Monday, September 26, 2016

Let's Do The Time Warp



Of the five senses, smell is the one most closely associated with memory.  Neuroscience tells us that this is likely because of brain anatomy.  Scents pulled in through the nasal cavity are first processed by the olfactory bulb, which begins in the nose and continues along the floor of the brain, where it passes directly through the amygdala and the hippocampus.  These two areas of the brain are strongly associated with emotion and memory.  


This could be why smelling certain aromas can instantly trigger vivid complex memories.  The scent of burning leaves on an autumn day could trigger the replay of an old mental movie of a homecoming game.  Or, if you’re like me, the musty stank reek of an old book could transport you instantly to your grandma’s wood-paneled linoleum-tiled rumpus room.


Oh, where are my manners?  Let me introduce myself.  My name is Abigail Isaacoff, and as my name and the self-portrait I have provided for this blog both suggest, I am your new resident librarian of kitsch reading.  


I consider myself a partially reformed Luddite technophobe.  I didn’t have a cell phone until 2014, both because I was living under a rock and also I was afraid of dangerous radiation penetrating my skull (yes, my tinfoil hat was professionally fitted, thanks for asking).  Long after the rest of decent society was ingesting the majority of their print media through one disgusting little portable screen or another, I was still carrying around real tattered tree-birthed paperbacks.  


It was a mark of pride, perhaps a partially affected eccentricity.  But who amongst you can resist the visceral sensual pleasures of an old novel?  Huffing the aforementioned musty odor of the pages, then feasting your eyes on the tantalizingly extinct fonts and lurid cover imagery.  Who doesn’t prefer the feeling of placing a bookmark or dog-earing a page over powering down a screen?  Where is the sense of accomplishment in that?  


Until recently, I was stuck in an obsessive-compulsive reading loop, reading the same material by the same author over and over for years.  It was some horror author, Stephen something with K.  No not Kozeniewski, obviously the first one that comes to mind for everyone.  Fortunately this guy has produced a tremendous amount of material, so I had a lot to re-read before repeating, but how many times can one re-read “The Langoliers” before feeling like they, too, are stuck in the stale dead world of the recent past which is just waiting to be devoured by Bronson Pinchot-summoned throbbing ball monsters?  Whoops, spoiler alert.   


My grandmother’s house is probably where my love of retro kitsch was born.  Though Audrey Cowan herself is an elegant and stylish woman, her home in suburban Philadelphia was something of a garishly decked-out time capsule well into the early years of the 21st century.  The beautiful pink tile bathroom with its pink tub and toilet, the zebra shag rug and matching zebra bedspread in my uncle’s bedroom, and the wallpaper.  OH the wallpaper.  Yellow and silver foil geometric was in one bathroom, something like a Monet watercolor on acid in another, and in the kitchen, an abstract grid plaid in blue and green and yellow and white.  I didn’t realize how audacious it all was until a friend came over with me in high school and immediately burst into uncontrollable laughter in that kitchen.  When I asked her what was so funny, her answer was “Who the hell puts wallpaper on the ceiling?!”  


The pièce de résistance was the finished basement.  Nobody in the family has ever called it a rumpus room, but look at the picture I included of it with my dad and daughter sitting on the scratchy plaid couches - what else are you going to call a room like that?  My strongest memory of that room from my childhood is the reading material - the musty, seemingly ancient books and magazines lining the walls.  


I poured over World Book Encyclopedias from the sixties full of exotic wonders and geography that was obsolete even in the early nineties.  There was a similarly dated stack of National Geographic magazines from the seventies, including one with an article on fig wasps that I found so weird and fascinating that I brought it in for some elementary school current events assignment.  I’m sure I got credit even though the article was the antithesis of current.  The book shelves lining the wall next to the stairs were full of old novels.  As a child I afforded them only a cursory glance as I descended the stairs to rummage through grandpa’s cool mirrored minibar replete with the figurines of generals and the wooden shoe from Holland that he brought back from WWII then staple my thumb to his desk.  


