Tuesday, April 26, 2016

by guest author,  Annie Douglass Lima

Worldbuilding is so important for authors – and I don’t just mean those who are creating an exotic alien world. Even stories that take place in more realistic locations deserve careful worldbuilding so that our characters can live their lives in locations that make sense.

I have found that the best way I can make my settings believable is through careful research. Yes, research, even for fiction set in a place that doesn’t exist! That’s because any set of characters living in any location must do activities similar to those we know on earth. If they do it believably, it strengthens the culture and location the author has built for her story.

My fantasy series The Annals of Alasia takes place in a non-magical world similar to medieval Europe, so many details about the world had to be similar to ours. For Prince of Alasia, I researched horse training. For In the Enemy’s Service, I looked up medicinal herbs and their uses. For Prince of Malorn, I learned all about wilderness survival: edible plants, starting a fire without matches, and even how raw beetle grubs taste (like a small piece of cooked fat, if anyone’s wondering). 

Believable character action requires research
My action and adventure series The Krillonian Chronicles takes place in an alternate world that is almost exactly like ours today. For both The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard, I had to find out what kinds of mechanical problems a fifteen-year-old pickup truck might encounter and what their symptoms would be (and how much it would cost to fix them). I also needed to learn what tool would be most convenient to cut a metal collar off a person’s neck without hurting him, and what kind of diet professional athletes recommend. 

By far the topic I’ve spent the most time researching for any of my books has been martial arts. Since I’m not a martial artist myself, that was a particular challenge for me. Both of these last two books involve cavvara shil, a martial art I made up. Obviously, the fact that I created it doesn’t mean athletes should be able to ignore the laws of physics or perform moves that would be impossible for humans. I spent many long hours reading books and articles, examining pictures, and watching video clips of a variety of martial arts and specific moves performed in them. I consulted with real martial artists and later asked two of them to beta read my completed manuscript to make sure everything was believable. As I wrote, I was careful to make sure that my characters worked out, practiced, and competed the way professional martial artists really do – of course with variations to allow for the fact that they fight with a cavvarach (sword-like weapon with a hook halfway down the blade) as well as their feet. And it worked! Numerous reviewers have mentioned that cavvara shil is not only exciting but realistic, and one even mentioned that she looked it up to see if it really existed and to find out where she could watch a tournament.

Whatever your novel is about and whatever your characters do, there will be readers out there who have background knowledge about all of those details. Even those who don’t will probably have an instinctive feeling that some of the information is “off”, if you haven’t made sure it’s accurate. Our characters’ situations need to be realistic, whether they actually live in a real place or not. Otherwise, it won’t matter how vividly you describe your alien setting, no one will be able to picture your characters having actual lives in a world that makes sense.

photo credit: clarita at morguefile.com


The Gladiator and the Guard, a young adult action and adventure novel, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach


About Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?



What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?

The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).  

Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with "have a rack"), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!
 
And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

 
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!


Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats) 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!


Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.


Connect with the Author Online:



Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!




Or find the giveaway at this link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ad2fd99a3/?
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 Laurel Garver
by guest author,  Annie Douglass Lima

Worldbuilding is so important for authors – and I don’t just mean those who are creating an exotic alien world. Even stories that take place in more realistic locations deserve careful worldbuilding so that our characters can live their lives in locations that make sense.

I have found that the best way I can make my settings believable is through careful research. Yes, research, even for fiction set in a place that doesn’t exist! That’s because any set of characters living in any location must do activities similar to those we know on earth. If they do it believably, it strengthens the culture and location the author has built for her story.

My fantasy series The Annals of Alasia takes place in a non-magical world similar to medieval Europe, so many details about the world had to be similar to ours. For Prince of Alasia, I researched horse training. For In the Enemy’s Service, I looked up medicinal herbs and their uses. For Prince of Malorn, I learned all about wilderness survival: edible plants, starting a fire without matches, and even how raw beetle grubs taste (like a small piece of cooked fat, if anyone’s wondering). 

Believable character action requires research
My action and adventure series The Krillonian Chronicles takes place in an alternate world that is almost exactly like ours today. For both The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard, I had to find out what kinds of mechanical problems a fifteen-year-old pickup truck might encounter and what their symptoms would be (and how much it would cost to fix them). I also needed to learn what tool would be most convenient to cut a metal collar off a person’s neck without hurting him, and what kind of diet professional athletes recommend. 

By far the topic I’ve spent the most time researching for any of my books has been martial arts. Since I’m not a martial artist myself, that was a particular challenge for me. Both of these last two books involve cavvara shil, a martial art I made up. Obviously, the fact that I created it doesn’t mean athletes should be able to ignore the laws of physics or perform moves that would be impossible for humans. I spent many long hours reading books and articles, examining pictures, and watching video clips of a variety of martial arts and specific moves performed in them. I consulted with real martial artists and later asked two of them to beta read my completed manuscript to make sure everything was believable. As I wrote, I was careful to make sure that my characters worked out, practiced, and competed the way professional martial artists really do – of course with variations to allow for the fact that they fight with a cavvarach (sword-like weapon with a hook halfway down the blade) as well as their feet. And it worked! Numerous reviewers have mentioned that cavvara shil is not only exciting but realistic, and one even mentioned that she looked it up to see if it really existed and to find out where she could watch a tournament.

