A friend, cup of coffee, and the inspiration I needed to start writing again.

 

I picked up my book today and I started writing.

Wow, I can’t believe I can say that. It has been a really long time since I have felt the itch, desire, or creativity to write. And all because a friend, a cup of coffee, and an inspiring Tuesday Talk. And what a mess I have made. I am hoping this will be for the best but time will tell.

I can’t remember exactly when I stopped writing but I do remember why. I was stuck in a chapter I couldn’t get to flow right and something was bugging me about the book. I decided to take a week off, to see if I could hash this out in my brain. Well, a week turned into a couple, which turned into a couple more, and before I knew it, I was on sabbatical.

 

typewriter

After months and out of nowhere, something clicked. I started thinking about the book again and how I needed to change this one idea. Not only would the book flow better, but the plot would make more sense. If only that one idea wasn’t such a big change.

Today I have worked through the first chapter, again, and made the changes to the character. I still need to get through the rest of the chapters I wrote but I don’t think I will need to change much.

All in all, it felt great to write. And I wonder if this book will ever make it past the editing, creating, and editing some more. Looks like time will tell 🙂

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Gifts Ideas For Father’s Day

For the Dad who Reads:

1,000 Record Covers.png

1,000 Record Covers, by Michael Ochs

Record covers are a sign of our life and times. Like the music on the discs, they address such issues as love, life, death, fashion, and rebellion.

For the dad who still has a collection of records,this collection of album art will easily capture his interest.

This special edition of Record Covers presents a selection of the best 60s to 90s rock album covers from music archivist, disc jockey, journalist, and ex-record publicity executive Michael Ochs’s enormous private collection. Both a trip down memory lane and a study in the evolution of cover art, this is a sweeping look at an under-appreciated art form.
To BUY: $17.69 Amazon

Baseball

The League of Outsider Baseball, by Gary Cieradkowski

This book is great for any father who loves baseball. This book includes stories of baseball’s lesser-known players, as well as a look at great athletes before they hit the Major Leagues. Pages include portraits and vintage-style baseball cards.

I feel like the synopsis of this book does a better explaining how cool this book actually is:

Synopsis:
This book is a strikingly original illustrated history of baseball’s forgotten heroes, including stars of the Negro Leagues, barnstorming teams, semi-pro leagues, foreign leagues, and famous players like Shoeless Joe Jackson, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Joe DiMaggio before they achieved notoriety.

Shining a light into the dark corners of baseball history—from Mickey Mantle’s minor league days to Negro League greats like Josh Gibson and Leon Day; to people that most never knew played the game, such as Frank Sinatra, who had his own ball club in 1940s Hollywood; bank robber John Dillinger, who was a promising shortstop and took time out between robberies to attend Cubs games; and even a few US presidents—this book is a rich, visual tribute to America’s pastime.

Meticulously researched, beautifully illustrated using a unique, vintage baseball-card-style, and filled with a colorful and rich cast of characters, this book is a prized collector’s item and will be cherished by fans of all ages
To BUY: Kindle $12.99, Hardback $21.00 Amazon

Beer

Brewing Classic Styles: 80 Winning Recipes Anyone Can Brew

If he is a beer drinker and wants to look into making his own, this book is the the one to start with. Looking over multiple beer brewing forums, this book has been said to be one of the ‘go to’ books that everyone started with.

To BUY: Kindle $11.99, Paperback $13.43 Amazon

 

 

 

Cooking with Fire

Cooking with Fire: From Roasting on a Spit to Baking in a Tannur, Rediscovered Techniques and Recipes That Capture the Flavors of Wood-Fired Cooking

My Father-in-Law loves this book and I would have to say it is pretty interesting.
Synopsis: Cooking with live fire goes way beyond the barbecue grill. Rediscover the pleasures of a variety of unconventional techniques, from roasting pork on a spit to baking bread in ashes, searing fish on a griddle, roasting vegetables in a fireplace, making soup in a cast-iron pot, baking pizza in a wood-fired oven, cooking bacon on a stick, and much, much more. Includes 100 recipes for everything from roasted rabbit and fish chowder to baguettes and burnt cream.
To BUY: Kindle $9.99, Paperback $15.02 Amazon

Meat

Meat: Everything You Need To Know

This book is guaranteed to teach Dad a thing or two. Written by one of Americas premier butchers, Pat LaFrieda, this book features tales from the meat packing business, tips on preparing beef, lamb, port, poultry, and veal, and 75 family recipes.

