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YA Author Rendezvous

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In Defense of Insta-Love

In Defense of Insta-Love - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by K. R. Conway.

I do three things when I’m trolling the aisles of heaven (re: bookstore), searching for a few new books to burn my paycheck on:

  1. Seek out a kick-ass cover.
  2. Read the back jacket.
  3. Read the first page . . . and maybe the Goodreads reviews.

Let me tell ya – I’ve learned one thing about Goodreads and that’s that many readers apparently hate any novels with “insta-love,” but I’m calling out their whining as “bullshit.”

Why?

Because they’ve done it themselves. Repeatedly.

Let’s face it – novels have plenty of this “insta-love” thing going on, BUT I find that it’s (usually) not actually insta-love. It’s insta-LUST and lemme tell ya – we’ve ALL been there.

And lust . . . is dangerous. Forbidden.

Yet we don’t care, ’cause, baby,  we LOVE to lust.

We’ve drooled over the movie star, licked the Abercrombie bag (well, I have), and mentally stripped the barista hottie who’s serving Starbucks (yes, we females are just as guilty of doing it as the males, but we’re sneakier about it). Fellow writer Trisha Leaver would no doubt shove me from her car and haul butt for her TV if she realized the new season of Outlander had suddenly appeared because, well . . . hot Scot in a kilt! (FYI – it’s not on yet, damn it).

Adam Driver - Kylo Ren

Adam Driver is “Kylo Ren” in Star Wars, The Force Awakens

And Lust can corrupt your sanity and your morals. Take, for horrifying instance, my teen daughter: she’s totally in love with Kylo Ren from Star Wars. The second that jerk took his helmet off on the big screen and tried to suck the brain cells out of Rey, my daughter was drooling. DROOLING. Hello? RESIST THE DARKSIDE, GIRL! That’s lust.

And honestly, I’ve never known love-at-first-sight, but I’ve totally known LUST at first sight. Sometimes it evolves into love, other times . . . meh. More importantly, if you go back and really read all those book which have been labeled as “insta-love,” you’ll realize that they are actually insta-lust, which happens every second of every day.

I guess my point is that you can’t bash insta-love because it’s a truth of life (just sorta misnamed by readers). I tried to cover every variation of love in my books because I’ve known all the variations through my friends, family, and my own life.

For many, MANY people, lust usually comes first (Eila for Raef). If you’re lucky, it evolves into love (Raef for Eila). And sometimes hate comes first, then a slow “like,” then love (Ana and Kian). And sometimes lust comes first, but eventually burns both people out and they end up loathing one another while plotting one another’s murders (Collette and Kian).

And other times, a cautious friendship starts first, then love, then lust (Christian and Elizabeth).

But you can’t bash insta-love / lust because you think it’s cliché.

It’s not and we all know you’ve done the insta-love / lust thing with the movies, TV, books, and the Chris Helmsworth lookalike working on the roof next door. Even freakin’ love triangles are real (what a nightmare, FYI – in real life, it’s a major pain in the ass).

So, if I have no issue with insta-love / lust and love triangles in books, then what do I loathe in a novel? That’s easy: dumb heroines and crappy characters. Bad writing and thin storylines.

So, yeah – I’m calling out all you insta-love haters because we all know you’ve done it, multiple times, and lust is good for ya. If you’re gonna whine and protest about something, protest bad writing. Protest shallow characters, boring stories, and weak females, but not the lust.

Because, quite frankly, lust makes the world go round.

You can see Kate’s original Blog Post here.

Book Review and Rating Myths

Book Reviews - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by L. J. Higgins

The book review. Something every author needs and wants. They can simultaneously drive them crazy and make them want to cry and have them smiling from ear to ear. But while reviews are important to authors, I don’t think readers realise how vital they are to not only authors but also themselves. Reading reviews and ratings can help you gauge if a book is worth your money and time, and if it’s the right book for you.

Reasons you should leave a review:

  • For your fellow readers – Reviews are a way for readers to help other readers. By reading through them or glancing over a books star rating you can decide if it is a book you are interested in or not. If every reader gave a quick star rating and review of each book they read, then it would make it much easier for others to find their next favourite book.
  • Meet other book lovers – Through sites such as Goodreads, reviewing books and sharing your love for them can help you meet readers and authors who enjoy the same books you do.
  • To thank the Author who wrote it – Authors not only need reviews, they love hearing what you honestly thought about the story they put so many hours, weeks, months, even years into.

Myths about Reviews:

  • They have to be long and detailed – No they don’t. The only thing they NEED to be is honest. Even one to two lines can be enough to let people know what you thought of a book. Yes, you are more than welcome to write a review that breaks down characters, plot etc. But you don’t have to. It’s your choice.
  • Reviews have to be nice – Reviews are the one time you can ignore the saying ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are there to not only help readers decide if it is the book for them, but also to help authors learn what their audience loves and dislikes about their books. This helps them grow and learn as writers, so really your HONEST review is helping your favourite authors become the best they can be.
  • You can be mean in reviews – Okay, now I have to take back my words and remind you of the saying, ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are meant to be honest, not mean. There is no need to personally attack the author or the morals you don’t agree with in the story. Remember, just because the author wrote it, doesn’t mean it is their opinion. Stories are made up, as are the characters, and sometimes characters do or say things that we don’t necessarily approve of as an author, but feel it helps the story in some way.
  • 3 Stars mean a book is bad – For many authors, anything over 2 stars is great. Accompanied with an honest review a 3 star rating can show an author that although you liked their book there were a few things that could be worked on. Here is a rough idea of what star ratings mean on Amazon.

