Tag Archives: Jennifer Fusco

Retreat Recap

Tuesday’s Scribe, PJ Sharon here. I had the great pleasure of joining several CTRWA members this past weekend at the lovely Guest House Retreat Center in Chester, CT. We’ve been planning this weekend retreat for months, and no one was more excited than me to get away and share some quality writing time with my pals. I thought you all might like to hear about the highlights.

After checking in at 3:00 on Friday afternoon, we were all treated to a wonderful dinner and dessert before settling in for an evening of critiquing. We divided up into small groups, and each had the opportunity to share the first five pages of our WIP. This was immensely helpful to me personally, as my fabulous critique partners, Jane Haertel and Tracy Costa, convinced me yet again, that my short story prequel to my trilogy, to be released as part of the WG2E October Anthology, called SOUL REDEMPTION, actually started in chapter two. (Read my previous post about “The story starts here.”) I’m not sure why I haven’t quite mastered the art of where to start a story, but they were absolutely right and it will now read so much better.

Saturday morning, I rousted eight of my fellow writer friends out of their beds to join me in a 6:00 a.m. yoga class. I’ve been teaching yoga for about seven years now, and I love sharing a gentle, restorative practice with newbies and experienced yogis alike. Relaxed, refreshed, and energized, we had a hearty breakfast and then spent the next few hours working on our individual WIP’s in the comfort and solitude of the many nooks scattered about the quaint old inn.

After lunch—and I have to say here, that the food was simply outstanding—we gathered for an interactive debate with authors Kevin Symmons and Arlene Kay, who shared their humorous and spirited take on setting vs.character. Then we had more alone time before supper, where most of us made another dent in our weekend word count. I was able to finish all of my edits for WANING MOON, and I heard from Melanie Meadors that she broke her record of 5,000 words in a weekend. WTG Melanie!

Saturday night after a tasty Salmon dinner and blueberry cobbler—seriously, did anyone else gain five pounds this weekend—we got together for a fun-filled evening of Plotting Playoffs with our hostess diva, Jamie Pope, aka. Sugar Jamison. Our illustrious Prez, Jennifer Fusco won the big honor of the night and was rewarded with the coveted tierra, boa, and pink girly gloves—not to mention the best writer on earth certificate.

I’d like to personally thank the brilliant Jane Haertel, aka Suze Hardy, for helping me plot out Book Two of my trilogy, WESTERN DESERT. It’s going to be awesome, but I may need another retreat in the spring!

Much wine was consumed, laughs were shared, and in my opinion, the best line of the weekend came from Jennifer Yakely, another CTRWA contracted and soon-to-be published author, who said, “Historical romances are all about balls and Duke screwing.” I love writers! Don’t you?

Give a Hoot!

Happy Friday everyone! Casey here! I hope you’ve had a great week.

One quick announcement – The Undead Space Initiative is on sale now! Thanks to everyone who purchased copies. I appreciate it!

I’m always looking for new ways to use my time more efficiently. I recently signed up for the free version of Hootsuite (thank you Jennifer Fusco for the tip). Now, I received this information a while ago from Madame Fusco, but I was reluctant to sign up for YET another social media tool. I’d tried Tweetdeck and was completely underwhelmed and gave up using it.

With another book release looming in my future (and a huge bout of indecision about promotion), and feeling disorganized and out of control, I did what I always do  –  step back, assess, and organize.

My solution: give Hootsuite a try. So I signed up for the free version and gave it a whirl. (And yes, I do love that little owl logo – see here for my admitted owl obsession).

After the initial set up (which took about two minutes because I had to create and document another new password), I was asked to choose the social networks I wanted to connect to. With the free version, I was limited to five. I had a tough decision to make because I also manage the Scribes’ Twitter and Facebook pages. And I belong to several Facebook groups too.

In the end I chose to use my own pages for the trial run. So I hooked up my Facebook profile, fan page, my Twitter account, and my WordPress blog. Once I did that Hootsuite presented all my information on a series of dedicated tabs and then asked me to choose the “streams” I wanted to view.

 

Basically that means – how much information do I want displayed? For example on Facebook, you can view wall posts, news feeds and events (to name a few). With Twitter, I can view lists, mentions, the twitter feed, and sent tweets.

The best thing about Hootsuite is scheduling messages. Hootsuite allows you to add photos, documents, and links. Then you can decide the date/time where you want them to appear (FB page, Twitter, your blog).

I have to say – it’s pretty sweet. With minimal effort, I can now schedule my tweets etc. for my weekly blog posts or announce my latest buy link therefore saving me time. If I were to upgrade to the full package ($9.99) a month, I could use their bulk scheduler, connect to an unlimtied number of social networks, and more.

Hootsuite has other free features like analytics that I have yet to explore, but I’m taking baby steps for now!

