Marketing Monday: #WriterProblems

Tags

, , , , , , ,

One of the things I struggle with most as a writer is consistency. Creative people have ideas, lots of them, all the time. If you are of the goal oriented ilk, mustering the discipline to stay on task and see each one through to a timely conclusion comes easy to you. If you’re like me, and you’re of the passionate-about-process persuasion, not so much. I tend to follow inspiration from idea to idea, herding my many projects like sheep along a meandering road at their own pace. Some of them get lost along the way. Others die from neglect, and sadly, precious few reach the end of the process path.

After many MANY failed attempts at regimenting my work day with accountability tools and word count goals and self-imposed deadlines, I have come to accept my creative wanderlust as less an affliction to be cured and more an attribute to be better utilized. We all need structure and context, just like our stories, but we also need to let the muse lead now and then.

I don’t mind boundaries, but I don’t like fences. So, to keep myself from jumping the rails, I have decided to pencil some loose parameters around my writing week. Today, I’m going to kick things off by resurrecting Marketing Mondays – a blog column I abandoned quite some time ago for no good reason. To bookend that feature, I’ll be returning with the Week in Review post on Fridays.

Marketing Monday is all about shameless self-promotion. Each Monday, I am going to do my level best to accomplish a short-list of marketing tasks. To be effective, and manageable in the long run, these tasks should be specific, actionable and have measurable results.

Here’s the list for today:

  • Promote Amazon SFF Summer Reads sale (featuring my books) via social media
  • Update blog with promo post and refreshed Marketing Monday feature
  • Activate FB ad

What about you? Do you do Marketing Monday, or do you have a different strategy for promotion? I’d love to hear your ideas – goddess knows I need the help!

So far I’ve completed two of those three tasks for this Marketing Monday, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I should have that third bullet checked off by the end of the day. My “to do” list for the rest of the week is pretty long, and I’ll let you know how it goes on Friday, with my next Week in Review post. See you then!

Books on Sale (for a limited time)!

Tags

, , , , , , ,

Through July 31st, both books in The Dream Stewards Series are specially priced. If you’re a fan of quasi-historical epic fantasy, there’s never been a better time to give these stories a try. Get the first book in the series, THE WELL OF TEARS, for $1.99 and then pick up THE KEYS TO THE REALMS for just $ .99 – click the image to go to my Amazon author page and get both books at the best price ever!

 

 

Skill Building Workshops for the Determined Writer (Seattle Area)

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

I’ll be hosting a series of single session focused workshops with my long-time writing/publishing friends and colleagues Jennifer McCord and Scott Driscoll. For more information, or to register, contact me via email at info@robertatrahan.com –

Seattle Area Writer Friends!

Are you a fiction writer envisioning publication and struggling to make sense of editorial notes or reader feedback? Hearing that your story lacks a sense of urgency, a call to action, or that it falls a bit flat? That your main characters are unlikable or uninteresting? Not sure how to turn things around? We can help.

It’s all about story. Publishing and readers expect more from writers than ever before. Every writer must carefully consider how they are inviting the reader into their novel, and then deliver an experience that hooks them and doesn’t let go. There are no secret keys to success, but there are some skill sets you can hone to get your book on track.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make the biggest differences. Feedback is essential, but it can also be difficult to know how or where to start. Rewrites and revisions don’t necessarily mean a major overhaul of your book. Often all that’s needed is a closer look at one or two critical story elements, such as impact, pacing, or character motivation.

Knowing what those areas are is one thing – figuring out how to work around them is another. Ready to tackle the tough job of addressing agent/editor notes or early reader response? We are now offering a series of single focus workshops that address some of the most common trouble spots in any manuscript:

The Inciting Incident: A successful novel opens with a “hook” – a call to action or specific event that launches the protagonist into the central conflict that propels the plot. In this session, you will learn how to identify, assess and refine the inciting incident in your story to create a stronger sense of urgency and ramp up the tension from the very first scene.

Next Session: January 29, 2017 / 7-9:30 pm

The Desire Quest: Once an inciting event throws the protagonist’s everyday world into chaos, how he or she responds becomes the foundation of the plot. But what is it that drives the protagonist to accept the challenge? In this session, we’ll delve into the complex traits that define a multi-dimensional protagonist who is not only capable of carrying weight of the story, but also of fulfilling your reader’s expectations.