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So there you have it. Writing reviews and rating books isn’t as scary as many people think. You don’t need to be a writer yourself to leave one that is helpful, and you are not only helping an author when you leave one, your helping other readers like yourself. So next time you read a book take ten minutes to head to Amazon or Goodreads to let them know what you honestly thought about their book. You will make an authors and possibly a readers day!

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Keeping Cheese out of Romance Novels

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 3 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Michelle Lynn.

Cheese. Oh glorious cheese, how we love you so; on our pizzas, over our pasta, just basically in our bellies any and every way. Don’t stop coming. Never quit melting. You are beautiful and wonderful and oh so very tasty.

On our plates you shall stay and from our brains you’ll keep away. Ok, so I’m terrible at rhyming. I’m a fiction writer not a poet and it’ll stay that way. Hey! Another one! Stopping now. I promise. Back to the fiction writing thing, one of the series I write is romance. Don’t laugh at me, or do as long as you buy my books. That was a joke – if anyone out there is a little humor challenged.

Romance gets a bad rep and sadly, a lot of what is said is true. Some people don’t like the steamy aspects that seem to be creeping in to more books than not. Mine tend to be on the cleaner side- I mean, come on, my DAD reads them so I only write what I’m comfortable with him seeing. Some people hate the predictability of romance books- well, sorry folks, most of the time the characters are going to end up together. If they didn’t, there’d be hell to pay from angry hordes of romance readers.

But, forget all of that for a moment. It doesn’t matter, at least to me. When I read a romance book, I stop at the nauseating, eye-roll worthy, puke inducing cheesiness. I firmly believe that every romance has its cheesy moments, but COME ON!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWhen you read a book, or write one for that matter, you’re imagining yourself in that story. Book boyfriends/girlfriends are real things in the genre because people fall in love with the things the character says or does. Just picture it, the leading man comes to you- all hooded eyes, wicked smile, and chiseled physique- he opens his mouth to pour his heart out and says “You’re the light to my darkness.” Or “I’ve loved you since the moment I met you, I just didn’t know it yet.” I don’t know about you, but I’d probably do one of two things- Laugh despite trying to hold it back or make tiny little gagging sounds.

I’m a realist, sometimes a cynic, and I tend to write like one. That isn’t to say that extreme cheesiness doesn’t occasionally creep in, but it’s usually caught before publication. I just sent my new book, Confessions, off to the editor after a couple rounds of beta readers. Wanna know some of the stuff one of them caught? I actually said “The truth will set him free”. I didn’t catch that while I was editing. See, even us anti-cheesers do it sometimes. Anti-cheeser- I like that word!

Keeping Cheese from Romance Novels 2 - Young Adult Author RendezvousWords can be cheesy too. It doesn’t have to be full sentences or ideas. Some people have visceral reactions to certain terms. I know at least five people who cringe when someone says “moist” but that’s different. I’m talking about the cutesy poo, lovey dovey words or phrases. Some books make my eyes hurt from all the rolling they do when they use the terms “snuggle” or “cuddle”. I picture my two-year-old niece looking up at me and saying “Wanna snuggle?”

I have the same reaction to certain words in steamier romances, but I’ll leave those to your imagination. I know, I know. You want to hear them, but this is a blog for people who read YA and clean romances. Jeeze, guys, cool your jets!

Anyway, it’s simple. This is my no-cheese policy – or just the ramblings of an incoherent, brain jumbled writer. Your pick.

YAAR Does NaNoWriMo!

NaNoWriMo Experience - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Lauren Mayhew

National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo for short, challenges people to write 50,000 words in 30 days, that’s an average of 1667 words per day. I’ve struggled to write that many words this whole year, let alone one day. You can read more about NaNoWriMo here.

I went into this challenge very pessimistically. Both of my published novels are around the 50,000 word mark, and they each took me around a year to write. Doing this in 30 days wasn’t just going to be exhausting, but mentally challenging too. However, I did it, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

I haven’t finished the book yet, which is encouraging, as this may turn out to be the longest book I’ve ever written! Chapter six is completely missing, and I haven’t written the ending yet, so I’d hope there’s at least another 5,000 words to add, not including all of the edits I’ve already made in my head!

NaNoWriMo challenged me to write in a way I’ve never written before, and I think I’ll continue in this way from now on. I wrote everything straight into Microsoft Word. Normally, I write by hand and type everything up later. There was no way I’d have the time to do that with NaNoWriMo, and it’s helped me to write quicker which can only be a good thing.

But I’m not the only one who took this challenge head on! Quite a few of us here at YAAR decided to give it a go, here’s what they have to say about their experience, seven days after it’s over.

NaNoWriMo Winner's Certificate - Young Adult Author RendezvousThis was my fifth NaNoWrMo and my fifth win. I love November. It’s the only month of the year that I truly write every day. My challenge now is to keep going until I finish this book … oh and to have fun with my local NaNo peeps at our “Thank Goodness It’s Over Party!” on Saturday. – Debbie Manber Kupfer

Every November I get excited. Not only because it’s the holiday season, but the creative juices around the world start reeving up and it’s addictive. Especially in the book world. And it’s all because of NaNoWriMo This is my second year to join the movement, my first year to “win”, and it was such a wonderful experience. Yes, I have mega bags under my eyes and I’m seriously sleep deprived, but the words that flowed, the relationships that were built (both literal and fictional, the stories that will come of it… EPIC.)Lili Mahoney

For the first time in my writing career, NaNoWriMo actually coincided with a time when I was able to get a lot of writing done. It really truly motivated me to write every day, which is something I rarely do. In the span of only 30 days, I was able to get 50,000 words written AND plan out the rest of the book (which will likely be over 100,000 words). Having others do this at the same time was awesome!Patrick Hodges

