Another Con revelation for a newbie writer

Dragon Con has come and gone once again! This large, multi-media, popular culture convention covers an abundance of genres in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Anime, Manga, Comics, as well as offering a huge variety of actors, artist, and my personal favorite, authors to meet and greet. It is also the place where I first met my writing friends, in a writing class held by Ann Crispin. We started a writing/critique group then and there, one that has survived over 13 years. We may not be as active as once was, but we still keep in touch and do increase in activity here and there when time permits. D-Con provides us a place to meet and to catch up on each other and the projects we are currently involved with. Which brings me to my little revelation, well, not so much a revelation but something good to know.

I have been in business of some kind most of my adult life, and let me tell you, marketing is the tool to making money. While sitting in some of the panels, I listened to a number of authors, both established and non-established, and while some touched upon the marketing aspect of their craft to promote their works, I didn’t think it was touched upon enough. Having a well written, interesting story published is very important to establishing a career, but it is not always enough to keep the bills paid. Getting a buyers interest is very important, and while advertising your books via, ads, bookmarks, samples and such is indeed, very important, sometimes you need a little more to gain a buyers interest. Sherrilyn Kenyon is a perfect example for marketing to get buyers interest. She created a symbol in her books, a catch phrase, a token that can be seen, and touched, one that is recognizable: The Dark-Hunters, Artemis tattooed symbol. This is a marketing win, one that helps bring in the money through sells of tees, jewelry, books, short-stories, bags and a plethora of miscellaneous merchandise that provides not only an avenue to attract new readers, but also money, money that can help off set the bills.

With that said, why not create something in your storyline that will give the reader something to recognize? A distinct physical attribute? A symbol? Something that the reader will remember, something that can be placed on tees, and other merchandise (tees, buttons, greeting cards, etc…). What better advertisement than to have your character/symbol on an awesome tee that is riding on a happy reader? Walking billboard. I use the walking billboard in my business as well, and you wouldn’t believe how many customers I have gained with this concept.

So, next time you envision a character or side-kick, think how they would look on a t-shirt or a greeting card. A little extended marketing can go a long way in obtaining new customers interest! Besides, if they don’t sale, you have t-shirts for Christmas, birthdays and summer.  Two birds….  :)

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Where has the time gone?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted to this blog. As I scan the previous post, it occurs to me that it has been an extremely long time since I’ve posted, or anyone in our group for that matter. It totally blows my mind that four years have past in what seems like a very short time. Life has indeed gotten in the way. Yes, I know, this is a complete cop out, excuse, and lame reason for not posting. But, never the less, it’s true.

Life, making a living, taking care of those close to us, or just surviving is something everyone deals with on a regular basis. Five years ago, I truly thought that I would be able to focus on writing like I wanted too, then, snap…I lost my job. Well, then I thought, okay…I can really focus on writing now. <Lots of laughter here> I was able to do this on a short basis, but then, I had to get back to reality and make a living. Due to my age, jobs were not as easy to come by. To make a long story short, I took additional classes to get a new degree, then ended up taking a job making half what I did before. This worked for about two years before another opportunity arose. The florist that I worked in while attending UGA came up for sale. I was contacted and then made an offer that I couldn’t refuse. My husband and I bought the store and then worked our asses off these past three years to make it at least break even. Now, we are at a point that my employees can work without my assistance, at least for a few hours each day. Thus, allowing me to revisit my guilty pleasure! I can’t tell just how wonderful that feels! During these past five years I have jotted down notes on everything from napkins, receipts, pieces of paper and anything capable of taking ink. Now…I get to rummage through all of my jotting past to see what I saved for my future self. It makes me giddy. There are passages that I don’t remember ever writing, the words and ideas sending goosebumps everywhere!

There is a meaning behind my rambling. Even though life gets in the way, sooner or later, the love of telling a story shines through. The life experiences only add to the telling. So hang in there my fellow “life kicked my butt” slackers, our love for writing will reassert itself sooner or later. It’s just a matter of time.

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Writing Exercise – 2011 (01)

Like many of you, I’ve participated in several writing groups.  As a result, I’ve critiqued hundreds of stories – some mine and some not.  Eventually, I noticed some common area for improvement.   One of those areas is a tendency to pick vague words.  For instance, using “wood” instead of “oak”.  To counter this tendency, I developed a series of writing exercises.

First, take a look at these pictures:

Now, make a mental note of these words:

1. Statue

2. Stone

3. Religion

4. Innocent

5. Mary

6. Gothic

7. Figurine

8. Grey

The challenge is to write a short scene (50 – 100 words).  Use one of the pictures for the location of your scene.  Include a character that has a strong connection to the location.  Do not use any of the words listed above.

If you feel a full story line develop, run with it.  Some writers get their best ideas from themes in a writing exercise.

My paragraph:

The cleric glanced at the pristine marble image of the Mother.  The smokey surface had been smoothed from years of caresses from the naive hands of desperate pilgrims.  How could something with such elegant beauty hide so many flaws?  Without a backward look, he left, his sandals firm on the cobblestone street.

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Writing Aids I Would Love

We’ve had a bit of a long break since our last entry. To kick start posts again, I thought it might be fun to fantasize about non-existing (or out of my price range) writing aids.

I would love a spell checker that highlighted those words that are spelled correctly, but are not the word I indented,... wait, intended, not indented. I think every writer has dealt with this problem.

