Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How to Fangirl an Author

Fangirling author Julie Klassen
A girl or woman who is an overly enthusiastic fan of someone or something.

If you could fangirl any author, who would it be? Go ahead and make a list. I'll wait.

Now that you know who you want to fangirl, let's go over the basics of how to do it . . .

5 Steps to Fangirl an Author

1. Join a fandom.
A fandom is a group of people who are as passionate about a particular author as you are. You can find these people on Goodreads or Facebook or pretty much any social media. And if you can't find any, then start your own fandom realm. Just be sure to go public with it so you're not alone. Also, if you create your own fandom, make sure to give yourself and other members a name. Example: Whovians are those who love Dr. Who.

2. Be a follower.
It's a given that your favorite author is somewhere on social media, and usually on more than one platform. Follow them all. Most importantly, check in on their website frequently for special events in your area.

3. Get off the couch.
If your author is having an event within a hundred mile radius of where you live then go. You don't want to miss out on a prime selfie with the author photo op, do you?

4. Be creative -- not creepy.
I once had a reader send me some pretty sweet handmade bookmarks. That's the kind of reader I adore -- not the ones who email me and tell me they love me so much they want to watch me while I sleep.

5. Share the love.
If you're a passionate fan of an author, the best way to spread that passion is to write reviews for their books. Post on Goodreads, Facebook, Amazon, wherever.

If you happen to be of the male persuasion, don't despair. Fanboys are every bit as important as fangirls.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Be on the Lookout

Two of my writerly buddies have books coming out in the very near future that are both fanfreakingtastic and you won't want to miss them. Here's what to put on your Christmas list.

The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill
(book I in the Tales From Ivy Hill series)
by Julie Klassen
Release Date: December 6

The lifeblood of the Wiltshire village of Ivy Hill is its coaching inn, The Bell. But when the innkeeper dies suddenly, his genteel wife, Jane Bell, becomes the reluctant owner. Jane has no notion of how to run a business. However, with the town's livelihood at stake and a large loan due, she must find a way to bring new life to the inn.

Despite their strained relationship, Jane turns to her resentful mother-in-law, Thora, for help. Formerly mistress of The Bell, Thora is struggling to find her place in the world. As she and Jane work together, they form a measure of trust, and Thora's wounded heart begins to heal. When she encounters two men from her past, she sees them--and her future--in a different light.

With pressure mounting from the bank, Jane employs innovative methods to turn the inn around, and puzzles over the intentions of several men who seem to have a vested interest in the place. Will her efforts be enough to save The Bell? And will Thora embrace the possibility of a second chance at love?

A Moonbow Night
by Laura Frantz
Release Date: January 3

**Bonus** the paperback version of this is currently on sale for $8.56

On the vast, uncharted Kentucky frontier of the 1770s, Temperance Tucker has learned to be fleet of foot, accurate with her rifle, and silent about the past. But her family secrets complicate her growing attraction to a handsome Virginia land surveyor with a harsh history of his own. Will the hurts and hardships of the past prevent them from a fulfilling future?

Laura and Julie really are spectacular authors. I hope to be like them when I grow up. If there's any chance your name is on the naughty list and you don't think Santa will put these in your stocking, run (don't walk) over to Amazon and snatch up a pre-order for yourself.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cyber Monday Deals for Writers and Readers

If your credit card isn't still smoking from Black Friday, whip it out because here are some sweet deals for Cyber Monday . . .

Whether you're looking for a writing craft book or just a nice piece of fiction to curl up with, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have discounts galore. Fill your shopping cart at either one, and when you're ready to check out, here are the codes to save 30% at Amazon or 25% at Barnes & Noble:
For Amazon: HOLIDAY 30
For Barnes & Noble: 25CMONDAY

And while you're at it, THE CAPTIVE HEART is on sale before the discounts for $8.00.

Kindle Paperwhites are on sale for $99.99 HERE. And the cheapest Kindle is only $33.33!

Writers Digest has 50% off their craft books and other items, plus if you enter the code CYBER10, you get an additional 10% off.

