Posted in General, Writing Advice

The Research Process

Sometimes when you’re writing, you need to do a little research. It’s why writers have notoriously strange search histories.

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However, this kind of research is essential because authenticity matters. Not every one of your readers is going to be a stickler, but for those of us who are neurotic and care, the lack of attention to detail takes us right out of the story. Which means, of course, that you need to make sure you do your research, either through your experiences or the experiences of others.

Family Pride

I co-authored a young adult historical fiction novel a few years back, and because it takes place in the 1920s, it required a LOT of research.

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Shameless self promotion!
Buy my book!

Family Pride is based on the true story of when the famed MGM movie studio decided to fly their mascot lion from California to New York as a publicity stunt. They recruited a pilot from the disastrous Dole Derby and while takeoff went well, the powers that be had miscalculated the weight of the plane to clear the mountains in northern Arizona and the plane went down outside Payson, Arizona.

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Don’t worry, the lion was fine. He also survived a train crash and a sinking ship, earning him the nickname “Leo the Lucky.”

In order to make sure I knew what I was talking about, I had to do a ton of research about MGM, Louis B. Mayer, Payson, and airplanes. It felt daunting at first, but I knew how important it was so I scoured the internet and read books, taking notes along the way that I thought might be helpful. My method of research at the time was scraps of paper and post its stuck all over my desk like a conspiracy theorist, so I highly recommend getting a more organized system.

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It wasn’t my best moment.

Now, I keep everything in one notebook or, if I want to go digital so I can copy and paste specific paragraphs for reference, I use Google Docs so I can access it anywhere.

Travel and Talk to Experts

My co-author put me in touch with a pilot whom I interviewed to understand the step by step process that pilots go through when they takeoff and land. By talking to someone who knows what they’re doing, I saved myself days of research trying to figure it out on my own.

Because I happen to live in Arizona, my husband and I also took a day trip to Payson so I could get a feel for the town and do a little research about its history. Some things have changed, but other things have certainly stayed the same. For example, while I was there I learned about the annual rodeo that’s been happening for the last century that the pilot would have just missed when the plane made its unscheduled stop. This little bit of information enabled me to give some authenticity to the conversations the pilot had with the locals. I was also able to visit the local museum and learn about Payson’s most famous resident, western author Zane Grey, and see tons of historical photos from the 1920s. As a result, I felt I was able to do more justice to the town than I would have if I hadn’t experienced it firsthand. Traveling to your location isn’t always feasible, but I highly recommend it if you can swing it.

That One Thing

I’ve found that when I research, I often find myself with one detail that no matter how hard I look, I can’t find any freaking information on it. For Family Pride, it was secretarial equipment of the 1920s. I couldn’t find ANYTHING and it was driving me crazy.

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I know many places would be pretty analog considering the time period, but the secretary in question worked for Louis B. Mayer at MGM; Hollywood was going to have whatever gadgets were available. I wanted to create authenticity, but I also realized I was spending a ton of time researching equipment for two sentences out of the entire book. I finally found what I needed, but it ended up coming from an unexpected source. Which leads me to . . .

You Don’t Have to Be a Pioneer

Don’t be afraid to use the research someone else has already done. You’re writing an entire book, so work smarter, not harder. One of the best sources of information is going to be Hollywood. Film studios have teams of researchers to create authenticity in period movies, so why not watch a couple of those and pay attention to the details you need? You won’t necessarily get specific makes and models of everything, but you’ll see if a secretary is using an intercom or not. Go easy on yourself.

Have Fun with Research

If you’re writing a book set in a specific time period, then it must interest you to some degree, so have fun! Search for details that are indicative of the time but also pique your interest because chances are, if you liked it, someone else will, too. Not everything has to be dreary and tedious; you’re writing a book! Enjoy yourself! There’s enough time for self-hatred during the editing process.

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What are you researching right now? Let me know in the comments!


