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My Greatest Mentor

IMG-20130917-00529The tiny five foot frame of Viola, could not contain her enthusiastic spirit for living. It spilled out in unseen waves and touched anyone she came into contact with. I was blessed to be one of those it touched.

While working together on our Church newsletter we got to know each other. I took in the articles, did the layout on my computer then Viola would edit and get it printed and distributed. During the conversations over proper grammar we also shared our past, dreams and family stories.

We had a lot in common despite the thirty year difference in our ages. Down to earth, fair minded and confident, she had an easy acceptance of her role as a woman. Fiercely independent, she easily raised children, helped her husband in his construction company and faced the inconveniences of living in rural Wyoming.

It was her innocent, fun-loving sense of adventure that drew me most. We traveled together many times to different conventions that held something of interest to us. Through all of this I shared my desire and biggest secret – my passion to write.

Viola was my greatest admirer and critic. She pulled no punches when it came to editing. When I would write an article for the newsletter, she would rave about it yet point out all its flaws.  I invited her to a writer’s convention and in her spritely way, she enthusiastically agreed to go. In her seventies, she still traveled by herself quite often and thought nothing of taking off on adventures such as flying up to Alaska to visit family.

Set in the lush grounds of the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, at first we both were impressed and overwhelmed. Surely these authors had some special talent that we lacked. But Viola wanted to learn to write memoirs and in her modest, humble way helped me to gradually become comfortable in the company of the successful.

During luncheons and dinners agents were seated at the tables so we would have access to talk to them. At one lunch we had an editor from a romance press sitting between us. Viola had outgoing social skills, while I was reserved, so it was no surprise to me when she struck up a conversation with the woman. Once the introductions were over she launched into a brag session about my skills and dreams. I blushed profusely explaining I had an idea, but had not yet put pen to paper. In the end, the agent was so impressed with Viola’s sale skills; she asked for my information and gave me her card telling me to contact her when I had a manuscript ready.

On the way home we threw ideas together and created the outline for what would become “Windswept Hearts” five years later. Every Sunday, every time we got together she encouraged me to write. Eventually, as I saw time erode away her vitality, I knew I had to write the story. I wanted her to see it in print before she went home to the Lord.

Not only did she help edit it, but she was my greatest support and encourager during the process. When I gave her the first signed copy, she beamed through a myriad of wrinkles, and ordered ten more copies for her family.

Last month, as I attended her lively, peaceful memorial, I realized what gifts she had given me. The world was less bright, my dreams of writing a little dimmer as I realized I was now on my own in my journey.

Viola’s impish spirit continues to peer over my shoulder at times when I type and I take the confidence she helped me build to go out and continue to pursue my passion for writing. That same spirit will most likely appear in a character or two, being immortalized forever. I can see her now, giggling and telling me, “Oh, that’s not like me at all and by the way, there are several missing commas!”

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Peacock Writers Extraordinaire

50982232I first met some of the author’s of this great group of writers when I got to know Paula Shene, Carol Wills and Gwen Steel through a book site called BookRix.

I was impressed from the beginning by their giving hearts and willingness to support other independent writers.

I’ve purchased all of their collaborations up to this point. I have read to many a grandchild from the collections of the finely crafted children’s stories. Find out more about this group of big hearted authors.

THE PEACOCK WRITERS

We are a small group of writers who have banded together with one purpose in mind – to collate children’s stories & poems to donate to children’s charities.

Thanks to our wonderful team led by Paula Shene & Gwen D’Young & our contributing authors, we manage to publish two books each year. No two series are the same as each have their own common theme. Each one is available to but as Kindle edition, plain text or illustrated version.

I truly believe the following books will make a lovely present for children this Christmas:

A Whimsical Holiday http://www.amazon.com/Whimsical-Holiday-Children-Childrens-ebook/dp/B006MQ1A0K

Snowflakes on My Lashes http://www.amazon.com/Snowflakes-My-Lashes-Peacock-Presents/dp/1492749443

For a full list of our contributing authors & to learn more about our charity group, please click the following link:http://thepeacockwriters.weebly.com/

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How to Attract Trolls

377989_602137889807226_78032928_nI had a business associate in the author world who wrote some pieces that were controversial. Thain itself was not a problem since I didn’t share his views, and in our business dealings he always treated me well. I knew nothing of him really. He complained one day he was being attacked with one star reviews on Amazon and one attacker even admitted publicly that he had not read the book. Well, I didn’t think that was fair so I made some cutesy, sarcastic remarks and suggested he do the same in return. Idiot move on my part, I suggest you don’t do this, unless you want to attract trolls.

