Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pew! Pew! New Release CassaFire and More!

I've been looking forward to this release for some time now. PewPewLazerGunsBBQsauce! At last it has arrived!

by Alex J. Cavanaugh

CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities.

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Available today!
Science fiction - space opera/adventure
Print ISBN 978-0-9827139-4-5, $15.95, 6x9 Trade paperback, 240 pages
EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-6-9, $4.99, available in all formats

CassaFire is the sequel to Cavanaugh’s first book, CassaStar, an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller:
…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

You can visit the author’s site at 
Barnes and Noble
Amazon Kindle

Also on the menu is Charmaine Clancy's debut: My Zombie Dog

On Zane’s 14th birthday he had to bury a dog. The next morning it’s in his room, tail wagging.

This is not the dog he wanted. No, Zane longed for a cool Collie or Shepard. Now he’s stuck with this scraggy, smelly undersized mutt. As if the dog wasn’t embarrassing enough, his mum wants to name it ‘Fluffy’. No way. Zane figures it dug itself out of the ground, so its name is Fossil.

Fossil's a mean dog and will snap and bite at people... but why are those people bitten turning sluggish and craving strange food items like brains? Can Zane rid himself of this mutt and save his town from a zombie outbreak?

You can visit the author’s site at where she is running an amazing giveaway from now until the end of March.

Amazon Kindle

I'm so looking forward to reading both these books. What books have you recently enjoyed?

Monday, February 27, 2012

7 Ways to Cut Back Without Losing Out

Last week I explained how social media can be both a great investment and a drain on our time. I also explained how to find a balance with social networking and other priorities. This post will offer some specific ways you could cut back on that social media time without losing out on all the great things it can offer.
  1. Be selective with your media of choice. You don't have to be everywhere or do everything in social media. Pick your favourite/s and do them well. The rest you can either ignore or use maintenance mode (see the next point).
  2. Use maintenance mode. This is what I call doing the minimum to maintain the following you've already built. I use this mode for Twitter by acknowledging any retweets, new followers, or mentions I happen to get. Although I will always follow back if someone follows me, I tend not to seek new followers or conversations here. This way I maintain my numbers and have more time for other priorities.
  3. Use email alerts. Most social networking sites offer customisation in email alerts so you don't even have to visit the site to know what's been going on. For Facebook, I've set my alerts so I know when someone has tagged me, written on my wall, or posted in my favourite group.
  4. Maintain no more than one blog. I used to maintain two blogs aimed at completely different audiences. Time inevitably became an issue so I had to choose. This turned out to be a good thing because my readers no longer had to guess which blog to visit.  Note: if you have old blogs that you no longer maintain, make sure you remove the address from your profile.
  5. Reduce the number of times you post on your blog. When I first started blogging I posted every day. I reduced this to Monday-Saturday and again to three times a week. I currently post twice a week which seems to work best for me. I'd suggest if you are trying to build a platform then three times a week is the best number without overdoing it. The absolute maximum is once a day and the absolute minimum is once a week (unless you state you're on a break).
  6. Cut back on personal responses. I used to always give a personal response in the comments to everyone who commented on my blog. While I will always visit the blogs of those who have taken the time to visit mine, I've had to cut back on the personal responses to their comments. Even though I know a couple of people come back to read those responses, I'm not convinced everyone does. I know a few bloggers who don't respond at all to their comments and they don't seem to have suffered. I would love to hear your opinion on this issue.
  7. Cut back on blog visits. This point is the most obvious time-saver, but also the most difficult. However, it's also necessary if you follow more than 200 blogs. I follow more than a thousand blogs so obviously it's impossible to visit everyone every day. I've had to become highly selective. I will always try to visit my favourites, my new followers, my commenters.

Can you think of other ways of cutting back on the social networking time without losing out on its benefits?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to Balance Your Social Networking Time

In my previous post I explained how social media is a great investment of our time, but it can begin to drain too much of that time. This post will offer ways you can balance social media so that it doesn't become a demand on your time.

Assess your current time usage.
This means being honest with how much time you spend on social media sites in all their flavours. You might be surprised by how high that number is, especially if you dip your toes in at regular intervals during the day.

Note: a part of this assessment should include some honesty behind why you are currently using it. For example, many of us use it as a distraction from other priorities.

