Marketing is hard…

As we enter the New Year, I do what I normally do, which is sit down to sketch out my plan for the year. Some of that I’ve put here in my last post, some is still hanging out as an outline in my bullet journal, and some remains to be uncovered in the book I’m currently reading, The New Rules of Marketing and PR (more on this, just scroll down a bit.)

One thing that has changed from previous years is that this time, I’ve set up a system of tracking what I am doing which will enable me to identify areas of effort that are performing, underperforming, or actually quite lucrative. My brain does well with systems that allow me to fill in numbers and see, in a tangible way, what I am doing.

Also, I spent some time, money, and effort in previous years on things that did not really do anything except waste all three.

The first thing to do, though, is get some words down. I’m putting off a few submission goals until I complete the two series I’ve got going on now. The intended result is to improve my craft, and build an audience through giving readers a full series instead of just a one-off. (It will also, with luck, demonstrate to any future agents I query that I have the ability to stick with writing a series, which is pretty important in the genre work I prefer.)

I will talk about my Patreon page, which falls in here somewhere and is intended to create a community of storytellers through coaching, but I’ll hit that at length at a later time. Although you can definitely check it out if you’ve been thinking about wanting to write your own stuff. I won’t stop you. 😉

The next thing is to build social media through connections and interactions. I’m under no illusions that I will sell books through Twitter, but again, it’s a way to demonstrate to readers and potential agents/publishers that I am more established and serious about what I’m doing. Connections and interactions are another reason that I’m applying to various conventions and conferences as a panelist and workshop leader. My theory is, if people want to read books or hire someone as a coach, they are more likely to do so if they’ve met that person in real life, and are able to then connect with them (me) online. So I have some shiny new bookmark/business cards, and a couple of dates in 2018.

The last thing, and this is courtesy of The New Rules book referenced above, is taking a look at how I can use content to gain a wider audience. (I realize I’m burying the lede here, but bear with me.) I’m about halfway through the book, but what grabs me as Mr. Scott’s central concept, is the idea that we’ve gone beyond marketing and public relations to a new concept of communicating and interacting on an authentic basis. The book delves into tactical-level concepts and courses of action, but the overall idea is that an author, or an organization, or a corporation, etc., must find a way to engage an audience of both potential buyers and non-potential buyers. (I know, what? I gotta talk with people who have no intention of buying my book?) This communication then shapes the general perception of that organization.

While much of what I write is available on places like Amazon or my publisher’s Web site, or at my Patreon, I wanted to find a way to continue to share content that would be the basis of interaction. And I specifically wanted that content to come from articles and interviews with a wide variety of interesting people doing interesting things. While some of them may be authors, or poets, or journalists, I also wanted to interview nurses, and scientists, and crafters, etc.

When I first started this Web site, I had a page called “Characters and Conversations.” I still entitle my interviews “A Conversation with …” My goal is that in inviting people to come on here and talk about who they are and what they do, these articles will spur more conversation and invite more people to join us.

If you are an author, or someone who works in any sort of capacity with trying to generate interest in, publicity for, or interaction with any sort of organization (or your sole proprietorship), I can’t recommend this book enough. It comes with a lot of great suggestions and stories, as well as a full online presence, and a blog.

I also suggest checking out the Twitter hashtag #bookmarketingchat as well as The Author Biz Podcast. Find what works for you, even if you have to do a little experimenting to figure that out. (Don’t forget to track your data and set your benchmarks!) And if you figure out the magic overnight secret to amazing online book success, feel free to share in the comments. 😉

Happy Writing!

 

Meet the New Year…

…with any luck, it won’t be the same as the old year.

To be fair, while 2017 was challenging at times, there were still some really great parts of it. For one, we welcomed our newest addition to the family, baby Jennifer. I got to spend time with friends and family, traveling to both the Pennsic War for the first time in almost twenty years, and heading down to Dragon*Con on our annual pilgrimage. I marched in my first protest, and then my second. My romance writing got picked up by Boroughs Publishing, and I made the decision to rebrand and relaunch the Rick Keller series. Also, I won NaNoWriMo for the first time in a really long time.

2017 was also a time of learning. I took a hard look at what I wanted to do as a writer and writing coach. In a manner that was half-experiment and half-throwing pasta at the wall to see if it’s done, I tried a bunch of different things, from a SkillShare account (too much noise to signal ratio), to sitting my butt down and putting words on paper (very effective!), to starting a bullet journal (so far, pretty helpful.)

So, coming up to 2018, I’ve got a few, focused goals and actions.

