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Writing from the heart

Jennifer Bardsley believes in friendship, true love, and the everlasting power of books. She lives in Edmonds, Washington with her husband and two children, and walks from her house to the beach every chance she gets. Her newest book, “Sweet Bliss,” will be published by Montlake Romance in 2021. Jennifer also writes under the pen name Louise Cypress. When she’s not writing books, or camping with her Girl Scout troop, you can find Jennifer curled up with a romance novel on Saturday night, diet soda in hand, secretly wishing bustles were back in fashion.

Book Marketing From Your Couch

 

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Social media can be confusing, but book marketing from the couch is easy once you learn how. Discover how to grow your Facebook author page from zero to thousands of followers. Learn how to reach readers on Instagram and Twitter. Have fun connecting with your audience from the privacy of your own home!

the-ya-gal-fbStart a Facebook Page

Here’s how.
Post a couple of times a day.
Be brief and witty.
Provide entertainment and encouragement.
Don’t constantly sell yourself or your book.
Only do a “buy my book post” once every twentieth post.
Respond to every comment.
See my article in SCWBI: Tips for Building up your Facebook Author Page.
Read my article for Adventures in YA Publishing Facebook Rules are a Must Read for Authors.

instagram

Join the Bookstagram Community on Instagram

Heart as many posts as possible.
Leave as many comments as possible.
When a new account follows you, give that person lots of hearts.
Tag your location in every picture.
Watch for new hashtag trends.
Don’t share another account’s photo without permission!!!!!!!!
Read my article for Adventures in YA Publishing: Great tips for writers using Instagram.
Subscribe to the app Crowdfire to find out who isn’t following you back.

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Talk with #BookNerds on Twitter

People love it when you retweet.
Only use two or three hashtags.
Organize your followers in lists.
Uses lists to engage with targeted audiences.
Snobby ratios are a thing.
Use Manage Flitter to unfollow people who don’t follow you back.

newsletter

Build a Newsletter Mailing List

Have a sign up form on your website.
Include a sign up at the back of your book.
Run a Rafflecopter to encourage subscribers.
Use a hosting service such as MailChimp or Mailer Lite.
Shoot for a 50% open rate.

Learn From the Experts

Book Marketing is Dead: Book Promotion Secrets You MUST Know BEFORE You Publish Your Book by Derek Murphy.

Don’t make “Old School” marketing mistakes that will sabotage your efforts!
This book will help you to…

  • Avoid the common mistakes that kill book sales
  • Set up an author platform quickly that will triple your results
  • Use Social Media (like an expert) without being annoying
  • Advertise for maximum impact (at the lowest cost)
  • Make powerful friends online who can move thousands of books

Crafting a Self-Publishing Career (2 Book Series) by S.K. Quinn.

For Love or Money talks about writing for love (and how to sell that) as well as writing for money (and how to love it). It contains serious strategies about making money with your books, living the freedom of indie publishing, and stretching yourself creatively in your career. For authors willing to take a hard look at themselves and the market, this book will lay out the necessary steps to create your dream writing career.

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Dear Fifteen-Year-Old Me

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Dear Fifteen-Year-Old Me,

That Sophomore staring up into space isn’t you. This is her first year at a brand new high school and she intends to dumb herself down, show some skin, and wear platform sandals. It seems like a brilliant plan for blending in—and it works.

Dances, boyfriends, breaking up with boys you just don’t like—it’s fun for a while, until it’s not. When you find the guy you really like, the one who’s every bit as smart as you secretly are too, you dump him two weeks later because you can’t handle the pressure.

Not being yourself is hard. Hiding your true worth behind feathered bangs and professed math ineptitude is stupid. You finally realize that Junior year—and you crush it.

Who’s the only girl at school who wins a National Merit Award for the SATs? You are. Who brings home 5s on AP tests? That would be you. Who ties that smart boy for Valedictorian with the highest GPA? Jennifer, the nerdiest girl at Scripps Ranch High School.

You become the classic cliché of smart girl that guys don’t want to date. As the academic accomplishments file in, the boys run away. Dances are things of the past. You still have friends—truly brilliant friends, but nobody wants to kiss you. You’re the girl who doesn’t go to Senior prom.

It matters, but it doesn’t. It hurts, but not forever. It’s better to be yourself than pretend to be someone you’re not.

