Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Before I jump into Teaser Tuesday, I just want to give a shout-out for the contest at The Alliterative Allomorph. And not just because I admire her willingness and ability to type that title all the time! Sheesh. My fingers were tripping over each other. She's having an amazing contest and it's for a good cause to support The Writing Show. If you are a writer, you'll want to jump in. EXCELLENT prizes await. Check it out here. Understand that I'm being very generous here because I really, really want to win and all I'm doing is adding to the competition. Oh, well. A win by any of you is a win for me. :-)

Okay...now onto today's teaser. For a blogfest last week, I posted a portion of the prologue to Promise, which ended up getting cut from the book (a very long time ago). I enjoyed the comments and reaction to the scene, because it was obvious nobody had read Promise yet. Otherwise, I think you'd know exactly what's going on.

I thought it would be fun for both those who have already read the book and those who have not to post the entire deleted prologue. It's under Deleted Scenes on the www.IHavePromise.com website. You'll also find the first two chapters on the Excerpts tab. Read them both to see if you can figure out what's going on in that blogfest scene...and then read the book to really know what's happening. ;-)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Marketing - Part 5: Product

Back to our discussion on Product, after last week's marketing hiatus for Mockingjay

Last time, we discussed how Products are ideally developed to provide a new way to meet customers' needs - filling the gap between their problems and lack of good solutions. Today we'll talk about why Product is important to you - the writer, the reader, the job seeker, etc. And this is simple: Because, of the entire Marketing Mix depicted above, Product is where you have the most control.

This isn't usually true in our day jobs, where people in the Buying department choose the Products our companies sell or the Research & Development (R&D) team creates them. We usually don't have that much say in the Products. But, most of you are writers or book bloggers or just readers who at some point or another will have control over whatever "Product" you find yourself marketing (which is often yourself).

For writers working on a novel, your book is your Product. Right now, you have all the power over how good it is and how well it serves the customer. You are the creator, the decision-maker and the final say in it (until it's bought by a publisher, but first you have to get there). This is your chance to make the Product yours and to make it the. Best. Freakin'. Product. you can produce. The rest of the Marketing Mix will come in time and it will fall in place (whether it's you or your publisher doing it) when you have a frawesome Product - a mesmerizing, unforgettable book.

And very important: If you are seeking to be published the traditional way, this is the only time you have so much control over any of it. Once you sign on with an agent, you lose a lot of control, because it's now also the agent's Product. And once you sell your rights, you have to let go completely - the publisher now owns your Product. It's no longer just yours. So maximize the control you have now, while you can.

For book and other bloggers, your blog is your Product. **Aside: You may wonder why you should worry about marketing your blog. Because marketing gets followers. The more followers you have, the more influence you have. The more influence you have, the more free books and ARCs publishers will send you. Or the more connections you make in the industry. And the more connections you have, the more likely you'll meet that one person who can change your life.** Anyway...back to your Product. You also have entire control over your blog - its appearance, its organization and cleanliness, the topics you cover, your "voice" or attitude, etc.

And then, we are always our own Product. If you're looking for a job, you are the Product you're marketing. You can make your Product better by updating any skills, adding new abilities, gaining additional experience. You make yourself appear professional and sound desirable at your interviews. You have the control of how you present yourself as your Product.

If you're seeking out an agent, you are also the Product, as well as your book. After all, agents and publishers want someone who can produce more than one book. They want to launch your career so that all the time they devote to you as a debut author will be paid back for years down the road. They want to make sure you aren't difficult to work with, overly demanding or insecure, etc. You must market yourself as well as your book to land that agent.

We don't always get to control the Products we're responsible for in our day jobs. So when it comes to ourselves, our books, our blogs, etc., we need to take pride in our Product and embrace the control we have over how great it can be.

Next week we'll talk about one specific part of Product - packaging. In the meantime, please feel free to ask any questions. Or answer this one: What is one thing you can do this week to make your Product better?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Word Paint Blogfest

The frawesome Dawn Embers brings us today's blogfest: Word Paint Blogfest. Here's the deets, as well as links to the others. Check them out - some beautiful descriptions by lovely writers.

