Thursday, August 29, 2013

Thursday Think Tank: A Zamtastic Take on Promotion with Z.A. Maxfield

Greetings and Salutations, sweet readers. In today's Think Tank, we've got Z. A. Maxfield wearing the thinking cap. Oh, I know you might think that looks a bit like this...
But really, the zamtastic truth is a bit more multifaceted. Zam the author does seem to have magical powers in both creating phenomenal stories and in creating an online community where not only her own work, but that of others can flourish. If you've never had a chance to visit her Yahoo Group (or rather, Cybercafe) then you really ought to go pay a visit. Some days are quiet, but when everyone shows up and hangs out? It's an amazing place not unlike Oz. No, really. I even met a wizard there. 

So of course I had to invite this dear lady to the Writing Cave for a visit, hoping she could spread a little of her magic here. And low and behold, she agreed. Therefore it gives me tremendous pleasure to introduce the magnificent Z.A. Maxfield. 


Zam? Helloooo? Sheesh, are you off playing with baby hedgehogs again? Or is it more of the cute men that live in your head? What? Both? Oooooh, do tell. No, really. Tell. *drat, she's all focused today and staying on topic* Okay, well, then, get to the bit about promotion and then afterwards get straight back to writing some more fabulous stories. 

When Cherie Noel invited me to talk a little about promotion and marketing, I was a little surprised. At the time, I didn’t consider that I did a lot of promo. In the last two weeks, though, much of that seems to have changed. I’ll tell you what I’ve been thinking and working on lately, because it represents the first time I’ve given my marketing practices structure.

Being in any community, the key is to be a good neighbor. So first and foremost, I’ve tried to make acquaintances in the writing and publishing community and I treat these people as friends.

I read extensively and I’m not afraid to praise where it’s due. I share the books I’m reading with my friends and readers. I often drop a line to an author after I’ve read something I’ve particularly enjoyed. Sometimes I do this in my author persona, but often I do it in my real-life persona, because I’m a fan like anyone else.

My enthusiasm for the work we do is part of how I market, it’s the very first thing I think about: what am I reading, and who can I thank for the ride? I’m forging relationships that I hope will last my lifetime and I’m cross promoting with people I care about deeply.

Lately, I’ve established a hard and fast blogging schedule. I do two blogs a week on my website under the NEWS heading, and I find that’s working rather well for me.

Offering entertainment is the cornerstone of marketing. We need to think like television programmers. Sure, it’s the commercials that pay the bills, but what would happen if we aired commercials all day?

Offering a weekly “Friday flash fiction” or a “guess the book from my backlist” type blog post every week lets people know they can tune in to my website for entertainment and rewards, and of course, that means they’ll be there when I have marketing news to share as well.

My thinking is this: I don’t want people coming to my website only when they want to buy something, although I don’t mind if they do. I want people to see my part of the Internet world as fun. I want them to wonder what I’m going to write in my flash fiction blog this Friday. I might even ask them to send images I can riff on. I want my readers to engage.

I see consistency is the key to this. If I have a Tuesday Teasers blog post, then I don’t let a Tuesday go by without one. I want readers to tune in expecting something fun! I want them to plan to spend a very small amount of time with me on Tuesdays, because it’s amusing, exciting, and rewarding.

The next thing is I want to drive reader traffic -- ALL traffic – towards a subscription of some kind. I use Mail Chimp to create newsletters. I want my readers to sign up for my newsletter, which means giving me both, their email address and permission to send them mail.

Social networking is lovely, but I’m competing with how many people on a reader’s twitter stream? What I want is someone who not only gives me permission to email them, I want a person who looks forward to receiving my mail.

That means I want to (again), amuse, excite, and entertain. I want to give the reader content they aren’t going to get anywhere else. Free stories. Edited scenes. The option to maybe name characters in my books.

I want them to have exclusive content -- something I’ve written just for newsletter subscribers. I want to give them something to look forward to. Some kind of reward for their loyalty.

If they’re giving me something, I need to give something in return, right?

Is this a pipe dream? I don’t think so.

