Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

My Book News & Advocate for the Writing Community ©

Creative Edge – Author Interview – Ann Charles

June 25, 2020
mandyevebarnett


Ann Charles 2017 Color Comp

  1. Why did you choose to write mysteries?

I enjoy the puzzle-like challenge that comes with writing a mystery. My stories are actually more character-driven than plot-driven, though, so as much as I enjoy the challenge of writing a mystery, I also have fun exploring character growth on the page.

  1. Is it a genre you enjoy reading as well?

Actually, I don’t read mysteries as much as I do other genres, such as westerns, supernatural suspense, and romance. That’s probably why my books are actually more mixed genre than straight mysteries. I like to include humor, supernatural elements, romance, suspense, and adventure on the page along with the mystery plot.

  1. What sparked your first book idea?

I was unhappy with the endings in several books I’d recently read and decided I wanted to try my hand at writing different endings that satisfied me more. This idea grew into me creating the story from start to end, which then blossomed into writing full-length novels. Novels soon changed into long-running series, and now I have five different series I juggle.

Devil Days Cover

  1. Do you prefer writing series or stand-a-lone novels? 

I like writing series because I enjoy developing characters. It’s more fulfilling to develop these characters over a long-running series than trying to fit it all into one story. My character arcs span the whole series, allowing them to grow and change with every book.

  1. Does your background and location help you capture a setting for your characters/settings? Or is it just imagination? 

I believe my background and the places I’ve lived/visited play a role in capturing a setting, but my imagination takes ideas to the next level. I have a series set here in Arizona where I live (Jackrabbit Junction Mystery series), and I have spent many summers and holidays in the Deadwood, South Dakota area because my mom moved there when I was in seventh grade. While my Dig Site series takes place in the Yucatan (an area of Mexico which I have not visited yet), that series plays on my dream of being an archaeologist, allowing me to explore that field without actually living down there under the trees.

Maps

  1. What benefit do you feel comes with the illustrations? Why did you choose that format?

My brother is my illustrator, so I enjoy including his art in my stories. I think illustrations help bring the story to life even more for readers. In addition, these illustrations add to my Ann Charles author brand and help set my stories apart from others. Not many adult fiction novels have illustrations in them these days.

  1. Is Violet “Spooky” Parker based on someone real or a combination of characters?

Violet is a mixture of my imagination and my sense of humor. She isn’t based on anyone I know. Her character became clear to me after some time spent imagining her life and struggles as I worked on the setup for the first Deadwood novel, Nearly Departed in Deadwood.

  1. Did you plan your mystery/ humor/ romance subplot plot lines, or did it evolve as your crafted the stories?

I knew from the start of the Deadwood and Jackrabbit Junction Mystery series that I was going to write mixed genre stories with mystery as the main plot. I’ve always enjoyed funny romance stories and had worked for years on strengthening that part of my storytelling, studying humor and romance in books and practicing my ability to mix them together on the page. My favorite movies are mixed genre with these elements, so it’s not a surprise that these are the stories that come out on the page for me.

images

  1. Was it a conscious decision to become an author?

Not really. I’ve always enjoyed reading books, but writing was not on my radar until my senior year in high school. Even then, though, I really didn’t plan on becoming an author and spent years in college studying Spanish and daydreaming of other careers. In the end, I took so many English classes in college that I figured I might as well minor in creative writing and see where this urge to tell stories led me.

  1. Do you feel self-publishing has benefited you more than other options?

Self-publishing has allowed me to explore story lines without an outside influence, as in a marketing department that might have forced me to write what was hot in the “market” at the time. Also, I have learned so much about marketing and promotion because I’ve been in charge of building my career. I did not set out to be an entrepreneur, but I enjoy most of the aspects of running my own business and plan to continue on this path for as long as I can.

  1. Which character do you enjoy writing the most & why?

That’s a tough question—I don’t think I have a single favorite. I enjoy switching between my different series and exploring different characters and their adventures. Violet Parker is fun because I get to dabble in the supernatural with her and she makes me laugh often. The Morgan sisters from my Jackrabbit Junction series are a blast and are always getting into mix-ups with the law. They allow me to explore sisterhood and have fun in the Arizona desert. In my Dig Site series, I enjoy playing archaeologist, and in the Deadwood Undertaker series that I write with my husband, Sam Lucky, I get to write westerns, which is something I have wanted to do for years but was apprehensive about all of the research it would take to make sure the historical elements were accurate. In the end, I like switching between each series and exploring life with different characters.