  1. Finish the Wilmington romance series for Boroughs Publishing. Grow my audience through social media and blogging.
  2. Finish and relaunch the Rick Keller Project for Untold Press.
  3. Finish more than just the first book of the Blues series and write my submission plan.
  4. Expand/promote my Patreon page to not only attract followers, but build a community of storytellers.

I’m also going to pursue attending conventions and workshops as a presenter/panelist. So far in 2018, you’ll find me at Arisia in Boston, where I’ll be leading three panels, two workshops, and sitting on a few more. Then, in March, I’ll be at the Liberty State Fiction Writers Conference, where I’ll be leading a workshop on writing military heroes.

If you’re going to be at one of these locations, drop me a line! Let me know if you’ll be stopping by. If you’ve decided that 2018 is the year you finally sit down to write that story/novel/memoir, get in touch, or stop by Patreon, and let’s make a plan.

2018 is going to be great. Let’s do this!

 

Flash Fiction … Maps

I made a terrible mistake when I subscribed to Chuck Wendig’s blog. Now, every Friday I get these little writing challenges emailed to me. Sometimes, I’m able to read and file(writing coaches need prompt ideas), but some other times, an idea comes swinging its way out of my head, demanding some screen time. This Friday’s Flash Fiction Challenge was just such a thing. Because maps.

I’ll get into why I love maps at some point in the future, but until then, here is up to 1,000 words of Friday prompt. Thanks, Chuck Wendig. You distracting distractor.

~ ~ ~

The lines on the map faded the moment Rose picked it up off the floor. She cursed out loud as first the shadings, then the characters, and finally the lines faded to a light gray–and then nothing. A deranged ghost of a giggle echoed in the air. Once again, she was forced to admit, she’d come off the worst in a bargain with the Fae.

Beside her, Frank chuffed and shook himself, Basset ears and drool flying in opposite directions. Jimmy bent over and wiped off his calf, then wiped his hand on his shorts.

“So where do we go now?” He squinted against the glare.

“It’s not like we have much choice.” Rose folded the blank map and stuffed it in her back pocket. Try as she could, she found herself unable to Grasp anything around her, the Magic curiously unresponsive under the harsh double sun. “We either follow him into the maze or we stand out here and die of boredom.”

Jimmy’s eyes did the focus-unfocus thing they always did when Frank was feeling conversational. “And starvation.”

“That, too.” From somewhere in the maze, something that sounded like a truck backfiring startled a flock of leather-winged creatures. They broke from cover, streaking in a disturbed circle, screaming. Just as abruptly, they re-settled on the walls, looking down into the maze. They weren’t too far away that Rose couldn’t pick out a distinctly eager vibe on their visages, as if the only thing they were missing was a bucket of popcorn.

“On the other hand, there are worse ways to go, so maybe we should just stay here.” Jimmy took a step back, almost falling over Frank, who had sheltered valiantly behind him.

“For real?” Rose shook her head and stepped off, choosing to head down the center path, straight into the maze.

A few yards into the labyrinth, Jimmy’s running steps thudded behind, and he and Frank pulled up next to her. They slowed, walking casually.

“So, interesting weather they’re having here.” Jimmy’s voice only shook a tiny bit. “This jerk couldn’t have picked a crossword for his big showdown?”

Rose snorted. “A crossword puzzle?”

“I don’t know–Find-A-Word? Maybe Sudoku?” His eyes unfocused again. “Trail of dog bones?”

“I’d prefer to not find any bones.” Rose stopped. “Speaking of which…”

The center path came to an abrupt end. They had been unable to see from entrance, because the makers of the labyrinth had shrouded the block with an optical illusion of slightly disjointed walls and an abundance of concealing ivy.

“Well, shit.” Rose stretched out her hand, sweeping the ivy to the side. In front of her, there was only more brick wall under the hanging leaves. To her right, she had more luck–a narrow path, barely large enough to walk through with her shoulders touching each side.

“I’ve got something over here,” Jimmy said. He pulled the ivy on the left side away for Rose to see. Instead of another path, this side was blocked by a large, wood door with thick iron ornamental hinges, and an old-fashioned key hole. Next to the door, a large church key hung from a rusted post. “You got any ideas?”

Frank lay down, resting his head on his front paws. It was the Basset version of a shrug.

“No ideas,” Rose replied. “Not even a coin to flip.”

She considered the two choices. An open path with no barriers–if narrow enough to set off her claustrophobia if it didn’t end soon. On the other hand, a door with a conveniently-placed key was definitely untrustworthy. Unless she was reading too much into the situation. Which was also possible. On the other hand…

Rose closed her eyes and shuffled sideways a few feet down the path. She waited. Nothing.

