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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

HOW TO HOOK YOUR READER

{Gift short story at the end of THE NOT-SO-INNOCENTS ABROAD}

The news.

It has none of the characteristics that make something worthwhile.

It's not fun, it causes anxiety, it gives you a warped sense of reality, 

and people who watch it are rarely going to do anything with the information they get.

Yet, watch it they do.  Why?


If we want our books to sell, 
we need to be able to answer 
that question.


The appeal of many books, ideas and actions boils down to six key factors –

1.)  A person-centered subject matter
2.)  The presence of patterns
3.)  The odd incongruity
4.)  A topic that pushes the buttons of hope or fear
5.)  Stimuli that engage our body or senses 
6.)  Thoughts that play to our psychological biases


 Rhyming idioms are catchy, attractive and appear truthful 

because they are easy to mentally process and their repetitive sound appeals to our love of patterns.

Idioms that at first glance appear contradictory stimulate our keen eye for incongruity.


Fiction is so engrossing because we are hard-wired to detect useful information 

and while part of our brain knows that what we are reading is make-believe,

 another part thinks the characters, and events, are real.

Some aspect of our poor susceptible minds really thinks Hannibal Lector is out there. 

Somewhere.


Have you ever left a movie feeling vaguely dissatisfied?  

You didn’t like the film but don’t know exactly why?

 Chances are, the movie failed in terms of story structure. 

 Storytelling is so ingrained in us that it sets up certain expectations for how a story should unfold.  

When those expectations are defied, it leaves us vaguely unsettled.


A story is a character in pursuit of a goal in the face of an obstacle or challenge.

How the character resolves (or fails to resolve) 

the challenge creates the drama and human interest that keeps us reading or listening.


HOW TO HOOK THE READER ... 


1.) GET INTO YOUR PROTAGONIST'S HEAD RIGHT OFF AND STAY THERE.


2.) NO HEAD HOPPING

Readers will only know how the other characters are feeling through what your protagonist

 (POV character) 

notices and perceives—their words, actions, facial expressions, tone of voice, body language, etc.


3.) LEARN FROM THE DOCTOR DELIVERING A BABY

Slap your MC right out of the gate.   

It doesn’t need to be the main problem of the story,

but put something on the first or second page that challenges him and makes the readers start worrying about him.

 The difficulty or dilemma can be internal, external, or interpersonal.


4.) GRAVITY TAKES NO BREAKS; IT ONLY GIVES THEM 

Introduce some opposition in the first few pages.  

Bring on a rival, an enemy, or a nasty villain fairly early to get things moving fast and make your readers start biting their nails.


5.) SURPRISE!

 Surprise gets our attention by defying our expectations. 

We’re wired to immediately start figuring out what’s actually going on, 

the better to gauge whether the smack we're about to receive will be on the lips or aside the head.


6.) SQUIRM!

 Science has proven that the brain uses emotion, rather than reason, to gauge what matters to us.

So it’s not surprising that when it comes to story, if we’re not feeling, we’re not reading.

 In a compelling story the reader slips into the protagonist’s skin and becomes her/him –

feeling what she feels, wanting what she wants, fearing what she fears.


7.) HEMINGWAY YOUR WORDS

Over 11,000,000 pieces of information dive-bomb our five senses every second. 

Don't add to the reader's input unless it is necessary. Bore the reader; lose the reader.


8.)  NEVER BLUR THE FOCUS

We access the universal only through the very specific.  The story is in the specifics.

"Dario had a hard day."

There are all sorts of hard days. Is Dario a door-to-door salesman or a Roman gladiator?

Use the" Eyes-Wide-Shut test."

If you shut your eyes, can you see it? If not, then neither can the reader.


9.) MAKE THEM LAUGH

Life is hard enough for your reader.  Give them a chuckle or two in each chapter even if your tale is a dark one.

It is always darker after a light has died than if it had never existed at all. 


10.) CARE ABOUT YOUR STORY

If you care, it will carry over into your words.

Charlaine Harris stopped caring about Sookie 

and just continued to write the novels to keep her contract.

It showed.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

WHEN NOTHING WORKS in your book's marketing




CONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

 An author has to have a personal relationship with readers and a strong social media presence!

 By all means a writer has to blog, blog, blog. 

You have to get out there and do guest posts!
 You need to start a conversation with your readers!


REHASH OF THE OLD IS NOTHING NEW ... OR USEFUL.