  1. Have any of your manuscripts gone in a vastly different direction to what you thought they would? 

I often vary from my original plot line ideas that I come up with before starting. These initial plot lines I put together just let me know that I have a story possibility and give me the confidence to go forth and dive into a story. I’m not very good at detailed planning when it comes to books and tend to give my brain the room to come up with new ideas to explore along the way.

  1. How can readers find you? What social media site links can you share?

Website: http://www.anncharles.com

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/annwcharles

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ann_charles

Snapchat: https://www.snapchat.com/add/annwcharles

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/AnnWCharles

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/ann-charles

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4605878.Ann_Charles

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ann-Charles/e/B004JLYPFW

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/AnnCharlesAuthor

  1. Is there anything you would like to share with your readers?

My books are meant to give you a fun escape. I try to teach a little history along the way, but mainly I want to provide fictional places that will make you smile or laugh as well as wince now and then. Also, all but my AC Silly Circus series having crossover characters, which my readers tend to enjoy. It’s always fun to come across a Deadwood series character in my Jackrabbit Junction books, and vice versa. I have a list of my books in series reading order as well as an overall list of all of my books in timeline order on my website (under the Books section) so that you can choose in what order you’d like to read them.

Ann Charles Bio:

USA Today Bestselling author, Ann Charles, writes spicy mysteries full of comedy, adventure, suspense, romance, and paranormal mayhem. Ann has a B.A. in English with an emphasis on creative writing from the University of Washington and is a member of Sisters in Crime and Western Writers of America. When she’s not dabbling in fiction, she’s arm wrestling with her two kids, attempting to seduce her husband, and arguing with her sassy cats.

Creative Edge

 

 

Author Tool Box Blog Hop – Tips on Promoting Your Book

October 17, 2019
mandyevebarnett


14298801_f520_LI

 #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop 

As writers and authors, we are formidable in our ability to create narratives but we also have to learn how to market the ‘end product’ of those many months or even years of creativity. We become a book business.

  1. The first avenue many authors take is social media, which can be seen as a ‘soft’ option. After all we are not up close and personal with the public but at arm’s length. However, due to the countless sites available just choosing the ‘right’ one or two can be overwhelming. Then there is the matter of maintaining our ‘presence’ on each platform. We need to research which avenues of promotion will work best not just for our genres but also our ability to sustain them. Do your research on similar authors in your genre and see what they use (and of course ‘follow’ them).

174834-social-media-logos_LI

     2. Following selected authors, genre based bloggers, book reviewers, and writing        groups allows you to gain followers but also to learn about your particular genre   and gain a reader base. When someone is interested in your genre they ‘search’ for more posts, articles, links and books within that specific field. While you are doing that follow 10 ‘friends’ of friends on Facebook and 100 people on Twitter – this can gain a wider audience. However, in light of these two platforms losing participants also follow people on Instagram. (We have to keep up with the ‘in’ thing!)

3. Improve your author bio on all platforms to entice and inform as many followers as possible on all sales sites, your blog and social media platforms. Ask yourself – does it reflect you as a writer as well as a person.

hGWlUMK8Q2lD4yuWjUtA_file

4. Use hashtags specific to writing, authors, books, genre and associated links – look at what other authors use.

hashtag_iStock_000047220610_Illustration_650px

5. Then there is the personal touch, which means organizing or being involved in author readings, attending book events and participating in Q&A panels. Search your local area for book related events, get to know your local bookstores, inquire at your library, join a local writing group, the wider your reach the easier it will be to find avenues of sale for your book.

dav

6. Merchandise is another way of promoting your book. It can be as simple as custom bookmarks to T-shirts with the book cover/main character on the front. Make up a prize basket for a contest to be collected at an event (good photo opportunity to use on social media) or create an online contest for a free autographed copy of your book.

IMG_1559 (2)

7. An easy promotion is to leave five of your author business cards in local businesses, at the doctor’s or dentist’s office, or anywhere you visit on a regular basis. Many places have community boards too so pin some cards or a poster of an event you are attending there too.

7a931eacca8e2c59a19dae09e196ab7b

Do you have any promotion tips you would like to share?

Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

 More Toolbox Blogs here: https://raimeygallant.com/

Marketing Tips from Authors

May 28, 2019
mandyevebarnett


Add a heading.png

As we are nearly at the halfway point for this year’s author interviews, I thought it would be interesting to review the answers I received to the question: What is your best marketing tip?

The answers are varied and, I think reflect how comfortable (or not!) writers are when it comes to promoting ourselves.

These are not on any specific order.

1) Be consistent on social media and within your local community

2) To have a blog

3) Build an authentic brand

4) Connect with other authors in the same genre and be a presence in specific social groups relating to it.

