So…my weekend, or The Benefit of taking a Master class

Peggy Jaeger~ By Peggy Jaeger

There really should be something done about lousy internet in hotels and conferences! I was at a fabulous conference this weekend and couldn’t blog about it because it took FOREVER to get connected to WiFi. Oh well…better late than never.

Friday night I took a master class with marketing guru Jane Friedman. It quite literally changed the way I view all the social media stuff I have to do as a writer who wants to get her book in front of strangers.

For two hours she spoke about all the ways a writer can engage readers and get them to — not only visit their websites — but purchase their work.

First things first. Your website. You’re reading this so obviously you stopped here! But how did you find out about the website? Did you see a Twitter mention of it? Catch it in a newsfeed roll on my Facebook Author page? Or do you Follow me on WordPress? Since I don’t have a newsletter (a major faux pas in Jane’s opinion), I don’t have a one-on-one way to let people know about new content on my site. I’ve debated for several years about having one because it’s just one more thing I have to do, but she says the benefits are worth it.

Tree Next. The website content, itself. I don’t update my website frequently except for the blogs. My banner, headers, widgets, etc., are all pretty stagnant. And that’s the kind of traffic you never want: stagnant. You want your website to be fluid, moving, and new. So, Saturday morning between the hours of 1 am and 4 am (since I never sleep. Damn this menopause insomnia!) I updated my website. I added a new category, changed the banner and some of the graphics, and posted new info on the pages.

Last. Your work. Or in my case, my books. It’s inconceivable to me that I never thought of this, but nowhere on my website was there a page for a reader to purchase my books. Not even a direct link except if I was blogging about the book. So, ta-da- new page. MY BOOKS lists all my work from newest to oldest, the covers, and all the buy links across the e-book network and traditional publishers. Whew! That was a ton of work but I think it’ll be so worth it in the end, especially when I start to see an uptick in sales.

Jane spoke of several other ways to drive traffic to your work that I’ll be discussing tomorrow. Today I wanted to focus on the website itself.

When I’m not attending conferences of updating my website, you can find me here: Tweet Me//Read Me// Visit Me//Picture Me//Pin Me//Friend Me//Google+Me// Triberr

Fiction Fest Peggy Jaeger is a contemporary romance writer who writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can’t live without them.

Family and food play huge roles in Peggy’s stories because she believes there is nothing that holds a family structure together like sharing a meal…or two…or ten. Dotted with humor and characters that are as real as they are loving, Peggy brings all topics of daily life into her stories: life, death, sibling rivalry, illness and the desire for everyone to find their own happily ever after. Growing up the only child of divorced parents she longed for sisters, brothers and a family that vowed to stick together no matter what came their way. Through her books, she has created the families she wanted as that lonely child.

Tying into her love of families, her children’s book, THE KINDNESS TALES, was illustrated by her artist mother-in-law. Peggy holds a master’s degree in Nursing Administration and first found publication with several articles she authored on Alzheimer’s Disease during her time running an Alzheimer’s in-patient care unit during the 1990s. In 2013, she placed first in two categories in the Dixie Kane Memorial Contest: Single Title Contemporary Romance and Short/Long Contemporary Romance. In 2017 she came in 3rd in the New England Reader’s Choice contest for A KISS UNDER THE CHRISTMAS LIGHTS and is a finalist in the 2017 STILETTO contest for the same title. A lifelong and avid romance reader and writer, she is a member of RWA and her local New Hampshire RWA Chapter.

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Ready, Set, BAKE!

