Thursday, April 17, 2014

 

Navigating Road Blocks - I Need Your Help!

Here it is, my turn again to write for the Muffin. These Muffin days are seriously my favorite days of the month. I hope you look forward to them as much as I do. The best part is the feedback and conversation from each of you - the readers! Since Easter is right around the corner, I was hoping to come up with something profound that might tie in with an Easter theme. Then I reminded myself not everyone celebrates Easter. I talked myself into a spring theme and talked myself right out of that one too…I think the snow outside was the determining factor in throwing that idea in the trash. It’s April in Wisconsin and I’m still sending children off to school with snow pants, hats, and mittens…I’d tell you what I think of that but the expletives are inappropriate.

Organization? Motivation? Determination? Time Management? My mind has been reeling about what to write. Another book review? Author interview? I talked myself in and out of so many titles and topics it is ridiculous. Truth be told, I do this to myself every time I sit down to write. I have an internal conversation about whether I should write a post for my blog, work on my book, read a book, review the work of others for my writing club, and the list goes on and on. Most days I talk myself out of writing and I scrub the floor, wash diapers, or fold laundry. The more I thought about this I realized I had found my topic. Unfortunately, my topic isn’t really profound at all, but hopefully will inspire some great conversation from you – my friends! (I'm sure you've noticed many of my road blocks in the two paragraphs you've already read...)

Here goes the great big question: WHAT IS STANDING IN YOUR WAY?

If you’re anything like me, YOU are standing in your way. That little voice in your head is telling you:
• That idea isn’t good enough
• No one is going to read that
• Don’t you have better things to do
• Your effort could be spent better elsewhere

Those are my road blocks, but I’ve heard some others as well:
• I want to go over this one more time before I send a query
• My book hasn’t been well received, I’ll ditch the idea
• I can’t stand one more rejection

And the follow up question: HOW DO YOU GET AROUND THOSE ROAD BLOCKS?

Here’s where I want to hear from you...
• Do you have an accountability partner helping you stay focused?
• Do you have a cheerleader reminding you about your goal?
• How do you get around your road blocks?

Crystal is a mother, church musician, business owner, active journaler, writer and blogger as well as a dairy farmer. She lives in Reedsville, Wisconsin with her husband, three young children (Carmen 7, Andre 5, Breccan 6 months), two dogs, two rabbits, four little piggies, and over 200 Holsteins. You can find Crystal blogging and reviewing books and all sorts of other stuff at: http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

 

Are Your Writing and Marketing Efforts Really Productive? (Two Productivity Strategies to Keep You Moving Forward)

by Karen Cioffi

Sometimes the moons and stars align and information that is relevant to your life bombards your week, directing you onto paths you should take.

Well, this happened to me.

Time management is one of my ongoing struggles, as with probably most of you reading this. So, what do you do? How do you create more hours in the day? How do you accomplish all the writing and marketing tasks you must, aside from keeping up with everything else in your life?

Ah, the $25,000 question.

Productivity Strategy Number One – Keep a List and Stick to It


I found a great site (JamesWedmore.com) that offers some very useful content. Interestingly, the post I read on this site pertained to being productive. This was the fourth article I came across within a few days dealing with time management, prioritizing, and productivity.

Part of the content discussed a $25,000 lesson by public relations and efficiency expert Ivy Ledbetter Lee.

The story (true story, just not sure of the exact account) goes that Charles Schwab, steel magnate, wanted to increase his company’s efficiency, so he contacted Lee. Lee requested 15 minutes with each of Schwab’s managers. Schwab asked how much would it cost. Lee told him that after three months, if he saw productivity improvement he could send Lee whatever he thought the training was worth. Three months later, Schwab sent Lee a $25,000 check. This was back around 100 years ago.

So, the $25,000 lesson?

It’s reported that Lee said to write a list of six must-do items that each manager needed to accomplish the next day, in order of importance. Whatever wasn’t completed that day would go over onto the next day’s list of six must-do items.

