Laura Howard: June 2012


The Land of Heart's Desire Giveaway

This is a quote by a favorite Irish poet of mine, WB Yeats.  His poetry inspired images of magic and a mysterious people just out of our reach.

It's only fitting to introduce this special giveaway with a touch of magic. I've been blessed by the friendship of a group of lovely authors who write in the realms of Irish fairy stories and folk lore. As you may know, my novel in progress has basis in Irish mythology as well, so it was an instant attraction to the #FairyTribe on twitter.

Two of the #FairyTribe (Sophie Moss and Diane Reed) recently got together with me to discuss this phenomenon that has taken place across the interwebs, the banding together of authors in all stages of publication. Like the mystical land of Eire, this group has a magic all it's own. 

As we talked, it was amazing how similar the paths to publication have been for these lovely ladies. Both share a love for all things Irish, making it a no-brainer that their debut novels would be based on magic and romance.

Diane Reed is the author of Twixt, a novel of magical realism featuring Rose-our skeptical heroine trying to start her life over, when after her 30th birthday, circumstances force her to take a new look at her life and challenge the her beliefs in magic and love.

After writing the manuscript, Diane attempted to have it traditionally published. The replies she received all had a similar tone- strong story, but not something that would sell. Publishing houses felt that it was not quite a fantasy, but not quite women's fiction, either.

Diane decided she didn't want to compromise her story, so she self-published. Knowing nothing about marketing or social-media, she didn't sell many books that first month.

She thanks her lucky stars she met fellow author Sophie Moss, who had recently been through a similar experience. Sophie took Diane under her wind and showed her the ropes of Amazon's KDP select and how to maximize the free days offered through the program. At one point during Diane's promotion, Twixt reached Number One on Amazon's Free list.

A few months before Diane's publication, Sophie had published The Selkie Spell, a story based on experiences living in Ireland and the movie The Secrets of Roan Inish

After spending several years writing The Selkie Spell, Sophie queried agents and, like Diane, was told she had a fantastic story, but they didn't think they'd be able to sell it.

After hearing that reply enough times, Sophie decided if nobody else thought she could sell it, they could all just watch her sell it.

The Selkie Spell is about Tara, an American doctor who finds herself moving to an island offshore of Ireland. When a mysterious woman tells her she has the power to break a 200-year old spell, she gets caught in a world somewhere between magic and reality.

The synchronicity between Diane's and Sophie's stories is nothing short of magical, and if you've spent any time chatting with them, don't be surprised if you come across a patch of coveted four-leaf clovers!

To celebrate our love for Irish folklore Diane, Sophie and I have come together to put on a magical giveaway featuring copies of their books- Twixt and The Selkie Spell as well as art prints created by honorary #FairyTribe member Liza Lambertini.

Twixt- Midnight Flight
The Selkie Spell- Drawing Down the Moon

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Fostering Success with Melissa Foster Part I

Today's guest is Melissa Foster, best-selling author and founder of the World Literary Cafe, The Women's Nest
and Fostering Success. If you've spent any time at all ithe Indie Author Community, chances are you've seen her name.

Things we talked about:

  • How Melissa became a writer
  • Waiting until her children were in school before devoting time to writing
  • Writing, editing and publishing her first three books
  • How much her writing process has changed after each book
  • Querying agents for Megan's Way
  • Hesitancy to call herself "self-published" in 2009 because of prejudices at the time
  • Going through a vanity press and why she doesn't recommend this route
  • Reasons why small press still has a place for some authors
  • Her goal of having at least one book traditionally published and why
  • Melissa's ability to create a huge community for authors
  • Why a support system is critical for authors 
  • Fostering Success, a publishing education platform for authors

Melissa's books are Chasing Amanda, Megan's Way, and Come Back To Me.

Like this interview? Please be sure to share it with your pals!


5 Ways To Get Readers To Beg For More

Did you publish your book expecting to sit back and wait for the readers to discover you and your book?

I'm sorry to have to be the one to tell you this:

The days of "discovery" are over. 

The marketplace is saturated with would-be authors vying for readers attention. Social Media makes it easy for authors to connect with readers all around the world.