Whatever your novel is about and whatever your characters do, there will be readers out there who have background knowledge about all of those details. Even those who don’t will probably have an instinctive feeling that some of the information is “off”, if you haven’t made sure it’s accurate. Our characters’ situations need to be realistic, whether they actually live in a real place or not. Otherwise, it won’t matter how vividly you describe your alien setting, no one will be able to picture your characters having actual lives in a world that makes sense.

photo credit: clarita at morguefile.com


The Gladiator and the Guard, a young adult action and adventure novel, is now available for purchase! This is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, sequel to The Collar and the Cavvarach


About Book 1: 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?



What is the Collar for, and What is a Cavvarach?

The story is set in a world very much like our own, with just a few major differences.  One is that slavery is legal there.  Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone.  Any slave attempting to escape faces the dilemma of how and where to illegally get their collar removed (a crime punishable by enslavement for the remover).  

Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil.  It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with "have a rack"), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge.  Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades.  You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!
 
And now, The Gladiator and the Guard, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

 
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!


Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard from Smashwords (for Nook or in other digital formats) 
for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through May 30th!


Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.


Connect with the Author Online:



Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!




Or find the giveaway at this link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ad2fd99a3/?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I have a confession to make. When it comes to my writing, I can be a bit ADD. Sometimes I can hunker down with one project and give it my all for months at a time, and sometimes a great tangential idea worms its way into my head and demands my attention.

Photo by JessicaGale at morguefile.com
Blogging seems to exacerbate this tendency in me. Some issue will come up in my drafting or revising or editing or marketing, I'll blog it and think Hey, this would be a great nonfiction chapter or start of a whole new book. I have five such book ideas on my hard drive at the moment. Five. I keep adding to them in fits and starts.

Emotions in the Wild: A Writer's Observation Journal was once one of these great ideas that I knew would take a lot of steady work to complete (BTW, have you seen the new cover design?). But I did complete it. What worked for that project was how very structured it was. Composing it required identifying key emotions, developing observation exercises for each, and seeking evocative quotes to open each section. Having the structure made it easier to ping-pong among these tasks as mood and energy directed and still progress.

A big takeaway from that project, which took about six weeks to complete, from concept to launch, was to begin fun, end challenging. Overcoming initial inertia is the most difficult part of writing, so dive in with what's easy, fun, or grabbing your imagination. Then, switch to the parts that are challenging: hard, un-fun, and not grabbing your imagination. Because you can, to use a cycling metaphor, "draft off" of that earlier effort like it's another cyclist breaking through the wind resistance for you so you can keep up your speed with less expenditure of energy.

Journaling is a super helpful tool for juggling projects, too. Last summer, when I had the added issues of kid at home from school and an elderly parent needing a lot of help, I kept a couple of running lists. One was of goals I'd set for myself, some with deadlines, some without. The other was where I simply reported what I'd done that day in moving toward each goal, and talked to myself about where I was blocked, where I needed to do more research, where I had doubts or worried about a particular project or section of it.

If you tend to be an internal processor like me, journaling like this can be a powerful self-help tool. It requires you to begin articulating problems instead of just holding them in your head where they drain your energy (see The Need for Emotional Processing for more on this concept). Talking yourself through an issue can take you farther toward finding a solution. Continuing to circle back to those stuck places and brainstorming will, with time, get you unstuck.

Keeping running lists and journaling becomes a kind of reward system, too. You can look back at the items crossed off (I am a fan of using strikethough in Word document lists) and see progress. That sense of accomplishment will give you a hit of dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical, research says.

Do you tend to juggle multiple projects? What helps you steadily make progress?
Thursday, April 21, 2016 Laurel Garver
I have a confession to make. When it comes to my writing, I can be a bit ADD. Sometimes I can hunker down with one project and give it my all for months at a time, and sometimes a great tangential idea worms its way into my head and demands my attention.

Photo by JessicaGale at morguefile.com
Blogging seems to exacerbate this tendency in me. Some issue will come up in my drafting or revising or editing or marketing, I'll blog it and think Hey, this would be a great nonfiction chapter or start of a whole new book. I have five such book ideas on my hard drive at the moment. Five. I keep adding to them in fits and starts.

Emotions in the Wild: A Writer's Observation Journal was once one of these great ideas that I knew would take a lot of steady work to complete (BTW, have you seen the new cover design?). But I did complete it. What worked for that project was how very structured it was. Composing it required identifying key emotions, developing observation exercises for each, and seeking evocative quotes to open each section. Having the structure made it easier to ping-pong among these tasks as mood and energy directed and still progress.

A big takeaway from that project, which took about six weeks to complete, from concept to launch, was to begin fun, end challenging. Overcoming initial inertia is the most difficult part of writing, so dive in with what's easy, fun, or grabbing your imagination. Then, switch to the parts that are challenging: hard, un-fun, and not grabbing your imagination. Because you can, to use a cycling metaphor, "draft off" of that earlier effort like it's another cyclist breaking through the wind resistance for you so you can keep up your speed with less expenditure of energy.

Journaling is a super helpful tool for juggling projects, too. Last summer, when I had the added issues of kid at home from school and an elderly parent needing a lot of help, I kept a couple of running lists. One was of goals I'd set for myself, some with deadlines, some without. The other was where I simply reported what I'd done that day in moving toward each goal, and talked to myself about where I was blocked, where I needed to do more research, where I had doubts or worried about a particular project or section of it.

