Tuesday, May 21, 2019

What to do with Your Story Idea: Start a Website (Lauricia, Writing Life)

A few Writer's Life posts ago, I began a series addressing the question that I receive the most: What do I do with my story idea. In the first installments of this multi-part answer, I talked about writing down everything you know about the idea, beginning a social media presence, and giving structure to your story. (If you are new to this series, or would like a recap of the full answer, please refer to a complete list of the steps in brief at the end of this post.)

Assuming you’ve been with me for the previous steps, now that you’ve completed step one and are implementing steps two and three, it’s time to consider step four: building your outreach as an author.

Marketing strategies and trends change quickly, but whatever the fad currently in vogue, one thing remains constant: the dominant necessity of an online presence. Once you are an established author, a website devoted entirely to you will be the essential location for your readers to go to in order to find all they want or need. This includes writing samples, a publicity calendar, pages featuring your books, a calendar tracking progress on your current work… whatever you want your fans to know, you can feature in one venue which you control completely.

But why start now, before you’re published and while you have little content or news to promote? The answer is because the best websites are richly developed, and that kind of development takes time. It will be a while before you find exactly what formatting, structure, and types of content work best for you, and the ideal time to experiment with these things is now, before you become widely known. Added bonus: all of that experimentation will build an abundance of content that will, in turn, offer a richer experience to your future visitors.

With that in mind, you need to start by finding a website server. There are so many hosting options available that I couldn’t possibly list them here. A good way to begin your quest is to go to your search engine of choice with the phrase “servers for author websites.” You can also ask authors you know for their favorites, or ask any one of us here at Lands Uncharted. A caveat about free website hosts: make sure the free package can grow with you. It will be a confusing pain in the neck to transfer all of your content to another provider who provides you more space. If you can afford to pay for your site now, I recommend that you do.

The next thing you must do is decide on content. As a new author, this can be daunting. What does one post when one has little to nothing published? The answer to this is, perhaps ironically, to focus on content marketing.

Photo courtesy of FirmBee from Pixabay

Content marketing involves creating and sharing material that stimulates interest in your product; in this case, your writing. So your blog should showcase your writing in a way that advances your brand (basically, who you are as a writer). A good way to do this is through your love of story. Post book reviews of reads you love, recommendations or reviews about other forms of story (like movies or shows) or genre-related content (such as recipes for Amish romances or role-playing games for epic fantasies). You can also include notes about the research you do for your story, character sketches, backstory, deleted scenes, and even select snippets from the current draft of your book. A great blog to visit in order to find more inspiration in this area is Jane Friedman’s authors' blog (note: all links are non-affiliate). The key here is to remember that whatever you blog bout, it should be with the express purpose of drawing readers to you as an author of stories they need.

The rest of your website content will grow and change as your author career progresses. A fabulous resource regarding what to start with is the Novel Marketing podcast, episode 156: Six Things Readers are Looking for on Your Website.

As always, everything discussed here is merely one way to get started. This topic is so broad that I can’t possibly address all of the nuances here. Don’t be discouraged, though! There’s lots of good help out there in the social media world, and we’re all in this together.

I’d love to know: Do you visit author websites? If so, why? What do you hope to find?


As promised earlier, the complete list of what to do with your story idea:

1. Write down everything you know about the story idea. Keep writing until you can’t think of anything to add. (Click to read more.)

2. When you’re not writing, work on your social media platform.  Develop your on-line presence authentically, in a way that is genuine. (Click to read more.)

3. Go back to your idea. Organize everything you wrote in step one into something with structure and shape. Turn that collection of ideas into a plan and begin your first draft. (Click to read more.)

4. Start a website. A blog is good because it gives readers a taste of your writing, but if you feel that you can’t commit to a blog, then you need to have a website at the very least.

5. Edit your first draft. Complete this step as often as necessary.

6. Start an e-mail list.

7. Enlist alpha readers who will give you story feedback.

8. Once your book is as polished as you can get it, enlist someone else to edit it.

9. Decide how you want to publish (indie or traditional) and study the process. Learning the necessary details will save you a lot of time and, potentially, a lot of money in the long run.

