Monday, May 31, 2010

The Power of Positive Reinforcement by TM Hunter




The Power of Positive Reinforcement
by T. M. Hunter
Anyone who follows my blog or has seen my various articles on the web would know that I’m a big proponent of setting goals as a means to get jump-started on your writing and to keep it flowing. There are those who see goal-setting as bringing far too much structure into what is considered a creative endeavor.  I see it differently, and have a feeling there are many would-be writers out there who struggle with getting words out on the page just as I have in the past. They feel disappointed in themselves for being unable to accomplish what they want to get done, and these negative feelings feed upon themselves, which only propagates the issue farther. Six or twelve months later, you’re still looking to get your first draft finished or maybe even  the first page of your novel.
In my own situation, thus was born the goal-setting life, and I have a feeling it will help any other struggling writer out there.
Of course, I’ve written other articles on setting goals, including tips on how to set them, but one thing to remember is that writing is primarily a mental activity. As such, it’s important that we should not only set our writing goals but we should give ourselves rewards when we complete them. Now this isn’t to say a person should set themselves up on a Caribbean cruise when they finish the first draft of their novel (although if anyone wants to buy me one for when I finish my third Aston novel, I won’t object). But as always, with anything there should be rules, and so your rewards for completing your goals should adhere to the following three guidelines:
1. Your reward should be something you don’t already receive on a regular basis

I’ve seen many people steer away from this precept when they reward themselves. In fact, while sitting down to write this article, a writer friend of mine told me to turn off Twitter until I finished. Although I did as he instructed, returning to Twitter won’t in fact be my reward, because ultimately (though I hope it will encourage me to finish) I’ll receive that ‘reward’ eventually whether I complete my task or not. The same goes for those who go out to dinner after they finish the first draft of a story or novel. Unless you never go out to dinner otherwise (which would be rare in this day and age), that isn’t really considered a true reward because you receive it other times when you aren’t accomplishing your goals.
Be inventive. What is something you never (or almost never) get to do? Set that up as your reward, and then bask in the glory of being able to do it when you’re finished.
2. Your reward should fit the goal that you completed

I mentioned before that a person shouldn’t set themselves up on a Caribbean cruise when they complete the first draft. Again, it seems fairly obvious, but the opposite can also be true. What if you finished the final draft of your latest novel and sent it off to your first batch of agents? That’s something that doesn’t happen all too often, so it deserves a larger reward than say, finishing your word count goal for the month. You wouldn’t want to go out to a fancy dinner alone (although maybe you never get to go out to dinner). The intensity of the reward is what’s important for tasks that are monumental, and usually rare, because it’s all about forming a habit. Finishing a short story, on the other hand, might just end up with a reward of a special ice cream treat (assuming you don’t go out for these all the time), since it’s something that can be accomplished fairly quickly and easily for most.
And of course, when you begin completing the same goal (a word count goal for the month, for example) over and over, it’s time to set your goal higher in order to receive the same reward. One  might ask why they couldn’t just scale back the reward, but the mind will begin having no incentive to reach the goal any longer, and the habit will begin to fade.
And of course, maybe you can book your (and my) Caribbean cruise once you sell the movie rights to your novel.
3. Your reward should be something positive

Yet one more obvious statement (it’s beginning to  form a trend), but one would be surprised how many people will use a negative consequence to spur them to complete a goal (such as removing yourself from  personal contact with friends and family until you’re finished with a story). Although punishing oneself until a task is completed may actually get the task at hand accomplished, the mind seeks to have positive sensations when forming and maintaining habits (which is why it’s so hard for addicts to quit). If your task was accomplished through negativity, your mind won’t form a lasting habit. Although it may serve as a start, and momentum will carry you for a while, ultimately the old habits (not accomplishing your goals) will return. So, make sure you earnestly seek out a positive reward and your habits will both form and last.
So there you have it, three solid guidelines for setting up rewards to go along with your writing goals. I hope they prove as useful for you as they have for me. Have a great time, everyone, and enjoy those rewards along the way.
***
T. M. Hunter has always had a fascination with interstellar travel, earning a B. S. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Kansas. Twice a top ten finisher in the P&E Readers Poll for his short stories (2007, 2009), his book HEROES DIE YOUNG earned Champagne Books’ Best-Selling Book of 2008 award. FRIENDS IN DEED is his latest novel. For more information, including links to his published short stories and novels, please visit AstonWest.com. You can also find T. M. Hunter on Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace as well.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Marketing Your Book and Yourself, Part II

“So that’s it? I set up a blog and a webpage and I’m done marketing my book?”

Hell, no.

In addition to a web and blog page, you will also need to establish an author’s account on some of the various social networking sites (SNS) available on the Internet. Facebook, My Space, and Twitter are the most common ones, although there are dozens of SNSs available. Set up profiles on as many of these networking sites as you want or on the ones where you feel you can have a greater presence. A great website for the serial social networker is Ping.fm, which allows you to post to numerous networking sites simultaneously. Just bear in mind that Ping should not be used as an excuse to establish a presence on every SNS available, because the more time you spend maintaining these sites and networking means the less time you spend writing.

You will also want to join a few forums and chat groups to make your name known throughout the community. I suggest a mix between those directed primarily to writers and those frequented by fans of your genre. A good place to begin is Goodreads. This site is dedicated to writers and readers and maintains numerous chat groups that span all genres. Beyond that, do your research and check out various forums/chat groups until you find a few where you feel comfortable and enjoy the discussions. As with the social networking sites, moderation is the key.

“Cool. I love Facebook. I have a couple of dozen zombie pets that I’m taking care of.”