According to QuotationsBook.com, Lee instructed:

Write down the most important things you have to do tomorrow. Now, number them in the order of their true importance. The first thing tomorrow morning, start working on an item Number 1, and stay with it until completed. Then take item Number 2 the same way. Then Number 3, and so on. Don't worry if you don't complete everything on the schedule. At least you will have completed the most important projects before getting to the less important ones. 

Pretty simple, right?

Simple and powerful. Having a list of what you need to do gives you focus and that focus helps clear your mind, which in turn boosts productivity, allowing you to get the job done.

One thing James Wedmore said that I thought is also a good idea is to have a “brain dump” folder or notebook. If something pops into your head that you don’t want to forget, put it in the ‘brain dump file.’ This too helps keep your mind clear of clutter.

I call my ‘brain dump file’ My To Do List. If anything pops into my head, I open the file and type it in, leaving my mind free of the worry of remembering it.

Productivity Strategy Number Two – Meditate

If you make time for meditation, you’ll have more time. I read this or something like it recently, but forgot where or by who (if you know the author, please let me know, so I can give attribution). A case in point of information overload. 

But, how can you have more time if you take time out of your already hectic day to meditate?

According to Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, the average person has 70,000 thoughts per day. Since there are 1,440 minutes in a day and 86,400 seconds, this means you’re having thoughts almost every second of every day. Is it any wonder many of us have trouble focusing?

Meditation is another mind clearing tool that allows the brain to take a breather. It helps create a calmer you, thus leading to a more focused and productive you.

My acupuncturist, who was a neurologist in China and has been practicing Chinese medicine for over 35 years, says that the number one thing you can do for your health is to meditate.

Give it a Shot – Incorporate These Two Strategies into Your Writing and Marketing Work Week

Every Sunday, make a list of the top six must-do items for Monday. Don’t just breeze through your list of to-dos, take the time to think whether a particular item is REALLY needed. Will it move your goals forward? Will it earn you money?

At the bottom of your to-do list for each day, add: TAKE 15-30 MINUTES TO MEDITATE.

Do this for 90 days, as Lee instructed, and see what happens. Then let us know – leave a comment!

***

Karen Cioffi  is a multi-award-winning author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, editor, and author-writer online platform marketing instructor. She founded and manages Writers on the Move (a marketing group), and presents online writing and marketing workshops and webinars.

Karen has published 12 writing and marketing eBooks, the most recent, Article Marketing: Increase Website Traffic with Properly Formatted and Search Engine Optimized Content.

*** Join Karen's class, CREATE AND BUILD YOUR AUTHOR-WRITER ONLINE PLATFORM: Website Creation to Beyond Book/Product Sales, next starting on Monday, May 5, 2014. For information and registration, visit our classroom page. ***


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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

 

Jayne Martin, First Place Winner in Fall 2013 Flash Fiction Contest

Please welcome Jayne Martin to the blog today. She won first place in our Fall 2013 Flash Fiction Contest with her story, “The Heart of Town.” We’ll have a brief chat with her about her story, her writing habits and more. Read on!

Jayne is a TV-movie writer whose credits include “Big Spender” for Animal Planet and “A Child Too Many,” “Cradle of Conspiracy” and “Deceived By Trust” for Lifetime. She lives in Santa Ynez, California, where she rides horses, consumes copious amounts of great local wines and shares her view of the world on her blog, “injaynesworld - where nothing is sacred” Her book of humor essays, Suitable for Giving: A Collection of Wit with a Side of Wry, is available in paperback and digital formats through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your first place win! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Jayne: It’s a fabulous contest with great judges and very generous prize money. This was actually the fourth time I entered. The first time was a couple of years ago and I didn’t place at all. The next time, I made it to the top 20. Last spring, I reached the top 10. The biggest component of success in any endeavor is persistence and it paid off because this time I won.

