Friday, April 29, 2011

Writers and their cats


Here are five short, sweet reasons why I make this bold statement and chose a cat to be today's awesome tool:

1. Muses love cats. What did you think your cat was staring at when you saw nothing but thin air?

2. Many famous authors have cats, so you know 1. is true. (see author photos below)

3. You'll look cooler in a bio photo with your cat and people instantly love you for it (well, maybe not dog people).

4. With proper training, your cat will read your WIP, offering valuable feedback before presenting it to your human critique partners.

5. Cats are there for you when you're feeling blue or sick. They soothe your soul and help heal your body, offering inspiration, comfort and companionship.

"I put down my book, The Meaning of Zen, and see the cat smiling into her fur as she delicately combs it with her rough pink tongue. Cat, I would lend you this book to study but it appears you have already read it. She looks up and gives me her full gaze. Don't be ridiculous, she purrs, I wrote it."~ from "Miao" by Dilys Laing
Have a great weekend!
Join me at my new author site.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Character building tools for writers | Astrological signs

How do you create a character out of thin air? Whether it's a Protagonist, Antagonist or sidekick, here's a method I've used for putting some 'meat on the bones' of my characters. I'll be reviewing two awesome tools, both astrological sites.

The first, Star Signs Explained, is generously laden with character traits for each sign. It's strictly an astrological site, but it is rich with detail to spark a writer's imagination. Here's a small example for Aries, who seems just built for the protagonist's role.

Aries are fire signs and those born under this element are regarded in astrology as adventurous, active and outgoing. It won't matter where you go or how remote or unusual it is - from the Outback to the Antarctic - you can be sure that an Aries has been there before you (or at the very least you will meet one along the way!) Aries is a uniquely naive sign. Although they are independent, outgoing and assertive they are also surprisingly trusting, often innocently walking into the lion's den at times. No matter what upheaval, challenge or triumph they confront - an Aries has a wonderful ability to bounce back.

But what if your Protag is a Pisces? There are a lot of possibilities with a character like this as well.

Mysterious and alluring individuals, most Pisces are extremely talented, but even though they are gifted in many ways, they still manage to spend most of their lives battling "confusing" conditions. Pisces is the sign symbolized by the image of two fish. Their symbol depicts one fish heading upward, the other pulling downward. This mirrors how Pisceans are frequently torn between two pathways in life, or actually do live two very different existences at the same time.
Star Signs Explained also includes each sign's ruling planet, earth element, stones, energy vibrations, secret life desires which give additional fodder for your story. Beware. This site is run by someone named Athena Starwoman and there's flashing signs next to Jenni and Lily who would dearly love to give you a psychic reading.

Just so you know, I've never called. Heck, I don't even believe in checking out my astrology for the day. But as a writer, I love this as a tool for character building.


Now that you've got your characters, how about the relationship between them? Check out Compatibility of the signs of the Zodiac to see how people with different habits and characters affect each other? Who will be the leader? Which parts of their personalities will help to develop relationship and which will resist it?

How great is this? I mean, what more could you ask for in a character building tool? It's fun and it's free-- that is, if you can resist calling Jenni. :-)


Tool rating for Star Signs explained: 4 stars (the flashing psychic hotline is a little distracting which keeps it from getting a 5)

Tool rating for Compatibility of Zodiac signs: 4.5 stars (I like how you can choose compatibilities of either love interest or business relationships; flashing psychic hotline stuff not quite as obtrusive)


Have you ever used astrological signs for character building? Do you have any character building tools or methods you'd like to share?

If you like this post, please consider sharing. Thanks! Come join me on my author website.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My author website is up & running

Here's what I've been doing. The aftermath of Jane Friedman's website webinar.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How I got a Nook for free!

        Last week I got a notice from my business credit card telling me that I'd needed to use my rewards points before they expired. I'd planned to use them to purchase airplane tickets but you waste a lot of points that way since they can only be used in 20,000 point increments. So they never got used and I basically forgot about this hidden stash of credit.

So I hopped onto my account to see what in the heck I might want from their catalogue of 10,000 things and a light went off in my head. Synapses flashed and I thought, I'll get a Nook!

I got two $100 B&N gift cards from my 'rewards' and moseyed over to the B&N site where I already had an account.  I purchased the regular, not the color, Nook for reasons I'll go into later. 

I also got a cool Nook cover which makes it feel like almost like a book; and I love the wallpaper which are beautifully detailed line drawings of famous authors, like Kurt Vonnegut and the Bronte Sisters.

It was almost too easy and I kept having to remind myself I wasn't using my credit card in the usual way.

What was my first e-book purchase, you might be wondering? It was 'A Killing Tide' by P.J. Alderman. Her stories of 'mystery, suspense, and romance set in small port towns of the Pacific Northwest'  intrigued me. It also helped that she provided the first three chapters for free. Once I read the sample though, I was hooked and purchased the rest of the book with part of the credit balance I still had at B&N.

I'm planning to purchase another B&N card (with my rewards points) just for buying books. This is so exciting, finding free money! It's like I found this magical genie in the bottom drawer of my desk or something.

My second e-book download was free. It's Mark Coker's Smashwords Style Guide, so I too can learn how to create my own e-book.

If you like my post, please share it with your friends. Thanks!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blogging friends near and far

One of the best things about blogging is making friends. One of my blogger friends is part of my writer's group here in town and one of them is halfway around the world. There are no time and space limitations for bloggers. Especially writers. We are everywhere. At all times of the day and night.

