books with Athena

books with Athena

Sunday, June 28, 2015

11 Tips For The Care And Feeding Of Your Muse: A Writer’s Guide

by Ruth Harris


The muse (also referred to as intuition, instinct, the subconscious, a superpower, the Spidey sense) is generally a friendly and cooperative breed. By nature, the muse tends to be bright eyed, curious and energetic. However, ignored or poorly-treated the muse can be become depressed and mopey and will not function effectively.

The rules for its care and feeding are simple. Obeying them will keep your muse—and you—creative, productive and in top operating condition.


1) Do feed your muse a healthy, varied diet.


Muses have adventuresome palates and perk up at the opportunity to try something new and/or different. Be sure to share all the interesting, offbeat, repellent, lurid, provocative and enlightening content that rushes past in a torrent every day.

Your muse will love you for your everyday reading habits. Reading in your genre and out, fiction and non-fiction, newspapers and magazines — will keep your muse happy and healthy. Nourished on a solid stream of input, your muse will be able to connect unrelated ideas into dazzling new plots and twists.

2) Don't put your muse on a diet.


Paleo? Low carb? Uh-uh. Muses get cranky when they're hungry and behave badly. All they can think about is food and their next meal. They are too preoccupied with thoughts of pasta, chocolate and a good, thick steak to pay attention to you and your book. Deprived of regular feeding and input, your muse will have no energy for the heavy lifting needed for creative work.

Besides, diets don't work. Not for people. Not for muses.

3) Don't bore your muse.


  • Muses hate getting stuck in a rut. For optimum health, your muse needs to be challenged and stimulated. Gallery hopping and channel surfing, brushing up your high school Spanish and learning to lindy, roller skate and enjoy hot dogs and a beer in bleacher seats at the ballgame—each offers your muse new and different experience.
  • A summer vacation at the shore might inspire the next Jaws.
  • A visit to a natural history museum might result in Jurassic Park.
  • An hour or two with the food channel might trigger a new cozy set in a bakery or restaurant. Or what about a new horror novel starring a demented, knife-wielding chef, TV cooking-show host or obnoxious restaurant-owner?
  • Even the supermarket can inspire your muse—think of The Stepford Wives. Visit Whole Foods for the organic, more upscale version.
  • Binge viewing The Sopranos or House of Cards could lead you to create the next Godfather or All The President's Men.


4) Do learn to interpret communiqu├ęs from your muse.


  • Muses, although generally reliable, communicate in unpredictable ways. Sometimes they shout. Sometimes they whisper.
  • The story you can't get out of your mind, the one that wakes you up at night and intrudes when you're otherwise occupied? That's a shout. Your muse is giving you no option except to pay attention.
  • The chapter you're bogged down on and hate writing? Your muse might be telling you you're on the wrong track and need to figure out where you've made your mistake.
  • The balky character that lies there like a herring and won't come to life? Your muse is telling you you need to shape up and do a better job.
  • The idea that flashes through your mind so fast it almost disappears the moment it becomes conscious? That's a whisper.

Whispers are gold and must be gathered and protected, ergo, the notebook.


5) Do keep a notebook—or several.


Whether digital or paper, the notebook is indispensable. Any writer who doesn't have a notebook—paper or electronic—should have his or her computer impounded.

Evernote, Microsoft OneNote and WorkFlowy all work as excellent electronic note keepers.

Paper notebooks should be everywhere you are. There are notebooks on my night table, in the kitchen, on the dining room table, in the living room, next to my desk (obviously!) and in my purse. There is even a notebook in the bathroom for those nights I wake up with a "brilliant" idea I absolutely have to write down. In the dark. So as not to disturb my DH who already knows all too much about what it's like to live with a writer.

Here are some of my favorites.

Notebook Stories will give you lots of other choices to consider and for pens to write with, check out the Pen Addict.


6) Do obey the golden rule and treat your muse as you would want to be treated.


Muses tend to be patient and understanding but they don't like to be hurried, harried or harassed. They respond better to the kiss than the whip and will go MIA if you are feeling overwhelmed, out of control and stressed out.

If your muse has gone AWOL, look for him/her at your nearest yoga class. In fact, it might be a good idea to pull up a mat and join your muse in a tree pose and downward dog.

A well-chosen yoga tape or some time out for meditation and/or deep breathing calm you and help get you and your muse back in primo working condition.


7) Don't ignore your muse's bio-rhythms.


Your muse will not react well when tired, sleepy or barely-awake. Some muses work better in the morning, others perform at their best later in the day or at night. Synch your work habits with those of your muse and you will find your work goes smoother and inspiration comes more easily.

Don't expect your night owl muse to be perky and creative early in the AM.

Don't ask your crack-of-dawn muse to come to your rescue at midnight.

8) Do give your free-range muse room to roam.


  • Stilettos or clogs? Polos or Tees? Grunge or business casual? Black tie or white shoe? Fashion magazines, style blogs and catalogs are filled with photos and descriptions of clothing. Check them out and your muse will find new ways for you to describe your character's clothing and wardrobe in ways that brings them alive and makes them real to the reader.
  • Good hair day or bad plastic surgery? Muffin top or too rich and too thin? Beauty and grooming sites are filled with photos and comment, some of it snarky, some of it sincere, about exactly one subject: how people look. With their help, you and your muse can turn your descriptions from insipid to inspired.
  • The business pages are a source for occupations and careers: your characters have to make a living, don't they? The tabs are an endless wellspring of sex and scandal and niche magazines or blogs—bass fishing, ice climbing, stamp collecting, arctic biology—will open new dictionaries for the alert writer and his or her muse.
  • Success and failure, triumph and tragedy. Go to the sports pages. Seriously. Almost every story is basically about how an athlete, talented or otherwise, overcomes—or doesn't—golden-boy good looks, a reputation for dogging it, a lousy attitude in the clubhouse, jail time, drugs, booze, injury, scandal, depression, poor parenting, mean and/or incompetent coaching.
  • Besides, it's not just the drama and the schmaltz, it's also about the language: sports are all about action and sports writers are great with verbs.


9) Do treat your muse to input from experts like choreographer, Twyla Tharp.


Her guidebook, The Creative Habit, is practical, down to earth and inspiring. Using a wide-ranging set of examples ranging from Homer to Proust, from Ulysses S. Grant to Ludwig Wittgenstein and Pope Leo X, from Merce Cunningham and George Balanchine to Ansel Adams, Raymond Chandler, Mozart and Yogi Berra, she offers a detailed road map to defining your creative identity based on her own experience.

Ms. Tharp explains the importance of routine, ritual and setting goals, how to know the difference between a good idea and a bad idea, how to recognize ruts when you're in one and she offers explicit guidelines about how to get out of them.


10) Don't ignore your gut feelings and learn how to train your muse.


Susan Kaye Quinn is a scientist—a rocket scientist, to be exact—and author of the bestselling Mindjack series. Susan refers to her muse as a superpower and in this must-read article she tells how to tap your subconscious, how to train your muse and why you should pay attention to your gut feelings.

You will find more from Susan about increasing your productivity and amping up your creativity in her post at David Gaughran's blog.

11) Do learn to trust your muse—even when you don't know exactly why.


Your intuition a.k.a. your muse is that sense of knowing without knowing. Steve Jobs called it "more powerful than intellect."

