Sunday, November 30, 2014

Three Steps to a Disciplined Writing Life

Although I’m not the most prolific writer in the world—far from it—colleagues often think of me as a disciplined writer. It’s probably because my publisher has released a book a year for the last four years and, until recently, I was posting two blogs a week and four book reviews a month. But, as you can imagine, output changes along with lifestyle.

For a dozen years now, I’ve alternated day jobs with full-time writing. I haven’t worked at the same job for more than five years, and I’ve tried different types of employment beyond clerical work. I’ve learned that how much time I have to write isn’t nearly as important as how efficiently I use whatever time I do have. Honestly, while writing full-time I was at the computer only three to four hours a day, with many breaks in between. Another hour was spent networking. A full-time day job this past year forced me to cut much of the networking, but I was still completing the blogs, reviews, and slowly editing chapters. I’m not one of those people who can tell you how to write a novel in two weeks, but I do finish projects. Here’s how:

1)      Have a plan. At the end of each day, I think about what I want to work on the next day and during that week. I always have more than one project on the go, so setting priorities is essential. A book review is often my warmup. If it’s a weekend, heavy editing will come next, then lighter editing in the evening and afternoon. First drafts, where creativity hits its stride, occur better in the evening. By the way, an interesting article on why sleep deprivation helps creativity can be found at

2)      Set aside time for writing every day. On weekdays, it was a half hour before work and another half hour during lunch breaks. By Friday, I had five hours of uninterrupted writing or editing completed, plus whatever I could accomplish in the evening after a shift. Evenings were used to type up the penciled edits and rejig things. Whether you have thirty minutes or two hours, stick to your schedule. This means, no answering phones or becoming distracted by something good on TV.

3)      Keep it in perspective. There will be obstacles, sick days, emergencies, and a host of unexpected events to swallow up your allotted time and damage a positive outlook. It’s not the end of the world. Real life…the aggravating, fearful, shocking, heart-wrenching aspects of it, will happen. There will be setbacks. There will be bad reviews and unsupportive family members, colleagues, and acquaintances. It doesn’t matter. If writing matters to you, you’ll keep going and learn and improve. There are no short cuts. There’s just life and the many creative ways we share our experiences

Good luck!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Winter Heat Blog Hop

I was invited to participate in the Winter Heat Blog Hop. A blog hop is a way of getting to view new blogs that are offering giveaways and opportunities to win prizes. Click here on this blue link to view the entire Winter Heat Blog Hop list!

blog hopb

As for my giveaway:

From now until December 5, you can download the first two books in the Rubicon Ranch trilogy for free. In case you’re not familiar with Rubicon Ranch, it was a collaborative and innovative crime series set in the desert community of Rubicon Ranch and was written online by the authors of Second Wind Publishing. No one knew the outcome of the novels before they were written — we just wrote our characters’ stories trying to prove simultaneously that they were the killer and that they were innocent. A real challenge, but according to Sheila Deeth, writer and reviewer extraordinaire, we succeeded.

Sheila wrote: I thoroughly enjoyed it. Different authors pen chapters from the points of view of different characters. But the end of each tale meshes perfectly with the next, and the story progresses, through twists and turns (and death), to its mysterious, perfectly logical conclusion, while the reader is left to guess, imagine, wonder, and reflect.

Rubicon Ranch

In the first book, Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story, a little girl’s body was found in the wilderness near the desert community of Rubicon Ranch. Was it an accident? Or . . . murder! But who would want to kill a child?

Click here to download a free ecopy of Rubicon Ranch Book One: Riley’s Story (no code necessary) in the ebook format of your choice from Smashwords.

In the second book, Rubicon Ranch: Necropieces, residents of Rubicon Ranch are finding body parts scattered all over the desert. Who was the victim and why did someone want him so very dead? Everyone in this upscale housing development is hiding something. Everyone has an agenda. Everyone’s life will be different after they have encountered the Rubicon. Rubicon Ranch, that is.

Click here to download Rubicon Ranch Book Two: Necropieces in the ebook format of your choice from Smashwords. Be sure to use Code LT25A when ordering to get your free download. Offer expires December 5, 2014

These ebooks will make a great stocking stuffer. Just click on “Give as a gift” on the Smashwords page before proceeding to check out.

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Surviving a Bloated Market

Authors know that the market is saturated with books more than ever. This is great news for us readers, but I’m also a writer. Lately, it feels like the climb toward financial success is a little steeper every year. For many of us, the quest to become even noticed is daunting. Over recent months, indie authors are joining the lament of traditionally published authors in the slowing of sales and diminishing income. Mark Coker of Smashwords tells us why this is happening and how to succeed in the future.

Coker states that there is a glut of low-priced, high-quality ebooks on the market. He specifically uses the word quality, making it clear that there’s an even larger tsunami of drek out there. His point is that a growing number of good writers have turned their backs on contract offers to self-publish. He could be right in stating that the supply of ebooks is outstripping the demand. Sure, Kindles and other devices can load thousands of books for a lifetime of happy reading, but there are hundreds of thousands of new books being published every year!

