Sunday, March 19, 2017

Social Media: How Do I Make it Work for Me?

One thing I'd really like to get better at is using social media as a more effective marketing tool. Last year I did an on-line marketing challenge that gave all sorts of great tips. One of the best things that came out of it was setting up a Twitter account, which previously I hadn't had. I was super stoked about it, but now nearly a year is sitting and languishing. I rarely post on it, so it's out there collecting cyber dust. And to be honest, I'm not sure how it's that much different than Facebook, other than you're limited to the number of characters you can use in a post. I'm sure I'm missing the point because I don't understand how it really works.

The same for my Facebook account. I rarely check that either. The biggest issue I have with Facebook is when I first set up my account, I did it as a personal account. What I needed to do was set up an author page. Does anyone who is more Facebook savvy than me know if I can switch it?

And will switching cut down on the endless stream of day-to-day from the hundreds of friends I have? I don't want to offend anyone, but what I'm looking for is a way to promote my books, not look at pictures of everyone's cats, babies, birthday parties, etc. I totally don't even know enough to know if having any author page would cut out the zillions of personal posts. Is there a way to use Facebook for strictly promo and not get an endless stream of everyone else's life?

Because I just can't keep up. There just aren't enough hours in the day. I am sorely tempted to go completely off-line with my Facebook account. I think, but again I'm so not up on how it all works, that I can put a 'hold' or 'stop' or 'freeze' on my account or something like that until I figure out how to switch it over from a personal page to an author/business page...if it's even possible to do that. Maybe I need to just 'erase' and start completely over. I just don't know.

What I need, me and every other author out there I'm sure, is a fresh approach. What's going to make me stand out from everyone else out there? I tried a promotion for my New Year's Eve release last year, but it didn't really pan out. I think I fell about 995 short in my #sellathousand 'challenge'. But in a sense, I don't consider it a complete failure. It got me to try something different as a way to reach readers. And as part of the promotion, I joined a few Facebook groups strictly for promoting books, which were great while I was running my contest and 99c book sale. The sale part of the promotion seemed to work better than trying to sell a thousand of a single title. I may try putting some of my others titles on sale in the near future, to see what kind of results I can garner.

What I need is to set aside time to really work at promotion. Part of the problem is I think of my writing as a hobby, not a 'real' job. Which means that other things in life always come first and take precedence over my writing. I know I'm not the only one. Everyone is busy and has a million things going on. I think I used to be better at balancing everything. I'm not sure what changed. Maybe just my attitude.

I don't mean to sound whiny...and I apologize if I do. What I'm really looking for here is to know how you use social media. Do you post on Facebook or Twitter everyday? Do you find there are certain types of posts that tend to draw more attention? How do you deal with the non-writing posts of Facebook? I'm not looking to steal anyone's unique and original ways of promoting, but if you're willing to share some tried and true strategies you've used, I'd be eternally grateful.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Paula's new novel - IRISH DECEPTIONS

Paula’s new novel, IRISH DECEPTIONS, will be released this week.   

This will be my 13th novel, if you count my early (1960s) four novels, and is the 9th of my ‘modern’ novels (those published since 2011). It’s also my 4th Irish novel. Like the other Irish novels, it’s a ‘stand-alone’ with two new main characters, but some of the characters from my previous novels do make an re-appearance, and the setting is the same – Mist Na Mara House which was introduced in ‘Irish Inheritance’ and since then has become an Arts Centre in the stunning surroundings of the west of Ireland.

As it’s my 13th (unlucky for some?) novel, maybe I should have expected some hiccups, and they definitely happened with the cover of this book. I thought all was going well as I loved the cover my cover artist produced, based on my ideas and the photos/images we selected. But then – oops, one of the photos couldn’t be used ‘for commercial purposes’. Panic stations! A whole evening was spent with back and forth emails between publisher, editor, cover artist and me, as we tried to find an alternative image that was suitable, and also available for a book cover.

A new ‘test cover’ had me cringing, as it didn’t look right at all, but a few hours later I received another cover – and yes, this was actually even better than the original cover. Cue a huge sigh of relief!

