Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Newton’s Third Law (for writers)

You remember those, right? Okay, nerd cap on for the refresher of Newton’s Laws of Motion:

  • First law: A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion (or simply, inertia). It’s like not wanting to get out of bed in the morning (body at rest), and then the cat (or dog) jumps on you and insists it’s time for breakfast/walk/pee break (an outside force affecting inertia 😀 ).
  • Second law: An object’s force is mass times acceleration. Think of it as the difference between a terrier running up to greet you and a Great Dane running up to greet you. One of these will be like catching a basketball, the other will body-slam you.
  • Third law: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Remember those experiments way back in elementary school where the same poles of magnets would repel? Yep, kinda like that.

So, what exactly has this got to do with writing? Well, I was thinking (I know, scary 🙂 ) about characters and reactions.

Earlier this week I subbed at the library, because their high school staff member has basketball practice after school. And because it was after Thanksgiving, it was time to decorate for Christmas. Lexy (the high schooler) set up the tree already, so all I had to do was find stuff to put on the walls, etc.

The decorations are stored in the basement. So the staff member I was relieving led me into the basement to show me where things were. And one of the first things I noticed was this:

If you saw this in your basement, what would be your first reaction? Scream? Find something to hit it with? Or calmly say, “Hey, did you know you have a bat hibernating in the basement?”

Because the little guy wasn’t bothering anyone, and I knew it was sleeping, I picked the third option. (Honestly, bats don’t bother me because I know they eat bugs. Lots of bugs.)

Anyway, that (and every Sunday night’s America’s Funniest Videos episode) made me think about characters and how they react to things. A lot of our everyday activity is based on actions and our reactions to them. A character returns home from errands and finds the door to her apartment–that she is absolutely certain she locked–is unlocked. A character arrives after a call from a friend frantic about a break-in, and finds said friend on the floor unconscious and bleeding.

For every situation a character will react in a particular way. Does that character freak out when she finds the door unlocked? What about finding the friend? How does she handle the situation? Does she enter the apartment anyway? Does she run off to find help?

Characters should react the way we expect them to. An exterminator will not jump up on a chair when a mouse scurries across the kitchen floor. A firefighter will not run around frantically when they find their garage on fire.

Then again, sometimes it works to have a character react in an unexpected way. The nurse who retches when a patient vomits. Or, as seen on AFV, the mom who can’t bear to prep a raw turkey without gagging (no, she didn’t throw up, but it sounded like she usually did).

If a character reacts in a way the reader doesn’t expect, there must be a good reason for it. Is the nurse sensitive to odor? (of course, if he is, why on earth be a nurse?) Maybe he is going through chemotherapy and is extra-sensitive to odors. Maybe the mom who can’t stand to touch raw meat had to prep the turkey this year because her sister just got a new job and is working over Thanksgiving.

Sometimes it’s fun to have a character react differently than expected. It keeps things interesting, but it also has to fit the character. Case in point: I used to be an aircraft mechanic, and the only female aircraft mechanic where I worked. So one night I’m walking across the hangar and someone calls my name. I look, and this thing is arcing through the air in my direction. So I calmly stand where I’m at and watch a dead mouse hit the floor a few feet away.

I don’t know what my co-worker was expecting me to do, but I think he was disappointed, because I didn’t react the way he expected, i.e. like a girl. Another example is when one of the guys I worked with (same place) reacted to a moth fluttering around in the crew van we took to the gate. Imagine a little kid reacting to a moth–they dance around and swat at it. The next night, someone glued a dead cecropia moth to the top of his toolbox. Moral of the story: don’t let your fellow mechanics know you’re afraid of moths.

Make sure your characters react to situations in a way that fits their personality. If they react otherwise, give them a reason to do so. In case you were wondering about the bat, someone came the next day and removed it. And I found out that was the third bat they had found in the basement. Methinks a bat house might be a nice alternative.

And I made it for NaNo! Of course, I didn’t finish the story, but I’m a lot closer to the end than I was before. This weekend is forecast to be snowing and blowing, so I have a great excuse to hunker down and write.

