Monday, October 24, 2011

Flash Fiction Contest - 159 Words! (CLOSED! CLOSED!)

The contest is closed. Thanks to everyone who entered my Flash Fiction contest and signed up to follow my blog. I had eleven entries and they're all so much fun to read. A couple made me laugh out loud. One made me cringe in pain. Some made me look over my shoulder when I was in the house alone.

I'll be shooting them off to the judges and will get back with you soon. I hate, hate, hate choosing just one winner, but those are the rules. 

Winner will be posted soon -- I hope!

I’ve enjoyed reading (and writing for) the new Southern Writers Magazine . The pages are packed with encouragement and advice from voices of experience. The articles and interviews share secrets of success by experts in book marketing, promotion, branding, blogging, screenwriting, songwriting, conferences and more—all with a touch of Southern hospitality, of course. I want you to sample this great magazine so I’m hosting a writing contest. The winner will receive the latest issue of Southern Writers Magazine—a print issue because I want you to see just how wonderful it is. The color is vivid. The pages are thick. The print is comfortably readable.

Contest Rules:

"I’ve had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t it."

Using the Groucho Marx quote above as your first line, write a story in 159 words or less. (The quote serves as the first nine.) No profanity because I don’t like it. No erotica because you need to keep that good time to yourself. Put your name and email address below your story then post your 150 words in the comment section. There must be a minimum of ten (10) entries and you must add yourself as a follower of my blog. Deadline: October 31st.

All entries will be judged by selected members of my Bayou Writers lunch bunch. Sorry, only one winner will be chosen. The winning entry will be posted on my blog with gushy, flattering comments from the judges.

I repeat—in a nutshell:

You must add yourself as a follower of this blog if you aren’t already.

Your first line should be: "I’ve had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t it." (No modification)

Story must be 159 words max. Any kind of story—romance, western, scifi, fantasy, horror, etc. No profanity/No erotica.

Post your story in comment section with name and email.

A minimum of ten entries or contest is cancelled.

Deadline: Midnight, October 31st

Winner announced November 4th (or shortly thereafter)

Winner will be published on my blog and receive the November issue (print copy) of Southern Writers Magazine. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at jessy31writer (at) aol (dot) com

This will be the first contest I've hosted -- hope it's fun!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Meet Michael Lamendola and his eBook Guide

Last week I purchased The eBook Formatting & Publishing Guide by Michael Lamendola.

I came across Michael on Twitter. He’d made some mouthy comment that capured my attention so I looked at a few more of his tweets. Someone was raving about his eBook guide. I checked it out. For 99 cents, why not?
Many of the books I purchase don’t deliver—or totally overwhelm me with info, so much that I can’t comprehend. Michael’s book was right on target. When he says step-by-step guide, he’s not lying. I read the entire thing immediately, highlighting all pertinent info. Yeah, I said pertinent. You see, Michael has a lot of commentary that doesn’t have to do with his step-by-step; he has jokes, derision, profanity--some of it's funny, I guess. I cracked a smile now and then, but alot of it was distracting. And some of it just got old. At least for me. It's nothing the kids don’t hear on the playground, but then, I’m not a kid so I don’t like that kind of stuff. I waded through it, highlighting all the way.
In spite of the ‘filler’ Michael really does share valuable info in an easy to read, easy to understand manner. In fact, there were times I wanted to reach out and hug him because he shares info that I haven't read in other how-to books. It’s as if he’s sitting right there at your desk with you, telling you to do this…do that, but in real-talk. Once I memorize his instructions (make my notes) I’ll see what I can do about getting my own book on Kindle. And if his instructions don't work, I'll let you know. Oddly, I have faith in Michael's book; something about his tone, his friendliness, his being there at the desk with me, built trust. If you read this how-to book, you'll know what I mean--you'll feel it too.
At the end of the how-to, Michael includes a few chapters of his two novels. Of course, I can’t read them. Profanity is an issue with me. But he’s an interesting guy. Did I tell you he’s a cruise ship singer?  This author/actor/singer has a lot going for him.

You can listen to a podcast HERE . He discusses his reading/writing history. Verrrrrry interesting.

