Monday, August 25, 2014

Authors Supporting Authors & Encouraging Growth

The writing journey has presented me with many opportunities to grow. A long time ago, I realized that learning the craft of writing was something I'd never regret. To that end, I did my apprenticeship—learning to write through 'how to' books, an online workshop, oodles of articles and by interacting and exchanging critiques with better writers than myself.

I haven't regretted anything I've learned along the way and technology is such that yesterday I recorded answers to interview questions that will be used during a book talk show later this month. (I'll share the link as soon as I have it.)

The truth is we should use every opportunity to learn something new. Technology is advancing at such a rapid pace that what's new and hip today stands the chance of being obsolete a few months down the road.

If you think you don't need to learn simple things such as formatting an ebook, you might want to revisit that mindset. And if you're an indie writer who has to pay each time you need to make changes to your book files on a limited budget, now might be the time to find out how formatting works. Not to say you shouldn't outsource the jobs you can, but the way I look at it is that it can't hurt to open your mind to learning something new.

While you're here, don't forget to sign up for the October Island Adventure Romance Blog Train, which kicks off on October 20, with the Who's Your Hero Blogfest that will be co-hosted by the lovely, Michelle Wallace. Just hop to the sidebar to sign up. 

From August 25-31, I will be participating in a giveaway promotion with over 100 other writers. All you have to do to enter to win any of the books listed is to sign up on one of the four Rafflecopters listed. This giveaway has been organized by book enthusiasts Allyn Lesley and Debra Presley.

Thanks for visiting and for participating.

Have a great week!

 Giveaway #1: a Rafflecopter giveaway 
Giveaway #2 a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway #3 a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway #4 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Julie Musil: On Crossing Lines & Adding Thematic Symbols to Fiction

Congratulations are in order for Julie Musil whose has a new release - The Summer of Crossing Lines. Julie is here today discussing how to add thematic symbols to our stories. Without further delay, here we go …

How to Add Thematic Symbols to Our Fiction

Thematic symbols add depth and meaning to fiction. Think fire and bow and arrow with the Hunger Games series. In my latest release, The Summer of Crossing Lines, there are two thematic symbols--a giant oak dubbed “The Mary Tree” and police tape.

How should writers choose a symbol? And how can the symbol be added organically to the story? Here are my thoughts.

  Choose an object or symbol that’s had an impact on you. Is there an image from the Bible that resonates with you? Do Egyptian hieroglyphics fascinate you? Is there an item from nature--an iceburg, a cavern, bougainvillea--that you find spooky or beautiful?
For The Summer of Crossing Lines I added a large oak tree that I pass almost every day. It had been burned out in a wildfire. The remaining trunk resembles the image of Mary looking over Jesus in the manger. Locals have since turned The Mary Tree into a shrine, adding photos and flowers to makeshift shelves.

  Uncover or create meaning behind the symbol. If it’s an established symbol, like something biblical or Egyptian, research the meaning behind it. If it’s a symbol you’ve designed, you can create an intriguing backstory.

At The Mary Tree, people have set up lawn chairs in a semi-circle. On important holidays, like Christmas, families gather there. It became a place to pray, hope, and remember. The meaning had already been established, and I used this to my advantage in my story.

  Integrate the symbol into your story. What does the symbol represent? Inspiration? Bad luck? A dangerous cult? A family heirloom? When your characters encounter the symbol, either add the meaning or keep it mysterious by slowly dripping in details.

In my story, The Mary Tree became a place for reflection. The main character is searching for her missing brother, and she finds clues at the tree. This symbol served more than one purpose.

  Add the symbol to the book cover. With the thematic symbol on the cover, readers can tie-in the outer image to the one described in the book. It adds another connection.

Instead of adding The Mary Tree to the cover, I opted for police tape. “Police Line Do Not Cross” resonated with me, because my character crosses moral lines while searching for her missing brother.

I don’t set out to add thematic symbols--they happen naturally a few drafts in. How about you? Have you added thematic symbols to your fiction? If so, what? Did it happen naturally or did you plan it from the start?

Julie Musil writes from her rural home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three sons. She’s an obsessive reader who loves stories that grab the heart and won’t let go. Her YA novels The Summer of Crossing Lines and The Boy Who Loved Fire are available now. For more information, or to stop by and say Hi, please visit Julie on her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Title: The Summer of Crossing Lines
Author: Julie Musil
Release date: August 19, 2014
Category: Young Adult (YA)
Genre: Contemporary Mystery

Short Summary

When her protective older brother disappears, sixteen-year-old Melody infiltrates a theft ring, gathers clues about his secret life, and falls for a handsome pickpocket. At what point does truth justify the crime?

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Buy Links for The Summer of Crossing Lines:

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Writer's LIfe Lessons - Perseverance - The Key to Success

Five years after I wrote the novel Contraband, I stopped editing it long enough to submit it to publishers. After a wake-up call, I sent a query to a black publisher who fell in love with the story. While it didn't do well in terms of sales, the book got some good reviews. Since the rights came back to me, I've re-edited, gotten a new cover and put it back on the market. It still isn't doing well, but at this point in time, I'm not going to have a meltdown over the lack of sales.

Although many of us subscribe to the view that the best marketing tool is to have a string of good books to satisfy our readers' appetite, I have found that in order to make a living at writing, books need more than just 'being' in existence.  When I don't promote, sales drop off and that's a fact of life many writers know and accept. For me, promoting rates behind writing a blurb and synopsis, but it's an essential part of the writing business.

Lately, I've taken a more active part in the writing groups where I hang out, particularly on Facebook. Promoting books way ahead of their release dates is something I've neglected to do over the years. A strong pre-release strategy works in generating buzz for a book. I'm guilty of doing a slipshod job of promoting books before release and then go silent maybe a month or so after the launch date.

Do I hear you saying recipe for failure? It is.

There are many free, yet interesting ways to promote a book. One of the chief ways that  works is creating attractive teasers. I've often thought that while I'm writing a book it's too early to do this and that I will feel pressured to get the book done faster. The fact is, I'm at the point in this business where I'd rather take the time to produce a good book than rush to put out something that will disappoint readers. I believe that every book I write should be my best.

While I'm preparing the next book, I'll be running an experiment. I'll get samples and teasers going. I also need to get the cover done. Can you say 'late starter'? I might even take the pre-order route on Amazon since I've had a few people asking about the release date of this novel.

This is what is wonderful about the indie life. We are free to take different routes to our destination with the knowledge that as long as we are willing to work hard and consistently and aim high, our efforts will pay dividends.

What marketing plans do you execute at least six months before your release date?

On another note, I'll be running an Amazon promo from today through Wednesday, so if you read women' fiction, feel free to download a complimentary copy of A Baker's Dozen - 13 Steps to Distraction here.