Have a great weekend!

zoey asleep

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Rough cut — plantsing away #nanowrimo2018

Week two of NaNoWriMo. I made week 1’s word count, but so far I’m slipping this week. Phone call with my daughter last night, who hasn’t registered for next semester yet –WHAAAT?! So, that, and reminding her to Do Her Homework before the day before the day it’s due. I know. What a concept.

It’s part of learning to manage time. And she’s trying, but boy, the call of procrastination is strong.

I am getting back into the routine of writing every day, which is pretty much the point, along with finally finishing my rough–really rough–draft of book 2. I’m still planning to work on a new book I plotted out but haven’t really gotten to yet. I did write a really rough draft of it, but that needs to be rebooted.

Anyway, every year around NaNo time there are posts and discussions about plotting versus pantsing, better known as writing “by the seat of your pants”. In other words, planning the story versus just writing and letting the story write itself (you know what I mean, like when the characters take the reins and head in a direction you didn’t intend them to go).

I like to think I’m more of a planner than a pantser. I don’t exactly outline, but I walk through the story. I have a starting point, I have an idea what will happen first, second, third, etc. I know who the characters will be, who the bad guy is, who the good guy is, and who the supporting characters are. This gives me a map, but leaves me room to wander a bit.

So, here I am, writing my minimum 1,667 words a day (ideally, 2k words a day, but I haven’t gotten onto that kind of roll yet), and walking through my path, and the story–erm, the characters started taking a side trip. Which seemed to work. Until it didn’t.

Wait, let me back up. I started with an apparent self-inflicted demise… or was it? The more I wrote, the more it wasn’t quite working. So, I wrote myself an inline note (I do a lot of those to remind me of things that pop into my head). And as I wrote the note, I realized why it wasn’t working.

Hoo-boy. I have a bit of revising to do. But this is a rough draft, right? It’s supposed to be crappy. Onward, ho!

Then I run into a scene that doesn’t quite go as planned. Those darn characters! The change seems to work, but the further I go, the more that change screws up part of the climax.

So, another long inline note about why the change made four chapters back won’t work, and how I can handle the storyline so my original idea will be a logial step in the plot. And now to keep going while pretending the dead end doesn’t happen and my original idea is a part of the plot.

As I’m going through this, I realized something (lightbulb moment!): my rough draft is my way of talking through the story to refine it. Not polish; that comes later. It’s like planning a trip. You check out the map (yes, the old paper ones no one could ever refold right), maybe highlight the route you want to take. Figure where to stop for lunch. How about a stop at a landmark or historic site; hey, you’re going right by the world’s largest wad of used chewing gum. It would be a great photo op 😀

So you head out on your road trip, stop at the chewing gum tourist trap, and hey, a few miles off the road you can have lunch at Ole and Lena’s Homestyle Restaurant, because you can’t go past NorwegianJoke City without stopping for their world-famous lefse.

And you can get back to the freeway the short way, or you can go ten minutes the other direction to visit Cousin Sven. Besides, there’s another main road you can take to get back to Grand Highway Junction. Cool. So after you hang with Sven for a few hours, you head out.

And you hit–you guessed it–road construction. Man, maybe you shouldn’t have picked this road. So, do you retrace your steps, or take that other rural two-laner? Hey, two-laner might be fun. So you take that route. Until you hit the cattle drive. You go back the way you just came. Sheesh. Should have stuck to the freeway.

And there is an ugly picture of my writing process. Sort of. I have a plan, take a few side trips, then learn I shouldn’t have taken that detour. Or the detour works for a while, or the detour leads to an even better trip through a state park.

Bottom line, the whole process of writing a rough draft is instrumental in refining the story, so take advantage. And that pesky internal editor can get in the way of the process, so send her on a month-long junket to somewhere. Remember, rough draft = crap, but it also equals an opportunity to make major structural changes before it becomes a lot harder to make them.

Hey, 860 more words for my NaNo count–woo-hoo!