Assess what you want from social media. There are many reasons to hang out on social networking sites: to sell a product, to be a part of a supportive community, to build a platform, to connect with friends, to keep in touch with an industry of choice, to learn new information, to be seen, to be distracted, to share…and the list goes on.

Assess your priorities. Now that you know what you want, you need to work out your priorities. This includes the priority of each 'want' if you have more than one, as well as your priorities outside social networking.

Assess your needed time usage. Based on what you want from social media and other priorities, you should be able to work out how much time you'll need to gain the most out of all of them. For example, if it's about platform building, then a writer who hasn't finished their first manuscript doesn't need to spend as much time networking as an author who is about to release their book. The amount will also vary depending on the type of social media. Some, like blogging, require more time than others.

Schedule your time. If you don't like schedules, then place a maximum time limit on your browsing, commenting, tweeting etc. These are the best way to keep an eye on your time if you stick to them.

Take a break. Breaks hold off burn-out. They keep us sane and they can refresh our spirit. Know that you won't fall off the grid if you disappear for a week or even two. Note: Rather than just disappearing, it's crucial to inform your readers/followers of your plan and let them know when they can expect you back.

Be flexible. Demands on your time will fluctuate and needs will vary. It's important to stay flexible and adjust to these changes.

This post turned out longer than I'd expected so next week I'll share specific tips on the things you can do to cut back. 

What do you want from social media?

Thank you to Amy at The Literary Mom for the Sunshine Award. Thank you also to Susan Fields for the Great Comments Award. Please pop on by their blogs to say hi from me.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Social Media: an Investment or a Time Drain?

Social Media the Investment:
For writers, or anyone else who wants to promote themselves or their work, social media can be a brilliant investment of our time. And here's why:
  • A way to connect--Social media offers a great way to connect with people we wouldn't normally reach. It's also a great way to be 'seen'. In writers' speak, it's a great way to build a platform.
  • An information resource--I can quickly find answers, or leads to answers, I can't find via Google or Wikipedia. Sometimes I need that firsthand knowledge, or simply an opinion.
  • Staying up-to-date--I use social media to keep in touch with what's happening in the publishing world.
  • Catching opportunities--There are all sorts of opportunities available through social media. For example, this is where I hear about contests, anthology submissions and query critiques, etc. I've met all my critique partners through social media.
Despite the way most social media is designed, it's not a thing you can just jump into and expect everything instantly at your fingertips. It takes consistency and time to build those connections, resources, and opportunities--which brings me to my next point:
Social Media the Time Drain:
Social media can be addictive, especially when you start picking up a few followers and start making those connections. There's a real sense of validation that comes from it and, let's face it, it's lots of fun. However, this enjoyment can entice you to spend more time on social media than you need, to the detriment of your other priorities.

While you'll only get out of it what you put in, there will come a time when you'll have to ask yourself what exactly you want from it. If you aren't getting what you need, then it will become a drain.

So, yes, while social media is a fabulous investment of our time, if we pour in more time than we need, then we'll burn out and our other priorities will suffer. Everyone is different so only you can work out the right balance.

My next post will be Tips for Cutting Back without Losing Out.

Have you fallen into the trap of spending too much time in social media? How much time do you spend on it?
A big thanks to Shah Wharton for the Versatile Blogger Award. Please visit her and say hi from me.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Quick Tip on Character Development

The easiest way to show character development through a story is to start by taking away your characters' sense of security. Give them barriers to stop them from reaching their goals, then sit back and watch them react.

As the characters develop through their stories, however, they will need to change from reaction to action. That is, they'll need to stop reacting to events and start taking control. They will become more active and will do something about their circumstances.

Tada! One character arc broken down into its simplest form.

Has this formula worked for you? Can you share some other quick tips on character development?

I've been tagged again with 11 Questions. This time the tag has come from Melissa Dean and C.V. Marie with some wonderful writerly questions. Again, I will pick my favourites:

What genre do you enjoy the most? I love the speculative genre. That includes fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, anything weird and wonderful.

Plotter or Pantser? I used to write by the seat of my pants and it was a whole bunch of fun, but I needed to do too much deleting when it came to the editing stage. Now I've fallen in love with outlining. I can write a story fast, I can see the plot as a whole and delete or move the scenes where necessary without fear of lost effort or time.