You’re missing the point. Your goal is to market your book, not to steal your friend’s zombie rabbits or create photo albums of your last trip to Europe. Always remember that you need to market yourself as much as your book. The best way you can accomplish that is to establish a reputation as a reliable expert in your genre. Although it’s important, don’t use these sites just to talk about yourself and update people on your latest writing project. Discuss the latest books and movies in your genre, provide links to other sites that are of interest to you and may be of interest to your readers, offer the latest news in your genre or the publishing industry, or maybe write a series of blogs on how to get published. And don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a thousand followers at the end of the first week. This is a slow process, so be patient. If you market yourself correctly and give it time, slowly but surely you’ll build up a following of fans who will want to read your book, who will tell their friends to read it, and who will eagerly await your next novel. (NOTE: Gary Vaynerchuks's Crush It!, available from Amazon, provides an excellent step-by-step approach on how to achieve this.)

There are two important things to keep in mind when blogging and networking. First, always use your writing name when posting. While it might be fun to call yourself zombiebunnies on Facebook, it makes it almost impossible for your fans to find and follow you. Second, avoid controversial subjects and flame wars with fans and colleagues. This is one of those instances when bad publicity is worse than no publicity. If you take sides on political issues, militantly support certain causes, or publicly and consistently lambast a colleague as a hack who can’t write for merde, you run the risk of losing major portions of your fan base.

Finally, there are other things you should do to market yourself and your book:

-- Book signings. These are your most important venue for building your fan base. And don’t limit yourself just to book stores. General book and genre conventions are also a big draw for fans. Of all the horror conventions I’ve attended, authors are among the most popular celebrity guests. John Lamb, author of the Teddy Bear Mystery series, once told me that he sells almost as many books at teddy bear conventions as he does at book signings.

-- Guest blogging: These are vital for new authors to get their names out in the public domain. There are many established blogs that allow aspiring or first-time authors to guest blog on their sites. I am indebted to Dawn's Reading Nook for allowing me the opportunity to talk about my writing and the industry on this site. Patricia's Vampire Notes once posted an interview with me, and Raven Kelly - Vampiress has posted my author’s bio as well as a link to my book. I’ve made several new friends and fans thanks to their generosity.

-- Look for every opportunity you can find to get your name out there. See if you can convince your local radio and television stations or newspapers to interview you as a hometown celebrity. Try and arrange virtual book tours (which is especially important if you’re an e-book author) where you have chat room discussions on various forums. Spend the time and effort to create a video trailer for your book that you can post to YouTube. Donate autographed copies of your book to charity events, or do book signings at such events with all the proceeds going to that charity. These are just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There are dozens of things you can do to publicize your book, all of which inevitably increase sales.

Well, that wraps up my blog series on how to get published. Any questions?

“Yeah. You just described a hell of a lot of work to go through to be a mid-list author. Why would anyone in their right mind want to write for a living?”

Good question. Let me answer that… next week.

FINAL BLOG: Why Would Anyone in Their Right Mind Want To Write for a Living?

Welcome Author Rie McGaha




Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?
 I was born a writer and have done it since I learned to make letters. My parents say that I began telling stories long before I could write, and as a child I wrote all kinds of little tales for friends and cousins. I was in the 8th grade when I wrote my first "real" story. It was a historical western about a woman from the east who travels to the wild, Wild West to teach school in a small town and falls in love with the sheriff. I wish I still had it because I'd love to see how my 13 year old brain worked out the romance!

Who or what has been your biggest influence as a writer?
 I think it's been some of the classic authors like Theroux, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, and many others. Modern authors like James Patterson, Stephen King, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Karen Marie Moning are great influences. As far as people I know, Jill Noble, (Noble Romance Publishing), has been one of the biggest influences I've had. She has literally taught me the business of writing. I also have a great group of author friends who are not only great authors in their own right, but also the ones I can go to with questions and get honest answers--sometimes too honest, but that's what I love about them!

Your work is very popular with readers and reviewers; how does it feel to have such positive recognition for your work?
 Is it? lol That's flattering. I just hope I can provide a few hours of enjoyment for people, take them away from real life for a while and drop them into a fantasy that will leave them feeling a little better than they did when they began.
What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story?
 That depends on genre of course, but basically, the story line has to be intriguing, moving, and one the reader can relate to. Also, it never hurts to have a hunky-dunky hero and a fiesty, beautiful heroine!

Could you tell us a little about how you develop your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?
 My characters tend to write themselves. The voices in my head begin and the characters come to life, as real as any actual person I know and that makes it very easy to write them. A fave character? That's like asking me which of my children is my favorite. I don't really have favorites, but if I had to pick one, it would be Lucian in Deadly Dreams. He was also the most challenging. Lucian is gorgeous, but he's also the bad guy. I wanted to make the readers understand him, but also hate him. And I think I succeeded because I've been told he gives everyone nightmares!

Please tell us about the projects you are currently working on; what can readers expect to see in the coming months?
 Oh my. Ancient Blood,  as you know this is a werewolf story and the sequel to Blood Line, which comes out May 31, 2010 from Noble Romance Publishing. On June 15, 2010 I have a short story called Winter's Night coming from Untreed Reads, and I'm excited about this because this is my first non-romance story. On July 26, 2010 the second book in the My Soul To Keep Trilogy, Caleb, is coming from Noble Romance Publishing, followed in August with the third book, Arion, and on September 10, 2010 Closure is coming from Champagne Books. In the meantime, I am contributing to The Wine Diaries by William Maltese. My husband, Nathan and I will be touring local Oklahoma wineries, sampling and writing about the wines made here. Most people aren't aware Oklahoma produces wine, but they are my favorite wines and I've wanted to write a book about them for some time, so when this opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it!
   
   I also write two monthly columns for The Pagan & The Pen. The first is called The Eggshell Effect and is about domestic violence. The other is called What Women Want/What Men Need and deals with the many nuances of the battle of the sexes. 
Where can readers find out what's new and how can they contact you?