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Posted in General, Patreon

Shameless Self Promotion: a Guide

The hardest part of being an indie author is being in charge of my own marketing, mostly because I hate how narcissistic it feels to continually toot my own horn (that’s what she said).

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Oh come on, I call myself a smut peddler. I had to do it.

But unless you can afford to pay someone to do your marketing for you (and many of us can’t), it’s just you. So how can you market yourself without investing a ton of money? Here are some tips of stuff you can do (for free) to get you going:

Social Media

Guess who has two thumbs and hates promoting herself on social media?

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However, you’ve gotta do it. Get yourself on social media sites and promote your stuff! You’re going to feel like a broken record but, again, you’ve gotta do it. You never know who is going to read something you’ve done and want to know more, so make sure your links are available. But it’s more than just having the social media profiles–you have to actually use them. I’m guilty of vanishing for periods of time due to my mental health, but there’s a noticeable difference between my sales and reader engagement when I’m actually showing up and interacting with people (shocking, I know).

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Which social media sites are the best? It sort of depends on what you’re doing. I’ve gotten great interaction on Tumblr in the past, but Tumblr is kind of turning into a trash fire right now so I wouldn’t necessarily suggest starting anything over there at this exact moment in time. Instagram is a good one that I’ve recently started using again. Even though it’s a photo-based platform, you’d be surprised how much people love photos of quotes.

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I revived my Instagram recently and so far, this is my most popular post.
People love quotes.
And Terry Pratchett.

Facebook is another monster entirely that I discussed in another post, so I won’t go into that here.. I have a Twitter, but I honestly don’t use it that much other than for sharing my work from other sites. I read some marketing analytics that said you need to tweet at least 30 times per day to make it useful as a marketing tool. I don’t have a whole lot of snappy one liners, so that’s not really the best fit for me. However, if you tweet a lot, make Twitter work for you! Pin tweets to your profile and be sure to keep your followers abreast of any new updates about your work.

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Make that goddamn bird work for you.

Exploit Your Friends and Family for Fun and Profit

I know that sounds bad, but bear with me. Think about it–who is your first fan base? Your friends and family who love you and will buy a copy of your book just because they know you! Ask your loved ones if they’d be willing to share the link for your book and recommend it to others. Better yet, ask if they’d leave you a review on Amazon. Strangers are going to be more likely to buy a book with several five star reviews than one without any reviews at all.

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Make that herd mentality work in your favor!

Speaking of reviews…

Booksprout

If you haven’t heard of Booksprout, you should check them out immediately. Basically, you offer a free copy of your e-book in exchange for people to read and review it. Each review has to have the disclaimer that they received a copy for free, but they in no way have to be nice to you–you’ll get honest reviews, which can go either way. Then again, people give Neil Gaiman negative reviews on Amazon, so sometimes there’s no accounting for taste.

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Hey, have I mentioned yet that I love Neil Gaiman?

Talk to Your Local Bookstores

Want to get your books in stores? Talk to local bookstores! Lots of times, all you have to do is ask, but I like to come in armed with free copies of my book so they can check it out to ensure they’d like to stock it in their shop. A lot of places have shelves dedicated solely to local authors, and you’d be surprised by how quickly tourists eat that up.

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It’s best to create a personal connection with store owners, but if you’re really freaked out about going in, you could again lean on your friends and family. Send a handful of them in there to request/order your book and, once the store sees the potential for sales, they might stock it. But seriously, you should just go in yourself. You might even be able to talk to the store owners about doing a reading/book signing, which is a great way to get new readers from foot traffic.

Check Out Local Readings

Most towns have a local literary scene of some kind, and it’s a great idea to get in touch with them. Attend readings, get to know the other people who frequent these events, and talk to whomever is in charge to get yourself on the schedule to read. I hate public speaking, but I can’t deny that it’s a great way to sell copies of my books.