Here's the gist of the blogfest:

The book is Word Paint: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan. According to the book:

"Like painters, writers are the receptors of sensations from the real world and the world of the imagination, and effective description demands we sharpen our instruments of perception."

"Description is an attempt to present as directly as possible the qualities of a person, place, object or event. When we describe, we make impressions, attempting through language to represent reality. Description is, in effect, word painting."

So...my scene. This was written very early in the process of creating Promise and Purpose, from when it was one book. This is the first half of a preface that was deleted and never really looked at since (so I apologize for its roughness). I might one day post the whole thing as a teaser. :-) I don't know if it qualifies as word painting, but it's pretty descriptive.

The speedboat couldn’t reach the island fast enough for Sophia. She stood at the bow, watching with impatience as the island slowly grew larger in the darkness. The wind whipped her dark auburn hair against her face but she didn’t notice the stings on her skin. She was focused on getting there, the upcoming conversation and getting back. She had very little time.

She had told her daughter she would only be gone for the weekend. She hated leaving her there alone with him. She didn’t know if she could trust him and prayed that she hadn’t put her daughter’s life at risk. But that was why she had to come.

She could have made a simple phone call, but she didn’t want just verbal answers. She wanted to feel the responses, to know the truth in them. And that could only be accomplished in person.

She could flash only about a hundred miles at a time, forcing her to the confines and time restrictions of an airplane, just like everyone else. It was frustratingly slow. Each one-way flight was fourteen hours. That didn’t leave her much time to get the information she needed to calm her fears…or to change their minds.

As the driver approached, Sophia could already feel the magic of the island. She felt her body automatically shedding the years of intense control, as if a second skin was falling off of her and slipping into the water. After so many years of being on guard, she could just let go and be herself. She had forgotten the exhilarating feeling. Too anxious to wait, she jumped from the slowing boat and easily cleared the ten feet to the dock.

Although she had such little time and she could have been at the door in the blink of an eye, she strode up the path to the mansion. It was a hurried walk for the average person, but slow enough for her that she could pull her thoughts together one more time.

She hadn’t been to the island since her daughter was just an infant. It hadn’t changed. The tall Cyprus trees lined the uphill path, leading to a walkway framed with stone arches, which had at one time intimidated her with their ancient history. She barely noticed them now. She focused on the primordial stone mansion that glowed white in the darkness, reflecting the moon’s light. She could see dim, flickering lights in the deep windows.

A familiar, lanky man opened the heavy, wood front door for her.

“Good evening, Ms. Sophia,” he said politely. “Ms. Katerina is expecting you.”

Of course she was. It was virtually impossible to surprise Rina, but at least, Sophia planned it so there was not enough time for Rina to call a counsel. As their matriarch, Rina was fully capable of providing the answers Sophia sought. And Sophia wanted straight answers, directly from Rina, not contrived ones from the council.

“Hello, my beloved,” said a soft, feminine voice. The stunning woman seemed to float down the massive stone stairs in a long, silver, satiny gown. Even in the immense, dark foyer, lit only by the flames in the wall sconces, her beauty was remarkable. The resemblance between Rina and Sophia was striking. The average human, with their average eyes, would believe them to be sisters, possibly twins. Sophia’s face was a little softer, though, the angles not as sharp. Although it had been eighteen years since they had seen each other, neither had changed.

Rina wrapped her arms around Sophia. “I have missed you so.”

“Hello, Mother.” Sophia stiffly returned the hug.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Real or Not Real?

I finished Mockingjay in one day. And I'll probably read it again this weekend. Yeah, I'm sick, I know.

If you've finished, you'll get this. If you've read the first two, but haven't had a chance to read Mockingjay, don't worry I'm not going to spoil anything and I'm sure you'll still get this...it just slams home even harder after you're done. You know that emotional grip in the first two? Multiply it by thousands by the time you're done. And for those who haven't read these books...um, as a friend and a writer-pal, I have to ask: Why the hell not????

