5 Keys Steps to Adding Depth to Your Fictional Relationships

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane




My Australian cover for Indigo Awakening


In Indigo Awakening (Book #1 in my “The Hunted” series for Harlequin Teen)—there is a love triangle that is layers deep. I’m a sucker for love triangles, but I wanted the one in Indigo Awakening to be a little more than a girl’s attraction to two very different boys. At the apex of this triangle is a very strong girl, Kendra Walker, the leader of an underground movement of Indigo children and feelings run high when beliefs and ideologies are tested.

Lucas Darby is psychic and becomes mentally linked to a girl he hears in his head after he escapes from a mental hospital. Kendra thinks she has made contact with another lost Indigo, but after she realizes that Lucas is a powerful Crystal child, she sees the future she always dreamed would be possible. And for Lucas to connect with the “hive mind” for the first time, the link is intoxicating and seductive. Kendra is older than Lucas, but for him their connection is as intimate as making love for the first time. It changes everything for both of them. Since Lucas is evolving into a Crystal child, the next evolution of mankind, Kendra is motivated to be with him so she can be a part of a new, more powerful movement. She is a modern day Joan of Arc on a mission to save the Indigos, but someone else is her rock when it comes to protecting her Indigo children.

Another boy, Rafael Santana, has helped Kendra build a safe underground oasis for the homeless Indigos. Rafe has feelings for Kendra that he’s never shared with her, but he’s also driven to protect Benny, a 10-year old boy he loves like a little brother. This conflict will drive how he reacts when Kendra’s Indigo revolution threatens the home he wants for Benny. After she focuses her attention on Lucas, Rafe becomes jealous, but in his quiet way he deals with it until the conflict between the Indigos and the Believers blows up, the fanatical church zealots who hunt Indigo kids to stop the next evolution of man. Rafael’s love for Benny collides with his loyalty for Kendra and changes everything.

Kendra must choose how far she is willing to go to save her Indigo family—the one she has and the one she’s dreamed about. Lucas, the powerful Crystal child, represents the future she had always hoped for, but Rafael is the heart and soul of the past she started with him—the boy who made her dream possible.

Key steps to adding depth to your fictional relationships:

 
1.) Give a strong character vulnerabilities that conflict with what they might want and force them to choose. There are consequences to actions. Someone’s gotta lose, even in love.

2.) Give them choices that test their emotions. Their choices shouldn’t be easy. For example, make them choose between their personal happiness or the greater good. This is classic and always relatable.

3.) Pair them with opposite types of characters to enhance the conflict potential. Opposites attract for a reason. Fireworks, baby.

4.) Create internal conflicts or flaws that make them struggle with their external goals and the goals of the character(s) you’ve paired them with. Conflict is key to any great story. But add depth to your character by layering the conflict inside them first.

5.) Give them a noble cause that is a roadblock to their personal happiness or someone else’s. What would they do? Not every character would make the same decision.


For Discussion for Readers and Writers:

1.) What are some additional points you would add to this list?

2.) What are some of your favorite literary or film love triangles? Please share your thoughts on why they resonated with you.

“Dane’s first offering in her new series, The Hunted, is sensational. Indigo Awakening has strong characters and a wild and intense story, matched only by the emotions it will generate within you. Readers will love this book and eagerly await the next adventure. Fantastic! A keeper.”
4.5 Stars (out of 5)
—Romantic Times Book Review Magazine

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World Building – Indigo-style

by Jordan Dane
@JordanDane



My young adult novel, Indigo Awakening, launched two days ago on December 18. It is the first book in the Hunted series with Harlequin Teen. The inspiration behind this book came from researching Indigo children. Query “Indigo Child” on the Internet and you’ll get over 8 million hits. Real life and headlines often inspire my books and this time is no exception. For the purposes of fiction, I took liberties in my portrayal, but Indigo kids are generally described as highly intelligent, gifted teen psychics with a bright “indigo” aura and a mission to save the world. They have high IQs, see angels and commune with the dead. Are Indigo children real or are they manipulated by adults to believe they’re special? Are they dysfunctional misfits or mankind’s evolutionary savior? You decide, but I find the notion of man’s evolution intriguing. Here is the synopsis:

Because of what you are, the Believers will hunt you down.

