Friday, June 25, 2010

Be True to Yourself

Please welcome multi-published author J.A. Saare to the blog.

I have a confession to make. When Rebecca approached me about visiting her blog, I was apprehensive. The truth is, as often as I think of myself as shy, I’ve been told I’m quite the opposite. I love to talk, meet new people, and share my love of books, old eighties horror movies, and music with as many folks as I can. Don’t believe me? Then join me on Twitter sometime. There is a damned good reason I have to limit myself when it comes to “friendly” networking. If you’ll let me, I’ll shoot the breeze all night long.

So what advice could I possibly offer to those who aren’t as, how should I say, vocal as I am? It’s a tough question, one I wasn’t sure I would be able to answer, until in a stroke of brilliance (not really, but it sounds impressive *smile*) a light bulb went off.

This year I attended Lori Foster’s Readers and Authors Gathering. It was my first ever “meet and greet,” and I was extremely nervous. How would all of these new people (including several of my peers) react to me? Would the southern accent be too obvious? Would my penchant for wearing black and speaking off the cuff be a turn off? I can’t tell you how sick I felt when I walked into the room with everyone present, clutching at the ever-wonderful author Madelyn Ford for support. We chose a table, settled in and scoped out the joint, and before long I relaxed and calmed down. Once that happened those worries and doubts vanished, and I found myself having a wonderful time. And far more importantly, I avoided a pitfall I always fell into in college, and I remained absolutely true to myself.

In my opinion, authors carry a pretty heavy burden as it is. We are not only putting our stories out there for the world to love or hate, but a piece of ourselves as well. No matter how often I hear people state that there is no portion of them in a story, I’m not sure I buy it. On some level, you have to be able to relate to your characters. Be it in their happiness, their pain, or their darkness. So when I meet those brave enough to put a piece of their soul to paper, I want to get to know the real person behind the story. Each of us are extremely complex, no matter how normal we appear on the surface, and getting to meet and talk to the unique individual within is like finding the coveted prize children seek inside their box of Lucky Charms.

If my trip to Lori’s gathering taught me anything it is that there is a lot of fun to be had when you put pretenses to the side and open yourself to those around you. Chances are if you allow yourself to do this, you’ll be able to absorb far more about those you meet as well.

Speaking of Lori’s gathering -- if any of you decide to make the trip next year, be sure to look for me. I love a gabfest and, even if you’re shy at the beginning, I’m sure I can convince you to sit back, relax, and kick off your heels.
J.A. Saare is a multi-published author in varying genres and has written stories featured in horror magazines, zombie romance anthologies, and flash fiction contests. Her work has a notable dark undertone, which she credits to her love of old eighties horror films, tastes in music, and choices in reading. Currently she is penning numerous projects within the urban fantasy, erotic and contemporary, and of course, paranormal romance categories. You can learn more about J.A. at her website and her blog. Those interested in her "naughtier" side can visit her alias, AlineHunter, at http://www.alinehunter.com/.
Currently she is penning numerous projects within the urban fantasy,erotic and contemporary, and of course, paranormal romance categories.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Familiarity Breeds Consent

Please help me welcome talented romance author Nicki Greenwood to the blog. Nicki combines stories of romantic adventure with her love of the environment. Her works have won several awards, including the Rebecca Eddy Memorial Contest. Her first book, EARTH, is available now from The Wild Rose Press. Nicki lives in upstate New York with her husband, son, and assorted pets. When she's not writing, she enjoys the arts, gardening, interior decorating, and trips to the local Renaissance Faire. Occasionally, she remembers to come out of her shell. For more about Nicki, please visit her website.

Your mom was right: practice makes perfect. When you want to master a new skill, you need to keep getting out there and doing it, and that includes overcoming shyness. Sure, it's terrifying at first. That's because, for writers, getting up in front of people is the unfamiliar. Sitting behind your computer and letting your writing do the talking is your comfort zone.

Human beings the world over are distrustful and even fearful of the unfamiliar. It's hardwired into us--a survival instinct bred into us over a couple hundred thousand years. That's a lot of programming to overcome. But with increasing time and exposure to a new thing, your "OMG, what was I thinking?" will turn to "Okay, I can do this."

Try it. Start small. Say hello to a stranger on a bus, in a supermarket, at the park. Use your natural skill: writing. If you see a book in their hands, ask what it's about. Most avid readers are only too happy to chat about their favorite writers. If they're holding a novel in the genre you write, you're in luck. Mention that you write. Tell them about your favorite authors. When you enjoy the topic of discussion, it's a lot easier to mingle with people you don't know. You might even get some interest in your books, so have that business card ready to hand out if the person expresses an interest in your work! Do this several times, and you'll find it gradually produces less anxiety.

