Monday, March 30, 2015

JoAnn Durgin | New Novel News

Heart's Design
by JoAnn Durgin

Published March 27, 2015
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Purchase: Heart's Design: A Contemporary Christian Romance

Caroline wants to grab hold of the future. Seth can’t let go of the past.

Recent Wellesley College graduate Caroline Prescott’s future is set in stone. After Harvard Law School, she’ll step into place beside her two brothers in their father’s legendary Boston law firm. Caroline secretly longs for the quiet, peaceful life and a career designing jewelry with precious gemstones instead of life as a hotshot Boston attorney.

On a hiking trip with her two best friends weeks before entering law school, Caroline meets Seth Barnes in charming Evergreen, Maine. A mineralogist and part-time college professor, Seth drives a truck sporting an I Dig Rocks license plate, lives in hiking clothes, flannel shirts and jeans, and loves Jesus.

Two years later, when they meet again, Caroline and Seth confront both the promise of possibility and the pain of past heartaches. What’s a girl to do when the man she secretly loves has a serious girlfriend and seems determined to hold her at arm’s length? And what’s a guy to do when he can’t stay away from a certain irresistible woman no matter how hard he tries? Does the Lord have His own design for their hearts?

Heart’s Design, a love story filled with love, friendship, family, and the power of forgiveness.

Get to know JoAnn...

What actor/actress would play you if your life was a movie?
Reese Witherspoon because she’s blonde, spirited and has lots of spunk!

What are you reading right now?
Paper Hearts, a contemporary Christian romance with yes—heart—by Courtney Walsh. I’m enjoying the book; it has all the elements I look for in a good book: poignancy, depth of characters and yes, a love story. You knew I had to say that, right?

Which of your characters do you secretly have a crush on?
Come on now, is that really a fair question? My crush is my current hero. Okay, I might get in trouble if I don’t answer by saying Sam Lewis since his character is loosely based on my husband, Jim. However, I’ll admit to adoring each hero for his own unique qualities. I adore Seth Barnes, the mineralogist in Heart’s Design. He gives Caroline Prescott a gift from his heart after he first meets her, not knowing if they’ll ever meet again. And that definitely makes him a crush-worthy, sigh-inducing man!
**Leave a comment below sharing what actor/actress would be cast to play you if your life was a movie and you'll be entered to win a copy of Heart's Design!**

Winners will be announced April 6th

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.
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...

Twitter: @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.


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.


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'!)

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.

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)
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

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.

  • 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!
  • 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: @createexploreread

*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.

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.

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 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!

    Wednesday, March 18, 2015

    A Look at Twitter for Writers

    *I will fully admit to listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack during the writing of this blog...

    It's time to take a journey. No, you wont be taking a ring to the fires of Mordor, but you will be weighted with glorious purpose.

    The mission: To use Twitter more effectively
    The destination: Spreading the word about your writing and you!
    The guide: Your passion (and maybe some tips from this blog)

    7 Twitter Tricks to Rule Them All

    1) A Plan

    In order to go anywhere you need a direction firmly in place. But you also have to understand the way to get there. With Twitter it's easy to get overwhelmed by the fast-paced, ever changing, stream of tweets. Let's start out by establishing one thing first though:

    Twitter isn't about permanence, it's about relevance. (click to tweet this) 

    Yes, it's great to have something "go live" on Twitter but it will be gone in the blink of an eye should your followers have more than fifty, Twitter-happy people they are following (or even 10 people who Tweet at a constant rate).

    Think through these things with regards to your Twitter plan:
    • Who's your audience? (Take a look at Ralene's post from yesterday for some great ideas to establish your audience.)
    • What can you share with your followers: What are you an expert in or have knowledge about?
    • What are you directing them toward: Facebook, Blog, Website?
    • What's your approach: Funny, helpful, informative?
    • What can you sustain: Tweet frequency and content?
    Once you've established these things, then create a plan to follow through with. Something as simple as: Every Monday morning I'll spend 30 minutes preparing and scheduling tweets.

    2) Presence 

    Thought this image is funny, it actually applies to Twitter. How, you ask? Well, first off, when you establish yourself on Twitter you are one in a sea of unending people who tweet. There are business, public figures, cities, authors, other entrepreneurs, hey there are likely even Orcs on Twitter! You will get lost in that if you don't make yourself stand out.

    BUT, do not misrepresent yourself.  Don't be putting up something on Twitter that isn't really you.

