Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How Audible Books Can Help Your Writing

A few months ago I decided to take Audible Books up on their free book promotion and downloaded my first Book. I walk quite a bit, including to and from the train when commuting, which means I have a lot of iPod time on my hands. So I figured listening to a book could be a good change of pace.

Now I'm totally hooked. Not only is it more entertaining than my exhausted iTunes playlist or the iterative loop that is Pandora, but I've found that listening to books has also helped inspire my writing.

Here are a few ways that Audible Books can help you become a better writer:

1. More time to read.

If you're like me, it's all you can do to cram in a little reading between work, life and writing. I've found that by leveraging idle time in my day I'm able to squeeze in more books than before.  Which leads me to my next point...

2. Expand your genres.

You should always read within the genre you write so you're up-to-date on current trends and understand what works/doesn't work for that category. BUT you should also expand your horizons to include other genres outside your writing sphere for external inspiration. This is tricky when you have limited reading time, but if you add audio books to the mix you can check out more books, and thus more genres. I now try to read one YA book in my genre, while simultaneously listening to something in an outside genre. My current reading combo?  I'm listening to Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects and reading Nova Ren Suma's The Walls Around Us. Both fantastic.

Another writing friend suggested using audible to listen to books on craft. That way you can continue to read fiction for enjoyment while also cramming in some writing lessons. How's that for multitasking?

3. Understand how speech tags can work for and against you.

With the exception of multiple POV stories, the books are read by one single person. So unless the reader has a penchant for character voices, dialogue between characters can be tricky to track when not properly tagged. Similarly, it gets incredibly annoying to have to listen to the actor say, "I said" "He said" etc with too much frequency. Listening to the story out loud can help you understand when to use dialogue tags, and what types of tags work best for keeping the action flowing without over doing it.

4. Tone and setting.

The other day I was listening to a pretty spooky murder scene on my way to work. It was 70 outside, the sun was shining, and yet I was totally and completely creeped the #&@% out. Now that's a sign that the author has done a phenomenal job developing the tone and the setting for their story. There is much to be learned from a writer who can turn a sunny California day into a spine-tingling is-someone-following-me moment. Listen to the way the reader and author build the story setting, and see how you can emulate that skill in your own works.

5. Voices make all the difference.

It's amazing what a difference the actor reading the book can make. I've listened to some books that are phenomenally well read, and some that are just meh. The strong readers/actors can ramp up tension, demonstrate emotion and show how the character feels simply by using the inflection of their voice.  Which is pretty intense when you consider the fact that they don't have facial expressions to help them convey everything - it's all done via audio and words. Take note of those moments when the actor changes something in their voice, and how that impacts the story's trajectory.  How can you use words to describe these subtle changes, so you can be sure readers  will "hear" the same thing in their heads?

In case you're curious, here are a few of my favorite "reads" so far:

The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins)
Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)
Where'd You Go Bernadette (Maria Semple)
The Gold Finch (be warned: it's a looog book which means many hours of listening. But it's good!)
Dark Places (Gillian Flynn)
The Next Best Thing (Jennifer Weiner)
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (Mindy Kaling)

Do you listen to Audible books?  If so, what are some of your favorites (I'm in the market for my next one.)

And here's the promo I used for that first free book:

Monday, April 27, 2015

Author's Platform - Keeping It Real

In honor of Stacy's book coming out, I thought I'd revisit ways to promote.  For awhile now, the publishing world has been buzzing about platforms.  But why?!  Well, connecting with readers is important.  But how?  There are many ways, but I am all about Keeping It Real and Keeping It Simple. 

So let's begin:

* Networking or building contacts is important.  Word of mouth is HUGE in promoting yourself and your book.

* Put your story telling talents to work and tell your readers not only about your book, but about you.  This will build connections and generate interest.

* Think Visual.  Get great pictures of yourself and of items relating to your book.  Today's world is all about short, sweet, and pictures! 

* Pick two or three social media forms and post regularly as a way to limit your time on social media, but still engage your readers.

* Adopt a cause.  This was a new one to me.  The principle behind this idea is similar to joining organizations or starting a hobby as a way to build contacts.  For more ideas on how to adopt a cause, check out Mary Keeler's post at

Writing and promoting are both loads of fun, but can be time consuming, thus finding a balance is essential for authors. It is all too easy to get wrapped up in our projects, but don't shut out the world.  Life is inspiration after all.  Get out there and find your spark.  Keep it real and your readers will love you for it.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to a crawfish boil. 


                Ugly little guys aren't they, but apparently many people think they taste good. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Helping Your Author Friends: Where the Staircase Ends Edition

As you're probably aware, our very own Stacy Stokes's debut YA novel published last week! Let me tell you, guys—I love this book. The writing is beautiful, and the characters are so complex and interesting that I couldn't put the book down.

