6 Ways You Can Create The Next Chapter In Your Life

Have you wondered what the next great chapter of your life will be?  Are you stuck in day-to-day details unable to see how you can climb that mountain to achieve your special goals?

mountain top

The last few years have offered a plethora of challenges and life learning moments for me. Many of them have been super uncomfortable but all combined to bring me to a jumping off point. I managed to get the courage to go back after over 20 years to finish my Master’s degree in Professional Writing, start a new career as an online content writer and write two books.

And you are no different from me.  You can move forward, right now, too.

Whether it’s getting the gumption to begin writing the story that’s been hanging around your head for years or mustering up the motivation to pursue a new career path or even just setting your mind to pointing your life in a new direction, you can get yourself in move-mode by following these 6 easy tips:

  1. Remember That The Best Way To Predict The Future Is To Invent It.

Allow yourself to focus on your most unimaginable dreams.  Let the beauty of those possibilities hover over every minute of your day.  I used to do this by walking into my local bookstores like Barnes & Noble and imagining my book on the shelves.  Now it is!

What crazy, far-fetched idea would you like to become reality? Give yourself permission to dream and find ways to encourage yourself.

  1. Ask Yourself If You Knew You COULDN’T Fail What Would You Do?

Relinquishing doubt by believing you CAN’T fail can be the prod you need to move forward.  I applied this principle when I started entertaining the possibility of finishing my graduate degree even though it had been more than 20 years since my last class!  I visited the University of Southern California Master of Professional Writing website constantly and reminded myself I had done this before.

Allow yourself to imagine your biggest goals, convinced that they will actually happen. Your mindset has more to do with accomplishing those objectives than anything else.

  1. Find A Support Group And Use It!

To be honest, I was so afraid of being rejected when I thought of re-applying to USC that I actually asked a friend to come over and hold my hand when I made the initial call.  I also lined up friends to hold me accountable for the goals I set for myself.

Who do you have in your life that can motivate you and reinforce your goals?  Make a pact with them that you’ll support them on their journey as they encourage you on yours.

  1. Prepare Yourself For A Journey You Can’t Plan.

If someone had told me in 2009 that just five years later I would have my Masters, I would be a working freelance online content writer and I would be a published author with two books I wouldn’t have believed it.  And yet, through taking one step at a time through various twists and turns that scenario evolved into a bucket list reality.

No journey turns out exactly the way we envision it. But keeping in mind that goals are just dreams with deadlines, you can keep your eye on the final prize no matter what the road looks like.

  1. Practice The Habit Of Remaining Steadfast.

Whether it’s getting fit, finding a new job, or completing that project that’s never been finished, a steadfast commitment to achievable objectives changes a daunting big picture into a workable result.  When I struggled to stay on track with my writing, I challenged myself to write at least one page a day and at the end of the week I would allow myself a treat when I had more than seven pages.

Steadfast discipline is one of the best gifts you can give yourself. The process of staying true to your goals is one that will continually lift your spirits and keep you focused.

  1. Be Thankful For The Voyage.

When difficult times come into our lives we can often focus on the overwhelming circumstances of the present.  But life is a constantly flowing river, a series of changing seasons – which lends all sorts of possibilities.  Truly, if I hadn’t gone through such difficult times in the last few years I would NEVER have achieved the goals that are now in my rear view mirror.

Start every day with a thankful attitude, not just for what has happened up to this point but for the unseen things that will occur to make your life a uniquely incredible experience.

No matter your background, economic situation, education or geographic location, you can achieve just about anything you put your mind to.  The question now is — what will you dream up?

Start on your new chapter today by sharing your goal or dream here — the sooner you make it real, the closer you’ll be to realizing it.

Joining The Writing Process Blog Tour

Note:  My cool writer pal Catherine Holm invited me to become part of a wonderful writer’s project.  The Writing Process Blog Tour was created by writers across the country hoping to encourage other writers and introduce their own readers to new authors.

The result — a creative tapestry of writers across all genres and geographies.  Each participant answers four questions on the writing process and then passes the baton to two of their writing friends.  It’s a fascinating look into how writers of all types approach this magical craft.

My two pals are Angie Bailey, a popular, author, blogger, humorist and cat writer, and Colin Nelson, a mystery writer who calls upon 30 years of experience as a prosecutor and Public Defender.

I’m thrilled to be part of this effort to bring writers and audiences together.  Happy Reading!

typewriter

What Are You Working On?

I’m currently neck-deep in marketing two books of completely different genres – my novel, The Ghosted Bridge, a paranormal mystery set against the backdrop of Minnesota’s I35W Bridge collapse in 2007, and Finding Home, a children’s picture book about a homeless cat searching for a name and a forever family.