I would love a desk that holds my laptop at the perfect ergonomic position.  Something that folds small enough to fit inside a clutch purse.

I would love a user friendly program that allows writers to organize all aspects of creating a novel: family trees for those complex interconnected towns, world maps and government matrix, and an outline system that works with Word with a ribbon or header of some kind that keeps key story elements in my face so I can keep everything consistent while I write.

I would love to combine being a productive writer with house work or even better, exercise.  One word = one calorie burned.

I would love an automated editor, like the existing grammar check only super charged to accurately highlight repetition in words or sentence structure.  Better still would be great if it could tell me when I’m rambling off on a tangent or when a character needs to die.

I would love a program that creates an image based on written input – for characters, rooms, … anything.  You type, small furry animal with bulging yellow eyes and perky ears, … and an image is generated.

I would love a file cabinet & book cases that sinks into a secret wall space. Something that opens and closes with a super secure locking system, maybe something with a biometric lock.  Don’t know how much this would help with writing, but it would be awesome.

What non-existing or too expensive writing aid would you like?

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new blog

Thanks for setting this up, Anthony! The blog looks great. The keyboard wasn’t sacrificed in vain.

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Dragon-Writers.com Is Back In Business

http://www.dragon-writers.com/ is back in business … cost: 1 smashed keyboard. From a friend:
Looks really sharp. That keyboard did not die in vain.4:15 am
Well, my friend is a WordPress expert, so I’m sure he knows the site is WordPress standard … but he’s also super honest, so on behalf of the WordPress and WordPress theme team, thank you.  We’ll be posting again shortly at this URL.
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Holidays – character inspiration everywhere

The holidays are coming! The holidays can bring a sense of enjoyment or a feeling of dread, and sometimes a little of both. For me, it’s excitement. I can sit for hours outside a busy location filled with rambling people just to watch them; the Holidays bring out the most interesting people. For some this activity would be quite boring, but for me, it’s filled with excitement and anticipation. For each minute I sit in my chair enjoying my cocoa from Starbucks, Panera or any local sit-n-sip, I see potential characters; characters that I can play with.

In other words, my restful sit down becomes a game of “I wonder, what if.” For example, I wonder if the Goth girl drinking a Grande coffee with extra sugar is actually a student from the local university, or if she’s just checking out the locals looking for someone suitable to provide a snack for her vampire master. Or, how bout the suit clad guy in the back corner nursing his extra strong black Columbian coffee? His back is against the wall, his eyes darting around the room. Hmm…could he be waiting for a government contact? Was he an assassin? The later looks good to me; let’s write that down. And my personal favorite, the beautiful girl sitting next to the window enjoying her lemon poppy seed muffin just a little too much…she must be Fae; because faeries drunk on poppy seeds act exactly the same way (Personal writing group joke.).

My point? When out and about, take the time to look around you. There’s always more there than meets the eye the first look around. :D

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Dragon Con 2010 My kick in the pants

The fall is such a kick in the pants for me, especially in regards to writing. Dragon Con (One of the biggest Science Fiction & Fantasy multi-genre conventions held annually in Atlanta, Georgia.) is my reset time. The Con, as a whole, emits an atmosphere that is electrified with imagination, energy, and goodwill. A feeling that is so intense that a writer could not help but be inspired. I am inspired each and every time that I attend. I’m also energized with energy, spirit, and an aggressive need to put my stories on paper.

The convention is the catalyst for my writing reset. I’m able to attend writing panels, meet authors, editors, and publishers, not to mention it’s the perfect time to catch up with old friends from Con’s past and spend time with my Dragonwriter friends.

This year was no exception. It was wonderful, although a little crowded (30,000 +). The costumes are getting more creative and the panels more interesting. More authors in the genre I prefer, as well as newly published authors, were available to the attendees. And the Art Show! I have to mention the Art Show! The exhibit displayed art from an abundance of talented artist, both professional and amateur. The Anime, the comics, the painters, the sculptors, the jewelry makers…(OH MY!) My bank account definitely took a nosedive in the Artist Gallery.
Overall, I had a blast. My battery is recharged and I’m ready to get back on track. I would suggest to every writer to find a Convention and attend, participate and enjoy. It’s amazing how many characters you can find for your work at a Con, and how many new friends.
Life is short, so enjoy every second you can. Get out there! And write!

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Writer Beware

In “The Writer’s Toolbox” section we’re collecting links or pointers to useful sites and books. First off: Writer Beware.

Aspiring writers trying to get published for the first time are vulnerable to a variety of scams. The Writer Beware site run by A. C. Crispin and friends and published on the SFWA site, is an invaluable resource for cutting through the BS and telling the opportunities from the scams. However, without knocking the amazing amount of content on this site, Ann nonetheless summarized it to me once thusly:

Money flows from reader to publisher to author and never the other way around.

Of course you could say “Money flows from reader to bookseller to distributor to publisher to agent to author and never the other way around except for paying for extra review copies so you can do a booksigning in case the bookstore forgets to order them oh and then the publisher may pay the bookseller for shelf space and then don’t forget there is the issue of royalties versus advances…” but that would dilute the point that your prospective publisher should NOT be asking money from you.

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Dragon Writers T Shirt

dragon writers logo

In addition to reading this group blog about our writing experiences, you can also get the DragonWriter’s logo on a t-shirt. Check it out…

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