Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Behind the Scenes of the RELICS OF MERLIN Series by Kathryne Kennedy

There are many elements that go into the making of any work of fiction. Generally, a combination of personal experience, imagination, and research. Each author has their own unique well of experiences to draw on, and their own perspective on how they viewed their experiences, which is why regardless of the idea, each writer can bring a unique perspective to any novel. Today I’d like to share with you some of the elements that went into the creation of the RELICS OF MERLIN series, which includes: ENCHANTING THE LADY, DOUBLE ENCHANTMENT, ENCHANTING THE BEAST and the upcoming brand new story (December 2013), EVERLASTING ENCHANTMENT.

When I’m crafting a novel, sometimes the world comes first, sometimes the characters, sometimes the plot:

In the RELICS OF MERLIN, the world came first. Although the books are stand-alones, they are all connected by Merlin’s thirteen relics—jewels that the sorcerer Merlin crafted, each holding a different spell of power. In my alternate Victorian reality, titles are held by the inheritance of magical powers, with the higher title possessing the more powerful magic. The only power greater than a royals’ is one of Merlin’s thirteen relics, and their location is as mysterious as the spell each relic contains. From that premise different story lines and different characters sprouted, with each book dealing with a different relic and two new characters’ love stories.

I developed the Underground, the dark-wizard city beneath London, with an understanding of caves through personal experience:

I went cave-crawling (literally, with knee pads) in a Kentucky cave. This wasn’t a tourist cave, but one my brother-in-law had discovered. Once inside it widened considerably, but to get inside we had to crawl through some very tight squeezes. The absence of light and the maze-like passages were terrifying, and the first time I went in I raced back out within five minutes. But I don’t like to let fear control me, so I plunged back in. I wish I could say it was fun, but the hand-light went out at one point, the cave crickets on the ceiling looked like giant gray spiders, and a river ran through the larger passages and that water was cold. But it did give me an understanding of the London Underground I envisioned for my book, and an experience I’ll never forget.

I took real historical facts and research and changed it with magical touches to create a vision of my alternate world:

I’ve read and own many books on the Victorian era, from architecture to furniture to social economics. (I listed many of my research books on my website blog). I have always loved that time period, so I found the research fascinating. Then I created maps of my alternate Victorian London to keep track of changes to name places (Pall Mall became Pall Mage, Belgrave Square became Gargoyle Square, and I added the Hall of Mages next to Buckingham Palace, for example) because with the influence of magic, the city would develop differently. I also have a ‘map’ of a Victorian mansion, with the type of furniture for each room listed (In England, the first floor of a home is the ground floor, and the first floor is called the second, which is often confusing to my American mind :}).  I also have a chart with hereditary titles, how each peer is addressed, and their level of magic. I keep a dictionary of my own words, because I often make them up; and a chart of the relics, when they were discovered, what type of jewel and spell (if known). I also create character sheets along with animal references, since my heroes’ natures are so strongly influenced by their were-creatures.

I keep my world fresh in my mind:

By writing everything on loose paper, and then use binder clips to keep them organized. I print pictures of Victorian costume, architecture, etc. and keep them with that packet, so that I have visuals as well as notes to refer to.

I’m careful with research details I include in my books:

When it comes to historical research, if I need it for the storyline it goes in. I have research that never goes into the story because it isn’t necessary, but it still gives me a general feel of the world, so it’s not wasted. When it comes to the magical elements that I weave into the world, I’ll go into a bit more detail, because I try to instill that sense of realism into the story.

I consider setting almost as another character:

And another element I have to weave into the plot. I try to add in the rules of my magic early on, so the reader knows what to expect. But again, I try not to dump it in all at once, but use it to enrich the plot.

I’ll leave you with an excerpt from ENCHANTING THE LADY to show how I use visuals, setting, and the logistics of the magic by weaving them into the scene:

“Look at Lord Gremville’s new coach and four.”  Uncle Oliver’s voice dripped with disdain.
Felicity stared out the window.  Marquesses’ powers were limited to illusions and the transfer of objects, so she knew that the white unicorns with golden horns weren’t real, that the gilded coach camouflaged a plain black finish.  Still, the sight took her breath away, and she longed to stroke the foreheads of the animals.

