Monday, June 30, 2014

7 Ways to Grow Your Blog

Most of us have recovered from the frantic, sometimes exhausting, challenge of the A to Z Blog hop. Hopefully during that time some new readers found your blog and you found a number of interesting sites to follow. But perhaps the numbers on your blog have stagnated. Are you picking up new followers on a regular basis? If not, what are some ways you can do that?

1. Bring readers to you. Announce your post on Twitter, Facebook and on Google+. Remember to use an attention-grabbing title on your post. (Use those numbers.) And add a short description to your link so readers want to check it out.

2. Another way to bring readers to you is to join in smaller blog hops that are a one and done or a monthly or weekly happening. (Like IWSG!) Recently I joined in The Then and Now Movie blog hop. Not a huge group and easy to visit everyone during a really interesting hop.

3. There are other ways to go out and find some great blogs. Most of them will follow you back. Check out the sidebar of your favorite blogs. Chances are they will have a list of their favorite blogs there. Click on them and you'll find some blogs you might want to follow. You can meet some nice people from my sidebar on Susan Says.

4. Many times when you're reading your favorite blogs, the poster will also be guesting on another site. Follow those guest post links to find other interesting blogs.

5. And when you're posting your announcements on Facebook and Twitter, don't forget to click on the links other bloggers are sharing in those same venues. They're searching for soul mate bloggers too.

6. Read the comments when you're commenting on someone's post. If you see a comment that is insightful, supportive or perhaps just entertaining, find that blog. You might meet someone interesting.

7. And remember all the rules of blog etiquette. Return comments, post regularly, make your content interesting and relevant to your blog theme.

Don't forget, Wednesday is the monthly posting for IWSG. A great time to grow your blog audience. What suggestions could you add to the above list? Have you found interesting blogs through Facebook or Twitter? Do you have an interesting blog hop that isn't the massive event of A to Z that works well in introducing you to new bloggers?

Don't forget IWSG Wednesday!

Susan Gourley writes epic fantasy and romance as Susan Kelley. Find her blog at Susan Says.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Where to Find Royalty Free Music

One of the essentials for a good book trailer is the music. It sets the mood and tone of the story. Really effective music can elevate an otherwise average trailer to something compelling and powerful.

However, you can’t use just any music. You can’t select the latest pop hit without acquiring the right to use it. Since your trailer will be viewed over and over, you’ll need royalty free music.

What is royalty free? According to Wikipedia:

"Royalty-free, or RF, refers to the right to use copyrighted material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use or per volume sold, or some time period of use or sales."

Online, there are many places to find royalty free music, both free and for a fee. When selecting your music, be sure to check the following:

The license agreement
Cost of music
Cost to access music site
Length of music

Here is a list of sites that offer music for commercial use either for free or for a fee:

Free Music Archive
Free Stock Music
Dig CCMixer
Sound Cloud
Vimeo Music Store
Music Bakery
Stock Music Site
Pixel Prospector - lists a variety of other music sites

Have you created a book trailer? What other royalty free music sites have you discovered?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Art of Writing for Games - Serving the Masters

By Timothy Brannan

It is my pleasure to speak (write?) here for the Insecure Writer's Support Group. I have seen links for this this groups on dozens if not hundreds of blogs. I just never felt I was a good fit for the group to be honest because the type of writing I do is kind of different. Sure I still deal with characters and worlds and situations of a purely fictional, if not fantastic, nature. But the characters are out of my control and the world is only good for me in that it allows others to play in it.

What's this mean?
I am a game writer. I write books for Role-Playing Games. The most famous of which is Dungeons & Dragons, but there are hundreds and hundreds of these games out there. I tend to write books that allow people to play in games that are very, very close to D&D but not exactly it. I do this via a license known as the Open Gaming License. It is a bit like Creative Commons, but more restrictive. Why would I opt for something more restrictive? Well it also gives me some tools that are great to use and the ability to use other works that help make my own work smoother. The OGL (and it's "Oh Gee El" never "oogle") is the first of many masters I have to serve when working on a game book. These Masters are the topic of today's post.

Serving Two or More Masters
There is an old saying that a person can't serve two masters. In game writing, two masters might the least amount I serve! Who are my masters and why must I serve them? Well some, like the OGL, tell what I can and cannot publish. I can never say "Compatible with the Basic Dungeons & Dragons game" but I can say, and have said, "compatible with the Basic Era of the worlds first Fantasy Role-Playing Game". Others are Masters I put on myself. I will detail them a bit below and talk about how it has affected and shaped my writing.

First Master: Is it a Good Game?
There are lots of great ideas out there. Lots of great stories. But not all of those stories make for a good game. Don Quixote is a great story. Macbeth is a great story. Neither would make for a good game book. To write a good game book I have to constantly ask myself what would the characters do with this. In Don Quixote or Macbeth those answer flow easier since the author is in charge of the characters. I am not in charge of the characters. I only provide the windmills. Indeed, windmills may be a bad idea. Let's compare this to Star Wars. I build a universe and a huge Galactic War with an evil Empire. What good is that is Luke says "nah...I'll stay on the farm." I have to think about what the characters could do and provide the means for them to be heroic. So Luke's Aunt and Uncle are killed, Ben convinces him, Stormtroopers shoot at them in Mos Eisley Spaceport.

