How to Find the Time to Write

How to Find the Time to Write

“I would love to write a book. If only I had the time.”

We’ve all heard it. Possibly we’ve even said it. The classic lament of the would-be writer: time. If only we could magically increase the hours in the day or reduce the amount of responsibilities we have that crowd the creative time we crave. If only. Do you want to know the secret to having or finding the time needed to write the next New York Times Bestseller?

Come in closer…

All text - You Have Time to Write. Gray background with white font.
Don’t put off writing because you don’t think there is time. There is more than you realize.

Closer…

You have to…

Decide to write. It’s that simple. Make the decision and, presto!, the time will be there.

But wait…? You’re saying this right now. There isn’t time to do write now, so how can deciding to write suddenly increase the amount of time you have in a day? Well, in truth, it doesn’t. Your day won’t magically get longer or your list of responsibilities shorter. So what am I missing here, BC?

Easy. Human beings are masters at time management, and we’re equally as inept at time management. (Learn more about the difference being having time and having motivation here.) As people, and writers, we waste countless hours that could be spent on the writing projects we really want to do. Instead we find ourselves frittering away precious minutes instead of investing them in our next novel (or our first one). So what time am I referring to?

Commutes.

Do you commute to work? If you drive to work daily, chances are you’re not so fortunate as to live less than fifteen minutes from your job. And in many cases, people like, on average, between 20-30 minutes from work according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Time spent in the car can easily be used to outline  a story, work on plot holes, or even dictate a chapter or few paragraphs as you watch brake lights and tap your fingers on the steering wheel. With the technology we carry around in our pockets, opening a notepad via voice command is one of the easiest ways you can invest in finding the spare time you didn’t know you already had in logging words instead of listen to crappy drive-time traffic radio.

Don’t drive and take the bus instead? Even better. Your commute is probably a little longer, giving you more time, and you can outright write instead of just dictating notes and ideas.

Commercials.

Okay, if you’re one of those rare people who still watch television via cable or satellite service, you have more time than you realize to spend writing. Commercials are writing opportunities. Even five minutes is enough time to jot down a few lines of writing. Consider the time a writing sprint to either strength skills or jot down ideas that you work on in depth later. Not sure how to word print? NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month) has a great Twitter feed called @NaNoWordSprints to get you started.

Chores.

But that’s the LAST time in my day with spare time. And if you think so, you couldn’t be more wrong.

We waste a gaggle of time doing chores. Probably because we don’t really want to do them. But if we can maximize our time spent on chores, we can grab a few extra minutes writing and we might even start to enjoy our chores a little bit more. At least make them less dull.

Take, for instance, the laundry. According to Unclutterer, the average family of four accumulates between eight and ten loads of laundry per week. Given that an average wash cycle takes thirty-five minutes and an average drying cycle takes one to one and a half hours, that’s roughly 10 hours a week that a machine is doing your laundry. So what are you doing during that time? Sure, some of us are maybe doing other chores, trying to multitask, but I’m willing to bet a lot of us aren’t. We’re probably sitting on the couch channel surfing or watching a movie, maybe reading a book. Why not spend that time writing instead? In two hours you could get a lot written.

What other chores can we capitalize on? How about washing dishes? Same principle as being in the car for your commute. Open up a file and dictate your story, plot notes, ideas. Sweeping and mopping? Same thing. Strap an exercise band on your arm, pop your phone in it, and dictate away. How about walking the dog? This is a trifecta of opportunity actually: Chore – the pup’s exercise; Bonus – the human’s exercise; Jackpot – writing. If the dog is decently leash trained, you can even write via a tablet or your phone while you walk the dog. I use this method all the time. My Shepherd needs a lot of exercise. I bought a waist band I clip the Shepherd’s leash to and write my little heart out on my phone while we both get our exercise. The cherry on top is that exercise increases blood flow which increases brain function. (Here is my Shepherd. She’s a bit of a weirdo. Naturally.)

Socializing.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re out with friends, why would you want to spend time writing? If you think about it, or just observe while out, we check our phones on average of 14 times a day according to NBC. And that’s just for Facebook. And the New York Times reports we spend about 50 minutes a day on Facebook on average. Imagine if we cut out checking Facebook during the times we’re out during the day or night and turn that into writing time? Let’s face it, with SnapChat and Instagram we can make one picture stretch between all of our social media platforms with only two apps. So stop investing time opening Facebook and checking it, and instead while you’re waiting to get drinks or your friends are dancing to a song that just isn’t your jam, write.

There are days we all must just get out of the house. Maybe we run some errands we’ve put off, or maybe we just decide to go grab a bite to eat. If you pick errands, see the commute portion of this article for reminders. If you choose to treat yourself to a nice, quiet meal, use the time to write. Take a notebook, tablet, laptop, or your phone with you and write while you eat; people watch and jot down things you overhear or mannerisms you see, descriptions of clothing. Use eating as a writing exercise to taste, smell, and visually describe your food in as many ways as you can. No matter how you use the time, as exercises or logging words in your latest project, there is time to write.

So there you have it. Four times in your day you didn’t realize could be used to write. If you’re anything like me, any combination of these four times can give you approximately 3-4 hours of extra writing time each week. It may not seem like much, but according to Quora the average person types around 35-40 words per minute. Even accounting for one 15-minute break per hour, an extra 3 hours per week is 5,400 words. 5,400 words a week on any given writing project is solid writing. Guess there’s more time to write than you thought, right?

 

Marvel X-Men’s First Class for MCU Recast

Marvel X-Men’s First Class for MCU Recast

Danger Room. Activated. Simulation In Progress.

Nerds are the lifeblood of comics. Nerds are also the lifeblood of the comic-based cinematic universe. Most know that I have been obsessed with Marvel’s X-Men Universe for 30+ years. With the recent news that Disney (the owners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies and television shows) bought out Fox’s rights to the X-Men characters (with the exception of the Legion television show owned by FX, as well as The Gifted television show still owned by Fox), now is the perfect time for speculation by nerds everywhere about when and how, or even if, Marvel plans to bring the X-Men into the MCU.

Disney likes franchises and reboot-ish movies, as evidenced in the new Star Wars films. While Star Wars wasn’t technically a reboot, it was close in look and feel. Changed primary heroes and overall cast, with the exception of standbys needed to affiliate it (and excite the old fandom), a near reboot doth make.

Fox gave Disney a wonderful opportunity to reboot the entire X-Men franchise with the phenomenal Logan. By closing out the well loved (practically adored) Wolverine series on the notes it did, it gives Disney an opportunity to reboot the series with all new actors, even from the McAvoy story line. This may be exactly what Disney wants to do. If nothing else, Disney will regain the fans alienated by plots dismally glossed or flat-out changed from anything ever set in ink.

X-Men: The New Old Class.

So, on to my nerdy re imaginings. If I held a place on the casting crew for an X-Men MCU reboot, I would select the following for the original X-Men First Class Team. (And don’t forget to check out how I would cast X-Men Villains and X-Men Expanded Team in upcoming articles!)

A Dream of Peace.

Professor Charles Xavier

Few actors are as brilliant or suited for the role of Professor X as Sir Patrick Stewart. McAvoy, while I was at first uncertain, superseded my expectations and did a good job. But, in a reboot, new faces and styles must be considered. Here are my two choices:

Mark StrongStrong is one of those brilliant actors who can play an action tough guy in one movie and totally sell it, and then can turn around and Bald man in a black shirt against a black background.play a super smart brainiac in the next and the viewer never blinks twice because he is that good. Seriously, the man is an expert Straight Man, a humorous and even playful rogue, or a cold, calculating villain. His film credits more often have him a villain, more recent roles have proven his “good guy” abilties. Professor Xavier, however, needs a touch of calculating, even cold at times, in the role as he deals with the enormity of a world bent on destroying mutant kind and how he must meet that as peacefully as possible. Strong would be ideal.