    Instead, take time to put these things in place:
    • A short but informative bio (here's a place to showcase your whit)
    • A lovely cover image that's relevant (you can use this space to advertize your books but be wary of the transition from a webpage to a mobile device - where most people will see it)
    • A profile picture (I'm pretty passionate about professional headshots. You can see why here, and here, and here too!)
    • An active link (soooo important - and this goes back to part 1 with the question of where you're directing your Twitter followers to)
    • A location (less important, but it could be an asset depending on what you write. Example: "You write novels set in the South and you're from Alabama")
    3) The Right Words

    Just like they had to say the right words to open the Doors of Durin, you need to use the right words (and number of words) to unlock the secrets of Twitter.  

    //140 characters//

    Yep, I just heard the anguished cry of writers all over the world shouting about the injustice of it all. I know, I know, I hate the limitation too...But it can have its benefits.

    Things to consider when writing out tweets:
    • Use a question to capture attention
    • Think of Buzzfeed or Huffpost titles like "Dog stranded: You won't believe what happened next!"( have to click to find out what happened!)
    • Use snipits of news or blurbs from your post
    • Share something funny
    Keep it short--don't try to say too much--and realize not every tweet will go viral. It's not about that, it's about providing quality content to your followers while having fun and showcasing your personality.

    4) The Right Crew

    Without the help of the hobbits the ring never would have made it to Morodor. Just as Fordo couldn't have made it without Sam and they couldn't have made it without the help of the others. It was a team effort.

    Twitter may seem like a different realm to you, but it's just social media! Yep, social. People follow you because they are interested in what you have to say with those 140 characters.

    But remember, to get a friend you have to be a friend. Retweet others tweets, favorite things you like, tag your friends in posts. This is the best way to guarantee new followers but also to "give back" in a sense. 

    5) Links & Pictures

    This is in line with using the right words (#3) but is so important. First off, including a link is a great way to draw your Twitter audience to your other platforms of social media. I often find myself using a link to draw attention to a post I've just written that I think will benefit my Twitter followers. I also try and use photos as much as possible because people are more likely to look at pictures than anything else.

    WARNING: Using links for your books is great too, but don't make all of your posts promotional. No one want's to follow someone who just spouts off tweets about their books all day. It gets tiring and a little like the boy who cried wolf. When you tweet about something important people may not see it due to your previous content.

    Don't forget to keep it short: I use Bitly to shorten my links but I'm sure there are other websites out there that do that as well.

    6) You have my sword, my bow, my axe, my...hashtag?

    Hashtags are so so so important on Twitter! Hashtags are the grouping system that Twitter uses to collect topics around the same thing. When you're Tweeting, you can type in a # sign and then type in words after to see what comes up (these are typically popular hashtags you can use). The use of a hashtag or two increases the visibility of your tweet. Remember, relevance is important too. Search Google for popular, trending hashtags and create some of your tweets around those.

    If you are creating a hashtag, first check to make sure it isn't already taken (type in the hashtag you want into Twitter and search - same goes for Instagram). Then, create away and encourage your followers to use it. My hashtag for this month's posts and challenges is an example: #ttmediachallenge

    7) Perseverance

    Last, but certainly not least, is the idea of pressing on. Twitter can appear a little overwhelming, but go back to #1 and remember your audience. Your rally cry may not be "For Frodo" but it can be "For ______" fill in the blank of who your audience is.

    When crafting tweets, get a good mix of helpful, funny, informational, promotional, and personal tweets. This well-rounded approach to Twitter will lend itself well to your followers and I believe will show you an increase in followership as well as interaction.

    So, what do you think? Are you ready to join the journey?

    Additional tips: 
    • Follow people/products/businesses you adore and Tweet @ them when relevant. You'll often find they retweet a lot which gets YOUR name out there!
    • Also, retweet any posts you are featured in - share and share alike!
    • Use a service like TweetDeck to schedule your tweets - it will save you a LOT of time. 
    • Use Click To Tweet to create a link people can click to tweet your great ideas!
    • Get a new follower? Don't be afraid to interact with them via a tweet or Direct Message. (This won't always work--especially as your following increases--but it wont hurt when you are trying to build your audience.)
    • Use twitter for fun too! I've already said this, but really--tweeting about a movie you just saw or something funny that just happened can draw great attention to your twitter page.
    • Don't be afraid to have conversations with other twetters! Chime (or chirp -hehe-) in to get the convo going!
    And I don't know about you, but I am more than ready to go watch Lord of the Rings from start to finish...the extended versions nonetheless!