A few years later when you graduate from Stanford University you’ll marry the love of your life. He’ll be smart too, plus a collegiate wrestler. You’re the girl who gets the guy with all the muscles!

So go ahead, look at that camera and smile. You have a lot to look forward to.

The brave men of 741st Tank Battalion

20151111_090528-1Once when I was little my grandma told me the story of my grandpa’s service in WW II and I didn’t believe her. I knew that my grandpa was considered a hero, and had a purple splotch across his hand, but the story my grandma told was unbelievable. She was a well-known embellisher of ideas, and even though I was only nine, I was wise enough to be skeptical. It turns out, every word my grandma told me was true.

On June 6, 1944, thirty two Duplex Drive Tanks from Company B of the 741st Tank Battalion entered the  waters of the English Channel, meant to swim across to the Easy Red sector of Omaha Beach and invade Normandy as part of D Day. The tanks were “30 tons of steel in a canvas bucket” (Vitamin Baker, p 13) and had never before practiced in waters so choppy, or weather conditions so poor. When the tanks hit the rough water the inflatable attachments ripped off. Tragically, all but three of those tanks sank.

My grandpa’s tank make it onto the beach, making him one of the first men to land on D Day.

His tank was critical in taking out pillboxes and other anti-aircraft artillery. At some point my grandpa was shot in the hand when he climbed out of the tank to reload, but he kept on fighting anyway. For my grandpa’s service that day he received both the Purple Heart and the Silver Star.

The 741st Tank Battalion went on to be part of several significant events in World War II including the Battle of the Bulge and Krinkelt/Rocherath. For their service during the violent counter-attack in the Krinkelt-Rocherath area of Belgium, the 741st Tank Battalion received a Presidential Citation which stated:

Again and again the infuriated enemy threw armor and infantry against the dauntless defenders but for three days and nights these assaults were turned back by the unwavering fortitude of the inspired position. The tank men covered the withdrawal and were the last to leave the scene of battle. During the bitter three day engagement they had destroyed twenty seven enemy tanks, five armored vehicles and two trucks. Their indomitable fighting spirit and unflinching devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the armed forces.

20151111_090419-1Less than ten days later on Christmas Day 1944, my grandpa wrote the following letter to my grandma in the midst of the Battle of the Bulge:

Hiya Honey, Merry Christmas. It’s cold enough to snow on the ground and it could be like Christmas but instead it’s more like the fourth of July. This finds me well and going along pretty good. Last year at this time we were thinking that maybe we would be home for this Christmas but here we are still going.

My grandpa wrote this in the middle of terrible fighting, with bombs and artillery exploding everywhere. Did you ever see Band of Brothers? The 741st Tank Battalion were the men coming to the rescue.

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The 741st Tank battalion was also responsible for the liberation of Flossenburg Concentration Camp. Here is a description from page 33 of The Story of Vitamin Baker about Flossenbrrg:

The large German concentration camp of Hasag is near Flossberg. As such, members of the Battalion had the chance to see with their own eyes the brutal results of Nazi domination. Here huge amounts of political prisoners were kept. These were made to work the munitions factories and given the very minimum of food and care. The weak either died or were shot; the strong held on only to become sick, starving broken. Full evidence of these inhumanities was found all about the camp. The sights were horrible and unbelievable.

Of the original men in Company B of the 471st Tank Battalion, twenty nine were killed in action, five went missing, and three became prisoners of war. Fifty six soldiers were wounded or hospitalized in the line of duty. Only forty six of the original members came home.

My grandpa was lucky to return to America alive. The record of his service can be found in an out-of-print book called “741st Tank Battalion D-Day to V-E Day and the Story of Vitamin Baker ‘We’ll Never Go Overseas’.” It tells a story of incredible courage and sacrifice

My grandma knew all about the 741st Tank Battalion and I am forever grateful that she filled me in on the details. My grandpa, you see, never talked about it at all.

What makes a book “good?”

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Reading and Writing are tied together like puzzle pieces. If something is boring to write (like a thank you card) it will also be boring to read. That’s why it’s so important to think about what makes reading and writing exciting.

This post contains the outline for a writing lesson I did with my son’s fourth and fifth grade classroom. If you’d like to follow along, print out the practice pages and join the fun.