Voices told Lucas Darby to run. Voices no one else can hear. He’s warned his sister not to look for him, but Rayne refuses to let her troubled brother vanish on the streets of LA. In her desperate search, she meets Gabriel Stewart, a runaway with mysterious powers and far too many secrets. Rayne can’t explain her crazy need to trust the strange yet compelling boy—to touch him—to protect him even though he scares her.

A fanatical church secretly hunts psychic kids—gifted “Indigo” teens feared to be the next evolution of mankind—for reasons only “the Believers” know. Now Rayne’s only hope is Gabe, who is haunted by an awakening power—a force darker than either of them imagine—that could doom them all.

They are our future—if they survive…

Five Key Ways I Built my Indigo World

1.) I triggered my premise with a “What If…” question that had conflict – The most important question in a writer’s arsenal is “what if.” What if Indigo kids are the next evolution and their psychic abilities are evolving and escalating? Who would fear this and feel threatened? I had to have a larger than life villain with a universal reach to terrorize these children. (Yeah, that’s how authors think.)

2.) I created conflict through a powerful enemy – The Church of Spiritual Freedom (specifically, a covert operation of overzealous “Believers”) use their faith as justification to persecute those they fear, believing God is on their side. They fear that Indigos and Crystal children threaten humanity’s existence with their “unnatural” superiority. That’s the basic conflict, a David versus Goliath storyline with an abundance of potentially evocative themes.

3.) I did research to add depth and dimension –I blended my research on Indigo kids with the topic of psychic abilities to create a different kind of world that wouldn’t be formulaic. I wanted the reader to “feel” these powers and how they erupt or evolve within each character. I didn’t want to simply describe traditional psychic capabilities. I wanted readers to understand how these kids feel as their power explodes or how their gifts morph into something far greater after they make contact with the “hive mind.”

4.) I provided a cultural context and hierarchy to my world that added to internal conflict for my characters – There is a hierarchy of Indigo Children/Indigo Warriors/Crystal Child. I made Indigo kids the base level with the status of a Crystal child more unique, powerful, and elite. Indigos are highly intelligent intuitive teens who “feel” their way through life, trust their instincts above all else, and can often see angels and the dead. Some Indigos are warriors with a fierce fighting spirit and a rebellious nature. This difference fuels future conflict between the cultures as Crystal children tend to be more peace loving and innocent. They are our future, if they survive, but what kind of world will they build?

5.) I built in consequences for wielding power – There is a dark side to having these powers—a duty and responsibility—and when the Believers tamper with science and human nature, they battle something they should have respected more. In book #2, Crystal Storm, There are consequences on both sides when power (of any kind) becomes abusive.

1.) If you could have a secret Indigo power, what would that be?

2.) Have you ever experienced a psychic moment or do you know anyone who you think is a real psychic?


“Dane’s first offering in her new series, The Hunted, is sensational. Indigo Awakening has strong characters and a wild and intense story, matched only by the emotions it will generate within you. Readers will love this book and eagerly await the next adventure. Fantastic! A keeper.”

~Romantic Times Book Review Magazine – 4.5 Stars (out of 5)

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How Much Are You Willing to Share About Your Stories? Author Confessions Time

By Jordan Dane
@JordanDane



I’ve been an avid reader since I was a kid in elementary school, but as I grew older, I wondered how authors concocted their stories and how much of their own experiences became a part of their fictional stories. Vivid scenes can put you into that moment with the characters. Exotic sights and smells can put you there, even if you’ve never been.
 
Now with each book that I write, I know the answer—at least for me. I feel like I’m treading on dangerous ground to reveal too much. I run the risk of pulling a reader out of my books because they may know where elements come from. But maybe telling some of my secrets might enrich a reader’s experience, like saying my stories are inspired by real headlines or true stories.
 
My first HarperCollins Sweet Justice series book, Evil Without A Face, had been inspired by a horrific near miss abduction by a young girl who had been virtually seduced online by a charming human trafficker. The girl had her computer only 6 months, a gift from her parents. The clever trafficker set up an elaborate scheme, involving innocent adults who he lied to, to trick this girl into leaving the US even when she didn’t have a passport. The FBI thwarted the abduction in Greece, minutes before the girl was to meet her kidnapper in a public market. The Echo of Violence (Sweet Justice #3) came from a real life terrorist plot to hold missionaries for ransom.
 
But those inspirations aren’t what I’m talking about. I’m referring to the small creative morsels that you pepper into your stories that are your secrets, no one else’s. So it’s confession time and I’ll start.
 