Anyway...I finished late Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Ever since, I've been in this emotional stupor, especially yesterday. My heart has been aching for everything that happened, for the characters, for the series to go on. I could barely focus on my own real life (and definitely not on my writing) because my mind kept going to the story and the characters and feeling all those emotions again.

Then I finally thought, "This actually happened and these people exist. Real or not real?" And I have to keep reminding myself that. Right now, with the freshness of the story and the ending, these characters feel so alive, I have to remind myself they're not. Their world feels so real, I have to remind myself it doesn't exist. Nobody has really suffered through all that.*

And what it comes down to, why I'm writing this, is to drive home the point that characters make a story. The Hunger Games series has a great plot with lots of action, twists, turns and surprises. It might have been a fairly good story even if we didn't really "get" the characters.

But it's a great, amazing, incredible, [insert positive adjective] story because we become  emotionally attached to the characters. We feel what they're feeling - their pain, their love, their joys, their defeats, their losses, their fears...all of it. This emotional connection brings us into their world, as if we're living through everything right there with them. And that's why, when we read "The End," we look up and think, "Whoa, where am I?", disoriented in our own homes. That's why we can't stop thinking about them hours or days later. That's why these stories become so memorable.

To really make your story memorable, you need characters who are memorable. They need to feel real, with strengths, weaknesses, mistakes and accomplishments. And they need emotions, because that's where we really connect with them. We may not understand their motives, they may be smarter or dumber than us, they might not be physically "our type." But if we feel them, we care about them. And if we deeply care about them, we remember them.

There are tons of blog posts and other resources about the importance of having three-dimensional characters. This isn't anything new. But Mockingjay and the rest of the series serves as the epitome of this truth. Besides, it's pretty much all I can think about right now.

So...are your characters real or not real?

*Yes, real people have suffered similar - and worse - tragedies, but that's not my point for this post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

We Interrupt Our Regular Scheduled Programming...for MOCKINGJAY!!!

It's Monday, which means it's supposed to be Marketing Monday here on this blog.



(No, not huge butt. Ew.)


It's Mockingjay Eve!!

See that counter down there...less than 12 hours!! I haven't been this excited for a release since Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. (Okay, I lie. I was a hundred times more excited for my own release, but that's completely different.)

In preparation, I've been re-reading The Hunger Games and Catching Fire this weekend. And now I'm getting this sinking pit in my stomach in anticipation for Mockingjay. Because I'm really scared about what's going to happen. Who's going to make it? Who's not going to make it? What horrible things are they going to have to suffer? I'm so scared for these characters I've fallen in love with.

The first couple times I read the books, I was totally Team Peeta. Well, really, I was Team Katniss, just wanting her to finally be happy, but I leaned heavily toward Peeta. He's sooo proven his love to Katniss. And I just didn't know Gale enough to feel the necessary connection to love him. But this last time, for some reason, I at least have a better understanding of Katniss's feelings for Gale. And since I really am Team Katniss, I just hope she gets to enjoy the happiness of ending up with one of them.

Because I'm kinda afraid she's gonna end up dead. WWWWAAAAAAHHHH!!! I know, how dare I say it. I read an interview with Suzanne Collins, though (I so terribly wish I could find the link again - I'll update this post if I do), that kind of eluded to this. I'm sooo hoping she was just throwing us for a loop, but then I wonder if she said it so we would think she was deceiving us, while actually providing a huge hint.

I can't wait. And I know I'll devour it the first time, then have to go back and re-read to make sure I didn't miss anything good. And then I'll be thinking about it for a while and then feel the let-down that it's actually over and I have to live with whatever ending the author gave it. I love these kinds of stories and strive to write them. You know, the ones that have you so engrossed, you can't even think of anything else...before you've even read it!

Are you as excited as I am? Do you have that same anxiety that you're about to lose someone you love? What are your predictions? If you, by chance, have already read Mockingjay by the time you read this, you will be forever banned from my blog if you spoil anything! I just want to hear your predictions based on the first two books and your thoughts on what might happen in the last.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Five for Friday

Last week, I had a little whine fest and shared my gratitude, all with the hope of explaining why I've been a little quiet on the blogs lately. I've realized, with another relatively quiet week, that it's all about my feeling of being overwhelmed and the need to re-evaluate priorities and find balance. So I've been in a melancholy mood this week while I try to figure out what to do about the chaos.