Groupon has up to 80% off on some of their deals. Okay, so that's neither reading nor writing related, but 80% is a dang good dealio.

The Writer's Store has some great specials HERE.

Who can't use some office supplies? Ink. Paper. Yada, yada. Pop over to Staples for their Cyber Monday offerings.

And for the really hard person to buy for in your life, check out Uncommon Gifts. They're not offering any super sales, but they've got unique items you won't find anywhere else.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Emotions of Typing The End

I finished yet another manuscript today. Book number, umm, I dunno. Do you count books in which your story is but one of several? Whatever, even when I type THE END on a novella, there are a boatload of emotions that whack me upside the head . . .

What it Feels Like to Type THE END

What if the story is a pile of literary manure? What if you get laughed off the face of the earth? Or booed? It's frightening to think of sending off a manuscript because you know it's not perfect. It will never be perfect. And therein comes the fear.

I'm told that there's a certain high achieved when you run. Something about endorphins or maybe dolphins. Not sure. I've never experienced this because personally I'd rather stab my thighs with forks than feel the burn of a long run. Nevertheless, I'll give the benefit of the doubt to those who say running is exhilarating. So is typing THE END. Way less sweaty, though.

There are moments during the writing of a book when you wonder if it's worth it. All the angst over plot and characters and what the heck to make for dinner besides frozen pizza. But then the day comes when you finally finish the dang thing and, yes, indeedy, it was all worth it. You feel like a champion.

Sticking with a project until it's completely done spurs you on to do yet another project. The success of one manuscript makes you realize you can do another. This is a temporary feeling though. By the time you're mid-way through another book, that energy is gone.

Lot's of people say they're going to write a novel, but never do. If you've ever typed THE END, here is a cyber high-five from me to you. And if you haven't finished writing a book, what are you waiting for? These emotions can be yours as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Bookish Thanksgiving Activity

So after the food coma subsides this Turkey Day, what are you going to do? Stare at each other? Argue about Trump? Pull out a deck of cards and play Kings in the Corner for the bajillionth time? Sounds like you could use a new Thanksgiving activity, little cowboy, and have I got one for you.

Play Thanksgiving Lie-brary. Here's how it works . . .

1. Pick out 6-8 fiction books ahead of time. I'm using Thanksgiving-themed books. You can use whatever.

2. Read the title and show the book. Then give everyone a pencil and paper.

3. Each person writes down what they think the first line of that book ought to be. While they're being creative, you write down the actual title on a piece of paper. Then collect ALL the papers.

4. One by one, read each first line, instructing everyone to listen for what they think is the real first line.

5. Then read them again and have people vote on what they think is the real first line. Put a tally on each paper for the votes.

6. Here's how to score it: each person who guessed the correct first line gets a point. Each person who wrote a line that someone else voted for gets those votes.

7. Go through all the books, tally up the prizes, and give the winner a chocolate turkey.

If it turns out everyone really loves this activity, you can buy the actual game HERE.

Monday, November 21, 2016

INFOGRAPHIC ~ 7 Reasons to Become a Writer

Yep. It's yours. Steal and/or share wherever you like.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Thanksgiving Giveaway

I have a fun surprise to share. . .

To celebrate November, I've teamed up with more than 55 fantastic inspirational historical romance authors to give away a huge collection of novels, PLUS a Kindle Fire to one lucky winner!

You can win THE CAPTIVE HEART, plus books from authors like my writing buddy Elizabeth Ludwig.

Enter the giveaway by clicking HERE.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Mandatory Questions for the Writer

A writer's job is to invoke questions. Yeah, I know, that seems like a given, but let's pick it apart some because there are different kinds of questions for you as an author to raise.

Standard Story Questions 
- What will happen next?
- Will the hero die?
- Will the villain die?
- Will everyone except the hamster die?

Character Questions
- How will the heroine overcome her fatal personality flaw?
- How are the characters inter-related?
- How will the reader relate to the main character?

Reader Questions
- What's the takeaway value of the story for the reader?
- Why should the reader care about your characters?
- Is the story strong enough to stick with the reader long after he reads The End?

