Quick reminder that today is the last day you can download a free copy of my latest book, THE LAST APRIL! Even if you’re not interested in reading it right now, please take advantage of this offer. Your download will push this book further up in the ranks. The first week of a book’s life is critical for success!
Happy official launch day for THE LAST APRIL! I’m so excited to share this book with friends, family, and co-workers at my Columbus book launch party on April 15th. For those of you unable to attend in person to enter the event raffle and potentially win a copy of the book, continue reading.
One lucky contestant will win a book box that includes a free print copy of THE LAST APRIL as part of my participation in the Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza giveaway blog hop. The Hoppy Easter Eggstravaganza blog hop is a great opportunity to win prizes by hopping between author / reader blogs and entering their contests.
To win a free book box complete with a signed print copy of THE LAST APRIL, please enter using the Rafflecopter below on April 15th – 30th. Not sure you want to enter this giveaway?
Here is the back cover blurb:
Spontaneous, fifteen-year-old Gretchen vows to help heal the nation from the recently ended Civil War. On the morning of President Lincoln’s death, Gretchen finds an amnesiac Confederate in her garden and believes this is her chance for civic goodwill.
But reconciliation is not as simple as Gretchen assumed. When her mother returns from the market with news that a Confederate murdered the president, Gretchen wonders if she caught the killer. Tensions between her aunt and mother rise as Gretchen nurses her Confederate prisoner, revealing secrets from their past that make Gretchen question everything she knows about loyalty, honor, and trust.
The Last April is an entertaining, thoughtful novella of Ohio after the Civil War, meant to encourage readers to reflect on themes of fear and hope in uncertain political times.
If you want another chance to win a print copy, you may also enter the Goodreads Giveaway for THE LAST APRIL.
We are in the final editing days for The Last April, my new young adult historical fiction book with a planned release of April 2017. My beta readers and editor have sent feedback and I’m crawling through the manuscript making updates. In the meantime, I wanted to share the first chapter of The Last April for your reading pleasure.
Join me on Patreon to see the proposed concepts by my cover artist! You are under no obligation to contribute, but with your patronage I can release an audiobook in 2017 or early 2018. Thank you to my supporters so far!
Here is a snippet of the first chapter of The Last April:
Everyone else would remember that Saturday as the day President Lincoln died. Gretchen Miller would remember it as the day the ragged man collapsed at her feet.
Gretchen was tugging at weeds and swatting at gnats when a thud made her whip around. The war was over, but Confederate supporters were everywhere. They lingered after General Lee’s surrender, and President Lincoln’s reconciliation speech, and in pro-Union Columbus.
Gretchen snapped up from her hunched position to lean back on her barefoot heels. Her skirts puffed out with the movement. She slapped them down, annoyed.
Sharp sunlight made it difficult to see. Gretchen thought she saw a collapsed man just yards from her hem. She dragged her straw hat by the strings so it shaded her eyes.
A man’s limbs sprawled across the oak tree roots. Gretchen could not tell his age or condition from where she crouched. His back was to her, his dark head resting on his outstretched arm. He was not moving.
“May the angels have charge of me,” Gretchen whispered. She patted the revolver in her skirt pocket.
His leg twitched.
Gretchen’s heart leaped. That dark, matted hair gave her a turn. Maybe it was her brother Werner, returned from war at last. A hundred men from the Grove City area had answered President Lincoln’s call for soldiers. Everyone was afraid of the number that would return.
Gretchen grabbed her skirts as she scrambled to standing. She flailed her arms at the log farmhouse she called home. She could not shout, in case the man had faked his injury and was waiting for an excuse to attack.
Her aunt, Tante Klegg, stuck her head out the kitchen door. “What is it?” Tante Klegg’s heavy German accent was strident in the quiet morning. It matched the severity of her hair braided and twisted tight against her head.
Gretchen put her finger to her lips. She cupped her hands around her mouth so her whisper would carry. “There is a man.” She waved at her aunt to come outside.
Tante Klegg tiptoed across the rocks Gretchen had overturned gardening. She held her skirt layers high above her ankles, muttering.
The man remained quiet, only his twitching foot letting them know he lived. Gretchen did not know if that meant he was dangerous or that he was too injured to move.
Gretchen brushed a strand of reddish hair from her mouth as the breeze picked up. Though it was April, the humidity was heavy and stifling. The wind still carried the scent of cooling bonfires from yesterday’s elaborate celebrations.
Last night, Gretchen had danced until her feet ached and sung until her voice was hoarse. She had been ready to do anything to help her country heal. She held onto the president’s words of reconciliation. She hoped everyone could see the Confederates as prodigal brothers and sisters. She hoped the Confederates would be humble and welcomed home.