To BUY: Kindle $19.99, Hardcover $24.99 Amazon

 

 

 

StarWars

 

The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, by Stephen J. Sansweet, Pablo Hidalgo, Bob Vitas, and Daniel Wallace

The three-volume Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia has everything he’s ever wanted to know about Jedi Knights and Sith Lords, including a timeline of major events and insiders’ skinny on the film franchise. May the Force be with him.

To BUY: $81.35 Amazon

 


For the Active Dad:

headphones

Jabra Sport Pulse Wireless headphones

Let’s say your Dad doesn’t have a fancy watch with a heart rating monitor, but he needs new headphones. This is a way to combine both- Jabra’s next generation of heart rate monitoring technology measures your heart rate via your inner ear. Connect to Jabra’s fitness app to plan, monitor and evaluate your performance, and ensure you’re always training in the right heart rate zone. Control music and calls directly from the headphones in-line controls. IP55 Certified, drop, strength, dirt, temperature & humidity tested – US Military Standard. Works with most popular fitness applications on iOS and Android devices to provide pace and distance alerts
To BUY: Certified Refurbished $78.99, New 129.99 
Amazon

Golf

 

Zepp Golf 3D Swing Analyser

For the Dad who golfs- This device helps capture your swing from different angles, the Zepp Golf measures and analyses your swing and records 1,000 data points per second. Measure the speed of your club, the rotation of your hips, your tempo and backswing. Fits in the back of your glove, so small you won’t notice, and links to your phone.

To BUY: $129.99 Amazon

Watch

Running Watch

The picture is Garmin’s Forerunner 620, but I think any sports watch would be a wonderful gift. This particular watch has a slew of advanced features to suit all runners, including a heart-rate monitor, a built-in accelerometer, and a touchscreen that works even if you’re wearing gloves. Because these can get expensive, on the lower end is FitBits.

Buy Garmin: Amazon

 

Coaster1

Coaster2

Custom Running Coasters

Looking for a useful, inexpensive way to display his race bibs? Or maybe your Dad ran his best race and you want to help him remember that moment. Protect your coffee table and celebrate his PRs with sealed, stone/tile coasters made from originals or scanned versions of race numbers. GoneForARun will make a set of four for only $22-25.

 


Gadgets and Gismos a Plenty..

amazon fire tablet

Lets be honest, some people prefer reading a book an a tablet. Right now Amazon has their tablets on sale. Here are some of perks: 8 GB (or 16 GB) of internal storage. Add microSD card for up to 128 GB of additional storage. The device is fully charged in under 6 hours and lasts up to 7 hours. USB 2.0 port (micro-B connector) to connect to a PC/Macintosh computer. This device has an amber light for nigh time reading which is better on the eyes but still gives off enough light to see what you are doing. Out of 54,150 reviews, the average review on Amazon is 4.2 out of 5 stars.
To BUY: $39.99 Amazon

HyperChiller

HyperChiller Iced Coffee Maker

Ok, I kind of want this myself and this will probably be the thing I end up getting my husband. This chilled to perfection iced coffee maker is simple yet effective. It is able to chill hot coffee up to 130+ degrees in 60 seconds without deleting flavor. The container holds 12.5 ounces and when you are done, you just throw it in the dishwasher. Let’s say your dad isn’t much of a coffee drinker, well it can also chill whiskey, wine, and other liquids.
To BUY: $50.18 Amazon

Philips

Philips Norelco Beard trimmer Series 7200, Vacuum trimmer with 20 built-in length settings

The integrated vacuum system catches up to 90% of cut hair for less mess. The high-velocity motor and fan system creates powerful suction to lift and capture hairs. With innovative lift & trim technology, the trimmer effectively lifts and guides hairs for a more efficient cut. The self-sharpening steel blades are designed to effectively cut each hair perfectly, preventing skin irritation, and are double sharpened to cut more hairs in every pass for faster trimming. And with the 20 built in settings, Dad is sure to get the exact trim/shape he wants.
To BUY: $49.95-120.90 
Amazon

Shave

Dollar Shave Club

So, your Dad likes to keep things clean and shaves. This is an alternative that is reasonably priced. This company delivers high quality razors (and other creams and shaving necessaries) at a reasonable price. Giving this gift means Dad will receive replacement razors every month and won’t get stuck with a dull blade. There are three different razors to choose from, starting as low as $3 per month.

