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Author Chat with K.M. Weiland

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I recently had the opportunity to interview K.M. Weiland who is just super awesome! I am a huge fan of her writing and admire the vast amount of knowledge she has to share with the writing community. Check out how she got her start as a leading author mentor and more…

k-m-weilandK.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY, NIEA, and Lyra Award-winning and internationally published author of Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


Tell us a little about yourself:

Where are you from and what is your favorite pastime?

I’m a longtime western Nebraskan. Writing, of course, is my all-consuming passion. But I also enjoy various types of design, as well studying the psychology of personality.

When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I don’t know that it was ever something I “discovered” per se. For as long as I can remember, I’ve made up stories. In fact, my earliest memory is of myself dreaming up some wild story about saving my family from some unknown catastrophe. I started writing my stories down when I was eleven or twelve, and throughout high school, I wrote, edited, and published a newsletter for horse-crazy girls. Moving on to novels was a natural progression. I guess you could say I’ve always been a storyteller; it’s just inborn; it’s who I am. But the writing—the learning of the craft, the studying to show myself approved—that was something I became.

What is the number one book you would recommend to writers and why?

Tough to pick just one! But I’m going to go with Robert McKee’s Story. Blew my mind.

What inspires you to write speculative historical fiction?

I’ve always loved history—mostly because it’s… a story! But I love exploring faraway places and times and the beauty of other cultures.

Where do you come up with your ideas?

I like to say that inspiration is everywhere—and it really is. I’ve picked ideas from such disparate places as the dust on my windowsill (I’m a terrible duster) to my pets to the grapefruit I had for breakfast. It’s really just a matter of being open to whatever you’re experiencing at the moment.

But I will say that most of my inspiration is usually the result of other people’s art. The three big ones are most definitely:

1. Books
2. Movies
3. Music

I feed off other people’s stories and glean little tidbits that inspire stories of my own. The characters and themes in books and movies and the half-answered questions in songs are endless sources of inspiration for me.

What is the main theme of your fictional writing?

I’ve always loosely defined my fiction as “blood and thunder,” but a reviewer recently described them like this: “The consistent theme in each of her books is finding the best in human relationships and coming to an understanding about who you are and what you believe.” I thought that was pretty accurate, so I adopted it!

Helping Writers Become Authors

If you haven’t discovered Katie’s award-winning blog Helping Writers Become Authors, you should take the time to visit.

You are an expert in your field and I am curious to know how and when you got started? Was your author mentoring blog an early career goal, was it strategically planned, or was it created to fulfill the needs of your growing network?

Like most newly published authors, I was looking for a way to build a platform. And, like most newly published authors, I was clueless how to start. I figured blogging about writing would be more interesting than blogging about washing dishes or walking the dog. At the time, my intent was merely to spread the word about my fiction. But, of course, it’s grown into so much more.

What do you love most about what you do? How would you describe your journey as a mentor so far and where do you see yourself in the future?

I think the reward is two-fold:

1) I’m learning right along with everyone I teach. My blog and my books are just an outgrowth of my own writing journey. Forcing myself to put my own thoughts and discoveries into a teachable format has been invaluable to me in strengthening my own conscious knowledge of writing.

2) I love helping people. It’s a joy to be able to reach out and touch others in the solitary lifestyles we pursue as writers. I’m humbled and honored that I’ve gotten to work with so many people. It always makes my day to hear that something I’ve written has helped another writer have a “light bulb” moment in their own writing.

How do you carve out enough time to manage your platforms, provide such great content, and write books?

I like to say, in all seriousness, that schedules are my secret weapon. I manage my time strictly and I’m always tweaking my daily schedule to try to get my best productivity while still balancing the need for relaxation and recharging.

I like to get my writing done first thing in the morning, while the day is still fresh. Right now, I’m experimenting with staving off email, and Internet activities until the very last thing in the work day. Blogging gets its own day, in which I take care of all the weekly blogging duties in one fell swoop.

Minimizing distractions is key, so I’m very strict with myself about wasting time on the Internet, watching videos, or even reading news sites.

What advice would you give to someone carving out their own niche in the publishing industry today on how to strategize for the greatest chance of success?

