Author Q&A: Want Some Free Marketing?

Author Q&A interview articleHi! Today’s article is for anyone who hasn’t noticed the new “Author Q&A” link on the left. Or for anyone too lazy (or incurious) to click on it and find out what it is. Well, now all you have to do is read. How nifty is that?

Introducing the New Author Q&A Option

One of the main goals of this blog is to be a resource for authors (any type of writer really). I didn’t get a lot of feedback when I asked what you (the readers) want out of a writer resource, so I’m kind of winging it (as usual). But here are the two main reasons I’ve decided to offer an interview series with different writers.

New Perspectives

Right now, Words & Deeds is full of information I know, ideas I thought of, or articles I’ve found. There’s a lot of me in it. So I thought it would be nice to offer you some perspectives from other writers. Different points of view, different publishing experiences, etc., all in one place.

Of course, I made up all the questions, but if there are any specific questions you’d like to ask various authors, I’m open to suggestions.

Supporting Authors

I’ve been trying to figure out how to support other authors without having to critique or otherwise judge their work. After all, did I really want the support to be prejudiced by my personal reading preferences or high grammatical standards? Would my readers be losing out on different experiences and points of view if I did?

It was quite the conundrum.

Finally, I decided the best way to do it would be to open the opportunity up to all authors by offering a Google form with questions that focus on the writer’s experiences – not their books. That way, genres, language, grammar – it all takes a backseat to common writing issues, publishing problems, and general tips that offer value to other writers.

It also gives the authors an opportunity to expand their market share and spread the word about their writing. Free marketing – wooh! You get an article that links to your site(s) and that you can share on facebook to generate some interest.

Is it going to skyrocket you to the top? Idk. Probably not in the foreseeable future. But it could boost your following and SEO some. Every little bit helps!

And we writers gotta look out for each other, right?

How to Participate

If you ever want to participate (A.K.A. fulfill the author part of the Author Q&A), simply fill out the form. There are directions on it, but I’ll reiterate a few points:

  • It may not be published immediately. I don’t want to overrun Words & Deeds with author interviews and drop all the other types of articles. I’m expecting to do one author Q&A a month at most.
  • If you want it published around a certain time (like the month your new book is coming out), I’m good with that, and I’ll do what I can to accommodate you. Whether or not it’s possible depends mostly on how many people end up participating and how many requests I get.

We’ll see how it goes. I may need to revamp how it works, depending on what feedback I get and how many authors are interested. For now, fill out the form, and we’ll go from there. Or stay tuned and get ready to hear from your first author.

I look forward to hearing from you and learning from your experiences!

John Steinbeck Quote: Ideas Are Like Rabbits

john steinbeck quote ideas are like rabbits

Well, not the chocolate ideas. They have the opposite problem…

You know, this John Steinbeck quote is beautifully simple, straightforward, and true: “Ideas are like rabbits.” Even the imagery and simile of the beginning by itself imply the meaning since rabbits’ reproductive speed is a well-known cultural joke. When it’s expanded into an analogy, it’s patently clear:

It’s easy to be overrun by ideas.

Simple, right? In fact, I think I already touched on that when I talked about making sure you have some way of recording ideas for later use. I even posted a similar quote of my own about ideas last Easter.

So why post this John Steinbeck quote?

Well, since you asked (*cough*), there are a couple of reasons.

  1. I like it. (And it’s my blog, so I’ll post what I want. Thbbbt!)
  2. I wanted to make a creepy bunny image for it. (I ain’t right…)
  3. I’m moderately disturbed by it when considering some of Steinbeck’s books – 1 in particular.

Have you ever read Of Mice and Men? Doesn’t this John Steinbeck quote have weird overtones when considered in context with that book?

“Ideas are like rabbits…”

So we want to pet them and then accidentally kill them? They’re a pipe dream that will never be realized because we’re not capable of it?

I know, I know. I’m being too literal, and I’m overthinking it.

But, if you do really think about it, don’t those two questions add another aspect to the quote that are also true? I don’t know about you, but I’ve killed a few ideas in my time. I wasn’t trying to hurt them… That didn’t change the end result. And as much as we like to think that we can always try an idea again, in my experience, there are limits to that.

Like burnout, not having the right skill set, not being able to let go of ideas within it, etc.

Then, there’s the second question. Are these ideas just pipe dreams that we’ll never be able to realize? Again, I have to say, “Yes.” At least some of them.