From dealing with negative thoughts, to paying attention to your dreams, and making time for solitude Carolyn Gregoire lists 10 Things Highly Intuitive People Do Differently.


What about you, Scriveners? Do you treat your muse with respect, or do you try to bully it into submission? Do you find certain practices and rituals keep the words coming? Do you have a time of day when you are more creative? Do you keep an old fashioned notebook, or do you take your notes electronically? Do you have a pen or notebook collection? 

BOOKS OF THE WEEK


HUSBANDS AND LOVERS (Park Avenue Series, Book #2)—The million-copy New York Times bestseller. 

Carlys Webber transforms herself from wallflower to swan and two handsome, successful men vie for her love.

"Steamy and fast-paced, you will be spellbound."–Cosmopolitan

FREE!!





Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay


Sneak preview!

Anne's new Camilla comedy-mystery SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM  is now available for preorder on Amazon at the special pre-order price of only 99c!



Pre-order and save on Amazon in any country! 
So Much for Buckingham launches officially on July 8th

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS



BARTLEBY SNOPES CONTEST   $10 FOR UNLIMITED ENTRIES. Compose a short story entirely of dialogue. Must be under 2,000 words. Your entry cannot use any narration (this includes tag lines such as he said, she said, etc.). These are the only rules. 5 finalists will also appear in Issue 15 of the magazine. Last year they awarded $2,380 in prize money. Deadline September 15, 2015.

Rattle Poetry Prize The annual Rattle Poetry Prize offers $10,000 for a single poem to be published in the winter issue of the magazine. Each entry can contain up to 4 poems. 10 finalists will also receive $200 each and publication, and be eligible for the $2,000 Readers’ Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote. Entry fee $20 (includes subscription) Deadline July 15th.

Golden Quill Awards Writing Contest: Flash, Poetry, and Short fiction categories. Entry fee $20 for stories and poetry, $15 for flash fiction. The theme is TRANSFORMATION. Deadline July 15.

Glamour Magazine Essay contest.  FREE! Theme: "My Real Life Story". Prize is $5,000 and possible publication in Glamour Magazine for personal essays by women, between 2,500-3,500 words. Enter online or by mail. Open to US residents aged 18+.Deadline July 15th

MARK TWAIN HUMOR CONTEST  Entry fees: $12 Young Author or $22 Adult. 7,000 words (or fewer) of any original work of humor writing. Submissions must be in English. Submissions are not required to be in the style of Mark Twain or about Mark Twain. 1st Prize: $1,000 (Adult), $600 (Young Author). Other cash prizes! Deadline July 10, 2015

Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest. Entry fee $10. Your story should in some way touch upon the publication's mission: Celebrating America — past, present, and future. Think Norman Rockwell. No profanity or graphic sex. Any genre. No previously published stories, but they can have appeared on your blog. Between 1,500 and 5,000 words. Deadline July 1, 2015

Big Beautiful Wellness Creative Writing Contest. NO FEE Poems up to 30 lines Fiction or Nonfic between 1000 and 2000 words. $100 first prize. Theme: Body-positive living. Looking for inspirational, positive stories. Deadline July 1.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

6 Bad Reasons to Write a Novel…and 6 Good Ones

by Anne R. Allen


So you think you want to write a novel?

You're not alone.

According to a New York Times study done a decade ago, 81% of Americans "think they have a book in them". With the indie ebook revolution, I'm sure the percentage has grown.

Of course, most of that 81% won't ever write a word. There's an old, unkind joke that says, "Most people think they have a book in them. And that's where it should stay." It's true we aren't suffering a dearth of books. Just look at your Twitter feed.

I honestly believe not everybody is cut out to write book-length narrative.

And that's not a bad thing.

The problem lies in the fact that lots of people think learning to write a novel or memoir is somehow easier than learning to paint, play an instrument, compose music, or design clothing. For some reason, many people think all you need is a keyboard and a block of time and….voila! novels happen.

But those of us who do it professionally know that learning to write novels is a long, tough slog. It's also hard on our friends and loved ones. It always takes longer than we expect.

Nobody's born with the knowledge of how to craft a novel any more than anybody is born with a perfect golf swing or a great operatic voice. No matter how much native talent you have, you need to study and practice a long time before you're going to be able to create something that will appeal to readers.

So people need to make sure they really want to embark on the journey before they start down the book-writing road.

There are lots of fantastic ways to be creative. Don't get locked into the idea that writing books is the only path to creative expression. Book length-narrative may be on the way out. Short stories, personal essays, novellas, and blogposts are increasingly popular—and can be lucrative as well.

And not everybody has the talent or inclination to create with words. There are many, many ways to be creative.

Years ago I was in a writing group with a man who struggled with every sentence of his WIP. The group tended to be hard on him because he didn't seem to grasp the concept of conflict in a scene, and his characters were stereotypical lumps who mostly sat around musing.

He dropped out of the group and I ran into him two years later. At an art show. His. His paintings were fantastic: vibrant and creative and alive. He'd found his medium.

But he said he still felt guilty about this abandoned novel. I asked him why.

He said he felt that writing was "serious", while painting was "play."

He basically thought he should write because he didn't enjoy it.

I say that's exactly why NOT to write. If writing novels doesn't feel like playing, try another medium.

There's an odd prejudice in the writing world in favor of novels.

People who write and publish great short fiction or poetry are often pressured to write a "real book". And even television and screenwriters are sometimes disrespected by by people stuck in a 19th century mindset who believe "real writing" is reserved for novels.

That kind of thinking is simply out of date. The short story is undergoing a renaissance, and television is where the most creative, innovative writing is happening today. Television writers like Matthew Weiner, Vince Gilligan, Jenji Kohan, and Shonda Rhimes have become superstars in their own right.

There's nothing intrinsically "better" about writing books than any other form of creative expression. I firmly believe that everybody has a creative self that needs to be nurtured, but that creativity may express itself in hundreds of different ways—all of which enrich our culture.

Why be a mediocre novelist when you might be a great painter, poet, stand-up comic, potter, gardener, designer, or chef?

Please note I do not want to step on the dream of anybody who REALLY longs to write a book. Below are 6 excellent reasons to write one, even if nobody is ever going to read it but you.

We need to hang onto our dreams. As Damon Lindelof said in the Daily Beast last month, "media-induced cynicism is humanity’s real enemy."

We are inundated by dream-smashers and cynics who love to squash any sincere efforts at creating art.

Cynicism is easy; art is hard.

Lindelof also said, "It’s so easy to be infected by cynicism. It’s so easy to be mean. It’s so easy to tell somebody who is a dreamer, 'Come on, really?' And when you see their face when you do that to them, there’s no worse feeling in the world than understanding that you’ve just unintentionally crushed someone’s dream."

Jane Friedman echoed his sentiments in a post on her own blog titled The Age-Old Cynicism Surrounding the Dream of Book Writing. She thinks we're entering an era of "universal authorship" where everybody will be a creative writer, so the act of creating fiction won't be seen as anything special and literally everybody will be an author of some sort.

That may be—although I'm not completely convinced—but novels still exist as an art form and I don't think everybody on the planet is able to craft a good one. Or is emotionally equipped to enjoy the process.

I think a lot of that 81% who think they have books in them are motivated by the wrong reasons.

