Writing Lessons

  • Why authors want you to pre-order and Teaser No. 6!

    Your friend — and by that I mean me — has written a book.  Suddenly your Facebook and Instagram feed is inundated (I really hope not) with posts about pre-ordering her book.  She’s offering swag, and you’re like,

    “Wait…is she giving away curtains? Isn’t that what swag is? Or is this some thug thing? Like bling? She’s not really very thuggish…”

    I am not very thuggish. It’s true. Nor am I giving away curtains to encourage you to pre-order my book.  Swag is usually stuff like bookmarks, bookplates, artwork, postcards, etc.  We autograph some of this stuff to make it extra fancy. (If you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see what I mean).

    But back to the WHY. Authors (again, that’s me) want you to pre-order their books because:

    1. Pre-ordering can get the book on the LISTS. Now for most authors (me), that’s practically impossible. There are so many, many factors that go into getting on the NY Times Bestseller list that my little pre-order campaign is sort of like shouting into the void.  I totally recognize that, and yet, it doesn’t change the fact that I want my book to be heard, seen, recognized.
    2. It can affect the number of books ordered. If a lot of books are pre-ordered the vendor (Amazon and Barnes & Noble, usually) can request more books from the publisher, which is always a good thing.
    3. It makes the book more visible. Any Kindle users out there? You know how Amazon recommends other books that you might like? Yes. They don’t suggest books that aren’t selling well. That would be really friendly of them, but this is Amazon we’re talking about. They have magical algorithms that track everyone’s buying habits.  But books don’t get tracked and promoted if they don’t get bought.
    4. Pre-orders make publishers happy. Publishing houses pay authors an advance, hoping that they’ll make more money than what they paid their author. When they (editors and publisher, who is a person BTW) see pre-orders, they think, “Yay! This might not tank.” And then they may buy more books from the author. Which is really good for everyone in this scenario.
    5. We don’t want to feel like failures. There’s nothing quite as terrifying and heart-breaking as watching something that you’ve slaved and sacrificed for collapse. We want our books to do well. Sometimes that requires stepping outside our comfort zone and asking you to do something for us. I don’t really like asking for help. But I can’t (nor do I want to ) buy 10,000 copies of my own book. Seriously. Where would I put them?

    So, if you can afford to pre-order a book — mine or anyone else’s — then go for it! You may not need the swag, but it is kind of cool. Also, my artwork is beautiful. Just saying.

    If you DO pre-order, then please send me a pic of your receipt and your address.  Swag is the best thank you card I can send because when we get down to it, swag is the only way I can show gratitude!

    I’ll leave these right here:

    To buy SKYLIGHTER on Amazon

    To buy SKYLIGHTER on B&N

    To buy SKYLIGHTER at Blue Willow (autographed copies available!)

    To buy STORYSPINNER on Amazon (paperback is cheaper!! Yay!)

    To buy STORYSPINNER on B&N

    To buy STORYSPINNER at Blue Willow


    SKY teaser7


    Oh!! And here’s the picture of the swag I promised. It’s all very bookish instead of thuggish. SKYLIGHTER orders get a bookmark, a post card, and the exclusive hand-numbered artwork by Dimas Wijil Pamungkas.  STORYSPINNER orders get a bookmark, post card, and bookplate map sticker.


    So give me a chance to say thank you for supporting me and my book!!  Love to you all!

  • Defeating Writer’s Block: Mind Mapping

    mind-mapA few weeks ago, my husband walked into our office and found me sprawled out on the floor.  Our conversation went something like this:

    “Honey, why are you on the floor?”

    I threw one arm over my eyes (I may have a flair for the dramatic) and groaned, “I’m so stuck with this story. I know what has to happen next, but I just can’t write the words.”

    “You solve your problems from the floor?”

    “Yes!  This is the Rug of Many Sorrows,” I said, giving the floor a hard slap.  “And today I have many sorrows.”

    He stepped over me and arranged his work laptop, work laptop No. 2, IPad, and phone on the desk.  “Do you think it might be more productive to map out where your story is supposed to go?”

    “No! Outlining is the devil!”

    “Well…” he paused, and I could hear him shuffling around a bit.  “I didn’t mean an outline, per se.  I meant a Mind Map.  We have this really cool software at work and…”

    When he reached the word ‘software,’ I stopped listening, rolled onto my stomach, and continued my pout.

