Fall has arrived in the Midwest with a whoosh and a shiver. Every front porch has a bale of hay and some Indian corn to “Welcome” guests. Brightly colored Mums line sidewalks and driveways. There’s a pumpkin patch on every corner & tractors toting families around fields late into the night. It’s bonfire time. Hot apple cider time. Gaining seven pounds on “Fun sized” candy time. Hello, Autumn you seductive little minx. I love you, and my cardigan will cover what Kit Kat has done.
I’ve added another layer of crazy to my general insanity routine this year. I am a room mother. *She says proudly* I have earned my beige minivan. It’s official. But wait…there’s more as they say. I have TWO kids in grade school. So, I’m two-two-two room mothers in ONE. Double bonus perk of kookypants proportion. Add this to the fact I can’t do anything halfway and you get me in pajamas more than half the day while I work on crafts that are utterly unnecessary.
Room mother sounds all warm and fuzzy but there are rules. Unspoken, sliding eyes rules. I don’t know them. (AKA choose to ignore them)I get the eyes a lot. But, hey, I’m all-in and I’m a pretty quick study. So, my first job as room mother was to bring pumpkin rolls to the teacher’s lounge by 10am last week. Ha! I brought TWO pumpkin rolls AND a display of chocolate covered pretzels AND I was there by NINE because I drove the kids to school that day *breathes on knuckles*. I killed it. *fist pump* *Tebows*
Next up: I am assigned to both kids’ classrooms for the Fall Festival Party thingy. I am to bring plates for both classes, plus napkins & baggies to one and a craft to the other. I’ve yet to figure how I’m going to divide myself in half and attend both parties, but I’ll get that sorted later. First up, I bought the standard Halloween print plates. When I got home, I was sad at their desperate need of tszuj. So, I made a few adjustments. (Read: tossed those out and started over). Now the plates I will bring look like those up there in the top corner. I did that. Me & my hot glue gun plus a costly trip to the local craft store. #Winning. I should never go there without supervision. My 4 year old didn’t help. She and I both wanted everything.
Next up: That craft assignment of mine. Yeah, I can’t find a craft that 4th graders will want to do or haven’t done already in their five long years of school (seven if they went to pre-school). So, I found this awesome game on Marth Stewart’s website. It involves balloon popping, so I emailed the teacher to see if that was allowed….in case some kid was afraid of the sound or of balloons (I had a friend who had a horrible fear of balloons. Imagine the fun I had with her at every opportunity. What a stupid fear. I mean, she should save that energy for stuff that can kill you, like monkeys, but whatever). OR if they thought stabbing balloons was too violent or whatever. Teacher says it’s fine. Teacher is lovely.
BUT I was assigned to “Crafts” and this looks a lot like a “Game” and there’s already a mom doing “Games.”
*Taps toe.* *Chews nail*
Here’s the thing. I really like the Martha Stewart deal. So, Ima do it. I know. I know. But I really wanna and, hey, I’m a volunteer and also what kid has ever complained they had to play too many games at their school party? Whatever. There will be pictures to come because – of course – I have a lot of work to put the thing together. Did I mention I found it on Martha Stewart? I am no Martha, so I gotta go get started
How Blogging Got Me Out of the Slush Pile
By Nina Amir
For years—as in a lot of years—I tried to land a traditional book publishing deal. No luck. Not that I didn’t get great feedback on my ideas, writing, book titles, and book proposals. I did. Every bit of positive feedback, however, came with that dreaded word: But.
But…you don’t have an author platform.
What’s an author platform? It’s everything and anything you do to get people to know you and like you so that when you do finally release a book (traditionally or independently) these people run out and buy it. In other words, it’s how many potential readers you’ve lined up. Or, put it this way: It’s how many fans you have.
Without an author platform, agents wouldn’t take me on and publishers wouldn’t publish my books.
You can build a platform in many ways; most don’t involve writing. I wanted to write, so I started blogging.
At first I had just one blog. Then I started another…and another…and another. Before I knew it I had five blogs.
Around the time when I had two or three blogs, I landed my first contract with a literary agent. This major event in my writing life occurred because I could prove I had at least some semblance of an author platform in the form of blog readership. That blog readership had extended out to my social networks as well, where my fan base was growing.
Representation by a literary agent meant my book proposals would move out of the dreaded slush pile on acquisitions editors’ desks at publishing houses. The slush pile is where query letters and book proposals languish when the agent or acquisitions editor has no idea who you are or why they should pay any special attention to your work. Now, when my agent sent my work to an editor, it got serious attention much more quickly. By the time I had all five blogs, I landed a contract with a traditional publisher. (I might note that by this time I’d also had contracts with two other agents.)
