Virtual Visit from Author Emma Lai!

Hi everyone! Thanks for coming by, especially on author interview day! Make sure to read on for Emma’s surprise revelation 😀

Thank you so much for accepting a place in the bloglight, Emma! Always great to welcome a new face to my blog! Let’s get started: 

What do love best about writing? I’m a complete panster and love watching the characters and plot grow. It’s like watching a movie unfold, and I love movies!

Sometimes, I’m surprised by what the characters do, and for me, if I tried to plot then I would feel compelled to force my characters to act in the predetermined way. Plus, it makes the writing process more emotional for me, allowing me to experience the highs and lows as the characters would when faced with, well whatever they’re faced with.

I can so relate, Emma. When I’m in first draft, I feel as though I’m the reader, waiting as the story unfolds. Makes for writing that’s as much fun as reading! What do you like least? This is a moving target. Edits are always difficult, but if they strengthen the story then they’re well worth the blood, sweat and tears. Promotion is also difficult, partially because I have a hard time putting myself out there, partially because of the time involved. However, I love interacting with other authors (we have a solitary lifestyle by profession) and hearing what readers have to say.

Wait. The answer just came to me. I hate the waiting. I hate waiting while my characters figure out what comes next because once I start a story I have a pressing need to finish it. I hate waiting after I’ve sent the draft to my critique partners because I’m anxious for first reactions. I hate waiting to hear back on queries and submissions, mostly because I’m not patient…though I’m sure you’d never get that from this post. 🙂

What started you as a writer? My husband. He loves to read, yes even romance. I needed something to occupy my free time while I studied for my comprehensives, so I wrote him a story, which he insisted I share with his mother, who has some experience with the publishing world. They both pushed and pushed until I bit the bullet and submitted. Here I am two years, five releases and eight contracts later. Guess their faith wasn’t misplaced.

What keeps you writing? I would literally go insane if I didn’t write. My mind is constantly working, and writing stories gives it something productive to dwell on. Writing is a great stress reducer for me.

How has your writing impacted –or significantly changed—other aspects of your life?

I guess it’s time for the big reveal…

The biggest way writing has impacted my life was to inspire me to start a small e-publishing press, Twenty Or Less Press. I’ve found that while there are plenty of romance publishers who provide awesome feedback, even on rejected works, there just weren’t that many—or at least I didn’t come across them—e-publishers of other genres who provide much more than form rejections.

As a writer, I continually strive to improve my skills, and one of the most helpful things I’ve received, is criticism from others. My publishing house provides constructive feedback on all legitimate submissions. (Legitimate as in following the submission guidelines.) I’ve received dozens of emails from authors expressing their appreciation for my honest feedback even though, for the most part, the feedback included rejections. My goal is to help other writers be the best writers they can.

How exciting and mazel tov! I am so impressed by you taking on the business of publishing in today’s changing publishing paradigm. How did you come up with a name as intriguing and unique as the one you chose?

Sorry; sidetracked! Back to the interview:Where do you get story and character ideas? And for those who write across cultural lines, how do you market or generate mainstream, typical reader’s interest in your books? I think this question applies to those who write across genres while using the same pen name. That said, I have just submitted my first interracial/cross-cultural story. Either way, my answer is the same: market the characters. Plot drives the story, but it is through the eyes of the characters that the journey is made. Strip the characters of whatever makes them genre specific and tell the reader what she has in common with them or why she’ll love them or hate them.

As a reader, sell me on the characters, and I’ll read anything.

Me too! I’m currently reading a book and getting through it exactly b/c the author got me interested in the characters AND the story is compelling enough to keep me turning the pages. (The actual writing falls pretty far short of my tastes.) Talk about current, past and future projects, upcoming releases, maybe your ‘dream novel’? I have a couple of ‘dream novels’. I just submitted my first full-length book for consideration by Loose-Id. It’s not only my pet because it was the first book I wrote when starting my career as a writer, but because the heroine shares part of my personal life journey–walking the line between two cultures while feeling part of neither. Or, maybe that’s what I tried to write and didn’t succeed at. We’ll have to wait and see what the editor says. 🙂

My other ‘dream novel’ is a YA sci-fi/fantasy. I’ve always loved science fiction and once I discovered fantasy in my college years, I fell in love with that as well. I thought combining the two would make an intriguing read. The project has been slow going. The first book is over half complete, but I’ve taken a long hiatus from it while I’ve learned more about the craft of writing. Some things take time to do full justice. (Just hope I remember that if I get a rejection on the cross-cultural romance.)

