Monday, May 29, 2017

Coffee, Anybody?

Coffee is consumed in various ways: black, with a dollop of cream or milk, and some people like to add a spoon of honey. Then there is the artisanal coffee movement that regards coffee as an art with its endless possibilities, combinations and complexities.

Are you a coffee drinker? How do you take your coffee? Everybody has their own little quirks when it comes to coffee or any other frequently consumed food or beverage. The famous Ludwig van Beethoven was said to obsessively count out 60 beans of coffee, the perfect amount in his opinion, for every cup he drank.

Even some of our favorite fictional characters are particular about their drink orders. James Bond and his signature vodka martini - shaken, not stirred; Homer Simpson has been drinking Duff beer for over 20 years; JD, from Scrubs and his Appletini; and Jay Gatsby's Gin Rickey, to name a few.

So how does your character take his or her coffee? Find out by inviting your protagonist and/or other central characters to a fictional cafĂ© or fictional bar. Visualize what they do. Pay attention to their little habits. What is your character’s favourite drink? How does he/she make coffee? Is there a preferred method? Some people first add milk or cream. Others prefer to pour their dairy into the cup before the coffee. 

We want our characters to be as close as possible to ‘real, human beings’. Part of being human is possessing these character quirks. The trick is to implement these quirks consistently. What are your character’s habits? What does he/she do throughout the story? Identify settings and activities in which you can show the character’s habits.

How can we use a ‘coffee moment’ to make the story interesting? Increase tension by having someone add more sugar than normal, into their coffee/tea. Or forget to put the sugar in. This could also create a moment of humorous shock as the character, already stressed, takes a sip of that coffee/tea only to find it was not the expected taste. Maybe the character gulps, loses composure and/or knocks over the cup of scalding coffee; or spits the coffee in somebody’s face. Perhaps the restaurant is really busy and the waiter delivers the wrong beverage. This could lead to all sorts of interesting complications, involving the shady-looking character at the next table, who accidentally receives the wrong order.

Do you want to learn more about your characters? Spend some time with them in day-to-day, habitual situations. Notice their responses and how they shine in ordinary situations. Then they will dazzle in those magical moments that make it into your final draft. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Reedsy To The Rescue

It’s been said that Vladimir Nabokov preferred to write in a parked car as it felt like a bubble of quiet and stillness; and that Agatha Christie would dream up plots for her mystery novels while sitting alone in a bathtub, munching on apples.

Images of writers in solitude with thought bubbles above their heads, playing out scenes in made-up worlds might be a romantic notion. But if you’re an independent author looking to publish a novel, then you know that image dissipates when the first draft of your manuscript is finished. In order to turn the manuscript into a finished, ready-to-publish product, what follows is teamwork — and that’s where Reedsy comes in.

Reedsy is a marketplace of publishing professionals. Here, authors in the process of publishing a book can browse through a roster of carefully curated freelancers with an extensive range of niche specialties. But Reedsy is more than just a marketplace, it’s a community for writers. Three of the most significant parts of this community are: the professionals, the courses, and the authors.

The Professionals 

Can you edit your own book? Sure. Can you design a book cover for your novel? You bet. Should you do either of those things? To put it gently: no.

“But I’m an artist — Picasso didn’t hire someone to look over his paintings before showing them to the world.” Well, you are not Picasso, and if you were, I would tell you that while your paintings are mesmerizing, if they were somehow translated into books a lot of people would probably leave Amazon reviews saying they didn’t quite “get it.”

Publishing houses do not employ teams of editors, designers, marketers, etc. just “for good measure.” They do so because the skills of those professionals are required to publish a novel people want to buy. And a self-published book is no different. Heed the advice of freelance book marketer and indie author Michael Doane: “You need to approach self-publishing with an entrepreneur’s perspective, because you need to invest money if you want to create a beautiful product that will earn you money in return.”

The Reedsy marketplace is currently home to over 600 publishing professionals including: developmental editors, query letter reviewers, cover designers, illustrators, typographers, blog tour and press coverage experts, ghostwriters, email marketing specialists, and more. The best part is that all of this talent is just a click away for anyone who wants to publish a book. Easily locate freelancers for specific services using the search function and then spend hours perusing detailed profiles of people who want to help turn your novel into a masterpiece.

Did you know: our list of freelancers includes Stephen King’s designer, Neil Gaiman’s editor, and Dan Brown’s publicist? To browse our marketplace of professionals, and to get $25 off your first Reedsy collaboration as a IWSG member, sign up here!

The Courses

Fans of Jack Kerouac will likely know the story of how the author wrote his novel, On The Road, on a 120-foot scroll of paper during a three-week typing frenzy. However, that’s just what it was, a typing frenzy. The actual conception and publication of the book required rewrites and multiple drafts just like any other book.

And that’s the thing about publishing a book: it can’t happen in one go. There is a learning curve involved in writing a book, and there is absolutely a learning curve in understanding how to self-publish a successful one.