Now that my grandpa has passed on, my grandma has been bringing the house up to date decor-wise, sadly for me.  Gone is all that glorious wallpaper, save for a square of that abstract plaid that I framed and hung in my own kitchen for culinary inspiration.  My grandma has been giving things away as well in an effort to de-clutter.  On a rare recent visit home, I found a large stack of the novels that had been lining the basement walls and was immediately entranced.  I asked to take one or two back to New Orleans with me, and she said, take as many as you want.  Thus ended my Stephen-based rut.


And so, I offer to you, readers, the chance to travel back in time with me once a month.  I will take you on a tour of these old beauties, sharing the stories within and exploring the context of the periods from whence they were birthed.  I will share with you the feast for the eyes that is the cover art.  I only regret that you can’t join me in stealing a transportative sniff from their yellowed pages.

See you in October with my first review!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Back Jacket Hack Job # 13: THE GREAT INTERRUPTION by Jay Wilburn

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!  (Not Aaron, damn it.  Steve.)
amazon.com/author/kozeniewski
Hey, everybody!  It feels like forever since I've done a Back Jacket Hack-Job.  You remember what those are, right?  You can brush up on the concept back on the introductory post and if you're of a mind to, you can even reach out to us to submit your own.

But the short version is that we, your ATB team, are setting out to write the sort of terrible back cover copy that somehow, bafflingly, makes its way onto the backs of real books sometimes, but is mostly an object of humor and derision.  And speaking of objects of humor and derision, Jay Wilburn and his latest release, THE GREAT INTERRUPTION are up today.  And now to explain why.

https://www.amzn.com/B01KSP5XVC/

Jay Wilburn is a terrible man.

When I was seventeen it was a very good year.  Unfortunately, the same description can never be used for Jay Wilburn.  Nothing he says or does will ever be considered "good."  Not by the literati.  Not by the illuminati.  Not even by the great unwashed masses.  And here's why:

Jay Wilburn is a terrible man.

When Jay Wilburn was born, he punched his mother on the way out, then spit in the face of the OBGYN who delivered him.  I say "OBGYN" but the truth is it was a rabid coyote.  A rabid coyote delivered that man into this world.  And that's just one of the reasons why:

Jay Wilburn is a terrible man.

When Jay Wilburn turned twelve, he had already been voted the ugliest man in Macon, Georgia, which is really saying something as he never set foot outside of Santa Fe.  In sixth grade science class he discovered the unified field theory which physicists have been striving for since time immemorial, only to immediately set it ablaze in a Bunsen burner, quote, "for the lulz."  Just two more reasons why:

Jay Wilburn is a terrible man.

Perhaps worst of all, he's decided to foist his thoughts onto the world in the form of books.  Books like this one.  I haven't read it.  I haven't even read the back of it.  I certainly haven't added it to my TBR pile.  You know what I would add to my TBR pile first?  Every book.  Literally every other book ever written, including manifestos by tin foil-hatted Misericordians.  Is it because the book is terrible?  No.  Is it because it's expensive?  Hell no.  It's free for Kindle Unlimited users.  It's just that free is too damn much to pay for anything to support that cowardly blackguard.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:

Jay Wilburn is a terrible man.

Monday, September 19, 2016

4 ways being an author can help you in your day job

A post by Mary Fan
"Don't waste time on this writing business! You'll never make any money, and you should focus on
your real job!"

Pretty much every writer has heard some variation of this line at some point in their life, whether from a friend, a family member, or the little nagging voice at the back of their heads. And pretty much every writer with a day job (which is pretty much every writer who isn't a) independently wealthy b) married to someone independently wealthy c) the child of someone independently wealthy or d) that one in a million famous author who actually makes enough to live on) has wondered to themselves: Should I tell my employer I write?

I'll admit, I was hesitant about letting my employer and coworkers know about my writing back when I was first starting out, about 4ish years ago. I was worried they'd see it as some kind of conflict, a sign that I wasn't taking my work with them seriously. For similar reasons, I was hesitant about putting all the work I do for my books on my resume. But then I decided to go for it and, you know what? It turned out to be a good decision.

Of course, every employer is different, and there are certainly reasons some writers might choose to be more discreet. However, the next time someone (or that nagging voice in your head) says that all this writing business is taking away from money-making business-business, here are four ways being an author can actually help you in your day job.

