Friday, February 27, 2015

Top Blog Posts for Writers #amwriting

So as I mentioned on Wednesday, I love this blog called Zen Habits. I read it every morning for ten minutes or so as part of my miracle morning. In doing so, I've discovered a lot of wisdom for a writer/reader like me. 

Here are my top picks for writers from Leo Babauta's blog:

What I've Learned as a Writer

My Daily Writing Routine and Tools

Why You Should Write Daily

The 7-Step Method to Find Focus for Writing **If you read only one post, this is the one! Defeat resistance! 

How I Tackle A Big Writing Project

OK, I got you started, now go defeat the resistance! :)


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Top Blog Posts For Readers #amreading

So I've fallen in love with the blog Zen Habits and all its multitudinous complexity. But this post isn't just about how awesome blogger Leo Babauta is. This is for people who like to read, or wish they liked to read, or are trying to find the time to read.

Here are my top picks for reader-friendly posts from Zen Habits:

How To Read More

Why I Read

How To Instill the Love of Reading in Your Child (Or Yourself)

The Delightfully Short Guide to Reading More

The Stuff I've Been Reading And (Mostly) Love

Enjoy! :)


P.S. I'm going to do a post just like this for the writers on Friday. Stay tuned! ;) 

Monday, February 23, 2015

#Mondayblogs: A Short, Funny Story About Acceptance

Ever since I got home from my reading last week, it's been rough! I was having vision problems, which turned out to be migraine problems and found myself bedridden after an MRI for a couple of days. After the pain meds wore off and I began to feel better, I did what any sensible person would do after being confined to her bed for hours and hours on end...

I cleaned the whole house. 

There is something about coming off an illness that always sends me into cleaning mode. But this particular time was even more fervid than usual. 

I blame it on the fact that while laying/lying sick in bed I was reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. In this book, as the title suggests, there is a big theme of "purge purge purge"! --which I was just in the right mood for!

Granted this author seems more "serious" about tidying than I am. She says my socks have feelings and don't like to be balled up like potato lumps...but that's probably a story for another time.

So I spend a day and a half gathering up a considerable chunk of my belongings and bagging them up for donation. I haul them across town and drop them off at the donation center where the lady attendant thanks me for "allowing us to work to improve lives" or something.

Then I return home to admire my clean and clear house... find that the pug has taken a huge piss in the living room floor.

Moral of the story: Things cannot be perfect. No amount of labor or fretting will make it so. Because shit (or piss) literally happens, every day.


Friday, February 20, 2015

#FridayReads: Top 3 Problems for New Authors #amwriting

When we are just starting out, most of us have no clue what we are doing. Here are a couple of the most common problems you'll encounter as a published noob and what to do about it:

Problem 1: Getting Reviews

Getting reviews are tough! But it can be done. As of writing this, I have 134 reviews on Amazon, so I know it CAN be done. Try the following:

Target bloggers, presses, and websites. 

Most sites will state if they accept review requests. Contact all other presses/bloggers who also accept review requests and politely solicit this service. Leave no stone unturned!

Start early. 

I’d send out ARCs- 1-2 months in advance if possible. Keep a running list of who has received a copy/accepted request for review. Send an email 1-2 weeks before release to remind them and state where you want review posted (on their site, Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, etc.) You can also sign up for early reviewers through LibraryThing

Go digital where possible. 

Send them a .mobi file (kindle compatible) or .epub file (Barnes and Noble, etc compatible) for their ereaders or a formatted WORD doc--save $, shipping, and time.

Put a short and sweet request in the back of your eBook

I learned this from Let's Get Visible (great book, read it. Also it's predecessor, Let's Get Digital). In the back of the book (mine is in the bio), it has a simple "If you like my work, please support me by leaving a review wherever possible." It's a nice reminder that this is how I make my livelihood and the readers really are making a difference when they share their review. (You really are changing my life!)

I have more to say on reviews here.

