Sorry I didn’t respond immediately…

I was busy spending time with my small family.

Immediacy. Too many of us have fallen victim to the instant gratification syndrome. Texting, social media notifications, read receipts, etc. When I first got my smart phone, about 4 years ago, I left notifications on. Facebook, mail, texts…woo hoo! Or so I thought. Within two days all notifications were silenced, nullified, beaten off my screen.  Text messages and missed calls are all that show up on my phone.

I think a few of you were just horrified by that statement. I can almost hear. ‘Why? You won’t know when someone message you! What if you don’t answer them right away?’

They’ll probably live. Or find someone else to answer their question. If it’s important, I would hope they call me. Or, heaven forbid! have to wait for my response.

Yes, I said it. Wait. Remember the adage, “Good things come to those who wait”?

Waiting, patience, a reminder that everyone is not immediately at your beck and call. It’s something that’s sorely lacking in our society. And it’s something I have a tough time dealing with considering I’m trying to promote myself as an author on social media.

There are some days that things are so crazy at the EDJ that the absolute LAST thing I want to do is turn on my computer and fiddle with stuff. I’ve gone entire Saturdays without turning on a radio, the television, or even my computer. I’ve learned that my mind is already geared in a slight OCD/manic-depressive manner that instant – and constant – notifications simply serve to set me on edge quicker.

They mess with my focus. If I didn’t have to respond to client emails at work, I would only open my email two or three times a day. Although, I may start to do that, that way I can focus on that email without worrying about getting back to the tasks that checking my email just interrupted.

Focus. Something I’ve noticed I’m lacking lately. There are so many distractions at our fingertips. I’ve gotten to the point where there are certain places I don’t check my phone. The car – no brainer there. My life comes first. I’m not texting you back until I get to my next stop – and that doesn’t mean stop light. The grocery store. I still use a hand-written list and thanks to narrowed aisles and everyone else not paying attention to the world around them, it’s easier to bob and weave without worrying about dropping my phone. At a restaurant. There are a few times I’ve given in because no one else at the table is paying attention to the physical bodies sharing the space with them but I try to refrain from checking mine as much as possible.

So no notifications for me. I’m sorry if it frustrates you that I’m not immediately responding to your texts/chat/tags/etc. At the heart, I’m an artist and for me, getting away from technology is the perfect way for me to reset, recharge, and renew the creative muse that lives within. Has it lost me online friends? Maybe. But more than likely, these are the same people who either never respond to or don’t read a full text from me so no big deal in the long run.

I’m probably shooting myself in the foot, but at this point I really don’t care. We all have lives to live and families and tasks to take care of. If I don’t hear from you in the next 10 seconds, I’ll understand. I almost miss the days of snail mail where it took up to two weeks to receive a letter, read it a few times, then craft a lengthy response that answered any and EVERY question contained in the original missive. We crafted our responses instead of popping off the first thing that comes to mind. That things will get you in trouble faster than anything!

Am I swearing off social media completely? Nope. I’ve made a ton of friends and some wonderful connections. Will I log out for hours on end? Absolutely. Sometimes even days. (Oh Grand Canyon trip I miss you – no wifi, no service, no plugs – simply river, sand, stars, and sky)

This is a friendly reminder to unplug from the technology and reconnect to those around you. If you’re someone I miss, I can kiss your picture on the screen, but I can’t hug a monitor. Scent, touch, and auditory memories last so much longer in the heart.

I’ll see you when I see you :)

Melanie

Surviving a book release

(or How to Not Drive your Family Crazy during a book release)

Book releases can be exciting. I’m told it’s a similar feeling to giving birth, sometimes similarly physically painful surrounded by feelings of euphoria.

It can also be stressful.

It never fails that the EDJ will become absolutely hectic or I will get sick the week of a book release. I’ve wracked my brain trying to think of a way to make it not only less stressful, but also a way to market the new book without bombarding everyone’s newsfeed on release day. Also, I tend to get overwhelmed with everything that needs to happen to release a book. These steps have helped alleviate that feeling somewhat.

Here are my tips to surviving a book release.

1) Set a realistic deadline and stick to it: This means edits, cover art, or just writing the damn thing. Stick to your schedule. That means you should add in some wiggle room when real like inevitably intrudes.