The people who are actually squashing dreams may be the people telling you that writing a novel is somehow superior to composing a song or throwing a pot or nurturing a rose.

Any writer who has been in a critique group or done much beta-reading has probably run into some wannabe writers who are obviously not going to make it, often because they're writing for the wrong reasons.

Here are six of them:


6 Bad Reasons to Write a Novel


1) To Make Money


Sigh. Anybody who's been in this business for any length of time will tell you why this is a bad idea. Bob Mayer put it very well in his March 15th blogpost:

"If you desire to write a novel because you want to have a bestseller and make a bundle of money, my advice is to play the lottery; it will take much less time and your odds will be about the same, if not better, and I can guarantee that the work involved will be much less. The publishing business makes little sense and it’s changing faster than ever before; the 'gold rush' of the self-published eBook is long past."

2) Revenge


When I was working as a freelance editor, the majority of manuscripts brought to me were revenge memoirs (or thinly-disguised memoirs) designed to hurt someone who had "done wrong" to the writer.

These things were usually hot messes. Some were pages of nonsensical late-night ranting. Others were attempts at satire so one-sided they fell flat, and others were victim sagas.

No editor can make something like that readable.

Besides you can get yourself sued.

3) To Show Off How Smart You Are


Some of us get labeled "nerds" early in life, and our defense is often to talk in long sentences using big words in order to look down our noses at the dummies who don't understand us.

I have to admit to using the word "exceedingly" in many conversations at the age of seven. I could also trot out several quotations in Latin and Greek (my father was a Classics professor at Yale, so I had a good source of ammunition).

I was so sure I was impressing people.

But the truth is that stuff doesn't make you popular in 2nd grade and it sure doesn't get you readers when you're an adult.

Unless you're writing for an esoteric academic journal that's seen by ten people including the editor and his long-suffering student assistant, you're not going to succeed by showing off your knowledge of little-used Latinate words and obscure historical factoids.

Readers don't care how smart you are. They care about compelling characters and a good story.

4) To "set the record straight" about something that happened in your past


A lot of unpublished and self-published memoirs are written by people who want to tell "what really happened" in a rotten situation like family abuse, workplace bullying, or military SNAFUs.

Writing this stuff down is fantastic therapy. But it doesn't usually translate into anything another human being will want to read. There's a reason shrinks get paid the big bucks. It's exhausting to listen to people's tales of woe.

Exploring these issues with writing can spark a creative idea that might blossom into a piece of fiction or poetry or a painting or other work of art, but don't expect a lot of people to want to experience the raw material of your pain.

You have to be an accomplished writer to turn that kind of pain into art.

5) Your third grade teacher said you have "talent."


This may have been what happened to the painter I mentioned in the introduction. I see it all the time.

In fact, this post was sparked by a question I saw recently on Quora. Somebody had decided to write a novel, but he said he didn't know anything about storytelling and he didn't much like being alone and he didn't like to read or write very much and didn't want to be bothered to learn about craft or stuff like that.

Why did he want to write a novel?

Because somebody told him he had writing "talent."

It probably happened in his formative years, poor guy, and he's been trying to live up to it ever since.

I know that telling kids they have talent seems like a great idea. It builds their self-esteem and makes them more confident and happy.

And I'm not saying we should stop being encouraging to our kids, but make sure you praise ALL their talents. But when somebody gets the idea they have a "special gift" in only one area, it can backfire.

For some people, it can paralyze them with fear about living up to their potential.

For others, it can instill a sense of entitlement that can make for really bad art. And keep them from doing stuff they really might actually enjoy.

For more on this, see my post on "Is Talent Overrated?"

6) You Like Telling People You're a Writer


Saying you're a writer gives you a certain cachet at parties. Or some people think it does. It's certainly easier to explain why you've been in that minimum wage job for five years if you add that you're supporting yourself while working on a novel.

And that's fine…if you're actually working on a novel.

But if you haven't actually written more than a grocery list in the last three years, and you never got past that "It was a dark and stormy night" opener, you may not be cut out for this profession. And that's okay.

A writer writes. If you don't write, you're probably not a writer. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Instead of getting defensive and angry every time somebody asks how that book is going, find something you actually want to do.

And if you're one of the people who would simply rather read a book than write one, then THANK YOU!! Readers make what we do possible.

And 6 Good Ones


Some people are born storytellers whose destined medium is the book. These people think in terms of stories from the time they can talk. They have to write. It's like breathing.

Here are some signs you may be a born novelist.

1) You see stories everywhere


Every newspaper headline gives you an idea for a plot. Every stranger's tale of woe makes you think of putting into a novel.

And every time you get a cup of coffee in you and somebody to listen, you start telling them about the great ideas you have. You get more and more animated as you tell the details about your characters and their backstories and….your friends' eyes glaze over, your girlfriend texts that she's moving to France, and nobody's returning your phone calls.

That story is itching to get out of you, but you're putting it in the wrong place. It belongs on a page. Don't worry if it's any good or not. Nobody will know unless you write it down.

Writing skills can be learned. But the ability to think up stories can't. You have a gift. Use it.

2) 100s of characters are living in your head (even when you're on your meds)


Whenever you read a news story about odd human behavior, you wonder who those people are and what motivated their behavior.

Before the end of the news piece on the surge in bank robberies by senior citizens, you've got a whole scenario going and you know what all the characters look and sound like.

You know Gladys and Myrtle robbed those banks because they needed money to finish their craft projects. Because craft supplies cost so much more than they can charge for the finished products on Etsy, they have had to turn to a life of crime to afford all those needlepoint kits and crochet patterns. The bank teller who refused to give them the money, Holly-Ann Wiggins, is a crafter herself, and she recognised them from their You Tube video on tatting...

If random people pop into your brain at regular intervals and beg you to tell their stories, you're probably one of those people who has a novel in them. Or three or four or ten.... 


3) You love being alone with your own thoughts


Authors need to be alone a lot of the time. If you're a born writer, you cherish and crave your alone time like a visit to a lover.

Anybody who needs immediate feedback or has abandonment issues when left alone for a few days is going to have trouble writing for the long periods of time it takes to compose whole books.

If your other possible life paths include lighthouse keeper, park ranger, or sailing around the world solo, then you've got one of the major talents that helps you become a successful novelist.

One of the best things ever written about being an author is Michael Ventura's 1992 essay "The Talent of the Room". Ventura—a veteran novelist, journalist and screenwriter—tells aspiring writers the most important talent they need to succeed is the ability to be alone in a room. If you haven't read it, do. It might help you decide if you're cut out for this life.

4) You're a patient, self-motivated person who can endure hardships while keeping your eyes on the prize


If you like long-term projects and you don't rely on outside validation for your sense of self, you have a much better chance of succeeding as a novelist.

Some things come with the territory. You can pretty much guarantee you're going to have to work at day jobs to pay the bills long after you'd hoped to be writing full time.

You're also going to get lots of flak from your friends and family who can't figure out why your project is taking so long.

If you can tune it all out and hang onto your dream, getting energy from your characters and finding joy in your story, you've got what it takes to write a novel.

5) You're great at thinking of worst case scenarios


Always imagining the worst? Paranoid? Anxious?

Can you write that stuff down instead of panicking?

You may have a novel in you!

