Happy July 4th!

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Repeat after me:
At this moment, there is no tomorrow.
At this moment, there is no yesterday.
At this moment, there is only today.
(Now breathe. Just breathe.)

This has been your moment of zen with Trisha & her Mister.

If your holiday is half as wonderful as ours, it must be spectacular. Enjoy!

Join the #WriteChain Challenge – Get Stuff Done

Click here for the Write Chain App

Click here to learn about the Write Chain App

I’ve been busy plotting and planning and re-plotting that same paranormal mystery/ghost novel I’ve mentioned here…oh, a FEW times. Wow. I never knew how wonderfully creative and energizing it can be to plan out an entire novel from first to final scene. I might even go so far as to call it hypnotic. However, there comes a time in every author’s process when you’ve got to dive in and type your way through that awful first draft. At least, that’s what I’ve been telling myself for the past week. Then, instead of actually writing, I circle around my MacBook waiting for the keyboard to emit magical, magnetic writerly waves that will attract my lazy fingers to start typing.

Yeah…that’s not working so well. Once again, I find myself in need of motivation with a swift kick of accountability built in. Luckily, I discovered this lovely website called Writerology where someone named Skye recently posted a Write Chain Challenge. I’ve had the Write Chain app on my iPhone for…hmmmm roughly 4 months now. I just have never actually ever used the thing. Well this challenge will get me using the app.

It’s a simple strategy:

  1. Come up with a daily writing goal. My goal is 500 words of fiction or blogging per day. Note: That may not sound terribly ambitious goal but I need a goal I can stick to on a BAD writing day.
  2. Tell the world about your goal on multiple social media platforms. (Check)
  3. Write and meet your goal every single day to earn links in a chain. 1 day at or above goal = 1 link.
  4. Track your daily progress on the Write Chain App if you have an iPhone…or there’s another option for you nutty Android users
  5. Post on Twitter to brag about meeting your goal, how many links you have earned, etc.
  6. Most important part! Miss your goal even one day, your chain goes back to 0 links. All of the links disappear. (On the bright side, all those words you’ve written are still yours to keep, edit, polish & submit).
  7. Start the chain all over again…or give up and find a Book Coach with a loaded gun.

So…in case you have not guessed, I’m posting this here for two reasons:

  1. Any writerly friends out there having trouble meeting your writing goals? Want to join me? Go here and sign up. It’s free…and it could be fun. We could Tweet trash talk to each other. Brag, cheer and heckle each other. Come on, you know you want to just do it. Join me and together we can rule the galaxy…or just finish our projects faster.
  2. This post counts as 450 words toward my daily writing goal. Boom!

Writing Weird – Tarot & The Hermit

TarotThere’s a deck of tarot cards near my writing desk at all times. It’s not the usual sort of deck, like the one pictured above (which always makes me think of Jane Seymour as Solitaire in Live and Let Die). My tarot is the Voyager Tarot. It’s a beautiful deck of photo-collage art with images from many cultures and religions.

I don’t keep it here to give readings (though it has made a few appearances at social gatherings with a select group of intimate friends). It’s not here to guide my love life or any financial decisions. I use it to help me write fiction.

Aside from my MacBook, notebooks and pencils, I believe this tarot deck is the most useful tool in my writer’s toolbox. It helps me build multidimensional characters with complex motives and desires. It’s a wonderful tool to play with plot structure and character arc. I have a few other oracle-type decks with some gorgeous artwork, but it is always my well-worn Voyager cards that help me sort out my worst plot problems and/or reignite my relationship with my characters.

To do this, I don’t shuffle and lay out the cards randomly hoping the universe will send a message about my current project. I tend to look through the whole deck, pulling the cards with images that seem to apply to the particular character or plot issue I’m working to resolve. Then I’ll arrange and re-arrange my selections into patterns until something clicks. And something usually clicks pretty quickly.

One Google search for “writer’s tarot” proves that I am not the only author who does this. There’s even a book called Tarot for Writers and Beth Barany has created a Writer’s Tarot Deck. That said, there are probably plenty of people who would think I’m twisted and weird for plotting books with tarot…and maybe they are right.

Speaking of weird…I told you all of the above so I could tell you this next thing.

Sometimes the tarot deck does freaky things. For example, last month the same card kept “jumping” out of the deck over and over. When I pulled the deck out of a desk drawer, the card fell on the floor. Later, while shuffling and sorting through the deck, the same card fell into my lap. It wasn’t one of my favorite images and it didn’t seem to have any relevance to my plotting questions, so I stuck it back into the middle of the deck and set everything aside. Thirty minutes later, Zoey jumped up on my writing desk to make a nuisance of herself while I was trying to write. Frustrated that I refused to quit typing to pet her properly, she deliberately shoved about 1/3 of the tarot deck off my desk. All of the cards landed face down except for one…yep, it was the same *bleep*ing card staring up at me.