With a stranger at her feet, Gretchen realized such things were easier said than done. She gripped the revolver and held out her other hand to stop her aunt from advancing. Holding her breath, she crept closer.
The man perhaps could have been her brother, once upon a time. His body was gaunt, worn thin by trials Gretchen suspected she would never understand. His left hand did not bear Werner’s distinctive strawberry-shaped birthmark.
This was not her brother.
Title: The War That Saved My Life
Author: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Genre: Historical Drama
Length: 316 pages
Summary: Ada’s club foot embarrasses her mother so much, that ten-year-old Ada has never left their one-bedroom London flat. It is 1939, a world war has just begun, and Ada is teaching herself to walk in secret. When Ada’s younger brother returns from school saying all the other children are being sent to the country for their safety, she suddenly sees a way out of her miserable existence…
“I stared at the paper. I said, “This isn’t reading. This is drawing.”
“Writing,” she corrected. “It’s like buttons and hems. You’ve got to learn those before you can sew on the machine. You’ve got to know your letters before you can read.”
I supposed so, but it was boring. When I said so she got up again and wrote something along the bottom of the paper. “What’s that?” I asked.
“‘Ada is a curmudgeon,’” she replied.
“Ada is a curmudgeon,” I copied at the end of my alphabet. It pleased me.
Why should you read this book?
Ugh. This book was so good! I have to go back and read it again to decipher what made it so compelling… I had a terrible time putting it down. In general, I dislike first person narratives. So many middle grade books are written from this perspective, and this book is no exception. However, the narrative never broke character. The narrator never used words or thought concepts that broke my suspension of disbelief. The historical details weave in and out of the story skillfully. Because Ada has been held captive in her home a la Rapunzel, we learn about the world outside along with her. We learn about horses and trains and taxis. We learn about the changing role of aristocracy. We learn about the importance of the RAF and how terrible their survival rate was. We experience panic attacks when the Germans start bombing.
This book targets middle grade readers, but as an adult, I hardly noticed.
Read this book for an effortless dip into a moment of history told through a unique perspective. A physically disabled, illiterate, but intelligent child. This book really makes you think about how to treat children who are different… How, with the right caretaker, a child can blossom.
I have edited 15 of 33 chapters for The Last April, my upcoming book! I hope to send it to my editor by the end of the month.
As I’m sure you know, the cost of producing a quality book is substantial. My production team is amazing, and I’m considering expansion to include an audiobook as well as eBook and print books for The Last April. Unfortunately, this is more than my collected funds can cover. Rather than running a Kickstarter campaign like I did for Haunting Miss Trentwood, I’m trying out Patreon.
Patreon is a wonderful way for the community to support my projects while still allowing me to pay for editors, cover artists, and silly things like food and mortgages. It comes from the traditional use of “patron” where a person gives financial support to a person, organization, cause, or activity. This is like the modern version of a Renaissance painter requiring a patron so they can eat and make art!
This is an experiment. Who knows how much momentum will grow or if I cancel this soon after The Last April‘s release. You’re not obligated to support me. I love that you read my content and make comments. My content on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and blog will remain free. The newsletter is also free. If you are able to contribute one dollar a month, that’s fantastic!
Why am I on Patreon?
Back in 2003, I self-published my first book as a high school student. It has been a long journey since then! In the (now 14) years since, I learned a lot about what it takes to be an independent author who creates quality work.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that quality work comes with financial investment, not only in the current project, but future projects as well. Back in 2010, I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for my last young adult historical, Haunting Miss Trentwood. I enjoyed the excitement and interaction of crowdfunding, and the community feeling in general.
However, that funding covered the production costs for that book only. My projects since have come out of pocket, including a children’s storybook, a how to book, and new cover designs for the existing historical novels in preparation for my 2017 project.
I cannot use my paycheck to support my writing, sadly. Creative funds are getting short even though I put whatever royalties I earn from previous projects to my new projects. And so I turn to Patreon.
How will I use the funds?
There are a plethora of things that need to happen with a book release, including…
A good book is nothing without a good editor. Help me keep my editor on retainer so I have enough to pay her fees so you have excellent fiction to read.
Cover Artist fees
A picture is worth a thousand words, and my stories run in the fifty thousand range. Help me hire cover artists who can best represent my hard work so you have something beautiful for your physical and digital bookshelves.
When I announce a new post on Facebook, a Facebook boost makes sure that the announcement gets onto 1/3 or 1/2 of my followers’ News Feeds. I also need to purchase ads across Amazon, Facebook, and other popular locations. My blog gets a fair amount of traffic each month, and hosting and maintenance fees can add up.
What are you offering Patrons?