2) Pinterest: Call it what you want. Time suck, the devil in disguise, what have you. If you have a Pinterest account, create an board for the book you’re working on. Not only will it help those of us who are visual writers, it’s another way to immerse the readers into the story and get them excited ahead of time. I don’t have it linked to any other social media account at the moment because not everyone wants to know that I’m looking at furniture designs that hide a litterbox or that I’m trying to find a new way to organize my closet/kitchen/life. But once complete, it’s a good link to add to the back of the book if the reader is curious about what inspired the book.

3) Grabbing snippets along the way: I’ve found this one the most useful. While I’m editing, if a sentence grabs me, I copy it and put it into a new document. I’ll try to grab at least six or seven. These become my teaser snippets for Facebook or Twitter promos that I can add to the buy link posts.

4) Grabbing excerpts along the way: Process for #2 also applies to excerpts. Have a blog tour you want to schedule? If you’ve already grabbed these during edits, you can make each post a bit unique.

5) Schedule, schedule, schedule: About three weeks out, I will start scheduling posts on my Facebook fan page. I also need to re-download HootSuite so I can schedule Twitter posts.  These are my lifesavers. I get so overwhelmed and burned out trying to remember to post about the book on this day, add the link here, here, and there. For these posts, the meat of it is already there. If I want to add a link to the post, I can just update it and viola! Done.

6) Make a list: I have a 70-pg spiral notebook that contains what I do for each release. From formatting -including fonts, margins, and past issues – to what pages the buy links need to be added to. I’m in this alone, so there’s no one to delegate this work to. It all falls on me, which is why I panic and get so overwhelmed. Even with the list, I sometimes forget something until after the fact. But the list has helped alleviate some of the worry that I’m going to forget something absolutely vital. I really need to type it all in and make a printed “publishing bible” for myself. Then update it whenever technology changes or my needs change.

7) Have fun! Releasing a book should be fun. Readers finally get to read what we’ve been working on for months, sometimes years. This is vital for me because I absolutely HATE marketing. I suck at it…but I know this about myself which is why #2, #3, #4, and #5 on this list are essential for me. It helps make it more fun and I don’t feel like I’m harassing my readers/followers and it doesn’t completely overwhelm me.

What strategies do you use when marketing a new book or your business?

Melanie

Plot development and inclusion

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I have been to several writing conferences over the past few years and been a member of discussion forums and Facebook groups. Talk frequently turns to character development and plot development, pacing, action, etc.

I’ve brought this up before and the post was apparently ignored because there were absolutely NO comments or likes so I’m going to make the connection again.

This past weekend, I attended a gamer’s convention in San Antonio called PAX South. The Hubby is a gamer and has been since we met 16 years ago. I don’t have any problem with him being a gamer, until he stays up too late or forgets to eat, but then again, I do the same thing when I’m reading or am writing/researching a new book.

It was a new experience for both of us. Panels, music, games, and so much more there to peruse at your leisure. The hubby easily found people to discuss games with while I listened. Some of it I’d heard about from the hubby, other topics left me in the dust. But what caught my attention were the multitude of discussions about plotlines and character development.

See, like indie authors, gamers are the step-children of the arts. Games have been making it into the mainstream, but most people still see gamers as no-job-having losers living in their parents’ basement surrounded by crushed chip bags and empty soda cans. Not so, my friends, not so. My hubby has been and still is employed.  Just the two conversations I remember, the gamers were gainfully employed making much more than I do in very interesting jobs in technology. One of them having traveled from England to attend the convention.

I’m rambling so I’ll get back to the point. During the day, I lost track of how many discussion I heard about well thought out stories and how well the plot moved along. How well the characters were developed and whether or not the characters were worth caring about. If it hadn’t been for all the sounds and sights and glow from various electronics around me, I would have thought I was at a writer’s convention.

You didn’t misread that. These gamers are smart. And savvy. And they’re looking for good stories. On more than one occasion, the Hubby has said he’s been able to get more immersed in a game than most books he’s read. Because of the story. I can always tell when he gets involved in a game. It’ll be finished before I know it and I’ll have seen little of it. That’s because he’s been working at it, he got immersed in the story.

