Cover Reveal

I’m late sharing the cover reveal for my third romance, LOVE ON TAP.  I’m new to having a publisher, and Kensington planned an entire cover reveal tour, which is awesome!  They even wrote the blurb for the book–something a hundred times better than I’d have thought up.  Not my strong point.  Maybe that’s why they did it??? 🙂  Anyway, if you’re interested in the blogs that will show the reveal, or the blurb, here’s the info:  http://bit.ly/1SOW401  I feel like a newbie, because I didn’t realize the reveal date–April 29–was in the same link as the cover, so I’m behind. But here it is now.  Paula and Chase. Hope you like it!  The book comes out in November.

LoveonTap

Images and Inspiration

I wrote a short novel and put it on my webpage, one chapter at a time.  I expected to have River City Rumble pulled together and online at Amazon by now.  Only, I’ve never had to format any of the novellas and novels I write.  Michael Prete designs the covers, and I love them!  Sharon Pelletier at Dystel and Goderich formats them for me, and I love that, too!  I’ve been spoiled, so I didn’t think twice about sending her what I’d merged.  What I didn’t stop to consider was that I put an image at the beginning of every chapter.  I thought they added a unique flavor to the book.  They did!  BUT, they’ve been a pain for Sharon to format for Amazon.  And I feel really sorry about that.  I didn’t mean to make extra work for her.  She didn’t want me to yank them, though, so hopefully, the entire manuscript, put together, will go online next week.  And Sharon deserves a medal.

I don’t know how many of you have searched for images for your books/stories, but that’s a process in itself.  I didn’t stay true to solid marketing for my urban fantasies.  If you go to bookstores, my covers are off the mark.  My favorite urban fantasy authors all have heroines on the covers who look like warriors.  Ilona Andrews has Kate Daniels with her sword.  Faith Hunter has Jane Yellowrock in black leather.  And Patricia Briggs has Mercy Thompson with her tight abs and tattoos.  Their images say “Don’t mess with me.”  But I wanted covers that connected more with the stories I told.  That’s how I chose the images for all of my Babet and Prosper novellas.  When I finally gathered them into bundles, though, I realized I was doing it wrong.  So I looked for images that would fit my two characters.  That’s no easy task either.

I finally found an image that fit my idea of Babet–long, unruly, dark hair.  A wand to show she’s a witch.  All I could find for Prosper was great bodies.  Not one face fit the Prosper whom I see in my mind.  So sadly, Prosper was reduced to a wonderful torso, because no matter how many men I looked at on the royalty-free sites, none of them were the wonder I imagine when I think of him.  Finding a gargoyle to portray Damian in my Wolf’s Bane novels proved impossible.  A fallen angel for my Enoch series?  Forget about it.  And no one could capture Tyr in Empty Altars.

Patricia Briggs did an interview recently in which she talked about writing urban fantasy, and she explained what she thought a good book cover should offer.  It’s about halfway or more down the Q&A column, but worth reading.  https://www.goodreads.com/interviews/show/1110.Patricia_Briggs

A good cover can sell your book.  It’s a marketing tool, worth thinking about.  If you self-publish, the image has to come from a site where you can buy one, royalty free.  The cover needs to give a reader the feel of the genre you’re writing, the tone of the story, and tie novels together if you’re working on a series.  Choose wisely.  I love mine, but I didn’t follow the rules.  You should.

When I signed with Kensington, the publisher chose the covers for the books, and that proved interesting, too. Publishers think about marketing.  They think about how readers will react when they look at your book.  Will the cover pull them in?  What emotion will it convey?  Will the cover make them pull the book off the shelf and read the blurb, maybe glance at a few pages?

Here’s the cover Michael Prete designed for River City Rumble.  He did exactly what I asked for.  It fits the story–the battles that escalate as the story progresses.  I love it.  Would a publisher use it?  Probably not.

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Webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author’s Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy/

Twitter:  @judypost

 

 

Shifters–gotta love ’em

 

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This is a gorgeous cover, isn’t it?  The protagonist looks so alluring as a golden dragon, I can’t wait to read about what he looks like as a mortal:)  My fellow writer/wonderful friend, Kyra Jacobs, has a book–DRAGONS AMONG THEM–coming out April 19, and it’s available to pre-order now.  Kyra usually writes romantic suspense or contemporary romances, so playing with dragons is new to her.  It’s been fun reading her tweets and blogs about writing fantasy, since she and I have both stretched our writers’ muscles lately, her going from romance to adding fantasy, and me going from fantasy to adding romance:)  So I thought I’d ask her about her journey, and she was gracious enough to stop by to answer my questions.  Here goes:

Question #1:  You started out writing mystery romances, and you set them in our hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana.  I’ve used Fort Wayne as settings for some of my stories, too, but changed its name to protect the innocent (mostly vampires and supernaturals).  Applause for using Fort Wayne  But the new novels you’re working on are contemporary romances and a dragon shifter series.  TWO series, and you work, and you have two boys.  How do you do it?