Novelists need to be able to put their characters through the worst possible challenges for hundreds of pages before they reach their goals. People who shy away from conflict and drama may be able to write lots of fabulous prose, but if they can't think of enough awful things to happen to their characters, they won't be able to write successful novels.

A novel or memoir about smart, happy people having a great time in the good old days when everything was perfect is not going to attract a lot of readers. Humans want stories. And stories need conflict. If you've got dramas going on in your head all the time, they may help you write a compelling book.

6) You're in love with words… and sentences…and paragraphs...and chapters


If you're a person who verbalizes thought—who is always looking for just the right word to describe that shade of blue, that feeling, that pang of cosmic pain—you've got writing in your soul.

If you go to look up a word in the dictionary and find yourself lost in it for hours…you're probably a born writer.

But you may not necessarily want to write book-length narrative. I know a lot of people writing novels who prefer writing poetry or short fiction.

A novelist has to be able to see the big picture: not just the word or phrase or exquisite image, but the paragraph and the chapter and the story arc.

Poets who write novels will usually say it's because they want to make money. Which takes us around back to #1.

Don't let yourself be bullied into giving up your favorite medium. Writing novels only for money is like buying lottery tickets as a retirement plan. Not the best choice.

Thing is, the chances of most novels to make money are about the same as the chances of most poems. It's not a big number.

But some do. I always list contests here for poetry, essays, and short fiction as well as novels. Some story and poetry prizes are more than the average advance on a novel. Don't discount the short form if that's where your muse is most comfortable.

Write what you LOVE. Not what anybody—not even the third grade teacher who lives in your head—says you should.

Instead heed the words of the great Joseph Campbell and follow your bliss. If you don't find that bliss alone in a room with a keyboard, don't let anybody beat you up about it. Go out and find it!

That WIP will still be sitting in your files if you find out your bliss was there all along.

John Steinbeck said, "If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. "

If you have that "aching urge" that can't be soothed by anything but writing a book...go write one!


What about you, Scriveners? Have you always been a storyteller? Do you love to be alone? Do you think you might rather paint or compose music than write? Have you ever felt trapped in one medium when your soul longs for another? 


COVER REVEAL!!


 Here is the cover for the fifth book in my Camilla Randall series of comedy-mysteries. 

SO MUCH FOR BUCKINGHAM

A comedy about character assassination, online review bullies, and Richard III. Also a cat named Buckingham.





Launching in early July from Kotu Beach Press

I am so in love with this cover by Keri Knutson of Alchemy Book Covers!

Anybody who would like a pre-launch review copy of the ebook, contact me at annerallen dot allen at gmail dot com.



BOOK OF THE WEEK


 Sherwood Ltd. is only 99c this week on all the Amazons!
also available at 
And in paper from Amazon and Barnes and Noble

"It's an hilarious lampoon of crime fiction, publishing and the British in general. Anne Allen gets our Brit idioms and absurdities dead to rights...Its digs at the heroic vanities of micro-publishing and author narcissism are spot on...Whether you enjoy crime suspense, comedy or satire - or all of them together - you'll have enormous fun with this cleverly structured romp. Highly recommended!" Anne is "obviously a Brum lass masquerading as a Yank"...Dr. John Yeoman




Follow Camilla's hilarious misadventures with merry band of outlaw indie publishers in the English Midlands. Always a magnet for murder, mischief and Mr. Wrong, Camilla falls for a self-styled Robin Hood who may or may not be trying to kill her. It follows Ghostwriters in the Sky, but can be read as a stand-alone. (And sets the scene for So Much for Buckingham)


OPPORTUNITY ALERTS


BARTLEBY SNOPES CONTEST   $10 FOR UNLIMITED ENTRIES. Compose a short story entirely of dialogue. Must be under 2,000 words. Your entry cannot use any narration (this includes tag lines such as he said, she said, etc.). These are the only rules. 5 finalists will also appear in Issue 15 of the magazine. Last year they awarded $2,380 in prize money. Deadline September 15, 2015.

Rattle Poetry Prize The annual Rattle Poetry Prize offers $10,000 for a single poem to be published in the winter issue of the magazine. Each entry can contain up to 4 poems. 10 finalists will also receive $200 each and publication, and be eligible for the $2,000 Readers’ Choice Award, to be selected by subscriber and entrant vote. Entry fee $20 (includes subscription) Deadline July 15th.

Golden Quill Awards Writing Contest: Flash, Poetry, and Short fiction categories. Entry fee $20 for stories and poetry, $15 for flash fiction. The theme is TRANSFORMATION. Deadline July 15.

Glamour Magazine Essay contest.  FREE! Theme: "My Real Life Story". Prize is $5,000 and possible publication in Glamour Magazine for personal essays by women, between 2,500-3,500 words. Enter online or by mail. Open to US residents aged 18+.Deadline July 15th

MARK TWAIN HUMOR CONTEST  Entry fees: $12 Young Author or $22 Adult. 7,000 words (or fewer) of any original work of humor writing. Submissions must be in English. Submissions are not required to be in the style of Mark Twain or about Mark Twain. 1st Prize: $1,000 (Adult), $600 (Young Author). Other cash prizes! Deadline July 10, 2015

Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest. Entry fee $10. Your story should in some way touch upon the publication's mission: Celebrating America — past, present, and future. Think Norman Rockwell. No profanity or graphic sex. Any genre. No previously published stories, but they can have appeared on your blog. Between 1,500 and 5,000 words. Deadline July 1, 2015

Big Beautiful Wellness Creative Writing Contest. NO FEE Poems up to 30 lines Fiction or Nonfic between 1000 and 2000 words. $100 first prize. Theme: Body-positive living. Looking for inspirational, positive stories. Deadline July 1.

Writer's Village International Short Fiction Contest Prizes totalling $3200! And every entrant gets a critique. (which makes this a great deal.) Any genre of fiction up to 3000 words. Entry fee $24. Deadline June 30th.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why All Authors May Have a "Hybrid" Future: Veteran Children's Author Kristiana Gregory Goes Indie


The self-publishing movement that was sparked by the introduction of the Kindle ereader eight years ago has taken the entire industry on a rollercoaster ride that shows no signs of slowing down. 

The only thing we can count on in today's publishing world is change. Solid advice given yesterday may not work today. Authors need to realize that there is no one "safe" way to publish.

But there are lots of ways that might work for you. We all need to learn to spread a wide net and be open to the changes as they come zooming at us.

The authors who are doing best these days are "hybrid" authors who both self-and traditionally publish and take advantage of both paths.

Agent Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary believes all authors will be soon be hybrid. She thinks it's the job of their agents to help them self-publish as well as place books with big publishers. She wrote a great piece for us on the subject called, "Why You Don't Need an Agent...But You Might Want One." 

In it she says, "I’d like to make the bold prediction that we'll all be Hybrid Authors in 5 years or less as different paths are taken to achieve each publishing goal."

Of course not every hybrid author makes the decision to jump into self-publishing out of optimism and love of innovation. Some get pushed. 

It's a dirty little secret of the publishing industry that many executives in the traditional houses think of authors as an expendable commodity with a short shelf life. An author's expertise at turning out professional work doesn't matter to management if their last book tanked. Even if it tanked because the publisher put a gun on the cover of your heartfelt women's fiction and changed the title from I Will Always Love You to Gunfire from Hell. 

