Giving My First Talk as an Author

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Me in full swing!

My first author talk at my local library has now been and gone but I am still glowing from the wonderful evening I enjoyed there. The library staff were very kind in helping me set everything up beforehand and I had a good sized audience on the night with lots of friendly faces. The atmosphere was so welcoming that I hardly felt nervous at all, which I had really expected to. I ‘present’ all the time in my day job but it’s quite a different feeling when you’re talking about yourself. I know from speaking to other writers that the very idea of standing up in front of an audience scares them half to death! If you can do it though, giving an author talk really is worth it.

I had tried to get round my nerves by being very well-prepared and I think this paid off on the night. The plan was for me to talk about my debut novel From Here to Nashville and also my journey to self-publication. I wrote out what I was going to say over a couple of weeks, adding to the script as I thought of new things. Then I transferred it on to index cards, as advised by lots of other writing friends, and I practised to see how long it was, including me reading out an excerpt. All in all, it was 27 minutes long when I practised but on the night with a few questions, it was more like 45 minutes. I also videoed myself at home to see if I had any glaring habits that I wanted to avoid!

Once I had put the talk together, I had a chat with a writer friend of mine who also had a library talk coming up last week. She suggested playing some country music as people came in which I thought was a great idea and some of you may remember of course, that I even had a Spotify playlist already set up of the songs Rachel sings in the story so I added that to my plan. My friend also suggested asking the audience questions to involve them in the talk and to stop it from getting too formal so I did that too.

In the end, these were my headings:

  • How I started writing.
  • The Nashville TV series and how it inspired the idea for the story. Read out my blurb.
  • Writing as a ‘Pantser’ and discovering NaNoWriMo along the way, which led to me investing in Scrivener.
  • Discovering and then joining the RNA New Writers’ Scheme and my first report back from them.
  • Finding an editor, designer and proofreader.
  • Deciding to self-publish rather than trying for a traditional contract.
  • Publication to Amazon and later other platforms. Read an excerpt. Talked about trip to Nashville.
  • Marketing post-publication – social media activity, including this website and blog.
  • My next books.
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Talking to another RNA member who happened to come along!

One of the things I had to think about very carefully was what technology I would be able to use. The library is all set up for the internet but it isn’t working there currently. This meant I had to do screenshots of the things I wanted to show which could have been boring on their own. So I added in some content to my presentation to go with the shots as well. There were a fair few pictures of my books and I also had a table set up with my books and marketing materials on as well.

The library organised a projector and screen for me and we arrived early to set it all up and make sure it worked correctly. I had to take our bluetooth speaker from home so that we could play the music because the library didn’t have any speakers. I made a list of all the things I would have to take with me and checked and double-checked it before going!

As I said, everyone was so welcoming that I was fairly relaxed from the start. My daughter took some videos of me and my husband took some photos so we have something to remember it all by. I suppose I will have to give in and let you see one of the videos now!

I took a few questions afterwards as well over refreshments and I also sold signed copies of my books. In fact, I sold more copies than I have ever done before at an event of this kind!

So, all in all, as I said at the beginning, it was a very good experience. It was really hard to approach the library in the first instance but once I did, they were very encouraging and happy to help me with promotion and setting up along the way. As I hadn’t had the courage to send out a press release when I first published From Here to Nashville (I know!), this was a good opportunity to write one so that I know what to do next time round. So there were many benefits to doing this, not just the obvious ones.

I suspect that most libraries would welcome local authors with open arms as they try valiantly to keep people coming through their doors so if you love your local library as much as I love mine, then why not give it a try? You might be surprised at how much fun it is! Do leave me a comment below to tell me how you feel about the idea or maybe you’ve already done one so please share your experience 🙂

Author Spotlight – Jannette Spann

This week, the author in the spotlight is inspirational romance author, Jannette Spann. Her latest book is Right Time for Love.

RightTimeForLove (1)Right Time for Love – Jannette Spann

Brandy Wyne’s future includes an old house with plumbing problems, a new job, and caring for her mother who has suffered a stroke.

Gavin Wilkin has increased his Grandpa’s plumbing business to twice its original worth, but the old man’s got a hot lady friend with greedy hands. How can he convince his grandpa of what she’s after without hurting him? Added to his problems is the responsibility of caring for his seven-year-old niece for the summer.