There’s a line in No One Heard Her Scream, my debut novel:
 
If she wanted to engage the only brain he had, all she had to do was unzip it and free willy.
 
I channeled that line through my character and didn’t even remember writing it, until one of my sisters asked about it. It came from one of my vacations when I visited Vancouver and took a day trip to see where they filmed “Free Willy.”
 
In my debut YA with Harlequin Teen, In the Arms of Stone Angels, I wrote about my 16-yr old Brenna Nash getting extra credit for dissecting a frog and earning extra credit for extracting the frog’s brain intact. Well, Brenna may have gotten the extra credit in the book, but I never did. I jabbed at that frog until it’s head was shredded. The brain popped out whole, so I asked for the credit. After my teacher saw the wreck I made, she only gave me a grimace and a heavy sigh. (There are quite a few more kid stories of mine in this book, but I’m stopping here.)
 
Sometimes I use real people that I know in my books as “fictional” characters. They know I’m doing it but they roll when they read what I wrote. I crack up too. The priest and Mrs Torres at the end of The Echo of Violence, for example. Yep, people I know. One of my favorite book reviewers for my YA novels entered a contest of mine and won being named a character in my upcoming release – Indigo Awakening. O’Dell shared some of his quirks in an email and after seeing that list, I thought he would make an odd villain. He can’t wait to read the book.
 
So now that I’ve given you a peek behind the curtain of Oz, is there anything you care to share about your own writing? If you’re a reader, have you ever heard or read stories about what elements have been connected to the real life of an author?

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Hook Your Book

By Jordan Dane

High concept story lines are based on an intriguing premise or hook. A hook is the same thing as a logline, best described as a 1-2 line TV guide listing. A short pitch line takes a complex book plot and summarizes it down to an enticing teaser. Generally this teaser is the first step to conveying your novel idea to an editor or agent, whether in a query letter, proposal, or during a pitch session at a conference.

Elements of your hook line should include:
Main Characters
Conflict
Unique Qualities
Setting/Time Period
Main Action
Emotional Element

Important questions to ask in order to define your hook:

Characters – Who is the main character? What does he or she want? What is their goal?

Conflict – What is the obstacle in the way? Who will play the part of the villain? Does the main character have a flaw that adds to the drama of why he can’t get what he/she wants?

Setting/Time Period – What is unique about your setting or time period? Does it contribute to the conflict for the character?

Main Action – What is the most compelling action in the story?

Emotional Element – What is the most gripping emotional element to your story?

Even if your story has been told before, you can add a fresh take or twist on it. An effective hook can make it seem new. High concept hooks can also be based on “what if” questions like:

·         “What if man could clone dinosaurs?” (Jurassic Park)

·         “What if there was a place that stayed dark and vampires never had to interrupt their feeding to sleep?” (30 Days of Night)

·         “What if a defense attorney couldn’t lie?” (Liar, Liar)

Sometimes a high concept idea can be only in the title. So even if a movie or a book doesn’t get top reviews, people still buy it because they “have to” experience it.

·         Snakes on a Plane

·         Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

I’d like to share the hook on two books that I enjoyed reading. These represent daring authors who didn’t take the easy road in determining their plots. Imagine the craft it would take to write these two novels. Better yet, read them and enjoy.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – The story of a 14-year old girl living during the time of the Holocaust, narrated by Death. The hook is the author’s narrator choice. The time period is very compelling and the fact that the girl steals books to teach herself to read during a time when books are being destroyed is a gripping period piece, but to have Death be the narrator puts this book over the top. The New York Times is quoted as saying this book is “life changing.” All I can say is that it changed me.

Thirteen Reason Why by Jay Asher – This is the story of a girl who commits suicide but sends 13 audio tapes to the people who contributed to her making that fatal decision. The audio tapes are an effective hook, but the writer chose to tell the story through one boy who got a recording. He was the one person who had a secret crush on this girl, but did nothing about it. The story is told one night as he listens to the intimacy of her voice in his ear as he follows the map to all the locations she sends him to. Recorded flashbacks mix with the present, but the reader never loses track of what is taking place.

Here is the hook for my latest series with Harlequin Teen – The Hunted series. In this series, kids who can’t speak out, without drawing attention to who and what they are, make the perfect victims on the streets of LA. A covert faction of a church hunts them under the guise of doing God’s work—to stop the abominations from “becoming.” The tag line on the cover will be: They are our future, if they survive.

