This is why I love my Mac

There are several reasons to love my Mac. But today’s reason is topmost in my mind.

I have carpal tunnel syndrome, and it’s severe enough that my doctor thinks I may need surgery. Thank goodness, my Mac comes with built in voice dictation software. It’s the same software that runs Siri on your iPhone.

See, I’m not typing this at all. I’m dictating this to my computer. That means less strain on my fingers and my wrist and more likelihood that I can avoid surgery. That means I can blog much easier. And that means that I’m not behind on writing my book. And I didn’t have to pay a penny for the software, nor did I have to train it. It just understands me.

Mac, I love you. I really really love you.

Now, if I could just get my computer to cook and do dishes for me and maybe fold the laundry….

New Cover Reveal!

After a lot of thought and some very slow revision, I have made a new cover that will be used for the paperback. Please tell me what you think!

Featured Guest: CM Doporto

My featured guest today is author Author CM Doporto. She is the author of The Eslites, a Sci-Fi/Urban Fantasy short story. I asked her to discuss her writing with us today. The interview is below.

To learn more about CM Doporto, check out her links:

Visit her heroine blog at:
http://cmdoporto.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/cmdoportowriter
Twitter: @cm_doporto
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/cmdoporto
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/cmdoporto
Email: cmdoporto@att.net

I really enjoyed reading The Eslites. What inspired you to write the story?


I had a dream a few days before Halloween that was a cross between Avengers and The Hunger Games. I immediately wrote it down and a few days later decided to write it for a short story contest.




When I finished reading, I was really compelled to find out what happened next. Do you plan on continuing the story?

Yes, I do with a series of novellas. The Arrival, will be book 2 for The Eslites and should come out by the beginning of Summer 2013.



What authors inspire you?

Amanda Hockings because she started out as an Indie author and believed in her writing and worked hard to let others know about her stories. There are others with similar stories and all of them have taught me to keep trying, work hard, and never give up.

When did you decide you wanted to write and what was it that peaked your interest?


I had been writing from a business professional viewpoint for over fifteen years but had never ventured into creative writing. Four years ago, I decided I wanted to write fiction after feeling tapped out in my professional career. The Twilight Saga peaked my interest with the young adult genre.



What is your process as you’re writing? Do you listen to music, or do you prefer quiet? Do you follow a specific writing style? Do you plan out every part of your story in advance, or do you prefer to let the story lead you as you write? Is there a certain time of day that works best for your writing?


Listening to music inspires me write and think creatively. However, there are times when I prefer silence so I can concentrate and focus on the details. I’ve written from two different processes. With The Eslites, I did some research and light plotting and then sat down and wrote the story in eight hours. For Element, I did quite a bit of research, plotting, character development and scene layout.

Since I was laid off from my professional day job last Fall, I have taken advantage of writing during the day time. It allows me to have a work-life balance and devote time to my son and husband in the evenings.



What are you reading now?


I’m reading The Host by Stephenie Meyer.



Every writer once in a while experiences writer’s block. How do you overcome it?


I take a break, which can be either a few hours or weeks. If the words are not flowing, then I allow my brain to rest and have down time. 



Your new book, Element, comes out on March 29th. Describe a little of what we can look forward to there.

Element Part 1 and Part 2 is very different from The Eslites, because it’s an upper young adult book, now called New Adult, with the characters in college versus high school. It is a sci-fi story but has more romance that The Eslites. The story was initially written as an adult romance and then I re-wrote it from a new adult perspective.

Element has special meaning to me because it was my husband’s dream that he shared with me and the first fiction story I wrote. When he told me about his dream I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The next week we went on vacation and when we returned, I had the entire plot and characters written out.

You may ask, what was the dream? My husband dreamed that every time he came near me his pheromones would change me into a female Hulk. The male Hulk would sense me and come after me. My husband and I were constantly on the run but couldn’t be apart because of the love we had for one another. The problem was if he was near me, I changed, so it made it difficult to be together.
I took that dream and created the plot for Element. I obviously had to come up with something different than the main character turning into a female Hulk, unless I wanted Marvel coming after me.




