Table Swag

I love attending book conventions, not just because of the books, but because of the swag. Face it, we all love free stuff, but some items catch our attention more than others. So what’s hot and what’s not when it comes to table swag? I reached out to Twitter, Facebook, Google, and used my own experiences and got some interesting answers.

A bit thank you to Jenn Thompson and Indie Author Book Expo (of Des Moines) for inspiring this post with their blog Writer Resources: The Best Book Swag Readers Actually Want. If you haven’t heard about IABE, you really need to check them out. They’re currently running a Kickstarter to help raise money to buy a printing press that will allow them to print other author’s books for cheaper. You can check it out here!

What’s Hot? 

  • Bookmarks: This one had mixed reviews, but the majority of readers leaned towards liking bookmarks, especially if they have interesting art on them. As an author, this can also double as a business card. Make them unique either in style, size, or material.
  • Pens: I can’t tell you how many people have tried to swipe my pens out of poor #yorick’s head! I’ve finally started buying purple pens for people to take when they visit my table. People love things they can use, so this is definitely a hot one.
  • Sand jars/ keepsakes: While these can be expensive, readers really love the sand jars I keep at my table.  I sell mine alongside my book, but, if you can find a cheap creator, this is a great item to give away.
  • Buttons! Believe it or not, but buttons are coming back. Have a nice mix of buttons that people can go through to find the one that they want.
  • Stickers: My stickers have flown off of my table faster than anything else. Some people use logos. I personally have character art on mine, helping to show the diversity in the book. It gives me an opening to talk about my story, too.
  • Themed Swag: You write erotic romance? Maybe provide something with a penis on it (thank you Cassy Albee lol). Is your story music-based? How about giving away guitar picks? Fantasy? Little plastic dragons will hit the spot (thank you Beth Hudson).
  • Candy! Seriously, you should see the people flock to the table when you have a bowl of candy available. I have purple kisses to go along with the color of my book. If you can make little treat bags and put a label with your book info on it, that’s an easy way to get your name into people’s hands. Just as a note, though, if you leave your swag in the car…don’t have chocolate with you.
  • Jewelry: Have a necklace with your book cover on it? A bookmark that doubles as a bracelet (I grabbed one of those really fast). Earrings or bracelets that can promote your work? It’s a great way to get a reader’s attention.
  • Free E-book: This is a wonderful idea if you have a large series and someone’s looking to get started. Have a QR code available at your table that allows someone to get a free e-book. Maybe even provide a sample of your book for free.
  • Mini Journal: You can have either plain ones or have small notebooks with your cover on the front. While the latter might be a little more expensive, it may stay with a person longer.
  • Character Art: Whether on postcards, posters, stickers,  or cards, character art is bound to draw in people’s attention, especially if they can collect them all.
  • Posters of Book Covers: Once again, this is something I sell, but you can also turn it into free swag. Many book covers are absolutely gorgeous and would make a fantastic piece to hang on your wall.
  • Mugs/Tumblers: Who doesn’t like a mug/tumbler, especially with special art, logos, or characters on it? While this can get very expensive, it’s also a great thing to offer in a giveaway. (I may or may not be having a tumbler made for Wolf Pit for a giveaway *wink*).

What’s Not? 

  • Cheap Swag: You get what you pay for, and if your swag is lacking in appearance, color, and quality, it’s not going to leave your table.
  • Swag that Falls Apart: Handmade stuff is fantastic, but again, make sure it’s a good quality. A reader will be disappointed if they take something and it falls apart on them.
  • Glasses or Screen Wipes: These often end up in the trash.
  • Unrelated Swag: Items that have no connection really to the book or to you as an author is sometimes overlooked. There’s a big difference between giving away a generic tube of chapstick and one that actually has art or something themed on it. Even getting a tube that’s the same color as your book can brighten up your table.

Things to Consider: 

  • Budget: As I mentioned, you don’t want to go cheap with your swag, but you want to make sure you stay within budget. Notebooks, mugs, and usb drives are all awesome, but that can really drain a bank account. Find what’s most cost effective and what you can get in bulk. Look for coupons online, too, or check out printing sites on discount days.
  • Where Do I Start? It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the idea of giving away free stuff and finding the best way to make your items. Some places to check out would be Etsy, Vistaprint, Printrunner, Sticker Mule, Discount Mugs, or your local artistic friends.
  • Don’t Stretch Yourself Too Thin: It’s better to have one or two high-quality items than to have several low-quality items. Put your time and effort into focusing on key elements that will help you sell your book.
  • Goals: What’s your goal of having the swag? Do you want to give it away at book events? Are you planning to put them in special giveaways? Know why you’re creating the items and how they’ll help you promote yourself and your book.

Is there any kind of swag that you love or dislike? Feel free to share below!

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and Writing

Fall has finally arrived (despite the 80 degree weather today). Orchard trees are heavy with ripe apples. Pumpkins and Halloween candy already line the shelves. And Starbucks has a line a mile long for a new pumpkin-spice drink.

Oh yeah, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is kicking in.

In short, SAD is a type of depression that’s brought on by changes in the seasons. While most people are afflicted during the fall/winter months, there are those, like a few close friends of mine, who struggle with spring/summer SAD. Both are forms of depression, but while winter depression leads to oversleeping, craving carbs, weigh gain, and low energy, summer depression deals more with insomnia, weight loss, and anxiety. Of course, each person is different, and your symptoms may vary.

