#Writing #Workshops for June (and a cat pic this time)

Below are the online workshops being offered in June by RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. If you are a writing instructor and are interested in teaching a workshop, please contact me for available dates, rates, and proposal submission guidelines.

NUTMEG
NUTMEG

Advanced WordPress

06/01/2015 – 06/28/2015

Now that you have your website or blog set up, it’s time to get creative. This course will focus on advanced customizing of WordPress sites such as installing WordPress on your home computer, creating a webhost server that is not connected to the internet so that you can test ideas in a risk-free environment, troubleshooting your site when it crashes, creating custom menus, importing and exporting content from different sources, creating user-friendly permalinks, search engine optimization, and using the WordPress community forum. The class lasts four weeks.

Lessons include:

  1. Setting up WP on your home computer: working with local host for both Mac and PC.
  2. Working with menus: creating custom menus, putting menus in your sidebar.
  3. Playing around in the WP Content Folder and troubleshooting: what to do if you crash your site.
  4. Fun things you can do with your site: embedding videos and adding images from the web.
  5. Optimizing your site for search engines.
  6. Uploading your practice site to the web.
  7. Going live.

About the Presenter

Pepper O’Neal has a doctorate in education and has taught a number of adult education classes on many different subjects. She currently works as a freelance researcher and author. When she was told by both of her publishers that she needed to have a website, she realized she needed to finally join the age of technology. She also realized she had two options. She could pay someone to design the site for her, or she could to do it herself. As she hates depending on others for things involving her career, she decided to learn how to use the free web-design software WordPress and Joomla. She took classes, hired experts for tutors, and picked the brains of her web-designer friends. After designing her own websites, she decided she liked doing it, and now she designs websites for others.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Click here to register for this workshop.

The Never Ending Plot / Subplot Resource

06/01/2015 – 06/26/2015

Polti’s principle of 36 situations shows “There are no new stories.” This 8-session workshop from Sally Walker takes the writer through his situations and explains how to apply, twist and spark every story and its characters into unpredictable freshness, even with genre expectations.

About the Presenter

She eventually graduated from Papillion (NE) High School then nursing school at the University of Albuquerque and, eventually received a BFA in Creative Writing back at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  That degree was accomplished while working full-time as a Critical Care/ER nurse and raising a very active family of three daughters with her engineer husband.  Adeptly juggling family, nursing, civic and Episcopal church responsibilities, Sally founded in 1985 and has conducted the weekly meetings of the eclectic Nebraska Writers Workshop to feed her own hunger for in-depth knowledge and skills. The Workshop has grown from a few tentative to over 50 confidently publishing and produced writers. Her own goal-oriented writing ethic has resulted in a vitae packed with novels, short stories, poetry, magazine articles, stage plays, screenplays and a variety of writing seminars.  In 2000 she was hired as part-time Editorial Director at The Fiction Works and Script Superviser for the affiliated Misty Mountain Productions. After retiring from her nursing career of over 30 years, she was elected President of the prestigious Nebraska Writers Guild, serving 2007-2011.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Click here to register for this workshop.

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#Writing #Workshops for May (oh, and a chipmunk pic, bc why not?)

Below are the online workshops being offered in May by RWA’s Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Chapter. If you are a writing instructor and are interested in teaching a workshop, please contact me for available dates, rates, and proposal submission guidelines.

What does a chipmunk have to do with writing or workshops? Absolutely nothing. We caught this little guy (girl?) in our house earlier this week. No idea how it got in, which is somewhat disturbing. Not that I would have wanted them to go after it, but my cats showed zero interest. We let it go in the backyard.
What does a chipmunk have to do with writing or workshops?
Absolutely nothing.
We caught this little guy (girl?) in our house earlier this week. No idea how it got in, which is somewhat disturbing. Not that I would have wanted them to go after it, but my cats showed zero interest. We let it go in the backyard.

Beginning WordPress

05/04/2015 – 05/31/2015

This class will focus on understanding the basic functions of WordPress such as making posts and pages, adding images, copying and pasting from one post or page to another, creating links, connecting your social media links for Facebook, Twitter, etc., using plugins, widgets, and themes, creating parent and child pages, using menus, and customizing the look and feel of your site. In short, everything you need to create a website or blog and make it uniquely yours. The class lasts four weeks.