Ben KingsleyKingsley is a renowned actor who has tackled everything from stage theater to lighthearted comedic pieces. Mr. Kingsley can deliver so much emotion in a simple expression that he would be more than capable of expressing the myriad of emotions and thoughts that Charles displays on a regular basis. I also feel that his

Mediterranean male possess against a black background. Approximately 60 years old. Light smile, bald, and wearing a light colored shirt.

ability to express himself so clearly would be a vital asset to when Charles clearly must say one thing when he most definitely feels or thinks another.

***

The Inevitable Weapon.

Logan a.k.a. Weapon X, The Wolverine, James Howlett

As with Stewart’s Professor Xavier, Hugh Jackman gave us an unprecedented Wolverine. Papi had the look, the ‘tude, the snarl, and just the right amount of vulnerability. I’ve never been a big Wolverine fan, but Jackman’s performance won me over to loving the monster and the man. And while Wolverine is not part of the original First Class of X-Men, he is, nevertheless, vital to the franchise (not to mention the Summers/Grey relationship). But on to my two choices for Logan in the reboot:

White male leaning against a boatrailing. His blue and white checkered shirt is open and he has a cigar in his mouth.

Scott Eastwood: Yep, Clint Eastwood’s son. While prettier than his old man, Scott Eastwood is still grizzled when he wants to be. And many did say “too pretty” when Jackman first took up the claws but I think he proved us all wrong – so deliciously wrong. And Lil Eastwood could do the same. I mean, look, he’s already killing it with the cigars and on track physical needs. Eastwood’s screen time proves ability outside of his fitting appearance for the role.

Iwan Rheon: Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. I hate that guy on GOT! But that’s kind of precisely my point. Wolverine has deep, dark rage, and we have seen what Rheon can do with a psychotic break in a role. While he’s slight in his role on GOT, another 20 lbs and some weight workouts could have him Logan-ready in no time. We’ve also seen Rheon play incredibly vulnerable characters in the past. While Logan is not known for his tender side, he is probably one of the most vulnerable characters in the X-Men universe just due to the sheer amount of

Young man with facial hair and intense expression leaning against a wall, wearing a white tank top and blue blazer.screwed up his life has been. And I can see his on-screen chemistry with one of my picks for Jean Grey very very easily.

Not to mention, for some comic purists the fact that Rheon is only 5’8″ makes him perfect for playing Wolverine as he was written – short, surly, and dangerous. (Also I’m going to ignore the shit out of the whole Inhumans role he was cast in. So should you. The whole show really; ignore it. Well, just pretend Logan would be the first Marvel Universe role Rheon would be cast in.)

***

Love and devotion.

Dr. Jean Grey a.k.a. Marvel Girl, Phoenix, Dark Phoenix

All right, if we’re casting or talking Wolverine, we need to immediately segue into Jean Grey. I liked Famke Janssen in the original role, although I despised the handling of the Phoenix Saga. I was not a fan of Sophie Turner as the younger Grey role, and I still did not like the handling of the Phoenix Saga. But the possibility  the MCU won’t handle the Phoenix Saga properly is always likely. But they can cast a bitchin’ Jean Grey. Here are my picks:

Jane LevyThe role of Jean Grey is critical to the love triangle that is the basis for so much in X-Men, especially around Logan’s character growth and the introduction of the Phoenix Saga. Any actress who plays Grey also must be believable as someone Professor X would (and does frequently)

Redheaded woman wearing a gold dress, sitting.

rely on for greater intelligence and telepathic abilities. Not to mention have the chops to be both all-powerful and benevolent and all-powerful and deranged as an entity created entirely to save or consume entire universes.

Levy has proven herself in multiple roles that show a great sense of vulnerability and charisma, as well as a darker side (um, hello Mandy Milkovich in Shameless!). It helps that she is also totally believable as a flaming redhead.

Rachel McAdams: Acting chops, for sure. She can play sweet and she can play a complete bitch. Like Levy, McAdams could easily fill both the Grey role and the Phoenix/Dark Phoenix roles. Some may look down on the trend of “chick flick” movies in her repertoire but that’s not a bad thing necessarily. Those guilty pleasure movies have shown she has a range of acting ability that could work out very well for the pendulum of emotions and personalities that

Woman wearing a blue dress and sitting on a gold antique couch.

is Jean Grey’s character throughout the comics. Plus, McAdams has never really burst onto the big screen in a truly defining role, although she’s had some very memorable roles in Mean Girls, and of course The Notebook. The only conflict is that, currently, McAdams is supporting cast as Christine Palmer in Marvel’s Dr Strange.

***

Scott Summers a.k.a. Cyclops

To round out the love triangle, we come to Scott Summers. Honestly, I haven’t liked any actor that has been cast in this role to date. James Marsden had more chemistry with Jackman than he did with Janssen, and Tye Sheridan, while better, still didn’t do it for me. So here are my two picks:

Sam Page: Page has the All-American looks I expect Scott Summers to possess and I know from the roles he’s played that he can be charming and

Man smiling broadly and wearing a white shirt, his hands clasped casually in front of him.

self-deprecating or uncertain at times. He can also pull off humor when needed. The only concern I have is that Page may not have enough star power to capture the role of X-Men leader. Of course, I’m also okay with the potential story line where Jean Grey is more of a leader for the group, as she is the the latest comic series X-Men: Blue.

Matt Bomer: Bomer is a well known name with the right look and enough star power to pull off a truly great Cyclops. His acting prowess has ranged from soap operas to gritty television horror/dramas to lighter but steamier cinematic roles. And while it would be a shame to cover up such beautiful eyes with Cyke’s visor, he does have the perfect jaw and chin to really POP! on screen. Plus, it would be nice to see the actor get a cinematic starring and leading role.

Black and white picture of a man with dark hair and light eyes wearing a white tee shirt.

And pitted against either Eastwood or Rheon as Wolverine would be great on screen yum for fans to lap up, and he’d pair great with either Levy or McAdams as Jean (although I’d kill to see him and Levy in a tender and romantic scene together!!).

Bomer could do well in the role of Cyclops. He has enough on screen presence to not fade into the background when stronger (and let’s face it) more interesting characters are on screen. He has no difficult playing the stone faced leader, but can show both affection and humor.

***

Depth Previously Ignored.

Robert “Bobby” Drake a.k.a. Iceman

Iceman is the original team class clown, always mischievous and impetuous. His flamboyant style and devil-may-care attitude covered up deep insecurities stemming from his relationship with his family (and, in the most recent issues that I love, his realization that he is actually gay and had been hiding it for years). Since Bobby Drake is such a complex character, it is important to get just the right actor to portray him on the big screen. And, for me, it simply wasn’t Shawn Ashmore.

Lots of people scoffed when I began naming off my picks for Iceman, but I stick by the top two I finally narrowed down the list to. They are: Man with blond hair and blue eyes. He smiles slightly and has the barest of blond scruff for a beard. Wearing a blue shirt.

Randy Harrison: Best known as the lovable and hopeless romantic Justin in Queer As Folk, Harrison has an immediate endearing quality to him. Part is that coy smile he can turn on in a heartbeat, and the other part is that beautiful but realistic boy next door countenance. Although Harrison doesn’t have a lot of star power to go with his name, that isn’t as much of a factor for the character of Iceman. And it would also just be nice to have an out gay man playing a coming out character.