I can concur, though, that when winter depression starts to set in, I generally want to hibernate. The dream of wrapping up in a warm blanket with hot cocoa and carbs and nesting on the couch with pumpkin bread sometimes gets me through the day, even if it does make me less productive later.

I know there are people out there who don’t believe that SAD is a thing. How can the weather have such a change on people’s moods? Well, if weather changes can lead to someone having migraines, why is it so unbelievable that they can cause depression as well? For winter depression, the longer nights and lack of light tends to set off people’s circadian rhythms in a negative way. I already have trouble sleeping, and winter depression makes it harder for me to get up in the morning to face the next day. I find myself wandering around my house at night, unable to get myself to sleep because I don’t want to face the morning, and then I’m even more exhausted come sunrise, which doesn’t prep me for a good day at work.

The low energy, trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating can have a very negative impact on my writing as well. When my brain is snarling with negative thoughts (guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness), sometimes the last thing I want to do is put my fingers to the keyboard. NaNoWriMo can pull me out of that mood for about a month, but then it’s back to me curling up on the couch, not wanting to move or even look at my screen. I’m probably the least productive during my winter months simply because I just don’t have the energy to come up with ideas.

It’s a wonder I’m actually able to launch books in December.

SAD isn’t something to take lightly. When things get bad, it’s not unusual for people to have thoughts of death or suicide. That likely is what pushed me towards my near attempt in February. The depression was just too much to handle, and I slipped over the edge.

So what can you do to combat it? Treatments can include light therapy, medications, or psychotherapy. I started light therapy last winter, and I could tell it made a difference. I set up special light boxes and just sit in their glow for 30-45 minutes everyday. The light is supposed to simulate sunlight, which can help with my circadian rhythm and mood. I’m actually going to start using the boxes again starting today before it gets too dark outside, just so I can start to feel their affects.

I’ve been told, too, that an increase in vitamin D can also help with your mood during winter depression. However, you want to be sure you talk to your doctor about that before you take pills, to make sure you’re not getting too much vitamin D.

Other things to consider if you’re struggling with SAD:

  • Be kind to yourself. You’re not alone in this struggle, so don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way.
  • Create a safe, comfortable environment for yourself. If it means setting up blankets and pillows for you to snuggle in after work, then do that. At least you’ll know it’s waiting for you.
  • Reach out to friends or family if you’re struggling and maybe go spend time with them to get your mind off of the depression.
  • Hot baths or showers, massages, or other things that bring physical comfort.
  • Light-hearted movies/shows. My depression often gets worse if I watch sad stuff, so try to have back-up things you can watch to make you feel a little better.
  • Put up Christmas lights. I know this sounds silly, but I’m always a little happier when I have bright Christmas lights up during the dark months.
  • Keep a journal and write out your emotions. Writing can be very cathartic especially when you don’t understand why you’re feeling so bad.
  • Have the suicide hotline available: 1-800-273-8255 If you feel low enough that you’re afraid you might want to take your life, please call the suicide hotline, visit your local hospital, or reach out to someone you trust. It will get better.

Depression can feel like a dark tunnel without a light at the end, but in the case of SAD, it doesn’t last forever. The changing seasons can bring you relief after a long, difficult episode. There’s no shame in admitting that you’re feeling this way. Like I said, this affects many people, and you’re not alone at all in your struggles. Just know what steps to take to help you safely through it.

Do you struggle with SAD? What kinds of things do you do to help yourself? List them below!

Choosing Weapons for Your Fantasy/Sci-Fi Character

Whether you write fantasy or science fiction, it’s not uncommon for weapons to make an appearance in your story. Choosing the type of weapon your character uses can be an important defining characteristic both for your character and for the world that the story is set in. Today we’re going to talk about different weapons you might find in fantasy/sci-fi worlds and things to consider when giving them to your character. 

Just as a note, some regional weapons will be divided up between fantasy and sci-fi based on how often they are used as stereotypes across these genres.

Fantasy Weapons: Many fantasy stories end up revolving around Medieval Europe/ Middle-Eastern weapons. Depending on your world, the weapons might be modified based on the race holding them (dwarves, elves, humans, halflings, etc), or if magic is involved. 

  • Medieval Europe Weapons 
    • Swords (short sword, longsword, bastard sword, claymore) 
    • Rapier 
    • Dagger
    • Crossbow
    • Bows
    • Pullarms (spears, pikes, halberd) 
    • Javelins 
    • Bolas
    • Sling 
    • Scythe
    • Scimitar 
    • Tulwar 
    • Dirk
    • Maces
    • Axes
    • Morningstars 
    • Staff

Science Fiction Weapons: Sci-fi weapons are often based on a mix of technology, integrating different cultures, and creating things from scratch. Writers can get really creative with these, (especially if they’re able to turn a medieval-like weapon into a gun, ie. RWBY). 

 

  • Blasters
  • Lazers
  • Phasers
  • Sonic Screwdrivers
  • Focused Radiation Beams
  • Lasso 
  • Katana 
  • Bokkan
  • Lightsabers 
  • Particle Beams
  • Gun

Resource: Coolest Science Fiction Weapons, Ranked

Characters and Weapons: When you create your character and decide they should use a weapon, there are a few things that you should ask yourself and remember. 