Practice for Kids, page 1

Practice for Kids, page 2

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No matter what you write, it’s important to have an attention grabbing first line. If you were plotting a book, what would your first line be?

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It’s not enough for a main character to be likable. Readers need a reason to root for the protagonist. If you were writing a book, what would your main character be like? Use the character map to help you develop your main character’s personality.

Every character needs to be different. They need to look, think and speak in different ways.

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In the first ten pages on your book, something exciting needs to happen that kicks off the plot. This is called the inciting incident. What would your inciting incident be?

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Conflict turns books into thrilling reads. It’s rough being a main character because something usually bad happens to them. What would happen to your main character?

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If Barbie was the main character in a book, she would suffer because nobody wants to read a book where everything is roses and sunshine on every page.

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Good books have highs and lows. The main character doesn’t suffer the entire time. There are happy parts too.

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Really good books usually have a “save the dog” moment in the first 10 pages. This is when the author gives readers a chance to see the protagonist do something endearing or heroic. Would your book have a “save the dog” moment?

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Books become more exciting when the author hides important information and reveals it bit by bit. This build suspense. Would your book reveal a surprise near the end?

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How would your book end? There doesn’t need to be a happy ending, but a book should end in a satisfying way.

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Good writers revise and edit multiple times before publishing. It’s okay if your first draft isn’t very good. That’s why it’s called a first draft!

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How do books get published?

There are two main ways to become an author. The first way is to self-publish your book.  The second is to be traditionally published, which means a publishing house pays you money (an advance), publishes your book for you, and then gives you a % of the profits (royalties.) I am a traditionally published author.

There are two main ways to become an author. The first way is to self-publish your book. The second is to be traditionally published, which means a publishing house pays you money (called an advance), publishes your book for you, and then gives you a % of the profits (called royalties.) I am a traditionally published author. My young adult book will be published in 2016 by Month9Books.

Ten Revising Tips for Writers

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Here are the top ten revising rules I live by as a writer:

  1. Avoid adverbs whenever possible. Adverbs can signal weak verbs.
  2. Do a “find and search” for commonly overused words such as: just, even, that, really, going to, or whatever your pet-problem-words happen to be.
  3. Unless you are writing for young children, limit speaker tags such as said, says, or asked. Convey who is speaking through action.
  4. Show don’t tell.
  5. Only put one space at the end of each sentence.
  6. Write out numbers between one and ninety nine. After that use numerals like 1,543.
  7. When you write in capital letters use small caps. You can find them in the font section of Microsoft Word.
  8. Don’t be too nice to your characters. Suffering adds tension to the plot. More info here.
  9. Including the title of a book, song or poem is okay, but don’t share anything else unless you have written permission from the owner or the copyright has moved to the pubic domain.
  10. The inciting incident must happen in the first ten pages. If it doesn’t happen until page twenty, you haven’t found your book’s true beginning. More info here.

In my own personal writing, I revise a manuscript at least twenty two times before I show it to my agent. Part of that process includes incorporating feedback from critique partners and beta readers. I revised my novel BLANK SLATE, which will be published by Month9Books in 2016, twenty eight times before it went on submission!

My mantras are “No draft is a wasted draft,” and “Good writing = massive revising.”

 

Understanding Story Arcs

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There’s nothing like crawling around the kitchen floor–marker in hand–to understand a book’s true structure. In my case, I map out arcs for every character.

What’s an “arc”? Good question, because it’s a bit confusing. Sometimes you’ll hear “ARC” and it means “Advance Review Copy” for a book that has not yet been published. Other times, writers use the word “arc” to mean the highs and lows of a plot or character.

If you think about the story Cinderella, there’s a very basic plot arc at play.

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In my own writing, I like to have an abundance of highs and lows to add extra excitement to my plots. Looking at plots as a visual graph, helps me analyze if there is enough balance. A book with too many low moments would be uncomfortable to read. A book that was super happy, would be ridiculous. Finding the right balance takes time, practice, and an enormous amount of revisions.

P.S. If you’re interested in finding out more about plot structures, I highly recommend this post by G.P. Ching called: Writing Novels Using The Circus Method.

How and Why I Started Writing

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Eight years ago I wrote my first novel and it went nowhere. In retrospect, I can see why.