Three words: Sleep is overrated.
LOL
Just kidding (sort of). I love my sleep, but I love writing more. Of course, the kids win over all—I love them the most. It’s a juggling act each and every day for sure.
But I carve out what time I can and am learning to jot ideas and scene fragments down as they strike because for me, not all “writing” is actually time spent in front of my laptop. Mental plotting/writing is every bit as important.

Question #2:  What is there about dragons and shifters?  How did you go in that direction?  And I’m glad you did, because I find them sexy

They are rather sexy, aren’t they?
I know this may sound cliché, but DRAGONS AMONG THEM started with a dream I had. There was a confused girl in the woods cornered by a pack of hungry wolves and this magnificent golden dragon swoops in and saves her. And then of course my alarm goes off and I’m like, “NOOOOO!” Usually, dreams like that evaporate as the day goes by. But that scene refused to leave me alone and I started thinking, “What if the dragon wasn’t just a dragon but also a handsome prince?”
Even then, I told myself I wasn’t going to write it. I mean, was I nuts? I write contemporary romance and romantic suspense. What do I know about writing in a fantasy world? But the story refused to leave me alone—REFUSED—and I realized that if I was feeling that passionate about an idea, I’d be a fool to ignore it, especially out of some silly fear over genre-hopping.  Interestingly enough, I’ve never completed a first draft so fast in my life. Zayne and Addie’s story could not get on paper fast enough.

And, mmmm Zayne. Can’t wait for you to meet him.

 

Question #3:  Did you find anything trickier than you expected when you wrote in new genres?

You know, the hardest part initially was me getting used to being ALLOWED to break the rules of reality. Duh, right? But as an author who tries to make my contemporary novels very believable, I had to learn how to bend and break rules in an alternate reality while still making the characters and situations believable. It was incredibly freeing, once I got the hang of it.

 

Question #4:  Are you a pantser or a plotter?  And do you have a series arc besides the novel arc for each book?

Oh this question—slays me every time! I’m really more of a plantser. (Yep, there’s me bending the rules again lol.) Usually my novels begin with a scene or a fragment of a scene in my mind. Then I start diving into who’s in the scene. What’s their name, their story? What do they want? What’s standing in their way? Often times I’ll follow the Donald Maas story arc that Janice Hardy introduced me to a few years back (here’s the link: http://blog.janicehardy.com/2012/08/the-inner-struggle-guides-for-using.html) to help me dig a bit deeper into the who and why of the novel and to keep the characters’ growth on track. As I write the story I also keep an outline going on the side listing each scene, whose POV I’m in (color-coded by character), and highlights from that scene. Helps me get a visual on the balance of POV (I’m a visual learner for sure) and is great if I need to go back and track down something that happened earlier in the novel.

As for the story vs. series arc, not always. With my contemporary romance novels, each book typically has its own set of hero and heroine and their happily-ever-after. For the dragons series, though, Zayne and Addie are the central focus throughout the series as they fight the odds in various situations on their way to the final happily ever after. The books are not cliff hangers, though, just a progression of time and situations. So in the case of the dragon series, yes, I do have individual novel story arcs that feed into the overall series arc.

 

Question #5:  Care to share a blurb and a snippet of your novel with us?

I’d love to!

Blurb:

Two worlds. One unstoppable passion. A fiery secret that could destroy them all.

Prince Zayne Godfrey, heir to Edana’s throne, is betrothed to the lone princess of rival kingdom Forath. While his heart is not in the arranged marriage, he will do his royal duty.

When he finds a beautiful stranger cornered by a pack of wolves, he doesn’t hesitate to shift into his golden dragon form to save her. She thanks him by taking one look at him and fainting dead away.

Photographer Adelaide Miller is in England for a career-making shoot when a bizarre jogging mishap lands her in a dangerous, medieval-like world of royals, wizards and dragon-shifting men. Her first instinct is to find her way back, but the fire-breathing prince intent on protecting her threatens to melt her heart.

Zayne’s burning passion for Adelaide not only jeopardizes the fragile peace between two kingdoms, it uncovers a ruthless plot to destroy his family. Remaining together may change Adelaide’s very definition of home—and expose one searing secret that could forever shift the balance of power in Zayne’s world.

 

 

Book Links:

Goodreads: http://bitly.com/Dat1GR

Samhain: http://bitly.com/Dat1Sam

Amazon: http://bitly.com/Dat1Amazon

B&N: http://bitly.com/Dat1BN

iTunes: http://bitly.com/Dat1iTunes

Kobo: http://bitly.com/Dat1Kobo

 

Excerpt 1:

The wedding.

Zayne shook the thought from his mind. He had come here to forget his impending doom, not wallow in self-pity.

The prince drew an arrow from the quiver on his back, nocked it to his favorite bow, then shifted away from the oak and lined up his shot on the buck. During battle, the action would have taken him but a second—two, perhaps, if he were dodging an attack. Here in the deep woods where any sudden movement would give his location away, it took several minutes. Time well spent, he knew from experience, if it resulted in fresh venison for dinner.