In the publishing business, you're only as valuable as your last book's sales figures. An awful lot of authors are dropped by their publishers after a few years, even if they have steady sales and good representation. 

What digital self-publishing has done for those "midlist authors" (and their readers) is phenomenal. Seasoned professional authors with an established readership have been rescued from the publishing trash heap. They are now thriving and continuing to entertain and educate us, thanks to ebooks and self-publishing. 

No matter how you feel about ebooks, or Amazon, or the digital revolution in general, this is a fantastic thing for authors and their readers. 

Here on this blog, we have hosted many authors who have re-established careers as indiesor supplemented their trad-pub income by self-publishing. 

Our own Ruth Harris is a million-selling New York Times bestseller who took charge of her own career and went indie with the Kindle revolution.

So did Catherine Ryan Hydeemy co-author on How to Be a Writer in the E-Age. Since self-publishing, Catherine has become an Amazon superstar, even more successful now than she was when she sold Pay it Forward to Warner Brothers. (In fact yesterday Catherine's author rank was #11 on all of Amazon, ahead of J.K. Rowling.)

Other well-known authors who who have shared their indie journey with us are Eileen Goudge, Jeff Carlson, Lawrence Block...and now, Kristiana Gregory

Kristiana is the author of over 30 YA and children's books published with Scholastic, Holiday House and Harcourt. She's a SCBWI Golden Kite award winner as well Literary Classics Gold Medal winner. Two of her books have been made into films by HBO, and her historical novels are staples in school libraries all over the country. 

But, like so many authors, she found her books going out of print in spite of her awards and huge fan base. So she decided to go it alone. 

Well, not really alone. Her whole family joined in and became her publishing team. Amazon ran an inspirational piece about her last month in their "Success Stories" series: Veteran Author Can Reach Kids Again.

This was especially exciting for me because Kristiana was the first writer I knew who "made it" as an author. She and I were members of a writers' group in San Luis Obispo in the early 1980sthe first critique group I ever joined. 

That group was the first place I shared my work and owned up to my writing dreams. We lost track of each other for over 30 years and reconnected when I saw one of Kristiana's comments on Kris Rusch's blog. (Kris Rusch is another trad-pubbed author who has embraced self-publishing in a major way. Her blog is a goldmine for self-publishers.) 

Kristiana has written a memoir about her journey which is full of insight valuable to all writers: Longhand: One Writer's Journey. Do check it out in our Book of the Week section below. 

Talking with her has sent me reminiscing about my first aspirations as a writerwhen simply finishing a short story and sending it to a magazine was cause for major celebration. We were all beginners as fiction writers, even though two members of the group were professional journalists. 

What Kristiana reminded me of is that our critique group was supportive and always felt safe. I don't know if I would have had the courage to embark on this 35 year writing journey if my fledgling muse hadn't been nurtured in such a safe nest. 

And just as I finally got the courage to leave the nest and start publishing my stories, Kristiana recently decided to leave what felt like the comfort of traditional publishing and venture out on her own into the wild world of indie publishing. 

Here is the story of how Kristiana and I first met, and how she finally made that step to become a hybrid author...Anne


Stepping Away from the "Security" of Traditional Publishing

by Kristiana Gregory


We called ourselves the Lost Writers of the Purple Prose.

I had just landed my dream job on the Telegram-Tribune, a daily in San Luis Obispo, California. This newsroom in 1980 was a cacophony of typewriters, ringing phones, and the chuggiddy-chug of a teletype machine. My assignment? Obituaries. It might sound macabre for a thirty-year-old, but I loved crafting these short stories, as I called them, and tried to make them interesting. Sometimes I interviewed family members to learn more about their loved ones so each obit could reflect a little warmth.

It was a dream job because at long last, I earned my paycheck as a reporter.

My assignments also included weather and weddings. Soon, though, I felt wiggly. My eyes glazed to describe yet another sun-drenched day or a taffeta veil crowned with daisies. Oh, to jazz things up a bit!

Enter a creative writing group.

I'm not sure how or where we found each other, but our gaggle bonded immediately over a shared passion: writing our own stuff that we hoped to get published. Poems, vignettes, cat episodes, sad tales about lost love, anything to fill a couple pages that we could read aloud as we sloshed wine and stories late into the night. At work I had been intimidated by the managing editor, John Marrs, but when he joined us in a friend's living room, I learned he was like the rest of us:

Writers trying to put words together.

Maybe it was the abundance of wine, but we oozed compliments. No criticism. I recall lots of laughs and flattery amid a haze of smoke from nicotine fiends: yours truly and Anne R. Allen. Yes, that Anne R. Allen who has graciously invited me to today's blog.

She and I last saw each other thirty-three years ago at my wedding in Harmony, California. A framed photo on our wall shows family and friends on a beautiful May afternoon standing under a eucalyptus tree. Anne is there, smiling, in a purple skirt. I think she knew it was one of my favorite colors.

Years passed, paths diverged. Letters and Christmas cards dwindled until even we writers lost contact.

Meanwhile, my path found wings with motherhood. I realized how much I loved kids and since I loved telling stories, writing for them became a new dream.

Fast forward.

I was extremely fortunate that Scholastic, Harcourt, and Holiday House published my children's books. It was a perfect job because I could work from home and enjoy my boys. And hearing from young readers continues to be a highlight. They ask about my dogs and tell me about theirs, and when they confide how a particular story has comforted them I think, "I'm the luckiest author in the world."

But by my 30th book, the letters "OP" began appearing on royalty statements: Out-of-Print. I felt crushed, especially because kids and parents continued to write glowing letters for my mysteries and historical adventures. Copies in stores were hard to find and many on-line vendors inexplicably priced the books way over a teacher's budget, making class sets prohibitive.

So when I learned about Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and CreateSpace, I felt ecstatic. Here was a chance to reach readers once again, and to offer books for a reasonable price. Buoyed by this fresh opportunity, I began asking my publishers to revert the rights.

This took years of being turned down, asking again, waiting, and more waiting. Finally, as soon as a reversion letter would arrive, one by one and sometimes with its e-file, my family and I got to work. We uploaded, scanned or re-typed each book then my artist son, Cody Rutty, created new covers and added dozens of wonderful line drawings.

My family loves this idea of custom designing a book for children, to make it friendly and nice to hold. We hope the illustrations invite reluctant readers to give it a try.

So far we've resurrected sixteen titles, four more are in the works and I've published two new mysteries.

It was a bit of a catch-your-breath moment, stepping away from the security of traditional publishers. I miss my editors, their camaraderie, and their wisdom. The teamwork was so valuable and such fun. I miss spotting my titles in a bookstore, but having creative control is exhilarating. Hoping to make the paperbacks affordable, I price them as low as CreateSpace permits.

My book sales tick upward every week, like a little snowball gathering weight. It's a modest sum, but the real reward has been hearing from readers. The best support has been parents and teachers who have written Amazon reviews and emails, saying how delighted they are to find my books again.

This new freedom also inspired me to write my memoir, Longhand: One Writer's Journey, something I may not have undertaken if my only avenue had been traditional publishing. The submission process alone would have taken months and I wanted to tell my story now.

The most common question readers ask is, "Where do you get your ideas?" so herein lie the answers. I've jotted memories from writing for the Los Angeles Times and Scholastic, the world's largest children's book publisher: the rejections, heartbreaks, joys, and beloved editors. I hope these behind-the-scenes of book writing, which cover the era from traditional publishing to KDP, might inspire writers starting out and those who love the magic of words.