Other than the satisfactory glow you’ll feel by helping a writer pursue her publication goals, you will receive Patron Exclusive content that you won’t see on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or my blog. Depending on your subscription level, you have the option to be a part of my Beta Reader group, who will give me feedback on drafts before they are ready for publication.
I hope this grows, but that’s really up to you, Patrons. If I have enough income to let go of some hours at work, I can redirect those hours to my writing and therefore, you!
IMPORTANT NOTE:I set up this as a monthly pledge. If you are an amazing human who would like to donate a higher amount but only intend to make it as a one-off payment, please make sure you choose the right option. Also, please read Patreon’s page on calculating fees. Your pledges will convert into $USD, so donations will be subjected to conversion rates. There is also a small surcharge to keep Patreon funded.
Happy new year, everyone! I’m pushing ahead with my novel, but in the meantime, wanted to share my six word challenge results from M.J.’s (@pageflutter on Instagram) “Six Word Challenge.” A six word challenge encourage you to spend 5 – 30 minutes a day coming up with a six word story based on a prompt.
|1||Gift exchange||“But… I love you.”
|2||Snowflakes||“Watch out for the danger flakes.”|
|3||Reunited||Gilmore Girls stayed same. I changed.|
|4||Under the Ice||I won’t tell if you won’t.|
|5||Stuffed!||“Of course I’m stuffed,” Eeyore sighed.|
|6||Under the Mistletoe||“Well. I didn’t expect you here.”|
|7||Dreaded Relative||Everyone knew why they were invited.|
|8||Bundle Up||“It’s cold outside, baby.”
|9||Wonderland||Hate this song. Stop the memories.|
|10||Evergreen||Wrinkled lips, trembling. Their final kiss.|
|11||Dear Santa…||An entire movie to accept Rudolph?!|
|12||Sugar & Spice||Once a currency, now cheap commodity.|
|13||Wood Pile||Hidden behind wood pile, she waits.|
|14||Snow Day!||Happily trapped in a snow globe.|
|15||Office Party||Reminder: Drinks limited. He breaks rules.|
|16||On the Roof||Rooftop date. Stargazing between tiny kisses.|
|17||The List||Relishing being on her sh*t list.|
|18||Feast||…End of days. Feast now, son.|
|19||By the Fire||Drawn by the frozen fire, smiling.|
|20||Hot Cocoa||Scalding, yet satisfying. Gotta have marshmallows.|
|21||Unwanted Gift||The cat doesn’t get my horror.|
|22||Frozen||“Let it go! Let—”
|23||Care Package||Care package for sale. Donations accepted.|
|24||First Candle||Candles lit. Stories told. Smiles shared.|
|25||The Mensch||She helped, never hoping to receive.|
|26||In the Box||Pandora tucked hope in the box.|
|27||Heritage||“We are do-zers. We must do.”|
|28||Helping Hand||She stood, ignoring his outstretched hand.|
|29||White Elephant||Ultimately, the ring was never chosen.|
|30||Cheers!||Everybody knows your name here. Why?|
|31||Fresh Start|| “Tomorrow is another day!”
Do you have any monthly challenges that you love and want to share?
If you missed it on Instagram (Facebook, Twitter), I completed the first draft of my novella last week and dove right into editing! I’m so excited, that I’m breaking my monthly posting schedule to share the happy news! Now onto my favorite part: editing.
I love editing because there is material to work with. I can print things out, cut them up, move them around. For this novella, I’m doing a combination of analog and digital editing techniques.
Digital Editing Tools
I keep the manuscript in Microsoft Word and sync it across devices using Google Drive. I edit for passive voice, readability (grade level), and adverbs using the Hemingway App. I bought the desktop version, but it’s very buggy, so if you need an editor I’d use the free online version. This will allow me to submit a manuscript edit to my editor, who will find things I couldn’t, even with the digital tools.
Caveat: Digital editors will never replace a human. I use Hemingway to help find my blind spots. I default to passive voice and adverbs, so luckily, this tool helps me. If you have different writing crutches, you might need to look elsewhere for help.
Analog Editing Tools
I have my little desk calendar to tell me how many days in a month I spend on writing (first image in this post). I also created a bullet journal tracker for editing each chapter. Details below!
Typically, habit trackers are for days, weeks, or months. Whatever the unit of time, assign it as your table column headings. For editing, my columns are each chapter, 1 – 33. So it’s almost like a month anyway.
The rows are the habits you’re tracking, or for editing, the lenses you use to edit your work. I have rows for:
- Plot holes
- No prose contractions i.e. narrative should not have contractions but dialogue can
- Ready for editor
- Ready for beta readers
I have space on the page to add more lenses as they come up. I’m through chapter 6 and haven’t thought of anything yet. I have a list of questions I need to address before the book ends, or little reminders I forgot because it took me three years to write the first draft. For instance, by the last chapter, one of the rooms in the house no longer exists. So half of the chapters I’ve touched included me removing that room and shifting where the characters are interacting.