The deer raised its head and stared in the direction of his hunter with unseeing eyes, ears twitching as he chewed. Zayne held his stance, praying his patience would pay off. After a long moment, the great beast turned its rack in the opposite direction. A victorious smile tugged at Zayne’s lips as he squared his shoulders, took a deep breath to steady his aim—

A woman’s scream shattered the forest.

The arrow slipped from his fingers and sailed six feet over the startled buck’s head. In a flash, he drew another, but the opportunity was already lost. The deer zigzagged over brush and bramble, bounding away to seek refuge in the darkest depths of the forest, and Zayne cursed his own arrogance. He’d taken too long, been too sure of himself. And while his stomach rumbled painfully at the thought of foregoing his anticipated evening meal, he knew better than to pursue the beast. Dangers far greater than the dark awaited him in that direction, and no buck was worth the risk.

A second high-pitched scream sounded, closer this time, and commanded his attention. Whoever joined him in the woods today sounded terrified, not hurt. Lord knew he’d been through enough skirmishes to recognize the subtle differences.

Zayne slung his bow onto his back and charged forward, sacrificing stealth for speed to try to reach the woman before one pitch bled into the other. Thick underbrush snagged at his clothes and sliced his skin, but still he surged forward. It would have been easier for him to transform, faster even, but then his whereabouts would be discovered, and he was not yet ready to return and face his father. Or his betrothed.

The wall of vegetation around him thinned as he drew upon a small clearing. Zayne slowed to quiet his footsteps, then stopped altogether as the scene before him came into view. A pack of wolves milled around one side of the clearing, snapping and snarling as they pawed at their muzzles. Across from them stood the clearing’s other inhabitant: a lone peasant woman.

The source of the screams.

Her outer layers of clothing must have been ripped away during her attempted escape, as she stood quaking in scraps of clothing the likes of which Zayne had never seen before. The bizarre black-and-purple fabric failed to do much more than contain her supple bosom, rounded hips, and slim thighs. Her long, golden hair was pinned up and back and, though mussed, offered him a clear view of her delicate shoulders and creamy pale skin. But what struck him the most was her eyes—startling blue, like brilliant sapphire ice.

A ray of sun broke through the clouds and washed over her, giving the girl an angelic appearance. Never had he seen a woman more beautiful. The sight took his very breath away.

A wolf stepped free from the pack, and the air around Zayne began to swirl. He gasped, as helpless to resist the beast within as he was to draw his next breath. Never before had the transformation begun without his prompting, nor surged forward with such haste. An armor of golden scales replaced his skin, his fingers stretched into talons, and human logic gave way to animal instinct. As the growing fire within his chest sought to consume him, Zayne could comprehend but three things:

He must save her.

He must protect her.

He must have her.

Kyra_Jacobs_Author_web

(I know this post is getting a little long, but Kyra sent me 2 excerpts to choose from, and I liked the second one so much, I thought I’d add it, too, if you’d like another sneak peek at her book): 

Excerpt 2:

Zayne watched with amusement as Addie’s crystalline gaze flashed to the odd slippers dangling from his fingers, then slowly shifted to his face. Even here, in the shadows, the sight of her took his breath away. Emeline insisted the girl was nothing more than a peasant sent into the woods as bait to lure him into a Forathian snare. But no peasant he had ever encountered possessed skin so perfect or golden hair so smooth and long. She rose to stand before him, her pale skin angelic in the moonlight, and the scent of wildflowers and honey nipped at his senses. His gaze trailed uninhibited over her trim yet supple body, dressed once again in nothing but her unusual yet gloriously minimal undergarments.

An angel in devil’s clothing.

“What are you doing with my shoes?” Her voice was low and unsteady.

Shoes? What an odd word. He held up her slippers and fought to keep a smirk from his face. “These? Why, holding them, my lady, nothing more. I feared for your safety and so removed them from your path.”

“Uh-huh.” The blonde vixen’s eyes narrowed. “You knew I was awake?”

“Aye. You blushed when I touched your cheek. I knew it would be but a matter of time before you magically awoke.”

“And yet you let Emeline leave,” she said. “Why?”

“Perhaps I wanted to have you all to myself for a moment.”

Her eyes widened a fraction. Addie took a step back, sucked in a sharp breath and quickly took another. “I see.”

She shifted her gaze from his and swept it across the room toward its lone window, feigning interest in the chamber’s furnishings. She was bold, this one. Perhaps that was why he felt inexplicably drawn to her. The feeling was both new and infuriating at the same time.

“I wouldn’t, if I were you,” he said. “Even if you survived the fall, there are things lurking in the neighboring woods far more dangerous than I.”

Her gaze shifted back to him. “Look, I don’t know who you are or how I got here, but if you’ll give me my shoes, I’ll be out of your hair in no time.”

“But you are not in my hair.” He took a step forward and wished very much that she was. “Nor am I quite ready to let you go.”

Addie held her hands out as though he were a charging horse she was trying to slow.