There is one thing the writers of such articles tend to have in common:

They are not famous authors.

In fact, when you start to really examine things,

you will find that most tend to have fewer social media followers than you do!

WAKE UP CALL:


The idea that succeeds is not the one with the most truth,

but the one that has something in it that aids in its transmission.

In this case, people hunger to learn how they, too, can succeed.


I cannot stress this point enough: Outside of your circle of friends, no one cares about you ...

Until you give them a compelling reason to care. 


People read because of who THEY are, not because of who YOU are.


HOW TO LOSE and HOW TO LOSE MORE SLOWLY:


1. Frittering Away Hours On Social Media Without A Plan

It is better to use social media than not to use social media. It is free, so you have nothing to lose.

If you tweet “here is the interview I did with such and such blog” it will not get many clicks. 

If you said something in the interview that was funny, topical, deep put it in quotes with a link.

Someone who is interested in the thought will click on the page 

and might be interested enough in who the writer is who said it to read the whole thing.

This may not sell books, but it has a better chance than the other way.


HOW TO LOSE MORE SLOWLY WITH #1


Set up a schedule.
 
A writer’s life is a business, not an arty dreamscape. Your time investment is valuable.

 

2. Impatience – You Quit Before Your Book Has A Chance


Too many authors give up after a few weeks. 

They complain sales are slow even though they’ve done extensive book ‘promotion’ on Twitter, Facebook and their author blog.

HOW TO LOSE MORE SLOWLY:

Persist, and push on -

Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

Calvin Coolidge. 30th President of the United States (1923–1929)

 

3. Waiting To Promote Your Book Until After It’s Published


The day it launches is way too late to start marketing your book if you want to see a significant level.


HOW TO LOSE MORE SLOWLY:

Famous Strip-teasers knew better than to come out naked right at the start.  Tease.  Over a period of time.

4. Writing A Lone Book

You launch your book, it starts out well then fizzles. 

Sales slump, and it disappears down the Amazon rankings to languish at the bottom of the well.



HOW TO LOSE MORE SLOWLY: 

You need a whole series of books.

It is not obligatory to do this, but the results speak volumes. 

Your books are attractive products to which people become addicted and increasingly want more.

Furthermore, the third book is when success often starts to appear.

It takes time for an author’s work to find its audience, but when it does, the books all then begin to sell each other.

 

5. Writing Each Book In A Different Genre

Many writers claim “I write what is in my heart and soul. My books will fit where they want to. I can’t focus on the audience as well.”



True enough, except for the second part.

You can’t in fact write for everyone. Instead your books need to be written for a specific genre to build a broad readership.


HOW TO LOSE MORE SLOWLY: 

Pick your fiction genre.

Write your books to appeal to those looking for a specific genre.

For example, 

bestselling Author HP Mallory focuses specifically on the paranormal genre. This played a major role in her hitting the New York Times Bestseller list.



6. DEPEND ON BLOG INTERVIEWS:

The only reason anyone would read an interview with a person he has never heard of before

is to learn something about how to get his own books published, or about your book’s subject, or about the creative process. 


HOW TO LOSE MORE SLOWLY:

Be like a politician -

HEAR WHAT YOU NEED TO HEAR AND ANSWER THAT QUESTION --

 A blogger sends you a list of questions about whether or not you have pets, try to do what the politicians do when they do not want to answer something.

 Change the subject.

 You bring up an interesting point about pets, I’m glad you asked that. It relates to a problem I had in the third chapter of the novel and what other writers can do with a similar problem …”


7.  You believe your karmic scoreboard is over-due for a blessing.


I believe in the concept of a “karmic scoreboard” actually –

that what you put out in the world will come back around to you.

Just not necessarily in the ways your dreams pine for.

 Self-publishing solely to advance yourself reduces your “karmic score.”


On the other hand, being kind, generous, and helpful –

being of service to others as your first goal – increases your karmic score.

If your motivation is to help others with no expectations of what you’ll get in return, 

you’ll find that the process is also self-supportive ... and you will make wonderful new friends.

How cool is that?


8. The 20% author and the fine art of self-promotion:

In a world with lots of talent, success requires more than simply being great.


HOW TO LOSE MORE SLOWLY:

When blogging, tweeting and Facebooking you should spend 80% of your time posting about things other than your book, and 20% selling.

That's right – 80% of what you post should not be a sales pitch.

Why?

Because readers are human beings,
who long to make connections with others. 

