Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Punchy, Fun, Engaging Posts

Awesome blog posts don't just happen.

There are plenty of things to consider if you want to create posts people will read without excessive eye-rolling and/or growling aloud. (Note: if eye-rolling and excessive growling is your goal, you have my permission to hit the road, Jack. Bye-bye!)

Choose cool topics
You may be the Grand Expert of Nothing, but you can still share what you know and the resources that have helped you. Go ahead and respond to readers, issues presented by other authors, and explore cool trends in the literature world. (Note: don't act like a know-it-all...unless you've done some mega research and you actually know it all. #SmartA)

Keep 'em brief & positive
Step one is Get the Words Out! So what if they're bitter or rambling? I'm often Miss Bitter and Rambling. But before embracing my righteous indignation and pounding the publish button, I don my editor hat. (Yes, it's super cute and covered with bling!) Humor is added to soften angry/bitter words. And repetitive redundancies can meet Mr. Delete. (Note: soliloquizing and crazy rants already have a place in Shakespeare. And he does it better than you. #SorryNotSorry)

Format, highlight, & leave some freaking blank space
If you don't have an inner artist, this is a good time to develop one. Think of ADD children, and visually peruse the post for large chunks of text that readers (like me) will find overwhelming. Chunk it into more readable bites. Use those schmancy little editing buttons to bold, italicize, and highlight subtopics, important nuggets, or tweetable gems. And please for the love of Pete, leave a decent amount of white space! (If you think this is just the ramblings of a crazy kindergarten teacher, go ahead and write four pages without paragraph breaks or dialogue to interrupt. I'm bored just thinking about it...and you?)

Eye-catching images
We like to pretend that Words are All Powerful. Nothing undermines that theory like the share-ability of a post with cool images. You're all professional photographers and artistic geniuses, right? No? No worries, there are plenty of resources that make even the dumbest of bunnies look good:
  • Unsplash is my favorite source for free, high-quality photos. Jazz 'em up, have a bit of fun, and voila, a custom image for your post. (If Unsplash isn't your style, peruse this Verve article for other sites with royalty-free images.) 
  • Photoshop makes my inner child shudder. RhonnaDesigns is the Instagram app I use for editing and embellishing photos. It's simple and includes various fonts, stickers, frames, etc. #SoCute
  • I've heard good things about PicMonkey, which includes many of the same features and it's free.
Double duty! I create cool images for my website and later use them for Social Media promotion. (And hey, if you haven't been paying attention, Pinterest and Instagram are all about the images, baby!)

Link it up
Again, utilize those schmancy buttons at the top to embed links to related blog posts on the same topic, others' posts that inspired yours, and outside resources (book links, more information on the same topic, etc.). Think carefully about how to reference them to encourage the reader to follow the links. (Note: never use HERE to reference links. Mr. Lazy Bones. HERE tells you nothing about where the link leads. It's only useful on that map at the mall when you have no idea where you are. #YouAreHERE)

Choose an awesome title
Some readers won't get past boring, off-putting titles. When crafting a title, think in terms of promotion. What do you want readers to attend to most? Title your post accordingly. Also, be sure to deliver on any promises made to the reader. Annoyed readers don't stick around. Shocker!

Interact with readers
The internet closes the gap between celebs and Joe Shmoe. We may as well encourage audience participation and close that gap a little more, right? We can invite readers to comment, share their expertise, and give their opinions or preferences on the issues we present. Did you think about the fact that you're someone's favorite writer? If you've ever seen the sparkle in someone's eye after they read your book, that's what it means!

Recheck before posting
Resist the righteous indignation of pounding the publish key for one more second! Preview and recheck it again. Peruse, play with different formatting, add your labels, and test your links. I can't tell you how many times I've been so proud of a post only to read it through and find a glaring error. #SoooooEmbarrassing 

The moral of the story is: 
You can never look too brilliant!
(So take your time and make it awesome.)

We've reached the end end of my soliloquy on creating Punchy, Fun, Engaging Posts. (Note: this was the least punchy, fun, engaging post EVER. So I jazzed it up a bit. How did I do?) 

By the way, if you'd love to see some masters at work, here are a few of my favorites:
Any other tips you'd mention to the blogosphere, my dears? I'd love more input on the subject. Leave me a comment below!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Humor & Inspiration in Writing: So, You've Published a Book...