Until Next Time,
My Magical Best,

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Shelfless Book by Bob Mayer and Jen Talty

Last year, I had the privilege of listening to Bob Mayer speak at the Desert Dreams Conference on Independent Book Publishing. This field is growing fast so I admit I'm curious to learn more. I purchased the book he coauthored with Jen Talty, The Shelfless Book. I recently began reading my copy and have found it to be quite interesting. One piece of advice he gives to all experienced writers is to rely more on Beta readers (readers who don't write) to give feedback on your manuscript and not critique groups made up of writers. I am lucky I have people I trust to look over my manuscripts, both writers and nonwriters.
If you are interested in learning more from this NY Times Best-Selling Author, I suggest you pick up a copy of one or more of his books on writing.
Until next week,
happy reading and writing.
Tina Swayzee McCright

Friday, May 24, 2013

Author Spotlight on Vicki Lewis Thompason

A deal with a devilishly sexy cowboy…

Self-help guru Bethany Grace has returned home to clean up the now-decrepit family ranch after her father's death. Rather than just set the whole place ablaze (her first choice), she settles for a nice symbolic little blaze outside…until things get out of hand!

Cowboy Nash Bledsoe is working at the Last Chance Ranch next door when he sees the smoke. Bethany is the last person he expects—or wants—to see. How can he explain that she's indirectly responsible for ruining his life?

Still, there's an opportunity for Nash to buy the ranch if he can help restore it, and the two strike a deal. But there's a whole lot of chemistry in the fine print, and Nash is about to discover that where there's smoke, there's fire!

A romance writing career has brought Vicki Lewis Thompson many wonderful things –New York Times bestseller status, an appearance on LIVE with Regis and Kelly, the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award from Romance Writers of America, thousands of readers, many dear friends, and the cutest little yellow convertible in the world. Her career has also given her work she loves.
Although she’s written more than 100 books, she continues to be fascinated by the many ways that a man and woman fall in love. The age-old story remains a challenging puzzle to be solved anew with each book. That makes her a very lucky person, indeed. 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Larry Brooks Workshop

Yesterday I attended a workshop presented by Larry Brooks. Other members of Valley of the Sun Romance Writers and I agreed it was one of the best workshops we have ever attended. He has a clear, precise, no nonsense approach.

Larry went over the difference between a story idea, concept and premise. Later, he went over the six core core competencies needed in any good story: concept, character, theme, structure, scenes, and voice. He believes an author can "break out" if one of these elements is "other worldly compelling." He went on to describe each element. He spent hours on structure.

If you ever have a chance to attend his workshop, I highly recommend you do. In the meantime, you can check out his blog http://storyfix.com/  He also has two books available: Story Engineering and Story Physics.

Until next week,
happy reading and writing.
Tina Swayzee McCright

Friday, May 17, 2013

Introducing Vijaya Schartz

It is my pleasure to introduce the lovely Vijaya Schartz and her new book.

Curse of the Lost Isle series
Medieval Fantasy Romance
By Vijaya Schartz

From history shrouded in myths, emerges a family of immortal Celtic Ladies, who roam the medieval world in search of salvation from a curse. For centuries, imbued with hereditary gifts, they hide their deadly secret, stirring passions in their wake as they fight the Viking hordes, send the first knights to the Holy Land, give birth to kings and emperors... but if the Church ever suspects what they really are, they will be hunted, tortured, and burned at the stake.
5 stars on Amazon "Edgy Medieval!"
806 AD - Alba (Ancient Scotland) - As the Vikings raid the coast of Alba, Pressine of Bretagne sets out to seduce King Elinas of Dumfries, chosen by the Goddess to unite the tribes against the foreign invader. Elinas, still mourning his departed queen, has no intention to remarry. Head-strong and independent, Pressine does not expect to fall for the very attractive, wise and noble ruler... Furthermore, her Pagan nature clashes with the religious fanaticism of the king’s Christian heir, who suspects her unholy ancestry and will stop at nothing to get rid of her.

Find Vijaya Schartz on her website at: http://www.vijayaschartz.com
On Twitter @vijayaschartz

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What's in Blurb?

Kim Watters here. What's in a blurb? Everything. There are a few things a reader looks for when he or she picks up a book; the cover, name, and the back cover blurb-not necessarily in that order. I believe it's what makes the reader purchase a particular book, especially if they're not familiar with the author. So in one short span of time, you've got to convince that reader to purchase your book. The who, the plot, and the conflict. Here's my latest blurb for my upcoming release from Harlequin. If I was more tech savvy, I'd post the cover, but that's an item for a future post because it's early, I need to get my post up and I can't figure out how to convert from a pdf to a jpeg. So, I'm going to stick with what I know and write books.