If you tend to be an internal processor like me, journaling like this can be a powerful self-help tool. It requires you to begin articulating problems instead of just holding them in your head where they drain your energy (see The Need for Emotional Processing for more on this concept). Talking yourself through an issue can take you farther toward finding a solution. Continuing to circle back to those stuck places and brainstorming will, with time, get you unstuck.

Keeping running lists and journaling becomes a kind of reward system, too. You can look back at the items crossed off (I am a fan of using strikethough in Word document lists) and see progress. That sense of accomplishment will give you a hit of dopamine, a feel-good brain chemical, research says.

Do you tend to juggle multiple projects? What helps you steadily make progress?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

If you take a look at my handy-dandy profile over on the right, you'll see that I've shifted my schedule to posting on Thursdays. I ended up needing to do so last week, and it fit into my week so much better. So check this space tomorrow!

And if you've never before joined the Twitter party that is One Line Wednesday (#1linewed), come on over to Twitter, search the hashtag and join in. This week's theme is "nod." Share a snippet (or two) from your work in progress on the theme, and cheer on others who have done so by liking and retweeting their snippets. The themes help us ferret out overuse of some words in part. And the party is a great way to meet new Twitter peeps.

Have a great day, all!
Wednesday, April 20, 2016 Laurel Garver
If you take a look at my handy-dandy profile over on the right, you'll see that I've shifted my schedule to posting on Thursdays. I ended up needing to do so last week, and it fit into my week so much better. So check this space tomorrow!

And if you've never before joined the Twitter party that is One Line Wednesday (#1linewed), come on over to Twitter, search the hashtag and join in. This week's theme is "nod." Share a snippet (or two) from your work in progress on the theme, and cheer on others who have done so by liking and retweeting their snippets. The themes help us ferret out overuse of some words in part. And the party is a great way to meet new Twitter peeps.

Have a great day, all!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I was a somewhat late adopter of Twitter, in part because the fast and short nature of posting intimidated me. I'm more of a slow and deep thinker, and at first I thought adding a Twitter feed to my life would make my head explode.

But as I shifted gears to indie publishing, I realized I needed this site to reach a wider audience. Blog reading was on the wane, and I'd heard so many positive things about Twitter, I knew I had to get a grip on my fear and jump in.

My early attempts were half-hearted I admit, but in the past year I've gradually experimented and reached out and basically doubled my follower base. If you are still trying to get your footing on Twitter, this post is for you. If you're feeling meh about using Twitter, this post is for you. If you're a mega guru, maybe you have some wisdom to share in the comments, so please stick around!

Develop a vision 

What do you want your Twitter presence to be? This precedes all other considerations. How vulnerable will you be about your personal life in this forum? Will your persona be mostly serious, mostly silly, mostly enthusiastic, mostly wise, mostly curious, mostly pious, mostly arty, mostly visual? Which parts of yourself will help you reach and connect with your "tribe"? Your tribe is the group where your passions and enthusiasms are shared and supported and cheered on.

Consider the kinds of projects have you written and ones you plan to write. Now imagine your ideal reader. What are his or her interests? Which parts of  yourself do you think this reader will most want to know?

Communicate your vision

Choose you photo, banner image and color scheme to undergird the communication of vision. The visual look might mirror your blog or website, it might echo your book covers. But you don't want a lot of dark and heavy if you write romantic comedy, any more than you want light and fluffy images if you write thrillers. Look at Twitter profiles of others in your genre and emulate those who communicate well a message you also want to communicate.

Side note: If you're especially stumped about picking a color scheme, you might find it helpful to read up a bit on the psychology of color. It's how I landed on plum and tan as part of my branding; the first related to wisdom, creativity and spirituality, the other with warmth and being down-to-earth. Here are a couple of useful articles on the topic:
The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding
Color Psychology

Build your description from your vision: that sense of yourself and your work. Think keywords and allusions. Here's my description: "Urban Christ follower, incurable Anglophile, Ravenclaw. Pro grammar wrangler for hire. My writing explores how faith grows in dark places #CR4U"  Describing your thematic approach is more inviting than listing book titles, I've found--readers and writers are more drawn to a vision than a product name.

As you might guess, I am frequently found and followed by others in my faith tradition, by Harry Potter fans, by other writers, by other editors, by other city dwellers, by other lovers of British culture, and by members of Clean Indie Reads, a Facebook indie author collective, which uses the hashtag CR4U (clean reads for you).

Who you follow, what you tweet, and what you reweet and like--all these things should be guided by your vision. These actions also communicate your vision.

My published work so far has been in diverse genres--Christian fiction, poetry, and nonfiction writing resources. I hope to continue producing work like this and building a following for it. My Christian fiction is quite niche, so that takes the most concerted effort to seek a tribe. The writing resources are more broad. But as you might guess, writing religious work means I'd be unwise to follow just anyone on Twitter. There are are few kinds of accounts I avoid following back if they approach me first--erotica and gore-horror writers, pottymouths, inappropriate photo-posters, political all the time, cranky/agenda-driven zealots, bot accounts, click-farm sales pitch accounts,

You need to know your no-go areas and be thoughtful about it, or you'll find your garbage following takes all the joy out of the platform. For the most part, not following back followers who don't interest you is enough. In the case of inappropriate photo-posters, I tend to block accounts. The pottymoths and erotica and gore folks I tend to simply mute. (Click the sunshine icon next to the follow button in your followers list, and these options will appear in a drop-down menu).

