Stalking horror and dark fiction in October

Horror & Dark Fiction Theme Post

In screenwriting, horror is very formulaic. The setting isolates the characters in a situation where their lives and/or souls are in jeopardy and the characters always make poor choices which throw them directly into the path of the psycho serial killer/monster, i.e. the villain. This horror movie commercial for Geiko sums up horror movies nicely: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYae3ZAAbLc. I get a kick out of it every time I watch it. But that isn’t to say that there are no good movies. When done right, horror movies can keep you awake at night because they play on our deepest fears. And fear is a powerful emotion.

In October Writing to be Read has been stalking horror and dark fiction. In fiction, horror stories don’t have to be as formulaic as horror films, (although they can be), but they have many of the same components. There is usually a battle of good vs. evil, as horror and dark fiction stories seem a natural fit for this theme. Dark fiction stories mesh well with fantasy, thrillers, science fiction and western genres, among others. They just seem to work well together. Whatever flavor of dark fiction you choose to examine, horror is, and always has been, in high demand.

You can’t have a conversation about horror and dark fiction without hearing mention of the masters such as Edgar Allen Poe, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice. These dark minds have created some of the most memorable horror stories, ones which stick in readers’ minds because they are so twisted, and dark, and horrific, playing on the fears we harbor within ourselves. Stephen King and Anne Rice are the masters of horror for me. Who is your favorite horror author? Let me know in the comments below.

This month we looked at two award winning and best selling authors of dark fiction on not one, but two segments of “Chatting with the Pros”, who may be right up there with the best of them: Paul Kane and Jeffrey J. Mariotte, and a double review featuring Kane’s Arcana and Mariotte’s Cold Black Hearts. In addition, I interviewed author Roberta Eaton Cheadle about her first dark fiction novel and the transition from writing children’s stories into writing horror, and I reviewed that novel, Through the Nethergate. And “Growing Bookworms” Robbie Cheadle discussed the pros and cons of allowing children to read stories with scary or sad content.

 

 

 

In addition, this month myself and three of the Writing to be Read team members: Art Rosch, Robbie Cheadle and Jeff Bowles, have stories in the WordCrafter paranormal anthology, Whispers of the Past, and Robbie and I both have stories appearing in Dan Alatorre’s horror anthology, Nightmareland.

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It’s been a great month for horror,and to top it all off, WordCrafter is co-hosting a Halloween book event on Facebook with Sonoran Dawn Studios, the All Hallow’s Eve: Little Shop of Horrors Party. With games and giveaways with cool prizes, music and scary audio stories, it should be a lot of fun. I hope you’ll click on the link and drop in and spend some or all of your Halloween with us: https://www.facebook.com/events/2389123051407696/ 

 

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Spend Your Halloween at the “All Hallows Eve: Little Shop of Horrors Party” Book Event

Book Event Promotion

It’s almost Halloween! Don’t sit home and be bored. WordCrafter is partying with Sonoran Dawn Studios with the All Hallow’s Eve: Little Shop of Horrors Party on Facebook.

  • Free promotion for authors
  • Music
  • Audio stories
  • Games and giveaways with great prizes

The author voted best scary audio story will receive a $25 Amazon gift card, so come party with us and let your vote be counted. Join in the fun and support your favorite authors on Thursday, October 31st. Just click on the link below and then click ‘Going’.

Author takeover slots are still available, but time is short, so contact Sonoran Dawn Studios from the event page to reserve your time slot now. Bring all of your ghosts, goblins and ghouls and let’s party! See you there!

All Hallow’s Eve: Little Shop of Horrors Party

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Writing for a YA Audience: Say Cheese

Writing for a Y.A. Audience

“Go on Instagram,” said my publisher.  “That’s where the teens are.  Post pictures of your books.  They’ll eat it up.”29740613_2086786601596966_6289468774466715648_n(1)

I was new to Instagram, but I called up the website on my computer and attempted to join, only to find out you have to post using the app on your cell phone.  That put a damper on things – I don’t have a smart phone.  My phone flips up, costs $100 a year, and it does everything I need it to (as in, it sometimes sends texts and usually makes a phone call).  My husband has a smart phone, so I download the app onto his device, put on a smile, and snapped a picture holding my book.  I didn’t look all that great.  I snapped a few more, and ended up just taking a picture of the book cover.  It got a few likes. They were from people who already knew me on Facebook.

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I posted a few more covers and the likes trickled in, still from people who were already my friend.  It seemed I needed a new strategy.  I needed to attract people who didn’t already know me.  I took some pictures of just me doing cute poses or wearing cute outfits.  The same thing happened – the same people “liked” my pictures.  Next, I tried posting pictures of my cat.  That earned me more likes, and a couple new people.  While she is adorable, my goal for Instagram was to get my book out there.

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I reached out to author friends for advice.  Based on their feedback, I started posting inspirational quotes and setting up my books in gorgeous spots.  I propped my book up on the porch.  I set the book in a bed of flowers.  I put the book on my actual bed.

I like to think I’ve gotten better at posing my book in different way.  The books are models and I’m their photographer.  A very poor photographer.  Likes and hearts trickle in, and now they’re coming from people I don’t know.  I’m getting there!

Jordan Elizabeth is a young adult fantasy author.  If you would like to follow her on Instagram, she goes by JayliaDarkness.  The username is a shout-out to the YA fantasy series she’s currently writing. 