So here it is:

And here’s the ‘blurb’:
Ellie Vaughan relocates to Ireland after a devastating car accident which halts her career as a professional dancer. She finds a new but equally rewarding life teaching dance at the Mist Na Mara Arts Centre amidst the beautiful surroundings of Connemara and the stunning scenery of Ireland’s west coast.
A chance meeting with charismatic Irish actor Dan Nicholas leads to them working together as director and choreographer of a musical show at the local school. Their mutual attraction grows, until Ellie discovers Dan has deceived her. He, in turn, is shocked and angered by what he believes is her lack of honesty.
As soon as one problem appears to be resolved, another takes its place, with Ellie’s former dancing partner and Dan’s ex-girlfriend adding to the complications, as well as a thirteen-year-old schoolboy, who is hiding his own secret.
When the deceptions mount up, can Ellie and Dan find a way to overcome all the obstacles that threaten to tear them apart?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

It Finally Happened!

Jennifer signed a new book contract...

While I don’t make a lot of money at it, writing is my full-time job. I’m lucky enough to have a very supportive family who believes I should pursue my dream, even if the financial payback isn’t there. I have children who are interested in what I write, tell their friends about my books, ask me questions and actually pay attention to my answers—if any of you have teens, you’ll know how amazing this is. And so, I dedicate a lot of my time to doing it.

I treat it as a job. I schedule time for it, and with some exception, I write even if I don’t want to do it. Which is why my dry spell was so tough to deal with. I was writing, I was editing, I was submitting, and I was getting rejected. It’s normal and it helps to develop a thick skin (those wrinkle slower, right???) But it’s frustrating.

So I made a plan. I had two stories I was going to finish pitching. If those two stories were rejected and there was nowhere else to go, I was going to try my hand at self-publishing one of them. And then I was going to give up. Because there's only so many times I can bang my head against a wall.

I submitted them, and I heard back from The Wild Rose Press. They were interested! I’d been eyeing them for years but the timing had never been right. Well, apparently all the stars aligned and the timing was right, because I signed a contract for one of those two books, Addicted to Love, on my birthday! I’ve spoken with several writers (Hi, Debra!) and they love working with them, my interactions with the editors have all been wonderful and they are the most communicative publishing house I’ve ever seen.

I don’t yet have a release date, but I did fill out a cover art request—those are scary. I always think I’m ready for them, and then I start to answer the questions and I draw a complete blank. My heroine? Who is she? My hero? Is there one? Luckily I make Pinterest boards for each story I write, so I pulled up the board for Addicted to Love and suddenly everything came back to me. J I do need to fill that board up with other pins, but I had enough of them to help me out and I can’t wait to see what my cover looks like.

In the meantime, I’m writing and editing and remembering not to give up. Because just when you’re about to is when good things happen.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Pioneer Life

Debra reflects that she would have made a terrible pioneer.

With yesterday being a holiday here in the States (Presidents' Day), you'd think I would have gotten around to posting in a timely manner. Nope. I ran around and took care of some errands and shopping, and by the time I got home, all I wanted to do was sit on the porch with a book and read. Now granted, we're having unseasonably warm weather around these parts, so it's not often that I get to read a book outdoors in February. But still, I'd been busy all day and I just wanted to put my feet up and relax.

Ironically I'm re-reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series. I read them all (probably several times) when I was a girl, and I reread them about ten years ago after I visited her home in Mansfield MO. I read Little House in the Big Woods to my kids at school every year, but this year I also revisited These Happy Golden Years as we recently hosted a book discussion at the Historical Society in our newly restored original one-room schoolhouse.
The restoration of our community's original school has been on-going for the past 15 years. We raised money to relocate the building to our campus back in 2009 and have been working ever since then to raise the money to restore it. A couple weeks ago, just in time for our village's 100th birthday, the job was complete. Now we can hold events and activities there. It's quite wonderful. I'm a big history buff, and to have something like this literally in my backyard (I live right behind the Historical Society campus) is a dream come true. When I walked into the building last week to set up for the event, I had tears in my eyes. It's just all kinds of wonderful.
For the event, we had 11 boys and girls come to discuss the book. We chatted about the book, made butter while we talked, ate lunch (ham sandwiches, apples, corn muffins, and stick candy) out of tin pails just like Laura used to, and then did a make and take craft based on the book. We chose that particular book in the series because it's about Laura going away to teach for the first time in a one-room schoolhouse of the day, so we thought it was the prefect tie-in for the inaugural event in our own schoolhouse.
It was a truly wonderful day, and as excited as the kids were, I think myself and my co-leader were even more giddy.