My shiny new copy of Where the Staircase Ends now has a place of honor on my bookshelf. I was admiring it today, and I started thinking about how many teens I know who would love this book. I talk to a few voracious readers on a fairly regular basis, so I made a mental note to mention it to them.

And that got me thinking about ways the members of the YA writing community can get the word out about their friends' books. Sure, buying the book yourself is nice, but what then? What's the most effective way to get the word out?

Luckily, for those feeling overwhelmed by all the options out there (social media? bookstores? libraries? reviews?), there are some great resources out there to help you narrow down the most effective strategy.

First, author Erin Bowman has this excellent breakdown of what you can do in addition to buying the book here on Pub Crawl: Support an Author Beyond Buying Their Book. A couple of suggestions I love: gifting the novel to friends and family for special occasions and reading the book in public (because I know I always check out what people are reading when I see them on public transportation or in the coffeeshop).

This similarly titled post from author Jen Malone on Writer's Rumpus focuses specifically on social media: Help an Author (Beyond Buying the Book): Part Three. Jen points out that tweeting, posting pics to Instagram, or posting on Facebook are some of the easiest and most effective ways to get the word out. People trust personal recommendations above all else, so this can vastly increase the likelihood that someone will pick up your friend's book.

And last but certainly not least, Stacy herself wrote a post a few months ago: 12 Easy Ways to Support Your Soon-to-Be-Published Author Friend. She points out that leaving reviews, requesting the book at the library, and asking about the book at your local bookstore (on my to-do list the next time I'm in the neighborhood!) are all good ways to support your friend.

Congratulations again, Stacy!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Writing Characters With Appropriate Body Language and Micro-expressions

When something big (or small) happens in a scene, a writer may use interiority to allow a protagonist to process the event. Other characters' reactions are often limited to dialogue (very unreliable) and action. While some actions may be overt and necessary, if a writer wants to create a more nuanced reaction, it might be fun to try using research into body language and micro-expressions. I've compiled a list of some fun sites to learn about how we use subtle actions to convey our heart's true desires. I believe that this intel has potential to be good for both writing and first dates :). Enjoy reading and happy Monday!

  • Article on How to Read Eye Movement:
  • Basic Article on Body Language:
  •  Intel on Microexpressions:
Other fun links:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Jump Starting Your Writing After A Break

Cartoon Girl Throwing Paper Away After Writing

The other day I was chatting with a friend whom I hadn't seen in awhile.  We had the usual catch up. Work, kids, vacation.  Then the dreaded question "so, how's your writing coming along?" I stumbled through it as usual.  Have a few ideas on the go, the kid (just turned 9 months Saturday) takes up a lot of time.  We meandered onto other topics and had a grand old time. 

Truth be told though, aside from a few premises and a page here and there, I've pretty much been on hiatus since I was three months pregnant.  Life, just got in the way. 

So now, the kid's a bit older, life's more stable and I'm itching to get back into writing.  Only problem is I'm rusty. The noggin just hasn't been exercised in that way in awhile and I'm in desperate need of a recharge.

So where to start? I've got a few ideas I'm noodling on and the manuscript I left part way through in early 2014.  I'm like a deer in headlights.  

Just write. Right? That seems the logical starting point.  Getting those words on the page is half the battle. Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who just needs a bit more.  I need a little inspiration. 

The first thing I did was check to see if there were writing groups in the hood.  I'm new to San Diego, so this was a great way to find some kindred spirits.  I signed up for one called "Shut Up And Write". With a lack of material, I'm not ready for critiques so this is the perfect way to be in the same room with other writers, no distractions and just write. 

The second thing I did was check on some refresher courses.  Something to remind me of what baby brain forgot.  I was lucky to find San Diego Writers, Ink. A great resource for our community with great workshops that have just enough to push me along. 

Finally, I reached out to my writing buddies and they are awesome.  Hopefully, we'll be reviewing each other's writing again soon!

So have you taken a break from your writing?  How did you jump start your writing? 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Path to Publication Lessons from Author Suzanne van Rooyen + Giveaway!

I'm thrilled to have Suzanne van Rooyen, author of I HEART ROBOT, joining us today to share her advice and lessons from her road to publication.

Please join me in giving her a warm TTI welcome, and make sure to scroll to the bottom for a chance to win your own copy of I HEART ROBOT.

Guest Post by Suzanne van Rooyen

Everybody's road to publication is different. There is no single map of how to get there, but a multitude of routes and some may meander while others might lead to a few dead ends before ultimately getting you where you want to go. There are quite a few things I wished I'd known though before starting out, as it may have helped me better choose my route.