10. Start the next story!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Top 3 Redeemable Villains (Lizzie)

I love a good redemption story, whether it’s a major change arc for the hero or heroine or the redemption of a villain. Today, I’ve decided to talk about some of my favorite redeemable villains. It’s not necessary for them to be redeemed, but I hope they will be.

Top 3 Redeemable Villains

1) Thomas and Guy Fawkes from Nadine Brandes's Fawkes

The story's main character, Thomas, is Guy Fawkes's son. Both are involved in the infamous Gunpowder Plot to kill King James and destroy parliament. This book is a wonderful fantasy retelling of that. We know what happens to Guy Fawkes, of course, from history. But, in the book, I wanted to know "Will he reconcile with Thomas? Will he give Thomas a mask and show him his face? Will he surrender to White Light?" These were big questions for me. I can't tell you how it ended, but I will say I cried at the end, bittersweet tears. I expected Thomas to be redeemed during the big and enjoyed reading about the process. Both times I read the the book. :)

2) Maleficent in Disney’s movie of the same name. 

This is a great fall and redemption story. The kind fairy queen is betrayed, turns cold and vengeful, then returns to a loving, kind queen. It’s always fun too to see the muttering, complaining character doing kind things despite their seemingly selfish convictions.

3) The fae king from C.J. Brightley's The Lord of Dreams

The human Claire is visited by a villainous fairy king on multiple occasions, all terrifying, and eventually called upon to rescue the now mad king. It's a great story, and Claire herself undergoes quite the change from scared and self-focused to brave and selfless, a change she wished for--before she knew to be careful what you wish for.

Honorable mentions

Some honorable mentions are Gollum from LOTR. He’s unique, pitiable, untrustworthy, sometimes helpful, and has a cool speech. Frodo’s and Sam’s conflicting attitude toward him challenge me. Would I be shrewd and cold like Sam or hopeful and compassionate like Frodo because I see my own temptations and possible future in him? Loki from the Marvel Universe is another. Like Thor, I want him to behave and be a trustworthy brother and friend.

Do you have any favorite redeemed or redeemable (who may or may not be redeemed in the end) villains?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Collectors (Julie)

Be careful what you wish for!! Because it just might come true in Jacqueline West's fantasy The Collectors. Wishes seem like such good things. But what we think is just harmless wishing, might have unintended and disturbing consequences. For example, if you wished that dinosaurs still lived...I don't know about you, but I'm picturing Jurassic Park!! 

Or maybe you wish that aliens were real. Well, umm that'd be cool unless they were the ones in possession of a Death Star or something. So if you aren't very, very careful, your wish might turn out to be something totally unexpected. The ideas are endless. I wish everything would taste like chocolate!! Then a few months later, you hate chocolate (gasp) but what can you do now? Go drown your sorrows in more chocolate?

Fortunately, we have a mysterious group of people called the Collectors, and it's their job to "save us from ourselves". They are the unnoticeables who show up at birthday parties, wishing wells, ect... to grab that wish before it could potentially do harm.

Except one young boy does notice one. And follows her and her pet squirrel to an underground world of mystery and shimmery lights. However, all is not as it seems as the boy, Van, gets caught up in the world of those trying to stop dreams and those trying to let dreams run free. Who's right and who's wrong? Is it the man who gives him a cute little wish catcher animal, or is it the girl with the moss colored eyes and talking squirrel?

Interested? Check it out from the link at the beginning!

What about you? If you could have one wish, what would it be?

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Top 3 Man-Made Characters (Laurie)

I had trouble coming up with the right title for this post because I wasn't quite sure how to describe these characters. For a fantasy reader such as myself, "Non-Human" is way too broad a term because it would bring lots of my favorite fantasy creatures into the mix. And they're not all robots, exactly, since one is a computer system...