Next Session: February 12, 2017 / 7-9:30 pm

The Point of No Return: Plot is essentially a sequence of events that confront a protagonist with obstacles they must overcome in order for the story to move toward its climax. How these obstacles are presented determines a novel’s pace and should naturally create the escalating tension that keeps readers captivated. This workshop will help you analyze and assess your book’s major plot points and the protagonist’s progression toward the story’s proverbial point of no return.

Next Session: March 19, 2017 / 7-9:30 pm

Reserve your space today!

  • Affordable Customized Instruction & Support – Attend only the workshop/workshops you need – sign up for individual sessions or all three at a special discounted rate.*
  • Small Groups Sessions: Class size is limited to 7 student to allow for more in-depth presentation of the course material
  • Proven Techniques & Tools: Developed specifically to meet the expectations of today’s publishing world
  • Professional Teaching Team: Work closely with three respected publishing industry professionals, experienced instructors and published writers.

The fee for each individual workshop session is $125.00. Space is limited and offered on a first come/first served basis. Workshops will be hosted at a private North Seattle area residence (address provided upon registration).

 Register now and receive an early-bird enrollment discount or purchase all three sessions at a special package price of $300.00. 

About the Instructors: 

Scott Driscoll is an award-winning instructor with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, has taught creative writing for the University of Washington Extension for twenty years and makes his living as a freelance writer and teacher. Scott’s debut novel, BETTER YOU GO HOME (Coffeetown Press 2013) was selected as the Foreword Reviews First Book Contest winner, March 2014. Scott has also been awarded nine Society of Professional Journalists awards, most recently First Place in the Western U.S. in 2014 for arts and entertainment reporting. For more about Scott, visit www.scottdriscollwriting.com

Jennifer McCord is a 30 year veteran of the publishing trade. Throughout her career, Jennifer has worked in nearly every aspect of the industry—as a writer, editor, instructor, and consultant. Jennifer lends her expertise in the book business to writers and publishers through her consulting and coaching business, Jennifer McCord Associates. Currently, she is also an Associate Publisher for Camel Press and Coffeetown Press. Jennifer can be contacted at www.jennifermccord.com

Roberta Trahan is the best-selling author of THE WELL OF TEARS and THE KEYS TO THE REALMS, the first two books in her quasi-historical epic fantasy series from 47North. Her post-apocalyptic science fiction novella AFTERSHOCK is also available through Amazon Publishing’s digital-first short fiction imprint, StoryFront. She is also a frequent guest at SFF fan conventions and writing events. For more about Roberta, visit www.robertatrahan.com.

 

Practicing Objectivity – A (Very) Liberal Discourse on How to Think For Yourself

Tags

, , , , , , ,

“There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures.” (Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224)

I am proud of my liberal arts education. As much as it prepared me for life as a professional communicator, it also prepared me for adulthood in ways many other people never get the chance to experience. A liberal arts education doesn’t just produce teachers and journalists and historians and scholars, it produces thinkers.

As a student of the arts, I was introduced to a vast array of social, political, historical, cultural, philosophical and theological perspectives. I was expected to examine opposing schools of thought and expose myself to disparate experiences across the whole of human existence. I was required to acknowledge my limited understanding and reach beyond it, to explore outside myself. These lessons translated to life skills, and I was made better for the objectivity that my university education instilled in me. Who wouldn’t be?

The liberal arts approach to learning helped me to develop a willingness to question and challenge my personal perceptions. I discovered that by framing my beliefs and values with a scope much wider than my individual view would ever allow, whatever my conclusions might be, they are informed by the cumulative wealth of fact, historical record, and the collective experience of the greater world, not just one thin slice of it. The result is a justifiable and defensible confidence in my own convictions.

I think most everyone believes they are already engaging in this kind of analysis. Maybe they are, but my experience is that while people generally believe they are regularly exercising their critical thinking muscles, in actuality, they are not. Let’s be honest. If they were, our society would not be in the muck it is today. Sadly, too many have succumbed to the persistent and perpetually self-sustained illusion that our virtual inter-connectivity keeps us informed and involved. But the reality is we really aren’t as connected as we think we are – not to each other, or the big issues that matter to our well-being.

Social media allows people to feel engaged without having to show up, do the work, or give any of it much thought. It encourages reflexive responses. We are too quick to take Talking Heads at face value (especially the orange one), or maybe we don’t, but then neither do we hold them accountable for what they say – even when they lie. Somehow information and propaganda have become indistinguishable from each other, and hard facts are now fluid. We invest our funds and our faith in whoever tells us what we most want to hear, no matter what the real outcome might be.