Are we soul-sisters? I feel the same way w/a very slow-going project, but in the meantime, I’ve learned tons about web presence and social media. Please tell our readers how you juggle work (other than writing, assuming you work ‘outside the home’), time to write and all that goes along with it, especially as a published author (i.e., promo, etc).

My life is one of deadlines. Everything is prioritized based on that. I’m blessed to have a husband with a flexible schedule so when due dates loom, he steps in to take care of the little one.

If you please, talk about ‘my life is one of the deadlines’ in the comments’ section. In the meantime, kindly share the three ways you find most effective to promote your work: Promoting is about keeping your name out there even when there’s not a release in the near future. So, I tweet and do blog posts—though keeping with my desire to help other writers, most of my blog is devoted to showcasing the work of others. As time allows, I leave comments at other blogs as well. However, just as big as promoting is making sure I keep readers supplied with new stories.

Now in honor of the two-year anniversary of my first published story, I’m sharing covers and blurbs from the entire Mates of the Guardian series, which includes the upcoming Book 3: His Capture, Her Rescue. (Stories are available at The Wild Rose Press, Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com)

Leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of any of my published stories and an ARC of Book 3–when it becomes available. I’m also offering a $25 gift certificate to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or The Wild Rose Presswinner’s choicefor rebranding suggestions left on my blog at http://emmalaiwrites.blogspot.com/2011/08/its-all-in-branding.html.

BTW, Emma, these covers are stunning. Love the colors. And the model on His Capture Her Rescue reminds me of Twilight fame’s onscreen hero, Robert Pattinson. (That’s a good thing! :)) 

   His Ship, Her Fantasy:  Ellie Woods is in love…with a ship. When an argument with the ship results in a bump on the head, she finds herself in the strong arms of Alastair. But, who is he, and where did he come from?

Alastair has loved Ellie from afar for years, but duty has kept him from revealing himself to her. When a grave threat reveals his true identity, he hopes that Ellie will choose reality over fantasy. (Read an excerpt.)

   His Hope, Her Salvation: Promised in marriage to an abusive oaf, Judith resolves to find out if there can be passion without love. Snatches of conversation overheard at the local inn lead her to a mysterious American merchant who might be able to satisfy her carnal curiosity and capture her heart.

Donovan, a Guardian Hunter, is on the trail of a rogue Elysian in Georgian England. As the son of the First Hunter, he long ago gave up hope of finding his heart’s mate. When Judith appears in his study, his inner beast and his heart demand he answer her plea for help.

Will their passion answer their hearts’ pleas, or will it wither under the threat of reality? (Read an excerpt.)

  His Capture, Her Rescue (Coming soon from The Wild Rose Press)Masquerading as an American, Eallair, a Guardian Steward from another world, is searching Victorian England for the kidnapped mate of a fellow Guardian. When he meets Miss Harriet Cartwright, he knows her for the spirited, intelligent mate he has longed to find.

Since the death of their parents, Harriet has used her intelligence and sharp tongue to guard her sister from fortune hunters, but now that Prudence is close to choosing a husband, Harriet can consider her own future—one hopefully filled with adventure. When she meets Eallair, an American rancher who likes to travel and isn’t put off by her outspokenness, she is intrigued.

But before Harriet and Eallair can explore their attraction, she and her sister are kidnapped. While Eallair scours the countryside for them, Harriet discovers Eallair’s off-world origins. Now she must decide: just how much adventure does she want in her future?

So which of Emma’s titles has YOU most intrigued? (#2 has my attention.) Any of you who’ve already read her work, please leave the rest of us a recommendation! As always, thanks to all of you who stopped in! Stay tuned for two or three reviews next week (maybe even tomorrow! :)) 

Until next time, 

Joanna

Tag: You’re Book is It!

Good day, blogger friends! Hope this finds each of you well and ready to learn!

Last week I introduced you to one of my newest online friends, Young Adult fiction author C.R. Wills. His original post included the art of tagging books at Amazon.com. Being as quick as I tend to be I wound up confused and wound up with a wonderful offer from Chris to demystify the technique. So… here’s Chris! 😀

       

Tagging on Amazon – how it can help you sell more books

What is a tag?