Today, I share five things that have inspired me, with the hope that you can fall back on these when you, too, need a little kick in the butt:

  1. Writer friends - They ROCK!!! Regardless of what stage they're in - from writing or revising their first novel to querying to writing or revising their next contracted book - they inspire me with their commitment, perseverance, passion and courage.
  2. Reader friends - Whether real-life or online, occasional or die-hard readers, book bloggers or not, their love for one story or many brightens a writer's day. When they share their love of a book and its characters, it's like the sun coming out on a cloudy day.
  3. Bloggers - Regardless of their topic or theme, they provide a connection to others with similar interests, challenges or accomplishments. They lift me up with their positive words when needed; enlighten me with their insights; broaden my mind with new perspectives and ideas; and give me new goals to shoot for. They often remind me that there is a whole world out there to be enjoyed.
  4. Family and friends - because I just can't leave them out. They are my rock.
  5. And last, but not least, this one quote was exactly what I needed this week. I've been thinking about it for several days, since someone posted it on Facebook. I've decided it needs to be my new mantra (though I think I'll paraphrase it for myself, to make it a little easier to remember). There are so many things to do all the time, but not all of them are truly important. It's also easy to put off the ones that really are the most important. Here's the quote:

"Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone." - Picasso

One thing I can't put off this weekend is my youngest son's birthday. 15!! Yikes!!! He can get his learner's permit now. Double-yikes!!! And now, for the next 6 weeks, my kids will be 15, 16, 17. How did we get here already????


Happy Birthday, bud! I love you! (No, he doesn't read this...but just in case.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Marketing - Part 4: Product

Now that we've discussed the Target Customer here and here, it's time to move on to the first P in the Marketing Mix - the Product. Or, for the customer, the first C - Customer's wants and needs. For the most success, we should develop a Product that specifically meets our Target Customer's needs and wants. We identify the gap between what they need/want (their problem) and the products (solutions) that are currently available. Then, ideally, we develop a product that fills that gap.

*Aside: In marketing, a service is considered a product - there is no distinction between the two. So when I say "product," that includes any service, as well. And often, actual tangible products include some kind of service, as well, which we'll get into a little bit later.

So, say you are really good at organizing spaces and time management. Your friends, family and neighbors frequently confess to you that they wish they were as organized as you are. You know there are such things as professional organizers, but apparently there is a reason the people you know have not used one. If you identify that reason - that gap in what is available and what these people you know want - you can develop a Product that better meets their needs and desires. Voila! You have a new Product and business that should be successful (if all else goes well) because you know you're filling an identified gap.

But many of you are writers and your Products are your books and we get to the question that many of us face, especially if unpublished. Do we find out what agents, publishers and readers are looking for, what they're not finding in all the other stories out there, and then write that book? Do we write for them or for ourselves?

The advice is conflicting. Agents may say a book is not marketable, meaning that they will have a hard time shopping it to publishers because publishers don't think readers will be interested enough to spend the money publishers need to recoup their investments. So, to increase your likelihood of being sold, it's better to find out what's already out there (including what's not yet published but will be in the next couple years), recognize what's been overdone and underdone and identify what publishers wish for, then write that book.

Of course, no one has any idea what readers really want, especially in a couple years, when your book will finally be available if you publish through traditional routes. So it's still a crap shoot. But at least it's an educated crap shoot. If you can write a book based on what others, the "experts," want, then you may have more success doing it this way.

But what if that's not the book you want to write? Do you force yourself to write it anyway? To me, it's just not worth it. There's just not enough money in this career to write for these experts, if it's not something I want to write. I honestly believe the best books are those written with intense passion. The ones the writer felt compelled to write, that they can't not write. If we're forcing ourselves to write something else, it comes through in the story and the writing. And then you have a poor Product and poor products are not marketable.

