Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hidden Agenda by Lisa Harris | RE:View

In this last novel to Lisa Harris's Southern Crimes series, Michael Hunt, undercover detective, is found alive, but that may not be for long. His fate rests in the hands of Olivia Hamilton, the daughter of the man who is hunting Michael down.

As we race through the pages with Michael and Olivia, Lisa weaves in twists and turns that will have you wondering how they will make it out alive when it seems as if the world is stacked against them.

I found Michael and Olivia to be well rounded, though Olivia's brother didn't get much in the way of "filling out". I often wondered, what is he doing? I enjoyed the conflict and suspense, though at times felt some scenes were to abrupt to actually feel the danger. I also would have loved to see more of the blossoming of romance between Michael and Olivia, which I understand is hard to do in a fast paced story like this.

Overall, a great read that mostly kept me interested. I feel as if it was a fitting end to the series as well, seeing how characters from the other novels were drawn in for Hidden Agenda. I would recommend this to fans of romantic suspense, especially those who have read the other novels in this series.

Rating: 3.8*
Purchase: Hidden Agenda: A Novel (Southern Crimes) (Volume 3)
Start off with: Dangerous Passage: A Novel (Southern Crimes) (Volume 1) then Fatal Exchange: A Novel (Southern Crimes) (Volume 2)


Book Description
(from Amazon)
His cover is blown. Now his enemies are on his heels and closing in.

Michael Hunt is alive--and on the run. Presumed dead by friends and family, the undercover assignment he's been working for the past eight months has just been blown. With a hit out on his life and corruption inside the Atlanta police department, Michael finds himself hunted by both the cartel and the law. His only hope is Olivia Hamilton--the daughter of the man who wants him dead.

This nonstop chase from Christy Award-winning Lisa Harris will leave you breathless.
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I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Varina Denman {Writer Wednesday}

A little bit about Varina...

Varina Denman writes stories about the unique struggles women face. She has five children, teaches creative writing and literature, volunteers in her local homeschool cooperative, and boasts sixteen years as a home educator. She resides with her family in North Texas. Her first novel, Jaded, won the 2013 ACFW Genesis Award.

How to connect with Varina...

Blog: varinadenman.com
Goodreads: goodreads.com/varinadenman
Facebook: facebook.com/varina.denman
Twitter: @varinadenman 
Pinterest: pinterest.com/varinadenman
Purchase:  Jaded: A Novel (Mended Hearts Series)


Author Interview | Varina Denman

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing? What has kept you writing? ...I’m not one of those people who knew from childhood that she wanted to be a writer. In fact, I can’t even imagine that. In school, writing was nothing more than a boring assignment to me. Then again, in fourteen years of schooling, I only recall one creative writing assignment, so that might have something to do with it. But I really enjoyed that one short story!

...I started writing “for real” six years ago. I had been a stay-at-home mom for almost twenty years, and I’d read a lot of books during that time. I decided I might give it a try, and it has been more fun than I ever dreamed possible.

Your Writing

What motivates you to write?
...When I first started writing, I knew I wanted to write inspirational romance, but I didn’t set out to write a topic as deep as that of Jaded. The plot just sort of evolved from a light romance into a story that continues to tear at my heart. I guess that’s what was in my soul at the time.

Do you have a favorite character in Jaded?
...My favorite character is Ansel Pickett. He’s not the hunky preacher, or the likeable cousin, or the convicted rapist, or even the church leader gone bad...he’s only a minor character I stuck into a few scenes. He’s the heroine’s seventy-year-old uncle, and he’s precious. He talks softly if he talks at all. He moves slowly and works on his ranch harder than any thirty-year-old. But most of all, he loves my heroine, Ruthie, like a daughter.


Writing

Where do you find inspiration for your characters and stories?
...My characters are a jumbled mix of real life and imagination. Usually the crux of a character—her motives and goals—come from something that I saw in real life. But when I develop the character’s unique personality, I let my imagination run.

...My stories are typically based on a painful event, and because of that, my overall intention is to encourage people. Everyone hurts at one time or other and my prayer is that through my stories, readers can draw hope. Especially if they’ve been through a similar situation.

