Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series, Writing Craft & Tips

Guest Post with Author Kate M. Colby #Desertera

My best writing tip? Give all your characters (major and minor) motivations. Read more on author Helen Jones’ blog!

Helen Glynn Jones

perf5.250x8.000.inddToday I’m very pleased to welcome author (and author-y friend!) Kate M. Colby to my blog. Kate has just released The Courtesan’s Avenger, the second book in her Desertera series (and if you haven’t read her first book, The Cogmsith’s Daughter, get yourselves a copy now!). Set in the steampunk world of Desertera, The Courtesan’s Avenger is a tale of murder, intrigue and justice – I can’t wait to read it 🙂

Today, Kate’s written an excellent post about character motivation, something she feels is key to good story-telling. There’s a lot of useful information here, so read through and let us know what you think in the comments. Take it away, Kate!

As an author, the question I get asked more than any other is: “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?” or some variation of it. With the release of my second novel, The Courtesan’s…

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Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Five Tips for Writing a Series by Kate M Colby

Today, I’m featured on author Kate Evans’s blog, where I share advice on how to write a series. Check it out!

Scarborough Mysteries

I am very happy to welcome the author Kate M Colby to my blog with her tips for writing a novel series. Her new novel, The Courtesan’s Avenger, is out now: www.katemcolby.com/books  Over to you Kate Colby…

Kate C photo Oct15I’ve always had difficulty thinking “small.” In school, I was the kid with good grades, a dozen extra-curricular activities, a part-time job, and a dedication to an outside sport. At my day job, I’m the person who always accepts extra projects or offers to help someone who is overworked. Why? I want to do it all.

The same goes for my writing. When I set out to write The Cogsmith’s Daughter, I knew one novel wouldn’t be enough. I loved the world and characters I had created. I couldn’t spend 90,000 words with them then just leave, never to return. No. Even though I had never written a novel before…

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Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Guest Post: Author Kate Evans on Writing Crime Fiction

I’m back from my traveling/holiday hiatus, and I’m thrilled to bring you a guest post from author Kate Evans. Kate E. writes crime fiction — a genre which I couldn’t write to save my life! — and she was kind enough to share what attracted her to crime fiction, some tips for researching for your crime novels, and the scoop on her newest book The Art of Survival (follow up to The Art of the Imperfect, which I reviewed here). Over to Kate E.!


Kate EvansWhy Crime?

A couple of years ago I embarked on a project to write/publish a crime series. I had already written five novels during the preceding thirty years, some of which I had tried to find an agent/publisher for. The last of these five was a long, rangy affair which lacked structure and clarity. I knew I wanted to re-tell this story and take it further, I also recognized I needed to find a shape for it, which would engage the reader. At some point in the middle of a deep sleep, my unconscious brain gave my conscious brain the solution; I woke up knowing I was going to write a crime series.

It was the obvious answer for me, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I read a lot of crime novels, so I was already aware of many of their characteristics. Secondly, I enjoy reading crime novels, which meant I was excited and motivated to get on with it. Thirdly, since I thought I would probably have to indie publish my novel, I wanted a clear genre to help with marketing and crime fiction is a popular genre certainly here in the UK. Finally, I agree with crime writer Val McDermid, when she says hers is the perfect genre for putting up a mirror to our society and asking questions about it. My novels explore ideas around what is good mental health and how the vulnerable and marginalised are treated.

In the UK there was an era of what was considered to be ‘cosy crime’ writing. It came after the First World War, and at first sight, it may seem odd that people would want to immerse themselves in more violence and death. However, it is often argued, these crime novels offered an antidote to the indiscriminate carnage of war, in that they gave a sanitised version of murder and there was always a tidy resolution.

