Thoughts Brought on by Hugh Howey’s Blog

I just read “Writing Insights Part One: Becoming a Writer” on Hugh Howey’s blog,  Hugh Howey, the Wayfinder. The first of a four part series. It has started me thinking, given me support, and inspired different thinking when it comes to marketing. I find much of Howey’s ten things he wished he’d known before he started writing hits directly on me. I understand what he is saying. I have either been there, am there right now, or will be there. It is a relief to know that I am not the only one whose first real attempt at writing something I thought might be publishable was when I was a teenager and that it was more than twenty years later before that particular attempt became a finished product. It is a relief to know that it is okay to want to write and read – to need to write and read. It is a relief to know there are readers out there looking for my books, my stories – I just have to write them first. Then once they are written I can spend the time marketing them to those readers. But I have to write them first.

Howey suggests getting five to six books published before really diving into marketing. I am not quite halfway there. So in the mean time how do I get the word out? How do I build that 1,000 followers who will demand my books, share my books, talk about my books? Do I have to figure out how at the same I should be writing? Can I do multiple things at the same time? Should I spend money on getting someone to help me in this area just as I have hired an editor, book designer,  proofreader, and e-book transformer? I know I am struggling in this marketing portion. I know I can’t do it all. How can I get those readers who seem to like what I’ve written so far to help me?

And I have a several readers who are passionate about what I am writing. Some of them are helping me get the word out by telling their libraries to get copies of my books; by telling their friends to get my books; and they are buying books to give to others because they want to share their excitement and enjoyment for what I am writing. They are demanding the next book. I am learning from them – becoming a better writer. I am filled with energy and ideas that I receive from conversations with them about my books. I still have a long way to go. I know I have to get the third book of the scifi series out. That it has to be better than book number two, which was better than book number one. Each one will be better than the last – at least that is my goal. (see my blog about Another Award Winner!)

I am listening to those readers who talk to me. Their voices are filled with excitement. Their body language is animated. They ask lots of questions. Some I won’t answer. Some I can’t – not yet. They give me ideas, they explain their thoughts on why I wrote something, or what they hope I will include or what they hope will happen. They tell me how much they like my writing style, my author’s voice. Sometimes I wish they would write it all down and post to their Goodreads pages, to Amazon, to my Facebook pages, to LinkedIn, and to my blog page. I wish they would go to my website and write down these comments, questions, etc. I so enjoy seeing them, hearing them and I want to share their enthusiasm. Right now these interactions happen between tips at a dance event, during an interlude at a meeting, late a night after an event while Bob & I are trying to clean up a hall or just before an event is to happen and we are setting up.  I am trying to figure out how to let others hear and see their reactions to what I am writing. And I realize that while I am trying to research and learn how to share that, I am not writing the next chapter of the next book. The few I have so far, already really want the third and fourth books, as soon as possible. So, I am in a quandary. Write? Market? Both?

 

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Another Award Winner!

My cell phone buzzed, my editor’s name scrolled across the screen. I clicked into the text message. It read: You got SECOND PLACE!

I was in Wyoming at a national dance event and not able to attend the 2017 Colorado Independent Publishers Association’s EVVY Awards for independent publishers. I had been informed two weeks prior that The Balance, the second book of my scienthe_balance_cover_for_kindlece fiction series was a finalist in the science fiction category but I would not know if it had earned enough points to place until the award ceremony on August 19, 2017. Since I knew that I would not be able to attend the ceremony I had asked my editor if she would represent me just in case the book picked up an award. She graciously accepted saying that, of course, The Balance would place. I was not so sure because I had entered it in two other categories, Fantasy and Cover Design, and it had not been a finalist in either. My reaction was mixed on learning that – but that will be left for another blog.

I was surprised at my relief after reading Melanie’s text. Then I reread the text. SECOND IMG_1727 2017 EVVY Award 2nd PlacePLACE! I did a little happy dance and ran to find my husband and friends to tell them.