There are authors whose newsletters I enjoy reading. They’re a fun extension of the books I enjoy. I recently signed up for a second weekly newsletter from a single author, and who does that? Who signs up for a second newsletter?

The better question is how can I write one like that!

That newsletter (which I really enjoy) is the perfect example of what I’m talking about. I will be looking to for more books and entertainment from this author for years to come. (If you want to know, it’s Jordan Castillo Price.)

Social media is hit and miss. My forays into social media should be like auditions. I try to put out the best, wittiest stuff. It’s a teaser. The goal is to drive traffic to my newsletter. I offer the opportunity to sign up for newsletters on my website, on Facebook, on Twitter. Then I produce entertaining, exclusive copy on a regular basis.

Currently it seems to be paying off, so I suggest giving a three-fold marketing plan a try:

1.      Create entertaining content on all social networking fronts and use that to drive traffic to newsletter signups.
2.      Make entertainment the lynchpin of a newsletter system – one where you’ve gained permission to email readers with exclusive content and contests. Offer value, and make your little corner of the reader’s inbox a place worth investigating Every single time you send them anything.
3.      Be consistent.

Some things to remember: Even if a writer is limited to fewer marketing hours, it pays to make a plan.

Whether you choose to do your newsletter weekly (I don’t recommend this, if you plan on doing anything else) or quarterly, make a schedule and stick to it. Post your blog posts regularly so your readers get used to looking for them.

Blog in a central place and use something like SNAP – a wordpress social networking auto-poster to update other services like Tumblr, Twitter, Amazon, Goodreads, and Facebook.

And Most IMPORTANT: Have fun. You’re the pied piper. You’re leading your readers into the world of your imagination. It’s time to be the most enthusiastic kid on the block and share your love of books, of reading, and of networking with other authors, and with your fans. 
Thanks for spending a little time with Zam and I here at the Cave. You can find more of the indomitable, real deal Zam a nearly any etailer out there, but I will provide a few linkys!
Social Media for Zam:

or Best Idea Yet, Sign up for ZAM's News, Free Reads and Exclusive contests HERE!! 

Buy Links for any of her books- Necessary, trust me on this. You are going to want to read everything the woman has ever turned her brilliant hand to.

or at any of the publishers she's with... I'll check on those and update this blog later today. Toodles!

Okay, I'm running my feet off, and Zam is published all over the place, so go to the link above that says BEST IDEA YET... click on the word HERE and hop on over to ZAM's site for fun, games, free reads and links to all her book buying locals! 

Get these two books if you've never read them. They rock!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sunday Sweet Thang

Today for me? The sweetest thing is time with my kidlet and recognizing that in order to stay true to my author voice I need to revise a manuscript. I love knowing what direction I'm heading in, don't you? What's your Sweet Thing today? I'd like a sweet boy to share my sleepy Sunday with, and Bono definitely qualifies for me. :)

Enjoy, babies!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday Surprise: Thursday's Time-delayed Think Tank with Vicktor Alexander

Marketing & The Author: Just Be Yourself

I get asked a lot by different authors what I did, or what I do, to market myself and make myself so successful.
Well, after I stop laughing because they called me successful, I’m completely honest with them.
I. Have. No. Idea.

No seriously. I don’t.

I’ve taken some marketing classes and I can tell you all about how the books say to promote your brand. Make sure your brand looks good. Treat your brand like a favored child.


The fact of the matter is, what works for me, may not work for you. My marketing strategies, nonexistent as they are, are geared and created for me. I don’t think I’ve ever run into someone with a story like mine, who is a Messianic black Jew, with an uber religious family, who has suffered abuse, trauma, rape, been on drugs, been an alcoholic, who is also transgender, gay and a single father. My story is unique.

But so is yours.

My bio mother used to tell me all the time that we are all Designer Originals. There is no one else out there who writes like you. No one else can breathe life into YOUR characters, but YOU. No one else knows your characters’ worlds, their quirks, their likes and dislikes. To you they are alive. Living, breathing organisms that laugh, cry, get angry, have sex, fight, survive and triumph over all of the obstacles you toss in their path.