carolematthews~ By Carole Matthews A Note from Melina (aka Melissa):  I may not bake as well as Mary Berry (though not for lack of trying). But I'm proud that that we have one thing in common.  We both adore Carole Matthews.  It was from Carole Matthews that I learned about The Great British Bake-Off, and I've been an addict from the first episode I was able to get my hands on.  The show is so soothing, with its rivers, fields, and adorable animals walking around. Even the music relaxes me.  The encouraging atmosphere in "the tent" reminds me of RWA meetings and conferences. Writers and bakers are clearly among the world's loveliest people.  Writers and bakers are clearly among the world's loveliest people.  And of course, the show is a great injection of enthusiasm for my muses (as is kneading bread dough and mixing batter).  The Great British Bake Off is the perfect show for a writer, and Carole has graciously offered to share some of her thoughts on the show.  Thank you so much, Carole!  It’s the time of year in Great Britain when everyone goes a little bit cake bonkers. As the nights draw in and the trees turn to gold, the nation becomes hooked on the latest series of The Great British Bake Off. Never has there been so much tension involving cake. We weep with them over their biscuit disasters. Empathise when their bread fails to rise. Commiserate with their soggy bottoms. We all love Mary Berry’s wisdom, Paul Hollywood’s steely blue eyes and the terrible innuendos from Mel and Sue, the comfort that comes from nothing more complicated than a bit of cake. For me, it’s a great time of marketing activity too. As well as keeping my eye on the trials and tribulations of the bakers, I live tweet during Bake Off while simultaneously balancing a plate of biscuits on my lap – for no one can possibly watch Bake Off without having something cakey-based to snack on. [caption id="attachment_7109" align="alignright" width="225"]Star Baker! Star Baker![/caption] Every week during the show we also give away signed copies of my book, The Cake Shop in the Garden, which has been one of my most popular novels worldwide. Helped in no small measure by having a glowing quote from THE Mary Berry on the cover. I also throw in a bit of chocolate for good measure. I had the pleasure of meeting Mary when she was doing a book signing in my local bookstore. When it was my turn for my books to be signed, I gave one of mine and thanking her for all the pleasure gives to me and my readers – we are all Bake Off fans and chat about it on social media. She said she would love to read it and I thought no more. So I was very surprised when, a few months later, I saw a piece from her in a magazine and she said that she was ‘addicted’ to my books. Go me! Now, of course, she can have free books for life as far as I’m concerned! You can keep all your celebrity chefs, for me there is only one cook. Her recipes always work and don’t have any weird and wonderful ingredients. I was chatting to a friend about her yesterday and we were saying, that in an age where it’s still very unusual to see older ladies on the television, Mary is a fabulous role model. She’s elegant, refined and a complete style icon. Long may she reign! And, of course, with all that fabulous cake on the telly, my diet goes completely out of the window as I reach for the flour and try a few new bits and pieces. I’ve always loved baking, but too often find that I’m doing it against the clock. In the winter, I feel happier to set time aside for a bit of baking therapy. Perhaps that’s why my books, so often, have a cake or chocolate theme. This week on Bake Off is batter week. Looking forward, already, to pancakey goodness. What could possibly go wrong? Carole’s latest book is The Chocolate Lovers’ Wedding. 

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hello Everyone, Happy Valentine's Day! As a special treat, here are a few Valentine's Day classic moments for you. Hopefully, they'll spark some writing. Can you turn these into writing prompts? 30 Rock: Friends: How I Met Your Mother: Charlie Brown: A Bonus:  ba55bfbac2dcaa03c852032441f8af29  What are your favorite Valentine's Day TV moments? Leave a comment and let us know.  Don't forget to make time to show your manuscript some love this weekend!

Why (In The World) Would Jane Austen Snapchat?