At the same time, I’ve got a profound story knocking about in my head that centers around Minnesota’s thoroughbred breeding and racing industry.  The story follows a woman who has been devastated by a huge loss.  Her move to a broken down horse farm may be just what she needs to learn how to live again.

How Does Your Work Differ From Others In Your Genre?

No matter which genre, adult fiction or children’s books, I draw a great deal from reality.  Even when based in a fictional world, many of my characters are actually real people and creatures.

Why Do You Write What You Do?

I write for a variety of reasons — I’m compelled by stories with powerful themes; I love to explore interesting characters; I am always interested in ways to inspire readers to step out of their comfort zones and follow their passions.

How Does Your Writing Process Work?

I usually spend time with my characters in my mind, learning about their lives, their backgrounds, their idiosincracies, their goals, dreams and fears.  Then I mull over the plot and work out how the story will communicate the certain theme that keeps drumming in my head.

Once I know the characters well I sit down to write and let them have their way with the story.  I close my eyes and let them interact and work their ways through the plot.  I never edit during this stage because I want to stay out of the story’s way.

Finally when I have a rough draft, I allow my inner editing policewoman in on the job and let her clean up the piece.  Once she’s done, I re-read the draft, fix story problems, ask specific character questions and hopefully refine the story more and more.

This usually takes a few months and I try to be patient with the process.  Hopefully, I end up with a story that shares the theme that created it in the first place, brings characters to the reader who are captivating, and delivers a plot that keeps the audience from wanting to put down the book!

Now, please meet my writer buddies, Angie Bailey and Colin Nelson.  While they have disparate styles, they share immense talent and accomplishment!

Angie Bailey is a Minnesota author, blogger, humorist, and professional member of the Cat Writers’ Association. She’s the author of whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds and Catladyland, which won the Best Humor Blog in the 2013 BlogPaws Nose-to-Nose Pet Blogging & Social Media Awards and Funniest Pet Blog in the 2011 Petties Awards.

She is a regular columnist for Catster.com, the creator of Texts from Mittens, and half of the comedy web series production team of 82 South St. Productions, LLC. You can follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/angiebaileywriter , Twitter: https://twitter.com/ABaileyWriter . Her site is www.angie-bailey.com.

Colin Nelson has worked for over thirty years as a prosecutor and Public Defender.  He found that his friends loved the stories he brought back from the courtrooms.  That triggered a desire to write about the characters he worked with and to put them in mystery/suspense stories.  He also loves to educate readers so he does a ton of research while writing, not only to get the details right but also to share some really interesting stuff.

He also plays saxophone in a jazz group called Blue Mood.  He has published three novels, Reprisal, Fallout, and Flashover which feature a young prosecutor trying to win her difficult murder cases but, in the meantime, she gets entangled in dangerous plots that threaten in unexpected ways. Visit Colin at http://www.colintnelson.com/.

 

 

 

Death of the Easter Bunny

Note — In light of recent events at my house where my cat, Simon, the star of our children’s book, Finding Home, beheaded a sweet baby bunny and left it out for all to admire, I was reminded of a day years ago when another pet committed a similar but far worse animal crime.

Everyday life brings with it so many story ideas.  The challenge for us writers is to recognize these gifts and bring them to narrative life.  If you’ve got a moment that made for a great story, we’d be happy to share it here.  Enjoy!

Like most people, I’ve had a lot of stressful days — some more panic-invoking than others.

easter bunny

Of course, as you go through life, you realize that the memories of such traumatic events fade with time. I can say that’s true for nearly every experience but one – the day my dog killed the Easter bunny.

It was the Thursday before Easter, 1998. My two boys, Christopher and Dillon, had just come home from school. While I made them a snack, they unloaded their backpacks to begin homework. At that moment, I got a phone call from my next door neighbor.

Looking back now, I should never have answered it.

“Kristy, its Linda.”

“Hey girl, what’s up?” I juggled the phone with one hand, stirring a pan of macaroni and cheese with the other.

“We’ve got a new surprise over here. Kids home? You guys have gotta come see it!”

“A surprise?” Instantly the pair of blonde heads in my kitchen jerked up and two faces eyed me with excitement. So much for homework. I sighed.

“Great,” I offered. “We can’t stay long.” One long look at the boys promised them I wasn’t kidding. “But we’ll hop over in a sec.”

“Hop,” Linda giggled. “What an appropriate word.”

