Jul 282011

This time I want to get into blogs.

OK, not into them all the way, maybe just a bit.

It’s a huge subject and I have covered some of it before in regard to SEO and it may or may not have come across how I feel about blogging in general. It’s more or less a necessary evil these day I feel and if you’re going to do it to increase traffic to your site-which it does-or you hire one of us to do it-which we will, for a price-then there are a few tips for anyone of you out there writing blogs with SEO in mind, and you really should never write a blog, at least for business purposes, without SEO in mind.

But this not a column about how to write the blog, how to put the keywords in, ad the tags; I can and might get into that some other time if I haven’t already (sorry it’s prematurely hot here in Jersey and my mind is kind of like oatmeal more then usual). But what I did want to get into, hammer home, make sure you remember, if you remember nothing else from what your wize old uncle Ralphie tells you here, is that you need to be keeping those blogs current.

Not just germane to the site you are writing for…and yes that’s important. Not just including the keywords…and yes, you need to do this to. But current, up-to-date, concerning the here-and-now and what’s doing in the world. Not every blog you write will have a take on current events or be about what’s happening in the news, but the more you can relate your blogs to what is happening in the world presently the more people might find it or want to read about it.

Don’t ask me how it came to pass that any one of our opinions could be worth a monkey’s dung heap to anyone else, but somewhere along the line it became a cause-we-can-we-should mentality to writing on the web, to twittering and twatting and Facebook cum-shots on the wall. So people expect up-to-the-minute opining; believe me if you let them they certainly are going to tell you how they feel!

So write the blogs for yourself or your clients and if you want to get people to read them, a little current events worked in from time to time doesn’t hurt.

Jul 212011

In honor of the fact that starting August 15th I’ll be teaching Male POV and Creating Better Heroes for anyone who signs up through Orange County Romance Writers of America Chapter, I’m going to give away a partial lesson from the Male POV course for the WriteSEX crowd.

It’ll be abbreviated but I’d like you to take time and think, and think hard about the characters you write.  If you’re a woman in erotica or erotic romance, this is especially for you.

Can you tell what's on the Male's Mind in this cover?

Author Gender seems to be the biggest problem many writers face when creating characters and it’s just necessary!  I’ve been cross gender writing for years and the biggest compliment I’ve received was regarding how well I had my editors fooled when they finally spoke to me.  When asked how I write the other gender so well, I replied that observation was my biggest tool used to help me identify.  Look around you at TV, newspapers, music.  If men aren’t being portrayed as tough and rugged by the media, then they’re portrayed as angry and aggressive.  Or as one reader pointed out, men are stupid and buffoonish.

In reality, some of them are just that.  But the majority of men are just like the majority of women.  They’re human beings and to understand them may not be something we need concern ourselves unless we’re creating real life characters.

Authors have to be objective in their portrayal of their characters!  Men aren’t aggressive and angry for no reason at all (most anyway!) but unless we dig further into the depths of the man’s mind, and his soul, we’ll be lost forever in testosterone!

Before we start, I’d like for you to throw out EVERYTHING you’ve EVER HEARD by any other romance author regarding men unless you KNOW that romance author has a penis.  Or had a penis.

I say this not to tear down those writers, but to set the record straight.  The first thing I want you to understand is that man and woman are NOT equal.  Well, we’re equally stupid at times, and equally smart at times.  And some of us are equally attractive, others are equally ugly.  (Just calling a spade a spade!) but as a whole, men and women are not equal. Hell, not all men are equal.

Example:  I am very strong for my size. (Thin and tall) But paranormal author Stephanie Burke’s husband is 6’7 and weighs three times more than I do.  He’s pretty built too.  Strength-wise, we’re unequal.  Dennis is clearly stronger than I am.  I’m okay with that too.

The point is that externally or physically, which is what I believe we’re talking about when it comes to this notion of equality.  We are not equal.

INTERNALLY on the other hand…well that’s partially what you’re taking this workshop for.  I believe after we’ve finished our week that we’ll see a LOT of similarities between gender.

Next time we’ll cover a little more on the Way of Being, but for now, you can sign up for Male POV through the OCCRWA site

The course runs August 15th to August 28th.  For non RWA Members fee is $25, $15 for RWA Members I believe.

Jul 142011

Yes, platforms. Plural. If a politician stands on only one platform, he reaches only one set of ears. The same goes for an author. Your job is to reach as many sets of ears as possible, to reach them quickly, efficiently and with as little difficulty as possible.

What are your platforms?