SVT2015~ By Sarah Vance-Tompkins "Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you." -- Captain Wentworth, Persuasion. Snapchat is unlike other social networking platforms. Captain Wentworth will love you forever, but your Snapchat posts are going to ghost. While Tweets and Facebook posts remain in perpetuity and can be searched any time, a Snap has an expiration date. When you’re sending a Snap to a friend, it self-destructs after it’s viewed. That's why brands take advantage of the Story feature when using Snapchat for marketing. More on that in a moment. "I'm twenty-seven years old, I've no money and no prospects. I'm already a burden to my parents and I'm frightened. So don't you judge me, Lizzy. Don't you dare judge me!" -- Charlotte Lucas, Pride & Prejudice. I am not a digital native. Twitter and Facebook are already pushing the limits of my technological comprehension. Why in the world would anyone use a social media platform with posts that are going to disappear? While Snapchat hasn’t reached the mainstream popularity of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the app is wildly popular among millennials. If your aim is to reach a younger demographic, especially 18-34 year olds, then Snapchat is the place you want to hang your bonnet. “That will do extremely well, child. You have delighted us long enough. Let the other young ladies have time to exhibit.” -- Mr. Bennet, Pride & Prejudice. Let's say you decide to take the plunge and build your audience on Snapcat. Your approach to content will have to be different than how you create other social media content. Snapchat is not a place for professional product photos or slick stock images, users here want a peek underneath your petticoats. You'll find a lot of popular brands post Snaps and Stories that have nothing to do the company itself. This is because they understand the culture of the app. Don’t think about what you can get out of each Snap. Just be you. Be real, genuine and entertaining. Here are three suggestions for beginner marketers to use Snapchat: Offer discount coupons  Snapchat gives you the ability to draw and write over your images or videos. You can make your Snaps stand out and be much more entertaining than the pics posted on Instagram or Facebook. You can also announce sales and give Snapchat users exclusive discount coupons. Build anticipation Let’s say you have an event coming up. Post photos of your preparation or make a short video clip of what's happens behind the scenes before the event. You could also make Snapchat story of all of the crazy moments that occur on your book release day. You might not think it's intriguing or glamorous, but it might be just be enough to intrigue your fans. Tell Snapchat Stories Snapchat Stories let's you can combine a series of Snaps together to create a longer piece of content. The biggest advantage of Stories is your followers can view them as many times as they want within 24 hours. Snapchat Stories can be used to tell a more traditional style of marketing story with a beginning, middle and end. Stories makes Snapchat more instinctive for those of us who are technologically challenged. "It isn't what we think or say that defines us, but what we do." -- Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility. Check out more ideas for using Snapchat here. Remember, as with all social media, there are no tricks to gaining an audience on Snapchat. Engagement is key. Engage your followers with your posts and engage with their posts in return. Successful social media is all about activity. Sarah Vance-Tompkins (Instagram: SarahVanTom) is a social media consultant for small businesses. She earned an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and worked in feature film development. Prior to her attempts at writing fiction, she has been paid to write everything from obituaries to the directions for use on bottles of personal lubricant. She is a member of YARWA and CRW-Online. She welcomes your questions and comments. Sarahevance@gmail.com

What Would Jane Austen Instagram?

SVT2015~ By Sarah Vance-Tompkins In vain I have struggled, it will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you...and the photos you post on Instagram. Social media is a key element of any author's marketing plan, but the popularity of social media platforms change as often as Fanny Dashwood changes the ostrich feather plume on her hat. Unless you're in junior high school, it's difficult to stay on top of the latest trends. Social media is social. You must interact with other people. It's a task that can be daunting for introverted writers. Using and downloading new apps and new technology can also make you feel as irrelevant as Emma's Miss Bates. In a previous post (What Would Jane Austen Tweet?), I focused on how authors can use Twitter to enhance their brand. This time I'm shining the spotlight on Instagram. Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, Tumblr, and to a large extent -- Facebook -- all attract attention through graphics, pictures and illustrations. Instagram pics can establish and enhance your brand image. For authors writing contemporary romance, Instagram is a great way to reach new readers (especially younger readers who are more likely to use Instagram and Snapchat than Facebook.) So...how would Jane Austen use Instagram? Here are my five tips for romance authors. Make sure your photo is visually intriguing. Use lighting and filters to highlight your best feature. It is not what we say or think that defines us, but what we do. Riding with Captain Wentworth in his new barouche can be all kinds of fun, but the blurry photos and video you post of your ride down a bumpy dirty road may not be as delightful. When you're posting selfies, make sure the pics feature you at your best. The same goes for your books. Use filters that make your book covers look best. You should also note photos that feature faces and are in focus are more likely to attract attention. Camera phones are amazing. If you haven't updated your phone in awhile, now may be time. Photographs captured on a phone can be easily posted directly onto Instagram through the app, but no matter what, the higher the resolution photo you use, the more eyes you're going to attract. Grab your reader's attention and use key words and phrases to be persuasive. Ask direct questions and have a clear call-to-action. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on the subject forever. Remember Mr. Darcy's first proposal to Elizabeth? Remember all of the prejudiced assumptions he made about her family that he thought would be so glaringly obvious to her? Remember how that worked out for him? Yeah. You don't want to make the same mistakes. Ask direction questions. Use the five most persuasive words -- "You", "Free", "Because", "Instantly", and "New" -- to tell your followers exactly what to do. Make your call-to-action super obvious. Because hyperlinks don't work in the comments or description on Instagram, make sure you have a link to your website in your bio. Or you can edit your bio to include a buy link when your Instagram post is about a specific book on your list. Make your call-to-action direct and to the point in the comments. "Click the link in the bio to buy my new book!" Use hash tags in moderation. It is very often nothing but our own vanity that deceives us. Hash tags can be deceptive. Originally conceived as a method to find social media posts regarding the same topic, they've evolved to mean something else. The word "hash tag" has become a part of contemporary slang when we want to call attention to what we're saying. Using more than one hash tag, and hash tags that become run-on sentences can be confusing to your followers. A lot of hash tags taking up valuable space on Instagram posts are like vanity license plates. They aren't serving the purpose they intended, and their overuse may be damaging the poster's brand. Remember a clear call-to-action is more important than an abundance of hash tags. Two of the most popular hash tags on Instagram are #catsofinstagram and #dogsofinstagram. If you are a cat or dog aficionado, try using the corresponding hash tag the next time you post a photo of your pet. You will be surprised at the number of responses you get from new followers...who could be new readers too. Post a photo of your pet lounging on or near your book with the hash tag and make sure you edit your bio to include your buy link. Respond to all questions and comments in a timely manner. If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. Let's face it. Social media is a time suck. I'm not going to lie. I would hesitate before recommending Jane Austen (or any writer) check any social media account for responses frequently or repeatedly. For a writer on deadline, social media can become a really bad excuse to avoid your current work-in-messy-progress. You'll become as neurotic and emotional as Marianne Dashwood waiting for word from a wayward Willoughby. Instead set the preferences on your Instagram app to notify you when you get likes and comments on your post. Turn off the ringer on your phone and get back to work on your current project. You can respond and interact with your Instagram followers when you're done writing for the day. A response within twenty-four hours is perfectly acceptable. What do you like about Instagram? Anything you find difficult? Particularly fun? Leave your thoughts and tips in the comments! * What would Jane Austen tweet? Find out here Sarah Vance-Tompkins (Instagram: SarahVanTom) is a social media consultant for small businesses. She earned an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and worked in feature film development. Prior to her attempts at writing fiction, she has been paid to write everything from obituaries to the directions for use on bottles of personal lubricant. She is a member of YARWA and CRW-Online. She welcomes your questions and comments. Sarahevance@gmail.com