I had grand intentions for NaNoWriMo… I was going to finally get back in the habit of writing every day! I was going to finish my book! I was going to remember that I love writing and it’s something I do for fun, not as another chore! In the end, I didn’t write every day. I didn’t finish my book. I eked out my 50,000 words by the skin of my teeth on the last day. But I did it and most of all I rediscovered my love of writing, even in the midst of my crazy life!!T.D. Shields

I’ve done NaNoWriMo for four years, but this was the first year I ever made it to 50,000 words. My secret was getting up to speed by writing 1,000 words a day during the previous month. You really discover which parts of a book you’ve thought through and which parts you haven’t when you have to produce three to five pages a day on it.Paul Briggs

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I finished my book with 60,000 chaotic, raw, heartfelt words. I’m not sure what I’ll discover when it comes to editing, but having that rough draft done feels amazing! I’d say overall my experience was overwhelming, intense, beneficial, and gratifying. I’ll be ready to do it again next year…or in 2025.Tenille Berezay

Nanowrimo was like going on a literary bender, but with not nearly enough booze.K.R. Conway

This was my first time doing NaNoWriMo and I completed my first draft of a novel that I first had the idea for over ten years ago. The challenge gave me the opportunity and the excuse to write it, and I am absolutely in love with the manuscript. Keep an eye out for my novel, Paranormal Painless.Shannon Rieger

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Keeping Reading in the Joy Column

Love Reading - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Cynthia Port.

Academic year 2016-2017 is officially ON!  Bring on the new friends! Sign up for  afterschool clubs! Meet some inspiring teachers! Start documenting every single page you read and every single minute you spend reading!  Wait . . . whut?

Sadly, often yes.

And I get why, I really do—not all kids are avid readers, and teachers need to insure that a minimum is happening for everybody.  For lots of kids, though, setting a “minimum” amount can make it feel like a maximum, as in, “Reading any more than the 20 pages my teacher assigned for tonight just makes me a sucker.”

Even worse, assigned reading can shift the whole experience of reading from the “joy” column in a young person’s life to the “chore” column. We definitely don’t want that.

Luckily, there are lots of way to keep reading in the joy column all year, and all life, long.  Here are a handful of ideas:

1. Make an after school or weekend library visit a regular thing, tempting your child or teen with more fun choices than she or he can handle.  You might take turns picking out books to read aloud to each other, or invent a library game.  A fun one that helps kids broaden their reading interests is “Reading Roulette,” where you walk down an aisle of books with your eyes closed, pull out 3-5 books sight unseen and select at least one of them to read.

2. Create a family reading time. This can be a family ‘read aloud’ or a family ‘read together,’ where everybody gets cozy on the couch with their own book in their hands. Either option can be 15 minutes a night, or a longer, once a week gathering—whatever works with your family’s schedule.

3. Read books for fun yourself, and do it at a time when your child or teen sees you reading.  It’s tempting to read only after the kids are tucked in, or only when they’re at school or sports, but as with most everything else in a child’s life, if they see YOU enjoying reading, they will forever associate reading with something fun and pleasurable.

4. Movies that have been made from books can also be a great incentive.  Right now my daughter wants to watch the Lord of the Rings movies.  We’ll make each one a special movie night just as soon as we finish each book.

5. You know I’ve gotta say it—check out the great books for children and teens at YAAR!  We’ve got so many amazing titles, and there’s always some on sale. Plus, every YAAR author LOVES to hear from readers.  Nothing sets reading more firmly in the joy column than the chance to make friends with the author of a book that inspires, delights, makes you weep, or gives you the shivers.

What ideas do YOU have for keeping reading in the joy column?

Learning Through Books For All Ages

Rita Goldner - Learning - Young Adult Auhor RendezvousWritten by Rita Goldner.

A friend recently shared with me this quote, from T. H. White, The Once and Future King:  “The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds.  There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

My friend meant it as a general “life-advice” thing, but since I am an obsessed author/illustrator I interpret it in the context of my writing, reading, researching, publishing and marketing world. My current opportunity, shared with all my fellow authors, is to present that remedy for “being sad”, the “thing that never fails” to our reading audience. Before anyone assumes that the learning has to be sophisticated and profound, be aware that in my case, the audience is 5-8 years old. This group, usually with an adult reading to them, seems fascinated with dinosaurs, construction equipment, and underpants.  I recently bought the trifecta to read to my grandson: a picture book about dinosaurs, in their underpants, operating cranes and bulldozers. Needless to say, a big hit.

In my own reading escapes, I’m only looking for entertainment, but the unintended byproduct is learning “why the world wags and what wags it”. I never liked history or geography presented academically in school, but since I’m a fan of James A Michener, I couldn’t help but learn about Hawaii, Texas, Colorado (Centennial) Chesapeake Bay (Chesapeake) and Israel (The Source).

Since I’m now immersed in researching children’s literature, I’ve come to realize that for the little ones,  the learning isn’t just about the subject matter, it’s about the power of communication, the whole palette of adventures they can explore, how the world works, and even their own self-worth.  It’s a humbling and very exciting challenge for me!


Rita’s blog and website can be found here.

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Kickstarter for Authors

Rita Goldner - Kickstarter - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Rita Goldner.

At a recent meetup for Phoenix Publishing and Book Marketing, a few people were interested in my experience with Kickstarter, a crowdfunding company I used to fund printing for the children’s picture book I wrote and illustrated, Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy. I’m blogging my own personal journey here, not the framework of Kickstarter, because that can be easily researched at https://www.kickstarter.com/

My publisher suggested Kickstarter to me at an early planning meeting. Dancing Dakini Press, a small but well-established entity, had used this method previously to fund printing of their award-winning books, and promised to guide me through their steps. I was reticent, not fully understanding the “how”.