   Everyone is always welcome to drop by my website and leave a comment or question on the guestbook. http://www.riemcgaha.com  If anyone would like to email me, (I always answer my email), rieanswers@gmail.com

What is your favorite movie of all time? The one where you can watch it and still get affected at the same spots each and every time?
There's quite a few actually. My all time fave has to be It's A Wonderful Life, the b&w version of course. There's an old western called China 9, Liberty 37 that I can watch over and over, but I think it's out of circulation or the title changed, I haven't been able to find it anywhere, or at least not the original version. I found the G version and it's just not the same. But I can watch the romantic comedies over and over and never tire of them!
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what 5 things would you have with you? 
   My husband. My laptop. Rum. Rum. Rum. 

What is your favorite way to relax after a hard day working and writing?
   Refer to last three items on previous question! LOL 

What is the one era you would love to go visit and why?
   I am a huge American history buff and I would love to see this country before the white man arrived. I would also love to visit ancient Egypt, Scotland, and Ireland. 

What is one historical figure you would love to chat with and why?
Abraham Lincoln. I have always loved American history and Mr. Lincoln is a man who made a real difference in this country and I'd love to pick his brain! I'd also love to chat with the founding Fathers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Hadrian, Mary Queen of Scots, and my list goes on.
     
Out of all your books, do you have a favorite one? If not, then which one is closest to your heart?
  Yes, I have a favorite and it's currently in the hands of a publisher as I wait to see if it's going to be picked up. It's called Cross The Line, and it's set right after the Civil War.  

What is coming from you in 2010? Anything you want to do a shout out about?
   Right now I'm concentrating on Ancient Blood since it's next up for release. I have a contest going on and everyone who enters wins a copy of Blood Line, and I'm also giving away an Ancient Blood T-shirt and a poster signed by me! This contest is very easy to enter, and readers can go to my website and click on the Ancient Blood tab, or the direct link is www.riemcgaha.com/ancientblood.htm 
EXCERPT: (http://www.nobleromance.com/BrowseListing.aspx?author=8)

     Ancient Blood by Rie McGaha
Ireland was her destination, where she would visit her beloved Colin's final resting place—the last place she'd been before making the choice to remain in human form. Now that she'd decided to live again, she would begin here, as well.
Ganda traveled by ship. She wasn't up to giving flying a try. Not just yet.
As the Irish coast came into view, her hands shook. She took a deep breath as she took in the stunning sight. The rocky shores, the lush, green valleys shrouded in mist—shimmers of rainbows formed by etches of sunlight gave the land an otherworldly, magical quality.
Although, all those thousands of years ago, the land hadn’t been called Ireland and hadn’t been populated either. She and Colin had loved the place for that very reason. The island had been their paradise where they were alone and in love. As Ganda disembarked from the ship and stepped onto the dock, a pang of loss filled her. Though the island had changed, there was a familiarity to this place that felt welcoming.
Thoughts of Jessie filled Ganda’s mind. What would she have done without her dear friends who had helped with the travel arrangements? The ticket for the ship, the hotel, all the reservations made from Jessie's laptop computer, everything had been set up for Ganda before she left the states. She checked into her hotel, staying only long enough to shower and change. When she’d finished dressing, she returned to the lobby, where the doorman hailed a cab for her. She handed the driver the address and settled into the seat, gazing out at the passing landscape as they sped toward the country.
The cabbie pulled into the cemetery drive and stopped. Ganda asked him to wait. Hesitantly, she emerged from the cab and walked across the grass, a gentle breeze caressing her face. Her hands shook violently; she slowed her pace. Inhaling deeply, she held her breath for a moment, then exhaled slowly as she stood before the gravestone and read the inscription. Her husband's name, Colin . . . next, the eulogy, Beloved husband of Ganda . . . the date of his death but not his birth was carved into the stone. So old, she thought, and weathered by centuries of rain and wind. Kneeling, she placed her hand on the stone, tears rolling down her face.
"Oh, Colin, I've missed you so very much. So many years have passed, but I feel as if you left me only yesterday. I tried to join you my love, but . . . ." She sighed. "I guess I didn't have the strength. I hope you know how much I love you. Then and now."
She rose, kissed her fingertips, then pressed them to the stone. "Till we meet again, my love." She turned away and returned to the waiting cab.


Friday, May 28, 2010

ARe and Smart Bitches Summer Give Away-CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT

 
All Romance E-store and Smart Bitches have teamed up to have a Sizzling Summer Giveaway this Summer. The details are as follows:

From ARe Newsletter:

Summer and romance reads go hand in hand, and ARe has joined with Sarah from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books to bring you the hottest reads for this season with Smart Bitch Sarah's Sizzling Summer Book Club.

Here's how it works... 

Sarah will announce her book club picks about every two weeks throughout the summer on SBTB and (here's the best part) All Romance ebooks is offering a 50% rebate on every one of Sarah's book club picks. When you purchase the club pick book on ARe or OmniLit, the rebate will be applied to your account in eBook Bucks at checkout. 

After about 2 weeks, Sarah will host live chat sessions to discuss the book. The chat times will be rotated so those in different time zones can participate. Sarah is taking suggestions for July so leave a comment on her blog or email her at sarahATsmartbitchestrashybooksDOTcom.

Get out the iced tea, because at Smart Bitches and ARe, it's gonna be one hot summer!
 
Click HERE for all the details and more.
 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I got a Creative Blogger Award!


I got to thank Linda La Roque for this honor. I am flattered and awed by it and would like to thank the academy...err wait..this isn't the awards show. *pouts* Oh all right, then a big thanks to Linda for this.

Now my instructions are as follows are to give you 5 truths and 1 lie about myself, or 5 lies and 1 truth. I've 1decided to give you truths.