WOW:  That's very inspiring how you moved up the ladder every time you entered. Persistence can pay off! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind “The Heart of Town?”

Jayne: It originated as a response to the prompt “flowers” on the Five Sentence Fiction website and was published in that abbreviated version on my blog, injaynesworld. The response was so positive with readers asking for more, so I developed it further into the version you see now. The voice and tone of the piece came to life all on its own. It was a story that wanted to be told and wanted to be told in its own way. That’s always a delightful surprise, rare as it is.

WOW:  How did you craft your winning flash fiction story? Did you have to edit much to get to the final version?

Jayne: As you can see from the previous answer, it started small and grew to the version it is now, but of course there is always editing. This piece was unusual for me in that it could be a children’s story, something I never intended when I started the piece, having never even attempted to write for children. I was a little unsure of what I had, but it seems to have an appeal to a range of ages, so we’ll see where it goes from here. It was fun to write anyway.

WOW:  We’d also love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Jayne: I usually write first thing in the morning from about 7:30 a.m. through noon, depending on what I’m working on. Afternoons or evenings are good times for editing, but the creative stuff needs to happen before my brain gets too caught up in the day’s demands. I live in a tiny cottage high on a hilltop in the air space of eagles and my desk looks out onto a sweeping view of a beautiful, rural valley. Far from inspiring me though, it’s often a distraction as I find myself staring into space and mulling over philosophical thoughts much of the time, and yet I must have quiet and solitude. How I envy those writers who can set up shop with their laptop at a Starbucks. It just looks so terribly cool.

WOW:  I know what you mean about writing in coffee shops. It seems like a fun idea but it can be challenging sometimes. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Jayne! Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?

Jayne: Jennifer Egan (“A Visit from the Goon Squad”) stated it best: Read at the level that you want to write. We learn through osmosis. I know I’m highly influenced by whatever I’m reading, so I try to challenge myself to “read above my grade level.” Whatever your genre, read the very best authors who are writing that genre. Then read the very best authors in every other genre. The whole point here is to nourish our minds as we nourish our bodies, with the highest quality of creative nutrients that we possibly can. In other words: Good stuff in; good stuff out.

***

Our Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest is OPEN
For information, click here.

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Monday, April 14, 2014

 

Book Review and Giveaway for Caught Between Two Curses, by Margo L. Dill

Today is a very exciting day here at the Muffin, as we are featuring an interview and giveaway with WOW’s very own Margo Dill, author of the recently released YA novel Caught Between Two Curses. Read on as we chat with Margo about the inspiration for the novel, advice on writing for children and teens, and for a review of the book. Plus, enter to win your very own copy at the bottom of this post!

Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Julie Nigelson is cursed. So is her entire family. And it's not just any-old-regular curse, either-it's strangely connected to the famous "Curse of the Billy Goat" on the Chicago Cubs. Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma and her entire love life is in ruins: her boyfriend Gus is pressuring her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is growing more attractive to her all the time. Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family's future, and her own love life-and time is running out!

Paperback: 242 pages
Publisher: Rocking Horse Publishing (March 18, 2014)
ISBN: 0991069560
ISBN-13: 978-0991069569



You can find Caught Between Two Curses at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and IndieBound, or your local bookstore.

About the author:
Margo L. Dill is a children's author, freelance editor, and workshop leader living in St. Louis, Missouri. She is also the author of the historical fiction middle-grade novel, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg (White Mane Kids, 2012) and the forthcoming picture books, Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire and the Case of the Missing Cookies, and Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure. Caught Between Two Curses is her first young adult novel. She promises that she is a Cardinals' fan at heart, but the Billy Goat curse on the Chicago Cubs is too irresistible for a plot line.

Website: http://margodill.com/blog/

Lit Ladies Blog: http://www.thelitladies.com

WOW: Welcome, Margo! First of all, congratulations on the publication of your new book! Caught Between Two Curses truly has something for every young adult reader, whether they love baseball or not! How did you get the idea for this book? Did you always plan to use the real Chicago Cubs "Curse of the Billy Goat" as one of the storylines, or did that come later?