Second Master: Does it Follow the Rules?
Don Quixote isn't going to pull out a rocket launcher to attack the windmills. Lady Macbeth isn't going to use a gun and if Luke escapes Tatooine I better know for sure if the ship he is in is capable of Hyperspace. This is the same as any other writer. We all do world building, sometimes that world building was done by someone else. In my case the rules are not abstract, they are codified in another book and I can't break those rules. Sure I can add to them, even bend them here and there, but never break. This is also where the OGL helps me out. If I say a spell "Dazes" a victim I don't need to spell out what happens, the rules in the books already do. If I say it "Frazzles" someone well then I better define that since that is not in the rules. Even then I have to follow the same format the "Dazes" or "Stunned" uses.

The road I have to navigate is getting narrower! What else?

Third Master: Historical Accuracy...sorta
I not only write fantasy games, but horror games too. One of my pride and joys is "Ghosts of Albion" a Victorian horror game. So ghosts, vampires, werewolves are all fine, but getting a date wrong? Out of the question! Yes I know that having creatures like this would change history, but I like to pretend their impact is minimal since they are trying to stay hidden. I would at least like it if someone opened one of my books and learned something useful. Maybe it is the former teacher in me. For other books, like The Witch, there is less historical accuracy to worry about. But I still want to stay as close to history as possible. So the "historical" witch form myth, fairy tale and folklore needs to be adequately represented in my books. At least to level I think is best.

Finally, The Fourth Master: What Works Best for Me?
I have to make sure the worlds I create work in terms of internal consistency and rules, I have make sure that it stands up to some external validity (history, myth, folklore, whatever is needed) but I also have to make sure that it works for me. I have to be behind it and it has to interest me. I have written a lot of game books for hire. I am fortunate in the fact that I can pick and choose my gigs. I usually find things that work for me or have people seek me out to write things in my area. But every so often I get a gig and the material is not a good fit. In any case I have be interested in the material, I have to be vested in it.

So who are your Masters? Do you know them or acknowledge them? What affects your writing the most?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Writing - From a Man's Perspective

In the past, romance novels and love stories were all told from a female point of view. These days, we get to see things from both points of view. I find men fascinating, which is why I write my novels from both perspectives. That said, there are certain things I keep in mind when writing my male leads.

A Convincing Voice – Language, Reaction, Motivation

·    Language is a common connector, but men communicate differently. They tend to say exactly what they mean, while women are more tactful.  Direct language for a male character is always better.

·    Women will hide their feelings, particularly if something gets on their nerves in a group setting.  Men are more open and let you know they are displeased. Of course, personalities vary and when I write, I like my men to be complex characters that don’t do the expected.

·    A man’s motivation is oftentimes clearer than a woman’s. Take a young guy who sees a woman he likes. There's the open admiration and if you watch carefully, you might see him making up his mind to approach that woman. Then he’ll go into action.  A woman will make several subtle passes with her eyes, unless of course, she wants the guy to know without a doubt that she’s interested. Her body language will tell him exactly what she wants him to know. I play around a bit in my writing. I prefer my male characters to be more controlled in their approach.


·     While women will stop and absorb the beauty in nature, I’ve never seen a man running a fingertip over a flower in the way a woman does. In my mind, if he does this, it would perhaps be his way of telling the leading lady that he’d like to touch her like that.

·    A man viewing a garden setting probably wouldn’t think about the dew pearling on the blooms, but it might remind him to get some flowers for his lady, if they had a quarrel.  Not to say that men don’t appreciate beauty, they just don’t get as enthralled over nature.  In writing, a man’s appreciation of nature shouldn't be done using words that make him sound sappy, unless it’s intentional.


·    We are shaped by our history and our characters should be the same. A man who experienced poverty and hardship in his early years would see the world differently from one who has had the best of everything, therefore, it is important to me that the reader can identify how my character’s life experiences have made him the person he is as well as what drives him.

Getting Close to the Horse’s Mouth

·    Research lends authenticity to our work and if I doubt that what I’ve written rings true, I find a man to read it.  But before I get to that stage, I talk to men to see what they think about a particular subject and how they deal with certain aspects of their relationships.  Male critique partners have told me that my male lead sounds sissyish when he’s thinking this or that, and I've been told no man worth his salt would do or say certain things. That’s usually my cue to go back to the keyboard.

Each time I write a male character, it’s a learning experience. The voice has to be authentic, seeing through his eyes is a must, so is delving into his-story and finding out what makes him tick. How do you female writers craft your male characters? Are there any other factors you keep in mind when creating your heroes? If you're a male reader, are there any tips you can share that will help us write better male leads?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Utilizing DEEP POV

Deep POV isn't for everyone. 

Applied incorrectly IT can create a stream-of-consciousness that will quickly overwhelm the reader. 

I'd like to suggest that once you fully understand your character (absolutely vital to your success) Deep POV is something to learn slowly and methodically.

Consider this: Your book's finished and you’re now in full edit-revision mode.
You notice several scenes that fall short. What do you do?