But that’s not how things work in a functioning republic, at least not for long. Eventually the consequences of abdicating our duty to make informed decisions catches up to us. And yet, even when the consequences are inescapably dire, too many of us are still willing to be blindly led rather than look directly at the facts, draw independent conclusions, and act accordingly. And apparently, given recent election results, we’re okay with that. Except that some of us aren’t.

Over the years, I’ve discovered that I am incapable of turning a blind eye to anything. Believe me, I’ve tried. But in the end I came to accept that how I walk and talk in this world matters. I believe that I am accountable to and for others, and I strive to conduct myself with that thought first and foremost in my mind. To do that, I practice objectivity in my daily life, the same way others practice spiritual or religious tenets. For some of us, objectivity is a core value.

Objectivity is not a state of being or a quality of character. It is not tolerance or neutrality or acceptance. Objectivity is, simply put, a method for evaluating everything you encounter – people, places, ideas, information and events – without bias or prejudgment. It is exhausting, exasperating, and often overwhelming. But it is the only path to truth.

Becoming a critical thinker is only one of the many civic duties in a democratic society, though it might be the most important. Do you practice objectivity? Everyone should, often if not always. If you do, some or all of the steps on my personal checklist will sound familiar. If not, you might want to give some or all of them a try.

A 7-Step Guide to Critical Thinking:

  • Seek first to understand – not just to validate your preconceptions and prove yourself right.
  • Gather all of the available data, not only the information you’re comfortable with or that which is easily found.
  • Challenge the veracity of your sources, no matter how tried and trusted they are.
  • Do the tough work of separating fact from opinion and acknowledge the truth of things, even when that truth contradicts what you already believe. Especially then.
  • When your conclusions don’t align with those of people you generally respect, wonder why. Re-examine your point of view before dismissing someone else’s.
  • Weigh what you learn against what you know, but keep your finger off the scales. Let them tip on their own. One side will usually outweigh the other.
  • Then and only then, make up your mind. Whatever course of action you follow from there depends upon what you hope to gain, but at least you’ll know what you’re getting yourself, and others, into.

It’s time for everyone to show up, do the work, and give everything some real thought. Use my guide, or create your own. Share it. Challenge people to follow your lead. Hold yourself and others accountable for the decisions they make and the actions they take. THAT’S how we make America great again.

Baking My Way Through Writer’s Block

Tags

, , , , , ,

I don’t believe in writer’s block. Really. Creativity is not a constant, pressurized flow one can stem with a spigot and turn on and off at will. Creativity doesn’t stream. It doesn’t back up like a clogged drain, just begging for release.

Creativity seeps. It burbles. It oozes. It seeks its own path. Creativity is always on its way, but it takes its own sweet time.  Sometimes, you just have to wait it out.

The thing is, I’m not so good at the waiting. When the ideas aren’t coming, I get anxious and try to force the story. I hear the silent judging of the Word Count Gods and the not so silent nagging of my inner critic, who already knows I am a fraud and have no business whatsoever calling myself a writer.

That’s when the stress eating starts, which is what I do to stave off the day drinking and hypercaffeination. But when I can’t find anything sufficiently sweet and self-destructive in the house to munch, it’s time to bake.

One of my favorites, especially this time of year, is my mom’s banana bread. It’s quick, easy, and just decadent enough to distract me from my writing demons – at least for the better part of an afternoon. Here’s the recipe, in case you want to give it a try:

Joanne’s Brown Sugar Banana Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ cup butter, softened
¾ cup dark brown sugar (the light kind will do if you don’t have the dark on hand)
2 large eggs, beaten
3 ripe bananas (the riper the better), mashed
A pinch each of Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Ginger (or a big dash of All Spice)*

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly grease 9 x 5 loaf pan.
  3. In large bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger
  4. In separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar.
  5. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended.
  6. Fold banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten.
  7. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  8. Bake in preheated oven for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.
  9. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

14671367_10208901292621955_2778999232885557572_n

 

*To make this yummy bread even yummier, try throwing in some extra flavor shots – nuts, dates, orange extract, whatever you have in the pantry. My favorites are chocolate chips and chopped macadamia nuts.

 

 

 

 

If at First You Don’t Succeed – Try, try Again (aka Fall Down 9 Times, Get Up 10)

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

world-within-a-worldI look forward to the Fall season every year. For me, this is the time of year when I feel most inspired to invest in new ideas or make a new start. A sort of anxious, anticipatory energy bubbles up and spurs me to take big risks. The momentum usually carries over into the new year, and then, often fizzles out.

