Friday, January 19, 2018

How to Write a Review (as an Author)


If you're an avid reader, you're aware of the nature of reviews. Good or bad, they can persuade you to either agree or disagree or, at times, prevent you from purchasing a book altogether. But let's take that a step further and talk about how fellow authors write reviews for fellow authors. Now, if the story's delicious, solid plot, characters that pull you in and take you on the journey with them, writing a rave review is easy, am I right?

Of course.

But then you've got this friend. And that friend writes, too. And whether you're friends in real life or exclusively on social media, well, doesn't make a difference. Because our social media friends are legit; no one can convince me differently, either, so stop typing that comment to explain all the reasons why you think they're not, because they are and that's final.

Now. You've got this friend who writes, too, and they're published, too, like you (yay!) and they shoot you a text or PM: "Hey! You know I just released my newest novel and would LOVE it if you read and posted a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads (preferably both!)! THANK YOU SO MUCH!" And, holy cow, you really don't have time to add another book to the three you're already reading (Kindle, iBooks, paperback on the night stand...Oh, is that just me? Say it ain't so...), but you say, "Yes, of course!" because you know you're gonna want them to reciprocate when your new release hits.

You read the book.

You put it down.

Remember you want them to read yours, too, when it comes out.

Pick the book back up. Cringe through grammar, characters, plot -- because, let's be honest, that really does happen. Don't lie. We're all friends here. Safe place and all that.

Finally finish and, now, it's time for the moment of truth. The Review. What to say? How to be truthful? A fellow author, God love her, once told me, "Sometimes you just gotta say, 'Nice Margins,' and, naturally, she was joking, but then I'm unsure if she was.

Here's what I've learned over the handful of years I've been doing this as a profession: There's a way to be kind and constructive, honest yet upbeat, all at once. Using Thumper's mama's words of wisdom, "If you can't say somethin' nice, don't say nothin' at all."

1. Think about what you say before you say it and WHO may be reading. Seems pretty simple, right? Here's the thing: sometimes when I'm reading reviews and I stumble upon one from a person who didn't enjoy the book, I click on that person's name. What other reviews have they left? Do they only leave bad reviews? What if you find out that person is actually an author? Does it make you want to read their work more or less? Artists can hold grudges. Heck, people in general hold grudges! But I certainly don't want another author mad at me for dissing on their book, especially when all they have to do is reciprocate.

2. If you can't say something nice...Yeah, you know the rest. Sometimes, oftentimes silence is golden. Because, if you're an author, you're also a bit of businessperson, which means you also have to think about your brand. Meaning...What do YOU want to put out there as an artist? This doesn't just mean what you bind between a cover and send out there into the world. I'm talking about reviews, social media, blogs. Think about Stephen King's tweets. Would you honestly expect any different from the Master of Horror Fiction? And that's perfectly ok! But for Alyssia the Romance Writer, I want to make sure people feel positivity and kindness from me as much as possible.

3. Offer a nuanced opinion. Don't dig into the author personally. Maybe this simply wasn't your kind of read. You can still can offer a subjective look at the book that will benefit future readers. Be specific yet delicate and, remember, if you dare to type something that could be construed as even remotely negative, strive to back it up with positive, encouraging words. Remember: there is no need to pitch  a book off the side of a cliff simply because it wasn't what you expected. Last year, I read a debut YA novel that was HIGHLY anticipated. Joined the bandwagon in following the author on all social media avenues and even liked her--a lot! Still do! But when my beautiful hardback arrived in the mail and I began to read, it was honestly all I could do to finish. And, once I did, I said aloud, "Really? This was what we've been waiting for all this time?" Nice margins, right? I chose not to review simply because SO many other readers enjoyed it and I'm only one person. Plus, this chick's trying to make a career out of this, just like I am, and we've gotta support one another, right?

Do you leave bad reviews? If so, do you have a few rules or do you just let it all out?



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Friday, January 12, 2018

5 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of a Writing Slump



Ah, winter. It’s beautiful. It’s cold. It rekindles your love for blankets and hot cocoa. But it can also pull you into a slump—well, at least, winter has that sort of effect on me. Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE this time of year. Prefer it over the hot, sticky, triple-digit weather inherent of Louisiana in summertime. However, December and January are the months I find most difficult to write and be inspired. I start out as I always do: at the page. Blinking cursor. What do I write today? Where am I going with this? Is this really the story I want to write? And there are days I keep going, fingers flying. But then there are others when I say, “Nuh uh. Not doin’ it,” and then allow myself to get sucked in to either social media or Netflix or both.

However, at the end of the day, writers write. It’s what we do. And if we’re not doing it…well. We can’t be held responsible for the mayhem that may ensue. We always have a story to tell. Problem is…Which one? We begin to ask ourselves whether we’re writing in the right genre. What if I’m better at fantasy? Mystery? Romance? Erotica seems to be selling really well—I’ve seen the indie authors on Facebook with their flashy, appealing ads. Maybe they’re just better at this than I am. Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this at all. What if I’m not a writer at all and I’ve been kidding myself since I was…what? Eleven?