Depending on how you use it, the internet is an amazing tool you can use to build a highly engaged reader base. Not only will you have raving fans, but you can build real relationships with people who share your interests and values the world over.

Here are 5 ways to create a dedicated following of readers itching for your next release (and probably telling everyone they know about how awesome you are!)

1. Start with an Amazing Book

This is so simple, but think about it: Your book is your best marketing tool. Write a book that leaves your readers wanting more.

There is no marketing plan or media platform that can replace a fabulous story.

2. Forget the Idea That Everyone Will Like Your Work

Not everyone will like your book. And that's okay. Have you liked every book you've come across? I'd guess no.

The truth is, no matter how amazing your book is, some people won't like it. If you write the book you have in your heart, you will find the right readers.

And that will be enough.

3. Build a Fabulous List

Twitter followers are important. Facebook likes are nice. Visitors on your blog are awesome

A mailing list is invaluable.

The thing about email marketing is- if you're a welcome presence in your readers' inbox, you're a part of an ongoing conversation.

When it comes time for a new book release, your list will be the first to know. There's something special about being part of an exclusive group. Your readers will want to help you share your news because it will also be THEIR news.

4. Meet them Where They Are

You're a writer. You want readers. Where do you find them?

Sure, you can find some readers on Twitter and Facebook. But, put on your thinking cap.

Readers read. They want to talk about what they've read AND they want to find new things to read.

Book cataloging sites are filled with what you want- READERS! Think Goodreads, Shelfari, LibraryThing.

Talk with them, learn their names, find out what they want to read. (But, for the love of all things holy- don't try to sell them your book)

If you're not a member of at least one these sites, you're missing out!

Book Bloggers are sometimes overlooked as a gigantic way to get in touch with readers.

Again, if you're not visiting book blogs that review books in your genre- you're missing out!

5. Treat Them Like You Care

You've written the book. You've found people who love your book.

Remember that without them, you are nothing.

And make sure they know it- Engage with them, find out what they want.

Get to know your readers and treat them like they matter.

Hard-selling is never going to work in today's market. The key to success right now is Engagement Marketing.

Consistently follow these 5 steps and you'll have a band of readers evangelizing your books the world wide!

How do you find raving fans for your work? Make sure to leave a comment below with your tips!

Like this post? Please be sure to share it with your pals!


Creating Tension with Jen Zeman

Happy Friday! I am so thrilled to present a post by my Twitter and Writer Unboxed pal, Jen Zeman. Like me, Jen is not yet published, but we have a great time talking writing and are a prime example of the relationships you can create by nurturing your Social Media community.

The Core of any Story

Tension within your plot is known as conflict and it is the core of any story.  Without conflict, a story will fall flat and readers will lose interest quick.  The more conflict you have in your story, the more your story will grab readers’ attention and have them clinging to the pages for more.

Simply put, conflict is a problem arising to challenge your protagonist to act in some fashion.  Literary agent Don Maass, in his book WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL, states once you have conflict in your plot, the next essential element is to complicit the conflict.  Make it worse – for your main character, for everyone.  Maass states:  “What makes a breakout novel memorable are conflicts that are deep, credible, complex and universal enough so a great number of readers can relate.” 

Make the Conflict Feel Familiar

 An example would be a wife discovering her seemingly perfect husband of thirty years has had a second family on the side for the past twenty years.  To make this conflict even more spectacular, up the ante but still make the conflict feel familiar to readers.  

Sure, you could have the wife hide in her bedroom for a week crying her eyes out, but how exciting is that?  Your readers will close the book and never pick it up again.  

Have Tension on Every Page

Increase the tension instead – have tension on every single page.  Increasing the tension means the wife uses her secret assassin training by driving her car through the front door of the second family’s house (while the husband is there, of course), and her shooting up the place like a fireworks factory on fire!  

Okay, this was extreme, but you get the point.  The wife’s anger will seem familiar to the reader because surely most would be equally unhinged if they were in the wife’s position.  Your readers will excitedly turn the pages when the tension is piled this high.  

So look at your story again.  Find at least ten places within your manuscript where tension can be increased and do something unexpected in each instance.  Your readers will thank you.