Marketing is about personality. It’s about getting your personality—your books—your brand—to as many people as possible. That starts with a platform, and the foundation for that platform is your home on the web. Start building an email list as soon as you can, since this will be your only assured direct route to dedicated readers. Give them content they care about to keep their attention: drawings, freebies, special deals, glimpses into your life. Craft your book launches with care, since Amazon’s sales algorithms will treat you right if you can prove early on that you can generate sales. And most of all—have fun! Don’t let marketing be a chore; embrace it as a challenge. Your audience will sense that attitude and respond to it.

Author Advice

Write Yourself a Bad Review

I recently read a guest post you did with Patrick Ross where you gave some great advice for authors in “Write Yourself a Bad Review”. In your post, you mention our inner critics and how they might actually benefit us. I liked the idea of giving these critics the chance to be heard to identify weak areas of our writing.

I love the humor you injected into this article while also offering up a specific set of areas to focus on so the bad review pays off. Your plan of action at the end is a brilliant method for going back to a manuscript with a fresh set of eyes that has looked at the writing from a fantastic perspective.

I would recommend this unique approach as a round of edits that all authors should approach because it can provide a level of assurance that they have put their best work out for publication.

I had never come across this idea before as something that could provide such a great deal of positive criticism without seeking outside help.

When did you start implementing this technique and how did you discover it?

If memory serves I think fellow author Roz Morris had written something in her great writing book Nail Your Novel that sparked the idea. I don’t use it for every book, only those that are really giving me trouble.

What are some faults it has helped you overcome as an author?

It’s a good way to really drill down to the heart of the issues that are dogging a novel—to see them objectively, instead of just flailing away at the book, knowing something is wrong.

Do you have any other suggestions that might make an impact on an author’s final product as the process of writing yourself a bad review does?

How about writing yourself a good review? 🙂 Usually, I’ll write myself both a bad review and a good review of the idealized novel I want to create. More on that in this post: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/strengthen-your-story-by-writing/

More Author Advice

Earlier I mentioned your Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. I have these books now and love them. I have found everything I learned from them extremely helpful to me as a writer. You didn’t have the boxed sets with the workbooks like you offer now, so that’s an added bonus for anyone that’s interested. You also offer a story structure database on your website that is pretty impressive.

How can writers take advantage of that?

I have a whole post, talking about how to best utilize and navigate the Story Structure Database: http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/story-structure-database/

Basically, I recommend watching your favorite movies and reading your favorite books and trying to figure out the structure for yourself. Then stop by the site, look up the story, and see how it lines up with what I’ve provided. It’s a great, hands-on way to really understand how structure works and how it affects a vast array of stories.


A huge thanks to K.M. Weiland for taking the time to  chat with me 🙂



Author Chat: Debbie Moyes

Today I’m pleased to chat with author Debbie Moyes and introduce you to her latest books.

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  • When and why did you become a writer, what inspired you? What makes you stand out from the rest? What Inspired you to write these two books?

A year ago, I watched an episode of 60 minutes about an entertainment time capsule in the midwest, and a story line popped into my head that absolutely refused to leave. I couldn’t function anymore, so I decided to write it down, and before I knew it, the story-line had turned into a book. Then that book turned into a sequel, then into a third novel. 

  • What draws you to your current genre? Or what’s the coolest thing about your genre?

As far as my genre, I have always been a science fiction nerd. I grew up watching Star Trek and find anything science-related to be so fascinating and entertaining. Naturally, that’s where my mind goes when I think of stories. I love the innocence of young love and adventure, and also tend not to use things like swearing, drinking, immorality, etc. Which naturally draws me to Young Adult. I absolutely love clean YA books. 

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  • What’s your secret, how did you get from first drafts to publication so quickly? Maybe we could adopt some of your habits.

People ask me how I wrote books so quickly. First of all, I treated it as a full time job, giving up television and staying up until my eyes couldn’t stay open any more. The story gets out quickly for me, because I see it literally as a movie in my mind, everything the characters do and say, and then I simply write down what I see. Editing is the hardest part, going through a million times, having others edit for me, etc. It’s a longer process, but it’s worth it, because seeing your work in print/ebook is awesome!

  • Tell us about your cover designs!