Problem 2: Unreliable Help

Not having your design work when you need it can be frustrating and disrupt your whole train. It might seem like a no-brainer, but learn to do what you can by yourself. And when you must find help, go with someone reliable.  If you think you need a new designer/helper, cut them loose. You don't have time to play around. 

Here are some of my favorite outsources :

John K. Addis, who does my covers just started his own business and is looking for clients. You can check him out.

Kriss of CabinGoddess made my banging banner.

Rebecca Poole, of Dreams2Media. She’s super sweet and down in Georgia and makes a wicked cover and video trailers as well as rack cards/bookmarks for your promotional needs.

Sharon Stogner of Devil in the Details offers editing services.

There’s also, which offers professional services (of all kinds) on the cheap. 

Or you could simply become a master of Photoshop, Scrivener,the web all on your own. 

Problem 3: I don't know how to promote myself.

A: There are many, many resources on the internet that answer the how and why of self-promotion. Here are my top 3.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Let the Voting Begin! Grand Prize: $25 Amazon Giftcard

Thanks to everyone who entered my T-shirt design contest! Now, in Round 2, we are deferring to the fans to vote for the best T-shirt design. The winner gets a $25 Amazon giftcard and their design will be featured in the cafepress store.

Just vote in the comments section for the design you like best. 

Good luck contestants! 

Design 1

Design 2

Design 3

Voting closes Friday, March 6.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

#Wednesdaywisdom: Marketing 101 #amwriting

Most writers don't understand that you MUST market your book, otherwise no one will ever know about it! This is true regardless of how you are published (traditionally or independently). So here are the top 3 strategies that have helped me the most so far:

Have a blog and join Triberr
I write posts and my tribemates repost them, increasing my audience. Inform, Educate, Empower are the primary reasons why people use the internet and so it should be the focus on your content. On triberr, join tribes with people like you. You'll be sharing fans who are interested in the same things.

Run Giveaways:
People love free *&^$%. Fortunately, there are sites like Goodreads and LibraryThing, which will let you run giveaways for free. Or if you have a blog or website, you can use the free widget Rafflecopter and run a giveaway on your own site.

Social media:
I use Twitter mostly, though I’ve heard great things about Instagram. If you need help growing your Twitter, use JustUnfollow.  You can follow people who like similar things as you, do keyword searches for your genre/specialty (urban fantasy, Laurell K. Hamilton, etc.). This will help you find the right people to follow.

Other considerations:
* Make audiobooks with ACX.

* Make eBooks (you can use Scrivener to create .epub/.mobi files which you’d need for kindle, etc.) Most sales these days are digital sales, so don't make the mistake of having a print-only book.

* Make a YouTube Channel: You can put up your playlists, book trailers, tutorials and so on. Good content is key.

*Digital Events. Live events are fun but digital events are free and they can happen from the comfort of your own home! Pajamas FTW! Host a Google Hangout with doorprizes, Live  Q&As, and spend some quality time with your fans!

*Make friends with bloggers--they are great for drawing out your promotion, hosting you, providing interviews, running blog tours and so on. I have to give a big shoutout to all the bloggers who've helped me, particularly Kriss of CabinGoddess, A.B. Shepherd and Sharon of I Smell Sheep--but there were many, many others!

*MailChimp: Run a mailing list so that you can keep/stay connected with the fans you already have and solicit ARC readers when the time comes. But make it worth their time to sign up. Your loyal fans should always be the first to get the news and pick of the prizes.

Remember this is just to get you started! :) What great ideas do you have for marketing your work? I'd love to hear them.

Monday, February 16, 2015

#Mondayblogs: How to Give a Reading (In Pictures) #amreading #amwriting

All good readings begin with practice

Sighhh, Why can't I pronounce "death drain"?  I wrote this!

Just smile and they'll never know how nervous I am, right?

I'm on PG 4 and no one has thrown anything. I've got this!