To make this interesting, I'm having a contest. The prize is a $10.00 gift certificate to All Romance E-books.

To enter, become a follower of my blog and leave a comment identifying my one lie about myself. Correct entries will be entered in a drawing. The cutoff time is Monday May 31st at midnight. The winner will be announced on Tuesday June 1st around noon EST (USA time). This is open to international readers as well.

Ok now onto my truths and lie. portion of the segment. *grins*

1)My favorite Cheesecake is from Cheesecake factory and it's White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle.
2) I live with a boytoy of my own and two kids.
3) I am huge reader and have 4 bookcases packed with paperbacks and hardcovers.
4) I love fairies so much I told my kids when they were young a birthday fairy will leave a present for them on their big day.
5) My favorite actor is Neil Patrick Harris.

Ok now I get to bestow this prestigious award onto seven bloggers and they are:

1) Tilly Greene's Hot Thoughts
2) Amber Skyze
3) Viki Lyn
4) Moonlight, Lace & Mayhem
5) Cynsights Blog
6) Lynn's XtraOrdinary Romance
7) Romance Lives Forever

Now I look forward to hearing your guesses into my truths and lie. Thanks Linda for this wonderful award. :)

WRITER'S WRITE...WRITING PARTNERS FEUD


THOU STRONG SEDUCER, OPPORTUNITY
By
Angelica Hart and Zi

As the writing tandem of Angelica Hart and Zi we confront the omnipresent obstacle of credibly selling seduction. The action of the artful lure of lust and love is and can be difficult. The line of demarcation between sensuality and erotica is hazy. The following is a piece from our manuscript in progress, It May Be Love. The writer of the e-mail was a man wanting to seduce, his heart was pure, his motivation honest, yet were his techniques apt, effective, or foolish?

Morning. The world of weather appears to have given wonderful, at first, it a light gentle rain. Not so wonderful later, so I read until I sat to write to you. The coffee is being shared alone, wish I had a smile to share with it, yours. The room is silent but for the ticky-tack of my keyboard, ticky-tack, sticky keys. The A and S keys. I have been writing steamy stuff lately. Why? My thoughts are with you. I hope this finds you well.

John Dryden wrote, “Thou strong seducer, Opportunity!” John knows seduction, yet, so few see the opportunity before them. I contend that they miss the moment. So few understand seduction, I see it, feel it, but can I create it? The best I can do is try. Kudos Johnnie boy. Your beautiful eyes are my opportunity to dream, no, not John’s but yours, silly!

You are my possibility
My friend to be
My muse
My paramour
My future
You are my possibility
And I am profoundly
Pleased.

“A wise man will make more opportunities then he finds.” was given to us by Francis Bacon, neither a pig nor a women but a man who has a healthy vision on how to challenge life. I am a glass half-full man and see optimism as my greatest quality, maybe my second. You can be the judge one day.

I see sun when it rains
Light in the dark
I feel dawn rushes
I know good
And adore it
Ugly is ignored
For beauty transcends all
I see possibilities.

Pollyannaish? No. Nor cynic. Edward R. Murrow said of optimism, “Someone who tells you to cheer up when things are going his way.” That is the essence of a cynic. I think of you and become showered by the waterfall of possibilities. Drenched in the orange glow of what if.

The ‘iron hot’ strategy from James Howell’s words, “strike while…” is how most look at opportunity. John Clarke wrote, “Make hay while the sun shineth.” Don’t ya just love a word with a –th. Churchill’s spin was, “Make hell while the sun shines.” which supports this narrower view of opportunity. I differ with these men. I see opportunity as a more wonderfully larger thing. Opportunity is boundless, enriched by imagination.

As a child I was told
Have lemons make lemonade
As an adult I say
Have a life… live brightly.

Now, is our chance to discover, to take sojourns to ideas and ideals. The method to facilitate the quest for the self-actualized being is captured in one thought; risk it all. The grand way to find the greater joy our lives can offer; risk it all. A way to grow in oh so many ways… wink-wink!

Sincerity bleaches white
The browns of dishonesty
The you of me is beguiling
The me of you… reconciling

I look at it this way. When it rains cats and dogs; you’ve a new pet or two. I’ve reached that age where I understand and I enjoy the simple things. Life is good, so I just look for it.

The point, yes, I’ll move toward it.

Aristotle puts it simply, “A friend is a second self.” After reading your words I felt a wonderful connect. One I would be foolish to let past without discovery, so you are my opportunity, my possibility, and I sincerely thank you. You are becoming my friend.

I look at you
And see me
Looking back
At yourself.

I’d like to see your eyes, feel your smile, and discover you.

The afore piece was designed so the man might via his email seduce. When we construct a manuscript and the plot device is seduction we never know if we’ve been successful. Of course we seduce the whomever we intended, we designed it that way, but do we touch the reader. We are writing temptation so we want to tempt. It is the reader whom we ultimately feel we have to move. Enticing allure was the staple of Shakespeare, but required one to be a student of the obscure. We feel it must be both real and overt, universally intriguing, yet precisely perfect for the characters and, yes, we stumble.

Is it innate insecurity on our part? Great query. No! Neither of us are insecure about seduction nor our writing. It is the delicate fabric of it and the diverse nature of it that brings us struggles. One character might find apt fascination with a shy stoic man whereas another craves a virile dominating sort. Translating that and bringing it beauty is our duty to readers. There are no formulas. The plot and essence of the characters created dictate the tools available to us. Our constant boggle is that within our plots do we excite and please the reader. We are inspired to make the seduction believable, maybe the seducer likeable, the tease sexy and personal to the reader, but mostly to bring an honest twitter to anyone who lets our words unfold before them. We want you to believe a shy man a stud, and want you to want him. It is easy to make a stud a stud.