I’m here to tell you: Get that last one out of your head, all right? You’re a writer. There, I said it. And you have a story to tell, so tell it. That’s right. Go on. Get those words on paper. Erotica, Mystery, Thriller, Fantasy…Heck, write a combination of all four! It’s your story, your baby. So, get going already.

While you’re at it, here are a few tips to pull yourself from a writing slump and help you refocus:


1.      Set realistic goals. This seems obvious, I know, but it really does help. Currently, I’m working on two contemporary, full-length romance novels, as well as edits for the third installment of my young adult series. The third book of The Symbolon Series will be published by July 10th. My goal is to be finished with at least one of the two contemporaries by that time, as well. If I can swing three releases this year, I’m going for it.

2.       Hit a writing retreat or conference. Nothing gets me fired up like being around other writers. Check for local or relatively-local conferences you can attend and get ready to learn. If you’re in Louisiana or Mississippi, the Jambalaya Writer’s Conference is coming up on March 3 and it’s only $35 if you register early!

3.       Adjust your environment. Declutter your desk. Bring in a new plant or a cool new notebook. If outside noise doesn’t bother you, nestle yourself and your laptop in a corner at Starbucks. Or go to a park and breathe in the fresh air while you write! Changing your environment tricks the brain into creative thinking.

4.       Don’t leave too much time between writing sessions. Even if you can’t write on your manuscript (I love this story, but, ugh, my heroine! Is she trying to be this stupid?!), write a blog post, an opening to a new story or an entry into that journal you’ve been meaning to begin for the last decade. Just write.

5.       Don’t burn out. Writing’s work, y’all. I mean, you can try to skirt the truth any way you want, but that won’t make it any less real. Not only that, but it’s hard. However, there’s a reason you started writing. For me, I was fourteen and the kid in between freshly-divorced parents. I didn’t want to write about myself, so I wrote about fictional characters and…well…I just never stopped. In short, writing is an escape for me; a way to deal with the chaos in my head. But the minute it becomes TOO much like work, I have to take a step back and remember why I started writing in the first place. Write what you can and often and you’ll find the will to keep going.

So, don’t let those negative thoughts in, okay? Get out, bad, brooding creepie-crawlies! Be gone! Because you can do this. Really, you can! Pull yourself up and write your story. 

What do you do when you find yourself in a slump?
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Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 At a Glance | Looking Ahead to 2018


Ah, here it is. The close of an entire year, turned beginning of a brand new, wide open panorama of possibilities. 2017 was...busy, but I'm sure that's true of everyone. Goals were set; goals were accomplished. Not all, mind; I didn't see Bruno Mars in concert (yet) and I'm convinced once that happens, planets will align, unicorns will appear in nearby forests, the government will begin to behave themselves and...Yeah. In other words, yada, yada, yada. 

I love him, okay? And true love lasts forever.

Moving on.

I published the second novel in The Symbolon Series: The Second Curse. Couldn't be more pleased with the response from readers (THANK YOU!), especially all of you who came out to see me at conventions and book signings. You guys rock! The third book is written and in edits; the fourth (and final) has begun. Ah, the end is in sight!

Read a lot this year, actually. Many amazing stories, my favorite of which--and this one really takes the cake; if you haven't read it, do--was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Thought-changing, that novel. If ever I have the honor of meeting Ms. Thomas (she's from Jackson, Mississippi, my home state, so...hopeful thoughts!), there's a very big chance I'll cry.


The Moody Blues made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, y'all. I mean...Yes. Okay? A million times, yes, yes, YES. About time.

My kid had his fifth birthday in February, began Kindergarten in August and basketball in November. He's having an absolute blast. Fully expecting him to start college in the fall.


Hubs celebrated his 50th and crossed off an important item from his Bucket List: We went to Cincinnati (his hometown) and watched the Bengals beat the Bills on their home field in Paul Brown Stadium. Seeing him that emotional gave me all the feels. All of them.


GOALS (Let's do this!):

1. Book 3 of the The Symbolon Series, THREE TO SHATTER, is set for a lovely mid-June release, just in time for summer holiday. Extensive deets about that later. Yes, for all of you paying attention, that was a title reveal. Ta da!

2. Two contemporary adult romances are in the works, both half-way finished. Been a while since I published a proper grown-up love story, and I'm looking forward to getting these two out to you guys. Both will be full-length novels I've wanted to write for a long time.

3. Weight loss. Because what else? Seriously. I'm not buying a new wardrobe, so sweets have gotta go bye-bye for a while. Pray for me.

4. Vacay! Don't know where yet, but we're going. Thinking someplace with mountains and scenic trails. Drop a comment with your suggestions. 