What is the hardest part of the writing process for you?


Show and don’t tell. One of my editors did a great job in coaching me how to write this way and referred me to various resources to learn how to improve that craft. I’m still learning and do struggle at times.



What is the best advice you ever got regarding your writing?


To allow others to read my story and critique it before it’s published.



The cover for The Eslites garnered rave reviews. Who designed your book covers?


Cora Graphics did the cover for The Eslites. I knew it was catching and that I loved it but didn’t realize it would get so much attention. She recently did the cover Eslites 2: The Arrival. I hope it gets just as much attention as the first cover.



Do you consider yourself an Indie Author? If so, what do you feel are the pluses and minuses of independent publishing? Would you ever consider trying to find a mainstream publisher for your work?

Yes, I do now. Initially, I thought I would just self-publish The Eslites and continue looking for a publisher for Element but that changed after I took a self-publishing class and spoke to a few Indie author friends. 

Being an Indie author gives you the freedom to be your own boss, which I love. You decide your own deadlines, find your own editor, determine what you want your book cover to look like, and define your marketing strategy. There is so much work involved and thankfully, my husband helps with the business part of it and I have a street team that has helped with the marketing aspect. I didn’t realize how much work I had to do until a few weeks after I published The Eslites.

I stopped looking for a traditional publisher and would only consider it if they presented a lucrative deal. If sales do well for The Eslites series and Element, I will offer them in print and probably do that through CreateSpace. 




What advice would you give to other authors who are just starting out?


Learn as much as you can about the craft of writing and make a commitment to write a set number of hours a day or week. Research and take classes about self-publishing and traditional publishing to determine what is the right path for your writing.



JUST FOR FUN:

What is your favorite word?


The word ‘just’. I tend to use it in my dialogue and have to delete it.



What is your least favorite word?


The word ‘was’. I use it way too much!


What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?


Music really turns me on creatively, spiritually and emotionally. 


What turns you off creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?


Reading and hearing a lot of foul language. 


What sound or noise do you love?


The sound of the waves rolling in on a sandy shore.


What sound or noise do you hate?


The squawks from our Mexican Redhead parrot. 



What is in your refrigerator right now?


Left over pulled pork from Costco and Mama’s pizza.


What song sticks in your head every time you hear it?


Selena Gomez, I Love You Like A Love Song.



Other than writing, what is your favorite pastime or hobby?


I like doing fresh floral arranging, costume sewing, playing the piano and now jewelry making. I recently made my own author swag which consisted of bookmarkers, key chains, badge clips and my personal favorite, bottle cap purse tags.



What’s your favorite movie and why?


Gone With The Wind. I watch it at least once a year. The history of the Civil War and the Ole’ South fascinates me. Combining that time period with the bittersweet romance triangle of Scarlet, Rhett and Ashley, makes it a love story I can’t get enough of.



What is one thing you cannot get through the day without? 

One piece of dark chocolate.

About C.M. Doporto:
CM Doporto lives in the great state of Texas with her husband and son enjoying life with their extensive family along with their Chihuahua, Mexican Redhead Parrot and several fish.
She writes Young Adult and New Adult Sci-Fi/Urban Fantasy stories about ordinary women who do extraordinary things, become a heroine, and find love along the way.

Books by CM Doporto:

The Eslites is a Sci-Fi/Urban Fantasy short story.

Sixteen year old, Miranda Mays, discovers she is a superior donor for the alien race known as the Eslites, who have come to earth demanding humans to help save their race from extinction. Will she be the one to help them or will their quest continue?

Available in ebook format from:
Amazon

Barnes and Noble

iTunes
Kobo

Element, Part 1: New Adult Sci-Fi/Romance

College freshman, Natalie Vega, offers to be a test patient for several vitamins and supplements created by Kronberg Laboratories, a large pharmaceutical company where she interns. Immediately her body starts going through physical changes but when she runs into her former high school crush, Ryan Garrett, she is unaware of the life altering affects he will have on her.