A fanatical church secretly hunts “Indigo” teens feared to be the next evolution of mankind. These gifted teens are our future…if they survive.

For those of you writing a project now, please share your hook. Take up to 3 lines. Even if you don’t have a current project, make something up that you’d like to write and have fun using the questions above. You never know what might pop up.

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The Unseen

by Jordan Dane

I am writing the final chapter of my latest project. INDIGO AWAKENING is Book #1 in THE HUNTED series for Harlequin Teen (Fall 2012). I love and hate finishing a book. There is such joy in making the final revision. It’s a real sense of accomplishment that launches me into a euphoric state that lingers. I also tend to procrastinate finishing because I never want to let the world and the characters go. The beauty of this project is that I get to keep the fires burning with a series.

To celebrate, I like to do something special to mark the occasion. As luck would have it, I’ve found the perfect thing. New York Times Bestselling author, Heather Graham, will be in San Antonio on Monday, April 2, at 7PM at the B&N LaCantera to sign her book THE UNSEEN. I made a date with my husband to have a nice dinner too. (Writing a book is taxing for a spouse too.)

THE UNSEEN is set in San Antonio. That alone is enough to give me goose bumps. Heather graciously blurbed my debut book – NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM – before I had my first book on the shelf. I will never forget her kindness. An author of her caliber, I didn’t know what to expect. As an author, I’m always prepared for rejection, but her generosity blew me away.

Here is a summary of the plot for THE UNSEEN (Mira, Mar 27, 2012)

1800s. San Antonio, Texas: In room 207 at the Longhorn Saloon, in the long shadow of the Alamo itself, a woman renowned for her beauty was brutally murdered. Her killer was never found.
 

One year ago: In that same historic room, another woman vanished without a trace. Her blood was everywhere…but her body was never recovered.

Now: In the last month, San Antonio has become a dumping ground for battered bodies.

All young women, many of them long missing, almost all forgotten. Until now.

Texas Ranger Logan Raintree cannot sit by and let his city’s most vulnerable citizens be slain. So when he is approached to lead a brand-new group of elite paranormal investigators working the case, he has no choice but to accept the challenge. And with it, his powerful ability to commune with the dead.

Among Logan’s new team is Kelsey O’Brien, a U.S. marshal known for her razor-sharp intuition and a toughness that belies her delicate exterior. Kelsey has been waiting all her life to work with someone who can understand her ability to “see” the past unfolding in the present. Now she has her chance.

Together, Kelsey and Logan follow their instincts to the Alamo and to the newly reopened Longhorn, which once tempted heroes with drink, cards and women. If the spirits of those long-dead Texans are really appearing to the victims before their deaths, only Kelsey and Logan have the skills to find out why.

And if something more earthly is menacing the city’s oldest, darkest corners, only they can stop it—before more innocent women join the company of San Antonio’s restless ghosts….

“Graham deftly weaves elements of mystery, the paranormal, and romance into a tight plot that will keep the reader guessing at the true nature of the killer’s evil.”

—Publishers Weekly review on THE UNSEEN

I love stories set in San Antonio, my hometown. My debut book was set in SA and I saw the city with fresh eyes to tell that story. The creepy underpinnings of the paranormal is an added bonus, especially when written by such a gifted author. So my treat to finishing my book is Heather Graham and THE UNSEEN.

What about you, my TKZ family? Do you do anything special to celebrate the accomplishment of finishing a book? What is the wildest thing you ever did or would like to do for your next one?

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Can You Conjure A Story from These Images? TKZ FLASH FICTION DAY

By Jordan Dane

I am completely slammed on deadline and it’s getting down to the finish line for the first book in my HUNTED series with Harlequin Teen, YA thrillers. But when a friend sent the images below, I was able to take a mini-vacation by imagining any story set in these locations. I wanted to share them with you. I save images like these to trigger settings and these are so spectacular, they could inspire an entire book.

For you writers, tell me a story. Pick any one and share your thoughts or describe how you write settings and the research behind your favorites. I’m a fan of Google Maps and the little yellow man that can give you a 360 degree view of locations in my books. Very cool, but these exotic images took my breath away. I had to share them with my TKZ family.

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Write What You Fear

By Jordan Dane

Everyone has heard the line – Write What You Know. When I first heard the line, the first thing that hit me was a question. What the hell did I know that would interest anybody, except my mother who is easy to please? Obviously I didn’t listen to that advice. My debut book was about a woman cop, a far cry from my accountant/commodity energy trader occupation.