So use that.

Make your characters as real to your audience as you can. Not just in your books, but outside of them. Every so often, Tommy, one of my most popular characters from the Tate Pack series, will pop up on my blog and completely take over. The readers love that and I love being able to share more of Tommy with them.

I share with my readers,, and other authors, certain aspects of my life. I don’t share everything, I’m still a pretty private person, and I probably won’t even share the same thing with everyone, but I share enough so that my readers (and other authors) don’t think that I sit in the Purple Fantasy Den, writing books upon books and sitting on piles of money. I make myself real to my readers. I make myself personable. They know they can share with me and I’ll share back. I let them know when I cried while writing a book and they let me know that they cried reading it. I know that while I may be an author, I’m only a writer without my readers, and that’s something that’s very important to understand.

Yes, I run contests, yes I do blog hops and host other authors on my blog (Ask Author every Monday and Friday is Blog Pimpage/Flash Friday), but for the most part my marketing strategy is just being myself. I don’t let arrogance that I am an author contaminate my being so that way it doesn’t bleed over into my writing. I’m honest with my readers when I tell them I don’t do reviews and I don’t usually read my own unless I’m feeling particularly emotionally strong.

My readers appreciate knowing that I have never forgotten the fact that while I may be an author to them, I’m still just a reader to authors like Amy Lane, Mary Calmes, Andrew Grey, Stormy Glenn, Gabrielle Evans, Jana Downs, Toni Griffin, Cherie Noel, N.J. Nielsen, AKM Miles, and a host of other authors that I won’t take the time to name because we’d be here all day.

I usually try to have something special every day on my blog and/or website. Mondays are Ask Author or Man-oh-Man Monday (flash pieces inspired by photo prompts/descriptions). Tuesdays are Tantalizing Teaser Tuesdays where I share some bit of sexy from either a new release, a coming-soon, or a WIP. Wednesdays are WIP Wednesday where I let the readers know what I’m working on and share an excerpt. Thursday is Tate Pack/Character Thursday where a character from one of my books (usually from the Tate Pack) shows up and just lets loose. Friday is Blog Pimpage/Flash Fiction Friday. I either talk about the blog/website of an author/reader/reviewer/blogger/etc that I like and talk about it or I write a quick 1-5k word short just for the readers.

Maybe it’s the fact that they have something new every day (when I have the time to devote to setting up a week), maybe it’s me being real, talking about my bio family, disappointments, hurts, failures, triumphs, etc. Maybe it’s how much I’m on social media like Facebook or Twitter. Maybe it’s my Yahoo Group.

Or maybe it’s just the stories that I write.

I have no idea what I do to market myself. I’m just myself and I put Vic on display, not completely, there are parts of me still in the shadows, but there’s enough of me out there that readers know who I am, know they can come talk to me and know that my personality spills over into my writing. I don’t trash other author’s work, or other author’s in general, I don’t trash reviewers, bloggers, I donate money to charities and encourage my readers to do the same. I’m a philanthropist and an advocate for change and encourage them to do the same. I sign petitions, I used to march, I write posts about serious topics on my personal blog and I share them with my readers so that they know that I am a real person with real morals, ideals, values and substance.

Maybe that’s what appeals to them. So my best advice to someone about being an author and marketing?

Be yourself. Because yourself is fabulous and the readers will see it and flock to you.

-Vicktor Alexander

Friday, August 23, 2013


Due to technical difficulties, yesterday's Thursday Think Tank has been rescheduled for Saturday. Please forgive us technoprotozoans here at the cave... we are evolving as rapidly as possible, but occasionally something above our level of expertise causes an unavoidable delay! The Think Tank post on promotion from Vicktor Alexander will be up tomorrow!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Thursday Think Tank: It's all about Community

Before you start, they comments function isn't working. I'm trying to get  it fixed, but in the mean-time, you can leave comments on FaceBook either at AmyLaneAnonymous or at AmyLane by clicking on those words. :) Sorry about the difficulty!

