Blog Pussycat, Blog, Blog!

Hey there bloggers, writers, the crickets that I’m going to go ahead and pretend is the sound of an expectant audience hanging on my every word, blogging is difficult. Not so much figuring out what you have to say and then saying it, a basic level fencepost gossip can do as much. No, it’s the silence that gets you. The assumed lack of interest in the crowd you’re speaking to. It’s the void and the echoing emptiness that shuts a thousand blogging souls down into silence once more.

Here’s the thing, do it anyway. Talk into the void. It’s working.

When I first started blogging, for the now defunct with near limitless resources at my disposal, at first I was terrified. What if I unintentionally told a lie (happens all the time with celebrity gossip) that pissed off the artist? What if I stepped on a few fan’s toes and they sent me hate mail for months? What if – no one was reading it at all? Continue reading

Tags, Categories & Why You Should Use Them!

Today I’m going to be helpful and explain what tags and categories are and why you should be using them on your blogs. Any blogs, all blogs, for the LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY AND GOOD IN THE WORLD USE THEM!

*pant pant*

You see, tags and categories do you and your readers a valuable service. Ever been to a blog that had all kinds of useful information that you wanted to read up on, as well as tons of other content that you really just didn’t have the time for? Adding categories to your blog posts (and then adding a category widget to the sidebar) makes it a lot easier for readers to find exactly what they’re looking for On Your Blog.

For example over at Sarah a.k.a. Legion I use categories to highlight each character, so that fans of a particular character can just click on the relevant category and get all of their posts together. Here, I don’t use many categories – which makes the blog a Lot harder to search through in order to find posts on a particular topic. You’d have to scroll through all of the pages scanning titles and content and most people just aren’t that dedicated.

Tags on the other hand, aren’t as much for your readers as they are for You. Tags are metadata that help search engine spiders find and correctly archive your site for query – but they’re also useful in your dashboard in order to help you find specific topics within categories. You should use the most relevant tags for each post, but try not to use too many or a spider might consider the tags worthless and your post spam.

How to decide what is a category or tag worthy is up to you. It helps if you have a concrete grasp on what your blog is about as I did when constructing Sarah a.k.a. Legion, I knew from day 1 that it would feature serial fiction from various different characters over time – so having categories for each character was an obvious choice. Blargle Splect on the other hand was my sandbox where I threw a bunch of blather and saw what stuck – so it only had a handful or general, nonspecific, less useful categories at first. I’ve since changed that.

It’s better to start using categories early on, then have to go back and add them later. It’s still possible to go back in and add categories later, it’s just a little bit more of a pain in the ass that way, same with tags. So use them early, use them as well as you are able, and your readers and search engine ratings will thank you!

Y. K. Greene

Win a FREE Copy of “Family Picnic”

I love celebrating milestones in my writing life! Celebrating alone is no fun so this time, to celebrate finishing the rough draft of “Ash of Ambitions” I released a story from my archives: “Family Picnic!”

Lilith’s family is in near ruins. Her father is rarely home, her mother finds comfort only in the bottle and her brother has been missing for a year. It’s time to remember all that matters. It’s time for a “Family Picnic.”

Currently available for purchase on Smashwords and Amazon! Making you buy my book isn’t that great of a celebration for you though is it? So I thought I’d run a short twitter contest to give away 5 free copies of “Family Picnic!” Entering is super simple, just tweet the following phrase anytime between 5.23.11 and 5.29.11 (entries end at midnight EST):

RT @SarahakaLegion: A family in ruins. A son missing 4 a yr. Time to remember all that matters, time for a FAMILY PICNIC

or if you prefer Kindle:

RT @SarahakaLegion: A family in ruins. A son missing 4 a yr. Time to remember all that matters, time for a FAMILY PICNIC

(It was just a little too long for me to squeeze both links into a single tweet.)

Winners will be chosen at random at the end of the week and will be notified via Direct Message. I hope you enjoy the contest!

Oh! I almost forgot, during the contest is the last week that “The Uncertainty of Death” will be offered at $0.99 as well, it’ll go back up to $2.99 afterwards so grab it while it’s cheap!

Announcing “Ash of Ambitions” & Lots More!

Well I was planning on something altogether more spectacular than this but upon completing the first draft of the new book, my old illness started acting up and all my big blazing plans have unfortunately been slowed down way off schedule. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to announce and celebrate though! That’s right ladies, gents and creatures who claim no human sex, I’ve finished another book! It’s not in the same series as my recently release “The Uncertainty of Death,” but a new series in a slightly different vein that I think will have a somewhat wider appeal (though really it’s more about the tale I wanted to tell than about what the market is doing right?). The new book, “Ash of Ambitions,” will hopefully kick off a whole new series for me and I’m really excited about it. The main character leads two lives; one as Rin, the somewhat mysterious middle child of five, the other as Ash the Cleaner who’s preffered method of body removal involves an open flame. Personal and professional worlds collide when she gets a series of calls from both her employers and her family seeking greater involvement on both fronts at once. Neither will take a rain check for an answer. How is she going to handle juggling both obligations at once? Needs a little work I know but that’s what final drafts are for. In the mean time, as a little present to myself and any loyal readers out there, I’ll be releasing a short story titled “Family Picnic.”

Lilith’s family is in near ruins. Her father is rarely home, her mother finds comfort only in the bottle and her brother has been missing for a year. It’s time to remember all that matters. It’s time for a “Family Picnic.”

