The Three Rs: Reading, wRiting, and Roaming

July 19, 2017

Wattpad - A Failed Experiment (What I did wrong!)Attempting to gain new readers through the Wattpad platform was a failure for me. I’m happy to share my experience to assist other authors in what to do and what NOT to do. To start, I should explain that I didn’t lose anything financially because it is a free platform, and I admit there certainly were things I could have done better to gain audience attention. 

What’s Wattpad?

Wattpad is a free reader platform where published and unpublished authors write stories and post segments/chapters on a regular basis for feedback and ratings from readers.

Officially Wattpad describes themselves as such: “Wattpad takes everything you love about storytelling, and turns it into a social, on-the-go experience. The result is a one-of-a-kind adventure in creation and discovery. To date, more than 45 million people around the world have joined Wattpad. We’re proudly based in Toronto, Canada, but Wattpad stories transcend borders, interests, and language.”

To professional writers & publishers Wattpad says, Build your audience. Sell more books. With a dedicated monthly audience of 45 million, Wattpad expands your reach as a published author to entirely new groups of people. It helps drive book sales as you keep your fans informed, plus you’ll get free promotion. What’s not to love? 55 MILLION total monthly audience, 15 BILLION+ minutes spent monthly, 30 MINUTES average session time.

Sounds pretty good, right? I thought so, too. (This is where I would cue the laugh track if my website had audio.)

There are plenty of websites and tutorials that explain how to set up your author profile and story description on Wattpad. Here’s one that has a good checklist

I followed these instructions carefully and created a profile page with a nice header and story page, including all the write tags (key words). You can see all of this on my profile page and on my story page. You will also see that I have a grand total of four followers. (Quit your laughing!) At the moment, my full book (Circle of Nine: Beltany) is available to read for free on Wattpad, but I will in the future amend this and leave just a sample available. I was upfront about my plans, listing August 1 as the date I’d do this to give my handful of readers time to finish the story. Now that I'm at this point, I feel like my experiment has come (almost) full circle and it was time to assess how well this went--obviously not very well. 

Wattpad Success Stories & Helpful Suggestions

I hoped I’d be one of the Wattpad successes, gaining access to a new audience for my story, just like author Linda Poitevin. You can read about her Wattpad success here

I dutifully followed her list of suggestions.

1.      “Remember Wattpad is primarily a social platform. Respond to reader comments, thank you readers you follow you, and so on.” CHECK.

“Follow others on Wattpad, give them feedback on their stories, and post in the community forums.” PARTIAL CHECK

Honestly, I didn’t have the time to add one more social media platform to my interaction list. However, I did post in the Community Forums about being new to Wattpad and encouraged others to check out my story. I followed a few paranormal/magic writers, but I didn’t actively engage with them. I admit this may be part of my failure.

2.      “Release your book as a serial (a chapter or two a week) to build reader interest, engagement, and anticipation — which is more likely to lead to purchases.” CHECK

I religiously posted a new chapter every Friday for 30 weeks.

3.      “Wait until your story is complete and available on e-book before you begin putting it on Wattpad, and don’t just publish on Kindle.”  CHECK

I went above and beyond in this department. I waited until my series was complete before posting the first book chapter-by-chapter.

4.      “Each time you upload a new chapter of your story, include a short reminder to readers that, if they can’t wait to find out what happens next, the completed e-book is available for purchase.” PARTIAL CHECK

You can’t put links inside the chapters, but I could have added the purchase link in the comments underneath each chapter, which I didn’t do. Instead, I referred people to my profile which has the purchase links for the entire series. When I posted the final chapter, I included a message to the readers with a book blurb for the next two books in the series.

5.      “Be consistent.”  CHECK

Did I mention that I posted a chapter every Friday?

6.      “Be patient. Building an audience on Wattpad can take time. Post links to your Twitter and Facebook followers (and any other social media you’re on) to let them know you’re offering a free read.” NOPE

I didn’t do this—but it was a calculated decision. I was aiming to find a new audience for my books, not an audience I already had access to via my social media followers. This advice is a little tricky to follow for an author who is already published. 

7.      “Post often. At least once a week.” CHECKWattpad - How to Successfully Gain an Audience

Refer to my every Friday comment above.

8.      “Reach out to Wattpad itself (contact information is on their Help page). The people behind this app are enthusiastic, incredibly helpful, and all about promoting authors. They may be able to include your story as a Featured Read or in other promotions.”

I applied to be a featured story twice and was turned down. I think this is THE make or break moment for anyone on Wattpad. You need the boost of this promotion because there are just so darn many stories that it is hard to gain attention. It’s like getting the elusive BookBub deal that can change things immensely in terms of sales. And this is a notoriously hard to find portal. You need to go to the help center for the application to be a featured story. Here's the link to simplify your hunt. 

***** UPDATE*****

I decided to try one more time to be chosen as a featured story and received this message from Wattpad on 7/19/2017: 

There are some changes coming to the Featured List to help update it and make it even better at promoting content across Wattpad.

The biggest change is that content will only be featured for a limited period of time, up to one month at most. This is to allow for stories to get maximum exposure. Every time the Featured List is reset, previously featured stories will be removed and they will be eligible to be featured again under the new rules. The next change is that the featured stories will no longer have to be completed, so a story can be featured while it is still being updated.

With these two changes comes an end to the application process. We understand that for many users, this was a confusing process and for others, it wasn't easily discoverable. We will be selecting stories across Wattpad to feature. While it may not guarantee you will be featured, if you would like to help us find you, just tag your story with #featured. 

So there's no longer an application process, but all I have to do to indicate I am interested in being featured is to tag my story with #featured. (big sigh) FYI --  There's a limit of 20 hastags for your story -- so deleting one of those that actually makes my story more discoverable to readers is not fun, especially when I'm replacing it with this hashtag which likely has no hope of getting my story featured. I am curious what these new "rules" will be. 

9.      “Make sure you’re putting up a quality, professional product.” CHECK

My book, having been published already, had proper grammar, editing, and an engaging cover.

Another successful Wattpad author, Rowena Wiseman, had similar hints on how to gain readership on Wattpad. Her only addition to the previous list was including a call to action at the end of each chapter, asking the reader to please vote for the story. She also further explains that you will likely not be a Featured Story if you don’t have a fair number of likes/followers already. This creates a rather difficult-to-overcome catch 22. Can’t be featured if you don’t have the votes. Can’t get the votes if you don’t have the feature.

And, finally a more specific tip on targeting the most popular authors in your story’s genre makes a lot of sense. This author explains that he gained readership by leaving an insightful comment on top-ranking authors’ stories. Many of these authors then read his story and some voted for it. These reads and votes re-post automatically as notifications to that authors many followers on their public feed, gaining this new author a broader reach. I DID NOT DO THIS, BUT I STILL CAN!  I like the specificity of this tip, rather than the broadly overwhelming tip to engage with other writers and readers. I was not looking for a place to “play”—I do that on Facebook and Twitter to some extent. This is all about market share for me, and while this may be contrived, this is an instruction/hint I can work with.