I was then given an education on the world of cyber trolls. I wasn’t the only ‘friend’ of his they attacked. I knew where I had screwed up, but was surprised when they also went after several women he knew who wrote kid’s books for charities. That didn’t seem fair, so I strode into a forum in my shabby battle armor to demand why it was ‘fair’ to pick on people who had nothing to do with it. Five hours later, tattered and bloody, I waved the white flag and retreated.

In all fairness, Badly Behaving Authors was a group created when several authors couldn’t let one star reviews pass and they went after the customers who made them. This was troll-ish behavior on the author’s part. Of course, as authors, we all know this is uncouth. Really, it is just someone’s opinion. So BBA became the self-appointed sheriffs to root out and expose these authors. Like any group, it had an altruistic beginning, then by the pure nature of the human being, it became rigid and judgmental, and the battle of the Hatfields and McCoys began.

I found the BBA group left me alone and waited to see if I meant what I said about not wanting to be part of it. On Goodreads it was another story. I saw my books, as well as those of my friends, start being shelved under hideously named shelves and one star reviews start popping up.

Now I’m all for freedom of speech, and as an author I know I have a target on my back for the possible harsh review. Not everyone is going to like my book. Simple. A real critique is also a gift. I want to improve as a writer and though it stings at first, I know to mine it so I can better improve my writing. In all fairness, again, the first one star review I received at Goodreads was just that, a real critique. But I had seen to many other petty reviews that were just snarky and had nothing to do with the book, but simply trolls battering what to them was a badly behaving author.

I retreated again. Quit blogging. Shut down my account at Goodreads. Oh, and by the way, know too that if you put a book up at Goodreads, even though you close your account, your book is forever linked there. According to Goodreads they cannot sever that link.

Knowing how far this could go, I decided to do more damage control. I removed any links to Goodreads from my blogs or anywhere else I had linked in. I watched my Amazon account and found I was pursued no further. I watched what I said in my remarks and comments, and in essence tried to create a cloak of invisibility. If I had an opinion to share, I did it privately.

It is easy to slip and make a comment here or there, but remember, as an author, we are in the public eye. It doesn’t matter your opinion, you have an image to uphold. Trust me, there are not enough words in the English language, or any other language for that matter, to ever win the word battle with trolls. Your best defense is to not engage, under any circumstance.  If you believe their comments, then you have no self-confidence. Get out of the world of writing. Otherwise, understand, it is their perception only. We are all entitled to our opinions, but it doesn’t make them right.

I have since decided that anonymity on the web is not a good thing. It allows people to put on Halloween masks and become monsters and scamper about the internet and create terror. It would be nice to see more ‘delete, block, ignore, and report’ buttons. Sites like Goodreads should tighten their controls, moderate more. As a business owner I always was responsible for my patron’s safety. What makes these websites any less of a business model?

It is one thing to share an opinion, another to trample over another person in doing it. My mother used to say, when there was conflict, it was six of one and half a dozen of the other. In other words, both sides are at fault. It is easy to develop a ‘victim’ mindset. To holler, “Mom, they aren’t being fair.” Your best bet is to just not put a target on your back to begin with, unless you are having a bad day and need to spar to get it out of your system, or feel the need to sharpen your wits in a word battle. If so, you now know how to go about it.

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Raising Books

 

 

 

SWindswept Hearts Book Covero we all know, as authors, the euphoric feeling you get the first time you hold the actual printed copy of the first book you have ever written. It’s a high like no other. That awesome, overwhelming feeling that you did it and you hold in your hands proof of that.

 

It is a precious memory, but it wears off. Then the test of whether you truly are a writer occurs. You must write again because more stories beg for your attention.