Those are all great issues to ponder before you sit down and write the next Great American Novel, but don't forget about the often-overlooked set of questions that are all about you, writer . . .

Author Questions
- Why are you writing this book?
- What makes you qualified to write this story?
- What issue are you working on in your own life that will play out via characters in this tale?

Great stories raise great questions for the reader and the writer. It's those questions that take each on a journey of self-discovery.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Word of the Year

You've heard of book of the year, movie of the year, yada, yada . . . but have you ever heard of word of the year? Yeah, I thought not. I hadn't either.

But there actually is one. Every year the folks at Oxford Dictionary choose to shine the spotlight on one relevant word for the year, and they've just announced the 2016 winner. Drum roll, please . . .

The word is post-truth. It's defined as:
“relating to or denoting circumstances in which 
objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion 
than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Usually this word is associated with politics. I know, right? That's a no-brainer. Actually, though, the concept has been in existence for the past decade. It's only recently become a buzzword, and that's why it was chosen (a spike in frequency)

Some of the other words that were nominated but didn't win were:

The process of taking on the responsibilities of an adult

glass cliff
A situation in which a woman or member of a minority group ascends to a leadership position in challenging circumstances where the risk of failure is high. 

A computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.

The fear of clowns.

A person who is in favor of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the European Union.

Which word would you have chosen?

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

3 Must Have Story Elements

There are 3 things every story needs (all right, 4 if you count a hunky hero): action, emotion and theme. Yep. That's all.

But what exactly does that mean? Pull up a chair, little buddy, and let's chat . . .

Think of action as the moody teenager, the drama, the oh-my-goodness-what-in-the-world-is-going-on. Action is physical. It's concrete. You can see it, smell it, feel it, taste it. And it's all created by your characters' goals.

Yeah, that old dead horse again. Sorry, but you need to know what your characters want so that you don't give it to them. That's what dictates the action and creates tension for the story and for your reader.

This is the inner journey of your characters. They start out in one frame of mind and by the end of the story should be in a different one, hopefully a better one. Think of this as an emotional before and after picture.

What's your character's flaw? Give him one. By the time you type 'THE END' that flaw should be fixed or at least changed into something better. The climax of the story is when your character comes face to face with that flaw.

Stop groaning, you big baby. This really isn't that hard, just a little abstract. Basically it's the universal truth that you're presenting in the story, be it forgiveness or justice or loss or whatever.

When you identify what your theme is going to be, then you can use symbolism or settings or even word choices to drive that truth home to the reader.

Every great story incorporates these 3 elements into the tale. Go therefore and do likewise.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast is my numero uno favorite fairy tale. In a small way, I crafted my hero in The Captive Heart after the beast, giving him a burn scar on part of his face. Plus he's a bit beastly in personality.

So it is with great anticipation and not just a little impatience that I'm waiting for March 17 for the release of the newest version of Beauty and the Beast. Here's a trailer . . .

Monday, November 14, 2016

Things a Writer Can't Live Without

Certain professions require certain tools of the trade. To be a successful farmer you need a tractor and a great love of country western music. A plumber’s got to have a big, black plunger and a pair of ill-fitting jeans that sag to the nether regions when bending over. Cops require handcuffs and a passion for doughnuts.

But what about writers? What are their mandatory tools? Obviously some sort of writing utensil, preferably a computer, but there’s oh so much more that goes into living as a successful author.

5 Things a Writer Can’t Live Without

1. A teachable spirit.

Without humility, you will wither and die. Here’s why. . .there is always a new writing skill to explore or master. If you think you know it all, then I guarantee you won’t last long in the business.

2. Confidence.

If you can’t defend one of your story ideas, who will? Believing that your writing can possibly help another by imparting some kind of truth or ideal is a requirement, or you’ll never survive the endless amount of editing and polishing that goes in to publishing a piece.

3. Appreciation.

Without readers who love your work, you will wither. Without agents and editors who find value in the words you string together, your writing may eventually fall by the wayside. Even the simple encouragement of a family member or friend is enough appreciation to keep a writer writing.