Brandy can’t afford the plumbing repairs she needs, and Gavin can’t find a sitter for his niece. Ever heard of the barter system?

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Excerpt

He eased into Brandy’s drive, looking forward to spending time alone with her. An hour in her company never failed to relieve his stressful day, but when she came off the porch and headed his way, the frown was less than welcoming.

“I’ve got a problem,” she said, the moment his door opened.

“Join the rest of us.”

“I’m serious.” Brandy remained hot on his heels, following him around the truck.

He shoved his cap back. It didn’t matter if he was fed up and bone weary, she wasn’t relenting. “Okay, Brandy. What did she do?”

“Lily said she wants me to be her mother.”

He stopped, glancing back over his shoulder. “What brought that on?”

“I’m not sure. We were playing dress up, and I’d done her makeup and hair. Then out of the blue, she threw her arms around my neck and said she wanted me for a Mama!”

“What did you say?”

“That she has a mother.”

Gavin picked up the shovel and pickaxe, and headed toward the house. Ordinarily he’d use the backhoe and be done in a day, but he needed this job to last as long as possible, or at least until Paul and Clarice got back. Spending time with Brandy was icing on the cake—sometimes.

She grabbed his arm. “What am I supposed to do?”

*****

And now for my interview with Jannette:

1. As I write romances from around the world, I’m interested to know what inspired you to choose your setting for your latest novel?

My last novel was set in Mobile, Alabama. Some of my favourite vacations have been spent on the white sugar-sand beaches of the Alabama gulf coast. Beautiful downtown Mobile is a history-lover’s dream. I could spend a day looking at the giant live oaks, azalea and camellia bushes. Nearby Bellingrath Gardens is gorgeous any time of the year and so romantic I had to include it in a scene. Dauphin Island fit the ending perfectly.

2. Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

My ideas seem to find me. I write stories about people with ordinary problems any of us can have – maybe. The fun starts with creating a story around the problem. Add interesting characters, a beautiful location, and my stories take on a life of their own. The humour in my books just happens.

3. How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

It’s hard for me to answer this question. I don’t believe I’ve ever written a complete first draft, from start to finish, without editing along the way. Just call me queen of ‘copy & paste’. The number of drafts I do depends on the book and the comments from my critique partners. Needless to say, by the time the story is ready for a publisher to see, I’ve gone through several drafts.

4. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Finding the time. My family comes first.

5. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

Some people like the research process, or creating pages of outlines. That’s a necessary process that I have to go through, but what I really love is getting lost in the story. If the plot is good, and the characters I’ve created are believable, then when I get lost in the story I’m thinking my readers will too. That’s when I know I’ve got a good book.

6. Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

I write Inspirational Romance. My stories are always as different as the individual characters I place in each of them. The problems my hero and heroine face are always unique and so are the ways they’re solved, but the underlying theme for my books is the same as it is in real life – God is in control.

7. Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

My current work in process takes place in northwest Alabama. A retirement home and a farm make up the setting. The heroine is an LPN working on her RN degree. The hero is a restaurant owner who’s taken over the running of the family farm. The only thing they seem to have in common is their love for old people.

About Jannette

Born and raised in northwest Alabama, Jannette Spann is a retired hospital ward clerk. Married to the man of her dreams for the past forty-eight years, she is a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Her love of writing began when she was in the fourth grade, and she loves to write about family, love and loyalty.

Jannette is a member of Heart of Dixie, the North Alabama Chapter of Romance Writers of America. She won her first writing contest in 1999, but it wasn’t until after retirement in 2012 that she began to pursue writing in earnest. Eight months later her first book, Hidden Hills, was published by Astraea Press. She loves the beach, but when at home, her idea of summer fun consists of a cool breeze, a cold glass of tea, and sharing the front porch swing with her husband, Mike. In winter, she gladly trades the swing for a rocker in front of the fireplace and the tea for a cup of hot coffee.

Find Jannette at:

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Promoting Your Book with a Library Talk

V__CAE9A few weeks ago, one of my work colleagues saw my debut novel From Here to Nashville on the shelf in our local library. She very kindly took a picture for me which I shared on my Facebook Author Page. It was a very exciting moment for me, as you would expect.

