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Sunday, May 29, 2016

Responding to Changing Reading Habits


Received a query from a writer friend recently. In it she asked why a publishing house we both are connected with are asking her to write tighter. Seems like the manuscript she sent them to consider publishing was way, way over in word count.

Now, I could come up with the reasons that resonate among the experts these days: email and Twitter are training folks to read short and quick. No longer do readers, especially the younger generations, want to take the time to savor the words, immerse themselves in the word pictures we create. Books being published these days have to grab the reader with the first line or paragraph, open with an action-packed scene, and keep the reader totally engrossed in the story from beginning to end.

The explanation given is that readers don't have the time to allow the story to grow in their imaginations; they want something that gives them instant gratification.

I just read a blog posting by an experienced writer/author who's been in the words-producing business a long time. In it, he gives the lowdown on why the changing taste of readers has impacted his style of writing. He says it a whole lot better than I can so go to http://venturegalleries.com/blog/why-readers-want-to-read-a-lot-of-white-space/ and read it for yourself.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Finding My Way


This world of internet promotion & marketing is a constant learning process. Recently came across some new, to me, terms. The first is "opt in" and refers to a procedure that you make available via a click-on button installed on your website or blog page. This allows the visitor to share and give permission for you to send emails to them. In the world of book-selling on the internet, the constant word is to build your email mailing list. This 'opt-in' feature is a valuable asset to accomplish that project.

I found out recently that unless you collect your mailing list addresses using this feature, sites such as the popular Mailchimp will reject your list.

Over the years I've spent attending book events, speaking to groups, and holding book signings, I collected many email addresses as people would hand me a card or write them out in our face-to-face contact. When I loaded this carefully-acquired list into a campaign I intended to promote the newly released Not Bound By Blood ( http://amzn.to/1V4OKQx,) Mailchimp disabled my account because it violated its requirements.

It's taken a couple days of digging on my part to correct the situation. First I had to own a domain name and create an email address at that site. Then I had to add an 'opt-in' button to my blog page. Only those addresses from contacts who click the 'opt-in' button and agree to receive future correspondence  from me will be admissable to include in a future campaign or mass mailing through Mailchimp.

Consequently, all the time and effort I spent gathering email addresses in the past was wasted effort.

The whole situation reminds me of a form of entertainment I recently discovered available on the computer thanks to friend, Becca Anderson. She introduced me to a site that features jigsaw puzzles. I think I have all the pieces of this puzzle of using Mailchimp - just need to put the pieces together.

One last caveat: read the instructions first. Oh yeah, I'd appreciate if you'd submit your email at the top of the page...and add a comment...I love comments!

Friday, May 20, 2016

A Little Known Heroine


I love the way you can discover interesting individuals when doing research. I don’t even recall what I was seeking when I came across this bit about someone called Sybil Ludington.

She was the daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington and lived near the town of Danbury, Connecticut, in 1777. The same evening of the famous Paul Revere ride,  a rider came to the Ludington household to warn them that British troops and British loyalists had attacked the nearby town. Since Colonel Ludington had to prepare for battle, he asked his sixteen-year-old daughter Sybil to ride through the night, alerting his men of the danger and urging them to come together to fight back.

At 9 pm the night of April 26, the young girl set out to recruit the Colonel’s disbanded regiment.   Ludington rode all night through the dark woods, covering forty miles through Kent to Farmers Mills. She covered forty miles, damp from the rain and exhausted, before returning home just before dawn.

When she got home, more than 400 men were ready to march. Statesman Alexander Hamilton wrote to her, praising her deed and she was later commended by George Washington for her heroism. A statue of her was erected along her route in Carmel, New York, along with many other markers of her historic ride.

You can read a detailed account in her own words at:http://ludingtonsride.com/history.htm.

Monday, May 16, 2016

It's National Flash Fiction Day


Wednesday, May 16th  is National Flash Fiction Day . Flash fiction is also referred to as micro-fiction or sudden fiction or short-short stories. It consists of a beginning, a middle, and an end with character development and descriptions, all within 150 to 500 words.  The story must have structure, plot, point, and dialogue.

How can writing flash fiction help us become better writers? Flash fiction banks on action and an active voice. Avoid passive voice; have the action immediate and now. Adjectives and adverbs need to be banished from the page. Be precise and use words that really matter.

You don’t need more than one or two characters. By limiting your characters, you don’t have to waste words as tags. Focus on one main conflict; don’t try from a complicated plot. Start at the beginning of the conflict. Choose a powerful moment in a character’s life and place your story there.

1.       1.Start in the middle
2.       2. Don't use too many characters
3.       3. Make sure the ending isn't at the end
4.   Your title, make it work
5.     Leave the reader with something
6.       6. And try ending in a different emotional place than where you start

Reduce, condense, and write like a poet—lyrical, dense passages that grab the reader from the first sentence. Remember Hemingway’s famous iceberg dictum: only show the top 10 percent of your story, and leave the other 90 percent below water to be conjured.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Listening To My Characters


Someone once asked: where do your books come from? Lots of times, a character will make itself known to me in my head, and as we communicate, I begin to learn where and when that character lived and what the story is about.

Inspiration for another book came out of a dinner conversation. My husband asked me once if I knew that our first president, George Washington, was a surveyor. I did not. Curious, I did some research and found out the event of his father’s death (who had been a surveyor) became the catalyst for a major change in George’s life. Upon discovering his father's surveying instruments, George taught himself the trade and began to earn a living from surveying. My research motivated me to write a biography for Young Readers about those momentous ten years between his father’s death and his first Army commission; years that influenced the direction of his life. As yet unpublished, I have high hopes for an eventual publication of George Washington; From Surveyor to Soldier.