In 2014, the first book of The Stone’s Blade series, The Blood, had placed Third in both Fantasy and Science Fiction categories and the cover & interior design had received a Merit award. I had originally planned to enter The Balance in the EVVY Awards in 2016, the year it was published. However, due to unexpected delays in the cover design, publication of the book would not be in time to enter. So I had to wait almost a full year. It seems the wait was worth it.

I knew the second book was better than the first. There was a tremendous amount of work to keep story line’s straight, characters straight, and the decision to focus on particular story lines was perhaps the most important, all the while continuing sub-stories moving forward at the same time so I could highlight them in the third and perhaps fourth books being planned. And to my surprise (yes, I was surprised) a Second place in the 2017 EVVY Awards stated that we had succeeded in our goal of making The Balance better. It took team work to get this award and I thank my daughter, Kristina Book, for sparking the idea that led to the story line; my editor, Melanie Mulhall, for her coaching, mentoring, editing, and help in ferreting out the intricacies of writing a complicated series; my proofreader & e-book transformer, Helena Mariposa, for her talents, and my cover & interior designer, Nathan Fisher, for his inspired vision of the Stones which graces the cover.

When I picked up the physical award from Melanie the following week she commented that she expected the third book to bring in a First place when it was entered – she’s thinking of 2018 and I’m thinking 2019. No pressure there. Since I am only a third of the way into the rough draft I guess we will just have to wait and see. There’s exciting stuff coming up.

In the mean time you can get your own copies of award winning science fiction The Blood and The Balance via Amazon (paperback and e-book) or paperbacks at any of the three locations of The Tattered Cover Bookstore in the Denver metro area – they are in the young adult fiction shelves. Of course, you can always track me down and get a signed copy from me at a reduced price.

Let me know what you think. Oh, I am available for author events, book signings, etc. Contact me at allynn@timberdark.com.

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I Did Not See That Coming

So, you never know who will read your book and be so excited that they tell every one they know how good it is. I truly was not expecting what happened a couple of months ago.

I was the substitute representative of my Chapter at a P.E.O. meet and greet tonight and part of the introductions included what we “did.” I explained that I owned a small independent publishing company and that my second book had just been published. One of the women present asked what genre of book. I replied that it was a science fiction/fantasy  cross over. She responded with “I love science fiction and fantasy!”

I pulled out a business card which had a photo of the cover of the first book with a list of the awards it has received and a direct url on Amazon. After she studied the cover photo for a minute she announced “My daughter has this book! She has read it and told me that I should look into getting it quick because it was going to be a great series!”

I did not see that coming. I was skeptical that it was the same book but she insisted, saying her daughter described the cover very well and that it was just too different not to recognize. She then asked if I had either one with me. Now how did she know I had several copies of both books in a box out in the car? She pulled out her check book, asked me how much for both books and could I sign them both to her daughter. Well, I was not going to say no to that. I brought in the box and several other women passed them around – sharing the excitement and small worldliness of the exchange. Another of the attendees said she remembered seeing an article in the May issue of the P.E.O. Record about the book.

Yes, it is a small world and therefore you as an author need to make sure your book is the best it can be because, believe me, people will talk about what they read. Plus you should always have business cards with your book cover images on hand to hand out to interested people. Make these clear and concise without too many words and include a link or QR code to where they can purchase it/them. This is ESPECIALLY important if you don’t have actual copies of the book with you.

She was so excited about giving her daughter two signed books and she is planning to swipe her daughter’s current copy for herself and bring it back to Denver so I can sign that one to her. I asked her where her daughter lived. The answer? Washington state. Kind of bizarre if you ask me.

This interaction has made me aware of several things:

  1. If you write a good story people will read it and encourage others to do the same.
  2. Make your cover memorable – it helps with recognition.
  3. Design a good business card and always have several on hand.
  4. Be proud of what you write. Own being an author. Don’t keep it a secret.
  5. Always have a couple of copies on hand.
  6. Keep writing – because if they liked this one they will want more.

 

 

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Radio Interview!