Keep on  writing, and enjoy your weekend! (and remember, less than two weeks until Turkey Day 🦃)


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15 things I learned about book festivals

If you were around for last week’s post, I went to the Deep Valley Book Festival in Mankato to man the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime (TC SinC) table. Our SinC chapter released an anthology this year (and no, I don’t have a story in it because they were in the final editing stage when I joined the party 🙂 ) called Dark Side of the Loon: Where Mystery Meets History. All the stories are written by TC SinC members and are set during historical events in MN, like the infamous Armistice Day Blizzard or the Jesse James gang’s bank robbery in Northfield. We also had an older anthology to sell.

Bottom line, sell as many books as possible between 10 am and 4 pm.

A few things about the whole situation just made it a rough day. The venue was hard to find–even people using GPS wound up at a hotel down the block. No signage out front to tell people what was happening. And the author area was inside a former restaurant, so dim lighting was the rule rather than the exception.

Since this was my first, I made a few mental notes for the next book festival (hopefully more successful, and hopefully with my very own debut novel!)

So, here are some things to remember (in no particular order) for a book festival, or book fair, or craft fair or wherever you are selling your books:

Mental Note #1: BYOB

Bring water, coffee, or pop (yes, I’m from MN, so it’s “pop” not “soda” or “coke” 🙂 ) to drink. A big room like that, with lots of books, screams “dry air”. I brought a water bottle, but I could have used two. The venue had coffee and water available in the morning, but that was gone before noon.

Mental Note #2: Bring snacks

If the book festival is more than two hours, and especially if it’s six hours like the Deep Valley one, bring something to eat. At our venue, there were no food vendors, so no opportunity to grab lunch. I brought a PB&J along with an apple and banana, plus an emergency granola bar, because I didn’t know what to expect. I’m glad I did. Other authors had family members with them to fetch nourishment, but some didn’t. A mix of peanuts, M&Ms, raisins, candy corn, etc. would be good to have on hand to munch.

Mental Note #3: Bring a battery charger/powerpack for your phone/iPad/tablet

This might seem obvious, but there were very few outlets available. And yes, you might have charged everything up the night before, but it never hurts to have a backup, especially if there is no wifi available and you have to rely on your cellular data connection. Hint: Make sure your powerpack is charged as well!

Mental Note #4: Gotta have some signage

We had a price sheet with the book covers printed on it, as well as a couple sheets of reviews for the new anthology, mounted in those clear plastic holders that stand up by themselves. We also had signage with fold-out stands, made from heavy tag board, so they were easy to take down and put away. Some authors had bigger signs, BUT make sure you have room for the signs along with your books. The table may only be the size of a card table, so there are limits on how much you can put out. I’ve read advice about vertical self-standing easels that you can set beside the table, where it’s like a tripod with a telescoping piece where you can mount a cardboard sign or or unroll a fabric one.

Mental Note #5: Handy-dandy book display easels

You know, the kind where you can set a book on it to show off the cover. Everyone displayed their books face out like that (you know what I’m talking about). In bookstores they even suggest you go through (covertly, of course 🙂 and you didn’t hear that from me 😀 ) and set your book so the whole face is showing and not just the spine. If anyone knows a place to get those little display things (besides Amazon; they’ve got everything, right?), pop it into a comment.

Mental Note #6: Rolling bag, collapsable cart, or collapsable two-wheel dolly

Nobody likes dragging a box full of books any farther than they have to. I saw authors with rolling cases, one with a cool collapsable cart like a wagon, and TC SinC has a neat collapsable two-wheel dolly. This venue offered volunteer college-aged muscle, but by closing time most of their volunteers had left.

Mental Note #7: Promo stuff like business cards, bookmarks, magnets, notepads, pencils, etc

And yes, just like at any other promotional event, people go around and gather goodies. Anything that reminds them of your book is good, right? Remember, this is a book festival (this one included over twenty authors), not an author event like a signing gig, authors panel, or launch party, so you could get away with no candy Edit: yes, goodies are advised, as I’ve learned from other authors. So lure them with sugar 🙂

Mental Note #8: Card reader–Square, PayPal, or other

The chapter prez, who signed up for the event and asked me to help man the table, forgot the Square, so we restricted payment to cash or check. A caveat, though: make sure you either have a reliable internet connection or that the reader can process cards while offline. Another caveat: With so many credit cards having chips in them now, if your reader can’t read the chips, you have to type the card number into the app.

