Saturday, February 26, 2011

Here at The End

Yesterday, I wrote ‘The End’ at—where else?—the end of a manuscript. I don’t usually write that when I finish something, but this one seemed to deserve the honor. To lay the groundwork, this manuscript has been the bane of my existence for the last two years. I actually reached the end of a rough draft nearly a year and a half ago, but there has been a lot of blood spilled in the rewrites (both on and off the paper). I considered writing other things at the bottom of the page as I went—things like Die You Monstrosity or I Give Up—but with a lot of support from my family and writing friends, I persevered.

I know it’s not really the end. There’ll be more rewrites, fine-tuning and tweaking once it gets back from the reviewers. Then start the query letters.

Here’s the really strange thing: On the way to The End I found out I kind of like this wounded woman who is the main character. I want to know if she and the keeper of a man she found actually make it.

Who knows? There might be another book in there. Maybe it’s not The End after all…

Friday, February 25, 2011

OMG!!!

I almost forgot to blog today.
There has been so much going on this last month.

So what should I tell ya.

OH!!! I got something.
If you don't know what Groupon is you should.
It's an email marketing campaign that comes right to your email daily. It has coupons for sale to local business. For instance, we bought a Barnes & Nobles coupon for $10.00 but it was worth $20.00. We purchased a couple for restaurants in town, and most of the time they are 50% off.
We also are going on a vacation this year and have signed up for Groupon for the city we will be visiting. So the other night we got a Groupon and purchased a night at a hotel for $119.00 originally $239.00.
(We did check prices on their web site first to see if we actually were getting a deal).
So try it and support your local businesses.
www.groupon.com

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

High on Words

For me, there are several kinds of highs involved with writing.

The Concept High: That’s the one where I get an idea I know I can’t walk away from – an idea that makes me gleeful, and giddy and sometimes even giggly. It’s the idea that won’t leave me alone and makes me smile whenever I think of it. I had one of those a few nights ago. It came to me while I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep. Once it hit, I knew sleep was impossible until I jotted down all of the ideas that were spinning like shiny pinwheels in my head. While I was scribbling notes as fast as I could, I realized I was giggling. Alone in my bed. Out loud. Like a loon. It’s three days later, and I still smile whenever I think about my new sparkly idea.

The Flow High: This is the one that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, but when it does, I’m all kinds of excited. This is the feeling of elation that accompanies those bouts of almost effortless writing where I’m in the zone and the tapping of the keys sounds like a soft, steady rain falling while the words flow like a fast moving stream onto the page. There’s almost a feeling of invincibility as I watch the words spread to cover the page.

The Finish High: There’s nothing quite like the feeling of the big finish. For me, this doesn’t happen when I type “The End”. It happens after my critique partners read “The End” and I tweak and tweak some more. The rush of excitement gets even stronger when I send the whole thing off to my editor. As a side note – the Finish High is usually quickly replaced by the Finish Fear which is the worry that my editor will hate it.

The Reader/Reviewer High: This is a special kind of high. It’s the kind I can pull out and look at whenever I need to. Reader letters and reviews are great when I first get them, but there are other times when they’re even more important. Like when I’m out of ideas, or when I have no flow, or when I can’t see the end no matter how much I squint. Sometimes it helps to peek at a great review or an especially lovely reader letter to remind myself of what that writing high feels like so I can find my way back to the flow.

In a way, I think most writers are probably adrenaline junkies. We’re addicted to the writing high.

Monday, February 21, 2011

I Should Not Be Following Jen Today

I should really not be following Jen today after her eternally happy turtle photo.

But, I am. Because 21 always follows 2o.

For whatever reason this year, my dad's passing has hit me rather hard. His birthday was on the 19th, and as I stood for the National Anthem at my daughter's swim meet, as I sang along (quietly, I rarely sing for people to listen) I started to cry (something I try to avoid when others are around). The military plaque on his headstone reads Vietnam. Something that shocked me, because I only ever knew he was Navy.

One of my friends was talking about her dad and a personal anniversary and how if things hadn't gone the way they did she wouldn't have started writing or gotten out of the marriage to an idiot. Writing for me hasn't given me anything like that. I have been writing since I was 10. It's all I've wanted to do. School is really just for my kidlet. But my dad is the only member of my blood-family that actually supported me. Now my friend family - way different story. But then again, when it came to civil war military history - there was no one smarter than my dad. Something that I found out when I had to argue a point of history with my history teacher in junior high and later high school.