For many writers, book signings and conferences are the most-feared events in the profession. This is where you need to drag yourself out from behind the ol' computer and present your public face--and your book, your baby, your pride and joy--to potential readers. It's unsettling at best, and it can be downright scary. But it is not impossible, Shy Writer. You, too, can survive this. Wear a great outfit that makes you feel confident. Use the skills you've learned and the familiarity you've picked up from previous exercises. It's the same thing on a larger scale, but the bonus is, the people at signings and conferences are already there for books.

Having a conversation starter with you is a big help. Bring something with you that has to do with your book--a shirt, a pin, an object for your signing table, whatever! For me, with EARTH, it's sunflowers and a figurine of a horse. If I ever get stuck for something to say, I can discuss what those things have to do with the book. Your book is familiar, and it should be easy to find something to say about it. Think about your book's most interesting parts, and have some tidbits ready to share. As time goes on, you'll find it much easier to get out there and be seen. And you might meet some new friends or fans of your work!

Friday, June 18, 2010

How Twitter Can Help The Shy Writer


Please welcome erotic romance author Cari Quinn to the blog for the second time (her first post was 11/09 if you're interested). Cari wrote her first story - a bible parable - in 2nd grade, much to the delight of the nuns at her Catholic school. Once she saw the warm reception that first tale garnered, she was hooked. She attempted her first romance in junior high, long before she'd ever read one. Writing what she knew always took a backseat to what she wanted to know, and that still holds true today. Cari's genres of choice include contemporary, romantic comedy, romantic suspense, urban fantasy and paranormal. Recently she discovered erotic romance. Oh, how far she's come.


HERE'S CARI--This topic has definitely been touched on before, but I wanted to share some of my own experiences, as well as a few things that have worked for me.

Coincidentally, last night I was tempted to post to my Twitter feed how much I appreciate the friends I've made on Twitter, and it's so true. Because of that site, I've spoken to editors and NYT bestselling authors that I more than likely wouldn't have had a chance to make contact with otherwise, or at least not in such an informal forum. As writers - especially for those of us who publish with e-publishers - it's not enough to write a great book, because if no one knows about it, your reputation likely won't build. Word-of-mouth is key. So how do you generate buzz about your books? Doing interviews, writing guest blog posts, and having a website all help. For me, I've found the biggest way readers have heard about me is from other readers. And where can you find a lot of them?

Twitter.

My next book, Ex Appeal, from The Wild Rose Press' Wilder Roses, is coming out next Friday. So far I have a pretty good list of great reviewers I've met on Twitter who are all willing to review my book. Some I approached. Some approached me. But as we all know, reviews are golden in getting your book out there. I've seen this work for some of my friends, too. There are so many wonderful reviewers out there who take the time to try to find the next gem in a haystack, and they want your book! All you have to do is be visible and friendly and do a little legwork to see which reviewers like your kind of material.

The bulk of my Goodreads reviews for Full Disclosure came from friends/reviewers I met on Twitter. Some of the sweetest people have taken time they don't have to plug my book. Which brings me to my next point: reciprocation.

I've seen more than one writer wonder why their blog posts or their books don't seem to receive any response. Often, this person is rarely seen on other blogs and can't figure out why people aren't seeking them out. The reason is simple. People like people who like them. If I come by your blog fifteen times and you don't ever stop by mine, I might wonder why. It could simply be that you're busy. The only problem with that is we're all busy. None of us are given more hours in the day than someone else. It's not a matter of "well, I'll comment a bunch of places then more people will come to my blog." That may be true in the short term, but when it comes to building relationships, that won't work. It doesn't take much to connect with people. Really, a line or two commenting on their latest Twitter update or their recent book or even the picture they posted of their puppy can do wonders.

Some of the people I met two years ago when I started blogging are still friends today. And that means if I have an unexpected release, I can email them out of the blue and they'll post my blurb/excerpt or write me some interview questions or anything else they can do to help me get a little exposure. That's a tremendous help, and that offer wouldn't be there if I hadn't made the time - consistently - to get to know them better through their blogs/website/Twitter or Facebook (which is a pond I've only recently waded into, I admit!)

I recently sold my first book to Ellora's Cave, and guess where I met my editor? If you guessed Twitter, you'd be correct. ;) She allowed me to email my submission to her directly, and as someone who receives a LOT of manuscripts, I don't doubt that helped me stand out from the pack a bit. Why did she do this? She's a sweetheart, but also because we'd begun building a bit of a rapport on Twitter and she extended an opportunity to me because of that.

