Sunday, July 26, 2009

Navigating Social Media

After numerous protests to the contrary, I finally put myself out there last week. I joined Facebook. It hasn't disappointed.

In the space of less than a week, I've re-connected with the best man from our wedding, three theatre friends, one of whom is soon to become a Jersey girl, several writer friends, my best friend from high school, a friend from college and a number of other people I'm having a blast talking to.

As a writer who is trying to figure out how to build a platform, find writing time and have fun with social networking without allowing it to take over her life, I got a kick out of Jana Reiss's "Ten Commandments of Social Media for Religion (and Other) Authors." While part of the beauty of online contacts is the breakdown of geographical boundaries, it's nice to know that putting oneself out there doesn't necessarily require the breakdown of all boundaries. While most of what Jana says is common sense, she lays it out in a humorous, helpful way - it's kind of like having my very own networking GPS.

Thanks, Jana. And happy networking!

Publishing game changer

by Cate Masters

Barnes & Noble made the leap to digital publishing last week when it launched its ebook store. This after previous news B&N had purchased ebook distributor Fictionwise, and fast on the heels of B&N’s announcement they’d hired a digital executive, Jamie Iannone, to manage “strategic initiatives.”
Pretty exciting news for me, as my Eternal Press novella One Soul for Sale is now available through their online bookstore, as will be Picture This, my EP novella to be released on Aug 7.
The downside is that B&N ebooks aren’t compatible with Amazon Kindles or Sony eReaders, though Fictionwise apps support “wireless and wired access” for iPhones and the iPod Touch. Ebooks are already a drawback for some customers, but if I’d plunked down hundreds of dollars for a reader, I probably wouldn’t approve of this strategy.
Still, I’m eager to see how it all shakes out. I’m hoping that, with a big-name publisher such as B&N behind ebooks, piracy will become less of an issue. Currently, it’s fairly rampant. I came across a blog recently reviewing my short story Seventh Heaven. The review was favorable, but the reviewer came across my story through a Monday Book Swap through another blog. Illegal sharing is piracy, plain and simple. But how do I know it hasn’t worked in my favor? Seventh Heaven has been the number one bestseller on The Wild Rose Press site for the past week and a half. And honestly, it was kind of cool having a reader in Finland.
As an author, I’m happy on one hand to have my work more widely available to the public, though I’m not sure how it will trickle down to me. The ebook publishing system needs an overhaul, in my opinion, to provide greater benefit to authors, consistent with those offered by the major print publishers. A playing field slightly more level, finance-wise, so authors can possibly make an actual living at it.
I have a feeling publishing will be in a state of flux for a long while yet.

Cate Masters’ novels, novellas, short stories and flash fiction appear at epublishers The Wild Rose Press, Eternal Press, Wild Child Publishing/Freya’s Bower and Shadowfire Press. Her flash and short stories appear at such web zines as Cezanne’s Carrot, The Battered Suitcase, A Long Story Short, Dark Sky Magazine, and The Harrow. Visit her online at, or follow her on Facebook or on Twitter.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Starting Early

Books fill every nook and shelf in our house. I sometimes fear the second story will collapse with the weight of my children's books. One thing I've never been able to deny them is the request for purchase of a book. And they like to keep them all. They do reread them, their favorites over and over again.
There are many reasons to be proud of our children but one thing in particular about my brood lifts my spirits. They're an active bunch, all of them playing multiple sports through high school and two of them through college. One is still in high school and following the footsteps of her brothers in many ways. But all of them have always had a love of books as great as their love of sports. I was so proud of my sons when they packed books to take along to their summer sport camps right beside their cleats or basketball shoes. Just yesterday my daughter asked me to take her to Borders to purchase some fresh reading for hockey camp.
Often other parents ask me how do you get your children to read? I have no sure answer but I know it must start early. Like many parents I read to my children from a time before they could talk. We looked at picture books and made up stories to go with the pictures. Once they could speak, we took turns making up the stories. We went to the library and all those summer programs they offered for children. We brought bags of books home each week and read everyone of them.
As a writer, it is refreshing and inspiring to know there are so many upcoming consumers of the written word. I love going to the bookstore and seeing all the young people shopping and buying stacks of books. As a parent, it is rewarding to believe I influenced my own children to love the written word. I can't imagine a relationship with my children where we didn't discuss books or critique together the movies made from our favorite books.
The past three weeks, my fifteen year old daughter has risen early each morning to volunteer in a summer reading program for children held at the local elementary school. It's been a learning experience for her to help children with something that comes so easily to her. She's also enjoyed the rewards of sharing something that brings her so much joy. She's passing on the love to a new generation of readers.
There are many ways to measure our success as parents, members of the community and writers. Even something as simple as donating a book can make that small bit of difference in a child's chances of loving reading. Even if I never have a blockbuster bestseller, I can look at my sons and daughter and know I've been successful at one of my goals as an author. I hope we all can pass the love of reading on to someone else.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Looking Up