Mental Note #9: Price books for least-complicated change (and make sure you have enough change)

Seems logical, but it’s a good reminder. Price books in whole dollars, and an amount that’s easy to give change. We priced the anthology at $17. The prez had an envelope of change: groups of three one dollar bills paper-clipped together so it was easy to pull out change for a twenty. One author priced her books at $15, which again is easy to make change. Another author priced her books at $15 for cash or check, and $16 for credit card. When you use a Square or other card reader, the card processor takes a small percentage of the charge, so it made sense (like gas stations giving you a discount when you pay with cash). Don’t forget to include sales tax in the price!

Mental Note #10: Keep a tally sheet, also good for notes

We had a tally sheet to track how many of each anthology we sold, which makes it easy to know how many books are left, and how much money you should have (and change left over). We used a small notebook, handy because one of the patrons who stopped at our table works in the archive section of the MNSU-Mankato library, and they collect books from MN authors. We got contact information, and a possible opportunity for some sort of author panel in the future.

Mental Note #11: Network!

Yes, I know, writers are introverts, and crowds make us twitchy, but make connections with both readers and writers. Yes, this means you have to talk to complete strangers. I found out the author at the table next to us is also with my publisher, so we could compare notes. I met a reader who read historical stuff, and her friend reads mysteries, so I suggested she would enjoy the historical stuff in the anthology. She bought both anthologies, so they could read and swap. I also met a vivacious reader who, once I told her about my own book (she asked), got super excited about it. And when she told her husband, he got excited about it. I wrote the title and release date on the back of one of my business cards and gave it to her. If half her enthusiasm rubs off on a handful of her friends, that’s six more readers than if I hadn’t talked to her at all.

Mental Note #12: Pay attention to venue notes

The venue should make you aware of things like no outlets and no wifi. Our venue also suggested battery-powered lights. Huh? When we got there, we saw the dim lighting. One author brought a battery-powered camp lantern–great idea. Take-away: if the venue suggests something, there’s a reason, so plan accordingly.

Mental Note #13: Bring something writerly to work on

The crowd isn’t steady, so there’s time when you either talk to the writer next door, or take the opportunity to do some editing, or outlining, or something you can do in short bursts.

Mental Note #14: Check out the other tables

Venues often have volunteers who can watch your table when you have to find a restroom or just stretch your legs. Take some time to check the other authors out. You might find books you are interested in. See how other authors have their tables laid out. You can get ideas for your next event that way, like the battery-powered lantern 🙂

Mental Note #15: Feedback

Most venues will ask for feedback or suggestions. Take them up on it–nicely. Someone spent a lot of time organizing the event, getting sponsors, volunteers, authors, etc. The prez mentioned to them the difficulties people were having, and we learned why they used that venue (cost, of course). But maybe next time they can do a few little things differently that might make the event more successful. And let them know what they did right, because we all like good feedback. Just like a critique, it lets them know what they are doing well.

And that is the end of a very long post. There are veterans of book events out there that skimmed the headers and skipped to the bottom (yes, you did! 😉 ), but hopefully this will help others who are thinking about or planning to sell at an event like this.

Have a wonderful weekend–enjoy it, because the colors are fleeting, and the white stuff will be here before you know it! (unless you’re in the southern hemisphere, in which case it’s spring where you are, and I’m jealous because you’re done with winter 😀 )

Write on!


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Six months and counting…

zoey3

What do you mean this is your chair?

The world of traditional publishing moves s-l-o-w-l-y. And then really fast, like “write up back cover copy, fill out this three-page form with promo stuff, and get it back to me in a week” fast. And then, hurry up and wait. Again.

I’m at the “hurry up and wait” stage. There are a bunch of things I can do now to prepare for my novel’s release in March, including promo stuff that I don’t need a cover for. I happen to be a part of a super-wonderful group of bloggers who have had eureka moments and fine-tuned their promotional stuff, and have graciously shared their experiences on their own blogs or blogs they contribute to.

