Thursday, August 29, 2013

#K8chat Author Group transcript

Hi all! We had a wonderful time hanging out and talking about author groups with everyone at @K8Tilton's #K8chat last Thursday night! If you missed the chat, but would like to check it out and see our opinions on the pros of having an author group (the main one being support, support and more support), check out the transcript HERE.

For previous transcripts or to check out tonight's #K8chat theme (it's Kate's Author Birthday Bash!!!), click this link.

Happy Thursday! :)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Blog Tour: Time Spell

Blog Tour

Time Spell

By T. A. Foster




Ivy Grace is learning that magic--and love--are all about the right timing.

Follow the adventures of this spirited young Southern woman as she embarks upon a successful new career writing novels and movies that explore romantic mysteries of the past.

Ivy, a witch who spends her days practicing her brand of good magic in a sleepy little city, often travels back in time to observe events of yesteryear and turn them into compelling stories for her modern-day fans. But as her uncanny ability to weave enthralling historic tales lands her in the limelight, she quickly finds that fame sometimes comes with a price.

Evil forces now know who she is and threaten to reveal her family’s most sacred magical secrets.

With the help of her ruggedly handsome editor and a sexy supernatural ex-boyfriend, Ivy must unravel history while fighting to keep these ominous forces at bay.

Will Ivy be able to make the ultimate sacrifice for the people she loves the most?


Exclusive Interview:

 What’s a typical writer’s day for you?

With a hot cup of coffee in hand, I usually start my workdays checking email and social media before writing. Depending on where I am in the process the day may be dedicated to researching, to editing, or to writing. I try to schedule myself out a few weeks in advance so I can carve in enough time for all three components in my books. I usually do the bulk of my writing during the day so I can spend my evenings with my family.

What’s your favorite thing about writing paranormal?

My favorite part has to be the ability to completely suspend reality where I want or need to in the storyline. It’s so much fun to create a new world and characters who exist in that world.

What’s the hardest thing about being self-published?

I’m a very organized person and I like structure, so for me the hardest part about approaching self-publishing was that there was no specific guideline to follow. There are so many wonderful authors who have advice and recommendations that may be completely opposite from each other. Learning to sift through the material and tips that are available and choose the path that is best for my books and me has been a journey of trial and error.

What is the best part of being a self-published author?

On the flip side of my previous answer about being self-published is the tremendous amount of freedom I have as a writer. It allows for me to have more family time and less stress, which ultimately leads to a much more creative and productive me. 

What one piece of advice would you give writers?

Let things simmer. Meaning, don’t just write something, fire it off, and think you’re done. Take your time to think about the words, the order, the storyline, and your characters before you declare completion. Sometimes it helps to step back for a couple of weeks then return to what you’ve written. A little perspective can go a long way.

Tell us a little about Time Spell?

The story follows the adventures of a twenty-something author, turned screenwriter, and how she copes with trying to be a witch in the regular world. Ivy Grace has the unique ability to be able to observe events from the past, which she uses as inspiration for her writing. In Book One of the series, readers are introduced to Ivy, her family, the two loves in her life, and how time traveling has some dangerous risks. There is also a story within the story, so the readers should have fun getting to meet a new cast of characters in each book of the series.

What was your favorite part of Time Spell, when you were writing?

I love to read historical fiction, and even though I was not attempting to write historical fiction with Time Spell, I loved the research involved in Ivy’s travels. My hope is that readers get a real sense of what it felt like in the Starlight casino in 1968. I listened to music from that time, researched magazines, fashion, popular movies and TV shows. The story within the story is intentionally over-the-top glitzy and glamorous—1968 Las Vegas seemed like the perfect setting to portray that feel.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you?

This is a fun question. Hopefully, I won’t sound like a crazed fan, but I have seen Tim McGraw in concert fourteen times (not all in one year!) The first time I saw him was the fall of 1997 when I covered his Everywhere concert tour as a co-reviewer for The Daily Tar Heel. I was hooked after that first show and try to see him every chance I get. Coincidentally, I went to Las Vegas while I was writing Time Spell to see Soul2Soul, the Tim McGraw/Faith Hill concert, and to do a little Vegas research for the book.





About the Author:


T.A. Foster is a Southern girl whose heart and spirit are connected to the beach. She grew up catching rays and chasing waves along the North Carolina Outer Banks and now resides in the state with her adventurous pilot husband, two children and two canine kiddos. 