 

  • Why does your character carry a weapon? Is the weapon a reminder of a family member or friend? Is your character a warrior? Was it the only weapon they knew how to wield? Are they fighting a war or living in a dangerous place? Make sure you give a reason behind why your character has the weapon in the first place.
  • How did your character learn to use the weapon? Too often characters have weapons but there’s no explanation on how they learned how to use them…or they somehow master them unrealistically (*cough*LukeSkywalker*cough*). Schooling? Personal lesson? A prodigy? It’s more believable if the reader knows just how the character was trained. I think Game of Thrones does a pretty good job of this when it shows Arya learning how to master her sword Needle thanks to her “dancing” teacher. 
  • Does your character use the weapons to kill? There’s a big difference between using a weapon to defend oneself and using it to kill another person. Why would your character kill someone with it? Why wouldn’t they? Do they follow a code that causes them to act a certain way with the weapon? This brings to mind the character Morgan from The Walking Dead/ Fear The Walking Dead. After going through a bought of insanity, Morgan ends up meeting a man who teaches him how to use a staff to fight, but not to kill. Morgan starts to follow the ideology that he shouldn’t take a life because otherwise he’ll lose a part of himself. The staff becomes that constant reminder. 
  • Consistency: First of all, don’t forget that your character has the weapon. If she’s wearing a dagger or a blaster in chapter 3, she better be wearing it in chapter 8. Second, make sure the weapon itself stays consistent. Don’t have her using a dagger one moment that seems to be as long as a broadsword in the next. Or if she’s shooting a gun, make sure you know how many rounds she can actually fire and the damage it can do. Third, if the weapon is special in any way (size, color, weight, appearance), it needs to stay that way through the whole story. 
  • Know your facts: Once you choose a weapon for the character, make sure you know as much about it as possible. For example, you likely won’t have a short character wielding a claymore that can be up to 55 inches. If using a gun, know how many bullets it has, or its target range. The same goes for a blaster, phaser, etc. Sword lengths vary depending on the blade. If you’re trying to stick to a particular era, don’t have a gun show up in a medieval setting. 
  • Knighthood/Status: Does your character wear a weapon to signify knighthood or perhaps a higher social status? Is your character part of an army where they all use the same kinds of weapons? 
  • Magic: Is the weapon magical in someway? Can it burst into flames if a spell is cast on it? Can it hurt certain beings over others? Does magic fuel it to make it work? 

 

It’s easy enough to say your character picks up a sword and fights with it, but knowing the history behind that character and the weapon is vital. Some characters become very attached to their weapons and even name them (Jon Snow’s Longclaw, Ruby’s Crescent Rose, Bilbo’s Sting). Do your character, and their weapon, justice by making the weapon part of the story instead of just a meaningless item the character lugs around.

Learning Self-Care as a Writer

I know I’ve talked about this topic before, but it never hurts to get a reminder. I definitely need one right now. Self care can come in many different forms. It can be as “simple” as getting more sleep or eating better to nourish your body. But for writers, there’s even more that we can do to treat our minds and bodies kindly.

So where is this coming from? It’s probably no surprise that I have high-functioning anxiety and depression. My default is to keep doing more and more things to keep myself busy so I don’t have to deal with some of the nasty internal thoughts. I also deal with the feeling that I’m “not good enough” and my accomplishments mean I’m just a little bit more worthy to exist. I really wish I hadn’t tied my self-worth to my writing (or my weight), but unfortunately it’s happened, and I’m trying to learn to let go. I could feel myself trying to do too much again and I realized, begrudgingly, that I needed to step back.

I just finished running the big I.O.W.A. author signing that I’ve written about. In the past week, I’ve been in a lot of physical pain due to the anxiety and tension that had built up over the months leading up to it. I have a book coming out in December that I’m still working on editing, and a few book signings on my plate. To top it off, I was considering making massive edits to my YA fantasy book, Dragon Steal, to participate in #Pitchwars later this month. All last week and part of this weekend, I could feel myself practically choking on the anxiety, and I knew that I had to make some changes.

You see, my health has been pretty awful this year. I’ve gotten cellulitis four times since January, my migraines have gotten worse to a degree, I’ve gained weight I lost, and my sleep has suffered. Most of that I attribute to being too busy and not focusing on taking care of myself. There’s always some other writing project, or work, or volunteer thing to get done. I’m terrible at staying still and resting, (and saying no), but it’s come to the point that if I don’t start making changes, I might not be around to do all the things I want to do.

So, I decided that I would step back from #Pitchwars this year 1. to give myself a break and 2. to give my book the time and care that it needs. I cancelled one of my book signing events that would have equated to a 7 hr drive in one day all while I’m still trying to mend my legs from cellulitis. I’m trying to eat better foods and get more sleep, which means not working myself to the bone until 1 or 2 am to meet self-imposed deadlines.

Living a writer’s life is hard, especially with jobs and volunteer work on top of it. I think it’s easy for us to stop focusing on our bodies and put our full attention to our work. Yes, sometimes when the deadlines require it, it’s necessary, but at other times, we need to remember to breathe and take care of our bodies and minds. Depression and anxiety are both so common among writers because many of us tie our self-worth to our writing. So what can we do to break away from that?