Which means I have a handy dandy list of stuff to do before March.

I feel like I did when I was trying to write back copy. Or a query. Or a logline. Namely, how the hell do I start?

Well, this Saturday (today!) I’ll be spending all day at the Deep Valley Book Festival manning the Sisters in Crime table, selling anthologies and taking memberships. And observing the process. I imagine I’ll have some time to work on my promo stuff; I’m going to prepare to take advantage of the time, anyway. And I’ll have the opportunity to see how other authors do things.

So, a short post today. Still plugging away on Book 2. And NaNo is approaching. One of my co-workers asked me if I was going to NaNo this year. I’d love to do NaNo, but the only way I’ll be able to is if I can finish the rough draft of Book 2. I’m 35k words in. If I can hit 50k (and/or finish the draft) by November 1, I’ll take on NaNo. I need to get back into the habit of writing 2k words every day, so I’m thinking NaNo would be a good idea.

And for those of you who popped in just because of the cat pics (yes, I know you, B 😀 !), here’s a couple more. It’s been unusually cool for us this time of year, so Zoey took advantage of my fuzzy lap blanket (which I use mostly for my feet). Or should I say furry lap blanket?


It’s her go-to spot when I’m working on my laptop (and my computer is taking up my lap). Then she gets upset when I have to get up to go to the bathroom. On the bright side, she is nice and warm 😀

Have a great weekend!

zoey1

See? My chair.

 


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We all can relate

I watched Jurassic World last night for the first time (yes, I know it’s been out for, like, three years, but I’m a little behind. I just saw Hidden Figures last week). It’s a good movie for those who like dinosaurs (me! me!), but as a storyteller, I noticed a few things that made me think of writing, plotting, etc. (Note: if you haven’t seen the movie, just sayin’ there will be spoilers.)


Yes, I know it’s one of those all-action, not much in the line of story-telling movies like so many these days. There was more character development in some of the Transfomers movies (yes, I like big, sentient robots too 😀 )

Anyway, that wasn’t what I noticed. The first thing I noticed is something that my writing teacher mentioned in our Master Novel class. A writer has to draw the reader in, and there has to be conflict of some sort. You know the classics: man v. man, man v. nature, man v. self, and man v. society. (I looked this up to verify my memory was working, and discovered now there is one more: man v. the supernatural. Well, I would consider that nature *shrug*)

The conflict is obvious: man v. big bad dinos juiced up by man’s incessant desire to tinker with Nature. How does the saying go? Don’t mess with Mother Nature, she’ll kick your ass. So what if they filled in some DNA gaps with other stuff? You know, like cuttlefish camoflauge DNA or frog DNA (in the first Jurassic Park, that’s what caused the problems in the first place, the spontaneous gender-switch some frogs (lizards too?) will do). What could possibly go wrong?

Character development is at a minimum. The only characters that seem to develop by the end are the main character Claire, who takes the typical “ignore family because of work” to the “family in danger, family is more important” route. The two boys, a teenaged brother and a somewhat younger brother, change from the sulky teen and smart-but-lacking-confidence middle-grader to a stronger, more confident pair who take care of each other.

Yawn.

Where was I? Oh yeah, conflict and drawing the reader in. The part that reminded me of my writing teacher is the drawing the reader in part. Once way to increase conflict and make the reader care more about what happens is to create a bond between characters, either between the one in danger and the hero/ine, or between the protagonist and the antagonist. They did that with this movie, as well as with the first one, Jurassic Park.

In Jurassic Park, the man who started the park, Hammond, invited his grandkids to see the park before it opens. Of course, the kids get into trouble when the dinos get loose, but there is a family tie, which automatically ramps up the tension. In Jurassic World, the woman managing the new park, Claire, is tasked to babysit her nephews while her sister and brother-in-law deal with marital issues. Once again, the kids get into trouble with the super-smart, bad-ass dino gets loose.

See a pattern? Tension is increased when the conflict involves a relative or loved one. Even the first Jack Reacher book had a family tie: Reacher’s brother is killed, and Reacher hunts for the culprit.