Margo: Honestly--it was Steve Bartman in 2003, when he interfered with the ball at a Chicago Cubs playoff game, and everyone flipped out. It was all over the news. I got to thinking--what if the curse affected Bartman's brain that day and made him react? Then there was also a news story about a little girl who had survived a car crash when her parents had died. That got me thinking about why some people survive and why others don't. Is it true some people still have things left to do on earth, and this is why they survive? These were both interesting questions to me. I have no answers, of course, but these thoughts are why the book was born.

At first, I was going to make up a baseball team, but then I decided it would be much more fun to just use the Chicago Cubs!

WOW: I always love hearing the inspiration behind books. Which character in this book was the most fun to write and why?

Margo: That's a really hard question. I love JULIE--I tried to make her unique for a teen main character, in that she's pretty popular, but nice and likeable and full of flaws. I also hope I made her funny. But GRANDMA is a hoot to write, and Matt is every girl's dream--cute, nice, funny, and popular. So, it's a toss up.

WOW: I can see how Grandma was very fun to write--she was one of my favorite characters in the book, too!  I know you work with a critique group on a lot of your books. In what way was that group instrumental during the revision process for Caught Between Two Curses?

Margo: Well, if you look at the acknowledgement section of my book, you will see this book went through four critique groups because I moved so many times! My last two groups read the whole thing, and just gave great advice. They watched for consistency in my characters, if the plot was moving along, if the events were believable, and if I kept my voice or not. The Lit Ladies, my current critique group, suggested I take out almost the entire beginning (I had Julie appearing on a talk show, like Oprah), and I didn't want to. But when I did, I realized THEY WERE RIGHT. It was completely getting in the way of the story. But who knows? That show may come back in another novel.

WOW: I think your story about your critique group helps illustrate the point that while it's a scary prospect, beta readers are so necessary for every writer! What are some tips you can give our readers on writing for children and teens?

Margo: Read, read, read what is currently out on the market. If all you remember reading are the Newberry books from when you were a kid or the My Little Golden Books or even Nancy Drew mysteries, go to the library, talk to a librarian, and read some current books. Study them--how do authors get their characters across? What role do adults play? What topics are covered? Dialogue can be especially tricky. I also think you should join SCBWI. I get no cutbacks from this organization, but it is the best professional organization for beginning and published children's writers. It has resources and connections that you can't even imagine for about $8 a month! You are automatically connected with every other SCBWI member in your state for no additional charge, and all states host their own workshops and conferences for writers--some are even FREE!

WOW: I agree with the SCBWI recommendation. It's very worth it. What's up next? Do you have any other books in the works right now? Can you share any details with us?

Margo: I do! I have a humorous middle-grade mystery novel that I need to be sending out there. It's done. I also am working on another YA novel about a community shooting--the story is about two teenagers and what happens in their lives AFTER one of their dad's shoots the other dad in a multiple homicide. It's much more serious than what I usually write! Finally, I am brainstorming ideas for a second curses book--this would have a character from my first book and a new curse--maybe the curse on James Dean's car. . .

Book Review of Caught Between Two Curses 

By Renee Roberson

I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t watch a whole lot of baseball in our house. Actually, college basketball is really the only thing that has my family shouting at the television screen, so when I found out one of the curses in Dill’s book involved baseball, I worried it would keep me from fully understanding the story. Because I always like to be prepared, I researched the infamous Billy Goat curse before I turned the first page and found it very intriguing!

Any worries I had about the baseball aspect of the storyline quickly disappeared once I started reading Caught Between Two Curses. The main character in the story, Julie, admits in the novel that even she isn’t a huge fan of watching the Chicago Cubs play, but tolerates it for the most part because her family loves the team so much. Because of this, it makes perfect sense that she ends up being the one burdened with the responsibility for breaking the hold the two curses have over her family, the Billy Goat curse and the curse that threatens the lives of all the men on her maternal grandmother’s side.