Oh, spoke to soon. No one got my bondage joke.
Whew, at least the reading is over! Wait, what? There's questions?

I have no idea what to say right now.

I know! I'll just make something up! 
"And then I said: I should charge money for this!"

"Who knew they'd actually do it?"

Thinking: Maybe I'm too honest...

Fun part! Pictures with fans!
What do you mean I have to personalize the books???

Hmmm, what do I write here? 
To You From Me...seems legit!

Goodnight everyone! 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Loving Yourself and Your Writing #HappyValentinesDay #amwriting

Happy Valentine's Day!

That is not what this post is about, but it is sort of about love.

So I gave my first public reading on Wednesday and learned a couple of things about how to do it even better next time. First of all, please note there is a difference between wanting to improve yourself and thinking that you suck. I can still have good self-esteem and believe I need improvement as a person. So here are some ways to show yourself a little love and give good presentations of your own work:

If you are passionate about your work, let it show. Don't let your audience see you as self-conscious or doubtful about what you're reading. You've written something and you should be proud of that fact alone. Let your love and enthusiasm show.

They came to see you! Be sure to thank them for coming and thank your hosts for having you. Speak from a place of gratitude and let everyone know how awesome of an opportunity it is for you.

Though I think entirely obliterating your nervousness is probably impossible, love yourself as a writer enough to keep that panic under control. I didn't do so well with that this time. I was shaking when I took the mic. I fumbled in a couple of places. And all of this happened because I expected the old ladies in the fifth row to instantly reject my bondage jokes (absolutely certain they did).

But regardless of the audience's reactions, you should have enough self-love to not worry so much about possible rejection. You are still OK and awesome enough that rejection from someone isn't going to destroy you (and I think the fear of this possibility is what fuels nervousness). I was so nervous that my beloved friend had to feed me lines for "what are you working on now?" Because I was too tore up to remember the anthology I'm editing with author Angela Roquet, or the fact we are donating all the proceeds to the Animal Welfare Institute. 

Also, a couple of other observations that had little to nothing to do with love:

I'm a very animated reader and I didn't account for the idea I might be holding a microphone in my reading (which slowed me down). So think ahead about the space and venue and try to account for that.

Be prepared to answer questions.  Even though I knew there was a panel, I didn't prepare for it. Nor did I prepare for the questions that were asked when I was signing. This was only a small problem, but I would have been able to give better answers if I'd thought ahead about what people might ask:

How did you get here?
What was the inspiration for this book and these characters?

What are you working on next?
...and so on.

Thankfully, I'd done enough online interviews that at least I'd considered these things and could throw together an answer. But next time, I'll definitely review beforehand.

Anyway, thank you again for everyone who came out and saw me read! It was a really fun night and I loved meeting all of you.  I hope to meet even more fans at the RT booklovers convention in May.

Any other tips you guys have for presenting your own work?

**I've got a post coming Monday with pics from the reading. So check back! :)

Monday, February 9, 2015

#Mondayblogs: Wednesday's Reading #books

If anyone is going to be within the vicinity of Clarksville, Tennessee this Wednesday, February 11th, please stop by! I'll be reading from my own work and signing/selling books. I'll also be giving away free stuff. :)

If you already have a book(s), I'll be happy to sign them for free as well (of course!)

There's the added bonus that two other very talented ladies will presenting their own work. I'm sure they will rock! :)

Hope to see you there!

Austin Peay State University
Morgan University Center




Friday, February 6, 2015

I Just Gave Him $10

This morning I had to get up early and go give blood. Don't worry! I'm not dying! I was just fasting for my cholesterol test and all that yearly jazz. So with a fresh puncture in my arm I drove home dreaming of the breakfast I'd finally get to eat, sitting at my wobbly but loved, kitchen table with my enthusiastic pug at my feet.

It was on my way home that I saw him. 