Lessons include:

  1. Navigating the Back End of WordPress
  2. Understanding Themes: Changing the Look of Your Site Through Themes
  3. Customizing the Themes: Changing the Header and Background
  4. Understanding the Difference Between Posts & Pages: What They Are; How to Use Them
  5. Adding Images & Links
  6. Things you can do to Jazz up your site. Using Asides and Widgets
  7. Working with Plugins: Understanding Plugins, Some Plugins You Must Have, Setting Up FB & Twitter Links on Your Site
  8. Some Things You Need to Know About the Web and Websites

About the Presenter, Pepper O’Neal

Pepper O’Neal has a doctorate in education and has taught a number of adult education classes on many different subjects. She currently works as a freelance researcher and author. When she was told by both of her publishers that she needed to have a website, she realized she needed to finally join the age of technology. She also realized she had two options. She could pay someone to design the site for her, or she could to do it herself. As she hates depending on others for things involving her career, she decided to learn how to use the free web-design software WordPress and Joomla. She took classes, hired experts for tutors, and picked the brains of her web-designer friends. After designing her own websites, she decided she liked doing it, and now she designs websites for others.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop

Beware the Info Dump, My Child

05/04/2015 – 05/17/2015

Say you’re starting work on your latest story. You’ve just done a ton of research to get all the details right, down to the outer ridge of your heroine’s left boot. You are proud of what you’ve done, and who could blame you? Inspired, you want to bring the reader into the story and you want him or her to be as fascinated and intrigued by it as you are. But you make a small tactical error. Just a small one. You dump all this stuff at the beginning of your story so they can get started on the wonderfulness that is your story… And you are left scratching your head when the readers don’t come, or they read the first couple of pages…and wander away, choosing not to continue.

What happened? Why weren’t they fascinated? What’s wrong with them?!

How much research is just right? What’s the tidbit to work in? What isn’t?

This class will teach you some tricks and tips to keep in mind when it comes to making the best use of your research, along with examples.

About the Presenters, Elizabeth Flynn and Heather Hiestand

Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a young adult novel, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for more than 35 years.

Heather Hiestand wrote her first story at age seven and went on to major in creative writing at the University of Washington. Her first published fiction was a mystery short story, but since then it has been all about the many flavors of romance. Heather’s first published romance short story was set in the Victorian period and she continues to return, fascinated by the rapid changes of the nineteenth century. The author of many novels, novellas, and short stories, she is a bestseller at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. With her husband and son, she makes her home in a small town and supposedly works out of her tiny office, though she mostly writes in her easy chair in the living room. She also writes as Anh Leod.

Cost: FFP Members:$20.00/Non-Members: $25.00

Register for This Workshop

Blogging Milestone: My 300th Post!

I mentioned earlier that I was nearing my 300th post and THIS IS IT!

I posted my first blog article – a review of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – in September of 2011. At the time, I’m fairly certain only my agent saw it. Since 2012, I’ve averaged about a hundred posts a year (many of them written by fabulous guest bloggers), which means I’m once again celebrating a fun blogging milestone.

NEARLY 125 COUNTRIES!

One of the things that continues to amaze and delight me is the international nature of blogging. This year, people from nearly 125 countries visited my blog. Pretty darn cool, huh? 😀

Where are you all from? The Top Twenty

United States
Canada
United Kingdom
Australia
Brazil
France
Germany
India
New Zealand
Spain
Italy
Netherlands
Argentina
Philippines
Singapore
Romania
Belgium
Sweden
Mexico
Poland

WHAT BROUGHT YOU HERE? MOST POPULAR TOPICS

No surprises, but it was nice to see what the most popular categories and tags were because they nicely sum up what I want this blog to be:

CREEPY AND/OR FUN” posts about “WRITING” “BOOKS” and/or “FANTASY” stuff.

WHICH POSTS WERE YOUR FAVORITES? THE TOP FIVE

Fun “What’s Your Reaper Name?” Quiz by Boone Brux

7 Tips for Preparing for a Marathon (Oscar Movie Marathon, that is!)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

King’s Quest: Vintage Gaming on an IBM PCjr

Is there a market for #NewAdult Fantasy?