So far I’ve had a good experience with Hootsuite and I would recommend it for those of you who are time-strapped. Especially if you are on a blog tour or gearing up for your next promotion. The scheduling aspect is my favorite part.

Anyone else using Hootsuite? Any time-saving tips you want to share with the rest of us? And if not Hootsuite what other time-saving applications would you recommend?

Top Three Reasons to Take and Teach Workshops

How is it Tuesday already? PJ Sharon here, bringing to you my top three reasons to both take writing workshops and give them. Of course my main reason is that I’m a firm believer in lifelong learning.

I also think we owe it to ourselves and others to pay it forward when we learn something useful. After all, sharing ideas is the reason we write.

I just finished taking an online workshop called YA Heroes Journey, offered by my YARWA buddies Jennifer McAndrews and Linda Gerber. It was excellent! I loved how they were able to give me immediate feedback on my WIP and help me to improve my grasp of plot, character archetypes, and the deeper motivations of my hero and heroine.

Over the past six years, I have taken dozens of online workshops through RWA’s individual chapters, Savvy Authors, and YARWA (young adult chapter of RWA), and have never been disappointed. In addition to these online workshops, I’ve had the privilege of attending the RWA National convention five times, CT Fiction Fest four times, and a Romantic Times Booklovers Convention for the first time this year. All of these venues offer incredible workshops and endless opportunities for networking—not to mention tons of fun!

 Here are my top three reasons why you should take writing workshops:

1)      To hone your craft. When I began writing down the crazy stories in my head, I had no idea there were so many rules to writing. From point of view and plot, to balancing dialogue and narrative, I felt as if I could study the craft for the rest of my life and barely scratch the surface of all there is to know. I make it a point to take workshops as often as I possibly can.

2)      Feedback on your WIP. This is probably one of the most valuable parts of taking a workshop. So many times, we struggle through the rough patches of our stories and suffer alone, feeling as if we can’t see our work objectively or find the forest through the trees. It’s great to have critique partners, but it’s also good to have objective individuals give you a fresh perspective on your work.

3)      Affordable and focused education. It takes about $30,000 and more than a couple of years of your time to obtain an MFA. During that time, you spend a considerable amount of energy focusing on literary critique of published works, reading and writing poetry, and working to earn grades rather than working on your own projects. Not that this is entirely a bad thing, but if you are planning to write genre fiction, it might not be the best use of your time and resources. The workshops I’ve taken range from $10-$25, are taught by talented and dedicated writers and published authors, and last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a month. A very wise and doable investment in my opinion. You can take the workshops you need, when you need them, and take them for a fraction of the cost of college courses.

In addition to all of this fabulous learning, I’ve come to appreciate the benefits of teaching. Over the years I’ve taught ice skating and yoga classes, done personal training with individuals and groups, and given workshops on health and fitness related topics. I’ve hesitated to jump into the arena of teaching writing workshops, mainly because I still feel like a newbie in so many ways. It probably doesn’t help that I teach a monthly writing class to a group of teens who constantly make me aware that they are much smarter than I am.

 But after doing a craft corner last year for the CTRWA group about writing fight scenes, I realized that indeed I do have something to offer by way of workshops. I know about martial arts, I know what makes a good fight scene, and I’ve taken a few workshops on the topic. So by popular demand, I’ll be offering my very first workshop, “Fun with Fight Scenes,” at the upcoming CT Fiction Fest conference on May 12th. Other presenters include Kristan Higgins, Jessica Andersen, Toni Andrews, and Jennifer Fusco, just to name a few. We also have the fabulous Sherry Thomas as our keynote speaker. Incidentally, there will be plenty of opportunities to pitch your story to some of the best agents and editors in the business. You won’t want to miss it! 

Here are my top three reasons to give a workshop:

1)      Share knowledge with other writers. If you’ve been working to hone your craft for a few years and have worked hard to complete a few novels, you know a little something about writing. Even if you don’t feel up to the task of teaching “on writing,” I’d bet  there is some area of expertise you could share with your fellow writers that would give them a leg up on their WIP.

2)      Networking. There is no better way to get exposure to new people than to teach a workshop at a conference or online. Getting our faces and our talents in front of industry professionals is an incredible marketing opportunity. If you are in the “business” of writing, setting yourself apart as an expert or authority on a sought after topic is a great way to get some notice.

3)      Public speaking experience. Again, if you are planning a career as a writer, there will be many occasions where you will be required to present yourself publically. Whether it’s pitching your story to an agent or editor, or doing a radio or TV interview, the more experience you have with public speaking, the better prepared you’ll be for whatever opportunities come your way.

 If you haven’t been to a conference in a while (or ever), there is still time to sign up for CT Fiction Fest. I’d love to see you there!

 What was the last workshop you took? Have you ever taught one? I’d love some tips on how to make mine stand out.

