Our Writing Community

 

I’ve owned my own business for 18 years and been in sales for well over 30 years. I can honestly say the competition can get fierce. Most businesses protect their products and services like they were protecting Fort Knox.
But, as you know, over the last few years I began writing books. I learned very quickly that other writers are not my competition. They’re mentors, cheerleaders, councilors and friends. I’ve never been in an industry where others are so willing to give advice, help, and encouragement.

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A perfect example is when I went to release my last book. I had created a huge snafu that could have resulted in major problems. But writers on forums where I am active on quickly and helpfully pointed out my mistake. They offered advice on how to correct my snafu, and ended up guiding me through the process. To say they save my behind is an understatement.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, like every industry there are those who are out for the Golden Buck. Yet, I’ve found these authors rarely stick around the different online chat rooms and forums because they are out for themselves.

I have learned so much from other authors and developed some great friendships. Yes, the Internet can be a wonderful place. You can exchange ideas and thoughts with other writers and not fearing riddicule. Wouldn’t it be nice if more industries and businesses took this point of view and attitude of caring?
I learned early in my business career to give back to my community. I hope that I’ve been able to get back to my writing community in small ways that will encourage other writers to sit down at the keyboard and put your thoughts to words.

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Think it’s a waste of time just sit and exchange ideas with others? Why?

You’re sharing a part of yourself and getting a the other authors view point. Between the two of you, something interesting might be created. I had one idea for a future book that came from a random statement from another writer.  Together we bounced off ideas until an outline was formed. How fun is that?
So, if you’re reading this and have questions about writing, feel free to email me. If I don’t know the answer, I can at least point you in the direction somebody that might. There are two forums online that I am an avid member of. One is Kboards, and the other is One Stop Fiction. I belong to many others, but these are the two that have guided me the most. They’re both open to new members, and I encourage you to join.

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Time to Say Farewell…

This past week I had to say goodbye to an old friend.

The one my son commonly called the toaster. My business was a mere five years old we bought this car, and it lasted for 12 years taking me to and from my customers homes, nursery shopping, and running around town. Sometimes she overflowed with flowers and herbs, giving me a full day’s work and an everlasting supply of different scents. It was a well-known car in town, between the shape and the logo ( a white Scion), and I often heard people saying they had seen me driving around from job to job in my unique car.

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It’s funny how you form an attachment too an animate object. I knew every nook and cranny of my car and the sounds she made, so I realized she was in trouble. And I had to make the decision to let her go, the time was here for her retirement.
After a fond goodbye, I now I have something new, “does happy dance”! It’s bigger and bluer, and I’m hoping it will last me another 12 years.

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As a writer, I look back and I see I’ve given my characters unique cars setting them apart (Megan has an open jeep, Aiden has a cherry red ’65 cutlass, Jake has a red motor scooter), or gave them their own attachments with another item (Megan has a special bracelet, Makenzie wears a lightning rock). It’s easy to transfer your own emotions into your writing, your own likes and dislikes (Megan love chocolate, Mackenzie loves gardens, Paige and Rebecca love cats). Sometimes you might transfer the likes of somebody else into your characters; a comment a good friend may have made about loving a specific brand of handbags suddenly becomes your main character prized possession.
It’s not just inanimate objects we share with our characters, often we bring them in to our favorite place, too. Whether these places are from our past or from our present sometimes or even places we want to go to in the future, they find their way into the story. Some authors are talented enough to create their own places and bring the characters to that imaginary location. But each of those places, just like each of the inanimate objects we so love, means something to us as authors. We may not be aware that with our words we share this love with our characters, and in turn share with our readers.

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As a reader, this helps you identify with the characters in the story, creating a bond. As a writer, it is our job to find a way to bond with our readers. So authors, share a little of your personality with your readers. Help them make the connection to you and your books.

It’s all about the prep.

Don’t prepare and you might be preparing to fail.
No matter what you’re doing, the job is always easier when you prepare for it ahead of time. Whether you’re cooking a new recipe, planting a garden, building a bookshelf, or writing a book —preparation is the key to success.

There are those that say they are Pantsers and there are those say they are Plotters…

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But, I think, all in all, each of us does a bit of preparation before we sit down to write that first word. We have a general idea of what our book it’s going to be about. Who are main characters will be and the central setting we will create. A Pantser might stop right there and start writing. On the other hand, a plotter (like me) will sit down and do an outline. We want to get as much preparation done before we start making, making the writing process flow.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, there will be changes. Something comes up that makes your story go in a different direction, but if the outline is done and your notes are organized, then it’s easy enough to adjust and move on.
And so tomorrow begins the month of July. This is one of three months that I participate in NaNoWriMo. To me the preparation for this month (as well as April and November) are critical to my success. Writing 50,000 words in 30 days is more than a challenge it’s a conquest!

