Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tanya Eavenson: Twitter Basics 101

I hear many people, authors and writers included, say they don’t understand Twitter or how to use it. In fact, I was one of them. Now, however, Twitter is my “go to” social media outlet. It’s not only a great place for marketing, but to connect with others who have similar interests and build friendships. So to help you better understand and utilize Twitter, I’ll share a few things you should know when setting up your account.

Bios and Headshots

First things first, your bio and headshot are important. Why? Because people will be less likely to follow you if they can’t learn something about you. Your headshot is the “egg” Twitter provides. Many times the “egg shot” tells others you’re an amateur that doesn’t know what you’re doing. While this may be true at first, others don’t need to know, so add your picture in place of the egg. It can be as easy as adding your photo, your book, or your favorite pet. It’s up to you so have fun!

Secondly, add your bio. You only have 160 characters/letters so make it good. I’m not saying to make it up, but use words that tell who you are as a person. Are you a mother? What do you love to do? Photography. Are you part of any groups? Here is my bio from Twitter to give you an idea.

Author, pastor’s wife, mother, writer for Christ to the World Ministries. #ACFW

My bio gives you a glimpse of who I am, what I like to do, and what type of groups or organizations I’m part of. Here is another bio from a friend of mine, Author Carole Towriss. I love hers!

I like long walks on the beach … oops, wrong site—I have four kids. Follower of Jesus, wife, adoptive mom, reader. Just north of Washington, DC

As you can see, there’s a differences between our bios, but both give you the idea of who we are in 160 characters or less. For more reading on bios, Mashable has a great post “How to Write a Rockstar Twitter Bio.”

Follow Me

Now that you have your Twitter account and your settings saved, you’re ready to start following others. One way to find others who have the same interests as you is search for key words. Let’s make up a fake bio to try this. Meet Elizabeth Roberts, my heroine from my novel Unconditional. She is a…

Wife, homeschool mom, owner of “Books and More” bookstore, & photographer who loves beach sunsets. #blogger #reader

Looking at Elizabeth’s profile, you’ll notice she is a homeschool mom (homeschool mom in second novel not yet released), photographer, a book store owner, blogger, and a reader. You can plug any of those words into the search, but for this example we’ll plug in homeschool. After you enter “Homeschool”, several Twitter profiles will pop-up. Elizabeth will begin to follow those she’s interested in getting to know.   

Here are a few more ways for you to get others to follow you. Share what you’ve read with others by retweeting someone else’s post, tweet daily, and use #Hashtags. What are #hashtags? They are a pound symbol followed by a word or topic like #homeschool. For more on #Hashtags, Training Authors has a great post for Twitter users.

If you look back at Elizabeth’s bio, she is a book store owner. With the holidays coming, she should be looking for ways to increase sales and promote her bookstore for the holiday season. She can do this by tweeting her book store and by finding authors she might be interested in inviting for a book signing. Elizabeth will add the hashtag #author to the search. Hopefully through the search, she will find authors she’d like to invite to her holiday book signing at “Books and More.”

Building Friendships

Building relationships in any arena of life takes work, even Twitter, but the good news is the steps are easy.
  • Show interest in others.
  • Read tweets and links, and comment on what you liked about their post.
  • Remember The Golden Rule and always try to be a blessing.
  • Be yourself.
 Do you have a Twitter account? If not, join today! While you’re there, stop by and say “hello” at @Tan_eave. See you on Twitter!

Tanya Eavenson enjoys spending time with her husband, and their three children. Her favorite pastime is grabbing a cup of coffee, eating chocolate, and reading a good book. Tanya is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Word Weavers International, and writes for Christ to the World Ministries. You can connect with Tanya on Facebook and at her website.

He will fight for her at any cost...

Elizabeth Roberts can't remember her past, and the present is too painful. She turns to nightclubs and drinking to forget her infant daughter's death, her husband's affair.

When his wife's coma wiped out the memory of their marriage, Chris Roberts found comfort elsewhere. He can't erase his betrayal, but with God's help he’s determined to fight for Elizabeth at any cost.

She wants to forget. He wants to save his marriage. Can they trust God with their future and find a love that’s unconditional?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Darlene Franklin: Take It Out of the Drawer

Bible Portion: Matthew 25:1-46

The servant given one thousand said, “Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.” - Matthew 25:24-25

Today’s portion includes parables about the coming kingdom, including the story about the talents (called “dollars” in The Message, a sum of money). It reads a bit like choose your own adventure. How much will you receive as seed money? How will you spend it?

Two of the recipients took the money and doubled it. Fear of failure kept the third from doing anything. He hid the money until his master returned.

His reasons resonate with me as a writer. Publishers expect manuscripts that are free of grammatical and spelling errors. They demand a high quality of writing, that they believe readers will buy, and that the authors will help market. Even established authors receive rejection letters.