My covers are amazing. I knew I couldn’t have people on the cover, and I knew it couldn’t look too “Science Fiction-ish,” considering that a large part of the book is on the planet instead of space, and is much more adventure sci fi than hard sci fi. I love how the covers for both book one and two tie together really well–there’s no doubt that you can tell they’re in the same series. Both covers give off the feel I was looking for. 

  • Tell us how you hit #1 on Amazon, how did you market your books? We could use some pointers.

As far as getting to #1 on Amazon, I used basic marketing techniques. I did the advertising thing on Facebook, and told people that if they were kind enough to mention the book, to NOT say that they knew me in any way. It sounds more legit to hear someone say they read a good book, than to hear that their friend/sister/cousin wrote a book and everyone should check it out. I brought out the sequel quickly after the first book, in the hopes that readers would want to go straight to book two, instead of having to wait and then forgetting about the series completely. I also used the kindle select free days to my advantage. When the book was scheduled to go free, I signed up on several different book promotion sites and applied for my book to be featured as a free book with them. They were all free, although there’s many options for paid promotion. The days that it was free, it was being shown on various sites, as well as twitter. When people downloaded it for free, the hope it that it would then draw them in to buy the sequel. 

  • What are some helpful tips you could give to aspiring writers?

Advice I could give to any other writers would be to use others. Get many people to read your work and honestly critique it. Change things that don’t work, even if you love them dearly. And absolutely don’t stop writing, ever! Getting success with your writing is slow going, but don’t stop trying. 

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  • What journey will we experience with your story, what will we come away with?

Something I love about my series is that it’s clean. Way too many books, even Young Adult, are full of swearing, sex, drugs, etc. I love when a book has an awesome story without having to include those things and wanted to make mine that way. There’s a twist in the story that I find fascinating– it makes you look at our world and the universe in general in a different way. My stories also touch on the subject of morality and compromising values for the greater good. Is it justified? Or is it still wrong?

  • What can we expect from you next and when?

I have the third book in the World 4 Series coming out in October 2016, and another YA series in the works. I put out “hidden chapters” (parts of the story that didn’t make it into the actual novel) onto my website www.debbiemoyesauthor.com, as well as updates and random ramblings. I can’t stop writing!

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Hello! Im melting in the desert of Arizona while taking care of my four kids. Science fiction has always been a love of mine, as well as adventure and of course, anything Young Adult. I started writing World 4 as a kind of secret hobby, which then exploded into a full-on series and my new, awesome passion. I love stories that can transport you to a different place and introduce new ideas. I love these characters, and want so badly for everyone to know their story!

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Discovering Your Brand

Discovering Your Brand

Creating an author platform is vital for a new author’s success, and creating a brand is the basis for the platform. You need to know what you are creating before you start!

Branding is simpler than it sounds. You have already done the hard part by branding yourself for your author bios creation. You discovered all of the aspects of you that make up your brand. Use these as a resource for content creation on your blog and across your social networks. Sharing things that are relative to the You brand will gain the interest of people who are attracted to that type of content and they will want to connect with you.

Now all that is left are the finishing touches to make your brand complete. It is important to complete the branding process because your entire platforms success rests on the power behind your brand.

Review of what you covered in the All About You portion of the last chapter:

1. What is your gender and your age?
2. How do others see you?
3. How do you want others to see you?
4. What do you read?
5. What do you write?
6. What attracts you to other people?
7. What attracts people to you?
8. What is your best feature?
9. What do you find most interesting?
10. What inspires you?
11. What do you care about and put effort into?
12. Who would you like to be in three years?
13. What are your dreams?
14. What is the book you have always wanted to write?
15. What is the book you are scared to write?

These questions will reveal what makes you unique; I’m sure you can come up with many of your own questions too. What’s important is that you have this very basic list to begin with. The answers to these questions should give you a sense of direction when it comes to creating content for your blog, writing your books, and marketing yourself. Now make a new list of themes you see developing from your list, there are a few ideas for your first blog posts. You are a writer, an individual with a precious and continually growing gift that can now be shared with the world in confidence.