Sometimes there are just too many obstacles and I don’t have the resources – emotional, physical, spiritual, creative, or financial – to keep running over or around them. Sometimes life events create a fork in the road and the bypass takes me so far off the original path I never find my way back.

And yet, every year, I start again. That’s the definition of crazy, right – doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results? Yeah, well, we creative types be crazy.

They autumn-crossroadssay that writers fall into on of two categories when it comes to goal setting – those who are results oriented, and those who are process oriented. Results oriented folks derive their sense of satisfaction from completion.

They are focused on outcome, and can produce a sizable body of work. But, while they always finish a project, they sometimes do so at the expense of the process. Sometimes, the work they produce lacks quality or isn’t as rich in detail as it could be.

Process oriented folks are focused on the task and glean great joy from the act of creation itself. They tend to produce less, but their results are generally richer in content. Although the autumn-writingwork tends to be layered with nuance and is often highly polished, process oriented writers struggle with bringing a project full circle. They tend to get caught up relishing the scene and have a hard time finishing the story.

It has taken me years to own it, but I am a process oriented writer. I get so excited by the prospect of a new idea that I have a hard time keeping my head in the project that is already on the table. I get lost in the rituals of writing. I love research and plotting, and imagining the possibilities. Basically, I get in my own way.

So, this fall season, I am going to throw myself into the process like I always do, but this time see all my new endeavors through to the end – whatever the outcome may be. I’m feeding all my muses this year and I’ve got a lot of projects on the board – a new side business at Lit Chicks Editorial, a new online venture called Idyll Curiosities that resells vintage jewelry, and at least 3 new books to complete. I’m really stretching my limits here.

you-should-be-writing-nanowrimo

One of the things I need to do is figure out how to get more words out of my head and onto the page. So this year, for the first time ever, I’m going to take the 2016 NaNoWriMo challenge. Anyone with me? Have you done it before? I’d be interested in hearing how it worked out for you.

So, how many of you are results oriented writers? How many of you are process oriented? Have you figured out how to strike a balance between the two?  I’d love to know.

 

 

 

 

 

There’s a Change in the Air

Tags

, , , , , ,

Autumn is all about change – and every time the season falls, I feel a niggling urge to re-evaluate, re-vamp, and re-direct.

One of this year’s fresh starts is a creative collaboration with my colleague and friend, author Camille Griep. We’re both always looking for ways to reinvest our artistic efforts in the writing community. Lit Chicks Editorial Services gives us both an opportunity to share what we’ve learned on our professional paths.

If you’re a writer looking for editorial support, we hope to provide some helpful resources, as well as developmental and copy editing assistance:

Lit Chicks Editorial Services

Developmental and Copy Editing for all genres

We Read Books. We Write Books. We Edit Books.
Let us help make your book the best it can be.

37145696 - two fashion girls chatting at a cafe. vector illustration

The 8 Tribes of SciFi

Tags

, , , , ,

In my opinion, this is an excellent analysis of the SFF community at large. I’d count myself among the Progressive Fantacists, although my creative DNA might also include traits from the 9th Tribe. What do you think? What Tribe are you?

Damien Walter

UPDATE 1: the most excellent Paul Weimer suggests a 9th tribe, and it makes a whole lot of sense. The 9 tribes of scifi? I like it. Paul’s thinking is as follows:

The tribe I think you missed is what could be glibly called The Worldbuilders. Worldbuilders have been under stress lately, as what makes a realistic world and what doesn’t has been riven with internal strife over the roles of women and POC on the fantasy side of fantasy. But Worldbuilders, both fantasy and SF flavors, are the kind of people who see a 800 page epic fantasy or SF novel with a rich and detailed world, and dive right into it, seeking deep immersion with a world and its characters. Maps. glossaries and appendices for these books are features, not bugs. Readers of stuff ranging from Kate Elliott to Brandon Sanderson to Peter F Hamilton and James S…

View original post 1,293 more words

Color me JILO!

Tags

, , , , , ,

My good friend and fellow author JD Horn is sponsoring a fab giveaway in celebration of the release of the fourth book in his WITCHING SAVANNAH series! JILO is out next week, and if you haven’t discovered his southern gothic paranormal saga, get to it!! And while you’re at it, download this weeks coloring sheet and enter to win a Kindle Fire.

To make it easy for you, click on the coloring sheet to go to JD’s FB page for guidelines on how to enter:
13041207_976839605746207_806026502882178752_o

jd header.PNG