Lee Child wrote on an email loop I belonged to in 2008 (of debut thriller authors he mentored as part of the International Thriller Authors debut program) that he thought it should be – Write What You Fear – because books are about emotion. Raw emotions resonate with people. We can all relate to what makes us scared or what we can hate or love. That’s not as intimidating as “write what you know” and hope someone buys it. It doesn’t take special knowledge to write about emotions you feel. It only takes an ability to dig deep, write honestly and find words to express those feelings.


Lee’s words have stayed with me.


Lately I find myself thinking about death. It’s not a subject I know a lot about, but I sure know how it makes me feel. My book ON A DARK WING (Harlequin Teen, Jan 2012) stirred these thoughts in me when I had to envision what a conversation with the Grim Reaper might entail and imagine an afterlife and a role for the Angel of Death. A young girl deals with the grief and guilt she feels after the tragic death of her mother in the book. And this week, a blogger (who will be on a tour stop for the promo of my book) asked for an interview with Death. I’ll be the voice of Death on the day of the blog post when I comment, so followers can ask their own questions. Do I have any idea what I will write? Absolutely not, but I think it’s important to keep challenging myself as an author to delve into areas of my imagination, especially when it’s most difficult.


But there’s a reason I wanted to share why writing about Death and imagining an afterlife has been particularly challenging for me. In my own life, my brother-in-law Michael (my husband’s only brother) is losing his battle with cancer. He’s in hospice now and he’s been in my thoughts and prayers for months. I can’t even imagine what that finality is like for him or his sweet wife and their family.


Sometimes the fiction we write becomes all too real…or too personal.


My post won’t be long today, but I would like to hear from those willing to share. Whether you had a personal tie-in or not, what has been the most difficult scene you’ve written or read in a book? What challenges did you face in writing it? Or why did the scene you read stick with you? Readers and/or writers can respond to this. There are scenes in books that I’ve read long ago, that I can still imagine in my head because they touched something in me that has stayed.


Please share those scenes and books that have stayed with you.

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Virtual Book Tours – YA Style

By Jordan Dane

On a Dark Wing – When 16-year old Abbey Chandler cheats Death and lives past her expiration date, her lucky break comes at a heartbreaking price. And Death has never forgotten.

For my adult debut “No One” series for HarperCollins, a gracious group of aspiring authors offered to conduct a virtual tour for me. It would be their first and they wanted to learn how to do one. Being a new author, I jumped at the chance. I learned a lot from that experience. It brought traffic to my website and exposed me to new readers, but it was also a lot of work to come up with fresh material at each tour stop. It exhilarated and drained me at the same time, if that makes sense. By the end, I had nothing to really gauge my effectiveness, except that I had made new author friends, which I’m always grateful for.


Flash forward to the present—and my, oh my—how things have changed.


After reading my Young Adult (YA) debut book – IN THE ARMS OF STONE ANGELS – YA fantasy author Trisha Wolfe of YA Bound loved my book and contacted me. We kept in touch. She’s a talented author with her debut book – DESTINY’S FIRE – coming out in early 2012. When she heard I had book #2 being released soon—ON A DARK WING (Jan 2012, Harlequin Teen)—she asked if she could host a virtual book tour for me. I’m learning so much from her. She’s a very generous soul. With more and more readers following each other’s review sites and getting book suggestions from this growing resource, it intuitively made sense to me that I should tap into this trend, but how? I had little idea how to get “Discoverability” as Clare Langely-Hawthorne described in a great TKZ post on Monday.


Here’s what we’ve done to date and I’ll share what’s ahead.


COVER REVEAL – I held off on revealing my cover until YA Bound was ready to launch the sign up for bloggers wanting to be tour stops. This took coordination with my house so they wouldn’t make my cover available to public forums like Amazon or Goodreads.


TOUR HOSTS – From my Twitter & Goodreads activity, I had the pleasure of meeting Trish of YA Bound online, but I’ve learned since then that hosts sometimes charge for their services to host a tour. Another site I’ve heard about is THE {TEEN} BOOK SCENE. Coordinator Kari has a great reputation and conducts her services for free, but asks for donations. If you query “Virtual Book Tours” online, you will find many links on the subject, including host sites who may specialize in your type of genre.