It’s time to make another list. Be sure to maintain a positive outlook and mention what matters:

1. Who are you, what descriptions best suit your personality?
2. What’s your best feature, what’s the first thing people notice about you?
3. What makes you likable, even lovable?
4. What do you think is fun?
5. What makes you different or what makes you the same as others?
6. What do people remember about you, what stands out?
7. What do you write about?
8. What do you want to write about?
9. What is your product?
10. What are your interests?
11. How do you view the world or the world you create?
12. What are your hopes, dreams, and aspirations?
13. Who are you influenced by, you may be similar to them?
14. Where have you been and where are you going?
15. Do you have any awards or have you won or entered any competitions?
16. Are there any media mentions of you?
17. Do you have recommendations from notable people?
18. Do you have any special achievements that relate to your brand?
19. Do you volunteer?
20. Do you have a special hobby?
21. Do you belong to any special groups?
22. Do you belong to any organizations or associations?
23. What are some exciting things that have happened to you?
24. Were you inspired by a famous relative?

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Also, reveal some details about your writing by answering the following questions:

  1. How do you want to be known?

Try to imagine how you would like to be known by the public, what image are you wanting to portray to your fans. You don’t want to be someone you’re not, but some aspects of yourself aren’t meant to be shared. It’s important that no matter what image you wish to portray, that you stay true to yourself and that you maintain an air of professionalism.

  1. What words do you want people to associate with you?

Do a short brainstorming session and write down words that are associated with the way you would like to be known by the public. This is a fun exercise where you may come up with some new ideas that are related to your brand. Admit it, you love descriptive words, round up a bunch that relate to your desired author image and write them down. Try things like – vivacious, sassy, inspiring, hungry, boisterous, – these are great words that you can use when creating graphics for your platform and marketing purposes. These are also words to remember in order to brand your writing, words that describe who you are and flavor your writing style. These words will become, if they are not already, part of your voice when writing.

  1. What are your goals for the next 3 years?

It’s always a good idea to have a plan of action. Just like a start-up, your business of writing is going places, where would you like it to go? This is something you can map out. You could start by writing out your goal at three years, then split that into three and write down a goal for year one and year two. Next you could break these years into quarters, like seasons, imagine obtainable goals on your way to your yearly goals which will get you to your final goal. You could dissect this further, break those seasons into months and imagine even smaller, more obtainable goals month to month that will get you to your seasonal goals. Now you have a plan of action, a direction to focus your efforts. This is where you should dream big, don’t be afraid to write down a three year goal that is desirable even if it appears to be unobtainable today in your real world. Maybe you’d like to be on a television program as a guest in three years, it may seem impossible, but it’s a reachable goal just like any other. Dream big and take the small steps to get you there. What you believe can be.

You may not be the type of person that would dream in that direction, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Write down some other desire as a writing goal and map your way to that one. The point is you will have a roadmap to get you there when you are done, and that sometimes can make all the difference in the world when it comes to personal success.

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  1. What words are associated with that?

Another fun activity! Get out a fresh piece of blank paper and write down all the words that are associated with your three year goal and the smaller goals you’ve outlined that will get will get you to that ultimate goal. When you’re done you should have some key action words that will help you hone your brand and steer it toward your goal. These word will help to keep you focused and can drive the content of your writing in the direction you are aiming for. Try words like – speaking engagements, influencer, book signing, television appearances, podcasting, interviewing, volunteering, – you are the creator of your own reality and these words will help you to shape your reality over the next three years.

  1. Will your books be in a particular genre?

The genre of a book is defined by its broad subject, its language, the age level of its readers, whether it is fiction or non-fiction and/or its subject.

Some examples of genres are:  romance, historical romance, erotica, spiritual, transformational, western, thriller, fantasy, horror, adventure, mystery, science fiction, dark fiction, guides, textbooks, biographies, autobiographies, children’s, young adult, memoirs, poetry, chapter, and scholarly books.

To determine your ideal readers, do an internet search on your genre along with the words “readers” and “demographics”.

  • Who is your reader?
  • How old are they?
  • Man or woman?
  • Children or none?
  • Grandchildren?
  • Occupation?
  • Activities?
  • Where do they live?
  • What is their ethnicity?

Examine all of the traits of your target reader and note any trends. These trends describe your ideal reader. These trends are part of your brand and will help you when creating content for your blog and in your marketing endeavors.