4. Other writers.

No one understands the unique challenges a writer faces better than another writer. The community of authors is a necessity to thrive.

5. A thick skin.

You won’t last long as a writer if you can’t take criticism, because trust me. . .you will receive critical floggings on a regular basis. Resilience is a must.

How many of those five tools are in your writerly toolbox? Polish up the ones you own and work to acquire those you’re lacking.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Web Tools for Writers

So, how's that NaNoWriMo going for you? Needing a little pick me up yet? Here are some sites for a writerly kick in the pants.

31 Ways to find Inspiration for Your Writing
This is pretty self explanatory. Check it out.

7 Can't Miss Ways to Kick-Start the Writing Habit
Okay, so this on isn't really a site; it's a blog post but it's highly informational.

Share outlines for your pieces with writing partners and editors with this totally free collaboration tool.

Join this network to find publishers, agents and marketers, check out the network blog, join groups and view photos or videos.

An online coffeehouse offering writers a safe space for finding encouragement, taking online workshops, talking about books, and learning about the writing and publishing industries.

Character Questionnaire
A fun and clever way for developing your characters.

Got any other favorites? Feel free to share in the comment section.

Haters Gonna Hate

At some point, every writer looks at their manuscript
with through hate-colored glasses.
Whewie! There's a whole lot of fallout from the Trump election. I'm seeing lots of ranting raves and outright hatred on Facebook and Twitter. Seems like a silly waste of time and energy to me. It's pretty easy to look down your nose at someone else and tell them to stop the hatred.

But it's quite another thing to have to say it to yourself in regards to your writing.

Come on. Admit it. We've all been there. Those first draft blues where at some point, everything you write seems like a steaming pile of literary manure. You hate the characters, the plot, your dog. I'm nearing the end of a manuscript now and I'm despising the wretched thing.

And that's a very good place to be.

No, not in a heap of poo. In a critical mood. Here's the deal . . . great writers are always critical of their own work because they crave to be better.

That uneasy feeling about what you've written, that loathing of your lack of skill, that's what will drive you to strive for excellence. So go ahead and hate on your rough drafts -- and use that passion to polish it into a magnificent piece of art.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Wattys 2016

Looking for a fantastic free read to curl up with this autumn? You're in luck, because over at Wattpad, they just announced the winners of the world's largest online writing contest, The Wattys.

Sidenote: Just in case you don't know what Wattpad is, it's a community of storytellers where users post written works to be read by the world for free.

Now then, there are 10 top winners in each of the following categories for your reading pleasure. Categories are:

People's Choice
These winners were chosen by readers of Wattpad who tweeted their faves on voting day.

HQ Love
This award recognizes stories most adored by Wattpad staff.

New Voices
Gifted writers new to the scene.

Collector's Edition
Stories that were most often added to readers' libraries of favorites.

Talk of the Town
Books with a lot of buzz about them.

Hidden Gems
Stories that haven't gotten a lot of attention -- yet. This brings promising stories to readers' attention.

Extraordinary tales that show risks with the writing.

Visual Storytelling
Those that include graphics in some way, shape, or form.

Which category interests you the most? Pop over to The Wattys and discover some new free reads. You might find a new favorite author.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Three Writerly Lessons from the Presidential Election

Today's a historic day. Finally, after a never-ending campaign eternity, we will have some resolution as to who will usher our country into the zombie apocalypse: a puffy oompaloompa who looks like he's been dipped in orange Kool-Aid, or a screechy criminal with a serious hacking issue (both computer and lung-wise).

But enough of my offensive opinions. Despite all the vitriol slathered around by pretty much everyone, there are some writerly lessons to be learned from this election season . . .

Sometimes You Gotta Fight
Newsflash: critique buddies and editors at publishing houses are not God. While it is wise to carefully consider changes to your manuscript, sometimes you need to dig in your heels and stand up for what you wrote and say why. Respectfully, of course.

