Kevin J. Anderson visits Kobo HQ!

Kevin J. Anderson sat down for a chat with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre at the Kobo officeAward-winning and #1 international bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson was in Toronto last week and stopped by to visit the Kobo head office. Kevin is the author of more than 125 books, more than fifty of which have been national or international bestsellers. In addition to this, as the publishers of WordFire Press, Kevin and his wife Rebecca Moesta have released more than a hundred eBooks from over 25 authors. He also hosts the annual Superstars Writing Seminars, which teaches writers the business of being successful in the publishing industry.

Kevin sat down with KWL Director Mark Lefebvre to be our Writer in Residence for the evening. In the audience were local KWL authors and Anderson fans. Over drinks and snacks Kevin shared with us the story of his success and how he got to where he is today. Here are some of the main points:

  • Always write – Kevin discovered a love for creating stories at a very young age, writing his first ‘novel’ at 8 years old. Growing up he was always stealing moments to write before dedicating himself to it full time.
  • Be persistent – rejections go hand in hand with writing and shouldn’t discourage you. Kevin received over 80 rejection letters before his first story was published, proving that persistence pays off.
  • Write about what you love – being passionate about what you write is very important. Kevin found success in the genre he loved, sci-fi. The success of his original works led to him writing several novels in the Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune universes. As a huge Rush fan, their music influenced his writing which later paved the way for collaborations with Neil Peart himself.
  • Be open to change – the publishing industry is changing more than ever before. Rather than shying away, Kevin embraced the change and found success self publishing his back catalogue and becoming a publisher himself with WordFire Press.

We’re very grateful to Kevin for stopping by and sharing his story with us.

You can find Kevin’s books on Kobo here and if you’d like to explore more WordFire Press titles, you can find them here.

Kobo Writing Life Podcast – Episode 021 with Diane Capri

In the latest episode of the Kobo Writing Life Podcast, we welcome NYT and USA Today bestselling author Diane Capri. KWL Content Manager Christina Potter and US Manager Christine Munroe speak with Diane – who offered jokingly to change her name to Christine for the purposes of this episode – about her daily writing life, the benefits of collaboration and mentorship, strategies for selling well on Kobo, and more.

Diane and Lee Child.

Diane and Lee Child, her friend and frequent collaborator, who says her work is “Full of thrills and tension, but smart and human, too.”

Tune in to hear about:

  • The value of being part of writing organizations. Diane has been a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and others, for many years. Diane talks about how she joined many groups when she began writing and how these groups of allowed her to receive feedback on writing and  upcoming projects. They are also a great place to connect with new writers and share information.
  • How to find a writing schedule that works for you. Diane’s advice? Try everything – it is the best way to refine your process.
  • The importance of working closely with retailers and taking advantage of different programs that they offer. She specifically discusses Kobo’s First Free in Series page as a strategy to find new readers. She also highlights that making her titles available through all retailers has been key to her success, and that exclusive programs have not worked for her. By their nature they exclude potential readers who find eBooks through other platforms.Hit+the+Road+Jack
  • Diane talks about collaboration and her author collective, The Twelve. This group worked together and released the incredibly successful DEADLY DOZEN boxed set. She discusses the process of putting the boxed set together, highlighting  pricing strategy and PR efforts to ensure the book was accessible to as many readers as possible. The ultimate goal of the group: do things that haven’t been done before. Read Joanna Penn’s blog post about DEADLY DOZEN’s success here!
  • There has never been a better time to be a reader and writer. One of things Diane enjoys the most is that readers who may not have been able to find her books in print can easily purchase them around the world as an eBook.
  • Diane’s relationship with her fans. Connecting with them is one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of being an author.
  • A sneak peek of what Diane is working on next!

DianeCapri_redjacket_lrgNYT and USA Today bestselling author Diane Capri writes mystery, thriller and suspense for the same reason she reads: for fun, excitement, to find out what happens, why people do what they do, and how to bring justice to an unjust world. Her books are translated in twenty territories. She comes to writing after a successful legal career and is married to her college sweetheart. She loves her snowbird existence preferring perpetual summer migrating from Florida to Michigan each year.