My only exposure to crowdfunding had been a few projects I had seen online, for GoFundMe. I later learned the agenda of GoFundMe, as explained on their website, is to help raise money for  “medical expenses, education costs, volunteer programs, youth sports, funerals & memorials – even animals & pets.”  It’s obviously not appropriate for us in the book business.

The perfect fit for authors is Kickstarter. Their mission statement welcomes entrepreneurs in the fields of art, music, theater, journalism, publishing and technology. Their rules exclude any charity, focusing instead on projects for “creating something and sharing it with the world”. In my opinion, an author must think of the work as bigger than him/herself, and that it will make the world a little better, raising the bar for literary excellence, and/or showcasing an important concept, which in my case was an endangered species.  My biggest supporter was my son-in-law, who owns a search engine optimization business, and knows a lot more about marketing than I do. He endorsed my plan, saying that it was vital to have followers sharing the adventure and being part of the success.

My publisher recommended that I build my followers list to a minimum of 1 person for every $10 (800 followers for $8000). For me the list comprised Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Pinterest, and a business Facebook page I started, named after the book title. On the business page, one can’t “friend” people, so I increased my list by posting the book illustrations on non-profit organizations’ pages about rainforests, orangutan rescue, etc. Then I asked people to “like” my business page to see more illustrations. I also occasionally posted a short question on these pages, to elicit a response, and then asked the responders to “like” my business page. One of my questions was “Do you think education or penalties are more effective in stopping wildlife habitat destruction?” I was thrilled to see I got a response from Jane Goodall (my hero) on that one. I started this follower-building two months before the Kickstarter launch. I posted an illustration and/or a comment every other day on the business page, and shared it with all the other social media. I also bought two ads, for 6 days each, $5.00 per day, but I have no way of knowing if the followers were coming from the ads or the posts. Once I launched the campaign, I emailed almost everyone I knew, and posted frequent updates on social media.

The prizes for backers have to be something personal, from you. The obvious prize is an autographed book, but I also used notecards and color print enlargements, too. Some authors give lessons for prizes, on plot or character development, pacing, climax, conflict resolution, or any tricks of the trade they’ve learned along the way. It was an exciting (although sometimes bumpy) ride, and I have not only the money to show for it, but a group of interested followers who share my passion.

You can see Rita’s campaign here.


Rita’s blog and website can be found here.

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Characters from History

Written by Paul Briggs

Sometimes I notice certain patterns in my work. Protagonists who are smart, but not too smart and with a very practical bent to their intelligence. Geniuses who are given a choice between trying to save the entire world — and possibly failing — or trying to save only a small part of it and being more certain of success. Strong female characters with medical conditions that cause them to dominate whatever room they’re in whether they want to or not.

When I start to worry that I’m starting to create the same characters over and over again, I work on historical fiction. Specifically, alternate history, which is usually classified as science fiction, but which I like to think of as historical fiction that’s broken its chains. Suddenly you aren’t confined by actual events any more — you can kill Hitler if you feel like it, or have St. Petersburg overrun by zombies and vampires.

Up to a point, that is. Just as in regular historical fiction, if you’re going to put historical figures in your writing you have to read about them enough to get your facts straight. More than that, you have to consider their life experiences and what they learned from them in order to figure out what they would do in a given situation.

Doing this for my own timeline at alternatehistory.com (called “The Dead Skunk” — don’t ask) has meant studying all sorts of people, including James Madison, Lord Liverpool, the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon, Lord Castlereagh, Joachim Murat, John Quincy Adams… and these were just the beginning. When I started writing my version of the Caroline Affair, I was exposed to a whole galaxy of wonderful and horrible personalities I never could have invented on my own, most of whom I had never heard of.

But the biggest challenge I’ve faced in getting inside the head a historical character was in writing a monologue about John F. Kennedy. It was about his struggles with Addison’s disease — a thing Kennedy never spoke of in real life and in fact took pains to conceal, inventing other stories to account for his stays in the hospital. I called the monologue “The Picture of Health,” because that was what JFK tried so hard to present to the world.

Wrapping my mind around the contradictions of the man was one of the hardest writing tasks I’ve ever done. When healthy, he was strong enough to swim three and a half miles towing a wounded sailor — when sick, he could barely stand. He was brave enough to attack Japanese warships in pitch darkness, but not to join in the vote censuring Joe McCarthy. (The Boston Irish had a certain loyalty to McCarthy.)

So… writing historical fiction is a great challenge. By forcing yourself to get inside the heads of real people who were very different from you, you expand your ability as a writer to invent your own characters and make them more real.

5 Things All Authors Should Include on Their Blogs

5 Things All Authors Should Include on Their Blogs via YA Author RendezvousWritten by Kim Bongiorno

Whether you are just starting your first novel or have had various publications over the years, most writers now know that it’s a good idea to have a blog as their own little slice of the internet that reflects who they are, what they do, and where fans should go to find thier work. The only problem with this is that many authors and writers aren’t bloggers, so they don’t quite know what to do once they have one! Luckily, there are no rules as to what kind of content needs to be there. Some writers simply update their blog with new publications a few times a year. Others blog about their personal lives almost every day, and even more do something in the middle.

No matter how frequently a writer decides to put new content on his or her blog, I do believe there are certain things that should be put in place to make it as fruitful as possible, both for the writers and their fans.

 

  1. Your full name (and blog name, if you have one), front and center.

This sounds obvious, but a lot of people forget! Make sure this is at the very top, so people know exactly where they are and whose words they are reading upon arrival.

 

  1. Who you are and what you do.

An “About” page should include your full name, a little about yourself, any accolades/awards you have received for your writing, a list of your books, other places you write/have written, and how to contact you. Make it easy for people to email you. You never know what opportunities could find you, if you just made it possible for people to email them to you! A photo of you and photos of your book covers are great, as well.