5) Word-of-mouth promotion

6) Promotional items sold separately reflecting the book/genre i.e. toys, necklaces, headbands etc. Also hand-out bookmarks everywhere you can.

7) Live videos/podcasts either on Facebook or YouTube – this can be book specific or about you as a person and your writing/genre.

8) Be original, authentic, and make intentional connections

9) Utilize your readers/tribe to help promote through social media and local connections.

10) Use your connections that are involved in newspapers/magazines etc.

11) Talk to your local library and bookstores. Offer your time to do signings/readings.

12) Use Canvas to create your own ads for Twitter and Facebook.

13)  Youtube book trailers.

14) Market yourself as an author before you market your books.

15) Take part in interviews, whether online or face-to-face.

What have you found works best for your book promotion?

 

 

Author Interview – Verna McKinnon

January 29, 2019
mandyevebarnett


AuthorInterview

verna

What inspired your latest novel?

The Bardess of Rhulon began with the idea of a female Dwarf heroine. There are very few Dwarven heroines in fantasy tales, which makes my story unique. Usually, fantasy dwarf stories are all about manly, dwarves, armored with battle-axes, downing buckets of ale as they braid their long beards. I wanted to expand on a fantasy story where Dwarven culture was more developed and rounded. Then when I had her name, Rose Greenleaf, the story began to unfold.            

bardness

How did you come up with the title?

That was tough, because for the few years as I drafted my novel and made changes, I just called it Rose Greenleaf. When Prince Culain Ironheart, who employs her as his official bard, he calls her Bardess. In my Dwarven society, this was an ancient title for female bards, which is rare now. Her Rose’s world, a proper young girl marries, has babies, bakes pies, and stays home. Rose is incapable of this. This drives her mother nuts. Her nature is wild and her talent as a bard is impressive. Since Rose is from the country of Rhulon, I finally titled my novel, The Bardess of Rhulon.     

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Love your children, but let them grow and become the person they want to be. For women everywhere, you must also rise to become the person you want to be. I love creating tales with interesting heroines. That is my brand and my purpose as an author…to create tales where heroines rule. We need heroines now, more than ever.

 

How much of the book is realistic?

Well, this is a fantasy set in a secondary world. There is magic and magical creatures. What is realistic is the viewpoint of my society structures, customs, and everyday issues. I incorporated themes that people of this world can relate to-arranged marriages, family problems, slavers who kidnap innocents and the law (my rangers) who infiltrate and save people, prejudice, mother and daughter conflict, political issues, and religious strife when faith becomes fanatical. The list goes on. That is what makes my tale realistic-when you add in the real things every society experiences. It is also about learning who you are and who you should try to be.

bards

Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I wish I knew these people, but they spring from my imagination in full bloom. If I could escape to a world with magic, I would already be there!

Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?

Website: http://vernamckinnon.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/verna.mckinnon

Twitter: https://twitter.com/VernaBard2015

Blog: http://vernamckinnon.blogspot.com/

Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone?

This will be a trilogy. I know how Rose Greenleaf’s adventures and how her tale ends. The tentative titles for the next two books are The Rhapsodé Curse and The Sun Blade.

Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?

So hard, so hard….I love them all. Rose Greenleaf, Belenus Ayecroft, her old bard teacher, Red Meg Sparrow, Skullcap Axton, and Prince Culain Ironheart. I even have a fondness for the sly changeling, Crimson, and Beleth, the Goblin Queen.

I must admit Rose Greenleaf is my favorite. She is everything we should be! She is brave, honest, determined, and talented. She takes risks to achieve her dreams. It brings her some regret, but also maturity. She is not a princess in a tower awaiting rescue. Rose fought for everything based on her own merits and talent against all odds. A Dwarven maiden with an old lute and singing skill braved a journey of adventure and danger.

Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?

I’m a fantasy girl. I do some science fiction, and have a novel planned (with a heroine lead of course). As a reader, I love reading fantasy of all kinds, science fiction, and even mystery. My writing talent is for fantasy.

Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?

I plan a lot for my novels. From creating basic story, characters, world, races, politics, and religion. All of my novels have a compendium. It is very detailed. Rose’s compendium is 40 pages long, with details on world, cultures, characters, everything. I do not do chapter outlines. I just know where I want to go.

What is your best marketing tip?

I wish I had more knowledge to share. I am still stumbling, finding ways to make it work. Use social media wisely. Make sure you research any media promotions, but it can help a little. Use Canvas to create your own ads for Twitter and FB. Pray a lot.

Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance?

It can be both, but it is a long learning process.

OPTIONAL QUESTIONS

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Creating new characters and stories!

Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?

My husband, Rick Hipps, is my best mentor/supporter.

Where is your favorite writing space?

My writing desk at home with all my inspirational images and books.

If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why?

Some of my favorites are sadly gone. David Eddings, Tanith Lee, Ray Bradbury, Robert E. Howard. They created fantastic images and rich characters in their tales. I am reading new talents now, so I hope to have new ones to look up to soon.

If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be?

Ireland. I am of Irish heritage and drawn there.

Do you see writing as a career?

If I ever make enough money at it, I’ll let you know.

Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?

Chocolate!!! Cookies are good writing companions. Which is why I have to do extra cardio. And lots of coffee or tea.

What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline?

Shopping and adding to my book collection.

Bio:

Verna McKinnon is a writer of fantasy and lover of all things joyous and geeky. She writes obsessively and drinks coffee. Fantasy author of heroines. She is the author of fantasy novels The Bardess of Rhulon, Gate of Souls & Tree of Bones. Fantasy is her genre of choice. You can read her blog and updates, plus some of her previously published short stories at her website http://vernamckinnon.com. Follow Verna on Twitter & Facebook for the latest on her life as a poor, published, but proud indie fantasy author.  

 

Ask A Question Thursday

January 17, 2019
mandyevebarnett


ask-a-question-logo-300x150

The initial question was: Should you pick the genre before beginning your story or figure out what genre it is after you have written it?

(Look at the bottom of this post for the continuing query – Are genre formulas a myth?)

Last week’s responses:

I always have a vague idea of what the genre is going to be before I start a piece but if the inspiration takes me somewhere else then I don’t try and steer back because the characters lead the story.

Kristen Lamb 

Genre is essential for those who want to write professionally, for an income and for a living. For those who are having fun simply writing? No, doesn’t matter. For those who are new and learning? Not as huge of a deal but starting to be important. Those who want to be experimental and maybe want to win awards? Meh.

Yet, for anyone who want to be PAID for their books (code for product), genre is our lighthouse to keep us from smashing on the rocks.

The entire point of genre is so the author can locate and cultivate fans who will BUY his/her books…which they (readers) will also be able to locate because they will know where the book is shelved or what genre it’s listed under.

If no one has any idea WTH a book is, where to shelve it, or how to describe it? That’s bad.

If the book gets into a bookstore, then where do they put it? “General Fiction.” Okay. Sucky but okay.

But, since most people discover and buy books online, what keywords would you attach? Genre will matter BIG.

What other product/service/ business would be so indeterminate and hope to have any commercial success?

“You know, I am going to open a restaurant and just cook what I feel like and the ingredients just tell me what to do.” Um, have fun storming the castle. Rock on!

But marketing and advertising will now be a total nightmare. Good luck finding those who will eat a place no one can accurately describe.

Same with books.

Not impossible but adds a TON of unnecessary work when authors already have a ton to do as is.

I think a MAJOR misconception is genre somehow locks us into formulaic writing, which is patently false.

First of all, yes there are formulaic genres. Write a category sweet romance and there is a strict formula because these publishers know their readers and what they want.

And, since romance brings in BILLIONS and makes up over 70% of all books sold? Probably a good idea to listen to the guidelines.

Beyond that, genres can be melded and we (as writers) can get creative much like musicians who create fusions of sound, juxtaposing different types of music for a wholly unique sound (I.e. old gospel hymns influencing heavy metal).

Yet, the musicians KNOW music before playing around and reinventing new sounds.

Similarly, we should know and understand genre expectations. They exist for a reason.

Genres help us identify who is most likely to buy our book (which in the new paradigm we need to know no matter which way we publish).

Secondly, genres have rules and we break the rules at our own peril.

Breaking rules is fine. I do it all the time. But I know the rules BEFORE I break them.

For instance, there used to be a rule that one couldn’t mix POVs. If you began in first you had to stay there. If you began in third, you stayed there.

But WHY did the rule exist? Namely to stave off confusion. YET, Jefferson Parker (genius he is) wanted the audience to gain a closer psychic distance with the antagonist to make them more attached and thus more conflicted about him being apprehended/stopped.

So he wrote the antagonist in close first and the MC protagonist in third to make the reader psychologically struggle at a whole new level. Jeff knew genre, the rules, the constraints, THEN he bent them to do something never done.

Thirdly, genre is primarily for readers. It helps them find what they are looking for. When we don’t want to put a genre on our work because it ‘limits the muse’ or whatever, it is like asking our audience to go grocery shopping and buy canned goods with no labels and just trust it will be yummy.