Jen is a YA author working on her debut novel.

Other Donald Maass books I've read and recommend include:

Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook

The Fire in Fiction


Dancing Naked in Dixie with Lauren Clark

Sometimes when you least expect it, life throws you a bone that is just so awesome, and this interview is one of those times.

 I saw a video interview done by Laura at 30 Day Books featuring Lauren Clark. I just loved listening to her talking about her story, and actually put her on my interview list of "Authors to Contact Someday".

Meanwhile, I followed her on Twitter. I don't remember if I tweeted her to tell her I thought the video was great or not. Doesn't really matter.

Because- Lauren Clark actually contacted ME!

She sent me an email inviting me to read her book and review it on my blog. MY BLOG! I know!

Lauren is the award-winning author of Stay Tuned and Dancing Naked in Dixie.

Things we talked about:
  • Lauren's background as a journalism major and news anchor.
  • Her learning process finishing several manuscripts before deciding to publish Stay Tuned.
  • Publishers showed interest but nobody gave her a contract.
  • How scary it is to have people critique your work.
  • The importance of having as many eyes on your work as possible to perfect it.
  • Lauren's author branding which is one of the most remarkable I've seen.
  • Online and offline author platform, how to connect with readers and stay in touch.
  • Speaking engagements and book clubs she's attending to build an offline following.
You can find her at or Twitter and Facebook

Like this interview? Please be sure to share it with your pals!


Requesting Book Reviews with The Bookish Babe

This is a topic that I've been thinking about for a long, long time. In the past few years, book blogging has become an art form. I love reading reviews of new releases and posts about old favorites.

I believe a lot of authors overlook the importance of the book blogging community, whether from ignorance of negligence, I don't really know.

With the fairly recent explosion of digital publishing, book bloggers are even more important than ever. I hope Andrea's post will teach new authors and remind the ones who've been at it for a while, the ins and outs of having your book reviewed.

First off, thanks to Laura for having me. The idea that someone actually wants to hear what I think makes me giggle.

I wasn’t sure how to approach the topic of Indie/Self-Pubbed authors, bloggers, and reviews.  There’s a lot that’s been said about the topics. I’m not sure I add anything new or worthwhile to the discussion.  But I’ll try.
Laura asked me to give a few tips about what to do and avoid when approaching bloggers for a review.  Let’s start with what NOT to do:

Please don’t ask for a review via GoodReads, Twitter, or FB

I go on GoodReads strictly as a reader. I don’t hang out there a lot. I check out reviews of books I’m interested in,  update my book status, and add new books to my to-read list. That’s it.
If you ask for a review on Twitter, that just seems lazy. And awkward. What if I don’t want to read your book? Do you really want me to put that out in the twitterverse? I’m usually a really nice person on twitter, and wouldn’t actually do that. But I have seen authors get blasted for requesting via Twitter and it makes me cringe. The exception to that rule?  My good friends.  The people I talk to almost daily. They can hit me up anytime. Usually it’s just to let me know an email about their book is headed my way.
If you ask me for a review on my blog’s Facebook page, there is a 99.9345% chance that I will not see it. I am tragically in denial over the new Facebook. And though I’m trying to do better about posting there, still NO.

Crappy, Lazy Review Requests

If you’re going to request a review, take the time, do a little background work. I know, authors are busy. Guess, what? So are reviewers. It takes a lot of my time to read your book, write a (hopefully) meaningful, unique, helpful review. Then, I have to cross-post to all the sites, tweet links and post it to FB.  That takes a lot of my time. So, if I have to hit a bunch of links to find your cover and synopsis, then chances are I’ll just hit delete. Also, make sure that I read the genre your submitting.

Don’t be weird

This sounds funny, I know.  I am completely serious. I have gotten some strange requests in the time I’ve been blogging.  So have my friends. I have two favorites. In one, the author seemed to really think he was a vampire.  He talked about how he became a vampire, and his lonely existence. I mean, I think I know what he was going for, but dude, it was strange. The other request still baffles me. I’m not sure that I wasn’t being Punk’d. In that one, the author requested a review for a book that he and his Momma wrote about their dead cat, and about said cat’s life (?) in heaven.  Oh, and he included a YouTube video with a song they wrote. I really wish I hadn't deleted that request. I would love to watch it again.