    Two days later, I was still stuck and feeling desperate.  So I finally hit him up for a few more details about this magical Mind Map that solves his problems.

    Here’s the crazy thing: His idea totally worked.  Mind mapping got me unstuck!

    If you’re like me and you don’t know what mind-mapping is, think of it like a glorified flow chart.  There is super fancy software that has some amazing functions (like collapsing fields, colored boxes for different themes etc.), but I am not that cool.  My mind-mapping is a lot less techno (but maybe as effective?).  Here’s what works for me:

    1. Know where you want to go

    For THE STORYSPINNER’s sequel, I had to write a really complicated scene with a billion (or six) different characters whose success or failure depended on the other characters. It was one of the trickiest things I’ve ever had to write.  I’d love to show you my mind map, but that would spoiler central.  So, instead I’m using the well loved A Christmas Carol, by the fabulous Charles Dickens — who I’m certain never got writer’s block — to illustrate how mind mapping works.

    Let’s pretend that Mr. Dickens knew he had a miserly character, and he wanted this character to learn his lesson, but the details between those elements were little hazy.  He’d write the beginning and end on a sheet of paper like this:

    Becky’s Super Awful Mind-Mapping Drawing No. 1

    2. Work backward or forward or whatever feels like it’s going to unstick you

    Mr. Dickens realized that the best way to scare any person into sainthood is to show them their own death.  So he adds that element with a little box.

    Becky’s Super Awful Mind-Mapping Drawing No. 2

    I am not one of those people who can write scenes/stories out of order, but I know a lot of people who successfully beat writer’s block by jumping to a different scene.  If you can write that little bit before THE END, then go for it!  For me I have to add more elements to my map.

    3. Identify the HOW.

    If Mr. Dickens was stuck, he’d have to make a list of all the hows. How would he show Scrooge his own death? Where is it going to take place? What is the scenery going to look like? How is Scrooge going to feel? Then you add the sub questions like: how is Scrooge going to get to the graveyard?

    Your little mind-map starts to look more like a porcupine with idea bubbles bristling all over the place.

    Becky’s Super Awful Mind-Map Drawing No. 3

    4.  Fill in the blanks

    Use your map to flesh out scenes and connect sub-plots.

    Becky”s Super Awful Mind-Map Drawing No. 4 


    You can call it outlining if you want to, but I don’t!  Since there is so little on the page (and so little at stake if you decided to ditch your map completely), this process gave me the direction I needed, but still left room for my characters and plot to develop organically.

    I’m sure there are other people out there who mind-map better than I do, but this was a new concept for me.  I hope that if any of you are struggling with writer’s block, that this might help you along!

    Good luck, friends!


  • Five Images from THE STORYSPINNER

    From bloomtrigger,com

    Do you have any idea how beautiful the world is? There are so many incredible things out there, on earth, that I had to borrow some of my favorite images to help me illustrate Santarem, the world of THE STORYSPINNER.

    Take for instance, the araucaria pine tree (above) and its glorious reaching branches.  It may have the world’s best silhouette.  AND this tree, plays a pretty significant role in my story.

    If you think that’s awesome, here are five more pictures that inspired me as I wrote Johanna and Rafi’s story.

    1.  Performer’s Tent

    Performers Tent
    From indivisuality.tmblr.com

    2. A Performer’s Wagon

    Family Wagon
    Tea Towels and photo from Handmade by Charlotte photo shoot

    3.  A Bugio (Monkey)

    Photo credit: Helio Silva

    4. Donovan’s Wall

    Donvan's Wall
    Photo Credit: Lara Klopper

    5. Belem’s Estate

    Belem's Estate
    Green fields of the summer sea by Ricardo Bevilaqua


    Review copies of my book are making their way to readers, reviewers, and bloggers. Paper back versions are being sent out by Simon & Schuster, and e-galleys are available on Edelweiss.  I can’t wait for the world to meet the people and see the places that have occupied so much space in my head for the last two years!

    If you wanted to pre-order (and I’m never opposed to that), my book is up on Amazon!  AHH!!  How crazy is that?  My book. The book I wrote is a thing that people can buy.  I feel all excited and itchy and a whole lot nervous about that!

    Oh! If you’re interested, I have a whole board on Pinterest devoted to THE KEEPER’S CHRONICLES.  You are welcome to check it out.