TOUR SIGN UP – On Oct 3rd, when I posted a reveal of my cover, I announced that YA Bound would host my online tour and sign ups would start on Oct 4th. On the first day, Trish told me we had a record number of blogs join the tour and more were coming. The sign up period ends Oct 31. The last time I checked, we had 45 blogs on that list. The next step will be to evaluate who will get selected. Participants will be notified soon with the tour to commence as soon as YA Bound determines a schedule.


TOUR REQUIREMENTS – What do bloggers do on the tour? Look at YA Bound’s tour requirements HERE. Trish’s experience as tour host shows in this detailed list of requirements. The more that is spelled out in advance, the smoother things will run, but an experienced tour host is vital to make the tour look effortless.


DISTRIBUTING ARCs – Harlequin Teen uses Netgalley to get advance reader copies into the hands of tour members as well as other online reviewers who are approved by them. My book is HERE on Netgalley. To read Harlequin Teen’s reviewer criteria, click HERE.


BANNERS & COUNTDOWN WIDGETS – Trish created a tour banner using my cover and the logo of my publisher. These graphic designs can cost money, but Trish did mine for free using WidgetBox. She did an amazing job. Click HERE to see the tour banner and the countdown widget she created for free too. These banners and countdown widgets can be cross posted by bloggers and sites signed up for the tour to help spread the word. But anyone can grab the code, even if they aren’t participating in the tour.


TOUR STOP VARIETY – In my very first virtual tour, most of the tour stop formats were Q&A interviews where the host (who had read the book) would ask interview questions that ranged from book inspirations to craft advice. By the time you schedule 20 tour stops, however, this format can lose steam when the questions seem redundant. With the new tours, the host will work with each tour stop to come up with different kinds of features. I’ve seen longer lists of ideas to make each stop unique, but here are only a few (some of my favorites): Vlog Interviews (video interviews with the author posted online), When I’m not writing (highlights of hobbies, family or pets), Author Book Picks, Cover Interview, Author with Editor Interview, Character Tweets (I’m planning one with Death), Character Interviews, or a Top Ten List that can be related to the author or the book. There’s more, but this will give you an idea of how creative these tour stops have gotten.


GIVEAWAYS – My publisher has contributed books to giveaway on the tour, but my character, Abbey Chandler, will have a special gift for readers who win a book. She’s says it’s a secret. [Insert eye roll here. She can be a real drama queen.] And at the conclusion of the tour—on a live chat hosted by YA Bound—a Grand Prize will be given away. It’s really cool, but I’m not saying what it is yet. Shhh!


GRAND PRIZE – A grand prize will be given to tour participants who make every stop & comment or participate. As you might imagine, the grand prize is aptly named for its GRANDEUR, incentive for blogger to FLIP OUT!


SOCIAL MEDIA TANGO – With every tour stop, it will be key to promo on Twitter or other social media sites. My tour host will help with this and so will my publisher & other bloggers who are part of the tour. This could be significant & retweeting (RT) by others can add fire to the buzz. I’m a big lover of Twitter. Most morning, I check in to see what’s happening. I RT messages or post a link to TKZ to promo our post using appropriate hashtags (ie #writing, #amwriting, #publishing) if the posts relate to craft or industry. Hashtags allow my Twitter messages to reach beyond my followers and tap into a bigger universe on Twitterville, folks who follow writing or publishing news.


TWITTER CONTESTS – I recently saw an author run a series of quick contests on Twitter for a limited period of time. She had simple rules stated in advance, but her main reason for conducting the giveaways was to get her ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) into the hands of readers AND to gain followers. Her ARC freebies earned her hundreds of followers in 2 days. ANOTHER CONTEST TIP – If you’re running book giveaways on Twitter or via a link you are tweeting, use the hashtag #BOOKGIVEAWAY to call attention to your post and reach beyond your own followers.


GAUGING RESULTS – A daily posting group blog like TKZ can lighten the load of posting to a blog and is very helpful for name recognition. Plus, if you blog or have a website, you can use stats to gauge traffic to your site. Recently, James Scott Bell noticed that TKZ had risen to #37 in literature blogs and brought that to our attention. Joe Moore pointed out that we see 1500+ page hits a day on average. On these Blogger stats you can see where traffic comes from and Twitter is a big resource to drive people to your site. If you’re not using Twitter to its fullest potential, you’re missing out on a freebie.