Be Prepared Before You Go Public
How about that first debate? Or the second? Did you even make it to the third? Debates require preparation beforehand, and so does your story. Before you sit down to write a rough draft, know the beginning from the end. Have a plan of how you're going to get from point A to B. Do some research on the era, the area, or anything else that requires fact-checking. And for goodness sake, before you show your work to an editor or agent, go over the thing with a fine-toothed comb.

Watch Your Tone
No one likes to hear a ranting politician. No one wants to hear you sniping about a bad review or an editor or agent you feel snubbed you. The publishing industry is a small universe. Be careful about what venom you spew because it could come back to poison your career.

Take these lessons to heart and you'll be well on your way to getting yourself elected to the publishing realm. But besides that, are you doing your part to make history today? If you haven't voted yet, what are you waiting for? Do your civic duty, little cowboy and go vote.

Monday, November 7, 2016

First Draft Manifest ~ An Infographic

Yep . . . it's all yours. Share it. Steal it. Whatever.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Surviving a Horrific Review

Some people are going to "get" your writing and adore it. Others, not so much. And a few will shout from the rooftops that a three-year-old with a lisp and flippers for arms could write better than you. Why is that?

Because art is subjective.

It's easy to get all mopey-faced when a review rips to shreds the manuscript you slaved over. It feels like a kidney punch. And with the advent of social media and review sites galore, it happens more and more because everyone is a critic. But this is part of the writerly game, folks. How are you going to cope with it? Here are a few suggestions . . .

5 Ways to Survive a Vicious Review

Change your perspective.
A bad review is still a review. Yes, it could keep some readers from buying your book, but if it does, would you really have wanted those readers to buy it in the first place? Probably not, because it likely wouldn't have been their cup of tea either.

Focus on your next project.
I'm all about denial. If you're busy focused on your next manuscript, you won't have time to get super upset about a past one.

High-five yourself for being in such great company.
You're not the only one who's gotten a stinko review. Misery loves company, so here are some negative remarks flung at some of the greats . . .

“It was one of the most boring and shallow books that I have ever read.” —review of the American classic The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“Not nearly enough consistency and far to [sic] little plot.”—review of Harry Potter And the Half Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling

“If I were you, I’d peruse it briefly at your neighborhood library before putting hard-earned money out.” —review of children’s classic A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Re-read your good reviews.
Say no to the negativity by staking your tent in the positive ones. 

Revisit why you write.
Is the goal of your writing to please everybody all the time? I'm guessing not, and if it is then you have set yourself up for some whoop-butt failure. Anchor yourself in your core values of why you decided to write in the first place.

Bad reviews are going to happen. Know that. Own that. Then let it go.

Plot Originality is Overrated

You can’t wait for inspiration. 
You have to go after it with a club. 
~ Jack London

There's a theory floating out there in Literary Land that there are only so many plots to go around, that every story is just a variation on one of the basic six, seven, eight, nine, or even twenty plot lines. There will never be any more than that because they all boil down to one of those already in existence.

How does that make you feel? 
Freaked out? 
Like balling up your writerly towel and tossing it into the corner?

Cheer up. It's not that bad, because here's the deal . . . you can use one of those basic plots and write a wangbanger of a story that's completely awesome. You don't have to be original with your basic plot structure. Plot originality is not only overrated, it has a way of instilling paralyzing fear into newbie writers. If you can let go of the stress of re-creating the wheel every time you sit down to write a story, your words will flow more freely. 

Yeah, I hear your screechy voice right about now. "But Michelle! You call this advice? What kind of hippy-dippy whacked-out mind-bending drugs are you taking? Why would anyone want to buy my story if my story is exactly like oodles already out there?"

Settle down. I guarantee you it won't be exactly like anything that's been written before. How do I know that? Because you're the one writing it. It will be in your voice, with your distinct combination of words and rhythm. The story Cinderella has been written a bajillion times, but if you create a novel based on that plot line, it will be unique because you did it. And here's the kicker -- you don't have to try to sound like yourself because you are yourself. It's natural. It just happens.