I leave with this - a photo I took at 4th of July celebration last year - life and our accomplishments should always be celebrated.






Caley

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

10 Reasons Why You Should Twitter

But I don’t want to Twitter

"I’m a writer," you moan. "I struggle to find time to write my manuscript/poems/screenplay. I don’t need to Twitter. Besides, there’s no reason to market my writing until it’s sold."
Wrong, my friend. Oh, so wrong. The time to start building your platform (yes, I said the dreaded “P” word) is long before publication. You need to connect with your audience and have your name recognized so when you do have a book published, your faithful readers will buy it.
Would you buy from a stranger, someone who appears out of the blue, screaming “Buy my book! Buy my book!” Of course not, and neither will anyone else.

Think of it as pre-marketing.
You’ll be targeting a specific audience (readers) in your genre. It’s all about connections. While bookmarks or other tchotchkes momentarily connect with a reader (not necessarily in your genre,) Twittering connects with them continually. They’ll identify with you and spread the word about your writing. And word-of-mouth is priceless advertising.

How do you start and what do you do once you’re there?

1. Open a Twitter account. It’s free and painless. Use your pseudonym if it’s available. If not, get creative. You know about creating, right? Just make sure it’s part of your platform.
2. Personalize your account. Add a picture. It doesn’t have to be of you sitting at your computer, writing. Show your house before and after you move in. Add a picture of your leg in a cast after that fateful skiing accident (you Twittered about it, didn’t you?) Photos give you a face (pun intended.) You’re not Winona Writer, you’re Winona who likes Chinese food and and knows which agents accept which genres.
3. Write a profile, briefly telling about yourself (did you backpack through Europe? People like details.) Add links to your blog and website (and don’t you dare tell me you have neither.) All of these touches prove you’re a real person, someone they can identify with.
4. Use software to manage your accounts. Tweetdecks.com, Hootsuite.com and Twitterific.com help your sort your incoming tweets into categories, tweet in advance and post to different social media sites (do you post the same message individually to Facebook, Twitter and your blog? With these tools, you don’t have to.)
5. Find an audience. With www.Twellow.com you can search by area, occupation, etc. Find the important people in your niche and follow their tweets. Leave comments and retweet their posts.
6. Find lists and participate in tweetchats. (www.tweetchat.com) Use hashtags (#) such as #amwriting and #askagent. They’re active communities and great places to network.
7. Tweet great content. This is the #1 rule of your marketing plan. If all you have to say is “Went to the dentist, no cavities” your audience won’t care. If, however, you give good content (like why you need to use Twitter) your followers will see you as someone of value. Give advice, take the other side of a controversial issue, post useful links (with a brief description so your readers won’t waste their time if they aren’t interested) and support others.
8. Retweet and be retweetable. Retweet (there’s a button for it) good stuff you find and keep your own tweets to <120 characters so others can retweet your good stuff. 9. Don’t over-abbreviate. Twitter restricts you to 140 characters, but don’t make your msg so shrt ppl cnt rd it. 10. Don’t use full URLs. If you’re pointing someone to www.grandmasgoodfood.com for a great recipe, you’ve wasted 23 of your 140 characters. Instead, shorten the URL at http://bit.ly and www.tinyurl.com.  

Remember, it's not about selling books, it's about making connections.
Finally, have fun. The people who follow you today will be there tomorrow to support you, answer questions and buy your books. A two-way conversation will turn into a two-way connection. Can you buy that with a bookmark?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I don't want to blog, but...

I gotta tell ya, I don’t feel like blogging today, but blog I will. Why? Because I committed to it. It sort of reminds me about my own writing. There are so many days where I don’t want to do it, but I sit down and do it anyway. because otherwise, life and my To Do List will take over my writing time and that book that’s in my mind will only stay in my mind.

Why does everything seem more important than sitting down to write? Even as I sit here and write this, my mind is busy with all the things I need to do, things like laundry, and take a shower, and bills, and cooking, and catch up on my classes. I need to prep for next week’s lessons and I have a narration I have to read and create characters for. I need to exercise and I need to get back in shape and I need to keep on keeping on. My son has asked me to complete a level in his Star Wars Lego game that he can’t finish, so I also need to practice that game to help him out. In a couple of hours, I have to get my daughter from preschool and I really need to vacuum the entire house.

But right now, I’m writing. I’m writing because I said I would and because even though I have a huge To Do List, and everything seems vastly more important than blogging, I need to remind myself that my time to write is important. I’m important. That book that is just waiting is important.