I don’t have the answers, but I implore you to take some time and reflect on your own self care. Here are just a few ideas to try if you’re pushing yourself too hard.

  • Take a break. Your book will still be there when you come back to it.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, if not for your health, then to help your mind stay awake and creative.
  • Don’t create unnecessary deadlines for yourself. Focus on what projects are important, and go from there. You don’t have to participate in every writing contest.
  • Make meals for yourself. Living off of fast food sucks.
  • Give yourself a real vacation. Taking days off just to focus on writing isn’t a vacation, it’s work.
  • Find other hobbies outside of writing that make you happy (I play PokemonGo).
  • Snuggle with a pet. They need love too.
  • Remind yourself that your worth is not dependent on your book.
  • Stop and smell the flowers. Enjoy the little things in life that are so easy to neglect.
  • Meditate.

Have any other self-care tips? Feel free to post them below. And remember, you are not alone in this. We all struggle with self care and self love. I believe in you.

 

I.O.W.A. 2019 Weekend

On September 7th and 8th, readers had the chance to visit over 20 authors at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Over the course of the two-day event, they sat on panels, met new authors, listened to readings, participated in author speed dating, and challenged themselves to collect author signatures to win a grand prize. Though the weather was beautiful, and there was a Hawkeye game going on, avid readers still made their way to the signing! IMG_3560

The day kicked off with a panel about “Indie Author Publishing” with authors Tricia Andersen, JoJo Bartlett, and Mary Bleckwehl. They shared their journeys in the world of indie publishing from the costs involved, the marketing, and the troubles authors can run into with publishers when they’re writing a series.

Meanwhile, the rest of the authors greeted the first guests of the day in Beems. The room could have easily fit 30 tables, and provided plenty of space for authors to break out their displays and show off their books and swag.

IMG_3594
Author Leslie Kung and Concierge of The Cedar Room, the Cedar Rapids all-genre Room.
IMG_3571
Author Beth Hudson and the designer for our I.O.W.A. pamphlet.
IMG_3568
Author Myron Williams and fellow I.O.W.A. programmer.

As the day went on, readers had the opportunity to sit in and listen to the authors read from their books.

RC Reading
Author R.C. Davis
Teresa readig
Author Teresa Holmgren

When 1pm rolled around, I.O.W.A. kicked off its first ever Author Speed Dating. Authors sat at tables in the Greyhound Cafe while readers got a chance to sit with them for three minutes to learn about their books and ask questions. When the bell rang, readers moved to the next author. There were three rounds; romance, wild card, and fantsy/sci-fi. While readers were a bit shy of the experience at first, we hope repeating it a few times will encourage people to sit with the authors and find their next favorite book.

Sunday welcomed I.O.W.A. with a dreary, rainy day, (perfect weather for writing in my opinion). But the panels, readings, and signing went on! Authors covered topics about “The Writing Parent” and “The Creative Process.”

Every person who attended I.O.W.A. received a swag bag, with the first 50 containing books! A big thank you to M and M Bookstore for providing the bags and to the Coralville Public Library for providing the books!

Swag

All-in-all it was a fun event that has the potential to grow in years to come. Plans are already being put into place for I.O.W.A. 2020 with authors and volunteers providing feedback and suggestions to make the next event even better.

As always, a big thank you goes out to everyone who attended, and to the incredible volunteers who put the event together: Eliza David, Betsy Casey, Emily Schulz, Ross T Byers, Myron Williams, Leslie Kung, Brandi Parsons, Derek Maurer, Dana Beatty, Beth Hudson, Terri LeBlanc, and more. This is certainly a writing community that I’m proud to call my own.

For more pictures, visit our facebook page. To learn more about I.O.W.A. and The Writers’ Rooms, visit http://www.thewritersrooms.org.

 

 

Imagine Other Worlds with Authors (I.O.W.A.) Signing

For the past three years, the incredible Dana Beatty and Terri M LeBlanc hosted an epic author signing event called Imagine Other Worlds with Authors (I.O.W.A). It moved from place to place, hosted tons of authors, and had a lot of success. In 2018, they asked if The Writers’ Rooms would like to take it on as part of the organization. We jumped at the opportunity, and after months of hard work, we’re excited to finally host the event on September 7th from 10am-4:30pm and 8th from 1:30pm-4:30pm at the Cedar Rapids Public Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

I.O.W.A is a multi-genre, multi-author two-day book signing event. This year features over 20 authors who are eager to share their books with you. You can meet the authors through literary panels, readings, signings, author speed dating, and special giveaways! Don’t forget to stop by the welcome table for a swag bag. The first 50 people on Saturday will receive a bag with a free book inside!

We have an incredible list of authors who delve into the worlds of fantasy, science fiction, romance, fiction, women’s literature, humor, memoir, children’s books, YA/NA, etc.:

Featured Authors of IOWA

We also provide a bunch of fun prizes that you can win both courtesy of The Writers’ Rooms and the CR Public Library. Who wouldn’t want a bag that makes your book look big?

The two-day event is divided up into several different activities that both patrons and authors can get excited about.