You

Have you been to a writers conference? If so, which one(s)?
...I love writer conferences! I’ve attended through the North Texas Christian Writers and the American Christian Fiction Writers, and every time I absolutely soaked up information like a sponge. The classes and sessions were remarkably helpful, both as a newby writer and as an intermediate when I began to progress.

...However, the best thing by far about conferences is meeting other writers. I felt like I was finally surrounded by people who speak my same language. I’ve made friends, mentors, and critique partners. In fact, I met Emilie Hendryx at the 2013 ACFW Conference. :)

In light of St. Patrick's Day, what's your favorite green food?
..My favorite green food would have to be mint chocolate chip ice cream, for obvious reasons. And in honor of Emilie, and her Thinking Thoughts blog, I will sacrifice my diet and buy a half gallon. 

...Thank you for inviting me, Emilie!

Leave a comment to enter to win a copy of Varina's novel, Jaded.
 (US entrants only, please. Winner will be announced April 1st - no foolin'!)
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Thank you so much for being my guest Varina! Hum...I think I may need to honor your visit by a half gallon as well ;) Why didn't I think of that before? Thank you for this wonderful interview and I'm so happy to introduce you to my readers! I'm also very excited for you with the release of Jaded and can't wait to see what's up next for you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

My Platform Helped Grow My Writing Business by Cherie Burbach


Platform. There, I said it. Are you covering your ears? It’s become a word no writer wants to hear these days. I run a writing site and network with lots of writers and hear this from them: “My publisher wants me to blog, so….” Or “My agent told me I should start writing about this subject, so can I post here?”

I hear lots of complaints about how busy writers are and how they don’t have time for social media. I get it. I was the same way once upon a time. A decade ago I published a little book of poetry just for me. I hadn’t planned on selling it. I’d never sent my poetry anywhere for consideration, so publishing the indie way was a new frontier.

But still, I marketed that book. And then a year later I took the profits from my sales of 1,000 books that first year (which I was totally amazed by – I mean, this was poetry after all) and published two more books the next year, another poetry book and a nonfiction book about relationships. And for the nonfiction book, I went all out with content marketing, although I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time.

Slowly, by doing promotion and writing articles I was building a platform. It’s been a decade, and in looking back I can say that I built my writing career somewhat backward from everyone else. It started to promote a book and then the book helped bolster the career. But I do a lot of things backwards, so that shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Early on, I got involved with sites like Facebook and Twitter mainly to promote my books and freelance articles, which is the worst possible reason to get on them. But I quickly found that the social part of social media was just about the coolest thing ever. It wasn’t a chore or something I needed to do to get work. It became a way to connect with readers, answer questions, be helpful, and learn about the world.

Once I started doing social media because I wanted to, the effectiveness of my efforts took off. (click to tweet) I wasn’t just tweeting lamely one or two tweets a day because I had to, I was finding conversations and interacting with people. I get upwards of a million hits a month to my various blogs in part because of social media.

Here’s some cool stuff that’s happened because of my platform:
  • I’ve been contacted several times for TV and radio appearances because someone stumbled across one of my social media profiles
  • I have one of the top essays on NPR’s This I Believe program and it has stayed that way for nine years
  • I’ve sold thousands of my indie books
  • I have regular readers and people that email me weekly
  • I’ve been contacted for amazing jobs like hosting a TV show (I turned it down – too much of an introvert for that – but still it was cool!), consulting for a dating site, and writing a regular column for a major publication
  • Now, people find me rather than me doing all the hunting work to find readers and jobs. Now, a decade later, social media helps me show people who I really am and allows my personal blogs and projects to thrive in surprising ways. My platform came slowly, piece by piece, and has helped me live out my purpose.

Are you still covering your ears when someone talks about platform? Don’t! Embrace it and be real. The rest will come.



Cherie Burbach is a poet, mixed media artist, and freelance writer specializing in lifestyle and relationships. She's written for About.com, NBC/Universal, Match.com, Christianity Today, and more. Her latest book is: Emotional Affairs: How to Stop, Prevent, and Move On from an Emotional Affair. Visit her website for more info, cherieburbach.com.