I had barely turned off the stove before both kids stood before me, jackets in hand, ready to launch. We climbed into my pick-up and out of habit, I whistled for Kodi, my two-year-old St. Bernard to jump up in the back.

Five minutes later, we pulled up Linda’s gravel driveway. I could see a gaggle of kids oohing and aahing over something in the garage.

We tumbled out of the car and I told Kodi to lie down and stay. He looked at me with sorrowful brown eyes and laid his great square head on his paws with a sniff.

No sooner had I walked into the garage, when Christopher rushed at me, thrusting a bundle of soft silky fur in my arms. Everyone gathered around, cooing over this incredible lop-eared bunny.

“What’s its name?” squeaked Dillon.

“Her name is Samantha,” Linda answered, clearly thrilled to be the owner of the newest, coolest thing on the block.

“She’s so smooth.  Look at her ears, mom.” Christopher couldn’t keep his hands off of her. He turned to Linda’s son, David. You’ve got your own Easter Bunny!”  He whispered.

“Let’s let everybody else have a turn,” I suggested. Over the kids’ heads, I waggled my eyebrows at my friend Holly. She eyed me back, nodding at my unspoken message: There was no way in hell Holly or I were going to jump onto the bunny bandwagon.

“Isn’t she darling?” Linda asked.

“Yeah, darling.” I answered.

After everyone had gotten in their pets and kisses, Linda replaced Samantha in the bunny cage, a huge wire box about four feet high, with a neat little shelter and lots of clean fresh shavings. Linda invited us in for cookies and punch. I took one look at my watch and the other at the truck. Kodi was passed out, snoring contentedly in the late March afternoon sun.

“Ten minutes, kids. That’s all we have time for.” Christopher and Dillon rolled their eyes at me.

Twenty-six minutes later, I stepped out of the house, keys in hand, ahead of the children and parents putting on jackets and boots. I walked over to take one last look at the new rock star bunny.

Then the most awful thing happened.  I noticed the cage was closed but Samantha was nowhere to be found.

I whirled around and looked in the back of the truck…no dog. Behind me the troops were nearly to the door. I rushed around the corner of the garage and looked in the backyard. There in predatory splendor, my damn dog, was joyously beheading Samantha, looking like a tiger that hadn’t eaten for months.

The kids poured down the steps into the garage, in a beeline for the cage.  “Stop!”  I screamed.

The crowd jammed to a halt, eyes and mouths opened wide, staring at me. “What the, what’s wrong?”  Linda pushed past the kids toward me.

“Kids, inside, NOW.”  I commanded.  They filed back in, casting confused glances in my direction.

Linda looked at the cage, then at me. She then swung her eyes to my empty, dog-less truck. “No way,” she said.  She moved toward the garage entrance.

I put my hand out to stop her. “You don’t want to see this,” I warned.

“Oh shit,” she said.

“Go back inside.” I hissed. “Distract them.  I’ll…” What exactly was I going to do? “Take care of it,” I stuttered.

So, while Linda distributed a second round of cookies, I took what was left of Samantha with my bare hands and sprinted through the one acre pasture stretching below the house, bordered by a huge swamp.

I looked up at the house to make sure none of the kids was looking out the window and gave a huge swing, launching Samantha to her final resting place. I dipped my hands in the swamp’s brackish water to wash off the evidence, and then headed back to the garage.

I don’t remember how we dealt with the trauma of the kids realizing what had happened. I just know that Kodi was persona non-grata in the neighborhood after that.

I became known as the nightmare neighbor with the killer dog. I do recall that I spent the next five hours, driving all over Minneapolis, trying to find Samantha’s exact replica. I bought a $79 replacement bunny that looked close enough, and offered it with multiple apologies.

We were never invited back to Linda’s again. I can’t say I blame her.

It took me a long time to get over the trauma. I would wake up from horrible dreams of kids finding bunny parts all over the yard for months afterward. You see, I never did find Samantha’s head.

 

A Minnesota Girl in Random House’s Court

Note:  I have had the pleasure of working with Seal Dwyer as my editor and publisher for my books, The Ghosted Bridge and Finding Home.  Seal has taught a lot of authors the art of moving from writer to marketer in a pretty challenging publishing world.  Here she shares her experience as a scrappy, determined publishing gal in a big fish tank.  Learn more at the Facebook page for her publishing consulting firm, Appletree Book Services.

 

I literally grew up in the publishing industry. I remember going to book trade shows when I was three, four, five. I scored free books because I was cute. When I was the president of the Midwest Publisher’s Association, the secretary found a book report I’d written when I was eight and had published in the newsletter.