    Your Challenge: 
    • Schedule out tweets for a full week in advance using slightly different content for each tweet and including a hashtag or two. 
    • Send out a tweet about your favorite of the 7 tips from above
    • Tweet out your favorite LOTR character! (If you don't like LOTR...well...just never mind)
    (Don't forget to group it to the hashtag: #ttmediachallenge)

    Tuesday, March 17, 2015

    Social Media for Writers (Or Anyone Else) by Ralene Burke

    Every time I talk to writers about social media, I get the same responses.

    “I don’t have time.”

    “It’s too much work.”

    “I don’t know what to post!”

    Truth is social media isn’t as hard as some people think, and it doesn’t take a lot of time. In fact, for most people social media should border on fun. Yes, I’m serious. The key is finding a way to unite you/your personality with the target audience that will engage with you using the most fitting social media platforms.

    “Ralene, that doesn’t sound simple.”

    Well, it is when you break it down. Here are the 3 Ks of social media.

    Know Yourself

    First step is always the hardest. Okay, this one shouldn’t be hard—who knows us better than ourselves? Still, nailing down who we are can be tough.

    I like Kristen Lamb’s suggestion in her marketing book for authors, Rise of the Machines. She suggests that writers make a huge word cloud that describes them, their likes/dislikes, hobbies, etc. Any little bit about them. Even have family and friends contribute. I had such a blast doing this exercise myself—I found fun tidbits to put in my bio, potential blog posts, and tons of interesting post topics.

    Next, determine why you want to be on social media. What do you hope to accomplish? What many writers need to realize is that social media is not going to garner a lot of new readers. It is about connecting with people—usually fellow publishing professionals and loyal readers. It is through those people that you’ll find new readers.

    The final question to consider is this: Why do you write? Do you have a message? This reason will influence your online personality and the direction/tone of your posts.

    Flickr by Cliff
    Know Your Target Audience

    The end goal of social media is engagement. In order to convince people to not only follow you, but to actually respond to your post/tweet/etc. is for those people to actually care about what you post. If you’re sharing funny kid memes on your thriller author page, you’ll confuse your audience. If you’re posting political diatribes on your light comedy author page, you’ll anger and then lose your followers.

    Knowing your target audience is key.

    So, who is your “ideal reader”? This answer will influence everything from what colors/fonts to use on your website and platforms to what topics to post for optimal engagement to where you should be looking to recruit new readers.

    You know those character questionnaires writers sometimes fill out? You need one for your ideal reader. Answer questions like age, gender, marital status, job, hobbies, likes/dislikes, favorites . . . Be as specific as possible.

    Know Your Tools

    All authors should be on Facebook and Twitter. There, I said it. Please, don’t shoot me.

    With all the talk going around about Facebook reach, the fact is Facebook is still the largest social media platform. It’s still the best place to connect with loyal readers and writing friends. Yes, you might have to pay to advertise book releases or other promotions, but that’s just a reality we have to face.

    If you’re engaging your audience, your reach will grow naturally!

    Some authors have opted to use groups instead of a fan/business page. While I support this for current readers and writer friends, Facebook pages are easier to find and are places new/potential readers feel less awkward and more like engaging.

    Twitter is a great place for writers to connect with “business” people: agents, editors, cover designers, book bloggers, photographers, etc. It’s all about networking and making new friends. I’ve met some amazing people who have become great supporters even though I’ve never edited for them or they’ve never read my novels. They see my blog posts and know I share stuff of value to them, so they follow me on this journey.

    Many other platforms exist for writers to choose from, but you should be considerate of the time you have to spend on social media and of your target audience. If you’re target audience isn’t hanging out on Google+/Instagram/Tumblr/Snapchat, it’s not important for you to be on it. It is better to do a couple of platforms well than to be on every platform and be ineffective. (My friend and social media guru, Jen Bennett of iBloom, is always saying that!)

    Now that you know who you are, and you’ve discovered your target audience, and you’ve settled on which tools to use, you can develop a social media strategy that is fun for both you and all those potential followers out there. Let your unique light shine through every post and tweet. Use images, memes, questions, and personal anecdotes to engage with your target audience. You know what they want!

    Whether she’s wielding a writer’s pen, an editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to make it SHINE! She spins fantastical tales of that place where the light pierces the darkness. She’s worked for a variety of groups/companies, including The Christian PEN, Realm Makers, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, Splickety Publishing Group, and as an editor for a number of freelance clients.
    When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

    You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, or her website.

    Your Challenge: 
    1. Make a word cloud!
    2. Share one reason you want to be on social media
    3. Narrow it down: Who is your ideal reader?
    4. Share your favorite social media platform
    (Don't forget to use the hashtag: #ttmediachallenge when you share!)