  • Author Signing: Come meet local Iowa authors to learn more about their books and pick up tantalizing tales for sale. Be sure to stop by every author table to have your Passport signed. Once you get as many signatures as possible, drop it off at the Welcome Table downstairs to the chance to get a prize.
  • The Writers’ Rooms Writing Prompts and Social: Stop in the Conference Room to learn more about The Writers’ Rooms, one of the hosts of I.O.W.A. Write with us using prompts provided by the Rooms and also get to know your fellow writers. 
  • Panels: Authors will sit on a panel to share knowledge of a chosen topic. Come listen and ask questions to learn more about the writing/publishing industry. Some topics included are, “Indie Author Publishing,” “The Writer Parent,” “So You Wanna Be a Writer 101” and more! 
  • Author Readings: Join the authors of I.O.W.A. as they read from their sections of their novels. Now’s the time to ask questions and get to know more about the author! 
  • Speed Dating: Authors will be seated at separate tables in Greyhound Cafe and interested readers will have a chance to talk with them in three-minute intervals. The author will begin with a short pitch of their book releases and answer questions the reader may have. When the bell rings, the readers change seats. A Saturday event only! 

One thing we tried to do is make sure that none of the events (ie. panels, readings, speed dating) overlapped with each other. I know how hard it can be to want to attend multiple author readings but have to choose between them.

Want to get a first look at when the different events are happening? Stop over at the facebook event to get the latest news and let us know you’re coming, check out the I.O.W.A. website page, or visit the Cedar Rapids Public Library calendar.

Today we were featured in The Little Village Magazine (thank you to Rob Cline for his kind words). We were also interviewed by the Press Citizen, which is so exciting!

The Writers’ Rooms is a community-driven organization, and we couldn’t exist without you. I.O.W.A. is a way for us to thank the many writers and authors who have helped us over the years and to give back to the creative community. This is a free, family-friendly, event, so be sure to bring your little ones along. We can’t wait to see you! #IOWAWrites19

To learn more about I.O.W.A., visit:

The Writers’ Rooms: I.O.W.A.

I.O.W.A. Facebook Group

Twitter

Instagram

 

How to Write a Synopsis (The Writers’ Rooms)

As you may know, I’m the Director of The Writers’ Rooms, a literary organization focused on providing a free, safe environment to all writers, no matter their experience, income, gender, etc. The specific “Room” I lead is The Violet Realm, which is our Sci-fi/Fantasy group. What’s a Room, you ask? It’s a two-hour session with a literary lesson during the first hour and then free writing/sharing the second hour. We have a plethora of groups ranging from poetry, romance, LGBT, all-genre, with more coming soon! The community is wonderful, and I’m thankful for every person who brings their story to us. Best of all, the Rooms are free.

Tonight, we talked about how to write a synopsis. I thought I’d share it with you so you could get an idea of the information that The Writers’ Rooms has to offer, and also provide some tips on how to prep a synopsis for querying an agent.

What is a synopsis? A synopsis is, in short, the summary of your story. You’ll need this if you’re querying a traditional publisher. But, this is also a great way for you to figure out the main plot of your story! 

Rules of thumb: 

  • Only name your MC and main villain (typically only 3 characters at most). Briefly outline their roles so you can refer back to them throughout the synopsis. The first time you list the name, write it in all caps. 
  • A good synopsis should only be about 500 words. Any longer, and an agent may toss it out the window, or you may realize you have some work to do.
  • You must tell the whole story, including the ending gasp! The agent has to know where the story’s going, and so do you! 
  • Focus on the main plot, not any of the subplots. The subplots are for the book. 
  • You need to know what your characters want and make the plot out of that. What are their ultimate goals? 

How to Set Up the Synopsis

You may remember from a previous session that we talked about the Beat Sheet to set up your entire story. Making your synopsis is very similar. Together, we’ll take a look at an amazing resource called “How to Write a 1-Page Synopsis”  with a little flare added. Source is at the bottom. 

 

  • Set the Scene: Create the stage for your world and your characters. We need to know what genre/timeline you’re focusing on. Fantasy? Show us the castle. Science Fiction? Show us the ship and the world. Enchant us with the very first line.
  • Introduce the Protagonist: Bring in your Main Character (in all caps). We want a couple descriptive words to say what he/she wants, and to help us identify him/her. Blacksmith? Banker? Butler? Let us know! 
  • Inciting Incident: Yes, we’re taking a trip to Freytag’s Pyramid. What event, decision, or change prompts the main character to act? Is it a death in the family? A murder? A young boy buying a robot with a hidden message? 
  • Plot Point #1: This is where we get into the first big change in the story. What’s the first turning point? What does the MC do to change the book’s direction? This is the point where your heroine might start out on her journey to travel to a different planet or go on an epic quest. 
  • Conflict and Other Characters: Your character enters a new world/environment. What new life experience does she have? How does she meet the antagonist/villain? This is also a chance for you to bring in, say, a love interest. But again, only include important characters. 
  • Midpoint: This is the point when the MC may have to make a 180 degree change or emotion in the story. Once she crosses this line, she can’t go back. She makes a decision that changes everything. Or maybe her cowardly nature turns to heroism. 
  • We’re Winning! Whoops, No We’re Not: Reveal when your MC thinks she has the upper hand but then the antagonist swoops in to ruin everything. Maybe a magical item gets stolen, or an escaping ship gets shot down. For once, the villain has the advantage.
  • Darkest Night: This is when your MC has hit rock bottom. She has to fight through it both emotionally and physically. Maybe the villain has trapped her. Maybe she’s had everything taken away. How does she find the strength to enter the final battle? 
  • Climax: Battle time! What happens when the MC and the antagonist come head-to-head? Yes, we do need the conclusion. 
  • Resolution: How does the climax end? Does everyone live happily ever after, or are we doing a Shakespearean ending and killing everyone? How do you tie up loose ends, and loose romances? 
  • Closing Scene: What’s the last scene you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC won or failed? Is there a future waiting? We want to know! 