Stories are stories, no matter what form they take. And good stories are appreciated. Listening to hundreds of people talk about characters and plot was just as exhilarating as hearing it from fellow writers. Because this time it was from the side of the reader, er gamer. It was hearing it from the side of the consumer. The one putting in the time living the characters created. I recommend every writer spend time with consumers. It’s an eye opening and inspiring experience.

One thing that stuck a chord was during the first panel. Storytime with Geoff Keighley. Toward the end of his time, he talked about the attitudes in the industry. Those of big developers against indie developers. How people trying to make a way into the industry through non-traditional means and those making and playing smartphone games instead of console and PC games were looked down upon and harassed on social media to the point that they wanted to quit the business all together.

It sounded EXACTLY like the discussions and behavior going on in the writing industry. There are good and bad games by big developer and by indie developers. Same with books. I’ve read great books by indie authors and stinkers by supposed New York Times best sellers. Good and bad can be found in all venues. I’ve also seen campaigns against people simply for being different or producing something not popular. Ridiculous behavior by a group of adults.

I guess my point is this. Stories are stories. And they are told by and heard or seen by people. Respect each other. Revel in the variety and support your fellow artists.

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Just a small sampling of the crowd assembled.

 

Best Laid Plans of Boys and Men

Anne Conley is back for another visit to FP, TD readers. This time it’s for her story “Best Laid Plans of Boys and Men”.  Anne was nice enough to do an interview for you, answering questions from yours truly.

FP,TD: This is a question I see in interviews all the time. Why did start writing?

AC: I don’t remember when I started writing, but the first evidence of it is an award I won in a Creative Writing contest in the 6th grade. It was a story about Fred Flintstone inventing the lightbulb, I think. I had stacks of notebooks and journals and things, attempts at getting juvenile feelings out on paper to deal with teen angst. That spilled into college, and then real life hit me and I only wrote in journals after that. I’ve been writing for public consumption for three years, after my kids went off to school, and I realized I was bored to death just keeping house.

FP,TD: Do you work on one story at a time?

AC: Nope. I usually have 3-5 projects going at once. I’ll outline a story, put it away for a while, and then work on revisions on something else. I go crazy if I’m working on just one at a time. My brain jumps around too much. I do have to compartmentalize them, though. I typically work on one thing through an entire stage of completion before I put it away and work on something else.

FP,TD: With so many stories brewing, I’m surprised you have time to read! But I’ll still ask. What books are you reading at the moment?

AC: Currently, I’m beta reading Vanessa Booke’s Drawn to You. I’m also reading How is it With Your Soul by Priscilla Pope-Levison and Jack Levison. I’m teaching a six-week lesson on that one at church. I’m in-between casual reads at the moment, but I think I’m going to start Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda by Tara Lee Reed. I’m sort of looking forward to that one.

FP,TD: If you could have one “big name” author read a book you’ve written, who would you choose?

AC: Liliana Hart. I met her at an RWA meeting two years ago, and she encouraged me to get into the Indie biz. She’s an inspiration to me, and I would just turn into a puddle of goo if she read one of my books. If she liked it? I’d die.

FP,TD: Is it difficult to keep the characters straight in your imagination?

LC: Surprisingly, no. I was having a conversation earlier this week with an author who uses color coded notebooks to keep everything straight. That level of organization is lost on me. I can remember the basics, but if I have to go back and look up an eye-color, my control-F function is just fine.

FP,TD: This is another question I’ve seen asked of authors frequently. Have you taken any formal writing classes?

AC: Yes, I took a few in college, twenty years ago. I taught writing to high school kids (later, I learned I taught them all sorts of wrong comma rules, tee hee). I’d love to go back to school and take some more specific writing courses, though. I am forever learning that I don’t know as much as I think I do.

FP,TD: Why or why not?

AC: When I took the classes in college, I was switching back and forth between an English major and a Theater major. In the end, I gave up on both and went for Communications (should have stuck with English…)

FP,TD: Do you edit your own work?

AC: I edit as much as I can, and depend on beta readers for developmental editing, but in the end, I send it to an editor to catch the plethora of things I (and my betas) miss. I don’t see how anybody can skip this crucial step. Finding an editor that you can work with is tricky though.

FP,TD: Coffee, caffeine, chocolate, and sodas seem to be the consensus for fueling sleep-deprived writers. What’s your favorite “writing fuel”?