OTHER LINKS/RESOURCES:

Diane’s website, and her blog

Pre-order HIT THE ROAD JACK, coming out September 4, on Kobo!

Get LICENSED TO THRILL for free.

Twitter: @DianeCapri

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DianeCapriBooks

If you enjoy this podcast and would like to automatically capture episodes as they go live -even before the show notes are posted to the Kobo Writing Life blog – subscribe to the RSS feed via your favourite pod-capturing platform (such as iTunes) using the RSS feed link: RSS feed for Kobo Writing Life Podcast

Writing From Life: Jessica Scott On Being a Writer and a Soldier

Jessica Scott is a bestselling author, career army officer, mother of two daughters, and wife to a career NCO. She deployed to Iraq in 2009 as part of OIF/New Dawn and has had the honor of serving as a company commander at Fort Hood, Texas twice. We sat down with Jessica to learn more about her writing process and what it’s like to be a writer and a soldier (and a soldier’s wife).

When did you decide to begin writing army romance novels? What made you want to write in this genre?

I started writing my Coming Home series waaay back in 2007 when my husband was on his second deployment and I was at Fort Benning for Officer Candidate jessica dawsonSchool. I spent a lot of time at the Borders and Barnes and Noble because I’ve always been a book girl. Everything I’d read that had a military hero (and there were very few women) were all either romantic suspense or about former soldiers. I wanted to write stories about soldiers who were still in the army, still dealing with the war and trying to balance everything out. I wanted to write in this format because I hoped that people would pick up my books who wouldn’t necessarily pick up The Long Way Home or any nonfiction about the war. I wanted to tell soldiers’ stories in a way that I felt like I was uniquely positioned to do, if that makes sense.

Do you write more from the point of view of an army wife, or a soldier?

I’d say I write more from the soldier’s point of view. I mean, I am an army wife, too (my husband retired last year) but my soldier identity is much more salient. The couple of stories I wrote with civilian spouses, though, I definitely channeled in my fears and anxieties and everything that goes along with waiting for your spouse to come home from war.

Having written so many romance novels involving soldiers, what made you decide to write a memoir about your time in Iraq?

I wanted to put my story out there not only for readers who might want to see what I had gone through but also for other soldiers – especially other women and moms – who were deploying. I wanted them to know that hey, this is going to be rough but you can get through it. Here’s all the good and the bad and everything in between, no filters.

Was it difficult to write about your time as a soldier? Were there certain memories you didn’t want to revisit?

It’s still hard to go back and read some of those passages. There was a lot of rawness to both the deployment and the homecoming that I didn’t really edit out when I was putting the books together. There’s some things that will never go on the page. And yeah, there’s stuff that’s still tender, if that makes sense. It surprises me when sometimes the barriers drop and something hits me hard. It’s like I never really expect it.

In your books is it always the male character who is the soldier, or have you written some female soldiers as well?

I have several books where the female character is a soldier.  Until There Was You, All for You & It’s Always Been You all have female soldiers. My upcoming novella All I Want For Christmas Is You, published in a bundle with a story by the fabulous JoAnn Ross, also features a female soldier. So yeah, the active duty ladies get plenty of page time in my books.

What do you love about writing?

I think the best part is getting lost in the story. I absolutely love it when the words are just coming and you lose track of time and the next thing you know a whole day is gone. The second best part is revisions. I know, I know, that may be a sickness but I really love taking those raw words and making them into something so much richer, you know?

Is there a particular book or author who inspires you?

You know there are so many. Laura Kinsale has been an inspiration for as long as I can remember reading. I got to meet her at RWA this year and it was so amazing. Anne McCaffrey has also been a long time favorite. When I get stuck, though, I go back and reread Nalini Singh’s Archangel’s Blade or Archangel’s Storm. She’s got such an amazing, rich worlds and characters.