Why not add an emotional depth to those parts without applying Deep POV to the entire manuscript? 

Example:  Your antagonist waits aboard his yacht. He's just discovered that one of his men allowed a witness to flee, and now he could face the death penalty. 

Here’s the scene in each POV:

1st:  When John returned, he found me sitting on the white leather bench. I had my eyes half-closed, my arms crossed, and I was feeling great sadness. "Well?" I asked, but I was thinking, 'Give me a reason not to kill you.' 

3rd: Matthew sat on the white leather bench and lowered his eyes. Consumed by a great sadness, he crossed his arms and waited. When John returned, he asked him, "How long have you worked for me?"

Omni: When John returned, he found his boss sitting on the white leather bench with his eyes half-closed and his arms crossed. He chose not to look at John, he was that angry. "Tell me I didn't make a mistake bringing you," he said. John couldn't think and stuttered...

Clearly, a deeper sense of intimacy is missing.

Switch to DEEP POV, and …

The bench reeked of new leather smell and left a bad taste on his tongue.  A glimpse east and the sun's glare shot pain through his temple. Closing his eyes helped, but the trembling continued. Blood pounded through crossed arms. 

This was John's fault. No respect. No gratitude. Hadn't he and his daughter been taken care of all these years? Ruby held a secure job at the Baja Hotel for the rest of her life if she wanted. John threatened that. Could his stupidity be forgiven without costing the organization everything? 

A touch of the gun hidden beneath crossed arms and the chill felt shocking at first, then comforting. 

DEEP POV is a scene written through total perception; no tags, no filtered conclusions, just straight cerebral experience between protagonist and reader. There are no subordinate clauses. As he did something, something or someone else verbed. Emphasis is never taken off the protagonist. Hence, pronouns are kept to a minimum. 

The protagonist is in the very centre of the scene with everything happening outward. Nothing points back to him. We don't see the protagonist outside himself.

It's never in the morning; it's this morning. 

It's never then, it's now. 

There is no author, no character aware of being in a story.

There are no he thoughts.  

If Deep POV sounds appealing, try writing the scene as 1st POV, then switch to 3rd. Drop as many verbs as possible, (saw, thought, looked, etc) eliminate the tags: said, asked (no need to show the reader what they already know). Do this, and I promise it'll rejuvenate you and your story.  

Happy Editing, 
cluculzwriter at yahoo dot ca

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Insecure Writer's Support Group Post Day!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the June 4 posting of the IWSG are C. Lee McKenzie, Tracy Jo, Melanie Schulz, and LG Keltner!

If you’re following our site or Facebook group but you haven’t signed up for the blog group that posts every month, here are some of the things you may (and will) find when you do:

  • Encouragement
  • Solutions
  • New friends
  • Critique partners
  • Writing opportunities
  • Guest post opportunities
  • Inspirations and writing ideas
  • Connections in the real world
  • Writer conventions
  • New books
  • Opportunities to serve and be served

So it’s more than a chance to voice our insecurities – and the possibilities are endless!

What benefits have you found from the IWSG?

Monday, June 2, 2014

4 Ways to Sift Through Writing Advice

There's a plethora of writing advice out there in bookstores, on the internet, at writing conferences, in critique groups, within the circle of family and friends. We are surrounded by well-intentioned people with opinions on how we should write. Some of the advice is sound, some of it contradictory, some baffling and some seems to make sense but you're not so sure a few months later. How then can you sift through all that information to know which advice to follow?

Ask yourself where the advice is coming from. Advice from an industry professional may carry more weight than the advice given to you by your closest friend whose last written project was done in high school, or your dad who secretly prefers you to become a lawyer. Even the advice from industry professionals shouldn't be taken at face value. Not all editors are made equal. Not every agent has the same vision for your story. Not everyone who writes about writing has the same amount of experience.

Reading advice isn't enough. You might read or hear a great piece of advice and nod in agreement, but ultimately you have to put what you learn into practice. It's the only way to know if it works for you, the only way to truly learn.

Excuses will hold you back. Have you ever heard a piece of writing advice and dismissed it? I know I have. When writers raved about outlining, I switched off. Yeah, I'd think, that's great for them but not for me. I championed the cause for winging it. The story would let me know where it was going when I got there. It wasn't until much later that I tried outlining. I haven't looked back since and wish I'd made the change years earlier. Not every piece of advice will work for you, but you won't know until you try.

Don't take every piece of advice as law. Sure, adverbs can weaken prose, but that doesn't mean you can't ever use them. They aren't disease-ridden pests to be blotted from existence. The same goes for dialogue tags or any other writing 'rule' you might encounter. Writing is creativity and anything creative requires bending the rules. The trick is learning which rules to bend and when.

You want to make your writing the best it can be so that means putting the effort into learning the craft and listening to a wide range of advice and opinions. Don't cut yourself off from those opinions. Listen to them, consider them carefully, perhaps even put them into practice, and keep writing.

What writing advice have you heard and dismissed? What advice do you wish you followed sooner? How do you sift through all the advice?

Lynda R Young

Photo: a closeup of a mirrored heart which was part of the Vivid Light Festival in Sydney.