To BUY: Dollar Shave Club


Lets Get Cheap and Real:

Letters

Letters to My Dad

A collection of envelopes, each with a different prompt for the letter inside. Prompts include: “the best adventure we’ve had together,” “my favorite memory,” and “one thing I love about our family.” What results is a time capsule of memories and letters that Dad can read and re-read for years to come. You can buy this or I think this can easily be made. If you are looking for writing prompts for topics to write the letters about, check these out: JournalBuddies Fathers Day Prompts or here are some that I suggest:

1) A special memory I have of you is…
2) From you, I learned the importance of…
3) One thing I’m glad we share is…
4) I always think of you when…
5) I love that our family is…
6) One thing I admire about you is…

OR you can Buy the pretty pre-made letters to Dad here: $10.88 Amazon

 Rite In The Rain Notebooknotebook

This is perfect for the dad who likes to be outdoors- whether that’s fishing, hiking, or even in the garage- this pen and pad is completely all-terrain proof. Ever been out in the rain and needed to write something down? Or left a note on a cars windshield wipers only to have the rain make it impossible to read? This waterproof paper allows you to write on it during the rain while the water runs off.  Inside the front cover are conversion tables, map scales, and short rulers in inches and centimeters. This model (the one in the picture) is not spiral bound (which they make), but memo-style, so it opens like a book. The pages can still be torn out, though, if you have to leave a note somewhere. Pens are sold separately but I have been measured, you don’t need the pen to write on this paper.
To BUY: $6.81-20.92 Amazon

Wine

Create Your Own Wine Label

Show Dad that you know his taste with a bottle of Josh Cellars wine. A special label with his name on it congratulates him for being the best dad ever.

$10 – $20 a bottle, www.ATributeToDad.com

.

DadDad2Time Together

Chances are, what Dad really wants is to spend time with his family. Even if you’ve already presented him with a thoughtful gift, spending time to him will mean more than anything. If your Dad is a runner, a nice run together will be the kind of bonus gift he remembers forever. If he is into sports, maybe sit down and watch a baseball game together. Maybe cook a meal together or just sit down and have coffee. What you do isn’t what matters, it’s doing it together that counts.

CookHomemade Meal- His Favorites

Sometimes for those fathers on the go, a nice family meal is what they miss the most. Surprise Dad by having his favorite dish ready, or try something new. This can be as complicated as you want- meaning, don’t make this more complicated than you need it to be. There are ways to make a nice meal on a tight budget. My husband loves raspberries, but he is also watching what he eats. So I will probably make him a raspberry protein shake and a nice big breakfast. Again, I think it is more the thought than the actual outcome.

BeerSix-Pack of Beer

Buy your dad a six-pack of his favorite brew, and raise a glass to an evening together with light conversation and maybe a couple hands of cards. This kind of goes with the spending time together with the exception of  beer.

 


 

I hope this helps! Let me know what you think of this list 🙂 Was there anything that stood out or you thought was interesting? Should I add something next time?

Happy Start to the week 🙂

Guest Post- Designing Book Covers that Sell

Hi everyone! Kari Anders from freeebookcovers.com wanted to share her insight on designing book covers. If you are writing a book, I would keep her in mind. Her covers are wonderful. If you haven’t, it is worth the time checking out her website.

Designing Your Own Book Cover: Elements of a Cover that Sells

As an indie author, you’ve probably read about the differences between traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishing. Some of you may have chosen to self-publish for the advantages it brings over traditional publishing: higher royalties, creative control, faster time to market, global rights retention, and more. Or you may have chosen to self-publish after rounds of unsuccessful queries. Either way, all indie authors need to understand the Elements of a Cover that Sells before finalizing their design and clicking that sweet button on Amazon that allows you to say, I am an author.

I’ve often heard traditionally published authors complain they have little to no say in cover photography or design. Authors begin to imagine what their cover looks like as they are writing their story. They feel they know their story best and therefore have the knowledge needed to design a great cover. Unfortunately, they link those two thoughts incorrectly. Knowing a story well is usually a fault when it comes to creating a cover, which is why traditional publishing houses usually keep authors far away from cover design.