Last fall I participated in an author interview on KYGT in Idaho Springs, Colorado. I was nervous but show host Jerry Fabyanic had given me a short list of topics he planned to cover, so I was not going in to this new experience totally unprepared. Even so I hope you will pardon all the umms and uhs on my part because it was broadcast live – no cuts or retakes on that first airing. The link, below, has had the local announcements of sponsors and upcoming programs removed but otherwise it is what it was. Jerry has been a radio host on KYGT, known as The Goat, since 2004. He interviews local and regional authors on his radio show “The Rabbit Hole.” I was introduced to him  early in 2016 at a Colorado Independent Publishers Association meeting as he was preparing to publish his first book, Sisyphus Wins, which garnered a 3rd Place award in the 2016 CIPA EVVY Awards. His editor, Melanie Mulhall of Dragonheart Writing and Editing, is also my editor so we have a bit more in common than being award winning authors.
mtn-goat-8-july-2006Anyway, for your listening curiosity, here is a link to that show: Radio Interview. Jerry made me feel very comfortable and we wandered around a variety of topics involved with writing, especially on writing science fiction and fantasy. He was intrigued that the characters in my books talk to me in dreams and often won’t leave me alone until I tell their story the way it “actually” happened.

You can read more about Jerry and his works at www.JerryFabyanic.com and you can listen to all his interviews and shows on “The Rabbit Hole” at www.kygt.org, The Goat.

If you are an author living in the Colorado area, you should consider contacting Jerry to see if he can get you on his schedule. It was a fun and different experience. My husband, Bob and I got to Idaho Springs early and walked the main streets until show time. We were delighted to be scheduled that particular weekend because the town was celebrating “Dynamite Days” and the streets were lined with all sorts of artisans and performers. All that helped me relax. Once at the radio studio Jerry and I exchanged books and then launch into the interview, which lasted about one hour. It sure went by fast! Afterward Bob and I celebrated this event with a late lunch at a restaurant, Mountain Prime (MTN Prime), across the street from the famous Beau Jo’s Pizza. Since I shouldn’t ingest gluten or dairy products (darn, I love pizza but really cannot handle the usual crusts & ,toppings – they cause the joints in my hand to swell and hurt, a lot) the menu at Mountain Prime suited my alterations better. And, honestly, I had one of the best hamburgers (without the bun) and sweet potato fries I think I have ever had. We will be going up there again!

Have you been on the radio? What did you do to relax? What about celebrating?

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Something has changed

Something is changing. In the last two weeks I have been approached by several authors who have liked my reviews on various books that I have read (some I read and reviewed more than two years ago!). They liked my review of whatever book it was and they are offering free downloads of their book if I will give them a review. I am fascinated by this.

Should I have expected this? No one said that I should. I did not. It has caught me completely off guard. Amazon notifies me if someone likes one of my reviews or if someone found my review helpful, but that is all. It is they, these authors, who have reached out to me because of my writing.

I  am suddenly curious as to how I can use this to some advantage. Obviously first I should probably be careful in which books to review. I have interacted with only two of these authors so far because their books actually interest me. If the subject or genre is not of any interest I know I will not be able to review a book properly. I do try to widen my reading diversity but some subjects or genres are very low on my list.

A couple of the requests have come from authors who have written in a completely different genre than the book they liked my review of. (that is a awkward sentence – did I get the point across?). I am trying to figure out whether or not to respond to them at all. It’s like receiving a letter addressed to Mister Allen Rigg. Obviously they have not done their research – a top priority. First I am female and appreciate and expect the correct salutation. Second and probably most important spell my name correctly. If the review they liked is on a children’s book and they are asking me to review their steam punk erotica book, I am probably not going to say yes – there is a slight disconnect between the two. However, if their book is on writing and they have contacted me because of a review of a similar book then the answer is probably on the positive side.