Okay, the part I like: What TO do when requesting.

Let me know in some way that you’ve read my review policy

Doing that lets me know that you respect my blog and my time enough to do your homework.

Be clever

That’s a tall order, I know. And it’s not a requirement. I won’t delete a request if you don’t make me laugh. But I will take a closer look if you do. I’ve taken several books for review that I would have skipped without the clever request.

Most importantly,

Have all your ducks in a row

This one makes me happy.  Include a short introduction that lets me know who you are. Let me know you’ve read my review policy. You have a synopsis, a cover, and links to your GoodReads or Amazon page so I can look at reviews.  Out of all the requests I’ve received, two authors stand out: Liz Long, author of Gifted, and Nikki Jefford, author of Entangle and Duplicity. Liz was clever, unique and included all the info pertaining to her book. Nikki had all of her ducks in a row. She had all the relevant information about her book, and she had everything lined up and ready to go for a blog tour. I couldn’t say no to either of these ladies, not that I wanted to.

I hope these tips help authors out there. I know I feel better getting it off my chest.

Laura also asked me to talk about why bloggers are important to authors, particularly indies. I don’t know that I have personally impacted an indie author. I’d like to think I have. I do know that I love to see them succeed. I love to help spread the word about their books, to introduce them to a new reader. All I can do, basically, is be a supporter, a cheerleader.  And I am so happy to do that. Just this morning, I was looking at two indie books, What a Boy Needs by Nyrae Dawn and Inhale by Kendall Grey.  When I opened Inhale it was the first time I had opened the finished copy, and my words about that gorgeous story were on the first page! To know that what I had to say meant that much to the author blew me away. I teared up like a big sissy. Then, when I opened What a Boy Needs, the author had thanked me and a few friends for our encouragement. Again, tears. 

So, yeah, I guess I do know that I have some impact on indie authors. But to be honest, they’ve had just as much impact on me. Those words that they included in their books mean everything to me.


The Defining of a Scene By CS Lakin

CS Lakin

I'd like to welcome a guest post from the prolific CS Lakin, author, editor, and writing coach.

As a copyeditor, I can attest that the biggest flaw I see in the manuscripts that I critique and edit is poor scene structure. I don’t think many writers have fully explored the topic to the extent that they plan out a scene with enough understanding and craft tools to be able to really make each scene the most powerful and effective that it can be. Often scenes seem to be thrown together, starting in a place and in a manner that really doesn’t work. And so, since each scene is like a mini novel (or should be), I want to talk a bit about them, and particularly about scene beginnings, since they parallel your novel beginning in many ways.

 How Would You Define a Scene?   

If someone asked you to define what a scene is, what would you say? If you think about it, it’s not easy to define. We tend to know when a scene works and when it doesn’t. Here are some elements that make up a scene that I’ve found in books on scene writing:

The sum of myriad elements that work together [hmm, that’s a bit vague] It starts and ends with a character arriving and leaving [sometimes, but not often] It can be a single location with many people coming and going It gives the sensation that a character is “trapped” in this moment and must go through it I’m not all that ecstatic about these points. They don’t really tell what a scene is. I like how Jordan Rosenfeld defines a scene in her book Make a Scene: “Scenes are capsules in which compelling characters undertake significant actions in a vivid and memorable way that allows the events to feel as though they are happening in real time.”

What Is Real Time?  

Well, it’s not back story. I already gave a lengthy post about leaving back story out of your story, so let’s focus on this concept of “real time.” Too many manuscripts start off with either pages of narrative to set up the book or start with maybe a catchy (or not) first paragraph or two that puts the protagonist right in a scene in real time—meaning they are experiencing something that, for them, is happening right then. Not a memory, not a flashback, not even them thinking about what is happening to them right now. But after these short moments of establishing the character in a “happening” scene, the author lapses into telling the reader important things they should know [read: back story]. Even if you are going to go heavily into your character’s head, you need that character to be doing it “here and now” in some sort of “capsule” (as Rosenfeld says) that is unfolding in the moment. It’s not all that complicated, but writers really need to resist the urge to stop the moment or veer off elsewhere.