Seal Dwyer

Seal Dwyer, Appletree Book Services

For me, publishing was a norm. There were books everywhere. When I was old enough to work, my Grammy hired me to fill in bits of jobs around North Star Press. I did shipping. I did bookkeeping. I designed my first book. I did a book cover. She had me try my hand at everything that I could. I believe it was because of her influence that now, as an adult, I am a multi-tasker par excellence.

But I also had a drawback. At thirty-three, I have seventeen years of experience. That always made for somewhat awkward relationships with authors and industry folks, especially with older men who didn’t want to listen to a “girl.”

The publishing community in Minnesota has always been rather female. There were some husband and wife duos, but most of the publishers I know are women. And women seem to bring a certain nurturing energy to the industry here. We help each other. We support each other. We teach. We work together. There’s an undercurrent of Mean Girls, sometimes, but for the most part, it’s a wonderful community.

But being a woman in a business that cuts so close to emotions, like publishing, also means that I had to become tough as nails sometimes. And that was a lesson I had to learn. I could be quaking on the inside, but I wouldn’t show it. Especially when getting pushed around by those older men who knew better, simply because they were older and men. It’s an old adage of the feminist movement that a woman has to be twice as good to be thought equal to a man. I’ve seen that.

Being a woman, and a small publisher, in an industry that doesn’t like either made me more stubborn, more crafty, more willing to find a way to fight. I am grateful to my Grammy, who was able to run the business with a level of grace I’ll never have, but who didn’t give an inch either.

I’m grateful to my mom, who taught me the virtues to yielding an unimportant point to win the battle. I’m grateful to the other publishers and editors I know, who each provided me community, counsel, and insight, strong, smart women like Sheyna Galyan and Pat Morris.

I’m grateful to bookstore owners like Sheri Olson who taught me what they needed so I could help my authors meet that. This community of women supported each other in this shark tank industry. And we got through it.

And I’m amazed every day at the women authors who consistently outsell their male counterparts, like Kristy, like Candace Simar. Who work twice as hard, who do what women do: keep going.

Being a woman and a publisher and an author and a business owner and all the other hats we wear is fueled by passion, drive, smarts, and working together. And I think this community is filled with a richness that is uniquely Minnesota. I’m grateful to have grown up in it! And to move it forward as an adult.

 

 

The Power Of Words — How One Writer Ran The Boston Marathon

Note:  In honor of all those Boston Strong who will be gathering tomorrow for the Boston Marathon one year after the bombings, here is a piece that takes us back to that day from the perspective of a first-time runner.  In vibrant language,  with mesmerizing clarity,  my cousin Jeff Creighton shares his view of a day none of us will ever forget.

Boston: The Race

2:30 AM. Son of bitch! I’m getting no sleep, I’ve got gas from that crappy pasta I had at the neighborhood diner, and I need to pee.

Boston Athletic Association

Why did I even go to that diner the night before the race? Shut up and get focused. Remember that you are what you are. Remember the training. Which shirt for tomorrow…short sleeve or long? Socks…compression or short? This pillow is too fluffy.

5:30 AM. Here we go baby, here we go. Don’t forget to start the coffee. Eat the banana now before you get into the shower so you don’t forget.

6:00 AM. Man, these people are bundled up here in the lobby. Do they know something I don’t? Are those pajamas over his clothes? That guy looks faster than me…and so does that guy. That gal must weigh under 100 pounds. Why are we waiting around here? I need to get on that subway. This guy’s leaving, I’ll follow him.

“Really, Germany, which part? First Boston?” Son of a bitch, this is that German who ran that 1:13 half. He’s in the race?

7:15. There are 50 school buses lined up here, and you’re telling me that I have to wait for the next group? Man, it’s cold. I definitely underdressed. I’d better put on this trash bag and hunker down til my bus comes.

8 AM. This is it? This is Hopkinton, the starting point for the world’s greatest marathon? We’re at an intermediate school out in the middle of nowhere. We could be in any small town…in Kansas, Illinois, you name it. I’m freezing. Where are the bathrooms?

Look at those runners. They brought beach chairs and blankets. All you have is a trash bag. Nice going. Big tent over there. Head towards that. I’ll bet that’s where the coffee is. Ah, yes, I was right. Grab that patch of grass in the sun before somebody else nabs it. Now try to relax. You have 2 hours here.

9:30 AM. Here it is. They called my wave and corral. Follow those runners. Man, they look fast. Everybody looks fast. This is turning into a long walk down a small street. I wonder if there will be bathrooms at the start line? Look at all of these people peeing in the bushes. There must be bathrooms.