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Today is June 30th, and I wait with bated breath for midnight. Why? Because I’m ready to go. My outline is complete, I’ve got my first scene is written in my head and I’m just counting the hours to start. Yet, I can also look back and remember when there were times that I wasn’t so prepared. Because of this, I wasted precious time and word counts trying to figure out where I was going.
To all of you who have no preparations set out–there is less than 24 hours to be prepared. Turn off that TV and get ready!
And to all of you who are prepared and are waiting for that stroke of midnight-—good luck. I hope Camp NaNo is a rousing success and at the end of the 30 days you are pleased. Then you will hold a rough draft of your book in your hands, ready to edit and publish.

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Happy Writing!

Give a little back…

There comes a time in your life when it’s important to not only take, but to give back.

As you reach certain levels of success, you need to take somebody under your wing  to mentor.  Give back to your community and, in a broader spectrum, give back to the world.

I was taught this as a young child. But, of course, my parents didn’t call it ‘giving back’ they said you’re doing ‘what’s right’. We helped the lonely and the elderly who lived in our neighborhood by making sure their lawns were cut, they got occasional visits to keep them company, and treats like plates of homemade cookies. We did our part for church, too, making sure we were there for every cleanup and event the church sponsored. And we gave back to the school in forms of being part of the PTA or helping on class activities.

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It was right after I moved to Florida, getting a job with a man who was a community leader, I learned about giving back to the business community. He taught us it wasn’t just giving back money to associations and good causes, it was about giving of yourself. Giving time was  sometimes more important than giving money. A perfect example was after Hurricane Andrew hit Homestead Florida, many of the large nurseries were destroyed. Nurseries unaffected in other parts of the state sent down representatives and supplies to make sure those businesses demolished could rebuild. The made sure families affected would have food, water and shelter. These nurseries that helped didn’t make any money from their efforts; it was simply good will, and it was the right thing to do. This example of giving back made a lasting impression on me.

When I started my gardening business, I made sure I got involved in the community by joining the Chamber of Commerce and other non-profit organizations. Even if I didn’t have money to help these organizations, I had my time and efforts and I gave freely.

Now, as I enter a new stage of my life as a writer, I’m determined to give back once again. And, although I’m not as knowledgeable as other authors with more experience, I freely give what I can to help new authors starting out. Sometimes a kind word of encouragement is all another writer needs. Another way I give back is to read other people’s books and write honest reviews.

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You can easily do this, too.  Or, become a beta reader when you can. And don’t be afraid to promote another author’s book. By promoting other books in your own genre, you will also promote your own books. As more and more people become interested in the same style of writing as yours, you’ll find the sales increasing.

It’s exciting to be part of the writing community, and I’m thrilled to give back. I know most of us are introverts and tend to prefer working from within our own comfort zone, but with the use of the internet you can easily help another writer get through a  tricking plot point . Plus, I’m amazed at how many great friends I’m making.

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So, as a result, occasionally you’ll find I don’t post a traditional blog. Instead I’ll help support other author’s by posting a promotion. This will give you the chance as a reader to have access to new books and new writers you might not have known. It also gives these authors more exposure, which we all need.

I hope you will enjoy these promotions and take advantage of them. Remember if you enjoyed the book take a moment and let the writer know. Send an email or, even better, write a review on Amazon.

I think you’ll find it feels wonderful to give back!

Book Joy

Every reader knows the joy of a new book.

There’s something exciting about spending hours deciding which book to get. It doesn’t matter whether you’re browsing the book catalogs online, wondering the rows of books in the library or sniffing in the clean scent of a fresh book from the bookstore.  Every reader knows that special feeling you get picking out your books.

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When you’ve finally decided and you’re walking home with that new book, there’s an air of anticipation and you want to read right away. Sometimes you may need to put off reading that a new book because of other obligations. But it’s always there in the back of your mind, it’s waiting with a new adventure just for you.