A reliable way to draw readers into the story is to use family ties of some sort, because everyone has experienced having a sibling or parent or significant other or favorite/hated relative. We care more about people we can relate to, which is why in my debut novel I include a family tie, where in the first draft I had none. It made a huge difference in how the reader cared about the main character.

The plot was pretty typical action movie stuff. Bad guy/dinosaur/robot/supernatural creature terrorizes hero/ine’s loved ones, good guy’s goal is to save loved ones and beat the bad guy, in spectacular, CGI-laden, heart-pounding, explosion-ridden, magic/mutant power-blasting style.

The other thing I noticed was the ending (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT). Granted, I didn’t sit down and watch the whole thing; I was making fresh salsa for my home-from-college-for-the-weekend daughter during the first 30 min of the movie, so I might have missed something, but when Claire released the kraken–er, wait, wrong film. When Claire released the T-Rex, I had to suspend my disbelief. It was the T-Rex from the original movie, but I don’t remember them mentioning the old T-Rex at all. I could rewatch the whole movie (or I could just rewatch the first half hour) to find out if they foreshadowed the T-Rex, but really? I mean, talk about deus ex machina.

Do not do that in your writing. Seriously. Totally blew the experience for me, because I was wracking my brain for anything about the old T-Rex from earlier in the movie. I might have to rewatch it anyway.

Repeat after me: No magic/unexpected solutions to finish off the bad guy. No pulling a rabbit out of a hat to beat the bad guy if you haven’t told readers about the killer rabbit earlier. Just. Don’t.

Today will be apple bread and chocolate chip cookie day. And little, if any, writing. Sigh.

Have a great weekend!


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Look! Cover Reveal! #amreading #paranormal #urbanfantasy

Hey, lookie here! Check this out–fellow blogger Marcia Meara is revealing her upcoming release. Also, make sure you visit Marcia on her blog, The Write Stuff, where you can find all Marcia’s other books and check out her posts.

COMING SOON!

They’re back!
Jake and Dodger are at it again,
accompanied by their boss, the archangel Azrael.

I am so excited, I can hardly stand it. Once again, Nicki Forde Graphics Design has come up with a cover that does exactly what I wanted it to do. It provides a great-looking image that clearly links the second novella in my Emissary series with the first one. And it does this by putting Jake’s big, red-and-white semi front and center, angel wings and all, but with a completely different background.

In The Emissary 2: To Love Somebody, Jake and Dodger travel both coasts of Florida, day and night, working their emissarial magic wherever they find souls in trouble. For me, the palm fronds over the truck, the ocean in the background, and the moon shining down are perfect.

I can’t give you an exact release date for The Emissary 2: To Love Somebody yet, as I still have a few more tiny odds and ends to finish up, including the blurb. But I’m 99.9% sure it will be available within a week or two, and I’ll have more to share with you then. In the meantime, what do you think?

My heartfelt thanks to all the wonderful bloggers who have helped me share my new cover with the Immediate World! It’s lovely to be part of such a supportive online community, and every single one of you is special to me. Thank you!

NOTE: This is not a stand-alone novella, so now’s a good time to grab the first one. You can read it in an evening and be all set for The Emissary 2. You’ll find The Emissary 1 on Amazon HERE.


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Mashup Marketing, Amazon, and a Muse–Guest Post by Staci Troilo #amreading #amwriting

Please welcome my guest today, Staci Troilo. Staci has just released the last book of her Medici Protectorate series (and I am so bummed, but there is the Nightforce Security guys, which is a spinoff written by Staci’s alter ego (well, one of them 😀 ) Kiera Beck). If you haven’t checked out the Medici series, you’re missing out.

And now, heeeere’s Staci!

Hi, Julie. Thanks for inviting me here today. I’ve been crazy busy writing guest posts for my latest release, Tortured Soul, the fourth and final installment of the Medici Protectorate series. As I was about to compose my piece for you, my muse interrupted me. I’m sure my original idea for a post would have been a good one, but I think you’ll like our conversation better. At the very least, you’ll get a kick out of this, since I have you to thank for introducing us.

muse

I’ve transcribed our chat for you:

“Ahem.”