    Monday, March 16, 2015

    A Look at Facebook for Writers

    Facebook. I love it. I hate it. It tends to go in circles for me, but I usually end on the loving side...most of the time.

    7 ways to use Facebook more effectively

    1) Personal is Preferred

    I can't say this one enough (hence the #1 spot). People want to interact with you. I have found Facebook to be the best way for my personality to shine through - funny faces and all! It's not about getting followers or "likes" necessarily, as much as it is about personal connection. Make a friend on Facebook and you could have a friend for life (which, if you're an author, could mean a reader for life as well).

    2) Images take the cake
     ...And images of cake are great too! But I digress.

    In all seriousness though, using images on Facebook is one of the best ways to ensure that others will see it. If you are an author already, make sure you have great marketing materials to share.

    Some suggestions:
    • Use your book cover and colors that match
    • Use a quote from the book or review sentence 
    • Use images to spread the word about giveaways and contests 
    • Pick something unique from your book and find an image of that (Example: Is your book about a woman who loves cookies? Use a cookie in your images)
    • Keep it simple: Don't make the images look like spam or overly try and sell your book. It's about drawing positive attention to you and your page, not just to sell something
    Being a part-time designer myself, I know for certain that the more images I use (whether it's a marketing image or a personal picture) the more attention that posts draws.

    3) Questions?

    You've probably heard this one, but I'll say it again: ask questions! You want your audience to engage with you, not just skim by your posts. Ask things that relate to your book or writing, but don't get stuck on that. Branch out. Know your audience. When you know them, you'll know what to ask that will gain a response.

    Though I'm definitely one to shy away from conflict, I know for a fact that potentially controversial posts usually generate more responses. My caution for this though is to recognize the potential debates and to act as a moderator as well as peace keeper. Negativity isn't an attractive thing.

    4) Call to Action

    A relatively new addition to Facebook pages is the "Call to Action" button. This is a helpful little guy located right next to the  "share" option on your home page screen. You can choose between a few different options (shown to the right). If you have a newsletter (which is a great idea) I'd recommend using the "Sign Up" action button. If you don't have one, any of the other options are great. I personally use "Contact Us" for my Author page and the "Book Now" option for my photography business page.

    This is an awesome feature because it allows you to "call to action"  your readers. It allows them to participate, and for you to connect with them. And that's what Facebook is great for - personal connection!

    5) Make 'em Laugh

    Time and time again I'll come across a hilarious video of cats or dogs or babies (those are the typical things that are hilarious on Facebook) and I'll share them to my page with a personal comment. Without fail, those shared posts generate more views than anything else.

    I ask myself: What is going on? But, it makes sense. Humor is infectious (in the best way) and people want to take part in it and enjoy it.

    Here's a great spot to talk about meme's too. Don't know what a meme is?

    The dictionary says;
    Meme: An element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation. 
    A humorous image, video, piece of text, etc. that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.
    So there you have it...Still don't know? Check out Pinterest and type in "Grumpy Cat". I think you'll catch on quickly.

    6) Schedule for a stress free week

    If you don't know this, you are in for a treat (or you've been living under a rock?). Either way, the good news is that you can schedule your posts!

    All you need to do is add your photo, link, and/or text and press the down arrow next to "post". You'll then have the option to set the date and time. Then you're set! Take time at the beginning of each week to do this and schedule out your tweets as well. You'll thank yourself later ;)

    7) Tagging (and I'm not talking about graffiti) 

    Interested in drawing more attention to your page? Then find a way to draw in the fans of others. I'm not talking about stealing here, just sharing the love. For my author site this looks like me tagging the authors whom I host on my {Writer Wednesday} spotlights. I make sure that I have either Friended them or at least liked their Facebook page so that I can tag it in the post on my page. For my photography page, that looks like posting images of my clients and tagging them (all with their permission of course). I draw a lot of traffic that way and so can you!

    Honorable mentions:
    • Use hashtags in your posts
    • Check out the "trending" options on the side of Facebook to create relevant posts
    • Use plugins like Rafflecopter and Instagram to spice up your page
    • Share in your fellow writers good news, book giveaways, and discounts - the best way to get friends is to be a friend
    So, what about you? Do you use these things? If so, which do you find most helpful? Have a tip to add?

    (Don't forget to tag #ttmediachallenge when you Tweet/Google+/FB your replies!)

    Check out these resources for further learning:
    45 Fabulous Facebook Advertising Tips & Magic Marketing Tricks
    Meme Generator 
    Best Times To Post (love a good info graphic!)