Why? This is a problem best described through the cliché: it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. When authors are asked what their book is about, they often have a hard time answering. Their book is about so many things. They try to describe the main storyline, the subplots, the theme, the lesson, the story arc, the relationships between the characters, the character’s backstory, how the family got their dog, why they moved to San Francisco, all without giving away the ending. Has a friend ever asked you what your book is about? How hard was it to simplify your work into just a sentence or two?

Most authors are sentimental about their book, and rightfully so. They want the cover to do it justice. But they forget that the cover is packaging. It is intended to sell the product. It’s not intended to be the product. So, what sells a book? Does the cover need to intrigue readers? Does it need to have colors that pop against a white background? Does the text need to have high contrast? Maybe these are concerns if you are Stephen King or Nora Roberts. But if you are reading this, you are likely not already a New York Times Best Seller, and therefore, these details are secondary. You are trying to get your book read by readers looking through hundreds of thousands of titles in a similar price range in a world where a new book is published on Amazon every five minutes. The truth is, your cover needs to do one thing: give your story away.

The market landscape in books has been changing for a while now. Readers are left to choose from such a wide variety of books, and they usually spend just seconds on a cover or description to determine if they are going to buy it. This doesn’t mean you need to be intriguing or stand out from the crowd. It means quite the opposite. Creating mystery around your book by using a unique cover confuses readers; they don’t know what you are trying to communicate. Instead of being intrigued and ready to know more, they are ready to move on.

Catching readers’ attention starts with a good description. You want to set the scene very quickly and give as much away as you can while asking as few questions as possible. If your book asks five new questions every time it answers one, this keeps the reader turning pages! If you cover or description does that, it turns your potential readers off.

When you go to write your description, think about the Who, What, When, Where and Why. Who is the narrator? What is the biggest event that happens in the story? Is your book set in WWII? You readers need to know this. These are only some of the questions you need to ask yourself to write a good blurb. You don’t need to tell the entire story to catch a reader’s attention, but you need to make sure you lay out a clear introduction. You also need to make sure you give a few things away: is your book a love story, does it contain magic or is it considered sci-fi? Does your main character experience abuse, trauma or loss? Not everyone wants to read a book about murder or fairies. And that is okay; your audience is not everyone.

I was talking to a newbie author who was publishing her first book, a memoir about being raped at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. She didn’t want her description to give away that it was a book about rape, with the fear that this would turn off readers. She was convinced that if they were drawn into her book from the beginning, they would be so intrigued by her story, the content of the book would no longer matter. This is a common thread among new authors who were not traditionally readers of that genre before they began writing. Remember this if you remember nothing else: Readers are finicky. If you trick them into reading your book, they will remember and not in a positive way. It creates a breeding ground for poor reviews. Make sure they know what they are getting themselves into. Trust that there is an audience for your book. A broad description doesn’t reach a wider audience; instead, it stops you from finding yours.

So how do you write a good description? I can usually tell by the first few chapters what the book’s description should say. By then, I’m developing ideas about the cover image and the mood of the cover. Let me give you an example of a bad blurb versus a good one.

Bad Description: Meet Jenna Lucas, a young twenty-something fashion designer who seems to have life figured out. One day, a letter from a lawyer reveals an inheritance that Jenna wasn’t expecting. In a leap of faith, Jenna goes on an adventure of a lifetime in a last ditch effort to find out what this inheritance is really about. During the trip, she meets Pete, a quirky old man that won’t leave Jenna alone. Is he as crazy as everyone makes him out to be, or is he the key to uncovering the secret about Jenna’s family that’s been hiding for so long?

 

One

 

If you read the first description and look at the cover, it’s hard to paint a picture. You are given information that may or may not be relevant, and every sentence brings up a question without answering any. It’s not the specifics of the cover that are the concern, but the title, cover, and description do not work together to sell potential readers anything.

Good Description: Jenna Lucas was never really close with her aunt, Lauri. The day of her mom’s funeral was the last time Lauri came to visit; effectively separating herself from anything that reminded her of her sister. But when Lauri passes away, Jenna inherits a ticket on the Royal Maritime, a ship that circles the Arctic in an exuberant display of the Northern Lights that only shows itself once every nine years. But the trip was planned for Lauri, and during the cruise everybody Jenna meets was expecting someone else. Join Jenna on the trip of a lifetime, a last chance at knowing her aunt, and discovering the real reason why she left so many years ago.