What Would Jane Austen Tweet? [REPOST]

svance_4X6_72dpi~ By Sarah Vance-Tompkins It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a romance author in possession of a book or manuscript for sale must be in want of Twitter followers. Social media has become integral to the success of any small business marketing plan. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ and Tumblr attract attention through graphics, pictures and illustrations, but Twitter is the one social media platform where your writer’s voice can and really should shine. Think of each Tweet as a writing challenge. You only get 140 characters, so you must make each one count. Your Tweets can help create and shape the personality of you as an author. Just as you have a picture of Jane Austen in your mind’s eye, use your Tweets to create a public image of you in your writer’s bonnet or pith helmet if that’s more apropos. Think about your public image before you Tweet. Your Tweets, like your curtsey to Mr. Collins at the Netherfield Ball, should always be light, bright, and polite. It’s a saying I learned at a social media seminar by Josh Ochs that has stuck with me as my mantra.
@Emma: It was a delightful Tweet; perfect, in being much too short.
Your Tweets should be precise, witty and pithy. Try not to use all 140 characters. Leave room for your followers to RT and add comments. A Twitter feed is a public “micro-blog,” not a private text machine. Using #toomanymakebelievehashtags and text abbreviations make your Tweets about as entertaining as Mary Bennet’s singing at the piano. Unless you’re Mrs. Elton, your Tweets (as an author) should be free of strong opinions, controversial topics, and politics. And remember the golden rule of social media: There will always be haters. You can choose to engage with them. Or not.
You take delight in vexing me,@LizzysDad. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.  You mistake me, @MrsBennet. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. 
Mr. and Mrs. Bennet know to seek out accomplices on social media. Note that they don’t start Tweet shout-outs to each other with their Twitter handles. Their Tweets will be seen by all their followers and not just each other. @Kristan_Higgins and @JillShalvis do this with panache. Use HootSuite or TweetDeck to schedule your Tweets. You can send the same Tweet up to three times a day and not worry about becoming as repetitive as Miss Bates. Be aware of current events. Un-schedule Tweets that contain calls to buy your book or sign up for your newsletter when a tragedy or disaster strikes. There are no tricks to gaining new followers. Engagement is key. If you schedule tweets, you still need to make time to be on Twitter live and in person; Follow, Reply and RT the posts of your author-friends. Engage your followers. Ask questions about their favorite books, movies and televisions shows and Reply. Check out @EntangledPub for a great examples of how it’s done. Sarah Vance-Tompkins (@SarahVTompkins) is a social media consultant for small businesses. She earned an MFA in Film Production from the University of Southern California and worked in feature film development. Prior to her attempts at writing fiction, she has been paid to write everything from obituaries to the directions for use on bottles of personal lubricant. She is a member of the Los Angeles Romance Authors and CRW-Online. She welcomes your questions and comments.Sarahevance@gmail.com

Promotion, Part 2: Poking Holes at Pinterest?