Think of it this way: I’m still pretty young, so I could (potentially) live another 50+ years. I have new ideas at a rate of about 3 to 30 a day. I realize about 1 a day. Maybe. Or less. Some days, I might be able to use more if they can be merged together into something. Or if I’m somehow amazingly productive.

But that’s roughly 36,500 to 529,250 ideas that I won’t be able to use in my lifetime. I guess I could will them to someone else, but if other writers and artists have this same problem, then all I’m doing is adding to the number of ideas that they won’t be able to use.

And, really, who’s going to use my idea when they could use their own? Maybe, people who aren’t good at coming up with ideas; however, in that case, would I even want them to? Would they be able to explore the idea to its full potential?

So this quote went from a straightforward, kinda funny, and definitely true view about how ideas multiply to a macabre, dark, depressing, and possibly true view of how ideas multiply too much.

This might be one of those ideas I killed…

Anyone else have any thoughts on this? Or are you going to bury this knowledge deep in your psyche as soon as you finish reading so that you don’t have to look at it again?

*Do I have an artsy prejudice against the writing skills of non-idea-generating people? Hmmmm… That’s worrisome.

For Authors with Books in Kindle and Print: Check out the Storyteller UK Competition

Unfortunately, I’m not ready to take advantage of this opportunity. I am, however, prepared to share it so that you can. You’re welcome.

Sorry. Just kidding – I can’t say that seriously in those circumstances without feeling like the R-rated word for jerk.

Shizzle, Inc is now back to $2.99USD, and it’s the Storyteller UK competition to blame. That, and partly the negative reviews that come from readers grabbing a freebie without even reading the blurb. Oh, and the fact that in June I’m going to pitch it to a dozen publishers and a $2.99 book may look […]

via Storyteller UK competition and why Shizzle, Inc is no longer free — Ana Spoke, author

A Little Irish Craic: Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

Slainte!

twytte

An oversight, a quick mistake,
But now, it’s more than I can take!
Thinking of songs and dance and beer –
Of Irish craic, fun, and good cheer –
I forgot one thing (one little flaw),
And it’s like I broke some sainted law!
Constant pinches, laughter, too!
What country’s colors are black and blue?
And to pinch a girl for not wearing green?
That’s not Irish – that’s just plain mean!

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Updates: A Week Off — twytte

It’s not a vacation, but there will be a delay in posts (see below).

Hi! As you may have guessed, I’m going to take a week off from my regular posting schedule. Why? Because I’m taking my real estate licensing test this week (and I need to study!). I thought about trying to do all the posts for the week tonight (in lieu of a full night’s sleep), but […]

via Updates: A Week Off — twytte

Literary Speed Sales to Publishers

No, I’ve never heard of this before. I’ve read about similar options for photographers in paid classes at some conferences (which, honestly, sounded very intense). But has anyone heard about literary speed sales to publishers here in the U.S.?

Friends share with friends, right? (And save them extra Googling when possible)

Did you know such thing even existed? No, it’s not authors dating authors, although maybe that’s not a bad idea either. It’s an event organised by an author society, where about a dozen publishers get to hear 3-minute pitches from writers that want to traditionally publish their books. I’ve known about the one organised by Australian […]

via Literary Speed Dating — Ana Spoke, author

What Makes a Good Love Poem?

book-what makes a good love poem valentine's day

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s kind of like asking, “What’s a good pick-up line?” Some people will say that there are none. Some will say not using one. Some will say that something funny is best. While it’s not quite the same thing, if you ask, “What makes a good love poem?” you’ll get similar answers (That’s kinda scary, actually…).

So is there any point in asking? Do good love poems really exist?

The Good Love Poem: Fact or Fiction?

Clap if you believe that good love poems exist!

Anybody?

Come on, guys. I know there are some of you out there. Don’t worry – we’ll get to you. If we’re going to talk about perspectives on good love poems, however, we’re going to start with the harshest verdict.

There’s No Such Thing As a Good Love Poem.

What?!!! What about sonnets by Shakespeare? Or Elizabeth Barrett Browning? What about Byron or Keats?

If you like poems at all, you’re not going to be in this category. The same goes, I suppose, for love – but I’m guessing no one’s writing or reading love poems to people who hate love (I could be wrong…).

On the other hand, if your sweetheart falls into this category, maybe a love poem isn’t the right Valentine’s Day gift. That’s like getting a woman flowers when she’d rather have a potted plant. Remember: the best gift reflects the wants and needs of the person you’re giving it to (free life lesson – you can’t say you didn’t know now).