From the opening pages of the book, where Julie fights with her boyfriend over whether or not she is ready to have sex, to the realization that a mysterious curse has plagued her family for decades, the novel takes off at a fast pace, keeping the reader turning page after page. There is a great cast of witty and zany characters in this book, from Julie’s adorable and loyal best friend Matt to her charming cad of a boyfriend, Gus. Julie’s grandmother, with her colorful head scarves, jangly bracelets, gazillion cats and uncanny sixth sense, is also well-written, and I found myself looking forward to every scene that featured her. Throughout the book, Julie is torn between trying to figure out her confusing love life to how she can possibly break the curse over her family that now threatens the life of her beloved Uncle Henri.

Baseball, and all the things that naturally go along with it, such as bratwursts, foam fingers, junk food, soda, and sitting in the crowded stands with hundreds of thousands of other fans makes for a great YA novel backdrop. Caught Between Two Curses is the perfect summertime read, with romance, adventure, and more than a little magic.


***** BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST *****

We also have an autographed copy of Caught Between Two Curses by Margo Dill to give away to one lucky reader! Just enter the Rafflecopter form below to be entered in the drawing.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Good luck!

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

 

Coming Up with A Marketing Plan that Makes Sense

I am in the throes of marketing my new YA book, Caught Between Two Curses. This is my second book; and this time, I'm trying to do everything right, learn from my mistakes with marketing Finding My Place, and continue to do what works well. Here are some areas I'm trying to think about with my second book to help me market and sell it.

  1. Where does my audience hang out? My audience is teenagers and adults that like to read YA. Online, these two groups of people hang out on different social media sites--Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram--visit well-kept-up blogs, and read their email. 
  2. How can I reach libraries? Librarians can really be your friend--how can I get this group's attention?
  3. How can I get reviews from my target audience? I've started giving teenagers free copies in order for an exchange of a review. I want honest reviews, but I am providing a copy. 
  4. What physical events can I do to get in front of teens? Do they go to library events or book store signings? Or is this a waste of my time? Maybe I can serve on a panel with more popular YA authors or create a writing workshop for teens who want an outlet.
  5. There are a lot of YA "reader" blogs--I can do a blog tour on these blogs to let readers know about my book. 
I am just now trying to figure all this out, but I do have an actual teenager in my critique group. I decided to ask her some questions about marketing to teens, and she gave me some great insights. I can't wait to implement her ideas. Because the fact is that if you are not actively marketing yourself, you will not sell many copies of your book. The other fact is that romance writers should not market the same way as nonfiction writers or mystery writers or children's writers. Our audiences are different, and so should our plans be different.

So, if you have a book out, do you have a marketing plan? What's on it?

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Saturday, April 12, 2014

 

Pay Rates: Is It Worth My While?

Recently, I realized how differently writers and their spouses look at money. Honestly, I thought it was just me. When I’m scanning markets, and check the pay rate, a market drops down the submission list if it pays less than the sewer bill. Another rises up the list because, with it, I can make a house payment. In fact, this is how my husband and I discuss them, “It pays the groceries” or “It’s good for a car payment.”

Then I spotted a Facebook thread. A fellow writer commented on a more practical way for Writer’s Market to rate markets, substituting for their current system replace-the-aging-kitchen-appliance or pay-someone-to-do-the-painting. Another writer commented that she interprets royalty checks in terms of college credits.
Kitchen cabinets. Swim team fees. A new windshield. Whatever is next in your bills, the reality is that if you are a freelancer some jobs are worth your while. Others simply eat up time and keep you from paying the bills.

Here are four things that I look for when assessing a market:

Pay Rate. First and foremost, I look at the pay rate. It sounds mercenary and, to an extent it is, but it’s also real. I can’t pay the light bill with “experience” or a “by-line.” To keep the lights burning, I need actual money. But the dollar amount alone doesn’t tell the whole story. . .