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And Now…

I couldn’t write a post about self promotion without promoting myself, could I? Click on the links below to check me out on the following platforms:

Instagram: Like writing and obsessive posts about coffee? This link is for you!

Patreon: I post exclusive content for patrons, including daily writing tips and/or writing prompts as well as a first look at new short stories, poems, and essays. Plus, starting next month, I’m going to serialize my new novel exclusively for my patrons.

Tumblr: As I mentioned before, Tumblr is kind of a trash fire right now. But I do have tons of free content on there.

Amazon: Hey, look, I sell stuff! I’m hoping to get more shorts up soon, so check back here for upcoming content.

Booksprout: Follow me on here and get a notification when I’m handing out free copies in exchange for reviews!

Twitter: Might as well include this for shits and giggles.

As you might have gathered, Lola Black is a pseudonym I use for my romance/erotica writing, mostly because my wonderfully supportive father reads everything I write and I just can’t have this particular conversation with him. But I have published under my real name, so here are the links:

Amazon: I’ve been published in a range of genres, including the nonfiction essay collection What’s an Adult? No One Knows Anything and We’re All Going to DieIf you’ve ever felt like you’re faking adulthood, that book is for you.

 

Please support indie authors! We basically exist off of coffee and can’t afford it without your support.

Posted in General, Photos

Photos: Juniper House, 10/2/18

Here are a few photos from last night when I read a piece at a local reading series called Juniper House. What I love most about it is that the first part of the night is an open mic night but readers are only allowed to present brand new work. Some people even take advantage of a prompt jar and draw a topic from a big jar and write a piece then and there before reading it. Then there’s always a featured reader and last night it was an incredible local poet named James Jay.

This was my second time attending this series but my first time reading–AND I ended up going first. If you read my post about public speaking, you know that I have lots of anxiety about reading my work. But I got up there and read a brand new piece (and managed to do it without panic vomiting even once)!

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Far away
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Up close (90s me couldn’t resist the purple lipstick)
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Sitting down after the reading, relieved it went well!

Want to read what I read last night? Check out my Patreon!



Like this post? Please consider clicking here to support me on Patreon so I can regularly bring you more content like this! I can’t guarantee that supporting me on Patreon will cause you to have endless good hair days . . . but I can’t guarantee that it won’t either.

Posted in Writing Advice

Picking a Genre: Do I Have To?

The Short Answer

Nope.

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The Long Answer

When branding yourself as a writer, there’s no need to pick a single genre if you don’t want to. If you’ve primarily written romance or mystery and you want to branch out into true crime, there’s nothing stopping you from doing so. Fans of your writing might prefer when you write one genre or another, but your creativity shouldn’t be limited to one style of writing if you don’t want it to be.

Neil Gaiman

Perhaps the best example of a prolific author who hasn’t let himself be pigeon holed by one genre is Neil Gaiman. He is probably best known for his darker fantasy and sci-fi works like the Sandman comics and American Gods, but he has by no means limited himself. Gaiman has written everything from comics to novels to nonfiction essays to music biographies to TV episodes to movie scripts to children’s books.

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This is one of my son’s favorite books.

Gaiman’s bibliography goes on and on and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. His attitude seems to be one of if he thinks of an idea for a story, he goes with it. He doesn’t appear to stop and worry if something isn’t “on brand” for him as a writer; by doing what he wants, that becomes his brand.

Stephen King

Another excellent example is Stephen King. I know, I know, why am I referencing the master of horror? Or rather, the “king of horror” if you will.

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See what I did there? . . . I’ll show myself out.

Stephen King has said repeatedly that he doesn’t consider himself to be a horror writer, despite the fact that he is often characterized that way. His stories tend towards the dark side, but he’s written across a variety of genres outside of horror including thrillers, crime procedurals, fantasy, literary fiction, and YA. In fact, one of my favorite books of his, 11.22.63, would be best categorized, in my opinion, as a time travel love story.

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An English teacher goes back in time to attempt to prevent the Kennedy assassination.