Check out his novel Dirty Work HERE. This is the first in the Red Fox series.
and his second book in the series is:
Thrift Store Bounty Hunters HERE:
If you like hilarious, fast-paced thrillers, these books are getting great reviews.  Michael Lamendola might be your next favorite author.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Part II: Marketing--More Secrets of John Locke's Success

Back in July I posted Marketing: The Secret of John Locke's Success by Randy Ingermanson but never followed up with Part 2. Here it is for those who have contacted me. And for the record, How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months is now 2.99 on Amazon.

Marketing: More Secrets of John Locke's Success

Last month I began an analysis of John Locke's lastest book on marketing fiction, HOW I SOLD 1 MILLION EBOOKS IN 5 MONTHS, which you can get on Amazon for $4.99.

Locke has some great ideas, and my goal here is to organize them into something we can all can use -- a set of steps to follow when marketing a novel.

As I noted last month, there are six main tasks you need to accomplish in creating and marketing your
fiction. Locke doesn't list these anywhere in so many words, nor does he give you time estimates for how long they ought to take. So here's my list:

* Define your General Target Audience (days of work)
* Create your book (months of work)
* Create your platform (weeks of work)
* Launch your book (one day of work)
* Grow your platform (ongoing effort for years)
* Market your book (ongoing effort for months)

Let's look at these elements in turn:

Defining Your General Target Audience

I talked about the first of these, defining your General Target Audience, in  last month's marketing
column. If you haven't done this task yet, there's just no time like the present, so go have a look now. All back issues of this e-zine are archived here:

Creating your book

Creating your book is of course a topic I've been teaching in this e-zine for years. Most of what I teach
is summarized and organized in my best-selling book WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES.

The one main point that John Locke makes which I believe is different from most authors is that he very consciously writes a novel that he believes will delight his General Target Audience -- and nobody else. He really doesn't care if he offends everybody else.

There is real freedom in writing just for a chosen few readers. Make them incredibly happy and don't worry about anyone else. That's the Locke strategy, and I think it's exactly right.

As a matter of fact, you might write a book for some subset of your General Target Audience. This would be the Specific Target Audience for that particular book.

Locke has done that with his western novels, which aren't for all of his fans -- they're only for those of
his fans who love westerns.

Creating your platform

There are certain standard elements of any writer's platform, and John Locke has nothing new to say here. His platform uses the same basic parts as anyone else's.

Here are the basic elements of a platform. Again, I'm giving time estimates for how long each of these
elements should take:

* Create a web site (weeks of work)
* Create an e-mail list for your fans (one day)
* Create a blog (about a week)
* Create a Facebook page (less than one day)
* Create a Twitter account (less than one hour)

All of these are standard parts of your platform. You don't have to have all of them, but most writers have several of these elements. I've listed them in the order which I'd suggest doing them, although there's nothing sacred about this order.

Since we're trying to understand in this article what John Locke is doing differently from everybody else, I'm not going to go into details about how to do any of the above. I've written tons of material in the past in this column on web sites, e-mail lists, and blogging.

You can find excellent books on all of these topics.
Launching your book
You can launch your book in one day, simply by announcing it to your platform. Add a page to your web site with all the details about your book, including an excerpt and directions on where to buy it.
Send an announcement to your e-mail list, giving them a good reason to buy the book right now.

Post a blog entry announcing your book. Ditto for Facebook. Tweet your book.

There, your book is launched. Again. John Locke does this the same way everybody else does.

Grow your platform
It's not that hard to grow your platform. You do this by adding good content to your web site, answering your e-mail, and posting on your blog and Twitter and Facebook.

Your goals are to increase the amount of traffic to your web site, the number of fans on your e-mail list, the number of people who read your blog, the number of fans you have on Facebook, and the number of people who follow you on Twitter.

This takes time and happens slowly. It pays off whenever you launch a new book, because over time
you'll build an increasing number of people in your General Target Audience who now know about you.

By definition, your General Target Audience is the set of people who LOVE your work, so each book launch should get better as the years go by and your platform grows and grows.

Locke really doesn't say much about the mechanics of growing your platform. He does say that he answers all his e-mail himself, and he encourages fans to sign up for his e-mail announcement list. And he tweets a lot, building what he calls his Friendship Circle.

So what is it exactly, that John Locke is doing differently than everybody else? From our analysis
above, it's clear that he's doing most things the same as most authors.

The answer is that he tackles the final main task differently. Let's look at that now.
Market your book

Marketing is an ongoing effort that begins the day you launch your book and ends when your book goes out of print.