P.S. Emilie here - make sure you stop by and check out Cherie's incredible Etsy store!!!


Your Challenge: Tweet out to Cherie and say hi! 
>>> @brrbach 

And don't forget our hashtag: #ttmediachallenge

Monday, March 23, 2015

Angela Ruth Strong | New Novel News



The Food Fight Professional
by Angela Ruth Strong

Published March March 14, 2015

Ashberry Lane
PurchaseThe Food Fight Professional (The Fun4Hire Series Book 3)









I, Joey Michaels, am the Food Fight Professional.

Basically this means that if food is flying in the school cafeteria, people think I’m responsible. Working at a soup kitchen as punishment shows me how I can use my reputation in a good way—to organize a “food fight” to fight hunger.

Winning the food fight wouldn’t be so hard if I didn’t have the following three problems:
1) The neighbor girl who records all my mistakes and posts them to the internet
2) Her newly adopted brothers from Haiti who don’t think wasting food is a laughing matter
3) A school principal who wants revenge for the pie I smashed in her face

If I can keep from making too big a mess in the kitchen this time around, I just might be able to have my pie and eat it too. 

Love on the Run
by Angela Ruth Strong, Lisa Phillips, Heather Woodhaven


(Soon to be...) Published March 27, 2015 Team Love on the Run Publishing

Purchase Love On The Run #1

False Security
Angela Ruth Strong
Alex Pierce needs Laney Winters to help him prove neither of them is responsible for the millions of dollars that went missing after Laney arrested him for bank robbery five years ago. Besides Laney not believing he truly repented in prison, there’s the problem of the real thief trying to kill her and the police department treating her like a dirty cop. With the possibility of another crime being pinned on them, Laney finally teams up with Alex to save her life. If only she could trust him with her heart, as well.

Framed Secrets
Heather Woodhaven
Small town girl Kathleen Wicks has been looking forward to her first real art show all her life. When Matt Kaplan, handsome stockbroker and her college nemesis, is the first in attendance, Kathleen is sure it's a sick joke...until he buys one of her paintings to have shipped back home. Elated after a foreign investor then purchases all her work, Kathleen figures she must be on the fast track to making a name for herself. But when the investor returns with a gun and demands to know where the other frame went Kathleen and Matt must find the frame, and the secret it holds, before they get killed. Or worse…fall in love.

Sanctuary Hidden (WITSEC Town Series 2.5)
Lisa Phillips
When Cyan Greene finds decades-old evidence hidden among her dead mother’s belongings she’s plunged back into a world of run and hide. NFL quarterback Nate Mason knows more than he should about the secret witness protection town of Sanctuary where Cyan grew up. He’s the perfect person to protect Cyan; except he doesn’t know a thing about being a bodyguard. When the mob catches up with them, and an old nemesis interferes, Nate is the only one who stands between the woman he’s come to care about…and the people trying to silence her forever. 

Get to know Angela...


What actress would play you in a movie?Tea Leoni. Her quirky loyalty from Fun with Dick and Jane fits me.

What are the names of your pets?
This year I got my first dog ever. Actually two dogs. Puppies who are brothers but look nothing alike. The one that looks like a Jack Russell is named Indiana Bones. And the one who looks like a Pomeranian is named Chewbarka. They were inspiration for the puppy Joey is working to earn in The Snowball Fight Professional.

What is your favorite book?
I have loved The Scarlet Pimpernel since 8th grade Honors English. I'm working on a modern day version with a woman who rescues women from the sex slave trade, but she keeps her identity a secret by acting like another Paris Hilton. I call it The Scarlet Fingernail.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Look at Marketing for Writers


Writing. Reading. Creating....Marketing?

Um, one of these things is NOT like the other. Or is it? Why is the word "marketing" so scary? Why do we as writers (or, at least some of us--myself included at times) think that marketing is beyond what we're capable of?

Let's start with a definition. We're writers, we like words, right?

Oooo, that may be part of the problem. Words like "promoting" and "selling" don't feel creative (at least not to me). They sound more like work or self-promotion. What if we took a step back and first asked ourselves a few simple questions:

1) Why do I create?
2) What do I create?
3) What makes my creations different or unique?