9:38 AM. No bathrooms…told you so.

10 AM. Bang, we’re off. This is weird. Nobody back here is even walking. There must be 10,000 people ahead of me. Here we go…no, wait, we’ve stopped, ok, here we go…nope, stopped again. We’re walking to the start line.

10:02. Wait…wait…perfect. You crossed the start line almost exactly 2 minutes into the race. You won’t need to do any math to figure out your splits.

Well, you’re going to be running this pace for a while. There’s no getting around all of these people. Relax. It’s a long race. You tied your shoes too tight. See that, your toes are going numb.

Miles 1-5. This is almost too easy. These fans are amazing. It’s wall to wall people out here. We’re in the middle of nowhere and it’s wall to wall people screaming, cheering, holding babies, beach chairs, coolers, venti lattes, and they’re cheering for us.

Look at those kids on their porch. She’s eating fruit loops and waving to me. Cute bunny. It’s been a long time since my kids were that age. I hope LuLu (my daughter) got her wakeup call and is on her way to Harvard Square. It’ll be cool to see her at the top of Heartbreak Hill.

Miles 6-10. This 10k split is way too slow. I’ve got to break out of here and start making up time. Left side and let’s push. This is very flat. Hey, that’s Talking Heads ‘Road to Nowhere’. Ha, very funny. “USA, USA, USA”. How cool is that for this marine? He’s getting it all along the course.

These people are awesome! Forget about it. You need to push. Where is your split? You’re not going to make your half split…no way. You’d better get around this crap.

Miles 11-15. This foot is throbbing. Wrong shoes. You should have worn the other shoes. Form, baby, form. Keep it strong, keep it easy. Time for a chomp…water on your left. Go get it.

Aah, there’s the sound. Screaming college girls. Look at them all lining the course. This must be Wellesley. You can kiss one if you want to…it said so on the web site. He just ran over for a hug. Forget about it. You’re their father. Maintain. Don’t get caught up in it. The hills are coming.

Miles 16-20. They were right…this first one isn’t bad…it’s long, maybe a half mile, but it’s not much. And look at this, there’s a downhill again. Here we go on number 2. A little steeper. Keep the form, keep the pace.

Who’s this gal on my left? What the…? She’s got to be like 60 years old. Look at her run! That’s unbelievable. She’s going to kick your ass at 60. You’re struggling to stay with her. What are they chanting? Joan…Joanie…go Joanie…it’s Joan Benoit. Well, what do you know? You’re running alongside royalty.

Ok, enough. Run your race. Pass her and hold it. There you go. Keep that pace. You’re a climber. Push it.

Miles 21-25. This is it…Heartbreak Hill. Look for LuLu and Sammy. Stay with this guy on the climb. No, forget it. He’s too fast. Let him go. Run your race. This is it. No more hills.

Where is LuLu…no LuLu. Man, I hope she made that shuttle. Don’t worry about it. There’s thousands of screaming people here hoping to see you collapse at this crest. You probably just missed her.

OK, this is what you trained for…now bring it home. Let’s hammer this downhill and bring it home. Come on; bike form, bike form. Roll the legs out the backside. Take a chomp. Yea. That’s it. See? You’re passing these people. If it hurts, speed up…remember? Speed up.

Uh oh, that’s not good. Wall time baby, wall time. I’m done. Stick a fork in it. You’re back to being a pumpkin. You’re losing it…you’re losing it. Your legs are shaking with two miles to go.

There’s the CITGO sign. You’re in Boston. Make it to that sign and there’s a mile to go. This is like a bad dream. That sign is not getting any larger. It’s further away now than it was 2 minutes ago. Waddle faster.

Mile 25 to the finish. I’m going to break from this stream of consciousness to paint for you a picture that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Before I do, let me just say that the last three miles were the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life…and I’ll keep saying that until the next last three miles of a marathon. They were filled with every emotion an emotionless male can exhibit…pain, euphoria, remorse, doubt, grief, joy, and then the painting…

The background of the painting is sky blue, a blue of release of everything I carried inside me to this point…a blue of thankfulness…a blue of peace. We’ve all seen this blue. Sometimes we’re over it in a plane looking down. Sometimes we see it in the grip of another’s hand.

The right and left of the canvas are painted with celebration…faces and hands and flags and cheers and smiles. They reach out towards the middle of the painting in a grand embrace.

In the middle of the painting is a colorful road, and I am on it. I am running with no pain. My body is of no significance…it joins the bodies around me who are also on the road. We are running together. We are friends who have never met, but we are sharing this brief moment of joy together as if we’d known each other our whole lives.