Considering the Impact of Category Choice & Contests

Wattpad - My Failed Experiment (Can the Watty's Contest Make a Difference?)My story is considered young adult, so I listed it in the over-saturated Teen category on Wattpad. Today, I switched the category to Paranormal. I may leave the full book up for a few more weeks just to see if this makes a difference. To be fair, a lot of the most popular stories on Wattpad aren't in either of those categories--they're in fan fiction. While my story deals with stone circles, it’d be quite a stretch and probably unwisely raise expectations to call this Outlander fan fiction . . . I have no time travel and this stone circle is set in Ireland, not Scotland. I’d probably just tick off readers by attempting to lure them in this way, so I’ll steer clear of that.

I have also entered the Watty contest for 2017. There isn’t an official entry form or anything. You merely add the keyword “#Wattys2017” to your story tags and are part of the contest, with the hope of gaining more attention. So far that isn’t working either, probably because EVERYONE that has enough of their story complete does this. (And again, this requires that you eliminate a story subject hashtag/keyword as part of your 20 allowable keywords to make room for this Watty contest hashtag.)

I might not give up just yet. I'll see what the reaction is to the new featured story system and see if switching my category to paranormal makes any difference. I will also spend a little time commenting on top-author's works and see if that builds an audience. If any of this pays off, you’ll all be the first to know! 


July 18, 2017

Using time to outline a novel





It’s still summer. In between picnics, parties, and vacations, who has time to write?

Like last month, I maintain the premise that summer fun interferes with pen-to-paper time. That’s why I’m discussing writing methods rather than actual writing. In June, I offered ideas about using seasons as a way to get started. This month, I’m blogging about using time to organize an outline. These summer blog posts are helping me begin a new novel, and to repeat what I said last month, the two things I first must establish are season and time.

By “seasons,” I refer to either a season of life or a time of year. For example, a character may be in an early or late season of her life; or, a story can take place during a specific time of year such as spring or autumn.

What do I mean by time?Plotting A Mystery: Using Time to Outline a Novel

One of the many wonderful things about writing is that the writer plays god. Time, seasons, characters, words all belong to the writer. What’s not to love about that? But upon whom much is given, much is expected. Controlling time is too important to neglect. A writer should know what timeline works for her story. Will the narrative take place during the course of a day? A week? A month? A year? One hundred years?

Further, will the story be linear, as in moving forward in time according to twenty-four-hour days? Or will time move forward and back, incorporating flashbacks as part of the narrative? (Note: I don’t mean backstory, which is discussed below. Flashbacks should be compelling and advance the narrative forward, even though they’re in the past. Backstory is neutral; it reveals motivation or other details and its use should be limited.) Also, will twenty-four-hour days exist? For example, in the Harry Potter world, spells such as the Arresto Momentum affected time. A writer must know how time will exist when building her world upon the page.

The questions surrounding how a writer may use time are never-ending. (Oh, the irony!) How will your novel incorporate time? This is a question that should be answered before writing begins.

In June, I allowed myself to daydream and develop a season for my character. She’s in the autumn of life but the story takes place in spring. During July, I will ground myself to create a timeline: What will happen on each day of my story? The narrative will take place during the course of about six months, which means it will move from spring to end-of-summer. I will be specific about what happens on each day; I will allow for time hops forward, use no flashbacks, and little backstory. My outline will be time-driven rather than plot or character driven; the story will move forward according to days so I can drop plot-points into it. (I have done it the other way; that is, develop events first and then plug them into a timeline, but that’s harder for me.)

The great thing about creating a timeline is that it needs no special or expensive software. It doesn’t even necessitate a computer. It’s a perfect exercise for enjoying a summer day. I use a legal pad and a pen—it’s that simple! I can work on it on the patio, on the boat, or even an airplane. It will take time to create my outline based upon time—and the time to start is now!

The Key to Backstory

“Do not ‘download' background information all at once; it slows the momentum of your plot. Rather, weave backstory into the narrative.” When I was working toward my master’s degree, I heard that directive more than once—every student heard it. I think that was our professor’s most-used advice.

Plotting - The Key to Writing Backstory WellIncorporating backstory is an ongoing issue for writers. But it’s one thing to be told to weave it into the narrative, it’s another to actually do it. How should background information be incorporated into a story? How much is too much? When is it appropriate? Given that I’ve had a two-and-a-half-year drill about backstory best-practices, my advice is to create an outline. For pantsers that’s a no-go, but for plotters it’s practical and helpful information. An effective outline shows where backstory—which reveals motivation or purpose—is a natural fit. And the more one practices at incorporating backstory, the better and easier it gets.

A detailed outline using time to pace a novel is effective for a) knowing when to incorporate backstory; and b) knowing how much backstory to use. Remember that backstory isn’t flashback. One is neutral and drags down the plot if overused; the other should advance the plot even though it takes place in the past.

Next month, I’ll discuss plot ascension for a mystery novel.

Happy mid-summer—and happy outlining!

Never Did THIS Before Challenge - what new things are you trying?Blog Shout Out: Valerie Biel

Valerie is the dynamo who writes this blog plus wonderful books; she also works as a writing presenter and community volunteer. In a recent blog post, she offered an update about challenging her comfort zone. She wanted to stretch her creativity, and she discovered that small things mattered as much as big things. She asked for input from other writers regarding “Never Did THIS Before,” and here’s mine:

1.This summer, I’ve caught up with friends from the past. Never before have I spoken to so many who knew me more than twenty years ago. It has been a tsunami of revelation and it has changed my perspective; I have reconnected with people who remind me of who I am and they’re helping me meet goals. Is it possible to look to the past to move forward? I certainly have never done that before!

2.Write a screenplay. I've never done that before, either. While there’s much I’d like to say about it, I’m staying mum for now. I’ll keep you posted about the process.

July 11, 2017

Welcome back to guest blogger Lucy Adams. I'm particularly eager to hear how different activities can boost our creativity as it is a subject I keep going back to this year. Take a moment to read her ideas. I'd love to know whether you have tried any of these or plan to. I'm definitely doing the exercise described under number #5.

Unexpected Ways to Boost Your Creativity with Lucy Adams

Creativity is one of the most powerful instruments to solve usual issues in an unexpected, more efficient way. Ideas different from traditional or accepted thinking patterns are typical to strong, successful personalities.

Although creativity is congenital (remember children with their unusual ideas and fresh outlook), the upbringing that society gives us, as well as the imposed stereotype way of thinking, greatly reduces our creative abilities.

But not everything is lost! Below are some creativity boosters by Lucy Adams, a blogger who writes the best essays.

#1 Try to Solve Creative Problems When You’re Tired or Find it Hard to Concentrate

Afflatus (a divine creative impulse or inspiration) often comes when your thoughts deviate from the main course, that is when you allow them to wander freely and think about what seems unrelated to the main subject of research.