4. It makes you better at written communications, which makes you look extra smart.

Pretty much every office job involves sending out gazillions of emails, and even if you don't work in an office, you probably still had to use written communications during the job-hunting process. Fact is, people judge people based on their writing, and the only way to get better at writing is to, well, write a lot. So if you can build a world and lives and stories out of words on the weekends, you can certainly make that note to your boss sound extra-intelligent.

3. It makes your resume stand out.

Here's the thing: Most people have decent resumes. In my world, the office job world, they all tend to look pretty similar. Business major at blah-blah respectable university. Internship at blah-blah respectable firm. Previous positions at blah-blah respectable companies. But say add "author" on there and suddenly it's like, "whoa! Now that's different!" Also, it demonstrates an entrepreneurial spirit--you built something out of nothing. You finished that damn book (which most people only talk about doing), and you sent it out into the world. If you did it through a publisher--awesome! "Published author" sounds hella impressive. If you did it independently, well, all the better for bragging about your entrepreneurship. And leadership skills if you're coordinating with editors, artists, and graphic designers.

2. It teaches you unexpectedly useful skills

Unless you win the marketing lottery at a big publisher, chances are, you're doing everything yourself. You're booking your own signings, making your own promotional materials, and crafting your own sales pitch. All this project management, coordination, and general getting-things-done-ness is really handy at the office. And before you even got to that point, you had to organize your time in a way that allowed you to finish writing a book while working, taking care of family, etc. Hey look, time management skills!

And then there's all the random stuff you learn how to do out of necessity... I figured out how to make PowerPoints real pretty while designing my own web banners. I also learned how to speak in front of large groups of people while doing con panels and readings... and how to interrupt in a way that lets me get my words in when someone else is hogging everyone's ears. After that, meetings were noooo problem.

1. It makes you more confident

Because after you've had to pitch your book baby, that piece of your soul that makes you feel utterly naked every time someone looks at it, to dozens of strangers, nothing can scare you anymore. And confidence makes SUCH a difference in both job interviews and work itself.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Eek! A critique! Of a YA myster-eeeeeeeee

Okay, people, help a girl out. This book is becoming the bane of my existence. I have no idea what works, what doesn't. If my narrative voice is any good, if the characters are compelling. I know nothing.

In this scene: Troy, nearly 18, is lamenting the fact that his estranged sister, who he hasn't seen in three years, recently stood him up.

Also, this is set in 1995 -- hence the answering machine and handwritten note.

Gracias in advance.

**

Troy returned home to a note in Jerry’s handwriting and a twenty dollar bill tacked up on the fridge with a magnet.
Client dinner. Order a pizza. Invite Caitlyn over. Her parents are in Aruba.
Only Troy’s parents would encourage he hang out with the pretty blonde neighbor girl without any adult supervision. But then again, Troy’s parents knew him. Caitlyn, however, didn’t. He’d eat the pizza alone.
He ran upstairs to his bedroom, dropped his car keys on his nightstand, and shucked off his boots. The button on his answering machine blinked. Troy exhaled. It had to be Miranda. He was already bracing for her excuses.
Sorry, I forgot the time.
They changed my schedule at work and I couldn’t call you.
I overslept.
I’m in a ditch somewhere.