Her long love affair with books started at an early age and as soon as she was able, she transformed imaginative stories into words on paper. Time Spell is T.A.’s debut novel, and the first in a series about a very adventurous, clever, and magical girl named Ivy.

T.A. has an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a graduate degree in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University.  When she’s not chasing her two-legged and four-legged children or trying to escape for date night, you can find her reading, writing or planning her next beach trip.



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tonight: Indie Ignites on #k8chat

Just a quick post to share that Indie Ignites will be featured on Kate Tilton's (@K8Tilton) #K8chat Twitter discussion tonight! We will be discussing the benefits of author groups. The chat is from 9:00-10:00 EST.

#K8chat is a weekly Twitter chat hosted by Kate Tilton. (Click here to learn more about it.)

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Writing Advice Manuals? Get Hooked

I wrote this post over a year ago, when I was reading a lot of writing manuals and decided to post some reviews of some great ones. One I found especially helpful, then and now, is Les Edgarton's Hooked:

It's hard to imagine any fledgling writer who isn't suffering under the tyranny of the Hook.  The Hook, of course, is the snappy lure of your first page, first paragraph, first sentence that "grabs readers at page one and never lets them go" as Les Edgerton's subtitle reads in his writing guide Hooked (Writer's Digest Books, 2007).  

I've rarely read advice by an agent, an editor, or a publisher who didn't say that you absolutely have to have some kind of hook to grab your readers, especially if you are, as I am, writing for a relatively young audience who are just wading into the waters of serious reading. And this makes perfect sense.  There are a lot of other media calling for a reader's time and energy, and I have to admit that I, personally, have never been one of those people who absolutely has to finish a book I've started.  If it doesn't grab me a third of the way in, I'll move on to the next one.  But this poses problems for me as a writer, especially one who has spent too much time as an academic, maybe, reading books by nineteenth century writers -- who, in my students' opinion, take forever to get into their stories.  They were irritated by, Crime and Punishment, for example, because Raskolnikov doesn't brain anyone with his axe for at least fifty pages.

Part of the problem with my first YA effort was that nothing huge happened in the first chapter.  (And no, it wasn't just backstory, which I am sure we'll talk about here some time). And since the first 250 words are what's used to send to critiques and agent queries, I new I was in trouble. (And because the MS, now Snark and Circumstance,was based on Pride and Prejudice, I freaked out because it's not like anything huge happens in it at all.  

So I checked out Edgerton's Hooked (and even bought a copy!).  It's the only guide, as far as I know, that focuses solely on "The All-Important Beginning", the title of a chapter  Edgerton uses to explain why a snappy start is so crucial.   His first bit of advice here, which I think could be useful to anyone, is that most manuscripts he's seen could be wonderful but "start in the wrong place" (that pesky back story problem again).  As the back cover declares, "THE ROAD TO REJECTION IS PAVED WITH BAD BEGINNINGS."

He devotes separate chapters to story structure and scene and what he calls "The Inciting Incident, the Initial Surface Problem, and the Story-Worthy Problem" -- the event that sets off the narrative, the main character's problem in that scene, and the Big Problem that guides the whole narrative.  He uses examples from several narratives to illustrate his points, including the film Thelma and Louise.  (Thelma's surface problem is defying her lunkhead  husband Darryl to go on a road trip with Louise; her story-worthy problem is getting over her subservience to men in general).  He then discusses introducing characters, setting up and combining the initial surface problem and story-worthy problem, and some "Red Flag Openers to Avoid" (like an alarm clock ringing).
I've found this guide very helpful in all of its aspects, especially in regard to inciting incidents and how to set up the "big" problem of the protagonist.  I've also found that in some ways it's made me even more pressured to get the most slam-bang oh-my-god-i-can't-put-this-down-blow-your-underpants-off kind of opening to my own work.  (But the Plot Whisperer has talked me down from that a bit, via books and YouTube videos, and I'll post about her next time.)

All in all, Edgerton's book is very useful for those of us who have a hard time starting with a bang or don't understand the merits of doing so.  He ends his book with many quotes and anecdotes from publishers, editors, and agents who present a clear case for what they are looking for in terms of great beginnings.  I'd say the book is definitely worth checking out.

