Friday, February 17, 2017

EZ ebook formatting!

I've wanted to learn to format my own ebooks for a couple of reasons:

1. I can put a book on Amazon without waiting for a formatter to work me into their calendar.

2. I can revise a book or cover whenever I want to re-upload the book for sale.

I've gone to classes, but didn't have the time to invest in learning the process--until now. Introducing...

This product is for Mac users, and it's so easy that it literally took me 20 minutes to format my book and have files to upload for Amazon and Smashwords (Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo and others.)

It has a simple tutorial, and the program is super intuitive.

It costs less than $200 for unlimited use. That is about 4-5 times paying a formatter to do it. Vellum also has other pricing plans for fewer uses.

For me, this has increased my freedom of being indie. 
I have more control over my book production than ever before!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

More about Endings

I've posted in the past about the importance of writing a great ending. I thought I'd expand on those thoughts a little bit by sharing more snips from movies, since talking about Somewhere in Time in my last post was so much fun. 

As we have discussed before, an ending is like the dessert at the end of the meal. It's the payday after all the hard work. The ending should feel satisfying to the reader. If it's an action/thriller/suspense, we should feel that we're safe now. If it's a romance, we should have a happy sigh and feel like they'll be together forever. Unsatisfying endings make irritated readers, and irritated readers don't recommend your book, they don't buy more of your books, and they might leave ornery reviews.

Let me share with you some examples from the movies.

This first one comes from Emma, a version I quite liked except for this ending scene. She's being carried off on her honeymoon by the wonderful Mr. Knightly.


Okay, they're holding hands ... but .... that's it? We've been watching them fall in love for this whole movie, and that's all we get? There was a nice proposal scene, but this is just flat. We might as well have ended the movie with the proposal because this just has no point.

My next clip is the ending of How I Met Your Mother, the television show. I have to tell you, I found lots of aspects of this show hysterical, and lots ... morally questionable. But that's neither here nor there. The point is this. The character of Ted has been presented as someone who really wants to get married, who really wants a family, who really believes in having that ring on his finger. And yet, when he meets the girl of his dreams at long, long, long last? They live together for years (totally breaking character) and have two kids before they finally tie the knot.


What the scriptwriters were hoping for was that we'd be all happy that Ted and Robyn are finally together, but here's the thing ... at least for me, that ship has sailed. They're not the same people they were years before. They've made too many choices that took them away from their original characters for us to have that same emotional investment. This ending would have been a ton better if they'd gotten together ten years earlier and the whole thing hadn't been dragged out forever and ever with so much water under the bridge.

Now, lest you be all sad and glum, I want to show you one of my favorite endings of all time. You're going to need to forgive the stupid music - hate the music - but oh, well. This is from The Accidental Husband. She's a radio talk show host who has always believed that marriage and love is just stupid and that no one can really be as devoted and committed as they pretend to be. But then he comes along and convinces her otherwise. This scene made me cry and cry and cry. He's a fireman, by the way, which is why she asks him about saving cats. 


Waah! Waah!!! Where are the tissues?? He has come down to her office in the middle of the day just so he can say hi to her pregnant tummy! Holy cow ... if that's not so romantic you can't stand it, you have no heart! This is romance. This is a happy ending. This makes you want to run out and find a guy just like this. You know that he's in this thing forever.

These are just my thoughts, and of course, you'll have your own as you watch these clips. The point is, the ending should leave the reader/watcher with a sense of closure or satisfaction. Most of the time, when I hear someone say why they didn't like a book, it had to do with the ending. So take a look at what you're writing and make sure that whether you're writing a romance, a thriller, or a drama, when the reader closes the book, they feel as though the trip they've just taken was worth it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Is Listening to Audiobooks Reading or Cheating?

Finding time to read print books became a real chore for me about three years ago. I got to the point where I was simply dying to read books, but had no time. My stack of to-be-read print books were piling up like crazy and my Kindle and Nook were jam-packed with thousands of eBooks to read too.

My type A personality was going crazy because those books represented a to-do that I was never accomplishing and we all know how type A's love to cross things off their to-do lists.

That's when I decided to try audiobooks. At first, I felt like I was cheating and not reading. I laugh about that now looking back.