He pressed the button.
“Hey Troy, Coach Shipman calling. I saw you at the open meet…” Troy deleted the message.
That was it.
Nothing from Miranda. He’d give her a few more days before he swore off her forever. Like she did to him the day she left.
“Don’t worry, little bro. I'll be back one day,” Miranda had said. She rubbed the top of his head, even though he was taller than her at this point. Three years apart, they were often mistaken for twins.
Dressed in ripped jeans, a sweatshirt, and armed with a duffle bag, Miranda had one foot out her window before Troy caught her.
“You weren’t going to say goodbye?” he asked.
She glanced away, toward the street. “You know how I hate the emotional stuff. Besides, I didn’t want you ratting me out to Mom and Jerry.”
“I wouldn’t do that.” He was desperate to pull her inside the window, tie her up, make her stay. He’d been out of Hulbert a year and things hadn’t felt any better. “Can’t you just move nearby? You don’t have to live here.”
She shook her head. Dark strands of hair got caught in her mouth, but she was holding on so precariously to the window ledge, she couldn’t risk letting go to smooth back her hair. “I want to see places. I’m itchy.”
Troy quickly unclipped the cross from his neck and fastened it above the collar of her shirt. “Take it. You can always pawn it if you need the cash.”
Miranda smiled softly. “Thanks.” She looked down before swinging out her other leg and dropping to the ground, landing with a thud. It was an easy eight-foot drop.
Miranda was fearless. Reckless. Impulsive. Troy used to be like that.
“I’ll send you postcards,” she whispered up to him. Then she took off down the long driveway, disappearing into the dark.
Troy stared out the open window for awhile, ignoring the chill, adding Miranda to the list of people lost to him.
Three years later, she intruded into his life with a phone call. Made him drive up to Cohosh only to disappear again, probably halfway to Nashville or Atlanta. Maybe she was on a plane headed to Europe. But, she led him to believe she’d be there to see him.
Miranda was still reckless. 






Monday, September 12, 2016

Can Crowdfunding Help Me Publish My Book?

Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to meet the fabulous Lydia Sherrer at a local author event in Indiana. My table was across the way from hers, so I had lots of opportunities to watch her interact with others. I quickly learned she was someone I wanted to get to know, and as a result I also wanted to read her books -- I mean, I was certain her books would be packed with the same amount of personality that she contained in real life (and after completing book 1 in the series I can tell you that I was correct... Lily and Sabastian have quickly become one of my favorite literary duos.)

I'm super excited Lydia agreed to write up a guest post about her experience using Kickstarter to publish the first two books of her series.

Thanks, Lydia!



Can Crowdfunding Help Me Publish My Book?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: only if you do it right.

Hi, my name is Lydia Sherrer, self-published author of modern fantasy series "Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus - the Lily Singer Adventures." Books 1 and 2 are published (books 3 and 4 are on their way), funded via Kickstarter (91 backers pledged $4,832). Both books received five star review awards from Readers' Favorite and have a 4.9 out of 5 star rating on Amazon .  I tell you this to give you an idea of where I'm coming from when I say that crowdfunding is absolutely a valid tool in your dream to publish your own book, but it is not an endeavor to be taken on lightly, without detailed planning, or without a commitment to work your butt off.

To successfully crowdfund a book project you need three things: a solid product, a solid platform, and a solid plan.

Product

First of all, you need a solid product: crowdfunding isn't charity, or some magical money pot in the sky that you can pray to and all your dreams will come true. It is a community of individuals who use their own hard-earned money to back creative projects that they believe are worthy.

Therefore it is your job to make sure that the product you are putting out there is the absolute best it could possibly be. You can't just publish for you, to scratch some itch or add a shiny badge of accomplishment to your collection. It has to be bigger than that. It needs to be something that helps people, brings them enjoyment or benefit, changes them.

Has your manuscript been read by multiple beta readers, some of whom are NOT your friends, but experts in your field with a critical eye? Do you already have the editor, formatter, and publishing route lined up? Do you have any cover art yet? Have you written a back cover blurb that captures your reader's attention?

Your crowdfunding project should be the last piece of the puzzle, not the first. People back projects that seem well-thought out, well-planned, and already have as much of the work done as possible. All they need to do is add funding, so that the idling plane can take off the runway.


Platform

Projects need backers, and for backers you need a platform. Your friends and family are not enough by themselves. If, prior to this, you've not done any kind of advertising, blogging, social media, newsletter list, etc, if you're not part of any groups, organizations, or what-have-you that creates a community of supporters around you, your crowd-funding project is doomed. Crowdfunding isn't there to bring you supporters, it is there to give your supporters a means by which to fund you.

Now, that doesn't mean you can't accomplish this without thousands of loyal fans. But it does mean you need to have a presence on social media, possibly have your own website, and have been active in the places your ideal supporter will be hanging out. In addition to my friends and family, I tapped my 1000+ Facebook friends, my 500 or so Twitter followers, the few hundred people I had on my mailing list, and the people I knew from writing groups, work, church, clubs, etc.

If you hope to publish your own book, you should start building a platform NOW, because your platform is what will get your crowdfunding off the ground and attract others to your cause.