Time commitment. A craft activity may pay only $25. But I can rough an activity in 15 minutes. It doesn’t take all that long to earn that payment and by turning in multiple activities the check quickly bulks up. Keep track of how long it takes you to finish a $1000 article. Then see how long it takes to earn the same thing with smaller checks. Some smaller checks are worth the time. Others aren’t.

Rights. If a market buys all rights, it has to be something I can crank out quickly or it has to pay really well, because I can’t reuse the work elsewhere. If I market buys non-exclusive or one time rights, I can sell reprints. That means that even if the market doesn’t pay that well, I can earn a second and third check.

Exposure. Some jobs don’t pay well and I can’t easily reuse the work, but they give good exposure. If I can get my name and bio in front of a large number of readers, that means students in my WOW! class. It can be great advertising for your book or whatever helps pay your bills.

It isn’t all about the money, but if that is how you pay the bills, don’t be surprised when you start to evaluate various jobs in terms of groceries, new tires and phone bills.

--SueBE

Sue Bradford Edwards blogs about writing at One Writer's Journey.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

 

Friday Speak Out!: What Can You Learn From a Pile of Poop?

by Sioux Roslawski

Okay, the truth is, perhaps it's not a pile of poop. Perhaps it's something salvageable. But no one's sure yet.

My first (and perhaps last) manuscript (a chick lit novel) is finished (finally). It's a complicated story (involving several “layers”) and I'm worried I'm so close (and so emotionally attached) that I'm unable to accurately assess its worth.

Too many parenthetical phrases, you say? I imagine the parenthesis density is due to my less-than-sure footing when it comes to this manuscript.

Currently, five writers have it. Three are reading it, one is using it as a doorstop, and the other is going to have a party soon and needs confetti...so, to the shredder it goes. While I wait for their feedback, I'm contemplating the pluses of a finished manuscript, even if the stack of papers end up being one big minus.

What can I learn from a not-even-close-to-stellar manuscript? Ever the optimist, I think there's lots to gain from a gigantic pile of fecal matter.

• I've learned how to keep the momentum going. It's easy (okay—sometimes it's easy) to stay in the groove when a piece is 1,000 words long, but when you're shooting for 80,000, there's lots of times when you sit your butt in the chair—with no idea of what you're going to write—and you write in spite of that.

• I've discovered that when you allow yourself to freefall, you almost always end up making a safe landing. The cool (and the frustrating...and the scary) thing about fiction is when you're a seat-of-the-pants type of writer—like I am—you don't always know where your story is headed. But to finish it, and to be totally immersed in the characters and the plot, you have to be willing to round that corner...blindly.

• I found out that the pesky editor that resides inside my head has to have their mouth duct-taped shut—at least most of the time. To get that many words down on paper—to get that much black on white—a writer has to forge ahead the majority of the time. I would go back at times and tinker with parts, but if I worried about making every single line perfect, I'd still be on page one...after a year and a half of working on it.

• I've learned to appreciate honest feedback (although really, this wasn't a recent discovery). At least one of my beta readers promised that I will need a crash helmet, that her editing will result in a bumpy ride for me. I love that. Hearing what is great about one's writing won't make anyone a stronger writer. However, when weaknesses and areas that could be improved are highlighted, that strengthens our craft.

So, I'm still here—on pins and needles. No feedback yet, but I'm feeling fine—no matter what kind of hurling is hurled onto my manuscript, it has proven to be an invaluable experience.

* * *
Sioux Roslawski is one of the founding members of the WWWPs, an infamous writing critique group in St. Louis. Her stories can be found in nine Chicken Soup for the Soul books, along with several volumes in Publishing Syndicate's Not Your Mother's Book series. For more of her musings, go to http://siouxspage.blogspot.com.
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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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