Carol Hedges:
Author, Blogger, Super Gran
When writers take on the publishing world, they jump in with two feet. I had NO idea what was coming in the form of marketing, sales, and random comments from strangers and not-so-strangers. I've already unveiled a few secrets of marketing and authorship. Today's Humor & Inspiration guest, Carol Hedgeswill address a few more of the...uh, annoying aspects of authorship (i.e. random comments strangers and not-so-strangers make when they discover you're a writer/published author.) 

Let me just say this about Carol Hedges, she is hysterical. Whether she's discussing her granny duties or introducing her latest book, she's professional, warm, inviting, and YES, hilarious. Introducing her to you is an immense pleasure. Take it away, Carol!
* * *    
Advice to Newly Published Writers
So you have finally published your first book! Congratulations, fellow writer, welcome to the best club on earth! And here you are now, head held high, feet a million miles off the ground, waiting for your sales to take off, 5 star reviews to pile in, and Hollywood to make that all-important call.

As you share your wonderful achievement with family, friends and complete strangers (because you won’t be able to resist), expect to encounter the following:

1. You don’t look like a writer: this has been said to me so many times I have lost count. I have tried to get the person to define exactly WHAT a writer looks like (pallid, vacant stare, two heads, ink-stains on their jumper). All I ever get is ‘not like you.’
Apparently. they expect us to look weirder.
2. I’ve often thought I could write a book. Everybody has a novel inside them, it seems. And it is so easy to write it, apparently. Don’t bother to share the agonising hours staring at a blank screen, the sleepless nights trying to work out the plot, the constant feeling that you are wasting your time. They won’t believe you. It must be easy...after all, YOU did it.
Because that's just so easy-peasy.
3. I don’t have time for reading. Subtext: ‘I am far too busy doing important things for such idle frivolity; you clearly aren’t.’ Smile and wave, smile and wave. Put them in the next book and kill them. Slowly and painfully.
Boneheads, beware!
4. So what’s it about, your book? OK, trick question. You will be tempted to launch into your carefully written blurb, or that brilliantly crafted synopsis that took you three days to produce. Waste of time. They will inevitably reply by asking you whether your book has got any dogs in it because they like reading books about dogs.
This one's ALL about dogs. (And an easy reader!)
5. I’ve got this really good idea for a book - do you want to hear it? No, you don’t. Because this is your moment, your achievement, your book. But they will tell you regardless. In detail. They will probably then offer to let you use their idea in your next book. Resist the temptation.
The correct response to an unsolicited book pitch.
6. That (insert name of over-hyped writer) earns a fortune. Aha! Now’s your chance. Lead them carefully through the meagre royalty rates, the bookshop discounting, the amount of unpaid promotion you have to do. They won’t believe you, but it will remind you why you wanted to be a writer in the first place...for love of the craft, not for money.
I'll just leave this here...            
........and then pat yourself on the back, tell yourself that you have achieved what thousands of others can only dream of, and start writing your next book.
* * *
Carol Hedges is the successful UK author of 15 novels. 12 for teenagers and young adults, and three adult historical novels. Her books have been shortlisted for various prizes. Her YA novel Jigsaw was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal and her first Victorian Crime novel Diamonds & Dust was listed for the 2013 CWA Historical Dagger. She is currently writing the fifth book in her Victorian Detectives series. The fourth, Murder & Mayhem, will be published later this year.
* * *
Gorgeous cover art, Carol. Also, I'm totally in love with the pink car of joy.
See? She's a delight! I think I'll keep her (but mostly for my own amusement). Feel free to find her online, she's easy to chat with and is an amazing writer and mentor. 

Twitter: @carolJhedges
Her award winning blog: Carol Hedges 
Discover The Curious Victorian on Facebook

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Humor & Inspiration in Writing: British Book Invasion

Heidi Jo Doxey:
The Girl with All the Answers
Remember the kerfuffle with the Humor & Inspiration posts a couple of weeks ago when the guest posts ran out? Well now, my dear readers, I'm overrun with awesome content, both of the humorous and inspiring variety. So, what does that mean for you? There are many more super cool authors, writers, and bloggers coming your way! 