I’d watched him come in the door. He’d risen at dawn and had been doing some form of martial arts in the yard for over an hour. Now he stood in the doorway, his broad, bare chest glistening with sweat. Dark hair, damp on the ends, curled at the nape of his neck. He sipped from my “This Might Be Wine” bottle, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he guzzled the water.

Had to be water. No one built like that drank wine after a workout. Certainly not Mr. Perfect. I had to admit, I might. Okay, I confess—my morning drinks of choice are coffee, mimosas, and Bloody Marys, in that order. Which isn’t really a problem, since I seldom workout in the morning. Nor am I built like a Roman deity. (I’m starting to see some uncomfortable correlations.)

Cara, you’re staring. Again.”

“Sorry.” My cheeks heated as I dragged my gaze up to his and forced myself to blink. And swallow. “Did you want something?”

“You’re supposed to be working.”

“A ha!” Is it bad that I feel perverse glee when he’s wrong about something? “I can’t write right now. I’m working on marketing materials and guest posts.”

“I didn’t say you’re supposed to be writing. I said you’re supposed to be working.”

And just like that, my glee evaporated. “I was. Until you interrupted.”

“If you were working, why were you staring out the window?”

Because my eyes were tired, my brain was mush, and I’d been admiring the view. At least until he came inside. “I was just thinking.”

“You’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.”

“You’ve been doing a lot of exercising lately.”

His lips quirked.

My face flamed hotter, and I looked away—back to my blank computer screen.

He pulled on a t-shirt then dropped onto the sofa beside me. Close. Really close.

I inhaled deeply. To my surprise, he smelled good. Like pine and sandalwood and something sultry and exotic I couldn’t name. Seriously? After an hour flailing about in the summer heat? I vented the breath with an audible sigh.

He touched my arm. “You always sound so tortured, cara.”

Wonder why. Shifting in my seat, I knocked his hand away. My skin tingled where it had been.

“So, tell me. When you’re not fantasizing—”

“I don’t fantasize. I ponder. Plan. Prepare.”

“And now you protest too much.”

Hamlet? Queen Gertrude? What, were you Shakespeare’s muse, too?”

His jaw ticked and his gaze heated, but he didn’t speak. Still, I thought I heard an answer in his silence.

Given the circumstances—given his qualifications—I should probably give the guy a little more respect than I had been.

“Anyway.” I cleared my throat. “Julie has talked to me about marketing and publishing. In some ways, it’s tough for writers who write mashups or multiple genres.”

“How so?”

He wasn’t challenging me. Rather, he seemed genuinely interested. Apparently the business side of writing was outside his area of expertise. Never would have guessed there was something he wasn’t good at.

I reached for my mimo—er, my coffee—and nestled into the corner of the couch. “Well, if you’re going to be a multi-genre author, you’ve got some decisions to make. Are you going to try to maintain only one identity and segment your mailing list? Or are you going to write under multiple pen names, having one identity per genre? There are pros and cons to each.”

“And you chose to use multiple pen names?”

“Only recently. But that’s because of a policy at work.” He knows all about my job at a publishing company and the requirements that came along with it. He doesn’t know what the company is doing for me, though. “The marketing director there is helping me manage these different personas, and we’ve developed names and identities for each imprint that works for the genres I write in. Before that, I wrote only as ‘me’ and tried to target different segments of readers when I released different types of novels. And I was mostly on my own with marketing.”

“Either way sounds exhausting.”

“You have no idea.”

He took another drink. “Is there a way to make things easier?”

“Marketing takes time no matter what kind of author you are. Single- or multi-genre. One identity or many. Unless you have someone doing it for you, it’s not easy. But one of the easiest ways to target the right readers is to categorize your book correctly.”

Cara, correct me if I’m wrong, but you aren’t self-published. You don’t have control over your books’ categories.”

“That’s true of most of my books. But not all. I have a few self-published titles. I learned through trial and error on those. Lately, I’ve been asking questions and watching what my publishers chose for me. Watching what the top authors in my genres are doing.”

He leaned back against the cushions, and I got another whiff of him. It was more than a little distracting, so I sat up straight then bent over my laptop.