But if one book makes a reader excited, then you’ll be overjoyed to   buy a complete series at one time. It’s like having your birthday and Christmas wrapped up at once- and all the other little holidays thrown in at the same time. When I can buy books in a series, I feel like I want to be shut away from the world for at least a week until I’ve read every one in a row and in order. I rarely buy a series of fiction books in print. Those I buy on the internet; space is an issue, because if I bought every series I liked, I would need to build a new house just to hold my books.

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But when I buy a series of nonfiction reference books, it’s  like I’ve invested in my future. My future as a writer, because these are the books I’m usually buying. And although I may not read them right away, I display them on the bookshelf, in their proper order, waiting for the opportunity to use them for reference. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I will look through each book to see what is  in each chapter, but it doesn’t get quite the attention that a series of fictional books will get. Those I dive right into and become part of the series.

And I must admit as an author seeing your own series ready for purchase-well there’s just no words to explain the sense of awe and pride. Knowing somebody else might buy  your complete set of works or at least what you wrote in that series is mind-boggling. Self-satisfaction doesn’t begin to cover the words.

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If there was a way, I think every writer would like to sit on the shoulders of the reader and gauge their reaction. Do they like your favorite passage, or smile at that little joke you included? Do they hold their breath in anticipation of a climax, do they sign with your ending-content the story ended the way they wanted? If you’re a mystery writer like me, are they following all your clues? Are they catching which ones are red herrings and are they surprised by your ending? Are you getting the right results with each book in your series?

You hope that these questions will come up every time, in every book.

So, thank you to all who have purchased my books; one at a time or in a complete series.

I hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them.

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It can be a lonely world out there for an indie writer. You can be lost or overwhelmed easily, but we have resources at our fingertips that can help us along. One writer went to the extreme to help other writers. I’m pleased to introduce Kathryn Bax (Pen name Kathryn McMaster) as my guest blogger for this week.

 I’m going to let Catherine tell you a little bit about her story and about the great website that she’s put together for writers and readers alike. I’m proud to be part of this website and of course you can find all of my books there. But it’s not just my books; there’s a vast number of writers from different genres. So, you be sure to go to the website and start picking out some great books to read.

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One Stop Fiction for Readers and Writers

We all like to read free and discounted books, don’t we? Who doesn’t like a bargain? I co-founded One Stop Fiction for two reasons. The first was to provide readers with quality books at discounted rates, the other was as an author I was frustrated at the lack of places I could be seen, other than my own author Facebook pages and website. How could I make sure that my book was on a permanent website, rubbing shoulders with books from my peers? Along came the idea for the website.

However, 9 months ago, the idea hadn’t even been born yet. I was still frantically trying to finish my first novel. Once I was nearly finished I realized that I needed some ideas on how to market it. There was no point in writing a book that nobody would see.

So I paid a squillion to join a course on book marketing only to be bitterly disappointed. It had not stated on sign up that the course was primarily for non-fiction writers. I took very little away from the course and felt rather disgruntled. I was not the only one. Other fiction authors were very unhappy too.

So, being the rebel that I am, I decided to break away from the group and start my own Facebook group where we could all learn from each other and share marketing ideas. The group soon grew to well over 1000 members. However, after listening to the feedback from the new group, there seemed a need to provide a platform where writers could connect to readers and vice versa.

I had built and run several websites of my own before this. I was no stranger to HTML and website jargon. However, I knew that we needed a site that would be more than a ‘mom and pop’ venture. We needed something slick and professional, easy to use and attractive to look at.

In the previous disgruntled group were two very special people; Shaun Griffiths, a Young Adult author who would become our Content Manager, and Alex Okros; an author of short stories (still unpublished) and the published author of a time-management book.

We fast became Internet friends. One day I said to Alex that I was thinking of starting up a website for authors. He said that he too had had the exact same idea. I said that it was all very well and good to have lofty ideas but website platforms did not come cheap. Who would we get to build it? He started to chuckle and said, “Oh, didn’t I tell you? I am a computer programmer and my girlfriend designs websites.” Sometimes, some things are just meant to be.

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http://www.onestopfiction.com

 

The website was released to the public on 8/8/2016 which we hope is an auspicious date – not that we are at all superstitious! Already hundreds of books have been added to the site and we are thrilled to see how many people have entered our monthly competition to win a Kindle eReader Paperwhite worth $119. The competition is open to all, no matter where you live. There is no joining fee, and to say thank you for your subscription you have a choice of 30 free e-books to read.

So please come and join us, have some fun, and be prepared to find some great books!