On Amazon, a tag is a category label for a book. A tag can be a genre, for example, Crime or Romance. It can be more detailed, like True Crime or Historical Romance. A tag can be any label that could be associated with a book; it could be the author’s name; it could be a word like Amnesia; it could be a phrase like 18th Century Vampire Romance inLondon.

You can find tags for a book below that book’s reviews. On Amazon pick a favourite book you have read, go to the page for that book and find the tags. You will notice the tags are in blue type, underlined and they have a number in brackets beside them. The number refers to the number of people who have tagged that book with that word or phrase. As this is a book you have read, do you agree with the tags? There may be more hidden under the title ‘See all xx tags’ Click this to reveal all the tags people have attached to the book.

Click on the tag with the highest number. You should be taken to an Amazon Community page for that tag. In theory all the books displayed on that page are of the same type because they have been tagged with the same tag. Hover your cursor over the book in the number one spot. In theory, this book is in the number one spot of that tag category because it has been tagged with that word or phrase by the most number of people. Is your book on that page, or the next?

To sum up what we have learnt so far. All books can be tagged. They can be tagged with almost any word or phrase (no profanities and nasty words) Tags can be used to search for similar books – great for readers who want to read books similar to one they have just read.

Search for all books tagged Sweet Romance

Let’s find books in the category of Sweet Romance. There is no use typing Sweet Romance in the search box of Amazon because it will search for books with Sweet Romance in the title. Go to a book page on Amazon of a book you would categorize as Sweet Romance. On the page for that book, scroll down to the tags. If there is a tag called Sweet Romance click on it.

If there is no tag called Sweet Romance, type Sweet Romance into the box next to ‘your tags’ then click ‘add’. You have created a tag called Sweet Romance for that book. It should be in blue type and underlined. Click on the tag.

You will be taken to the Sweet Romance Community page. On the day I looked there were 319 books on Amazon.com tagged with Sweet Romance. Note these are not in bestseller order. In theory, they are in order by the number of times they are tagged with Sweet Romance.

Hover the cursor over the top book (don’t click). You will see a balloon revealing information about the book, on the day I looked it was ‘Listen to Your Heart ‘ byMargaretLake. I saw that it has been tagged 161 times with Sweet Romance. This is why it is number 1 on the list.

Who has tagged this book?

Readers, family, friends and others. Every person with an account at Amazon can tag any  book with up to 14 different tags. So 161 people, not necessarily buyers of the book, have tagged ‘Listen to Your Heart’ with the phrase Sweet Romance.

Remember I said ‘in theory’. For some reason, there are books with a higher number of Sweet Romance tags, like number 5, ‘Not What She Seems,’ which has 319 Sweet Romance tags. This anomaly only seems to apply to the top few and one or two on the second page. All the Amazon instructions clearly state, the more tags, the higher up that list.

How can tags help an author?

I did an experiment. Entirely at random, I chose a book tagged Sweet Romance; No Matter Why by Joanna Aislinn. It had one tag of Sweet Romance and was on page 4 at number 111 on the list of 375 Sweet Romance tagged books. I added one tag of Sweet Romance and ‘No Matter Why’ jumped to number 65 on the list and now appears on page 3.

Why is this useful?

A reader looking for books tagged Sweet Romance might look at the first three pages of books and not go to the fourth page. The more Sweet Romance tags No Matter Why has, the higher it will appear on the Sweet Romance tagged list, so the more likely a customer is to see it and maybe buy it.

Every Amazon account holder can add 14 different tags to as many books as they want. Authors can tag their own book. Think about it; every tag adds that book to a tag community; if you are an author, make sure you use all 14 tags and choose your tags carefully.

How should an author use and choose tags?

If a reader wants romance and they use tags to get to the Romance Community they will see 54,203 books. Top left of the page they will also see ‘Narrow by popular tags’. If the reader decides to narrow by Historical Romance tag, they will reduce the list to 7,138 books. Then if they narrow using Medieval Romance they reduce to 519 books.

So when choosing tags think of how a reader might find your book. Make sure you include the bigger genre tags and some that could be used by readers to narrow down.