Good Love Poems Are Funny.

I think the people who say this have a prejudice against mushy stuff, especially if they say that love poems are only good if they’re funny. You know the type. People who go for serious stuff, and when they’re looking for a date, they look for people who make them laugh (something that shouldn’t be devalued on the dating scale).

These people might also be slightly on the side of the first category – poetry isn’t really their thing, so they only like it if it’s funny. A sincere sonnet may not be the best Valentine’s Day gift for someone who fits this description.

Now, am I saying that if you’re dating or married to someone like this, you shouldn’t try to show that you care? No. They may be ok with being serious about emotions in other ways.  Just don’t write him/her a mushy love poem – go for a limerick instead of a sonnet.

Good Love Poems Come from the Heart.

Is it the gift that counts? That’s what this one feels like. Even the most horribly-written love poem could be considered good (in a way) if the person who wrote it was really trying – if he/she meant what is said.

If you don’t believe me, I’m about to blow your doubt out of the water.

A gruff, manly man who doesn’t know anything about poetry and hates anything to do with writing is married to a woman who loves poetry and yearns for a small sign of her gruff husband’s love for her (not jewelry or furs). How do you think she would feel about a love poem that he wrote for her? Would she think it was a good love poem?

Don’t kid yourself. She’d think it was a great love poem. She’d be so in love with the effort and care that went into writing it that she wouldn’t care if a 5-year-old could write a better poem (artistically speaking).

You, on the other hand, might think the story of it is better than the poem…

Good Love Poems Are Written Well.

Hmmm. That’s not really very specific, is it? Couldn’t you say that about any poem? Come to think of it, what do they mean by “well”? Are they saying that it follows the rules of a specific form or that it uses imagery and makes you feel something? Or are they saying that it advances the art somehow?

To tell you the truth, I don’t think this would be the first answer that most people would give to this question – love is too emotional for most people to give only a logical or rule-based response. The form could be on the list, but I wouldn’t expect it to be the first thought (unless the person is a poet with extremely strong prejudice against poorly written poems…?).

So What Makes a Good Love Poem?!

The logical conclusion is that whether a love poem is good or not depends on who’s judging it.

I know what you’re saying: “Duh! It’s an opinion – of course, it depends on who’s judging it!”

Ok, call me Captain Obvious. But let’s take this a step further and figure out what makes most people decide that a poem is good. If you bothered to read my blather above (and if not, how did you make it this far?), you’d probably guess that it takes a combination of factors for a love poem to be considered good (like most poems).

Well, you’d be right. The most important considerations (IMHO) are…

  • Taste in Poetry: Do you like poems? Do you like that type of poem?
  • Emotional Stake: Do you know the author? Was it written for you or someone you know? Does the effort or feelings of the person who wrote it matter to you? (This includes the gruff husband example, but some people get emotionally involved in people they’ve never met – often because they admire them or empathize with them.)
  • Emotional Response: Does it make you feel something? Is it a strong reaction? Do you like the reaction? (Not “Is it a good reaction?” – people can like poetry that makes them sad or angry even though those are generally considered negative emotions.)
  • Quality of Writing: Is it written well enough that the quality of the writing isn’t really noticeable? Is it so poorly written that you can’t stand to look at it? Is it so well written that you are more interested in the writing style than the content? (The last is very uncommon. I would say that when poems are truly well-written, the writing methods and techniques become invisible because the emotional and sensory responses are so strong.)

The answers to these questions determine the quality of the poem. The more positive answers, the better the poem is (in general).

So if you’re trying to write a good love poem, would you want to think about these things in advance? For example, if you’re writing for a specific person, what types of poetry does he/she like? What emotion do you want to express – what do you want to make him/her feel? Can you write well enough to do that?

Actually, I’d probably stop with the first question (what poetry does he/she like). The only time I’d consider the others would be if I was trying to write a universally good love poem.

Or I might just write a poem and see how it goes. What about you?

To Book Club Or Not To Book Club?

book club or not to book club

No, that’s not how a book club works.

Oooh, the eternal internal conflict. To book club or not to book club? Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous readings or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, ignore them?

Yeah. Sorry about that. I got caught up in the moment.

Seriously thought, there does seem to be some conflict among writers about the value of book clubs – for writers, that is. As artists (who, therefore, have to have a certain amount of ego to survive), we can get a bit arrogant about our art (Let’s face it, we can be divas.), so it can be hard enough to convince writers to join writing circles – let alone book clubs.