AC: Trail mix and chocolate. I also try to take walks daily to keep my circulation up.

FP,TD: What advice do you have for new writers?

AC: First, research the craft and industry as much as you can. There is soooo much information out there to sift through. I probably read three articles on the industry every day, at least. Also, don’t listen to the nay-sayers. Find a support group you can get support from and don’t listen to anybody else. Last, KEEP WRITING!

Thanks, Anne, for stopping by and answering questions for the readers. As always, good luck and we look forward to watching you grow.

Best Laid Plans - Blast Banner

BOOK INFORMATION

TITLE – The Best Laid Plans of Boys and Men
SERIES – None
AUTHOR – Anne Conley
GENRE – Contemporary Romance
PUBLICATION DATE – January 1, 2014
LENGTH (Pages/# Words) – 28,500
PUBLISHER – Anne Conley
COVER ARTIST – James Price with AEP Book Covers

Best Laid Plans - Book Cover

 

BOOK SYNOPSIS

The Best Laid Plans of Boys and Men tells the story of the whirlwind May/December romance between Taylor and Alexander. While Taylor is completely caught off guard by Alexander’s maturity and the difference between him and every other boy she’s dated, Alexander’s busy trying to figure out how to tell her he’s the lawyer suing her pants off.

This is a standalone story of approximately 30 thousand words, not part of any of Anne Conley’s series.

BUY & TBR LINKS

AMAZON KINDLE US AMAZON KINDLE CA AMAZON KINDLE UK

Best Laid Plans - Teaser 1

 