Since many of you who follow TKZ are considering self-publishing or have already taken the plunge, I wanted to share what I’ve learned on advance promo that can create buzz about your book. You can find opportunities to promote your work that are cost effective or spend a little money on giveaways or find the right host to showcase your novel.


Please share your thoughts on what has worked for you or ask questions about virtual book tours. TKZ is about sharing ideas and supporting authors.


Reckoning for the Dead (Adult thriller, Sweet Justice Book #4) – HarperCollins, Sept 2011 Now Available.


On a Dark Wing (Harlequin Teen, Jan 2012) – Virtual Book Tour Sign-up at YA Bound – Deadline Oct 31st.

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The Care & Feeding of Authors

Okay, I’ll admit this reads like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but hang with me on this post about writer’s life.
Bears in Alaska are heading into hibernation. The reason I know this is because one of my crazy sisters is hunting brown bear in the Aleutian Islands. She’s been sending photos and funny text messages over her 10-day adventure. She’s not hunting. Her husband pulls the trigger. But being the trooper she is, she dons the appropriate layers against the cold and rain to trudge alongside him, lugging water and food. For added color, she met an interesting man on this hunting expedition—a Romanian billionaire traveling with his body guard. (I’m not the only one in my family who should be writing fiction.) And because she’s my dear sweet sister, she brings books of mine to give away. The photo below is of a woman at the lodge they stayed while they hunted. She is holding my young adult book – In the Arms of Stone Angels (Harlequin Teen, Apr 2011), a cold case murder mystery for teens.
The reason I’m sharing this family story with you is that bears going into hibernation reminded me how I get when I’m in the middle of a project. I’m totally oblivious to EVERYTHING. I’m so vexed on the characters and the world I’m creating that I go without eating or eat weird stuff, forget about sleep, and my capacity for coherent conversation is limited—unless its dialogue.
Simon Wood was a guest on TKZ not long ago. Once he shared a funny story with me about how his wife caught him on the sofa watching TV when he should have been writing. He had eaten a bag of chips and had cats sleeping on his chest. Seeing the look in his wife’s eyes, he headed her off by saying he was deep in thought—that he was actually working. (Yeah, right.) But seriously, this is how it can be for a writer. We never stop working. So I’m fairly certain Simon had his brain “sweating to the oldies” as he gorged on Cheetos and snagged quality cat time.
In truth, Simon might have been indulging in another bad habit of author behavior. Snackage. Authors eat stuff and may not even pay attention to what it is. Like drones or Zombies, we are fixated on what’s in our head. It’s nothing personal, but dirty dishes in the sink, dog hair on wood floors, and a growing mass of dirty laundry become invisible. Personally, I call that a gift, but my husband has a different perspective.
So I’ve turned over a new leaf and after John Gilstrap’s fine example of slimming down and focusing on his health, I am in week 2 of a change in diet. Mostly it’s vegan. I eat raw and cooked veggies and legumes with plenty of fruit. No dairy. For those who know me, this is a HUGE change. Before, I considered meat as dessert. I would rather eat meat than even indulge in something sweet. But I’m outing myself on TKZ to say that I am committed to eating better and taking care of my health.
Anyone have a good vegan recipe?
Seriously, I have been more focused on cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients. My husband and I actually sit at the dinner table to eat instead of plopping down on the sofa with the TV on. We have semi-real conversations over dinner and not just talk about how to kill people and get away with it (a real crowd pleaser). We may even indulge in a glass of wine now and then. I’ll soon add a regular exercise program into this and not just limit my cardio to fast moving fingers over a keyboard.
For those of you smarter than I am, how do you stay healthy with your hectic schedules? What’s your routine? And I would seriously like to hear if you have any good vegan recipes that aren’t loaded with cheese.
Reckoning for the Dead (Adult thriller, Sweet Justice Book #4) – HarperCollins, Sept 2011 Now Available.
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Marketing in a Digital World – Maximizing FREE

By Jordan Dane

After Joe Moore’s interesting post yesterday – More Signs of the Times – about ebooks, online book pirates, & marketing, I thought I’d share what I’ve been focused on with my upcoming Young Adult book – On A Dark Wing (Harlequin Teen, Jan 2012) and the advance marketing we’re targeting for this release.