Available March 29, 2013:
Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Ibooks, Kobo

 
Element, Part 2 coming May 2013

The Eslites, The Arrival (Book 2) coming Summer 2013

$25 Amazon Gift Card
$10 iTunes Gift Card
$5 Amazon Gift Card
2 Element Metal Book Markers
2 Element Magnets
2 Autographed 11×14 ‘Element, Part 1’ book cover poster
2 Autographed 11×14 ‘The Eslites’ book cover poster
5 Autographed ‘Element, Part 1’ 5×7 book cover poster
5 Autographed ‘The Eslites’ 5×7 book cover poster

Nuts and Bolts Aspects of Writing: Why Scrivener Rocks

I’ve been using Scrivener to write my novel, and it has proven to be not only economical, but also absolutely perfect for my needs.

Storyboarding

As a visual learner, I love the storyboarding aspect (seen below).
 

I now have the first 20 chapters written with three more chapters left to go before I begin Part II. That section has been planned now for 20 more chapters. I love the visual aspect of storyboarding, and Scrivener allows me total freedom.

Flexibility

Scrivener allows me to format and save files in a wide variety of ways. Just with ebook formats alone, I can save my book for Kindle, Nook, or iBook and can even make it a .pdf file as well. I can also easily change the format of my book from ebook to paperback. I can also create a screenplay based on my novel using Scrivener’s templates.

 

Portability

My favorite aspect of Scrivener is the portability of the content. I can back up my entire project to Dropbox and then work on each individual chapter file on my iPad. I use the Notebook app for iPad, though other writing apps would be fine as long as they will synch with Dropbox. It’s easy to import the files to my iPad, work, then save those iPad changes to Dropbox and import them right into Scrivener when I get home. That means I can write wherever I am and not risk compatibility issues changing from one machine to the next. I can also then share those files with editors.

Make the Switch

I had previously always worked in Word, but Scrivener is so powerful, I will never go back. It’s quite honestly the best software I can imagine for what I do. I cannot recommend it highly enough for writers, no matter what genre or medium.

Taking Care of Business

This last week has been a very busy one. In addition to going through SNOWPOCALYPSE here in Mid Missouri with two rounds of foot deep snowsnorms and accompanying power outages, I’ve also had a lot going on on the professional front as well.

*  *  *

My most recent book review on Cynthia Shepp’s Book Reviews and Editing Blog just went live–Deadly Kisses by Kerri Cuevas.

There is a giveaway along with the review, so don’t miss your chance to enter! I really enjoyed this book.

Check out the review to find out why!

*  *  *
I was asked to be a part of the library committee for the Horror Writer’s Association, which I’m very excited about.

I’m also finalizing my plans for attending the World Horror Convention in New Orleans, June 13-16. If you are also going to the event, give me a shout-out.

*  *  *
ANNOUNCEMENT!!! 

On March 15th, I’ll be interviewing my friend and fellow author, C.M. Doporto here on my blog about her bestselling novella, The Eslites and about her upcoming new release novella, Element Part 1. CM writes Young Adult/New Adults Sci-Fi/Urban Fantasy stories, and I have really enjoyed her work.

Check out her website at http://www.cmdoporto.com/ or follow her on Twitter at @cm_doporto.

 *  *  *
I’m in the process of reading through this book again in preparation for the end of Part 1 of Ma Cherè Antoinne.

Any good detective mystery has to get the details right. I am checking myself to be sure I’ve been thorough. 

Part 2 has now been outlined and storyboarded, and I’m now getting impatient to get started writing that section. Only four more chapters till Part 1 is complete and I’ll be able to start telling the next part of the story. I can’t wait!