“Look, buddy. I appreciate you and Emeline taking care of me this afternoon and all, but it’s been a long day and all I really want is to get back to my hotel and forget this day ever happened. So just give me my shoes already, will ya?”

“Leaving tonight is out of the question.”

She stared at him, appearing dumbfounded. “Why’s that?”

“Because, you are being held for questioning on order of the royal family.”

“The royal family? But why? What have I done?”

Her perfect brows knit together. Zayne struggled not to reach out and try smoothing them back into place. Because if he touched her face again, a kiss was sure to follow. And with a kiss…

No, not yet. Questions had to be asked to ensure she truly was no spy. While he had little doubt of her innocence, Emeline would hound him no end if he couldn’t prove that was truly the case. Zayne set the slippers beside the fire, then began pacing the room, walking in slow circles around his guest.

“You endangered the life of their heir apparent today.”

Addie spun to face him. “But Emeline was the only person I saw this afternoon.”

He quirked a brow at her. “The only one?”

“Yes, I swear! I was out for a run, and then this car swerved toward me because its idiot driver was probably paying more attention to their cell than the road. So I dove out of the way, but then I tumbled down this really steep hill, and the next thing I know, I’m being chased by the biggest wolves I’ve ever seen and then—” She looked away, her cheeks darkening.

Car? Cell? He longed to learn more about these things, more about her, but she’d grown quiet, unwilling to share her memories further.

“And then?” he asked, his voice soft.

She shook her head, blinking to hold back moisture now sparkling in the firelight.

“You…you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

Zayne sensed the fair maiden’s distress. Though her story to this point made little sense, the embarrassment in her tone was quite real. He reached a gentle hand to tip her feathersoft chin in his direction. “Tell me.”

She shook her head again, stubborn even now. But why? What did she have to hide?

“I know you saw another today.” He flashed her the same fiery look he’d set upon the wolves several hours before. In the daylight, the effect would have been diminished by the sun’s warm rays. But in the current darkness of this guest room, the glow of his eyes would be impossible to miss. “Because I was there.”

Awareness dawned upon Addie’s face as her eyes widened. “No,” she breathed. “No, it…it can’t be.”

Zayne lifted his shirt to reveal the blood-soaked bandages wrapped tight around his midsection. “I assure you, it can and it is.”

Thanks for stopping by, Kyra!  It’s always fun to pester you:)

 

Cooking Up Trouble

Kensington sent me the book cover for my romance that comes out April, 2016.  I posted it on my author’s facebook page, but thought I’d wait to post it here until Thanksgiving weekend.  That’s appropriate.  I feel very thankful that Kensington wanted three romances from me.

For starters, I never thought I could write romance.  Close friends know that I’m not a romantic at heart.  I’m the girl who told every boy in college who had the nerve to ask me on a date that I’d be happy to go out with them, but I didn’t intend to get serious with anyone until I was at least thirty.  I had a game plan all mapped out in my mind.  I’d graduate from college, get a job as an elementary school teacher, and travel every summer.  Visions of exotic places teased my mind.  Once I turned thirty, IF someone attracted me, I’d decide if giving up my freedom was worth it…or not.

My family didn’t encourage happy ever afters.  My mom and dad had a rock solid marriage and were crazy about each other, but both of my grandfathers were rotters as husbands.  Wonderful grandfathers, mind you, but too footloose to be worth much on the marital front.  My mom’s dad drove truck, and he actually deserted my grandmother and his kids during the Depression, living well on the road while they stood in line for buckets of free lard and flour.  Why Grandma took him back, I don’t know. But being a single mom with four kids was no easy task back then.

My dad’s dad was a railroad man who dodged out of staying at home as often as possible.  He supported his family, but that’s about it.  Not that I can totally blame him.  Grandma T was about as warm and loving as a jellyfish.  I watched them and decided that men might be funny and charming, but only a few of them were dependable.  Neither of my grandmothers had anything good to say about men.  Ever.  If you fell for one, they started praying for you.

My mom’s sister married a spoiled loser (I’m not exagerrating), and got a divorce when divorces weren’t popular.  My dad’s sister married a man who loved bars more than he loved her.  The woman who lived across the street from us married a drunk, had seven kids, and her husband beat her every Friday night when he finished his beers.  I looked around and didn’t see too many prince charmings.

Safe sounded better than sorry, to me.  And then I met my John.  What can I say?  The man was persistent and a keeper.  We’ve been married over 44 years, and it just keeps getting better.  But am I romantic?  Not a tad.  He is.  Not me.

When I sold my novel, one of my really good, old friends messaged, “How Ironic.”  And it’s true.  But I found that I really enjoy writing romance.  I appreciate it.  I’m just not good at it in real life.  But I can enjoy throwing two good people together and letting them realize they make a great team.

So here’s the book cover for Tessa and Ian.  Two good people who are better off together than apart.  I wish them all the happiness in the world!

CoockingupTrouble

 

 

 

Writing a Series

I have a new Babet & Prosper bundle coming out soon, hopefully later this week. Three of the stories are online. I’ll take them off to join with the new lunch-hour read for this collection. I try for four stories in each bundle. The new one, Voodoo and Panthers, is the twelfth Babet and Prosper in the series. For me, the longer the series goes, the more things I need to think about for each story.