We see love, also beauty in that love, and all that for every person. Naive of us? Not at all.

This is Zi saying that I want you… to read!

SNAKE DANCE
The Story:

On the planet Starling wRen defies her heritage so she can be with VeIper, an outcast bent on freeing his species from ethnic cleansing. Mong, a slayer, quells their ambition as he plots the subjugation of wRen and the death of VeIper.

EXCERPT:

With lithe movement he followed that scent, in wavy patterns slipping one way then the other catching it at its greatest strength. Coiled, flexed, and slowly rose ever so little as not to be seen, and saw for the first time in his short life something that gave him a shiver to his soul, rattling, and he noticeably trembling. This was not chills of fear, no, but a far different emotion. The full magnitude of this he could not discern but it was there like tiny flickers of fire bursting under his skin.

There captive in his gaze was a female, white and peach toned, similar to others yet nothing at all alike. She stood out against the natural background of color as if apart from it, and yet she somehow was all of it. Her face held an intricate balance of beauty and emotion. It was as if you could see the swirl of them real and raw with no apology for them. Her body held the lushness and enticement of her kind, but the enticement was somehow different. It was as if her curves had been sculptured just for his hands; as if her breasts and buttocks would fit perfectly into his palms; as if her flesh would respond instantly to the trace of his fingertips and as if her lips would curve into his with perfection. Their fingers would entwine naturally, the tender spurt of her pulse would match his


We'd love to hear from anyone interested in what we do. Anyone who writes us at angeliahartandzi@yahoo.com and leaves an s-mail address, we will send you a gift and add you to any future mailings.

Angelica Hart and Zi
KILLER DOLLS
SNAKE DANCE
CHASING...CHASING...CHASING ~ July 2010
angelicahartandzi@yahoo.com
angelicahartandzi.com

Champagne Books
http://www.champagnebooks.com/



Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Talking with author Ed Williams



“The How To Look At A Woman Primer”

I want to talk today about our national pastime. No, we’re not gonna talk about baseball, cause that’s not our real national pastime. It’s certainly not the national pastime for women, and it’s not even the national pastime for men, if we‘re honest about it. If all of us men would come clean, the national pastime for us is, has been, and always will be looking at women. More specifically, looking at very attractive women.

We may as well just own up to it - we men would rather look at a nice looking woman than just about anything else. We’re biologically programmed that way. From the time the first hormones of puberty hit, we enjoy looking. And we continue enjoying it on up until we die. We can be young, old, married, single, divorced, employed, unemployed, white, black, red, yellow, tall, short, educated, or uneducated, and our one commonality is that we love looking at women. If any of you ladies out there doubt me on this, simply try the following - walk over to the man in your life, look indignantly at him, and sternly ask, “Fred, do you really like looking at that trashy looking Pamela Anderson in her skimpy bathing suits?” Then, just sit back and watch his reaction - you’ll see and hear more stammering than you would if you asked him to go out and buy certain feminine related products for you. Let’s face it, of course he wants to look at her, she’s a beautiful, trashy looking blonde, and if he didn’t want to look at her he’d be wanting to watch some Richard Simmons‘ exercise videos, and I don‘t need to say anymore about that.
So, now that we’re honest about men loving to look at hot women, we now need to discuss just how we actually do it. It’s not as easy as you’d think - first, you can’t just out and out gawk at a beautiful woman. If you’re with your wife, mother, or girlfriend when you do so, it can be pretty embarrassing. Maybe even potentially dangerous. Therefore, with that in mind, most of us men learn to look at women in ways that won’t get us into very much trouble. The following are our most widely utilized techniques:

1. The very simplest way to look at a nice looking woman without getting caught is to just look away from her, and then cut your eyes over to where she happens to be - it’s quite simple and effective. The only problems with it are that you can get some real powerful headaches if you cut your eyes over to the side for very lengthy periods of time, and, if you’re out walking when you’re cutting your eyes over, you can slip up and walk headfirst into something if you‘re not careful. I had a friend one time who actually walked right into soft drink vending machine while raptly gazing upon some feminine beauty. Talk about a cold, hard dose of reality!

2. Another way to look at a woman and not get caught is to create a diversion. It goes something like this - let’s say you and your partner are walking along in a Wal-Mart one day, and you happen to spot a real babe. Quickly, you look over towards the front of the store and say to your partner, “Wow, did you see that old woman just shove the door greeter?” Your partner will instantly walk over to check it out, and this is the time you use to scope out some newly minted gold for your eyeballs. Normally, this works out pretty well, but there’s hell to pay if your partner comes back a little too quickly and sees you checking out a hot woman. It’s easier trying to explain a loud burp at a funeral than that.

3. One novel technique is to walk up to a pretty woman and say, “Excuse me, I’m a Human Resources executive and I’ve been interviewing candidates for a self-defense instructor at our institute all afternoon. My eyes are just killing me. Would you mind if I just gaze upon your beauty for a few seconds?” Okay, honestly I’ve never heard of anyone trying this, but I just wish that one of you guys out there would take the initiative, try it, and let me know if it works out for you. I’d be most appreciative.

Well, I feel good that we’ve established what the American males’ true national pastime is. I’d love to write even more about it, but I’m already hard at work on my next expose article, where we’ll discuss why women think men are perfect before marriage, and bums afterwards...




"ChristmaSin'", my new Christmas novel, is now available for sale! Click this link below to order!

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Writer's First Rule by author J. E. Cammon

A Writer's First Rule
by J. E. Cammon

Being a writer, I often think about things to write about. Lately, I've had occassion to think on the writing itself, the act of organizing words into sentences, and sentences into paragraphs, and the phenomena of how all us writers came to the craft differently.
 