That is why we launched Reedsy Learning, a series of free, online ten-part courses that cover a range of topics, from “Book Reviews and How to Get Them”, to “How to Build a Solid Writing Routine”. All of our courses are built to turn writers into publishing entrepreneurs. They'll support you throughout the whole journey — from the first writing stages to the distribution process.

Did you know: it takes up to 3 days for Amazon to register a “sale” and attribute it to your AMS ad? This is why you should never turn off an Amazon ads campaign in the first 72 hours just because you don’t see sales come in. Find out more about Amazon ads for authors in our newest course!

The Community

Author Neil Gaiman once said, “Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it's always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.” While we can relate to Gaiman’s sentiments, we also feel that calling in like-minded cavalry can help your fight.

This is why a priority of ours at Reedsy is creating a community of publishing professionals, and primarily, authors. There are a few ways in which we have sought to make Reedsy a place where writers can connect with one another:

The Reedsy blog
The Reedsy blog, where we post craft and technical pieces alike. But more importantly in terms of community, we host the From Our Authors series where indie authors who have used Reedsy to collaborate with professionals talk about their writing journeys. They share the learnings they have acquired throughout the publishing process, and offer tips for fellow writers going through the same process.


The #IWriteBecause campaign, which launched at the beginning of May, has been bringing authors from all walks of life together by giving them a chance to share what drives them to write. The core of this campaign is to empower a new generation of readers and writers, and to this end, Reedsy is donating $10 for every #IWriteBecause video submitted to Room to Read — a nonprofit that focuses on child literacy in Asia and Africa.

Update from the Reedsy community: Six months after hiring a Reedsy editor and publishing her debut novel, Until I Met Her, Natalie Barelli was signed by Amazon Publishing’s imprint Thomas and Mercer! On May 30th, her novel will be formally re-released.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Platform? What's That?

Platform? What's That?

I asked myself that a lot when I started writing for publication, and I did a lot of research to find the answer. Finally, I boiled it down to this.

#1 Decide what you want to be and become an expert.

I wanted to be Young Adult and Middle Grade book author. That was simple. To become an expert wasn’t. But I signed up for SCBWI, I attended conferences, I joined a critique group. Several. I wrote, I read. Over the years I learned a lot about writing and marketing. I also learned that becoming an expert takes a while, and because nothing remains the same, you can’t just stop and be smug about what you know.

#2 Establish a presence online.

Tell people who you are and what you do. I set up a webpage and a blog. I signed up for Twitter and created Facebook pages. I joined Goodreads and LinkedIn. 

#3 Connect with other professionals in your field. Network.

I began locally. My critique group was the beginning, then I started meeting other writers and agents and publishers at conferences and by doing presentations or sitting on panels.

I offered to do workshops for writers, and now do that yearly. 

#4 Be clear, be consistent and be constant. (The 3 Cs)

This was excellent advice, simple to remember, but challenging to maintain. I’m still working on this.

#5 Ask for help.

Get feedback from those who know what they’re doing and are doing it well. I appreciate all the people I’ve connected with online and in person. I love their feedback on my work and really appreciate it. 

After doing this for a while, I figured out I just had to be me and tell people who that me is, using the principle of those three Cs. Your platform won't happen overnight, but it will grow and mature if you stick with it. 

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”
~Judy Garland

Monday, May 8, 2017

Planning a Writer's Conference?

Have you ever wondered what’s involved in putting together a writing conference or book festival? Thinking of starting your own? Let author Austin Camacho tell you what’s really involved!

How far in advance is a conference planned?

The day after a conference ends we hold the first meeting to start planning the next one. There are a lot of moving parts and successful authors plan their calendars pretty far out. We need the details pinned down early if we're going to attract great talent.

Reader/Writer conferences very in prices. What’s the best way to assess the value versus cost, both as an attendee and an organizer?

For readers, the value of a conference is based on three things: will the writers I want to see be there? How much access will I have to those writers? And what is included? For example, at our Creatures, Crimes and Creativity Con all meals during the event are included in the registration price.

Writers should assess the value of a con based on three other criteria.
1. Networking – will I meet the movers and shakers in MY genre, am I looking for an agent, will I have access to major successes in the business?
2. Promotion- will I get exposure to new readers by being on panels, will I participate in book signings, will I be positioned to be associated with big name writers, will I get a story in an anthology, will I be listed on the con’s web site, in the program, on their Facebook page?
3. The Experience – Will I be talking to fans, being interviewed for radio or on camera, have a chance to pitch or buzz my book?

What are some of the key aspects to consider when planning a major conference? What are some things people might not think about?

Many of these are things we learned AFTER our first Con. Location is important, including access to airports and highways. The food really matters. You have to figure a set of panels and presentations that appeal to both avid readers AND authors. The venue personnel must be friendly and helpful. Venue personnel have to fully understand the schedule so chairs, tables, podiums etc are in the right place at the time. You have to market the Con all year. Con personnel have to be easy to spot so attendees know who to tell if there’s a problem. And you have to remember to treat your special guests like they’re special. The happier they are the better the Con will be.

What’s key to attracting big name authors/publishers/agents to a conference?