When you are tired or in a bad intellectual shape, you are harder to concentrate and easier to distract. In this state, it will be difficult to deal with analytical tasks, so focus on the creative ones.

A study by the Department of Psychological Science at Albion College and the Department of Psychology at the University of Michigan showed that at the non-optimal time, we tend to think in a non-standard manner and move away from the usual patterns.

Each of us has a unique individual rhythm and the peak of intellectual activity, and this should be taken into account. For example, if you’re strong in the morning, postpone creative tasks for the evening when you are already tired.

Unexpected Ways to Boost Your Creativity with Lucy Adams

#2 Exercise Regularly

We all know about the benefits of physical exercise, but there is another reason to love it: according to a study conducted by the College of Rhode Island, regular physical exercise enhances our ability to think creatively.

In the study, the first half of the participants performed exercises using video, while the second one just watched it. Those who performed the exercises surpassed the rest in divergent thinking, that is, suggested a greater number of possible solutions to the proposed problem.

Christopher Bergland, the famous athlete and coach, describes the phenomenon as follows: "Sweat works as a lubricant for your brains – it repairs rusty loops and helps to think more flexibly. Exercises allow your consciousness to gain access to fresh ideas hidden in the subconscious."

#3 Work in a Place with Moderate Level of Noise

Many people love to work in silence while others listen to music while working. However, neither silence nor music contributes to the solution of creative tasks as much as the moderate noise of the surrounding world.

According to the study by the University of Chicago, complete silence strengthens the ability to concentrate but makes it difficult to think creatively. Therefore, if you need to work hard on tasks in which attention to details is important, work in silence. And if you need to solve a creative problem, go, for example, to a café where it is not too quiet and not too noisy.

#4 Look for a Link between Already Existing Ideas

Creativity is just a mix of things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they did not really do it – they just saw something," Steve Jobs.

Breakthrough ideas are not always something innovative; sometimes it is a successful combination of already formed ideas.

Unexpected Ways to Boost Your Creativity with Lucy Adams#5 Be Curious

Environment and upbringing teach us to treat things from the practical side so that ordinary things remain unnoticed until they threaten us or are required at the moment.

Try to look at things deeper and wider. Study them and turn ordinary to unusual. There is one good exercise that will help you with the development of this particular property:  


Choose one routine that you often use and think through 20 things that can be done with it. Take, for example, a sofa. You can use it as a trampoline, a swimming mattress, a podium, a place for a massage, a hiding place, etc.

#6 Expand Your Horizons

Do not discard anything while you’re in search of an idea – all information is significant! Explore different areas of technology and art, read classics and contemporary authors, watch old movies and visit exhibitions. First of all, pay attention to the topics that you avoided before. Why not make an effort and study them thoroughly? A lot of new impressions and knowledge await you there!

#7 Keep on Hand Images in Blue and Green Tones

According to the study of the University of Munich, even a small glimpse of green tones increases productivity in solving creative problems, while the blue color promotes creativity.

Do not be afraid and do not be shy of your thoughts and ideas. Once you understand that you are unique, you will immediately come to the conclusion that many of your ideas are good enough. You will stop throwing them away and treat them as useless. The more ideas you create, the more material you will have for further development!

Blog Author Biography:

Lucy Adams is an aspiring businesswoman and blogger from BuzzEssay. Most of all, she’s interested in covering the most intriguing topics of yours, whether they are about business, writing or literature. Share your best ideas with the blogger and get a high-quality guest blog in a week or so!

July 5, 2017

You might remember in March when I started talking about stretching my creativity by doing things that took me away from my normal activities and outside my comfort zone. I called this my “Never done THIS before” challenge and asked you all to join me. A few of you replied that you were going to try to put some new things into your schedule, and I promised to check back in to let you know how I was doing.

What kicked off this thinking for me was attending a modern dance show at Winona State University in February. I was intrigued by the collaboration of arts and the inspiration we can get for our own creativite endeavors. This led me to the creation of the NDTB-Challenge that I presented in here

In March, I took a different kind of class called Museum as Muse at the Chazen Museum of Art on the UW-Madison campus. It was meant to kick-start your writing creativity in a whole new way. I know that what I learned in this class might help all writers. 

April was a biggie! Along with my husband, I traveled to a part of Spain I've never visited before, Andalusia. I really focused on using my Spanish exclusively on the entire trip and fared quite well. I even managed to have an argument with a waiter in Spanish, so I know I am improving. (LOL) You can read all about that experience here

But in May and June I felt creative boosts were a little elusive for me. I was doing a ton of stuff—I just wasn’t going out of my way to find new creative opportunities. What I didn’t realize (until I made this list) was that I was fueling my creativity the WHOLE time. See if you agree.

Here’s what I was doing for the past few weeks:

  1. My latest novel Circle of Nine: Sacred Treasures was the Runner Up in the Young Adult category for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and also short listed for the grand prize. So YAY!
  2. I outlined (gasp!) the next installment of my middle-grade adventure series—shunning my ‘panster’ ways. This is already paying off as I find my writing path more clearly defined. I might turn into a firm believer of outlining . . . we’ll see.
  3. I was integrally involved in three different nonprofit events/efforts that included a donation drive for an orphanage in Guatemala and the resulting shipping container packing, an appraisal day fundraiser for our local historical society, and handling some of the logistics and all of the publicity for our local children’s theatre production of Peter Pan. PHEW! I’ve done things like this in the past—just not three at once before!
  4. I spent time developing my Lost Lake Press author-assistance business by reconfiguring my Pinterest boards and learning how to effectively write the alternate image text on my blogs images to make the Pinterest links more easily searchable. (This also makes me realize there’s a whole host of things to learn about social media and so many resources to help guide you. If you’re interested in configuring your Pinterest page to better suit your needs, just let me know. I can help!)
  5. I created a School & Library Visit Flyer and reached out to public librarians in Wisconsin offering my services as a speaker. . . and booked two events already!
  6. And, I finally taught myself how to create affiliate links for my books by becoming an Amazon Partner . . . Yes, I know I’m late to the game in the affiliate link business, but better late than never, right?? (I’m going to write more on this topic in my month-end Writers’ Forum. If you’re not subscribed to get that, you can do so here.)

All of these things I had NEVER done before . . . but they weren’t tagged as part of my challenge in advance. Of course, I couldn’t KNOW that I was going to win a book award. Writing an outline was a tactical decision for approaching my next project rather than a “let’s try something new” moment. I didn’t set out to try to handle three nonprofit projects at once, they all landed in the same month rather accidentally and I’d already committed to assisting with them all. I have known for months that I needed to market my workshops and author talks to libraries, but I finally got off my butt and did it with good initial results. And finally, I am almost always working to learn more about the ins and outs of social media and indie publishing tools—so while helpful, these aren’t particularly earth-shattering new experiences.

New Experiences (Big or Small) Can Fuel Your Creativity BUT IT DOESN’T MATTER . . . THESE ALL WERE NEW EXPERIENCES! I don’t want you to only focus on big things to help fuel creativity. Big events like travel and conferences cannot happen every single month. My point all along was to step out of your comfort zone in whatever way you can.