Sherrie - Author - retouched~ By Sherri Hansen * Read Part 1, Marketing The Old Fashioned Way, here The general rule of social media is, do what you enjoy. I love Pinterest! I think of it as a big file cabinet with color-coded folders for fun things – except that I don’t have to dig through a bunch of papers when I want to go back and find what I need. One fun way for authors to use Pinterest is to make a folder for each of your books and use them like a story board – pictures of people who look like your characters, links to the location where your story takes places, sites you’ve used for research, clothes of the period or style your characters would wear, basically whatever you want handy when you’re working on your book, and whatever gets you in the mood to write or helps you to visualize people and places important to the story. I’ve also tagged the style of font and photos I want to use on the cover. On a personal note, I use Pinterest to pin things that I like – songs I want to learn so I can play them with my music group, ideas of things to make with my nieces and nephew, places I’ve traveled to or want to see one day when I’m rich, recipes to use in my tea house or at church events, garden and landscape ideas, and of course, my love of rainbows. If nobody ever sees them but me, that’s fine, because I like using it to organize the things that are important to me and to keep track of things I don’t want to forget about. If someone looks at my pin and thinks – I have a lot in common with this person, or hey, we like almost all the same things, or wow – this lady has great taste, and wants to give my books a try, that’s wonderful. And I have had that happen. When you pin things, you can click a box to have them shared simultaneously on Twitter and or Facebook. The general rule for social media is to post 80% personal posts so that you are building relationships (which is what social media is all about), and no more than 20% business posts designed to promote yourself or your books. When it comes to sharing personal things or what’s going on in my head, or the bigger scope of my world, it’s a lot easier to quickly pin something than it is to stop and try to think of something clever to say about my day. Both are windows to your personality. Both are important… but it’s nice to have variety – and pictures for those of us who are visual learners and relaters. Please come and visit me at  https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/ to see what I mean. Do you use Pinterest? If so, please share your tips in the comments. Twenty-three years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer's grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota and now lives in northern Iowa, in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes on the run whenever she’s not working - or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels. You can see what’s she’s up to at:  http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor  http://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/ www.BlueBelleInn.com or www.BlueBelleBooks.com https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/    

My 2015 “Moose” Mantra – Author Collaboration

datauri-file~ By Jillian Jacobs  As a relatively new writer, I’ve relied on more seasoned authors to direct me down the right and WRITE road. To aid with this, I co-developed a local author sub-group called the Juicebox Dialogues. This group was created in order to share and promote author news. I would encourage every author to surround themselves with a crew of like-minded people. You’ll be amazed at free flow of information. Sometimes you just have questions, and knowing there are others who are willing to answer, relieves a lot of strain in an already overwhelming writer world. With that in mind, here are some of the focal points of our group that I feel can be of benefit.
  • Share news on all social media outlets. By SHARE, I mean, click that button. It’s very easy to do.
  • Like each other’s posts- sometimes it’s the little things
  • Read each other’s books-sometimes it’s the big things. I get a thrill out of just knowing someone is reading my book. Like the content or not, at least they put forth the effort.
  • Post reviews- this should actually be Number #1
  • Include excerpts by other authors at the back of your books- I recently did this with an author friend, since we both write romantic suspense.
  • Attend local author events even if you’re not signing. For example, book signings, writer conferences, and library events- BE PRESENT!
  • Critique
  • Beta read
  • At book signing’s, with each book purchase, give the buyer additional swag from your author friends
  •  Combine advertising dollars, nationally and/or locally for traditional advertising, like Romantic Times or a local publication.
  • For more expensive swag items split the cost with various authors, like mugs or cloth bags
  • Host authors on your blog
  • Host brainstorming sessions
  • Volunteer within your RWA chapter
  • Like author pages on Amazon, Facebook, Goodreads, etc….
  • Write novellas together and/or package books together
  • Visit and comment on blog posts
  • Share your experiences when you try something new, like a Bookbub ad or a new blogger
  • Develop and submit RWA Conference workshops together
  • Post photos from author events – show readers your camaraderie
  • Video blogging
What kinds of author collaborations have you done? Were they successful? What ways can we help each other as we move forward in this ever-changing world of romance writing? Do you already have a group of author friends? If so, what fun things do you do to support each other? If you’d like, please visit YouTube for some fun videos with my Juicebox Dialogues pals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSqq5xxIMlo In 2015, my wish is that you’ll find a group of writers who share the same positive spirit. Collaborate today! In the spring of 2013, Jillian Jacobs changed her career path and became a romance writer. After reading for years, she figured writing a romance would be quick and easy. Nope! With the guidance of the Indiana Romance Writers of America chapter, she’s learned there are many "rules" to writing a proper romance. Being re-schooled has been an interesting journey, and she hopes the best trails are yet to be traveled. Water’s Threshold, the first in Jillian’s Elementals series, was a finalist in Chicago-North’s 2014 Fire and Ice contest in the Women’s Fiction category, and is now available for purchase. Jillian is a: Tea Guzzler, Polish Pottery Hoarder, and lover of all things Moose. The genres she writes under are: Paranormal and Contemporary. Website: www.jillianjacobs.com Twitter: https://twitter.com/GreenMooseProd Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJillianJacobs

Why #WeNeedDiverseBooks Matters

sonali~ By Sonali Dev Like so many of you who are reading this, I inhaled books as a child. And I don't mean that just in terms of volume but in terms of depth. I didn't just read the books, I crawled inside them. I burrowed inside the characters like an insidious, hungry thing and flailed out my limbs to don their very essence like one pushes into a greatcoat with a broken zipper and breaks through the arm and neck holes in full ownership. I ate these stories up from the inside out. My little whitewashed room in our hundred-year old Mumbai apartment took turns transforming into everything from the halls of Pemberly to the turreted common rooms of Enid Blyton's Mallory Towers and St. Claires. I loved Oliver Barrett and Father Ralph de Bricassart long before my love found a flesh and blood boy to inhabit. In other words, before I was in college, I, a bonafide brown-skinned Indian girl growing up in urban India thinking in English, had been a lot of white people. And then one day I picked up M.M. Kaye's Far Pavillions. Until then the people I became in books had names like Jane and Maggie and Cathy. To find a heroine who was called Anjulie, even though she thought of herself mostly as ‘Julie’ was an event so significant, it might have altered the course of my life. Now, Julie was a princess and she was half white so I was grasping at straws really, but she lived in towns and villages I recognized and wore silks and chiffons. And even though my wardrobe was mostly denim, Julie was unarguably Indian and she was in a book and somewhere in my head, an impossible thing became possible. Then came Vikram Seth and his Suitable Boy. And there was Lata, who was not a princess but just your regular Indian girl with a crazy, overbearing, close-knit family, and she fell for a brown-eyed boy while browsing poetry in a Delhi bookstore (sigh), and the way I had fit into characters before that shifted and became not about travelling to lands far far away but about exploring where I came from and what that made me. The possibilities multiplied in my heart. The stories that I had spun for as long as I could remember became things that might find their way onto the pages of books that might actually make their way onto bookshelves. Somehow in finding myself in a book, I found the knowledge that what I had to say might interest someone other than me. It made me matter. There's been a lot of talk lately on social media about wanting diverse books. #WeNeedDiverseBooks is a call to arms that is long overdue. And even though discovering characters with my skin color empowered me to pick up the pen, that isn’t the real reason why I’m so overjoyed that this hashtag has coalesced its way into existence. The real reason for me jumping on this particular soapbox is what reading books from cultures different from mine did for me by letting me crawl into bodies and minds that should have seemed foreign but never did. That’s the thing about books, they are the only painless method of stripping away our skin and unifying us at a level where all we are is human. Unfortunately, this is possibly also the reason why even today when our world is a swirl of color our books are still overwhelmingly white. Because white has come to signify a blanket of uniformity and relateability in our books. And it is unfair to a point of being almost tragic because that moment of “OMG, that is exactly how I feel!” is not a feeling that should be restricted only to a colored person upon experiencing the travails of white characters, but it is a feeling all races should be able to feel about other races without making it about the race. And not just race, but sexual orientation, heck, even religion and every other label we humans use to differentiate ourselves from each other while continuing to live lives populated by the exact same emotions. But no matter how much we tweet about it, no one is going to give us more diverse books unless we buy the diverse books already out there. It’s called supply and demand –yet another glorious aspect of the human condition. The reason there is so little diversity in books is that it is so easy and enjoyable to read within the comfort zone created by the un-diverse books so plentifully available to us. And until we read outside our comfort zone, we will never grow the confines of that comfort zone, and the powers that be will have no market to feed.  So go out and buy a few diverse books, read them, maybe you’ll travel to fantastic and heartbreaking places. Or maybe you’ll find that hearts break in much the same way no matter who you are. And just to know that, to feel that, it might be worth it.
Sonali Dev’s first literary work was a play about mistaken identities performed at her neighborhood Diwali extravaganza in Mumbai. She was eight years old. Despite this early success, Sonali spent the next few decades getting degrees in architecture and written communication, migrating across the globe, and starting a family while writing for magazines and websites. With the advent of her first gray hair her mad love for telling stories returned full force, and she now combines it with her insights into Indian culture to conjure up stories that make a mad tangle with her life as supermom, domestic goddess, and world traveler. Sonali lives in the Chicago suburbs with her very patient and often amused husband and two teens who demand both patience and humor, and the world’s most perfect dog.
 