You can connect with Jordan via her website, JordanElizabethBooks.com.

 

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Interview with western author Loretta Miles Tollefson

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After writing an excerpt of Delilah for an assignment in grad school, I remember thinking, ‘this could be a book’. But I also remember thinking that a western by a female author probably wouldn’t sell. Women weren’t supposed to write westerns. After all, the western frontier was for rugged men. I knew there were women in the west, but I guessed that they weren’t protagonist material. Then, I wrote and published Delilah anyway. It was a story that wanted to be told. My character, Delilah spoke to me and the writing of the tale was too important for me to let the idea that it might not be a best seller stand in the way.

In the meantime, I was happy to learn that there are other female western authors out there. I’m pleased to have one as my guest today. Her books are set in the historical New Mexico landscape based on factual historical people and places. Western fiction author Loretta Miles Tollefson will share her thoughts on the matter of gender in the western genre and other aspects of writing and her books. 

Please welcome Loretta Miles Tollefson.


Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey?

Loretta: When I was fifteen I won a writing contest in a Sunday School paper and that triggered a deep desire to continue to see my words in print. I published a couple more pieces in that same paper, then branched into short stories and poetry in my 20s and 30s. I had a few things published and received a co-publication offer for a novel. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the financial resources to follow up on that. I continued to write and had some poetry published in my 40s and early 50s. I self-published a couple novels in my mid-50s and then The Pain and the Sorrow was published by Sunstone Press in 2017. I was frustrated by the lack of opportunities to advertise a novel that had been traditionally published and went back to the self-pub route with Not Just Any Man.

Kaye: When did you know you wanted to be an author?

Loretta: I was 15 but, because I come from a very practical family, I chose to take the pragmatic approach of going into newspaper and magazine work instead of stepping into the uncertain waters of fiction. Eventually, I became a Special Projects Manager for a regional planning organization here in New Mexico, a job which utilized both my writing and research skills. I didn’t realize my dream of writing full time until I retired about five years ago.

Kaye: What is the most enjoyable part of writing westerns for you?

Loretta: For me, the most enjoyable part of writing is finding ways to bring the historical details, my characters’ personalities, and the storyline itself together. It’s like weaving a tapestry. And then there’s always the sudden inspiration that seems to come out of nowhere, when my characters seem to be telling me what they want to say. Although I, as the author, always have control, I’m sometimes surprised at where the story takes me.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing western fiction for you?

Loretta: I think my biggest challenge in writing historical fiction set in the West is feeling like I need to double check all the details. Even though I grew up on a small farm and we had horses and cows and chickens and hung the clothes on a line and pretty much all the rest of it, there’s a great deal I don’t remember or took for granted at the time. And, of course, I didn’t actually live in the early 1800s. I have to be careful not to assume certain ways of doing things or specific pieces of equipment were common back then. I’m always concerned that I’ll slip into an anachronism.

Kaye: You follow the old adage “write what you know”, setting your books in areas where you have lived and are familiar with, yet you must envision those settings in another time period. It seems perhaps your own setting acts as inspiration for your stories?

Loretta: It does. Very much so. I’ve lived in New Mexico almost thirty years and was fortunate enough to travel all over the state in connection with my job. Then, after I retired, we moved to Eagle Nest, New Mexico, on the northern end of the Moreno Valley. We lived there five years and that experience really brought together my love of history and my desire to write full time. There’s so much history here in New Mexico that I don’t think I will ever run out of ideas. We recently moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and that will continue to inspire me and to provide me with great resources for my research.

Kaye: Your novel, Not Just Any Man, was recently released. Would you like to tell us a little about that book?

Not Just Any Man ebook cover.final 11 5 18.150 dpiLoretta: Not Just Any Man is about a black mountain man in 1820s New Mexico named Gerald Locke, Jr. It’s an adventure story, as Gerald traps in Northern New Mexico and then joins a fur trapping expedition across the Arizona desert and up the Colorado River. The group includes Enoch Jones, the only mountain man in the West who seems to have an issue with Gerald’s skin color. Jones has a few other issues as well, and the conflict between the two men is a crucial plot element.

But this isn’t just an adventure story. Gerald has met a young woman in Taos who seems far above his station in life and he can’t stop thinking about her. Even if he can survive the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the Mohave Indians, and the arid rim of the Grand Canyon, as well as Enoch Jones, can Gerald prove to himself and the girl he loves that he is, after all, not just any man?

Kaye: Do you think western readers are more receptive to male protagonists?

Loretta: There certainly are a lot of male protagonists in the western genre. I think this is because the traditional Western initially reflected the cultural assumption that only men played an active role in events in the West. As we broaden our understanding of the historical West, both before and after the United States was the primary actor there, we’re realizing just how often women played critical roles on the frontier. Life was harsh. Any family that was going to survive needed everyone in it to be fully engaged. Women had to take on roles they hadn’t necessarily played before. If anything, I believe their experiences on the frontier helped to begin breaking down the barriers that we’re still disassembling today. As we do that, I suspect Western readers will become more and more receptive to all kinds of protagonists.

Kaye: You have wonderful covers with beautiful landscapes that cry out ‘western’! Where do you get your covers?