After explaining other factors in the ebook slowdown, Coker lists twenty points for succeeding in today’s market. Really, none of his points are new to building a successful career. They are simply reminders of the importance of thinking long-term, writing better books, diversifying, having a plan, networking, and treating publishing like a business. But will many writers follow his advice?

Let’s face it life has never been profitable for most authors. These times merely represent another version of what writers from previous decades struggled with all their lives. Sure, you can now publish a book without ever physically touching it, and have access to promoting strategies that weren’t available twenty years ago. But it’s still an uphill battle. I suspect it always will be. There is no magic bullet to financial success for writers, but I do recommend that you read his blog. Reminders are important too.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How To Write A Book Review -- reblogged

Reposted from Marian Allen, Author Lady.

Imma tell you how to write a book review on Amazon or Goodreads -- one that will be helpful to the writer and to fellow readers.

It isn't hard, and it could just be one line, although longer and more comprehensive is better.
The main purpose of a book review is to help other people to know whether or not they'll like the book. Just stating your opinion won't do that. "This book sucked" is not helpful. Neither is "A great read!" or "Meh".

The most helpful book review begins with a sentence -- very most helpful is 120 characters or fewer so it can be tweeted and retweeted on Twitter -- using the title and author's name and a reason. This works whether you like the book or not.
Love zombies? FAKE BOOK by Imaginary Author is for you.
You can then follow with more details.
Personally, I hate books about zombies. I only downloaded this book because it was free and I liked the picture on the cover. As promised, it features the kind of zombie that shuffles around and drops bits off itself while it moans about eating people's brains. Fair enough, the cover and book description told me to expect that, so I can't claim to have been unpleasantly surprised.
So why did I give the book more than one star, when I didn't like it? Because it isn't the author's fault I don't like this kind of book, and because it's well-written. The plotting is tight and, given the premise of a zombiepocalypse, believable. The characters, even the dead ones, are well-drawn and individual, and the dialog is snappy.
Too bad it's about zombies.
So I only gave it one star, partly because: zombies, but mostly because the plot meandered all over the place and had loose ends that were never tied up. All the characters, dead and alive, sounded and acted alike. The dialog was unnatural, and not in a good way.
Not everybody has it in them to even begin to write a book, let alone finish and publish one, so I hate to sound harsh, but FAKE BOOK really needed a good developmental editor or critique group to help shape and polish it. I wish Imaginary Author well on future projects. Even if they have zombies in them.
[note: This is not a real book review. No actual authors were harmed in the writing of this example.]

That tells prospective readers some things about the book, so they can make their own decisions based on specifics: zombies, writing, plotting, characters, dialog, zombies. It gives the writer a reason to tweet your review, even a bad review, which is good for your review cred.

"But it says nice things about a book I don't like." What are you, the book sheriff? Is it a crime for somebody to write a book you don't like? It costs nothing to be kind. "So shines a good dead in a naughty world," as dear Mr. Shakespeare said.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Encouraging the Next Generation of Writers

While participating in workshops, panel discussions, book signings and Christmas craft fairs this year, I’ve noticed something really quite wonderful. Teenagers and young adults are writing! In August, I was selling my books at a farmer’s market that was celebrating literacy that day. Across from my table, a nineteen-year-old woman had written and beautifully illustrated two fantasy novels for teens. She loved writing and hoped to continue to do so for some time to come. She was working over the summer to pay for university which she would start in the fall.

This month, I signed a book for a customer whose teenaged daughter loved reading and writing. A recent social event, I met our host’s seventeen-year-old daughter who is writing a fantasy series with her mother. How cool is that? When I mentioned that it was great to hear that she was more interested in reading and writing than video games, she told me that her friends also wrote. Given all we hear in the media about distracted kids with their eyes glued to an endless supply of games and movies, this was an eye opener. Another friend has a twenty-two-year-old son in university who’s been writing screenplays and working on movie productions since high school.

Recently, I was at a Christmas craft fair and approached by a woman who’s part of a group who mentors teenage writers. She asked me if I might consider speaking to the group. While packing up at the end of the day, a girl who looked about twelve or thirteen came up to me and said that she was working on two fantasy novels right now. We talked about the importance of reading, and she thought it was cool I was an author. Yeah, it is. Sometimes I forget that. But it’s even cooler to know that the next generation is reading and writing. Not one of those young people mentioned anything about income or making it big financially. At this stage of their lives it was all about learning and the joy of creating something on the page. They deserve all the support and encouragement we can give them.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

The Thorny Issue of Writing Income

Money appears to be on the minds of journalists and bloggers these days, more so than usual. I’ve come across at least three articles this week about whether authors can make a living from writing, and if it’s even a viable profession anymore. You don’t have to browse the net for long before you find articles lamenting smaller advances, fewer print sales, and don’t get me started on the Amazon/Hachette battle. On the other side of the coin, numerous blogs boast about the growing number of self-publishers who are making more money than they ever did through traditional publishing, ie. Joe Konrath. Let’s look at some of the opinions.