I know one such who is a dream writer. His ideas don't come to him except when his thoughts are suffocated by sleep, then, while his conscious mind is dormant, his unconscious self plays at author. When he wakes, he takes these ideas and writes them down, spinning the ideas like a loom. Sometimes he removes the gossamer fog of sleep, sometimes he doesn't. Another writer I know tends to things as they come to her. Scenes, and sentences, out of her mind and onto the page as they occur in the cinema of her mind. Later, she pieces them together in a puzzle-like tapestry. And of course I write like I write, in purposeful order with shields all around my thoughts, warding the chaos of other stories pushing in for my attention, against an hourglass draining of time.
But for every writer I know, I've met half a dozen others that wanted to be, or used to be, but they allowed something or someone in their life to discourage them. Someone told them how they did things was wrong. But, the amazing thing about writing, I've found, is that there's no wrong way to do it. There are effective methods, strategies, and techniques, trends that flow in and out of popularity, but so long as the words get on the page in an intelligible fashion, who cares how they got there? I would even say that there being so many different kinds of storytellers is why storytelling is such a wonderful method of expression.
 
So I write this for you, the third kind of writer: not the one that is, or the one that might have been, but the one that could be. You won't be able to please everyone, and I'm personally still on the fence about whether or not one should even try. But if it's in you to write, then don't let a small detail like thinking you're doing it wrong get in the way of that. Someone once told me that "writer's write." I spent two years at a technical college writing short stories around my class notes before I happened upon that nugget of wisdom. Hopefully, you will spend less time figuring that first lesson out. The second lesson was "get it all down before you realize it's rubbish."
 
But that was my second lesson. It may not be yours, which is another beautiful thing about it all. Of the two friends I mentioned, and myself, once we all learned the first rule, we branched into different directions, ultimately sizing up our own specific hurdles as wordsmiths, and attempting to leap over them. Just something to think about. But don't think about it for too long. There's an empty page out there somewhere hungry for words.
 
Find more about author J. E. Cammon at www.jecammon.com
 
 

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Meet Author Mahalia Levey




Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

I was a very avid reader as a child. I can’t recall a time where I didn’t have a book around me. Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel was my favorite story. I also loved Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, and Nancy Drew by Edward Stratemeyer

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.

Embrace The Moment is my first series. It’s penned after my love of the military that protect us. I decided to do the Coast Guard because I’ve always loved what they stand for. Semper Paratus is my dedication to those who remain ~Always Ready~. There is  a total of six members on the team. Each will have their own story and will vary on different jobs the USCG does for our nation.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

It’s funny that you should ask. I’m not big on outlining but for a series there needs to be some lines plotted down. I’ve begun doing a vague outline, leaving much room for growth while accomplishing what needs to be done in the time line.

Have you ever experience weird cravings while you write? If so, what kind?
I drink a lot of coffee and crave salad. Sometimes if I’m writing a section on food, it’ll spark a…ohhhh that sounds so good right now!

What are the most challenging and the most rewarding aspects of writing?
 What challenges me the most is my personal growth in writing. I’ve been at this less than one year and I feel like I’m growing in leaps and bounds. What was rewarding was becoming published for the very first time. When I got my contract I was spinning on cloud nine, but once it went up on the site, it sunk in. OMG I’m published! I hope to continue to grow and get these insane characters of mine written and written well.

What are your top 3 favorite paranormal books and movies?
Books:
Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunter Series
Karen Marie Moaning Fever World Series
Christine Feehan Dark Series
Movies:
Underworld Series
Blood and Chocolate
The Covenant


What character (s) in any of your books is most like you?
The character who most describes me is Fatal in My Demonic series. She’s mixed culture and has been through a lot and remains strong, with a stubborn streak a mile wide, yet a forgiving nature. I’m friendly and social but I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. 

What is the most ridiculous thing that you have thought about doing to any of your characters but never did? I don’t’ write them they write themselves…but they do the most ridiculous things on their own. J Krissy likes to taunt citizens of NYC with her picture taking in their personal space.

How do you keep track of your world building? One Note!

Which authors works do you enjoy reading and do you have any other authors that you bounce ideas of? Marty Rayne, Tymber Dalton, Savannah Chase, Andrew Grey, Kate Douglas, Anne Rainey, Joey W. Hill, Kissa Starling, Sandy Sullivan, and there are hundreds more. I bounce ideas with a few friends. Marty Rayne is one of them, but I have beta readers who are great at bouncing ideas if I need it.

Where do you see the paranormal/urban fantasy genre headed? Can you see it slowing down in the near future, or do you think that the immediate future is pretty bright for it? I don’t see it slowing at all. I see it evolving into more intricate world builds much like sci fi is doing right now.

 If you had to write yourself as a heroine/hero, what kind of heroine/hero would you be? What would you be named? Strong and stubborn with a heart worth fighting for. I’d be named Fatal J
 
 
If you had to write yourself as a villain, what kind of villain would you be? What would you be named? I’d be a dark witch. Call me Candalaria.
 
What is the strangest source of writing inspiration you’ve ever had?

A tag line off of a billboard gave me a premise.
 
If you were a world ruler and you were given a choice of 3 laws to enact, what would they be?  

My first law: Those who lay down the law are not above the law.

My second law: Harmony between realms and worlds will be governed by a specific special few persons.

My Third Law: Taxation will be in the people’s interest, not my personal pocket.
 
 If your muse were to talk behind your back, what secrets would he/she tell?