Find your tribe

This is honestly fairly easy to do on Twitter. It is its most powerful feature in my mind. Start by following any writer friends, beta readers, critique partners, and fellow bloggers. Follow your favorite authors and organizations, especially local ones.

Cannibalize their friend lists. Okay, let me put that in a more positive way--check out their follower lists, likely to be full of people who share interests and will be similarly awesome, and follow them. I also find it helpful to RT their pinned tweets or like something they posted recently. It's a way of saying "Hi, you look fantastic, Let's be friends" in a less sycophantic way.

Do keyword searches for things that are part of your vision. Maybe it's your genre. Maybe it's a particular fandom (Star Wars or Sherlock things like that). Maybe it's a geographic region you live in or write about. Follow away. Retweet and like.

Remember on the keyword searches to look not only at "top" tweets, but also click the next category, "live" where fresh content will be popping up. Folks with tiny followings who may be wonderful friends are likely hiding in there. The top stories are the ones that have had a lot of RTs and likes. They might be worth following if only for a time to find more of your tribe.

Hunt for hashtags popular in your tribe. #YA or #teenreads, for example, will help you find those who love young adult books--reading and writing them.

Join one of the weekly work-in-progress sharing parties like #2bittues (two bit Tuesday) or #1linewed (one-line Wednesday). Look up the hashtag and you will find instructions to participate. This is a really fun way to share small snippets of your writing and find readers who like your style--and for you to find writers whose style you admire.

Post a variety of content

Getting followers and keeping them also requires you to keep putting out content yourself. If you have been blogging for any length of time, you likely have some ready-made content that is eminently tweet-able. For the most part, age doesn't matter either. Your good post about hiring a cover designer in 2013 is just as helpful today.

Pimp your books--but only occasionally. If possible, link not only to your sales page, but also to interviews you've given about it, old blog-tour posts, and really great reviews posted online. Your "buy my book" pleas are better received when they aren't pushy but rather inviting to target readers. Creating photo memes with quotes can be a nice change of pace for getting the word out. Have a variety. Pin a new one to your page (click the ellipsis icon at the bottom of a post and chose "pin to your profile page") every week or so. Keep it fresh!

Share parts of yourself that relate to your vision. Be sincere. I have posted about finishing drafts, about choir practices, about cool things going on in my city, about parenting. These posts might not get a lot of retweets, but they are an important part of building a genuine following.

Share inspiring quotes. You can find them on Goodreads, on BrainyQuote on Quote Garden. Be sure to properly attribute them!

Add useful hashtags in moderation. Some that will help your tweets be found by other writers include #writing #amwriting #writetip #writingtips #amediting #books #amreading. Limit yourself to one to three. More than that just looks spammy and desperate.

Engage with others

Aside from following and following back (with care--remember your vision!), it's essential that you interact with your followers. Twitter gives the impression that it is a 100% live stream, but that isn't the case. It is moderated like Facebook is. Those you don't interact with much stop showing up in your feed--and you in theirs! So make an effort to pop back through your followers list periodically and like or retweet content from folks you haven't seen in your feed recently.

If you love someone's blog post shared on Twitter, add a comment before retweeting, like "I so agree with this" or "fantastic!" or "wonderfully helpful!" Your follower will know you aren't simply automating your sharing, but that you actually engaged. Attention is the currency of Twitter, Share yours liberally.

Ask questions and follow up. This can be a powerful way to deepen the relationships you have, and for your followers' followers to discover you.

Express gratitude to those who share your content. I tend to take a batch approach so that my feed isn't too noisy. It also helps my followers find cool people to follow when I acknowledge them.

A note about automation

I have found it really useful to sit down weekly with Hootsuite and automate some of my Twitter activity. Hootsuite makes it really easy. And you may find it useful to experiment with which times of day your followers are most likely to engage with your content.

Variety is essential with automating. If you post only one kind of thing, it will seem spammy. Share your historic blog posts with news articles with inspiring quotes with memes for your books.

Don't go overboard, posting every five minutes, which you could feasibly do on Hootsuite. Use it to keep some fresh content appearing daily. Two to six automated posts, spread from your waking to sleeping hours, is plenty. Feel free to experiment with hours you aren't awake to engage with folks in other time zones.

Importantly, don't let automation be the only Twitter presence you have. Live retweet others. Live share items. Thank people. Ask questions.

Do you use Twitter much in your capacity as a writer or author? What tips would you add?
Thursday, April 14, 2016 Laurel Garver
I was a somewhat late adopter of Twitter, in part because the fast and short nature of posting intimidated me. I'm more of a slow and deep thinker, and at first I thought adding a Twitter feed to my life would make my head explode.

But as I shifted gears to indie publishing, I realized I needed this site to reach a wider audience. Blog reading was on the wane, and I'd heard so many positive things about Twitter, I knew I had to get a grip on my fear and jump in.

My early attempts were half-hearted I admit, but in the past year I've gradually experimented and reached out and basically doubled my follower base. If you are still trying to get your footing on Twitter, this post is for you. If you're feeling meh about using Twitter, this post is for you. If you're a mega guru, maybe you have some wisdom to share in the comments, so please stick around!

