Do You Really Need Social Media?

Thomas Unstattd Jr., author at Author Media produces the Novel Marketing podcast direted towards writers, authors, and those aspiring to journey into the literary world in one way or another.

Why Most Authors Don’t Need Social Media in 2022

When authors think about promoting their book, their minds usually go directly to one method of promotion: social media. But social media networks change so quickly. The advice you received at a writers conference in 2019 doesn’t necessarily work in 2022. Even the best social media methods of 2021 may not work in 2022. Therein lies the challenge for authors.

Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, whether you’re traditionally or independently published, you need to be aware of the changes and costs of social media.

One of the most unhelpful questions authors ask is, “Will doing X help me sell more books?” It’s a useless question because the answer is almost always “yes.”

Listen to the full podcast about “Why Most Authors Don’t Need Social Media in 2022”.
Read the show notes at Novel Marketing.

What types of social media do you use to promote your books?
Has this podcast made you re-think how you will move forward in 2022?

The Stories Maps Can Tell

Guest Blogger, Vicki Felmlee’s Research Leads to a Treasure Trove of Information.

1947 Map of Colorado

How often have you, as a writer, had an idea or a theory about something and after diving into old journals, maps, and newspaper articles you discover you were right, that “Eureka!” moment. 

About 10 years ago I was researching the historic (pre-1850) Old Spanish Trail in my part of Colorado. One section was the ‘favorite” among local historians, but I doubted this premise. Present-day U.S. Highway 50 follows the OST from Gunnison, Colorado into Grand Junction, but the section I questioned went up a pretty steep hill. Fine for cars and trucks nowadays, but what about for horses, wagons, carts, and mules 200 or 2,000 years ago? There was an alternate route, not officially recognized, that was almost flat, close to a river, with perfect camping and game-hunting opportunities. Wouldn’t Native Americans, and, later, Mexican and American trappers and traders, and U.S. military scouts, take that route?

On a whim I visited the local engineering office of the Colorado Department of Transportation. There I met Sean Yeates who was very interested in my question: how steep was the original grade of that hill before it was dynamited or bulldozed? He dived into the state files dating back to 1900 and the next day gave me his answer: almost 8%, a very steep grade indeed. Too steep, in fact, for laden pack animals especially in the winter. 

Then Mr. Yeates mentioned a staff member had digitized several CDOT maps. “You seem to be interested in maps, do you want them?” he asked. I said, “Sure,” and received a CD.
That night I opened the disc and realized what a remarkable bunch of files I now possessed: these were “travel maps” produced by CDOT and handed out free at gas stations and restaurants. There are a few gaps, but beginning in 1916, they were plain, unadorned; by 1951, they were filled with state information, pictures, advertisements – a few in full color. Scanning these maps, some very large, had required a large-scale scanner and a lot of time! 
They were entertaining and fun, but had little practical use. Or so I thought.

Fast forward a few years – eight to be exact – and I am researching Western Colorado ranches and the Great Depression for my next novel. Highway 50 is the main arterial through this area so of course it plays a role in my narrative. I discovered the road was paved in some areas in the 1920s, but when did it become U.S. Highway 50? I knew from earlier research it was called the “Old Wagon Road,” the “Salt Lake Wagon Road,” and the “Bean Road” (after a ranching family). 
Then I realized I had the answer in my office: that CD.

The 1916 map called it Road 44; some subsequent years no name or number was assigned. I really wanted to be as accurate as possible, so I kept opening those maps, zooming in. By the mid-20s most of the maps referred to it as 50 or 550, and finally the proper U.S. Highway System insignia was applied; by 1929, my “year of interest,” it was clearly U.S. Highway 50. 

Now my characters could correctly say they were “turning left on Highway 50” or had “found a body on the side of the highway” while they traveled, rode, and drove, to and fro, from town to town. 

By the way, remember the original quest for researching the “alternate” route on the
OST? Based on my information, and Mr. Yeates’ help, the National Park Service agreed, and designated it the OST Official Historic Route in 2012. Eureka!

Note: I have now uploaded all of these maps at tcsmg.com/CDOTmaps. Just click on a year, for example, and the files will appear for you to view. Most are pdfs, there are a few jpgs. These maps are large, 20″-30″ wide, so you won’t be able to print them out unless you have access to a very large printer. You can of course bring them into a program like Photoshop and reduce.
As a bonus, I have included one sheet from the Hayden Survey of Western Colorado/Eastern Utah. The Hayden maps are very important historical documents from 1871. You can read more about this expedition here (and Google for more):

Vicki Felmlee received her degree in Geology but took a right-hand turn into journalism, working for newspapers and magazines for more than 10 years. She then returned to her “roots” and worked as an Environmental Scientist for projects in Idaho, New Mexico, and Denver before starting her own company in 1996. She is a former national president of the Old Spanish Trail Association and has been active in community issues. Retired, she lives in Grand Junction, Colorado with her husband, dogs, cats, and chickens. Her website is at www.americamoreorless.com

Choosing a Book Title

Anne R. Allen’s blog discussion: 5 Things to Consider When Choosing a Book Title in the Internet Age.

