followed immediately by a lengthy search for a designer.  But no matter how talented the designer, I still had to give them a framework from which to begin.  Sheer torture!

But the point of this story is that my very talented designer found a great photo, that really embodied my brand. contained a purple tie.  Now, there was a lot more to it than just the tie  The tie was not the focal point.  But I got scared.  I didn't want anybody to think the following:
  • that I was trying to ride the coattails of E.L. James;
  • that I was using a cheap marketing ploy to attract readers of 50 Shades;
  • or that my book contains any hint of erotica/BDSM.  The genre itself is highly entertaining, but my book simply doesn't have any, and I'd hate for readers to buy it under that premise and be disappointed.
So I told my designer to go back to the drawing board, after stipulating that the image was perfect, and oh, could she find another just as perfect, but without a tie?  It took me less than twelve hours to realize how stupid, how knee-jerk my reaction had been.  And I wasted an entire night of my designer's life, as she frantically scoured for more images. 

Well, I came to my senses.  We're keeping the perfect image with the tie.  So what if my brand isn't 100% unique?  At some point, somebody else is going to have a man's necktie on their cover.  The image might be pretty darn evocative of a certain NYT bestseller today, but every trend runs its course.  Kristan Higgans has adorable dogs on all of her covers.  Does that mean that no other author should ever use a dog in their branding?  Of course not.  Did I over-react?  You bet. 

There's an old saying that there are only seven original story ideas.  Clearly, there's going to be some overlap.  So I'm sticking with my branding idea, purple tie and all.  And I hope this lesson I learned the hard way proves valuable to somebody out there.  Don't worry about everyone else - just worry about making your book, your website, your marketing, the very best it can be.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Ultimate Summer Dip

If your garden is like mine, the basil is already tall and busy.  So here is a fantastic dip to utilize it.  This creamy tomato basil spread is from the brilliant folks at Alternative Medicine magazine.  You see, not only does basil taste of summery goodness, but it is good for you, as it is full of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant goodness.  So enjoy with a light heart!

Creamy Tomato Basil Spread

3/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped, drained
1 8-ounce package cream or Neufchâtel cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
In a food processor, combine sun-dried tomatoes, cream or Neufchâtel cheese, garlic powder, and basil leaves. Process until smooth and then blend in crumbled feta. Enjoy as a veggie dip, sandwich spread, or topping on French bread toasts with diced tomatoes

Friday, June 1, 2012

Writing a Series = No Breaks!

I always loved writing.  I'd savor it, take my time, treating it with the same pleasure as a bubble bath. When I finished one, I'd take a break of at least a month, telling myself I needed time to cleanse my brain of the characters.  Then I'd dither for at least another month about what to write next.  Once I sold a manuscript, not much changed.  And then I sold four.  At once.  Everything changed.

Exactly one week ago I finished book 2 in my Aisle Bound trilogy.  The old me would've celebrated for about a week, then mentally checked out of writing for a while.  The thought of not having the luxury of following that routine due to contract deadlines scared me.  In theory.

In reality, I started thinking about book 3 the very next day.  Because I wanted to, by the way.  I'd planted quite a few good, teasing nuggets in #2 about the hero of #3, and I can't wait to get his story out.  One week is all I gave myself to plot and outline the entire book (and learn how to use Scrivener!). 

Did I enjoy watching movies on Netflix twice this week?  Of course.  I recommend Enchanted April for a good period piece, and HIGHLY recommend New York, I Love You.  But the whole time I kicked back, only using my computer as a tiny movie screen, I felt a bit adrift.  Like I'd left something undone.  Which I had - the tiny matter of the next 97,000 words.  To me, the end of book 2 was just a really long setup for book 3.

So there's no break in store for me this time around...and I'm excited about it.  What about you?  Do you like taking the time to shake off the last set of characters, or plunge forward?