What is the first line of your current WIP? The worst sound in the world is a knock at the door. (It will likely change by the time I've finished editing.)

Favourite time of day to write? In the morning when the air is crisp and my mind is fresh.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Origins Blogfest

Thanks to the host D.L. Hammons and co-sponsors Alex J. Cavanaugh, Katie Mills and Matthew MacNish. For this Blogfest we are asked to describe where our writing dreams began. For me it's been much like planting a fruit tree from seed.

The seed:
I wasn't a fast reader so I avoided books until I found my mum's collection of Enid Blyton's Famous Five series. I read them in my room where no one could make fun of how slow I read. I read every single one of them. After that I didn't read at all. Then on the last days of primary school my teacher read The Hobbit to the class. After that I read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Wow. Tolkien's world was awe-inspiring. But again I stopped reading. Instead I joined the Tolkien Society and did artwork for them.

The sapling:
I met a friend in high school who introduced me to the true joy of books. She devoured books. Anything and everything.  She pointed me to the best, she taught me how to find them, she taught me the love of the written word. I read the works of C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper, Anne McCaffrey, David Eddings, Raymond E. Feist, anything fantasy. I decided I wanted to become a writer and over the course of the next 9 years I wrote a gargantuan epic.

The tree and its fruit:
I wrote a second epic while I tried to get the first one published. Back then I had no idea about the publishing world. All too quickly I gave up. I kept reading, but I didn't write for ten years. Biggest mistake of my life. However it's that very mistake that keeps me writing now. My advice to anyone who wants to write is keep writing and don't give up.

Where did your writing dreams begin?

I've also been tagged by Kaylie Austen to answer 11 questions. I've always been a bit of a rebel so I've picked my favourite questions from the list and answered them:

What’s your favourite movie, and why? The Princess Bride. It has everything--love, adventure, great dialogue, memorable scenes, fantastic conflicts, humour, and a drool-worthy leading man.
Would you rather live in a fantasy/paranormal world or a sci-fi one? Fantasy was my first pick until I thought about it. I'd love to be able to wield magic, but I'm not so sure I'd like the lack of modern conveniences. Also, the thought of meeting a real dragon is unsettling. Could I pick the best from both worlds?
If you were tossed into a fairytale, would you be a helpless princess (prince), a kick-butt heroine (hero), or the bad guy? None of the above. I'd be the enthusiastic side kick.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bust 4 Myths to Gain More Writing Time

Writing a novel isn't a quick exercise. It takes a mountain of time, discipline and perseverance. Consequently, the phenomenon of never having enough time is a common one. Whether you have a single hour to write per day or twelve, this is what inevitably happens:

In the early days of a project, even if it's not easy to make time, your enthusiasm and positivity are enough to keep you going. When you reach the middle, that energy begins to wane. You'll read through your draft of genius and realise how much more work you need to throw into your project. You'll ask yourself, 'How will I ever get it done?' You'll begin to doubt your chances of reaching that end goal. And so enters the first myth:

Myth #1: I don't have enough time to write.
Sure, you may not have a full day of freedom to write, but when you love something, you make time for it--regardless of the surrounding chaos. If interruptions are a problem, then find a writing nook you can close yourself away into. Make sure your family members understand the time you've set aside for writing is important to you and unless it's an emergency you don't want to be disturbed. If noise is a problem, then try music to help you focus. Scheduling in specific writing time is a great way to gain the kind of discipline needed. Achievable goals are another. To allow for unforeseen circumstances, I set myself a weekly writing goal rather than a daily one. What I can't achieve on one day I can make up for on another. Flexibility is key.

Myth #2: I need a large block of time to write.
When your day is full of commitments that can't be ignored, and your schedule falls by the wayside, it's easy to think writing isn't possible. But there are ways around this. You can still write in thirty minutes, ten minutes, or even in snatched seconds (as I did for part of this post). You can carry small notepads around with you during your day, or one of countless high tech devises to record your words. If you are out and about, you can still write.

Myth #3: I have to be in the right mood to write.

Mood is not a prerequisite for writing and neither is inspiration. Allowing mood to sway your decision to write will only hold you back. This is why schedules work for me. I give myself a set time to write and, regardless of mood, inspiration or anything else, I write.