The road leads to the focal point of the painting. It is a large banner standing tall over our heads that reads “Well done. You fought the good fight. You finished the race”.  No, it isn’t heaven, although I’d like heaven to feel like this. No, it’s the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

I want to hold this painting in my mind for those who had this image stolen from them that day; for those who died while sharing in the joy I was experiencing, and for the heroes who raced towards the melee to provide aid to others.

Something died in me later that day. I still haven’t been able to get my arms around it. It’s an innocence that is gone…gone for all of us. It goes far beyond running, but, for me, it will be reflected in every future finish line I should be allowed to reach. It puts everything from the last 8 months into proper perspective.

My daughter and I passed by 2 bombs that day. They were lying innocently in plain view, but hidden from all of us. They were hidden amongst the throngs of people; runners and spectators and families and race directors and police and medical personnel. There were medals getting passed around, finishers getting hugs, people laughing, kids jumping for a better view.

LuLu and I left the finish line down a flight of stairs and onto the subway, and I was as happy as I’d ever been. We exited from the subway 10 minutes later and the world was forever changed.

And that’s all I need to say about that.

Jeff Creighton is a successful internet business entrepreneur, dedicated husband and father, and elite runner.

 

 

 

 

Author Tips: Get Facebook Savvy To Sell Your Book!

Kristy Abbott note:  I’ve had lots of questions from authors getting started with Facebook in the last few days, so here is a re-post of this basic tips for authors just learning how to use Facebook to market their books.  As always, any comments about what has worked for you are greatly appreciated!

Congrats, Author!

Facebook Like

You’ve gone and got yourself published.  No doubt you had a party, invited friends, celebrated with balloons and patted yourself on the back.

Now the real fun begins.

It’s time to promote your newly published baby in 21st Century style – and that means using social media – starting with Facebook.

However, if you are like many authors, you’ve never ventured into the world of Facebook, or at the very most, you use this social media channel to merely share your favorite pet photos.

For those authors needing a primer on promotion via Facebook, check out these tips:

  • Get Started!  Understand that to have success you need to use social channels to get your word out.  Check out this info page for Facebook to get started.  If you already have a personal Facebook page, add a public page to create a brand name for yourself.  Here’s an example of my Kristy Abbott Author page.
  • Get Friendly!  Invite your friends to Like you.  This means they are connecting to your author page and are interested in following the content you post.  Your page will show up on their Timeline and your posts will appear in their news feed.
  • Get Writing!  Now is the time to share milestones, events, photos and videos and any other special information that you find interesting.
  • Get Sharing!  Have you found a wonderful article about writing that you’d like others to see?  Post it on your page.  If you aren’t sure how to locate such content, try this content curation tool to help you find just what you are looking for.
  • Get Linking!  Your Facebook page is a channel for others to find you.  Ultimately, you want them to travel to your website and learn more, contact you and buy your book.   Include regular links to your website and blog to keep connected and don’t forget to link to other sites that carry your book – such as your publisher and Amazon.
  • Get Creative!  One of the best ways to engage with people is to invite them to share their experiences.  As the number one brand on Facebook, Coca Cola uses their page to tell the Coke story.  It’s working – the page has 78 million Likes and more importantly over 1 million people talking about their product.
  • Get Generous!  Giveaways are great ways to grab attention and celebrate milestones.  For example, I am going to hold a drawing when I get to 500 Likes to give away free copies of my books, The Ghosted Bridge and Finding Home.  You can find other great giveaway ideas in this article from Creative Onion.

Facebook is an important part of using social media to draw new people to your brand.  Give them interesting, compelling and helpful information and you’ll see more Likes and Shares and you’ll get folks talking about you!

Get Going!

Have you had some great success with Facebook?  Or do you have more questions? Share your experiences here!

 

How Effectively Is Your Online Content Selling Your Books?

 

SEO1 (1)

As part of our series on social media tips for writers, we move on to wrestle with the oft- confusing subject of search engine optimization (SEO) content.

While the whole SEO scene may freak you out a bit, it’s important to remember that if you are going to have an online presence, good SEO content is essential for getting people to your website so they can learn more about you and buy your books.

Keep in mind how searchers find what they are looking for on the web.  They use general and specific keywords, i.e., “large dog breed” vs. “Saint Bernard puppies”.  It’s logical that the more general keyword will receive more searches but it’s important to note that the more specific keyword while perhaps bringing less searchers will draw higher quality traffic — these folks aren’t just trolling for big dogs, they are probably motivated purchasers looking for adorable Saint puppies.

saint bernard puppy

So it’s your job to tap into the writing keywords that will help people searching for your ghost story, children’s picture book or murder mystery discover you more easily.