The answers to those three questions are quintessential to marketing. It's easy to start to see dollar signs or people only out for opportunities and networking when we talk about marketing, but for Christ-followers I boil it down to this:
Marketing means showcasing your unique, God-given talents in a way that points to the Creator, not the created.  (tweet this)
Pinterest
Woah, I took it there, didn't I? I know, we try to make marketing this business-y thing (which it is) but we forget that, without creative inspiration from the Lord, we wouldn't have these great ideas in the first place.

Plus, as this quote points out, this life isn't just about us. It's about how God will use us and our talents, for His glory! How exciting is that?

Now, take a step forward with the thought that you are now sharing the beauty of God-given talent with others. It's not about you, it's not even about your product, as much as it's about owning up to the fact that you can point to the Creator through the act of marketing. Okay, back to the business realm (without forgetting what we just discussed, of course).

 The Other Side

Pinterest
Marketing does require a type of self promotion, but the key thing to remember here is how you package your marketing ideas and materials. Your audience is who you're trying to reach with this. It will take some creative brainstorming and often help from professionals for materials or even print copy, but it can be done well without feeling overly "sell-focused".

My number one piece of advice for all forms of social media and any marketing you will do is to showcase who you are (this is technically your business). You establish your brand and then you promote, discuss, and talk about everything in reference to that brand (we'll talk about branding next week).

This looks like: 

Blogging: Choosing a theme that matches (or is complimentary) to your genre.
Facebook: Your author page interacts with you audience through fun posts in relation to your topic, shared posts from authors in your genre, questions that delve into a personal nature, giveaways focused around your novels/topic.
Twitter: You follower popular authors in your genre, retweet them, create tweets that focus around your genre, and post personal tweets in relation.
Instagram: Posting pictures of your life, your interests, and maybe your writing in line with your brand.
Guest Posting: Picking blogs that support your brand (ie: Historical blogs that offer guest posts if you are a historical author).

In all of these realms of social media, make sure you are consistent (to an extent) with the overall look and design of your platforms. I'm not the best example of this since I have varying passions of writing and photography (for example almost all my social media is @eahendry but my twitter is @eacreativephoto...*sigh* the perfectionist in me wants to change it but I probably won't ha!). But the more uniform you can keep your online presence, the better established your brand will be.

Flickr by asenat29
The last thing I'll say is marketing for writers a matter of balance (tweet this). You will easily find there is a bit of discrepancy between you and your brand. That's understandable since you aren't selling something tangible (aside from a book, of course). Plus, books cycle through very quickly in today's market and by the time you are talking about one, the next one is lined up and ready to go.

 

Marketing you will never go out of fashion or print. If you take time on anything, focus your effort on establishing solid connections to your readers. It's there that you'll strike marketing gold!

Your Challenge:
  • Write out your answers to the questions above
  • Tweet one of your favorite quotes from this blog
  • Comment honestly: do you struggle with marketing? Why?
(Don't forget to use the hashtag: #ttmediachallenge when posting!)

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Look at Instagram for Writers



At first glance Instagram may not seem like the "ideal" medium for writers.

We deal with words, not pictures!

I hear you. I really do! But it's not about you being a photographer (unless, of course, you are--like me). It's about marketing. Remember that fun little word? Well, it's true. Everything we're talking about all circles around back to the fact that we do social media to market us, our books, and our ideas.

That seems a little cold, Emilie. 

You can take it that way, but that's definitely not how I mean it. Marketing doesn't have to be bad. It also doesn't have to involve shameless self-promotion. It's a way to share who you are with others so they are invested in you and your idea/product/book.

I recommend Instagram to writers for two reasons: 
  1. It gives (or can give) a view into the everyday life of you, the author. 
  2. It's easy, it's popular, it's trending.
Okay, I overstepped my bounds on that last one and made it three things but hey, that's a good thing, right?

#1 The Personal You
I think this is the best part of Instagram - it's a look into the everyday lives of authors and what it's really like to write books for a living (or a portion of your living). If you're content being real with your audience and showing them the sometimes-unglamorous-side of writing, I think you'll gain some great friends and a loyal following.