Man with dark, shaved hair and blue eyes. He is smiling and wearing a blue shirt with his head propped on his hand.Sean Maher: Fanboys and girls would flip to see Sean Maher take the screen again in a hero story, even if it isn’t a space western. Maher has, of course, a cult following for his role in the Fox television show Firefly and then completed cinematic movie Serenity, based on the exact same premise and characters as Firefly. Like Harrison, Maher doesn’t have the big star power to drop on the role but he does have a loyal following of fans and is an accomplished actor in everything from voice acting to Shakespearean roles. Also an out gay man, Maher would be excellent to play Iceman.

***

Warren Kenneth Worthington III a.k.a. Angel, Archangel

Ah, Angel. The on-again off-again team member for the X-Men. Good guy, villain, Worthington has done a bit of everything in the pursuit of being “normal” and the pursuit of revenge for when “normal” was a trick. Not a favorite X-Man of mine, he is nonetheless an original team member and worth recasting. Because neither Ben Foster in X-Men: The Last Stand nor Ben Hardy in X-Men: Apocalypse did either role or movie justice.

Angel was a hard one for me to narrow down. Mainly because I hadn’t put much thought into a character that, frankly, I tended to gloss over in the comics. But he did have several integral subplots that were important to the X-Men universe. So I put my thinking hat on, and sadly the perfect fit for Warren Worthington I could think of is the legendary Heath Ledger, may he rest in peace. After a sniffle for the loss of a true talent, I thought a little harder and here are the two actors I came up with:

Charlie Hunnam:Blonde man with well trimmed goatee and mustache, wearing a nice gray suit with white shirt and gray tie.

Best known from Sons of Anarchy and Pacific Rim, Hunnam fits the bill physically to play billionaire playboy Warren Worthington. While he tends to sport a scruff style, more than a few photo shoots have shown just how nicely the actor cleans up to GQ level. We know Charlie is capable of playing the knave needed to play Archangel, if the scripts went that direction (and they should). Hunnam could make just the right Worthington.

Michael Ealy: While Ealy doesn’t have the star power name to add to the franchise, he does have the African American man with dark hair and blue eyes. He has a trim and small mustache and goatee. He is wearing a dark suit with white shirt and purple tie.quintessential billionaire playboy look, in my opinion. With a varied and long list of credits to his name, Ealy certainly has shown a range of acting that could be very useful in playing the tortured mutant who despised his wings at first mutation, to the competent businessman in search of a cure for all mutation, to the rage-filled Archangel. No stranger to science fiction or fantasy roles, Ealy could be an amazing addition to the X-Men franchise.

***

The Soul of the Team.

Henry Phillip “Hank” McCoy a.k.a. Beast

Professor Xavier may be the brain of the X-Men but (to me) Hank McCoy a.k.a. Beast has remained the team’s steadfast soul. A man mutated into a savage beast yet upholds all aspects of culture and humanity is a bit cliched, but the writing made that point moot. Beast touches the soul of those who read it. So, of course, we need an actor who can touch our souls.

I didn’t dislike Kelsey Grammer as Beast, but I do think Nicholas Hoult as young McCoy and Beast did a better job. Although I wish they would have settled on his make up and let it be rather than change it from movie to movie. Actually, I wouldn’t mind having Hoult back in the role, but for the purposes of this article I will stick with my original promise to re-cast everyone.Man with brown shaggy hair and scruffy beard. He is wearing glasses.

Diego BonetaBoneta hasn’t had many large roles on the silver screen, but he has performed for TV and has had a musical career as well. Balancing just the right amount of gruff with nerdy, Boneta could make a great Beast. He spent most of his acting career playing the tenderhearted. I for one would love to hear the many literacy quotes Beast is prone to rattling off periodically done by Boneta.

Taylor Lautner: We’ve seen him nerdy and slight; we’ve seen him buff and animalistic. I would be more than stoked to see Lautner combine his sexy smoldering animalism once more with a little awkward nerd and sweet poet. The added fangirl and boy boost couldn’t hurt either. Not to mention lots of moms would be more than happy to have a Lautner Beast speak sweet nothings at them.

 

Simulation Complete.

There you have it. Those are this nerd’s casting picks for the X-Men First Class Original Team. I doubt I’m on the invite list for casting when Disney puts together the next movie’s line up, but I’ll put this out here now:

 

Dear Disney Casting Executives,

As you can see, I have put a great deal of thought into the re-casting of the X-Men First Class. I have a roster of Expanded Cast and Villains, and a script to get us going. You could do worse, Disney, and I’m not opposed to traveling for work. Let’s talk.

Sincerely,

BC Brown

Announce Image: REdhaired woman playing the piano with a maniacal smile. Several book and e-reader cover images and the Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 logo and dates.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of How to Be An Author, she strives to educate others through humor, simple instruction, and uses her celebrity to advocate for others.

IMAGE: All white book cover with the silhouette of a woman's head tipped back, mouth open in song. Musical notes represents her short, curly hair, and the silhouette is multicolored for a fun feel. READS: Karaoke Jane, BC BrownComing Soon: Karaoke Jane

Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction ◘ Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories ◘ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

 

How To Find the Right Critique Group

How To Find the Right Critique Group

notebooks and laptops around a table with hands and drinks scattered around
“The best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want.” -Deepak Chopra

Finding the right writing critique group to click with is a lot like dating. Partners are seemingly everywhere with all the potential for match perfection.

Much like finding the right person to share your heart and personal space with, you have to find the right writing critique group you can trust to open your heart to.  And they need to have good enough hearts themselves to be gentle with yours. They’re people who need not only to be decent writers who can guide you and teach you, the right critique group needs to be people you want to spend time with and who you genuinely enjoy their company.

The beauty of today’s modern world is that options for finding the perfect writing critique group abound, no matter what your schedule is like or where you live. Large or small, in person or online, the possibilities are abundant. But also kind of elusive because you’re looking for a group that gives you the right feels.

What to look for.

Lots of factors can make people click or not with a writing critique group or partner. We’re going to talk about the two I consider to be the most important.

1. Reason and level

It helps if the group you seek out has the same, or similar, goals- like writing for publication or socialization -so they know what to expect from each other. One of the key reasons for seeking out a writing group (other than improvement) is to act as an impetus for your writing. If you’re just a casual, write-when-the-mood-takes-you writer then you (and your group) might get frustrated, even discouraged if everyone else is on the path to publication.

Similar goals aren’t the only important factor to consider. Ask: What level of writing experience do the members of this group have? If you have years of experience writing and you’re surrounded by newbies constantly, you might be a little frustrated. Unless, of course, you’re looking to be everyone else’s mentor. Look for a good mix of writers at all different stages: a few newer writers, maybe they’ve never been published, those who have been with it for a few years and might have some publications under their belt, and writers who are old pros or technical experts (like former literature or English teachers or professional editors).

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your writing experience?
  • Do you have material to share right now? Or are you looking for a group that will help motivate you through the finish, or help motivate you to get started?
  • Do you have a consistent writing practice or schedule?
  • Where do you want to go as a writer? Why are you interested in the group?
  • What else do you do to meet your writing goals? Do you read blogs (well, clearly you’re here but others) or books on craft? Do you take classes or attend workshops?

Assessing where you are today is important. But knowing what you want and where you want to go, also how you will get there, is more important to finding a good match in the long run. Find more about questions to ask yourself when searching for a writer’s group in a great article at Jane Friedman’s blog by guest author Brooke McIntyre.