 

  1. A way for people to follow you everywhere.

Put social media “Follow” buttons and the blog subscription email opt-in as close to the top of your blog as possible, either in the blog’s header or at the top of the sidebar.

I highly recommend you have a separate fan newsletter sign-up, too. Fans can get emails from you when you have a new book coming out, you can give them insider scoop, announce upcoming events they can attend to meet you, invite them to join your street team, etc. Look at a few of the email marketing services available, like MailChimp, ConstantContact, and others. Lots of detailed reviews are out there to help you choose which is the right one for your needs.

 

  1. A square(ish) graphic with your name and your blog name or logo.

Put this in your sidebar, footer, or header, so it appears on every blog post and page, automatically. When you save the graphic to your computer, make sure to name it as your name, and possibly your blog tagline (if it is short). This way, when people share different posts or pages from your blog, there will always be an image with the share. This is especially important for when people share your blog on Pinterest: the name of the graphic/image will populate the Pinterest pin description box automatically.

Ideally, you will also create a graphic/image to include in each blog post and page with the title of that post/page to make everything a lot more shareable. You can create these with free resources such as PicMonkey or Canva. Just remember to never grab images blindly from the internet to use on them: either buy stock images or find free stock images (there are countless sites out there with them, each with their own instructions on how to credit the photos), or use photos you take.

I made the image for this blog post with PicMonkey in only a few minutes, using a stock image I purchased. Go ahead and Pin it on Pinterest right now on your Writing Tips or Blogging boards (all writers should have both—there are so many great resources on Pinterest for us). Doesn’t it look nice?

 

  1. A signature at the end of each blog post that has a purpose.

Close out with a call to action to read your books and share that post! Add social media sharing buttons so readers can share your post on Facebook, Tweet it out, pin it on Pinterest, email it to their writer friends, etc. You can see many options to do exactly that below this blog post, and I encourage you to use them to see exactly how easy it is to help other people share your work with their friends and fans.

I also recommend linking to your book(s), whether by embedding images of each cover that are linked to where they can buy them, or simply write, “You can see all of my books here” and link to one place they are all listed (such as your Amazon Author page).

 

With these five simple things set up on your blog, you will absolutely make yourself easier to read, find, hire, and get your work shared.

Now, wasn’t that easy?

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For a Good Time, call an Indie!

Indie AuthorWritten by Cynthia Port

Dear Reader,

 

Writers are reputed to be a bit standoffish, a bit inside their own wonky, tortured heads.  We’re either alcoholics, or suicidal, or just plain don’t like our fellow human beings.  By logical extension then, authors, as a group, must not want to be bothered by the “little people” who are lucky enough to read their books, right?  They must find such extra-literary contact irksome, sycophantic, even stalky.  Now listen carefully because I’m only going to write this the one time:

 

NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH!

 

I cannot speak for the Rowlings, the Kings or the Kingsolvers of this world because I don’t know any of them, but I know a lot (as in many, many hundreds) of indie authors, and to a person they revel in hearing from readers.  I know this because the briefest note left on their FB author page, the slightest comment made in the grocery store, an email, a tweet, a blurry instagram pic (tinted to look like a Polaroid from 1963), anything that indicates someone out there likes their writing—sends that author trumpeting joy all over social media like a happiness t-shirt cannon.  Hearing from readers makes indie authors giddily, unreasonably, even stalkily, happy.

 

So please, Readers, don’t be shy.  Don’t be sitting there all on your lonesome as you turn the last page of a cool indie novel, thinking, “Gee willickers, I loved this book.  I wonder if the author is going to write a sequel?  I wonder if any of it is biographical?  I wonder if the centaur knew the chewing gum was inside that marshmallow before he gave it to the toothless guinea pig?  Oh, well, I guess I’ll never know, because surely this author wouldn’t want to hear from the likes of me.”

 

NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! (Yes, I wrote it twice in case you weren’t listening the first time.)

 

Trust me—hearing from you is her/his lifeblood and will make his/her day. You don’t even have to say anything brilliant, pithy or insightful.  On the contrary, it would be impossible for you to make a comment or ask a question about an indie book that the author of said book does not want to receive.  To prove my point, here are some questions that might, on the surface, seem unwelcome, followed by a typical indie author’s response:

 

Did you hire a two-year-old to write this drivel?

“Thank you so much for contacting me.  Funny you should ask, because my two year old did give me the idea about the marshmallow and the gum!”

 

 

Why do you bother getting up in the morning if this is the result?

“So nice to hear from you. I do most of my writing in the evening.”

 

 

Can I pay you to stop writing books?

“That is so sweet. You mean like a Kickstarter?”

 

 

See?  No harm no foul.  Though if you ask questions like this, you may find yourself written into a novel only to be gummed to death by a toothless guinea pig.  But hey, that could be adorable!

 

I’m nearing the end of my word count, but let me add one more thing.  If you are a parent, grandparent or teacher, please encourage and help (as needed) a young person to contact a favorite indie author.  I often hear from young readers, and it makes me even more unreasonably giddy than when I hear from adult readers, because adding to the pleasure a child experiences through reading is, well, one of the highest accomplishments I can think of.

 

So take it from an Indie: we understand. You’ve been hurt before in your attempts to form meaningful relationships with traditionally published authors.  But give us a try—we’re easy, and we’ll love you right back.

You Deserve Your Own “Renegade Version”

Written by
George Sirois

In 1991, the first of three theatrical Highlander sequels opened in theaters, and it was looked at as a massive failure. The bonding company responsible for the film’s completion stepped in and took it away from the filmmakers, resulting in a 90-minute movie that made absolutely no sense. A few years later, the producers and director had an opportunity to re-visit the movie and they fixed what went wrong and streamlined the story in a much , the bonding company’s interference was a blessing in disguise, since the film’s failure allowed director Russell Mulcahy and producers Bill Panzer & Peter Davis to look back at the entire film, remove what went wrong (including their own storytelling issues), add what was left on the cutting room floor and basically re-invent Highlander II to such a degree that they took an abominable film and made it work.