 

Prompts: 

  1. Take your story and write a synopsis. Use the outline above to separate out each important moment from your plot. 
  2. Think of a new story and use the outline to plot it out. 

 

Let’s Go, Indiegogo!

Last year I set up an Indiegogo campaign to help launch The Purple Door District. Thanks to all of the amazing donations, I was able to print 100 books for publication and use the rest of the money to take care of some marketing elements. This year, I’m back at it again with my second campaign, set to last 60 days (instead of 30) with a goal of reaching $2,500 to print Wolf Pit.

I’ve had several people ask me what Indiegogo is. Well, Indiegogo is a website that allows creators to set up campaigns to help raise money towards a particular goal, usually for a product. People who back the campaign receive rewards/perks depending on the tier they pick. For example, $1 in my campaign will get you a shout out on social media, whereas $25 will get you the e-book versions of both The Purple Door District and Wolf Pit once the second book is released. The higher the tier, the more perks you receive!

Indiegogo is very much like Kickstarter except Indiegogo seems to be more author-friendly. Also, while Kickstarter is an “all or nothing” campaign, meaning you either hit your goal and get everything, or you don’t and get nothing, Indiegogo also provides a flexible campaign in which the creator receives whatever donations are made, even if the goal isn’t met. I personally prefer the flexible goal, just in case I can’t meet the deadline. Some say it’s better to do all or nothing because it pushes people to donate, but I don’t want to risk it. I know how hard it is to have money problems, and I’d rather people feel more comfortable donating a smaller amount, if anything at all. As I always say, every dollar helps!

With that being said, here’s information regarding my campaign. At the very least, hopefully it will help other writers get ideas for setting up their own campaigns! I actually used the template that Indiegogo suggested. Don’t forget to check out the actual campaign and see the book trailer/welcome video.

Overview
“Wolf Pit” is the sequel to the urban fantasy book, “The Purple Door District.” Werewolves are going missing, and the District must come together to solve the mystery of their disappearance. In the same vein, I’ve relied on the community to help me build this book. Editors, artists, marketing specialists, and other authors have been vital to its production. I want to raise the money both to print this book, and to also support other creators. Will you help the District?

Who Am I and Who’s the Community?

My name is Erin Casey, and I’m an urban fantasy and YA fantasy writer, as well as the Director of a writing organization called The Writers’ Rooms. TWR is a non-profit corporation focused on providing a free and safe environment to all writers no matter their gender, skill set, background, income, etc. I focus on bringing communities of writers together to help them learn from one another. This is what drove me to want to write about the diverse community in The Purple Door District series.

The Purple Door District and Wolf Pit started out as part of a canon that AE Kellar and I are writing together and hoping to publish in the future. PDD was a smaller component of it, but I fell in love with the concept and asked if I could write a series based on it to help support our main canon. She has been vital in helping me make sure I keep my facts straight! We jokingly say that she’s the brain and I’m the heart of our series. I couldn’t have done this without her.

So what is Wolf Pit about? Here’s the blurb:

My dream is to become an author and help inspire other people. Community plays a big part in my life now, because it was something I grew up without as a child. Last year I ran a campaign and it enabled me to print The Purple Door District. Now I’m looking for help to print Wolf Pit and also support the creative minds who are helping me.

Your generous contributions will allow me to publish the books and support additional creators:

  • Author and Editor Leona Bushman who edited the book and is an author herself.
  • Author and Proofreader, Shakyra Dunn who proofread and sensitivity read my book. See her book down below.
  • Author, Leslie Kung, who has agreed to sensitivity read my book. Check out her work on Patreon!
  • Jewelry maker Amanda Bouma who will help create jewelry for the book.
  • Artist Oni Algarra who is creating character portraits. (Tess from PDD and Wolf Pit is featured below)

Not only would this ensure the production of this book, it would open up the possibility to a series that would continue to bring more work to you and invest in these members of the literary community.

What I Need

My goal is to be open and honest with everyone, so here are what the funds will go towards:

  • Editing through Leona Bushman $500+
  • Business Cards $40
  • Book printing through Ingramspark ($6.74 per book) x 100   $850 (shipping included)
  • Ingramspark Print and Ebook Set up  $50
  • Art Marketing  $150 (for Oni)
  • Promotional Publishing/swag  $300
  • Cover $50 (for artist on Fiverr)
  • Copyright $25
  • Additional Costs (additional marketing/publicity, donation books, office supplies, ec). 