Be Here Now

So, if you’ve pulled on your reins and disciplined yourself to construct that opening scene with your protagonist in a moment in real time, you now have the structure to show that character undertaking significant actions in a vivid and memorable way. By now you have your themes and MDQs (Major Dramatic Question) all worked out, and you’ve figured out how to hint at these, along with showing your character’s glimpse of greatness and core need. You’ve set up their persona that they show to the world, and you’ve hinted at their true essence underneath.   Are you starting to feel a bit overwhelmed? You just might be. Not a whole lot of authors can whip up a first scene intuitively and off the cuff that contains every little element needed. And that’s why first page checklist  is really helpful. Once you rough in that first scene, go through and make sure you’ve got all the bases covered. Which begs the question . . .

Just How Long Should a Scene Be?   

I’ve actually read articles and book chapters that suggest certain numbers of pages, and it’s not that formulaic. Genre can be a factor, since a fast-action thriller may have short, terse chapters whereas a thoughtful literary work may have long ones. The real answer, which may not be so helpful, is that a scene should be as long as it needs to be (the same is true for a novel's length). You determine the length of the scene by writing it and making sure it reaches its objective. And once it’s done that, it should end. What is the objective for the scene? It’s your high point or moment that you are trying to build to, for every scene should be leading to aan important moment or revelation. If it doesn’t, you might need to go back and take a look at your scene and rework it so it does.

C. S. Lakin is the author of twelve novels, including the fantasy series, “The Gates of Heaven,” with the first four books now out in stores. She also writes contemporary psychological mysteries, with her Zondervan contest winner, Someone to Blame, having been released October 2010. She works as a professional copyeditor and writing coach and loves to teach on the craft of writing. Her new websites are dedicated to critiquing fiction ( and building community to help survive and thrive in your writing life ( You can read more about her at and follow her on Twitter: @cslakin.


When Life Hands You Lemons, Self-Publish with Kendall Grey

Kendall Grey is the author of Inhale- released May 1, Exhale- released June 1 and the soon to be released Just Breathe.

I have to tell you- I think this is my best interview yet! I hardly made any mistakes, and despite the fact that the video aspect didn't record Kendall and I had a great time!

Things we talked about:

  • Writing a full length novel, how many words are enough/too much?
  • Pulling your passions together to create a great story- in Kendall's case Whales and Science, Australian Folklore, and Sexy Australian Rock Stars :)
  • The correct way to say Gloucester
  • Kendall's roller coaster ride of Querying and Submitting
  • Her ultimate decision to "Choose Herself" and Self-Publish
  • Delegating cover design and editing
  • How sales have been since her release
  • Coming up with a Marketing Plan
  • Paying for reviews, Google ads and Goodreads ads
  • Building a back list and a LONG TAIL
  • The cause Kendall supports- a group that teaches kids about whales

I highly encourage you to follow Kendall on Twitter, she's a hoot! Also, check out her Facebook page, fair warning: You Will Be Entertained! 


Group Promotions: Authors Helping Authors

You wrote a fantastic book, the cover is perfect, you've asked your friends and family to help spread the word.

Now what?

Some authors decide to pay for publicity, some take it on themselves to use social media as a marketing tool.

Is that really enough?

The answer is probably not.

There is a secret weapon that inexperienced writers need to discover, or risk being buried under the masses.

Before I tell you what the secret weapon is, let me tell you a story:

Last week I was browsing through my Twitter stream when the hashtag Reads4Free showed up several times in a row. I am only human- I love free things, so I investigated!

There was a group of Indie Authors running a promotion to support each other and offer their 8 books for free all on the same days. I browsed through the list and came across a YA title by Elise Stokes, Cassidy Jones and Vulcan's Gift. It looked interesting, so I followed the link to grab my free copy.

Throughout the day, the hashtag kept popping up. I followed it again and read the story of the authors banding together. I thought it seemed neat and checked out another title by Shannon Mayer, Sundered which has a freaky zombified cover. Nuff said.