To differentiate this version from the one that was in theaters (that was called Highlander II: The Quickening), this new cut was known as Highlander II: Renegade Version.

With that in mind, allow me to introduce myself. My name’s George Sirois, and I want to take a second to thank the good people of YA Author Rendezvous for giving me this brand new platform to speak to you each month. Now, why did I start my first blog post here with a random piece of film trivia? To prove a point, and that point is that no matter where you are in life, everyone deserves their own “Renegade Version.”

Back in 2002, I self-published my first novel. It was called “From Parts Unknown” and it was based on a screenplay I had written over ten drafts of between 1999 and 2001. It was a fun story to write, but when I tried to sell it, it went nowhere. So I thought that my chances of success were greater if it were a novel. A year-and-a-half later, I was finished and an acquaintance thought I should self-publish it since it catered to a niche market.  After finding a great deal from iUniverse, the novel was released in November of 2002.

And once again, it went nowhere.

I thought that I would just have to move on from this story, and eight years later, I did with the release of my second novel “Excelsior.” But by the time this one came out, the landscape had changed dramatically from what it was back in 2002. The Kindle was born, eBooks followed, and the self-publishing boom began. When I was asked by a veteran self-published author about “From Parts Unknown,” she told me flat out, “You gotta get those rights back. Get them back and re-publish the book yourself as an eBook.”

So I did, and when I re-read the book, I realized that it didn’t hold up. The quality wasn’t there anymore. (Maybe it was never there.) I still believed in the story, but I no longer liked the execution. Therefore, I decided to take the steps that led to what was going to be my very own “Renegade Version.”

These are the steps I took for this journey that officially began on September 4, 2011 and ended on January 19, 2015.

First thing I did was make sure the original novel was pulled. If you self-published, this is a pretty easy thing to do. Just go to KDP Select, click on your book, and hit the “Unpublish” option. If you worked with a company such as iUniverse, then you have to contact them and let them know you wish to discontinue your title with them. You’ll have to send an email or snail mail letter to the company, and unless your work is bringing in a lot of money, they’ll likely let you go without any problems. But you have to make sure you have the rights before you start. There’s no point in going on this adventure if you can’t.

Once iUniverse gave back the rights (it wasn’t selling, and they already had my setup fees, so why not?), I re-read the book and took notes. Like I said before, I still believed in the story, and so I made sure it held up. For the most part, it did. But when I looked deeper, here’s what I spotted, so when you’re looking at your own manuscript, keep these in mind:

Outdated Technology: For some reason, I still had characters using VHS tapes. That HAD to go, along with many other items that made my future look more like the 23rd century from the 1966 Star Trek point of view than the 2009 one.

Updated History: A lot happened between 2002 and 2011, so it all had to be considered for addition, whether as a specific moment being mentioned or people or events inspiring elements in the story.

Thin Characters: Several characters had just a couple of scenes and then dropped out or were killed off. If this new version was going to work, then I had to introduce readers to people they’d want to follow.

Blank Canvas: This is what I call a world without description. If your characters are to properly interact, they need a world in which to do so, and I only now realized how little description I had in the original story. Some color was desperately needed for this canvas.

I also asked my friends for their opinion on the book. If there were any logic problems that I missed the first time around, they let me know. If something needed further explanation, they let me know. And when I was in the editing stages and working with my beta readers, I listened to their suggestions as well.

As the story grew and grew, and my enjoyment of this new iteration grew along with it, I realized something very interesting. My characters were moving in a very different direction than they did back in ’02. And so I let them, and this is the biggest tip I can possibly give to anyone: If your characters are moving in a specific direction, follow them. Don’t pull them back and tell them to stay on the path you had mapped out.

This was especially true with two characters, the Gladiatorial Combat League Champion Kyle Flyte, and my main character’s wrestling teacher Verne Dappy. Originally, Kyle drops out of the story at the halfway point and Verne only has a few scenes. Early on in the new version, Kyle and Verne are old friends and share a long conversation that I absolutely loved writing. I wanted more of them both, and so I kept them around. Their roles in the second half allowed them to be heavily involved in the subplot I had come up with in early 2011, the subplot that made me want to write this Renegade Version more than anything else.

Fast forward to 2015 (maybe I should have just said “skip ahead,” there I am with the VHS references again), and the final version of “From Parts Unknown” is finished, it has a home with a publisher, and it’s now available on eBook with a paperback version coming soon. I’m thrilled to say that I’m happier with this story now than I ever was before, and I hope that you’ll want to go on a similar journey with your own work. But keep in mind that I’m not suggesting you go back and tinker with a story that already works just fine. At some point, you have to move on. But because of the freedom that the digital age allows us, we no longer have to dwell upon what might have been. And if you know what missed the spot the first time around, and if you know how to make it right, then go for it! Get your story right, because if you’re happy with it, your readers will be too.

No matter who you are, everyone deserves a “Renegade Version.”

Accepting Constructive Criticism

criticismimage

Written by
Beth Rodgers

It may seem difficult at times to put your work out there for someone else to critique it, whether it’s for editing in the process of publication, grading, or otherwise. The fact of the matter is that without hearing other people’s opinions, you are obviously bent on your own opinion on the writing you have done, and, let’s be honest – you think it’s great. We all do. It’s only natural to have emotional ties to the writing you have done. It is also possible that something you hated writing or hated the outcome of once it was fully written could be completely loved by one or more of your readers.