“Um, Rose?” Jimmy cocked his head and frowned, looking somewhat like Frank as he did so.

“Hang on.” Rose waited, then shuffled back to Jimmy’s side. Slowly, she reached for the key, pausing just before touching it. Nothing. “Here goes nothing.”

She picked the large, iron key off the post and placed it in the door. “Ow, crap. Crap, crap, crap.” Leaving the key in the keyhole, she grabbed at her behind. Jimmy watched in bemusement as she fumbled with her back pockets, then finally drew out the map.

Rose spread the paper out, holding it so Jimmy could see. The previously blank parchment now contained a small illustration–the two of them and Frank, standing before a door. She realized Jimmy was staring at her instead of the map.

“It got hot,” she said by way of explanation. “What the hell does this mean?”

“Maybe we’re supposed to go through the door?” Jimmy suggested.

“Or maybe we’re not supposed to go through the door.” Rolling her eyes at the supreme unhelpfulness of the Electric Fae, Rose re-folded the map, cool now to the touch. “Who knows. Let’s just do it and get going before something finds us.”

~ ~ ~

So, that wasn’t the total distraction it could have been. Instead, it was some good drafting for a future scene/showdown for Steel-Toed Blues or a future book in the series. I count it as good words, and I’m going to go and figure out where to stick it in my outline.

Thanks, Chuck Wendig. Happy writing!

The Return of #WriteFridays!

Last night I sat at my friend’s table for a mutual writing session, attempting to grind out just a few ndred more words. I’m stuck at the place in this manuscript where trying to get the story out feels like pulling teeth with a rusty chainsaw–not very effective, and kind of bloody. (I was also laboring under the misconception that once I hit 40K words, I only had 15K more to go. After hitting 40K, and celebrating, I realized that it was actually 25K more to my goal of 65K. Why do I even bother doing math?)

What, ho, I thought to myself. Time for a writing exercise! At this particular place in the novel, my two characters are sitting outside a Whataburger in the middle of Nowheresville, TX, in the early morning. It’s one of those towns I’ve often driven through, that is basically the incorporated confines of a stoplight, a hotel, and a couple of fast food joints. Although it’s winter in my novel (it usually is, I think probably because I start writing them in November…) it’s also Texas, so unseasonably warm. So where is the exercise?

Well, I managed to write about seven hundred words from the beginning of the scene, went to write an action where one of the characters adjusts his clothing … and realized I had no idea what they were wearing.

So for this week, let us don our sartorial lens, peruse the racks of our mind’s eye, and head into …

Captain shares his sharp-dressing secrets.

Captain shares his sharp-dressing secrets.

Exercise 20: You Are What You Wear. For many of us, our clothes immediately convey to those around us a certain amount of information about ourselves. Whether we’re wearing high-fashion couture, fast food polyester, a wool jacket in 100+ degree heat, or shorts in the middle of winter (hello, my significant other), much information can be gleaned from a character’s wardrobe.

For this exercise, write a paragraph that includes very specific choices in your character’s (or characters’) clothing choices (or lack of choices.) This could be an introduction to a new character–or a new way of seeing an old one.

Happy writing!

Mail call!

I woke up this morning and opened up Goodreads, just to find out how many people had eventually ended up signing up for my Soft Target giveaway. My goal had been to reach about 250 people–even if they were only signing up for free for a free book, at least that would be 250 people aware of its existence. I still have a bit of stock from the copies I ordered to send to bookstores and use for marketing, and figured this would be a good use of them.

Apparently, more than 700 people decided to take their shot at winning a copy. I am about to head out to the post office and send two copies to people who live in my state, one copy way across country, and two across international borders. Which is way exciting.

And then, I’ll come back here and sit down with my laptop and a giant cup of coffee because my to-do list is, as for most writers, growing longer with each page I don’t write.

Thanks to all who participated!

Heading out to their new homes!

Heading out to their new homes!

Alternate creativities…

I spend a lot of my time writing, thinking about writing, not writing, wishing I were writing, blogging about writing, feeling guilty about not writing, or otherwise with writing somewhere in my conscious or subconscious. Sometimes, I forget that there are other creative works that I have percolating around in my mind. This weekend, I started re-connecting with one, namely the Society for Creative Anachronism.

This is a group that has been around for just about a half century, and that I first become involved with almost twenty years ago, when I was a freshman in college. It’s a group that recreates the middle ages, from a period of about 600-1600 CE. People do research, experiment with techniques for recreating various elements of the time period, and then periodically get together to share those techniques, whether they be armored martial arts, fine embroidery, music, or — and this is a particular favorite — brewing and cooking.