  1. What is the premise of your book?

One effective trick for defining your premise is to write a one-sentence logline that will become the foundation of your story. The Logline is a tool used primarily by screenwriters, but it can be very helpful if you’re writing a novel or a short story.

  1. What are the themes in your book?

Themes are central ideas in a piece of writing. Anything that relates to the theme or plot of your books is included in your brand. Your themes in your book can drive your content. Themes can branch out to include many topics and will attract the kind of people who would be interested in your book. The content you create can be related to a topic or theme that’s even loosely woven throughout your book.

  1. What types of characters are in your book

The characters in your book have traits and can be branded just like you branded yourself in the previous chapter. This would be considered a branching off point had you mapped your brand in the tree fashion. You can use all of this information about your characters to come up with relative content for your blog and to attract readers that would find your characters interesting or that they can relate to. This is also a great way to figure out what groups or types of people you should be connecting with after your platform is set-up.

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  1. What images do you want associated with your brand?

It’s time to start thinking of your look. Do you want to appear playful, concise, creative, or colorful? Start imagining images that you will use to include in your blog posts, what type will they be? Will you use info-graphics, cartoons, text, abstract, dark, bright, purchased images that reflect aspects of your brand? What trends will your images follow? The imagery you use plays a major role in defining who you are and what you have to offer to your audience.

The three major images that will speak the loudest to the public are your website banner, your head-shot, and your book cover. These three images give a visual testament to what you have to offer with your platform, they are the face of your brand and a major selling point. The other most important imagery is the imagery you will use in your social networking shares, such as book teasers and quotes. This imagery all reflects upon who you are and what your readers can find in your work.

All of the things that you have associated to be a part of your brand should be taken into consideration when developing your imagery. Your imagery can be as powerful as the words you have to share and they speak volumes. I highly recommend that you hire a professional designer to work with you as you create content for your platform, set up your website and blog, and create the covers for your books.

If you insist on doing this on your own then it will seriously benefit you to buy a subscription to Adobe Photoshop through the Adobe website. Photoshop is relatively inexpensive and can handle all of the demands a designer requires. You can find plenty of video tutorials on the adobe website that will teach you how to use the program and there are endless amounts of tutorials on the web as well. I will go further into creating your own imagery, finding free imagery, or purchasing your imagery in a future chapter.

For now it is important to start thinking about the imagery you will use as a design package that will represent you. The pictures you use are your visual voice.

Combining all of this information into a chart will give you a visual reference to the substance of your brand. Post it where you write and use it for inspiration when developing content. Your brand is as unique as your voice. By researching what has been outlined regarding you and your brand you have created your platform brand and now should have plenty of resources for what to blog about or share on your social networks. Congratulations, you have created your brand!

Cover Illustration Update

 ILLUSTRATION UPDATE: 

Cover reveal for author Susan Lattwein.

 

"Arafura - Unfinished Business" Cover Design
“Arafura – Unfinished Business”
Cover Design

Arafura – Unfinished Business

I loved designing this, I think the colors are so vibrant and fun. I am particularly pleased with how the lights on the ship turned out. I actually used wax to create the base colors and depth in the sunset before applying the final paint and I created contrast by applying ink, lining the ripples of the waves.

These navy ships are numbered on the side and the number 02 is in refrence to Susan’s new book being a sequel. What do you think?

 

 

 


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New Illustration Project

New Illustration Project

Doing sketches for the cover of the  sequel to “Arafura”  by Susan Lattwein.


Sketching the Ship
Sketching the Ship

 

This is my initial sketch for the cover which I will be doing in pastels. I am wanting to use some prety bright and bold colors that I think will make this cover just fantastic.


Color Palette
Color Palette

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

arafura-cover2V2Arafura (Romance)

 by Susan Lattwein.

Darwin schoolteacher Kat is planning to marry when her long-term fiancé finds the time. When the magnetic and troubled Adam arrives in town, Kat’s predictable life begins to unravel. Now she must wrestle with the pull of instant attraction complicated by post traumatic stress, loyalty and a dead body. This original love story takes the reader on an evocative journey exploring our self-imposed limits, desire for intimacy and more……