Develop a vision 

What do you want your Twitter presence to be? This precedes all other considerations. How vulnerable will you be about your personal life in this forum? Will your persona be mostly serious, mostly silly, mostly enthusiastic, mostly wise, mostly curious, mostly pious, mostly arty, mostly visual? Which parts of yourself will help you reach and connect with your "tribe"? Your tribe is the group where your passions and enthusiasms are shared and supported and cheered on.

Consider the kinds of projects have you written and ones you plan to write. Now imagine your ideal reader. What are his or her interests? Which parts of  yourself do you think this reader will most want to know?

Communicate your vision

Choose you photo, banner image and color scheme to undergird the communication of vision. The visual look might mirror your blog or website, it might echo your book covers. But you don't want a lot of dark and heavy if you write romantic comedy, any more than you want light and fluffy images if you write thrillers. Look at Twitter profiles of others in your genre and emulate those who communicate well a message you also want to communicate.

Side note: If you're especially stumped about picking a color scheme, you might find it helpful to read up a bit on the psychology of color. It's how I landed on plum and tan as part of my branding; the first related to wisdom, creativity and spirituality, the other with warmth and being down-to-earth. Here are a couple of useful articles on the topic:
The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding
Color Psychology

Build your description from your vision: that sense of yourself and your work. Think keywords and allusions. Here's my description: "Urban Christ follower, incurable Anglophile, Ravenclaw. Pro grammar wrangler for hire. My writing explores how faith grows in dark places #CR4U"  Describing your thematic approach is more inviting than listing book titles, I've found--readers and writers are more drawn to a vision than a product name.

As you might guess, I am frequently found and followed by others in my faith tradition, by Harry Potter fans, by other writers, by other editors, by other city dwellers, by other lovers of British culture, and by members of Clean Indie Reads, a Facebook indie author collective, which uses the hashtag CR4U (clean reads for you).

Who you follow, what you tweet, and what you reweet and like--all these things should be guided by your vision. These actions also communicate your vision.

My published work so far has been in diverse genres--Christian fiction, poetry, and nonfiction writing resources. I hope to continue producing work like this and building a following for it. My Christian fiction is quite niche, so that takes the most concerted effort to seek a tribe. The writing resources are more broad. But as you might guess, writing religious work means I'd be unwise to follow just anyone on Twitter. There are are few kinds of accounts I avoid following back if they approach me first--erotica and gore-horror writers, pottymouths, inappropriate photo-posters, political all the time, cranky/agenda-driven zealots, bot accounts, click-farm sales pitch accounts,

You need to know your no-go areas and be thoughtful about it, or you'll find your garbage following takes all the joy out of the platform. For the most part, not following back followers who don't interest you is enough. In the case of inappropriate photo-posters, I tend to block accounts. The pottymoths and erotica and gore folks I tend to simply mute. (Click the sunshine icon next to the follow button in your followers list, and these options will appear in a drop-down menu).

Find your tribe

This is honestly fairly easy to do on Twitter. It is its most powerful feature in my mind. Start by following any writer friends, beta readers, critique partners, and fellow bloggers. Follow your favorite authors and organizations, especially local ones.

Cannibalize their friend lists. Okay, let me put that in a more positive way--check out their follower lists, likely to be full of people who share interests and will be similarly awesome, and follow them. I also find it helpful to RT their pinned tweets or like something they posted recently. It's a way of saying "Hi, you look fantastic, Let's be friends" in a less sycophantic way.

Do keyword searches for things that are part of your vision. Maybe it's your genre. Maybe it's a particular fandom (Star Wars or Sherlock things like that). Maybe it's a geographic region you live in or write about. Follow away. Retweet and like.

Remember on the keyword searches to look not only at "top" tweets, but also click the next category, "live" where fresh content will be popping up. Folks with tiny followings who may be wonderful friends are likely hiding in there. The top stories are the ones that have had a lot of RTs and likes. They might be worth following if only for a time to find more of your tribe.

Hunt for hashtags popular in your tribe. #YA or #teenreads, for example, will help you find those who love young adult books--reading and writing them.

Join one of the weekly work-in-progress sharing parties like #2bittues (two bit Tuesday) or #1linewed (one-line Wednesday). Look up the hashtag and you will find instructions to participate. This is a really fun way to share small snippets of your writing and find readers who like your style--and for you to find writers whose style you admire.

Post a variety of content

Getting followers and keeping them also requires you to keep putting out content yourself. If you have been blogging for any length of time, you likely have some ready-made content that is eminently tweet-able. For the most part, age doesn't matter either. Your good post about hiring a cover designer in 2013 is just as helpful today.

Pimp your books--but only occasionally. If possible, link not only to your sales page, but also to interviews you've given about it, old blog-tour posts, and really great reviews posted online. Your "buy my book" pleas are better received when they aren't pushy but rather inviting to target readers. Creating photo memes with quotes can be a nice change of pace for getting the word out. Have a variety. Pin a new one to your page (click the ellipsis icon at the bottom of a post and chose "pin to your profile page") every week or so. Keep it fresh!

Share parts of yourself that relate to your vision. Be sincere. I have posted about finishing drafts, about choir practices, about cool things going on in my city, about parenting. These posts might not get a lot of retweets, but they are an important part of building a genuine following.