I was surprised by the first request which came to me three weeks ago. I have since received three more requests. The realization that I have been “out there” reading, reviewing, writing, and publishing for over four years and all of a sudden I am getting attention from other authors is intriguing, unexpected, and (if I am honest) humbling. I have written things that have made an impact on someone. And they want my opinion on their book. I am honored.

At the moment my hope is that the ones I choose to read and review are decent and have something to offer me as a reader and as a writer. But something has changed and I don’t know what.

Have you experienced anything like this? Have you been asked to read and review a book because of a review you have written? How do you handle the request. Do you use the same technique and contact reviewers of books that are similar to yours and ask them to read and review your book? Should I do that?

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In Search of My Expertise

Jeff Goins says in his blog, Copyblogger.com, from May 2016 that “One way to help others is to first share how you’ve helped yourself. Hidden in your experience is an expertise other people need.” Click here for more of Mr. Goins’ blog on how writing can enhance your life.POV outline 2 for The Balance 1-16-2015

I know writing has made me happier than ever, excited about the future, and has encouraged me to expand my knowledge. Writing and reading lets me explore new worlds, new ideas, and old things in new and fantastic ways. Writing encourages my imagination. Sometimes it helps keep order in my world and other times it bleeds words and chaos – which is not necessarily a bad thing. Writing has shown me that I love life, my life. I wake up every morning wanting to write. I go to bed every night wanting to write. I dream about writing.

Is this the expertise other people are in search of or need? I don’t know. I am not the one to say what others need. I do know that I am going to write until I find it and then I will continue to write.

Come along with me. Let’s do it together, let’s discover our own expertise by writing. Starting right now.

 

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Letting Go of or Changing the Goal

It is difficult to let go of a goal. Or even change the goal. Actually it is not the goal itself, rather it is letting go of the interim step, the first step, towards the main goal. The main goal is book three of the sci-fi series, tentatively titled The Blades. The interim step was writing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November (NaNoWriMo ). It was meant to be the leap off the cliff with the introduction of Uncle Reslo as a point of view character and the beginnings of figuring out the mysterious woman (or the b**** in the corner) who showed up out of nowhere while writing the first 52,000 words of book two, The Balance (written in the_balance_cover_for_kindlethe NaNoWriMo challenge in 2012). I figured that this year I now had the opportunity to find out who the heck is she and what does she want. – You can read chapter nineteen in The Balance to meet her.
 
While I did make a solid stab at that interim goal with over 33,000 words and I am getting to know both Reslo and Sarinne (that b*** now has a name, which I did discover during those 33,000 words), I still feel sad that I did not WIN the 50,000 word challenge. I participate in a weekly writing group that had gotten to know each other during the 2012 NaNoWriMo where I started The Balance. Four of the six of us took on the challenge this year. Three WON! I am so proud of their efforts. Two of them did not think they could do it in the beginning because the writing process is so different from how they have been writing.
 
And here I am, having succeeded with my first NaNoWriMo challenge in 2012 and having nanowrimo-winner-100x100-2published two books in the last two years, and this year I only managed 33,000 words in 30 days. — I kind of want to hear an ‘oh, you poor thing,’ from you on this but I know that won’t happen. — It took a comment from Rondi, one of the writing group’s members who was working on editing a MG book instead of doing the NaNoWriMo challenge, who explained to me that even though I had not written 50,000 words on a single project I had been and was successfully living the life of a writer. That I WAS a winner through my work on editing a quarterly publication for a non-profit organization, assisting that img_3725organization with upgrading the management of their membership files and helping their election of board members move forward. And, of course, she added the awareness of the extra duties and travels I was experiencing with my father’s recovery from a serious leg injury (a comminuted fracture, where the bone shatters into three or more pieces, of his femur at age of 89) and all the changes and decisions that needed and still need to be made with the help of my siblings and my father.
 
After that small lecture she suggested that I go buy a calendar where I can write in each day what I have done as a writer. That includes reading in my genre, research, listening to podcasts on writing, participating in webinars, marketing, editing anything (including my husband’s writings for our square dance business), updating my website, and writing for my blog. She said even reading for pleasure is part of the life of a writer and should be written down. she showed me her calendar, begun just three months ago, and it was a visible record and proof of the FACT that she was a writer every day and not just on one project. I am purchasing that calendar today.
 