So there is the other side of the coin of advice: write what you want, the story you want to read. Write for yourself, not the money. If it gets published and you make money, so much the better. But at least in the meantime, you have loved what you're doing. And here's my take: if you love it enough, if you've put enough into it, even if it takes a lot more work and time than you expected, your passion will shine through. Your story will be excellent. And if you enjoy it, chances are, there are others out there who will, too. After all, you know there are other readers out there who like the same books you do. You do have a Target Customer you're writing for, starting with yourself.

By the way, the same applies to book bloggers/reviewers. If you're looking to get paid to write reviews, then you'll probably have to read books you have little interest in, especially in the beginning. So just like the novelist, decide if your goal is to have fun and if more comes out of it, great...or if your goal is money.

If your goal is to enjoy reading and sharing your thoughts with others, don't worry about what genre is hot right now or that there may be hundreds of book blogs focusing on your favorite type of read. Your Product - your blog - will be successful because it displays the passion you feel for reading. You are unique, so your blog will be unique. Don't try to fit your square self into a round hole or vice versa.

There is much more to say about Product, so we'll continue with it next week. It's especially important because for writers - whether novelists or bloggers - Product is the one P we have the most control over.

In the meantime, what do you think about what I said about writers/bloggers and their Products? Is your goal to be published (paid), even if that means writing (reading) something others want but you don't love? Or do you write (read) what you want, because you love it, and hope that others will, too?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday

Sorry I haven't posted much this week, my lovelies. I've decided to re-think my Teaser Tuesdays for a while, because I don't know what to tease you with. Promise is out and I think I've already teased the hell out of it, anyway. And until more people read Promise, I don't want to get into Purpose. So...I'm thinking of replacing it with something else, but haven't figured out what.

And yesterday I had a post completely written in my head. I even had a title for it: Whiner Wednesday. Because that's all I was doing: whining. Complaining about not having enough time, money, space and sleep. Whining about everything I had to do, which keeps me from doing all those things I really want to do. Sharing my envy for all of you who get to read a lot and write reviews and manage beautiful book-blog sites...or those of you who get to write without a deadline or are so involved in your writing, you think of nothing else and wishing I was in that place again but there's just too much to do...or those of you who have been taking trips - whether long or short, nearby or far off - because it's been so long since I've traveled for fun.

Yes, it was all about whining. And who am I to whine right now? Sheesh! My first novel has just been released. I'm living my dream! So I mentally spanked myself and put myself into gratitude mode.

Because I am so thankful for all the blessings I have - my family, my friends, my day-job that pays the bills, a roof over my head, vehicles that get us all from point A to point B safely and reliably (perhaps without A/C, but at least we're safe), the ability to purchase school supplies and clothes for my kids, and, of course, my writing and all the people who have supported me, past, present and future. We're all generally healthy (although it's football season so that can change quickly), my kids stay out of trouble and do well in school, we both have jobs and aren't suffering nearly as badly as many during this economy. God has truly blessed us.

I'm also thankful for all of you, who check in here to see what nonsense I have to share. Who have read my book and suggested it to others. Who comment here or on Twitter or Facebook or email or real-life. Thank you for reading my ramblings and joining me in the celebration of Promise's release. Thank you for sticking with me for what's to come. *Love and hugs thrown at you all*

So...what are your thoughts for this summer's day? What are you thankful for? Or, if you feel like it, what do you have to whine about today? Go ahead, I don't care. Sometimes we need that bit of time to let it all out. It helps us to release it from our souls and then to regain perspective. So use this opportunity to whine, if you'd like. We can all whine together and offer cheese to each other to go with it, and then move onto better thoughts.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Marketing - Part 3: The Target Customer

It's been a while since we've done a Monday Marketing. Last time, we talked about the Marketing Mix - the 4 P's & 4 C's of marketing, which all revolve around the Target Customer.

I said we'd get into the first P - Product today, but I lied. After reading that post, I realized that we needed to spend a little more time on the Target Customer. It's the most important part of the Marketing Mix, after all, because without a customer - a reader, a buyer, a spouse or child or employer - there's no reason for the rest. You need a Customer but, more specifically, you need to identify a Target Customer. (Yes, seriously think about your customer having a target on their head because you really are aiming for it. Well, actually, the heart. Put the target on the heart because you want your customer to lllluuuuurrrrvvvveee you.)