I just spent part of today in a redwood forest. I find forests inspiring; they have a hushed, holy feel. And this one with its undergrowth made me think of untouched wilderness. I always come away with a deep desire to write, to pour out my soul on the pages.

But as I stood there today, I was reminded of the writing process. The primal understory with its tangle of vines, the deep, fertile ground of subconscious. Those huge redwoods towering overhead grew from a tiny seed, and each one was different. Some had many branches and offshoots. Others went straight to the sky. So like the writing process that springs from a tiny seed buried deep in the subconscious and grows... and grows... Until like the towering redwood, it's large and impressive, awe-inspiring.

When we stand there and marvel at the trees, we often forget how long it took them to get to that height and all the hardships they endured along the way--droughts, fires, being overshadowed by other larger trees. Still, they persevered and lived through the pain, struggled to reach their heights. And so will we.

When I look at the Susquehanna Writers, I feel the same awe as I do in the forest. I knew many of them when they were struggling, unpublished writers. We were saplings together. Sharing the pain of rejections, the frustration of learning the craft, the struggle to find someone--anyone--who appreciated our work enough to take a chance. And now we've all arrived at the stage where we're published authors; most of us are multi-published.

At one time, we thought that was the goal, the be-all and end-all. Now we know, though, that like the redwoods, we still have much more growth ahead of us. We all continue to write and submit, of course, but now we're branching out with a new skill--marketing. Which means the growth process is ongoing. But someday soon we'll all be towering redwoods that inspire others.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Unconventional Book Signings

Unconventional Book Signings
By Dennis Royer

The coming week is a busy one for me with 2 stops on my “Night of the Walrus” summer book tour. First up, Tuesday evening, July 21 from 6:00 to 8:00, I’m appearing at the Inn 74 restaurant near the sleepy little town of Landisburg, PA. This is my 5th appearance at the Inn 74. I always have a blast there and do very well. Imagine going to a restaurant and discovering an author signing books. How could you resist checking that out? Of course, it also helps that they serve alcoholic beverages to loosen up the customers!

My second event this week is Saturday, July 25 from 11:00 to 3:00, when I have the privilege of doing a group signing with my friend, Don Helin, and NY Times best selling author, Maria V. Snyder, at the Ned Smith Center Nature and Arts Festival in Millersburg, PA. With an expected crowd of thousands, we hope to generate lots of sales. Feel free to visit my website: for details.

No doubt signings at traditional book stores are important to the promotion of an author’s work, but don’t limit yourself to just those venues. I’ve enjoyed success at other unconventional settings such as restaurants, festivals, libraries, private book clubs, senior citizen events, and once I even did a signing at a public school board meeting.

I’m interested in reading ideas from others on this topic. Do any of you have unusual book signing success stories?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

TWRP releases Going with Gravity today!

by Cate Masters

I'm excited to announce Going with Gravity's available today! It's my first Champagne Rose with TWRP. To celebrate, I'm giving away a PDF copy to a commenter on my blog at, so come on over! And be sure to check back tomorrow night, when I'll announce the winner.