5. Events, events, events. Look for book signings spreading throughout the southern states. Local bookshops, conventions and writerly workshops--we're hitting it up in style this year. Stay posted in the website's Events section. 

I'd love to read the goals you reached last year, what stands out to you, what surprises arose and the stories that made for a memorable 2017! Also, what new goals have you set for 2018? Cheers!

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,





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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Buckeyes (Recipe)



INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups peanut butter 
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chocolate "almond" bark (easier to use)
Crisco or baker's wax (for hardening; otherwise, the chocolate will remain soft)

DIRECTIONS

1. Mix peanut butter, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in mixer.

2. Shape clumps into about 1" balls (roll them around between your palms 'til they're perfect).

3. Refrigerate for at least 1/2 an hour. We stick ours in the freezer; it's quicker.

4. Melt chocolate with a dollop of either Crisco or shaved baker's wax in a double-broiler. If you don't have a double-broiler, you can use your microwave, but be careful! The chocolate gets HOT.

5. Insert toothpick into chilled peanut butter balls and dip into chocolate, swirling around and leaving a bit of the peanut butter peeking through to make the "buckeye".

6. Cool on wax paper.

7. Store in refrigerator. We use empty, clean Country Crock butter bowls.


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Monday, December 11, 2017

Thank You


Well, what can I say? We've had a great year promoting books, signing books, talking with readers and writers about books and all that bookerly jazz. Yes, okay? Bookerly's a word. No, no. Don't look it up. Trust is a good thing.

Moving on.


This past weekend, fellow fantasy author Lela Robichaux and I had the privilege of being a part of the wonderful geekiness that is Shreve Con, a two-day event at our very own gorgeous Centenary College. We saw an alien dressed up as Santa Claus, Wolverine dressed up as Santa Claus and even jolly old Saint Nick himself, who was frequently mistaken for the Pope, bless his heart. Captain America strolled one aisle, while SuperGirl took another. Vendors displayed marvelous works of art from paintings to jewelry, custom fountain pens, comic books, novels and stuffed, hand-crocheted Pokemon. And that's only naming a few. To say we had a great time would be a tremendous understatement, most especially since there was actual swordplay happening at the end of our row. Knights, shields, swords, armor--yes, the real thing. So cool.


Huge thanks to all of you who came out to purchase signed copies of The Symbolon Series this year. I had a great time chatting, taking photos and listening to your favorite parts in the books. You guys are what keep my fingers going on the keyboard. #teamathen #teamnyle

Photo Cred: @beetlebomber52

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,



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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Power to Make Change


So, I missed International Day of the Girl, a day that began about five years ago in which we address the needs and challenges women face in our society, empower women’s rights and encourage women to set and reach their goals. Really, we should be doing this every day—to all people, regardless of gender, but, of course having a day of awareness for any great cause is a good thing.

Above is a photo taken by my author friend, Mallory Gaile, of me signing books at the Lincoln Parish Central Library in Ruston, Louisiana. I began writing novels when I was fourteen and had the encouragement of not only my family and friends, but also my teachers. The public education I received, a blessing in this country, prepared me for my life as a professional.

Today, however, there are over 260 MILLION children who will not attend school.

Chilling, isn't it?

I read daily. I read to my son daily. Books are a natural part of our existence; we look to them for research, entertainment and, oftentimes, to simply unwind and escape to a world different from the one in which we live. But there are children who cannot read—children who grow up to be adults who cannot read. It’s not only unthinkable but unequivocally heartbreaking.

You may be thinking, “Honestly, Alyssia, I get all this, but what do you expect me to do about it?” Nothing, to be honest. What you choose to do in this life is exactly that: Your Choice. However, if you want to make difference, if there’s a little voice inside of you saying, “I want to do SOMEthing, someway, somehow to help further the education of someone who needs it,” start by donating books to local libraries and schools. Write a check or donate books to an after-school program who helps both children and adults learn to read or, better yet, ask how you go about volunteering for an hour or two. Every area has easily accessible information on organizations who strive to educate your community. Organizations who aren’t funded by the government and who rely solely on volunteers and the generosity of patrons willing to support their efforts.

So, yeah. This post started out about International Day of the Girl and, yes, let’s support and promote that mindset. With the onslaught of people—not just women, folks…people—who have come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and assault, I feel we’re in a whole new moment in time to stand up and bring awareness to us all as the human race who inhabits this planet. But let’s push that even further by remembering how very blessed we are—how blessed YOU are, if you’re reading and comprehending this post; a teacher taught you how to do that!—and work to help others do the same.

I love you guys. To all of you who use your voice to call out those topics that make people squirm, I applaud and thank you. We’re living in an age in which speaking out is vital to make real change. Let’s work to make that happen.

Peace, Love and Junior Mints,


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