Taking The Leap: Zoe York on Series Plotting, Marketing Plans and Writing Full-Time

By Zoe York

In May, I made the exciting and scary decision to transition to writing full-time. I’ve always thought of myself as a professional writer, but for the first time I actually started to look at writing as my business. The first thing I did was a quick analysis of my book list and compare it to the book lists of authors with similar reader bases. One common element is that most authors I’d like to sit next to on the digital shelves have multiple series on the go. (And if you aren’t convinced that you should be writing series, we need to chat.)

That so many were writing two or more separate worlds surprised me, because I’ve often heard the advice, focus on one series. And I get it: sales really take off with the fifth title. But when I thought about it, multiple series written in the same or similar worlds allow readers multiple entry points to that author’s book list.

So that changed my plan in a big way.

What Once Was PerfectStarting with my first book, What Once Was Perfect, I’d crafted my Wardham books to be exactly the type of romance series I wanted to read: sexy, Canadian, and with characters that are a bit unexpected. They’re quiet books, tightly focused on the developing relationship, and I love reading them. Mission accomplished!

But after the success of our bestselling military romance superbundle, SEALs of Summer, I was reminded of the broad appeal of a high-concept hook. And I like to read those books too! Give me a billionaire who stumbles when he falls in love and I’m a goner.

It’s hard to look at books you love, books you are proud of writing, and realizing that they lack a certain accessibility. That’s what high-concept means: that readers will get what the book is about in the two seconds they give your book page. It starts with a succinct description: some call this an elevator pitch, a tagline, a log line. And many try to figure it out after the book is written.

That’s what I did with my Wardham books. I wrote them, then I tried to figure out how to market them.

Crafting a book from the beginning to be high-concept means starting with that tag line. “Six years. Two break-ups. One divorce. They should be over each other.” That in a nutshell is Love in a Small Town, and it was one of the first lines I wrote down when brainstorming my new series.

A successful high-concept book is going to deliver on that promise to the reader from the inside out. A well-branded cover can tell the reader everything they need to know about the story, hook them in an instant. My friend Cora Seton does this so well with her Cowboys of Chance Creek series.

Two self-publishing rules butt up against each other here: how can I stay committed to the Wardham series if I’ve taken a hard, business-minded look at it and found it lacking? (Hint: I haven’t … not all readers want high-concept books, and I’m happy to write different series for different audiences.)

While writing Beyond Love and Hate in May, I fell in love with the brother of the hero. Unlike Finn, Ryan Howard doesn’t live in Wardham.Beyond Love and Hate I sat in Starbucks for days, writing Finn’s story, the whole time growing more and more interested in Ryan’s story. So I pulled out my idea notebook and sketched out a bit of his story, and a new series was born.

Connected, but different. Higher-concept hooks. Wardham, but with choppier waves and craggier bluffs, I told a fan, and the description has stuck in my head ever since.

Pine Harbour is a fictitious town halfway up the Bruce Peninsula. It was named by my Facebook reader group, the Wardham Ambassadors.

It turned out that Ryan’s story wasn’t the first romance that needed to be told in Pine Harbour. As I plotted and wrote, two books popped up before Love on a Spring Morning, which will be Ryan’s story, coming next March. The first book, which I wrote in five weeks and I absolutely love, is called Love in a Small Town.

I love this book so much that I’ve done nothing but talk my writer friends’ ears off about it all summer. Rafe and Olivia Minelli are divorced, but they never fell out of love with each other. Now Olivia’s thinking hard about leaving her adopted town, and Rafe’s finally realizing that something—many things—will need to change if he’s going to convince his wife to give him another shot.

One writer I spoke to, Lexi Ryan, is a self-published author I greatly admire. She started in contemporary romance, and now writes very popular crossover New Adult/contemporary romances. With her latest series, Here and Now, Lexi used a marketing plan to show online book retailers how serious she was about launching her books with a bang. The term marketing plan sounds dense and daunting, but Lexi really helped me see that it’s not much more than we already know. “Writing a marketing plan isn’t as scary as it sounds. It shows vendors that you approach your book releases and promotion strategically,” Ryan explained. “That little bit of effort can go a long way, and most of us already have our strategy in mind. The official plan simply puts it in a form that can be shared with others.”