 By Kathryn Bax (Pen name Kathryn McMaster)

Co-founder and Business Development Manager

http://www.onestopfiction.com

 

about the pictures
logo and head-shot provided by Kathryn Bax
Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_flynt’>flynt / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

The Learning Curve

Where has the time gone?

Time

Time

It’s hard to believe, but this week celebrates 3-year anniversary of the release of my first book! I thought I’d write a quick little blog about what I’ve learned from the beginning. Well, the first thing I need to tell you be; I’m no expert and I have tons more to learn, I’ve barely skim the surface.

When I first started my first book it was a challenge, I never expected to do another one, or another one (etcetera), but as anyone who writes knows, once you start you can’t stop. Writing becomes part of who you are.

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 I think the most surprising lesson I learned is writing a book is just the beginning. It’s  a business and if you want to succeed, you need to address the business end of the craft. Like any business, there are tools  you need to use to be successful, so I thought I’d let you know a few of the tools I use day-to-day. As I’ve grown in my writing, I found I can’t go without them.

Foremost is Scrivener. It is a writing program which helps you organize and keep your thoughts clear.   Plotter or Pantser– scrivener will work for you.

I also use MS Word because most documents need to be put into word and it’s easy. there’s no fussing. Word will allow you to add in editing programs, and these aids are essential for my writing process.  I work with 2 programs; ProWriting Aid or Grammerly. Either one of them will work. You need these programs to help you catch the many mistakes  your eyes will miss, know no matter how good you are.

I also use a dictation program called Dragon Naturally Speaking. I can’t tell you how my writing has changed using this program. The idea is to get the thoughts down on paper, and this works great. There is a learning curve to using it, but worth the time and effort you put into it.

Two other items  I use every day, without fail, and would be lost without them are Dropbox and Evernote.

Dropbox holds all my documents off-line. After losing major files because of a glitch in either my equipment or my backup practices, I found  this is the smartest thing I could have ever done. I wish I’d done it years ago, not only for my writing for my business. I use Evernote to help me to make quick notes from the thoughts racing through my mind as I go through my day-to-day routine. I can dictate into the program which is great for me. I can organize the notes into notebooks so  I can make notes on different books and projects  I’m working developing. Evernote is a good tool to use with Scrivener, too.

I’ve also found, whether I like it or not, social media plays big part in the writing. Facebook (www.facebook.com/CitrusBeachMysteryseries ), Twitter (Victoria LK Williams@CitrusBeachMyst), LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/in/victoria-lk-williams), Instagram (vickilkw), and Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com/vlkwcbm) are the ones  I actively use, some more than others. A word of caution about the social media sites; learn to turn them off and concentrate on your writing. It is best to set a  time that you allow yourself for social media so  you don’t waste writing time. Because, believe me, you can.

One important aspect not to overlook is an Author Website.(VictoriaLKWilliams.com) Give your readers another option to find you, to find out about your books; where to buy them and about your upcoming works. Personalize your website so  it sounds like you; don’t make it so professional that the readers are not intrigued. This is your opportunity to introduce your personality and maybe some hints about how you write and why you write it’s also a great place to post about upcoming books and their progress.

If, after all that work, you still have some creative juices left, try Blogging. It’s one more way for your readers to find out about you on a more personal level and for those search engines to find you. I have two blogs: this one and Gossip From the Southern Garden (gossipfromthesoutherngarden.cordpress.com)

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It’s been said loneliness comes along with writing, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t seclude yourself, talk to other writers, if not in person than online. There’s many forums out there where writers share ideas, tips, and encourage each other.  Even if you don’t participate at first, there’s a lot to read about. Find yourself a Writing Buddy either online or in person. Everybody needs a shoulder to cry on, or a hand to hold. When you’re celebrating, your writing buddy can be there for you.They’ll understand you in ways  no one else can, because they’re going through the  same thing  you are.

The other word of advice I can give is have patience. Don’t be in such a hurry to push the publish button.  Invest in a good cover and an editor. Even if you need to hang on to your book for a couple of months until you can raise the funds to do so.There’s good editors out there and bad ones; make sure you send them a sample chapter. Ask them to look it over and tell you if it’s something they are interested in pursuing. You’ll get a chance to see their work, too. I would recommend you go with an editor who likes the type of books you write. If you’re writing a series of books, make sure your cover tie together so  readers can find them easier.

Keep track of your promotions. a book that isn’t out there for people to find will not get read. Even the best authors fall off to the charts with some of their older books.