Why Don’t Writers Want to Join Book Clubs?

1. What We Read

Just because we’re writers doesn’t mean we always want to read top sellers or even fine literature. We may work hard enough at our 9-5 and then in our hours of writing afterwards, before, and in-between, that we want to read something easy. Something that doesn’t take a lot of brain power – which may or may not even have enough depth to be worth discussing in a group.

On the other hand, the genre could be the problem. Book clubs that focus on Sci Fi or Fantasy can be rarer. Or even ones that vary genres. If you like a lot of variety in your reading, then, a book club that sticks to one genre might feel more like work than fun.

And if you’re anything like me, you have a huge book list to get through in a variety of genres. If none of them are on the book club’s list, that doesn’t up your motivation for joining a book club.

2. Why We Read

I don’t know about you, but reading hasn’t been a social activity for me since my parents read to me as a child. In fact, reading is usually how I escape and recover from whatever social activities.

When reading is your relaxation or your private time, taking that reading into a group experience could seem baffling (or simply odd). It’s no wonder a lot of writers balk at going to a book club?

3. How We’re Trained to Read

Writers know about writing (yeah?). Most of us have taken more than our share of classes in writing and literature, and we also read more than our share of books (statistically speaking). As a result, we tend to have higher-than-average reading comprehension skills.

Don’t get me wrong – there are non-writers with equally high or higher reading comprehension skills. But finding them? And not just one but a group of them who happen to get together and read the exact type of books you’re interested in reading and discussing? Ones that you like or at least get along with?

Yeah. That’s not so easy.

4. When We Have to Read

If you have multiple jobs (writing and whatever else you do), family, and a social life, finding the time to not only read a required book but also meet people to talk about it may seem impossible. Or at least imposing.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, but if you’re on the fence about the question (“To book club or not to book club,” remember?), then, the tightness of your schedule definitely doesn’t go in the “pro” column.

5. The Cost of Reading

Reading is awesome, and the easy, fast, and relatively cheap access to millions of books that we have today is literally awe-inspiring (Yes, I meant literally.).

At the same time, books do cost money whether paperback or ebook. And if your book club reads a new bestseller each month, you’ll need to budget for more than you would for the dollar section at the used book store.

Just sayin’.

Why Would Writers Want to Join a Book Club?

 1. Getting Out

As writers, it’s all too easy to get holed up in our homes or our books. We get involved, and we stay involved.

If you’re the type to forget to take a breath every once in a while, scheduling that breath can help. And when your main interests are writing and reading, then a book club makes a couple of breaths a month – when you read and when you get together to talk about it.

2. Staying Connected

The other side of how we’re trained to read is how most people are trained to read. Think about it. Are people with really good reading comprehension skills your reading audience? Are they even the main part of your reading audience?

If they are, you’re really limiting your target audience.

Getting a feel for what your average reader will understand or miss can be difficult. Reading alongside and discussing a book with a group of average readers can be extremely revealing. I can’t guarantee that it’ll be a magic cure for the issue, but it can definitely give you some ideas about what will work and what won’t.

3. Learning from Reading

Every genre has its own common tricks and techniques. When you read a lot of one genre (like many people do), then, you get more used to specific techniques. That’s good – except when it isn’t.

When you want ideas for how to make your story fresh and interesting, reading outside your usual genres can help. I’ve already started to notice trends in the genres that I’m less familiar with, and seeing when those techniques work (and when they don’t) is giving me ideas that I can use for my books.

4. Sphere of Influence

Ok, we’re not talking countries in this case so much as people. Who you know and whom you can influence (who sees your posts, who responds to them, etc.). It’s also known as networking.

As a writer, I consider networking anything that gets your name out there. That includes clubs, volunteering, and any other activity. In a book club (where people are supposedly interested in reading [right?]), they’re already set up to be interested, so you have the opportunity to extend your sphere of interest that much farther.

What’s the Answer? To Book Club or Not to Book Club?

You tell me.

Yes, there’s 5 on one side and 4 on the other (mainly because my brain got tired). That doesn’t necessarily mean anything. What if only 2 on one side and 3 on the other are viable to you? Or 4 on both sides?

That’s why this is an eternal internal question. The answer for you may be totally different from the answer for me, and even my answer may change as time goes on.

So what’s it going to be? How do you feel about book clubs?