I was sold.

I put together a Love in a Small Town Marketing Plan and shared it with a few friends who pointed out obvious things that I had missed (see my complete list MarketingPlanKobo (2)below). Looking at the final document, I understood Lexi’s point: it was everything that I hoped for my series, objectively laid out. And it gave me confidence that I was approaching the launch of this new series in a logical and strategic manner.

Even for a brand new author, documenting a release plan like this can be a useful way to milestone your career. Compare marketing plans release to release to see growth in your social media platform and advertising reach—and if you’re not seeing any growth, figure out why.

Marketing Plan Must Haves:

  • book and series information; I broke this into two sections
  • promotional plan for pre-order and release week (blog tours, ad buys, social media plan)
  • author platform numbers, including newsletter and social media reach
  • author bio
  • upcoming release schedule for future books in the same series, and all upcoming author titles, including collaborative projects

Zoe YorkZoe York is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, a busy working mom of two young boys, wife to a very understanding soldier, and creator of modern, sexy, small town contemporary romances. She lives in London, Ontario and is currently chugging Americanos, wiping sticky fingers, and dreaming of heroes in and out of uniform. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and on her website.

 

 

One Fictitious Moment: Writing a Series

By Angela Misri­, author of Jewel of the Thames

Writing in a series is very different than writing a stand-alone novel. A stand-alone has its own benefits and issues – like that you have a limited time to tell an entire story and getting people to fall in love with your characters over a mere 80k words. But when you’re writing a series there are definitely things to keep in mind – check out my latest video to find out more!

Watch for more writing videos on this blog, or you can subscribe to my Youtube channel One Fictitious Moment.

Amgela MisriAngela Misri is a Toronto journalist, writer and mom who has spent most of her working life making CBC Radio extraterrestrial through podcasts, live streams and websites. Her first book Jewel of the Thames, was published by Fierce Ink Press in March 2014 and is the first in a series called A Portia Adams Adventure. Check out Angela’s website to learn more about the Portia Adams series.

On Daydreaming: A Writer’s Perspective

By Shayna Krishnasamy

Remember when you used to be scolded for daydreaming? Dreaming rather than paying attention in class was a real no-no in my elementary school. Daydreaming the afternoon away was also frowned upon when there were chores or homework to be done. To this day, being labelled a “daydreamer” is similar to being called “special”—not exactly a compliment. We’re taught to view this activity as lazy and a waste of time, something with little value. “Stop daydreaming and help me bring in these groceries,” your spouse/roommate/parent might say, and you jump up and comply, duly chastened, fully complicit in this vast conspiracy that daydreaming is of no importance.

Well, I’m here to tell you that everything you’ve ever been told about daydreaming is a total LIE.

DaydreaminDaydreaming_(1)g is essential to being a writer. If there weren’t authors the world over walking around bumping into things because their minds were so fully immersed in their stories, there would be no novels. Have you ever been told that plotting is an important aspect of writing a book? Well, guess what plotting is: Daydreaming! Every plot and character, every line of dialogue and setting and description has to be dreamed up by the writer before it can appear on the page. As a writer I spent lots of time staring at a computer screen, but I spend an equal amount of time staring into space figuring out what I’m going to write next.

In this day and age it isn’t easy to get in some good daydreaming time, what with the naysaying masses on all sides and the demands of kids/job/family/friends/life. Here are some tips on how to be the best daydreamer you can be:

Disconnect

Do you have a smartphone within arm’s reach at every moment of the day? Do you bring your iPad into the bathroom? Is there a television set blaring through every meal, and a laptop glowing in every room of your house? Technology may make life a lot easier for us, but it also makes it pretty hard to have some quiet time with your thoughts. If you want to have some time to think up what’s going to happen in your next chapter, I suggest turning your phone off. (Yes, smartphones can be turned off. It’s a real thing.) Take back those quiet moments sitting in your backyard or on your deck just thinking, without a laptop to distract you. Tell your family you’re going out for a walk and don’t take your cell with you. Make the time to be quiet and think about your story, because a well thought out story is far easier to write than one you haven’t thought through at all.