2. It’s all about the pace, about the pace, no trouble.

Pacing is tricky. I mean, it seems to easy: how often do group members meet up or submit material for review? What’s tricky about it is balancing another time demand as a writer. Not only a time demand  but energy too. The pace of the group should move quick enough that you make progress in your writing and goals. Then again too fast a pace can overwhelm you, too slow can be boring or like others aren’t on your same level. Either one can lead to you, or others, quitting.

When evaluating yourself, don’t get cocky about how much you can realistically produce. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of new people and new input. But it’s not only worrying about how much you can produce, you have to consider how much time it will take you to read others’ work and to give appropriate feedback. To be safe, remember to cut your own estimate of self in half and double your estimate of feedback needs.

Here are a few good questions to consider about production:

  • Consider accurately how much writing you produced this month. Then think about how much you produced the month before that.
  • Settle on spending a minimum of 30 minutes reading on commenting on others’ submissions – possibly more for longer pieces. Don’t forget that you need to consider all of the group members.
  • In-person groups are a little different, pace depends on how often members meet. While you might not have a say in how often the group meets, you do have a say in your schedule and how often you engage with the group.

There should be a balance when working with a writing group. Some people produce more regularly than others, and some people go through brief spurts of creativity. Let’s not forget that life, in it’s infinite screw-with-us, intervenes too. The balance comes in making sure members feel like they are both critiquing and writing equally.

So, where are all these groups?

Chances are there are several different writing associations in your area. Many host meet-and-greets, educational workshops, or you can volunteer. Let your chapter know you are looking for a writing group and they will probably know of a few and be able to give you some contacts.

Most associations have online boards where you can look for groups that have listed with the associations.

There is nothing quite like a writing conference or retreat. The energy of the community, no many word nerds in one place, is invigorating. Talk with people, mingle, and chances are you will run across others who are in or wanting to form a writing group.

You can find a thorough list of writing conferences from Shaw Guides. Facebook groups are also good places to find groups. If all else eludes you, Google it.

Meetup is a good option, depending on your genre and area, for finding groups. These groups typically meet in person and are organized by one or more individuals in your area. As a matter of fact I found my local group through Meetup. Just remember to read through the group’s history and expectations. Some groups are social, some are quiet and organized production in a social setting, some have a level of writing production that you might not be able to meet.

Then there are online critique sites. Don’t worry, most are private so that you aren’t willy nilly sharing your work. Online groups most often run on a credits or points system, where credits are used to submit work and earned for giving critiques. A lot of times the credit-based systems also work hand in hand with a queue system where you will have to wait for your work to be critiqued.

Whether you choose to go with an in-person writing critique group or an online group, there are many benefits to a writer from everything from socialization to tips to basic networking. As long as you know what you want to get out of one, a writing critique group can drastically improve your writing. But don’t forget that with every benefit, there can also be a downside. Check out my upcoming article The Dangers of Writing Groups coming soon for what you need to be wary of.

That’s the down and dirty about how to find a writing or critique group or partner. Tell me, do you use a writing group? Is it online or in person? How did you find the group that fits you?

Announce Image: REdhaired woman playing the piano with a maniacal smile. Several book and e-reader cover images and the Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 logo and dates.

 

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of How To Be An Author, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction, as well as her celebrity to advocate for others.

 

Books: A Touch of DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

Why You Should Update Your Blog Content

Change is the only constant. – Heraclitus

Let’s face it, today content is money. Blogs are content engines for most writers. They’re integral parts of our branding and marketing. (And if they aren’t, you’re doing this wrong.) But so many field experts simply puke their content onto the digital page, promote the crap out of it, and then never look back – an act that is almost as bad as not producing content at all.

Here are 5 reasons why you should refresh old content on a semi regular basis.

  1. Google loves a shiny new thing.

That Google prefers regularly updated content is proven. There are dozens of studies to back up the validity of my statement. Here’s one. Everyone know that if Google’s affection with your blog decreases, it can be damned hard for you to win it over again.

Why does Google get giggly over new/updated content?

  • Updated content is longer. You know the old adage: size matters. Well, for Google, size does matter. Lengthier content regularly published indicts to Google little bots that you are a substantive and knowledgeable field expert.
  • Because, as we’ve pointed out, content is king, content is cash, and if Google likes anything it likes to be king of the cash.

Changing, adding or removing parts of your blog posts are ways to effectively implement your content marketing strategy.  Google notices your savvy ways and bumps your ranking. Pretty good deal to get immediate rewards for just giving your content a tune-up.

  1. New stuff, am I right?

A lifetime promotional deal is not really a deal when you get right down to it.You are a business. Your content is often a large part of that business. And when your business introduces new promotions like an ebook or a video course or a new blog post, you must link to it in the old content. It’s called working smarter, not harder to reach your readers.

Not being timely with your updates can equal losing moolah, and sometimes it isn’t chump change.

But it isn’t just new stuff you need to be concerned with. You also need to go back and eliminate old information, products, or posts. For instance, one of my books went out of print a couple of years ago. It didn’t make sense to have broken links to a book that no longer exists. So I needed to go back through my content and make sure to remove those links and clean up any promotions of the product from my site.

  1. Readers’ time is valuable.

Don’t waste your reader’s time by talking about something that no longer exists. You’ve been a reader; you’ve been to a site that all the information is old, links are broken, and nothing is updated, right? Bet you were frustrated. Bottom line: it’s never good to frustrate your audience (a.k.a. your buyers).

Making old content go poof is the easiest way to show your readers your care about them and their time. While it’s true people remember negative impressions more than positive ones, never giving them a negative impression certainly makes it easier for them to remember a good one, right?

  1. Constant evolution.

Content, information, is constantly changing. Forget a better user experience…who wants to be the person with the old information?

We all write dated material. There’s nothing wrong with that (although you should try to keep dated material at a minimum and balanced with evergreen material). Writing a brilliant article about “The Best SEO Techniques in 2016” is all well and good except, before you know it, it’s suddenly 2017 and that article is old news.

Change it up. update it by replacing 2016 with 2017 through little tweaks in content (like new links and research material) and the different images. One, using updated and different images should be a staple to marketing any product or content. You never know what will catch different peoples’ attention. Two, you may find a better image than the one you originally used. There is nothing wrong with going “Oh hey, yeah, that works so much better!”

And what happens if your whole brand underwent a change? If you had old screen shots or logos in your content, you will definitely need to update those.

  1. In with the new readers.

Q&A time: How often do you personally scroll back through a blog’s content just to find what that field expert may have posted 5 years ago when they started their blog? Okay, I don’t know about you but I rarely go back more than a few months to a year to see what I might have missed. Unless that business posts their old material (which you should be doing btw) regularly, it just isn’t prudent for me to waste my time. But think about this: what if half of all your new readers really really need to see some of that content? You know, it’s just perfect for them; just what they are looking for.

The whole point of generating content is to build your expertise with readers. If they don’t know you’re an expert simply because they don’t have time to dedicate to stalking you and your product, how are you supposed to be considered an expert?

 

Look, it’s important to update your old content regularly. Secondly, it’s really not that difficult to do. And, third, you’ve put this much work in making yourself more viable to your audience (you know, like reading up on how to be more viable to your audience in this blog post) so why aren’t you?

 

Image of a redheaded woman in a black leather jacket. She has her hands held up in the American Sign Language sign for 'I love you.'BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.