Locke does some blog interviews, just like most authors. He considers this to be mainly an exercise in
building name recognition, and he's probably right.

He also listens to his readers, and this is key. What is he listening for? He's listening to what it is they
like (and don't like) about his books.

By listening to readers, Locke is continually refining his understanding of his General Target Audience.

If a reader likes his book, Locke asks himself what it is in that particular reader that makes her like the

If a reader hates it, Locke asks what it is about that particular reader that makes him hate the book.

Where does Locke listen to his readers? He reads the Amazon reviews. He reads his e-mail. He reads the comments on his blog. He reads what people say about his books on Facebook and Twitter.

I think this is where Locke differs from most of us.

Most authors read a glowing Amazon review or a fawning e-mail and think, "Wow, I'm amazing!"

Locke thinks, "Wow, I understand my General Target Audience better now!"

Most authors read a scathing Amazon review or an angry e-mail and think, "Gack, either I must be awful or this reader is a jerk."
Locke thinks, "Well, that person sure isn't in my General Target Audience! I guess I understand who I'm NOT writing for a little better now. So how can I revise the marketing copy for the book to attract more of my General Target Audience and scare off those who aren't in it?"

Locke does two other things for his marketing, and these seem to me to be unique. Certainly, these are the things he considers to be different from what everyone else is doing:

* He writes "Loyalty Transfer Blogs."
* He taps into the "Viral Circle" on Twitter.

These are going to take some time to analyze, so I'll talk about them next month. They're related, so it
makes sense to treat them as two parts of the same basic idea. If you're in a hurry to learn about them
right now, go ahead and grab a copy of his book, HOW I SOLD 1 MILLION EBOOKS.

Here's a quick link to his book on Amazon, and of course this link includes my Amazon affiliate code,
because I think the book is darned good and therefore I highly recommend it:

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 26,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND
have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Love is ... Writing, Reading, and Getting the Mail

Saturday was a great day for mail. Yes, in spite of email and instant gratification, I still get excited about going the post office and finding all kinds of wonderful stuff. I’m probably the only person you’ll ever meet who can get somewhat excited about junk mail. I actually browse through it—especially if there isn’t anything else wonderful. Saturday was a major coup.
Hubby got his contributor’s copy of Love Is A Verb. I think when he saw the beautiful hardback book, he was sufficiently impressed. Until that moment, I was the one thrilled--he didn’t realize what a compliment, what an achievement it was to be accepted. If you happen to purchase a copy (and believe me it will make a great Christmas gift), check out his devotional. He’s April 4th.

He also finally got the first issue of his birthday subscription to Mystery Scene magazine. That’s really a great publication for mystery writers. Educates and informs.

And, I got something too! My copy of Wishcraft by Barbara Sher w/Annie Gottlieb. Hey! Don’t laugh at me—this is a great little book, originally published in 1979. If it’s still in print (I have the 30th anniversary edition) there’s good reason. Forty-six WONDERFUL reviews--go over and read them!
I’m taking a course from Kara Lennox over at SavvyAuthors called Aim High, Shoot Straight: Achieving Your Writing Goals. Author Kara presents her plan for focusing on what you really want from your writing career, then shows how to formulate concrete, achievable goals and develop a step-by-step plan for achieving them. She also shows how to manage your time and your fears; and instructs on proven problem-solving techniques and tips for staying motivated.

Kara also writes as Karen Leabo. She's written 50-plus contemporary romance novels. Kara's books have been nominated for major romance industry awards as well, including the National Readers' Choice Awards and the Holt Medallion. She won a Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice for best Harlequin American Romance in 2003. She has also been a finalist in the Romantic Suspense category of the RITA competition, the Romance Writers of America's prestigious peer award. In the world of screenwriting, Kara has written ten feature screenplays, three of which have been optioned. And these credits are just the sprinkles on her publishing cake. She's an actress too! So yeah, the lady knows how to focus and achieve those goals and dreams.
The course has been great so far; I’ve learned a lot about myself; mainly, that I’m not aiming very high and I’m not shooting very straight. And why.

Do YOU have a career plan and steps to achieving your dreams? Do you know what's standing in your way or what diverts you from your goals? SHARE with us, please!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Write The Book You Want to Write -- Really?