I shared this with the Bullet Journal Writers Facebook group and got a positive response, so I wanted to share in case it might help you with your writing!
Tomorrow, we’ll return to my regular monthly blog post: I participated in a monthly writing challenge (six word stories for thirty-one days). With the release of this book coming in April, I expect to break my monthly posting schedule quite a bit.
Here are some additional resources that can help you:
- The Complete Guide to Bullet Journaling for Writers
- Amanda Hackwith’s Keeping a Bullet Journal for Writers
- Bullet Journaling for Fiction Writers <– This was very helpful for me!
- NaNoWriMo Bullet Journal
- Keeping Your Writing Organized with a Bullet Journal
- 14 Bullet Journal Lists to Supercharge Your Writing
- Bullet Journal Your Novel: Free Your Mind and Write
Hello lovelies, today, I deliver my experience working with a new cover artist.
I worked with a cover artist when I first published Catching the Rose in high school (far left). It’s a sweet cover, however, it was too pink and it didn’t feel very modern. Plus, I changed my author brand and wanted to resubmit under the name Belinda Kroll.
When I republished Catching the Rose (middle), I did the new cover work. I also did the original cover for Haunting Miss Trentwood (right). At the time, I thought I was catering to women who preferred sweet romances… Not that you could tell by the covers I created! The original for Catching the Rose was more accurate, but I didn’t have rights to the image for re-publication, unfortunately.
I’ve known for some time that the covers I created wasn’t getting to my desired audience. I knew this because the Amazon “Customers who bought this item also bought” did not match my expectations. Readers seem to get the gothic part, but not the comedy or light-heartedness of what could have been a very sad, morbid tale.
So here are my tips regarding cover artists…
Know What You Want
Seriously. Don’t commission a cover artist until you have a solid understanding of your genre and audience. Read a lot of books. Collect covers of the books you want to emulate or compete against. I had a secret Pinterest board just for cover art.
Write Good Content
Know how to write compelling back cover copy. I scoured Amazon looking for good descriptions that made me want to read the book. I keep a file of good descriptions. I spent an entire afternoon picking the structure apart so I could replicate the recipe.
Determine Your Distribution
Know where you want to publish your book. If you’re working with print, Amazon’s CreateSpace has different standards than Lightning Source’s IngramSpark. If you’re working with eBook only, that is an important distinction as well.
Find a Cover Artist
Believe it or not, I found my cover artist by looking on the back cover of a book released by a newer member of my writer’s group. I visited her website and looked at every cover she had created. I confirmed she followed the young adult historical trend, but not in a derivative way. I confirmed she understood the genre, young adult historical comedic gothic (say that three times fast). I confirmed she had an online presence (Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, any would have worked for me) so I could determine her responsiveness.
Plus, I read in her bio that she lives in my city. I love that! I was so excited to support a local artist. Things you should keep in mind when choosing your cover artist:
- Are they design savvy?
- Do they understand your genre?
- Do they understand your audience?
- Are they responsive?
- Are they in your budget?
Contact/Commission a Cover Artist
Once I was convinced, I contacted her through her website. This was her preferred method of communication. For the love of all that is efficient, don’t contact your desired cover artist through your preferred contact method. You’ll never get a response and you’ll lose the opportunity. This is a time for the two of you to interview one another. You’re looking for a solid professional relationship, where both parties can commit to a timeline and have explicit expectations about what is required to complete the task.
A professional cover artist, no matter how much they charge for their services, will have a design brief/form for you to fill out. On this form, you will (should) be required to provide:
- Title / subtitle
- Author name
- Back cover copy
- Author bio
My cover artist also asked for content ideas. She wanted to know the theme of the story, who the main characters were with generic physical descriptions, any important scenery details*, and any important relationships.
* Haunting Miss Trentwood is an English manor story; we don’t leave the house so it became a feature of the cover.
A professional cover artist will also have a contract for you to sign. This should include all the details of your agreement, including:
- Deposit/retainer for services
- Estimated total fee
- Who covers cost for stock art
- How many design hours are included in the base price
- How many revisions are included
- What happens if a change request occurs (what constitutes a change request? are there fees associated?)
- What are the final file formats
- When/How are the files delivered
Collaborate with Your Cover Artist i.e. Let Them Do Their Job
Now, my cover artist was super fun to work with. I had this idea in my head, and I felt pretty strongly about it. However, I’m a software designer by trade and I know when my client thinks they know what is best… they usually don’t. So I gave her exactly what I thought I wanted, I gave details about wanting silhouettes, a bright cover, a bit of mystery, and some color suggestions. I gave her access to my secret Pinterest board. And then I sat back and waited. Anxiously, like a kid at Christmas told not to touch any of the presents.
