Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Digging Into Research

Deanna and I (pen name: Jo Noelle) are writing in a new genre for us. It's still romance, but this time it's historical romance. And it's set in the American frontier. We've been doing quite a bit of research for this. Here's how:

Read about it...

View it... movies and travel videos on YouTube

Experience it...

One of the perks of being a writer is getting lost in the research of the new world you are writing in.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

In the Writing Zone

For the most part, I don't believe in writing muses - I believe that when you sit down and get to work, that opens up doors for ideas and inspiration. You've got to be listening if you want to hear them. However, I very much believe that there are certain things we can each do to get ourselves in the writing zone and prepare ourselves to do that work.

The tricky part, though, is that those things are going to be different for each person, and sometimes it's a matter of experimentation to discover what they are. I'll share some of mine with you, and I'd love it if you shared yours in the comments. This will help us all brainstorm new things to try.

1. I absolutely must be wearing sweats, pajama bottoms, or knit pants when I sit down to work. I've found that if I'm wearing jeans (too stiff) or a skirt (my legs stick together), I can't concentrate. I need the joy and peace and harmony of stretchy cotton. And in order to illustrate this concept to its greatest potential, I present this to you.

2. There are certain times of day that are better for me to do certain tasks. I check my emails and do my administrative stuff in the late morning/early afternoon. I can edit in the late afternoon/evening, and then my best writing time happens starting at around nine p.m. and goes until around 2:00 a.m. That's just the weird way my body is wired. If I wake up and try to write first thing, I'll sit here and stare at the computer for an hour, which is a total waste of time. I've learned when my brain is best at each thing, and I stick to that schedule. 

3. I must have water sitting next to me. Writing is thirsty work, y'all! It also helps keep me more alert, and the need to use the bathroom regularly gets me up and moving around at least a little bit once in a while. When I run out of water, my productivity immediately goes down. My family knows me well enough that sometimes when I call out to them, they'll come find me with a cup of water already in hand because they've anticipated what I'm going to ask them for. (Yes, I do use my family like indentured servants. It's good for them. Puts hair on their chests.)

4. Another thing I have found is that I write better when I have a constant input of stories, either books or movies. I don't steal ideas from these sources, but they open up the doors of my imagination and allow my brain to create more freely. Any time I get stuck on a book, I'll take a few hours and watch shows or read, and I'll soon find that I'm unlocked again. I actually prefer to watch a show to reading during those times, though, because I need to engage different parts of my brain than I've been using.

Whenever you have a good writing day, take a look at what your routine was and see if you can identify some key points to what made it successful. I used to think I could only write in quiet ... yeah, well, then I had kids and it was either learn how to write with chaos or never write again. We adapt and adjust. But if there are certain things that seem to help you, pay attention to those and make the most of the writing time you have.

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.

WATCH ME!

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.

HERE'S THE ENDING SCENE

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. 

HERE YOU GO

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
10.it'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 
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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.
Source
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.