You might assume that targeting younger readers would automatically include a more savvy online promo approach, but more and more adult readers are turning to online resources to discover authors. With the growth in smart phones, having an aggressive online marketing strategy is important to create buzz for your books.
Below are some things I’m doing. I’ve also added promo ideas that I’ve heard lately and hope you’ll find some have merit.
1.)    GROUP Blogs – The Kill Zone is a fine example of how a group blog can draw online traffic, provide a service to its followers and share the workload. I’ve just started a group blog – TEENSHIVER – for Texas authors who write dark young adult books that make a reader shiver. TeenShiver will have an outreach to area schools, libraries & retail stores, as well as to readers of YA in our state, yet with an online presence that is global. Since publishers tend to spend money regionally, rather than on more costly national campaigns (unless you’re James Patterson), this concept has been well received by our publishers since we are optimizing our traffic while featuring our books too. We are offering our publishers a better place to justify spending budget dollars. Our followers will benefit too. Texas has amazing book conferences and the TX book review/blogging community is vital, thriving, and supports homegrown authors.
2.)    Virtual Book Tours – Many of you might be familiar with virtual tours, but I wanted to share a link that I think might help you figure out who to include on your tour stops. Quantcast (www.Quantcast.com) is a site where you can query a domain to see how much traffic they get and their demographics. Many blogs may request a spot on the tour, but since we are all tight on time or on deadline, writing a post or answering questions for an interview take time we may not have unless the site is active. Virtual tours today have hosts, generous bloggers willing to take on the host duties of pulling their community together for an effective tour, plus an author’s publisher can add a budget for a grand prize to generate buzz and participation. There is so much more to say about how these are run today, but not enough space here. Physical book tours are hit or miss as far as foot traffic & how successful they can be, but with virtual tours you never leave home and the blog traffic keeps coming long after you’ve posted.
3.)    Twitter – I’ve found twitter to be a wonderful community to get to know and if you post your blog link or website or stir up a virtual tour, you can actually track the stats on your blog. This is quantifiable data. Social media spots like Facebook don’t have stats on traffic because they are not set up to conduct business well. Twitter is free and can be used effectively to enhance the draw to your blog or other objectives. Cultivate the book blogging & review community. They are truly amazing & avidly into books. We use twitter here at TKZ. If you’re a TKZ fan, follow us at this LINK.
4.)    Blogging – Whether you do a group blog or fly solo with your own, blogging is free and has stats for traffic analysis. If you have an active blog with commenting followers and an even more active lurker community (reflected in stats for your site hits), blogging is a resource that can be especially useful to the self-published author, the aspiring author trying to get their name out, and the pubbed author with “out of the box” promo objectives. Used in conjunction with twitter, this can be an effective way to post interesting articles to the blogosphere without costing you the money that a website domain would.
5.)    Street Teams – This is a concept that may be more prevalent with young adult readers, but there are adults volunteering their time for this too. Street teams started with the music community for people wanting to support their bands. Authors have taken this concept a step further and created clever ways to tie this promo function into their books. You can post a sign up on your website (like a yahoo group) where avid readers can send contact info to participate in a buzz campaign for your next release or an ongoing support group. You set up the criteria they need to be approved (ie must have a blog or post to X number of blogs for an advance review, etc. Publishers’ qualifications are posted on http://www.netgalley.com/ and gives guidelines on what these pre-qualifiers might be.) These avid fans (with special team names you create) are promised special insider information about your upcoming release, sent advance teaser quotes from your book, given swag like bookmarks or other token gifts or signed book covers, sent bookmarks/postcards to hand out—in exchange for help to spread the word about your next book, both online and word of mouth. Again, this is a huge topic without room to expand here.
Bottom line—take advantage of what is free on the internet. Get to know the growing technology that readers are using and come up with fun new ways to get your name or brand out there. Even if you are an aspiring author or thinking about self-publishing, having an online presence is important to develop a solid foundation of marketing your work and exposing your name to the publishing industry and readers who might be looking for you.

If you’re a reader, I’d love to hear how your search for books has changed in this more digital world as newspaper review sections have declined and other resources have dried up? Where do you go online for book recommendations?

And if you’re an author, I’d love to hear any other ideas for online promo that you think might be worth consideration. What has worked for you?

Reckoning for the Dead (HarperCollins, Sept 27, 2011. Book #4 – Sweet Justice adult thriller series)
“Jordan Dane crafts nail-biting thrillers with fully-realized but very damaged characters, and plots that twist and turn and double-back to bite the unwary. Her novels are 21st Noir with guts and heart and a wicked sense of humor.”
—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times Bestseller
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