She can’t say that in…polite company.
J

Where can we find you on the web? 

www.mahalialevey.com
http://quackersandtease.blogspot.com/
http://novelsisterhood.blogspot.com/
www.hales3000.multiply.com



Embrace The Moment Excerpt One
Chapter One
0300 Hours-On the coast of Laguna Beach, CA
“This is Ryan Corban for Channel Nine news with a breaking story. At three-thirty this afternoon, a Cessna type plane crashed thirty miles off the Laguna Coast. The craft called in a mayday after being struck by debris on their starboard engine. The Coast Guard was called out and responded by deploying an eighty-seven foot schooner as well as a helicopter…one second please. We’re receiving more information from the reporter on site.”
“We’ve been informed that two of the three passengers have been located. Unfortunately they are not alive. What a traumatic night for Laguna Beach. The occupants of the Cessna plane were two teenagers and a pilot.”  He put his fingers on his earpiece to receive incoming information and nodded. “Wait. I have just been informed there are no survivors. The third passenger has been found. Yes, the pilot and two teen students were killed. Confirmation has come through. Resuscitation on one of the teens has failed. Their identities at this time are withheld until family members can be notified. With Channel Nine News, this is Ryan Corban.”
                                          
* * * *

1700 Hours-USCG Sector, San Diego
Lieutenant Junior Grade Lark Maddox surveyed her team. “No cigars tonight, fellas. Remember, some we win, some we lose. Anytime a plane crashes the chances of survival decreases. Get your reports completed and get home. As always, let the local police handle the press. If anyone contacts you transfer them to the local authorities. If they prove to be crass direct them to public affairs who will deal with them tomorrow.” Her four team members were wet and appeared exhausted. She turned to the one nearest to her. “McCall, make sure you go get that cut on your head looked at.” As senior officer, Lark remained in control. Even when coping with difficult issues, she played the part well. Her face remained a stoic façade of impenetrable stone. Being the highest ranking woman on the team, she had to show she wouldn’t break, that she held the same backbone of her male counterparts.
“Done.” Petty Officer Second Class Phoenix McCall slapped the papers onto her desk.
“Dismissed,” she replied curtly and turned toward Seaman Jarius Nelson. “Seaman Nelson, please feel free to use the resources of the base. This rescue being your first loss, no one would think any less of you if you need sickbay or the base therapist. Well done for maintaining your control down there. At times, it’s not easy to do that in the face of things out of our control.” She offered him a rare smile.
“Thank you, ma’am.” He handed her his report. “But I’ll be fine, if it’s all the same.”
Lark took in the wariness of his appearance. He had proven to do well on their team. “Have a good night’s rest.” She watched him grasp the edge of his sailors cap, rolling it with shaky fingers as he walked out of the office.
Lark put her hands behind her back in a relaxed stance while waiting for her last team member to finish with his report. Numerous papers littered her desk. Approaching the piles, she riffled through and placed them in order and began, with quiet resolve, to sign each one.
Everyone processed the success or failure of a rescue in their own fashion. Not every life was saved, and to her surprise, after being assigned for two years to her current rescue team, the losses affected her less each time. She paused to wonder if that was a bad thing, the ability to distance one’s self from the harsh realities of life. Known for being a calculating cold bitch wasn’t the impression she wanted to leave people with.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Marketing Your Book and Yourself, Part I

“What? You mean I spent a year writing my book, six months revising it, and three years getting it published, and you tell me that was the easy part?”


Yup. [NOTE: Of all the authors I’ve talked to over the years, most have stated that the average time to find a publisher is six years. And that’s the average. One mid-list SciFi writer who is now well established told me it took him ten years to place his first novel. So don’t get discouraged after your first dozen rejection slips. This is a long and ego-bruising process.]

It’s time for the harsh reality. Your novel is a product. In the publishing industry, it’s one product competing with thousands of others just like it. If you’re really lucky beyond your wildest dreams, you’ll hit a homerun your first time at bat J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter or, to a lesser extent, Brian Keene did with The Rising. For the vast majority of us, we have to work at building our reputation. You have to make the readers aware that your book is out on the market, convince them to purchase a copy, and hope that they like it enough to come back for more. Up until now you’ve spent all your time writing that first book. Now you have to spend just as much time marketing it if you ever hope to see your second book published. Trust me on this one – I’m speaking from experience.

[DISCLAIMER: What I’m about to say next is a generalization about the industry and does not hold true for each and every publisher. My publisher, Shadowfire Press, understands that it takes several years and several books for an author to come into his/her own, and is very nurturing in that process. However, I know of other publishers that I will not name that see their authors as resources to be exploited for their own gain. That is why, as I stressed in a previous blog, an author must be careful about who he/she contracts with and not feel as though they must take the first offer that comes along.]

All the authors, publishers, and literary agents I’ve talked to stress that publishing is an industry. As in any industry, if you can’t turn a profit for the company, the company will let you go and find someone who can make them money. Publishers spend a certain amount to get your book into print in the anticipation that it will be popular and turn a profit. The industry closely tracks book sales, and that information is readily available. So if the book doesn’t sell well, for whatever reason, and if it the publisher is not able to at least break even, then good luck getting them or anyone else to take a chance on your second book. (The good news is the rise of e-publishing. Since the initial outlay to publish an e-book is so much less since the company does not have to worry about printing and shipping costs, the chances of your book turning a profit are much greater. Conversely, your royalty on an e-book should be greater than with a hardcover or paperback.)

Compounding the problem is the vast number of books on the market today. Gone are the days when a publishing house had a small but reliable cache of authors and would devote its time and resources to making them successful. Today, most publishers dedicate their limited public relations budget to those books or authors they deem most marketable, letting the rest of us fend for ourselves. Even those publishing houses that look after their authors include clauses in their contracts that require the author to take upon themselves much of the responsibility for marketing the book. It’s a fact of life of the publishing industry today.

Years ago the author’s mantra used to be “Write or Die.” Today it’s “Market or Die.”

The good news is, marketing yourself and your book is neither costly nor difficult, only time consuming.