As readers, how many of us have read books that make us wince with the mistakes? Many bestsellers make me question what readers want. Where is the “quality” I strive for?

They worked because their authors took a risk in spite of their imperfections. They wrote books that touched the world with the good news of the kingdom. They are living proof that the most successful writers aren’t necessarily the best writers; they are the ones who took risks and persisted.

Unlike the third servant, who left her manuscript in a computer file. As one of my best friends said, “God didn’t give you that story to leave it in the drawer.”

Does God expect our best? Perhaps, but even our best won’t be error free. Obedience counts more than nitpicking. Faith trumps works every time, but the work of showing our service to others is an act of faith.

In this parable, God wants us to use our gifts. “If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least?”

The book club I worked with for the past ten years recently closed its doors. I am faced with, what next? Is now the time God wants me to stop writing?

No. God still wants me to use the gifts He has given in. He will see to the increase.

Whatever your gift(s) is, put it to use. God will multiply it.

About Darlene Franklin:

Darlene Franklin’s greatest claim to fame is that she writes full-time from a nursing home. She lives in Oklahoma, near her son and his family, and continues her interests in playing the piano and singing, books, good fellowship, and reality TV in addition to writing. She has written over thirty books and has written more than 250 devotionals. Her historical fiction ranges from the Revolutionary War to World War II, from Texas to Vermont. You can find Darlene online elsewhere at https://www.facebook.com/Poet.Darlene.Franklin.

The devotion above is taken from A Reader's Journey through Matthew,

A Reader's Journey through Matthew is written by and for avid readers and writers of literature. This seven-week devotional is perfect for a Lenten study or any time of year.

It is available FREE through Wednesday, Feb. 17th.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Johnnie Alexander: Four Reasons to Give Your Villain a Voice

Should I give my antagonist his own point of view?

I pondered this question as I wrote the draft for what became my debut novel, Where Treasure Hides.

The antagonist is Theodor Scheidemann, a German count who espoused Nazism because he wanted to be among Hitler’s elite. However, he is repulsed and even sickened by the brutality he witnesses.

This leads to the first reason to give your villain a voice: to dispel stereotypes.

I gave Theodor his own POV to reveal his personal viewpoints to the reader. Though he is a despicable person, I wanted readers to see beyond the Nazi label and to understand that not all Nazis believed as Hitler.

The second reason, to provide dimension, is closely related to the first.

Theodor came from a Prussian military background, and these officers had nothing but contempt for Hitler’s thugs. He has to reconcile his personal beliefs with his ambitions. The only way to reveal his conflict is to allow the reader to share it with him.

Your antagonist’s worldview can be justified (at least in his eyes) by giving him his own POV.

A third reason is: to keep the antagonist’s identity a secret.

My friend, author Patricia Bradley, writes romantic suspense. She gives her villains their own point-of-view scenes but doesn’t identify them.

Not only does the reader learn the villain’s plans, she also gets clues to his identity.

The reader is engaged in the story because she knows things the protagonists don’t AND she’s trying to guess the villain’s identity.

Did she guess right? She’s not going to close that book until she finds out.

A final reason is: to transform your antagonist into a protagonist.

Sometimes an antagonist isn’t dastardly, reprehensible, a scumbag, or all that villainous. And he probably shouldn’t be if he’s going to be the hero in your next book.

The antagonist in my next novel, tentatively titled Into a Spacious Place, is selfish, conceited, and way too sure of himself.

But I knew he’d be taking the starring role in the following story so he couldn’t be TOO wicked.

As the antagonist, he has a POV so the reader learns about the deep scars he hides behind his charming smile. His initial steps toward heroism are revealed so that readers will readily accept him as the protagonist of his own story.

If you’re wondering whether your villain needs a voice, consider these potential reasons for giving him one:

· To dispel a stereotype

· To provide added dimension

· To keep his identity a secret

· To transform him into a protagonist

And as you write your villain’s POV, remember: everyone, even the villain, is the hero of his or her own story.

(Note: Patricia Bradley and I are presenting this information as part of a workshop called, “A Hero You Love . . . A Villain You Love to Hate,” at the MidSouth Christian Writers Conference on Saturday, March 7, 2015 in Collierville, Tennessee. Please visit the MSCWC website for more information. We’d love to see you there!)

About Where Treasure Hides:

Artist Alison Schuyler spends her time working in her family’s renowned art gallery, determined to avoid the curse that has followed the Schuyler clan from the Netherlands to America and back again. She’s certain that true love will only lead to tragedy—that is, until a chance meeting at Waterloo station brings Ian Devlin into her life.