Good morning my beautiful babies, and welcome to Thurday's Think Tank. For the next little while we are going to concentrate on an issue I've stumbled over and seen other authors freeze, flee, or begin to flail about in confusion when confronted with the boogey-monster of promotion.
In fact, my friend Linda, who is a newly minted Officially Published through a verra important Publishing House Author, expressed bafflement over the whole do I/don't I promotion dealio. Was it, she wondered, the same as when you self-publish? What if anything changes when under the auspices of a publishing house? I could completely understand why, because there seems to be this pervasive myth that each newly published author stumbles over. For some reason, many of us (yes, please do include me here) mistakenly believe that once we get picked up by a reputable publishing house, our days of beating our hearts against the jagged rocks of promotion will become a thing of the past.

Linda, sweets, I am not great at promoting. But I know some folks who are, and who are sweethearts about sharing their knowledge with the new kids on the block. So pull up a seat here in my little cave… no, don’t worry about getting a beverage. We’ll send the cabana boys out for something once the show gets started.

Righty-O then. Without further ado, let me introduce our first “subject matter expert”. You know her I’m sure, and if you don’t then get thee to the nearest bookseller and buy anything with her name on it. There’s not a single bad apple in Amy Lane’s book-barrel, honest.


The sound of thousands of joyfully screaming minions is heard as Amy creeps quietly into the writing
Amy Lane and feline friend.
cave, knitting in hand. She flashes a sweet, wicked and somehow shy smile. The cabana boys fight over the honor of getting her beverage, but her loyal and awesome MATE quells them all with a single look. He has brought her favorite things, and a big swatter in case there are any stray cave-spiders that might threaten his smishable Twu-Wuv… Amy settles into her spot, setting aside her kitten and beginning to knit as she speaks.


Okay-- so Cherie asked me for tips I'd give beginners if they're trying to promo a book, and while I've got a list that I sort of rock out whenever someone asks me, I thought I'd start with the most obvious thing, and the thing that's helped me the absolute most when it comes to promotion:

Be a part of your community.

Now, it's easy in this community-- we tend to write what we read, and the m/m romance community is small enough that most of the writers know their most ardent fans. But even if you're writing m/f or PNR or whatever, be a part of your community. Be a positive part-- if you go on forums, be known as an advocate, not a troll. Be a voice of enthusiasm, or of thoughtfulness, but be a part of your network. I've been
Amy Lane and Ariel Tachna at GayRomLit 2012
approached by random writer, asking to post on my blog. Now I have let people post on my blog--but only if they've read it before and know me, and know my family and know what I was going for. I'm not going to let random person intrude on my personal space--this person didn't know me, not even my public persona, so the answer was no. But the person I did allow to guest post (and I messed it up--sorry Daisy!) knew me from Twitter, and was really respectful about the approach. It all comes to being respectful, and being known. If your comments or your support or your enthusiasm or your respect has made you a positive part of your community in the first place, when it's time to ask people for their help getting the word out, they are much more likely to give you a hand aboard the promo train.

That being said, here's a handy list I made for fellow authors on the verge of a first release:
Author Devon Rhodes and  the famous Chris of Stumbling Over Chaos. Yes, yes, Chris is exactly the kind of contact that will be invaluable in promoting, but as Devon knows, the best part is that Chris is wry and witty and just plain fun to spend an evening with... she's got a zillion fascinating stories. If you find yourself next to her at GRL, for goodness sake, just chat. You'll be glad you got to know her.
A. Tap any book bloggers you know (remember that community part!) and ask if you can do a guest host

B. If you belong to any FB or forum groups, ask permission and follow user guidelines to post that the book is out.

C. When you do that, there may be some people who offer to review your book. Take them up on it.

D. Post on your own social media sites-- Twitter, FB, etc.

E. Have a blog or a regularly updated website with all of your contact and buy information there for easy use.

F. When the book comes out on and, get yourself an author page. Make sure your Twitter and/or blog and/or website feed are tapped into your author page.