I decided that I should go into the library as soon as possible and see it for myself but when I said that’s what I was going to do, everyone told me to ask if they would be interested in me giving a talk about my book and my self-publishing journey at the library. I knew that this was a good idea but the very thought of it filled me with dread. Taking that step meant really ‘announcing’ to my local community that I am an author and although people who know me wouldn’t believe it, I am actually quite shy.

So I let a week or so go by and then one day, when I was feeling brave, I just went in and introduced myself to the manager and she was so friendly and welcoming that I was glad (as well as relieved) that I had summoned up the courage to do it. She was delighted when I asked whether she would like me to do a talk and we exchanged details with the aim of scheduling it in before C20151108_093552hristmas.

After a flurry of emails, we have now settled on a date and the manager has produced some wonderful promotional materials too which you can see here. Around this time, someone on our RNA (Romantic Novelists’ Association) members forum asked for advice about writing press releases. This is something that I should have done for my book when it came out of course but once again, I was afraid of doing it in case I was shot down in flames. Well, I got in touch with another lovely member of the RNA who was offering help to anyone who needed it. I have now written a press release which Linda has checked for me and it is ready to be sent to some of our local newspapers and I even have an idea (with Linda’s help) for sending it to the local radio that might just grab their attention. Even if it all comes to nothing, at least next time, I will know what to do.

So now all I have to do is to work out what I’m going to say! I am very used to standing up and talking in front of people (children and adults) but of course, I have never been talking about myself before. I have already decided that the Power Point approach is not going to work for this sort of talk. It’s not a presentation after all. The whole event is going to be an hour and a half long in total but I think that a half hour talk by me, followed by time for questions should be enough. The library is then offering refreshments while I will be signing and selling lots of books (I hope!)

For my talk then, I am going to use index cards and tell how I started along this journey with the idea for the story followed by a summary of the steps along the way to self-publication. I will have my computer there so that I can show my website, amongst other things because I think this will be of interest to some members of the audience. I plan to finish up with a bit about my new book Where My Heart Belongs which is now in the final editing phase before it goes off to a professional editor.

I hope that if this talk goes well, I may be able to interest more libraries in the area, as well as other organisations like the WI. The library manager also contacted me the other day to ask whether I could lend her some copies of my book for a display they’re doing about my talk because the copy they have has now been taken out! This prompted me to get on and apply for a Public Lending Rights account which has been on my to-do list for a while. If you don’t know about this, it is a free service provided by The British Library for authors whereby you are paid for all the times that someone borrows your book from a library. It really is marvellous 🙂

I will of course let you all know how I get on and I hope that if, like me, you have been hesitating to get out there and promote yourself, the library may be a good place to start. If you have already given a talk at your library or somewhere else, please do let me know how it went in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

Author Spotlight – Elise Abram

This week, the author in the spotlight is Canadian science fiction author, Elise Abram. Her latest book, The Revenant, is a young adult zombie horror fantasy and that’s what she’s going to be talking to us about today. You have been warned!

front coverThe Revenant – Elise Abram

He wears neither cape nor cowl, but Zulu is a superhero, nevertheless.

Raised from the dead as a revenant more than a hundred years ago, Zulu possesses Spiderman’s stealth, Superman’s speed, and Batman’s keen intellect. His only companion is Morgan the Seer, an old man cursed with longevity and the ability to see the future in his dreams. Zulu has spent the last century training with Morgan in order to save the people in his nightmares from certain and violent death. Branded a vigilante by the Media, Zulu must live his life in the shadows, travelling by night or in the city’s underground unless his quest demands otherwise.

Kat is an empath, someone who sees emotions as colourful auras. Relentlessly bullied by her peers, and believing her life amounts to nothing but a huge cosmic mistake, she finds purpose in her abilities when she is recruited to help Zulu and Morgan complete their missions.

Malchus is  Morgan’s long dead twin brother. A powerful necromancer, Malchus manages to find a way to return to the living, and he has a score to settle with Morgan. Believing Morgan responsible for his death and out to seek revenge, Malchus begins to raise an army of undead minions and use them to hunt Morgan down. As Malchus closes in on Morgan and his charges, the trio soon realises the people most in need of saving are themselves.