In my city (as with most cities), there is a noticable homeless population. These men and women stand at busy intersections and hold signs. They wait for you while the light is red and when it turns green, they turn the other way and show their signs to the cars lining up on the opposite side of the intersection.

At such a convergence today, I pulled over and gave a man $10. I felt good about it for half a second, and then I could hear a nagging inner voice (a voice that strangely resembled people I knew in real life who shall remain unnamed for obvious reasons).

Don't give them your money. They'll just drink it away! They'll just buy dope, get high and beat on their wife/husband/kids! You're on a budget yourself! You'll never pay off your loans if you keep giving all your money away.

I thought of the horrible moment when I once passed the same street corner on my way to work and saw someone leaning out their window--not to give money to the person holding a sign, but to yell at them to get a real job, while the man pleaded, rather shamefaced, that he had, in fact, tried to get a job. Yet here he was on the corner, with a sign, wearing secondhand clothes in one of the coldest months in Michigan.

I thought also of the times when I tried not to make eye contact with homeless people because of how bad it made me feel. How it would make me plead pathetically with myself to remember to start carrying cash in my wallet just so I wouldn't have to walk past them.

I look away because poverty is ugly and difficult to look at. I look away because poverty is scary. The fact that poverty exists reminds me that I could in fact be poor. That one day, I could in fact, have to beg others to fulfill my needs for me, or perform embarrassing or shameful acts in order to eat or be warm. 

I realized somewhere in this serious internal critique of what I had just done and my own prejudice and fearful reactions that such thoughts are the very antithesis of generosity.

To be generous is to give freely without fear. It does not matter what the person does with what I have given him/her. That is their business. It is only my job to give it, recognizing that all that I have has been given to me.  

If I give someone something, it isn't because I want something particular to happen (or not to happen). That is conditional generosity and not very generous at all.

I should give simply because I have so often been the recipient. 

Before you say "No, Kory, I work hard for everything I have"...yes, yes--go sit with yourself for a while and ask yourself if you are really so self reliant. 

Did you build the car that you drive?
Did you process the gasoline required to power it?
Did you build your house with your own hands?
Grow your own food?
Sew your own clothes?
Lay the pipes that pump water conveniently into your sink in your kitchen?
Develop the technology for all the devices you love and depend on each day? Build the computers or phones with your own handmade screwdrivers and so forth?

.... this list could be infinite, so I'll stop here. But ask yourself what can you actually do (from inception to completion) that doesn't require throwing money around to accomplish it or the use of goods made by another? Or a skill that you have that was entirely self-taught, and the knowledge not bestowed upon you by a generous teacher?

You may have money, but not skill. And you have money because of the opportunities you've been given--which were not necessarily given to everyone else.

If you cannot do all of these things, you are not self-sufficient, my friend. Recognize this. Recognize all that you have been given from someone else's labor. Recognize your privileges because they may have come at a cost to someone else. 

I was in my car and the light was green, so I didn't have time to say anything more than. "You're welcome. Stay warm."

But if I could have frozen the moment, I would have liked to say so much more:

Please take this. Please take the other $45 in my wallet too and the $3 in change in the cupholder. Let me buy you lunch. 
         I was born to a poor woman who has an 8th grade education, who worked in factories most of her life, constantly losing her battle with addiction, now living on disability and so I'm sorry that I'm a little scared to look at you because seeing poverty in others makes me ashamed of my past as well as fearful for my future.
         I recognize I am so blessed--thank you for reminding me of m
y white privilege, my education, my talent, my luck, my physical attractiveness, my job, and interests, my loving friends and serendipitous circumstances--I've received so much from the world. I can't even count all my blessings. 

            I'm so blessed that I can afford to whine about things like wobbly kitchen tables and crooked bookcases and dog hair covered couches and coats that need dry cleaned---so blessed that I can afford to be frightened by the idea of poverty instead of living with its reality--I have been given so much, every day, that this money is the least I can give you. 

