Saturday, January 29, 2022

Book Recommendations for January 2021

 Here are some books I've read, enjoyed, and reviewed this month:

Lost in the Pacific, 1942 by Tod Olson makes me think of "I Survived" for grown-ups. It's both informative and entertaining.

The Not-So Chosen One by Tamara Grantham reminds me of the Pixar movie Onward, with a previously magical world turned ordinary by technology.

Chalk It Up To Love by Jenny Rabe is a cute romance with chalk drawings, flowers, and strangers refurbishing a house together.

Just One Wish by Jeanette Rallison. I expected cute characters from Jeanette, but I did not expect the depth and questions about life and God, or to cry. A girl goes on a quest to fulfil the wish of her little brother with cancer.

I've also sampled a few stories on kindle vella. Readers can read the first three chapters for free, and they also get 200 tokens to start. After the first three, chapters typically cost around 25 cents each. Here's some that I've enjoyed this month:

Pride: Falling Storm by Ellaura Shoop is about a lion, leopard, and cheetah in the style of Erin Hunter's Warriors series. My teenage self would have been ecstatic to read this series, and I'm still enjoying it. Also available as a book.

Champlain Dreams by S.A. Vader is a thriller, not my usual genre, but I've enjoyed the first three chapters so far.

The Queen Trials by Penelope Wright is a dystopia about a miner trying to improve her life by taking place in the queen trials.

The Ivory Labyrinth by Cady Hammer reminds me of a cross between Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. It's a fascinating YA Dystopia so far.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Marketing with Twitter

How do you use twitter to market books? 

The most important thing to remember about all social media is that people use it primarily to express themselves. Connecting with others is secondary. So, if you want a lot of engagement on social media platforms, look for ways to help people express themselves. Ask questions. Take polls. Post relatable content. Interact with other people on their posts. Keep in mind what your audience is looking for.

Next, set up your own profile so that people know what to expect from you. Pick one picture and stick with it. Add something about writing in your "about me" section, and include a link.

I use the same handle on every social media platform to simplify things. No matter which platform you use, you can find TheSpectraBooks.

Now to get followers. The quickest way to get a lot of followers is to find people with similar interests and follow them. Once a month-ish, go through and unfollow everyone who didn't follow you back. You can find writer people by searching for the hashtags #writerslift or #writerscommunity. Search for organizations like NaNoWriMo or famous authors you admire and follow people who follow them.

This will get you a large number of follows quickly, but keep in mind that they won't be engaged followers unless you follow the first step: help people express themselves. 

If your goal is to have as many people as possible see your post (for instance, if you have a free deal or a new release), here's how to get a lot of exposure. First, make a post on your own profile. Include a link, and leave space (maybe 20 characters or so) for hashtags. Example:

Now, you're going to copy that post onto other posts that are specifically asking you to share links. Every time you copy your post, change the hashtag. Here are some good hashtags to get you started: #BooksToRead #MustRead #BookRecommendation #WhatToRead #IndieBooksBeSeen #BookTwt #ReadingForPleasure. Don't forget to look at genre-specific hashtags too. Are you in #KindleUnlimited or #KindleVella? #ebook or #paperback? All good hashtags to try.

I've noticed that this method works really well with bookfunnel promotions and newsletter builders. These promotions count the number of times someone clicks on your link, which is a handy way to judge if this type of twitter usage is working. For most promotions, I can get around 20 clicks per hour with this writerslift/hashtage method.

Where do you find posts looking for links? There are plenty.

 Search for the hashtags #writerslift or #ShamelessSelfPromo (plus the day of the week--this one is especially good on Saturdays). If you happen to be doing this during the month of April, #IndieApril is huge. I timed my 2021 and 2022 books to release in April just to take advantage of #IndieApril. I had huge spikes in sales in 2019 and 2020:

This method will get you a lot of exposure, but it's not really designed to get you a lot of sales. You're posting to a "cold audience" (one that is busy with their own thing and not actively looking for books). But there are ways to find a "hot audience" that is looking for books like yours. You just have to find them. I like to use the search bar and type in "fantasy book recommend". Sometimes I'll mix it up a little, with "fantasy book suggest" or something like that. The goal is to get as specific to your book as you can. You're looking for posts like this:

Now you need the perfect response. I like to start with "May I recommend my own?" to be polite, so I don't sound overbearing. I've only ever had one person say no, and I promptly deleted my post. 