Another of his books, Joyland, has a framing storyline about a murderer at a theme park. However, for the bulk of the book, that almost seems like an afterthought to the more important story of a young man who befriends a terminally ill boy and his mother. King’s true skill is in writing well and creating engaging, realistic characters that make for a compelling read, regardless of genre.

Lola Black

I don’t by any means consider myself to be on the level of Neil Gaiman or Stephen King, but I have personally written across a wide variety of genres, both as a ghostwriter and as a regular author. Romance and erotica are the obvious genres I discuss most on this blog, but I’ve also written sci-fi, post-apocalyptic fantasy, psychological thriller, literary fiction, historical YA, and humorous nonfiction.

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Well, at least I think I’m funny.

Lately I’ve started working on my first murder mystery novel and although it’s uncharted territory for me, it’s really, really fun to try something new. And, honestly, life is too short to prevent yourself from exploring new methods and ideas in your writing. After all, if Neil Gaiman and Stephen King can do whatever they want, why can’t you?


Like this post? Please consider clicking here to support me on Patreon so I can regularly bring you more content like this! I can’t guarantee that supporting me on Patreon will cause you to have endless good hair days . . . but I can’t guarantee that it won’t either.

Posted in General

Happy World Typewriter Day!

I’ve always loved typewriters. When I’d visit my grandmother during the summer, I’d spend half of my time down in her basement tapping away at her old typewriters (the rest of the time was spent watching Grease on a loop). I realize spending all of my time in the basement sounds creepy, but it’s one of those finished basements with an office so I was only kind of weird.

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The title of my autobiography.

Those times at my grandmother’s house sparked my love of typewriters. There’s something about the physicality of typewriters that evokes the romanticism of writing. Typing away on a laptop doesn’t really have the same gravitas as as striking those typewriter keys. Typewriters are evocative of writers in smokey rooms creating breathtaking works of brilliance. Laptops make you think of that douche in Starbucks who wants everyone to know he’s working on a screenplay.

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On June 23, 1868, American inventor Christopher Latham Sholes was granted a patent for the first typewriter which he commercially marketed as the Sholes and Glidden, or the Remington 1. So, in celebration of World Typewriter Day and my own personal fixation on typewriters, I thought I’d share some typewriter porn with you to hopefully inspire you to write your own grandiose novel.

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But stay home with your typewriter. Don’t be a douche.

Vintage Smith-Corona

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I don’t know about you, but something about this typewriter makes me want to write Valley of the Dolls.

Royal

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If I’m not mistaken, Royal is the brand of typewriter Annie Wilkes gives Paul Sheldon in Stephen King’s Misery. Of course, that one is missing a couple keys by the end of it, including the E. Not that that is by any means the worst of Paul Sheldon’s problems in that book.

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“I’m your number one fan!”

Remington (1966)

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Anyone up for a stint in the steno pool?

Klein-Adler (1900)

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One of the older entries on this list, I’m a big fan of this one. I love the simplicity of the design and the open space beneath the keys. However, I could like the latter aspect because I’m terrible at remembering to dust my keyboard.

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This isn’t my actual keyboard, but I’m still a garbage person.

I’m not sure what it is, but something about the tapping of typewriter keys somehow feels more productive when you’re writing, like the sound is somehow proof that you’re being productive. It makes writing a more visceral experience. I recognize the impracticality of using a typewriter these days–it’d be like using a telegram instead of a cell phone–but I can’t fight the nostalgia as I remember writing short stories on my grandmother’s basement typewriter.

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Can you imagine Hemingway in a Starbucks with a Macbook? Because I sure as fuck can’t.

Any other typewriter aficionados out there? Let me know in the comments!


Click here to support me on Patreon and get writing tips, prompts, and exclusive content available only to patrons! 

I can’t guarantee that supporting me on Patreon will cause you to have endless good hair days . . . but I can’t guarantee that it won’t either.