I’m not advocating that you have more than one blog. I am, however, advocating that if you are a serious aspiring author or a published author seeking an agent or a publisher that you become a blogger. A blog is the easiest and quickest way to build an author platform. Not only can you build a fan base around your awesome writing—your blog posts, you also can share that writing via your social networks. That means you will gain more fans and followers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and even Pinterest (if you use photos in your blog posts). As your blog gains readers, all your social networks will grow, too. Before you know it, you will have a platform.
Here are six tips for growing your blog platform:
- Post 2-5 times per week when you first begin blogging.
- Keep up this pace for 6-12 months (then you can slack off).
- Keep your posts short to make blogging easy and quick (250-500 words per post).
- Share all your posts with your social networks in your status updates.
- Share the posts of other bloggers who write on similar topics.
- Follow other bloggers on social networks who blog on similar topics.
Once you have an author platform you will not hear that dreaded word—but—from agents again. That means you move out of the slush pile for good.
How to Blog a Book by Nina Amir
Here is the first-ever guide to writing and publishing a saleable nonfiction book based on blog content. Written by expert author and blogger Nina Amir, this comprehensive resource guides you through the process of developing targeted blog content that will increase your chances of publication and maximize your visibility as an author. Whether you’re a seasoned blogger or have never blogged before, How to Blog a Book offers a new way to regularly produce content without the pressure of having to “work on a book.”
About the Author
Nina Amir, Inspiration-to-Creation Coach, inspires people to combine their purpose and passion so they Achieve More InspiredResults. She motivates both writers and non-writers to create publishable and published products, careers as authors and to achieve their goals and fulfill their purpose. Nina is the author of the bestselling How to Blog a Book, Write, Publish and Promote Your Work One Post at a Time (Writer’s Digest Books). You can sign up for a free author, book or blog-to-book coaching session with Nina or receive her FREE 5-Day Published Author Training Series by visiting www.copywrightcommunications.com. For more information on Nina, go to www.ninaamir.com.
Just Thought You Should Know:
How to Blog a Book is the first of its kind! Don’t miss out on the first book to outline how to use blogging to develop your book project.
What’s a girl to do when the World Mystery Convention hits a town near her? Uh, get a sitter, grab a Hubsy and run I say! Until this year, I’d never heard of Bouchercon. It’s the World Mystery Convention traveling to a new location each year. Bouchercon had never visited Ohio in all its decades of traveling. This year, it hit Cleveland. Only an hour from me, I had to go. I’m so glad I did.
While I read the occasional girlie style cozy and never miss a Stephanie Plum book, I’m definitely a YA reader — if you wanted to slap a label on me. So, I missed out on some of the awe other crime lovers had at the sight of their favorite authors signing and distributing their ARCs for FREE. I still got in line, of course, I mean, they might be MY new favorite author. So, my stack of books is fabulous. I am a happy girl.
I met so many amazing authors including Avery Aames, author of the Cheese Shop Mystery Series. I won her raffle basket and LOTS of great stuff inside. I also met Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse books and brain behind the True Blood series. It took me a while to get up the nerve to approach her…but I did! I was also on a panel discussion with several authors of well-known crime novels. I learned enough to make my head explode, or at lease try my hand at a cozy.
We kicked off the event on Thursday night with a ride on Lolly the Trolley to the Rock and ROll Hall of Fame, courtesy of Thomas & Mercer. It was an exclusive event, the Rock Hall was rented out just for us and hey, the first drink was free. *happy face* I saw Janis Joplin’s Porsche and the teacher from Another Brick in the Wall. It was very very cool.
We stayed at the Cleveland Renaissance and I ate like a writer. Panels began at nine sharp, but I slept until then, walked to a Starbucks and hit the Tower City food court for a lovely breakfast of Japanese and Diet Coke around 10:30 followed by more pop and coffee and cookies as lunch then Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. I’m so healthy. I stayed up late finished a new YA novel, Pushing the Limits which was major intense, and hung with Hubsy every minute I could. It’s not often I see that guy without our three sidekicks wanting something. Who would’ve thought, the “Crime Rocks!” Convention would be such a romantic getaway?
LOL Now, I shall leave you with this: If you are a reader or writer with a chance to go meet authors, get free books, hone your craft, whatever. GO. Make it happen at least once. I met the absolute most amazing people. Many couples just like me and Hubsy, enjoying a few days away from things. I swapped emails and twitter handles and have no doubt made many friends who will last a lifetime. Books are like that, they draw us Word Nerds together. So, go, and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the people in the elevator. Ask where they’re from. Chances are they’re just as overwhelmed as you and in a crowd of a couple thousand, a friendly face an make such a difference. I’m going to leave you with a few more pictures…
I’m stoked to introduce you to two of my favorite girls ever. Like. Ever-ever. I met them on twitter. Seriously people, Get. On. Twitter. Their fun apporach to writing, zombies, all things awesome had me captivated ages ago and I still stalk their twitter feed and Facebook pages. If they didn’t live allllllll the way across the pond, I’d run over and tackle hug them. They’re fresh and real and zany….oh boy, there I go on a tangent. *clears throat* I’ll let you see for yourself. Here they are!!!