Focus

Even whendaydreaming-300x198 you’re in thinking mode it’s easy to get distracted. I like to think about my book while I’m in the shower but, countless times, when drying off, I’ve realized I just spent twenty minutes re-playing an episode of The Good Wife in my head instead. That argument you just had with your sister might be at the forefront of your mind, but it’s important to learn how to make thinking about your book a priority. I’ve learned to keep reminding myself to re-direct my thoughts toward my characters and my plot when my mind wanders to easier topics. Usually I only have to do this a few times before my imagination gets hooked on one aspect of the plot or another and within a few minutes I’ve come up with new ideas, new sub-plots, a whole conversation full of witty dialogue. Sometimes your brain just needs a little reminding that it really does want to think about your book—and if your imagination isn’t piqued by your own story, maybe you should think about why. It’s possible you’ve taken your plot down the wrong path, or you haven’t made your characters interesting enough. If you can’t get yourself to pay attention to your own story, it might be hard to keep your reader interested.

Don’t Save The Best For Last

It can be tempting to leave all your daydreaming to the end of the day, when that comfy bed is just waiting for you to curl up on it and dream. Personally I like to lie in bed, stare out the window and contemplate my story, but I try to avoid doing this at the end of the day. This might seem obvious but it needs to be pointed out: daydreaming is not the same as dreaming. Daydreaming keeps your brain awake, it winds you up 4633972431_4d1e24ec0b_bwhen at the end of the day you should be winding down. You don’t want to keep yourself awake thinking about your plot when you should be getting some much-needed rest. It can also be difficult to shut your brain off when it really gets going, and the next thing you know you’re turning on the lights and getting out your notebook to write down your ideas, or even running to your computer to begin writing your next scene. Do you really want to be doing all this in the middle of the night? If you value your sleep, avoid daydreaming in bed. It’s for your own good.

 

My mother used to call me a scatter-brain because I was always forgetting to do my homework and misplacing things. I used to be ashamed of it. I used to try to force myself to stop being a silly little dreamer. But that was before I saw the value in my dreaming ways. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if I’d stopped daydreaming. I wouldn’t be a writer at all. So, to all the distracted, zoned-out, lay-about daydreamers out there I say, good for you! Dream away! There’s no knowing where your dreams might take you.

my photoShayna Krishnasamy is a Montreal author of literary and young adult fiction by night and the merchandiser for Kobo Writing Life by day. Shayna’s books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Shayna’s website!

My 4 Rules for Enhanced Creativity . . . and nailing the word count

The following is a guest blog post from Michael Cairnes as part of The Planets Blog Tour of July 2014.

 

My 4 Rules for Enhanced Creativity . . .

. . . and nailing the word count

By Michael Cairns

 

In the last twelve months I’ve written 1,374,000 words. 732, 400 of those have been since January this year. This has enabled me to publish eight distinct works, blog three times a week and have a virtual drawer full of manuscripts eagerly crying out for editing. Many writers struggle with getting words out so I thought it might be helpful to share a few things that have made this possible and, more importantly, done so without leaving me feeling drained/miserable/tired or otherwise funky.

 

1. Form the habit.

There are many creatives for whom the concept of combining art and habit is counter-intuitive, almost as much so as combining art and money! But just as money may enable you to create as much as you want, habit makes the creation easier, even when you don’t have all the time in the world.

I have a number of simple habits. They take, on average, 21 days to form, but realistically, you’re looking at one or two months to really bed it in.

  • Choose a time. For me it’s between 7:30 and 8:10 every morning.
  •  Find an effective way to get into the flow before hand. For me it’s drum practice for twenty to thirty minutes directly prior to writing. Drumming is great because it works both sides of the brain, but jogging, yoga, skipping, trampolining or alligator wrestling are all just as good.
  • Sit down and write. Depending on how easy creating comes to you, you might put down 20 words and you might put down 2,000. It doesn’t matter, so long as you are creating.
  • Repeat. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Imagine your source of income depends upon you doing this every day. It won’t always be the most fun in the world, but if you are passionate about your writing, then do it.