The Hermit…

Hermit Type Photo

The Hermit – soul-searching, introspection, inner guidance

Which always makes me think about a certain “strange old hermit” who lived out beyond the Dune Sea (a.k.a Obi-Wan Kenobi). In the traditional tarot images, The Hermit could very well be a mystical Jedi Master…or a wizard…or a monk. It is one of the few traditional tarot images that I prefer over the Voyager version. So I took the time to research the card online.

Now I won’t get into all of the mystical, magical interpretations for this major arcana tarot card (because, honestly, I don’t remember most of what I read). The gist of The Hermit’s message is all about “going into the cave” to meditate, reflect and re-energize. At the time this card kept presenting itself to me, I was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. The details are unimportant, but I needed to unplug. And it felt like this silly little card with its three appearances in one day was giving me permission to do just that.

So I unplugged from just about everything that wasn’t absolutely essential for one month. And it felt soooooooooooo good!

Here’s the thing. This “going into the cave” routine is another important writer’s tool. For me, it is even more essential than the MacBook or notebooks or writing utensils. I know that all of the marketing wisdom is dead set against this hermit-like behavior. Oh well. Sometimes it is a mental health necessity.

During my month of unplugging we finished moving into our new house and I set up a new writing room. I created a 5 x 4 foot chalkboard (more on that another day), read lots of books, took some online writing tutorials and worked on Snowflake Plotting. Now my writerly batteries feel recharged and ready to go.

What do you do to recharge your batteries?

photo credits: ukslim via photopin cc & h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Dahlonega Library Book Signing Event Tomorrow (5/17)

Stormtrooper Loves Libraries

WHAT?    Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away Book Signing Event
WHERE? Lumpkin County Library
WHEN?   Saturday 5/17/14 – 11:30 am – 1:30 pm
WHY?      Because I’m giving away free Millennium Falcon soaps to anyone who buys my book…and to anyone who bought my book or eBook in the past…and to anyone who can beat me at a Star Wars trivia duel.

Note: The library is also hosting “Touch-A-Truck Family Day” and a Genealogy Workshop on Saturday around the same time, so there’s something for everyone at the Library tomorrow.

Also….(drumroll, please) it’s the Mountain Flower Art Festival in Dahlonega this weekend. So it’s a great weekend for non-locals to visit Dahlonega (and a great excuse for Locals to get away from the traffic on the square to visit the library).Stormtrooper in Libraryphoto credits: ALA – The American Library Association via photopin cc & Clearwater Public Library System Photos via photopin cc

May the 4th Be With You – eBook Promotion

2Troopers_This is the fangirl novel you're looking for_CropThe great and wise Jedi Masters over at Deeds Publishing have slashed the eBook price for Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away by 70% for the first 4 days of May to celebrate Star Wars Day. The temporary low price of $2.99 is currently available in all 3 of the major eBook formats:

But act quickly. The price is going back up on Monday May 5.

And speaking of the merry, merry month of May…it is shaping up to be a great and glorious month for Star Wars fangirling. The community is still buzzing over the Star Wars: Episode VII cast announcement on April 29th. Look at this picture:

star-wars-episode-7-cast-announce*SIGH* If this picture makes you go “SQEEE!” like a tween unwrapping her first iPhone, you just might be a true, original, lifelong, R2-D2 Underoos-wearing Star Wars fanatic. (Ummm…but could someone please get Artoo out of the crate?)

Today is 5/01st Legion Day to celebrate The World’s Definitive Imperial Costuming Organization, especially their charity work. (Check out @501stLegion & #BadGuysDoingGood on Twitter to learn more). As previously mentioned, May the 4th is Star Wars Day. And, lest we forget, May 25th will be the 37th anniversary for the 1977 theatrical release of the first Star Wars movie.

Woo hoo! The Twitterverse and Pinterest are exploding with fabulous, fun, time-sucking Star Wars content. And I’m going to let myself wallow in it for 4 days. Then back to my previously scheduled writing goals. 

Note: If you see a particularly amusing #StarWars, #StarWarsDay, &/or #Maythe4thBeWithYou item that you want to share, please Tweet it to @SlaytheWriter, post the link in the comments below or post it to my Facebook. I am on all Star Wars all the time mode until Cinco De Mayo.

Book Review: Avoid Social Media Time Suck by Frances Caballo

Today, I’m hosting a blog tour stop for this fabulous little writer’s resource:Social-Media-Time-Suck-Final-for-WritersI was very excited to learn about this new book by Frances Caballo. The subtitle – A Blueprint for Writers to Create Online Buzz for their Books and Still Have Time to Write – is such a bright and glorious promise that I could not wait to learn the secrets written in its pages.