Vocabulary Changes Everything: Communication Is a Zombie

communication is a zombie

Just like that

After you get out of high school, vocabulary isn’t really something you think about (if you ever did). Sure, you talk, read, and listen, but you don’t think about the size of your vocabulary while you do it. You know the words you know – except when you forget them (usually in the middle of a sentence in front of someone important).

That’s even true for me and my overly-analytical self. Well, it was. But recently I’ve been reminded of how vocabulary changes everything – both your vocabulary and that of the people around you.

Why Vocabulary Changes Everything

Vocabulary Is Like a Zombie’s Tendons

It’s true. Vocabulary is like a zombie’s tendons: if enough of them are missing, things start falling apart. Sure, it might keep flopping or twitching, but it’s not making connections anymore.

What? Too macabre?

Now, you’re either smirking, rolling your eyes, or going “Huh?” And all because of 1 little word: macabre. That’s what I mean by connections. If you don’t know that word, reading it didn’t help you understand that sentence at all. I might as well have put a blank there. Or a little bracket (insert some strange, French-looking word here). Either way, there’s a disconnect in understanding between too and Now that the reader basically had to jump over and make a guess about what they missed.

Ok. Back to our zombie analogy. If macabre was the only tendon that the zombie was missing, nothing’s going to fall off. Yeah, the pinky finger might be a little loose, but 1. the word wasn’t integral to the paragraph, and 2. only one word was missing. That’s not going to do too much damage to the zombie (I’m enjoying that simile a little too much).

Words work together to help us communicate by connecting ideas to sounds, symbols, and their order. The fewer words you know, and the more the understanding begins to fall apart. So if you’re trying to communicate through writing, speech, etc., knowing enough words is pretty dang important.

If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who’s travelled without knowing the language. You better hope the nonverbals match (just sayin’).

Why Don’t We Notice?

So back to the fact that we rarely ever think about our vocabularies (despite the fact that they’re oh-so-important). Remember how I said earlier that I’ve been reminded recently of how vocabulary changes everything? Well, here are the situations that reminded me.

  1. The $2 Word: For my friend’s birthday, a big group of people went out to celebrate – a couple of people I knew but mostly people I didn’t. I used a multi-syllable word without thinking about it (because it’s a word I know that means what I was trying to say…), and I got a “Woah, big word!” reaction. Cue thinking, “It is?… Umm, ok. Yeah, I guess.”
  2. Subtleties: I’ve been taking classes a lot lately, and I’ve had some teachers that throw in subtle inside jokes when they’re talking, which is great! I mean, it definitely makes class more entertaining – until the rest of the students are giving you weird, sideways looks because you’re laughing, and they don’t know why. The joke went right over their heads.
  3. Shakespeare: My grandpa made the mistake of telling me that he has never enjoyed Shakespeare (sob). Being me, I, of course, made him watch The Comedy of Errors. Granted, it was performed by a Vaudevillian juggling troupe, so, it’s not what you’d call a dry performance. Still, he kept saying that he didn’t have any idea what’s going on (although he enjoyed the circus tricks), and I began to realize that in the recording, some of the more vital words are slurred or glossed over (it’s an old recording). And, naturally, I began to analyze how hard or easy it would be to follow if you missed those words. You can guess the answer.

Did you notice the pattern of when vocabulary went from a background habit to an actual thought? Every single time something called it to my attention, someone else reacted either by not understanding or acting surprised (given additional emphasis to a word they didn’t expect).

See, even though we don’t think about it that way, vocabulary is very much a social creation. Growing up, we mainly get our vocabulary from the people we see most: our family and friends. We also gain vocabulary from our watching and reading habits (reading grows vocabulary the most although movies can help), and we tend to have similar taste to the people we hang out with.

What that all boils down to is that the people you see most are going to know most of the same words you do. Sure, there will be some words that don’t crossover, but there’s a lot of overlap.

That’s why we don’t notice or think about our vocabulary: if everyone understands the words everyone else uses, there’s nothing to draw our attention to them. My friends and family wouldn’t have thought twice about the word I used at my friend’s birthday dinner; however, we probably wouldn’t know some of the words those people’s friends and families use.

What’s the moral to the story?

I don’t know – I don’t write fables!

Sorry.

Zombie-wise, all I can say is that when it comes to keeping those bones together and moving, vocabulary changes everything. And thanks to mine (and some macabre imagery), you may never think of communication the same way again. (You’re welcome.)