She blew me away with her collaboration skills. I approved all silhouettes before they were composed together in the final cover art. I approved the fonts. I approved the color scheme. Then I sat back and waited again for the first draft composition. I basically went with her design with minor tweaks.
The back cover was easier since it’s simpler. I submitted my publisher logo (Bright Bird Press), my author bio and author photo. I like to include my author photo because I write under a pen name and it’s nice to confirm with family and friends that I did, in fact, just publish a book.
You can tell from the before and after that hiring a cover designer is definitely worth it…
If you’ve been on the fence about hiring a cover artist, I encourage you to do your research. Hire someone you can trust. Someone you can collaborate with. Someone who makes you dance with joy when you receive your new cover art!
This time last year, I had been married a month. As such, I forgot it was Haunting Miss Trentwood’s five year publication anniversary! Sad face. This year, I contacted a local cover designer for my belated celebration of this book making its way into the world. Next month, I’ll talk about how the process went with a new cover designer.
Three lucky winners will win book boxes that include free print copies of the gorgeous new cover as part of my participation in the Spooktacular giveaway blog hop. The Spooktacular blog hop is a great opportunity to win prizes by hopping between author / reader blogs and entering their contests.
To win a free book box complete with a signed print copy of the newly redesigned Haunting Miss Trentwood, please enter using the Rafflecopter below. Not sure you want to enter this giveaway?
Here is the newly updated back cover blurb:
Witty, secluded Mary is reeling after her father, Trentwood, passes away and returns in ghostly form. Despite the ghost’s constant prodding, Mary lives in their aging English countryside manor house with only her aunt and their servants for company.
But their quiet home carries secrets even from Mary and Trentwood. When Hartwell, a London lawyer, arrives at their doorstep claiming someone is blackmailing his sister, Mary stumbles into a mystery that forces her to revisit memories and rethink her future.
As Mary and Hartwell seek the blackmailer, each learns about the importance of opening one’s heart to trust and betrayal. Haunting Miss Trentwood is a light gothic tale (think Legend of Sleepy Hollow meets Casper the Friendly Ghost) written from varied perspectives. Readers will be entertained by bright dialogue and encouraged to reflect on the universal themes of dealing with parents and disappointing relationships, and learning to love again.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting a local author festival with a teacher friend of mine. By my eye, it was about 60 – 70% local self-published authors. Let me tell you, my indie heart about exploded at the sight!
Big props to the Westerville Public Library and their community coordinator, Erin, for celebrating local over method of publication. It was a wonderful event! They had food trucks throughout the day. There was cute swag to purchase, which the proceeds supported the library. Everyone was cheerful despite the heat. They even had a local community hot jazz band playing which kept my little swing dance feet bouncing. This was their fourth year, and I fully intend to be a part of their fifth!
However, I was a little disappointed in some of my fellow indie authors’ table displays. Some were engaging, some were lackluster, and some looked 100% thrown together. I don’t want that to happen to you. With the help of my teacher friend’s commentary of what caught her eye or scared her off of each booth, I’d like to share what I learned in a short hour.
Sell a quality product
I know this is a given but go with me here. When you go to a festival, you’re more likely to blend in than stand out. Especially when your competition is other self-published authors. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to look like you aren’t an indie publisher at all. Have a compelling, professionally-designed cover. Have good back cover copy. Have pretty pens to autograph your book. Have a nice display (we’ll get into this later).
Beyond having a quality product, also have a nice packaging when you sell your product. My friend bought a children’s book and it was handed to her in a Ziploc bag. Now, that’s not terrible by itself, it shows a thoughtfulness that the author didn’t want anything to happen to the book in transit. However, the inside of the bag was wet. No bueno.
Tie a ribbon around it, throw a bookmark in it, or drop it in a nice paper bag… maybe stamped with your logo or social media info? If you can make it look like a gift of some kind, do it. Everybody loves presents!
Accept multiple forms of payment
In this day and age, you have to assume people aren’t carrying cash anymore. Services like Square Up and PayPal Here are convenient for small businesses like indie authors. They are also well worth the small transaction fee to ensure you make a sale. I’m relying on PayPal Here for now because it also processes checks so it’s just a bit more flexible.
Our poor author from above had to rely on the other author at her table to accept my friend’s credit card payment. And then had to borrow a pen to sign the book. It was a little awkward.
Have a booth buddy
Maybe this is your spouse, child, friend, assistant, whatever. When you’re engaged in a discussion with a potential customer and another person wanders over, you have a back up person who can answer questions or sell a book for you. This also ensures your booth is manned if (when!) you’re asked to go to a different part of the festival to read some of your work.