And my last bit of advice it to take care of yourself, your family and friendships. Get up and walk around, eat healthy, drink lots of liquids and, if you can, take breaks to get some exercise. Don’t neglect your family or friends. Nourish those relationships, they’re the most important thing in your life. Besides, you might find inspiration from these same people.

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So here is my little tidbits of knowledge   I’ve learned over the last three years. It’s by no means is a complete, because I’m learning more every day. I make mistakes every day too.

The trick is to learn from your mistakes and keep writing!

Please note any programs or sites  I  mentioned,  I’m not endorsing them for any type of payment;  I’m simply stating what works for me.

Secrets in your History

What does your search history say about you as an author?

 Almost every author has some degree of research that they had to do. The research is what gives body and life to your story.

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It makes it more interesting and unusual facts with detailed descriptions can captive your reader. You can only get these facts from either physically being at the site of your book, or researching it. And since most of us are tied to one location, research is our best alternative.

I think it’s safe to say most authors tend to write it at odd hours. Often our work or family puts the writing on the back burner which can make the stolen moments we do find to work on our manuscript occur at the oddest hours. This means we may find ourselves working when going to the library  isn’t feasible.

 Thank God for the internet!

We can stay up until two or three in the morning, researching to our hearts content. We can easily wander off into different tangents, from one fact to another, as we researched deeper and deeper into a subject.

But all that research leaves a trail.   There’s been discussion among authors I know about this very subject.  If anybody ever looked into an author’s (especially a mystery writer) line of research, and the sites  we visit, and the questions we ask… well, many of us would be considered dangerous  element.

Search for idea

Search for idea

How would somebody who isn’t aware you’re an author react to your research history? Would you cringe when they search your computer’s history? Are you taking in them down a dark tunnel your normal personality would never go? If you’re a mild-mannered person who is looking up all sorts of deadly and evil ways to kill off your characters, will your friends look at you differently? Could you be looking into government espionage and ways to corrupt a government official could bring some unwanted attention from ‘big brother’? Maybe you’re looking into buried Treasures in history of your area and ways to claim it for yourself.

Do you see what I mean? Your research history can land you in a lot of trouble if the wrong person looks at it. But that’s what being an author is all about! We take all our research and off we go. It’s our job to weave a spell and create a story good enough to captivate our readers and have them turning the page.

 

Open book and idea text

Open book and idea text

 So before you judge the history of any author’s computer research, you really ought to read their books. You never know how we might twist facts to work with our plots.

The Great Gift of Mentoring

 

Find a mentor, be a mentor.

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As you go throughout your life, without even realizing it, you are mentoring to many people. Be it your children, friends of your children, or people that you come in contact with on a daily basis. Either at work or play, there’s always somebody there that is looking to you to be an example and to answer questions.

Don’t be stingy with your knowledge. Sharing helps other people learn from your experiences, be it good or bad. Sometimes, we learn the best lessons from our mistakes. Why not share those lessons with somebody else so that they don’t make the same mistakes?
I’ve been very lucky in this journey of writing. I’ve developed a number of friendships, both virtual and in real life. Some of these closest friendships are with writers that I’ve never even met the person. Yet they are the ones who helped me through the struggles of authorship.
As I’m doing research, or as I’m struggling in the passage of my book, or getting over the let down when you get when you finish a book, they are there. As I’m beginning to start a new book, we bounced ideas off of each other, throwing out possible plots and twists.
Fellow authors, I find, are willing and generous in sharing what they learn about the industry, as well. From ways to advertise and promote our books, to new tools on the market, the writing blogs and forums are quick to post this information. It is another type of mentoring, but it is priceless. In an industry where there is not a high turnover of money, every bit of help you can get goes a long way.

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The friendships that I developed doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) are priceless as well. Each one of us in our cabin are going to the same struggles at the same time, together. As we strive to achieve our own personal goals, we are also there to give each other support. Or, just to cut up and laugh at each other and ourselves.
Sometimes that’s all a mentor needs to do; be there to hold your hand, laugh with you at your mistakes, and help you get over that next hurdle.

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But mentoring also takes on community responsibilities. I feel it is our responsibility to bring up the next generation to be responsible. We need to help them develop good business sense, sound moral standing, and the sense of self pride when they accomplish their goals. It can be lonely when you’re trying to start up a business, learn a new career, or are just moving ahead in life. Having somebody there to help you through the obstacles we call life, is a blessing.

So, thank you to all those who have taken the time to mentor me. I may not say it enough but you’re truly appreciated.

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