 Next, share one or two sentences about your book, and include a link. If you can, include a bit about why your book fits what they're looking for. I keep my responses in an excel sheet so that I just have to copy, paste, and personalize.

 People often respond positively! It's impossible to tell which sales come from this method, but I have definitely seen an increase, as well as positive feedback.

So, that's how I use twitter. I hope some of this is helpful. Feel free to reach out and ask questions.
And, of course, I'll follow you back if you follow me on twitter 😉.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Rough draft of The Seventh Clan

 I thought some readers might find this interesting. This is the very first draft of The Seventh Clan. The main character Perrin's character changed quite a bit since then, and there's a lot more detail and better writing. If you'd like to compare this with the final draft, you can read the first chapter (free) here.

Thick mist covered the camp, while the few campfires created beams that the mist distorted into fantastic shapes. Perrin crept through camp, concentrating on the sounds instead of the sights. Most of the soldiers were asleep in their tents and only a few voices remained to murmur ghostlike through the mist, seemingly without a source.  

Someone shuffled ahead. Perrin headed toward the sound. “Guardsman?” 

A torch flickered to life. “Who is it?” 

“It’s just me, Perrin. I’ve brought orders.” He hated how his voice squeaked. 

The soldier appeared, every inch a soldier, from the clean white sash that was all the uniform they had to the huge musket leaning against his arm. The barrel gleamed in the torchlight and Perrin wanted to touch it. 

“Well?” the man demanded. 

Perrin handed over a tightly bound scroll and stepped back while the guardsman read. They were nearly the same height. Maybe in a few months Perrin would be the one standing at guard while someone else brought him messages. 

The distant slapping of waves against the beach united with the creaking of tree branches in a night wind. The cool mist teased his exposed skin. Moon. 

Something was moving among the mist. Perrin squinted. A glimmer of light appeared and vanished again. “Over there!” he hissed, remembering just in time to keep his voice down. 

The guard peered in that direction. “I see nothing.” 

Perhaps the soldier’s eyes were tired, for Perrin could now make out dark shapes, gaps where mist ought to be. “They’re right there! People coming toward camp.” 

“Don’t believe everything you...” 

A crack broke the stillness. A hint of orange fire flashed. Perrin cried out. The gun had missed, but now more shots were being fired. “Get help!” the guard screamed at him. “Don’t stick around and watch.” 

“Yes, sir!”  

Perrin ran back toward camp. Hopefully they would hear the guns before he arrived. The guardsmen were shooting back now, but Perrin was not tempted to stop and watch. He’d seen Vangton oppression before, and heard those gunshots. He knew what damage they did. 

The camp was already in commotion. Perrin ran straight for the center tent. The flap opened before he reached it. General Niles stood in the opening. He was a short man for a legend, but Perrin wasn’t fooled. “General!” Perrin shouted. 

“How much do you know?” General Niles barked. 

“Unknown number of Vangton soldiers firing on our guardsmen, coming from the beaches to the northeast.” Perrin thought back, trying to remember any other details. “The sea is calm, but I heard nothing else.” 

“They’ll have come from the Starwood fleet outside of City.” General Niles turned to the aides around him and began barking orders. Perrin knew better than to get in the way. He backed to the side of the tent.  

A face peered out from underneath the canvas. “That you, Per?” 

Perrin stood straight. “I am on duty. Formality, please.” 

The voice scoffed, and then its owner slipped out from under the canvas. Gio stood up, sweeping the dust from his trousers. Perrin doubted it would do any good. Gio’s dirty hands would only get his clothes more dusty. “What’d you see?” 

“In the mist, very little,” Perrin answered. The general was still barking orders. Perrin tried to listen. The sounds of battle were becoming louder and more chaotic.  

“Do the Vangtons really have horns, do you think?” Gio asked. 

“Don’t be stupid!” Perrin exploded. “Our ancestors were Vangtons. If they had horns, so would we.” 