 

2. Always be Dreaming

As a child I would spend my lunch and break times doing slow walking laps of the playground as me and my friend took turns to tell one another stories. Mine would inevitably involve GI Joe and, depending how long break time was, a dragon or two. Once I moved to London, I’d stroll around town watching people and inventing stories for them. Or I’d sit in coffee shops and figure out all the relationships between the people working there.

More often than not though, I find myself dreaming about me. About winning the lottery or discovering the cure for something horrible. Maybe I’ll take a trip to the moon via a chance encounter with a strange but compelling creature with three heads. Honestly, the lottery one is more popular than the three headed dude, but it’s a close run thing.

I love dreaming. There’s a film/book/movement called The Secret that is, in essence, all about dreaming, only with some substance behind it. Use your free time to dream. Fan fiction is a great tool, because it gives you ready-made characters with which to dream, but you don’t know any of them as well as you know yourself.

 

3. Read, watch and listen, consciously.

This one’s easier said than done. I struggle massively to do this, mostly because I’m a sucker for a good story and find myself lost in anything I’m taking in. I’m the guy who got to the end of The Sixth Sense and went ‘No way, you’re kidding me?’ while my brother nodded off half an hour in, having already figured it out. But consciously digesting art is a fabulous way to enhance your creativity.

A quick exercise to do is this:

Choose a TV show at random and put it on. While you watch have a pad of paper and a pen beside you. Note down the following things:

  • Character names, defining characteristics, relationship to the protagonist/antagonist.
  • Setting including weather and other relevant points – this one particularly matters if you chose The West Wing, which you should, because it rocks.
  • Plot lines as they occur. For brownie points, you can do this with the timings as well.
  • Dialogue. Any particularly juicy dialogue that crops up. You can also say why you liked it. (see point about West Wing above)

This process becomes much easier once you’ve done it a few times. I was worried the first time that it would drain the magic from what I was watching, but it did quite the opposite. I started to appreciate the different facets of storytelling in much greater detail and came away hugely inspired.

 

4. Live well!

Between my teaching day job and my writing, I work 13 to 15 hour days, five days a week and between six and eight hours over the weekend as well. Around a 70 to 80 hour working week. I spend quality time with my family and I feel amazing!

There are however a few very simple things that must be adhered to in order to keep the clock ticking efficiently without going cuckoo!:

  • Sleep. When I finish work around half nine or ten, I go to bed and read. I don’t stay up an extra hour and surf rubbish on the net. I sleep. If I’m lucky and my daughter and wife sleep as well, I’ll do almost eight hours till the alarm goes off at 5:45.
  • Eat: I eat freshly cooked, homemade food 99% of the time. I don’t have refined sugar, I eat lots of vegetables and fruit and I ration my chocolate to less than my body-weight on a daily basis. I also drink lots of water.
  • Exercise: in my job I walk an average of 7km a day. I also drum every single morning and spend the weekends being beaten up by my 3 year old daughter. And being an airplane.
  • Laugh. I do my utmost to make my students laugh as much as possible. When I succeed, I normally laugh as well. When I fail, they laugh at me and that sets me off as well.

Your creativity is directly linked to your well-being. If your body isn’t functioning properly, for whatever reason, the synapses in your brain will stop working. End of story.

 

I should probably also mention that writing has become as essential to me as breathing. I love it, it feeds my spirit and my mind so, whilst I definitely work hard, it doesn’t feel like hard work. It’s vital to be doing something I’m passionate about, that is wholly authentic.

So over to you. Do you follow any of these? Do you have your own methods for ensuring creativity? Please let us know in the comments below.

 

Michael Cairns headshot low res copyChocoholic Michael Cairns is a writer and author of the superhero fantasy series, The Planets and science fiction adventure series, A Game of War. A musician, father and school teacher, when not writing he can be found behind his drum kit, tucking into his chocolate stash or trying, and usually failing, to outwit his young daughter.

Download a free copy of Michael’s novella Childhood Dreams from Kobo; and be sure to check out The Planets Blog Tour.

 

 

 

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