It’s best to meet them and know their work BEFORE asking them to attend. That most often happens at other Cons. It’s important to contact them several months before the event to get on their busy calendars. And it is vital to explain why attendance is good for THEM, not you.

What social media platforms work best for marketing a convention?

Facebook has been key for us, but Twitter is also important. We hold a Twitter contest every year. The attendee who uses our hashtag most in the month before the event wins a Kindle Fire and a gift basket of surprise goodies.

What can go wrong and how do you work around problems?

Our most challenging issue so far was a keynote speaker getting sick and being unable to attend. Luckily we had a list of people we wanted the following year and after contacting several we were able to get someone to fill in.

I know other Cons have crashed and burned because of unexpected bad weather. Not much you can do about that.

Tell us a little bit about Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity Con and what is your key role?

The Creatures, Crimes & Creativity (C3) Con is the Mid-Atlantic’s book lover event of the year. It’s held in Columbia MD, September 8-10 this year. We gather readers AND writers of mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal fiction. This year we have Peter Blauner and Jonathan Maberry as keynote speakers. Our little community hangs out on Facebook And you can register at Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity.

As one of the organizers my primary responsibility is to recruit keynote speakers and local guests. I also see to their care and feeding thru the Con. Thank goodness we have a small but motivated committee to deal with the hundreds of other details (registration, on site bookstore, panels, dealing with the venue, menus, scheduling, etc.)

Austin S. Camacho is the author of six novels about Washington Dc-based private eye Hannibal Jones, five in the Stark and O’Brien international adventure-thriller series, and the detective novel, Beyond Blue. His short stories have been featured in several anthologies including Dying in a Winter Wonderland – an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association Top Ten Bestseller for 2008 - and he is featured in the Edgar nominated African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey.

Camacho is also editorial director for Intrigue Publishing, a Maryland small press, and works with their authors to improve their manuscripts. And Camacho is deeply involved with the writing community. He is a past president of the Maryland Writers Association, past Vice President of the Virginia Writers Club, and is an active member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. Website / Facebook

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

#IWSG - Insecure Writer's Support Group and the release of Hero Lost!

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. We encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

Our awesome co-hosts for the May 3 posting of the IWSG will be Nancy Gideon, Tamara Narayan, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Michelle Wallace, and Feather Stone! 

Our Twitter is @TheIWSG and hashtag #IWSG

Optional May Question:  What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?


Want to know how the authors of the newest IWSG Anthology answered this question? Check out Admin/Co-host Michelle Wallace's BLOG today to find out!!!


It's finally here. 

Hero Lost
Mysteries of Death and Life
An Insecure Writer’s Support Group Anthology

Can a lost hero find redemption?

What if Death himself wanted to die? Can deliverance be found on a bloody battlefield? Could the gift of silvering become a prison for those who possessed it? Will an ancient warrior be forever the caretaker of a house of mystery?

Delving into the depths of the tortured hero, twelve authors explore the realms of fantasy in this enthralling and thought-provoking collection. Featuring the talents of Jen Chandler, L. Nahay, Renee Cheung, Roland Yeomans, Elizabeth Seckman, Olga Godim, Yvonne Ventresca, Ellen Jacobson, Sean McLachlan, Erika Beebe, Tyrean Martinson, and Sarah Foster.

Hand-picked by a panel of agents and authors, these twelve tales will take you into the heart of heroes who have fallen from grace. Join the journey and discover a hero’s redemption!

In this marvelous collection of speculative fiction, we journey through twelve wonderfully written tales to find out if the tortured hero can be redeemed. - Christine Rains, author

The authors have done us a favour by all being darned good at their craft. Recommended for fantasy fans. - Gordon Long, author

Print ISBN 9781939844361 $14.95
eBook ISBN 9781939844378 $4.99


eBook -

Blogs/sites -
Jen Chandler -- L. Nahay -- Renee Cheung -- Roland Yeomans -- Elizabeth Seckman -- Olga Godim -- Yvonne Ventresca -- Ellen Jacobson -- Sean McLachlan -- Erika Beebe -- Tyrean Martinson -- Sarah Foster


 Check out the Hero Lost Blog Tour!

May 2 - Stephanie Faris - Guest Post
May 3 - Michelle Wallace - Interview

May 5 - Cathrina Constantine - Spotlight Post

May 7 - Ronel Janse van Vuuren - Interview
May 8 - Bish Denham - Guest Post

May 8 - Patricia Lynne - Guest Post
May 9 - ChemistKen - Guest Post
May 10 - M.J. Fifield - Guest Post
May 15 - Alex J. Cavanaugh - Interview
May 15 - Juneta Key - Spotlight Post
May 17 - Nicki Elson - Interview
May 19 - Chrys Fey - Guest Post
May 22 - Christine Rains - Review

May 22 - Nick Wilford - Guest Post
May 24 - Toi Thomas - Interview



Ever thought about being a co-host for IWSG posting day? Co-hosting means a lot more visitors to your site and it’s a lot of fun. Please leave a comment if you can volunteer this summer!