One of my earlier novels, Troubled Times, is set in the years before, during, and after the Civil War. I included incidents portraying historically important people at the time. This led me to look deeper into the life of a barely-mentioned character, Harriet Tubman. As I did more research, I discovered what an amazing person she was and felt compelled to share her life's story. I have since written a fictionalized biography for Young Readers about her unusual life.

My present work-in-progress is about another individual who lived during the Civil War era. Belle Boyd was a Southern lady in the truest sense. Only sixteen but her patriotism to the southern cause was so keen, she used her interactions with Federal soldiers of her acquaintance to gather vital information for Andrew Jackson. She even went to prison for a short period abefore being forced to flee to England where she lived for several years and wrote of her experiences there.

My stories normally begin with a character, someone living an ordinary life but experiencing extraordinary circumstances. Some way or other, a comment regarding a person of little regard will catch my attention and with a whole lot of research, I’m off and running to share the story about this fascinating person I’ve just learned about.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Survey Results Authors Find Interesting


Books Go Social (http://booksgosocial.com/) is an online site designed to get more books read and to help authors find a new audience. I came across an interesting survey they recently conducted and thought I’d share the statistics it revealed.

In mid April of 2016, they asked 10,236 English-speaking readers to participate. Only 546 completed the survey. When asked if they owned or used a Kindle or e-reader device, 85.3% said yes.

When asked how important social media was in helping to find new books, 77% gave it a 5 or more out of 10 rating. Newspaper reviews received a 46% rating of 5 or more and bookstores gained a 69% rating or 5 or more. Interestingly enough, 46% of those surveyed responded they preferred Ebooks and 53.8% preferred print books.

54% said they read 4 or more Ebooks a month and 32% read the same number of print books in a month’s time. When asked to list their genre preference, fantasy/sci-fi came in #1, literary #2, romance #3, mystery #4, historical #5 and Young Adult #6.

71% stated they read self-published books. When asked what they considered the right price for an ebook, 70.3% answered $3.99 & under. 49% admitted e-reading has impacted their print book buying and reduced the number of print books they buy.

I was really interested in the results revealed in the remaining questions. When asked, what makes you stop reading a book, the response was that quality was critical. 80% said that the cover impacted their buying decision with 78% saying Amazon reviews influenced their buying decision.
  
Books GoSocial’s conclusions:
Ebook reading is gathering pace. More ebooks are purchased by those who use an ereader than people who read print books. Social media is more important than book stores or newspaper reviews as a way to find new books. Most readers will read self published books. Amazon book reviews and covers are hugely important, as is quality editing.


A final question: where are you most likely to find book recommendations online if you exclude Amazon? 29.7% indicated Facebook. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Did You Really Want To Know?


How long does it take to write a novel?
It depends. Since my preference is to place my characters in a historical setting, research for authentic details consumes a considerable period of time. I can spend a year or more writing a novel from start to the end, and that's before any editing or rewrites.

Not Bound By Blood did not follow the usual pattern. From the time of its inception to publication was almost ten years. In fact, this story spent just as much time 'on the shelf' as being worked on.

Why was that?
A couple of reasons. I began with the concept of writing about a friendship forged in high school by two girls which continued throughtout their lives. But, I kept running into roadblocks.

What do you call a roadblock?
That's when the story-writing comes to a halt because something isn't working out according to your expectations of what the plotline should do.

What happened with Not Bound By Blood?
My first mistake was to conceive of a story that encompassed too many years when there were only two main characters involved. The ending scene was written early on. I envisioned the two friends living together in a nursing home.I found myself running into 'dry periods', stretches  of time with nothing major was happening in their lives to fill the gaps. I had to scrap that ending and come up with a satisfactory closing acene happening earlier in their lives.

What did you do when the writing came to a stop?
If no immediate solution presented itself, my reaction was to set it aside and work on a different project. In the case of Not Bound By Blood, it sometimes could spend years 'on the shelf' before I picked it up again.

Can you give an example?
When my actress character, Blanche, found herself in Europe just as Hitler invaded Europe, I needed to stop and do a lot of research and imagining to find a way to get her out of there before the German army arrived.

Why was that important?
 To be honest, I didn't want the story to include any warfare. Because I strive for accurate portrayal of historical settings and details, I felt it would detract from the theme of my story.

How did you make yourself finish?
The day came when I told myself I couldn't start another project until I wrote 'the end' to this story. Then as I read through what was already written, possibly three-quarters of the story by that time, I realized the story was written from the wrong character's point of view. But that's a blog for another day.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

And The Winner Is......


Just had to share. This is me reading at last weekend's NETWO conference. My short story, The Almond Mocha Fishing Tale, won first place in this year's competition. Based on remarks made by the contest co-ordinator, Galand Nuchols, (http://www.amazon.com/Now-Where-That-Come-From/dp/1482088738) I barely managed to squeak ahead of some other fabulous writers. In fact, the scoring was so close, four stories shared third place .

The whole weekend was high energy and information-packed. Although our attendance number was lower than in recent years, the quality of our speakers were top-notched.

With my newest novel, Not Bound By Blood, due to release on May 17th, I've been reading a book written by one of our speakers that I picked up at the conference.  Nick Thacker wrote Welcome Home http://www.amazon.com/Welcome-Home-Authors-Building-marketing/dp/1478333340/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8  to guide other authors through the bewildering world of social media promoting.

So while I scramble to get the word out to as many as possible, I guess I should mention Not Bound By Blood is now available to pre-order. http://www.amazon.com/Not-Bound-Blood-Gay-Ingram-ebook/dp/B01EQIJ7CS/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1462118527&sr=1-4&keywords=gay+ingram

You knew I'd have to add that link, didn't you?