Author Website (or blog) – This website (or blog) is specifically designed to promote you, the author. It will feature you, your books, your future projects and plans. It will offer insight to your future books and tell viewers what you’re up to. This site will have a specific area for a Media Room where you’ll list announcements about your various speaking and book events, upcoming interviews and links to videos or audio interviews you’ve already given. The Media Room will show all the press releases, have a downloadable bio and photo of the author, and contact information for the media. If your book is e-published, you will use this website in a big way, creating as many avenues to promote all your work as you can, and connect with as many online readers as possible. E-published or traditionally published, your author website address should appear on your Twitter and Facebook profiles, email signatures, everywhere you can post it. This web presence is about all the author’s work, published articles, short stories, all the books no matter genre and what the author’s plans are for future books and all the news about his/her work.

Book Website – This website is very different. A Book Website is specifically designed to promote, market and expose a specific book or genre of books. For example, if you write romance, all of your romance (and sub-genre romance) books would have a showcase on your Romance Book Website. BUT, if you also write non-fiction about aviation, that would require a completely different book website. Why? Simple – these are two very different readers and a prospective book buyer will not explore a romance website for a book about landing gear, anymore than a reader wanting romance cares to explore a website about pilot qualifications. These two book websites should treat their specific audience differently and never cross reference to each other.  IMPORTANT NOTE: an announcement about a book signing for your romance series would certainly be announced on your Author Website AND your Romance Book Website, but NOT on the Aviation Website. Also, an announcement about your speaking engagement to an aviation organization will appear on your Author Website AND your Aviation Book Website, but NOT on your Romance Website. Always respect and focus on the primary viewer of that particular website.

Author Expertise Blog – This can be as simple as an ongoing exploration of the research you did to write your book or are doing to write your next book. It can explore politics in your story and even talk about choices you made for the story.  You can talk about character exploration and development, how you plot your books and where your ideas come from. You can use this blog to announce information about your promotions, and you can (and should) participate with other authors and guest blog on their blogs, announce their events on your blog and/or do interviews and reviews of your author friend’s books. It’s always wise to embed your author blog into your Author Platform website.

Character Blog – Not necessary but oh so much fun! This is a playful way of exploring your character/reader relationship dynamic. If your character is a curmudgeon and you develop a blog by him where he states his point of view and banters with the readers when they respond, you’ve made inroads into building loyalty and interest in the book. Obviously this doesn’t work so well for non-fiction, unless you get very creative and invent a fictitious expert to state his feelings on the book. You’d be surprised how many readers respond to this approach and get involved with comments. If you’re e-published, this Character blog approach is super effective. Remember, an e-published book must reach e-readers, screen readers, and those fascinated with all things techie. Have fun with this, create impact and take your cues from the responses you get.

Twitter –Yes, you must Twitter. Create an account and build your followers carefully from a pool of possible book buyers, future fans, fellow authors, publishers, editors and agents. You will be amazed how much you can learn about the industry in your Twitter stream. Be active but be careful. Don’t let it take you over. A good rule of thumb is to use Twitter at least twice a day for about 10-15 minutes each time. Interact, eavesdrop and comment on other follower’s tweets, promote your blog and website updates, and always respond when someone talks to you. Efficient and effective tweeting is a learned skill and you’ll soon discover that when done right, followers think you’re there all the time and full of fun and valuable information even though you only tweet during a few breaks a day. I suggest you use the TweetDeck as it helps you organize several streams of targets to follow, but you can do it any way that works best for you.

Facebook – There are several ways to use Facebook and I strongly suggest you Facebook every day. Not only are there different people on Facebook than Twitter, but they communicate differently. Without the Twitter limitation of 140 characters to make a point, Facebook creates several venues of communications. Everything from your current status and direct messaging, tagging and inviting friends to join events or joining groups targeted to your book are all there. Facebook every day with something interactive in your status. Build friends by reaching out and asking for friends but be careful what kind of friends you make. If you want to talk about the subject of your book which is about murder investigation techniques, you should have very few baker friends or friends who love scrap booking. Be sensible and be targeted with all your efforts. A downfall at Facebook can be the numerous social games and game forums. Choose how you want to spend your Facebook time, be practical and efficient because as writers and authors, we really need to protect our writing time. Do NOT mix your personal Facebook activities with your book Facebook activities. In other words, keep those accounts separate.