Books: A Touch of DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

What Consistency in Social Media Marketing Really Means

What Consistency in Social Media Marketing Really Means

Consistency. It’s the $65,000 word when it comes to social media marketing. Readers/fans anticipate that once they start hearing from you, they will keep hearing from you. It’s your job to continue to deliver.

At a recent book marketing lunch, several authors bemoaned the necessity for social media marketing. They had tried it; it didn’t work. They would rather invest their time in actually writing instead. Getting into the discussion deeper however proved why the authors had such dismal results.

Boring consistency.

Yes, it’s necessary to be consistent when interacting with readers/fans on social media, but consistency doesn’t mean the same ol’ same ol’ all the time. When poked, the authors admitted they shared the same thing every day, never fail. A blog post shared every day, a promotional item after that, a picture about their lunch or a place they visited followed that…rinse and repeat and repeat and repeat.

I grew bored just listening to their social media marketing. Consistency isn’t about the same schedule held daily. It isn’t about the exact same post IMAGE: Two women laying on the hood of a car; their knees are bent, and they are laying on their backs. One woman is laughing and looking at the other while she makes a funny face. CAPTION: Social media is about friendships, not sales. BC Brown, Author and social media consultantshared regularly. It’s about interaction. A good social media marketing campaign has variety. There are sometimes weeks where I don’t share a single blog post or a note about my books. There are some weeks where all I share are Star Trek memes and pictures of my animals. Sometimes I share them on the same schedule I usually do, and other times I decrease frequency. What is important is that I don’t disappear; I still have a presence. On top of that, I make sure to interact with others, participate.

Consistency in social media marketing isn’t just about what an author puts out in the world, it’s more about how well they play with others. That includes dialogue and discussion, sharing.

Sprout Social has a great article about social media engagement as it pertains to customer relationships here. And that is what engagement is about, building friendships that could one day equal customers and sales. But it isn’t all it is about.

Patience is a virtue.

The next item discovered at the book marketing lunch was how quickly authors abandoned their social media. One author shared that she consistently posted to social media for 3 whole months before she called it quits. Another mentioned how he tried it for about two months and saw zero results so he quit.

A common misconception with social media marketing is that it is either quick or easy. It is neither. A good social media marketing campaign requires a minimum of 6 months of careful planning and study, adjustments and interactions to be successful. Even 6 months would be expectant. The fact is, social media marketing can take a while to bear any fruit, and then it may not be what most authors expect. Social Media Today has a great article about the realities of social media marketing campaign goals. They go on to share:

“Marketers hoping for quick returns from their social media marketing will be sorely disappointed by the long-term plans required to fulfill those campaign goals,” writes Jonathan Crowl for Skyword.com. “Social media strategy can require years to take root and start generating returns.”

According to Crowl, almost half of marketers in a survey reported that they used social media for two years before they saw an impact on sales.

Find the truth.

Social media marketing isn’t about sales. That’s right, you heard me – it isn’t about sales. It isn’t even about followers or clicks. Although followers and clicks are helpful – but not in the way you might think. In fact, Shout Me Loud has an amazing article about success and the followers where they say:

“Having 10,000 followers who are not interested in your product or brand is NOT BETTER than having 1,000 followers who are very interested in your product or brand.” Read the full article here.

IMAGE: Faded background of ared-wired global network with social media icons. CAPTION: choose targeted followers like you would friends: individuals who share like interestes and to whom your relationship could benefit mutually. BC BRown, author and social media consultantThe followers every company on social media should be actively seeking are targeted followers. (See my upcoming article: How To Find Targeted Twitter Followers Fast)

Targeted followers interact with you; clicks mean you’re offering those followers valuable information they also find worthy of sharing with others. Basically, it’s about the quality of content you offer and the relationship you build with others. It’s making friends. Friends aren’t sales. They can equal sales, but that’s not the real reason for it. And if it is the reason you’re doing it, well then you aren’t being very genuine anyway.

After a little more discussion, the importance of social media marketing seemed to become apparent to, at least, a few members of the group who previously wanted nothing more to do with it. With a little added guidance, many have started reconsidering their social media campaigns. A few have even started small in re-engaging with people through SM. What’s most promising is seeing the inconsistent consistency they’re posting with and starting to see some results from…I mean, who wouldn’t thought?

Announce Image: REdhaired woman playing the piano with a maniacal smile. Several book and e-reader cover images and the Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 logo and dates.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of How To Be An Author, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction, as well as use her celebrity to advocate for others.

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

Books: A Touch of DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Lets’ get weird together!

Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest ~ Google+

 

How to Read A Book Every Week (Minimum)

How to Read A Book Every Week (Minimum)

“I want to read more!” Having time to read isn’t something precious to be put on a pedestal and admired. Reading a book every single week is not as difficult as many people make it seem.

I’m not special. I don’t read hundreds of books each year. But I do manage to consume one to two books a week, not counting comic books and graphic novels (which can be several per week). Am I bragging a little? Yeah, okay I am. But the key to my bragging rights is that anyone can make the time to read more. One of the most common utterances of busy adults everywhere is “I wish I read more.” But the secret is to take the act of reading itself off the pedestal. Reading isn’t something that needs special pomp and circumstance. If you think you can only pull out a book when you have an afternoon off and a snuggly blanket, and the rain pitter-pattering off the roof outside…chances are you will only ever read when you have the afternoon off, a snuggly blanket, and it’s raining.

Reading isn’t a luxury; it’s something you make a part of your daily life, a habit, a necessity. Like creating any new habit, or breaking an old bad habit, it’s making a conscious effort. And it isn’t hard to do. When creating a new habit, it just takes a little bit of hard work and willpower. Oh yeah, and a little bit of self trickery.


Don’t read before bed, read before work

It’s common practice for most people to keep their reading on their nightstand. If you read at night, you probably only get through a few pages before you relax and get sleepy. Remember, you’ve already logged a full day’s worth of work and activity, and your brain has already been set to ‘sleep mode,’ not learning mode. Instead, make reading a morning habit in order to read more. If you’re like me, you’re not an early riser. Instead of spending each morning checking Instagram or surfing Facebook in bed, try replaced it with reading a couple chapters. (I promise not much has happened since you opened the app at midnight.) Make tea or coffee and ease your way into the day. (If you’re like me, I read two or three blogs in the morning, reserving my lengthier chapter reading for throughout the day. Of course, that’s mostly because I’m not much of a human being first thing upon waking.) Plus, there are additional benefits to morning reading, such as: your eyes are fresher and you’re less likely to gloss over words or paragraphs due to fatigue orbs; your mind isn’t bogged down by the days distractions, and you can really absorb what you’re reading; and, of course, there are tons of educational advantages to reading first thing in the day, such as easier absorption of ideas to recall later; plus, added health benefits of taking a few extra minutes of relaxing wake up time instead of rushing through your morning routine.


IMAGE: Attractive man on a city bus reading.Take advantage of your commute

Changing up my morning commute was one of the best decisions I ever made to be able to read more. If you take the bus or the train to work, use that time to your advantage: read. Instead of listening idly to music or a podcast, actively read. The average commute is around 30 minutes one way. In 30 minutes, you can read a couple of chapters (depending on the book and its average chapter length). Besides, don’t you want to end up part of the whole internet movement of “Hot Dudes Reading“?