Perrin straightened again. General Niles was looking straight at him. “Yes, sir?” he and Gio asked in unison. 

“We’re evacuating camp. Get to the provisions tent and help pack up. If the fighting comes close, drop everything and run.” 

“Yes, sir,” the boys chimed. 

“Then go!” 

They ran. Perrin led the way to the provisions carts. Horses stamped their hooves. “Someday, we’ll be fighting,” Gio said. “Drop everything and run. Bah!” 

In the distance, someone screamed loud enough that even the gunshots seemed quiet. “I can wait,” Perrin said. 


“I am not!” 

You can find The Seventh Clan on kindle vella, or learn more about the series on The Spectra Books website.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Top Twenty Favorite Writing Resources

 I've studied writing craft for over a decade. Here are some of my favorite resources for becoming a better writer (no particular order):


1. Creating Character Arcs by KM Weiland combines character and plot to create a workable story structure (see her entry under websites below for more)

2. Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody is an excellent resource for story structure (it's included in my comparison of story structures)

3, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I go back and forth with this one. Sometimes I think it's an excellent, relatable resource, and sometimes I think that the author sounds neurotic. Either way she has some great tips and motivation to keep writing. Some content is for adults only.

4. Writing Magic by Gail Carson Levine is written specifically for younger writers, but there is plenty for seasoned ones too! 

5. Writing the Christian Romance by Gail Gaymer Martin. I checked out this book from the library about three times before getting my own copy. I don't write Christian romance, but I do keep my romances clean and wholesome, and this book is a great resource for that.

6. The Writer's Digest Handbook of Novel Writing. This is an older collection that's out of print and tough to find, but it's a collection of useful articles. I frequently quote Orson Scott Card's section on how to transition from writing short stories to full novels. 

7. The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is a great resource that teaches you to use physical cues to show emotion instead of tell it.

8. Create Craft Critique and more is a collection of articles from the ANWA writing conference, chalk full of great advice.

9. The Elements of Style by Strunk and White is a classic for writing advice, specifically "making every word tell". 

10. Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark is both entertaining and informative, an excellent resource for writing craft.

11. Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan instructs on writing descriptions, and the writing of the book itself is an excellent example.

12. No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty is a guide to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). 

13. The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker is a huge guide to genre and the evolution of stories. It discusses Jungian archetypes as well. Beware: this is an extremely long read.

14 and 15. Woe is I Jr. and Eats, Shoots and Leaves are my favorite grammar guides. They're simple and interesting, informative without being overwhelming.


16. Gail Carson Levine has a blog where she posts biweekly writing advice. Writers can ask questions in the comments section, and Gail and others will give excellent advice. Gail will mark some writing questions as subject material for future blog posts. It's a supportive, helpful community.

17. KM Weiland has a lot of writing articles on her blog, especially about story structure. Some of the articles have turned into books (see my books section above), but all of the information is free on her blog.

18. TVTropes is an excellent database with all of the tropes you can think of (not just tv). It references and compares stories from popular culture. Beware: this site can suck you in for hours!

YouTube series:

19. Brandon Sanderson puts his entire university course on writing on youtube for anyone to watch. It has a focus on sci-fi and fantasy, but includes all kinds of helpful advice.

20. Hello Future Me is a great resource for writing tips and especially for worldbuilding.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Writing Conferences

 I thought I'd make a list of writing conferences in my area (mainly Arizona and Utah, and usually focused on members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). I have either been to these or talked to people who have been to them. I'd love to know of more in the comments!

Tuscon Festival of Books: Mid-March in Tuscon AZ

Storymakers: Mid-May in Provo UT (I'm teaching at this one!)
WIFYR (Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers): Mid June in Draper UT

Kanab Writers' Conference: Late July in Kanab UT

ANWA conference: Mid-September in Mesa, AZ (I'm biased toward this one!)

LDSPMA (Latter-day Saint Publishing and Media association): Mid October in Provo UT

The Spectra World master maps!

  Summer is here! It's the perfect time to explore somewhere new! Sure, that might include a physical location, but I for one hope to ex...