I Heart Robot by Suzanne van Rooyen
1) Writing is rewriting

I was not prepared for the amount of revising and editing that was required in order to get published. I've never had a problem editing my work, but I was still shocked to discover that I would have to go through at least one round of content edits before line edits and finally proofreading before signing off on the polished manuscript. If you're new to writing, best you make friends with Track Changes because writing is rewriting.

2) You can get picked from the slush pile

I had my first book published without really understanding that agents are awesome and I should've maybe queried agents first before publishers. I also didn't understand that I, as a mere mortal, could even get an agent by sending out queries. You do not have to be connected or well-known or have anything other than a good book to get an agent. If you want to go the traditional publishing route, having an agent is essential.

3) Having an agent doesn't guarantee success

To be honest, once I signed with an agent I thought that was it. In a few weeks, we'd be hitting up publishing houses and a few weeks later I'd have a three book deal and life would be grand. Not exactly. Having an agent is often only the first step toward success and does in no way guarantee a sale of that or any book. Having an agent does, however, open a lot of doors and is vital for when deals are eventually offered to help you understand the small print so you don't up selling your soul.

4) Writers need a thick skin

I thought I understood this. I thought I knew what getting a crit back on work would feel like because I'd had teachers squiggle red pen on my essays in high school. I thought I understood how getting negative reviews would feel because I'd read a bunch of negative reviews about books I loved by other authors and even that hurt me, a mere fan. I had absolutely no clue just how brutal this industry could be. If you want to be a writer, you need to be brave enough to show your beloved work to others, to accept that some might not like it (they may even hate it) and won't be afraid to tell you before or after publication exactly what they think of your word-baby. But that's okay because you can learn from it – or ignore it – and become a better writer for it either way.

5) Writing is hard

Writing as a hobby, as something you love to do in your spare time isn't the same as having to crank out words with a deadline approaching, and it definitely isn't the same as trying to write something commercially viable in a saturated market when next month's rent depends on it. Writing professionally is hard and there will be days when you'd prefer to be gored by an angry hippopotamus than look at blinking cursor on another blank page.

That said, I'm fairly proud of the journey I've taken toward publication and I'm glad I've got this far, because I'm fully aware that there's still a very long way to go.


Publication date: March 31, 2015
Publisher: Month9Books, LLC.
Author: Suzanne van Rooyen

Sixteen-year-old Tyri wants to be a musician and wants to be with someone who won’t belittle her musical aspirations.

Q-I-99 aka ‘Quinn’ lives in a scrap metal sanctuary with other rogue droids. While some use violence to make their voices heard, demanding equal rights for AI enhanced robots, Quinn just wants a moment on stage with his violin to show the humans that androids like him have more to offer than their processing power.

Tyri and Quinn’s worlds collide when they’re accepted by the Baldur Junior Philharmonic Orchestra. As the rift between robots and humans deepens, Tyri and Quinn’s love of music brings them closer together, making Tyri question where her loyalties lie and Quinn question his place in the world. With the city on the brink of civil war, Tyri and Quinn make a shocking discovery that turns their world inside out. Will their passion for music be enough to hold them together while everything else crumbles down around them, or will the truth of who they are tear them apart?

Author of I Heart Robot


Suzanne is a tattooed storyteller from South Africa. She currently lives in Sweden and is busy making
friends with the ghosts of her Viking ancestors. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When she grows up, she wants to be an elf – until then, she spends her time (when not writing) wall climbing, buying far too many books, and entertaining her shiba inu, Lego.

Enter for a change to win a copy of I HEART ROBOT by Suzanne van RooyanFive (5) winners will receive a digital copy (INT)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Keeping It Real - The Rejection

Rejection can leave you feeling broken, but don't let it get you down.  I've had two broken bones this year and several rejections, but here's what I've learned from the experiences:  What doesn't kill you does make you stronger.

For example, when I broke my arm, I still wanted to play football with my friends, so I did.  Before breaking my arm, I could only catch the ball using both my hands.  Unfortunately, I couldn't use my broken arm to catch, so I had to learn to catch the ball with only one hand.  It took some practice, but I eventually learned to catch the ball with only hand.  This made me a better player. 

I now think of the dreaded rejection the same way.  If I am lucky enough to get feedback, then I make the changes.  If am not so fortunate to feedback, then I figure the market isn't ready for me or my story just yet.  No biggie.  My time will come and in the meantime, I plan to grow from the experience.

Today, I can catch a football one handedly and maybe tomorrow I'll catch the interest of agent.  In the meantime, I plan to keep it real.  Maybe today's passes will turn into tomorrow's touchdowns.  Rejections is just an opportunity for growth. 

Rejections does not mean you are broken