But I digress. The reason I found it ironic to be reading that particular series when all I wanted to do was rest and relax was because those pioneers never sat still. From sun up to sun down they worked: building houses, plowing, farming, taking care of the animals, cooking, doing laundry, doing dishes, sewing...just reading about all of it page after page makes me tired. Don't get me wrong...I work hard, too. With the balmy weather I took some time on Sunday to clean up leaves in the yard I hadn't gotten to in the fall and to remove some landscaping rocks from next to the front porch. But I always take time each and every day to read (at least for an hour before I go to bed each night) and if I'm really lucky, sit and watch a bit of tv with the hubby after dinner. I need my relaxing time. I love to sleep in. Go to bed early. Take time to just take a break.

So I could never be a pioneer. I don't have a strong enough work ethic, that's for sure. But it is amazing to think about those people of the past, and the work they did to build and grow our country.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Monday, February 13, 2017

Love and Hearts

As it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, the shops are full of cards with hearts, and heart-shaped balloons, cakes, chocolates, jewellery etc – because, of course, the heart is linked to love, and St. Valentine is the patron saint of love.

Throughout the ages, poetry and literature have concentrated on the heart as the centre of emotion, and there’s no doubt that the heart reacts to our feelings and reactions – it can thump, pound or thud, with emotions like shock, tension, fear, anticipation, excitement.

My characters’ hearts do all that, and more. I’ve learnt to be more restrained about their hearts after discovering (while editing one novel) that my heroine’s heart had not only thumped, pounded and thudded, but also jerked, jolted, jumped, and leapt (can the heart actually do those things?), and her heartbeat had accelerated, quickened, raced, skipped, missed a beat and done so many different things that she was in danger of an imminent heart attack.

And what about ‘heartache’ and ‘heartbreak’? Does the heart really ache? Can it actually break? The answer is probably no, but everyone knows what those words represent. In fact, a doctor actually gave Chief Joseph’s cause of death as being ‘of a broken heart’.

In the culture of all ages, the heart is everywhere, from the Roman poet Catullus with his heart ‘hardened’ (problem with his arteries?) to J.K.Rowling’s ‘The Warlock’s Hairy Heart’ (what??)

I’d actually contend that our emotions, feelings, and reactions come from our minds, but in romance novels, the heart continues be synonymous with love.

So I’ll leave you with a few quotations about hearts:

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows not.” (Blaise Pascal)

“A kiss makes the heart young again and wipes out the years.” (Rupert Brooke)

“Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.” (Leonardo da Vinci)

“The beauty of a woman must be seen in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.” (Audrey Hepburn)

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart.” (Helen Keller)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February Love

Jennifer talks about love...

February is the month of love.

Okay, maybe not. But with the push every holiday gets, Valentine’s Day takes on a huge role in stores—flower shops, chocolate and candy stores, jewelry stores and any other store that can come up with something suitable for your sweetie.

As a romance author, it takes on special significance, too. Because everything I write has to do with love. In my stories, love overcomes everything—horrible parents, rough backgrounds, difficult career decisions, physical and mental and emotional scars. No matter what happens, ultimately, love wins.

In books, love is often demonstrated with grand gestures. But in real life, love is often the simple, almost unnoticed, things. It could be a tone of voice or a touch. But it doesn’t even have to be romantic. This year, my husband is away for Valentine’s Day, so we won’t be celebrating. But he shows me his love all the time in things he does for me and by the support he offers me.

As a writer, I try to remember that when I show how my characters express their love for each other. It’s not always the “I love you” moment. Sometimes it’s more subtle than that. However their love is demonstrated, by the end of the book, the hero and heroine go off to live their “happily ever after.”

So, for those of you who write, remember the big and small “love moments.” And for those of you who read, I wish you your very own “happily ever after,” however that may be expressed.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Monday, January 30, 2017

What's your Best writing advice?

Ana muses about a day (in the future) when she will be asked for her best writing advice.

What would I say?

Learn the rules (of sentence structure, POV, grammar, etc.) before breaking them.
Feed your muse. Read. Lots.
Love words.
Don't worry about your voice. It will come and it will evolve.

Don't write in secret. Find a critique partner. Join a writing group.

You can't edit a blank page.
Assign a time every day to writing.

What would you say?