In the final pages of Longhand, I hyperlinked my rescued titles to Amazon, so Kindle readers can click for a "Look Inside."

It feels terrific to have this instant connection to my audience.

Now looking back three decades at the Lost Writers of the Purple Prose, I think, wow, those friendships and ponderings and reading aloud from our scratchings formed an incubator. We felt safe.

Thanks to social media, I'm happy to learn that at least three of us kept writing and did get published. Our passion survived. And Anne and I quit smoking!

As you know, she hosts this blog and has authored many comic novels. John Marrs writes a political column for Port O Call Publishing ("No Apology. No Apostrophe.") in Port Angeles, Washington, and still writes poetry.

"We had some great evenings in that group," he said in a recent email.

Anne said, "We were always supportive of each other. I remember how even John the professional editor would soften his critiques with phrases like 'I've always heard you shouldn't...' or 'I had a professor who said...' I will always be grateful for the encouragement I got from that amazing group of writers."

Member Lucinda Eileen said, "we were full of good humor, and that, as in any relationship, is the glue that holds us together. There was also something about the male/female mix that was unlike any mixed group I have ever been in before or since. Maybe it was respect for each other, with egos not getting in the way of our hearing what the others were saying. So, humor and respect, not to mention loads of talent, kept us going, even beyond the actual life of the group. I am very grateful to have been a part of it and to have reconnected with you."

We had no idea what the future held—who does?but we knew one thing for sure: We liked to put words together.

It was a grand beginning.
***

Kristiana Gregory has published 30 children's books with Scholastic, Harcourt and Holiday House, and has now ventured into self-publishing with her memoir Longhand: One Writer's Journey. Her award-winning novels include Jenny of the Tetons, which earned the SCBWI Golden Kite Award. Set in 1876, it tells the story of the Shoshone Indian and her fur-trapper husband, Beaver Dick Leigh. Jenny Lake and Leigh Lake in Wyoming are named after this couple. Nugget: The Wildest, Most Heartbreakin'est Mining Town in the West is a mystery set in an Idaho mining camp of 1866. Formerly titled My Darlin' Clementine, it was Idaho's choice for the 2010 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Library of Congress.


What about you, Scriveners? We'd love for you to share memories of your own first writing group or class. Was it supportive? Did you keep in touch? Do you see hybrid publishing in your future? Do you have any questions for Kristiana about her trad-pub or indie experiences? 



BOOK OF THE WEEK


Buy it at Amazon


    
In this heartwarming memoir, Kristiana expands her story-telling and love of the written word, using excerpts from her prolific letters and journals kept since childhood: "I've jotted a few memories from writing for the Los Angeles Times and also Scholastic, the world's largest children's book publisher: the rejections, heartbreak, joys, and beloved editors. My privileged career has been intertwined with motherhood, the richest adventure of all. The most common question readers ask is, 'Where do you get your ideas?' so herein lie the answers. I hope these behind-the-scenes of book writing might inspire writers starting out and those who love the magic of words."

OPPORTUNITY ALERTS



Golden Quill Awards Writing Contest: Flash, Poetry, and Short fiction categories. Entry fee $20 for stories and poetry, $15 for flash fiction. The theme is TRANSFORMATION. Deadline July 15.

Glamour Magazine Essay contest.  FREE! Theme: "My Real Life Story". Prize is $5,000 and possible publication in Glamour Magazine for personal essays by women, between 2,500-3,500 words. Enter online or by mail. Open to US residents aged 18+.Deadline July 15th

MARK TWAIN HUMOR CONTEST  Entry fees: $12 Young Author or $22 Adult. 7,000 words (or fewer) of any original work of humor writing. Submissions must be in English. Submissions are not required to be in the style of Mark Twain or about Mark Twain. 1st Prize: $1,000 (Adult), $600 (Young Author). Other cash prizes! Deadline July 10, 2015

Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest. Entry fee $10. Your story should in some way touch upon the publication's mission: Celebrating America — past, present, and future. Think Norman Rockwell. No profanity or graphic sex. Any genre. No previously published stories, but they can have appeared on your blog. Between 1,500 and 5,000 words. Deadline July 1, 2015

Big Beautiful Wellness Creative Writing Contest. NO FEE Poems up to 30 lines Fiction or Nonfic between 1000 and 2000 words. $100 first prize. Theme: Body-positive living. Looking for inspirational, positive stories. Deadline July 1.

Writer's Village International Short Fiction Contest Prizes totalling $3200! And every entrant gets a critique. (which makes this a great deal.) Any genre of fiction up to 3000 words. Entry fee $24. Deadline June 30th.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

14 Dos and Don'ts for Author-Bloggers

by Anne R. Allen


Everybody keeps telling authors we should blog. But for a lot of new authors, the challenge of a blog is daunting. How can we write our books if we're spending every day blogging? 

You can't. And you shouldn't. If you think you have to blog every day, or even every week, you're reading the wrong blogging advice.

There are lots of great reasons for authors to blog. Here are some from blog expert Robin Houghton, author of Blogging for Writers. For more information on author-blogs, check out Molly Greene's Blog It!: The Author's Guide to Building a Successful Online Brand.

All authors need a websiteeven if you aren't published yet. Whether you're sending out short pieces to magazines or anthologies or querying a novel, you will be Googled. If you have no online presence, or nothing but a FB page and a Twitter account (or any other social media presence that requires membership of the reader) that will work against you with agents and editors.

But a free Blogger or Wordpress blog is often the only website you need. If you establish a well-maintained blog, you can avoid the expense of web hosting and have a perfect venue for interacting with your readers and fellow writers. 

And it DOESN'T have to take all your time. One of the challenges for an author-blogger is that most of the information on  blogging is written for professional bloggers. These are people who blog to sell ads and monetize their blog content. 

But for the author-blogger, a blog is a means to an end, not the end in itself. 

This means a lot of the blog "rules" don't apply to us, and a lot of authors are jumping through hoops and wasting time that could be spent on our primary activity: writing our books.  

However, some rules do apply. There are basic things that all bloggers need to do to be successful. 

Here's a handy list of Dos and Don'ts for the new author-blogger:


1) DON'T feel you have to blog every day.


Or even every week. Or on a schedule. (Although a schedule will give you a better chance of building a solid readership.) But it’s all good. For more on this, read my post on The Slow Blog Manifesto.

As Jane Friedman said in a recent interview at the Art of Commerce "Many people are confused about the role of social media or other online activity (e.g., blogging). They put it before the writing or the message. Let's be clear: the work comes first, in 90% of cases."

Always keep that in mind. Don't let the blog preempt your WIP, ever.

2) DO use an uncluttered, easy-to read design...and NO POP-UPS!


If you use a standard Blogger or Wordpress free blog, the templates are pretty hard to mess up as long as you don't choose one of those white-on-black ones. A light font on a dark background is hard to read for most people. Plus it tends to look like a 1980s computer interface or an old MySpace page. It tends to scream "amateur", unless your site is devoted to vampire fiction or some other "dark" subject.

I also advise against the passive-aggressive tiny pale gray font on a white background. Making your blog hard to read is counter-productive.