They join social networking sites
not to receive non-stop reminders to buy,

but to develop relationships.

I hope this helps a  bit.
***

Friday, May 20, 2016

I DON'T KNOW HOW TO REVIEW A BOOK

OOH! I'M A NOOK BOOK, TOO!


Why do authors want you to review their books so badly?

Think Lightning Rod

Over and over you hear that success in book sales is elusive.  It comes when it will ... like lightning.

With Amazon Kindle books, you can draw the lightning with reviews.

These figures are what the conventional wisdom say is true about reviews and Amazon:

1.) Around 20-25 reviews

Amazon starts including the book in “also bought” and “you might like” lists. 

This increases your chances of someone finding your title.


2.) Around 50-70 reviews
Amazon looks at your book for spotlight positions and their newsletter. 

This is HUGE.
This is my personal goal.  Of course another personal goal is to get a date with Cate Blanchett, too. 

3.) Number of reviews may affect Amazon sales ranking. 

(I have no actual proof of it.)  

Amazon Sales Ranking is so arcane that killing a butterfly in South America could affect it!

4.) Some websites will not consider or promote your book unless you have a number of reviews on the page

Interested in writing a review for a friend's book? 

Here's how you can do it painlessly:


A.) JUST 20 WORDS!

That's all you have to write.  

You highlight the number of stars you want to tag the book with and write a mere 20 words. 

 Think TV GUIDE summary.  

Think what you would want to hear about you were considering to buy and write that.

B.) SAY SOMETHING YOU LIKED ABOUT IT:





Say something you liked about it. 

Things that you could focus on could include 

the plot, a particular scene, characters, how things changed during the course of the story, etc.

If a bit of dialogue tickled you, say so. 
Do not give away all the punchlines. 

But one is allowable and give the prospective reader an idea of what to expect.
If the short chapters helped you in reading the novel, say that. 

If the humor was just your cup of tea, say so as well.
If there was a moment or character that personally impacted you in some way, don’t be afraid to say so.

Put yourself in the review.

Authors love to know their readers and I know that I’m always moved when I can tell someone made a personal connection with something I wrote.

C.) DON'T GIVE AWAY THE ENDING:

If you're reviewing the book, SIXTH SENSE, do NOT write:
"I couldn't believe at the end when you saw the psychologist was really a ghost!"
You're not being graded for this review. 

Have fun with it. 

Relate how you felt during the read and afterwards as well.

D.) I HATE THIS BOOK. SHOULD I WRITE A REVIEW?
That is up to you. 
I file such a book under the heading, LIFE IS TOO SHORT.
 You know when your mother told you:
"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all?"
  There is wisdom to those words for reviews.

What I find to be negative, others do not.

If I cannot find enough merit in a book to recommend it, 

I remain silent, reluctant to harm another's dream. 

Pinpointing areas needing improvement is for critique partners.  

Life truly is too short for me to spend valuable time being negative. 
If an error is glaring enough but the majority of the writing sound,
I write the author a polite, hopefully helpful, email that does not blare to the entire internet community what I believe to need fixing.

Ever stand in a store and witness a child being publicly chastised in front of the whole place? 

Negative reviews to me are like that.  They call it the WORLD WIDE net for a reason.
You may think differently.  Many believe in negative reviews.

E.) BE SPECIFIC ... 

AND READ THE BOOK BEFORE YOU WRITE THE REVIEW

If you decide to write a negative review, be specific and give a way to improve the flaw in the writing.
Being specific will help the author know where to start. 

Being specific helps the prospective reader decide if those details that bothered you would bother him/her.
Not reading the book but slamming it because of the genre, the title, the cover, or the sex of the author
while making it plain that the novel was not read is sure to get your review disregarded.
{Gwen Perkins wrote the excellent post that provided the skeleton around which I wrote this post: http://gwenperkins.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/qa-why-write-amazon-reviews/



Thursday, May 19, 2016

HOW TO MAKE THE UNREAL REAL

"Write of the unearthly in the night. The morning sun snatches the magic away." 
 - .Roland Yeomans

Once I wanted to write of a fallen angel ...


But how to do it and draw the reader into the mind of the anguished being?

First person POV helps the reader identify with the narrator.  

Ever try to write through the perspective of a being who tasted the first rays of the sun, 

who embraced the void as Kings wear purple, 

and who wept hearing the first song of the stars?