Twitter is teeming with agents and editors. Last night, I saw a prominent Samhain editor discussing what she had in her submission stack and what she wanted to see more of. That isn't information that will be posted on any blog, because she was just going through recent submissions and commenting. Invaluable. Twitter really is like an "inside source." Editors and agents - not to mention other authors - you meet there just may be able to help you reach your goals in ways you'd never imagined. But when I approach them, I take the long view and try to get a sense of their personality, which also helps me to know if I'd like to work with them.

I follow a lot of people who follow me on Twitter. Not all of them, but if someone's a writer, then more than likely I will. I've met lots of wonderful people this way. I also make sure if I love an author's book or a recent blog post, I tell them. I met one author on Twitter after I adored her book and told her, and since then she's bought my books and done the same for me.

Getting out there means, at least for me, reading other authors' books and letting them know I enjoyed them. Posting reviews is huge in building goodwill with your fellow authors. Even a couple line Amazon, Goodreads or Twitter review can help them generate more buzz, and there's a good chance they'll want to help you too. Besides, it's just good karma! I know how hard it is to be an author, and if I can make your day a little brighter by sharing how much I loved your book, you can bet I will.
And the best part of all of this...this shy writer can take advantage of any or all of these opportunities from the comfort of her easy chair!

My new book, Ex Appeal, release June 25th at The Wild Rose Press' Wilder Roses
. You can also visit me on my blog.

Friday, June 11, 2010

VOLUNTEERING – THE WAY THE INTROVERT KICKS SAND IN THE FACE OF SHYNESS WHILE GOING ‘NEENER NEENER’

Hello, my name is Danielle Monsch, and I am an introvert. (Please ignore the hysterical laughter coming from my Romance Writers of America chapter mates who cannot believe those words actually passed my lips, or more accurately, were typed by my fingers.)

“Why the disbelief?” those of you who do not know me are probably asking right now.

The answer is, kinda because I’m everywhere. Every time someone enters an RWA meeting in the Seattle area, I’m there, blabbing in front about something. One chapter I’m VP of, the other I’m helping the Emerald City Writers Conference as the Asst. Conference chair. Both of these are high profile jobs, and between the two, I’m constantly running around, answering peoples questions, contacting speakers and locations – you name it, I’m dealing with it.

Rather begs the question, can someone who claims to be an introvert really do all that?

Well you see, it is exactly because I’m an introvert that I decided to do all this. Let me explain…

My natural inclination is to sit in a corner. If you leave me alone, roots might start growing around me because I don’t tend to move around and socialize much. Sad, I know, but true.

Now, far be it from me to burst any bubbles, but being an author involves more than sitting in front of your computer typing out a book. Wait, I take that back, being an author involves exactly that… but being a published author, not so much. You have to get out there. This business is all about relationships, your name known to the right person at the right time, so that they look on with interest at your Masterpiece that is in front of them.

People knowing your name, well, that cannot happen if you are sitting in a corner.
This is why I highly recommend all you introverts get out there and volunteer for your writing organizations. Volunteering forces you to do what does not come naturally – mingle and chat. It gives you a job to focus on. It forces you to talk, to learn, to network, to be open and engaging and make sure that needs are met on all sides. You don’t have a choice in the matter.

In many ways, volunteering is the perfect solution to the introverted personality.
So, have I convinced you to seriously consider volunteering, perhaps calling up your chapter board right now to see what you can do? Excellent, but as a quick word of warning, please keep these helpful hints in mind…

Don’t over-volunteer -- This is surprisingly easy to do, and I admit, bit me on the backside this year. This position sounds fun, they are really in a bind over here… before you know it, you have to cut things out of your everyday life to make sure you have the time to do your volunteer work… and what is the first thing that usually goes when we are short on time? Exactly, the writing. Obviously, not good, since one of the reasons to do this volunteer thing is to support your writing career. One thing you must keep in your head always is writing is first, then whatever time you have left over you can figure out how to use for volunteering. Don’t cut into your writing time.

Behave Professionally – Yes, you are giving up a lot of time and are not being paid, and yes, you will not like everyone that volunteers with you, or you will disagree on how to do things. Still, don’t act like a spoiled child and whine that not everything is exactly your way, or act entitled and believe everyone needs to jump at your words, never mind they are all volunteering themselves. Definitely don’t write a negative email about someone, because in a volunteer organization, you never know who has access to which email addresses, and the person you are mouthing off over just might have access to that email. Behave exactly as you would if you were in your place of employment. Remember, memories are long, especially about bad stuff.

Don’t volunteer more than one step above your comfort level – One step above comfort is fine, in fact, you should probably aim for that; overcoming our limitations is how we as people grow. However, if being behind the ‘Help’ desk is a big deal for you, don’t let someone talk you into running a conference. If they don’t have a position to fit you, don’t be afraid to say no. I guarantee, eventually they will need help with a project that is just your speed.