Now I would never turn back. I actually read more than ever. I tuck my reading into every nook and cranny of my life. When? When I cook, clean, wash dishes, garden, do yard work, laundry, shower, drive, anytime I have I have mindless things to do.

How do I get my books? I use Audible on my phone for the most part.

Sometimes I'll download from my local library using their online site and sometimes I'll get disks to listen to in the car or a mini walkman (I simply plug in my headphones to device which is about the size of my phone and listen away) from the library. You can even listen to them through your computer. The advantage to me, though, is having them be portable on my phone. Anywhere I go, I can listen.

Why listening isn't cheating but smart!
1.  it helps struggling readers
2.  increases intensity of absorption of the story
3.  increases emotion grip of the story
4.  helps readers use imagination
5.  helps readers think critically
6.  increases understanding
7.  you choose your pace
8.  saves time
9.  uplifts my spirit's so darn convenient ***
Why do you listen to audiobooks or why don't you?

Audible is running a special right now and instead of only getting one book for FREE for trying Audible, you get two. 
Can't beat that!
Go ahead and give it a try. See if you like it and get two free books. 
Just click HERE or on the banner below.

Many of my books are on audio with more coming all the time. Check them out here.

Cindy M. Hogan
Read my latest novel-Redemption Lost 
Join mybook club here.
Catch my deals here- just click follow

My books! Amazon, iBooksNook, Kobo

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Is This Writing Thing Worth It?

by Donna K. Weaver

We all have our own reasons for writing, and we have our motivations for seeking publication--whether traditional or indie.
I'm getting older, and I love to learn new things. I don't want to be one of those senior citizens who sees the world through a very narrow filter, unwilling to consider new things. I want to always be teachable. I want to be creative and make something that brings me (and hopefully others) pleasure.

Even now, with several books under my belt and four novels in various stages of editing, I find myself doubting what I'm doing. I wonder if all the time I spend on it is really worth the dream I gave up--of going back to college and getting my Bachelor's degree (I have an AA).

The wonderful Natalie Whipple posted a blog a few years ago that answered this question for me. Sometimes, I have to go back and read it for the reminder. She quotes Adam Heine who talks here about a writer's education. He hits the nail on the head. I especially love this part:
... But what kind of job demands years of uncompensated service before giving you even a chance at wages?

All of them, it turns out. It's called college.

College is 4+ years of work that pays nothing and (these days) doesn't even guarantee a job at the end. That's exactly what we're doing when we sit at our computer, typing a story nobody may ever buy.

It's better than college, because it's free. Better because it's easier to hold a job while writing than studying. Better because if we don't get a job with our first degree (i.e. novel), we can write another and learn more...

So long as you live life, working to get published is as valid an education as any other.

Keep writing. It's your education.
Nice, Adam. Well said.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Writing is Hard!

This week writing is hard...

We're working on four stories right now: a republish of a short story, a rewrite on a full-length novel, an old west historical romance, and a time travel Victorian romance novel, but it's slow going on any one of them.

Things we do to get back in the groove of writing:
•do some brainstorming
•do some outlining
•do some character building
•do some marketing
•do some reading
•do something else

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Chemistry in Romance

Just what is chemistry, anyway, and why is it so important?

Chemistry is when you can sense attraction zipping back and forth between two characters. It's when their connection is so palpable, you can feel it leaping off the page, and it's an important element in romance writing. People read romances because they want a really good love story, and a really good love story isn't really good without chemistry.

So how do we create that in a book?

The best way that I've found is to show everything the point-of-view character is thinking and feeling. Let me show two examples that I've just made up to demonstrate.

Example #1:

The new boy came in and took the desk next to me. He was pretty cute, with green eyes and a dimple. "Hi," he said as he sat down. "I'm Dean." 

"Hi," I mumbled, dropping my pencil. We both reached down to pick it up, and our hands brushed.

Example #2:

When the new boy came in the classroom, I couldn't take my eyes off him. There was something about the way he moved that made my stomach flip-flop. He walked over to the desk next to mine-holy cow, he had three other desks to choose from, and he chose the one by me-and I noticed his green eyes and his dimple. Green eyes. I love green eyes.

"Hi," he said as he sat down. "I'm Dean."