 

One

In the second description, we are given where the story takes place, what is happening during the book, the reason behind the story, and the important characters. It sets the reader up for really knowing what they are getting into, and in turn pulls them into the story. There is a little bit of mystery to the end, essentially offering up stakes for the reader (if you don’t read this book, you’ll never find out why Jenna’s aunt left!). And you can even picture Jenna on the cruise, hearing stories from the different passengers, and piecing together information about her family. But most importantly, the cover, description and title all work together to paint this single picture.

Here is a good test: If you read the cover of a book and you can’t describe it in once sentence, you are in trouble. How would I describe the second book? A woman inherits a ticket on a cruise ship, meets some interesting people and finds out more about her family along the way. I wouldn’t even know where to begin on the first one.

If you are designing your cover yourself, have a friend read the first three chapters and then tell you what they think your book’s about. Use this information to write a strong, descriptive blurb that really paints a picture of the story, and use that picture to create a cover. From there, your title should pop out. These three pieces should work together to sell your potential readers a single story. If you are hiring a book cover artist, make sure you write your description first and let the artist work to create a cover that fits.

BIO:
Kari Anders is a book cover designer who works mostly with self-published authors and small publishing houses. She worked in freelance design for six years before attending graduate school, and now teaches design and runs freeebookcovers.com. All of Kari’s covers are designed as CreateSpace Wraps for only $75, with the eBook version included for free. Her site specializes in Pre-Made Book Covers, but she also does interior design and custom covers.

June/July Writing Contests

Originally posted on Rachel Poli: June 2016 Type: Nonfiction (Theme: Blended Families) Hosted by: Chicken Soup for the Soul Deadline: June 30, 2016 Entry Fee: None Type: Nonfiction (Theme: Curvy and Confident) Hosted by: Chicken Soup for the Soul Deadline: June 30, 2016 Entry Fee: None Type: Nonfiction (Theme: Stories about Teachers and Teaching) Hosted…

via June/July 2016 Writing Contests — Writer’s Treasure Chest

April Highlights

April

Working out:

My goal for the month of April was to workout at least three times a week. I was able to do this!! I think it helps that I am training for a half marathon. I think my goal this next month needs to focus on water and sleep. I don’t take in nearly enough of either. I am feeling burnt out and exhausted. Taking a look at things, I am only getting around 5 hours a sleep a night and drinking far too much coffee to try and stay awake. Things need to change!! My goal for next month is to get 6-7 hours of sleep a night and drink the recommended amount of water each day.

New RunningThis month I bought a new workout outfit. I am really excited and haven’t bought anything new like this in a while. I am looking forward trying my new running skirt. I have never run in anything like this before but I am really excited to try it. The top is a light weight moisture wicking material. But the bra, the bra is what I am most excited about. For as log as I can remember, I have had to wear two sports bras whenever I did any athletic activity. But I have high hopes for this bra because it is designed for people like me, small rib cages but big chests. And supposedly I only need one bra… Look for reviews this coming month!

 

I blog about a couple things outside of how far I ran. One of the topics was called: Pushing through discouragement to find the silver lining. This post talks about my constant struggle with body image and my weight.

I also wrote up a really interesting article about protein powders. If you are wanting to start using one but not sure how to find a good protein powder, check out this post. It really is helpful with what to look for, avoid, and how much you should be taking. You can find the post here: Protein and Protein Powders

My total milage for the month: 41

Books I’ve Read:

Feb reading

This was not my month for reading. I am really disappointed in myself and promise to step things up next month. One of my Tuesday talks I had an amazing discussion with bloggers about reviews and what others want to see. If you missed this post, I would check it out here- Reviews and What We Want

My favorite book to read this month was Catch you (you can find the link to my review below). This book is lighthearted and a fun read. I found myself laughing and smiling throughout the entire book. It was a great read!

As far as books I really didn’t enjoy reading- Powerless. Ugh, I really hated this book. Yes, I said it- hate. The maturity of this book was below my tolerance level and I couldn’t finish the book.

Stormwalker (Stormwalker, #1)
Powerless (The Hero Agenda, #1)
Catch You (Love me, I’m Famous #.5)
Glass Ceiling (True Heroes, #2)

Writing:

Feb words

My goal for last month was to write chapters 7&8 and get to section D in my outline. Well, no surprise there but I didn’t get that far. I am still on chapter 7 and revising the previous chapters. This month was difficult for me to find time to do much.