“What are you doing?”

“Pulling up Amazon’s site. I wanted to show you a few things. For starters, look at this. All these authors have multiple categories listed.”

“That makes sense.”

“Yeah, but you’re only able to add two categories and seven keywords when you upload on KDP.”

“So how did they get other categories?”

three categories

“You have to request it. Email the helpdesk in KDP with the exact path you want, and they’ll adjust it for you. You have to have the exact words, though. And don’t just rely on their options. If you look at your competitors, you can see paths you want that Amazon doesn’t offer. Copy them and ask KDP for them. That’s how you get the categories Amazon doesn’t organically offer. You have to be exact and specific.”

“But how do you know which categories to select?”

“Look at this.” I pulled up the categories for Hideaway by Keira Beck—one of my pen names. “See how ‘New Adult’ is one of them?”

Hideaway Amazon Ranking

“I’m not blind, cara.”

Yeah, neither was I. That was part of the problem. I turned back to the screen. “That’s definitely not a book about college-aged people, which is what NA was originally defined as. So I asked my publisher about it. They said the category has morphed to mean ‘includes unmarried sexual partners’ and has nothing to do with an age group. Other than the characters aren’t teenagers. If you want to place your book in the proper categories, you need to ask questions of people who might know more than you.”

“I see.”

“Another thing is to make sure you go as deep down into the categories as possible. The more specialized and specific you can get, the better chance you have at finding your targeted readers.”

“Makes sense.”

“And of course, you need to look at what comparable authors are listing their works as. Keeping an eye on them and what they’re doing helps you stay on top of your game.”

“You sure do a lot of looking at other things.” He tipped the bottle up and drained it dry. Never took his gaze off me, though.

I drained my own drink then scampered into the kitchen for a refill. It was really warm in the house.

“I think I’m going to shower then head to One Ugly Mug to watch the game.”

My mind kind of blanked at shower.

As he walked past me, he leaned down and whispered in my ear. “Don’t dawdle, cara. You’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Truer words never spoken.

So, as you can see, my newly-acquired muse has made himself at home. And we’re learning from each other—learning some really interesting things.

It’s hard to pick categories for books. I noticed my publisher chose different categories for my eBook than for my paperback and hardcover. Probably trying to maximize exposure. At the end of the day, I stand by the four rules mentioned above.

  1. Ask questions when you don’t understand.
  2. Request multiple keyword streams from Amazon, particularly ones they don’t offer that you can copy from other authors.
  3. The more specific and specialized the categories are, the better chance you have at finding your ideal readers.
  4. Always stay apprised of what comparable authors are doing.

Do those things, and you’ve won half the battle. Properly positioning yourself will entice Amazon to put their vast promotional machine behind you.

The other half requires developing relationships with your readers. Somehow I think my muse knows a lot about that particular subject. But I don’t have time to have that discussion today. I have promotional materials to write.

TS cover

Blurb:

Protection is safety. Until it stifles.

After months of clandestine battles, the Brothers of the Medici Protectorate finally know who is responsible for the assassination attempts on the Notaro family, the secret descendants of the Medici line. And they’ve never faced such a formidable foe.

Roberto Cozza–Coz–faces this new reality with surprising pragmatism. His powers may make the difference in winning their covert war–if only he can master them in time. It would just be so much easier if he could get his emotions under control, but neither his Brothers nor their charges are making things easy on him.

Toni Notaro appreciates the security provided by the Brothers, but she knows she has her own role to play–and it terrifies her. She is the missing link in Coz mastering his emerging abilities, yet she struggles to bridge the gap between what he needs and what she can offer.

As the Brotherhood hurtles inexorably toward the climactic final showdown, Coz and Toni must find the strength within themselves and each other to master the secrets of his powers, or risk death and defeat for all they hold dear.

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Author Bio and Links:

Troilo Color Photo RT smaller

Staci Troilo writes because she has hundreds of stories in her head. She publishes because people told her she should share them. She’s a multi-genre author whose love for writing is only surpassed by her love for family and friends, and that relationship-centric focus is featured in her work.

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