The good thing about a series is that I’m returning to a setting and characters that I already know, that I’ve grown fond of. When I write about them, it feels like going home. I have a mountain of notes for Babet and Prosper because I’ve peopled River City with more and more characters, and I need to remember them all. I’d like readers to remember them, too, so I try not to leave too big of a gap between their appearances. I try to bring Lillian and her “girls” into enough stories that they’re not lost in the sea of Vittorio and his vampires and Nadine and her voodoo. I try to focus on the relationship between Babet and Prosper in each story, too. They’re the husband/wife team that flavors the entire series. And I don’t want the witches to get lost in the shuffle. With each new piece I write, there are more things to juggle or balance. And Hatchet has to appear in every single piece, because he’s Prosper’s partner on the supernatural detective squad and because he’s just too cool to be neglected.

As much as I want readers to immerse themselves in the familiar people and places, I also want the stories to feel fresh and unique. I don’t want to start each one with Babet and Prosper enjoying one another, as much fun as that is. The stories are urban fantasy, so there’s always going to be a battle or two, but I try to change them up, add a new element here and there.

In Voodoo and Panthers, I spend more time with Prosper’s pack of shifters. It’s under attack. The pack’s alpha has to turn to Babet and Prosper for help. A while ago, a reader commented that she’d like a romance for Evangeline, so I added that, too. All in all, I’m happy with the mix of plot and characters in this story. And that’s the trick with a series–keeping enough of the familiar–the things that give the stories the right feel–and mixing in enough new things to keep it fresh.

In the first Babet and Prosper collection I did, Babet got top billing. In the new one, to be fair, Prosper gets to be on top. (I’m talking images here, so keep it clean:)
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Here’s the cover that will be inside the bundle for Voodoo and Panthers:
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My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
My author Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy
My twitter: @judypost

Writing: Social Media

Last weekend, my friend and I drove to Indianapolis to attend a writers’ workshop given by Liliana Hart, hosted by Indiana’s RWA chapter. If you ever get a chance to hear Liliana Hart speak, jump at it. She’s awesome, but just listening to all of the work she does, writing and marketing, made me tired. She repeated to us over and over again that if you decide to self-publish, you have to think of yourself as a business.

You have to hire or beg a copy editor to go through your final draft to make sure there are as few mistakes as possible. You have to come up with a professional, eye-catching cover that lets the reader know the genre and tone of your story. And you have to map out a strategy. You try to write the best book you possibly can and then come up with ways to help readers find it. Because if you don’t do your homework, there are millions of books available. How will a reader find yours?

I’ve read Lindsay Buroker’s blog posts for a long time, and she and Liliana Hart gave some similar advice. Both said it’s hard to attract readers with one book. Both said it’s smarter to write at least three books and put them up in short order to attract an audience. Hart suggested having five ready to go. Readers like series. You can’t really do much creative advertising/promotion with one book. I’ve posted this before, but here it is again, in case you missed it: https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/4318779-how-do-you-establish-a-fan-base-before-you-launch-your-book

Both Lindsay Buroker and Liliana Hart stressed having at least one series of your books on multiple sites. “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket,” both warned. Amazon makes it easy for authors to publish and promote with them, but Hart encouraged writers to try iBooks (with Apple). She warned it takes a year and a half for an author to get established there, so there’s no way to get rich quick, but readers on iBooks aren’t enticed by 99 cent, $1.99, or $2.99 books. They expect to pay more for better quality.

Both authors also encourage advertising your books. It doesn’t do much good to promote a book if you only have one available. The real benefit comes when readers download your first book and look for more in the series. The trick is finding an advertising site that works for you. I’ve had good luck with The Fussy Librarian, but my friend who writes Regency romance has better luck with Ereader News Today. So it depends. Bookbub is wonderful, but it’s hard to get an ad there.

I’ve often wondered how effective social media is for selling books. Quite a few authors lately have posted that they might have lots of followers, but there’s not a lot of carry-over in sales. For me, that’s a little disheartening. Social media, it seems, connects writers with fellow writers, but it’s hard to connect with readers who’ll enjoy your genre and books. Tweeting, blogging, and having an author’s facebook page helps, but they warn to spend more time writing the next novel than losing time on social media. Their message? Don’t spend so much time playing on social media that you don’t WRITE.

I’ve heard over and over again that the most effective way to promote your work is by connecting with readers who like your books by offering an e-mail newsletter. I’ve done a crappy job on this. I started a newsletter, using Mail Chimp, but I didn’t think it through enough. Liliana Hart didn’t mince words. “If you don’t offer them something special, why should they join?” I sent the readers who signed up for mine updates and news, but I need to offer more. Hart suggested contests, where the winners get free books, etc. Buroker does the same. Hart goes a step further and has a “street team,” fans who’ll spread news about new books and novellas she writes through word of mouth. Quite a few romance writers have street teams. They send them swag–bookmarks, pens with a new release’s title on it, etc.–to pass out and spread the word.