SMALL THINGS MATTER AND CAN STRETCH YOUR CREATIVITY JUST AS MUCH ! And what seems like a big concept can be made to fit your resources and schedule. For instance, here's something I want to share that you might adapt for yourself! Fellow writer Jess Witkins writes about how she fueled her creativity in a new way while at the week-long Write by the Lake workshop by adapting her stories to different genres. Don’t miss her excellent post!

What activities do I have planned for the rest of the summer that I’ve never done before?

I am designing costumes to wear to the Irish Fests I’ll be attending in August . . . check out my event calendar for specifics. (That is most definitely stepping out of my comfort zone, but I decided to have some fun with my attire.) I might even be making some jewelry as a bonus for those who buy a complete set of my books at these events. As I am not particularly crafty—we’ll see how big of a challenge this might be for me.

I am committed to completing my work-in-progress by the end of the summer . . . whether that means Labor Day or the end of real summer later in September remains up in the air. LOL This is fast writing for me and I typically am not able to do this. We’ll see if I can stick to my ambitious writing schedule.

I am entertaining the idea of some changes/additions to aid the marketing for a completed middle-grade novel. (This may impact the ambitious writing schedule for my WIP.)

I am pursuing some nonfiction companion projects for my middle-grade adventure series. (This is a big leap for this fiction girl!)

And just for fun—I might take on an art project or two at our local Workshop that holds cool classes like cement leaf casting. 

What “Never Did THIS Before” activities might you be planning for July and August?

Don’t be shy—you just might inspire someone else!

July 4, 2017

Between gardening chores and a heap of volunteer activities in June, I don’t know how I read more than usual—but I completed six books and pushed my mid-year tally to 35 books read. Yay! I’m ahead of schedule on my 52-book goal for 2017!

Romance Book Review - Champion Chocolatier by Amanda Zieba Champion Chocolatier by Amanda Zieba was a sweet read (pun intended.) This is a lovely romance novel set in the uncommon location of Duluth, MN. I loved the twist of the main character having to prove her business acumen to earn her “ownership” of the candy shop.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Emmy is a thirty year old stuck in a dead-end job she hates, but life takes a pleasantly unexpected turn when she wins a Facebook contest to own and operate a chocolate shop in northern Minnesota. When she leaves the big city for a fresh start (despite knowing nothing about business or candy making) fun, romance and little mystery follow. Will her new business succeed before the December thirty first deadline? Will the cute guy from the store-next-door add to her sweet rewards or will he only be a disaster-level distraction? Two tablespoons of big dreams, a dash of chocolatey goodness, and a pinch of love. Step inside Sweet Shores Chocolate Store and enjoy this winning story recipe.


Champion Chocolatier is available in both Kindle and paperback.  


Sara Dahmen doesn’t disappoint with her latest romance novel Wine & Children! While this author typically writes historical romances, this modern-day story has a unique flair that makes it far from typical. This novel won the Write Touch Award from the Wisconsin Romance Writers' of America and it is a well-deserved honor.

Romance Book Review: Wine and Children by Sara Dahmen

Single and still smarting from her divorce, Charlotte Paggo takes a sabbatical to meander through California's wine country in an attempt to rebuild herself. Her travels lead her to meet Sam, a budding garagiste wine maker and a divorcee himself. Neither of them have any illusions about what it takes to make a relationship work, and romance is complicated by Sam's pre-teen sons.


Issues surface, from ex-spouses, children and medical emergencies. Underlying everything is the battle of Charlie's insecurities that stem from her irrevocable infertility. Like so many real-life couples who hope for second chances, Charlie and Sam need to work together to discover what it might take to find comfort and happiness once more.


Wine & Children is available in both Kindle and paperback


Murder mystery book review: Death Stalks Door County by Patricia SkalkaAnother stellar mystery from Patricia Skalka. Death Stalks Door County is the first of the Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries. I had to backtrack after reading the 2nd book in the series first. It’s a testament to a good author that you can do that and still enjoy the first book. Skalka pens a wonderful mystery full of human and personal drama mixed in with the unraveling of a great who-done-it. She always keeps you guessing.

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Six deaths mar the holiday mood as summer vacationers enjoy Wisconsin’s beautiful Door County peninsula. Murders, or bizarre accidents? Newly hired park ranger Dave Cubiak, a former Chicago homicide detective, assumes the worst but refuses to get involved. Grief-stricken and guilt-ridden over the loss of his wife and daughter, he’s had enough of death.


Death Stalks Door County is available in Kindle and Paperback. 

Book Review - Where Fish Can Breathe by Tricia Wagner

I don’t typically read a lot of what can be classified as literary fiction. Where Fish Can Breath, a coming-of-age novelette by Tricia Wagner, definitely falls into this category with a lyrical quality that borders on poetic. I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s mastery of the written word that truly allows you to sink into her story.

DESCRIPTION: Ten-year-old Swift longs to be as grown up as his brothers, but confronting himself in the wilds of the North Atlantic, he must contend with what it means to be a man. Come sail the star-studded North Atlantic Sea with Swift and his family in this poignant coming-of-age novelette.


Where Fish Can Breathe is available in Kindle.


On deck for next month . . . the final book in the Gender Game series (it releases 7/10), Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, and more! What have you been reading?? I know that Hillbilly Elegy is getting a lot of attention right now. (Here's the link to the hardcover on Amazon.) Let me know if you've read it and I'll include your review along with mine next month!




June 27, 2017

In my journey through the steps of independent publishing, refining my writing skills, and most recently completing a successful agent search, I’ve come across some excellent information, tips, tools, and shortcuts that I think would be beneficial to any writer. Once a month, I’ll share the “best of” information and news from the publishing industry as well as feature other authors and writing instructors with tips to share. I am incredibly thankful for the assistance and advice given to me from writing and publishing professionals and am happy pay that forward. On a professional level, I also use my publicity and editorial skills to aid other authors through my company Lost Lake Press.

Book Events

Oh, there are some fabulous bookish happenings in southern Wisconsin in July!

July 12 – Adriana Trigiani at 7 pm at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, 19805 West Capitol Drive, Brookfield, WI

Here's the link for more information and to get tickets. This event is brought to you through a literary collaboration by Books & Company in Oconomowoc, Boswell Books in Milwaukee, and the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts. (If you haven’t read Trigiani’s best-selling books, you’re missing out. She’s a fabulous writer.)

At a Room of One’s Own in Madison

July 21 at 7 pm – Paul Selig, Author of The Book of Truth. He is considered one of the foremost spiritual channels in the world today and his acclaimed books including I Am the Word and The Book of Mastery teach a clear & practical prescription for personal growth. Deepak Chopra recently described Paul's teachings as "authentic, straightforward truth, straight from the sourcefield."

July 24 at 6 pm – Jim Taranto, Author of Ars Botanica, will read and discuss his book of grief and love, written as letters to his unborn child.