What RolePlay Taught Me About Writing

For the last four years, I have been a member of a large True Blood roleplaying group across several online sites–Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr. The group I’m a part of has been writing one continuous storyline spanning that entire time. Some people dedicate themselves to creating one specific character, while others play several roles on an as needed basis. All of the people in the group are talented, creative, funny, and fascinating, and in that four years working with them to tell stories, I have learned a lot about writing. It’s a great training ground for writers to develop their own voice and style. It’s also wonderful practice in an environment that makes learning fun for everyone.

Lessons I’ve learned through RP:

  1. Writing doesn’t have to be solitary. RP is a fantastic chance to collaborate with others, and it has taught me how to write alongside someone else. I would love to have the chance to write a short story or novel as a joint project with another author, because I have learned how to listen, how to share, and how to expand my own ideas by listening to others.
  2. Accepting constructive criticism is essential and the editing process should be collaborative and non-threatening. RP is all about listening to others and seeing another side to a project you’re working on. If you’re going to work with others on a storyline, you have to be willing to listen to their ideas, suggestions for improvements, and be grateful when they notice spelling errors or plot holes or ways the story should be expanded or cut for clarity. Working with an editor is the same process. The editor should be someone the writer collaborates with, not someone who is seen as a threat. Your ego as a writer has no place in the editorial process. It’s essential to realize that the editor is there to help you improve your story, not take away your voice.
  3. Planning your storyline is essential to the writing process. When writing long RP storylines, the group I work with always has an outline for large group RPs so everyone knows his/her role in the plot and can keep track of what’s happening with the other characters. We schedule events and plan how long it will take to write each part. This type of organized plotting is essential for writers. Currently, I’m writing a mystery, and in order to complete the novel on time and to make sure that I give the right clues at the right moment in the plot, every chapter has to be carefully planned. I know approximately how many pages each chapter is, when I’m dropping the next cliffhanger/clue, and what each character is doing in every scene.
  4. The key to having great characters is having a detailed character description before you ever begin writing. In RP, if you’re going to make the role you’re playing believable, you have to know that character inside and out. What makes the person tick? What are their fears, motivations, and goals? What is the person’s backstory that leads them to the place where he/she takes part in the plot? What is going to be the final outcome for the character in the storyline? How does he/she interact with the other characters? All these same questions must be answered when writing any type of fiction. If my characters are going to be believeable, I have to know every detail of their lives. Otherwise, their actions will seem false to readers and will throw off the rest of the story.
  5. Cliffhangers keep people coming back for more. Our RP group has several “fans” who follow our characters’ storylines. The key to maintaining their interest in what’s happening is having a cliffhanger with nearly everything we write. Whether it’s a short paragraph teasing the next big plot or a long group RP, every story ends with a cliffhanger. The same is true in fiction writing. Cliffhangers keep people coming back for more. They want to know what’s going to happen next. It makes them think about possible scenarios for how things might play out.
  6. Interacting with the audience/readers is the number one most effective way to keep them coming back for more. Readers of our RP group love getting to interact with us, either in comments on our story posts or inboxes asking about the next storyline. They love getting the chance to talk to us both in and out of character and feeling like they have inside understanding of us as a group. And they like joining in active online formats for talking with both you and other readers. The same is true for fiction writers. If you want to maintain and grow an audience for your writing, get to know our readers. Talk to them. Interact with them. Give them places and ways to share with you and with one another. If they feel a connection with you personally, then they’re not only more likely to keep reading what you write, but they’re also likely to tell others about you and help you find new readers. They will share your links, your photos, your information, and help you increase your visibility. They will talk with one another about you, about your posts, about things that you all have in common. It will also increase your audience’s sense of group identity and the likelihood that you will have a fan base who have a sense of pride in your success.
  7. Your only limitations are your own imagination. In my RP group, we write across several “verses,” combining characters from True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Walking Dead, Interview with a Vampire, General Hospital, Doctor Who, and many more right alongside original characters who take part in the action as well. If someone can justify the character and make the actions believable within the storyline, they are free to let their imagination soar. The same should be true of fiction writing. The only limitation is yourself. As long as what you write has an internal logic within the universe you’re creating, then there is no limit to what you can create.