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Excerpt

Barb grunted a low grunt.

Malchus heard something that sounded like cracking bone. He stood and walked slowly around to face Barb. She was working to frantically shove the remnants of whatever she had in her hands into her mouth. Blood covered the lower half of her face and her hands and dripped down her forearms, off her elbows, and had begun to pool on the floor. The sleeves of her sweater, rolled up her arms and above her elbows, were saturated.

Having pushed the last of whatever it was she had been eating into her mouth, Barb set to licking the blood off her fingers and then from her forearms. She rolled down her sleeves until they covered her hands, and then placed the material into her mouth and sucked the blood from them as well.

“Barb!” Malchus said, sickened in spite of himself.

Barb looked up at him, eyes wide with fear, the cuff of one of her sleeves still between her lips.

“What are you eating?” he said, sounding calmer than the thump of Hal’s heart would indicate.

“Rat.” The sweater cuff fell from her mouth when she spoke. She licked her lips, and as if realizing there was still blood to be had on her face, wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand, looked at it, then pressed it against her mouth and sucked.

Afraid she might eat her own hand next, Malchus said, “Why?”

“Hungry.” Her answer was garbled as she said it with her lips still against the back of her hand.

*****

And now over to Elise for a bit more background about her latest novel.

Beware The Coming Zombie Apocalypse!

But that’s not…real, right? I mean, zombies are a construct of our popular culture. Surely zombies exist only on celluloid, in books and as digital files on someone’s eReader?

Maybe for now.

The term “zombie”, according to the Google Dictionary, is of West African origin and has been around since the nineteenth century, but didn’t become popularised to mean the undead having risen for no other purpose but to feed on the brains of the living until George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Online sources agree this is probably when the genre of zombie horror originated. It has featured in our popular culture ever since, especially since the introduction of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

So zombies have become a mainstay of gory fictional horror. That doesn’t make them real.

Not in humans. Not yet.

Articles online abound, describing all sorts of parasitic infections that zombify insects and animals once they’re infected. One such article, published within the last year by Sarah Griffiths, science and tech reporter for The Mail Online, reports how the Toxoplasma parasite infects the brains of mice rendering them unafraid of cats. The cat eats the mouse and the parasite multiplies in the cat’s intestinal tract, infecting the cat as well. Because the mice brains are re-wired by the parasite, scientists claim they are effectively turned into zombies.

Medical journalist Jerome Burne reports on a number of parasites infecting the brains of insects. When the Camponotus ant, native to the Brazilian rainforests, is infected with the Ophiocordyceps fungus, it adopts an unsteady walk, wanders from its usual pathways, clamps its jaw on a leaf, and dies around six hours later. Burne explains the reason parasites take up residence in the brain is because they are sheltered there from the immune system. Joanne Webster, professor of parasite epidemiology at Imperial College London adds that in the brain, the parasite is given “direct access to the machinery to alter the host’s behaviour.”

Though scientists assure these brain-hitch-hiking parasites will not survive in humans, it doesn’t stop disaster preparedness sites and organizations from using zombie apocalypse scenarios in their studies. For example, Delaware County emergency-management officials staged a zombie emergency drill for Halloween 2011, as did Quebec’s pubic security department in 2013. The CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response website is uses zombie preparedness as a platform to measure if people are prepared for an emergency. Still reeling from the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s, a recent discussion in the Canadian House of Commons urged Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird to think about an International Zombie Strategy because “zombies don’t recognize borders.”

So while a zombie apocalypse is not imminent, experts believe it is possible.

The only remaining question is: will you be ready?

 

author photoAbout Elise

Elise is a high school teacher of English and Computer Studies, former archaeologist, an avid reader of literary and science fiction and student of the human condition. Everything she does, watches, reads and hears is fodder for her writing. She is passionate about Second Cup lattes, cooking, writing and language, differentiated instruction and ABC’s Once Upon A Time. In her spare time she experiments with paleo cookery, knits badly, and writes. She also bakes. Most of the time it doesn’t burn. Her family doesn’t seem to mind.

Find Elise at:

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