Email – Email lists. We have them, several of them in fact. We build them almost daily but what we seldom do is categorize them to make them easy to use. Create a group list for people you know who would love your book, love to read your blog updates, love to know what’s happening with your book or love to hear about your next project. It’s likely that if you explore the massive contact list your already have, you can find many people to fall under this group category. Create the group and voila, you’ve made one more contact to take one more person to your blog or your Book Website Media Page or invite to your book launch party. You’ve created one more venue for helping your author friends promote their books when you announce you’ve done a blog tour interview for them, and you’ve opened an opportunity for the receivers of your emails to pass them further to their friends and followers interested in your genre. Email. Right there under our nose. I’m sure if you think about it, you can find several ways to create email lists and use them to streamline promotional and marketing strategies.

Online Groups/Organizations – You can find them on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Groups, anywhere! These groups can work as support for your writing efforts, or serve as association groups to promote your book. It takes a bit to find them and decide how they’ll work for you, but this is worth the effort. Be a joiner but don’t overdo it. Remember, participate only in the groups that not only are interesting to you, but serve your efforts as well. If you do join, really make an effort to participate. Get into the discussions, especially if this is an interest group that pertains to your book plot or non-fiction subject. Never imagine that simply joining anything – a group, Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Yahoo private groups and/or organizations – means automatic sales. It simply means that you’ve opened your possible audience. You’re doing it in a protected environment and many groups will slap your wrist if all you do is promote, promote, promote. You need to seriously participate in the groups, give and get support and that’s what turns into book sales.

Live Networking – With all the online and internet hubbub, we often forget our real life, living, breathing network. Your family, work friends, church. Your dentist, vet, eye doctor. The health club, the woman who cuts your hair or the masseuse you use. Don’t forget about where your kids go to school, where you shop for groceries and where you get your lottery tickets. These are breathing people who know you already. These are people who like you. Most people know few authors and are thrilled to know one. They become excited walking, talking advertisements for your book. Don’t leave this vital network out of your loop, whether you write fiction or non-fiction, are traditionally published or e-published, remember to toot your horn to everyone you know.

Next time we’ll cover Author Success Tool #4, Understand your Market.


Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising and public relations as a writer for print, television and radio. She writes fiction in several genres as well as non-fiction.

Deborah produces several pieces weekly for various websites and blogs. She also writes an author industry blog, http://rileymagnus.wordpress.com/ and teaches online and live workshops as The Author Success Coach. She belongs to several writing and professional organizations. Her book, The Author Success Coach: Strategies for Author Success in a Turbulent Publishing Landscape is scheduled to be released in August, 2011.

She’s lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely.



Jul 072011

For those expecting our lovely Audio Goddess Oceania, she’s off this week and for one more round while she handles some personal business.  There are nine of us and from time to time it’s bound to happen that things come up.

So first, I’m going to mention my recent sale to Total E-bound in hopes that A: it peaks your interest and B: It helps me drag out a blurb.  That’s right, there is a lesson here and a new one at that, though only a short one.

You see, when you tell your readers you sold a book to a publisher, they undoubtedly want to know what the book is about.  Is it a new genre for you?  Or a different sub genre like paranormal romance when you normally write contemporary romance stories?  Or are you continuing a story line from a previous series?  Either way, once you tell the first reader, they’ll get excited but if you repeat the same thing to over 100 readers at 98 different times it gets pretty tiring.

So you go for the quickest explanation possible.  Case in point:  My puma story tentatively titled Burning for Derrick has a very Burn Notice like feel but the sequel will feature Max, Derrick’s brother who IS a cross between Max Myers of ACC Cigars and Michael Westen from Burn Notice.  People understand that even though most of my friends don’t know Max.  Once I say Burn Notice, they’ll get a reference point and I’ll only need to mention how I’m working in Max’s love interest.

But this isn’t the story I sold.  It’s in second draft mode.  But it gets the wheels thinking on how to craft that blurb for the story so I can tell the publisher this will sell because of the blurb.  That is the goal, after all.

The traits of the story in question are thus:

It’s a menage. Both males used to be lovers but morals divided them, yet they unknowingly share the same female lover.

It’s paranormal:  Both males are wolves, the heroine is a witch.

It’s GLBT – both males are into each other and the woman, equally.

I used the big themes of the story there for sales purposes.  This lets me play with the big concept.  Get it?  Now I can try to pull out the plot.

The wolf packs in Albuquerque NM are dying from an incurable sickness and only Iolite has the resources to research the illness.  Being of human origin with wolf blood gives her an advantage but her two lovers are the ones who can really help as they are full blooded wolf shifters.  If they could just settle their differences long enough…perhaps the three of them could come up with a solution to what is killing off both their packs.