And so…I didn’t want to blog, but I’ve blogged. I carved out a little time to do it, and I did it. My To Do List is still waiting for me, but at least today, for a few minutes, I did something just for me.

Yay.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Romancing Valentine's Day


My husband and I don’t do much for Valentine’s Day. Well, except for make fun of the jewelry commercials.  I truly believe that the man in the one with the thunderstorm is a serial killer.  He lured her with this Eric Bana-wannabe-good-looks to a cabin in the middle of nowhere during a torrential thunderstorm. I’m not saying I wouldn’t follow Eric Bana in these conditions (Have you seen Troy?), but realistically I don’t see good things happening in this situation.

With the jewelry advertised, I guess what bothers me is that they push one pendant or one bracelet and everyone rushes out to get it.  How is it special if everyone has the same necklace or earrings?

Perhaps a better gift would be a romance novel.  Each one tells a unique experience of love and passion.  There’s something to appeal to everyone’s taste. Sweet, spicy, and torrid. And they remind us of the first moment we fell in love with all its giddy anticipation. (Check the list of authors on this site, if you need a last-minute gift.  They are fabulous.)

My Valentine’s wish is that the kids don’t melt down so badly by supper time that I want to flee the house and that my husband helps with dishes.  I hope that this Valentine’s Day brings you a wonderful experience with romance. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Say What?

We all have those moments when there are a million other things we want to do rather than what we should be doing. But I’m not here to talk about excuses, rather, to offer a tool that I use to refocus and get back on track. I keep inspirational quotes and sayings posted where I can see them just when I need a kick in the pants, words that apply in just about any situation.

When I just need to start:

· Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic and power in it. Begin it now. Goethe

· Nothing is far when one wants to get there.

· Let go of whatever holds you back.

When I’m feeling discouraged and hopeless:

· Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.

· The great question is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with failure – William Shakespeare

· As water wears away stone, so those who persevere will win;

· If you never chase what you want, you'll never get it. If you never ask, the answer is always no. If you never step forward, you'll always be in the same place.

When I’m afraid to try something:

· Fearless is an interesting word, for in fact, in being fearless you are not without fear, rather you are withstanding fear.

· Your regrets are not what you do, but what you didn’t do.

For days when the odds feel stacked against me:

· Good timber does not grow with ease; the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.

· It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. – Seneca

· Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.

· Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten. GK Chesterton

For days when I seem to fall short:

· Let go of your attachment to the outcome.

· There is no way of writing well and of also writing easily. Anthony Trollope

· There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed. Ernest Hemingway

· Now and then it's good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy

For a long time, I was content to sit and watch the world go by. As a single mother, I had time-consuming responsibilities that left little time for anything else. But in addition to the great fulfillment of motherhood, a door to my own life opened. Why? Maybe I was ready for it, or maybe it was ready for me. In any case, I stepped through the doorway and into the adventure of becoming real. Now I’m ready to jump in the water, dance on the sand, climb the mountain. I am a risk taker reaching for the stars. And for those moments when I wonder if there’s something hiding in the dark, I remind myself of one my favorite passages from Susan Orleans’ The Orchid Thief.

“Oh, I’m not brave. I’m just sure of myself. I just remember when I was a kid, I once was going on a canoe trip in the Everglades and some of my friends decided not to go because it was going to be too much discomfort and hardship. But they did come to watch the rest of us head off on the trip, and I remember looking up as we pushed off and seeing the forlorn faces of the people left behind looking on. That’s what started my life of adventure. I knew I never wanted to be the one left on the shore.”

Yeah, that’s me. I want to be the one in the canoe.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Valentine's Day for the Single Population


It’s that time of year! February 14th is looming! Valentine’s Day. The day dedicated to love and couples in love all over the world. Everywhere you look, you see heart shaped chocolate boxes and beautiful long stemmed red roses. There’s Valentines cards for kids to pass out at school and of course more romantic cards for mom and dad, too.

But what if you’re single? What do you do? For most of my adult life, I’ve been single. I had a few boyfriends here and there, but most never lasted until that special day. So I’ve designed the perfect way to beat those Valentine’s Day blues.