We’re very excited to be here on Julie’s blog. Her tweets always make us laugh, especially her disasters. So we thought we’d share some disasters of our own. And to tie in with our novel, in which fire plays a big part, our calamities involve fire.
We won’t list everything we’ve accidentally set on fire, because we could be here a while, but there a few memorable incidents. The first one involves our Dyson vacuum cleaner. It turns out, using it to suck up plaster dust and small chunks of cement are a big no-no. It was fine when we were using it, but the next time we came to use it, it became possessed by a fire demon or a dragon. Well, that’s what we think happened. Because it made a guttural sound then flames shot out the back. Sorry James Dyson, but your claims of no loss of suction were disproved. It was many years before we could face buying another Dyson.
There’s also one incident we’ve never lived down. The cooker. We love making shortbread biscuits and make them quite often. But there’s always one thing we forget to do – take out the grill when heating up the oven. On this one day, this lapse was to be our downfall. We’d put the oven on then realised we hadn’t cleaned the kitchen. By the time we finished this then started making the shortbread, the grill with roast potato fat had been cooking for quite a while.
We turned around to open the door and WHOOSH! Flames shot up through the hob. Did we panic and throw water over it? Luckily no. Did we ring the fire brigade? It didn’t cross our minds. We rang our uncle, who lives six doors down from us. It was a few years ago, so we can’t remember the exact wording of the phonecall, but it was something like this:
Us – “Um, our cooker’s on fire.”
J – “What do you mean your cooker’s on fire? How bad is it?”
Us – “Well there are flames coming up through the hob. We think it’s the grill.”
J – “Have you taken the grill out?”
Us – “No.”
J – “Bloody idiots! Take the grill outside! Before the whole house burns down.”
We took the grill out and the house was saved. In our kitchen at the time, the ceiling tiles were polystyrene so had the flames got bigger (they were about a foot or two high) the kitchen would’ve copped it. The cooker was a little charred, but it survived. Now, you’d think this would’ve taught us a lesson. It didn’t. The next time we baked shortbread, we left the grill in again. It caught fire again.
After this, the cooker was declared beyond saving and when our mum had a new kitchen, she bought a new cooker. Strangely, she opted for another electric one, rather than a gas one. Can’t think why…
Oh. And sometimes we still leave the grill in.
But our worst offence also accompanies one of our proudest achievements. Four years ago, the cylinder head gasket on our yellow Renault 4, Reapers, gave up the ghost. Our garage were reluctant to touch it. If something breaks in our house, we work on the theory ‘it’s broken anyway, what’s the worst we could do?’ So with a Haynes manual and a substandard took kit, we set about replacing the head gasket.
We did it. Then broke some bolts off in the water pump and had to take the whole thing apart again. We got a new gasket and replaced it quicker than we had the first time. The great moment arrived when it was time to start the engine. Our mum sprayed a good amount of carb cleaner into the carburettor and we turned the key.
But instead of bursting into life, Reapers burst into flames.
It wasn’t exactly a spectacular spectacle – the flames were only about 6 inches high. We did the first thing we could think of and ran for the house. Our mum shouted “where are you going? The extinguisher’s in the car.” Us – “we’re getting the camera.” Mum – “forget the camera! Get the extinguisher!”
We don’t know how many of you have seen the episode of Fawlty Towers where the kitchen’s on fire and Basil’s reading the instructions on the extinguisher. Well, that was us. In our rush, we misread ‘point at base of fire’ as ‘point base at fire’. So we pointed the bottom of the extinguisher at the flames and pulled the trigger. Whoosh! Blue powder everywhere! It was like a mushroom cloud. Coughing furiously, we realised our mistake and pointed the correct bit at the flames. Reapers was saved and we dashed into the back garden to breathe.
It turns out, we forgot to connect the fuel pipe to the carburettor. That and a combination of carb cleaner and a short in the starter motor wire, led to the great Renault fire of 2008.
So we don’t have any photos of Reapers on fire. But we do have pictures of him covered in blue powder. In case you’re wondering, yes, Reapers survived and we still use him to this day. His engine bay’s rustier than it used to be and his carb’s never been the same since, but he lives to fight another day.
So these are just a few things we’ve actually sent up in flames. There have also been many close calls. At least we know if the writing doesn’t pan out, we have a great career in arson ahead of us.
Soul Asylum by CL Raven
The blood wanted to prick a conscience that couldn’t bleed.