Let me know what you think, and good beginnings (and happy publishing endings!) to you all.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Don't Want Your Bad, Bad Romance: Five Writing Don'ts with Apologies to Lady Gaga

Writers read a lot. And we read differently from when we were “civilian” readers, even when we’re reading for pleasure. No, we don’t sit there with red pens and mark every typo or infelicitous word choice (though as a writing instructor at a New England college, I often have to fight the urge to do that. It’s an occupational hazard, even though I don’t enjoy doing that with my students’ papers, and don’t know any instructor who does. And for the record, I don’t use a red pen.)

I wouldn’t say we’re necessarily harder on the books we read either, though maybe now and then we read something that seems less than polished to us and remember our bazillion rejection letters and think “THIS got published? Someone chose THIS over my magnum opus?” Maybe the difference is that when I was a “reader”, if I didn’t like a book - if, for whatever reason, it wasn’t working for me - I’d move on to the next one. Now, as a writer, I try to figure out why I don’t like it. I keep going and do a post mortem as I’m reading, trying to discover what went wrong.

Call it the CSI Approach to Disappointing Novels.

Because there’s a lot to learn, I’ve discovered, from what you don’t like, to learn what doesn't work for you as a writer by examining what doesn’t work for you as a reader. I’ll slip into teacher mode for a second again and ask you: How much did you learn from the good essays you wrote in school that earned you an A or a check-plus or a vague “Very good!”? I have to admit I tended to learn more from the ones that didn’t get such high marks because I didn’t always know why the essays that did earned those marks. And when I couldn’t tell what worked, I was always afraid that I had succeeded by accident and that the next thing I handed in would make the teacher/reader cringe in horror and reassess my worth as a writer and a human being.

I had issues.

And still do, I’m sure, but this post is about learning to write a better romance novel from reading ones that don’t quite work. I’m going to give you a list of what I’ve learned that doesn’t work and, in some cases, provide tips to avoid these pitfalls. In other cases, I will beg you to send in some suggestions on how you avoid them, so I can, too (and share them with you, my lovely readers, without whom I am not a writer, after all).

So, here goes

(But first, I’m going to sneak one in here without a number because everyone has heard of it but it bears mentioning.) No INSTALOVE, a misstep so heinous it has its own name. Readers do not want to be told that somehow, magically, your two characters have fallen in love somewhere between the pages they’ve turned while waiting to see it happen. Because that’s the point of a romance novel: We know these two are going to get together but we don’t know how and we want to see it happen. The pleasure is in the happening, not in having had it happen. )

On to the list.

1.     If your characters fall in love with each other in part because of their witty repartee, then there had better be some witty repartee on those pages. This is hard to do. Witty dialogue is the Holy Grail for me, I’ll admit it, and you never know if what amuses you is going to amuse anyone else. It takes time and lots of revisions to hone it right. (But the advantage to writing over speaking is you get lots and lots of tries to make the stinging comeback or hilarious offhand remark that most of us drive home IRL wishing we had made). Please don’t end every line of dialogue with “she giggled” to show me that your heroine finds the hero amusing. Make me giggle. Which is hard. Believe me, I know. All through Snark I knew I was walking a fine line between making Georgia and Michael clever, teasing combatants and a pair of angry malcontents, and I am not sure I succeeded in all scenes.

2.     Misunderstandings between would-be lovers are the lynch pin of most romance plots, but they have to be motivated and believable. If your heroine simply sees the man she’s growing to love talking to another woman and instantly assumes, based solely on this incident, that he is either wildly in love with this woman, sleeping with her, or both, I am going to think that your heroine has some trust issues, and not interesting ones. But give her a reason to be suspicious and I will be right in her corner. A man talking to a woman is not a smoking gun. Now, if he’s talking to her and laughing and she’s sitting in his lap, you’ve aroused my suspicions too, especially if there is a history between these two. (Though I don’t know if I would recommend using this particular scenario. I wrote this into the sequel to Snark that I am working on and it took me quite awhile to invent a plausible reason for the girl in question to be in the boy’s lap in public.) Your misunderstanding  has to be believable or it announces itself for what it is: A plot device. An obstacle to keep the two apart for a few more pages. And we should never be able to identify a plot device too easily.