My Oscar Movie Marathon post is a perennial favorite, which always makes me smile because I never would have guessed that it would be one of my most viewed posts when I wrote it. Like last year, a lot of the credit goes to Sir Jog A Lot. I linked to a great post he wrote back in 2009 (5 Tips for Running a 10K Race) and there’s a trackback to my post in the comments section of that post. What did this experience teach me? One, to love the serendipitous nature of blogging. Two, to be grateful for trackbacks! Three, I should do more posts linking to others in fun (even better, meaningful) ways.

As for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty… I should rename that post “The Secret Sauce of Blogging is Discussing Ghost Cat Metaphors.” 😀

WHY DO I STILL BLOG?

Reaching post 300 was a natural point in time to step back and take stock. Why do I blog? Should I still blog? To help me decide, I took a Writer’s Digest webinar with Jane Friedman on “How to Blog Meaningfully and Grow Your Audience.” If you’re new to blogging, trying to decide if you should start blogging, or just a casual blogger like me who’s wondering what it would take to push your blog to the next level, I recommend it. I watched it in the car on Thanksgiving during a two-hour car ride. Here are a few of the things I decided after watching it:

Things I Do Well

  1. My name is in the header. 🙂
  2. I share my posts on Twitter and Facebook.
  3. I USE WORDPRESS! 😀

Things I Don’t Do Well

  1. My brand is a little muddled. My focus is not as tight as it could be. (You’ve heard these confessions before.)
  2. Lack of consistency in the timing of posts. (Although Jane did mention that once a week was probably ok for those of us who aren’t super-serious bloggers).
  3. Vague headlines (perhaps my most egregious sin; I’ve been trying to do better but make no promises about permanent abstention… ahem, just look at these subheadings!).

Things I’m Not Sure About

  1. Adding personal updates to the end of guest posts. I tend to do this when I haven’t posted something in a while and I just feel like updating everyone or saying hello with a little bit of news. But it detracts from the focus of the guest blogger’s content.

Things I Might Do/Should Do

  1. Add author interviews. I’ve done a few, but not many because I feel like there are lots of interview opportunities for authors out there. But it could be fun if I can think of a unique list of questions or an interesting interview angle.
  2. Add metadata to my images. Sometimes I do this, but I don’t always remember and sometimes I’m in a hurry and skip it.
  3. Add a newsletter option for readers who just want to know when my next novel or story is coming out.

 Things I Probably Won’t Do

  1. Monetize my site: This was one of the biggest reasons I took the webinar. To decide this. (You know, it’s the whole “Go big or get out?” question). But, nope, not gonna do either right now. (Good to know, however, that if I change my mind and want to “go big”, it would be relatively easy to switch from wordpress.com to a self-hosted site and start following blogging best practices instead of knowingly and willfully ignoring them. 🙂 )
  2. Nix the guest blogs: Structuring guest blogs as intermittent, themed series really works for me.
  3. Mix up the content: For now, I’m going to continue to blog about writing, movies, books, day trips, and whatever else I think might appeal to fantasy fans. It’s what I’m into. It’s the type of content I can sustain for the long haul (or, ya know, at least the next six months 😉 ).

Which brings us back to…

WHY BLOG?

Every blogger has to decide this for themselves. For me, my reasons haven’t changed too much from when I first started. And they can be summed up in one word: CONNECTIONS. With readers. With other writers. My blog is the hub of everything I do online. Sometimes, this blog is a quiet place. But that’s ok. Because I’m a novelist first and a blogger second.

THANK YOU!

I am ever appreciative of all of my followers. Just as with a story, a blog isn’t complete without readers. Thank you to all of you that take the time to read these posts, leave comments, like them, share them, or tell me in other ways that you value the information and stories you read here.

Click here for my 100th post (includes a silly little 100-themed quiz & a 1975 pic of me with my bro and a snowman) and here for my 200th post.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

P.S. another thing I do well is add images to my posts… although sometimes they have zippo to do with writing, books, or fantasy. 😀

My brother and me, standing by the Mississippi River circa 1979
My brother and me, standing by the Mississippi River circa 1979

200th Post and Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

THIS is my 200th post! When I first started blogging two years or so ago, my goal was one post a week. And while there have been weeks when I’ve only posted once (and sometimes even less), other times I’ve posted daily. Lots of my posts have been articles written by my wonderful guest bloggers. Without them, my content would be less varied and I wouldn’t have been able to post as frequently. As I mentioned during my last post (Writer’s Water Cooler Round Up), I’m very grateful to them. But there’s another group, which is even more numerous and diverse, that I want to thank today for the success of this blog: YOU! Readers and followers, you are fantastic and awesome!