Myth #4: Other commitments are more important than my writing.
Women in particular have a knack for putting themselves last in their list of priorities, especially when they have a family to look after. If writing is more important to you than just a little side hobby, then you should treat it better than you would such a hobby. It's a matter of priority.

In summary:
Don't make excuses. If you are struggling to find the time to write, then do something about it. Prioritize your day and make a schedule which includes some writing time. Make sure your loved ones understand how important writing is to you and ask for their support. And don't wait for your muse--just write.

How do you find the time to write?

1. The Fourth Writers' Platform-Building Campaign has begun. Head on over to check it out and sign up for the fun. It's a fantastic way to meet new friends.

2. One of my posts was picked up by the Everything Author website. The article is on the advantages of writing a fast first draft. Feel free to check it out.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How to Get Published: Part 2

Be Patient

Last week I wrote a post on How to Get Published: Part 1. It was about all the things we need to pay attention to if we want to increase our chances of getting published. This post is about the crucial need to be patient.

The publishing world turns slowly. It takes time to write a novel, time to edit it just right. It takes time for critique partners and beta readers to read through a manuscript and get back to the author with their impressions and suggestions. Writers also need time away from their stories at each new phase in its development so they can regain a clear perspective on the story.

It takes time for agents and publishers to go through countless queries. They have to not only read your submission, but they also need to research whether or not your story will fit the current market, whether it will fit a publishing schedule, whether it's different enough from other books already on the lists.

Once the novel is accepted it then takes time to get it ready for publication. That means more edits, proof reading, cover art, printing, marketing strategies, a build-up of publicity. It also means sorting any legal requirements and permissions. For example, this is required if the book includes lyrics not written by the author or illustrations not created by the author.

Don't try to rush the process. Resist the temptation to send out your manuscript too soon. And don't give up. Keep writing, keep learning, keep improving, and be patient.

What part of the process are you most impatient with? How have you managed to stay patient when things seem too slow?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Learning to Fall

Before I found the joy of writing, I thought I wanted to become an actress. It sounded like a great idea at the time: dressing up in cool costumes, playing someone else, bringing a story to life. So my mum sent me to Speech and Drama classes.

Not so much fun. Where were the cool costumes? What's this boring play? You want me to learn how many lines?

Then I scored a part in Androcles and the Lion. I played a woman who comes across a lion while wandering in the forest. My role included running away and fainting on stage. It sounded simple enough, but to my surprise, I needed to learn to fall down. It's not a matter of just falling. I needed to make sure I didn't injure myself.

I think writers need to learn to fall as well. When I say 'fall' I mean things like getting rejections, not writing a perfect first draft, getting bad reviews, not connecting the story that's in your head with the one you've written on paper etc. There are plenty of ways we can fall. Falling is an inevitable part of the writing process and I think it's better to learn to fall before we try to fly.

How does a writer learn to fall?
First, I think it's important to know it happens and it's normal. You aren't a failed writer if you make mistakes, if your piece isn't perfect, if your favourite agent rejects your story.

Listening to your fear of failure is the one sure way to fail. So arm yourself against it. Ask yourself how much you want the goals you've set yourself. When I did this, my answer was simple. A writing career is so important to me that I'm willing to put in the long hours and the hard work. I'm willing to deal with all the ups and downs.

Here are some other truths you should know:
  • Yes, rejections happen to the best of us.
  • No, there is no such thing as an overnight success.
  • No, the writing path isn't an easy one.
  • Yes, we make ourselves vulnerable when we throw ourselves into our stories and share what we've written.  
  • Yes, it's scary.
  • Yes, it's wonderful.
  • Yes, we all have a choice. When we fall down, we can either give up, or we can get up, dust ourselves off and keep writing.
If I don't chase my dreams, I'll go nowhere. If I do chase the dreams, then I might fall, but here's something else to remember: It's not only about the destination. The true joy is in the journey.

How have you learnt to overcome the falls--not just as a writer, but in any part of your life?

This post was written as part of the Insecure Writers' Support Group.

Thank you: A huge thank you to J.C. Martin. I won an Oracle swag pack during her fabulous mystery tour which revealed the cover design for her novel due for release in July.

Thank you also to Debbie Johansson for the Kreativ Blogger Award.