Basically this short is already done but I’m giving it one more run through the editing wringer just to be extra extra sure. Once I’m totally satisfied I’ll be releasing “Family Picnic” at just $.99 and upping the price on my first novel “The Uncertainty of Death” back up to $2.99. I’m also thinking of launching a brief twitter contest and giving away a few copies of “Family Picnic” to promote it’s release – but as I said all of that has been pushed back a bit thanks to my illness. For now just enjoy the cover image for the “Family Picnic” and I’ll make sure to announce both the contest’s start and the final price hike on “The Uncertainty of Death.”

Self Promotion

It’s an uncomfortable reality to come to grips with for many writers. After all we’re the type that gives up sunlight, vitamin D metabolization and almost all other signs of a normal healthy life to sit closeted alone in a room with only the voices in our heads for company. Going out of our way to talk about our work like not just avid hobbyists but seasoned marketing executives, is the last thing many of us want to do.

Except that we’re not spending all of that time locked up alone so that no one will see any of our hard work. Which is unfortunately what you’re condemning all of your writing to if you don’t get out there every once in a while and shill your shit.

The good news is that there are several different ways to make the most out of your limited social skills and time obligations while promoting your work. I’m one of the limited budget set (also known as I have no money) so my choices for self promotion are limited by that budget. Even so, it’s quite possible to find ample avenues in which to toot your own horn, mostly the various forms of social media.

Options abound even for those with no budget and limited amounts of time to spare. Personally I’ve been utilizing a two pronged approach of blogging and twitter, both of which benefit most simply by consistently posting. It might be better if I was a prolific wordsmith who had mastered the arts of sparity (especially in the case of Twitter) but even when I’m prattling on about my cat and misspelling “definitely” saying something in these forums is much better than saying nothing at all. If you’re intimidated by the thought of letting any of the uncouth unrefined spew that you’d usually cut out of a novel or story be your candid representation and get hung up on choosing the perfect words in every situation, to the point that you can only manage maybe 5 tweets a day and maybe one blog post a month – then you’ll have to focus the brunt of your self promotion elsewhere.

Blog tours, author interviews and reviews, paid advertising are all potential ways to promote yourself and your books. Something as simple as commenting on other authors blogs or participating in ereader/writer forums can also work wonders for getting the word out about your stories. Remember you are a brand, whether you want to be or not, and act accordingly.

Let’s Talk Character

Character development for a short story, character development for a novel, character development for game – they’re all different and yet they all share valuable qualities. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, since over at my short fiction blog, Sarah aka Legion, I chronicle the stories of several very different characters all at once. Some of these characters are from various short stories, others are bit characters in various books and then there’s the characters I enjoy playing as in open ended moddable RPG’s.

Lets start off with the book characters. I usually start off with a concept, in the context of a larger story and an ideal of what I want the character to be. Of course they tend to have different ideas and over the course of writing the novel their true personalities become more and more apparent. For example take Leo in “The Uncertainty of Death.” Originally Leo was going to be a breathtakingly gorgeous romantic foil, a rock that my main character could always depend on. Someone so loving that they could even love Death itself. Needless to say – Leo had other ideas. Turns out Leo is a little bullheaded, quick to place blame on the blameless and really rather annoying in his stubbornness. A point that both the characters in the book as well as the readers picked up on really clearly.

Short story characters are another thing entirely. Usually when I sit down to write a short piece of fiction I’ve got very little idea of anything at all, except for a vague sense of the story pressing on the space behind my eyes. The most time I spend developing these characters before hand is – picking a name and even then sometimes I don’t waste too much time on that. Clara, the character in one of my darkest stories really drove the story all on her lonesome. She told me her name and only let me so far into her head at any one time (a fact for which I remain absurdly grateful, her head wasn’t a happy place) and as we explored her tale we learned a bit more about her. Not nearly all, in short fiction there rarely seems to be enough time to learn absolutely everything about a character and no room to put it all down on paper even if you do.

RPG characters are the easiest and the hardest. Since the world they live and grow in is already set by someone else it’s easier to figure out absolutely every aspect of their personality from the get go. Take Raw Angelus for example (also known as the mage formally known as Ma’doc) I spent days picking his name, crafting his face and carefully choosing his introduction into the game world. In the game world, Ma’doc IS the story. Players of the game already know the game’s plot and subplots but they don’t know this particular skinless philanthropist at all. Making him a part of the story of the game yet much more than the story of the world is the whole goal. These types of deep and intriguing characters breath new life into a game I’ve already played a thousand times (or in the case of Oblivion, a game I never really liked all that much.)

Now what’s similar about all three types of characters? They grow, change and sometimes throw you for a loop and it’s your job as their writer to listen and let them. These bits of rebellion in your characters is what will help drive the story and give it an element of truth beyond your contrivance. Sometimes it leads to great things (the way Aedan seems to have taken to Mitei in “The Uncertainty of Death”) sometimes it’ll lead you to places you don’t exactly know what to do with (when Void revealed herself to have a love of pink clothing for example) but I believe firmly in the power of creating a good character and letting that character remain true to themselves.

When you try and force a character to do something that’s entirely out of character to stay with the plot points you’ve got in your head, the story will suffer. Never let the story suffer. Never stifle your characters growth. Even if you start out with just a kernel of an idea listen carefully and let them tell you who they really are deep deep within.

One more thing, never start out with “this character is badass” alone always remember to ask them why, why are they so awesome? The answer should surprise you.