TEMPTATION: a guest blog by author Shay Fabbro

Join me as guest blogger Shay Fabbro discusses TEMPTATION and  her YA/fantasy novel series, The Adventures of Alexis Davenport. And, if you share a comment there’s a chance you’ll win a FREE copy of one of her Alexis Davenport’s books!

We’ve all been faced with temptation: that delicious second piece of chocolate cake, that cute guy at the office that is married, purchasing something far too expensive, alcohol, drugs…the list goes on and on.

Some temptations are perfectly harmless, though they may drain your bank account! 

Other temptations can do serious harm to you as well as to your family. People who are addicted to drugs and alcohol suffer serious physical and mental problems and this often is transferred to their friends and loved ones.

And still other temptations can do serious harm to everyone on the planet. I’m talking about time travel, of course (you knew it had to come up sooner or later!). I think most people would JUMP at the chance to go back in time. I know I would! There are so many people I’d love to meet and historical events I would like to witness for myself.

But time travel could cause some serious problems. What if you inadvertently killed someone? Their descendants would cease to exist. Can you imagine your spouse disappearing? Your children?

Yikes! Talk about terrifying!

What if that someone that you killed was the ancestor of someone in power? Like the president? Imagine the chaos that would grip the country if our leader suddenly disappeared.

But what if you lost someone, a parent early in life? Surely it couldn’t hurt anything to go back and prevent their demise? This brings me to one of my favorite Dr. Who episodes.

For those who don’t know, the Doctor is a Time Lord that travels through time in a TARDIS (it looks like a police box from 1960’s London).

The Doctor always has a companion with him, a human, which he chooses to go on grand adventures through the universe. Ah, what I wouldn’t GIVE to have the Doctor come whirling down in his TARDIS to whisk me away!

My favorite companion is Rose Tyler. She’s such a little spitfire, smart, funny, and a perfect match for the Doctor.

Rose’s father, Pete, was killed in a hit-and-run accident when she was only 6 months old. After traveling with the Doctor for a time, she wants to go back and comfort him as he dies. However, she can’t fight the temptation to save his life. That one act results in a tearing of the fabric of time. Strange creatures appear and begin killing everyone is sight as they try to repair the damage. The rift in time repairs itself after Pete throws himself in front of a car. Rose comforts him as he dies.

Would any of us have been able to stand by and watch as a loved one was struck down? Rose knew of the dangers of messing with time and yet she figured because her father was just some average person, it wouldn’t hurt to save his life. But that one act has devastating consequences.

In my YA/fantasy novel series, The Adventures of Alexis Davenport, Alex must protect the time line from an evil man intent on changing the past. It’s an awful lot for a fifteen-year-old to handle. Especially when she is faced with some tough choices: in one particular case, in order to protect time, she must allow someone to die. Not a very easy choice.

Would you be able to allow someone to die if it was already something solidified in the past? Would it make a difference if it was a stranger or someone you knew?

Weigh in with your thoughts and you could win one of two FREE e-books: Dangerous Reflections or Twisted Reflections!

 

 

 

Connect with Shay and learn more about her!

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Shay’s a busy lady today. Hop over to Patricia Caviglia’a blog  and learn more about  The Adventures of Alexis Davenport and Shay as a teenager.

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Writer Branding Iron Symbols – What’s Yours?

Today I’m on the porch thinking on the idea of brand.

Probably too long-winded, but then it’s a lovely spring day to sit and chat.

Being a Texan naturally the first image of a brand that pops into my head is a branding iron symbol on the side of a cow.

CREDIT for photo on right: Fleischhauer, Carl, photographer. “Branding Iron [35mm slide].” Date Recorded 79/10. Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982, Library of Congress.

Cows are products like a writer’s novels are products. Cowboys use a different, very specific iron brand symbol for each owner.

 Commercial product marketing teaches additional ways to brand products.

  • NAME: Unique and distinguishable
  • LOGO: The visual trademark that identifies the brand
  • SHAPES: Think the old Coca-Cola bottle or the Volkswagen Beetle
  • GRAPHICS: The dynamic ribbon is also a trademarked part of Coca-Cola’s brand.
  • COLOR: Owens-Corning fiberglass insulation is the only brand that can be pink.
  • SOUNDS: A unique tune or set of notes can “denote” a brand: NBC’s chimes are one of the most famous examples.
  • MOVEMENT: Lamborghini has trademarked the upward motion of its car doors.
  • SMELLS: I love the rose-jasmine-musk scent of Chanel No. 5.
  • TASTE: KFC special recipe of 11 herbs and spices for fried chicken.
  • TAGLINE or Catchphrase: “The Quicker Picker Upper” associated with Bounty; Verizon brand “Can you hear me now”

Writers and books are different animals than commercial products. Branding irons won’t work. But will any of the other product techniques work to establish our brand with readers?