This weekend I dragged my spouse, little one, and a bunch of other newbies up to Raleigh for an event, the Windmasters Hill Cooks and Performers Symposium. It had been a while, and I spent most of the prep time putting together garb for LJ and Rob, so I threw on some really old last-minute-Pennsic-purchase garb and went on in.

The event itself was wonderful, and the group was incredibly welcoming. I took a class on making flatbread, which was a class of bread-baking that formerly eluded me, but which I now feel a little more confident taking on. I took another class on the development of Italian music in the Renaissance period, which featured some lovely listening (which also put LJ to sleep, so double score.) And when I was feeling a little like I needed a break, I headed out to a piece of grass where some people were sitting and playing some desultory tunes, and worked a little on a piece of embroidery.

Suffice it to say, this previous two week’s away from writing as my primary creative endeavor has actually been quite helpful. I’ve gotten a good deal of work done on revising one of my manuscripts, trying to make the magic word count that will tip it into the “novel” category, and thus be more marketable to agents and publishers. I’ve also broken through one of the major delaying points on Steel-Toed Blues, and have even gotten some stuff done on my nonfiction chapter.

My intention is to continue to re-connect with my other creative endeavors — the SCA, music, fiber projects — in order to keep the writing juices flowing. I sometimes forget that all these experiences show up time and again in my writing. To neglect them would be to turn off the tap for whatever it is that feeds the writing flow.

And with that, I am off to grab some buttons for a fiber project, and do my best not to spend all of this glorious day indoors with the sprog.

Peace!

 

The blahs…

I’m dealing with a little bit of the writing blahs right now … namely rejection, envy, lack of motivation, and both a progressively cleaner house and a continuous lack of work. Right now, I’ve got a manuscript out on query – two publishers, one agent, two rejections. I’m not even sure if I love the book enough to keep querying it. On the work in progress side, I’m 38K words into a manuscript that I’ve had some good feedback on — but not sure if I have enough plot to make it to the magic 75K word count. In the meantime, I’ve got two more novel ideas that really want me to get distracted and start working on them. And I’m super tempted to take my Side Roads and Hidden Monsters sketches and start making them a Wattpad serial. Which I seriously don’t have time for. Let’s not even get started on my non-fiction book.

So … I’ve decided to just accept it. I’m going to wallow a little bit. I’m going to clean the house, and organize my craft box, and wash ALL the dishes and play with the kid and read a couple magazines.

I’ll type a few words per day. I’ll blog my writing prompts. I’ll keep querying my manuscript. And eventually I’ll get past the blahs and get back on track.

Now, to find that vacuum attachment…

Peace!

Side roads.

(This post is a writing exercise from last Saturday’s writing prompt. Join us every week for #WriteFridays – read, write, post, and share!)

Side Roads

I lock the door behind me. We’re in the middle of nowhere, and there’s nothing in the car worth taking, but it’s a force of habit. My sunglasses immediately fog up. The air conditioning in the beat up old Ford works just fine, but the Southern summer humidity has me immediately breaking out in a sweat.

The dirt road stretches out before me. The lush green from the water-laden trees presents a thick wall, arching up and over us, cutting out most of the blue. It reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of South American rain forests, but I wouldn’t know. Never seen them in real life. I slap my neck.

“Mosquitoes are thick.” The phrase isn’t much more than a grunt.

“Yup.” I wonder at my traveling partner’s sudden chattiness. He doesn’t go in much for small talk. It’s mostly been sports talk radio when he drives and classic rock when I’m behind the wheel for most of this trip. “Shall we?”

He nods, the forty-five Sig Sauer held pointing down, but ready to go. Squinting against the sweat beading on his forehead, dripping down the side of his face, he moves forward. The impenetrable green seems to open before him as he slips into the undergrowth.

Grumbling, I follow. Immediately, branches reach out and snag my clothing. A thorny strand wraps itself around my leg, leaving a welt through my cargo pants. I heft the shotgun, keeping an eye on the path as the brush closes behind us. The insect whine grows louder. I’m soaked with sweat. I smell rich loam, rotting things, and the intense aroma of green under the sun.

Then, I smell something different. Something dead, that brings the taste of copper to my mouth. I swallow against the sudden dryness.

My partner doesn’t say anything — just catches my eye and points at a spot about twenty yards in front of him. He holds up three fingers.

Three. It’s almost not even worth stopping.

#WriteFridays Exercise 11

It’s been quite the crazy week, starting with a 10-hour drive down from New York, and followed by non-stop paperwork excitement. I sat down this morning to write up an exercise, and ended up having to go take care of some other things. I completely forgot what I was going to write – I’m sure it would have been genius – so instead, came up with this one.