I’ve blogged before with tips on choosing a book title, but recently I’ve become aware of a few other things we need to consider in the age of online bookselling.

I ruminated about titles over the holidays, when I had a chance to read some titles from my TBR pile, and catch up on a few TV shows I’d missed. I found that some books and films spun out tales that fit perfectly with their titles. Others didn’t.

And it seemed to me the titles that didn’t match their content were harder to remember. And “memorable” should be our number one goal when choosing a book title in the days of mega-competition. So here are some things to keep in mind when making that final decision about your title. (I realize only indies have the final decision on a title, but we can all hope….)

Power Up Women Podcast Interview

Anne Doyle, the host of the Power Up Women podcast, sat down for a visit with Women Writing the West president, Betsy Randolph. Listen in on their conversation.

Have you ever fantasized about the American West? I have, as have millions from all over the world. So many that there is now a genre of literature, “The American West.” So I was thrilled to discover an organization of “Women Writing the West (WWW),” which is female authors (and some male) whose characters, stories and settings reflect the distinct cultures, geography and history of this important and distinct part of the United States. Betsy Randolph is a widely-read, mystery author, including her noted Cat Carlyle Mysteries, the president of Women Writing the West and one of the first female officers in both the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Capital Patrol promoted to leadership roles. She joins me to talk about writing, growing up as a “tom-boy” and her reaction to the arrest of the parents of the suspect in the latest school shooting that occurred in my community of Oxford, Michigan. 
 

A Message for the New Year

It’s a new year—time to let go of the old and welcome in the new. New goals, new plans, new dreams. We’ve had a rough couple of years in the world, and our lives have changed forever, but it doesn’t mean we can’t move forward with renewed hope and the opportunity to make our dreams come true. 

Many people shy away from setting New Year’s resolutions for fear they will not carry them out. I get it. I’ve failed many times—but the important thing to me is setting the goal. It gives me direction and a sense of excitement for what may come my way. It gives me purpose and a sense of optimism. 

Optimism doesn’t come easily for people. We are wired with a negativity bias which is essential to our survival. It’s what alerts us to danger and keeps us safe. But sometimes it can go into overdrive, and we often don’t know how to get out of that negative mind set. Setting goals and striving to make those dreams come true can break through those barriers and open up a whole new way of thinking. 

My books, all historical mystery novels, have this theme of pushing through adversity running through them. My characters have this drive, this need to make their dreams come true and make the world a better place. My protagonists, all amateur sleuths, are presented with situations that seem unsurmountable, but they have a need to find the truth and seek justice, to make order out of the chaos of the problem set before them. And through their determination and refusal to fail, they reach that goal.

Annie Oakley, in my Annie Oakley mystery series, is drawn from the real-life woman. If you know anything about her, you know she came from poverty and hardship, and rose above those hurdles to become one of the most famous women in the world. You might also know she was driven to help others, especially women. She taught thousands of women to shoot because she felt every woman had the right to defend herself. This pint-sized wonder-woman worked in a man’s world and excelled, besting all her male opponents. To me, it only made sense she would make an excellent detective—someone who is driven to rise above the adversity caused by a murder and get to the truth. 

My protagonist Grace of the Grace Michelle mysteries, (a purely fictional character) has also come from adversity. It’s her past sorrows that give her the drive to make something of herself (she’s a costume designer on Broadway and then in the silent film industry) and to help others through her sleuthing skills in order to prevail above the wrongs in her world. 

Ruby Delgado (also fictional), of my Southwestern mystery Bones of the Redeemed, has suffered tremendous loss in her life, her only child, and is struggling with a reason to see another day. An archeologist by profession, her work is the only thing keeping her going, but when she arrives at a dig in New Mexico, she unwittingly stumbles upon a sinister secret society and learns a young man’s life is in danger. Her need to save this boy ( because she couldn’t save her own) drives her to rise above her own suffering and expose this deadly brotherhood. 

I realize that the goals of my protagonists are pretty lofty—usually consisting of saving lives or righting wrongs. Few of us are presented with those challenges. But the challenges we face in our own lives can often feel insurmountable and sometimes we can’t find a way out. 

The best way to do this is to start small. Chip our way out. Set a goal. Dare to dream. 

And the new year gives us the opportunity to do just that. So, even if you think you’ll fail, make a resolution. Start fresh. Get excited about what lay ahead. The possibilities are endless.

When she’s not on a horse, or walking along the beautiful cottonwood-laden acequias of Corrales, New Mexico; or basking on white sand beaches under the Big Island Hawaiian sun, Kari Bovée is escaping into the past—scheming murder and mayhem for her characters, both real and imagined, and helping them to find order in the chaos of her action-packed novels.

An award-winning author, Bovée was honored with the 2020 Chanticleer First Place in category for the Chanticleer International Clue Awards for her book Folly at the Fair. In 2019, she was awarded the NM/AZ Book Awards Hillerman Award for Southwestern Fiction for her novel Girl with a Gun. The novel also received First Place in the 2019 NM/AZ Book Awards in the Mystery/Crime category and won First in Category in the International Chanticleer Murder & Mayhem Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2019 Next Generation Indie Awards. Her novel Grace in the Wings won First in Category for the 2019 International Chanticleer Chatelaine Awards. Peccadillo at the Palace won Grand Prize in the 2019 Goethe Awards and was a finalist in the 2019 Best Book Awards Historical Fiction category. 