Books as products lack common distinguishable trademarks unless you count genre. I’m not sure the average reader has any idea what we’re talking about when we say genre. They know the books they like or the author they like.

Plus in this crazy new publishing climate, genre lines have become as crooked as a roller coaster track and about as scary.

Take, James Scott Bell— #1 bestselling author of the writing book Plot & Structure, and thrillers like Deceived, Try Dying, Watch Your Back, One More Lie and many more—has a new series written as K. Bennett. A zombie legal thriller series, which begins with Pay Me in Flesh. Seriously. Paranormal elements combined with a legal thriller. How’s that for blending genres?

Stranger combinations are everywhere. So linking books by genres is not that clear cut anymore.

According to I’m Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro®  “You have to become your own number one product. You must be uniquely you.”

While titles and covers can and do link series. Mostly a novel is a stand-alone work and readers connect by the author’s name.

The other commerical product methods aren’t so easily implemented by writers. Smells, tastes, movement, graphics and/or shapes of product marketing to attract readers to a novel seems a bit daunting. There are some very clever writers out there so I’m not giving up on someone coming up with an idea.

Yet.

As an author, I’ve used the spelling of my name as a brand.  Every teacher, every college professor, every stranger who reads my nametag stumbles over the pronunciation. But they don’t forget the name or me.

For the full story on how I received the name, check my author website: Judythe Morgan

Next I’ve used the color green color for my website and Twitter. With a bit of luck, green brings happy thoughts and Irish to mind.

My blog and my FB pages tie together with the front porch. Lots of greenery in those banners too.

Green=happy thoughts. Porch=down home storytelling.

That’s how I write, that’s what I write—stories about ordinary events in ordinary people’s lives that end happily. Emotional stories about journeys of the heart.

Not straight romance, not straight women’s fiction, not simple love stories. A combination of those genres. See Bell’s not the only one who can blend genres.

My taglines also help readers remember me. “Voices and Views from the Front Porch” tag on my blog allows for a variety of blog topics and lets the reader  “know” me and my varied interests.

My website tagline of “Weaving Love Stories to Touch Your Heart” identifies the type of fiction I write.

Will these strategies work? I wish I knew.

In Kristen Lamb’s course, we learned that getting our names out there with samples of our writing builds our platform. But I have to admit advertising aka branding/author platform still baffles me.

When I had my antiques shop, I had a GREAT location-busy intersection in an active shopping center. My marketing plan was strong. I offered free cookies, lemonade and coffee to customers. A shop full of great merchandise, free cookies and coffee.The people came. Still…

antiques,Most of my customers admitted they came because someone told them about the shop.

So I conclude, a business marketing plan and a writer platform/branding plan are pretty much the same.

Word of mouth
Reputation
Name recognition

Book Industry Study Group’s ongoing Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading survey in February confirmed my conclusion.  “e-book buyers cite word-of-mouth as No. 2—just like their print book kin.” Read here.

People read a good book; they share the book with others. So a writer’s primary challenge is first to write the very best story they can and second to make readers recognize their name.

Branding is about communicating. Engaging readers.

I’ve shared what I do. Remember I am not a marketing major. My expertise is chatting on the porch, sharing my views. Don Block, founder of WeGrowMedia.com, is a qualified expert and he offers some other specific ways to maximize your branding here.

YOUR TURN: Are you branding yourself? How?

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Fifty point CHAPTER BREAKS

We LOVE to play Scrabble at our house. Play it all the time.  My husband and writing partner is the current fifty point word champion.  That’s him with the scorepad and board to prove it!

We’ve played on-line at the official Scrabble website. If I had an iPhone, I could download a Scrabble APP and play on my phone.  

To score fifty points, you have to have the right tiles, the perfect fit to play on the board and the RIGHT word.

Hooks in chaper breaks are the fifty point tool of the writer. 

Back in the dark ages (1914 to be exact), a silent movie series titled The Perils of Pauline starred Betty Hutton as Pauline, the damsel in distress menaced by assorted villains, pirates and Native Americans. In each episode the audience was convinced poor, pitiful Pauline’s situation  would surelyresult in her imminent death until at the last minute she was rescued or otherwise escaped the danger. The damsel in distress and cliff hanger endings kept movie goers returning.  