Share inspiring quotes. You can find them on Goodreads, on BrainyQuote on Quote Garden. Be sure to properly attribute them!

Add useful hashtags in moderation. Some that will help your tweets be found by other writers include #writing #amwriting #writetip #writingtips #amediting #books #amreading. Limit yourself to one to three. More than that just looks spammy and desperate.

Engage with others

Aside from following and following back (with care--remember your vision!), it's essential that you interact with your followers. Twitter gives the impression that it is a 100% live stream, but that isn't the case. It is moderated like Facebook is. Those you don't interact with much stop showing up in your feed--and you in theirs! So make an effort to pop back through your followers list periodically and like or retweet content from folks you haven't seen in your feed recently.

If you love someone's blog post shared on Twitter, add a comment before retweeting, like "I so agree with this" or "fantastic!" or "wonderfully helpful!" Your follower will know you aren't simply automating your sharing, but that you actually engaged. Attention is the currency of Twitter, Share yours liberally.

Ask questions and follow up. This can be a powerful way to deepen the relationships you have, and for your followers' followers to discover you.

Express gratitude to those who share your content. I tend to take a batch approach so that my feed isn't too noisy. It also helps my followers find cool people to follow when I acknowledge them.

A note about automation

I have found it really useful to sit down weekly with Hootsuite and automate some of my Twitter activity. Hootsuite makes it really easy. And you may find it useful to experiment with which times of day your followers are most likely to engage with your content.

Variety is essential with automating. If you post only one kind of thing, it will seem spammy. Share your historic blog posts with news articles with inspiring quotes with memes for your books.

Don't go overboard, posting every five minutes, which you could feasibly do on Hootsuite. Use it to keep some fresh content appearing daily. Two to six automated posts, spread from your waking to sleeping hours, is plenty. Feel free to experiment with hours you aren't awake to engage with folks in other time zones.

Importantly, don't let automation be the only Twitter presence you have. Live retweet others. Live share items. Thank people. Ask questions.

Do you use Twitter much in your capacity as a writer or author? What tips would you add?

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

This book has been such a long time coming, I'm feeling a strange mix of ecstatic and terrified to share it with you, my lovely readers. Without further ado, here's a sneak peek:

Coming May 2016




Paris, the City of Lights. To Dani Deane, it’s the Promised Land. There, her widowed mother’s depression will vanish and she will no longer fear losing her only parent, her arty New York life, or her devoted boyfriend.

But shortly before their Paris getaway, Dani’s tyrannical grandfather falls ill, pulling them to rural Pennsylvania to deal with his hoarder horror of a house. Among the piles, Dani finds disturbing truths that could make Mum completely unravel. Desperate to protect her from pain and escape to Paris, Dani hatches an plan with the flirtatious neighbor boy that only threatens the relationships she most wants to save. 

Why would God block all paths to Paris? Could real hope for healing be as close as a box tucked in the rafters?

Genre:  Contemporary YA / Christian fiction


Add it on Goodreads


I like to think of  Almost There as a companion story to Never Gone more than strictly a sequel; you don't need to read the prequel to understand it. It picks up 18 months after Never Gone, the summer after Dani's junior year.  Prepare for hose battles, a roadkill journal, toasted-marshmallow flavored kisses, and a rain-soaked rendezvous with the wrong guy. 

I will begin releasing sample chapters on Wattpad over the next few weeks. Please follow me there @LaurelGarver for more sneak peeks.  

What's new with you? 
Wednesday, April 06, 2016 Laurel Garver
This book has been such a long time coming, I'm feeling a strange mix of ecstatic and terrified to share it with you, my lovely readers. Without further ado, here's a sneak peek:

Coming May 2016




Paris, the City of Lights. To Dani Deane, it’s the Promised Land. There, her widowed mother’s depression will vanish and she will no longer fear losing her only parent, her arty New York life, or her devoted boyfriend.

But shortly before their Paris getaway, Dani’s tyrannical grandfather falls ill, pulling them to rural Pennsylvania to deal with his hoarder horror of a house. Among the piles, Dani finds disturbing truths that could make Mum completely unravel. Desperate to protect her from pain and escape to Paris, Dani hatches an plan with the flirtatious neighbor boy that only threatens the relationships she most wants to save. 

Why would God block all paths to Paris? Could real hope for healing be as close as a box tucked in the rafters?

Genre:  Contemporary YA / Christian fiction


Add it on Goodreads


I like to think of  Almost There as a companion story to Never Gone more than strictly a sequel; you don't need to read the prequel to understand it. It picks up 18 months after Never Gone, the summer after Dani's junior year.  Prepare for hose battles, a roadkill journal, toasted-marshmallow flavored kisses, and a rain-soaked rendezvous with the wrong guy. 

I will begin releasing sample chapters on Wattpad over the next few weeks. Please follow me there @LaurelGarver for more sneak peeks.  

What's new with you? 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Seasonal prompts can be helpful in your routine, to get you paying attention to your immediate environment and the sensory experiences you can collect. It can also get you thinking about story potential in everyday events. Consider how to spin theses prompts for different genres or milieus. For example, try "a spring fashion trend no one could have predicted" as dystopian fiction, as fantasy, as horror, as SciFi, or as farce.

I know winter is over when...

My idea of a perfect spring day is...