A Soldier's Gift

Just in time for Christmas, a tall, dark and
handsome Scrooge visits Holly Stanwyck’s
holiday shop, threatening eviction. But once
landlord Ethan Pellegrino sees the single
mom’s plight, the former soldier becomes her
protector instead. Suddenly he’s helping
her with her struggling business and bonding
with her troubled son. A wounded veteran
come home to heal, Ethan is no stranger
to sorrow. But something about the pretty
widow fills him with hope. Will Holly be able
to let go of her own painful past to see
her future by his side?

What are your thoughts? Until next time.....

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Promo or Write?

I had an interesting conversation with some writing friends this past week. They believe traditional publishing is on its way out and authors should publish digital books either by self-publishing or through ebook publishers. They also believe you need to promo several hours a day to get your name out there. We've all heard the stories of writers who spent all day promoting and landed deals with the big publishers. But are there too many writers saturating online promotion sites now because they heard those stories, too?

I have to admit, I felt tired just listening to them. Like many other writers, I work full time, write after work, and then take care of things at home before crashing in my bed for the night. If I promo for hours a day, I wouldn't have time to write, or I wouldn't get enough sleep and would burn out. Don't get me wrong, I do have my Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. I just don't live on those sites.

It was also interesting that we shared ideas on where they promote, but neither could be sure just how successful that promotion was. We have a friend who makes much more money self-publishing and she doesn't promote nearly as much as they do. We all agree that some sites for promotion are mainly writers promoting to other writers.

So what do you do? I think every writer needs to follow the path that is calling to them and see where it leads. I for one do not want to lose the love of writing by worrying over how many times I tweet each day.

Until next week,
keep reading and writing.
Tina Swayzee McCright

Friday, May 10, 2013

Spotlighting: Regency Author Amylynn Bright

by Connie Flynn
It's my pleasure to introduce a terrific new Regency author:
Amylynn Bright
Amylynn Bright

Since I write Regency romances, I’ve pondered this question quite a bit. Anytime anyone mentions reincarnation, people tend to say they were Cleopatra or Genghis Kahn or something. They never say they were the guy from the black plague who pulled the cart through town and hollered for everyone to, “bring out your dead.”

I’ve done extensive research on my genealogy and discovered all kinds of exciting things. Of course, then at http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/05/the-royal-we/302497 you learn that EVERYone is descended from royalty and really, it’s not all that exciting. Don’t believe me? It’s a proven mathematical statistic. Every person on the planet is related to Charlemagne, Nefertiti, and Confuscious. If you think that’s mindboggling, get this little fact. All six billion people on our planet today have a common ancestor who only lived a couple of thousand years ago.

Every. Single. Person.

One researcher I read said that the truly astounding thing would be to prove you were NOT a descendant of Charlemagne.

So even though we were all related to royalty, the fun part of genealogy is figuring out which ones. I got all excited when my family tree took me to Scotland and I got closer and closer to William Wallace, Guardian of Scotland, made so famous by the movie Braveheart. Don’t you know, I am related instead to Edward I, the villain of the movie.

It’s easy to go from a princess to a pauper. Apparently my family has a history of marrying down rather than up. True love kept getting in the way. Still, I hold out hope that someday, someone will show up on my door with a writ proving I’m the long lost Queen of Luxembourg or something

* * *So stop by and ask questions about your possible ancestors. I probably won't know the answers, but I can help you find them. And when you stop, enter my drawing for a free eBook or print copy of LADY BELLING'S SECRET. Be sure to leave your email address which will also get you subscribed to my mailing list. No worries, if you decide the newsletter doesn't fit your needs, unsubscribing is easy. The last thing I want to be is a spammer. * * *

Click to Buy

Olivia Goldsleigh just wants to live without terror, but a gunshot in the night proves things can always get worse. The beautiful and god-like Lord Dalton swears to protect her, to make the danger go away. She wants the man, the life, the family, the bliss he promises, but her secrets are certain to destroy them all.When Henry Cavendish, Marquess of Dalton, leapt to catch the fainting woman before she hit the cobblestone, he never thought that one chivalrous act would set his well ordered life on end.  His ingrained need to protect her has every bit as much to do with her enchanting beauty as it does his desire to wipe the hunted look from her startling blue eyes. He thinks he has everything in hand, but the lady has secrets that puts everything he loves at risk.