 

Having children is a similar experience. You are ecstatic when you hold your first born child. You know you are going to be the best parent ever. As the daily care sets in with diaper changes and the first sleepless night, the excitement departs leaving behind exhaustion. But for some reason a few years later nostalgia sets in and you want another one. In the meantime you continue with the business of raising your darling.

 

How does one raise a book? After its birth what is the process to build and grow it into something that people want to read? Well first, like a pregnancy, it should have had good prenatal care. Without the building blocks of a fine editor, research and solid story, it will not go far. So let’s just say you’ve already done your prenatal care.

 

After the long labor of editing,  you hold in your hands your precious child. How do you introduce it to the world? Just like you prepared for a new baby, you must think ahead and get ready. You will need to spend time on social networking, promoting and advertising. You work at developing a good author website. Create and keep a current blog. Through the exhaustion you will have to find the time to Tweet, Facebook, Pinterest, Goodreads, Author  Guest Blog, do book signings and find any other outlet you can push your darling to the fulfillment of its potential.

 

Of course in the meantime you need to be working on bringing its sibling into the world. You must learn to multi-task and find time to write while graciously answering blog comments and promote its older brother or sister.

 

Yes, raising a book, in my humble opinion, is like raising children. You may have to wait for years to see its full potential. Some will look back on the process with tenderness and longing, while others may be glad it’s over. Either way, in the end, you have something you will be proud of and forever love.

 

So I wonder where your book raising is taking you?

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Plot, Plot, Plot! It’s All About Plot.

Mistakes

I don’t know about you, but I am a visual learner. Show me once, I got it. For me traditional learning, reading and comprehending, are a challenge.  So I decided to read a popular Indie book to see what it had that mine did not. Trust me, this was not my usual reading material. In fact, first speed-read through, I found I could still blush — frequently.

In that first read I also noted some of the mistakes I had been so solemnly warned about in all my writing classes. Adjectives galore, long drawn out ending, telling instead of showing and big words that I had to look up. So what made this a best seller, outside of the obvious titillating factor of sex?

There was just something that caught my interest, and held it because I had to go on to the sequels to find out just how it was going to end, blushing the entire time of course. I spent a few days working it over in my mind. Finally I saw it. Plot of course. It had those elements we all strive for. It had two people with a huge problem to work through that seemed insurmountable. You wanted them to be together, but could they overcome the huge chasm of differences between them.

It was a plot woven artfully. Forget the vehicle of big words, adjectives or long drawn out ending. It was a good story. Plain and simple. An unusual problem with a dark character who had hidden goodness. A flawed heroine with an innocent heart who worked to pull her hero from the dark. That is what attracted me and prompted a second read through.

I’ve always liked character driven plots. This was character plus. Just as there have been other popular books that have been criticized for poor writing but have been so popular they became movies.  I have found the same formula again and again. No matter how “poorly” written by my instructors standards, they had the most important element, PLOT.

I’m not advocating  pushing aside good grammar and sentence structure, or all the other trappings of a finely written piece.  I still fiercely believe in editing to the max.  But in my journey to understand what makes a good book, this was an eye opener. A given. Without plot, no matter how finely written, you have nothing.  A fancy cart without the horse isn’t going anywhere.

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Blog Blizzard presnet Ann Swann – Author

To Write or Not to Write?

C’mon . . . is there ever a question?  Everyone who wants to write should write.  We know that.  So why is it we sometimes do everything in our power to not write?

Example:  “Good morning!”  I’m speaking to my dogs Bonnie and Rocky, and the Supreme Ruler, Maggie, the cat.   They summarily lick my hand; bump the back of my bare knees in my So-Many-Books-So-Little-Time nightshirt, or totally ignore me and sit by the door waiting to be let out into the morning sun.

I head for my biggest vice, the iMac, wiggle the mouse, click on email, let the cat out, and stumble toward the Mr. Coffee while one hundred sixty-two emails load up.  “My,” I say to the assembled doggie crowd.  “It’s only eight a.m.  Someone’s been busy!”  I belong to several online writer’s groups (and a couple of real-life groups) so I always have a ton of emails . . . makes me feel special even though most of them are simply buy-my-book promos from other authors.