Plan

Lastly, you need a solid plan: if you don't have a plan for packaging and delivering your solid project to your solid platform in a way that will win over backers, your project will fail. So your first job is to go on Google and do a search for how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign (I personally recommend Kickstarter over Gofundme or Indiegogo, but do your own research). Yes, I'm serious. Go do a Google search and start clicking on articles. There are a ton of people out there who've written in-depth analysis of what works and what doesn't, so you have to educate yourself on such things as: which platform to pick, what to include in the description, what rewards/levels to provide, how to make a winning intro video, logistics of fullfilment, and more.

Go find other successful book Kickstarter campaigns and look at what they did (you can check out my Kickstarter from last year to get an idea of what a successful Kickstarter looks like). Also see if you can find unsuccessful campaigns and notice what they have in common (ex: lack of a good intro video, short/unprofessional description, little or no artwork, typos, badly planned rewards, etc.)

All this reading takes time, but it is absolutely essential to succeed. I've seen way too many half-assed kickstarters fail for people who had a good product, just no idea how to package it. Make sure to get feedback on your campaign page before it goes live. Those first viewers will help you catch typos and point out confusing or unpersuasive bits that will take your campaign from average to winning.


Conclusion

Yes, you should consider crowdfunding for your self-publishing project. However, you need to decide if you have the time and resources to accomplish it. I spent months getting ready and during the campaign I spent every single day marketing it, posting about it, calling people, writing emails, and more. If social media is not your thing, if you don't like putting yourself out there or asking people for help, if you're not willing to put in the work to create a solid plan, crowdfunding may not be for you.

The only reason my project was funded was the amazing generosity and help I got from my wonderful friends and fans. In the end, it is THEY who will get your plane in the air. Crowdfunding is just that, crowd funding. But they can't help you if you haven't already helped yourself.


Good luck my friends. If you have any questions or want to chat more about my Kickstarter experience, hit me up on Facebook or check out my website for my contact details.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

All I Do Is Win (or Help Writing A Writing Contest)

A Post By Jonathan 

Do you ever have those weird cycles of life where nothing seems to happen and then they do? Things have been really slow for me lately, but they've just started to heat up.

Do you remember that short story contest I told you I entered in my last post? Well I won! I didn't get any money or anything, just bragging rights and some kind of plastic tiara that is passed around from winner to winner (pictures of me wearing it to follow...). But hey, it's something for the resume right? As exciting as the win is, I also have to set the parameters for the next contest! So I was hoping, having never written a writing contest before, ya'll might be able to help me figure it out by choosing one parameter from the following list of three. Please put your votes in the comments below. And thanks a ton!

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE

I have always wanted to write a choose your own adventure book, and I think it could work well in the short story format as well. Whether you are a romance writer, mystery writer, thriller writer, YA/MG, whatever, every time the protagonist comes to a decision point it gives the reader a chance to participate. It also gives the author some fun options when it comes to their choices. You can only have two to three decision options, to keep it simple. Label the paragraphs/paths 1, 2 or 3 to give the reader a road map to know where their next choice is. 1,000 to 4,000 words.

THEIR TIME IN THE SPOTLIGHT

As writers, we have all either written books or short stories with one or more secondary characters that we secretly love or wish had more screen time. Well now is your chance to write a story from their perspective. Orson Scott Card wrote an entire book (called Ender's Shadow) from a secondary character's perspective. Surely you can write a short story from one of yours. If you're currently working on a project, this could be a great exercise in fleshing out who your main character is and other potentially important things going on in the story. 1,000 to 4,000 words.

FAN FICTION

I've never written fan fiction, but I may actually do it for this contest. The worlds are built, the characters are there, all you have to do is imagine (and write!). I can remember watching the Wizard of Oz as a kid and wondering what was going on in the hills beyond the forest and the yellow brick road. That is fan fiction. Perhaps you're a Friends fan and want to write a new romance between Joey and Rachel, or maybe you've always wondered (like every other teenager on Earth) what would happen if Harry had actually married Hermoine, or maybe you're not satisfied with how Madmen ended. Whatever the scenario may be, now is the time to make it a reality. 1,000 to 4,000 words.