When encouraging family and friends to tag your books give them the list you want them to use because that way, you will get a higher number of the specific tags you want and your book will jump higher up the lists.

Summary

A tag is a category label. Tags can be used by readers to search for books of the same category that they want to read. Tags can also be used by authors to move their books higher up the category lists so they can be found easier.

Tagging is similar to what authors used to do. They would go into a book shop and rearrange their own books to an eye level shelf so customers can find them easier; and they would encourage friends in other towns to do the same. It’s not going to make you a bestseller unless your book is excellent, but it might get you more noticed. Happy tagging.

Excellent information you’ve provided here, Chris. (Love when I get a mini-education out of a post!) Thanks so much for sharing your time and knowledge with us today. Best wishes and best of luck in all your endeavors and hope to see you here again!

As always, I thank all of you who stopped in today. Hope your day is great and looking ahead to a fun Friday post,

Joanna

Call Me Aphrodite…er…C.R. Wills

I happened on this gentleman when I came across his article, Designing Characters Using Mind Maps at SellingBooks.com. I very much liked the graphic organizer he used, commented on it and invited him to be a guest. So today, as part of Wednesday’s craft and/or author days, I present to you young adult author Christopher Wills, writing as C. R. Wills.

       

Welcome, Chris! Tell us a bit about yourself:

I wrote my first book, Call me Aphrodite, about a teenager who ran away from home and ends up in London having lost her memory. It has some uncomfortable scenes in it so although I say it’s YA it’s more A than Y. I used to be a teacher of 13 – 19 year olds in a good Roman Catholic school and I got the story from seeing a pupil disappear. I asked her friends where she was and was told she’s run away to London. l ended up reading a report on the Barnardo’s website (a British charity that looks after children who have had a tough time). The report was about child prostitution in London and my story was born. It was a story I felt I had to write.

I designed the cover myself because I wanted to do it all myself, probably more ego than sense… I’m going to get a professional to design my next cover.

My current book is much lighter, it’s a YA ghost story (Okay, it’s my Harry Potter genre attempt). It’s definitely Y and not so much A. I wrote it during 2009’s National Novel Writer’s Month (a.k.a., NaNoWriMo, which runs every November) in  and I’m now editing it. I love NaNoWriMo.

I give you so much credit for NaNoWriMo, Chris. Never had the discipline to take that on. And you go on to prove that time very well spent, as all of the books you mention in this article appear to be products of NaNoWriMo. Tell us about other aspects of your life.

I have been a soldier in the ranks, a sailor as an officer and a teacher of Physics and Math. I have three degrees, A BS in Electronics, an MBA and an MA in Creative and Critical Writing. Currently I work for air traffic control in the UK as a technical author. I have just started my three year plan to become a full time fiction author. The ebook revolution may (hopefully) speed things up.

I am a positive person myself and I love the positivity I get from your blog. No negative karma there.

I so thank you! These are the moments one is so happy to be putting oneself out there to the world. J

What do love best about writing?

I am happy to be left alone, so I love the solitude of writing and being in the world I have created.  (I can so relate; must be a writer-thing.) It’s as good as reading. Also I love problem solving because when I write I create problems for myself that I need to solve. Sometimes it would be easier to ignore the problem and write around it, but I can’t do that.

A good example is in the book I am writing at the moment. It’s a paranormal about a 15-year-old girl who becomes a ghost after a road accident. It’s an adventure about her looking for her dad who passed away when she was young. She believes he will also be a ghost so she sets off to find him.

Unfortunately one of my previous incarnations was as a Physics teacher and I am used to asking and answering silly questions. Of course I had to start asking myself questions like, “How can a ghost walk through a wall but not fall through the floor?” (Great question!) And, “If a ghost is invisible how come her clothes are invisible too?” (Why would a ghost wear clothes, lol?) When I was a teacher these are exactly the kind of questions I was faced with every day, not that ghost studies was on the curriculum. This was the part of teaching I loved: taking knowledge the pupil has and accepts, and using it to get them to understand something they don’t understand.

What do you like least?

Nothing. I am currently a technical author so I write engineering manuals all day and I enjoy that. If pushed I would say I get frustrated when I see a piece of writing that I think I could improve but the author thinks otherwise. I run a creative writing group and I often get to read and constructively advise others.

What keeps you writing?