 After I closed out the Amazon page from my second freebie of the day, the post with all 8 novels was looking back at me. We're FREE, it said to me. You might like us!

Oh, R.S. Guthrie- I enjoyed a blog post you wrote- Click- I downloaded Black Beast...

Yes. I downloaded all 8 titles. 

As I clicked the Buy Now title for the eighth time, a light bulb went off in my little brain.

These authors, they know what they're doing. I had never heard of half of them, but there I was- downloading their titles.

Being introduced to their work. And to them. Brilliant.

You see, there are a lot of readers in this world looking for your book. They read a book a day, some of them. Can you keep up with that demand?

I didn't think so.

So, how does your reader find your book? Maybe friends tell each other about books they loved. But, rather than wait around for that to happen, there is the secret weapon we talked about earlier.

Authors sharing their audiences. There is no competition, the turnaround rate is too fast.

Authors forming groups, tweeting each others links, posting on each others blogs. 

At first the idea of promoting free books seems like a small thing, but think of the effect getting your name out there will have on your career.

ISYOT- I See You Out There. Readers, whether they read your free book or not, will remember your name. They'll recognize your book when browsing and see what else you have available. You're not a nobody stuck in a sea of nobodies anymore.

Leave a message in the comments if you've gone Free with a group, or if you know of an author who has. We all want to know your story!


Laiden's Daughter by Suzan Tisdale

Laiden's Daughter by Suzan Tisdale

I just finished Laiden's Daughter last night, and I can't stop thinking about the characters today. For the first half of the book, I found myself wanting to strangle the protagonist Aishlinn, she was a tad too self-deprecating for my taste. But, luckily for her she was redeemed in the end.

I have a special place in my heart for the Scottish Highlands, so when I saw that this book featured fierce Highland warrior Duncan and his clan- I knew I had to read it. There's something irresistible about a burly Scotsman!

Aishlinn suffers endless tortures before being taken in by the MacDougall clan. She has been beaten to near death when they find her, and her spirit is near broken. Through time and love, she is able to regain a strength she didn't even knew she possessed.

Of course, my favorite part was seeing the transformation through the eyes of her champion, Duncan. He is honorable and gives her time and space to heal, all the while falling deeper and deeper in love with her.

Their love story is sweet and slow to unfurl, which is just the way I like it. When they finally come together, it's like a double hot fudge sundae, all rich and sweet and you never want it to end!


No More Starving Artists with Beth Barany

On today's interview, my guest is author entrepreneur Beth Barany.
Beth started her career helping writers get there message out into the world. As a certified Creativity Coach, she has a passion for helping authors build successful careers. She teaches through speaking, coaching and consulting with authors. Her non-fiction includes a book for authors- The Writers Adventure Guide.

Beth also loves creating strong female characters who empower women and girls to be the heroes in their own lives. Her fantasy novel Henrietta the Dragon Slayer is available now, with Book 2 coming out this summer.

Some of the topics we discuss in the interview:

  • Her beliefs in strong marketing practices online and offline as well. 

  • Every author needs to have a home on the internet, whether they are involved in Social Media or not.

  • An author website or blog plus a newsletter are important tools for all authors.

  • No matter where you go, carry a copy of your best work. 

  • Nobody wants to be sold to- develop real relationships and people will naturally be interested in what you do.

  • Speaking, coaching and consulting engagements are great ways of meeting new people while providing multiple income streams, nobody needs to be a starving artist anymore.

  • Some exciting new speaking opportunities she has coming: How to Pitch to Agents and Editors with her husband, author Ezra Barany;The Women's Fiction Festival in Italy; Creativity Pays keynote speech.

  • While she has self-published her books, she has partnered with a publisher to distribute some index cards to accompany her Writers Adventure Guide. The publisher can put her product in places she might not be able to reach on her own.

  • Beth is a strong advocate of writing and critique groups. It's important to have accountability and feeback from other writers.

Beth can be found at her website and also on her blog where she posts tips for writing and marketing for authors as well as inspiration and creativity. Visit to get a Free Self-Guided Journaling Course for Writers.  For Author Entrepreneurs, visit