In this photo, the wife of John Margeson, an author-illustrator, did a fantastic job selling the product and showing how proud and happy she was for him. He was inside doing a reading, but she still caught our attention and we were sad we missed him because he had an easel set up to do caricatures.
Build an attractive tablescape
In a world where Instagram exists, we indie authors really need to step up our game. The word “tablescape” can be traced back to a 2009 portmanteau of “table” and “landscape.” When I joined Instagram with a dedicated author profile, I was shocked and awed that people spend so much time taking photos of books with flowers, pearls, tea, and other pretty things. Why can’t we do that at author festivals?
The morning of your festival, go to Walmart and pick up some flowers and throw them in some dollar store vases… as long as they don’t clash with your book topic. I mean, you wouldn’t want bright pretty flowers if you wrote a tragic story. Use your discretion and do something that grabs the attention of passersby.
The tablescape above was simple and adorable. I had to take a photo! I might be buying some copies for my animal friends as Christmas present. Especially since there is a special Christmas book, and he had little Santa hats on the cat figurines!
My teacher friend pointed out that the tables that had a vertical element grabbed her attention. To her, it showed the author took that extra step to market their products. They were “professional” in her eyes. We both loved the mini banner displays of cover art that a couple of the authors had. One author told me they had them printed at FedEx Office. I suspect you have to go into the store to get this because it took me a while to find that PDF.
Anyway, we both liked it when we could read details about the book without having to talk to a human being. Maybe we’re both introverts, or maybe we’re both regular book buyers. No one wants to feel pressured to buy anything, and the longer you speak to a seller, the more obligated you feel to buy something.
I’d rather not have someone buy my book out of obligation, so I’ll do my best to have sell sheets in acrylic holders with the back cover copy in large text, along with the price and accepted forms of payment.
Engage your reader
Last, but certainly not least, engage your reader. Something about the authors who sat behind their table just felt off-putting that day. Maybe because it made them look tired (poor posture?), or overheated… I don’t know.
I do know that every author we spoke to was standing, or leaned forward in their chair to “grab us” from across the table. It was much easier to chat with the authors who stood to the side of their table, because then they could move around and explore their tablescape with us, rather than dictating to us. Even the authors who stood behind their tables, fiddling with their bottle of water, were more engaging than those sitting down.
For some reason, the authors who sat at the table writing seemed… intimidating or scary. Perhaps because speaking to them would have felt like interrupting a creative session. And I guess that’s kind of my point. When you go to a festival, you’re not wearing your creative author hat anymore. You should be wearing your marketing hat. When I say marketing, I don’t mean sleazy, “buy my book, guys and gals, you won’t regret it!” I mean engaging your audience.
Spanking of engaging your reader, have a note pad where interested readers can sign up for your mailing list. You can ask for their name and email, or, keep it simple with just the email. Next time you’re at a festival, email your list a couple of weeks in advance so people can visit with you again!
Anyway, I hope these observations helped! Let me know in the comments about other effective techniques that worked for you at an author festival or otherwise.
Writing a historical fiction setting is just as much about place as it is about time. Now, when I think about place, I tend to veer to the nonphysical sense of place, i.e. education, socioeconomic standing, religious beliefs, etc. This is because I’m a character-driven writer. Any physical sense of place, i.e. geography, landscape, and weather, is introduced and honed in the second drafts of my work. To help me focus on physical place, I create a custom map via Google My Maps.
About six years ago, I was all about using Google Earth to research a setting in a far off location. In my case, that far off location was Compton Beauchamp in England and my work-in-progress was Haunting Miss Trentwood. Google Earth is still a great tool, but for this work-in-progress, I live in the city that I’m writing about. So it’s not that I can’t imagine the forest for the trees… It’s that I’m a terrible judge of distance because, well, I drive a car everywhere. And, most of the buildings and roads of my characters’ time period don’t exist anymore.
As I’m piecing together information from my historical research, I turn to Google My Maps. This product is a special version of Google Maps where you can create your own custom landmarks and diagrams. I’ll walk you through the steps I took to create one for my current work-in-progress.
You will need a Google account to follow this tutorial.
Create a New Custom Map
- Go to Google My Maps.
- Click the big button that says “Create A New Map.”
- Give your map a name by clicking “Untitled Map.”
Since I haven’t titled my book yet, I decided to give the map a generic name. One day, when this book actually has a title, I’ll name the map the same as the book.
Customize Your Custom Map Cartography
Maybe for your book, waterways are more important than walk and roadways. You can change what the map looks like (and therefore what it highlights) by changing the display.
- Clicking the “Base Map” down arrow.
- Hover your mouse to see what makes the nine map views different: Map, Satellite, Terrain, Light Political, Mono City, Simple Atlas, Light Landmass, Dark Landmass, Whitewater.