I’m not entirely sure this was the case then, and I certainly don’t think it is now. I’m with writer Melanie McGrath when she suggests the attraction of crime fiction to both readers and writers is that it allows us to experience and explore emotions which would normally be unacceptable in polite society. She said, in The Guardian Books Blog June 30th 2014: ‘Crime fiction gives us permission to touch on our own indecorous feelings of rage, aggression and vengefulness, sentiments we’re encouraged to pack away somewhere… where they won’t offend.’ As a psychotherapeutic counsellor I would add it could also be healthy to do this safely through literature, rather than leaving our shadow side un-investigated, giving it the potential for erupting into our every day lives.

So that’s the why write crime, here’s a little bit about the research which I did to get me going. Initially, I read and re-read a variety of crime novels, this time really focusing on the plotting and structure. My novels are character-led, and I am not writing a police procedural, however, I do want the way the investigation unfolds to be believable. The sources of information I have used are: books, fiction and non-fiction, there are more and more handbooks for writers, including a recent one on forensics by Val McDermid; the court reports in the local paper especially as my novels are based in my home town; TV programmes, there’s been a recent fly-on-the-wall documentary about the police which proved invaluable; I have a couple of personal contacts within the police and legal profession; and the internet.

There’s more I’d like to do, for instance spending some time in the public gallery of a court, maybe having a tour of the local police station and asking a few questions. However, I remember seeing a more successful/famous crime writer than me at a literature festival and he said when he spoke to his law enforcement contacts he’s not interested in whether something has happened or is likely to, just whether it could possibly happen. I understand most police officers hate reading crime novels, so I don’t expect any will read mine, and what I have to do is make the story-telling authentic within the world of the characters I have created.

One of my main characters is a trainee and then qualified psychotherapeutic counsellor. This is a universe I am very familiar with. I enjoy depicting it honestly, and more accurately, than the vast majority of fictional versions I’ve come across to date.

I believe my strengths in writing are in creating believable layered characters and a strong sense of place through sensual descriptions. Up to now, I have, perhaps, been less skilled at structuring and pace. The crime novel with its moments of tension, red herrings and movement towards a resolution offers a solid format, not to be followed blindly, but to be played with and subverted. It has been invigorating to discover how it can be tailored to the stories I want to tell.

Art of SurvivalNew novel launched

The Art of Survival asks: What will fear push ordinary people to do?  What happens when little girls get lost? DS Theo Akande is investigating the disappearance of eight year old Victoria Everidge. Her mother, Yvonne, is a desperate woman. What is she capable of? Eminent journalist and newspaperman, Stan Poole, dies leaving a filing cabinet full of secrets. As these leak out, his daughter, Hannah, begins to question her own girlhood. She is losing her way. Her best friend, Lawrence, newly an item with Theo, finds it hard to remain supportive. Instead Hannah clings to her work as a trainee counsellor and to her client Julia. Julia is apparently no little girl lost, but appearances can be deceptive. Then a body is found.

About the author

This is the second novel by Kate Evans. Her first, The Art of the Imperfect, was long-listed for the Crime Writers Association debut dagger in 2015. Kate Evans is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her book, Pathways Through Writing Blocks in the Academic Environment, was published by Sense Publishers in 2013. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Sussex University and teaches on the Degree in Creative Writing at the University of Hull, Scarborough campus. She is trained as a psychotherapeutic counsellor. She loves walking by the sea and afternoon tea, and has an inexplicable drive to bring a new generation to the poetry of Edith Sitwell. For further information, see: www.writingourselveswell.co.uk

Praise for The Art of the Imperfect

‘The first thing to mention is the writing style is incredibly strong. … The description through this book is brilliantly constructed so that I really felt completely immersed.’ Lizzy, My Little Book Blog

‘The book … retains its readability on a second or third reading and beyond. It is written by an unobtrusively gifted creative talent, whose gifts will assuredly go on expanding and enlarge their range … The novel is convincing enough to haunt us, and graze us into deeper thought.’ Dr Heward Wilkinson, UKCP Fellow, UKCP Registered, Integrative Psychotherapist.

Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles

Guest Post: Play in Google’s Schoolyard: Basic SEO Principles for Bloggers and Authors by Whitney McGruder

 

seoYou’re probably already aware of what SEO is by other names: marketing or self-promoting to name a few. Search Engine Optimization is basically a set of tactics that companies use to push their website towards the top of a Google search.

To stay on top, companies of any size usually hire someone to study keywords, trends, and consumers to know how to best promote their company website. Yeah, it takes enough work that companies often pay someone to do it full-time.

So as an author—going indie or traditional—you can still understand and use these tactics for yourself. Here’s a quick rundown of how Google decides which sites should move up, and how you can promote yourself.

The Basic 411 on SEO

  1. Google finds a website.
  2. They send “spiders” to “crawl” all over your website or page—on visible content and coding involved.
  3. Google decides whether a site is useful to readers. If it’s useful, it gets bumped up. If it’s not, it remains stagnant.
  4. Google constantly changes their “rules” to weed out good websites from the spammy ones.

So to move up, you have to follow Google’s rules in order to prove that you’re genuine and creating content or services that would benefit the user searching for the keyword. Below are a few tips to show you mean business.

Offer Legitimate Comments

You can boost your website through good comments. While it may seem counterintuitive to give good comments on other pages, it reflects well on you.

It’s easier to describe what not to write as a comment. To Google, a spammy comment is often linked to a sketchy website or doesn’t use proper English—think something that looks like a Google Translate disaster. The comments are also vague and could apply to any topic like, “I had a good friend who knows this stuff. I will share this good information with them.”

A quality comment usually fodders more conversation by adding a new take to the topic. Try to leave comments that could be followed up with intelligent comments from other viewers or the author.

But why leave comments in the first place? Often, when you leave a comment, you get the option of leaving your URL as a link for others to view your work. Bingo! More viewers. Google pays attention when websites refer to you as a good reference and people want to visit your content.

Consistent Quality

A website is often considered legitimate and quality when there’s a lot of diverse content that is published on a regular basis—as in, no two-year lapses. Spammy SEO tactics involve posting the same content multiple times—plagiarizing themselves in effect. Google’s no dummy and will see right through that.

Consistent quality also means that you’re consistent and prominent on social media platforms, too. Starting to see why companies hire people to do this stuff? Who has time to promote themselves on the daily via Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook and do the job they are initially promoting?

Utilize Keywords

keywordA keyword is a word or phrase that helps Google know what kind of content you have. That way, when viewers are looking for information, Google knows what to pull up.

Right now, a keyword could be something like “ways to improve writing” as opposed to just “writing tips” since web readers tend to search for a full phrase rather than just a noun.

Some people choose a keyword and then write a post around it, and other times, writers create a post and pick a keyword that best represents it. Both ways are great as long as the info matches up to the keyword.

You want readers to stay on your page for as long as you can hold them, so if they’re looking for information about character tips and you’re just talking about your favorite TV characters, readers will move on to something more relevant to their needs.

Google can even tell how long people are on your page and consider your page useful if a lot of people are taking the time to read through the piece or click on links within your main webpage.

Some writers will hyperlink to other pages on their website. This is awesome, but don’t overdo it. “Keyword stuffing” is basically linking to the same website a lot or excessively repeating the keyword to make the page look super relevant. Google is no dummy! This is what spammy SEO looks like and Google wants to promote quality sites, not desperate sites.

Check out AdWords via Google to do your own research on what your target audience is searching for when it comes to writing (https://adwords.google.com/KeywordPlanner).

Plug in Some Plugins

For those who own your own website, you can use plugins to help you with your SEO work. Plugins are sort of like widgets that enhance your website. You use plugins for aesthetic appeal, coding, and analysis. There are a few big SEO plugins that you can use to analyze how you’re doing, as well as help you optimize your page. Yoast SEO is one that I use. You can also use Google Analytics to get feedback on how you’re doing and where you can improve.