Loretta: Well, thank you! I’m glad you like them. I worry about my covers. Other than The Pain in the Sorrow, I’ve designed them all myself and created most of them using a combination of Publisher and Gimp. The pundits’ advice is to have someone else do them, but I tend to have very specific ideas about what I want, and I haven’t yet discovered anyone who can quite catch my vision.

Loretta: The Pain and the Sorrow was strongly inspired by New Mexico history. Its characters actually existed and the primary incidents in the story are based on historical artifacts.

The plot of Not Just Any Man is also strongly situated in actual events. While the protagonist and villain are both fictional, most of the mountain men in the novel, are based on actual people—Old Bill Williams, Milton Sublette, Ewing Young, etc.—and much of the story line is based on their first-hand accounts.

Kaye: The Pain and the Sorrow has historical basis, as do all your books as I understand it. And it’s obvious that you strive to make your details as accurate as possible. Do you weave the history into your stories or is it the New Mexico history that inspires the stories?

9781632931849-Perfect w shadow.inddKaye: The Pain and the Sorrow is based in New Mexico history and a historical figure of legend, but the story about your female protagonist. Not all of your novels have female protagonists though. Was the female protagonist easier to write since you have a natural female perspective?

Loretta: The Pain and the Sorrow was a very difficult story to tell because of the abuse my teenage protagonist suffers at the hands (and other body parts) of her husband. I think that writing Gregoria’s story may have been more difficult for me precisely because I am female. My emotions were very raw during the entire process. I might have found it easier to tell Gregoria’s story if I didn’t have a “natural female perspective” and felt less connection with her.

Kaye: Do you think it’s more difficult for a female to make it in the western genre than it is for male authors?

Loretta: I think it’s difficult for any author to break into any genre today, regardless of their gender. However, it seems to me that more women are writing Western-style stories and getting them published than has been true in the past. For example, of the fourteen authors showcased in Five Star Publishing’s recent The Trading Post and other stories, four or five are women. In early December 2018, the twenty top-sellers in Amazon’s Western category included at least two women. There may have been more, publishing under a male pseudonym. We’ll really know that women have made it in western fiction when no one finds it necessary to use a male, or male-sounding, pen name when they do so.

Kaye: My publisher slapped Delilah into the romance category, listing it as a frontier romance. While there is a romantic element to the story, I didn’t make it the major focus of the story. I guess they thought it was more marketable as a romance, and I do think that because my protagonist is female, the book might have a stronger appeal to a female audience. Do you think western readers are more receptive to stories with a male protagonist?

Loretta: That’s hilarious. I really liked Delilah and I enjoyed the romance element in it, but classifying it as a frontier romance seems to me to diminish its marketing potential. I never search for frontier romance. As a result, I would have missed Delilah entirely if that’s the only place it could be found. I feel strongly that the current way the market is being sliced into finer and finer categories does us all — readers and writers alike — a disservice because it makes it more difficult to find the well-written, well-conceived books like Delilah that transcend easy categorization.

Kaye: Do you feel that it is harder for women authors to be taken seriously in the western genre?

Loretta: To a certain extent, this may be true. After all, as I mentioned above, some women authors of Westerns apparently feel that it’s necessary to use pseudonyms to obscure their gender. But I think that as we persist, this will become less and less of an issue.

Kaye: You are also a poet and you have out several poetry books. Would you talk a little about what inspires your poetry?

Loretta: My poetry is very personal, especially But Still My Child, which contains the poems I wrote after a miscarriage over thirty years ago. The poems I wrote during that time and afterwards helped me process that grief and I hope publishing them will support others in that same process.

My other volumes of poetry were the result of an attempt to blend my interest in poetry with my love of story. For historical stories, now that I think of it. The poems in But Then Moses Was There and Mary At The Cross try to get inside the heads of Biblical characters to express what living their experiences might have felt like.

Kaye: You’ve also written other non-western novels. What other genres do you write in?

Loretta: I’ve written an urban fiction about coming of age/homelessness in 1980s Seattle and a chick lit novel about a New Mexico couple who wins the lottery. I’m not working in either of those genres now. I’m focusing my energies exclusively on historical fiction set in Old New Mexico.

That focus on historical fiction has also resulted in two short story collections set in New Mexico: Valley of the Eagles and Old One Eye Pete. Valley is a collection of micro-fiction. The stories are all 500 words or less. Old One Eye Pete contains longer pieces, with stories featuring the mountain man Old One Eye Pete acting as the narrative thread.

Kaye: What is the working title of your next book?

Loretta: It’s called Not My Father’s House. It’s a sequel to Not Just Any Man and (spoiler alert!) focuses on Suzanna’s struggle to adapt to living high in New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo mountains. I’ve just finished the second draft, so it should be out by the middle of 2019.

Kaye: Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?

Loretta: I research material for my upcoming books — or at least I tell myself it’s for my upcoming books. Hah! And I read fiction: historical, mystery, suspense, Westerns, and pretty much anything else that looks interesting to me at the moment. I review most of everything that I read, unless it has 100 reviews or more. I would love to review more historical fiction set in 1800s New Mexico and Southern Colorado, since Southern Colorado was part of New Mexico at one time.

Kaye: Would you tell us a little about your blog? What will readers find there if they visit?

Loretta: My blog is at http://www.LorettaMilesTollefson.com. About once a week, I post a short piece about a historical event or a flash fiction story set in Old New Mexico, which I define as anything prior to statehood in 1912. The site also includes news about, and links to, my books.