#2 Easy, Popular, Trending
It's not hard to snap a pic, slap on a filter, and stick it up on Instagram. You may need to think through your hasthags (yep, there everywhere!) but think of it more as showcasing your personality than it is selling your books.

However, I will say it does take some work if you are interested in something a little more...viral.  Being a photographer and a writer I want my photos to showcase the fact that I'm a professional photographer, but (get this) the explanation of my photos can showcase the fact that I'm a writer. Two birds. One stone.

My advice...

Decide what you want your account to showcase and be great at that! (tweet this)
  • If you want your Instagram followers to see you at your best and your worst, then post away without much thought or strategy. Think about fun times, sad times, boring times, anytime - and that will be the right time to post.
  • If you want your followers to see a more stylized view of you, that will take some extra planning. You may decide to artfully display the books your reading, highlight beautiful scenery, or show off creative images of your shoes (yes, please!). But, the key to this type of Instagram account is consistency in style, content, and editing. (I use VSCOcam to edit almost all of my photos). They also recommend less selfies...just saying.
Where does promotion come in?

No, this isn't something I'm offering!
Using Instagram can help with promotion, but it's a little more...communal than you may be used to. A lot of bloggers and/or photographers are now coming together to offer prizes like a $1000 Anthropology card (yeah, that really happened!), but this required a large group of people committing to this.

I'm not going to lie, I stay away from giveaways like this. I mean, I won't even touch them with a 10 foot poll because of the incredible effort it takes just to actually enter. It was some crazy thing of liking a certain number of photos, following an unidentified number of accounts, and circling back around to leave a comment with your social security number in it. Okay, (hehe) I'm joking, but only on the last part there.

Personally, if you're going to promote yourself via Instagram be very careful as to how. Remember, it's more of a lifestyle showcase than it is a hard-promotion vehicle.

Do...
  • Mention you're working on your book
  • Tag others and ask questions
  • Talk about your release date
  • Encourage others
  • Make your comment section count!
    (Speak from the heart - people love a great story to go along with a great image!)
  • Point back to your blog/website/FB page using the link section of the profile
  • Talk about giveaways they can enter outside of Insta (ie: a blog or FB giveaway)
  • Share a short excerpt from your book
  • Be involved with your followers - yep, LIKE & FOLLOW back!
Don't...
  • Post too many selifes...
  • Only post promotional images
  • Have really poor quality photos (um, this is the photographer in me coming out)
  • Post all. the. time.*
  • Forget you have an Instagram account...
Your challenge:
  • Share your Instagram account info in the comments (let's be friends!)
  • Come follow me: @eahenryx

*A note of caution...please don't be that person who posts a million photos of their _______ (fill in the blank with: children, food, cat, dog, husband, back yard). It's good to post, but consider the frequency of your posting.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Look at Guest Posting for Writers


To guest or not to guest. That is the question for today's social media and marketing post. 

If you've been following along (take a look at Blogging for writers, Facebook for writers, Twitter for writers, and a lovely post by Ralene Burke on social media for writers) then you know my focus for this month is social media and marketing for writers. If you're not a writer I'm pretty sure you'll still find some helpful tips for marketing and social media, but realize I am speaking to the writers out there.

Back to the question at hand...guest posting. Is it worth it? Is it too time consuming? What do you say when you guest? Where do you guest? Why should you even bother guest posting? I'll answer these questions and more below.

Guest Posting For Writers: To Establish and Build a Platform

To guest

We'll be talking about platform next week, but to start this discussion I want to hit the positive sides to guest posting.

1) Spreading the word

The most obvious reason to guest post is to spread the word about you. (Are you sensing a theme this month?) When you guest post on blogs or websites you generally get the opportunity to do a little bit of promotion at the end. Don't have a book to promote? That's okay! Promote your social media links and/or blog.

Pinterest
2) Follower fans

Another HUGE bonus to guest posting is the fact that you can gain new follower fans! Guaranteed that, should someone like your post, they will want to find out more about you. If they like what they find, you've just gained a new follower and/or reader fan!