No Excuses

My days are so busy, I really wish I could take a week off work just to concentrate on my novel. However, since I can’t afford to do that, I’m doing my very best to write every day for at least a couple of hours. Even if all I get done is planning, that’s still forward movement.

I have also been struggling with some major health problems in the last year. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and serious anemia, which makes it very difficult for me to have the clear thinking and energy to do the things I need and want to do. My body is always wanting to just lie down from the moment I wake up until I give in to it’s demands. Until the medications I’m taking are doing their job, I’m doing my best to fight it with coffee, exercise (when I can), and self-talk. Some days that works. Some days it doesn’t. It’s a struggle every day just to get out of bed. Tomorrow, I’ll be calling the doctor to see about adjusting the dosage again because it’s no longer giving me the boost my body needs. I try not to get frustrated. I try to focus on the things that are going right. Some days that is easier than others.

What does that have to do with writing? Everything.

The only way I’m getting work done on my novel is through sheer force of will. I love the story and I love telling it. But it’s so difficult to get my momentum going when I’m working a full time job plus running a part time business out of my home in addition to finding time to write. In order to finish, I have made myself a schedule and I’m doing my very best to stick to it, even if I only get three pages written at a time. Any forward movement is still moving forward. Focusing on the positive.

If I hadn’t planned the chapters in advance, I would never be as far as I am. That is key for me. Planning.

Some people just write and don’t plan a story in advance, but I can’t do that. On the days when my thinking is clearest, that’s my best time for working on plot points and thinking my way to the end. That way I have a goal to shoot for as I’m writing. Half my work is done if I work that way. My novel is a mystery, and so it has to be carefully planned or the suspense is lost.

People ask me “how do you find time to write?”

I don’t. I make time. I don’t have the leisure or energy to wait till it’s convenient. I have to make it a habit. If I wait till I “find time,” it’ll never happen. It’s too easy for me to just say “I’m tired. I’ll write tomorrow.” That’s not going to get it done. If it’s not part of my daily routine, it isn’t going to ever see completion.

It would be easy for me to use my health as an excuse not to finish. I don’t want to live with regret. I have too many stories to tell. This is just the beginning of what I hope will be a long list of books I’ll write. So I’ll keep fighting my body.  I’ll keep trying to get healthy. And I’ll keep doing everything I can to stay on task. No excuses.

John McCuaig’s Fallen Angel Book Review

This week, I was lucky enough to read and review John McCuaig’s Fallen Angel for Cynthia Shepp’s Book Reviews and Editing Blog.

I very much enjoyed the book, and if you click through to the review, you’ll get to see the details. There are a lot of reasons to enjoy the book, and if you enjoy paranormal thrillers, this is one you won’t want to miss!

Big Decision!

After much deliberation, I’ve made a huge decision. Rather than break up my work into three smaller books, I’m going to write on through to the end and publish it as one long novel.

There are several reasons, but my biggest concern is with making sure I’m happy with it, and as I reached the end of the first part, I had real reservations that without the rest of the story ready RIGHT NOW, people will feel that it’s too short and complain about that fact. That won’t make anyone happy. Therefore, even though I absolutely hate changing what I’ve promised, I feel I really must. The book is telling me it wants to be a complete whole, and I won’t be pleased with myself or the end result if I don’t listen to what it’s telling me.

I know there are people who will complain and feel like they want Part 1 now, but I promise you, I will make it worth the wait. Rather than three separate short novels of approximately 180 pages each, I’ll be able to give you one book that’s nearly 550 pages.

In addition, because I am writing it as one book, rather than three separate parts, I’ll be able to bring you the whole story sooner because I’ll be able to focus on my writing and not be distracted with three separate publications. As three books, I’d have to have three different covers, do all the marketing and promotion separately, and all that takes time away from me being able to complete the story. Rather than make you wait until next year as I publish each part separately, my plan is to have it ready for publication in it’s entirety this summer.