So don't get all knotted up over figuring out the most exotic plot that's ever been penned. Your voice is what will make your story a rarity. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Writers & Authors on Fire

My husband listens to podcasts. I don't. It seems like they're for nerds. Yeah, I know, that's a stupid bias, but it's my bias . . . at least it was, until I was asked to be on one. It was a ton of fun and I was able to share some writing craft advice, along with my co-author Kelly Klepfer.

The podcast is called Writers & Authors on Fire and you can listen to the program HERE.

But if you're like I was, thinking podcasts are only for nerds, never fear. Here are some of the highlights in written format . . .

My Best Advice for Struggling Writers

  • Kelly: Keep on keeping on. If this need and desire to write is not going to let you go, keep looking and trying until you find the right place to express yourself.
  • Michelle: I would say, plan to fail because you will. The most important thing is what you do when that happens. You must continue to write. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It means how you were writing wasn’t working. So keep writing and press pass the failure.

My Most Difficult Writing Challenge

  • Michelle: Writing – Staring at the blank screen.
  • Kelly: Distractions of all types.

The Best Advice on Writing I Ever Received

  • Kelly: I like the basic advice that you need to be a reader to be a writer. I critically look at the books I read asking questions like why do I love this book, why do I adore the characters – or why don’t I. Then how can I avoid these pitfalls or incorporate these great qualities into what I’m writing.
  • Michelle: The best advice I received was to finish what you start. Push through it and finish it. It’s important to have that feeling of success.

Tips for Writers Trying to Become Published

  • Michelle: Maybe change your expectations about the time frame. It’s going to take time to get published. Enjoy every stage of the game you are at.
  • Kelly: You need to learn the rules so you can know when is the time to twist them to write better fiction. You need to be teachable. Listen to those that have gone before you and pick up on their wisdom.

What Writing Success Means to Me

  • Michelle: My measure of success is when I get an email from a reader telling me how some of the truth I wrote has affected their life.
  • Kelly: The entertainment value is important to me. Life can be really hard. There’s something to be said for being able to step away from the hard things and take a break.
Check out WRITERS & AUTHORS ON FIRE. It's more than a podcast. It's a great resource for honing the writing craft.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

NaNoWriMo Nuggets of Wisdom

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month
Today's the big day. Writers all over the world are pounding out word after word, straining to reach the 50k goal by the end of the month. Go, little NaNoWriMoers! Write your hearts out!

But I'm not doing it this year.

Not that I'm averse to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), mind you. I've just got way too much life hitting me upside the head at the moment. Don't panic. I'm still writing. I'm simply not stressing out over making the 50k mark.

Don't let that hamper your fingers on the keyboard, though. Be a champion and go for it. And while you're at it, here are some nuggets of NaNoWriMo wisdom . . .

Don't spaz out over word count.
If you don't make your word goal one day, don't flip out. Make it up the next or the next. It's kind of like a diet. If you blow it one day, that's not a free ticket to stuff your face full of chocolate cake from there on out. Hop back on the bandwagon the next day. And if you're really on a roll one day, write extra and bank those words for days you're not so prolific.

Take risks in your writing.
A lot of those 50k words you write are going to get edited or changed later on, so type like mad and write whatever's on your heart. Don't worry about "doing it wrong." At this stage of the game, there is no wrong. You're capturing ideas, not spit shining them to a fine sheen.

Save and back-up.
If you're going to the effort of grinding out gobs of magical word crafting, then back it up, Hoss. Jesus saves. So should you. Trust me, it will be an ugly weepfest if you don't and your computer crashes.

Writer whether you feel like it or not.
There are 30 days in November. Chances are there's going to be a day or two when you just don't feel like being creative. In fact you'll have days when you're pretty sure a drunk clown could create something more exciting than what's in your feeble brain. It's a lie that you can't write unless your muse shows up. Suck it up and write anyway.

The interwebs are a wonderful thing -- and way too distracting. Shut off your internet. Here's a program to help you: Freedom.

There you have it. All the best to you Nano champions! I shall eat chocolate in your honor all month and cheer for you at the finish line.

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