My Review:

You can’t just read this book, you have to USE it. So I’m going to write a two-part review:

Part One – Reading the Book

This book is a quick read, especially considering the fact that it is jam-packed with information and resources. The writing is clear, concise and action oriented. And when I say action oriented, what I mean to say is that I kept wanting to set aside the book to jump online and start using the strategies and tips being described immediately. The lists of resources – websites, social media management services, software and apps – might seem a bit daunting if you plan on reading and considering each one. I chose to skim over those sections bookmarking one or two on each list that interested me the most. (I can always go back to reread and rethink my selections.)

Speaking of skimming, if I had not agreed to write this review, I might have skipped over the first chapter – Why Social Media Is Integral to a Writer’s Marketing Platform. I mean, I know this. That’s why I’m reading the book, right? Well, actually, it would have been a HUGE mistake to skip this chapter. It’s not just the normal call to introverted writers to get over your fears of social media and start building a platform. No, actually Frances includes a detailed discussion of the user demographics on the most popular social media sites. Why do I need to know that? Because it helps me TARGET my social media efforts. It tells a writer where to find his or her target audience. I quickly figured out that there’s no need to worry about getting up and running on Google+ yet. My readers are not there. However, they are also not big on Facebook…um, what? Ouch. It turns out my readers are on Twitter & Tumblr. GULP. Guess who had been ignoring both? Yep, this chapter schooled me. It was time to change and expand my social media presence. Luckily, I had this book to help me get up and running quickly and (relatively) painlessly.

This book is constantly open to Chapter 2 on my desktop. The entire book is wonderful and I learned something new in each chapter. That said, if you put my hands to the fire, I would have to say Chapter 2 – The Four Step Cure to Social Media “Time Suck” – is worth the cost of the entire book…it’s actually worth more than the cost of the book. It gives you such a clear and easy to follow plan that, as the Geico ads say, “Even a caveman can do it.” (See Part Two.)

Now seriously, don’t just read the first two chapters. Every single chapter is full of valuable information. Read the whole thing. Consider it an investment in your writing career.

And, if you read the entire book, you’ll probably be hungry for more. I was. That’s why I follow Frances Caballo on Twitter.

Part Two – Using the Book

As mentioned above, Chapter 2 provides a simple, straightforward plan to build (or, in my case, redesign) an author platform on social media. As an experiment, I tried to follow the social media strategies in the book for two weeks to find out if the plan was feasible. (Note: Two weeks is not enough time to determine if the plan was successful in improving my social media reach. I simply wanted to know if I could manage the daily activities in 15 – 30 minutes per day.)

I followed the basic posting schedule for Twitter, Facebook & Pinterest. Prior to reading this book I was “guilty as charged” of sending broadcast messages on Twitter and Facebook instead of sharing content and having conversations, so I also set up an Alltop.com account to find better content.

Time Suckage Alert – I spent an hour or two to set up my Alltop page. It follows the topics that will interest my audience…but those topics also interest ME. So it is perilously easy for me to get stuck reading all of the fabulous content and, thus, waste valuable writing time!

After test driving both TweetDeck and the free version of HootSuite, I chose HootSuite as my main control panel for posting to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (though I have not really been taking full advantage of LinkedIn as yet). Just fifteen minutes in the morning and I am able to schedule posts for the entire day. Then I spend 10-15 minutes checking in with my “Tweeps” in the evening and posting to Pinterest. And voila! I’ve accomplished my social media marketing for the day.

After years of puzzlement over why Twitter is so popular, I finally get it. It is fun!

Example: After exchanging Tweets with a fellow geek girl and Star Wars fan about her fabulous Han Solo leggings, the online retailer jumped in to let me know the discontinued item will be available again in May. Oh happy day!

Are any of these conversations helping me sell my books? I don’t know. But I do know that this is a painless, reasonable and feasible plan to increase my presence on social media. The next phase of my plan is to track my analytics and adjust my strategy, (See Chapter 6). Oh, and I need to figure out Tumblr.

In conclusion:  I highly recommend this book for published authors who want to improve their social media marketing strategy and for newbie writers working toward publication. It’s never too early or too late to get your author platform in order.

You can win a FREE copy of this fantastic resource book. Frances is hosting a giveaway on Goodreads. Click here to enter. (But act quickly. The contest ends on April 30.)

Paperback: 136 pages
Publisher: ACT Communications; First edition (January 15, 2014)
ISBN-10: 0985559225
ISBN-13: 978-0985559229

Avoid Social Media Time Suck: A Blueprint for Writers Who Want to Create Online Buzz for Their Books and Still Have Time to Write is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, as well as at your local bookstore.

Visit Frances Cabello’s website here.

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Yoda Wisdom in the Real World

No matter how sad, anxious, awkward or lonely I may be feeling, this lesson from Yoda always makes me feel better.