Did I make my first ten pages count? Unfortunately, no. My inciting incident didn’t happen until page thirty. Was my book in an easy to pigeon-hole genre? No, not really. I marketed it as chick-lit in my query letter, but now I realize that contemporary women’s fiction would have been a better description.

I’m sure there were other things wrong too. Probably I had too many speaker tags, adverbs and overused words like “just”, “that” and “already.” I briefly self-published the book and then quickly took it down.

For the next two years I focused on reading and my children.

When my son was in Kindergarten he could read Harry Potter. He was also two grade levels ahead in math–and remains so to this day. I found myself having no one to share this experience with but my husband because who wants to hear about a Kindergartener with superstar reading abilities?

It turns out, lots of people.

In 2011 I started Teaching My Baby to Read where I shared my tips as a former K-4 teacher and developed a large following. Its mission is to spark a national conversation about how massive parental involvement is the key to high quality education. Where to Start  gives parents ideas for toddlers and preschoolers and Afterschooling is for Kindergarten on up.

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Not only did Teaching My Baby to Read give me the opportunity to help parents all over the world support their children’s educations, but it gave me confidence in my own ability to write something meaningful that other people appreciated.

In 2012 The Daily Herald gave me the amazing opportunity of creating “I Brake for Moms,” a weekly column devoted to parenting, humor and modern life in Puget Sound. Over the past two and a half years I’ve written about everything from airplane travel with small children to the politics of gun control. My most popular column ever was about Common Core math.

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In 2013 I started writing fiction again. This time I was equipped with experience, connections and a kick-ass author’s platform. I attended local writing conferences to improve my craft, learned from experts and sought out the best beta readers I could find. This time when I sent out a query letters, an agent was willing to take a chance on me.

Liza Fleissig of the Liza Royce Agency deserves her very own post. She is the hardest working woman I know, with the possible exception of Georgia McBride of the Georgia McBride Media Group.

In fall of 2014, Month9Books offered me a two book deal. BLANK SLATE will release in 2016 and is about an 18 year-old girl whose lack of a virtual footprint makes her so valuable that she is auctioned off to the highest bidder. The sequel will come out in 2017.

Some people say that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become good at anything. That’s a lot of time to invest in a dream. But if your dream is to become an author, those 10,000 hours are worth it!

Make Barbie Suffer…and other tips to add tension to your plot

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Two of the best writing tips I ever got were from Kim Purcell, author of Trafficked during a workshop she gave many years ago at the Write on the Sound conference in Edmonds, WA.

When we entered the classroom there was a basket covered with a cloth. “What’s in the basket?” we all wondered for the first five minutes of Kim’s presentation.

Lesson #1 The Unknown Builds Suspense

Finally, after an agony of waiting, Kim lifted the cloth and revealed Barbie, our heroine. That’s when things got really fun. “Who wants to see Barbie enjoy a picnic in the sunshine?” Kim asked. “Um… nobody,” she said, “because that’s not interesting.”

Lesson #2 Make Barbie Suffer

Kim took a firm hold of Barbie. “Always ask yourself, ‘What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to my character?’ Then do it!” That’s when Kim had Barbie fall of the table, and cling to the corner for dear life.

I’m sure there were other lessons Kim imparted that day. I remember her describing her path to publication, as well as the extensive research she did for Trafficked. But what I really valued were those  golden writing tips.

Of course, you have to balance a plot with heart, levity, and enough happiness that your narrative arch isn’t one gigantic pathway to doom. But definitely new authors can be guilty of loving their characters so much they are hesitant to torture them.

Watch out Barbie. Keep your plastic hands off my computer or I’ll make you pay.

Map your Characters

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Click Character_Map to download the PDF.

Are you an aspiring author? One of the hardest things about writing a book is making your characters seem alive. By the 22nd revision of a manuscript, you should know your characters innermost thoughts. In your imagination, you can project their futures, and describe their pasts.  If Good Morning America interviewed the people in your book, you’d know exactly how they would respond. But getting to that level of intimacy is difficult.

One trick I use to help flesh out my characters is a graphic organizer I call my Character_Map. I print out a page for each major character in my book and fill it out in detail. Sometimes I do this exercise before I write the first word of a manuscript. Other times I do it on revision number four or five. The better I know a character, the easier they are to map.

Feel free to download and share my Character Map with as many people as you would like. I only ask that let users know you found it here, on The YA Gal. 🙂