Tossing the dogs a peanut butter flavored doggie biscuit, I pop a tart into the toaster and swallow a vitamin capsule with an old Flintstones jelly glass half-full of with-pulp OJ.  Yum!  Okay, that’s my nod to nutrition.

Nibbling my tart, I scan the headlines of my paper-newspaper (yes, I’m a throwback, I can’t say no when they call me each year to renew, even though it’s gotten so thin the carrier has to roll it with a super-fat rubber band to give it a little heft and keep it from blowing right out of the driveway when he speeds away).  Next, I work the daily Jumble, ink smiley faces beside the easy words, frownies beside the hard ones, and then leave it open for my handsome hubby, Dude, to look at tonight when he gets home from work.

By this time it’s 8:30, maybe 8:45 if there was actually something interesting in the paper or if I stopped midway to play my turn in one of the dozen games of Words with Friends on my iPhone, so I take my second cup of coffee back to my desk and settle in to write.  Except the Supreme Ruler is looking in the window at me with that exasperated you-have-one-second-to-get-that-door-open-before-I-release-all-the-wrath-of-Cat-upon-your-head look.

I let her in and then she has to have a dollop of cream in her special ramekin, which has to be carried to her bathroom and placed upon the counter out of reach of the scrounging horde of dogs—all two of them.  I tried placing it on the kitchen counter one time, which would have been much quicker and easier and still out of reach of the horde, but Her Royalness didn’t go for that, thank goodness, because what was I thinking putting her on the same surface where I lay my Poptart each morning?  Ewww!  She walks around in her own poop for crying out loud.

At last, I sit down in front of the Mac and get to those emails.  About 70% are simply click and delete (I’ve seen them all before), but the rest are personal and actually require a reply or at least a closer look.

It’s now 9:30 closing in on 10:00, and I still have to check the blog, Twitter, Triberr, Goodreads, and my Facebook author groups that post ads for me and vice versa.  I love these groups.  All those lovely book covers, and book trailers . . . it’s easy to get lost in that indie forest.

Around noon I wander back to the kitchen for a diet Coke, a handful of Wheat Thins coated with cream cheese and jalapeno slices, and take the snack out back to the patio just to stretch my legs and the muscles in my lower back—I’ve been sitting at the computer for over two hours and haven’t written a single word except for emails, blogs, and tweets.

The weather is so lovely I think about how nice it would be to have a sleeping porch so I could take a nap without the help of those pesky mosquitoes and horseflies.  But how could I be sleepy?  I haven’t actually done anything!  Which reminds me, I really need to get dressed and brush my teeth.

It’s almost 2:00 by the time I finish my snack, play a few more WWFs on the iPhone, do a bit of lackadaisical grooming, slip on a pair of old capris and a cotton shirt, and head back to the computer.  Now, what to write?  I studiously ignore the 43 new emails that have come in since before lunch, and I don’t even think about looking at Facebook, okay, maybe just a peek to see if my daughter has posted any new pics of the grandkids.  No, no that can wait . . . must write!

I pull up my Work in Progress, a romantic suspense called Stutter Creek, hit Option-Command G to go to the proper page and . . . oh, yes, here we go, I was working on the scene where the serial killer is closing in on our protagonist.  Need to make it scarier . . .

Chewing the end of a Sonic straw to help me concentrate—I gave up smoking twenty years ago—I let my mind wander into the scene . . . but those darn little email numbers keep popping up so I do what I always do to help my mind focus, I get up and do some housework.  Sweeping and mopping are always good, rhythmic chores that seem to release my grip on reality, and I love the fact that I am actually doing something constructive while I construct the scene.

It works!  While the floor dries, I dash back to the computer and slash at the keys in a frenzy to get the creepiness down on “paper” before it melts away.

And now it’s six o’clock and time for the Dude to get home.  Where has the time gone?  I stand up and rub at the small of my back, amazed that five pages of fairly good material have materialized in front of me.

Wow.  Not bad for a couple hours work.  Just imagine if I’d actually started writing at 8:00 this morning.  I could’ve had the book finished like, yesterday!

Website: www.annswann.com

Blog: www.annswann.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/annswann.author

Email: Swannann76@yahoo.com

Twitter: @ann_swann

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/annswann/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5420711.Ann_Swann

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Blog Blizzard – Ann Swann – Author Interview

Ann Swann, author of ALL FOR LOVE

What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

Making up characters and bringing them to life while still dressed in my pajamas and nursing a cup of coffee.