For just about anything you're trying to market - your book, your blog, your need for a raise, household chores - you have more than one type of customer. The rest of your Marketing Mix changes, depending on which customer you're targeting. For example, if you'd like your husband to take out the trash, the "price" and promotional message are going to be different than if you ask your kid to do the same thing.

Or perhaps your book is a mystery with paranormal and romantic elements. Your readers (and possibly potential agents) could prefer any of those genres. But when you're marketing - querying or deciding which websites to advertise on - you have to pick your Target Customer and aim the rest of the Marketing Mix at that particular customer. So your query letter discusses the Big Murder Mystery when targeting an agent who represents mysteries. You know romance readers will love your book, so you put an ad on the I Love Fabio forum that emphasizes the romance (I have no idea if that forum exists, so please don't ask where, no matter how much you're dying to know).

Sometimes your product even changes. Perhaps you get this great idea for a paranormal story and you decide it would be most enjoyed by Young Adult readers, but you've always written adult mainstream. You have to make adjustments to your style, your choice of words, sentence structures, pacing, etc., to meet the needs and desires of this new audience. If you've already started writing before you realize it would be better as YA, then you may even need to make changes to the character and some of the plot.

Book bloggers often start additional blogs to create a new product for a different Target Customer (or target market - same thing, different word). On one blog, they review YA novels, on another they emphasize adult reading and perhaps even on another they do erotica or noir thriller. They probably don't want their YA audience on that last one. The looks of each blog are probably going to be very different and the style of writing may be as well.

If you have experience in both retail sales and computer programming and you really just. Need. A. Job., you'll probably apply for both types. You're not going to use the same resume, though. One will emphasize your sales experience and the other your techno-geek stuff. When you go in for an interview at Hoity-Toity Boutique, you're not going to tell them all about how you can write  video-gaming software. You're targeting your Marketing Mix to the customer.

The point is, you must know your Target Customer and their needs and desires, and then create a Marketing Mix specifically for them. And yes, that may mean you have multiple Marketing Mixes for the same product or for the same customer.

Your customers all tune into WIIFM - What's In It For Me. This applies to potential employers, spouses, kids, readers, buyers - anyone. It's just human nature. They want to know what they're going to get from you. Not what some other person with different likes and interests will get. What they will get. So you target everything toward them specifically.

All that to stress to you that you must know your customers and then you must really know your Target Customer. Know their needs, desires, what keeps them up at night, what they dream about, what they fear, what their biggest problems are, what makes them happiest, etc. Know everything, or at least as much as possible. Think of someone you know who is your Target Customer and study them. When you know your Target Customer, then you can tailor the rest of the Marketing Mix to them and see success.

Questions? Shoot 'em at me!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Five for Friday

Friday is more than half over, although there's still Friday night. That's the best part, right? ;-) But today has just been full of really cool and crazy things:

  1. First, it's Friday! Cool all by itself!
  2. I found out one of our day-job clients is married to a prolifically published author! I hope to meet her one day very soon. That's just too cool.
  3. We got tickets to see Aerosmith in Tampa tomorrow. I've never seen them and I'm really looking forward to it. Especially to the fact that I won't be the oldest in the crowd. LOL Recently, we've been to Breaking Benjamin, Three Days Grace and 30 Seconds to Mars and we've always been the geezers. Now I'll be the baby. :-)
  4. My son got inked! Yes, it's frawesomely cool. But he's 16 and he's my son! A part of me weeps, but I like it and I'm glad he got something that will still mean something to him in 25 years - he'll still be Irish. LOL And it refers to a Bible verse, so that's pretty cool. It's very well done and if I decide to get an Amadis tattoo, I know where I'll go now (if not Miami Ink). What is Amadis? You'll have to read Promise to find out. ;-)
  5. And last but definitely not least...Promise has been selected as a finalist for the Royal Palm Literary Award by the Florida Writers Association! Woohoo!!

Many reasons to celebrate. So I'm going to do just that. Have a cool and crazy weekend, lovelies!