Kaye: Which author or poet, dead or alive, would you love to have lunch with?

Loretta: I have so many favorites. This is a hard question to answer. I think right now, given the work I’m doing, the person I would most like to have lunch with would be Paulette Jiles. I really enjoyed her News Of The World and the way she brought actual events to life in that book.

Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Loretta: I read and explore the region with my husband. Ultimately, it’s all research.

Kaye: Is there anything unique or unusual about your writing process?

Loretta: My writing process consists of writing the first draft, letting it sit a month, revising, letting it sit a month or so, then revising again until I feel it’s really ready. This process seems to be becoming more unusual in today’s fast-paced writing environment.

Kaye: How much non-writing work, (research, marketing & promotion, illustrations & book covers, etc…), do you do yourself for your books?

Loretta: At the moment, I’m doing all my own research, marketing, promotion, book covers, and so forth. I’m stretching myself pretty thin with all these different activities, but doing it all gives me a lot of control. I may have to start farming some of the non-writing work out as I move along in my journey.

Kaye: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Loretta: To tell you the truth, I watch so little television and so few movies these days, that I’m not sure who would be the best actor to play Gerald or Susanna in a movie based on Not Just Any Man or Gregoria or Charles Kennedy in The Pain And The Sorrow. I’d love some input from your readers on this question.

Kaye: I can and will reach out to readers for input on who should play your leads were your story made film, but now you have to answer another question: Since many of my readers may not have read your books, can you tell us what characteristics these characters would have so they can better imagine who would be a good fit?

Loretta: Hmmm,
Characteristics:

Gerald: square forehead, gray eyes. Half black/half Irish. Late 20s.

Suzanna: slim, tall for a woman (about Gerald’s height). long black hair, dark brown eyes. Half anglo (WASP), a quarter french, a quarter Navajo. About 16.

Alright readers. Here’s your chance be heard. Who do you think would be good for the roles of Gerald and Suzanna? Please comment with your suggestions. Loretta and I would both love to hear the possibilities.

Kaye: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Loretta: In a nutshell: read, revise, revise again.

If you plan to write fiction, read fiction. Especially classic fiction: Hemingway, Steinbeck, Austen, Dickens, and so forth. Also, read contemporary fiction, and not just books in your genre. Some of my favorite authors right now are Louise Penny and Donna Leon. They teach me pacing and character development. I’m especially fascinated by the way their protagonists develop over the course of the series. Everything’s research, even the books you don’t like. And don’t be afraid to express your opinions and trust your instincts. It’s okay to not like a book even if everyone else is saying how wonderful it is.

Most of all, revise! As Anton Chekhov said, “rewrite everything five times.” Well, maybe not that many, but you see what I mean. I would add “but not immediately” to that advice. Take the time to let your work rest, and then go back and look at it again. When you start changing sentences back to the way you had them in a previous version, that’s when you should stop. But not until then.

Revise it, let it rest, then revise it again. There’s a popular saying that “Perfection is the enemy of done.” I am uncomfortable with that statement. While no work is going to be absolutely perfect, rushing to publication is the enemy of quality work. Try to get your story as well-written as possible. Producing quality work is what will keep your readers coming back for more.


I want to thank Loretta for joining us today and sharing a glimpse into the world of western writing from a female author’s perspective. I have admired her work since I reviewed The Pain and the Sorrow last May, and it’s a thrill to have the privelage of interviewing her. It’s a real treat to hear from another female author in the world of western fiction.


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Merry Christmas!: Welcoming Children’s Author Robbie Cheadle to the WtbR Team

Robbie Chaedle

Robbie Cheadle is a very creative mother, author and fondant artist, who thinks outside the box to find inventive solutions for life’s difficulties. I first met Robbie through Sonoran Dawn’s Dead Man’s Party Halloween book event, where I did a reading of her short horror story, The Willow Tree, via audio recording for the event. During her takeover, Robbie posted images of her delectable creations to promote her Sir Chocolate book series for children, which she wrote with her son, Michael. She uses these image of her baked creations as cover art and to illustrate the book series. I thought this was incredibly innovative, and I immediately wanted to know more about this woman, and it didn’t take long to decide that I wanted to add her to the WtbR team.

Robbie is my Christmas gift this year, as I’ve been searching for a children’s author to join the Writing to be Read team. So, starting in January, Robbie will be popping in the second Wednesday of each month with her new blog series on writing for children, Growing Bookworms. I can’t wait to see what she has to share with us, so let’s learn more about her.

Kaye: Your Sir Chocolate covers are photos of your own delectable desert creations, which is very creative. Which came first – the baking or the writing?

Robbie: I started with baking and fondant art quite a long time before we wrote the books, but pairing the two was an idea that only came later. I used to write poetry and descriptive passages as a tween and teenager. Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery was my favourite book when I was a tween. Emily is a poetess in the book and her father is a writer. The book inspired me to write down my thoughts and feelings.

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Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey? How did the published works of Robbie Cheadle come to be?

Robbie: I never planned to become a published author when I first started writing the Sir Chocolate stories. My son, Michael, aged 6 years old at the time was having difficulties with learning to read and write. He was diagnosed with an auditory processing problem which made these activities difficult for him. He had the loveliest story ideas about a little man made of chocolate who lived in a land where you could eat anything, even the sand, trees and houses. In order to encourage him to write, I made up rhyming verse stories using his ideas. Together we wrote them down in handmade books.