Light and bright and uncluttered is appealing and gives your blog a modern look.

If you go with a Web designer and a self-hosted blog, don't let them talk you into too many bells and whistles. This is about building your brand, not advertising the cute things the web designer can do to distract your reader.

And be aware that most people find pop-ups super-annoying. Yes, I know every website, including your bank, throws a pop-up at you every time you log on, wasting your valuable time to blast an ad at you, telling you to sign on with the company you already do business with. This is a great way to tell your current customers they are unimportant and does very little to entice new ones.

Greeting people with a pop-up before they're even allowed to look at your site is like giving people the finger when they come to visit a place of business. You really expect them to stick around if they don't have to?

I know you're crazy-desperate to get addresses for your mailing list because all the gurus are telling you that the author with the biggest mailing list wins.

But using pop-ups to get subscribers can backfire. Pop-ups are unfriendly. If you must, have your subscription window pop up when somebody navigates away from your blog, but don't block your own blog from your readers. You will lose more readers than you gain.

3) DON'T feel you have to keep to 300-500 words.


You don't want to address more than one subject per post, but you don't have to keep the word count under 500 words. That's an old rule from the early days of blogging, when it was all about frequency of posts, not content.

Google's algos have changed since then. They discovered people can feel cheated when they click through to a 3-sentence post. The current ideal now is at about 1000-1500 words.

Make your post as long as it needs to be to cover the subject. If you go over 3000 words, you'll probably lose some readers before the end, but a lot of our most popular posts come close 3000 words.

4) DO learn to write good headers. 


An intriguing header is essential. Nobody will find your blogpost if it isn't tweeted and shared and clicked upon. How do you get clicks? With an eyeball-grabbing header. A good header should:
  • Tell clearly what the post is about.
  • Ask a question or provide an answer. 
  • Attract search engines with relevant keywords. 
  • Make a good Tweet (even if you aren’t on Twitter, you want somebody else to tweet it and spread the word.) 
  • Promise the reader something of value: information or entertainment 
Note: One-word and enigmatic titles may delight your muse, but minimalism won’t attract blog readers. Also avoid stuff that’s unfocused, doesn't inform, or nobody's likely to search for on Google.

Titles like "My Writing" or "Random Thoughts" are not going to get you many hits. These are not words or phrases people are likely to search for, and they don't entice or offer anything. Look at the titles of our top ten blogposts in the sidebar for ideas on what works in a blog header. Numbered lists and questions work best.

5) DON'T use a cute title that masks your identity.


The number one reason for an author to use social media is to get name recognition, so for heaven’s sake, PUT YOUR NAME ON THE BLOG.

Just yesterday I read a hilarious post about the paleo diet. Since that diet is what caused the gout flare-up that has had me in agony for weeks, I found it especially funny. I wanted to share it everywhere. But I have no idea who wrote it. It was on some blog with a one-word, made-up name by an anonymous blogger. He mentioned a coming book, but since he keeps his name secret, what's the point?

Yes, I know you see lots of anonymous blogs. Many product reviewers prefer to keep their names private. Ditto political bloggers.

But the reason an author is blogging is the opposite of anonymity. You want people to be able to put your name (or pen name) into a search engine and find you. Don't make them rummage in their memory banks trying to remember if your blog is called "Primordial Ooze", "Alas, Poor Yorick" or "Enigmatic Toadstool". A whole lot more people will find you if they can just Google "Your Name."

Every minute an author spends blogging anonymously is a minute wasted. Let the public know who you are and where you are and why we should be reading your stuff instead of the other 10 billion blogs out there.

6) DO include share buttons, a "follow" widget and a way to subscribe to the blog


Hey, somebody might stop by your new blog and like what they see. You want them start spreading the news. And come back.

Those little "f" "t", "g +1" and other buttons allow people to share your brilliant words to their Facebook, Twitter and Google+ pages. (In Blogger, they are available in the list of widgets on your dashboard.) They are the way you will build a following. Put them up there even if you personally don't use those sites.

It's how people will find out about your blog.

If nobody can Tweet or share a post they like, you're relying entirely on search engines for discoverability. Trouble is, a search engine can't find you unless you have a lot of traffic. And you can't get a lot of traffic unless people Tweet you.

It's the Catch 22 of social media. Use the buttons.

And you want people to be able to subscribe by email. It's great to get people "following," but that just means they see the blog in their RSS feed when they happen to check it. A blogpost that lands in somebody's inbox is a whole lot more likely to be read.


 7) DON'T limit yourself with a restrictive niche


For product bloggers and reviewers, niche is important. It's better to be the #1 blogger for jelly doughnut reviews or vegan baby food recipes than the 10 millionth blogger "musing about stuff".

But you're an author. Your product is YOU. Don't keep yourself hemmed in by a limited niche.

For a long time, I believed all the advice about how you have to have a niche. So this is a niche blog. It's serving us well, but it hems us in.

Remember people surf the Web looking for two things: information and entertainment. Your blog can spin a good yarn, make people laugh, provide information, or all three, as long as you are putting it all in your own honest, unique voice.

I used to caution writers against  putting fiction on blogs. It is still less likely to be read, because people are mostly skimming blogs for information, but there's been growth in the "story blog", so if you have flash fiction you don't intend to send to contests or journals, it's fine to put it on your blog. But do realize it will be officially "published" so you have given away first rights.

NOTE: It's still not smart to post raw bits of a novel in progress. Agents and publishers won't consider that book because it's now published (unless you're getting 100,000 hits a post.)  Also, readers respond much better to self-contained short fiction than unedited bits of novels. And remember your job is to entertain, not seek free editorial advice.

Another caveat: one of the least interesting topics to readers is your writing process. Hardly any potential reader wants to know your daily word count or your rejection sorrows. Other writers may stop by to commiserate, and you do want to network with other authors, but don’t make your writer’s block or attempts to get published the main focus of your blog.

You simply want to offer your unique voice talking about the things you feel passionate about: the research you’re doing on medieval armor; your theories on why raccoons are going to take over the planet; the hilarious adventures of an erotica writer running for PTA president. Anything that will draw in readers will work.

If you have "blogger's block", or are brainstorming for fresh content, regular commenter Linda Maye Adams offered this tip: there's a blog that provides daily "blog prompts", called the Daily Post. It looks like fun.


8) DO post a bio and contact info—and your @twitterhandle, if you have one. 


You're doing all this so that people can find out about YOU. And contact you. And discover your books.

But you would be amazed how many bloggers don't even put their names on their blogs.  Some don't even let people know what genre they write. (The shy opposites of those braggy newsletter people.)

Even if you're a newbie and haven't published anything and haven't picked a genre, you still need a bio. It's best to put a short bio on the main page with more info on an "about me" page.

Yes. Your blog has many pages. Just click "pages" on your dashboard. In Blogger, you get twenty.

Here's a piece on how to write an author bio.

It's also important to put your @twitterhandle on your main page. That way, if somebody wants to Tweet the post, they can give attribution. Most share buttons only say "via @sharethis" but if you're on Twitter, you want it to say "via @yourname." Remember you're doing all this to establish that name as a brand!

9) DON'T put too much energy into images.


(Unless you're a photojournalist, of course.)

You're showing off your WRITING SKILLS, remember?

Bloggers with monetized blogs need to spend a lot of time on images, and visuals do draw people in, but do you want people to notice somebody else'e photography or YOUR writing? 