Rachna, a gifted blogger, was passing out bloggerly love today from Bangalore, India. I feel honored to have received two awards from her, the Sunshine and Sisterhood Award, both of which traveled all the way from New Zealand to India to California.

Check out Rachna's blog, where you'll find food for thought and plenty of information and inspiration for other writers. 

Thank you Rachna! Now I'd like to pass them on to three friends I've made during this journey.

  • Old Kitty, who faithfully leaves me a comment on almost every post--kind of like getting 'purred'.
  • Sytiva Sheehan who is one of the most gifted artists and children's illustrators I know. Her blog is currently down and out but you can see her work here.
  • And last, but not least, Kathryn who is both my online and offline writer friend.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Would you sign my e-book?

When a fan of T. J. Waters, author of Secret Signs, asked if he would sign their Kindle at his book signing, Mr. Waters took the question to heart and invented a very cool technology service called Autography.

So what is Autography? According to the website:

"It's a digital method for inserting an autograph or other salutation into an e-book. This personalization can take place at the time of purchase or any time afterwards, including after secondary (used) sales. Authors can give away signed sample chapters to introduce themselves to new readers who later purchase the full volume at their convenience. The now full copy ebook retains the author's salutation (replacing the sample chapters) without the need for Digital Rights Management (DRM) software.

Autography provides a permanent archive of these salutations. In the event a consumer's e-Reader device is lost, stolen, or switched with another brand the autograph is quickly retrieved and replaced at no cost."

Mr. Waters, along with Robert Barret, an information technology executive, plan to debut Autography at the BookExpo in New York in May.

Pretty cool solution, I think. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What famous author do you write like?

I write like
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Here's a fun tool that only takes five seconds. I cut and pasted the first three chapters of Guardian Cats in for analysis.

If only it were true... but it sure made me feel cool.
Who do you write like? Let me know.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Review of Jane Friedman's webinar: 5 Essential Components of a Strong Author Website

I attended Jane Friedman's Webinar this morning: 5 Essential Components of a Strong Author Website.

Now I've been to webinars before. Most of them were so boring, I was forced to multitask just to stay awake. But I expected more from a Writer's Digest webinar especially with a price tag of $79. It was my first and it took me 3 days to decide whether I should pop the credit card out. After all, I could probably find this stuff on the Internet for free, right?

But I took the plunge. I was not disappointed. Or bored. And no, you won't get the same stuff browsing the Internet.

I won't give away any of her secrets because you can go to her writer's blog, website, and twitter where she generously shares her knowledge of writing and publishing. But you won't get a bag full of tools all packed up and ready to go like you will on her webinar.

Jane’s presentation was chock full of professional advice: the do’s and don’ts of what to put on a website, how to develop ‘social currency’ and analyzing your traffic. I actually understand Google Analytics a bit better now.

I took notes the whole time just because I'm a note taker and it helps me focus. But the webinar is available to me for a full year if I need to go back and review it. It was worth the price.

I already have a so-so website, but I knew it needed therapy. Now I feel like I have the medicine bag full of remedies and can’t wait to get to work.

Two thumbs up for today’s Writer's Tool! With some encouragement, maybe she'll host it again.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cheap Thrills: Where to find 25 cent books

While I plan to offer my readers an e-book, it's only one of the choices on the new smorgasbord of reading options these days. I love print books too much to deprive myself, if not my readers, the tactile experience of real, as well as virtual books.

I track news stories about libraries and when I see another one going bookless, I'm horrified. But I'm not all doom and gloom about the future of the print book. Too many people love them as much as I do which brings me to the gist of my post.

Our local Friends of the Library had our Spring Book Sale over the weekend. As a member I put in some volunteer time. I sorted and displayed and bagged books. As people dug through the the bottom of their pockets and purses for quarters, some of them told me about their love of books and libraries. There was a quiet passion in their admission, sort of like a confession. Guilty pleasures. Cheap thrills.

While I was enjoying my alter persona as a bookseller, I thought about how in a world of diminishing print books, we might lose the opportunity to offer 25 cent book bargains to the community.

Not everyone can afford or even wants a Kindle. There will never be the same passion for an e-reader as there is for real books and a bookless library would never have a used e-book sale.

I'm sure most writers would consider having their book end up at a used book sale some kind of sad fate. But I don't think so. We had plenty of best selling authors, Harry Potter included, and it just means more people are getting to read them. So I'm hoping that writers who are in the throws of publishing will not stop at e-booking and work to get it into print. You never know where that book will end up.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Writers: remember to back up your WIP!

What is the sound of one computer crashing? A friend of mine answered: Expensive. But the cost of replacing a hard drive is minimal to the cost of losing your work.

My hard drive crashed this week. There was no warning, except a weird fading out of my browser. Then my computer got really spastic and a simple restore point wasn't even possible.

Amazingly, thankfully, I had backed up my WIP the day before. In fact I had backed up all my files to a flash drive recently. I'm up and running again with only three days of computer withdrawal.

So today's tool is a simple, but important reminder: Back up your files, especially your beloved book in progress. Keep a flash drive handy or simply email it to yourself as an attachment.

You never know what you're computer is up to when you're not there! Even though this is April Fool's Day, losing your work is no joke!

Happy Friday. Please share this with a friend.