  • Do shower someone with affection. I’ve decided I am going to make my nieces and nephews their own special Valentines, with candy and cookies included. Heck, they might even give you something back, like a big hug. Who can resist hugs from kids?
  • Don’t send yourself flowers. Roses this time of the year are expensive, and they just end up dying anyway. Plus, it’s just plain silly.
  • Do treat yourself to chocolate. Unlike the above, chocolate is a little cheaper. You can enjoy a piece here and there. And it’s chocolate! Hello!
  • Don’t sit around moping about your lack of love life. Go out and get a coffee. You never know, maybe that guy standing behind you in line is single! And bonus, you could possibly get a free coffee out of the deal.
  • Do keep yourself active. Finding something to do that’s fun and creative could be just what the doctor ordered to overcome the day.
  • Don’t be a jerk. Then again, some people can’t help it, thus the reason they are still single. Sugar works better than salt, you know.

So there are some tips to make Valentine’s Day more tolerable for those of us less fortunate people. Taking these steps may help you enjoy the day more. I’d love to hear any other great suggestions for single people suffering during Valentine’s Day. Anyone who comments will be entered in a drawing to win some nice goodies, including an autographed copy of Wings of Desire by my alter ego, Arianna Skye!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ideas for Grass Roots Marketing

I’m at Love is Murder Conference in Chicago and thought it would be easy to fit writing a blog in. Wrong. The schedule is jammed with events, seminars and just great discussions. I want to share one of the seminars Called “Spreading your Marketing Virus.” Dana Kaye was the presenter and she is a freelance writer who started her own company called Kaye Publicity and now has more than twenty clients. She is known for her innovation and knowledge of current trends. Her presentation was really well done. Here is a brief snapshot of just one small area she discussed.

Dana divided publicity into three categories: Traditional, online and grass roots. Traditional is newspapers, magazines, TV and radio. Online is Facebook, twitter, blogging, etc. (She said this should only consume twenty minutes a day!) The Grass Roots portion was the most interesting for me and she said it is the one that is typically forgotten.

Grass Roots is getting word of mouth going about your book. It is looking at ways to cross market. Look at different venues for sales other than book store signings. These could include grocery stores, gift shops, arts and crafts fairs and even bars. She talked about a Book and a Beer promotion she did and I’m going to try this one. She also said that Sisters in Crime have lists of book discussion groups and sending promotional material to them to be one of their featured groups is one way to develop a grass roots buzz about your book. You can even visit the discussion for added impact. The key to good grass roots promotion was reaching out to theme. Thinking of the elements in your books and working with those. If you have a cozy mystery with knitting, promote in shops selling yard. See if they will sell your book there. If you have a cat or dog or another animal, promote within organizations dedicated to animals. It just takes a little thought to think out of the box.

This blog is short and sweet because I need to get back to the sessions and learn more great information. This is one conference that is an easy drive (if not in a snowstorm) that is scheduled for Feb. 3-5 in 2012. Well worth the money. Check it out at www.loveismurder.net.

W.S. Gager writes the Mitch Malone Mystery series featuring a crimebeat reporter in fictional Grand Rapids. Her first two books, A Case of Infatuation and A Case of Accidental Intersection, won various awards and her third book, A Case of Hometown Blues, will be out this summer. They are available for order in any bookstore or have Nook and Kindle versions.

Friday, February 4, 2011

New Year Resolutions Check-in

Okay, we are a month into this new year. Time to check how you are doing with your resolutions for the year. Some may call these goals, and aren't they really the same thing?

I love setting goals. Without them, I drift aimlessly through my days and weeks without accomplishing much of anything and feeling badly about it. Goals give a direction and purpose to my life.

Some of the goals I set this year were writing related and others were health related. Romance Writers Report - the monthly magazine from Romance Writers of America - is also looking at these two areas of a writer's life and is doing a new series in 2011 called The Well Writer.

January's issue focused on career wellness - how to create and develop (or redevelop) the health of your writing career by ditching unproductive habits, becoming a resilient writer, and surviving in the publishing industry. In February, they addressed writers' physical wellness, looking at getting fit, using the support of a group, getting stress under control, and preventing computer-induced medical problems. In March, the articles will talk about how writers can become professionally fit. This is shaping up to be a great series. (Get it 'shaping up'?)

On a personal note, I haven't progressed quite as far as I'd hoped on my writing goals this past month, but now that my critique partners and I have recommitted to nearly weekly meetings this area should improve. On the health front, I am pleased with the progress towards my weight loss goal. Again, not quite as much as I'd hoped to lose for the month, but I'm moving in the right direction. I also found a great online tool to help journal my food. If you're interested in checking it out, go to myfitnesspal.com. They have a free app for the iPod - handy for when I want to enter my food and exercise for the day while I'm riding my stationary bike in the morning. I've also started some shoulder and neck exercises that I hope will help with the strain from working on my laptop.