G. Ask your publisher if they have a web page or something-- most of the publishers I know have a publicity
...and always carry your emergency knitting.
person who wants to help you, and at least three media outlets through which to do it. Twitter chats, FB chats, blog chats-- all a possibility. Be prepared to be very busy writing things that are not fiction-- guest blog posts, chat posts, little mini press releases-- have them all ready.

H. Be prepared to answer any responses made to Twitter, FB, guest blogs and media posts-- don't just post and run, follow up and chat.
Amy loves Mary Calmes books.

I. Talk to other authors about their books. You don't need to mention your own unless it comes up, but your enthusiasm for their work will come around and translate into enthusiasm for yours.

J. Enjoy. It took me a long time before I realized that promoting my book was actually work. For a while, it just felt like celebrating with my friends.

Places to find Amy Lane: 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Work in Progress Wednesday: Eeeep! I almost forgot!! A Snippet from The Soldier & the Shaman

From the Soldier & the Shaman

Chapter One

The thing was, after the gut-wrenching debacle that was breakfast this morning, and then finding what was left of Jenkins, after—Evans shuddered, blood surging in his veins and that hollow roar in his ears. Images from the morning flashed across his vision. Christie running and running and Jesus-fuck not putting his damn mask on when who the fuck knew what was in the air outside—after all that there was no going back. All Evans wanted was someone to hold him. Christie by preference, because he was there, warm, alive, and so damn sweet he made Evans teeth hurt. He seemed so into it, his body pushing up, stomach taut, thighs flexing, every muscle saying yes, yes, yes right up until the final moment. Maybe his head was full of silence and the smell of burning flesh too. Maybe it didn't matter when the second he pushed away, Christie cut Evans’ heart out and tossed that poor organ into an emotional blender the likes of which Evans hadn't seen in—oh, fuck-ever.
Yeah. Christie pushed so hard he fell right the fuck out of their little five-ton bench-seat love nest. Cool fingers of air whispered in, trying to pluck away the thick scent of barbecue a la Jenkins that was just stuck in the hairs of Evans nose or something. Christie made a little sound. He’d said no before, and stop, but while he panted those words his tongue had seemed to dance in Evans mouth and oh Christ, Evans needed more of that slick heat and more of that take me away make it stop make it stop, make it stop. So Christie had to be saying what he thought he should and not what he really meant, right? Except as he stared up from the hard packed sand of the ground next to his five-ton truck, his face stark white, mouth pulled tight at the corners.
Then, right when Evans was pretty sure he couldn’t possibly feel a centimeter smaller or else he’d just disappear from this desert island night, fade right out of being, maybe, right fucking then Christie looked down at his open pants, made that same half muffled whining noise, and stuffed his cock into his pants. The light from the street light at the edge of the motorpool fell across his face. Evans had a perfect view of Christie’s rapid flush, his over-bright eyes, and the way his muscles coiled tightly under his fatigues.
“Collins, wait a minute. You’re really hammered man… let me help you back to the tent at least, so you don’t get in trouble with the MP’s or run into Sergeant Tarans while you’re all fucked up. The old man’s already pissed enough at you.”

Christie didn't speak though. He scrambled to his feet and sprinted off in the direction of their platoon’s tents. Evans could have caught him, but the look on Christie’s face, like he was some helpless damn victim staring into the bleak eyes of a serial killer. Well, that knocked the wind out of him, and cut his hamstrings for good measure. He was still sitting there two and a half hours later, listening to the empty roar in his head. The MP’s who rousted him out of the truck finally were guys he’d played volleyball with once or twice during downtime. He didn't know if that was why they let him go with a warning, or if maybe his face was still showing the signs of the monster lurking under his skin, but whatever the reason, he was grateful. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday's Ode to Minions, Madness, Mania, and Mmm mmm Marvelous Men

Dark roast with its rich oil shimmering on the surface. Ah yes. My stalled out brain-pan coughs, kicks, rolls over and then limps forward toward the next blissful dose of mmmmmmmmmm coffee-fueled imagination and groovy good times.

Wait a doggone second. What the heck does coffee have to do with all those lovely M-words?
I must have coffee to get any of the others presented to you in any other form than that of a howling, gibbering mess.