Speaking of super cool authors, meet Heidi Jo Doxey. She's another Cedar Fort author like yours truly. But instead of wrestling kindergartners as a teacher, she's wrestles words as an editor and avid blogger. Heidi has a warm personality, a delightful sense of humor, and she too adores British culture (though to my knowledge, Heidi's never claimed an intimate relationship with the BBC). But enough from me, enjoy reading about Heidi's love for literature!
* * *
Anyone who’s read my blog knows that it’s a question-and-answer format. I ask myself a question and then I answer it. So here’s my question for today:

What kinds of humor do you like in the books you read and write?

Hands down, my favorite contemporary humor writer is Louise Rennison. If you’ve never heard of her, she’s amazing. Look her up. Seriously. She wrote this series about a girl named Georgia Nicholson, which is basically a teenage version of Bridget Jones’s Diary, and it never fails to make me laugh out loud. Anytime I’m feeling gloomy, I can pick up any book in that series and be giggling within five minutes. The humor in those books is just zany. Georgia is hilarious and her family is insane. It’s so much fun.

That series became a major inspiration for me when I began writing The Jane Journals a few years ago. In case you haven’t heard of it (likely) The Jane Journals is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s major works. Austen herself was quite funny in writing and has obviously been a big inspiration to me as well. Lately I’ve been working on revising the second book in my series, and it’s made me realize how often I like to use irony as a comic device. I love it when the reader knows something that the character doesn’t and it makes the character’s antics all the more funny. Austen was wonderful at pulling this off, and it makes her books all the more fun to try to modernize.

Another favorite of mine is P.G. Wodehouse. He’s a master when it comes to satire, and his characters are hilariously fun. Random aside: I once had a little tuxedo cat that I named Jeeves, after Wodehouse’s famed manservant. I loved that cat. So cute!

As I’m writing this, I’m realizing all my favorite comedic writers are British, which doesn’t really surprise me. I may be stereotyping here, but Brits tend to have a dry humor which works so well when you can pull it off in writing. I’m also a big fan of sarcasm and wittiness in writing and in real life. 

Speaking of witty Brits, I think the last person I’ll mention is Oscar Wilde. I seriously LOVE his society plays. If I’d been alive back in the day, I would’ve been an Oscar Wilde groupie or something. It’s almost a shame he was born when he was because I think he would be a really successful screenwriter if he were alive now. Though I’m not sure modern society would be as much fun for him to mock as Victorian England must’ve been.

Oh, gosh, guys. Books are fun, especially the funny ones. I could go on and on about them, but as Wilde once said, “Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.” I’m not convinced I’m the former, which means it’s probably time for me to see myself out. Happy reading!
* * *

Heidi Jo Doxey grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area where she started reading Jane Austen in seventh grade. She currently lives in Utah, where she works as an editor. When she’s not reading, writing, or blogging, she enjoys hiking, traveling, and daydreaming about her future life in a tiny house.

You can visit Heidi online at Girl With All The Answers and PrimaryHelper.

The first book in The Jane Journals series, Liam Darcy, I Loathe You is currently available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, BooksandThings, BooksaMillion, Walmart, and in bookstores nationwide.
* * *
I love a girl who loves British books and is inspired by British writers. I'm just such a girl myself!  Thanks for stopping in at Twisted Fairytale central, Miss Heidi, and for leaving us with a bit of your sunshine and some books to add to our TBR lists.(BTW I started listening to the Georgia Nicolson books and I'm dying!) Carry on, lovely lady!

Revisit the other writers in the Humor & Inspiration Features

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Food for Thought: Comfort Books

DISCLAIMER: The following is the dramatization (emphasis on the DRAMA) of a kindergarten teacher's bad day. Any similarity to real events and/or obnoxious children is thoroughly coincidental. Almost probably.
* * *
The urge to cram my fingers in my ears is overwhelming. The students are gone, but their nonsense rings in my head.

Bicker, bicker.

It wasn't me!

Pencils drum on the table. Thump, thump, thump, thump!

My pencil is broken! (That ggggrrkkk is my teeth grinding. I despise sharpening pencils.)

Cough, cough. Aaaaachoooo! A hand claps over a face. Wide eyes silently scream, I need a tissue!

Another day in Kindergartenland. Another squirt of hand-sanitizer pools in my palm. Die, germs, die! I glance at the clock, gauging how long until I can escape the four walls that are squeezing the air from my lungs and the rational thoughts from my brain.