Being SOCIAL is the key to using Social Networks

Skimming through several blog posts about writing, I came across one that made me slow down and pay attention.

The One Thing An Author Should Never Do On Social Media…

Johnathan Gunson says exactly the same thing that I’ve been feeling about authors’ use of social media sites. I see far too many writers who only post repetitive advertisements about their own work. That is a strategy doomed to fail, and I’m glad someone else noticed it too.

If all I see in your Twitter stream is “Buy my Book!” over and over, however cleverly it may be stated, I’m going to tune you out. If you’re a friend, I won’t unfollow, but I do stop reading what you have to say.

I have one friend who must be using a content generator, because these screaming tweets are posted literally every five minutes, 24/7. If I’m there for an hour on Twitter, checking out the news on friends and celebrities, I’ll see those constant posts over and over again. Every time I see one, I want to post back, “I bought the book already. Stop yelling at me!” The only thing stopping me is the fact that I do truly like this person outside of the Twitterstream. Still, it is impossible to believe that such tactics are very successful. If I’m reacting this way, and I’m a friend, I have to believe that strangers are unfollowing right and left. No one wants that kind of constant harangue, and that’s exactly how it feels.

At home, I have found ways to avoid advertisements as much as I can. I watch downloaded episodes of my favorite shows which don’t include commercials or I prerecord the shows and then fast forward through the commercials when I sit down to watch them. I installed an ad-blocker on my browser so I can avoid as many of those pesky pop ups as possible. And I am not alone. People state that the number one reason they watch TV shows as downloads or on DVD is in order to avoid commercials which they describe as “annoying interruptions.”

When I’m on social media, my attitude toward advertisements is the same. That is exactly what constant “buy my book” tweets are, in my opinion. Annoying interruptions in my otherwise interesting stream of posts.

The most successful authors, as Gunson says, already have a following, so they can get away with those sorts of advertising tweets. However, even then, if there isn’t other interesting content, either cute pet photos or witty observations or links to fascinating things or conversations with other people, such posts will be tuned out as well. And the very best Twitter users engage their followers directly, replying as frequently as possible to those who reply to their posts. You develop a rapport with readers, and those conversations go a long way to showing that you are not just there hawking your wares, but you are approachable, interesting, and worth taking the time to read on a regular basis.

Your use of Twitter should be a part of your marketing scheme, yes, but your marketing scheme should not just be shouting about what you have to sell. You’re selling yourself. Your personality. Your insights. Your personal stories. That is what will make people pay attention to your Twitter posts. And that is what will make them buy your books. People will want to read your books because they have come to know and like you because they’ve seen that you have something to say.

I think of Twitter like a giant cocktail party. Everyone is there, milling about. If all you’re doing is standing in a corner and shouting, people will ignore you. And if you start simply handing out your business card to everyone you meet without regard to whether or not they want it, you will be kicked out of the party entirely.

Cocktail parties are a great chance to meet and make new contacts. And yes, you can give out your business card, but only once people know you and want to receive it. Twitter is no different.

Social networks should be, primarily, SOCIAL, as the name suggests. If you’re not being social, you’re doing it wrong. And you should also be NETWORKING, getting to know your readers and fellow authors. Smile, shake hands, have a conversation. That is what social networks are about.

Tell them about your books as though you’re handing out your business card–sparingly and in a way that engages the audience.

Tell the news about your book:

  • Is there a sale? 
  • Is it like some other book they might have just read? 
  • Is the cover art ready to be revealed? 
  • Have you just made a milestone in sales?
  • Has it just been released?
  • Are you announcing an upcoming release date?

These are all acceptable ways of talking about your book, but be sure that you are doing so in ways that engage and interest people you’re already talking to on Twitter. And once you’ve done so, go back to talking socially.