Over 120 Countries!

The international nature of blogging continues to amaze and delight me. I love that people from all over the world can come together online to discuss topics that interest them. Since February 25, 2012 (when WordPress first started tracking this stat) I’ve had visitors from 123 countries.

Top Ten

Here’s where most of the people who visit this blog are from:

  1. United States
  2. Canada
  3. United Kingdom
  4. Australia
  5. India
  6. Philippines
  7. Germany
  8. France
  9. Jamaica
  10. Netherlands

Favorite Topics

Unsurprisingly, people’s favorite topics are WRITING, PARANORMAL ROMANCE, and URBAN FANTASY.

Most Popular Post

Surprisingly, my top post is one I wrote very quickly, for fun — this somewhat tongue-in-cheek article: 7 Tips for Preparing for a Marathon (Oscar Movie Marathon, that is!) Since we’re heading into Oscar season once again, I figured I’d post the link in case any of you are planning on squeezing in more movies this winter. AND, if you do check out the post, please be sure to check out Sir Jog A Lot’s blog (ESPECIALLY if you are a runner!) In writing the slightly silly Oscar Movie Marathon post I quoted and linked to a bunch of bloggers who blog about running marathons. They are the real deal. And today I’m giving a Sir Jog A Lot a BIG HUGE THANK YOU for referring so many people to my site as a result of my linking to his. This is blogging at its best, people. Swapping fun stories and good advice, even if you blog about completely different topics. 😀

Happy Thanksgiving!

For those of us who live in the U.S., Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Naturally, it’s a time to be grateful for good fortune, friends and family, projects we feel passionate about, infinite cups of coffee, and WordPress. Wishing each and every one of you a wonderful week!

RELATED POST: 100th Post (small milestones can be fun to reach too!)

#Writing: 3 Website Building Tips from Maya Rodale

I met Maya Rodale at the Create Something Magical Conference in New Jersey last month. She was teaching the workshop “How to Build a Fast, Cheap, and Fabulous Website” (by using WordPress). Even though I know a bit about building a website with WordPress, I went because I had a feeling she’d be a great resource for some of the questions I had. And she was. (You may have noticed that I’ve been playing around with picture borders recently 🙂 ). After the conference, I asked her if she’d be willing to guest blog and share some general tips. She happily agreed. If you are a writer just starting with WordPress and have questions, let us know in the comments! Welcome, Maya!

Website Building Tips for Authors

Having a website for authors is a must—but one that needn’t be an expensive or time-consuming endeavor. With a little learning, most of us can build a pretty nice and simple website. I myself am partial to WordPress—In fact, I built a website with tutorials on how to build your own WordPress website. Some other tips no matter what platform you use:

Make a plan!

Having a plan will make the whole process less overwhelming. First, check out websites of other authors and make a list of content and pages you want to include. Go ahead and write-up your about page and consolidate all the content you’ll need—like pictures or social media accounts. That way you won’t disrupt your flow when you’re putting it all together.

Don’t be afraid to click on things!

You will probably not break the whole internet. But you may figure out a whole bunch of stuff—how to download and activate a plugin, or how to get a list of recent posts in your sidebar. Just in case…backup your work (In WordPress: tools export all).

When in doubt, Google it!

Sorry, but you’re probably not the first person to have that problem! When in doubt, just Google it. Then take a moment to be thankful to all those people who made video tutorials.

Maya Rodale is the author of multiple smart & sassy romance novels. Visit her on the web at  http://www.mayarodale.com

Thank you, Maya, for guest blogging today! 😀

Snakes, Sharks, and Planes: Lesley Carter of Bucket List Publications Encourages Us To Dream BIG

Lesley Carter is a travel adventure blogger I discovered through WordPress. She has posted about traveling all over the world, extreme adventures closer to home, as well as sporting events, spa days, and the importance of friends and family. Her online magazine, Bucket List Publications, is still relatively new and yet has an impressive number of subscribers and followers. Her core philosophy (live life to the fullest) is inspiring no matter what your age or tolerance for risk. She’s currently competing in an online competition to win a trip around the world and hopes to spread the word about it. So I asked her if she’d be willing to answer a few questions and share a few photos. She happily agreed. That’s her, upside down, in the biplane picture below.