Add Locations to Your Custom Map
- Click the location pin (or marker). This is the tool next to the hand shape.
- Click the desired location of the pin on your map.
- Give the location a name and description.
- Click the camera icon to include links to images. This will create a mini-gallery of images that you feel pertain to your location.
I’m pretty sure the map geolocates to the country you’re in based on IP address. At least, whenever I start a new map, it always begins with the United States and I have to zoom down to my desired location. Don’t worry, once you drop location pins on your map, it will center automatically on your locations henceforth.
Add Shapes to Your Custom Map
- Click the Funky circles and lines icon.
- Click the first point to define the perimeter of your shape.
- Continue clicking locations to define your shape until you return to your original point.
- Define a color to help highlight the shape against your map.
This feature is invaluable for playing digital archeologist. For instance, Camp Chase in Columbus, OH no longer exists. The entire structure was torn down by July 1865. However, we do have maps and descriptions of where the camp was located, and where the prison and Confederate cemetery were located relatively. As you can see in my example map at the beginning of this article, I defined the camp outline and the prison shape.
Group Your Locations and Shapes into Layers
Since I’m character-driven and for this story it just makes sense, I named the layers after the main characters. For you, it might be something different. The nice thing about the layers is you can turn them on/off to focus on a particular view of the map while writing. If you add a location to the “wrong” layer, just drag and drop the icon from one layer to the other via that left menu.
And you’re done! I’d love to see your maps if you create them. If you have problems, let me know and I’ll try to help troubleshoot! I know I have a lot of fun creating maps, especially since I’m such a visual thinker.
This past weekend a fellow writer asked me how I decide to title my fiction books. Let me tell you, this is probably the hardest part of writing for me, especially as an independent author. Here were my answers to his questions…
What is the process you use to title your fiction books?
I spend a lot of time obsessing about titles, actually. My first step is I write down recently published titles that are in a similar genre so I know the latest trends. I do this by hunting through Amazon and Google, and asking my teacher friends (I write middle grade and young adult historical fiction).
Then I come up with a list of title options that feel good, and search Amazon and Google to see if anyone else has come up with it before. I take the unique titles and run them past family, friends, my writer’s group, and beta readers to get their input.
Eventually, I have to make a decision. Seriously, it’s like pulling teeth… the scariest part is that once the ISBN is assigned to that title, I have to stick with it, or, if I choose later to change the title, I have to use a different ISBN.
Is there a set number of words you like to stay within for fiction titles?
I prefer to use titles that are three words or less. I used to think short, pithy titles were the way to capture attention, but really, you just need a good title that hooks a reader. Give them a title that makes them ask, “Now what’s that about?” or “Now that sounds interesting…” Length is not the most important factor. There are some amazing books that have long titles, like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
Do you find a phrase in the book itself and use that?
I did that once, but that’s the title that people don’t seem to understand. I either chose the wrong phrase, or I just shouldn’t ever do that again haha. I liked Amy Timberlake’s One Came Home because it made me ask, “One of what came home? Came home from where? Why did they leave?” And it turns out that phrase was in the book somewhere and the title made complete sense.
If you’re going to pull a phrase, it better make things click in your reader’s head when they get to it in the prose.
Do you have advice for authors and publishers in titling their fiction books?
Take time and don’t use the first title you come up with. There’s a reason why there are entire teams in the Big Publishers who come up with titles. This is hard work!
Don’t get frustrated. Come up with as many titles as you think would apply, and whittle it down from there using the tips I mentioned above. Good luck with your fiction titles! Let me know how it goes!
Part of the work that comes with independent publishing is writing your own front matter. That is, a disclaimer at the front of the book, and for historical fiction, an author note at the end. I’ll admit I’ve kinda of always thought of the front matter as boring and a part of due diligence. But thanks to reading a couple blog posts, my mind is changed forever!
Front Matter: Disclaimers
I read this blog post about writing creative disclaimers from The Book Designer. The point of a disclaimer is supposed to protect the author and publisher from being sued for defamation or libel… you know… “any resemblance to anyone living or dead is coincidental,” etc. However, guest blogger Helen Sedwick makes the claim:
Many authors assume the legal disclaimers at the front of their books are supposed to be boring. They presume some pricey lawyers devised standard legalese, and they dare not depart from the norm.
Not so. The law does not require a disclaimer to be boring. In fact, just the opposite is true. The more interesting the disclaimer, the more likely it will be read. From a lawyer’s point of view, a well-written, well-read disclaimer is best of all.