So overall, I feel positive, and I'm looking forward to continuing towards reaching my goals.

What about you? Did you ditch the resolutions in the second week of January? Or are you living the new, improved version of the life you want for yourself?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Getting the Train Back on Track



Most of us have hectic days when our busy lives and all of its distractions seem to get in the way of our writing.  It's too easy to make excuses and let these things prevent us from sitting down to write.  We may tell ourselves we need to relax or that the events of the day have us so stressed out that trying to write would be futile.

We tend to think that we have to have no distractions, no noises, no worries to interrupt us in order to work on our writing.  Maybe we think that PERFECT MOMENT will give us an inside track to our writing masterpiece.  Unfortunately, what happens instead is that our Creativity Express gets sidetracked -- if not completely derailed -- by such expectations, and our stories fall apart or get forgotten in some remote segment of our minds.

Life and all its myriad joys, sorrows, and moments of lunacy should not be considered as obstacles.  Instead, change your perception a little bit and view them as building blocks. 

Everything is fodder for a writer's creativity. so use  these events to fuel the fire.  Maybe you can put the event or the emotions it caused into current writing project.  Capturing how you're feeling can build layers of realism into your story and make believable characters and intriguing situations.

Sure, your reader doesn't want to see every step of your character taking her laundry to the dry cleaners, but this is where you use your writing abilities to Recreate Your World.  Remember the frustrations you felt when Mr. Chang lost your favorite cocktail dress just before your company holiday party?  Maybe you can work it into your romance by changing up the details, adding or subtracting as you go.  The kids' less-than-stellar progress reports?  That might be background for a scene between your single mother heroine and the hunky school principal.  Dealing with aging parents, a grouchy boss, or a promotion that went to someone else?  The possibilities for those are nearly unlimited.

What if what's happening to you isn't something you can work into your current work-in-progress?

Then I urge you start a journal.  Not a diary a journal where you can capture snippets and scenarios and rewrite the event the way you wanted it to be. Be expansive, write over the top, indulge in a banquet of emotions.  Not only is everything fodder for the writer's creativity, but channeling negative emotions this way can be cathartic.  Once you unleash your creativity on them through the pen-to-paper activity of writing about them, you might see possibilities that you would have otherwise overlooked. 

Even if you can't use the ideas, don't ignore the opportunity.  Tuck the writing away in your journal as you never know when it might trigger an idea for a future writing project.  Meanwhile, the mere act of writing will keep your Creativity Express fueled and speeding toward the next adventure.

All Aboard! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

History, Her Story, Their Story



February is the month for lovers! Later this month we'll celebrate Valentine's Day. Since I write historical romance, I thought I'd dig into some history - my family history. Not everybody has material for a blockbuster hit in their background, but the inspiration can come from the circumstances that bring people together. So I though I’d take a look at some of the couples in the Kiyono clan.

My dad's parents were immigrants to the United States. They both came from Japan, but they came at different times, and ended up working for the same furniture manufacturer as artists. It wasn't love at first sight. Actually, my grandmother was married to another artist. But then her husband died, and my grandfather was there to console his fellow countrywoman. There were problems - grandpa was descended from a shogun, a noble Japanese family. Grandma came from a poor farming family in the rural northern part of the country. But somehow they overcame the social stigma and made a life for themselves in their new country. With a few tweaks, I could probably work this into a story.

My dad grew up here, but during World War II he experienced a lot of prejudice from his fellow countrymen. He went to Korea and fought for his country, and then stopped in Japan to learn more about the nation of his parents. He met a young secretary in his office building. Her family wasn't wild about her marrying an American, even though he looked Japanese (her dad had fought in the second world war and REALLY didn't like the idea). But they did. And here I am.

My in-laws met during the depression. He was older and a successful businessman, she was a department store clerk barely out of her teens. He liked the way she looked and brought her things. Sounds like a Diana Palmer type of story. I would need to find a conflict or two to add to the mix to add interest.

It's difficult to think of our parents and grandparents in a romantic setting, but there must have been some fire, or we wouldn't be here. With some literary license, their stories can turn into some interesting plots and storylines. As writers, we look for inspiration everywhere. This month, I think I'll start by looking at my own family tree.


Patty Kiyono