Right then.

We on the same page now my beautiful babies?

M'kay. On to the topic of Minions!
Minions. We all want one, crave one, nerdgasm over their perfect adorkability, yesh?
What many fail to realize, however, is that not all minions are created equal! No, no, its true! Minion care and feeding is a little understood art with far too few masters, and far too many dabblers... I myself am a mere dabbler. I lucked out in my minion acquisition and got one like that cheerful, productive little fella in the center of the minion mass here. *shudder* I hate to think what might have become of my dear minion if she had not been naturally inclined to general tinkery-dinkery-and what-not. Sheesh. I tossed her a whole website, said, "have at 'er, Minion Dear, and then hied my keister off to hide in the darkest reaches of my writing cave.  It is only by the minion's natural nicee-niceness that I avoided several stiff fines for minion abuse. *sniffling* *sighing, and general feeling heelish*

Minion Dear. You are one in a bazillion. No, really. There may be hordes of minions out there, but there is only one Minion Dear. 
Moving on to the Mad, Maniacal section of today's post! 
*cackling and rubbing hands together*
Yesh! The Writing Stuff first and formost:
I finished the first story in my 1000 Cranes series, and  have subbed it. (cue nervous nail-biting)... Also, the little Drag Queen story I've been working on is done, and off to be reviewed. :) Next up is finishing off The Soldier & the Shaman (sequel to The Soldier & the State Trooper)... shooting to wrap that one up sometime between Wednesday and Friday so I can move on to my next French Quarter Quartet story: Strip, Shift, Tango...

School stuff: er, did my Fafsa and NY State aid forms today. Holy connectivity Batman, it was way easier than I remember it ever being before! Now if I could just get all my transcripts turned in and evaluated so I could be officially matriculated... I can only take three classes at a time right now because of the non-matric status, and I really wanted to take one more class this semester! Sheesh. 
:(  Boo for the bumps in the road, but HUZZAH(!) for the creative handling of them I'm employing!  

 It's a lot of fun to be in school again. Heh. Even if finishing all the paperwork involved is driving me bonkers. Er, more bonkers. LOL.

Oh. YESH!! Time for the Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmarvelous Mmmmmmmmmmen that I was talking about... Next month the total cutie I met in one of my classes is going to meet with my photographer and I'll have pictures to post of the newest Rescue Twink model. *I am so excited about this I could just pee*

Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print today... um, and some that isn't. *giggle*

Later babies!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Minionizing. Ish.

Soo, I missed Minion Monday (we will get used to that) but I had a VERY good reason! Monday was the local school system's Open House day, where kids get classroom assignments and learn bus route numbers & pick-up times and we get to meet teachers and maybe have a little paperwork & fun like that. This is a little more complicated than it sounds because I have 2 kids at one school and one kid at another school on the other end of town (we live not-quite-exactly equidistant from the two). And the other school, the one with just one of my kids, is the middle school, which means not just one but 5 teachers to meet, plus choosing an "extracurricular" -- You know, band, athletics, chorus, whatnot.

Oh, and did I mention, only a couple of hours to get all this done? Right at suppertime, too. AND DH was supposed to be starting his new job.

Note the italics. Yeah. Hopefully he'll be for real starting next Tuesday when they fly him to Indiana for orientation (the actual JOB will be closer to home, thankfully).

So, yeah, Monday was a If by fun you mean crazy-hectic and stressful.

And then Tuesday was the joy of shopping for school supplies. Of course, all the local stores are sold out of half the stuff my kids needed (folders with the little prongs for holding loose-leaf paper? I need five. There was ONE. Also my youngest still needs scissors b/c I refuse to pay $10 for a pair of school scissors.) Luckily all their backpacks and shoes are in good shape. Note to parents: Spring for the expensive backpacks, and buy good quality tennies in the spring. TOTALLY worth the money.

So now, here I am, having done grocery shopping and a last lunch date with the DH b/c once he starts working again, that'll be it for mid-week lunch dates.

And I see my boys running up the driveway, home from their first day as 3rd and 4th graders, so... Happy reading!