Does that grab you?  It’s a rough start and ignores the romantic conflict.  But as I said, this is a short lesson.

As promised, a recap of recent Oceania posts as audio is an important medium.  Look at the success of “Go the Fuck to Sleep” for proof.

Writing Is____

Forgive Me Father, I must have Sinned

Audio Books – Break On Through to the Other Side

Those are popular posts for a reason.  Until next time…when we return with Deborah Riley Magnus’s post…

Jul 012011

From an original image by Ignacio Icke. Caption improvised by Bubba.

As I started to write this, a hippie chick sitting near me saw me pull out my ear buds and asked me if I’d heard “what I just told that other man…about the perfumes?”

There’s just no good answer to that question.

When I miserably sighed out the only real answer I could give — the honest one, since I’d been listening to Skinny Puppy and couldn’t hear shit the first time she ran through it — I was treated to about a five-minute lecture on the small business she apparently just started, importing body oils from a group of Sufi producers in Tangier, Morocco. “The Sufis believe that they brought scent to the Earth…and, now, whether that’s true, I don’t know, and I don’t really care, since I’m not a Sufi.” She gave me three of her flyers, “For you and your friends,” packed with velo-wrapped samples that look disturbingly like enormous ketosis strips. Since I doubt my new friend would be amused if I hauled that shit out and peed on them, the samples are currently stinking up my keyboard, while I try to write blog posts.

This, of course, is a bizarrely Sufi-esque string of events for the Universe to hurl my way. After all, I’d already decided that I would title my blog post “Smell, Don’t Tell,” because it rhymes. And that’s what The Cosmos whacked me with, as if to say “Oh, yeah, fucker? Smell THIS!” Right now, incidentally I’m more inclined to re-title it “The Smell from Hell,” because while I’m as happy as the next guy to huff a little of the Breath of Life, the overpowering scent of African black musk is a  little intense when one’s trying to operate a human brain on nothing more than a recoil starter primed by six liters of coffee.

Anyway, so that intense smell that I’m huffing right now? It makes me dizzy, and makes me think, “Whirling dervishes, harem girls, the Call to Prayer, teenage hippy chicks shimmy-shaking on my dorm room bed in the lyrical years before my friends and acquaintances all seem to get multiple chemical sensitivity.” Back in those days, stinking up a room was the Goddess-given right of every college student, and it was done with great prejudice: with body oils, perfumes, cigarettes, incense, pizza lifted from the Dining Commons, copious gurgling bongloads from hell, day-old burritos, discarded nitrous canisters, Jack Daniels, and Boone’s Apple Wine — plus a few scents far less pleasing. It was positively boner-inducing, though admittedly I was in my teens and early twenties, so what wasn’t?

One of the traps I think many erotica writers fall into is forgetting to describe certain sensual details of the scene. However, the opposite crime is also possible. Many writers in all genres can put too much sensual detail for my taste — or, far worse, just pick those sensual details out of a hat and describe them in hackneyed ways that have been done to death. When someone walks into their parents’ house and smells the comforting scent of Mom’s cooking, GAAHAHAHAHHAHA! I’ve heard it a thousand times. The scent is there to communicate information, supposedly, but it’s not real, because it’s been grabbed from the fiction writer’s paint-by-numbers set, not re-experienced and re-imagined the way sensual details, and particularly olfactory ones, should. But you don’t have to create the perfect sensory description for a scene to be augmented by olfactory details — in fact, your quarry just has to think he or she knows what the thing you’ve described smells like, which can be based on nothing more than your description. All you have to work with is words, so words get to stand for every sense you could possibly engage…accurately or inaccurately, and I’m not so sure it really matters.

In my opinion, nowhere is that more important than in erotica. Nor is there a more powerful tool in the erotic writer’s toolbox than olfactory details, freshly imagined (or…ripely, if you’re into that) and rendered in original terms. Smell is a powerful subconscious motivator when it comes to sexual activity, and if you can get across the scent of something that causes a sexual response — not so much in your reader, but in your protagonist — then you’ve got a live wire right into your victim’s backbrain.

Did I say “victim?” I meant, of course “reader.”

There’s a danger more subtle than just hacking out the same predictable phrases to describe the sent of a campfire, sea breeze, boudoir, French whore, weightlifting stud or stinky back alley, however. It’s adding details that shouldn’t be there.