Drawn to the bold and compassionate British Army captain, Alison begins to question her fear of love as World War II breaks out, separating the two and drawing each into their own battles. While Ian fights for freedom on the battlefield, Alison works with the Dutch Underground to find a safe haven for Jewish children and priceless pieces of art alike. But safety is a luxury war does not allow.

As time, war, and human will struggle to keep them apart, will Alison and Ian have the faith to fight for their love, or is it their fate to be separated forever?

Where Treasure Hides is currently available as an ebook. The print edition releases August 2015.

Barnes & Noble
Christian Book Distributors

About Johnnie Alexander:

Johnnie Alexander is the author of Where Treasure Hides which won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011 Historical Fiction). The first of her three contemporary romances, tentatively titled Into a Spacious Place, releases from Revell in January 2016.

She also has won the Golden Leaf (Autumn in the Mountains Novelist Retreat), Best Novel and Best Writer awards (Florida Christian Writers Conferences), and Bronze Medalist (My Book Therapy Frasier Contest).

A graduate of Rollins College (Orlando) with a Master of Liberal Studies degree, Johnnie lives in the Memphis area with a small herd of alpacas, her dogs Rugby and Skye, and assorted other animals.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Therese Travis: Dialogue, Character and the Power of Flutterling Little Hearts

Valentine’s Day--the day is coming, promising a peak in candy, balloon and flower sales. Diamonds and restaurants share in the bounty. Singles celebrate at anti-Valentine’s parties, couples watch to make sure their significant other picks up the hints and makes good. Imagine the dancing conversations the walls hear--I saw the sweetest bracelet when I was window shopping with the girls today. Or the table saw--or the shoes--yeah, this isn’t dancing so much.
Or, the guy who dumped me last month is going out with my cousin’s best friend now and if I see them out on Valentine’s Day--

Okay, now we’re getting interesting. A list of things I want is soporific, while threats guarantee excitement to come.

Here’s a challenge: take your main character, and what he or she would do in both these situations. What would he want as a gift from his wife? What would he do to give her hints without coming right out and asking? What would she do if she found out the man she’s crushed on for the last three years is dating a good friend? What would she say to show him he’d chosen the wrong girl?

Now put your couple at the restaurant--present-less, dateless, out with someone else (oh, but she got the gift the man at the neighboring table has been coveting for months), and he looks over at her, and spills his coke, and she says:

It’s up to you. I’m just throwing ideas out at you.

Show their sterling characters through their words. But who says, honestly, over a plateful of red beef and baked potato, “My darling, you’ve picked such a wonderful man. Me. I am the best you will ever find.” (I’ve never read dialog that bad, but it’s come close.)

Instead, you’ve got to get him humbly talking about his “save the cat” moment, because unless his mother has cornered the girl and told her in detail how he rescued the poor thing from under the wheels of a bus going fifty and about to smash it, (and who says she’ll believe said mother, because, after all, isn’t a mother’s goal to get him the best possible girl?), the only way she’s going to find out is by listening to him.

Her: You’ve got a cat? Last time I checked, you hated cats.

Him: She found me, actually.

Her: Tell me about it.

Him: She thought I wanted her to follow me home.

Her: Laughing: You had tuna in your coat pocket?

Him: Shaking his head: I think she just had nowhere else to go. She thought a bus wheel well was a great place, but it moved.

Her: And?

Him: And. Yeah, now I’ve got a cat.

Her: What’s she look like?

Him: An exploded pillow. With claws attached.

Her: You really love her, don’t you?

Him: Naw. I just need a pillow. She ripped up all my others.

Her: You didn’t have to let her live with you.

Him: Like I said, she had nowhere else to go.

Her: Nowhere better, you mean.

Him: She’s all fluff and needles. No brains. She has no idea she’s got better options than me.

Her: She had a wheel well, didn’t she? I think you’re a softie.

Him: So does she.

Not sure I can do as well with those gifts, but that girl who got dumped? And now she and her friends see him present that single red rose to her cousin’s best friend? I’m sure she doesn’t want to come off as bitter, scorned and dangerous, but since that pretty much describes her--well, it’s up to you. What does she say?

In the community of Avalon on Catalina Island, a psychopath is kidnapping children and perfectly posing and painting the bodies of adult victims to resemble disabled artist, Robin Ingram.

Robin struggles with feelings of imperfection, and knowing some madman has a macabre agenda—which includes fixing her—is unsettling. She’s relieved when paramedic Sam Albrecht steps up to help.

Sam believes he knows the identity of the killer, and he wants nothing more than to prove it in order to keep Robin out of danger. Then Sam is arrested as a suspect for the crimes, and Robin’s life is thrown into a fresh whirlwind. She may not know who the real killer is, but she does know Sam is innocent…and she will find the proof to set him free, or she’ll die trying.