According to Wikipedia, in 2008, The Perils of Pauline was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Successful writers need compelling characters like Pauline and strong chapter breaks to keep their readers satisfied. How do we write our fifty point chapter endings to score hits like the screenwriters did with The Perils of Pauline?

I ran across two great blogs with answers to the question. Both bloggers agreed the key  to powerful chapter breaks is raising the reader’s curiosity.

 K.M. Weiland suggests these ten ways to raise questions in the readers’ minds.  

1. Promise of conflict to come.

2. A secret kept.

3. A major decision or vow.

4. An announcement of a shocking event.

5. A moment of high emotion.

6. A reversal or surprise that turns the story upside down.

7. A new idea.

8. An unanswered question.

9. A portentous metaphor.

10. A plot turning point.

Weiland warns “not every chapter needs to end with a cliffhanger, but they do need to encompass a question powerful enough to make the reader crazy to know the answer.” If you read her blog here, she elaborates on how to use all ten ideas she suggested. 

In the other blog, NY Times bestselling author Laura Griffin identifies characteristics of poor chapter hooks —

The sleepy time chapter end  – letting your heroine end her action-packed scene by going to bed

Disaster averted  – ending the chapter when the crisis is resolved

The threepeat – Using Pauline-in-peril gimmicks repeatedly. Unlike the silent movie success, overused in writing can turn your reader off

Lacking punch words – not ending the last sentence of your chapter with a punch word at the end.

Check out Laura’s blog at Romance University here for fixes to the problems she points out.

 Whether you’re a Scrabble player or not, as a writer you play with words. You have to “scrabble” ways that keep the reader hooked into turning the pages. 

YOUR TURN: What’s your 50-point strategy for chapter endings?

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AAR on KL’s BtoB class

Today’s word in case you’re unsure from the title – AAR

What the heck is an AAR? You’re probably wondering — especially if you have no military background.

At the conclusion of every mission employed, an AAR, AFTER ACTION REVIEW is conducted to determine the effectiveness of the mission. Sometimes called a debriefing, too.

I’m the daughter of an Army Air Corp/Air Force officer, the spouse of a retire Army officer and a former DAC. I thrive on order in chaos and demand order/structure.

My life, until my husband’s retirement, was pack, unpack, establish a nest, pack, unpack, and establish a nest. I’ve gathered lots of fodder for my writer’s mill and skills I’m sure I’ll not live long enough to use.

Two years ago I took ex-Green Beret Bob Mayer’s Warrior Writer A-Team course. I’m not sure Mayer offers the course anymore, but the book WHO DARES WIN, The Green Beret Way to Conquer Fear and Succeed is available here

His Special Forces tactical approach applied to a writing career resonated with me. I credit that class as the turning point in my writing. I especially loved the AAR, After Action Review. I now conduct AARs on all writing activities and projects. 

Sound silly. Not really. 

We all do AARs unconsciously. We just don’t call them After Action Reviews. Bet you’ve said. “Been there done, that not going again” or something like that. And I’m guessing you’ve also said, I loved < you fill-in-the-blank>, too. You just did a mini-AAR.

 After every move, my family discovered ways and methods to make the next move easier, more palatable for the children and the travel to the new location more fun. All the while, reviewing what we’d learned at our last location.

Guess what, we were doing an AAR!

My husband’s favorite AAR, if the experience is unfavorable: “Done that for the first and last time.” Our shortened code developed from long years of being together: “first and last for that” or FLT

My AAR  for Kristen Lamb’s Blogging-to-Brand class follows. Risky, I realize.

After all, Kristen might read it. Not worried.

Knowing her association with Mayer, she’ll probably conduct her own AAR. My thoughts can contribute. Or be a testimonial. Or not.

AAR Step 1: My goal (mission) in taking Blogging-to-Brand

I needed to learn about branding and social media. I have two novels, The Pendant’s Promise and its prequel, In the Land of the Morning Calm, in the publishing pipeline. I want readers to recognize my name, buy my books.

I’d read Kristen’s book WE ARE NOT ALONE. Actually bought it at Bob’s workshop. I agreed with what I read and decided the class would provide added benefit.  

AAR Step 2: Was my goal or mission accomplished? 

I’d say DEFINITELY…the class nearly exploded my head!

I have to admit I signed up reluctantly. When I say reluctantly I mean screaming about why, why, why? I’m a writer, not a marketing person. 

Not that I wasn’t familiar all the social media places. I was. See the links in the right hand column.