Biplane

Jill Archer: Your blog is all about embracing life. You’ve often said that some people have a bucket list because they are dying, but you want one because you want to live. When did you first discover this unquenchable thirst for living life? Were you an adventurous child?

Lesley Carter: While other kids were playing dolls and dress-up, I was playing airline attendant and explorer. The passion to see, explore, and experience more was always there. Even at 8 years old, I planned a trip for my brother and I to fly and see my aunts who lived in a different province. I went as far as contacting the airline to see if we could travel alone. It’s in my blood.

JA: You write about pursuing life’s dreams. Bungee jumping, sky diving, adventure travel, etc. But what about the dreams you have while sleeping? Want to share one of your funniest, or scariest, nighttime dreams with us?

LC: Those are the things I dream about while sleeping. In most of my actual dreams, I can fly; not like with wings, but just fly. It’s peaceful and natural. Sometimes I’m flying to save someone from a burning building or sometimes I’m flying to get somewhere. I have a recurring dream that I’m flying to school but when I arrive I can’t stop flying, literally. I guess I’ve mastered the flight, just not the landing.

Snake

JA: Many of my followers are bibliophiles and book addicts. #39 on your personal Bucket List for this year is “Be a Motivational Speaker at an Event.” If you were speaking to a room of library and book lovers, how would you inspire them to pursue their passion in a new and unique way? In your extensive travels, have you discovered a place which would be “the perfect place to read” or “the best bookstore in the world”?

LC: In The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom, my favorite author, he says, “The true value of time is that you’ve got to make your decisions in each day count, otherwise you could live forever and it won’t make much difference.” I try to reflect on that quote or at least that philosophy daily. We are only given one shot at this life, as far as I know, so it’s important to live life to the fullest. If you dream of visiting Italy, go! If you dream of skydiving, get up there and do it. Make this life count. Don’t ever wake up and say, “I wish I would have….” Your older, happier self will thank you.

As for the perfect place to read – the airplane! All you have is time. 😉

JA: Although many of the things you’ve written about are extreme adventures (flying with a jet pack, swimming with sharks), some are about quieter moments (experiencing a spa day, seeing the sun rise)and some are just about the joys of being with family (giving birth to your daughter, returning to your childhood home, the importance of your husband and sister in your life). How do you stay so well-balanced?

LC: Each night, I reflect on what I’ve accomplished that day and what I’d like to accomplish in the days to come. I’ve learned that if I don’t find balance, I can’t truly enjoy the things that I love. For example, I wanted to swim with the whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium a few months ago. Athena was sick, though, and the drive to Georgia was frustrating. She was fussy and I was starting to feel terrible myself. Darren and I were up all night and I hadn’t really slept in a few days. I decided that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity so I went anyway. I got into the tank, started to swim, and passed out. If I would have changed the date, it would have been the most memorable, positive experience; instead, I had to be pulled out of the pool and miss the swim. The next weekend we went to Asheville for a spa day. I learned my lesson.

Sharks

JA: I think one of the neatest things about your blog is that you’ve not only encouraged others to pursue their dreams through your posts, but you’ve also organized a handful of bucket list adventures for others. Please share a bit about how you make OTHER PEOPLE’S bucket list dreams come true.

LC: In the last year and a half, I’ve gained a substantial following and support. I currently have 16,032,115 page views and 58,685 subscribers. I’ve used those numbers and klout to help others make their dreams a reality. People send me their bucket lists regularly and I do everything in my power to make them a reality. You can see examples by clicking here. I organized and found a way to offer these experiences for free for my readers. One reader drove a NASCAR and hung out in the pit with the crew, another reader went skydiving, and another went heliskiing at one of the top resorts in Canada. These are just a few examples.

Mud

JA: You’re currently competing in My Destination’s Biggest, Baddest Bucket List Contest. (And you’re currently in FIRST PLACE). If you win, you’ll have a chance to win a trip around the world and $50,000 to help you pay for expenses along the way. What is your tentative travel plan? What do you hope to accomplish with this trip? Of course, we’re happy for you! You sound amazing and inspiring! But what can we look forward to READING while you’re on tour? What’s your plan for keeping in touch with the folks that voted for you?