Brands Aren’t Just For Cattle

Hi!  J here.  Happy Saturday to you!   I’ve been thinking about branding lately.  No, no, no…not that kind of branding.  I already have a tattoo, thank you very much.  Incidentally, the artist said I was wimpiest person he had ever put a tattoo on.  I nearly ended up with just a straight black line rather than the delightful image I had planned. But that’s a story for another day.  Today, I want to talk about Marketing. 

I’ve been thinking about my brand as an author.  Jennifer Fusco is an expert on marketing and I’ve been following her blog, Market or Die.  And one of the things she says I need is a brand statement.  Something short and sweet that sums up my writing. 

I’ve also been giving thought to a piece of advice I got recently from author Toni Andrews. Even the most successful authors have times when they can’t attract people to the table at a book signing.  Back in October, I spent a week at my local mall attempting to sell books, but people went out of their way (literally!) to avoid passing by the table or making eye contact.  Toni suggested using a gimmick to bring people to the table.  Once they get there, I’ve had success converting browsers to buyers.

At this point, I’ve Indie Published four books.  Two of them are novels written for ‘tweens.  And two of them are beginning readers.  I have other stories in the hopper, too, and expect to increase my product list significantly in 2012. 

But who am I marketing to?  Unlike many of my writer friends, I’m marketing to two different groups: Buyers and Readers.  The people who will read and enjoy my books are primarily children, 15 years old and under.  But the people who will part with their hard-earned cash to buy the books are adults.  Parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles and so on. 

I need to get my book in front of Buyers and I need to get my book in front of Readers who will influence the Buyers to purchase it.  That’s two different things.  I think my Readers are still reading print books.  It may be changing right now, but my limited market research (asking my friends with teenagers who like to read) tells me that the 10-14 year old set are not Kindle/Nook owners yet.  They might have an iPad, they likely have an iPod and/or an iPhone (iPhone and iPod Touch have a Kindle app).  But much of their pleasure reading is done traditionally.  That tells me that I might do better selling my print book than my e-book, at least right now. 

I’ve been thinking about these seemingly different things, for months.  Now that I’ve created these fabulous products, how do I sell them?  What should my brand be?   What kind of events should I be doing, and where?  What kind of gimmick could I use to gain notice at events?

A possible solution popped into my head last night.  At their core, I write Adventure Stories.  Whether it’s my Livingston-Wexford Adventure Series for ‘tweens, my Dixie & Taco Series for beginning readers or the Time Travel Romance I’m working on right now, each of those stories is an adventure.  That’s the kind of story I like to read, that’s the kind of vacation I like to take, that’s the kind of book I write.  My brand needs to focus on the Adventurous aspect in some way.  And my gimmick could have something to do with Adventure Planning.  Vacation ideas, that kind of thing. 

Today’s Secret: We aren’t in Kansas any more people.  The days when all an author had to do was to write a good book are long gone. 

Today’s Question: What new areas are you dipping your toes into as a result of your writing career?  Are you learning new skills, forging trails you never imagined walking down?  How’s that going?

Twitter-pated

Happy Friday! Casey Wyatt here.

I admit I was reluctant to take the plunge and join Twitter. My thought was –  Ugh, another thing I have to do on top of Facebook and the blogs.

And it is another thing to keep track of … except I like Twitter it.

Maybe too much. It appeals to my inpatient nature and is a great opportunity to spend time avoiding writing. I get instant feedback and someone, somewhere is always tweeting about something interesting. So what is Twitter? It’s a social media tool that allows you to speak to your “followers” or “tweeps” in 140 characters or less. People have to choose to follow you. And you choose to follow them. You can only read comments from those people or organizations you follow. And they in turn will only read your comments if they follow you. (Twitter allows you to directly message people if you know their user name). Our friend and marketing guru Jennifer Fusco likens Twitter to a cocktail party. I think that is a great analogy.  Except my problem is I like the party a little too much. So what’s a writer to do? Limit yourself – I re-tweet (a function that allows you to share tweets you like with your followers). And I publicize for the Scribes (@Secretsof7Scrib) and for Casey (@CaseyWyatt1). I try to read the “feeds” only a few times a day, rather than all day long. Connect - Many applications “talk” to each other. I allow Twitter, Facebook and WordPress access to each other. When I tweet or re-tweet, it appears on my Facebook wall and on my blog page. When this blog posts, it will appear in Twitter and on my Facebook wall. Kinda of neat, huh? Be Meaningful – Ask yourself before you tweet- does anyone care what you ate for lunch? My yardstick for a RT (re-tweet) is – would I like to share this with my followers? Is this an interesting tweet (example, it leads to cool blog post or a contest)? Be mindful of other’s time. Tweet with a purpose. And remember to be professional. Follow – Follow others and they will follow you back (for the most part). And don’t stick to just other writers. I’ve branched out and started following review sites, artists, even the Dalai Lama (he has very sage advice). And speaking of advice – embrace some form of social media. It’s not going away anytime soon. Pick something you like and can manage. Remember, writing should always come first. We can’t sell a blank page! p.s. follow me, I follow back! What is your favorite social media? Least favorite? And have you had to go on a social media diet?