Don’t volunteer if the only reason you are volunteering is to network – Have I confused you with this one? I said you should volunteer to overcome the introvert’s inclination to sit in the corner, and you should, I stand by that. I also said that you should look at volunteering as a wonderful way to network, and I stand by that as well. People give a lot up while volunteering, so expecting a little back in goodwill and name recognition is not a lot to ask by any means, and no one should feel guilty for taking these into account.

The thing is, if these benefits are the ONLY reason you are volunteering and you have absolutely positively no interest at all in the helping out aspect of volunteering, then you are going to become miserable, as are the people around you. Volunteering is always more work than you originally think it will be, and if you don’t truly want the position, that will become evident very quickly. Your job either won’t be getting done or it will be slipshod work at best, which leads to people taking up your slack and working a lot harder than they had to, which means bad feelings all around before long.

Those happy networking feelings in such circumstances – not going to happen. So please, only volunteer if the job appeals to you and you will be happy doing it, at least on some level.

I truly believe in volunteering. Organizations such as RWA cannot survive without volunteers, and I believe in giving back when you can to places that help you out. That being said, getting an opportunity to overcome your shyness and help your career WHILE doing a worthy service, life just does not get much better than that.

~~~~~~~~~~
Danielle Monsch is the host of the podcast ‘Romantically Speaking’ which is available on iTunes! She is also VP of Eastside RWA and the Assistant Conference Chair of Emerald City Writers Conference, held every October in Seattle WA. She is also currently ‘pre-published’ (such a fancy phrase for saying “Not yet sold a book!”) - but she’s working on it.
Contact her at
Dani@DanielleMonsch.com or visit her at the following places: website www.DanielleMonsch.com, twitter www.twitter.com/DaniMonsch, or Facebook www.facebook.com/DanielleMonsch

Friday, June 4, 2010

Three Months with My Nook

My husband gave me an ereader for Christmas. Told me I could pick which one I wanted. It took me until March to decide. In case any of you are in the market for a reader, I’ll share with you my thought process for choosing the Nook.

Kindle: I knew immediately I didn’t want a Kindle, because it doesn’t read a lot of formats and I already had an extensive digital library. I wanted to be able to read those books. But everyone I know who has a Kindle loves it.

Sony touchscreen: This one gets great reviews and reads lots of formats, but I hadn’t spoken to one person who loved it. The price was a bit more than the Kindle and Nook ($50 more when I was looking), but the main reason I chose against it was the screen—too much glare.

Sony Pocket Reader: This was my front-runner the whole time. Great price ($160 or so when I was looking), reads lots of formats, and many of my writer friends have this one. I ultimately decided against it because the screen was small.

I-Pad: Way too expensive, and way too big. I want a reader to read books. I don’t need all the bells and whistles of the I-Pad. Also, it’s backlit and I plan to spend a lot of time reading. Backlit screens are harder on the eyes.

Why the Nook? It reads a lot of formats--that was my first criteria. I was able to check it out in person in the Barnes & Noble store, and it was simple to use and figure out. The BN staff is super helpful, so if I ever had problems with it, I’d have an actual place to go for help. After I'd had it a few weeks, I bought a pretty turquoise cover—it protects the Nook and makes it look and feel like a “real” book. I also bought a nightlight that clips onto the top and is perfect for reading in bed. It’s just bright enough to read but not so bright that it disturbs my sleeping husband.

Something LOVE about the Nook is free Friday books. Every Friday, you can enter the virtual store via the Nook and download the free book of the week. I’ve discovered some fabulous new-to-me authors this way.

The Nook has some other cool features, too, but honestly, I don’t care about them. All I care about is that the device is easy to learn and navigate (check), and I can easily download books onto it (check), and it works (check). It was a piece of cake to download my digital library from my computer to the Nook (just drag and drop into the correct file). If I want to buy from the Barnes & Noble store, it’s a bit more difficult. Not. You just open the store, click on the book you want, click BUY, and voila, it’s on the Nook. Almost TOO easy (dreading the upcoming VISA bill…I wonder if I can hide it from my husband…).

I think I would have loved whatever reader I had chosen. Having a reader is SO cool and so much fun. I’m reading way more than I was before, because I’ve been buying short stories, novellas and short novels—these are hard to come by in paperback format.

Plus, I just love the name. Nook. It’s fun to say. Try it. See? Fun.









So, tell me--do you have a reader? Which one, and how do you like it? Are you looking for a reader? Which one are you considering? Or are you one of those people who just wants to hold a good, old-fashioned book in your hands?