Smells I associate with spring.

Spring foods I have been craving for months.

How my protagonist's neighborhood changes in spring.

In the hour lost to daylight savings, a cataclysmic event takes place

The Little League moms go to war because...

What my protagonist likes most and least about spring.

Beneath a minor league baseball team's diamond is a hidden ______.

A recent arrival on the frontier has to put in this year's planting.

A shipment of live chicks is delivered to the wrong address.

A surprise Easter blizzard strands a congregation in the church for three days.

A deranged criminal, the Easter _____,  delivers baskets of dangerous ______.

The Junior League Spring Fashion Show goes horribly wrong.

Strange things begin to happen when the local garden center starts selling a new variety of flower.

The high school track and field team is taken hostage and must use their skills to escape.

An ingenious designer creates rain-resistant ______.

During a magical Passover Seder, a family is swept back to Egypt in the days of Moses.

A flock of geese bring something terrible north during their spring migration.

At the height of spring lambing, an unusual ewe gives birth to _____.

A hotel double books its space for a Cotillion and a tattoo artists' awards banquet.

A group of college friend have an unforgettable spring break when...

The spring fashion trend no one could have predicted.

The day the garden gnomes revolted.

How three ingenious friends saved prom.

The marriage proposal that never got off the ground.

A couple with OCD plans a wedding.

A small town's rabbit population grows so fast that...

While preparing her little vegetable patch for planting, a widow discovers...

A flight full of college kids headed to Cancun crash lands in the Louisiana bayou / Death Valley / a Nebraska cornfield.

Wishing you a blessed Holy Week and very Happy Easter!

Which prompts appeal to you? What is your favorite thing about spring?
Wednesday, March 23, 2016 Laurel Garver
Seasonal prompts can be helpful in your routine, to get you paying attention to your immediate environment and the sensory experiences you can collect. It can also get you thinking about story potential in everyday events. Consider how to spin theses prompts for different genres or milieus. For example, try "a spring fashion trend no one could have predicted" as dystopian fiction, as fantasy, as horror, as SciFi, or as farce.

I know winter is over when...

My idea of a perfect spring day is...

Smells I associate with spring.

Spring foods I have been craving for months.

How my protagonist's neighborhood changes in spring.

In the hour lost to daylight savings, a cataclysmic event takes place

The Little League moms go to war because...

What my protagonist likes most and least about spring.

Beneath a minor league baseball team's diamond is a hidden ______.

A recent arrival on the frontier has to put in this year's planting.

A shipment of live chicks is delivered to the wrong address.

A surprise Easter blizzard strands a congregation in the church for three days.

A deranged criminal, the Easter _____,  delivers baskets of dangerous ______.

The Junior League Spring Fashion Show goes horribly wrong.

Strange things begin to happen when the local garden center starts selling a new variety of flower.

The high school track and field team is taken hostage and must use their skills to escape.

An ingenious designer creates rain-resistant ______.

During a magical Passover Seder, a family is swept back to Egypt in the days of Moses.

A flock of geese bring something terrible north during their spring migration.

At the height of spring lambing, an unusual ewe gives birth to _____.

A hotel double books its space for a Cotillion and a tattoo artists' awards banquet.

A group of college friend have an unforgettable spring break when...

The spring fashion trend no one could have predicted.

The day the garden gnomes revolted.

How three ingenious friends saved prom.

The marriage proposal that never got off the ground.

A couple with OCD plans a wedding.

A small town's rabbit population grows so fast that...

While preparing her little vegetable patch for planting, a widow discovers...

A flight full of college kids headed to Cancun crash lands in the Louisiana bayou / Death Valley / a Nebraska cornfield.

Wishing you a blessed Holy Week and very Happy Easter!

Which prompts appeal to you? What is your favorite thing about spring?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Photo credit: melschmitz,  morguefile.com
Detective Fredricks completes his investigation of the dining room, then he...

goes through the French doors to examine the patio
or
takes the left exit into the butler's pantry
or
leads the officers back to the main corridor

Wait. Is there a butler's pantry? Which side of the room has French doors? What other rooms lead off this corridor?

Space, the essential frontier


Even if  you don't write mysteries, like in my example above, you likely need to move your characters through space, both architecture and landscape.

Like a director, you may have put a great deal of thought into how to "block" each individual scene in terms of how characters interact with one another.

But do you know how they are interacting with their environment? Further, do you know how your various locations connect? If your image of the protagonist's key environments is fuzzy, chances are you will introduce some pretty significant continuity errors, like having him go upstairs to bed in one scene, and getting breakfast down the hall in another.

The best way to avoid problems like this, and even to increase your productivity, is to map all your locations.

You don't need to be an expert cartographer or an architect to do this. You don't even need to invent places from scratch. You simply need to know how the story's spaces are connected, their approximate shape and size, and any environmental details that will play a role in the story.

In this week's post, I will cover tips on mapping man-made spaces, specifically building architecture. In a future post, I'll discuss mapping larger landscapes.

Architecture


Unless you have a deep understanding of how buildings go together, I'd recommend basing all your floor plans on existing buildings you know, or professionally made plans you can get your hands on. Because there are extremely detailed rules about what shapes hold weight, how plumbing and electricity are added to structures, etc., your amateur plans are likely to be unsafe (or at least improbable) spaces.