The need to justify to myself that I am a writer. I have friends who paint and knit and take photographs in their spare time and they all have output to show as a result of their efforts. I want to have a shelf full of books and be able to say, ‘I wrote them’.

Where do you get story and character ideas?

I may have made myself creative by reading and writing a lot. Also I draw mind maps and other types of diagrams, which I think are amazing ways to stimulate you. There is no such thing as, I can’t draw; scribbling and doodling is drawing; just doodle to a theme or to a question and you will stimulate your brain. (I like that perspective.)

Ideas are floating all around us like word clouds. When I need an idea I pluck a cloud from the air, unravel it and copy down the words or phrases I find useful, then I scrunch them back together into a cloud and throw it up in the air so somebody else can use them. (Interesting image.)

Talk about current, past and future projects, upcoming releases, maybe your ‘dream novel’?

I have more ideas for novels than I could possibly write in a lifetime. My ghost book is my current project. It’s my Harry Potter replacement attempt. I’m sure everyone’s tried it, although, maybe I should be trying to emulate Amanda Hocking. I don’t think I could write in her field so her crown is safe. (She’s done amazingly well and now a full-time writer herself, proving, it can happen.)

Please tell our readers how you juggle work, time to write and all that goes along with it (i.e., promo, etc).

Although I have been writing for years it has been haphazard, and only this year have I started to treat it more formally in a business sense. I completed nanowrimo in 2003, 2008 and 2009. My recently self-published novel, ‘Call me Aphrodite’ was my 2003 NaNoWriMo project. The ghost novel I am currently working on is my 2009 NaNoWriMo. I plan to do it every year because it gives me 50,000+ words of editable text, which for me is about 2/3 of a novel.

I was inspired by reading J A Konrath’s blog, that now is the time of the independent self published e-book writer. I realized I had to get into a schedule if I wanted to join in. So this year I decided to get up at 0500 and do an hour’s writing Monday to Friday. It’s an hour earlier than I normally get up, so I try to go to bed an hour earlier and often it means I fall asleep in my chair in the evening for twenty minutes but that’s okay. I used to try and write in the evening but I was always mentally tired after work so it was difficult. It works. I love my hour of quiet in the morning. My mind is fresh and I can write uninterrupted. Wonderful. (I can so relate about the magic of that quiet time. That’s probably my biggest challenge these days: too much activity in my home for too many hours of the day.)

Please share the three ways you find most effective to promote your work!

This is my weak point. Everyone says one must blog and tweet, which I do, but I wonder how many book readers buy books on the strength of blogs and tweets. I have a feeling it’s a bit like selling lemonade from a table outside your house; it’s not exactly Walmart or Barnes and Noble. I am currently learning about tagging which I think can help.

Tagging has me a little confused but we’ll be exploring that topic next Wednesday, when the bloglight will again be all yours, Chris. Until then, please feel free to check out Chris’ very cool blog as well as his books. And, as per Chris’ request, should any of you happen on Call Me Aphrodite at Amazon he’d appreciate a tag or two. Here are the links:

     Call me Aphrodite is available here.

Here’s a blurb (very intriguing!) Aged 13 and alone in London, Aphrodite has lost her memory. She desperately wants to know who she is, but the more she learns, the more she becomes afraid to learn.

Call me Aphrodite is the story of a 13 year old girl, dragged from the river Thames by Leon a young boy who lives with his prostitute sister. She calls herself Aphrodite because she can’t even remember her own name. What dark secrets are behind the locked doors inside her head? What is her mind trying to protect her from?

As she struggles to forge a new life for herself, she is forced into the dangerous world of under-aged prostitution by a collection of twisted characters that both terrify and fascinate her. Then one traumatic night a shocking event smashes through the barriers in her mind, and the real horror of what she has gone through in her past is revealed to her. Aphrodite has paid a terrible price to regain her memory. What can she do next?

She can’t change her past. Can she change her future? To read more, click here.


Chris’ post on using mindmaps for creating characters is here! (Worth a look, I promise!)

Thanks so much, Chris, for stopping by and giving us the opportunity to know you as well as sharing some of the knowledge you’ve gained on your writing journey to date. See you next Wednesday!

And thanks to all of you who stopped in today. Don’t forget to drop by on Friday. I’ve got a special post lined up in honor of my wedding anniversary. See you then!

Joanna