Baldur Bjarnason on his studiotenra blog delves into the topic of the so-called war between Amazon and traditional publishers. He raises some interesting points, asking if there really is a war, since neither side is playing hardball. He does say that authors as a whole are being de-professionalized and deskilled. Smaller advances plus fewer sales (assuming he means print sales) make it nearly impossible for writers to earn a living. He ends the piece by saying that authors have ceased to be a necessary part of the publishing industry. Hmm…

In the Huffington Post, Holly Robinson poses the tough question: can writers makes it without day jobs? She takes issue with an article which states that most authors don’t write for money. Robinson points out that there isn’t a lot of money to go around, given that the print resources who once paid journalists and essayists have dried up. She maintains that if writers want to make any money at all, they’d better learn to write for the market, as self-publishers do. She notes that self-publishers are producing much more content than most traditionally published authors, which begs the question, can traditional authors keep up? And if not, how can they possibly make a living? Robinson says that publishers are pressuring their authors to write faster, but she maintains that writing is not manufacturing, it’s art and if you can’t produce three books a year, then you’d better stick to that day job. I know a number of a number of authors who are producing three or four books a year. Based on several indie novels I’ve read in recent weeks, most of these authors are skipping important editorial steps to get their books published.

In her Globe and Mail article, Camillia Gibb notes that the Writers’ Union of Canada estimates that the average income for writers is $12,000. In Britain, writers’ incomes have apparently fallen by 30% in the past eight years. Before then, she says, a writer might receive a $75,000 advance, minus the agent’s 15% commission, and take five years to write a novel. It’s still not a lot of money over a five-year period but Gibb notes that the publisher invested in and nurtured a writer’s career. Not so anymore. For this reason, she maintains that writing is one of the few careers where the more experience and published work you have, the less you’re being compensated these days. She ends her piece with a gloomy forecast that the midlist author (which has been on a slippery downward slope for at least fifteen years, as I recall) will soon be completely extinguished and the bulk of literature, and it’s authors, along with it. I might be overly optimistic, but I don’t think so. I encourage you to read all three of these short, thought-provoking pieces.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Cheryl Kaye Tardif joins Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan, Ken Follett & other authors in Freedom from Torture's "Immortality Auction"

Canadian author Cheryl Kaye Tardif has joined a number of well-known authors, including fellow Canadian Margaret Atwood, in an "Immortality Auction" to support Freedom from Torture, an organization dedicated to assisting those affected by torture and other organized abuses. This includes violence by different races or religions that do not acknowledge the basic human rights most of us enjoy.

What's an Immortality Auction?

You can be "immortalized" in one of the participating authors' upcoming books. Each author has donated one or more characters to be named after the highest bidders. Think of it! Your name as one of the characters--and perhaps your wife's, husband's, daughter's etc.

Cheryl's auction:

The highest bidder will name 2 characters in Cheryl's upcoming new thriller, THE 6th PLAGUE, which is set in Banff, Alberta, Canada, during the Banff World Media Festival. THE 6th PLAGUE will be released in the summer/fall of 2015.

Why is Cheryl participating?

"As an author who writes suspense, I am often influenced (and horrified) by true stories in the media, and it stuns me that human beings can be so cruel to one another, especially since torture is not only conducted in war zones but in civilized countries. We all bleed the same color; we all live and we all die, and those who have suffered at the hands of others need support and compassion."

Bidding is open now!! 

Please dig deep and help support a worthwhile cause and organization.

Bid on Cheryl's Immortality Auction now!

And please share this post.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Keeping Up With Social Media

Given that I’m between day job assignments for the moment, I’ve had time to take a closer look at my social media connections. I think it’s a good idea to revisit the whole networking thing at least once a year, if not more often. What worked six months ago might not be so effective now and, lord knows, knew opportunities spring up all the time.

When I returned to work last year, I stopped contributing on some network sites. Twitter was the only place I visited daily. Facebook visits happened two or three times a week. I also posted reviews on Goodreads but rarely took part in the groups I belong to. I’ve managed to post something on Kindleboards at least once a week but had little time to scroll through the many topics posted in the Writers CafĂ©.

I still like Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Kindleboards. I’ve also recently picked up some tips on how to use FB and Twitter more effectively, which I’ll do soon. After six years, I let go of my AuthorsDen connection, as I no longer wanted to pay an annual subscription when I could post work or promote elsewhere for free. I left MySpace a year ago but I still belong to Pinterest and LinkedIn. Although LinkedIn has its uses, it’s also annoying. I had quit all the groups because I was being spammed, far too often, by authors who wanted me to buy and review their books. A couple of days ago, I joined a new group for writers there, so we’ll see how it goes.

Now I’m looking for new opportunities that are easy to navigate, friendly, and useful for both receiving and sharing information about writing, publishing, and the book biz in general. I’m also looking for great sites that help writers connect with readers. I’ve had a couple of interesting suggestions which I’m eager to try, but if you have a great site you’d like to share, please let me know!