If you choose to self-publish, remember that you’ll also have to self-promote. That doesn’t mean tweeting your book over and over again on twitter. It means connecting with readers somehow without sounding like spam. If any of you have found ways that work for you, I’d be happy to hear them. And the most important thing–Happy Writing!

P.S.
I put a new short-short on my webpage: Nadine’s Story: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
My author’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy
On twitter: @judypost

Writing: A Different Perspective

I love sharing how I write, what I’m working on, techniques I’m struggling with. But once in a while, it’s nice to be able to pick another writer’s mind, to see what they’re doing and how they do it. So today, I’d like to welcome Kyra Jacobs to my blog. I’ve known Kyra for a few years now. She’s a warm, lovely person, and also a lovely writer. She has a new book coming out tomorrow–Monday, September 14th- and what a cover! Gorgeous! It’s a contemporary romance, (which is what I’m working on now), so I thought I’d invite her here to spill her secrets about writing and tell us about her new release.

Hi, Kyra! Again, welcome to my blog. I’ve followed your writing since you started the Hometown Heroes series with cops and fire fighters. In those books, you mixed romance with suspense for a little extra pizzazz. Your new novel is a contemporary romance. When I tried straight romance, it was an adjustment for me. Was it for you?

Definitely. I knew the basics of the story from the start, but unlike romantic suspense I didn’t have a crime or devious goings ons to drive the story forward. That meant digging a whole lot deeper for me as an author and forced me to really delve into the character’s emotions and play off their relationship fears instead of life and death concerns.

Are you a pantser or a plotter? What do you have to know before you start writing a book?

You know, I try to plot. Really I do. But no plot for me ever sticks, and usually I just end up tossing it aside at some point. I guess that makes me a “plantser”? lol Ironically, I do keep an outline in a separate file as I write, noting every chapter and scene and page numbers and basic story elements, so I can go back and find instances easily. I’d be lost with out it!

As for what I need to know…hmm. A lot of my stories started out as an image in my mind of a single scene or conversation. From there I look back in time to see what might have led up to that moment, and forward to see what comes next.

How do you develop the characters in your stories?

Great question, and one I know probably everyone has a different answer to! For me, it’s been a bit of an evolution of the process with each book. The biggest influence for my method, though, came in the form of a blog I stumbled across on Janice Hardy’s site a few years back that gave a terrific overview of a workshop put on by Michael Hague called Using Inner Conflict to Create Powerful Love Stories. http://blog.janicehardy.com/2012/08/the-inner-struggle-guides-for-using.html

I’ve given this link to a number of people now, because I think it’s a terrific description of how to keep your characters from being boring and 2-dimensional. It also helps me dig deeper into each of them to better understand their goals, motivations, and potential conflict.

You’re part of the KickAss Chicks — http://kickasschicks.com/. How much fun is that?

Yes! The KickAss Chicks came about this spring and we have had a blast putting together a fun, interactive site that connects writers with readers. It’s also stretching us outside our comfort zones, which can be kinda fun, too. Our current blog series features each of us chicks reading a scene from one of our books, so you’ll get to see and hear us. (I’m not even going to tell you how many takes that took to get recording right!)

And while it is absolutely amazing coordinating with the chicks on social media, the benefits to being a part of a group like this goes beyond our website. As you know, writing can be a very solitary, sometimes lonely process. But beyond the keyboard, many of us are mothers, wives, employees…you name it. So the biggest blessing of this group for me has been coming alongside 6 amazing women who are there in a heartbeat to encourage and celebrate each other in both our writing journeys and our personal ones.

Any advice for fellow writers on how to get published?

Write what your heart is calling you to write. The stories that have come easiest for me were the ones that called to me, that dug their claws in and wouldn’t let go. Don’t try to fill a niche, or feel you have to write whatever is selling best right now. Publishing (done right) is never a quick process. Some books take years to write, and even longer to publish. The market changes, but a good, heartfelt story will never go out of style.

Any news you’d like to share? Anything about dragons? Or last comments?

Haha well, yes, since you mentioned it… While this week marks the release of my first contemporary romance (which I hope will become a several book series at the Checkerberry Inn), I also just signed a three book contract with Samhain Publishing for a fantasy/paranormal romance. And it juuuuuust might include a few irresistible men who can also change into giant dragons. That comment I made about writing what your heart is calling you to write? Yep, that one demanded I write it. A bit way off the beaten path for me, but my beta readers LOVED it, and I’m hoping you will too. Watch for all three books in that series to release in 2016, starting with DRAGONS AMONG THEM April 19th!

Tell us a little about your new book, Her Unexpected Detour. http://www.entangledpublishing.com/her-unexpected-detour/

DETOUR follows Fort Wayne native Kayla Daniels as she embarks on an unplanned trip to visit her younger brother at Central Michigan University. But a late spring ice storm complicates her plans and brings Kayla to the Checkerberry Inn. Both she and the owner’s grandson have suffered the loss of a parent and chose to shut the world out rather than grieve and move on. But comedic interludes and mutual attraction help Brent and Kayla heal together and find their happily ever after.