Read on your phone

I love the smell of real books. I love the feel and weight of real books. That said, I read (on average) half of all my books on either my android’s Kindle app or my iPad’s Kindle app. Chances are you have your phone on you pretty much at all times. Most people never let it out of their sight for more than a few minutes, and it’s conveniently right there in your pocket when you’re waiting in line at the grocery store or at the coffee shop. Even if you only read a page or two for a few minutes, those minutes add up over the course of a day. For these short wait periods, I tend to have a non-fiction or short story anthology loaded up and ready to go.  Most short stories can be read start to finish in about 10-15 minutes, so if the line at the grocery store is interminable (like it always seems to be anymore) then you are set to go.


Stop reading books that…suck

Nothing will make you quit your new reading habit faster than feeling like you’re trapped in junior high school and forced to read, or just because you paid money for it or someone said you should read it. There are literally millions upon millions of books out there. Books you will love to spend minutes, even hours, on. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it. Pick up a different one. That doesn’t mean you should never give the book another chance. There is something to the thought that people need certain things at certain times in their lives. That includes books. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a book to read (usually on recommendation from someone I trust) and it just wasn’t interesting to me…right then. Later when I picked it up again, it was just what I needed to read. And I’m not the only one. Check out this article by two avid readers at The Guardian debating the issue. Even if you’re broke after spending money on that last book you didn’t read, there is…


The library!

If there is a universal constant in this world, it is: free shit rules! The library is probably one of the best bastions on that constant. If you were using “Hey, I paid money for that last book so I have to read it!” then consider instead the fact that library books come with due dates! It’s built in incentive. Also, there is something infinitely gratifying about the treasure hunt that is finding a truly awesome book among stacks and stacks of books.


Multitask, babyIMAGE: House cat laying on top of as if reading a book.

We’re kings and queens of the multitask. It’s a staple of modern life: needing to be able to process and do a lot of different crap all at once in one day. Picking multiple books to read at once is just smart planning. You never know what your taste will be at any given point in the day. Usually I go for a fiction book, something epic and escapist; a nonfiction, improve thyself yaddah yaddah; and at least one comic book (or comic series). There are days your brain will be fried after work during your commute home; grab the comic instead of the dense fantasy novel with a million characters and plots and subplots to follow.


Read while you watch

Most of us aren’t so uppity that we don’t watch some form of live TV. You can still use that time to read. I mean, what can be more gratifying than saying you read hundreds of hours or thousands of books during Geico ads? (Hell, tweet about that and tag Geico; maybe you’ll get some kind of sponsorship, or at least free stuff?) Also, even if you don’t watch live TV, many streaming services still have 30-45 seconds worth of ads periodically throughout the program; keep a book right beside you for those “down times.” An avid moviegoer? Read during the previews or while waiting in the concession line.


Keep track of what you read

We’re competitive, gratification-seeking mammals. We like to feel a sense of accomplishment. Reading is no different. Keep track of what you read. One, it will help you keep from accidentally picking up and wasting time (possibly spending money on) books you read a year, two years, or even three years ago. There are sites like Shelfari and Goodreads, which are fun and will let you do a bit of social bragging, or you can just keep a quick note in your phone or on your tablet. However you do it, the point is to remember to give yourself a little pat on the book for every book you complete (even the ones you don’t complete – you don’t want to accidentally waste time on those again). Doing so will reinforce the good reading habit you’ve worked so hard on.

So, there you have it. Increase how often you read; do the thing you say you always want to do: read more. All you have to do is tweak a few little things in your life and get over yourself. There is time.

Announce Image: REdhaired woman playing the piano with a maniacal smile. Several book and e-reader cover images and the Phoenix Comic Fest 2018 logo and dates.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of How To Be An Author, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction as well as use her celebrity to advocate for others.

Books: A Touch of DarknessA Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short FrictionQuixotic: Not Everyday Love StoriesA Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: KARAOKE JANE

Let’s get weird together!

Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Pinterest ~ Google+

A World of Silence: How ‘Deaf’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

Photo is from The Princess Bride movie. The character is Inigo Montoya, a swarthy man of Spanish heritage with chin-length brown hair, brown eyes, and a brown mustache. The caption reads: You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.

 

I am Deaf. But I can hear. At least, I can hear some frequencies, slightly muted, about 50% of the time with my Lyric implants (inner ear canal implants that are inserted by a doctor quarterly) and about 30% of the time, muted and choppy, without my implants.

Technically, under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) I am profoundly hard of hearing. My condition is degenerative however, so in a few short years I will be legally deaf under the ADA definition.

Why am I telling you this? For understanding and to clear the air about a few common misconceptions as to what being deaf means – for realsies. ‘Deaf’ is a two-fold word implying both a state of different ability (like Michael Jordan is differently-abled than, say, your average high school basketballer) and a culture and community identification (think about nationality or ethnic heritage pride).

My differently-abled definition is profoundly hard of hearing, as I retain some hearing capacity. My culture and community identification is Deaf.

I interact with the speaking/hearing world a great deal of the time. It’s hard to lecture a room of speaking-inclined authors using only American Sign Language (ASL). Well, I could but what would be the point? Also I commute via bus and bicycle often. While hearing is not a requirement at all for doing that, it does make the commutes a smidgen easier (asking questions if you’re in an unfamiliar place and need directions for example) and safer (hearing a car horn blaring behind you because they’re about to careen into the bicycling lane for example).

Since I grew up speaking and hearing (my degenerative disorder didn’t start being noticeable until my teenage years), my speech is fine, I still enjoy music (based in large part more on my remembering what the music sounds like than what is being translated by my implants), and interacting frequently and largely with the speaking/hearing world. Living in both worlds doesn’t bother me. Until…someone makes one of the asinine comments that make me have to take two slow breaths and then launch into instruction mode.

 

You’re deaf? But you speak so well.

There is nothing a Deaf person can’t do that anyone else can do, except hear within “normative” ranges. Those of us who choose to interact with the speaking/hearing world and choose to speak take great pains to make sure we do effectively communication. In my case, I didn’t have to learn how to make recognizable sounds; I just have to maintain them. That means, like many Deaf people, speech lessons.

 

You’re deaf? You act like you can hear!

Can someone explain to me how a person acts like they can hear? Does my head perk up or my ears twitch like an animal? This one frustrates me quite a bit, but I try to remember that not everyone can tell when they’ve encountered a Deaf person. What I try to remind people is that I have implants that give me some range of hearing. Although in a few years I won’t even have that luxury. I try to remind them that being and identifying Deaf is not dependent on a total lack of sound.

 

You’re deaf? Can you teach me sign?

Yes but probably not. Do I teach my friends some ASL? Some of them. The ones who seem genuinely interested in communicating with me more effectively and who are compassionate enough to realize that sometimes hearing communication is hard on me. But they have to show a real commitment to it. I’m not a “cool new trick” or a free class at the Y. Sign is a very real part of my life, and like any language it (and those of us who use it) deserves to be respected.

 

Basically those are the top three statements that I find frustrating. I know it’s a simple matter of people not understanding or being aware of what it means to be Deaf. It’s a matter of limited perception. It doesn’t make it any less annoying, but it does cut down on the sarcastic or biting responses I give.

A woman with red hair styled into a sleeked back pompadour. She sits, leaning her face on her left hand near the temple. She is wearing a silver, antique choker chain with an antique locked of Celtic design. She has on a black and white Houndstooth vest. There is bright sunlight streaming in through a glass door behind her. She smiles faintly, and has green eyes.BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed A woman with red hair styled into a sleeked back pompadour. She sits, leaning her face on her left hand near the temple. She is wearing a silver, antique choker chain with an antique locked of Celtic design. She has on a black and white Houndstooth vest. There is bright sunlight streaming in through a glass door behind her. She smiles faintly, and has green eyes.almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.

Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
Anthologies: Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction ◘ Quixotic: Not Everyday Love Stories ◘ A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

From The Writer’s Pack: Meet My Inspiration

I am an animal lover. It’s true. The first “people” I meet when I visit someone’s house or go to a party are the animals. I spend a good deal of time with each, learning their names, greeting them slowly and gently. It actually distresses me when an animal doesn’t seem to like me,

Very dark grey cat with big, round green eyes. The cat is still young, a kitten, with medium long fur. It is crouched on a black table edge. The cat is looking up, as if hunting. It wears a bright purple harness.while I couldn’t care less when most humans don’t like me.

So, even though there is nothing “writerly educational” in this post, I want everyone to meet my constant inspirations: the Cat, the Old Lady, and the Shepherd, my writer’s pack.

A tiny dog with reddish fur, a face full of white fur from years of age, and big brown eyes lays on a cool linoleum floor next to a black carpet. The dog's head is laid down with its chin on the floor. Although it appears drowsy, its ears are big and pointed straight up, like it hears everything. My animals write with me, they hike with me, they are there for me every bit as much as the stories are there for me. When I don’t want to get out of bed and stare at the screen, my pack is there with gentle nudges, cold noses, and warm hearts (and sometimes a much-needed claw for added incentive).      A German Shepherd mixed dog lays down on a cool lineolium floor. The animal is black and brown with a white neck and chest, belly and legs. Its head is held high, alert, with its ears perked, eyes scanning. It pants lightly, its tongue out.

So, like I said, nothing writerly or educational in this post. Just my sharing my animals with the world.

 

 

 

 

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed A woman with red hair styled into a sleeked back pompadour. She sits, leaning her face on her left hand near the temple. She is wearing a silver, antique choker chain with an antique locked of Celtic design. She has on a black and white Houndstooth vest. There is bright sunlight streaming in through a glass door behind her. She smiles faintly, and has green eyes.almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.

Books: A Touch of Darkness ◘ A Touch of Madness ◘ Sister Light (out of print)
 

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane

Author’s Book Marketing Guide: Month 2 Pre-Release

Photo: Notebook with checklist and hand checking off the list.

The countdown is getting close! Are you able to breathe? Hopefully with the homework we’ve laid out in Months 6, 5, 4, 3 of the pre-release plan, the only nervousness you feel is the excitement of your new book almost ready for a booming and successful start! This month is all about “priming the pump” so to speak for advance sales.

This month we’re going to concentrate on:

  • Article directories
  • Press Releases
  • “Push” pages

Article Directories

Remember that in order to catch peoples’ attention, you have to be visible. The best way for a writer to increase their visibility (not to mention increase inbound links to their website, therefore increasing search engine results) is to have name recognition everywhere. That means contributing articles online. You can easily capitalize on any membership sites you belong to. Doing so increases your membership’s community library and helps establish yourself as an expert. (Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be about writing or publishing. Any expertise can be linked back to your website, which will promote your book when it releases.)

There are also a number of articles directory sites. Articles directories are super easy ways for your articles to find their way into blogs, newsletters, and other sites. With these directories, you retain full attribution and gain links to your websites. Posting your articles for free is sometimes the quickest way to have people pick up on your material for redistribution among their blog, newsletter, or website. While the effort won’t be directly compensated, the exposure to different networks can be amazing. Most directories allow you to track your articles so you can ensure the poster does properly attribute you and provide a link to your information (like your website, book link on Amazon, etc). Sometimes your articles can even end up in publications around the world, increasing your visibility and establishing your expert status.

If you’re like me, the thought of writing “how-to” articles as a fiction writer was daunting. But, as you can see, as a writer, no matter that genre, you are an expert in writing, at the very least. From my own trials and errors (many, many errors!! Oy vey!) I learned how to market myself and my books better, and a lesson learned is something that can written and submitted!

 

Press Releases

All right, the time has come to put together your book’s press release. I recommend completing on main release, then all you need to do is tweak the first paragraph a bit here and there for other releases. The “tweaking” allows you to tailor it specifically for types of publications you want to target.

But I’m a fiction writer! you’re thinking. No worries. So am I, but a press release is easy. Think of it as backwards storytelling. In fiction we start with the broad and tailor down to the specifics. In press release writing, we start with the specifics and supply the filler information. So your “who, where, when, what, and why” information is at the top. Make sure to include a headline and lead sentence to “hook” the readers, just like you did when writing your back blurb. (Example: New Book Provides Step-By-Step Book Marketing to Authors). Don’t make the mistake of focusing on you as the author (example: BC Brown Launches New Marketing Book). The writer isn’t as important in the headline as catching the reader’s attention. The first sentence needs to hook the reader with what is new, original, or hmmm….weird about your book. Then hit ’em with the book title, release date, publisher, and author name. Head into the next paragraph with a one-line recap of the book’s content. The best is if you can focus on how to book solves a problem or introduces a useful process. If the book is fiction, then you need to highlight how your book is different or original from the others on the marketing, and your one-line recap should be a plot summary. Then add on your credentials.

You head into the next paragraph with any special launch events, media appearances, and book tour signings. Don’t forget to give accolades to your publisher or distributor (if you have one). I tend to give my editor a little shout out here also. Definitely include how your book is available – online, in bookstores, and/or through your website. If self published, it’s best to not mention that fact. It’s unfortunate and unfair but a lot of stigma is still tied to self publishing. Although many indie authors are making strides toward bettering the image in quality of work and expertise, it isn’t quite there yet.

Last paragraph should include your website information, push page (which we will discuss next), and contact information so interested stores or media outlets can follow up with you. Successful press releases are limited to around 200-300 words. Keep sentences short, use active verbs, and keep the focus on what the book delivers for the reader, not on the book itself. Your credentials should always show how your experiences is beneficial to the reader. Make sure to double-check for typos. You wouldn’t believe how many press releases have come across my desk with errors in the email or phone number for an author – yikes! (A useful hint is to read your press release backwards, starting at the bottom of the document and reading it one line at a time to the top. The break in continuity will keep your brain from “filling in the known gaps” and glaring errors should present clearer.)

Traditional media outlets are still sticklers for what they consider “professional submission guidelines.” And let’s face it, the traditional media outlets still dominate the landscape for news. Make sure you follow the traditional press release format. Here is the example I used for my novel, A Touch of Darkness:

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Glorious Bastards Press 555-555-5555

A Touch of Darkness Revitalizes Gritty Noir with Dark Humor, Realistic Police Procedural, and Touching Humanity

     Mattoon, IL—A Touch of Darkness, An Abigail St Michael Novel, the newest title by fantasy author BC Brown, catapults into the modern-day, alternative reality of mysticism and madness with Abigail St Michael, former cop and psychic consultant.

A Touch of Darkness opens in the midnight world of psychics and serial killers with the death of a child, washed in the shadows of night and the alternating red and whites of police lights. Abbey St Michael is forced to confront an evil on her doorstep that may be closer than she ever realized. With her unique brand of dark humor and sarcastic wit, she struggles to catch a killer while not getting caught herself.

BC Brown’s first work, the dark fantasy Sister Light, Book One: Of Shadows and published under the pen name BB Walter, burst onto the sci-fi/fantasy scene first as short fiction and then expanded by request of fans for a full-length printing. Sister Light then went on to repeated sold out signings while on book tour and earned high praise from reviewers and readers alike. In A Touch of Darkness, Brown has brought all the sweeping vision of epic fantasy to contemporary paranormal mystery with an added noir grittiness and realism evident in its market pre-sales.