I have always enjoyed fondant art and sometimes Michael would come and sit with me and make his own version of what I was making. We started making illustrations for the books by taking photographs of our creations. My nieces and nephews enjoyed the Sir Chocolate stories, so I tried them out with my Sunday school class of children. One of my friends at the Church suggested I send the stories and pictures to a friend of hers who is a publisher in the UK. Anne liked the stories and gave us a contract for the Sir Chocolate series of books.

Kaye: You talk about fondant art. I, for one had never heard of this. Could you explain briefly what fondant art is?

Robbie: Fondant is also called sugar dough and is an elastic type of icing, almost like modelling clay. This is the substance that cake bakers use to make figurines, flowers and other edible artworks for cakes. The items in the picture I emailed you are all made of fondant.

Silly Willy

Kaye: You’re the co-author, along with your son Michael of the Sir Chocolate book series for young readers. How did that partnership come about?

Robbie: Between the ages of 6 and about 9 years old, Michael and I continued to make up Sir Chocolate rhyming verse stories from time to time. We would be doing something like visiting an ice cream shop and an idea would come to us. We would then chat about the idea and develop it into a story. Michael has delightful ideas like the chocolate snow and the ice-cream rainbow fairies who feature in Sir Chocolate and the Ice-cream Rainbow Fairies’ story and cookbook which will come out in 2020.

Kaye: What’s the one thing you hope your son takes away from this venture?

Robbie: I always hoped that Michael would become a proficient reader and learn to enjoy books and reading. It is not easy for a child who struggles to learn to read to develop a love of reading. I am very happy to say that this has happened. Michael now reads on his own for about 30 minutes a day. We often read together with me reading my book of the day and him reading his current story. Lately, these are all Rick Riordan books.

Kaye: What ages are the Sir Chocolate series aimed at?

Robbie: The Sir Chocolate books are aimed at young children, aged 3 to 9 years old. They are lovely for beginner readers as they are comprised of rhyming verse.

Kaye: Each book in the Sir Chocolate series features a story and a cookbook. That’s an interesting combination. Would you like to tell us a little more about why you chose to pair the two?

Robbie: Sir Chocolate is a little man made of sweets and sugar. All the characters in the books are made of edible products as well as all the houses, trees, flowers and even the rivers and the rocks. As all the illustrations are made of cake, biscuits and sweets, it seemed natural to provide the recipes to make some of the goodies in the book and make the books into a series of first cookbooks as well as a story.

Kaye: You also write supernatural and horror for adult audiences, and you had two stories published in the recently released horror anthology, Dark Visions. (See my review of Dark Visions here.) Another interesting combination: horror and children’s stories. Is there a story behind how you ended up writing in those two genres?

Robbie and DVRobbie: I entered a short story for children in one of Dan Alatorre’s writing competitions and it won an Honourable Mention. I really liked the critique on my story that I received from Dan so when another competition cropped up a few months later I decided to enter. The topic for that one was horror so I thought I would give it a go. That was when I wrote The Willow Tree. Dan again provided an excellent critique in respect of the story. I entered The Haunting of William into his most recent horror competition in June 2018. That was how I came to write darker stories. I discovered that I enjoyed writing this genre and now I am writing a supernatural/horror YA book. I have just exceeded 50,000 words.

Kaye: I can think of many differences in writing horror and in writing for children, but are there also ways in which they are alike?

Robbie: The Sir Chocolate stories all have a villain ranging from the trolls in Book 1 to the candy stripped Roc in book 5. All stories generally have a heroic character and a bad character so there is a common thread between the two genres. The difference is that in the Sir Chocolate books the “baddie” is generally redeemed and becomes a contributing member of Chocolate Land. In my current book, the evil characters are not redeemed.

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a horror story you’ve ever had?

Robbie: I have just written a horror story about cockroaches which infest a working microwave oven and gain unnatural powers as a result of the microwaves they are subjected to. I think that is about the most unusual story I have written to date but I have only been writing for just over two years and I only started writing horror this year.

Open a New DoorKaye: In addition to writing children’s stories and cookbooks, and adult horror, you write poetry. And you have a poetry collection out with Kim Blades, Open a New Door. What type of poetry can we expect to find in this collection? How did that collaboration come about?

Robbie: Kim Blades and I are both South African poets. Our collection is about life in South Africa and is divided into four sections entitled God bless Africa, God bless my family and friends, God bless me and God bless corporates and work. Each section is divided into poems about the good, the bad and the ugly of our experiences in each of these areas of our lives.

Kaye: What is the most important quality in a poem for you?

Robbie: I like poems that are simply written and have a strong message. I try to write my poems along those lines. I don’t believe a lot of “highbrow” language is necessary in a poem for it to be an emotional and evocative piece of writing.

While the Bombs FellKaye: You have another collaboration with Elsie Haney Eaton, While the Bombs Fell. It’s about life during World War II, which is quite different from the Sir Chocolate stories. What age audience is this book aimed at? Would you like to talk a little about it?

Robbie: Elsie Hancy Eaton is my mother and While the Bombs Fell is a fictionalized account of her early years growing up during WWII in a rural town in England. It features the deprivation caused by bombing and rationing and the other hardships experienced, but it also provides a lot of insight into the small pleasures people enjoyed during the war in the way of a Christmas pudding, the ingredients for which were literally saved up for most of the year, swimming in favourite spots along the river Waverney and learning to knit. The reason this account is fictionalized and not an autobiography is my mother was aged 4 to 7 years during the war and so she can’t remember all the fine details. I supplemented her memories with a lot of my own research.

Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing for children?

Robbie: Marketing the books. Indie authors and writers with small publishers find it more difficult to get their books into stores and in front of the eyes of children. Children generally don’t use social Medias and, therefore, we are marketing to the parents and not to the actual child. Impulse buys are fewer as a result. I try to visit schools and Sunday Schools, but my time for these events are limited due to my work requirements.

Kaye: What other activities do you find time for when you’re not baking or writing?

Robbie: I am a qualified chartered accountant with a full time job and two sons. Any recreational time I have that isn’t spent with my family is used for writing, baking and blogging. I have two blogs, one for my children’s books, light poetry, baking and fondant art called robbiespiration.wordpress.com and one for my adult writing and darker poems called robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com.

Thank you so much Robbie for chatting with me here today. It’s been a pleasure, and I’m thrilled to have you on board. I look forward to your Growing Bookworms blog series. I have no doubt that you have some interesting things to share with us.

Welcoming Robbie to the Writing to be Read team is my Christmas present this year, and adding her blog series will be a great way to start out the New Year, too. You can learn more about Robbie and her writing and art one her blogs or click on the links below:

Sir Chocolate book series: https://www.facebook.com/SirChocolateBooks/

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Robbie-Cheadle/e/B01N9J62GQ/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1542170868&sr=1-1

Bake & Write: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/author/robbie-cheadle/

Or look her up on social media:

Twitter: @bakeandwrite

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robbie.cheadle.7

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cheadlerobbie/

I hope all my readers will help me welcome this creative children’s author to the Writing to be Read team and be sure to catch the first segment of her Growing Bookworms series on January 9th.

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Social Media is for Making Connections

Pintrest

My husband always accused me of spending too much time ‘playing’ on Facebook, and although I do spend a lot of time on social media, what I’m really doing is promoting my writing and interacting with other authors and potential readers. The truth is, social media can be a valuable tool for authors, if they go about it with the right expectations.

Although I hear paid Facebook ads can drum up a few sales, but if we don’t want to spend a lot of money, we shouldn’t expect to sell a lot of books through social media. I know it doesn’t sound like it’s really very beneficial when you look at it from a sales perspective. But social media can be benificial if we use it to connect. Social media connects me with other authors and potential readers via several channels.

Dead Man's Party

On Halloween, I co-hosted the Dead Man’s Party event, together with DL Mullen of Sonoran Dawn Studios. Though I had participated in several such events, this was my first experience with the organization of one. It was also the first audio event I had ever heard of. We mixed things up a bit by having the participating authors provided readings of their works of paranormal and horror, intermixed with the regular promotional posts, silly party games and giveaways. I had recently reviewed Dark Visions, a horror anthology compiled and edited by Dan Alatorre, which had just been released, and with his help, I was able to recruit many of the authors of the stories from the anthology. It was a learning experience, as many of these authors had never published anything before,  or done an event such as this. I did many of the recordings and put together one video reading, as well as creating promotional posts for many of them. The whole thing was a lot of fun, drawing in over 1000 visitors I’m told. Overall, it was a success and a lot of fun, and I made many new friends and followers.

But, it was also a lot of work. The recordings took a lot of time to get them right, their were a few audio problems with the video presentation, and I made their promos like I do for my own work, with loving care. However, it was worth it all to get the experience and improve on my promotional skills, as well as in watching my number of followers grow. And one of my new author friends from the event will be joining the WtbR team as a contributing blogger to start the new year. The work I did also gave me some much needed samples of my promotional work, which I used to start my new Copywriting and PA Services page.

So you can see how this event benefited me greatly. Although I didn’t sell a single book, (the ones I gave away don’t count here), I did prosper from the event in many other ways. The message here is to social media to your advantage, but use it in the right ways and for the right reasons in order to avoid having your expectations left unfulfilled. But that’s how you have to approach social media promotion. The first word in social media is ‘social’. It’s there to make connections. That’s what we can expect to get from promotions on social media platforms. Promotion on social media can bring you authors to network with, or readers to build your platform. Any real book sales that you do get are just a nice bonus, but they cannot be expected.

I also gain followers through my Facebook pages. I currently have four pages. The primary page is my Kaye Lynne Booth – Author and Screenwriter page. I also have a page for Delilah – Kaye Lynne Booth, for news concerning both my published western and for book 2, Delilah the Homecoming which is still in the draft stages, as well as pages for two WIPs: my scince fantasy series, Playground for the Gods – Kaye Lynne Booth, and my memoir, His Name Was Michael – Kaye Lynne Booth. Through these pages I hope to gain followers who are interested in my writings. By building my platform, I hopefully gain readers who will buy my book.

I’m a member of a large number of author and book groups that allow promotional posts, as well as discussions. We should realize that most of the participants in these events like the one I spoke about above are other authors and the ‘book sales’ you get will be from giveaways. I use this to my advantage by making these connections my goal, instead of going about it with expectations of increased book sales. I spend my time on social media sharing promotions for my blog posts, responding to comments on my posts, sending out friend requests, and interacting. Through the new author friends that I make at these events, I’m able to find authors in need of interviews or book reviews for Writing to be Read, and my followers are growing through my efforts, as well.

So, I say that social media can be a useful tool if we set the right expectations and use social media the way it is meant to be used. Connections can be valuable to an author, especially a new author. We just have to see it’s value and find ways to use it to our benefit.

 

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Yuletide Jingle Book Event: Come Join in the Fun!

Jingle Jangle

If you’re looking for Jeff’s Pep Talk, you’ll find his post next Wednesday. This week I wanted to let all my readers know about the Yuletide Jingle event on December 8th, hosted by Sonoran Dawn Studios. It’s going to be an audio event, with Christmas songs and stories intermixed with author promos. Of course, there will be games and giveaways, as well. Three authors will win cover art by Sonoran Dawn Studios. There will also be free books and other great prizes offered by the individual participants. It’s going to be a lot of fun.  So click on the link below to reserve your spot and join in. Author Take Over slots are still available. I do hope I’ll see you all there.

https://www.facebook.com/events/348391889231178/https://www.facebook.com/events/348391889231178/


“How I Sold 80,000 Books”: Advice Every Author Should Know

How I Sold 80,000 Books

How I Sold 80,000 Books: Book Marketing for Authors (Self Publishing Through Amazon and Other Retailers), by Alinka Rutkowska offers authors valuable marketing tips coming from the business end of writing. Coming from a marketing background, Rutkowska shares tips on the art of successful book marketing, which might be applied to increase book sales and push the author’s name up on the bestseller’s listings.

Although the advice in How I Sold 80,000 Books is aimed mostly toward nonfiction works, Rutkowska claims it can easily be applied to works of fiction, too. The book takes readers through the author’s step-by-step marketing system, which she uses to sell her own books. She shares her secrets for producing a quality product that sells, talks about the best outlets through which to offer your books, discusses how to put the best price on your books, and effective ways to promote your books. Although every step may not be applicable by every author, they are all good, solid book marketing advice.

The valuable book marketing advice contained within may be why this book was a Readers’ Favorite Book Award winner, and why every author should add How I Sold 80,000 Books to their must read list. I will use much of the advice received from this book and I give it five quills.

five-quills3

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Social Media: What’s it good for?

Pintrest

I posted a link in my Writing to be Read Facebook group a couple of weeks ago. The article discussed the new changes made by Facebook which do not allow us to post promotional materials on personal Timelines. Under the new guidelines promotional posts are only allowed to be made on our Facebook Pages, which are designed to be set up for businesses. If you break the rules and make promotional posts on your Timeline, Facebook can ban you. This information caused quite a stir in my group, and I admit it caused me quite a bit of concern, as well. I came to the conclusion that, as with everything in life, we must learn to be flexible and accoodate change. I changed the title of my Kaye Lynne Booth Screenwriter page to Kaye Lynne Booth Author and Screenwriter and set my automatic posts from WordPress to post there instead of on my Timeline and hoped for the best.

One of the comments I received was a question toward one of the group members who was upset, viewing this as a ploy to force us to purchase paid advertising. The second member asked how using Facebook’s free advertising was going and asked if she had sold many books from it. While I don’t think this change prohibits making promotional posts as long as you make them through allowable channels, the conversation made me stop and think about what we authors are expecting to achieve through such posts.

Free promotion through social media is great. It offers us, as authors, an avenue to get the word out about our writing, without putting a dent on our wallets. For aspiring authors, who haven’t made it to fame and fortune yet, like myself, that’s great. But what results are we expecting?

If you’re thinking your book will rise to the top of the best seller lists, you’re dreaming. That’s not the way it works. The best seller lists, at least those on Amazon, work on algorithms, and if you’re only one of a smattering of books in a category, it may not take many book sales to place your book at the top of the list. Authors who write romance have it a lot tougher, because there are a whole slew of romances out there, a lot of competition, so even if your book is making sales, it may not be enough to launch you to the top because it’s based on the books which sell the most in that particular category.

Likewise, most of the folks who those promotional posts reach are other authors, not the people in your target audience. Authors may buy books, but basically they want the the same thing you do. They are out there to promote their own work. Social media isn’t designed to sell books, although their paid promotions may be quite effective, and anyone who is using free promotions to try and sell books, or anything else, may be sorely disappointed. Social media, my friends, is designed to promote connections, some of which may be quite valuable, but it’s not designed to sell merchandise, hence the word ‘social’. And that is what I get from my promotional efforts on Facebook and any other social media site I use. I grow my blog following and my email list. I find a few people who are willing to review my book. I meet people who can include me in their author services as an editor. I connect with artists who can create the book covers I need.  While many are fellow authors, I tap into that as well, offering them interviews or reviews here on Writing to be Read. They get some free exposure and I great content for my blog. It works out great.

That being said, I’ve come to the sobering realization that nothing is free, and I’m going to have to invest some of my hard earned money if I want to boost my book sales. While I can’t afford paid promotion on Facebook or Amazon right now, there are affordable promotions out there.

  • There are some affordable avenues of promotion out there. Most recently, I found a promotional site called I Like E Books, which has promotional packeages which range from free up to twenty dollars, which seems promising. They provide promotion on social media channels and other cool stuff, depending on which level od promotion you pay for.
  • Although not a promotional site, per se, Book Bub is great for featuring your books under your favorites, so folks can see that they are available. You can follow your favorite authors and hopefully gain some followers of your own. It doesn’t cost anything to join.
  • On All Author, you can have your book featured on their site for six months, with twitter promos, weekly mock-up banners, and review posting for a flat fee of $24.
  • It’s also free to sign up for PromoCave, which is a site for ongoing promotion via social media sites. It helps on this site to post content fairly regularly, since it will bring readers to your profile.
  • BMI Books is a global book marketing site where you can place and manage a book ad for free, although I’m unsure how this one works as yet.
  • You may also sign up for free on Write Globe, which has a nice book promotion platform as well as supporting other types of creativity. This site was listed as number one in a list of “Top 7 Websites for Book and Author Promotion” by Alwin Gnanaraj on LinkedIn.
  • Creative Designers & Writers is a free international classified site, where you can create and post an ad. It is supportive of other creatives as well and can serve as a platform for collaborative works with graphic designers and artists.
  • Books Online Best also allows you to post a free ad in addition to other author services, such as book trailers and author interviews. You can also create a freelance site here.

One day, I’ll be able to afford to play with the big boys. For now, I will be grateful for the benefits I can get from social media, but I will approach it with reasonable expectations, being grateful for every follower I gain and counting any book sales that comes from it as an extra added bonus.

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So, How Do You Build a Reader Platform?

platform

I’ve heard it asked if a reader platform is even necessary. So, let me ask you, as writers and authors, without readers what are we? Of course, we need to have a reader platform. All it is is a fan base equivilent, but it can make the difference between the success and the failure of our books. Without my readers, there would be no one to buy my books, read my books, recommend my books or review my books. So, how does one build a reader platform?

It’s a good question. And I’ve heard of many different methods of doing just that, and none of them require construction tools. Not even a screwdriver. All it takes is what we writers and authors do best: words, communication, contact.

Hidden Secrets - smallI started out with this blog, Writing to be Read, and the number of subscribers is climbing as I work to improve the content. The thing is, there was no way for me to capture those subscriber emails or reach out to them. So, I created a monthly newsletter, and added a sign-up pop-up, offering a free e-book as a thank you for subscribing. If you sign up for the newsletter, you get a free e-copy of my paranormal mystery novelette, Hidden Secrets, which isn’t available anywhere else.

The trick is to get people to read your work in the first place. You can’t have a fan or a reader unless they have read something you’ve written and liked it. Nobody will follow you, or write a review, or join your reader group, if they haven’t first, read your book. One way to do that is to identify your target audience and promote to them, offering them all the reasons why they will like your work.

reading is Fun

Another, and probably the most important, is to be sure your writing is fun and entertaining, if you’re writing fiction. With non-fiction, you need to make the subject matter interesting and present it well. And humor never hurts, no matter what you write. Even dark works can have dark humor. In short, whatever you are writing, make sure that it is quality writing. This should go without saying, but they won’t become your loyal readers if they can’t make it through the book due to the poor quality writing.

After all, a reader platform is really just a fan base of those who are interested in your work, and by finding them and adding them to your mailing list, you are effectively building a reader platform. With this method, I had a big initial burst of subscribers following the launch of a marketing campaign, then it tapered off to a slower rate of growth. My list is growing slowly, but I’m gaining a few new subscribers every month.

Other authors I know start Facebook reader groups or ask fans to join their street teams. I don’t know how well they work, but it seems there’s always activity happening in these groups and they seem to have lots of members. I would think you would have to have a solid fan base to pull ‘groupies’ from, so perhaps this is just an additional step, rather than an alternative method. Most of the authors I know who have street teams or Facebook reader groups, swear they don’t know what they’d do without them, relying on them to spread the word on new releases, post reviews on release day, find reviewers for their books, and/or show up for support at book events. These authors are harnessing the power of their readers and directing it to where it is needed most. And I’m thinking they might be on to something.

Part of the problem may be that I’m a multi-genre author. To date, I’ve published a western novel, Delilah; a paranormal mystery novelette, Hidden Secrets; and a science fiction time travel short story, Last Call. I’ve also had a dystopian short story and a crime romance short story published in anthologies, as well as shorts and poetry online. Western readers, science fiction readers and paranormal readers are not all included in the same crowd. I’m also eclectic in my reading habits, but most folks want to read only their preferred genres. Now how do I find readers that are so hard core they want to read everything I’ve published?

My answer is, I don’t. I’m finding that I must seek out readers for each one seperately and build a seperate reader platform for each one. The western readers who liked Delilah will be interested in the sequel, The Homecoming, when it’s finished, but they may not be interested in the books for my science fantasy Playground for the Gods series, when the first book is released. And many of my readers are authors themselves and they may be interested in the content on Writing to be Read, rather than any of my fiction works. When I look at it in this way, the task at hand seems to be enormous, the goal so far away. I’m not sure where to start, but I’m determined to find out.

I think a good start would be to find out which of my works the readers I already have are interested in, so I’ve added a genre question to the pop-up for the newsletter sign-up, so that I can place readers on different lists and then new subscribers can receive notifications concerning those works that they are interested in.

All of this marketing stuff is new to me and I’m learning as I go, so if you do sign-up for my monthly newsletter, I’d love it if you’d drop me an email and let me know how the whole sign-up process went, and what worked for you and what didn’t. After all, I’m smart enough to know that without you, my readers, I wouldn’t sell any books. I appreciate the fact that you stand by me. Let me hear form you at: kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

Thank you

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