LC: Once the winner, me, is selected, My Destination will help make the travel plans. There are some countries that I haven’t seen that will definitely make the cut including:

  • South Africa
  • Kenya
  • India
  • Malaysia
  • Thailand
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Austria
  • Iceland
  • Russia
  • Brazil

Darren will not be able to join me on the trip, but I plan to bring Athena. I have a great friend, Jessica, who I’ve traveled with in the past. She will join me as Athena’s nanny. Most days we will participate in activities together, but when I want to experience extreme adventures, Jessica will take Athena for a playdate. With a lot of planning and organization, it is all possible and who better to help plan it than My Destination? During the trip, I will continue to post daily or as much as possible. I want my readers to experience the world with me. Maybe you physically can’t be there this year, but I’ll make sure you don’t miss a thing. Like when I was in Fiji, I will utilize all forms of social media including WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and my website. After all, this is my wildest dreams come true. Traveling the world and sharing my experiences with others… it doesn’t get any better.

[JA: Darren is Lesley’s husband and Athena is her daughter. She blogs about them too. :-)]

QUICKIE QUESTIONS

  1. Favorite comfort food? McDonalds
  2. Best food you’ve ever had while traveling? Anything and everything in Italy!
  3. Favorite book? The Five People You Meet in Heaven
  4. Top resource for travel info (besides you ;-)) Other bloggers or travelers

If you enjoyed this interview, please consider voting for Lesley’s entry in My Destination’s Biggest, Baddest Bucket List Contest by clicking here so she can stay in first place, win the competition, and keep inspiring and entertaining us! 😀 A big thanks to Lesley for doing this interview. Hope everyone is having a terrific week!

100th Post! (Small milestones can be fun to reach too)

The only purpose of this post is to celebrate the fact that it is my 100th WordPress post. That’s it. I could load up a picture of the number 100, but I figured it would be more fun to load up a vintage pic. Here’s one of my brother and me that was taken sometime during the winter of 1975 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For fun, I’ve also included a “100” themed poll.

Winter 1975
Winter 1975

I got the whole family involved in making up answers to this poll. My husband’s was a little melancholy (a la Five for Fighting‘s 100 Years) so I omitted it. But my kids got right into the spirit of this post, as you’ll see. 😉

Here’s hoping that each and every one of you has 100 moments of pure, unadulterated bliss today! 😀

Debut Author’s Year End Thoughts on Being Published

Last January I was an unpublished author who’d never worked with a professional editor. I’d just launched my website/blog. I’d never tweeted or guest blogged, produced creative work under the pressure of a deadline, and not many people had read my work (relative to the number of people who would after publication). In short, 2012 was a watershed year of change for me as a commercial fiction writer. Below are my thoughts on some aspects of the process. It is a long post, but there are subtitles so you can jump ahead to subject areas that interest you. Feel free to tell me your thoughts on my thoughts in the comments!

Great to see your story reaching people

Three of the biggest highlights were seeing professionally designed covers for my stories, seeing my book in a bookstore, and attending book signing events like New York Comic Con and a signing with Nora Roberts at her bookstore, Turn the Page. Other amazing moments were having strangers tell me how much they enjoyed the book or the characters and working with a professional editor. I meant what I said in my the Acknowledgements for Dark Light of Day that revisions and edits are kind of like boot camp for novels.  The process isn’t easy, especially the first time, but I don’t think any experience – no workshop, book, or class – can duplicate what you learn from the process.

Reviews

I spent some time hand wringing before my release. For good reason. Some reviews can be brutal. And, honestly, nothing can really prepare you for some of the harsher critiques. But I’m glad my initial reactions to other people’s initial reactions to my work is behind me. I continue to believe that every reader deserves the right to his or her own opinion. And, let’s face it commercial writers, if we can’t take criticism, we’re in the wrong business. But I also know that I’m more relaxed now about reviews than I was just three months ago. And – and this is the really important part – I’m so incredibly grateful for all of the positive feedback I’ve received. The four and five-star ratings and the heartfelt praise is beyond nice. It is sustaining. 🙂

Deadlines

Last year at New Year’s, we took a nice family flight to Cape May, New Jersey. The day was peaceful and reflective. I spent New Year’s Eve day this year writing. We still went to a friend’s house later that night to celebrate but my mood this year is slightly more… stressed. I took some time off for the holidays – I think every writer should – but you end up paying for it later because the deadlines don’t change. And when you’re traditionally published, you don’t have any say about when your books come out. (I found out the release date for Fiery Edge of Steel from Amazon).