What You Get

  • Character art! Just look at that awesome picture by Oni!
  • Book swag!
  • First look at items to be sold alongside Wolf Pit and the first chance to receive them!
  • Jewelry and items that I and Amanda Bouma create for The Purple Door District and Wolf Pit. 
  • E-books
  • Printed copies
  • A one-on-one writing talk with me
  • and much more!

The Impact

I can’t even express how important your support is. Self-publishing is becoming a more respected form of publishing, and I can’t do it without your help. In a time when our country feels so divided, I think it’s valuable to bring a book with a diverse cast to the community. You get to read through the eyes of characters who are Latino/a, Native American, black, Caucasian, Indian, Chinese, LGBT, etc, and with those who have different beliefs to survive. Even if the different parahumans have prejudices against one another, they’re able to put it aside to make their community safer for themselves and for their children. I hope that people who read this will see themselves in these characters. As I get deeper in to the series, I want to bring in more people of different nationalities, beliefs, and abilities so they can feel represented as well.

Here are just a few of the reviews from The Purple Door District about the world:

  • This book has a great group of characters that are diverse in many ways, and the author will have you falling in love with each one of them. The PDD is a safe haven for all parahumans and it is interesting how all of the different species co-exist together. –Amazon Review
  • THE PURPLE DOOR DISTRICT has everything I want from an urban fantasy series–a big, diverse community of characters who have the same general goals but are at odds with each other as far as how to achieve them, a great blend of high stakes action scenes and poignant emotional moments, and the looming threat of a group of Hunters determined to track down and eliminate magical beings. –Amazon Review
  • It has been a very long time since a book has made me cry, in sadness and joy. The emotion in these characters is so moving, you can’t help but feel you are there with every character through a ride of a story. The people of the Purple Door District are multi-dimensional and it was so great to see such diversity among the characters in a modern fantasy book.  —Amazon Review

You have the opportunity to see a group of creative minds come together to create this book and its future series. We can do this together, and in December, I hope you’ll feel proud holding this book in your hands.

Other Ways You Can Help

I completely understand that you may not be able to donate, and that’s okay! There are other ways you can help!

  • Share this campaign on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.
  • Share this campaign word-of-mouth! Get your friends involved. Show them how they can help a creative community.
  • Let me know what you would like to see promoted. More jewelry? More art? What representation do you want to see in future books?
  • Want to make a smaller but still powerful contribution? Consider becoming a patron on Patreon and receive chapters of the book before everyone else!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart! I can’t do this without you!

Cheers!

Erin Casey

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/wolf-pit-urban-fantasy-novel

www.erincasey.org

How to Steal Writing Time From a Busy Schedule

In this crazy world called life, it’s often hard to find time to sit down and write. Between work, families, extra-curricular activities, shopping, adulting, etc, when are we supposed to work on our books? Many people say they have stories in their head but no time to put them on paper. I can sympathize, really. I’m usually running around from 8am-8 or 9 pm depending on the day, which leaves only a couple hours to get things done.

So what do you do? How do you steal some time from your busy schedule so you can create your masterpiece?

  • Meeting: Set aside a half hour or hour on certain nights and treat it like you would a work meeting or an appointment. If friends, or work, try to schedule things at that time, calmly explain you have a meeting that you can’t miss. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be at adapting to the new schedule. It could be once a week or several times a week. Either way, it gives you time when you know you can work.
  • Spurts or Sprints: I learned this little trick during NaNoWriMo. You set 10-15 minutes aside, turn off all distractions, and write whatever comes to your mind. Don’t worry about editing or going back to research, just write. Friends of mine and I will hold sprints to see who can write the most in that time frame. It’s a fun little challenge, and it forces you to get text on paper. Likewise, if you find yourself with 10 minutes to spare, use that time to type on your phone or computer, or write in a journal that you bring along. Even if you don’t get a lot out, it may get your mind moving so you’ll be ready to work on your book that night.
  • Record: How many hours do we spend in the car traveling from place to place? How many times have you been in the shower and gotten a great idea but couldn’t write it down? Record yourself. I’ve been on road trips and clicked ‘record’ on my phone and rattled off scenes and story ideas. Even if they’re not directly on paper at that moment, at least I got the idea out of my head and didn’t lose it. There are also speech-to-text programs like Dragon Speech that will record you and type what you say. It takes some getting used to, but it works great if you’re doing dishes or some other task and want to still get the words out.
  • Change Sleep Time: Now, I wouldn’t recommend this if you have insomnia or sleep trouble, but, if you can safely wake up a half hour early or go to bed a half hour later, you can use that extra time to get work done. One of my friends gets all of her writing done between like 5 and 6 am when she’s not being disturbed by anyone. Can you do that too?
  • Lunch Hour: If you get a lunch break at work, that might be a great time to work on writing. Right now, I’m munching on a sandwich and writing this blog entry because I was too tired to write it last night. I still get a break from work, but I’m also being productive with my own craft. But, if you fear you’ll get burnt out, make sure you still take that break.
  • Competitions/Deadlines: Maybe you want to try to push yourself to write because there’s an anthology deadline out there, or a writing contest. I might not write for three months because I know that in November, I’m going to spend 30 days writing for National Novel Writing Month. I pour out 50,000 words, taking more time for my craft that month than usual, because I know it’s only going to last a month. If you set goals for yourself, it might encourage you to find time during a busy schedule.