Mystery to Me Bookstore in Madison has a July schedule packed with fabulous events.

July 1 & 2 - Marcie Colleen (Super Happy Bears picture book author) will be at the Monona Terrace.

July 8 – More kids’ fun with Claymates by Lauren Eldridge.

July 13 – Doug Moe interviews Dave Watson about his book Walkabout Undone

July 15 – Dean Robbins will read from his novel Margaret and the Moon which celebrates Margaret Hamilton’s contribution to the NASA space program.

July 15 – 8 pm – Ticketed event at the Barrymore Theater featuring comedian Tig Notaro as she discusses her novel I’m Just a Person. (You may remember her from the set she did on having cancer.) For tickets/more info click here.

Please let me know of any upcoming book releases or events that you’d like featured in the Writers’ Forum!

Featured Article

The Five Skills Every Writer Should Develop

This article by Frances Caballo is deceptively simple . . . only five skills. That doesn’t sound so hard. I chose to feature this article precisely because Caballo’s focus is so succinct and accurate, but also because it is easy to ignore some of these steps. I’ve summarized the article briefly below, but please click over to the full article for this excellent advice.

Develop Your Craft – This seems obvious, but every day I see authors who aren’t ready to put their book out in the world attempting to do just that. Make sure you’ve written the best book you can first!

Learn How to Use Social Media – Yes, you must do this. Even if you only focus on one or two platforms. We live in a digital age and we can’t ignore that fact.

Learn How to Blog – I know many of you will disagree with this because you’d rather focus on your “real” writing. Blogs can help you connect with your readers and keep your website current. The resources in this article are a great place to begin.The Five Skills Every Writer Should Develop by Frances Caballo

Learn How to Build Ads – I need this advice!! I don’t think it matters one bit if you are an indie author or traditionally published, you should know how to market your own product and utilize ads on Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram (particularly if you are targeting younger audiences.)  I will share a step-by-step process as I learn my way through the ins and outs of ads in the coming weeks.

Drop the Shyness – I know a lot of writers are natural introverts but Caballo is touting the need to create video content. Her reasoning is sound, even though I’m not sure I’m sold on the idea for myself.

Pre-Publication Information

Quick Notes from Book Expo America

Notes from 2017 Book Expo AmericaBook Expo America (BEA) was held this year in New York from May 31st – June 2nd. It is THE networking event in North America where authors and publishing industry insiders gather. Amy Collins, Contributing Writer for The Book Designer, has some interesting notes in her article about the event.

Take time to read the whole article because it’s good to know what happens at these types of events. I focused on her notes about the growth of the library market, particularly for e-books. I’m going to work hard in the coming months to make sure my ebooks are available through one of the distributors that supply libraries. Currently, I am not and I’m making a big mistake!

Indie Authors – Did you know about Indie Author Fringe?

Self Publishing Glossary of Terms for the Independent AuthorIndie Author Fringe is a three-times a year, online conference for self-publishing authors, brought to you by the Alliance for Independent Authors (ALLi), fringe to the major global publishing fairs like Book Expo America. There’s a ton of info to be had at this virtual conference! ALLi is a great all-around resource, too.

Sometimes the jargon used in the self-publishing world is hard to understand—even for those of us who have been around it for a while. Jay Artale put together this Glossary of Book Marketing Terms to help us out. And even better there are a ton of helpful links included to make it easy for us to research a topic.

Bookbaby Self-Publishing Survey Results

Bookbaby is a company that partners with indie authors to bring their books to life. They have many types of packages and although I find them to be slightly expensive, I know Self-Publishing Survey Results: The Marketing & Promotion Tools of Other Authors Usingauthors who have had great success with them. Recently, they released the results of a self-publishing survey that I thought was quite interesting. I took part in answering the survey questions a few months back and now we can see how other authors are independently publishing and marketing their work. To get access to this downloadable PDF you must create a Book Baby log in. I wouldn’t let this stop you. I never mind seeing their emails, but there is an unsubscribe button at the bottom of each communication. I think this info is worth a quick read at the least. 

The take away . . . there’s no magic bullet (which we already knew.) But, I did find a few promotional activities to try that I haven’t attempted yet that may help me achieve a broader readership.  

Using a Pen Name

How and Why to Choose a Pen NameOne of my favorite writing and industry advice professionals is Jane Friedman. She often highlights guest posts on her informative blog. In this article, Helen Sedwick guides us through the step-by-step process of choosing a pen name. (If you happen to be in the market for one!) 

How do you know if you need one? Why use a pen name at all? Helen Sedwick also gives us the reasons why choosing a pen name might be important. For instance, I write in the children’s market, but if I decided to switch to writing steamy romances, it would be smart to use a pen name to avoid any of my younger readers from stumbling onto something that is not appropriate for their age. See her full list here.

Helen Sedwick is the author of The Self-Publisher's Legal Handbook, which I highly recommend. 


Traditional Media Promotion . . . It’s Not All About Social Media!

I know that I talk about this A LOT. But this is my area of expertise, and I don’t like to see authors missing out on ways to gain free publicity. The Secret Promo Power of Obscure Media Outlets by author/book public relations expert Sharon Bially on the Writer Unboxed website caught my eye. It touts the value of gaining attention in some of the smaller, less well-known media outlets and how this attention can lead to broader connections that expand your book sales opportunities.

Amazon Sales Rank

Okay, back to Amazon. You didn’t think we’d get through a whole Writers’ Forum and not talk about Amazon at least once, did you?

If you’re curious about how Amazon Sales Rank is figured. This article by John Doppler on the ALLi website gives a thorough explanation of the formula behind the ranking. It’s rather fascinating.

Who’s Pointing at You? (And why it matters.)

The Books Your Book is Linked to and Why it MattersEqually interesting as the methodology for Amazon Sales Rank is David Gaughran's article "Who's Pointing At You?", which analyzes the connections your book may have to other books and why it even matters. Seriously, take the time to read this one and use the nifty tool that shows whether you’re connected to other books. Don’t be scared if that is really limited . . . that just means there’s some work to do. (I’m right there with you. Even though I have quite a few also boughts, when I did this, I had no connections other than my own books.)

I guess that means I’d better get back to work!

Happy Reading & Writing, Valerie  

June 15, 2017







Using a period of time (or life moment) to begin outlining a novel

It’s summer. In between picnics, parties, and vacations, who has time to write? I certainly struggle to meet my page goals during the warm months. So, in honor of the hot-and-busy season, I’m offering a three-part series designed to assist not so much with writing as outlining. Outlining is as important as writing, yet I neglect it. I’d much rather develop characters than plot points. But this summer, instead of writing pages, I will compose notes that support an outline; I will plan important components of my fiction novel and stay focused on my goals.

Using this blog as a starting point, I will strategize my new novel. While I’d love to say I just begin typing on a new project, I’ve found that before I tackle anything new, I first need to develop key concepts. No better time than the present, eh? Let’s get started.