Okay, so that seems like a lot to juggle. And it is. For those of you who are working on a novel, have a job, and try to promote your work, it’s hard to find the time to do all three. But it’s manageable, and well worth the effort.

SEO takes planning and patience. Even if you did everything mentioned here, you won’t see immediate success. It takes weeks or months to get those good numbers, as any blogger knows.

I would suggest to crank up your SEO once you approach major milestones. It’s great to get people to your webpage before you finish a book, but it really counts once you have something complete to offer.


Whitney McGruder puts the “Wit” in Wit & Travesty–a website she runs with her author-husband, Travis. She works for an SEO company by day, and edits her novel, cross stitches samplers, and reads comic books at night.

*Banner photo credit http://witandtravesty.com

Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles

Guest Post: That Writer’s Block is Me by Judy Molnar

© Copyright 2010 CorbisCorporationI often wonder why writing can create a block. I know for many years I wanted to write. Everyday we are doing some type of writing, yes emails can count. I knew there was an unmistakable yearning within me to write something expressive, creative.

I had no idea where to start. I remember back in college I had a theatre class on playwriting. We had to do just that, write a one act play by the end of the course. In that semester we covered the ins and outs of how to and the do of playwriting. I found the do was the most difficult. I was unsure of my voice, what to say, how to say it, what would people say… and the ultimate critic would arise, me. I found all kinds of doubts, excuses and reasons not to write. FEAR.

Over the past few years since it became apparent I was looking to express myself from the outside world. I started  writing in a diary, I mean they call them journals now. The space inside the journal pages was fueling my voice. It was private, non judgmental and gave me a chance to dabble along with words.

I have to laugh looking back at all my filled journals as I was “hand” writing them, not typing them on a computer. Since I have what someone once called, “expressive handwriting” which meant my handwriting is hard to read, no I am not a doctor.

I have a book to my credit, “You Don’t Have to Be Thin to Win.” Published in 2001. Lifestyle book about the journey of my weight loss and tips about how to do it. In some ways it wrote itself as it was personal. Also I had the pressure of a 12-week deadline and help of a seasoned co-writer.

It wasn’t the style of writing I am playing with these days.

journaling 2I have jumped into many styles of writing since picking up a journal. Since 2013 I have been blogging, writing poetry, song lyrics and the daring attempt at writing a novel(s). The attempt was made much easier with the NaNoMoWri program, an online free resource to help you write.

Last November 2014, in 30 days, I drafted my first novel. It was a challenge but exciting at the same time. Since then I continue write with their program as it puts time, structure and lots of resources to help me write. It was the encouragement I needed to move from my journaling to creative writing.

Where does one start if you want to write? A few thoughts and tips I have found helpful.

  1. Journaling is a good place to start, it’s you, personal, your views of the world around you and doesn’t require editing or anyone to read it. I found that a safe place to write.
  2. Writing prompts, sentence teasers, where you get a line, sentence to finish or situation. From that promote you just start writing the first things come to your mind.
  3. Carrying around a notebook, any moment a thought can hit you, get it out of your head and on to the page.
  4. Create a space for your writing.
  5. Each day try to write a little something.
  6. Open yourself to listening. You will be surprised how it will change your writing
  7. Write on ideas and subjects that matter to you when you first start out writing
  8. Take a deep breath, you don’t have to think about how to finish, word counts, editing, just focus on the art of your voice and let that flow upon the page
  9. Join a local writing group for learning, encouragement and support.
  10. Consider writing as your time to express yourself.

Do you want to unblock that writer in you? Start with what you can. Don’t let yourself or anyone hold you back from the opportunity to write.

We all have a story to tell, share, now you can start to write that story, poem, music, blog or fill a journal with your voice.

Writing is healthy for the mind, body and soul.

For too many years I have created my own writer’s block, that was me.

Don’t block yourself!

Dream Big Always,
Judy Molnar

You can find me on Twitter @JudyMolnar or read my blog at www.theweightofmyworld.com