Sonali’s debut novel, A Bollywood Affair, will be available from Kensington in November 2014. To find out more please visit her at sonalidev.com

Just Call Me A Party Animal

Terri Osburn headshot Image~ By Terri Osburn Back in the day, I *might* have done a bit of partying. Kicked a keg once or twice. Woke up with some fuzzy memories about the night before. But I’ve since offered up my gall bladder in payment for that debauchery, and now I’m what you’d call a teetotaler. One with tattoos who listens to loud music, but I’m toten’ the tee all the same. However, I’ve recently started kicking up my heels at a new kind of party. And with no commute necessary, you can drink all you want so long as you don’t spill an adult beverage in your keyboard. I’m talking about Facebook parties. If you’re an author with a book to promote and you haven’t tried this, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. I’ll explain for the uninitiated. Facebook provides the opportunity to hold events. To set one up and participate in an event, you must use your profile, not your page. (If you don’t know the difference, ask in the comments and I’ll explain.) Setting up an event is relatively painless (thank goodness.) Then on the day of your event, the wall of the event page becomes the setting for your party, and everything happens right there. This is an event I held back on Valentine’s Day. Once you a pick date and time, invite your writer friends to take a time slot (15 mins, 30 mins, 1 hr – totally up to you) to entertain the readers. They would post about their own work, offer up a prize, and engage with the readers in the comments. Here’s why this works so well. You’re going to invite your fans. Writer friend is going to invite her fans. Writers A, B, C, and D are also going to invite their fans. And on the day of the event, all the fans will be gathered in one place, learning about everyone’s work. We’re talking about a virtual captive audience. There’s a chance that Writer A’s fans haven’t heard of you. But they will now. And you’re going to be so witty and charming in the comments that they’ll be ordering your books, falling in love with them, and telling all their friends about them within days or weeks. See where I’m going with this? For the cost of one afternoon or evening of your time, you’re finding new readers, helping your writer friends reach new readers, and introducing your fans to other awesome reads, something for which they will be forever grateful. All of this makes the Facebook party the ultimate win-win-win situation. Also, they’re fun. Especially when the man candy pics start flying around. And free! Other than the cost of the prizes, which you’d spend anyway doing a blog tour and be lucky if you reached twenty or thirty readers. With a Facebook party, you can reach hundreds of readers in a matter of hours. All while sipping a beverage and wearing your pajamas. But there is one warning. If you are not a participating author, do not show up in a Facebook party and start promoting your work. This is equivalent to crashing your neighbor’s party and drinking all their wine. You don’t want to be that neighbor. Or that author. Has anyone tried one of these parties? Got any tips to make it run smoother or be more successful? Anyone found something similar that works just as well? Although born in the Ohio Valley, Terri Osburn found her true home between the covers of her favorite books. Classics like The Wizard of Oz and Little Women filled her childhood, and the genre of romance beckoned during her teen years. In 2007, she decided to put pen to paper and write her own. Just five years later, she was named a 2012 finalist for the Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® Award. The author of the Anchor Island contemporary romance series, you can learn more about this author and her work by visiting her website at www.terriosburn.com.