Here's the story blurb:
Publicist Allison Morris plans her own life – what’s left of it – around the life of her boss Michelle McCarter, the ex-wife of a famous rock star. When Michelle needs emergency public relations patchwork in Hawaii pronto, Allison arranges a flight to the dream destination. At the airport, she meets Wes Hamilton, a six-foot-three sun-bleached blond whose blue eyes and dazzling smile rekindle her fizzled-out sizzle. A world-renowned surfer, Wes captivates her with his charm and wit, though his easy fame and on-the-edge lifestyle are the polar opposite of her own. When their jet loses its fuselage in mid-air, she takes advantage of what she thinks are her last minutes alive with Wes. The plane lands safely. Wes takes care of her when her carefully constructed life begins to unravel. When Michelle accuses Allison of using Wes to gain fame for herself, Allison’s world falls apart in an explosive confrontation. Wes is waiting with open arms when she has nowhere else to go, but can Allison learn to stop planning and go with gravity?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rough Enough

I recently undertook a big job for my annual summer remodeling project. My dear husband puts up with and helps me each June and July when I dive into some major shakeup of the old homestead. We moved into our six bedroom home almost thirteen years ago and have painted everything at least twice already except the master bedroom. When we moved in, it had a very dark masculine wallpaper covering every inch. I didn't care for it but it was expensive appearing paper so we put off removing it for years. And my husband does professional residential and commercial painting so we knew the danger of removing wall paper. You never know what is underneath.
But I took the plunge on Monday and removed that durn paper. Took me about twenty hours and it was worse than we had feared. The wall behind the paper hadn't been prepped at all by whomever put up the paper. We were left with a very rough surface and many nicks as well as a couple dozen nail holes that weren't visible when the paper was on. I won't go into the many step process my husband used to turn those beat up walls into a smooth perfect surface sporting a beautiful new coat of paint, but while sanding and cursing this week I also had lots of time to think about my writing.
I have a friend who writes her first draft and it's nearly perfect. I have other friends who write up a plot so detailed, they might call it their first draft. We all have our different methods and I'm amazed at the differences. I know where my novels will start and where they will end and then do the plotting of the middle in my head. That means my first draft is rougher than any wall have destroyed by wall paper removal. After I finish my rough draft, I retype the entire book using that rough draft as my plot outline.
That second typing is when I check for overuse of words, plot inconsistencies, passive verbs and the myriad of other things that might cause the manuscript to be rejected. I make notes on a piece of notebook paper of things I need to change in the early parts of the book to make sure my characters end up where they're supposed to be when they need to be.
I'm guessing if we put ten novelists at a round table, we might get ten different processes of getting that finished product polished and ready for the world to read. I'm not sure one is better than the other, but if what you're using is working, perhaps you should try another. Don't select a method because you know it works for a successful author of your acquaintance and then stick with it forever. Find a style of plotting and editing that fits your personality and comfort zone.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Serching for Sensory Details

I've noticed that writers are often travelers. And I once read that a large proportion of writers have lived in more than one country during their lives. Something about being displaced forces one to write, perhaps? Or is that these writers have absorbed two different cultures, two different settings, so creating new worlds comes easily for them. The more sensory details you add to your repertoire, the more those will pour out in your writing.

It's not easy writing in a vacuum. You can create a description of a place you've never been, but often the details are missing--the sounds, the smells. Visuals you can recreate from reference photos, but the essence is missing if you haven't walked the streets, sniffed the air, tasted the food, heard the cadence of the language, or danced to the beat of the music.

Maybe that's why they often say "write what you know." The only way to truly capture the whole experience on paper is to experience it for yourself. So much of writing is sitting at a computer and typing in words. But if that isn't balanced by sensory stimuli, a key component may be missing from your page. So push yourself away from your desk regularly and get out into the world. You'll not only come back refreshed, but you'll return with plenty of new details to add to your story world.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Do you tweet?

by Cate Masters
As an author, I look for effective ways to connect with others. So far I've made the leap to Facebook and recently launched a web site. I've had a blog for about a year. I also have a page on Ning, though it's woefully outdated.
Because I've been required to join so many email loops that suck away valuable time, I resisted Twitter. Until yesterday. Twitter looks deceptively simple, but can have many functions. All of which I must now acquaint myself.
The tipping factor came when Joanna D'Angelo, who runs the Love Romance Novels group, planned to have a romance author chat day on Twitter. If you read or write romance, you'll want to participate in this #askromancewriter chat. Check out my blog for more info. If you're not tweeting already, you should be! And follow me, and I'll follow you.