That said, I can’t imagine self-pubbed authors don’t also have deadlines to meet. They may be softer or self-imposed, but all writers who treat their writing as a business are going to have deadlines. Learning how to manage the demands on your time (research, writing, revising, promoting – most authors say they have books in three stages at all times: the book they’re promoting, the book they’re doing revisions/edits for, and the book they’re prepping/writing) is a big part of a debut author’s learning curve.

Creative challenges

2012 had some creative challenges too. To be clear, when I use the word “challenge” I don’t mean something negative, I mean something that pushes you, stretches you, or helps you to grow as a writer. Among the creative challenges I faced in 2012 were: a change of title for the first book in the series and a change of gender for a secondary character (which significantly impacted my main character). Sasha de Rocca was originally another female waning magic user. I hadn’t wanted Noon to be the only one of her kind because I felt it was just too unbelievable. But too many people were confused by it so, after mulling it over for a while, I changed Sasha’s gender. And you know what? Not one person (that I know of) has expressed disbelief that Noon is the only one of her kind. I think it’s a concept we’re used to seeing in fiction, especially fantasy, so it was a good change to have made.

Another challenge I faced was how to market a genre-bending series. Dark Light of Day and the Noon Onyx series is unique. Its core is fantasy, as evidenced by the imprint under which it’s been published: Ace. But there are significant romantic elements and the voice is young. I’ve mentioned before that initially we pitched this story as “Scott Turow’s One L meets Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series” to YA editors. We received some terrific feedback but I would have had to age the characters down and do away with the law school aspect, which for me is a big part of what makes the series unique. And the way some of romantic scenes are written, as well as the premise for how the world came about and some of the themes and concepts, all meant I wouldn’t have been comfortable with marketing the series as a traditional YA. The Noon Onyx series will likely appeal to many YA readers, but they will be readers who are comfortable with the more mature scenes and themes. Bottom line: I was thrilled when my editor at Ace wanted to publish it.

Social media

A year ago, I was familiar with Facebook but Twitter was new to me. I didn’t know what I would think of tweeting and, due to unfamiliarity, I was skeptical. My editor was the one who convinced me to give Twitter a chance and I’m glad she did. I’m quite sure I’m not using Twitter as efficiently as I should, but I like it. But I see its power and potential. Whoever first said it’s like a newsy cocktail party was spot on. I like that you can have brief exchanges with people. And that 140 character limit is also a nice exercise for wordy writers like me. 😉

I’m neutral about Facebook. I continue to have a presence there because it’s expected and I want to be able to reach people on the social media platform of their choice. And, at times, the posts seem funnier and/or more personal than those on Twitter. But the constant changes make me leery of making it a significant part of any promotional plan. Frankly, I wasn’t at all surprised when FB started charging to promote posts. I don’t mind doing it for certain things (partially as an experiment, I paid to promote my post about my cover reveal for Fiery Edge of Steel), but I’m not going to pay to promote general status updates and I doubt anyone else will either. Which means the social aspect of Facebook may fade. [I’ll also admit that my Facebook presence is very limited, so my reactions may not be typical of other authors with a much greater friend/fan base].

I ended up loving WordPress. Adding guest bloggers to my already eclectic mix of blog topics turned out to be even more fun than I thought it would be. For anyone on the fence about adding guests to your blog, I think it’s definitely worth the time investment. I like getting a first hand glimpse at what other writers are working on and guest blogs tend to be more interactive. The themed guest blog series (Spring Into Summer Romance, Fall Into Winter Darkness, and the upcoming New Year, New Adult series) have worked great for me because both my personal reading tastes and my work as an author spans many genres. I’m looking forward to continuing the themed guest blogs in 2013.

I have a presence on Goodreads but I tend to let it do its thing without much involvement from me. I like to give readers space to discuss my books without worrying about me listening in all the time (although GR readers do not appear to be meek about expressing their opinions! :-D) The reviews there are passionate and mixed. Despite some negative reviews, I’ve been grateful for the exposure. The Goodreads giveaway that my publisher sponsored for Dark Light of Day led to many more readers hearing about the book than might have otherwise (almost 900 readers signed up for a chance to win 25 copies) and Goodreads continues to generate the most discussion of Dark Light of Day (far exceeding the number of reviews on Amazon or Barnes & Noble).