3.     Weave in hints of a character’s troubled or tragic past throughout the story. Backstory is hard. I think everyone struggles with this, so if you have any suggestions to make this easier, please leave a comment, or better yet, email and share it just with me and together we will rule the publishing world.  This is where, again, revision comes in, finding the right moment to mention, plausibly, a little something about the past. All I know is that it is jarring and unpleasant to be a hundred pages into a book and hear one character say to another, “But oh! After all you have been through!” and I have no idea what they mean. Obviously you don’t want to dump it all right out there on the first page. I heard Vince Gilligan, the show runner for Breaking Bad, speak the other day about how plot points (especially endings) have to seem both surprising and inevitable. He’s right. And if we all figure out how to do that then we can retire to the south of France with Vince Gilligan.
4.     Backstory is hard. So is providing physical descriptions of your first-person narrator. Personally, I am perfectly okay without knowing exactly what your character looks like. I am going to invent her in my own head anyway, and when I see an actor in a movie who does not resemble either the author’s or my conception of a character, I’m okay with that, too. Shalene Woodley, for example, does not look like Tris in Divergent to me, but I have no doubt she will be awesome in the role. (The "whitening" of all mixed-race characters in other films is, however, problematic for me, but I won’t get into that here). Suffice to say I do not enjoy reading passages like “I brushed my long brown hair and gazed in the mirror at my rounded, exuberantly lashed wide blue eyes.” I have never found myself brushing my hair and looking in a mirror and thinking, “Oh, I am brushing my chin-length brown bob.” Such descriptions are as jarring to me as a misplaced bit of backstory and pull me out of the narrative that I want to remain wrapped up in like a blanket on a cold night. Please don’t do that to me.

5.     Help me come up with new, relatable, scintillating words for passionate physical contact. Please. How do you describe really great kisses without using words like “electric”, “heat”, “mind-blowing”, “earth-shaking”, fill in your own cliché? I am really bad at this, a deficiency that may keep me squarely in the “sweet” romance category because I think any attempt I make to describe full-blown lovemaking will either sound as absurd as 1980s romance descriptions of  penises as “pulsing pillars” and “throbbing manhoods”,  or as freakishly clinical as an old medical text.  How do you avoid purple prose or the Kinsey Report? Revision, revision, inspiration, revision?


And there you have my top five fails.  How do you remedy them? What are your own readerly-writerly romance pet peeves? Share and I’ll send you a coy of my Swoon Romance Snark and Circumstance enovella series so far so you can see how many of these pitfalls I avoided (and how many of them swallowed me whole).

Stephanie Wardrop is the author of the Snark and Circumstance series of enovellas from Swoon Romance, based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and available on and She's also a proud member of Indie Ignites!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Author Media Kits -- A Breakdown of the What, the Why, and the How

Hello, indies! My plan, as I began to prepare this post, was to share about how to prepare for a (live) author interview. We get so used to doing things online--through emails, or other posts that allow us to think about our answers before making them final--that we aren't always prepared to have immediate, answer-giving conversations. (Or is this just me? Example of recent phone interview: Newspaper guy: "Do you have any other hobbies?" Me: "Uh... duh..." *crickets*) Once I began to research common Q & A sessions, however, I realized that if you're going to prepare yourself for an interview, you might as well prepare your author media kit at the same time. This is something we have to prepare ourselves anyway more often than not (being indies and all), so I figured, why not share all of the info in one post? 

Whether it's for something local (like a newspaper article), a bookstore event, book blog tour, or simply generating buzz for upcoming release, media kits are a beneficial, professional way to get the word out there about your work. (Keep in mind that you don't have to do *everything* listed in the kits, only the things you feel comfortable with--including money--don't ever spend more than you feel comfortable spending). Are you ready? Here we go!

** A few months ago, The Alliance of Independent Authors blog had a series called 50 Ways to Reach Your Reader, and one of the posts, Media Kit for Indie Authors (by guest Shannon O' Neil of Duolit) was quite informative (link). In the article, Shannon answers not only the question of what a media kit consists of, but how we can use one. And, the part about an author bio and author Q & A lists some of those frequently-asked interview questions (working on them whilst preparing your media kit will help you recall them later during live interviews). 

** Last April, Joanna Penn (of The Creative Penn) featured a guest post by Tolulope Popoola, who shared similar information in a post called Creating Your Author Press Kit (link). Toluope included two actual author press kit examples, and stressed the fact that the kits don't have to be complicated or fancy.

** The CreateSpace community blog holds many helpful articles about all things self-published, including a post by Richard Ridley regarding not only The Author Press Kit (link), but also how to construct an effective author bio.