Criticism gets a bad rap. The word has a negative connotation. When people hear that someone is being critical or is criticizing something, they think negatively. Again, this is only natural and is a part of life. An important idea to remember, however, is that criticism does not have to be bad. Without criticism, think of how many pieces of writing, movies, TV shows, or other works of art would go out to the masses due to the biased opinion of the work’s creator.

Have you ever read a book you didn’t like? Have you ever watched a movie or TV show that you wish you hadn’t bothered with? Have you ever thought how nice it would be to be able to tell the author or creator of whatever it is you read, watched, etc. what you might have done differently? Everyone is a critic. Everyone judges. It’s something that is as normal as a typical daily routine. Yet, criticism and judgment can turn out positively. There are always at least two sides to every idea/topic/issue/etc. Just because you think something is great doesn’t mean the rest of the world does, and just because you think something was awful doesn’t mean the rest of the world didn’t love it. You are entitled to your opinion just like anyone else. Just because someone tells you that they suggest changing something doesn’t mean you have to do it. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. What it does mean is that you have to attempt to see that person’s viewpoint and analyze not only whether you agree with it, but determine whether you feel that others may see things the same way as the original critic. That is why having more than one person read your work and give you feedback is important. Even if the people you choose to read your work do not give the same advice, even if one person tells you how great it was while another says it was good but there was room for improvement, while another tells you they couldn’t stand it, sharing what other people had to say with the group of reviewers you have established for yourself will help you to gauge whether they truly noticed everything in your writing.

Just because you are the writer does not mean you are the only reader that writing will ever have. The definition of constructive criticism is “the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. The purpose of constructive criticism is to improve the outcome.” It is essential that this definition is not only remembered, but taken to heart. No writer has ever penned the perfect piece the first time around. If they say they have, they are lying to you. Read the following quotes from well-known people and authors to further your understanding of the power of constructive criticism:

Winston Churchill, Former British Prime Minister:

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Hillary Clinton, Politician and Current Presidential Candidate:

“Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.”

Neil Gaiman, Author:

“I suspect that most authors don’t really want criticism, not even constructive criticism. They want straight-out, unabashed, unashamed, fulsome, informed, naked praise, arriving by the shipload every fifteen minutes or so.”

Why do you think there are reviews on sites that sell books, appliances, and any other item you can possibly think of? The reason is simple. It is because people want to know what others think. They want to see differing opinions to help them make the most informed decision possible. So should it be with writing. Writers must be able to make informed, intelligent decisions based on suggestions that others have made. When something sounds negative, consider the actual intent behind the suggestion, and then determine whether the person is in any way coming up with something that is a possible revision that can be made. Just as you are entitled to your opinion, so are your readers. This is why only certain books make the New York Times Bestseller list, why certain movies and TV shows win Oscars, Golden Globes, and Emmy Awards, why certain music wins Grammys and American Music Awards, etc. If you have ever thought someone unfairly lost an award, an election, or anything else, you have a different opinion than those who did the voting. You are entitled to this. Remember this when someone reads your work and gives you suggestions. Your emotional and other connections with the work you have written is essential to you being motivated to continue writing. This is extremely important. Never forget this. However, don’t forget that others are entitled to their opinions as well, and their opinions may just help you improve your writing and sustain a more solid style from that point forward. Every little bit helps. You just have to see it that way.

Top Ten Competitions for Young Adult Authors

finalistWritten by Melissa Craven

Not all Young Adult books are the same. It’s a vast genre with sub-genres ranging from Contemporary YA to Dystopian, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal. When I first ventured into the world of writing competitions, I automatically entered my Urban Fantasy in the Young Adult categories. It seemed like a no brainer to me since I’m a YA author. My first competition was with the International Book Awards and I placed as a finalist in the YA category. I was thrilled and couldn’t wait for the next one.

Nada… for the next three competitions—which I entered exclusively in the Young Adult categories. When I placed in the International Book Awards, I was given a free entry into a second category (as a thank you for creating a Listopia list of all the fiction IBA winners) in the finalist 1USA Best Book Awards. So I chose the Fantasy genre in addition to the general YA category I’d already entered. When announcements were made, I was surprised to place in the Fantasy category but not in the Young Adult genre.

Then things started to click for me. I was entering the wrong categories. The Young Adult genre is an enormous field of competition and it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of thousands of entries. So rather than enter every competition I could find, I started researching competitions more carefully, choosing those with the widest range of categories and YA friendly sub-genres. These are my top ten competitions for Young Adult authors. Look for the best fit for your book, and remember, it might not be general YA. (And some of these offer cash prizes too!)

 

1.) The Dante Rossetti Awards by Chanticleer Book Reviews – This is my top pick as a competition exclusively for Young Adult authors. Here you will find YA categories for: Contemporary, Fantasy, Steampunk, Sci-Fi, Romance, Historical, Inspirational, Dystopian, Edgy, Urban, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Lighthearted-Humorous, New Adult and Tweens. The 2015 awards will be announced soon and I have my fingers and toes crossed for this one. This is also the lowest entry fee of any competition I’ve found.

2.) Readers’ Favorite didn’t work out for me this year, but they do offer a huge selection of YA and other YA friendly sub-genres. I plan to enter again next year, and I will be much more careful about which genres I select this time around.

3.) Global ebook awards has quite a diverse selection of genres and sub-genres, and the award seal is beautiful. I plan to check this one out for next year.

4.) USA Best Book Awards has a great selection of categories and an affordable entry fee. I do wish the award seal was a bit more jazzy, but as a very happy finalist, I won’t complain!

5.) International Book Awards is associated with the USA Best Book Awards with similar categories and affordable entry fees. Both USA BBA and IBA offer a competition category for Cross Genre books, which is not widely offered and very difficult to find.