My goal for the month of May will be similar- Finish my revisions and chapter seven. I feel like I have fallen off the wagon when it comes to this and I need to step things up. I need more time..

I did post a fun Writing Prompt this month. The goal of the prompt was to get me outside my writing comfort by writing in second person. You can find the prompt here: Writing Prompt Wednesday- Point of View 

This month I took a look at Beta Readers– the ins, outs, and importance of them. If you missed that post, you can find it here.

Fun and Interesting Posts to look back on:

Burn, Rewrite, Reread Book Tag – This is a fun post! There are three rounds where I pick books at random and have to decide which category they go in. If you missed this post, take a look. I would love to know how you feel about these books!

Updated Running Plan– I don’t really need an explanation here but in this post I also explain how a head concussion was the cause of all my knee issues.

Tuesday Talk- Blogging part two– This outlines some of the struggles we face in the blogging community as well as some possible solutions.

Tuesday Talk- First Lines– This post takes an in depth look at authors and reviewers favorite first lines. It also asks the question of how important first lines are with success of a book.

Twitter Account– Lets connect on Twitter!!

Tuesday Talk- Beta Readers Part Two

The concept of Beta readers have been around for a long time. While some swear by them, others find them more hassle than they are worth.

When asked her thoughts on Beta Readers, T. A. HERNANDEZ said, “As writers, once we’ve worked on a story for so long and poured so much of ourselves into it, it can be very difficult to see some of the flaws with the plot, setting, characters, etc. A beta reader will be able to see the things you can’t. As an outsider, they’re looking at the story from a completely different perspective and can offer valuable insights about which aspects of the story work and which don’t.” 

Rob Baker, author of Constant Traveller R801168, used Beta Readers for both his books. “Beta readers are a test run for real life, for when the public reads your work. Just had 7 beta readers for my second book, now at the editor.” 

One author compares using multiple Beta Readers to having too many cooks in the kitchen. “There is a such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen and of course that causes chaos because everyone has different opinions and sometimes those opinions clash with other beta readers. I tried to follow their suggestions, opinions, etc. making those corrections, but, it just ended up a total mess. It was like having too many voices in my head and it was causing me great distress.”Angel M.B. Chadwick

This weeks Tuesday Talk I focused more on worth of Beta Readers. Although I didn’t get any discussion here, I did find great discussions through Goodreads and the internet.

What is a Beta Reader

Beta Readers or Alpha readers is a non professional readers who reads a manuscript with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling. But they also suggest improvements within the story, its characters, and setting. These improvements could be anything from pointing out plot holes, problems with continuity, difficulties with characterization or believability, etc. Overall, the point of a Beta Reader is to help the author write a better novel.

Are there Downsides to Beta Readers?

Sure. Just like anything, there are both positives and negatives. Angel M.B. Chadwick provided me with the best overview of her unpleasant experience with Beta Readers.

The Beta Readers Angel found did not seem to have the experience she was looking for and misrepresented their skills. They were not thorough with pointing out grammatical errors or inconsistencies.

“…if you find inconsistencies in my novel give me a detailed and very thorough report of all the inconsistencies and errors don’t just name a few and be vague about the rest. It makes me as the author unable to thoroughly fix the problems.”

Angel talks about not being able to stay in contact with her Bata Readers. She would email them and never hear from them. Overall, her experience sounded really frustrating. To help prevent others from having similar experiences, I have listed ideas or ways to help find the right Beta Reader for your manuscript.

What/who to look for as a beta readers:

First lets talk about who isn’t a good fit- Family, Friends, Significant Others… In a way, they are too close to you. Unintentionally as it may be, there is some predisposition for them to like what you write. Or at least tell you they do. The people you love, love you back and don’t want to hurt your feelings. Because of this, you want to look outside your close circle of trust and look for someone who doesn’t know you.

Ideally, at least one of your beta readers should be someone within your books target audience. This way, you can get an idea of how your book will be perceived.

One of the suggestions was to find Beta Readers who know more about the writing craft than you do. And if you think about this, it makes a lot of sense. If you want to get better at writing, you look to the experts. Same concept goes here- You want feedback from someone who is more knowledgable than you and can help your writing grow.

But the question remains, who do you know if this particular Beta Reader is a good fit?? Well, one suggestion is instead of sending your entire manuscript, just send a couple chapters.