EXCERPT

“Well, well, well…” Sandra’s gaze turned mischievous, and Taylor turned to see who had captured her attention. And promptly lost all ability to breathe. She was barely aware of Sandra’s muttered curses as she wiggled into the pocket of her jeans to extract the money, throwing it at Tess across the table.
Alexander had gone home to change as well. Gone was the suit and tie. A pair of jeans and a black button-down shirt graced his long, lean body. The shirt fit well over his broad shoulders, sleeves rolled up to expose tan, corded forearms.
“Holy…” She took a sip of her drink, sucking it down to the ice to cool the pooling warmth inside. Her heart was beating fast, slamming against her chest painfully. Taylor watched his gaze travel the crowded club before finding them seated along the edge in the curved booth. His arctic blue eyes flashed from searching to triumphant to predatory in an instant, and the pool of warmth spread through her core.
With each step closer, Taylor found less breathable air.
“Holy hell. That man can wear a pair of jeans like nobody’s business.” Sandra was in awe, and the thought crossed Taylor’s mind that he was closer to Sandra’s age than hers. She had no business starting something with him, anyway; maybe she should just fork him over.
Except his eyes never wavered from hers. As soon as he’d seen them, his gaze had latched onto hers, leaching inhibitions right and left. Her tongue snaked out and swept across her bottom lip, followed by her teeth, and she caught her hand fiddling with the neckline of her top. Subconscious signals flowed from her before she realized what she was doing.
She was glad to see him.
He flashed a grin at them before sliding into the booth next to Taylor, and she had a sudden understanding of the term panty-melting. His smile certainly did things to her insides that nobody else had managed to do. Ever.
His proximity was doing things too. He smelled clean and fresh, his woodsy aftershave wafting to her unencumbered by smells of permanent solution, hair dyes, and shampoo. His thigh brushed against hers, and tingles erupted in her stomach.
“Ladies,” he greeted them. Holding his hand out to shake the boy’s hand, he introduced himself, “Alexander.”
The guy, whose diatribe about his hair had trailed off with the women’s shift of focus, flashed a confident smile. “Lucas. Nice to meet you, man.” Taylor watched the handshake, both men’s hands white-knuckled with exerted pressure. She hid her smile behind her fingers. Lucas wrapped his arm possessively around Tess, who didn’t seem to mind much, and Alexander visibly relaxed.
Okay, so he wasn’t threatened by the attention to Tess. For some reason, that thought comforted Taylor, but not for long. His voice in her ear sent a whole slew of uncomfortable thoughts racing through her body.
“Can I crash girls’ night if I buy you ladies drinks?”
“Of course! I’ll have another margarita, Taylor needs another cranberry vodka, and Tess is drinking the draft bock.” Sandra had the hearing of a bat. Taylor had always been amazed at how well she could hear clients talking over the noise in the shop, and tonight was no exception.
When Alexander looked at her for confirmation, she nearly got lost in the pools of blue piercing her, offering a meek nod of acceptance. As he slid out of their booth with the grace of a cat, she felt a pang of loss at the sudden coolness that replaced his body heat.
She fanned herself absently, mentally chiding her body’s physical reaction.
“You gonna tap that?” Lucas was watching her, an amused look on his face.
“Excuse me?”
“That’s a manther if I’ve ever seen one.” He tossed back his beer in one motion and settled back with an excited gleam in his eyes.
Tess laughed uproariously, and Taylor couldn’t hide her confusion.
Sandra explained, “The male equivalent of a cougar is what he means.”
“How do you guys even know he’s here for me? You’re closer to his age. What if he’s here to pick you up?” she asked Sandra.
“He’s not, honey. I guarantee you.”
“Yeah, he looks like he wants to fuck you senseless,” Lucas added.
“Well, I wouldn’t have put it nearly that eloquently…” Alexander slid into the space next to Taylor, replacing the heat which had left with him. She watched him as a slight blush rose to his cheeks. Or was it a flame like the one tickling her insides right now? Or the one that was rippling across her own skin?
He held out a hand to her with two drinks in it, one hers, and one a clear amber liquid, presumably his. The way he cradled both glasses in his palms lent an intimacy to the glasses flush against each other. She took both and placed his on the table while he handed the others around. Those hands…
Grateful for the drink, she took a rather large sip, not wanting to see Alexander’s reaction to Lucas. Even though Lucas’s attention had been diverted to something Tess was whispering in his ear, Taylor still couldn’t look up enough to gauge anybody’s reaction.
Except Sandra’s, who loudly announced someone had to get up because she wanted to dance.
Alexander gracefully slid back out, holding out his hand to Taylor to help her. When she took it, his smooth fingers caressed her palm seductively as he lifted her out of the booth. The shudder wracking her body could not be suppressed. What was it about this guy? Nobody had ever made her body do these things, and she barely knew him.
An overwhelming desire to explore the attraction consumed her. Her eyes lifted to his, and once again, his crystalline blue gaze pierced her. She sipped on her drink, ignoring Sandra behind her and asked, “Do you want to dance?”
A rare uncertainty crossed his features, and Taylor thought it was cute. “I don’t really dance to this type of music,” he said, looking down at her. His gaze was focused on her lips, and she licked them nervously.
Setting down her drink, she took a deep breath and grabbed his hand. “It’s not hard, you just bounce with me.” Taylor wasn’t used to taking the lead with guys, certainly not guys like Alexander. He was so put together, so unlike any of the other guys she’d gone out with. In fact, it occurred to her, he wasn’t a guy. He was most definitely a man.
Carnal desire replaced the uncertainty on his face, and he tossed back his drink in one swallow. “Sounds heavenly.”

Sexy passion couple in neon lights on the disco

My Mistake - Author Photo

 

AUTHOR BIO

Anne has written her entire life and has the boxes of angst-filled journals and poetry to prove it. She’s been writing for public consumption for the last four years. Currently she is writing two romance series. In Stories of Serendipity, she explores real people living real lives in small town Texas in a contemporary romance setting. In The Four Winds, she chronicles God’s four closest archangels, Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and Michael, falling in love and becoming human. She lives in rural East Texas with her husband and children in her own private oasis, where she prides herself in her complete lack of social skills, choosing instead to live with the people inside her head.

AUTHOR FOLLOW LINKS

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE WEBSITE / BLOG FACEBOOK FAN PAGE FACEBOOK FRIEND PAGE TWITTER GOOGLE+ PINTEREST GOODREADS Sign up for Newsletter -

 

GIVEAWAY PRIZES

3 copies of Best Laid Plans of Boys and Men
$5 Amazon Giftcard

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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Guest over at Anna Kathryn’s blog.

http://aklanier.com/annas-blog/

Don’t forget! I’m over at Anna Kathryn Lanier’s blog today talking about Christmas recipes and sharing excerpts of  a book. Pop over and say hi, and check out all the other posts on Anna Kathryn’s blog for recipe ideas during the month of December.

Hope you all have a good week.

Melanie