6.) National Indie Excellence awards is on my radar for next year, with over 150 categories to choose from and a lovely medal for winners (I’m seduced by the bling).

7.) Indie Book Awards – Lots of bling here with medals and trophies for winners in over 70 genre categories.

8.) IPPY Awards Independent Publisher Book Awards is probably the most prestigious award for indie authors. The genre category is not as diverse, but if you win, it’s a big deal.

9.) IBPA Ben Franklin Awards is also a more prestigious award, but the entry fee is pretty pricey if you are not already a member of Independent Book Publishers Association. The genre categories are YA friendly, but I like this competition for the addition of categories like: Best Cover design, Best Interior Design and Best First Book to name a few.

10.) Reader Views Literary Awards, like the Ben Franklin Awards, has a diverse selection of YA friendly genres, with the addition of categories like: Best Teen Book of the Year and Best Book by an Author Under Eighteen.

 

How To Design Book Covers That Rock #1: Photo Fragments

Written by
Sarah Wathen

Readers do judge books by their covers. Everyone knows that. But indie authors also know that this book publishing business can be expensive, hiring good artists and designers particularly so. Yes, we have to wear a lot of hats—author, marketer, social media guru. Some things you have to farm out, like editing (please, please, please don’t do that yourself). But you’re probably creative, since writing is an art form after all, so you may want to give cover design a try.

If you’d like to make your own book covers, the best place to start is by looking at some excellent ones to get your creative juices flowing and understanding how you might try a similar design technique.

Lately, I’ve been loving book covers that use fragments of photos. What is left out is the most important part of the image. It’s not so much a beautiful photograph that you see but the part of the beautiful photograph that is missing. You have to fill in the rest with your imagination—just like the best books.

adThis one above looks professional and artistic, yet an amateur with vision could do it. It may be difficult to stage a full scale model shot, but if you have an iPhone, a friend with pretty hands, black drapery, and a nice tarot card, you could pull something like this off.feaAn areal photo of a landscape? Blah-di-blah. But print out that photo, fold it up like a map and re-shoot it on a white table? Three-dimensional and eye-catching!
bae

The photograph above could’ve been a stock photo purchased online. Again, print that photo out and tear into it, then re-photograph with text.

beaeg

Since I’m a painter, this one sparks my interest most. I simply can’t stop looking at the physicality of those brush strokes. They are so jarring, beautiful yet frustrating—blocking my view. I’m dying to read the book to find out what I’m missing! But again, print out a plain old boring seascape, apply paint, then photograph again with proper lighting.
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This last one would be admittedly harder to pull off and was probably accomplished in Photoshop. Such gorgeous results, however. The fact is, if you are going to give cover design a shot, Adobe Photoshop is pretty essential to have. You’ll need it for the finishing touches and typography anyway. It’s an expensive program, but there are ways to ease the pain. I personally have an Adobe Creative Cloud account, by which I can access any Adobe program I want (and always have the very newest version) for $50 a month. The learning curve can seem steep, but anything you want to try can be Googled and you’ll find dozens of step-by-step tutorials on how to do it.

All of these covers rock because of the brain power that went into making them. Brainpower is something we authors usually have in spades. And who knows your book better than you do? There is nothing more satisfying than designing the perfect cover for your own book. Give it a try…but do it right! Do your research and learn from the best.

 

Lessons Learned from Authors

2410-153219Written by
Paul Briggs

Most of what I know about writing I learned from other writers. Sometimes they were literal teachers — my creative writing instructor at Washington College was a novelist named Robert Day — but usually I learned from reading their works and seeing what they did right or wrong.

One lesson came from a writer at alternatehistory.com: Never put the same tragedy in the backstories of two different characters, or it will turn into a running joke. (The writers of Avatar: The Legend of Korra could have profited from this.)

From Orson Scott Card (yes, really): This is something Card learned from a teacher named Francois Camoin: “When you have a word embodied in a story, the word itself should never appear.” Card applied this to his short story “Eumenides in the Fourth Floor Lavatory.” To pick an example everyone’s likely to be more familiar with, read The Runaway Bunny and notice how the word “love” isn’t in it.

From Harlan Ellison: That thing you think is too controversial to write about? Go ahead and write about it. Ellison once wrote a short story, “Croatoan,” about aborted fetuses surviving and growing in the New York City sewers. It got pretty much the reception you’d expect. He survived.

From H.P. Lovecraft: Know your strengths and weaknesses. Lovecraft couldn’t write dialogue that sounded like people talking, so he seldom wrote dialogue at all.

From Arthur Machen: Never write a paragraph so long it doesn’t fit on the page. When I tried to read those extra-long paragraphs of his, it felt like my eyeballs were holding their breath, if that makes any sense.

From Vladimir Nabokov: If you use a word the reader isn’t likely to know, make sure they can guess it from context, or at least find it in the dictionary. I’m still a little irritated over that phrase “lithophanic eternities” in a crucial passage ofLolita. My best guess is that a lithophanic eternity is supposed to be better than a non-lithophanic one.

From Naomi Novik: The rule “show, don’t tell” doesn’t apply to everything — just the things that matter. Carefully violating it can be a good way to draw a distinction between the details of a scene that are actually important and that the reader should remember, and those that are just there to make the scene feel complete. I learned this from reading a paragraph in which Novik described a conversation in terms of social dynamics without once quoting anybody or saying what they were talking about. Try reading Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death,” and notice how detailed he is in describing the suite of rooms, and how vague in describing the revelers.

From Terry Pratchett: A humorous tone throughout most of a novel doesn’t take away from its ability to handle serious matters — in fact, it can make the serious moments all the more poignant.

From Harry Turtledove: It’s better to create one complex and interesting character than a hundred that are barely sketched out. (Turtledove has done both.)

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