Sunday, February 23, 2014

Research Me This . . .

Until I began seriously pursuing romance writing, I had no idea how little I truly knew about the world.

No, seriously.

I’ve lived in the same small town in SoCal my entire life. The town may have grown some, but many of the people I interact with on a daily basis are the same people I’ve known since elementary school. Let’s put it this way. My graduating class was a whopping total of 155 people (or thereabouts). You could say, I’ve lived what my hubby calls, “a sheltered” life. I admit it, and fully embrace that I will never be an adventurous person. I’m okay with that. Really, I am.

But the stories I write are definitely not okay with my lack of worldly experience. My characters constantly beg me to include believable details to help build rich settings and authentic characterization.

So what’s a girl to do?

I could become an adventure-seeking adrenaline junkie, but I have a terrible fear of heights. And my anxiety of driving off alone into lands unknown has left me staring out the window, wistfully wishing I could take a road-trip without getting lost every ten minutes. But alas, it’ll never happen in my lifetime.

Besides, since I mostly write romantic suspense stories about murderers and other such heinous people, I’m pretty sure the local law enforcement would seriously frown on me even touching a gun, let alone committing the kinds of crimes my characters do.

Instead, I am forced to turn to the Internet and YouTube. Even writers who aren’t writing historical fiction or non-fiction texts have to do some sort of research to bring a touch of authenticity to their books. I just have to do a little bit more than the average author does. 

Here are some of my more recent Google searches: 
  • Process for being arrested
  • How to post bail
  • How to shoot a gun
  • Types of guns
  • Private Investigators
  • Cigar basics
  • Parrots (types, colors, and Do they cuss? The answer is yes, yes they can! Shamus is Jack’s foul mouthed African Gray Parrot)
  • Scotch (the drink, not the tape)
  • How to ride a horse
  • Funeral Service rituals for fallen law enforcement officers
  • Classic cars
  • Dirty Harry
  • Gumshoe detective novels
  • Burlesque clubs & dancers
  • Benjamin Bratt photos (inspiration for Mateo, a hunky ex-Marine you’ll get to meet soon)
  • Gerard Butler (total hottie & inspiration for Jack Gaines, from Assassin P.I.)

 So what about you? Have you ever wondered how your favorite author knew so much about a particular topic or locale? What crazy topics have you had to look up to ensure you got things just right?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Show Some Love

Valentine's Day is just around the corner. It's one of my favorite days of the year, the one day when we are reminded to hold those we love tight. It doesn't matter whether we are single, in a steamy new relationship, or an old married couple who can finish each other's sentences. We all have people we love, specifically family and friends.

As an elementary school teacher, Valentine's Day love usually comes in the form of hyped up kids and far too much candy. I swear the kids are trying to kill me by fattening me up, but hey, it's the thought that counts, right?

But what about the other people in your life? You know the ones I mean . . . all the people you take for granted, like the mechanic who keeps your car running, or the hair stylist who keeps your gray hairs hidden, or the barista who always gets your coffee order just right? Personally, I'd like to thank the creator of the Keurig machine who makes it possible for my husband and I to enjoy coffee together even when we don't like the same coffee flavor.

But what about authors? Authors need love, too. We readers take it for granted that when we pick up a book, the characters will welcome us into their lives, sharing their trials and tribulations, allowing us to forget our own drama for a while. In the end, we know we'll get our happy ever after ending that will cause a surge of satisfaction to run through us.

When was the last time you showed your favorite author some love? Do your favorite writers know how much you enjoyed their last book? Did you write a review, or recommend their books to all your friends?


Well, here are 10 easy ways to show your favorite authors some serious love by helping to promote their books:
  1. Recommend the book on FB and Twitter. 
  2. Follow or like the author's social media pages. Share her posts/tweets with your friends. 
  3. Pin the book on Pinterest.
  4. Add the book to your Goodreads bookshelf.
  5. Write a review and post it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. While you're there, click on the author's page and like it. 
  6. Buy the book as a gift for friends and family.
  7. Offer to distribute promotional items (swag).
  8. Host the author on your blog for an interview and a giveaway.
  9. Suggest the author's books to your book club. Invite the author (if local) to an informal chat with your friends.
  10. Talk about the book to everyone you know.
So, who are my favorite authors I'll be showing some love this Valentine's Day? Here are just a few of my more recent faves:  Elise Sax, Shauna Allen, Jill Shalvis, Mary Higgins Clark, Helen Kay Dimon, Lois Lowry, and Cheryl Yeko

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Seeking Street Team . . . Have Swag

You know all that cool swag (promotional items) you get when you go to a conference? Pens, bookmarks, postcards, post-it notes, candy? Yeah. That stuff. Apparently I need some.

I have to admit. I'm a conference junkie. I love being surrounded by like-minded people, whether teachers or writers. And when shoving my way through the hordes of overstimulated people to visit vendor or author booths, swag (at least for me) has become somewhat of a consolation prize for managing to not get trampled in the mayhem. Yay me!

It doesn't matter that I don't really need yet another pen, or that I'll never plant that packet of flower seeds. I can't resist picking up the promotional items just lying around waiting to go home with me. But does it work? Does it entice me to visit that website and make a purchase from that author or vendor?

In truth? Sometimes it does. Figuring out the right items to create and spend money on is the tough part.

So how is a new writer supposed to get her name out there to bolster sales and garner positive reviews?

One simple way is to create a street team who will act as marketing cheerleaders for an author. They blog, tweet, pass out promo items, write reviews, and share Facebook posts about the author and her books. In exchange, the author might treat her faithful street team members to extra cool swag items or sneak peeks of her upcoming book and the opportunity to read it before it hits stores. Sounds cool, right?

I gotta say, I find it really hard to market myself. The last thing I want to do is spam my friends and family with constant reminders to buy my book and write a review. Chances are, they've already bought the book within the first week it came out. Starting a street team might be a better way to go. I'm sure I have a few friends or fans who would be more than willing to spread the word for me. It would let me get back to writing while still promoting my books.

So how about it. Anyone feeling brave enough to join my street team? I could definitely use your advice on promotional items and marketing, and I promise to make it worth your time and effort. Come on! You know you want to.