Book Blurb:

Sometimes it’s not the destination, but the detour…

Kayla has the perfect strategy for a broken heart: work, work, and more work. Then a storm sends her car skidding off the road, stranding her in Mount Pleasant. Fortunately, rescue comes in the form of the incredibly handsome but gruff Brent Masterson. And he’s hot enough to tempt Kayla into doing something she never thought she could do…

Brent Masterson swore he would never give into the fierce attraction that’s been sizzling between him and Kayla since they first met. He has his own demons, and he won’t risk his heart again. Not even for someone as gorgeous and amazing as Kayla. So…how exactly did he end up in Kayla’s bed last night?

But sometimes all it takes is an ice storm to show two broken hearts the way home…

Thanks so much for having me here today, Judy!

Thanks for sharing with us, Kyra, and for being a guest on my blog!

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You can find Kyra’s webpage at: http://www.kyrajacobs.wordpress.com

Her blog’s at https://indianawonderer.wordpress.com/

And she’s on twitter: @KyraJacobsBooks

Writers’ Groups

I read a blog post a few weeks ago, and the writer gave reasons why she thought writers’ groups weren’t very helpful. I happen to love mine. Not only have I learned a lot from the comments people give there–for my work, as well other peoples’ pages–I also come home recharged, ready to dig into my manuscript. Just being around fellow writers, talking nuts and bolts, shared successes and disappointments, news and markets, gets me excited about pounding the keys again. Some people join our group and stay. Some people join our group and run. It’s not for everyone. It’s HARD to read your work for 15 minutes and then get critiqued. After all these years, I still get nervous when I share my stuff there. Everyone works hard to give positive, helpful feedback, but we tend to be honest about what could be better. After all, that’s why we share, right? To find our flaws and make them better. But that’s not as easy as it sounds.

It took me a long time to learn to listen–really listen–to their feedback without getting defensive. Writing is personal. We pour our minds and passions into our words. It’s no fun to hear that we messed up, but I’ve finally learned that if I just leave my friends’ comments alone for a few days and let them stew, then I can look at them and decide what works for me and what doesn’t.

The blogger who found writers’ groups lacking stated that readers only share a small number of pages with each other at a time, that it’s too hard to determine story and character arcs, to feel if the pacing works. I suppose some of that depends on how often a writer gets to share. In our group, writers read consistently enough for the rest of us to remember how the chapters flow. But the blogger’s right. Reading a work in its entirety is a different thing than hearing chunks of pages at a time. But who says we have to choose between a writers’ group or critique partners? Not so. Most of us break off into smaller groups to trade manuscripts. We rely on Scribes to catch trouble spots and brainstorm ideas to make them better. And then we have critique partners who look at the entire manuscript.

Not every group is like ours. Ours is dedicated to encouraging writers and trying to make their works better, to make them publishable. So, what can we offer each other? What exactly do we look for?

1. Opening hooks. Did we start the story/novel/article at the right place? Or is there a spot 2 or 20 pages farther into the book where the story really starts?

2. Will the first chapter grab and keep a reader, or did we introduce so many characters at once, we drowned the reader and left him confused? Did we bury the book’s big question under backstory? Are we grounded in the story’s setting? Do we know what type of book it is in the first chapter, and what it’s about? Do we know what the protagonist’s problem is and how he might try to solve it?

3. Did we show, don’t tell? Did we use active verbs? Were we careful with word choice? Our group REALLY notices word choice. Did the ideas flow? Did the characters grab us? Do we CARE about them? Did the characters feel REAL? Did the dialogue feel real? Did all of the characters sound the same?

4. Did the tension build as the chapters flow and keep building all the way to the end, or did we go off on a tangent somewhere? Did the story sag? Did each scene move the story? Did each scene have tension? Did we use the right POV to tell the story or that particular scene? Did the characters stay true to themselves, or did the author try to force them to do something to move the story along?

5. And the biggie: Did the pages WORK? Did they have the right tone/mood/style for their genre? Did the tone stay consistent from one chapter to the next? Each genre implies a promise to its readers. A mystery has a crime that needs to be solved. A romance has boy meets girl and a happy ending. Did we deliver?

Our group is pretty eclectic. We write different things–YA, fantasy, Regency, espionage, mystery, urban fantasy, and literary. We even have a memoir writer and a nature writer, who specializes in articles on birding. We don’t always read each others’ genres, and we admit that, but we know what’s expected from them. So we focus on if they’re well-written, not if they’re something we’d read.