Ten minutes!

Ten minutes until pajama pants, whatever chocolate is left in the cupboard (probably those fat chocolate chips that will never make it into cookies), a fluffy blanket tucked up to my chin, and That Book.

I wander about the classroom, straightening table caddies and retrieving the odd crayon, my mind already on other issues. Why did I leave off just as Anne met Royal Gardiner? No matter how tall, handsome, and gentlemanly Roy might be, he's no Gilbert Blythe. You're not fooling anyone Miss Shirley. I snag a gum wrapper off the floor and scowl. How could one woman misunderstand her own feelings so badly? (And where in the world did they get gum?)
Gilbert, good. Gum, bad.
I throw my jacket over my arm. My keys jangle in the lock. My mind is already eighty-five percent lost to Anne of the Island. (The other fifteen percent is reserved for wondering where the gum is now.)

And yes, I always read the ending twice. (Incidentally, I almost never look at the underside of my tables. It's just not worth the mental anguish.)
When the world is so loud and obnoxious that it squeezes your mind with its insistence, running away is the only option. Disappearing into a favorite book on a weeknight is like sampling an exotic chocolate. Utterly delicious.

Comfort reads. This is mine. Here are a few of yours:
I'd love to hear about your favorite stories and how they help to calm, energize, inspire you. Leave me a comment!

Also, all the book titles are linked to the best Amazon deals I could find. So, stock up on the chocolate and get cozy! Comfort reads are just a click away. (Or in my case, a bookshelf away.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Humor & Inspiration in Writing: Abandoning the Comfort Zone

Kaley Tallman & Grounded Soul Massage
The best of plans goes awry. The Humor & Inspiration  features were going like clockwork. Until they didn't. Authors and bloggers dotted the schedule, but illness and life kept a couple from submitting on time. Feeling nervous, I reached out to my Facebook connections and my friend Kaley Tallman offered to fill in. 

To help you understand how amazing Kaley is, allow me to share a bit of insider information:
  1. Kaley is a self-made business woman. Regardless of many obstacles, she has established her own massage therapy practice in Northern Utah, Grounded Soul Massage
  2. She is a healer. Kaley is not only well-trained, but her hands work magic. Her focus is on improving her clients' quality of life.
  3. As well as a meditative nature, Kaley has a wonderful sense of humor. Both qualities aid her clients in tapping into a place of peace, understanding, safety, & personal well-being.
  4. Kaley is a giver. Among other things, she donated time during Parent Teacher Conferences to treat elementary teachers to a little TLC. 
Over the years, I have enjoyed Kaley's levelheadedness, professionalism, and whit. We have laughed and learned together, and Kaley has been an integral part of my healing process. I am pleased to share her with you now. Enjoy her words of wisdom.
* * *
Recently, my friend Sarah Boucher posted on her Facebook page that she was looking for a guest blogger this week. Without thinking too much, I volunteered. I figured it would be a great opportunity to get out of my Comfort Zone.

To be honest, I had a difficult time deciding what I wanted to share with a new audience. She suggested something to do with health, wellness, and inspiration. And being a massage therapist and self-employed, I thought it would be easy to share this kind of information.

As it turns out, I have been feeling stuck on what to share.
Today on my Facebook news feed, there was a picture that said, “Have total belief in yourself. Your future success depends on it.” This reminded me of a theme that has been showing up for me daily.

My future success depends completely on me being willing to step out of my comfort zone and believing in myself.

It is scary and thrilling all at the same time.

Every day, I get to create my future.

I share all of this to hopefully inspire you, the person reading this. It's okay that you feel stuck and vulnerable. Heck, I feel that quite often. However, I find my daily inspiration in the people that I meet or even a little reminder on my Facebook news feed.

I invite you to step out of your comfort zone and have faith in yourself. 

You just might be surprised at what can happen.
* * *
Isn't she marvelous? Kaley isn't a writer in the conventional sense, but she blogs, runs an inspirational Facebook page, and was recently featured in an article about  Myofascial Release Therapy

To learn more about Kaley, Myofascial Release, or Grounded Soul Massage, find her on Facebook, Twitter, or on the Grounded Soul Massage website. Happy healing!

Meet the other writers featured in the Humor & Inspiration Features