International nature of blogging

Looking back at the past year, I’m thrilled with this WordPress blog/website. (For anyone not familiar with blogging platforms, WordPress and Blogger are two of the biggest). My WordPress experience has been fantastic. First off, it’s a community, just like Twitter or Facebook, but you can get to know people and/or what they’re into better with a blogging platform. It’s the difference between saying hi to someone on the street and inviting them in for coffee and a chat around the kitchen table. Second, WordPress is free. So, right off the bat, I feel like if I just take the time to keep this site updated and continue to use it as a tool to reach out and connect with both readers and writers, it’s well worth it.

And I’ve been satisfied with my stats. I know other bloggers’ stats are higher, but I’m excited to have reached 99 countries and to have had over 12,000 views for my first year. I’d love to grow my reach, but I’m also mindful that my primary goal is to be a better fiction writer. This blog allows people to discover me and my work, and it gives me a needed creative break every now and then but ultimately it’s a side-show. So when traffic is slow or my stats appear unimpressive, I tell myself it’s okay – especially if the reason for the slow traffic or low stats is that I’ve ignored my blog to focus on my fiction writing. 🙂

Book blogs / blog tours

I’ve said quite a bit already about book blogs and blog tours (and that I am a fan of both) so I won’t belabor the point again here. It’s enough to just repeat that I definitely think blog tours are worth it, but the details (whether you use a blog tour company to help you plan, organize, and execute it; how many stops you should do; how long it should be; what stops you should visit, etc.) are the key to effectively utilizing this promotional tool. My deadline for Noon Onyx book #3 falls within days of the release date for Fiery Edge of Steel, so I already know I won’t be doing a big blog tour for Fiery Edge. But I’m okay with that. I think writers need to assess their guest blog/blog tour needs for each book separately.

Writer’s groups

Some writers have said writers groups aren’t worth the money. I am not one of them. I owe a debt of gratitude to Romance Writers of America. That group is one of the only national organizations that accepts unpublished members into their ranks. Through RWA’s chapters, workshops, and meetings, I learned how to structure a novel, come up with a good hook, draft a query letter, and much more. I met writer friends who are incredibly supportive and, albeit in a round about way, I was introduced to my agent through RWA. I wasn’t thrilled to hear that RWA is cutting the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category from the RITA (the highest award for romance fiction) because I think it sends a message to members like me, who write urban fantasy and other genre fiction with strong romantic elements but who do not write traditional romance, that we are no longer welcome in the organization. But I’m cognizant of my debt of gratitude. Even if I choose to leave RWA in 2013 (a decision I haven’t yet made) I will always be a romance fan. I will continue to support romance authors by buying their books and I will continue to suggest RWA as a resource for those writers writing traditional romance.

Agents

Another thing you hear writers question the value of from time to time are agents, especially now that the publishing climate is changing so dramatically. I realize it’s likely the ten years I spent in legal practice that contributes to my position on this (I occasionally met clients who should have consulted counsel MUCH sooner than they did about certain matters) but the fact is, all writers should have a professional advocate, someone who is in their corner no matter what. At the very least, all writers should have a professional advisor or mentor. My guess is that, as publishing changes, the role of agents will also evolve. But my advice to any writer signing a contract is: get an agent or, at the very least, have a literary attorney look at it before you sign.

Reading for pleasure

My personal reading plummeted in 2012. Mostly, it was due to time constraints. This, obviously, is not a trend I want to continue long-term. I’m hoping it’s just the result of being a debut author. As I become more familiar with the publishing process and the industry, I’m hoping there will be less trial and error time (Ha! I tweeted a link to a news article recently that was titled, “Change is the Only Constant in Today’s Publishing Industry“).

Future of publishing

Who knows? I wish I had a crystal ball! One thing I am absolutely certain of is that STORIES will never go away. Storytelling, and its prerequisite – imagination – is part of our collective human experience. What form stories take, how they are delivered to an audience, and how that audience finds them will continue to evolve at ever-increasing speed.

Always grateful

I never miss an opportunity to tell everyone how much I appreciate their support. So, of course, I can’t let a year-end post go by without once again telling each and every one of you how much I appreciate all that you’ve done to support me: all the shares, likes, and reviews. All of the purchases and positive word of mouth. All the visits and views, retweets, and ratings. To all of the blog hosts and bookstore employees, to all of my friends, family, followers, and fans – you are all amazing and awesome!

I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year’s! Best wishes for 2013!