Anyway, what I'm trying to get at today are favorite characters who are mechanical or man-made. They aren't even truly alive, but somehow the authors gave them so much personality that they made significant impacts on their respective books and have stayed with me long after I finished reading. Although I don't tend to read a lot of science fiction in general, I had lots of fun coming up with this Top 3 list :) Enjoy!

3. Iko from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Cinder's lovable android in The Lunar Chronicles just jumps up from the page in every single scene she's in. Bursting with energy and spunk, she never fails to bring comic relief, though her over-the-top flirtatiousness and obsession with fashion did make me roll my eyes a few times. But despite her tendency to be a bit ridiculous, I really appreciated her self-confidence despite androids' low societal status and most of all, her extreme loyalty to Cinder.

2. Hart from the Nyssa Glass series by H.L. Burke

As much as I enjoyed Nyssa's character in this series, it was Hart's first appearance that totally got me hooked. You'd never guess a house's central computer system could have so much personality, but Hart had such a delightful playfulness, complete with shy flirtations and an array of jokes - sometimes funny, sometimes adorably lame. The way he came to care for Nyssa made me absolutely melt. Never before (and probably never again!) have I ever wished I could hug a computer program :)

1. Dominic from The Electrical Menagerie by Mollie E. Reeder

I recently finished The Electrical Menagerie, and Dominic was the inspiration for this entire post! Dominic was so wonderfully robotic, and yet not, that he managed to stand out even amid a cast of fun, intriguing human characters. I loved the way he cared so much for Carthage, his creator / master, but also poked fun at his human absurdities. He had so many fabulous one-liners where his robotic understanding of situations turned into pure comedy. And yet he also shared some of the deepest wisdom in the book, in a scene that may or may not have made me cry... (By the way, be on the lookout for my full review of this book later this summer!)

I have to give an honorable mention to Tegan, the AI in Jebraun Clifford's story "Beyond the Stars, Past the Moons" in the Encircled anthology. He doesn't get a lot of screen time, but he still manages to make an impression with his snarky attitude and memorable quotes!

So now I want to hear from YOU! Who are some of your favorite "man-made" characters? Have you read any of these books?

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

To Ditch or Dig In (KaLyn)

You've probably heard the story of how [insert famous inventor] failed [add a high number] times before finally finding the one way that worked. It's an inspiring reminder to keep going when we encounter frustrations while pursuing our goals.

But, not every idea is worth pursuing.

Sticking with something and not giving up is a good attitude to have, as long as it's balanced with reason. It's just as important to know when to walk away.

So, how do we know when to ditch and when to dig in?

I've done plenty of both in the last year. Ditching chapters, ideas, and marketing approaches, while digging in to finish a book, publish a few short stories, and take advantage of opportunities. And the only thing I can tell you about the answer to that question is to pray.

When an unshakable peace surrounds a decision, then I know it's the direction God wants me to follow. Even if it flies in the face of conventional wisdom.

It's how I knew it was time to step away from my post as a regular contributor on Lands Uncharted. I prayed, poured my heart out to God, and felt him leading me to focus on building opportunities to support others and maintaining a better work-life balance between writing and homeschool.

How do you know when to ditch and when to dig in?

My last post will be on May 25th. I'm excited for y'all to meet the new contributor!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Top Three Gifts for Fantasy-Reading Moms (Lauricia)

Welcome back to Lands Uncharted. For this week's Top Three installment, I was going to discuss the best moments from Avengers Endgame, but if you're like me... you haven't seen it yet. So I decided it was still too soon for spoilers and that picking the top three moments would be best left to one of my fellow bloggers.

With all the Avengers excitement going around, it might be possible to forget another important day that's coming up soon. Mother's day is on May 12 this year. While that may seem a way off yet, it's closer than it appears. The time to think of how to honor Mom is now.

If you have a book-loving mom, what to get her is always easily solved. Books, books, and more books! However, this year I recommend putting a bit of a twist on things: a book reading package.