Writing is to house painting as outlining is to washing walls and taping woodwork. Before I put words on a page (or paint on a wall), I first must get organized. I’m not a “pantser”; I need structure. Before starting a writing project, I develop an underlying framework, a thesis, if you will. (Creating this structure takes time away from actual writing, but I’ve found that I work faster when I have specific plot points in mind.)

There are two things I must establish as I build an outline: season and time.

Plotting your novel -- using seasonsWhat do I mean by season?

A “season” could refer to a time of year but in this instance, for my purpose, it means a season of life. In the novel I’m developing, my main character is a woman who is forty-plus. She and her friends are at a time where their jobs and marriages have changed and their children are grown. The women are entering new stages; they’re questioning their existence, their purpose. This season in my main character’s life—and her reaction to what’s happening—drives the story.

During June, I will examine what this new stage of life means to my main character. I will analyze and brainstorm; I will let my mind wander. I will step into my character’s head to discover how she feels, what she thinks, and how she reacts to conflict. Truly, what better time than summer to daydream?

A secondary task will be to embrace a “season” as in time of year. For the story I’m working on, the logical time would be autumn. It’s the season that most corresponds with my character’s time of life; however, my hunch is to go against type. Spring may be more appropriate. My character is entering a new phase of life. Should I place the story during spring to underscore this change? Would placing the narrative during the spring season be more appropriate than autumn?

 I don’t know yet and that’s the beauty of this exercise. While I’m walking, traveling, boating, and enjoying summer sunsets, I’ll be contemplating how seasons affect the character and the book I’m developing. I love the sense of freedom that this stage offers: I have no plot line yet, no restrictions. I’m not burdened by anything other than the time it will take to create the foundation of my new novel.

What season works for your novel?

What about you? What are you contemplating? Anything new? Are you taking part in National Novel Writing Month in November? Now is the time to set the groundwork! Consider the concept of “season” and how it affects your work. Jot some notes, embrace the exercise, enjoy letting your mind wander.

Next month, I’ll discuss time and how it affects the outline for your novel.

Happy summer—and happy writing! - Tracey Kathryn

 Blog Shout Out: Jungle Red Writers






If you’re a Midwest-based writer, you may have attended a writing event that featured Hank Phillippi Ryan as a keynote speaker. She’s a journalist-writer-dynamo who is inspiring and encouraging. Her website links to a blog that’s part of the Jungle Red Writers. The blog is a hoot! It describes itself as “The View” with [dead] bodies. The women are eight “smart and sassy crime fiction writers  who dish on writing and life.” The blog is worth following—and Hank is a fantastic resource. Enjoy!

June 6, 2017

I found some stellar books in May, from time travel to a dystopian series called the Gender Game, which is described as like Hunger Games or Divergent. I’ll also admit why I’m critical of a best-selling historical fiction novel that I should have liked way more than I did and gush about two titles by Angie Stanton.

The Gender Game Series Book Covers





I happened up on the Gender Game series by Bella Forrest via a Facebook ad. You’ve all seen them. They proclaim similarities to other popular series and attempt to draw us in. This one worked on me! The ad claims that this series is for those who liked the Hunger Games and Divergent series. There are a lot of elements that are similar to those books but plenty of differences that allow this to not feel like a repeat of either of those two storylines. The premise is that the world has been split into two distinct countries . . . Matrus, where women rule and Patrus, where men rule. A toxic river divides the two countries. Violet Bates, the main character, navigates this increasingly dangerous world with the goal to find her brother. The political machinations necessary in both countries in order to keep their respective citizens in line is wonderfully manipulative, making you wonder who is trustworthy and who is not. This is a seven-book series and I’ve only read the first three, which were all very good and acceptable for ages 12 and up. This series is complete and great for binge reading! I am already plotting my reading time to get to the remaining four books.

Here's the blub for Book One. We'll see if it hooks you like it did me. 

A toxic river divides nineteen-year-old Violet Bates's world by gender. Women rule the East. Men rule the West.

Welcome to the lands of Matrus and Patrus.

Ever since the disappearance of her beloved younger brother, Violet's life has been consumed by an anger she struggles to control. Already a prisoner to her own nation, now she has been sentenced to death for her crimes. 

But one decision could save her life. 
To enter the kingdom of Patrus, where men rule and women submit. 
Everything about the patriarchy is dangerous for a rebellious girl like Violet. She cannot break the rules if she wishes to stay alive. 
But abiding by rules has never been Violet's strong suit.
When she's thrust into more danger than she could have ever predicted, Violet is forced to sacrifice many things in the forbidden kingdom ... including forbidden love. 
In a world divided by gender, only the strongest survive... 


Switching gears completely, I splurged and purchased a brand-new hard cover that has recently graced the New York Times best-seller list for a few weeks, The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck. I wasn’t a huge fan and I am obviously in the minority because a whole lot of other readers loved this book. It was a well-written story and the premise is incredibly intriguing, but I think I really wanted this to be a true story and, of course, I knew it was fiction. I’ve just read so many compelling true-life stories and biographies of WWII that it made me wish for a real account of women of the resistance who had to pick up their lives in post-WWII Germany—that is if they were fortunate enough to have survived the war.

Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.

Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.

First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.


Finally, I have to gush a bit over Angie Stanton’s latest novel, Waking in Time. This story set on the UW-Madison campus lets us travel into different eras as the main character uncontrollably time jumps into the past. As she tries to unravel the reasons for her inexplicable time travel and return to her proper time, we’re introduced to a fun cast of characters along with references to historical events, dress, customs, and fads. An enjoyable read for teens on up!  

Still mourning the loss of her beloved grandmother and shaken by her mysterious, dying request, Abbi has just arrived at UW Madison for her freshman year. But on her second day, she wakes up to a different world: 1983. That is just the first stop on Abbi's journey backward through time. Will is a charming college freshman from 1927 who travels forward through time. When Abbi and Will meet in the middle, love adds another complication to their lives. Communicating across time through a buried time capsule, they try to decode the mystery of their travel, find a lost baby, and plead with their champion, a kindly physics professor, to help them find each other again ... even though the professor is younger each time Abbi meets him. This page-turning story full of romance, twists, and delightful details about campus life then and now will stay with readers long after the book's satisfying end.


I also read one of Stanton’s earlier books, Love ‘em or Leave ‘em. This was a delightful story about a young woman who does a favor for a friend and fills in for a cast member on dating show, certain she’ll be sent home nearly immediately but, of course, that doesn’t happen. Great summer reading with any of Stanton’s novels.

Ashley Reynolds, who hates even having her picture taken, lands herself smack in the middle of a reality television dating show. She finds herself surrounded by glamour girls and pageant queens all vying for a date with the smokin hot bachelor. Ashley's plan, to fly under the radar and get sent home early, falters when she soon discovers a knack for drawing unwanted attention her way. Bad boy quarterback Luke Townsend thought choosing between 25 stunning women would be a dream come true. How wrong he was! Luke's patience is tried by the wiles of the charmers and the persistence of the camera crews. It doesn't take long for him to realize, however, that the one girl trying the hardest to get off the show is the one who most intrigues him.