Bovée has worked as a technical writer for a Fortune 500 company, has written non-fiction for magazines and newsletters, and has worked in the education field as a teacher and educational consultant.

Women Writing the West President’s Message for Christmas 2021

We all have special memories of Christmases past. Whether celebrated in traditional fashion unwrapping presents in front of tinsel-strewn, twinkling-lit trees covered with hand-crafted ornaments, enjoying platters of food, and pies upon pies. Or celebrating on a cruise ship, a tropical island beach, at a ski resort. Maybe your favorite Christmas memories were just a few days off work, snuggling with your special someone, sipping cocoa, and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time. 

My fondest Christmas memories were of Christmas 1981. I was eleven years old. My brothers, Brian and Brent, were twelve and six. A few months before Christmas, my family moved to Enid, Oklahoma, from my birth state of New Mexico. I thought everyone lived as we did—five humans sharing a box of Mac-n-Cheese, a can of green beans, and bread slices covered in soft margarine. I didn’t know what poverty meant. We were always clean and fed, with a rented roof above our heads; I was happy, carefree.

Christmas was a special time at our house. Santa always came on Christmas Eve no matter how terrible my brothers had been during the year. Mom somehow managed to buy us the things we wanted even if we hadn’t told her what that was. Back then, there was no Wal-Mart, at least not in Enid, and Amazon was light years away from existence. Still, Mom pulled off Christmas in her usual, extravagant fashion. 

On Christmas Eve, my brothers and I opened gifts of clothes, shoes, and toys. Christmas morning found us gawking over our crochet Christmas stockings stuffed and spilling over with peppermint candy canes, chocolate shaped Saint Nicolas bars, little books of LifeSavers, and at least one additional toy. My stocking that year held a blonde Barbie doll in a beautiful satin white gown, and diamond-like earrings in her ears. She matched the doll I’d gotten the night before, her groom, Ken, who wore a black tuxedo with long tails. But what made this Christmas the most memorable for me was not the candy or gifts, or even the feast Mom prepared of honey-glazed ham covered in pineapple chunks, mashed potatoes, a mixed salad, and chocolate pudding pie for dessert. What made that year different and priceless for me, was the realization—the unwavering, unequivocal, know-it-in-your-heart comprehension of what Christmas was truly about. 

Growing up in a Christian home, we read Luke 2:1-19, the Christmas story, every Christmas Eve. All my life I’d heard about the birth of the Messiah, the Christ-child. I sang Silent Night year after year and over and over proclaiming the good news of the Savior’s birth. Still, something was different that year. Something inside me had changed. For the first time ever, I knew, really knew Christmas didn’t have anything to do with Santa—it was about God’s perfect gift for all mankind. Jesus. 

The knowledge was like a flashbulb—a bright shock, flashing in the darkness, forcing one to squint against piercing illumination. I finally got it. I understood the immense sacrifice of God sending His only begotten son to die in my stead, and Jesus’s willingness to do so. Why after all those years did it finally sink in? I don’t know, but every year since, I’ve been less and less interested in gifts and more and more interested in, and amazed by, The Gift. 

I hope you take some time to recall some of your fondest Christmases past while creating wonderful new memories with your loved ones this year.

Lynn Downey

In her latest blog, For Your Holiday Table: “Cowboy in a Sack”, Women Writing the West member, Lynn Downey, shares some interesting tidbits she uncovered while doing research for her next book (March 2022). Read more about her findings and maybe add an old-fashioned culinary dish to your holiday festivities. Let us know how it turns out.

Tiffany Yates Martin

Get Out of the Room

“The editor has no place in the room while you’re writing,” says world-class developmental editor, Tiffany Yates Martin.

She enthusiastically encourages you to let your pure creativity flow without your imaginary inner-jerk editor, poking you, asking, “Really?  Is that the best way to say it?”

There’s a time for the editor—but it’s later, helping you tame your draft into submission. 

One way to hush your inner critic is find a book that’s well written. Read it. Enjoy it.  Then go back and read it again, but this time, read it analytically as a writer. Ask questions.  How did the author set this up? What created this tension? How did he/she do that?  Make notes. 

Learning to read analytically will “osmose storycraft into you,” says Martin. Then as you write, “… you’ll subconsciously put what you learned into your writing without trying to.”

What do you look for when analyzing a book?

One important facet is MOMENTUM. At the WWW Conference, Tiffany Yates Martin will share 30 years of her editing knowledge in a special Thursday workshop, How To Find and Fix Middle-Of-The-Book Sag. You’ll learn how to spot what’s derailing your story and how to get it back on track.

Martin works with national publishers and best-selling authors and loads tremendous value, information and inspiration into an afternoon. This is a value-packed workshop regardless of your skill level or genre.