I have a website 

a Judythe Morgan FB page

Twitter  

a page on Shelfari where I list the books I’ve read and make a recommendation

And, now after KL’s BtoB, a blog! Which you already know because you’re reading this.   

I thought I was off to  a good start. Kristen’s class took me further.

  • My circle of followers has grown. More importantly, I’ve met some terrific people I might never have known existed.
  • I discovered social media is about more than marketing. I really, like these people. We share our heartbreaks, our troubles, our cares, our concerns. They’re good people. Good writers.
  • I know I am not alone in my writer’s journey.As Kristen says, it’s all about the WANA love. Thanks to all for the follows, the comments, the WANA love.

AAR Step 3: “If you accomplished your goal, determine the fine-tuning.”

As much as I did learn, I’m still sorting through the technology intricacies and would be totally lost without help from WANAs and my techno-savvy daughter. I must follow-up with

  • classes for fine-tuning my blog, my tweets, and my FB postings
  • learning to utilize HootSuite, TweetDeck, and FB Time Line effectively

4. Summation:

KL’s Blogging to Brand was Informative EnlighteningTime consuming.

The class forced me to accept what I knew, but didn’t want to admit—

to be a successful, productive writer I must learn to juggle many balls.

Writing. Blogging. Tweeting. FBing. Marketing. Eating. Drinking. Sleeping.

But then, as Ursula, the evil octopus from Little Mermaid says: “Life’s full of tough choices, innit?”  

Hard choices. Sometimes not fun choices. Especially on wonderful spring days when the porch swing is calling and not the computer. 

YOUR TURN: You done any AARs lately? Or want to share what you learned from Kristen’s Blogging to Brand class?

 

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The Attack of the Lucky 7 Meme

It appears the Lucky 7 Meme zombie virus for writer-bloggers has arrived on my front porch via Cora Ramos!

I thought I might escape being in lurker mode and all. Not so…Cora found me. 

Unfamiliar with The Lucky Meme virus?

These are the rules:

1. Go to page 77 of your current MS/WIP
2. Go to line 7
3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs, and post them as they’re written.
4. Tag 7 authors, and let them know.

Game on

My Seven Lines:  

Annie bit her lip. Two cots barely fit in the room. The shower looked like an RV bath. Still it had a floor, no dirt, and a door, not a piece of cloth, and there was even plenty of bottled water beneath the bedside table. “Thank you, Mr. Welds.” And, thank you, Aunt Gerry.

“Please. It’s Fred. See you at the house.”

A short time later, they gathered around the table in the tiled dining area. Martha served fried plantains and a vegetable salad with a pitcher of fruit water.

“I’d go easy on the sauce. It takes some getting used to,” Fred warned.

Erin began to cough, grabbed her glass and chug-a-lugged all the liquid. “Ya say?”

The laughter that followed drained some of the tension from Annie’s shoulders. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.

 Annie’s not talking about playing Lucky 7 Meme, but I have to agree this virus isn’t so bad!

Rule #3 was easy.

Rule #4, a bit harder. I’m hoping they’ll join the fun! Even if they don’t check out their websites.

  1. Janice Heck
  2. Jenny Hansen
  3. Jodi Lea Stewart
  4. Kristy Lyseng
  5. Carrie Daws
  6. Wayne Borean
  7. Elaine Smothers

In case they decline…

YOUR TURN: Join the fun and post a Lucky 7 Meme from your novel/WIP in the comments.

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JIGSAW FUN for Cognitive Training

Research shows our brain needs as much exercise as our body. So far I as know, there aren’t any brain gyms but there are brain games for cognitive training.

 My favorite game is Jigsaw puzzles.

At our house we keep a designated puzzle table in our living room. Amazing to see how guests gravitate to the puzzle table. All the while protesting that they don’t do jigsaw puzzles. Next thing you know, I’m begging them to leave and join the rest of us.

Here’s the current puzzle underway. Charles Wysocki’s Cape Cod Fishing Party

The table is downstairs on the direct route between the bedroom and the kitchen. I stop by the puzzle table and add a piece frequently.  I’m exercising my brain. In fact there is some strong research to suggest that working jigsaw puzzles renews your mind and helps stave off Alzheimer’s.

When I’m upstairs in my office and have a writing block moment or a piddling urge, I click on a website called  JigZone  to work a puzzle.

Cool site with fun stuff. You can even create your own jigsaw puzzle from a picture or a book cover.  NY Times best selling author Jo  Ann Ross has all her bookcovers as jigsaw puzzles on her website.