“Another thing that sometimes helps is to only send the first chapter or two to a prospective beta reader, then see what kind of feedback they give (or if you hear back from them at all) before sending the rest of the manuscript. That also gives the beta reader a chance to see if they really want to continue reading.” – T. A. HERNANDEZ

Sending off a couple chapters instead of the entire manuscript also allows the reader to figure out if they would be interested in your story and what kind of feedback you would be getting.

Where to find Beta Readers: 

I think the easiest suggestion is social media and the saying- birds of a feather flock together- easily applies here. As bloggers, we tend to want to connect with people who we share similar interests. Through blogging, you are able to create a reputation for yourself and more than likely if you help others with their writing, they will be more than willing to help you back.

Outside the blogging community, there are other social connections such as the Goodreads group Beta/Proof Readers. Although I am apart of this group, I have yet to participate in any readings. This group has around 1,770 followers and various discussion groups ranging from tools of successful writing, finding Beta Readers, self editing tips, and much more.

Scribophile is another writers aid to help writers. According to the website description, it’s an online writing community for writers of all abilities looking to improve each others work through thoughtful critiques and sharing writing experiences. How this website works is you earn ‘points’ by reading and critiquing other authors writing. When you’ve earned enough points, you can post your own writing for others to critique. The website guarantees at least three thoughtful critiques when you post your writing. And for the last three years the site has been awarded the top 100 best websites for writers.

Wattpad is another website that allows readers to interact and share their thoughts while reading your book. Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed with the website. It was a little more difficult to figure out how the process works but that could just be me. According to the website, you upload your book and create an enticing blurb about it and wait for people to read it. There is no guarantee people will read your work or that you will get insightful critiques back.

A couple responses I did receive mentioned how swapping stories with another author was the best way to find good criticism.

“I generally find that swaps are more likely to work out and ensure that both parties finish reading and providing feedback. The other fantastic thing about swaps is that they give you a chance to critique other writers’ work, which is incredibly helpful to your own writing. I can’t even begin to say how much my writing has improved since I started critiquing for other writers.” – T. A. HERNANDEZ

Better Beta Reads was recommended by Angel M.B. Chadwick. She had amazing success with Deb Rhodes from this website. This website outlines specifically what will be done with your manuscript, what to expect, and how they will approach your writing. Unlike most Beta Readers, her services come with a charge: $50 up to 30k word count, $100 up to 60k word count, $125 up to 100k word count, and $12.50 for every 10k words after. She also provides an editing service to make sure each sentence is “publication ready”. For this service, she charges $1 per page.

When do you use beta readers:

Beta reading is typically done before the story is released for public consumption. But that isn’t always the case. So the question(s) remains- Do you use them after you have written a couple chapters? Half the book? All the book?

Honestly, I think this is a personal preference. You know yourself better than anyone else. For some people, they might need the reassurance while others it takes writing the entire book for them to work out all the kinks.

“I think it’s better to get a beta reader after the manuscript is finished in most cases. I know a couple of authors who write excellent first drafts, but most people–myself included–seem to need a full draft or two to really figure out the story and characters. I just don’t think there’s much point in seeking out feedback until you fix all the problems you know are there already, and that probably takes at least one or two drafts.” – T. A. HERNANDEZ

Revisions, Revisions, Revisions..

Throughout the countless websites I looked at, every single one mentioned the need to present your best work. Which means do not send your first draft. A Beta Reader, in the simplest terms, is a reader and all readers talk within some kind of community. Your story will be talked about. Ask yourself, how do you want your story to be talked about? Do you want them to remember the plot and characters? Or all the frustrating spelling and grammatical errors?

“I can always tell when an author has failed to do this (revisions) and it’s extremely aggravating. First of all, it makes the story incredibly hard to read when you have major inconsistencies and a ton of grammatical errors. Secondly, it makes me as the reader feel like I’m wasting my time. Quite frankly, if you couldn’t be bothered to polish up your own work before you sent it out, why should I have to deal with the mess? It doesn’t have to be perfect, but at least make an effort.” – T. A. HERNANDEZ

One recommendation is to set your manuscript aside for a week (at the very least), then go back to it and make any revisions you see fit. And then do it again.. and again after that.

Suggestions & ideas to keep in mind while working with your Beta Reader:

Now that you found your Beta reader, here are some things to consider.