I loved this idea. I had to take a stab at it for my work-in-progress…
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously to build a believable historical world. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The aftermath of Lincoln’s assassination, however, was very real. For story purposes, the author altered the timeline of historical events but attempted to stay as close to the truth as possible. Well, as truthful as a story about assassination conspiracy timelines can be.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this disclaimer! I love the idea of beginning the story right from the front matter copy, rather than from chapter one.
Back Matter: Author Notes
This was one of my favorite parts of reading Ann Rinaldi books as a child. It’s one thing to read a thrilling story about girls do heroic things in long skirts, it’s another to read that the stories were inspired by real events that I could learn more about, if I wanted to. Ann Rinaldi began my love affair with historical fiction, and I want to continue the tradition along with authors like Amy Timberlake.
My author note has a number of sections, including the below “Ohio and the Civil War.” I also have sections titled Lincoln’s Assassination; Camp Chase, the Confederate prison that my main character escaped from; John Wilkes Booth; and a couple other sections which would be total spoilers if I shared them with you.
Here is a part of the draft author note I’m crafting for my yet-untitled work:
Ohio and the Civil War
Lincoln is often quoted as saying, “Ohio won the war,” and the reason for that is because Ohio volunteered the highest number of soldiers of any Union state. Without the help of Ohio’s men, it’s hard to say what would have happened. All we can say is that those huge numbers bolstered the Union Army so that its might was greater than the Confederate’s.
If you’re interested in learning more about Columbus in the Civil War, I encourage you to visit the Camp Chase cemetery in Hilltop, the Ohio Village sponsored by the Ohio History Connection, and Grove City’s Century Village.
Original 19th Century barns and cabins from all over Ohio have been collected to a single plot of land in Grove City to use for educational reenactments and school field trips. In fact, a couple of the characters in this novel were inspired by stories told to me by Grove City elders. Just remember though, that the personalities and actions of the characters in this novel are my own invention!
Thank you for joining me on this adventure. Your time and imagination are precious.
I hope to share more teaser content as I get closer to finishing the first draft. I’m within 10,000 words of my goal, which is exciting! And a little scary, because that means I’m that much closer to brutal edit mode…
Last month I scrounged together new resources for the website just before leaving for my honeymoon. That was a pretty hectic time! This month, I’d like to keep it simple and share some of my favorite Instagram posts from the #authorlifemonth challenge and my usual #amwriting posts…
In January, I had my tonsils out. That was definitely a challenge overcome.
This is the music I listen to sometimes while working on the novella.
I love new journals. So much so, I have more journals than shoes, I think…
My writer’s group is pretty amazing when it comes to feedback!
I chatted about writing my novella’s disclaimer, and how it can be fun.
If you’re on Instagram follow me and I’ll follow back! I’m having a lot of fun there. I wish I’d signed up sooner!
Thanks to chatting with my educator friends, I am realizing that the young adult fiction from when I was a young adult… is more like middle grade or children’s historical fiction these days.
This was kind of a breakthrough for me. I’ve been browsing books by Laurie Halse Anderson, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and Amy Timberlake to really help me understand this publication space. I’ve been busy running around the my Worderella.com website refocusing content.
It’s still a work in progress, but I did want to highlight that I’ve added five resources to help readers and educators when they visit my website…
1. Children’s Titles
My heart loves to write for children, and I do have a picture book published under another name. I’ve brought the title over to this website, knowing that I plan to publish more books under my Kroll name.
The story is called Beatrice Learns to Dance, and it’s a lovely little story about a robot determined to learn how to dance her way. It’s meant for young readers… 3 – 5 years with a parent, or 5 – 7 on their own.
2. Discussion Guides
For readers who need help connecting to a story, I’ve added a couple of discussion guides per each publication. The questions are meant to help developing readers connect deeper with the content. If you have good questions, let me know and I’ll add them to the list!
I do a fair amount of research to inform my Victorian fiction for teens. Rather than leaving all that research in the back of the book, I wanted to highlight the bilbiographies on the website. This is something I’ve meant to do for years, but never got around to it. Once I started my design exploration of other children’s historical fiction author websites and realized this can be common (especially since students are often asked to do a small project in conjunction with their reading), I was sold.
4. Suggested Reading
And lastly, I’ve always wanted to list other books kids and teens should read if they like my books. Some of the books on my suggested reading list are ones that inspired me when I was young, some are my books, and some are books I’ve found thanks to my educator friends.
Have more suggestions? Let me know in the comments!
5. Author Visits
I love to chat about reading, writing, and publishing with students. They ask some really great, insightful questions! I’ve visited my elementary school a couple of times since becoming a published author. I’ve also visited the classrooms of my educator friends, and I’m in talks to partner with next year’s class so I can get some brutally honest beta-readers for my work-in-progress.
Since my daytime job is fairly demanding, I can only visit schools in the Central Ohio area. If you have an educator friend looking for a guest speaker, let me know!