In my opinion, scents in very tightly-written plot-driven fiction should be there to communicate information, rather than just provide window dressing. Humans do our thinking with our bulbous cortexes a lot — some of us more than others. If sensual details (of ANY sense — but smell is particularly important here) don’t communicate information related to plot, character or setting, then they’re just there to be there. In that case, to my way of thinking, virtually any sensual detail can potentially be one of Chekov’s many unfired pistols — it’s there, taking up space, for no good reason.

Maybe the author just decided to be a Smell Commando this week, describing how the scene smells because “it’s important to the millieu.” It might be, and it might not be, but the reader shouldn’t wonder. The description of a scent should either be so compelling that it creates a concrete response in the prey (er…”reader”) or it should be a piece of story information in addition to helping transport one into the scene.

The tendency to describe sense-experiences rather than information-experiences was one of the things that alienated me from poetry, actually, back when I used to be very interested in it. I was unsettled by the form’s tendency to focus on experiential details of sensual significance only insofar as they had sensual significance, rather than insofar as they communicate information. It made me feel like as a writer and a reader, I was wasting my time. Not all readers are as alienated by excess sense information as I am, so take it with a grain of salt. And I’ve also heard many prose writers who say they learned a lot of valuable descriptive techniques by studying poetry.

But as a bona-fide Brainiac, I grab information from the sensual world and stuff it into this mammoth computer I call a brain. Or, more specifically, a frontal lobe — and no, I don’t stuff it in the lobe you’re probably thinking of, perv. Yes, indeed, the “lobe” you might be considering is indeed wired pretty strongly to my other frontal lobe, about forty inches north. Yours may be too, whether your equipment includes a “lobe” or…whatever.

But humming deep in the chasms of your brain is a whole universe of non-verbal arousal cues that can be communicated through fiction over and above what a smell can communicate informationally. That’s because smells can do all three things. They can a) communicate information, b) draw a reader into a scene, and c) have no specific plot significance in and of themselves, but hold a significance within the machinations of the plot itself, in that they draw a parallel between an early scene and a late scene.

For instance…check it: This guy — I’ll call him “Bubba” — walks into an apartment and smells African black musk. That tells you that the protagonist knows what African black musk smells like. Bubba probably knows what African black musk smells like for a reason. That gives you an opportunity to hint at why Bubba knows, or leave it unstated. The place probably also smells like African black musk for a reason.  Ditto.

You can describe the smell itself, or not, depending on how evocative the term is, and how commonly known the smell is. Maybe the reader knows what African black musk smells like. Maybe not. I sure as hell didn’t until about fifteen minutes ago. But the term itself holds an automatic sensual significance for me, and not just because I’m huffing it right now. The very name is evocative. “African black musk.” Hello, beautiful. I think I know what African black musk smells like, even if I don’t. (Though, to be fair, I do. So will everyone who gets within 40 feet of me for the next 72 hours.) Terms might be less evocative or more evocative, but to my mind the evocation that the term and your description provide are far more important than whatever the stuff smells like.

So here’s what that does for the person reading about the guy who just walked into the stinky-musk apartment:

Information is communicated: Bubba knows what African black musk smells like. For some reason. The apartment smells like African black musk. For some reason. Bubba’s first love was an African musk ox! And the woman who lives the apartment, where Bubba is, say, delivering a Hot Tomato Pizza? Maybe she’s secretly an African musk ox, too! (Bubba’s pizza’s deep dish, incidentally with lots of anchovies…were-oxes love anchovies. Incidentally, it smells great, but we’ll cover that particular aroma in some other column, maybe.)

2) The reader is drawn into the scene: Whether or not the reader knows what the stuff smells like, just having the ol’ sniffer engaged may get a nosehook on ‘em, if you know what I mean. Plus, when Oxana says “Gee, Mr. Pizzaman, I don’t have any money to pay for my pizza,” it’s already been established that she’s having an anti-rational, pro-sensualist effect on Bubba, so when the funk music starts, the sex isn’t just, like, random.

3) …and, lastly, you’re provided with a fully loaded and primed Chekovian Blunderbuss…later, after his fervent tryst with the beautiful and mysterious “Oxana,” Bubba can stand there in her living room spinning with joy while holding his Hot Tomato Pizza red uniform shirt think “Gee, I wonder why this girl I’m falling for smells like African musk!?”

Then voila! It hits him! Full moon’s out, see, and out of the bedroom bursts this giant musk ox, see? And it spots Bubba spinning for joy and waving his red Hot Tomato Pizza uniform shirt, and…

What…you were expecting Gift of the Magi?