I read a couple of other novels that I picked up for free or on a .99 sale via BookBub.

North Haven by Sarah Moriarty – I give this one a solid four-star rating. Siblings reconnect after the death of their mother at their island summer home and have to navigate their relationships without the family matriarch and the pending decision to sell the property or not.

All the Lies We Tell by Megan Hart – (Quarry Road Series Book One) This was a three-star for me. I just never connected with the characters enough to consider reading on in the series. Others may feel differently.

What have you all been reading lately? Do you binge on series, too? 

June is stacking up to be a great reading month, too!




May 30, 2017

In my journey through the steps of independent publishing, refining my writing skills, and most recently completing a successful agent search, I’ve come across some excellent information, tips, tools, and shortcuts that I think would be beneficial to any writer. Once a month, I’ll share the “best of” information and news from the publishing industry as well as feature other authors and writing instructors with tips to share. I am incredibly thankful for the assistance and advice given to me from writing and publishing professionals and am happy pay that forward.

Book News & Events

At the end of April, Green Bay hosted the newly created “UntitledTown Book and Author Festival”. I was unable to go, but from social media posts attendance appeared to be very good, which was certainly helped by the inclusion of authors Margaret Atwood and Sherman Alexie. (If any of you went, I’d love to hear a first-hand account of the weekend!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about banned books and in particular those that get challenged as part of the curriculum in schools. 

What does this have to do with the UntitledTown Book Fest? Well, Sherman Alexie’s novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian is often at the center of such firestorms. His novel takes on some tough topics in a raw way that certainly challenges our comfort level. I always get an uneasy feeling when people talk about book banning but have to admit that I've only read excerpts of Alexie’s work. (It is on my summer to-be-read list.) Have any of you read his book or had it taught in your kids’ classrooms? I’m just curious what your take may be on it. (I know there’s currently a challenge taking place in the Sauk Prairie School District here in Wisconsin about the inclusion of this title in the curriculum.) 

Please let me know of any upcoming book releases or events this summer that you’d like featured in the June Writers’ Forum!

Featured Article

UGH! What’s Amazon up to NOW?!

Amazon Allows 3rd-Party Sellers to Control Top Buy BoxesA few weeks ago, I heard the buzz that Amazon was doing something strange with their buy boxes—you know the ‘buy now’ or ‘add to cart’ button at the top of each product page. For books, the default for these buttons has always linked to the publisher of the book—not third-party sellers. Unfortunately, a new policy at Amazon allows third-party booksellers to “win” the buy box for books in new condition. Brook Warner's May 4 article in the Huffington Post from May 5 more fully explains this issue.

But wait, there’s more! The backlash against Amazon was rather broad, including big publishers and independent publishing associations. Amazon has since issued a clarification . . . that only truly NEW books are eligible to win the Buy Box and that they are “dedicated to removing bad actors.”

But that talk doesn’t appear to go very far. Reports from Publishers’ Marketplace, explain that Amazon does not ask the third-party sellers in advance for proof that they have acquired the books in new condition. (As indie authors or publishing houses, we would have a record of who has ordered books directly and has copies that could truly be considered new.) It appears that the third-party sellers are only asked for authentication after a complaint has been made to Amazon. This authentication would be in the form of invoices from publishers or authorized distributors.

I can’t link to the full article because Publishers’ Marketplace is a subscription-only site. Here’s the link to the headline and the first paragraph of the article that I’m paraphrasing above should you choose to subscribe. (I find this a worthy expense and you might too, especially if you're doing agent and/or publisher research.) 

So, what’s to be done? For all of Amazon’s assurances, it seems it will be up to us to remain vigilant and check our buy buttons regularly to make sure we haven’t been pushed down the page by a third-party seller. As this issue is updated, I’ll be sure to include the info in future Writers’ Forums.

Pre-Publication Information

Setting up your International Author Pages on Amazon

Don't Miss out on International Amazon Author PagesAnd, yes, while we may (often) be irritated with Amazon’s policies, we can’t afford to ignore them as they are pivotal to our book sales. One thing that I think many authors fail to do, is to set up your international Amazon author pages. I’ve always had a UK page, but only recently set up my French, German, and Japanese Amazon author pages. It wasn’t difficult . . . a little time consuming perhaps. I did need to translate the page a few times. and used my trusty standby when there was no translate button available.

I followed the steps in this article from Jane Friedman’s blogAnother article by Penny Sansevieri on has very helpful links and a checklist to help you. 

So why do this? Does it help your international sales? By most reports, it does help to increase your sales in those markets. For my purposes, I decided ‘why not?’ . . . I’m only out a little bit of time and the author pages are free marketing platforms that I otherwise wouldn’t have had in those countries.

Legal Myths

Back on the Bookworks blog, legal expert Helen Sedwick does a precise job of debunking five legal myths about writing that many of us have heard. This is worth a read and deals with copyright, copyright infringement, use of names, and name changing a true-life villainous character. 

Yes! You do need a website!

I repeat this again and again at writing conferences when I’m teaching about publicity and marketing. “You must have a website.” I know this can seem daunting for those who areYes! Authors do need a website! not tech savvy. It doesn’t have to be. You can hire someone to design your website or you can use one of the many helpful platforms out there to do it yourself. This doesn’t have to be a crazy-expensive endeavor. But it must be professional! After all, your writing is a business and all successful businesses have a professional website . . . for those of us without an actual storefront, this is our front door and the window to our product. Make it inviting and interesting!

Apparently, I am on a Bookworks binge this month . . . here’s part 1 of 3 of their feature on website building. 

I won’t pretend that creating the website isn’t time consuming. It is! And whether you design it yourself or hire someone else to do it, the content for each page will be written by you. I am certain that I spent a minimum of 40 hours on this with my designers. That included the initial design discussions, the writing of the copy for each page, cataloging the photos I wanted used where, and then editing as each page was in draft stage. I still spend time updating my site on a regular basis. I’m happy to talk in more detail about the process. Take a look at and let me know if you have questions on why I did what I did.


Traditional Media Publicity







I’m tackling all kinds of unsavory topics for writers this month, so I thought I might as well jump into gaining attention with traditional media. We spend a lot of time working on our social media platforms, but we sometimes forget that we can and should be approaching traditional media outlets for coverage of our book launch or a book award or whatever hook we can come with that might be appealing. If you want a 30-minute tutorial on this issue, please pop over to my YouTube channel where I walk authors through gaining attention on TV, Radio or in Newspapers or Magazines.

I was so pleased to see an article from Joan Stewart on The Book Designer giving many of the same tips that I have given at seminars for authors. The main emphasis here is to start by approaching your local news media. 

I always remind authors that they shouldn’t be intimidated by the process of pitching their “story” to local media outlets. After all, the media is always looking for good stories and if you can make the case (give the hook) why your story is interesting, you will get featured!