Being a Social Magnet

Thanks so much Scribes for having me guest blog today.  It’s so much fun to get a chance to speak to your audience and talk about the newest in my Market or Die series, “How to use the Power of your Brand.”

However, there’s one thing I DIDN’T write about in my book because I saved this little nugget just for the Scribes and their fans.  What is it?  Social Magnetism.

There’s a lot of talk in the marketing world about brands who are dubbed, “social magnets.” What this means, by definition, is that followers or readers gravitate to your brand, the way metal is attracted to a magnet.

You’re smart. You know what I’m talking about; the way people will go out of their way to be associated with your brand.  So, how do you know if you’re a social magnet?  Let’s see if you answer “yes” to any of these questions:

1.)    Does the general public wear your brand’s logo on their clothing?

2.)    Does the general public put a bumper sticker on their car with your brand on it?

3.)    Does the general public wear hats or carry bags with your brand name on it?

No?  Well, welcome to the club.  Becoming a social magnet in the mind of the general public usually costs millions of advertising dollars, think Nike, Coca-Cola or GE.  However, there’s ways, as authors, you and I can become social magnets in our own little place in writing world and it’s actually easier than you think.

Acquire new readers – work vigilantly and band together with other writers to increases awareness about your brand and your work.  Sometimes having others promote you is more credible that you promoting yourself, and a ton easier, too.

Make existing readers aware that it’s time to buy again – I’m not talking about a Facebook posting that says, “buy my book.” I’m talking about treating your readers like they’re part of your inner circle and letting them know about a new release ahead of time.  Anyone who reads the MOD blog at www.marketordie.net is treated like they’re part of an inside club, whom I’ve dubbed the MOD trubies, and because they visit my blog on a regular basis they receive information from me first.

Be kind. Pay it forward and spread the wealth.  People are attracted to those who help them and they will help you in return!

Jennifer Fusco is the Creative and Brand Manager for the General Electric Company, North America and the author of the Amazon.com bestselling series, MARKET OR DIE, marketing books for writers.

Nook-ie Here! Have i(Pad) Kindled Your Interest?

Happy Thursday, all.  Suze here.

At the beginning of this year, I finally jumped on the e-reader bandwagon and bought a Barnes and Noble Nook.

Since I’m kinda cheap (yeah, yeah, I hear you snickering out there — okay, frugal) and not a person who needs the latest, most trendy models of anything, I purchased a refurbished wireless/3G version through Barnes and Noble’s eBay store for a bargain price (here’s a link if you’re interested.).  I didn’t buy the color version since I didn’t plan to read magazines or children’s books.  (The money I saved allowed me to buy a lot more e-books.)

While an e-reader will never completely replace physical books for me, I lurve, lurve, lurve my Nook!  It’s simple to use — just search for the book you want, press a couple of virtual buttons, and your next read is there momentarily — and it takes up almost no space.

Why did I choose the Nook over the Kindle? Easy.  I wanted to be able to use my public library’s downloadable books system, which does not support Amazon/Kindle’s proprietary format.

Are there disadvantages?  Sure.  The Amazon store is unavailable to me.  So, for example, I was unable to purchase a Nook version of brand and marketing maven Jennifer Fusco’s debut book, Market Or Die: Sensible Brand Building Advice for Writers, since that is only available through Amazon.  (Sneak preview: Jennifer will be guest blogging here at the Scribes on September 28!  The second volume of her Market Or Die series will be available on September 27.)  No worries though.  I got around this problem by downloading the Kindle for PC app, buying the e-book, and reading it on my computer.   I also could have read it on my Android phone.

Another disadvantage:  Who knows where Barnes and Noble will be as a company in a few years?  Look what’s happened to Borders — Gone, Baby, Gone!  Anybody who’s been inside a B&N lately can see that something’s afoot.  My local shop has a hugely reduced number of physical books on the shelves, and seems to have morphed into a toy store.   But I figure that since technological gadgets such as e-readers become obsolete so quickly, I’m just not going to worry about it.  Something new will come along to replace it, and somebody will figure out a way to make the books in my virtual library accessible to me.

Eventually, I’ll probably go to a tablet computer such as the iPad, which can serve as an e-reader but can also, with the addition of an adorable little wireless keyboard, take the place of a laptop.  For now, though, I’m happy.

What about you?  Do you have an e-reader?  What kind?  What percentage of your reading time is spent on physical books versus the e-reader?