Optimized content includes a number of factors:

  • Keywords that searchers would use to find you and your book
  • Valuable content that provides relevance to the reader
  • Cross-pollination of your content amongst many social channels
  • A regular flow of new content to keep your brand fresh

In today’s marketplace the buyer is driving the sales process, not the seller.  We as consumers have loads of reviews, referrals and research at our fingertips to find what we are looking to buy.  The same is true of those who buy your books.  Unless they idolize you as an author, you have to make your book stand out amongst all the others.

It won’t do to just publish content on your blog or Facebook page that just scream about YOU all the time.  You won’t get many enthusiastic followers that way.  Remember  the 80/20 rule.  Provide helpful content based on your audience most of the time and slide in worthwhile tidbits about yourself less.

There is a wonderful infographic for writers that gives great insight into SEO.  While this is aimed at copywriters, the basics apply to any brand (including  you as a writer) looking for greater online traction.

I have met dozens of writers who are just starting out with the book promotion thing.  Many agonize over how to jump into the online pond and start swimming.  If you are a writer who has had success with SEO or one who struggles to dip your toe in the water, share your experiences here and together we’ll figure out how to sell more books!

Wanna Get Away? 3 Re-energizing Tips For Writers

 

 

puppy in blizzardI don’t know about you but I am just about at the end of my rope.

This winter is the longest in history –whether it truly is or isn’t doesn’t matter — I am SICK of suffering with this weather.  I was just in New York City for the great Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) winter conference and everywhere we went in the city the theme was the same.

We just can’t take anymore!

So I got to thinking.  No matter whether you are stuck in frigid Minnesota, cold NYC or even balmy Southern California, most likely you’ll have a day when you think for some reason, “I just can’t take it anymore.”

I call it the “Wanna Get Away” syndrome.  Remember these Southwest Airlines commercials?

As a writer I am constantly trying to use my words to move people to other places — whether to different locales in their imaginations, different mindsets in their psyches or different scenes in their memories.

Think of those books that take you back to a certain time in your life and the music that splashes you into a moment seared in your brain.  These art forms perform a valuable service to us life-weary humans.  For a brief window we get to forget, ignore, believe and renew.

But writers need lifting, too.  So here are 3 tips to get re-energized so you can pour your art into the world with renewed vigor:

Put Together A Mood-Boosting Playlist — I’m one who can write with music in the background.  I have a special “Writing” playlist just to help me stay in my writer’s space. Even if you need silence during your writing you can create a playlist of songs that instantly boost your mood and energize you — then play those songs before you sit down to work.

Get The Heck Out Of Dodge — Okay I know what my fellow Minnesota writers are saying, “It’s 20 below.  Where am I supposed to go?”  If you aren’t lucky enough to have friendly outside conditions, try these things to get your body and mind out of your rut:

  • Lie on your back and pretend your ceiling is your floor, then imagine yourself living in your upside down space (lots of stepping over soffits!) — it really will change the way your brain imagines.
  • Shovel, sweep, check the mail, walk, ride, run, swim — do anything you can to get outside for 20 minutes at least.  More oxygen to your brain and muscles will do a world of good.
  • Get a real time view of somewhere cool.  You can get a live webcam shot of almost anywhere in the world these days.  Want to see where your next vacation will take you or visit your all-time favorite spot?  Mine happens to be Newport Beach, California.  Today it looks like this (it may take a minute for the webcam).

Offer Your Creative Support To Someone Else.  Award-winning author Kate Messner gave an inspiring speech on “The Spectacular Power of Failure” at the SCBWI Conference.  She suggested when you are struggling with the fear of failure, try to help other writers with their writing challenges.

I love this tip.  Not only does it support a fellow writer, it helps your creative juices stir in a different way.

Everybody has their own unique way to jumpstart their juices.  Please add your favorite to our list and we’ll keep them here under JUMPSTART!!  When you need a spark you can scroll through the helpful hints!

 

 

 

 

Dividing and Conquering – Finding The Time – And Will — To Write

clockDon’t tell anyone but I’m playing hooky right now.

I should be creatively crafting social media messaging for a client but my untended blog has been tapping at my shoulder and so I’ve given in to writing a post I should have done a week (or so) ago.

I know I’m not alone when it comes to carving out time and discipline for my writing. Although my personal writing isn’t far from my profession of freelance writer in terms of skill, it is really different in the sense that my intimate words communicate my chosen story, through my voice.

Well that should motivate me to spend time writing every day, right? Well….