Since you have a product to sell, you need a place to sell it. So let’s begin by setting up a website and a blog. Keep it simple. The goal is to provide a forum to discuss your writing and what you’ve written, so everything that goes on it should be geared to that end. My blog layout contains the basics: a photo and brief bio of myself, links to my web presence and where to purchase my books, links to other websites I frequent, and banners to vampire-related websites that have also provided links to my blog. Check out several blogs and websites for authors you like to see what they have done, then create your own. If the idea of creating one intimidates you, don’t let it. There are several sites out there that allow the technologically-impaired to easily set up and manage a blog or homepage. Once you spend the time to create your blog and homepage, keep up with them. Try to post at least three days a week. If a potential fan clicks on your site and sees that it hasn’t been updated since the Red Sox won the last World Series, they won’t bother following you. It takes half a day at most to set one up and only a few hours a week to maintain it. (And before anyone who has visited my website comments, I admit I’m horrible when it comes to updating my webpage, but I hope to do better, especially now that I chastised you for not doing so.)

Keep the content interesting. Post updates about your writing, when you sign a contract or get published, any conventions or book signings you’re attending, etc. And be sure to vary the content. If your blog is only about you and your writing, you’ll bore readers. Include postings that are fun or informative. I post the weekly Sunday Bunnies and news about upcoming genre-related books, movies, or TV shows. Just try to avoid content that will be controversial or divisive (like politics and religion). If you give your honest opinion of a President or other leading political figure, don’t be surprised if you alienate half your readers.

NEXT BLOG:  Marketing Your Book and Yourself, Part II

Friday, May 21, 2010

Welcome author Ben Leyb


Were you an avid reader as a child?

Definitely. Avid everything: reader, TV-watcher, baseball fan. My favorite books as a kid were the Miss Piggle-Wiggle books about kids who misbehave and get sent to stay with a funny old lady named Miss Piggle-Wiggle, who cures them by letting their bad habits run wild till they reform.

Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.  

My novel The Countess de Mondeau is a love story about two people who have to be together, despite all the odds. I enjoy love stories—just a romantic at heart. The book is set in Paris in the tumultuous Romantic era of the 1830s. I’ve always been fascinated by this time. Everything was up for grabs then, from the most intimate ways that women and men relate, to the largest political structures in society. One radical utopian movement predicted the coming of a female messiah, which figures into the book. It was also a time when salons flourished, and reputations were made or destroyed by a witty remark.

How would you describe your creative process while writing this book? Was it stream-of-consciousness writing, or did you first write an outline?

I’ve never been good with outlines. Any time I had to do an outline for school, I froze. I just start writing, and then edit like crazy. I had very good editors at Eirelander Publishing who also helped a lot in shaping the book.

Did your book require a lot of research?  

Tons. I read every book I could find on this historical period. I sat in on classes for fashion design students on the clothing of this time. I found an account written by an English lady who traveled to Paris in the 1830s and complained bitterly about the plumbing, though she loved the cafes and restaurants. I even studied the history of birth control in this era.

If you could have any vice without repercussions, what would it be?  

The radical utopian group in The Countess de Mondeau says there are two types of people it comes to love, the constant nature and the mobile nature. I’m not sure which I am, but I have moments when I think I might be of the mobile nature.

What is the funniest/most embarrassing/scariest story from one of your books signings or events?  

I once took out a big manuscript of work at a reading, and before I could set aside the pages I was going to read, a member of the audience interrupted me and said, “You’re not going to read all of that, are you?” I was pretty bewildered, but managed to recover and say, “Not unless you want me to.”

If you could have been the servant to any famous person in history, who would that be and why?  

Maybe Shakespeare. I’d love to see how he actually composed his plays. After Will went to bed, I’d sneak into his study and read what he’d written or edited that day.

What do you see for the future of publishing and ebooks?

I think ebooks are the way of the future, though personally I do love a beautifully printed book, and the texture of paper, especially paper with a high rag content that has the feel of linen. 

Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?  

I like the lovers, Edouard and Amandine, because they care about each other, but also about the people closest to them, and about the world they live in. They are not just interested in their own lives. One of my favorite characters in the book is the Baron de Basse-Rivière, who is a jaded old aristocrat who teaches Edouard about lovemaking. He’s gay, but he ends up helping Edouard in his courtship of the Countess de Mondeau. One of my least favorite characters in the book is Auguste Lepetit, the head of the radical utopian sect. He’s a charismatic and handsome figure, but he ultimately cares more for his own power than for the beautiful ideals he claims to represent.

Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?  

I really believe in the muse. I like to create a scene and then let the characters take over, just hear them speak and write down their words. So far I’ve been extremely lucky. My muse has never deserted me, knock on wood.

 Sneak Peek Excerpt from The Countess de Mondeau by Ben Leyb
© 2010 by Ben Leyb

            "Mademoiselle Kerlec, we are grateful for your visit."
            "Her Excellency is kind to invite us." Cecile half-dropped a curtsy.
            "We don't use those ridiculous titles here." The countess waved her hand as if to banish such nonsense from her presence. "Call me Amandine. And have one of these delicious tartes aux fruits that my cook made. No, have two." She stopped the heavy-set, blonde serving-woman who was passing around a silver tray and Cecile selected a tiny apricot dessert in a circle of scalloped paper.
            Edouard couldn't help but notice that the countess had her blue dress cut low all around, exposing all of her lovely pale neck and shoulders. What looked like a mere suggestion of sleeves barely covered a portion of her thin upper arm. The dress allowed a generous decolletage to peek from her neckline. The countess is not at all deficient in that area, Edouard remarked to himself.
            "We'll start the program in a little while," Amandine said, "as soon as people have had dessert and a bit of amaretto to loosen their tongues. I love a good argument, don't you?"
            "I suppose I do," Edouard said, admiring her boldness.

Buy HERE

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