For daily exercise, Jigzone will send a puzzle to your email daily. Click and give one a try: Fruit and Veg Jigsaw Puzzle

Everyone have a great weekend. I won’t be on the porch. It’s raining pollen here.

YOUR TURN: What’s your favorite brain game? 

 

 

 

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FLAT STANLEY Adventure

I should have spent yesterday writing my ONE WORD WEDNESDAY blog for an  early morning post today. I didn’t.

My daughter volunteered to help the son of an on-line friend in Minnesota  with his Flat Stanley Project. She  invited me to tag along while she and Flat Stanley visited the state capitol of Texas. I had a fun and enlightening  adventure.

You’ve haven’t met FLAT STANLEY or heard about the project?

FLAT STANLEY is Stanley Lambchop the protagonist of Jeff Brown’s 1964 children’s books series. The story goes…

Stanley and his younger brother Arthur are given a big bulletin board by their Dad for displaying pictures and posters. He hangs it on the wall over Stanley’s bed. During the night the board falls from the wall, flattening Stanley in his sleep. He survives and makes the best of his altered state, and soon he is entering locked rooms by sliding under the door, and playing with his younger brother by being used as a kite. One special advantage is that Flat Stanley can now visit his friends by being mailed in an envelope. Stanley even helps catch some art museum thieves by posing as a painting on the wall. Eventually Arthur changes Stanley back to his proper shape with a bicycle pump.

In 1995, a third grade schoolteacher in Canada used the book for a letter-writing lesson between schoolchildren as they documented where Flat Stanley went. The students created a two dimension “paper doll” fashioned to look like them and mailed Stanley to pen pals everywhere.

That project has now become a worldwide adventure for children with Flat Stanley projects. The objective of which is for the child to explore through Flat Stanley’s adventures. Sometimes by writing diaries for language arts skill or travel journals of Flat Stanley locations for geography and social studies skills. Check for the full concept here.

Flat Stanley does get around. He’s traveled to Russia with me once. As you see, my Stanley was a small, easily transportable and pose-able paper doll.

The Stanley from Minnesota was a life-size ten year-old butcher paper cutout, flimsy and awkward to pose. March winds forced us to tape him or hold him upright for pictures. We had to strap him into the seatbelt for the trip to Austin!

Some of those observing our antics recognized Stanley from their own school projects. Others scratched their heads and thought we were two crazy ladies. Can’t post the pictures until the Minnesota student completes his project, but I will get snapshots on my Judythe Morgan FB page  as soon as I can.

We began Stanley’s adventure on the University of Texas campus. One of the fringe benefits of spending the fun day with my daughter was touring her old college town haunts, her condo, the intramural field where she worked refereeing softball games, and campus buildings where she’d had classes. Her reaction to the familiar places all these years later was like seeing a child opening a Christmas present. Great memories for her, and I got a glimpse into what her life on campus had been when I sent her off to the big, bad UT.

I shared my memories of growing up in Austin. Flat Stanley saw my high school, the places I went on dates with my daughter’s daddy, houses I lived in, and some of the ancestral history of her great-grandparents who were among the founding residents.

I thought she’d be bored.  Poor Flat Stanley didn’t get a vote. My daughter claimed to be delighted to see this side to her mother…the giggles and smiles made me believe her. She suggested I compose a tour plan complete with an Austin map marked with locations for her siblings. Great idea for a memoir.

Before we ended our visit, my daughter wanted to stop by and see my eighty-five year old aunt who still lives in a small group home for the elderly.

I hesitated. Would my aunt even remember her namesake? A stroke four years ago left my aunt blind. Already deaf, the loss of another source of sensory input and the stroke damage caused memory issues.

As silly as it sounds—my daughter’s a grown woman, I didn’t want her feelings hurt or the imagery of an old folks’ home stuck in her head. I suggested lunch at a favorite Austin eatery instead.

Imagine my surprise when over lunch my daughter told me she knew what those places are like. During her years at UT, she’d gone to see her grandfather in a nursing home nearby twice a week until he passed away. She’d be fine with seeing my aunt and insisted we go.

Tears nearly blinded me, and I gave her a hug. Shocked and pleased, the value of respect and honor for elders that her daddy and I tried to instill had worked. 

Best part, when we saw my aunt, she remembered my daughter. We had a lovely visit. And over-sized, floppy Flat Stanley had quite the adventure. 

YOUR TURN: Have you ever had a FLAT STANLEY adventure or an enlightening moment with a child?

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