When I find myself veering off path of my established goals I need to go back to the basics of finding the time – and will – to write. Here are a few tips that have worked for me and might help you, too:

1. Put it on your calendar. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning I make a commitment to be in one of my favorite places, my friend Mary Beth Hammerlund’s dance aerobics class. Look, I don’t profess to be any type of dancer but the energy, enthusiasm and camaraderie in MB’s class lifts me and feeds my spirit.

Just like writing does.

So it makes sense that I set aside those precious mornings for dancing and that I do the same for writing. You can, too. What works best? Morning? Quiet afternoons? Before bed? Choose the time when you are most connected to the inner voice who wants to be heard and then schedule a regular time to listen.

2. Create the perfect space. Maybe it’s your kitchen table or your study. For me coffee shops and libraries are great spaces to focus only on the writing. Getting out of the house is key for me because I tend to do any chore in the world (including polishing the silver) to avoid struggling through creatively-sapped moments.

To that end, I joined a collaborative workspace called The Commons, in Excelsior, Minnesota. It’s literally just steps away from my door but its far enough away from real life that I can relax and tune in to the characters in my head. Check your community for a workspace that might work for you.

3. Use music to call forth your inner writer. This is a big one for me. Just like having a playlist for working out, I have a collection of songs that soothe me and ignite my deep down desire to tell stories. Right now I’m listening to “Daylight” by Coldplay.

I’ve heard about studies done on workers’ production when listening to various forms of music. Researchers found that the rhythm and musical key had a slight effect on productivity. Whatever the reason, we’ve found that music does have an influence on setting a mood – just think of all those soundtrack scores that help us see the stories in our favorite movies!

4. Read writers that inspire you. My new favorite book is Life of Pi by Yann Martel. This novel made such an impact that as soon as I was done I wanted to start reading it again. While you might not find many books that motivate you similarly, I bet there are some stories or writers who use language in a way that resonates with you that can be powerful writing boosters to the voice inside you. At the very least, you should always be reading something – to keep your imagination healthy.

If you have that desire to share your unique experiences or your take on the world through writing, then listen to the urging inside of you and give that person a voice.

You might become the ultra-disciplined writer who sets aside an hour a day. You might end up only writing a few hours a month. Whatever your schedule I urge you to follow the nudge to write. You won’t regret it!

Write On!

Do you have a proven successful strategy for committing to writing in your life? Give us your suggestions here and we’ll share them.

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet — An Author’s Dilemma

Twitter_Badge_1Kristy Abbott note:  This is part of a continuing series on social media tips for authors.  Today we tackle Twitter!

We’ve talked about the value of social media in an author’s efforts to build their brand.  It seems that most authors are more comfortable (from what I’ve discovered) with Facebook and look with extreme trepidation at Twitter.

However, Twitter offers a number of really great ways to connect with and build audiences. Take a look at some of these tips for tackling Twitter:

  • Understand What Twitter Can Do For You — In her blog, The Write Life, Dana Sitar cautions authors to remember that Twitter isn’t for selling books, it’s for “building your platform to engage with reader’s elsewhere, and, eventually, possibly sell books to some of them…Twitter is your obvious launching point for building a community around your brand as an author.”
  • Choose Your Twitter Handle Carefully — Chances are there are lots of other people on Twitter with your name.  When you choose your handle (your Twitter name) you should look to keep it close to how you want the public to find you.  So, even though you might love to snowmobile, @snowmobileguy isn’t the right handle for you as an author (unless you specialize in snowmobiling books!).
  • Familiarize Yourself With Twitter Chatter — Not sure how to get in on the conversation?  You can find out what hot topics are trending across the network in a few ways.  First, you can search for a topic in which you are interested.  Make sure you use a hashtag before every subject, i.e., #writingmemoir.
  • Start Getting Followers — The old saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” applies big time on Twitter.  To make an impact you need followers.  Here is a great infographic from a Mediabistro post on boosting followers — hint … you should follow Mediabistro to learn about all Twittery things.
Twitter Infographic

courtesy whoishostingthis.com

  • Follow Those In The Know — The best way to learn is by emulating those who have mastered a skill.  There are millions of people — including authors just like you — who all started out with little knowledge and less followers.  Search through the Twitterverse to find how your favorite author is navigating the landscape and then follow them.

Finally, remember the number one rule of social media engagement.  You should follow the 80-20 rule.  Talk about others 80% of the time and yourself, 20%.  This will boost your credibility and goodwill with your audiences.

Have you found Twitter to be helpful for your author marketing efforts?  Please share!