Unfortunately, mail is slow during a war. She thought he knew everything. He had never suspected. Thomas has always wanted to be a part of the Belling’s family but he was too foolish to grab the chance when she threw herself at him before. Instead, he ran off to war.  Emboldened by his new-found appreciation for a grown-up Francesca, he finds that dream is within his reach. If she thinks he’s running away this time, she has no idea what she’s in for.

Blog: http://www.thequillsisters.com
Website: http://amylynnbright.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/amylynn.bright1
Twitter: @amylynnbright
Amazon Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Lady-Bellings-Secret-ebook/dp/B00BCVF43Y

* * *Enter my drawing for a free eBook or print copy of LADY BELLING'S SECRET.  Be sure to leave your email address which will also get you subscribed to my mailing list. No worries, if you decide the newsletter doesn't fit your needs, unsubscribing is easy. The last thing I want to be is a spammer. * * *  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Writer's Life is Like a Commercial

Several decades ago, there was a commercial on TV. In it, a man walks out of his house. It's dark outside. "Time to make the donuts." In the next frame, he returns (still dark) saying he's made the donuts. The scenes repeat and repeat and repeat. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=petqFm94osQ

Everytime I sit down to write a novel, I feel like that donut maker. Since I work full time, I have to rise early. Very early. The sun isn't even up early. To write.  And there's always writing to be done. Sentence, paragraph, page, scene and chapter. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

And even when I have to get ready for work, I think of the scene while I'm dressing, feeding the cats and dog, showering and eating breakfast. I think of the scene while I'm driving, badging into my work building and organizing my day.

Rain or shine, sleet or hail, it's time to write the words that make a sentence that make a paragraph that make a scene that make a chapter that make a book.

And some of my books have had over 50 chapters in them.

Even if I write one chapter a day, that's fifty days without rest from the book. And that's not counting edits and revisions. Think about it when you decided your next project. Be in love with what you're creating and look forward to spending time with them. You're going to be there a while.

Whoops, there goes the alarm. Time to make the donuts, er, write the chapter:-)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Is There Gold in Them There Hills Part IV

This is the last in a series of four posts about how to succeed in independent publishing on Kindle. 

So, have I determined if there really is gold in the Kindle store world? Yes, I believe it's still there, but  a lot like the San Francisco gold rush days, it's not laying on the ground anymore waiting for people to scoop it up. The indie publishing world is now bigger than Kindle. The only reason it had ever shrunk, though, was because of the KDP lure that tied authors to publishing exclusively with Amazon.

Personally I don't believe authors can afford to put all their eggs in one basket, no matter how much gold may still be down that glittering mine. There are other venues for selling your books, and the question now becomes, can you be a successful independently published author?

I believe you can. But it's no longer a matter of just throwing together a book, slapping it up on Amazon and waiting for the checks to come in. Fact is, I'm not sure it was that easy anyway. The famous moneymaking writers who were spotlighted for having earned mouth-watering returns actually worked their butts off.
Keep the faith It's out there.

I actually think those of us coming behind will find it easier to earn a substantially adequate income because the pioneers have shown us what works and what doesn't.

What works is what has always worked in book selling . You have to put it out there, you have to tell people about it, you have to ask people to tell people about it, you have to ask them to buy. And most important, and so often said it sounds clich├ęd, you must write good books and lots of them.

What doesn't work is trying to game the system, tweaking numbers, getting bogus reviews, putting shoddy writing up to increase the number of titles for sale.

Right now, I'm becoming clearer every that all of this is about the writing. No matter the angle I look from, I can see that it's the writing that enriches me. Coming up with a new idea, tweaking it so it becomes a story that works, writing it page by page, meanwhile staying in touch with present and potential readers through the various social media. Those are the activities that make me happy and energized.

That's why I'm moving most of my books back to Barnes and Nobel, Smashwords, I-Tunes, Sony stores and the various library outlets out there. I may even sell them right off my own website. I'm in it for the long haul. I'm not here to get rich. I'm here to generate an income that frees me to have and do the things I need to maintain the peace of mind to write my books. If you're reading this, it's my guess you understand how outside distractions make it very hard to write the good book you need to succeed.

If you stayed with me this long, I'm going to give you a few more things that you need to be successfully indie published. We finished off last month with me extolling the virtues of Twitter. Hopefully, you've already signed up for the program and installed HootSuite to help you manage it. Be sure to read at least some of the tutorials. They're fairly good and it will speed up your progress with both Twitter and HootSuite. I did neglect to mention bit.ly (http://bitly.com/) This little program condenses your web addresses so they don't take up so many characters in a tweet. HootSuite also has that function, but bit.ly keeps track of how many clicks you get on their urls and that's very useful for keeping track of your promotions.