So, while I didn’t complete what I thought would be my first step on one project I did in fact, get my foot planted on the ground and I have momentum to take the next step – it will just take a few more weeks. And now, that is okay because I am a writer and I will live the life of a writer every day. Even if it is jotting down ideas that come to me while driving to and from my father’s rehab facility or shopping for groceries, or meditating in the dry sauna or while swimming laps at the gym.
 
I am not going to focus on the length of time it takes me to complete that interim step – this is the letting go of the goal part – because I know I will complete it. I can be proud of the fact that I got it started.oakland-trailhead-near-larry-r-03-15-2015
 
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” – Lao Tzu
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Q & A #53 – Susan Mackay Smith, “Conan the Grammarian”

Conan the Grammarian is the first thing I read when I get the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ monthly newsletters. Now, to have it all in one place is a good thing – for every writer and reader. Here is Mark Stevens’ review and Q & A of author Susan Mackay Smith’s informative and fun book.

Don't Need A Diagram

cover-conan“Clarity is what matters to readers.”

That’s the clarion call of one Conan The Grammarian, a.k.a. Susan Mackay Smith, who has been writing columns in the monthly newsletter from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers for about ten years.

Now, Conan is out with a handy reference guide that distills those columns into an inspiring volume titled, handily enough, Conan the Grammarian, Practical Guidelines on Grammar and Craft for Fiction Writers.

Remember Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation? This book would sit handsomely on your shelf alongside it and all your other writing resources.

Conan sets a high bar for writing. And writers.  Cool plots, Conan argues, can be enhanced by the nuances of language.

But, fear not. This is a light (near breezy) read that will leave you feeling encouraged and emboldened, not depressed or over-anxious. In fact, Conan talks a good game but, in the end…

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Writing Ways

The past four years have been an interesting experiment in the ways of writing a novel. The second book of my science fiction/fantasy series was published September 1, 2016 – just thirty days ago. The manner in which it was written was completely different from the first book and the third book is being written in yet a different method.

Book number one began many years ago as a short story when I was fourteen. Yep, ancient history since I am now approaching the great age of sixty. The Blood was written over decades as family life and circumstances allowed. The writing was basically linear. Start here, what happens next, and next, and next, and finally here is the end. The only major change was that the opening scenes were moved around a bit. Yet, it was still basically written from a beginning to an end.

Book two’s first draft took me thirty days to write thanks to NaNoWriMo in 2012. The challenge was to write fifty thousand words in thirty days! I figured I should try a different method of writing if I wanted to be alive when the second book got published. So while the first book was being looked at by my carefully chosen editor during November 2012 I took on the challenge of creating the base for the follow up novel, The Balance.The_Balance_Cover_for_Kindle I decided that instead of trying to be linear I would just write scenes that hopefully would come to me every day – and prayed that some of it would be good. I gave myself the freedom to write crappy stuff along with the amazing. I knew it would all be edited uncountable times in the future and so I wrote with abandon. And after thirty days I found I had scribbled over fifty two thousand words. I patted myself on the back and put it off to the side because the first book came back to me and there was a lot of work to do before publishing it.

While I found the process of writing whatever scenes popped into my head in the morning invigorating and joyful I struggled to NOT edit what I had written the day before. The discipline of just getting words down actually freed up my imagination and by the end of the month all sorts of surprising things occurred. Most important was the appearance of “the bitch in the corner.” All sorts of questions popped up when she showed up in a scene – rather she was standing in the shadows making snide comments to my antagonist and I had no idea where she’d come from. She intrigued me. I had not planned on her. And I believe that the free writing of the NaNoWriMo allowed her to come forward. If I had tried to write the second book linearly I am not sure she would have announced herself. It was not until after the first book was published and I returned to that very messy draft that I discovered she was actually in the first book as a very minor character. And while she is still a minor character in the second book she has come alive and will be featured more prominently in the third and fourth books. She is important. I am still learning about her. She fascinates me. She is going to be fun to write!