Exercise 11: Life is full of mundane missed moments. Sometimes, the subway door closes right as we’re walking down the stairs. Sometimes, we’re the first in line for the movies when they announce the theater is full. If only we hadn’t forgotten our jacket – if only that red light hadn’t caught us – if only … Write a paragraph or several in which your character’s life goes off track due to a missed moment in time …

A Conversation with Sandra Boutwell-Falcone

I met Sandra Boutwell-Falcone, an independent author, through one of my Facebook groups wherein we writers like to mingle and talk shop. I invited her on my blog, but before posting the interview, I picked up a copy of her book Marabella: Discovering Magics. I enjoyed it quite a lot, and am going to be keeping an eye out when the author writes the sequel.

Marabella, or Belle, grows up in a tiny village where a group of people who belong to a tribe known as Demalions are known to stop by. One of them, her father, loved her mother for a short time before an untimely accident with the ferry. As she grows, she finds herself able to access “magics” and begin to use their powers. Throughout the book, you learn more about not only her but her family and her connection to the Demalions.

I especially enjoyed the representation of female friendships and relationships in this novel. Belle has a special connection to her mother, as well as to the other women in the village. The extra details around these relationships were my favorite part of the book.

With that in mind, I had a few questions for Sandra about her background, writing, and of course, her book!

Author Sandra Boutwell-Falcone

Author Sandra Boutwell-Falcone

Q (Infamous Scribbler): Tell me a little bit about yourself and your book, Marabella, Discovering Magics.

A (Sandra Boutwell-Falcone): I grew up in rural Louisiana and now live in Arkansas. I am a Southern girl. I spent about 20 years in retail in the natural health industry, but I have always been a writer. I started writing stories and journaling at a very young age. Marabella, Discovering Magics is my first novel. Several years ago I found myself out of work and going stir crazy. My husband suggested I write something…anything to keep me occupied. I found some handwritten pages in an old notebook from college. (I never throw anything away.) I had written down an origin story for a Dungeons and Dragons character I played back then. (Yes, I am geek proud!) Her name was Marabella and this series grew from that.

Q: In your bio, you list gaming and people watching as two of your hobbies. How, if at all, do your hobbies factor into your writing?

A: I like the RPGs (roll playing games) that include fantasy and magic. I sometimes get ideas or inspiration from the games. People watching is not exactly a hobby. I don’t get out much but when I do, I like to observe the folks around me. An airport is a great place to see all sorts of characters. My brain just starts churning out back stories for interesting people I see.

BookCoverPreview

Q: In addition to writing your novel, you also write articles for others, including a pet store Web site. How do you go about researching and writing your non-fiction pieces?

A: The pieces I write for the web are generally short informative articles, under 1000 words. Attention spans for people trolling the sites for info are usually short. I use various internet sites, product literature, and books for facts. Where I get information depends upon whether it is an article about a particular kind of animal, a service, or a product.

Q: What has been the most challenging aspect of writing and publishing Marabella?

A: I wrote off and on for several years. When I finally put it all together and started editing, I found that to be incredibly challenging. Until I started trying to market and promote my book, editing was the toughest. Promotions take so much time away from writing.

Q: What is something you have learned, that you didn’t expect to, during this process?

A: I learned that even though I have an English degree and I am perfectly capable of editing for others, I need someone else to edit for me. I will certainly hire an editor for my next book.

Sandra Boutwell-Falcone at a book signing for "Marabella: Discovering Magics"

Sandra Boutwell-Falcone at a book signing for “Marabella: Discovering Magics”

Q: What is new and upcoming for you?

A: I am putting myself out there to try to get a few more paying gigs writing web articles to pay the bills and I am working on the next book in the series, Marabella, Quest for Magics. (IS Note: YAY! The sequel!)

Q: Do you have anything else to share?

A: I would like my friends and fans to know that I really enjoy getting the fan art. I have a few pieces a young lady drew after reading excerpts from Marabella, Discovering Magics before it was published. I love putting that on the blog. I have not posted much lately, on my blog or anything else as I have tried to give full attention to book 2. See my links below. Please check them out and LIKE or follow.

Check out more about Sandra by clicking here:

Blog – http:/.marabellaspeaks.blogspot.com

Website – http://sbfalconewrites.wix.com/s-b-falcone

FaceBook – https://facebook.com/pages/Marabella/505991099535227

You can also follow her on Twitter – @Sbfalcone – and Instagram – sbfalcone!