  1. Beta Reading is a free service (for most). You don’t pay Beta Readers money for their time or their help. So try to make the experience as pleasant and positive as possible. Because really, they are doing you a huge favor.
  2. Be upfront about what you are looking for. If you are looking for specific feedback on your characters for example, then communicate that to your Beta Reader. A suggestion was to provide your Beta Readers with specific questions for them to look for. Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about this. I think it limits your feedback but maybe I’m wrong.
  3. Don’t take it personally. I know you have spent months pouring a part of yourself into your story. And then to have someone else rip it apart can be heartbreaking and hurtful. But try not to take it that way. Be grateful and remember to keep the experience positive. If you don’t agree with the feedback they give, maybe give yourself some time to think about it or maybe skip it. But either way, thank your Beta Reader for their time.
  4. As mentioned above, some have found Beta Readers can disappear on you. Thoughts on this range from the probability of them getting busy to becoming uninterested in your story and just not telling you. If this really worries you, try swaps- swapping stories with other authors. Disappearing doesn’t happen as often because there is a mutual trust to follow through and help each other.
  5. Don’t be afraid to set limits or due dates. If you need this back in three weeks, tell them two. This gives you and your Beta Reader a little wiggle room.
  6. One Goodread author suggested copywriting your manuscript. He mentioned how it only cost $35 and is well worth the piece of mind.

Well, I hope this helps. I think there is a lot of information out there on Beta Readers. Far more than I could ever recap here. Good Luck and let me know what you think.

 

 

Tuesday Talk- First Lines Part 2

Once a reader opens the cover of the book, (according to some) the author has a short window of opportunity in order to grab the readers attention. It’s no surprise that most of the time you can tell if you will like a book based on the first line. A good opening line causes the reader to think, it slowly pulls them in, but most importantly it gets them wanting more.

Earlier this week I asked both writers and reviewers what their favorite opening line was. And although the responses varied in regards to genres, they were all surprisingly (or maybe not) similar.

“It was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful field. Except for the body.” – I hunt killers by Barry Lyga. 

This line was given by ravenandbeez. When asked why this line was captivating, the response was easy, “I still haven’t read it but the mystery aspect of it is so strong. I just need to know more.”

TheTattooedBookGeek felt similar about his passage:

“Before she became the Girl from Nowhere-the One Who walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years-she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy.”-  The Passage (Passage trilogy book 1) by Justin Cronin.

When asked what it was that made him place this book from the maybe read into the definitely reading pile, he said, “I’d say as it really intrigued me but also because it made me think that Amy (the girl) was going to have a big part in the story and made me want to find out more.”

Here are a couple other responses I received:

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.“- Hobbit

“Maybe he should have been more worried about the ghost detector going off.”– Labyrinth A Greywalker novel by Kat Richardson

“Morganville, Texas, isn’t like any other dusty small town. It’s got secrets. It’s a company town…and the company is vampires.”– The Morganville Vampires Daylighters by Rachel Caine

Most of the responses I received talked about the books inquisitiveness and how it pulled them in. However, lines that fail to deliver this “pulling effect”, are most often categorized as boring, plain, or lack information. Hallie offered her advice on what she felt successful first lines need: “The first line needs to be something that can make you smile, or make your jaw drop, or perhaps make you curious.

Ok, so what does this mean to writers. Well, according to some- not much. Yes, first lines are great, but some argue they don’t make or break the success of your book. According to one goodreads critic, Jp, their advice:

“There are a number of things that must be done in the first chapter of a book–and they can be learned. If you’ve done all of them, and well, you might have a successful book. No telling. You must do what you do in your own way and tell the story as only you can.
If you’re submitting a book to an agent or a publisher, you can be rejected for any number of reasons, not always having to do with what you wrote. The thing is not to be discouraged, but to keep writing.”

According to Sequoia, author and critic, it’s not just the first line but the first seven that have meaning.

“When I was in graduate school, a professor introduced me to something she called the 7 sentence rule. Basically, within 7 sentences (give or take), the reader should have a pretty good sense about at least one (but ideally 2-3 or more) of the following: main character, central tension, a theme, setting. As a creative writing professor, I stress this to my students. As an editor, I usually know if I’m going to accept or reject a piece by the end of the first or second paragraph.”

In the end, what do we walk away with? Well, I’m not honestly sure there is a right or wrong answer here. I think everyone is different. Someone once told me, “Books are like clothing in that what one person likes, the next person wouldn’t like at all. it’s very personal.”

I hope everyone has an enjoyable weekend!