Do I value my group? That’s a big, resounding yes. Quite a few of the people who’ve moved away, though, tell me that they can’t find another group like ours, so I know that not every writers’ group is created equal. I value our group’s feedback. If you can’t find a good group, though, I recommend Victory Crayne’s advice on critiques. He gives a good, solid list of things to look at in writing.
http://www.crayne.com/howcrit.html

P.S.
I added a flash fiction story to my webpage. Not a “nice” story. It’s early times in River City.
There’s a reason the voodoo spirit Manette has downturned lips. http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Michael finished the cover for my third Wolf’s Bane novel. I love it! Sharon’s formatting it this week, so it will be up soon. In the meantime, here’s the cover for you to see:
cover_mockup_48_1 (1)

Writing: to market, to market…

I’m feeling pretty happy with myself. I finished the rewrites for Magicks Uncaged, my third book in the Wolf’s Bane series. Now, I’m waiting to see the cover, and then I’ll wait for it to be formatted and put online. But MY part’s done. At least, on the writing scene. The next “to do” on my list is marketing–not my strongest skill. And the sooner I start, the better.

A long time ago, I did a post on marketing. I haven’t gotten more brilliant at it, but since I’m at that stage again, I thought I’d mention it. In my writers’ group, there’s a wide variety of approaches to promoting books. Some–the more serious, literary writers of our group–pen beautiful, wonderful fiction, try to find a market for it, and then do very little to promote it. I think they feel that it cheapens their talents to hawk their own products. But unless you have a publisher, famous friend, or agent who works his fanny off to sell you, you’d better come to terms with the fact that you need to do it yourself. Readers won’t know your work exists if you just put it out there and let it die. Even publishers expect authors to market their work these days. Some look at a writer’s blog, twitter followers, and social media before accepting his work. So…here are some thoughts.

In the group of authors I know, there are those who think they’ll only succeed if they market their work to find an agent and a publisher. If you’re looking for a big, New York publisher, you have to have an agent. None of the big publishers, except Harlequin, look at unsolicited submissions these days. Getting an agent is no easy task. Sometimes, you can get one because you know an author who’ll recommend you. Even then, you might get turned down. Agents are as subjective about what they like and don’t like as anyone else. They have specific things they’re looking for. Another way of finding an agent is to join twitter and participate in some “pitch” sessions. (Use the hashtag “pitchwars” or “nestpitch” and follow the leads). If you don’t want to go that route, go to a bookstore and look at the acknowledgements in books similar to yours to see if their agent is listed. Then look the agent up online. OR type “agent” in the search engine of your computer and follow the leads. And do your homework. Find out what clients the agent has and how well he’s sold them. Even with an agent, you might not be able to tempt a big publisher. That’s why some of my friends have turned to smaller publishers. And they’re happy with them. You don’t have to have an agent to submit to most small presses. And if none of those appeal to you, you can self-publish through smashwords or Amazon, etc. If you go the self-publishing route, though, you’re in charge of EVERYTHING. You need to write the best book you can write, make sure it’s clean of any errors, find a topnotch cover, format it, load it, and promote it. And remember. A book cover is usually the first thing a reader notices. It gives a “feel” of what the book’s about, but you don’t have to pay a fortune to get a good one.

No matter what you do, you need to be willing to promote yourself. You need a webpage, a blog (on your webpage or separate), and you should be on twitter and facebook. I have a friends’ facebook page separate from my author’s facebook page. And there are theories about the best way to use all of them. I’ve found #MondayBlogs useful on twitter, but there are more writer twitter hashtags. Paula Reed Nancarrow (whose blog I love for many different reasons) did a survey on twitter and blogging and wrote a few posts on the results. Here’s one of them: http://paulareednancarrow.com/2015/03/23/twitter-bloggers-and-communities-of-practice/

Another blog I always recommend for marketing is Lindsay Buroker’s. Most of us won’t have the success she has (she knew marketing and blogs before she started writing), but she’s happy to share what works for her and what doesn’t. http://www.lindsayburoker.com/amazon-kindle-sales/my-self-publishing-thoughts-after-50000-ebook-sales/ I’ve learned a lot from her blogs. Here’s another one of hers I found useful:
https://www.goodreads.com/author_blog_posts/4318779-how-do-you-establish-a-fan-base-before-you-launch-your-book.

Can’t think of anything to blog about? Try Molly Greene’s link: http://www.molly-greene.com/101-blog-topic-ideas/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=evergreen_post_tweeter&utm_campaign=website But remember. When you blog, you’re trying to build an “author platform,” to “brand” yourself. Another blogger I recommend for marketing is Rachel Thompson: http://badredheadmedia.com/2013/12/06/branding-101-authors/. A second, good post on branding by her: http://www.bookpromotion.com/brand-author-book/. She’s worth following.

Just to give you a checklist, these are good for marketing: twitter, facebook, a blog, and a webpage. Most experts suggest blogging at least once a week. Some authors use blog tours to promote their books before they come out. I’ve never done that, but I know authors who’ve had success with it and some who haven’t. If any of you have tried it, I’d be curious if you liked it. I can tell you that I’ve been happy with some of the paid advertisements I’ve used to promote my books and novella bundles. I can recommend kboards and Ereader News Today. They’ve worked for me anyway. And many of them aren’t that expensive. Most have a variety of packages. Anyway, I’ve run on enough for one post. Good luck with whatever you’re working on!

twitter: @judypost
webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/
author’s facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy