Saturday, April 28, 2012

This Writer's Journey

Once upon a time, not all that long ago really, this writer (me) knew nothing of writing and never even considered the possibility of publishing anything. I was doing good to come across a new book to read, which meant that I read what I had over and over. Oh sure, once in a great while I'd drag out some paper and write down a story, but that's all it was, and in truth it only happened a couple times and one of those got lost when we moved from one place on this river to another.

One day, sometime during the winter of 2000 I think, my son comes home with this rather new innovation, at least it certainly was for me. He brought me a little laptop computer. We had a computer upstairs (still do in fact), but it had been maxed out to 1G of memory and couldn't be upgraded any more. We got it to help the boys some with their school but mostly it was their toy. I never did much with it because it was upstairs and upstairs isn't just a stroll up a set of steps, it's a climb up a ladder and I really wasn't interested in playing with it all that much anyway. It is such a dinosaur compared to what I have today, or even compared to what my son brought home that day.

Well, now I had this 'toy' down here on the table. All it needed was plugged in and push a button and it turned on. The one upstairs needed at least one boot-up disk before it worked. Okay, so now that I had this thing, what does one do with a computer? Well, it had a keyboard. Did I remember any of my typing lessons from high school?

By coincidence, I had been writing another story on some notebook paper left over from when the kids went to school up river, so what better thing to experiment with. My son showed me how to open a document and I began to type. I discovered real quick that my new little toy knew more about grammar and spelling than I did. What a nifty trick that was. And adding or correcting something within a paragraph was pure joy. I think it took me flat minutes to fall in love with my new toy.

Over the next two years, I learned how to work my toy as I wrote my story, eventually giving up on the notebook step. I found the paint program and drew several pictures for my story, spending hours and sometimes even days modifying some of them to satisfy my picky nature.

To help me picture how long my story would be if it were a book, I picked up the last book I'd read and found a page full of text. I counted the lines and, following the rules for counting words from my typing class, I counted 'words' across one of the full lines. I took that information back to my story and adjusted the margins and font size until I got as close as possible. That also gave me a book size goal. The book I'd chosen was around 300 pages so that was my goal. I would consider my story a 'book' if it reached 300 or more pages. Imagine my pleasure when my story reached a little over 400 pages by the time I had reached an ending. I remind you that actual publishing was one of those alien concepts still.

The entire journey was such a delight, I simply had to start another, and then another, and then another. And oh my, look at me now. That first story is now a real book. The publisher chose a larger format which decreased my page count by nearly a hundred pages, but what did I know, and it was a minor matter, all things considered. They were, after all, supposedly the experts. Ah but that gets into a different journey and a different learning curve.

Many writers I've talked to since getting internet have been aimed at writing ever since they were little. How about you? How did you come to be a writer? Did it take you by surprise like it did me? Tell me all about it. I'd love to hear your story.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Author Platform

Becoming known, or seen. Why is it so important? Why is it the advice that everyone shares? The reason is really quite simple; every person you take the time to get to know just might buy one or more of your books.

But just how do you go about developing said platform? For me, it wasn't easy. I've never been one to toot my own horn. I'd much rather stand aside and watch what everyone else does. If the turn-out is good for them, I'll try that. If not, I won't go there. It worked for me for most of my life. But now that I am a published author with a handicap of not living even in a town, I had to get used to 'tooting my own horn' everywhere I could.

When I first published, I didn't have any internet, and I had no idea what a platform was, or that there even was such a thing. All I had was an email address and I scarcely knew how to work that. I didn't know any other writers and so had no advice to go by. I wasn't entirely clueless about the business end of selling my book, though. I was fully aware that I would have trouble getting in touch with people and talking to them about buying my book. That is the biggest reason why I paid for the largest advertising package AuthorHouse had to offer. I mean, I was supposed to have my very own 'valet' - it sounded pretty good to me.

Imagine how disappointed I was when all my valet did for me was send out something like 300 emails. To her credit, when I complained about obviously seeing no results, she did it again, but I knew better than to bother asking again. I really hate it when people shove their 'whatever' in my face, looking expectantly at me, waiting for me to shell out however many dollars for their creation. I wasn't about to do the same. I've always believed in the Golden Rule, though I don't consider myself religious. My valet was helpful in another way. She advised me to get a Facebook account and a Twitter account.

Since then, I've explored other sites like Goodreads, Authors dot com, Agent Query Connect and LinkedIn. All of these were, and are, very helpful. Through Agent Query Connect, I learned of an ongoing contest, You Write On, where I learned a lot about the mechanics of writing. Competition is stiff but the feedback is invaluable and I was so hungry for such. The only person who read my book before it was published was my mother and her comment was "It's very nice but I wouldn't buy it." My mother liked romance and my book is no romance novel.

Facebook is still my center of operations, my corner of the world. Coming to a logical decision, my profile page is me (of course), and since I have quite a few books waiting to be published, my fan page needed to be more about my writing than about any particular book. Though it was something I had considered, I just didn't know what to do with a single book fan page, and then what would I do with a dozen of them somewhere down the road? Every friend I make, I take a moment to welcome them to my corner of the world. The same with every new fan, though it is only recently that Facebook has made easy to see who had recently liked my page.

Another thing a writer can do is start a blog. Blogging can be really quite fun but you have to plunge in with both feet. Before I started, I had no idea what I would do with a blog. I didn't consider myself an article writer so I had put it off. When I was having trouble commenting on several blogs I read, I decided creating one might help. It didn't but there it was - I had a blog. Now what? Well, as you can see, this blog has evolved into a place where I talk about what I've learned along my writing career. Now, sadly/funnily, I have four blogs. The Fortunes of Magic, my blog novel is now complete and that book will be published as soon as possible. Anna of Alaska came about by popular demand and is true stories about my life here in the wilderness of Alaska. And then there is Anna's Philosophy where I have taken to expounding on my various philosophies, whatever they may be at the time.

Another important link in your platform is a webpage. I use It's free and really rather nice, and certainly very easy to manipulate. Someday I'll upgrade to my own domain name, but that can wait until I'm no longer a starving artist.

As many of you have likely heard me comment from time to time, I do my advertising every day on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. I am now a moderator of two different groups on Facebook as well.

My platform seems to be growing all the time. Is yours? What do you do to expand your platform?

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Guest This Week, J.R. Nova

My Words

by J. R. Nova

I write fantasy, and when I'm not at my computer I'm playing guitar, practicing Yoga, or reading a book. I blog at and You can connect with me on Facebook and Google+, and if you enjoy my writing and want a little more, feel free to check out my debut novel, “Rising,” on Amazon:

I picked up a pen at the age of 12, for the same reason many people pick up a pen. I did so to write down a feeling I had. It was a painful feeling, and what came out was a poem. I began writing poetry in sixth grade, at the bequest of my teachers who enjoyed my essays and other work. They saw a promise in me, a skill.

The poetry I wrote was emotional. It was therapy. And that was my first experience with writing outside of schoolwork. For several years my words were really all I had, as so many others have experienced. Words are the window into the soul, and it’s through that doorway many of us live.

My writing is no longer just therapy for me. It's no longer just emotional. I blog, not about my darkest thoughts, but of my interests, my life, my work, my relationships and experiences with humanity. I use a computer now, instead of a pen. My words have evolved from simple emotions to complicated and passionate introspection.

And this is writing, for me, for so many others. I started writing fantasy at age 16, and by the time I was 20 I had pretty much given up on poetry. I have branched out into writing fiction and nonfiction, but the core of why I write is intact.

I write because I'm a human being, and I see things in life that need to be put down in words. They need to, not quite be immortalized, but at least be remembered for me, as well as shared with others. Sometimes I put these things into the form of themes within stories. Other times I blog them or write long-winded essays to get to the bare bones of my ideas.

One of the biggest questions for any writer is whether or not we should—or even have the right to—share our words.

For years I kept much of what I wrote to myself. Some of the things I shared were welcomed, some weren't. But as I grew older, as I began to explore the deeper reasons of writing, the more I realized that not only could I share my writing—that I did, indeed, have the right to do so—but that I was, on at least one level, obligated to do so.

Every writer needs a reader. Every reader needs a writer. It is an injustice to readers for writers to keep their words to themselves.


Because we never know what piece of writing may have a profound effect on another human's life.

And so I write, and now I share.

Why do you write?

Friday, April 6, 2012


Naming characters
Naming cities or towns
Naming streets or roads
Naming countries
Naming mountains

You must be careful choosing the names you sprinkle through your story. You should also be leery of using the same name from book to book. I mean good-guy Jon in one book might bare no resemblance to bad-guy Jon in another book, but if these two books were released fairly close together, your reader might subconsciously try to find some connection. But that's secondary to what I'm trying to say here.

Within your story, it is important that you be very careful about the names you choose. If you will recall in the Lord of the Rings books, Sarun and Saruman. I always get them confused. Both being bad guys, what's to help keep them separate? How about Eowyn and Eomer? Yeah, I know they are brother and sister, but really, how many instances do you know of where a brother and sister were so closely named? Anybody know a brother and sister named Joan and John for instance?

Those are the instances that always stick with me, but the Silmarilian by the same author abounds with extremely complicated names, names that just might have different pronunciations depending on who is trying to read them. The first time I read the book I made the mistake of passing over the long names thinking I'd recognize them the next time they came up. Some I did, many I didn't, and so the story rapidly became complicated. I have since read the book many times, and still I need to carefully sound out the names and try to file then away with their identity. I love these books, but as you can see, I would have made a few tiny changes.

When I started writing, and even now, thinking up names has always been hard for me. I'm terrible at remembering names anyway. Keeping names different is something I needed to learn to do. Ultimately I decided to lean on the alphabet to a certain degree. As I introduced people to a scene I tried to start each new name with a different letter. Such a tactic served to keep those people who might interact the closest with different sounding names. Of course, I had to make sure the rest of the name was also different.

This works for everything you name, just as the caution must go for everything you name. You might name a town after a hero, but for the most part, it would be difficult to confuse the two. Still, it's not something I would dwell on. It's also common to name a son after a father, but in such instances, it's common for the son to have a nick name, especially when they are together. In my personal life, my husband is named after his father, Donald, called Don. Growing up, my husband was called Donny by his family and friends. When he joined the Army, he shed the nickname. I only knew him as Don. Following what seemed to be a family tradition, I too named my first son Donald after his father and his grandfather, calling him Donnie (and I still do), but I get ahead of myself. My mother-in-law called one day when my son was roughly a year old, and the first thing she said was, "How's Donny?" Of course, the first thing I thought of was my baby, and said he was fine. Following conversation quickly clued me in to the fact that she was asking after her son. I'm thankful my answers applied there as well. Ah but anyway, you get my point.

Try your very hardest NOT to confuse your reader by making your names sound too close to other names. One thing I do is keep a list of names. I like to do that so I remember how I have spelled them, but it is also useful in my keeping them from sounding like others. I keep them in alphabetical order. That also helps me keep from having half a list of characters beginning with the letter A.

What tactics do you use to help you with names?