There are loads of places to get useful floor plans that show exactly where the dining room is in relation to the butler's pantry and patio. Where windows are located in a building. Which stairways go all the way to the second basement. How many bedrooms there are and which has a closet large enough to hide a corpse in. *wink*

Realtor sites

I found, on a realtor website, a three-bedroom, two-bath floor plan for the apartment building where my character lives. I printed it out, and voila, I never again had to wrack my brain about where the bathrooms were, or which windows faced 93rd Street. This was loads easier than taking a train up to New York, trying to wheedle my way past a doorman, and asking tenants to show me around.

Even if you don't have a specific location in mind, but rather are creating an amalgam of various places, hitting a realtor site can give you a picture of typical housing for an area, especially which architecture styles and eras are common there.

Many city high rises use realtors to vet tenants and offer varied floor plans for their different-sized units, which realtors will have available to view. Newly constructed housing complexes almost always include floor plans, as do commercial buildings.

Books

There's a series of books published by Dover Architecture that covers all sorts of architectural styles and eras. Here's a sampling:

Small Houses of the Forties
101 Classic Homes of the Twenties
More Craftsman Homes
The American Bungalo, 1880-1930
Turn-of-the-Century Houses
Georgian Archtectural Designs and Details

If you need some contemporary homes for your characters, here are some additional books of floor plans.

Lowe's Bestselling House Plans
The Complete Home Collection

Or simply hit your library's architecture section and photocopy the plan you wish to use.

Map what you know

If your locations are buildings you have access to, do a quick and dirty layout on graph paper, which will help keep the proportions in line. Or ask an artistic friend to do this for you.

Once you have a floor plan, mark it up with details to include in the story, like furniture placement, color schemes and the like--whatever details are necessary. Don't use this as an excuse to endlessly plan and never write!

Do you enjoy exploring and dreaming up architecture? What kinds of building spaces do you need to know to write your story well?
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 Laurel Garver
Photo credit: melschmitz,  morguefile.com
Detective Fredricks completes his investigation of the dining room, then he...

goes through the French doors to examine the patio
or
takes the left exit into the butler's pantry
or
leads the officers back to the main corridor

Wait. Is there a butler's pantry? Which side of the room has French doors? What other rooms lead off this corridor?

Space, the essential frontier


Even if  you don't write mysteries, like in my example above, you likely need to move your characters through space, both architecture and landscape.

Like a director, you may have put a great deal of thought into how to "block" each individual scene in terms of how characters interact with one another.

But do you know how they are interacting with their environment? Further, do you know how your various locations connect? If your image of the protagonist's key environments is fuzzy, chances are you will introduce some pretty significant continuity errors, like having him go upstairs to bed in one scene, and getting breakfast down the hall in another.

The best way to avoid problems like this, and even to increase your productivity, is to map all your locations.

You don't need to be an expert cartographer or an architect to do this. You don't even need to invent places from scratch. You simply need to know how the story's spaces are connected, their approximate shape and size, and any environmental details that will play a role in the story.

In this week's post, I will cover tips on mapping man-made spaces, specifically building architecture. In a future post, I'll discuss mapping larger landscapes.

Architecture


Unless you have a deep understanding of how buildings go together, I'd recommend basing all your floor plans on existing buildings you know, or professionally made plans you can get your hands on. Because there are extremely detailed rules about what shapes hold weight, how plumbing and electricity are added to structures, etc., your amateur plans are likely to be unsafe (or at least improbable) spaces.

There are loads of places to get useful floor plans that show exactly where the dining room is in relation to the butler's pantry and patio. Where windows are located in a building. Which stairways go all the way to the second basement. How many bedrooms there are and which has a closet large enough to hide a corpse in. *wink*

Realtor sites

I found, on a realtor website, a three-bedroom, two-bath floor plan for the apartment building where my character lives. I printed it out, and voila, I never again had to wrack my brain about where the bathrooms were, or which windows faced 93rd Street. This was loads easier than taking a train up to New York, trying to wheedle my way past a doorman, and asking tenants to show me around.

Even if you don't have a specific location in mind, but rather are creating an amalgam of various places, hitting a realtor site can give you a picture of typical housing for an area, especially which architecture styles and eras are common there.

Many city high rises use realtors to vet tenants and offer varied floor plans for their different-sized units, which realtors will have available to view. Newly constructed housing complexes almost always include floor plans, as do commercial buildings.

Books

There's a series of books published by Dover Architecture that covers all sorts of architectural styles and eras. Here's a sampling:

Small Houses of the Forties
101 Classic Homes of the Twenties
More Craftsman Homes
The American Bungalo, 1880-1930
Turn-of-the-Century Houses
Georgian Archtectural Designs and Details

If you need some contemporary homes for your characters, here are some additional books of floor plans.

Lowe's Bestselling House Plans
The Complete Home Collection

Or simply hit your library's architecture section and photocopy the plan you wish to use.

Map what you know

If your locations are buildings you have access to, do a quick and dirty layout on graph paper, which will help keep the proportions in line. Or ask an artistic friend to do this for you.

Once you have a floor plan, mark it up with details to include in the story, like furniture placement, color schemes and the like--whatever details are necessary. Don't use this as an excuse to endlessly plan and never write!

Do you enjoy exploring and dreaming up architecture? What kinds of building spaces do you need to know to write your story well?