3)  Be an expert

Guest posts allow you to be the expert. Choose your topics wisely (more on this in a minute) but make sure you freely give away some expert advise. You new readers will thank you--and sometimes that means a follow or like.

4) Discipline

The less-thought-of reason to guest post is discipline. When you agree to be a guest, you are then "chained" to a date and forced to think through your post. This is great practice for making deadlines, writing creatively even when inspiration may not be striking, and a fantastic way to hone your online writing style and voice.

Not to guest

Though there are some great reasons to guest, there are some downsides to guest posting as well.
Pinterest

1) Time's a wastin'

The number one issue with guests posts are the fact that they can take up precious writing time! (Let's be honest though. What doesn't take up time?) If you find yourself spending more time working on numerous guest posts than on your next novel, you've hit the "not to guest" side. Take a step back and re-evaluate the need to guest.

2) Small numbers = small reach

It doesn't matter how fantastic your guest post is--you may have just solved the problem of world hunger--but if no one is reading the blog you're guest on...it was a wasted effort. Sort of like a tree falling in the forest is a guest post going live in a small, carved out space of the internet no one visits.

Make sure you are spending your precious time crafting your masterpiece guest post for a blog that gets decent traffic. I'm not saying ignore anyone with a small readership, but evaluate where you're spending most of your effort and time.

3) Repetition isn't helpful

If you're hoping to write one guest post and recycle it through a string of blogs across the vast expanse of Internet-space let me save you the trouble: DON'T. Why? Well, the overbearing ruler of the Internet these days is Google. Love Google or hate it (or a little bit of both) but don't anger it.

Google is great at detecting repetitive content in multiple locations. To Google that looks like plagiarism and therefore not-good content. That is a no-no in Googles eyes. So, if you aren't up to creating new content for every guest post, it's better say no.

Where to guest

There is no right or wrong answer to this. Since I'm a member of ACFW I've used connections I've made through the organization as well as at conferences to guest on other blogs. The best types of guest post positions allow you to get in front of an audience who will be receptive to what you are sharing.

Start by connecting with authors who write what you write (and who have an active blog). Check out their blog, read it, and see if they offer guest post options. If so, risk asking if you could guest. Before you do though, make sure you have an idea in mind and possibly a title. Being able to give them a snapshot of what you'll share can help them make a decision about letting you guest on their blog.

What to say when you guest

The last part is the actual writing. If you've decided to guest, take your time and make sure you're putting forth your best effort. Remember, you're acting as a type of "expert" in your field so make sure what you're saying is helpful, efficient, and accurate. Guest posts can also include things you are passionate about.

As example, I've guested about writing tips, photography, faith, and marketing. If you are using guest posts to grow your own audience and platform though, I'd recommend writing about things related to your writing or that capture the attention of people who would read what you write.

Don't forget a killer bio, links to your social media, and a headshot that accurately displays your personality (and isn't a selfie...please!).

End result: Guest posting can be a big aid in growing and expanding your platform but it can also eat away at your own writing time. The best approach is to schedule posts far enough apart and to write them as quickly as possible once assigned. Have fun, draw readers in, then give them the opportunity to connect with you on your own platform.

Check out some recent guest posts I've done: 
Reading and Writing: God's at work behind the pages on InkWell Inspirations
How to Create and Cultivate Community on the ACFW blog
A Page from My Journal on Trust on Putting on the New
Writing Like a Photographer: The Key to Descriptive Writing on Seekerville blog
Why Authors Need A Professional Headshot on PR by the Book

Your challenge:
  • Do you guest post? Reply yes or no!
  • Share the link to a guest post you've written
  • Share what topics you'd like to post about
  • Share what topics you'd like to read about
(Don't forget to use the hashtag #ttmediachallenge when you share your thoughts and tweet)

___________________________

 Last weeks //WINNER//

I had the lovely Alice J. Wisler on the blog last week and she offered to giveaway a copy of her latest novel, Under the Silk Hibiscus. The lucky winner is...

Daniel Bryl

Congrats Daniel! Contact me and we'll get you your book!