** Max Nomad of Bohemian Griot Publishing (a "small, Virginia-based Creative Boutique that specializes in Graphic Design, Branding and Custom Publishing") has a quite detailed and informative post about media kits, included the best size for photos, and a cost breakdown of costs if you choose to purchase software in an article titled, The Ambitious Author's Press Kit: Guerrilla-Style Tips for Starting you Self-Published Book Promotional Campaign the Right Way (link)

** If you're like me, the more simple things are, the better. Shannon O'Neil of Duolit also has a post called Start Your Media Kit Today: Mini Workbook (link) in which she says she can help you knock out five essential pieces of your media kit in only fifteen minutes.

I asked fellow Indie Ignites member Nazarea Andrews what she makes sure to include in her media kit, and it's pretty much what I've included in mine:

-- Bio
-- Author photo
-- Links (website, Facebook, Twitter, blog, Goodreads)
-- Synopsis
-- Cover
-- Buy links

Nazarea also made a very good point, and I think this is a great idea no matter what kind of media kit you use: "I always make one as soon as I can. I keep it in my file for that manuscript--titled BOOK TITLE--base post; because it goes along with my blog tour posts." She also went on to say that if she were sending a physical version of this kit, she'd add a cover letter and swag to go along with the book promotion.

And there you have it. A few step-by-step guides on what an author media kit is, why you should have one, and how to prepare it. If anyone has anything to add about their own media kits, we'd love to hear about it!

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Survivors: Body and Blood

Today we have a excerpt from Amanda Harvard's Body and Blood! It's out now, so stop by Amazon and pick up your copy!!
Exclusive Excerpt
John got back to his feet and in unsettling, invasive move put his hands on Hannah’s shoulders. “You see, children. Sadie’s dark power is so strong that even your eldest Survivors have succumbed. We know the ways in which Satan works. Sadie is doing his work.”
“He’s lying!” I cried.
“You and I both know that you have brought nothing but tragedy and desecration to this family. If we are in peril, it is because of you,” he said. Then turning to the crowd, he screamed, “It is because of Sadie!”
Half the crowd hailed his words, but the other half looked unconvinced, and he could tell. Suddenly, he put his hands to his head and dropped to his knees in the dirt.
“Wait! Family! I am hearing something from the Lord! He says that Satan has possessed our daughter Sadie, and there is no hope for her. He says that if you don’t believe, then we must search her body, for it is covered in the Devil’s Marks.”
It was straight out of the Salem history books.
“You’ve got to be joking,” I huffed. But no one thought he was joking. The thoughts of every living Survivor swelled in my mind and consumed me, their doubt and fear and outrage spinning around my brain, choking down my throat.
“You can’t listen to him! He’s manipulating you. He’s not telling the truth!”
“Am I? And if I were, why would our dear Sadie have her body so covered even on this summer day?” he asked. The scars. That bastard. They’d see my scars, and they’d believe they were the Devil’s Marks because not a one of them had ever seen a scar.
I wanted to keep it together, to keep some kind of cool in the face of this insanity, but hearing what they thought of me, and feeling the hatred they felt for me was too much.
I flung my jacket and shirt off until I was standing in front of everyone I’d known in my life in only a bra and jeans. My arms and neck mangled from suicide attempts and Fateor collections, even the imprint of Sam’s teeth in my stomach and back were there for the world to see. Exposed.
“Is that what you wanted to see?” I screamed, the slight grip I had on sanity slipping. “Is this what makes you think I’m of the devil? These scars I have inflicted upon myself, these wounds caused from my own pain? Yes, these are what I’ve been hiding. They are not of the devil but only by my own, pained hand. I’m not afraid to show you what I really am, even if it is something you’re afraid of, because I am nothing to fear. I have given this family everything, have given away my life and my freedom to protect you, and for what? So you can think I am damned? There is only one evil being inside these walls, and it is John!” I charged him then, grabbing the wand from Adelaide’s hand and stabbing it at John’s throat, not that I knew how to use it or what it could do. “He is evil, and if you can’t see that, then I can’t help any of you!”
But John’s calculated malevolence outpaced me, and he could turn any moment into an opportunity. So instead of cowering or further shaming me, he swallowed hard and then spoke loudly and clearly. “Now is the time to make your choice. Either go with your family and God, or go with Sadie, the Winters, and their evil,” John said.
“I’m with Sadie!” Hannah cried out. “And if you have any loyalty to this family, you will be too. I have seen the future, and Sadie is good.”
“I’m with Sadie,” Sarah said. That was as much as I could hope to get out of the elders, I was sure.
Ben stumbled to his feet. “I’m with Sadie,” he said.
And then there was silence. 132 Survivors said nothing.