This is the time to bring up the remaining heavy duty marketing tools: the newsletter, the website, the blog and your Amazon author page. These are must haves if you hope to succeed.

You must have a website or a blog to have a central place to communicate to your readers. The advantages of websites are that the pages are static. You can put up content that doesn't change much and it won't move on with time. This is the place for your long bio or letter to your readers, your books and covers, the buy links. Put buttons for your social media links on every page of your website and remember to also link to your blog.

Although it requires a bit more diligence about updating, I also recommend that you list your appearances. You can put them on your Amazon page and announce them on your Facebook profile, but your website is where people go when they have a purpose. They've heard of you and want to check out your books or read your biographies or find out what social networks you're hooked into.

Now it's time to establish your 'brand.'  If you haven't done any of this already or even written a book, that's perfect. Because now is where you'll establish the tone and attitude and colors that will eventually announce you even before you've mentioned your name. Okay, that may be a little optimistic, but the idea is that you want your website, blog and newsletter to follow the same color scheme. Promo copy should communicate the same message from media to media. The headers and backgrounds of your Twitter and Facebook pages should also harmonize.

This may be enough to have you running from indie publishing altogether, or conversely, it may be a very exciting challenge.  If you're still with me, here are some links to help you get started.

Websites:  http://www.networksolutions.com/web-hosting/index.jsp

I use Go-Daddy but lots of my friends use Network Solutions. These are some of the places to get your domain name and to where you'll upload your website onto the internet.  You will still need to design and compose the website or have someone else do it.  There are free programs that will help you put together your own site if you don't already have web designing experience. This is the most technically demanding of the marketing tools you need and these programs help guide you through. Here's an example that had a good rating but I can't personally vouch for it..  Build a Website   http://download.cnet.com/BlueVoda-Website-Builder/3000-10247_4-10380081.html

These two companies have free blogging sites.
Set up Blogger: https://www.blogger.com/tour_start.g
Set up Wordpress: http://wordpress.org/
I use Blogger. I have tried Wordpress, but found it way too complex and it doesn't give you the freedom of color schemes and fonts the way Blogger does.
Check them both out because the Blogger/Wordpress debate is kind of like the P.C./Apple thing.  Here's a comparison chart you may find useful (or maybe not): http://pulsed.blogspot.com/2007/07/blogger-wordpress-chart.html

Mailing List: http://mailchimp.com/features
As said, you'll also need a mailing list. Here's a link to a very useful site that is free as long as you don't want their more advanced features. The mailing list is your primary tool for keeping in touch with readers. Currently, I'm still using the free program and with a list of about 650 subscribers it will probably serve me for quite a while. But I'm aiming to add 5000 new subscribers over the next couple years, which means I'll have to provide a lot more useful content than I do now, so I'm working on that and at that level I'll probably need a much more sophisticated mailing list program.

If you've enjoyed these blogs or have missed some, here are the links to the first three posts:

Part I http://muchcheaperthantherapy.blogspot.com/2013/02/is-there-gold-in-them-there-hills.html
Part II http://muchcheaperthantherapy.blogspot.com/2013/03/is-there-gold-in-them-there-hills.html
Part III http://muchcheaperthantherapy.blogspot.com/2013/04/is-there-gold-in-them-there-hills-part.html

Click Here to Buy
A Scottish paradise lost in time is invaded by 21st century thugs. It was a robbery gone terribly wrong, ending in Luke Slade and his wounded cousin being swept through a window in time, with  killers chasing in behind them, trapping them all in 1672.

Caryn McLaughlin rules Lochlorraine and when Luke appears she knows her worries will soon be over. He is Luke the Dragon Slayer, none other, and his duty is clear. Her duty is to convince him.

Connie Flynn, bestselling, award-winning author of ten published novels and three published short stories, also teaches fiction writing at Mesa Community College. She has been reissuing her legacy books in the Amazon Kindle store and her online bookstore is growing.  Busy polishing a recently completed new novel scheduled for mid-summer publication, she also had another new work in progress. She writes in several genres — paranormal romance, romantic comedy, action-adventure and contemporary fantasy. She also writes mystery and suspense as K.C. Flynn. Look for several new releases from Connie/K.C. in 2013.