1_Judge me with text2_My ally with text4_Life creates it with text5_Makes it grow with text6_Its energy with text8_luminous beings with text 9_Crude Matter2_with text“I grew up with the religion of Star Wars, frankly. That’s when I realized there is something bigger out there… and it’s called The Force.”

- Trey Parker

photo credits: 1. Chris Devers via photopin; cc; 2. h.koppdelaney; via photopin; cc; 3. Spirit-Fire; via photopin; cc; 4. Captain Kimo via photopin; cc; 5. “The Wanderer’s Eye Photography” via photopin; cc; 6. Lieven SOETE via photopin cc; 7. Defence Images via photopin cc; 8. brentdanley; via photopin; cc; 9. Personal photo

Reading Recommendation: Rules for Ghosting by A. J. Paquette

Rules for Ghosting Cover

I have a new mid-year resolution which should supplement & enhance my Accentuate the Positive in 2014 New Year’s resolution. Every time I finish a novel I’ve truly enjoyed – no matter what its topic, age group or intended audience – I’m posting a quick recommendation here. And by quick I mean SUPER quick. An image of the book’s cover, some basic stats and a sentence or two on why I enjoyed it. Also, if the book I’m posting reminds me of other book(s) I’ve loved in the past, I’ll recommend those books too. 

(Why so brief? See, I have this issue that normally stops me from posting book reviews. I love to read, I love to write, but I do not enjoy writing detailed reviews about works of fiction. This issue has been preventing me from spreading the love and, for an author, that is just BAD juju!)

Today’s Recommendation: RULES FOR GHOSTING by A. J. Paquette

I have a voracious, nearly insatiable appetite for non-horror ghost stories and this one is fantastic! It’s full of eccentric, creative characters that made laugh. Paquette’s descriptions of Silverton Manor are pitch-perfect while her use of alternating viewpoints between the living boy and the ghost girl really brings the story’s tension and mystery to life. I should donate my copy of this novel to a library so more grade school readers can enjoy it, but I don’t think I will be able to part with it. (Sorry, kiddies!)

  • Age Range: 8 – 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 – 6
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Childrens (July 9, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0802734545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802734549

Other middle grade fiction I’ve loved that you will probably enjoy if you like Rules for Ghosting:

Note: I’m always thrilled to find new, wonderful ghost stories that won’t scare me to death. If anyone out there would like to recommend books to me based on my avid adoration of non-horror ghost stories (a.k.a. Casper the Friendly Ghost Syndrome), please post in the comments here, or post on my Facebook author page, or send a Tweet to @SlaytheWriter.

Wil Wheaton on Bullying, Compassion & Being a Nerd

“When a person makes fun of you, when a person is cruel to you, it has nothing to do with you. It’s not about what you said. It’s not about what you did. It’s not about what you love. It’s about them feeling bad about themselves. They feel sad.”

Wil Wheaton, you are a credit to nerds everywhere. I salute you.

On Writing Conferences and Courage

Mondays are hard. But a Monday after a writing conference is especially difficult.

This past weekend I attended my first SCBWI SpringMingle Conference. After a whirlwind weekend of writing tips, trends and inspiration, this is how my brain feels:

Butterfly BrainSeriously, how can I be expected to function as a productive member of society with my little gray cells in this flittery fluttery state? *Sigh*

Anyhoo…there’s something else I want to discuss. Briefly. Before I have to drag myself out of bed and back to the mundane details of my weekday, workday existence.

During a fabulous presentation on her Fairytale Life, Illustrator Ruth Sanderson casually mentioned that she has a fear of public speaking (something you never would have guessed while listening to her). In fact, she wants to throw up every time she has to get up in front of an audience. But she gets up there and speaks anyway.

I think someone somewhere once said that’s the true definition of courage – when you fear something, but you do it anyway.

While I don’t fear public speaking, I have plenty of other fears to keep me awake at night. Most of them are pretty standard, silly little things. Some feel like gargantuan beasts that like to sit on my chest in the wee hours of the morning, sucking away all the oxygen in the bedroom. One of my most horrible, terrible, pressing fears is the next book in my Star Wars Fangirl Trilogy.

To be clear, I’m not saying that I have a certain fear that I’m transforming, by the amazing alchemy of writerly magic, into an inspirational topic for my next book. Nope. That would be healthy and productive. What I mean to say is I’m afraid of writing my next fangirl book.

There. I said it.

Sometimes We Strike Back is a darker story than NSLA. The narrative voice of this novel has some serious anger management issues. There’s suicide. There’s GLBT issues. The bullying gets far, far worse and my main character gives in to the Dark Side.

Oh yes, this story scares me. And yet I have to write it. I do.

What fears are you challenging yourself to overcome this year?

photo credit: zenonline via photopin cc