Don’t waste lots of time looking for the right photo (or risk getting sued for using copyrighted material.)

If your blog is about travel, or fishing, or antiquing, yes, take lots of photos, but if the post is about books or ideas—don’t sweat it. The blog is going to be a showcase for what you can do with the written word. We’ve never used images on this blog, and we’re doing pretty well. If you do use images, make sure they are in the public domain. Try Wiki Commons or WANA Commons

10) DO visit other blogs: comment and guest post


Reciprocate those visits. Nobody’s going to know you're there if you stay home all the time. Get out and socialize! Social media is about networking.

The single best thing you can do to raise your search engine profile is comment on high profile blogs that are already on Google's radar.

Once you make friends with other bloggers, ask if you can guest post. And do invite other bloggers to guest for you. Guest posting is one of the best ways to increase your reach and your readership.

11) DON'T obsess about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but be aware of it.


Using keywords in your headers is vital. Those are words that define the subject matter of your post. Being murky and ambiguous will not work in your favor.

Understanding SEO means you don't title your post "My Thoughts on an Important Subject". Instead you say, "Why Justin Bieber Should Be Deported". "Justin Bieber" and "Deported" are keywords. If you use them, people interested in your subject matter will find your post. If you don't, they won't.

Marketing people love to use jargon that makes this stuff sound complicated. But now you know it isn't.

And as for the rest of the marketing jargon you hear, it's mostly not important to you. Yes, you want to be picked up by the search engines, but your primary concern is entertaining your readers, not optimizing keywords in your text. New blogs are more likely to get discovered by word of mouth, so it's more important to be networking with other bloggers than trying to game the search engines.

12) DO learn to write for the 21st century reader. 


People skim on the Internet. You need short paragraphs, sub-headers, bullet points, lists, bolding, and lots of white space. Draw the reader's eye through the piece.

More in my post on How to Write Blog Content.

13) DO ask questions, respond to comments and treat your visitors well


Be welcoming to people who visit your blog. Ask interesting questions that will get a discussion going.

You also want to respond to comments and make commenting as easy as possible.

You can’t control all the Blogger/Wordpress hoop-jumping. (I apologize to anybody with a Wordpress ID who can't comment here. I have the same problem trying to comment on a Wordpress blog, which is why I  use a Gravatar ID for Wordpress. If you have gmail or you're on Google Plus, you have a Google ID, so it's best to use that.)

If you haven't had a barrage of spam, you can turn off the “word verification” or “CAPTCHA”. That will triple your comments. (Especially from people with older eyes who can’t read those %#*! letters to save our lives.)

I also suggest you don't moderate comments on new posts. I only moderate ones more than a week old. That allows for real conversation to happen on a new post. Older posts are the most likely to attract spam, anyway.


14) DON'T start multiple blogs 


Professional bloggers sometimes have dozens. They have a Cupcake Recipe Blog and a Mommy Blog and a Support Blog for Persons who Suffer from Chronic Dandruff. All fine and dandy. They run ads for kitchenware on one and Pampers on the second and homeopathic shampoo on a third.

But they aren't writing novels.

And you aren't running ads.

So unless you write in wildly conflicting genres, like Christian Middle Grade fiction and Dinosaur erotica, you only need one blog. Blogs take time. And you have books to write, remember?

Also, Google rewards authors who have only one website. For a great piece on the subject, check out Lisa Tenner's post, How Many Websites Should An Author Have? She says " If you have two websites, Google doesn't like duplicate content so you really need to write different articles for each site. So now, in order to have the same amount of content on a site, you actually have to write twice as much."

So if you've started 15 blogs, go back to the first one, put all your best content on it (you can change the header, but the oldest one is the one Google knows best, so keep it.) Then delete the others, or leave them up with a link to your main blog.

Then go work on that WIP!

What about you, Scriveners? Do you blog? How often do you post? Have you found a happy medium between blogging and working on your WIP? What kind of blogs are you most likely to follow? Have you tried a blog and given it up? Do you find a static website works just as well for you?


BOOK OF THE WEEK


The first book in the Camilla comedy series is only 99c!
Start reading the Camilla Randall Mysteries to be ready for #5 in July! Ghostwriters in the Sky is a spoof of writers conferences, full of funny situations most writers will identify with.






Ghostwriters in the Sky is available in e-book at all the Amazons,iTunes, Kobo, Inktera, Scribd and at Barnes and Noble for NOOK.


It is available in Paper (regular and large print) at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


It's #1 in the Camilla Randall comedy-mysteries: a wild comic romp set at writers’ conference in the wine-and-cowboy town of Santa Ynez, California. When a ghostwriter’s plot to blackmail celebrities with faked evidence leads to murder, Camilla must team up with a cross-dressing dominatrix to stop the killerwho may be a ghostfrom striking again. 
Meanwhile, a hot LA cop named Maverick Jesus Zukowski just may steal her heart.


Here's a review from award-winning author Sandy Nathan 

"Ghost Writers is set in a writers' conference in Santa Ynez Valley, where I've lived for twenty years...This book is hysterically funny AND accurately depicts the Valley. Anne Allen gets it right, down to the dollar bills stuck on the ceiling of the Maverick Saloon. It was so fun to read as she called out one Valley landmark after another. Allen got the local denizens right, too, the crazy characters that roam our streets.

Speaking of which, Ms. Allen's literary characters are pretty crazy/zany by themselves. I love Camilla Randall, her ditzy, former debutante heroine, and all the rest. The action gets pretty frenetic when dead bodies start showing up. I heartily recommend this book..."


OPPORTUNITY ALERTS


Golden Quill Awards Writing Contest: Flash, Poetry, and Short fiction categories. Entry fee $20 for stories and poetry, $15 for flash fiction. The theme is TRANSFORMATION. Deadline July 15.

The Masters Review Short Story Award is open from May 15 – July 15 and will pay $2000 (YES! You read that right) plus publication for the best short story. Second and third place stories will be paid $200 and $100 respectively and considered for publication. All stories will be sent to Curtis Brown Literary for consideration. Just your best piece of fiction under 6000 words. If you haven’t published a novel, you qualify. Deadline July 15th.

MARK TWAIN HUMOR CONTEST  Entry fees: $12 Young Author or $22 Adult. 7,000 words (or fewer) of any original work of humor writing. Submissions must be in English. Submissions are not required to be in the style of Mark Twain or about Mark Twain. 1st Prize: $1,000 (Adult), $600 (Young Author). Other cash prizes! Deadline July 10, 2015

Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest. Entry fee $10. Your story should in some way touch upon the publication's mission: Celebrating America — past, present, and future. Think Norman Rockwell. No profanity or graphic sex. Any genre. No previously published stories, but they can have appeared on your blog. Between 1,500 and 5,000 words. Deadline July 1, 2015

Big Beautiful Wellness Creative Writing Contest. NO FEE Poems up to 30 lines Fiction or Nonfic between 1000 and 2000 words. $100 first prize. Theme: Body-positive living. Looking for inspirational, positive stories. Deadline July 1.

Writer's Village International Short Fiction Contest Prizes totalling $3200! And every entrant gets a critique. (which makes this a great deal.) Any genre of fiction up to 3000 words. Entry fee $24. Deadline June 30th.