Did he mean James Dean, total hottie Hollywood icon? My hands started to shake, and I wished I knew how to stop them. "Hi," I mumbled, dropping my pencil. Oh, that was smooth. That was really smooth. I reached down to get it, and so did he. Our hands brushed, and it was like fire racing up my arm. Did he feel it too, or was I the only one?

Notice how in the first example, we read about everything that happened. In the second example, we read everything she thinks and feels about what happens. Which one allows us to start feeling chemistry? The second one, of course, because chemistry is largely emotional.

Allow me to show you a clip.

Click here

This is, of course, from Somewhere in Time, which is full of scientific flaws but is still one of the most romantic movies ever. Ever! Ahem. Anyway, notice all the nuances in this clip as you're watching.

First, as they're coming down the hall, they're both feeling awkward. This isn't because they don't like each other - it's because they like each other so much, they don't know what to do with themselves. When they enter her room, notice how he's looking at her back. There's so much he wants to say, but he's worried about messing it up. He takes some deep breaths. In the meantime, she's trying to control her own reactions. She knows she has feelings for him, but it's illogical. She's a businesswoman. She doesn't have time for this silliness, but he's Christopher Reeve, and he's so dang good-looking ...

When he reaches out and touches her, she gives a slight shake of her head. This can't work - it's impossible. Notice that he doesn't just grab her and plant one on her. He touches her cheek. He's trying to convince her, still giving her the chance to say no, but doing everything he can - while remaining a gentleman - to encourage her to share his feelings. She battles within herself, but then finally gives in to that battle, and then he kisses her.

And through the whole thing - the lead-up and then the kiss - the viewer's heart is in their throat. Will they kiss? Won't they kiss? And then they do, and it's awesome, and then dang. There's a knock at the door.

The point is this. We were allowed to see the build-up. The scene moved slowly enough that we could tell exactly what they were both thinking and feeling, and that's what made the kiss so awesome. If he'd just grabbed her and kissed her as soon as her door was closed, okay, it would have been a nice kiss, but that mounting chemistry is what brought it the power it needed, and movie buffs call that one of the most romantic kisses in cinema history.

Of course, I'm comparing a movie to a book, so they aren't the same thing, but we can create the same types of reader reactions through our writing. When there's an emotionally charged moment, slow down and give all the reactions and let the reader bask in the moment. And then they'll sigh and go back and read it again.  :)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

6 Must-haves in a Suspense Novel

Check your suspense novel for these six things. If you include them, you will put your readers on a rollercoaster ride of adventure and suspense they won’t quickly forget.

1.     Race against the clock
Insert a deadline- like in Back to the Future where they had to get everything set up before the clock chimed a certain time or in Harry Potter 7 when Voldemort gives those at Hogwarts one hour to give up Harry Potter.
The reader will constantly be aware of the ticking clock as he/she scrambles to do everything they must in order to survive or accomplish their goal- and the reader will have the sense that it is impossible.

2.     Try and Fail Cycles
Characters must fail to reach their goal or the story is over. Make the characters slowly learn and grow through mistakes and failures to achieve the goal. This makes for an interesting character and creates a story. No failures/mistakes=no story.

3.     Correct movement/pacing
With suspense, the story must be kept tight and moving. This means cutting like crazy and often starting your final version with chapter two-where the real story begins. Each sentence need to do two things: give plot and setting as well as character and theme. Ex: Having characters rush through the city while discussing something important.

4.     A Dilemma
Present characters with dilemmas in the story. Ex: When the Green Goblin is holding Mary Jane and holding the tram and he drops both for him to rescue. Make the reader gasp and hold their breath while they scream…what will he do? How will he survive?

5.     Have characters face their worst fears
This is pretty self-explanatory. The trick, however, is in making sure to introduce the fear early and allude to it throughout the story until the character has to face it. This builds tension. The inevitability knowing it’s coming, makes for a nail biter.

6.     The danger must be real
Show that the danger is real. No false alarms-real scares with real suspense and no misunderstandings that could be solved with a five minute discussion between two characters. Ex: When Dumbledore dies in Harry Potter. This makes the reader realize anyone could die.

What book have you read lately that you thought was full of suspense?

Cindy M. Hogan
Read my latest book-Redemption Lost
Join mybook club here.
Catch my deals here- just click follow

My books! Amazon, iBooksNook, Kobo