Social Media & Connectivity

Is Social Media Broken? What to do?The flip side of traditional media is, of course, social media. An article from Frances Caballo from The Social Media Just for Authors website tells us that the way we think about social media is broken, and I think she’s right. The focus is often on sales promotion and number of followers/likes instead of the quality of the connections being built.

The article is a fabulous read, and I highly encourage you to do just that and ponder the premise that social media is more about making authentic connections with others in the publishing, reading, writing world . . . and not just about gaining sales. In fact, over-promoting your content (books) can backfire, and you’ll likely end up losing audience members/followers.

Making real connections takes time but it certainly can have big payoffs. Dan Blank of We Grow Media highlights that in his article about how word-of-mouth marketing paid off for him. This is a fun journey through the connections he’s made that led to being featured on a popular writing podcast.

PHEW! That was a lot of content for one month. (And I’m admitting that I tabled a couple of things for next month.) Let me know if there are topics you’d like covered or questions you may have, and I’ll do my best to find the answers!

Happy Reading & Writing, Valerie  



May 25, 2017

I’m so pleased that middle-grade author K.W. Penndorf has stopped to talk about her writing adventure with us. I've read the first book in her Freya series, Freya and the Dragon Egg and give it an enthusiastic five-star review! This Saturday is the realease date for the second book in the series, Freya and the Battle at the Aal Thing. If you're in the Appleton, Wisconsin area you can take part in the release celebration at 1 pm at the Barnes & Noble at 4705 W. Grande Market Drive, Grand Chute. 

ABOUT BOOK ONE: Freya's family is wonderful. Just not to her. After all, her older sister loves to talk about "pulling a Freya" - a term for any mistake she makes, her younger sister publicly reads from Freya's diary without ever getting reprimanded, and her parents hardly take notice of her. But that is all about to change when her father, Denmark's renowned Viking archaeologist, asks her to hide a precious artifact where no one will find it. Freya jumps at the chance to prove her worth and suddenly discovers herself transported to a magical forest where she comes face to face with not only real Vikings, but a clan of sprites and a Berserk as well. In search of a way home, Freya unearths a realm of adventure and a path to greatness she is sure her family will revere.

ABOUT BOOK TWO: No Vikings, breathing fire or closing realms. That means this weekend’s birthday party can truly be full of ‘non-adventuresome’ fun and excitement. All Freya has to do is keep her father’s national homecoming celebrations from overshadowing her one little day of the year to shine. Easier said than done when even her class partner for a research paper can’t stop asking about the latest dig and excavation.

But when a field trip to Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, reveals her focus has been on the wrong thing, she finds herself back in the era she so desperately wants to be keep away from.

With a need to locate Chieftain Harald, Freya discovers a sprite’s secret, putting her on the path to battling Ragnar once again. Yet when that battle includes a round of the game kubb, some meddlesome weather, and her second transformation, will it prove to be too much?


First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to publish your first novel?

Sure! I think to sum it up in one word, I would say "persistence."  First, I believed in my story. I think every author does and should.  But it wasn't until agents gave me positive feedback that I told myself others believed in it too. I queried many agents, but it was attending conferences and pitch sessions where I landed my publisher.

I am so excited for the second book in your Viking-themed Freya series. I loved Freya and the Dragon Egg! (And can’t wait to read Freya and the Battle at the Aal Thing.  Where did you get your idea for this series?

Thank you so much! I got the idea 13 years after having visited Denmark for my sister's wedding. While in Europe, I toured Viking museums and a Viking graveyard. Apparently, the graveyard stuck out to me because all those years later, I got a vision of a young girl holding an oval object while at the graveyard. I don't know where that idea came from, but there it was. So, I decided to develop it by figuring out who the girl was, what the object was, why she had it, and so forth on.

Did you have to do a lot of research into Viking lore and Norse mythology or did you already have a lot of these great details tucked away?

I've had to do a TON of research for the series because I never grew up knowing much Norse mythology. The only thing in my series which I had a bit of prior knowledge about were Berserks. In fact, it was that tiny bit of Norse Mythology, that one simple thing, which spurred my path to unearthing other gems about Viking beliefs which I've woven into my series. I love doing research because it's almost as if I'm discovering my own book!

I know that this will be a nine-book series when you are all done. That seems a bit daunting. Can you explain why there’ll be that number of books to tell Freya’s story?

I love reading series. There's something about falling in love with characters and worlds that I don't want to let go of after one book. So, I knew my story just had to be a series. I also knew I wanted something nontraditional like 5 or 6 in the series. But, when in doing research I soon discovered the Vikings believed in 9 mythological realms, I knew immediately my series would need to take me to all 9 of them via a series of 9 books.

I love that there are so many mythology-inspired stories for the middle-grade reader right now. Do you have some favorites in the genre that you also like to read? (Or maybe you have some thoughts about the popularity of mythology in books for this age group.)

I think it's very befitting that middle-grade readers gravitate towards mythological stories or that writers gravitate to setting their mythological series for the middle grade reader because these are the years mythology is introduced to students. I always liked learning about things in school that were tangible in real life, like this example. Kids are able to learn about myths in school then delve deeper into those worlds by heading to bookstores and libraries.

I do feel the need to point out that while your books are written for children, I know adults can enjoy them as well. (I definitely did!) Are you finding that parents are reading these books along with their children? (I think that these books would be a great summer reading adventure for parents and kids together!)

Hahaha, I'm finding that parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles are reading the book before gifting it to the intended because they couldn't wait for the child to read it first!

Freya is a modern girl thrust into a totally different world (I don’t want to give too much away.) I love how she handles these twists and turns. She seems very real to me and I am rooting for her from the beginning. Do you have a vivid memory of your childhood years that helped you to create such a believable character?

I had a second-grade teacher who during story time would read from her childhood diary and I absolutely loved listening to her stories. It was fascinating, for one, to think my teacher could have ever been a young girl, and two, to hear about her vivid adventures with a cast of family members who all jumped off the pages of her diary reenacting the scenes as if on a movie screen before my eyes. I wanted that sort of vibe for my characters, the sort that makes them come to life.

I have to ask about your delightful chapter art and book covers. Can you tell us a little bit about the artist and how those additions happen? Were you consulted on these artistic decisions or were they a complete surprise?

Oh my goodness, I can't say enough about the artist! Her name is Lisa and she gets my vision perfectly. I'm lucky to be able to give her my ideas, and she somehow works her magic based off of my brief descriptions or a montage of sketches I send her way.

I know you have seven books to go for Freya, but what other projects can you see yourself pursuing in the future?

I have another series I'd like to write, something along the lines of Agatha Christie for kids, and I also have a stand alone for the young adult genre. Sometimes it's hard to decide what to plot next: one of these books, or the continuation of the FREYA series!

How can readers discover more about you and you work?



Twitter:       @KWPenndorf

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Thanks so much for visiting us! It was a pleasure to get to know you better!!

Thank you so much Valerie for inviting me to do your blog! I appreciate you allowing me the opportunity to speak to your followers about Freya!