Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for One Last Drink

My music selections often contain quite a few ballads. A lot of the music I like is melodic and gorgeous, but often slow and a little bit sad. So when I find completely fun and upbeat music that I like (Mika) I make extra sure to keep track of it.

Here's one of my go to happy songs. Check it out :)

One Last Drink by Enter the Haggis

What's your go to happy song?

Enjoy!

Sarah Allen

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Night Vale


It's a little hard to describe Welcome to Night Vale.

I guess the best explanation would be to imagine a podcast like Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon mixed with some Neil Gaiman and Stephen King.

The description on their website is this:
WELCOME TO NIGHT VALE is a twice-monthly podcast in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff's Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.
Turn on your radio and hide.
This description somewhat conveys the delightful shiver-down-your-spineness of the show. It's not horror, per se, but it does live in the world of things that go bump in the night.

What this description does not fully convey is how profound the show can be.

 As with King and Gaiman and Keillor, there is an incredibly thought-provoking depth underneath the darkness and the humor. It is so well written and so well put together that I spend the 20-30 minutes per episode just in awe.
They have a huge variety of awesome and very off-beat music and some incredible guest stars (like Mara Wilson.) Their Twitter account makes me flinch and laugh and think every day.

So please. Do yourself a favor and just listen to the first episode. (There are lots of ways to do that, but here's an easy one).


And now, the weather...

Sarah Allen

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Meetup

Have you ever used Meetup.com? I wanted to highlight this tool today because I think its one that often goes vastly underrated for us writers.

Even when our lives are filled with friends and family, these people can occasionally not quite understand some of the quirks that come with being a writer. They just don't happen to be people with whom we can really discuss the plot hole we just found in our WIP, or the latest news from the publishing industry. They may be fully supportive and lovely about our writing, and I believe we do need non-writers in our lives. They can often keep us grounded and sane.

However, we also need fellow writers. That is one of the best things in my opinion about the blogosphere and other social media outlets. I've said this before and I'll say it again: I have learned more about the publishing biz from reading the great author blogs out there than I have in any other way. The fellowship and support I have found in this community of online writers has made all the difference for me, and I will be forever grateful.

But we need IRL writer friends too.

I'm lucky enough to have a group of best friends that are also writers, and to even live with one. We talk about the writing process and our current projects and afterwards I always feel motivated. We edit each other's work and I know they have helped me become a better writer.

We've all become spread out, though, and I communicate with most of them through Skype. Plus, I think in general it's just a really good idea to regularly get yourself out into your local writing community, and that brings me to Meetup.com.

Although I've known about Meetup for a while it isn't something I've seriously looked into until very recently. And I'm kind of wowed by what I'm finding. Seriously, I encourage you to just go to Meetup.com and type in your town and look up 'Writers.' Here in Vegas I found a plethora of good options. For example, I plan on attending for the first time the monthly meeting of the Las Vegas Writers Group on Thursday. There is also an RWA group that has an open to the public monthly meeting at the nearby library. (If any of you are in the Vegas area and planning on attending these events, I would love to meet up!)

Anyway, I'm just really excited to meet some local fellow writers and make those connections and build that support. I know great things can come of this, and I wanted to share.

If you've used Meetup.com before, let us know how it goes. And if you find some cool meetups in your area, post a link in the comments so others that might be in your area can see what awesomeness is going.

Sarah Allen

Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Loyalty

We are all working to build our own personal readership. Or as Seth Godin calls it, our "tribe." Every artist relies on their team of loyal followers for support. We couldn't do what we do without them.

So how do we cultivate that loyalty? How do we make investing in our books and stories worth other peoples valuable time--something our readers trust and will come back to time and time again?

Here are a few things we can do:

Be Generous. I like finding blogs of authors I love and seeing that they are just as kind and generous with their advice and comments online as their books are wonderful. Or just watching interviews online and seeing that my favorite authors are also kind people. It's always a little disappointing when they're not. So be generous and kind in your interactions with your readers, whether online or in real life. Because we're all equal, and we're all in this together, right?

Be Active. It helps to cultivate reader loyalty when we remain an active part of our readers lives. By that I mean we are actively providing work of value. I know the trend lately is for writers to pump out as many books a year as physically possible, and I'm not saying we have to do that. Writing a book takes as long as it takes. But we can interact with readers online or put out short stories or collaborate on an anthology or make YouTube videos or publish a picture book. Whatever works for you. I feel like J.K. Rowling has done a great job of this, if you think about it. It was a major moment in basically the everybody's lives when the last Harry Potter book came out, but Rowling has kept the ball...well, rolling. The movies were still coming out, and she put out the companion books like Fantastic Beasts and Beetle the Bard. Then she wrote more books and made Pottermore and an amusement park and is now working on another movie. Basically I just think its wise to keep things going, however you think its best to keep them going.