Last week my friend Christa Allan came to Lake Charles to speak to a book club and at the library. I always enjoy hearing Christa speak. Even though she’s had a couple of books published and several more contracts to fulfill, she still has a certain amount of naiveté about her when it comes to talking about/dealing with the publishing world. Translated, that means honesty.

I met Christa several years ago when she evacuated from South Louisiana to Lake Charles because of Katrina. She was here when Rita hit so she actually experienced two hurricanes. Last week she told us how she put her manuscript in a zip lock bag when she evacuated. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
During the time Christa lived here, we brainstormed, critiqued, judged contests and enjoyed getting to know each other. I was sad when she moved back to Abita Springs. Selfishly, I wish she was still here.

Christa has a quirky personality. Well, quirky is probably putting it mildly. She's really quirky. I suppose you have to be if you successfully teach high school English. On second thought, quirky helps the writer too, doesn’t it?

For her first two books, Christa mined from her own life, but she’s quick to say, “You don’t have to experience everything to write about it.”

Christa’s simplified progression to getting published is this:
“Write the Book * Go to a conference * Network * Sell it”

Basically, that’s the way you do it with a little of this and that thrown it. The this and that is—and I witnessed this with my own eyes—negative critiques, bad advice, low scores from contests and discouragement.

Christa was told in critiques and from contest judges to cut the prologue of Walking on Broken Glass, which turned out to be her debut novel. She was told that no one reads or likes prologues. Thankfully, she didn’t listen.

She was told not to write in first person—that readers/editors don’t like first person point of view. She didn’t listen.

She was told that she would never sell a book about an alcoholic; she didn’t give up. She didn’t listen.

Christa says, “It’s all about story. Story trumps everything else.”

It would have been so easy to throw the book away and start from scratch but Christa says she knew she wasn’t the only recovering alcoholic who was also a Christian.  She searched Christian fiction for real life struggles but the subject of alcoholism was like an elephant in the room that no one wanted to acknowledge.

Below, read the heartfelt prologue that everyone wanted to cut. These words were taken from the personal pages of Christa's own journal. 


If I had known children break on the inside and the cracks don’t surface until years later, I would have been more careful with my words.

If I had known some parents don’t live to watch grandchildren grow, I would have taken more pictures and been more careful with my words.

If I had known couples can be fragile and want what they are unprepared to give or unwilling to take, I would have been more careful with my words.

If I had known teaching lasts a lifetime, and students don’t speak of their tragic lives, I would have been more careful with my words.

If I had known my muscles and organs and bones and skin are not lifetime guarantees that when broken, snagged, unstitched or unseemly, can not be returned for replacement, I would have been kinder to the shell that prevents my soul from leaking out.

If I had known I would live over half my life and have to look at photographs to remember my mother adjusting my birthday party hat so that my father could take the picture that sliced the moment out of time—if I had known, if I had known—I would have been more careful with my life.

Christa’s second novel is just as honest and straightforward as her first. As if she's taller than her five feet, two inches, she goes nose to nose with hate and prejudice.


When Caryn Becker answers the telephone on most Saturday morning, it’s generally not a prelude to disaster. Except this time, her brother David’s call shifts her universe. Her emotional reserves are already depleted being a single parent to six-year-old Ben after the unexpected death of her husband Harrison.

But when David is the target of a brutal hate crime, Caryn has to decide what she’s willing to risk, including revealing her own secrets, to help her brother. A family ultimately explores the struggle of acceptance, the grace of forgiveness, and moving from prejudice to love others as they are, not as we’d like them to be.

One reviewer says: Allan awakens compassion for the gay Christian as well as his loved ones whose paradigm he wrenches.

Most Christians argue there’s no such thing as a gay Christian while others say, “We’re glad man doesn’t choose who goes to heaven.”

Christa walks a tight-rope in her writing—with the Christian Book Association and the ABA.  She is the Catch-22.

Writers like Christa Allan pave the way for those of us who don’t have the guts to write what we want to write or haven’t yet found our voice. 

Above all else, we have to write what we want to write—from our heart—whether it is Christian fiction or that story of a serial killer that publishers call a cliché that is of no interest. Don’t listen to negativity. If we believe in ourselves and write the best story we can write, someone will buy it. Someone. Some day.

Christa says, “I didn’t get published because I’m the best writer; I got published because I didn’t give up.”

And we can take that bit of advice to the bank!