What genre(s) do you write?

Adult contemporary romance, romantic suspense, young adult ghost stories and paranormal short stories.  I’m also writing a cop story set in small-town West Texas.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

I tend to rush to the finish.  I have to slow down and plump up.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I have to know the ending, then it’s strictly seat of the pants!

Why do you think people should choose your books over another author?

I like to make people cry.

What do you hope readers take with them after reading one of your stories?

Unforgettable characters.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

In All For Love, I hope the reader gets the message that decisions made in haste often have life-long consequences.

How long have you been a writer?

Since I was old enough to string sentences together in a spiral notebook.

How much time did it take from writing your first book to having it published?

Well, my first book was never published.  It died a slow and painful death at the hands of zombie-dust-bunnies in the bottom drawer of my old desk.

Twenty years later, I got serious and published a novella.  However, I was writing and publishing short stories all along.

What other careers have you had?

Elementary school teacher, 911 operator, waitress, radio-station secretary, freight office supervisor, newspaper delivery girl—don’t laugh—I was able to take my kids with me when they were small.

Do you write under more than one name? Why?

No, I have thought about it though.  Especially since I write in more than one genre.

Are any of your characters based on real people or events?

Oh, I always use an amalgamation of real people and real events.  I’ve killed off my “enemies” a few times.

How would you describe yourself if you were “speed dating” your readers?

I strive for action and deep emotion in all my stories.

What’s something fans would find fascinating about you?

I believe in spirits—I’ve been visited on three separate occasions.  Plus, I can wiggle my ears.

What else would you like readers to know about you or your work?

My work is heartfelt.  It comes from the pain and joy of living.  I always try to convey that via my characters.

What books or authors have most influenced your life?

Everything from Black Beauty and Call of the Wild, right up through The Crystal Cave, and on into Stephen King’s work (especially works like The Woman in the Room); books have taught me everything I need to know about life.

How do your family and/or friends feel about your book or writing venture in general?

My family is very supportive.  They have no choice.  I know where they live.

Where are you from?

Lamesa, Texas

It’s a small town surrounded by cotton fields and pumpjacks.

How do you come up with the titles?

The Muses supply them—then the editors change them.

Has your life changed significantly since becoming a published writer?

Yes, I have become a slave to Internet marketing.

Do you work on one project at a time? Or do you multi-task?

I work on several at once.  I also read several books at the same time.  I think I may have undiagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder.  Either that or I just got such a late start in publishing that I’m constantly trying to catch up . . .

When not writing, how do you relax?

I like to read, walk two or three miles a day, go to the drive-in movies with my handsome hubby, Dude, swim, and try out new restaurants.  We also love live music and are fortunate to be able to attend concerts frequently.  ZZ Top, Craig Chaquico, Pat Benatar, Reckless Kelly, Bruce Springsteen, Charley Pride, Bill Cosby (okay, he’s not a musician, but boy can he tell it like it is) those are some of the most recent . . . I want to see George Jones; he is coming to town soon, but I will be in Austin at the Texas Book Festival.

Please tell us 5 miscellaneous facts about yourself.

I love roasted jalapenos.

My favorite drinks are coffee, chocolate milk, and Diet Coke (not usually all together).

My daughter, Sara Barnard, is also an author published by 5 Prince Publishing.

I have five grandchildren.

I once met Andre the Giant (from The Princess Bride).  He was very nice and very, very large.

Please share with us your future projects and upcoming releases.

My next book is The Phantom Student; book two in The Phantom Series, which will be released in October 2012.  I am also at work on Book Three, The Phantom of Crybaby Bridge.

I have two stories included in Campfire Tales, an anthology of spooky stories, which will be released in September 2012.

I am finished with my Romantic Suspense novel, Stutter Creek.  It’s fermenting.

Please share any links you would like.

Website: www.annswann.com

Blog: www.annswann.blogspot.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/annswann.author

Email: Swannann76@yahoo.com

Twitter: @ann_swann

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/annswann/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5420711.Ann_Swann