Every book reading package should be developed around a book. For your mom's reading entertainment, I recommend The Blood Rose Rebellion, by Rosalyn Eves. This historical fantasy takes place in 1847 London in a version of history where magic is wielded only by the upper class and its usage is governed by a select few known as The Circle. Anna Arden lives as a Barren member of this society. Not only does she lack the ability to use magic, but magic tends to go horribly wrong in her presence. When Anna accidentally ruins the societal debut of her sister, her mother sends her away to Hungary. There, Anna discovers that things are much more complex than she could have imagined, both in her life and in society, and she is forced to make a decision that will change the world as she knows it.

I enjoyed this book for it's Pride and Prejudice-with-magic vibe. The characters are well drawn and complex, and the conflict is believable and relevant. Although the page count of this book may seem hefty, the prose reads so smoothly that when you are finished reading you will wonder how you devoured the entire story so quickly.

As your mom is reading, she's going to want something to drink. I recommend Twinnings Orange and Cinnamon Spice tea. I have spent many years searching for the perfect orange-flavored tea, and I believe this is the one. It is light with a mild touch of fruitiness and a dash of cinnamon spice. The flavor can best described as that first hint of autumn that you sense in the cold breeze on a late August day. Mmmm...

Of course, your mom is going to be so in love with her book that she won't be able to stop raving about it. This will make you want to read it. She knows this, as well as she knows the likeness of never getting the book back, so round out her book reading package with a personalized book embosser. It's like a book plate, but on a much more elevated level. I learned that this was even a thing a few weeks ago, when one of my students was showing off the effect of the embosser she had just received from her mother. Oh. my. Goodness. Y'all, I'm not sure how I ever lived without this in my life. I'm not ashamed to admit that I ordered one for myself without even thinking about waiting to receive on for Mother's Day. As soon as mine arrives, I am going to spend however-many-hours-it-takes personally embossing every book in my library.

Granted, your book-loving, fantasy-reading mom will love whatever you do to remember her on Mother's Day. You will even earn high marks if your gift consists of nothing but books. But for the touch that really says, “I love you, Mom,” these Top Three picks are unique and personal.

(Okay, I have to confess I feel like a sponsor on an infomercial, but I truly hope you found this Top Three helpful. Let's keep the momentum going for those who are still searching for gift-giving inspiration. Please leave your gift recommendations for fantasy-reading, book-loving moms in the comments.)

Until next time,
~ Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

What We're Reading: Astray by J.F. Rogers (Lizzie)

It's pretty common for me to read book 1 in a series, like it, say I want to read book 2, but never go to the trouble of actually finding book 2 at the library or buying it. That being said, I actually bought book 2 in J.F. Roger's Ariboslia series. So it's my pleasure to tell you about book 1: Astray.

Fallon Webb lives with her grandmother, who's more like an unloving step-mother than a cookie-baking sweetheart. On her seventeenth birthday, said grandmother reluctantly gives her an amulet belonging to Fallon's mother, who disappeared after her father died. Not long after getting this strange necklace, Fallon is chased by a wolf into a graveyard and ends up in another world, where the wolf "chases" her to a village. In a world where many humans also have an animal form, vampire-like creatures are the ultimate villains, and Fallon no longer needs her glasses, she discovers her mother is alive. A prisoner of her vampire-ish uncle, who also wants her dead. And she is the one prophesied to destroy him. And she thought she had troubles on Earth...

There are a lot of great characters in here, along with an interesting story world. But back to the characters (who are what really drove me to buy book 2), I liked Fallon and the guy-she-wants-but-can't-have, but I particularly loved the mysterious wolf. There are other characters that also pulled on my heart strings, but I can't talk about them without spoiling things. But I'll just say there's adventure and romance and redemption and growth in Fallon's character that are all very satisfying. This is an overtly Christian novel, and while I liked the way it was handled for the most part, it felt a little heavy-handled at times and there was a character who could be annoyingly "too good" at times. But on the whole, I enjoyed the book and recommend it.

Have you read Astray? Or how often do you not pick up book 2's even if you liked book 1?