Here is the beginning of the chapter: LIES LOCUST TELL --




The spark of an anguished soul flew past me in the night.  I shivered as her light drew back the curtains of my mind.  
 I would have cursed her had she lingered.  But Death was impatient.  Words breathed through the mists of my awareness.
"Darkness yet in light.  To live half dead, a living death.  And buried but yet more miserable.  My self.  My sepulcher."
My mind roughly brushed aside the dry leaves of Milton's broodings.  No time for self-pity.  Yet too much time for all eternity.  Enough!  I was here for a reason.   
And as always that reason was death.  Always death.  The why was unimportant.  There was always a logical why for Abbadon.
The where, however, was another matter.  And when might illuminate the present darkness of my mind as well.  Keeping my eyes closed, though tempting, would but delay the inevitable.  I opened them.
Only a peek through slit eyes.  After all, my ears told me that I was not alone.  I frowned.  A hospital room?
I reached out with more than my ears.  My spirit shuddered as the ragged claws of madness raked it from down the hall.   An asylum.  
 A Sidhe imprisoned within a madhouse.  How utterly fitting.
I ran my long fingers along the rough sheet beneath me.  A state asylum obviously.  Even better.  But what state?  My awakening consciousness was stubborn in its ignorance.
I bunched up the sheet in my fist in hot frustration.  A sharp intake of breath from the next bed.  Her scent came to me.  I smiled.  Only a human.
And I?
What was I?
From the corner of my eye I saw the human in the next bed begin to shiver.  No matter.  The human was not important.  Time and place.  They were.
I flicked my eyes to the barred window.  The glass.  Thick, dense.  Like the humans who made it.
Under my fingertips a pebble.  I nodded.  A mere speck of stone.  But it would do.
The pebble shot from between my thumb and forefinger like a bullet.  An electric circuit died, wailing its death song in tones higher than humans could hear.   I smiled like a wolf.  We would have visitors soon.
More the pity for them.
I drew in a breath from the cold breeze bleeding from the wounded window.  The sharp tang of Autumn.  Oak.  Ash.  Thorn.  Decay. 
 Rotting leaves, mottled in bright hues of strangled life.  The dark and bloody soil beneath them breathed out its lineage.  An aching sadness hollowed out my chest.  The Misty Isles.  Albion.  England.
I whispered, the words feeling like dewdrops of blood on a wounded doe, "The lonely season in lonely lands."

So did you feel the fallen angel's angst, her otherworldly perspective of the world we take for granted?


In the sequel to THE NOT-SO-INNOCENTS ABROAD, the cursed Texas Ranger, Samuel McCord, finds himself in a forest of death in Avalon.
Did I describe his perceptions in a way that brought you to a realm where no mortal should ever stray?



Moonbeams danced upon the clouds like flames of ice.  The lake breathed electric blue fires from its rippling surface.  As if made of snow, a bright white boat floated towards me without making any wake or sound.  
 Shaped like a gliding swan, the craft held one standing figure in long robes of startling brightness: Queen Oyggia.  I sighed.  This would teach me to stay the night at Buckingham Palace after offending the High Queen of Avalon. 
Queen Oyggia laughed, and it was the sound of icicles amused at the freezing to death of a child lost in the woods.  I gave her back a skull smile.  I was no lost child, nor was this merely a dream.  
 She might have drawn me here, but this was my Vision Quest.  It was not my first.  My smile grew wider, but it might prove to be her last.
Midnight’s breath moaned through the gnarled branches of the withered trees bordering the lake.   
As if its hull were greased, Oyggia’s boat slid upon the shore, crunching the particles of sand that I realized were not sand at all but crushed skulls.  Her winter grey eyes narrowed as they locked upon mine.
I sighed.  The world was a mirror of exquisite beauty that few ever saw.  I wonder what this Sidhe saw: the haunting truth of her wasted life or what she needed to see … or what she thought she needed to see.
The air was crisp and stale as if this place was long dead or as if until we arrived no other lives had been lived here. It made the air that much thinner, that much more bleak.  It felt as if the very particles of the breeze paused, waiting for permission to enter my nostrils.
There was a strange expression to the too-long face of the queen.  She appeared to contemplate me with the look of an old woman who sees the lost face of her youth  eerily in the mirror before her. Whatever countless centuries lay behind her had not dulled her mind.  
 Her physical mind, like her moral one, was guided by her strong will and character, and this was etched in her long, angular features … though her insane eyes plainly said her moral compass seldom pointed North.



How do you strive to make your stories live in the minds of your readers?