Be Consistent. It also helps if you can be part of a readers routine. I know, for example, that on Sundays, I can look forward to Anne R. Allen's weekly blog post (I was fortunate enough to be able to crash her blog party last week, if you haven't seen it.) I know that John Green will post a Vlogbrothers video every Tuesday, and that a new episode of Night Vale will post on the first and fifteenth of every month. Because these things are consistent, they become a part of my routine and I visit regularly rather than when I happen to think about it. We can create loyal fans by becoming part of their routine.

These are just a few simple mindsets that I think can be helpful in our efforts to cultivate a loyal readership. What other strategies for cultivating this type of loyalty have you seen work?

Sarah Allen

Saturday, April 12, 2014

K is for Kindred Spirits

When I find someone who likes this man as much as I do:

When I find someone who knows every word to every Billy Joel song

When I find someone who can quote every line of The Emperor's New Groove or The Grinch with Jim Carrey

When I find someone who has read the collected works of C. S. Lewis

When I find someone who thinks Colin Firth is hotter than Orlando Bloom

When I find someone with whom I can spend hours analyzing Disney and Pixar movies.

When I find someone who hates dark chocolate and loves bread pudding

When I find someone who owns picture books by Don and Audrey Wood

When I find someone who would pick Alaska over Hawaii

When I find someone who carries Wallace Stegner in one hand and Stephen King in the other (and maybe some Gary Schmidt or Louis Sacchar in their bag for good measure)

When I find someone who watches more Animal Planet than MTV

When I find someone who knows what comes after the words, "And now, the weather..."

When I find someone who misses Rugrats and The Wild Thornberries and Courage the Cowardly Dog and maybe still watches Phineas and Ferb (only sometimes okay?)

When I find someone who appreciates the genius of Stephen Sondheim and knows the words to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

When I find someone who knows that Meryl Streep could play Batman and not be wrong for the part

When anybody says the words Niles Crane

I know I've found a kindred spirit.

What are sure kindred signs for you?

Sarah Allen

Friday, April 11, 2014

J is for Joining Online Writing Communities


We talk a lot about general social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. They are very, very valuable because we want to connect with the general population to get our books out there, not just other writers.

However, I think joining certain writing communities can be super, super valuable. They can provide:

1) Writerly support and advice. Especially if we're just starting out, this can be incredibly helpful. We can get tips and advice on the creative process and the biz of being a writer.

2) Motivation. I know I feel a lot more inspired to write after talking with my writer friends.

3) Readers. Yes we need to expand our marketing to include non-writers, but really, writers in many ways make the best readers.

I'm bringing this up today because I just joined a writing community that has just started growing explosively, and I'm liking what I'm seeing. It's been my obsession for the past couple days, and I've been having a lot of fun. I know there are tons of writing communities out there but I wanted to spotlight just this one, and you can tell me about any other ones you really like in the comments.

The writing community I recently joined is Wattpad.

It's recent growth has been remarkable, and the projected future growth is even bigger. Now's the time to get in, and I wish I'd discovered it sooner. Maybe I'm slow on the draw.

Anyway, Wattpad is a website and mobile app that lets writers post their works and follow other writers updates as they continue their works in progress. It's been called "the YouTube for books." I've been surprised at the number of traditionally published authors on there who have posted their entire manuscripts, and as a free introduction and reader enticement, it makes sense to me. If you have a back list or some older self-pubbed works you think might do well as a freebie, this might be a good place to do it.

I have noticed that the audience tends to be on the younger side, which is something I've noticed with other online writing communities as well. They're just good places to foster support and encouragement for the beginning writers out there. But I think it can be hugely beneficial for writers at any stage of their career.

Anyway, check it out, see if its something you are interested in incorporating. If so, or if you're already a Wattpader, check out my profile and the freebies I've got up, and maybe drop a note and say hi!

Write on!

Sarah Allen

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I is for Iambic Pentameter

I'm just going to leave you with possibly my favorite iambic pentameter poem. Read by Alan Rickman. That's right.

Sonnet 130
William Shakespeare

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.