Poe could keep his telltale heart.
I couldn’t hear it beating.
Ravens Retreat harbours a sinister secret. Inside its blackened heart lurk the ghosts of patients and staff who died when the asylum was burned down in 1904. Over a hundred years later, the West wing survives and now the patients want revenge.
Their eternal repose is disturbed by a malevolent poltergeist and the ghost tours led by the asylum’s resident, Phineas Soul, which attract the attention of journalist Mason Strider. His attempts to expose Phineas as a fraud have catastrophic consequences when it is Ravens Retreat’s dark heart that’s exposed as it awakens to claim the lives of those who dare to enter its brutal past.
Some things should never be disturbed.
About the authors:
C L Raven are identical twins from Cardiff, Wales. Their work has featured in 8 Hours Anthology, published by Legend Press; August 2010 issue of Writing Magazine (winning ghost story); The Pages Anthologies; issues 50 and 52 of Dark Fire Fiction and issue 6 of Dark Moon Digest. When they’re not spending their days looking after their animal army, they’re exploring castles, ghost hunting in spooky locations and drinking more Red Bull than the recommended government guidelines. Along with Ryan Ashcroft, they make up the ghost hunting trio, Cardiff’s Answer to Supernatural and have their own show on YouTube – Calamityville Horror.
Find them online:
Raven’s Retreat Blog
Soul Asylum on Facebook
Raven’s Retreat YouTube Chanel
Other Books by CL Raven:
Gunning Down Romance
I’m thrilled to have Aubrie Dionne back on Musings today. She’s an agency sister of mine and absolutely delightful. Her writing career is off and running. I’m honored to be a part of her new blog tour for Haven 6. I love YA and SF is fast becoming an obsession, so this is an exciting fit for me. Aubrie has a fantastic giveaway planned. Use the rafflecopter to participate. And enjoy getting to know this lovely lady. Here she is talking about her experience reading the slushpile!
What I’ve Learned from Reading the Slushpile
Hi Julie! Thank you so much for having me today on your blog!
Julie and I have the same awesome agent, and today I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned from reading the queries in her slushpile. I took on the job to see what’s out there, and also to be a better writer myself. Boy, has it taught me a lot.
1. Don’t start your story with telling.
“Once there was a little boy who caught a frog in a pond.” This is passive and boring. Start with. “Jacob reached into the murky water and wiggled his fingers around hoping for a prize…” It already gets my attention better because I’m wondering what he’s looking for, so I keep reading.
I label every story that starts with telling as “Telling” then reject. I don’t even get through the first chapter. Especially if there’s a lot of telling and no dialog or action.
2. Stay away from generalities. Make your query specific.
Too many queries are so alike, they all blend together. There’s the YA story about a girl with superpowers that goes to a special school. Or a girl that falls in love with a boy, but he’s a vampire. If you’re going to write a cliché, show me in the query how it’s different than all the other. Show me that you’re playing off the cliché.
3. Long winded queries, or very big paragraphs in your first chapter make my eyes glaze over.
Punctuate your writing with varying paragraph lengths, and when in doubt, keep it short. Or else, when I have to read through 50 of them, I lose interest very quickly. Don’t beat around the bush in your query. Come out and state what’s going on as clearly as you can.
Thanks for letting me ramble about queries, Julie!
Haven 6 by Aubrie Dionne
A product of an illegal pairing, Eridani is the only woman without a lifemate aboard the colonization ship, the Heritage, and she is determined her less than perfect DNA will not get in the way of finding love. As the ship nears it’s final destination of Haven 6 after five hundred years of travel, images of the surface show evidence of intelligent life on a planet that’s supposed to be uninhabited. Commander Grier assigns Eri to the exploratory team to spy on the alien society and return with information on how to defeat them.
When Eri’s team lands, tribes of humans attack and Eri is saved by Striver, the descendant of a colonist and a pirate from Old Earth’s colonization efforts in other parts of the galaxy. Striver helps Eri rescue her team and they are drawn to each other despite their different allegiances. While Striver battles with trusting Eri, Eri must decide whether to warn him and his people about the commander’s intentions, or follow orders and complete her mission.
Aubrie grew up watching the original Star Wars movies over and over again until she could recite and reenact every single scene in her backyard. She also loved The Goonies, Star Trek the Next Generation-favorite character was Data by far-, and Indiana Jones. But, her all time favorite movie was The Last Unicorn. She still wonders why the unicorn decided to change back to a unicorn in the end.
Aubrie wrote in her junior high yearbook that she wanted to be “A concert flutist” when she grew up. When she made that happen, she decided one career was not enough and embarked as a fantasy, sci fi author. Two careers seems to keep her busy. For now.
Find Aubrie Online:
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