Genres help readers have SOME idea of what they are getting. If we mislabel, there can be consequences.

Years ago, I had a client who believed she had a romance (but obviously hadn’t studied genre rules/expectations).

She self-published and got SLAYED in reviews, and panicked and sobbing, hired me to help. I took one look and knew the problem.

Yes, her writing was good and so was the story, but in her book…guy and gal didn’t end up together in the end.

In romance, (back then) you needed an HEA (Happily Ever After) which has loosened up to an HFN (Happily For Now) but the couple still has to end up together.

Without that? NOT a romance. She had a Women’s Fiction. She got a new cover, relaunched, slated in the correct genre and BOOM. Sales and great reviews.

In this instance, we had a case of completely different audience with different expectations.

When we slot a book in the wrong genre it’s like serving someone Tofurkey and trying to tell them it’s actually turkey. They are going to HATE it because the basis for comparison is TURKEY not vegan meat substitutes.

It’s like a bad bait-and-switch that ticks off readers.

Then, genre is going to give guideposts to word count. How LONG is the book roughly supposed to be?

Audiences in certain genres have preferences. Epic high fantasy readers give no figs about reading a 180,000 word book. Someone who likes cozy mysteries? No. Like 65K. Sure, feel free to write a 180,000 word cozy mystery but no one who loves that genre is likely to buy.

As far as considering genre ahead of time? I don’t understand how an author can’t do this, at least loosely. Stories are for the audience, not us. Unless we only want to sell a book to ourselves.

And this isn’t me saying “write for the market’ because that sort of “writing for the market” is when you, say, love writing Jane Austen historical romances and decide, instead, to write a techno-thriller because the genre is hot at the moment…and yet you can’t use your printer without tech support and are so bored by military fiction you want to kill yourself…but you write it because it is HOT.

Just no.

But beyond that, looking at genre is a FANTASTIC resource to understand our readers, who they are, what they want and not only give them what they want…but also slip in something they never knew they wanted until they read your book!

***This is why agents need to know genre. They have to have ammo to SELL our manuscript for the most BANK. If they can’t articulate what it IS, who is going to buy it? No one. Bye, Felicia.

Back to process. To me, failing to even roughly determine genre ahead of time is madness. I’ve done it (when I was a n00b) and it sucks and I have the scars to prove how dumb this was (for me).

My time is valuable. Without determining some broad strokes regarding genre, that is a formula for revision HELL. To be retro-fitting the Space Station for a hot tub.

It will make SEO and keywords a BEAST. Ultimately, it’s just a recipe for heavy drinking and ugly crying.

Just because we choose a genre in the beginning doesn’t mean we can’t get creative and blend or even veer at an angle toward a kissing-cousin genre (I.e. suspense can become a thriller).

In the end, writers can do whatever works for them and sells a lot of books. Yet—after fifteen years in this business professionally—I’ve found that, more often than not, writers who eschew genre rarely finish the book.

Or, if they do, revisions are like a trip to the fifth circle of hell which is why it takes FOREVER for them to ‘finish.’ Often, they can’t get traditionally published and so they self-pub and the books don’t sell (and there are reasons for that).

Look at authors making bank, traditionally and nontraditionally published. They KNOW their genre and audience and they WRITE FOR THEM…even the literary folks (*nod to Fredrik Backman*).

Anyway, long response but there ya go. My two cents…okay twenty bucks. Best of luck to everyone.

I’d say knowing at least a basic genre before you start writing is important. Maybe you know you want to write a romance, but figure out as you’re going along it’ll be an erotic romance. Okay, fine. But you can’t just start spewing words without knowing your characters, the plot, what genre, etc. You can’t sit down and just start typing without knowing some form of topic of what you’re writing. It’ll just turn into a mess that way.

over to you

So let’s look at this from a slightly different angle.

If you are writing in a particular genre do you ‘conform’ to the preconceived format of that genre? If romance – fall in love, difficulties arise, opposing feeling, loss of love, surprise event, and falling back into deep everlasting love? OR Sci-fi – the hero has to fight an enemy, the struggle is real and looks overwhelming, battles and fights, a glimpse of hope and the final defeat?

Do you want to conform to formula writing? Would you rather break the mold? Is it a myth that genres have formulas?

With a specific genre there is a better chance your book will be put into the genre bookshelf as opposed to a general fiction slot as Kristen mentioned.

Is this good marketing?

Does it restrict your creativity?

 

Blog at WordPress.com.