Monday, July 6, 2009

What Writers Read?

I read an interesting blog on another site that started a discussion of what books in certain genres you've never read. Most writers are voracious readers not only in the genre they write but in many others.
Personally, I write romance and fantasy, sometime combining the two and sometimes not. I've read thousands of romance books over the years including perhaps the best known world wide, Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen's writings hold a prominent spot on my bookshelves. And how could I write fantasy without having read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? But must I have read those masters to be a successful writer in those genres? Austen and Tolkien certainly didn't write in a style that would be accepted by today's publishing world.
Should an author entering the young adult market have read Harry Potter and Twilight? That market seems to be booming with many new writers finding success.
Should a writer read all of Oprah's recommendations if they're goal is literary fiction?
I don't write contemporary romance or fiction but if I did should I read Nora Roberts? Should I read Lee Childs or Robert Parker if I want to develop a contemporary suspense/thriller character to carry on a long running series? What do you think? Are there must reads for authors searching for success in certain genres?

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Italia II

Leaving for Italy also entailed leaving behind the trappings of the modern world - television, land lines, and computers. My only "entertainment" in the Tuscan hills consisted of conversation with my fellow travelers, walks up to Colle Verde - where delicious olives were grown - and gazing at the vistas. But I couldn't leave my writing behind. No way. In the years I've been a freelance writer, I've grown accustomed to hearing the click of the keyboard. It was faster and an easier way to meet deadlines. Here in Italy, I journaled, pen in hand, on clear crisp pages. Somehow it made me appreciate the "process" of writing, forced me to stop and "smell the roses" of the writing life. I rediscovered the curls and swirls of my own handwriting, and felt some deep satisfaction as I filled a page and went on to the next. I wrote about the little Tuscan towns visited the day before, the foods I tasted, the sounds I heard. I took the time to express how I felt when I was there. After all, I had all the time in the world.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let's Not Outsource Writing

The Hartford Advocate tried an experiment. It outsourced some of its writing assignments to freelancers in India. Here is one of the news stories that was submitted:

Because of the Dog Bowl, the House Owner Faced a Damage of $215,000

The fire officers of Bellevue, Wash., state that on a bright sunny day, the dog's glass bowl and the sun ray combined and gave rise to blazing fire which burnt the back side of the house. Eric Keenan of Bellevue Fire Department Limited says that the investigators determined that dog's glass water bowl focused enough of sunlight
to work like the magnifying glass, because of which the fire began at the wooden deck of the house on Sunday. Investigators said that apart from this there was no other cause found which could give rise to the fire. During this incident, homeowners weren't at home and the neighbor noticed the fire and informed the fire department. The dog had been rescued and the damage is approximately $215,000.

Hmm. Seems to me that some things should not be outsourced. I am not against any freelance writer making a few dollars by writing news stories. But, I think you get what you pay for. And, well, the work speaks for itself.

Here is the explanation for the experiment directly from the paper:

It wasn’t our intention for our little outsourcing experiment to put us out of a job. But it’s clear that in an age when publications are aggressively cutting costs and reducing staffs, India’s millions of wired English speakers may present an irresistible resource. If so, our Indian colleagues will have earned the last laugh.

Call us old-school, but we think good, old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism is worth the price. Outsourcing could certainly fill pages, probably very cheaply, but what’s lost is the very essence of local newspapers: presence. At city hall, the local music club or out on the street talking up average folks, presence is what sets local newspapers (dinosaurs though they are sometimes) apart, and what outsourced news could never replace. But don’t take our word for it. Have a read and decide for yourself.

Here is the complete article. You can see other examples of the outsourced writing, too.

-- George Sheldon,