Soon after The Blood was published in May 2014, I realized the haphazard just-write-whatever-scene-you-want method I had employed with the first draft of The Balance was going to cause me all sorts of trouble. In order to bring order to that draft’s chaos I printed it, then physically cut each scene out, stapled it together and laid it on the carpet with a one sentence label of what happened. I studied each scene and arranged and rearranged the scenes until I felt it was almost in the correct order. While doing this I added colored POV outline 2 for The Balance 1-16-2015notes of what I thought might be transitional scene yet to be written. Once that was complete I returned to the computer and painstakingly organized the electronic draft to match the sequence of scenes on the floor. I even posted those notes on a white board to get a condensed visual of the story. Over the next ten months I added another forty thousand or so words and it smoothed out. The Balance was published September 1, 2016.

Now as I begin work on the third installment of the series, The Blades, I am tackling the writing process in yet a different way. I still want the challenge and freedom of the NaNoWriMo but I also know, now, that I need a structure around which to build the story. So while reading a published electronic copy of The Balance this past month, I highlighted sections, questions, subplots, etc. and made notes as to which could be tied up in the third book and which ones will most likely be continued into the fourth title, The Seventh Stone. The ability to highlight and comment or make notes in the electronic version is giving me a template for scenes and topics as well as a rudimentary outline. I also have picked up a resource book, How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, by Randy Ingermanson, to help build the needed structure for the story and character arcs I have in mind. This being said, the vast difference between the decades long careful linear writing of The Blood and the crazy mad word gushing that NaNoWriMo allowed for the basis of The Balance, has a enabled me to be okay with a variety of methods to write a novel. To be honest, I enjoyed both and look forward to experimenting with a couple of other ways. Now when I am stuck I have a several things to try that will shake me out of whatever hole/rut I have dug.

What I am finding is that an author does not have to write each book or story in the same manner as the first. If you are open to and honestly try new ways you may discover new things about your characters and their stories. Don’t hobble your imagination by deepening your writing rut. Climb out, let go of the constraints, and try something different. If it doesn’t work – don’t have regrets and don’t retreat to the rut. Stay out and play with words.

 

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The Balance is here!

Now the marketing work begins – or rather continues to ramp up. How am I marketing this entertaining second installment of The Stone’s Blade series? Here is a list of the things I have started:

First I had my book designer, Nathan, upload the print version of the book to Create Space and made it available on Amazon after approving the file. Then, with support from my eBook transformer, Helena, I learned how to upload the The_Balance_Cover_for_Kindle.mobi file to Amazon’s KDP program. That one took about four tries before I got it right but it did work after a good night’s sleep and a fresh outlook on the process.

Then I moved to Goodreads and created a Giveaway for five autographed copies to readers in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. I am running the Giveaway for a full month and three days in 138 people have entered. So take a moment and enter the Giveaway (see below for the link).

I have announced that The Balance is live and ready for reading on both my personal and business Facebook pages.

If you want to purchase a copy directly from me you only have to attend one of our dances. One benefit to doing that is you will receive a twenty percent discount. Granted none of the books I sell personally gets recognized on Amazon but that’s okay. I do receive a larger royalty by selling on my own too. And that helps my bank account. I am hoping that one day I will break even on this venture. At the moment that means selling between one and two thousand copies. And you can help by purchasing a copy or two (insert smiling face here!) for yourself, family and/or friends. To buy from Amazon click here.

If you enjoy reading this second installment please take a moment to post a brief review on Amazon and Goodreads. This way you are helping me spread the word.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Balance by Allynn Riggs

The Balance

by Allynn Riggs

Giveaway ends September 30, 2016.

See the giveaway details

 

I thank you in advance for joining me on the continuing adventure of The Stone’s Blade series. Let me know what you think and share your thoughts. Help me celebrate!

 

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