Kudos to Kimberly for the inspiration for this last parameter.

So which one do you like folks? None at all? Have a better idea for me? Please let me know-- and, as always, thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Lessons From a Book Launch

I published my fourth book, A BRIT ON THE SIDE, a few weeks ago. Yay! Load the confetti canons. If you'll recall, I wrote a post last month about preparing for a book launch and I thought it would be useful on the other side of the launch to talk about what worked, what didn't and what I learned.

1.  Plan something to do for release day to get you away from watching your sales numbers. I suggested planning a celebration, but I seriously underestimated the benefit of going out for the day. On my release day, a friend texted me at 11am and asked if I wanted to go to the beach. Okay, it was a North Wales beach and there was no swimming involved, but I went and it was FABULOUS. Even though a seagull stole my bread right out of my hand. When I came home, I had tweets and Facebook wishes and other social media things to catch up on, but it was SO MUCH BETTER than previous release days I've spent glued to my computer.

2.  Have release day posts, teasers, tweets ready to go and schedule them to post. Facebook lets you schedule posts and you can use something like Hootsuite to schedule on Twitter. Stagger posts so you're not flooding social media all at once. No brainer, but if your Facebook automatically posts to Twitter and is linked to your Instagram, remember one post hits all three.

3.  Send a release day newsletter. Your readers want to know about your new book and they may not be on social media. However, you have another way to reach them -- your reader newsletter. Just like your release day posts, tweets, etc., your newsletter is something you can schedule in advance. If you don't have buy links until your book goes live, you can still write the newsletter and go back and fill in the links.

4.  Make sure your Facebook ads are approved and scheduled. I wrote a post back in January about Facebook ads and I've used them with much greater success with this release. But nothing kills your Facebook advertising strategy like Facebook not approving your ads. Whether it's because they don't meet Facebook guidelines or there's simply a delay in the approval process, it's best to find out well ahead of time.

5.  Give your Facebook ads time to work. My first day running my ads with this release my cost per click (CPC) was awful and it was very tempting to turn my ads off and call it a loss. I didn't, my CPC shot down and Facebook ads are the only ads I have running at the minute.

6. Update your website. Make sure you've got your book info and buy links on your site! This is an easy one to forget, especially if the content on your site is fairly static. But people are going to go looking for you, especially if you've put the links to your website in the back of your e-book. (Hint, hint...put the links to your website in the back of your e-book! It's a great opportunity to promote your other books.)

7. And speaking of the back of your e-book -- don't waste the opportunity to hook your reader! Your reader finished your book, loved it and you want to make sure they come back for more. With A BRIT ON THE SIDE, I put a big thank you with an invitation to get a free epilogue in exchange for signing up for my author newsletter. I wasn't sure what to expect with this, quite frankly, but I've had over 250 people sign up. That's 250 more people than I had three weeks ago so I'm calling it a win.

8. Remind ARC readers to post their reviews. If you've given out ARCs, it's okay to (gently) remind the recipients to post their reviews to their favorite online retailer and/or (cough) Amazon (cough). If ARC distribution was out of your control because you're traditionally published, it's okay to ask your publicist about the status or ARC reviews. Reviews early on are super important and there's nothing wrong with asking for an honest review, even if it makes you squirm a little.

9.  Thank the people who made this day possible, including but not limited to: your pets, your family members, your agent, publicist, editor. It's also a great day/week to reach out to author friends. Your pets and family members are super thrilled you've released a book, but they don't know what it's really like to be sitting there furtively refreshing your phone in your lap waiting for your first reviews to come in. Your author friends do and they can assure you that you're not insane and your book isn't rubbish and you will not, in fact, be exposed as a fraud. This is worth its weight in gold, even if it's a Twitter DM with someone who lives half a world away. At least then you're furtively refreshing your phone on your lap for a reason that won't make you crazy.

10.  Treat yourself. Some people go all out on their release day. I had fish and chips, and a glass of wine. A few days ago, I bought my I-published-a-book present. It's nothing flashy or expensive, but it makes me smile every time I see it and that's the point.



So what have I missed? What are YOUR secrets to a successful book launch?







 
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