A Touch of Darkness is published by Glorious Bastards Press, a new author collaborative imprint. The Abigail St Michael Novels are distributed in the U.S. by Simon & Schuster. Learn more at www.bcbrownbooks.com.


When submitting your press release make sure to embed it in the body of your email. Do not attach it as a document. Understandably reporters are uneasy about opening attachments for fear of viruses. Many firewalls are built to keep out attachments for that reason. You should always include a personal note to the correspond in an effort to build personal relationships. Keep it brief however. I usually start with a line or two about one of their recent articles I’ve read. Just remember to be sincere, actually read the article. Then wrap it up with a polite note asking their consideration for your release.

Don’t forget about all the paid and free press release distribution services. The paid ones range in price. I’ve seen them go from inexpensive to costly, depending on their presence and distribution, plus bonuses that can be added. I’ve used PR Newswire in the past. Free sources I like to use are OpenPR and 24-7PressRelease. There are numerous others, and I suggest doing a little websurfing to see one that fits you best.

Why press releases? Every release that gets picked up online will drive traffic to your website and the push page we’re about to discuss. It also helps boost search engine results, creates buzz about your book, and builds visibility about you as an expert. Don’t forget to use your press release when emailing bookstores too. Their PR person will be able to use it in their marketing when setting you up for book signings and events. Always notify media personally of events when you’re going to be in the area as well. And don’t forget about capitalizing on the “homegrown” aspect – let local professional association publications, alumni magazines, community event publications – know about your book and who you are. You’re a celebrity now!

Push Pages

A push page is an industry term that allows for online pre-sales of your book. This can be done even if you are self publishing by creating a pre-order button on your website.

Most commonly used in non-fiction, push pages are becoming popular in genre fiction work as well. Typically push pages (for fiction) use pre-ordering by offering bonus materials, such as a short story in the same genre etc. It can be anything really (audio recordings, swag, etc) from the author. The point is an incentive to commit to and purchase the book prior to its launch. Another fun way to market (and grow your audience and author network) is to ask other authors to cross promote with you. You can ask them to offer an excerpt or downloadable chapter, article, discount (anything) to your launch. Just remember that you want similar content without competing messages. This can work especially well if you and an author friend have opposite publication schedules. Also, ensure you have a way to fulfill the cross-promoted material (or the material you are providing) so everyone gets what you’ve promised.

To recap: this month you should be working on article directories and submissions to them, press releases to be sent out, and push pages for pre-release sales. If you haven’t yet, you should make sure you have bookmarks, business cards, posters, and book “fliers” designed and ordered. Send out your press releases and review copies. Contact bookstores to schedule those important signings. Start scheduling conventions and conferences for speaking opportunities and signings.

During all of this, make sure you update your spreadsheet with notes as to who you’ve contacted, when, and responses received. This includes media, reviewers, and book stores. Make notes about personality, outcomes, and overall experience. You can work with those who are willing to work with you instead of against you by keeping accurate notes. And it will save you a lot of time in the future! I also consider what “swag” I will be giving away at future events. In the beginning, I suggest keeping it small: bookmark with some type of giveaway (I suggest a short story download), maybe pens or magnets, candy). Keep it simple and small at first. Find ways to tie it to you or your book when possible.

Okay, well that wraps up your 2 month pre-release. You are well on your way to a successful launch if you’ve followed the steps laid out. Remember, by following each of these little by little you save yourself a lot of last minute stressing and initials sales that may be discouraging, to say the least.

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book of ‘How to Be An Author’, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction.
Why I Help the Homeless

Why I Help the Homeless

I didn’t grow up in a family that had causes. I was taught from an early age that you took care of yourself first, and then you helped others when and where you could. It wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized that helping others was taking care of myself. Once I realized I could do more, a simple drive around Phoenix told me just where I needed to jump in. Phoenix experiences a booming homeless population due to our temperate winters, and there were thousands of people who needed my help.

I work with several non-profit organization in Phoenix, Arizona that assist people experiencing homelessness. Many of those non-profits are a mixture of groups that provide services like meals on Sunday and a few nights a week or large outreach events once a month on Saturdays or Sundays.
 
One such group called Hope 4 Phoenix began providing meals for homeless individuals on Sundays and Wednesdays. Using leftovers from those meal, they started distributing sandwiches to people struggling with homelessness in downtown Phoenix popular areas for homeless to frequent. Phoenix homeless advocate Mike Atanasio saw the need to expand the meal service to a full 7 nights-a-week. He coordinated local food banks to provide ingredients for soup (in the winter) and items for sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly for the yummy win!).
 

Along Came BC

 
Mike handles several dozen outreach projects and events for the Arizona Friends of Homeless network. His advocacy is full time – morning, noon and night, including the middle of the night at times. When he decided to tackle the task of expanding the meal service to 7 nights-a-week, I asked to participate. And decided to make it a “thing.” Because someone in marketing doesn’t know how to do anything without first figuring out how to brand it, even a soft brand. 

The #humanKINDness Project

#SandwichesInParks
BC Brown and fellow author C.A. Wilke helps people experiencing homelessness in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.
Do you know that most shelters, soup kitchens, and/or churches in the greater Phoenix metro area serve their final daily meal around 6-7 pm and don’t serve breakfast the following day until 8 am? That is the span of approximately 14 hours in which people experiencing homelessness in Phoenix must go without food.
The #humanKINDness Project is intended to provide a basic meal (soup and a sandwich), perhaps a warm blanket during the cold season, to those in need on the streets and in the parks of downtown Phoenix. However as I went out each week, the overwhelming cry for more items, such as hygiene, towels, and socks, became louder and louder. I put out the call and people responded with an abundance of compassion and supplies.
 
Coordinating donation efforts from local, statewide and even multi-state resources, The #humanKINDness Project has grown from providing a single cup of soup, a sandwich, and a blanket to providing a cup of soup with dipping bread; a full sack lunch with peanut butter and jelly sandwich, chips, a snack item, fruit, and a piece of candy; a beverage; and assorted hygiene and feminine hygiene products, as well as socks, shoes, clothing, and towels and washcloths (all as donated). If you are interested in donating, please visit our Amazon Wishlist. All items can be directly shipped to our initiative by choosing the preloaded shipping address.
 
But what’s more are the changes in the faces of the people we see every week. Some few of them eyed us warily when we first started. Now we’re on a first name basis with many, chatting weekly about their lives. Instead of woes and sadness, these people tell us of prospects and hopes; they smile instead of grimacing.
 
I know what I do weekly isn’t a solution to homelessness. I know it isn’t sustainable in the long term and it is only one small local effort to help. But in a world where people often get too wrapped up in the big picture, it’s enough for me to take a closer, hands-on approach to dealing with a topic that is important to me. 1) it makes me feel good, and 2) it helps my community.
 
Who knows? In time my efforts might be duplicated in other areas. Or maybe someone will come up with a better idea of helping. In the mean time, I’ll keep driving my truck around and handing out #humanKINDness among other necessities. To learn about our latest efforts, follow up with our latest post here.

To find out how you can volunteer to help people experiencing homelessness in your area, click here. 

BC Brown is the author of three novels and has participated in multiple short story anthologies. Having committed almost every ‘bad deed’ in the book

Close up of a redheaded woman smiling and wearing a yellow sweater and dangling gold earrings.of How To Be An Author, she now strives to educate others through humor and simple instruction, and uses her celebrity to advocate for others.

Coming Soon: Karaoke Jane