After all that I have been given, every day of my life please take this.

I owe you so much more.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

"Kill Your Darlings" Deleted Scene #amwriting

Some times writing is sad. Particularly when we must kill the parts of our story we love most simply because they do not fit--the official term I learned for this in college is "kill your darlings". For example, as I push through the final edits of Dying for Her, I still have to make cuts for the sake of the book. Take this beauty for example.

In this scene Brinkley has learned he is going to die 40 weeks from now. He drives to the ocean, something he did a lot as a kid with his family and has a reflective moment:
40 Weeks
        I can’t sleep, so I get in the Impala and start driving. It is dark when I head east and it stays dark until I cross the South Carolina border five hours later. I watch the horizon heal like a bruise, lighten from black to purple to red and yellow. I play the bluegrass and rustic soul music of my youth because it just seems like that kind of drive. I won’t see the old trees I grew up with, like the live oak sagging with Spanish moss. Myrtle Beach is too touristy for that. Even in December it is too sterile and commercial to really take me home. But it will have the water and that’s enough.
        I park the Impala in a hotel parking lot. After locking her up, I cut through the lobby, giving a little wave to the concierge, and cut through the back toward the ocean. I follow the wooden boardwalk, made smooth with the sand and wind coming off the water. At the first break in the rails, I step down into the sand. Boots are not the kind of thing you wear on a beach. So I sit down, treating the boardwalk like a seat and unlace one cracked boot, then the other. I take off my white socks and stuff them down into the neck of my boot, the way we used to in high school gym.
        I walk to the water and feel the sand shift like a snake underfoot. Safely out of the water’s reach, I sit in the sand and gaze out over the waves. It reminds me of the Arabian Gulf stretching out from Bahrain. The melodic slapping of waves takes me back--to Charlie, and his betrayal--to Afghanistan and the boy I shot and killed.
How can I blame Charlie for what's happened? I'm not to be trusted either. After all, I lied about what happened in those mountains.

I never told him there was a second boy.

Apart from the last two lines, this scene does NOTHING to further the development of my story, so it had to go. It was sad, but that is what happens when you want to do right by your book. It's OK though. I ate away the pain (gelato, chocolate AND potato chips) and I'm ready to move through the rest of editing.

"Kill your darlings" is also about realizing that each character is different. Because Brinkley is very low key, his story has been tighter, more direct. It's very different from Jesse's voice, who loves the attention of an audience and who makes jokes and such to keep you entertained--and on the page. And that is a different kind of page hogging than Ally does--with her introspection and tendency to overanalyze everything. So Brinkley's "style" has also determined what can/can't stay in the book.

So part of killing your darlings is asking yourself if it serves the narrative, but another part is about the voice of the character. 

Look at that! Brinkley is schooling me. ;) 

But I am better off for the lesson.

Monday, February 2, 2015

#Mondayblogs: Snow Day & Fun #amreading & #amwriting

This is up past my knees!
I never get too old for a snow day!

Imagine my utter happiness when I discovered I wouldn't have to go anywhere today BECAUSE THE WHOLE CITY CLOSED, and so I did my civic duty and stayed home in my pajamas with a warm pug under my blanket.

Pug requires a path be shoveled for her le toilet

I still had to shovel though...
Look at that beautiful sidewalk!

But after shoveling I spent the rest of the day polishing Dying for Her. I made good progress and think I'll have it out to my proofers within the week.

Tonight is going to be even better, as I plan to curl up with my cup of tea in front of the cozy fire and read The Silkworm by Rowling/Galbraith.

I hope everyone else's day was just as lovely. And if you haven't had fun, well I've got something to brighten your day! :D

There's a T-shirt contest going on for a $25 Amazon giftcard and other fun stuff here.

And an audiobook giveaway (Last time I gave EVERYONE who entered a free book, so you really should enter!) is happening here.

Stay warm and have a great week everyone :)