Whatever you decide to do to get writing time in, remember a couple of things:

  1. You don’t have to write everyday.
  2. Take care of yourself. If you’re burning yourself out writing, you’re not going to enjoy it as much.
  3. Make sure you’re still getting downtime for yourself.
  4. Have fun.

Do you have ways that you fit in writing? Share them below!

Yes, Writing is a Real Job

“You’re a writer? When are you going to get a real job?” 

Far too many writers have heard these scathing questions. Sometimes you can laugh it off and go back to working on your novel or script. Sometimes it comes during a moment of hardship when debt is surmounting, and you’re wondering to yourself if you can actually pull off publishing another book. And while, yes, for some folks writing is a hobby that they do in their free time for fun, it’s also a job for all those other people trying to get paid for their craft. 

“You’re a writer? When are you going to get a real job?”

Far too many writers have heard these scathing questions. Sometimes you can laugh it off and go back to working on your novel or script. Sometimes it comes during a moment of hardship when debt is surmounting, and you’re wondering to yourself if you can actually pull off publishing another book. And while, yes, for some folks writing is a hobby that they do in their free time for fun, it’s also a job for all those other people trying to get paid for their craft.

I don’t think most people understand the amount of work that goes into creating a book and marketing it to the public, but we’ll talk about that in a little bit. First, I’d like to bring up an article on Writer’s Digest called Is It a Hobby or a Job? by author Brian Klems. In it he discusses how writing is definitely work, but it’s not classified as a job until you make money off of it. He also goes on to say that the amount of work that goes into it writing can’t just be classified as a hobby either. I’m sure a lot of you are nodding about the latter point.

In this day and age, it’s hard to make a living as a writer because of the low pay, but that doesn’t make it any less of a job. It just means I have to work that much harder to keep my literary career alive, oh, and also work the other 40-hour job I do during the week at the same time to cover the rest of the cost. Most writers have to still work a 40-hour job, or part time, to make ends meet. Some take the plunge and quit their daytime work to write full time, and I applaud them for taking the initiative.

Unfortunately, that usually elicits the image of someone writing for a couple hours, binge watching Netflix the rest of the day, then complaining they have no money.

Let me kind of give you a view of what it’s like to live as a published indie author, and then tell me if you think that writing is still just a hobby. Keep in mind, I’ve only been doing this for a year, so imagine what an author juggling several books goes through everyday.

  • I work from 8:30-5pm Monday-Friday (and some weekends for overtime).
  • I volunteer in the evening for literary organizations.
  • Starting around 8 or 9 pm until I go to bed, on weekends, or on my “day off,” I do at least one of these things:
    • Research information for my book.
    • World build or develop elements for my book
    • Write or edit my novel.
    • Discuss with my editors and proofreaders what needs to be changed and apply those edits.
    • Talk with my sensitivity readers about changes that need to be made.
    • Keep a presence on Amazon , Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, Wattpad, Goodreads, Bookbub, Allauthor for marketing reasons.
    • Design banners, contests, graphics to post in all these locations about my book.
    • Reach out to bloggers to review my book or do a blog train.
    • Update my website with new author information and author interviews.
    • Build connections with fellow writers, editors, marketers, etc.
    • Set up signing events.
    • Attend signing events in different cities and states.
    • Post chapters on Patreon to help pay for my website.
    • Commission art of characters for stickers/swag.
    • Commission cover art.
    • Create other swag (bookmarks, necklaces, etc)
    • Run an Indiegogo campaign to help cover costs.
    • Participate in online “takeover” events.
    • Query my books.
    • Participate in online book contests to either 1. get an award for my book. 2. find an agent/publisher for my other books.
    • Format my book through Scrivener and Adobe Acrobat.
    • Set up and publish my book through Ingramspark then order copies.
    • Contact libraries and bookstores to carry my book.
    • Set up ISBNs, sales tax permit, BIN.
    • Check inventory and order more supplies on books and all marketing materials.
    • Review finances.
    • Prepare a book launch with local venues.
    • Attend writing conventions to make connections and learn the latest marketing techniques.
    • Participate in author summits both as a listener as an author.

…and the list goes on.

Being an author is a multi-faceted job, and most of the time you have to do everything yourself. Even if you’re a traditionally published author, publishing houses are doing less to market the book and encouraging authors to do more of the work. Many of my author friends spend days at conventions and marketing to sell their books and pay for the table, gas, hotel, meals, and other bills.

But you may ask, “Erin, you charge $15 for your paper book. How do you not make money off of it?”

Because by the time you factor in the editing, proofreading, printing, marketing, and sales tax permit, I don’t see much profit. Every dollar helps and puts me closer to making a better income off of writing. But I have to market to make that happen. I’ve heard it takes until book 2 or 3 to actually see a return in money, which is why initially it may look like authors are so broke, even if they receive advances from publishing companies.

That doesn’t mean writing isn’t a job.

Honestly, for me, it would be my dream job to write full time and survive off of my books. While that might be a long time in coming, I’ll do what I can to keep working towards it. In the meantime, I hope this gives people a better understanding of how much work goes into being an author and that it’s more of a job than most realize.