Katniss: Real or Not Real

Katniss-Mockingjay2About two weeks ago, I talked about writing characters that become real to the reader to the point where they take on a life of their own. What better way to learn how to write compelling, believable characters than examining your favorite characters from books you’ve personally enjoyed.  I’ve read many books throughout the years and one character that stands out as an excellent case study of a real character is Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Game series. The “Girl on Fire” as she’s known in the book, has caught on like wildfire, becoming a house-hold name. Even though the book has become a world-wide phenomenon, I didn’t always feel that way about it.

I was late getting into the Hunger Game series. To be honest I didn’t even know about the book until the 1st movie came out.  While everyone was hyping it up, I was pretty reluctant to watch Hunger Games let alone read the book. I dismissed it as “dumb” or “too violent.” Then a year  later after it came out on the big screen, my sister rented the first movie on DVD. It was lying around and after listening to some of the soundtracks I was curious. After the first ten minutes of watching I was hooked! That’s when I fell in love with Katniss Everdeen and her chilling story.

Even though she’s a fictional character, you could imagine her as a real person. Despite her inherent flaws we rooted for her to win the Games. That begs the question: what made her so believable? Even more importantly: what made her likeable? The answer to those questions are important especially for any writer because that is one of our end-goals; to create realistic characters that you’ll care about. To feel emotionally invested in. Compelling characters make for compelling stories. Today, I share snippets from my long overdue review of the Hunger Games which will shed light on why Katniss Everdeen has become a house-hold name.

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When Your Character Becomes Too Real

One of the goals that any writer hopes to achieve is to make his/her character feel real to the reader. When you find a character that feels real you can connect with them on an emotional level. In turn you become invested in the story when those important connections are made. That character becomes more than a flat caricature. They’ve come alive from the printed page. The point that you actually care what will happen next to them, that keeps you turning the pages.

This is especially true for any main character you write. When we first create our characters we often start with surface traits. Our first thoughts are on physical descriptions or generic labels to describe their characteristics (e.g.: cool, flirty, shy, outgoing, nerdy, mean, etc.). While that’s an ok place to start, it’s good to reflect on what makes that character unique or distinctive. Maybe they have an interesting quark about the way they laugh or maybe your character has a special talent or two. Whether we realize it or not we often draw from real life examples when brainstorming our characters. We even sometimes add in little details and habits from people we’ve observed, giving them added realism. Before you know it your character feels like someone you’ve known. Then you stop and realize why that character feels real; too real. That real-life example is you the writer.

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What I Learned from Going Free

Summer still sizzles on in the month of August. It’s been approximately 2 months since the launch of my free book run. With all free book runs they eventually run their course. After getting encouraged by a blogger to share what sites I found to be most cost-effective in promoting my book, logically this topic would be my next post. While I admit I don’t fully understand all the variables that factored in, here’s some of the overall lessons I gleaned as I share my results during and after the free run. Continue reading

Before the Legend Going Free!

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The countdown begins. The eBook for Before the Legend is officially going free starting today. The free promotion is from June 12th-14th and 16th. Download your free copy on Kindle today here.


On Sunday starting at 12pm CST – 10pm I’ll be taking reader’s questions in a Q&A session on Goodreads. Don’t won’t miss the latest updates or changes? Follow me on my Facebook page.

-Happy Friday

Prepping for Free Promotion

Key word to this promotion. Free. Well at least mostly.

After mulling the idea of a cinematic trailer, I finally set to work to release a brand new book trailer for my 4th book, Chasing Blue. It was a lot of work but I believe it was worth the effort and I hope you guys enjoy it. The trailer comes at a time where I’m also prepping for my free run for Before the Legend. From Friday June 12th to 16th, the eBook will be going free on Amazon for Kindle.

Considering I’ve done a free run before, I already have an idea of what to expect. When I first tried it last year, I had a measure of success considering I wasn’t enrolled in KDP Select and had to wait for Amazon to price-match when I dropped the price to $0 via Smashwords. The first day I had hundreds of downloads, and eventually rose to #1 briefly in my respective category. I attribute the success largely to FreeBooksy, although I did use Pixel of Ink too to promote my free run (they are no longer accepting free books at the moment). It also helped I chose a category with fewer works to compete with (eg. Juvenile Fiction / Legends, Myths, Fables / Greek & Roman), which is a tip I picked up from reading David Gaughran’s book Let’s Get Visible. That was the first time my book got that much attention and considering my sales rank rose exponentially that gave me a boost in visibility in an already flooded book market.

However like all good things it must come to an end. One of the biggest challenges I faced when doing a free-run the first time around was keeping the momentum going. After the first two days the number of downloads dropped drastically. By the end of my free run, my sales rank continually slipped until I was no longer in the top 3 spots. By the time it was over, I probably had sold one book.

I think this is a problem a lot of authors out there face when doing a free run. So what to do about keeping the momentum? To be honest it’s extremely difficult to maintain a high sales rank and eventually land on the best sellers list on Amazon during and after the free run. Free runs attract anybody, even people who will download your work whether there genuinely interested in the genre/work or not. I have to shamefully admit I have hurried up to download a free book only to still not have read it. It happens. You buy it out of impulse. That’s part of the sales catch to free runs. The offer is “too good to pass up.” And of course it doesn’t make it better I don’t own a Kindle and my Kindle previewer on my laptop decided it doesn’t want to work anymore. But I digress. So what is an author to do to maximize the success of their free run during and after?

Preparation is Key

To maximize results I needed an actual plan before launching head first into it, which is part of the reason I postponed it to time where I can plan who and how to promote the book promotion. On Digital Book Today, author Ruth Francisco shares some really great strategies to take before, during and after you start your free run. Here are some of the big ones I plan to use…

Before the Free Run

  • Try to get a couple of reviews before starting your free promotion. Having honest feedback already, helps readers to make an informed decision about  your work, giving you an added advantage. There is no magic number to the number of reviews to have although the author states having 6.
  • Days before the free run consider upping the price. That way readers feel like they’re getting a bargain.
  • Timing is important. Wed, Thurs, and Sunday are usually good days. I plan to test out staggering my free promotion perhaps space out the days.
  • Start contacting sites that will promote your free runs. Most sites prefer at least a week’s notice. Some sites like  ENT (Ereader News Today) will need to be notified a month in advance. So plan accordingly.

During the Free Run

  • Alert your followers on social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter etc. about your free run.
  • Add a comment about your free book to the Amazon Kindle Forum. The author suggests doing this early in the morning the day your free promotion begins.

Post Free Run

What are some things you can do after the free run to lift your sales rank after the dreaded drop?

  • Try gifting a few copies to readers. In turn it will help boost your sales rank which tends to slip after a free run.
  • Run $.99 promotion. Although I plan to spend very little on advertising during my free run. A little advertising could be a good idea especially the days after your free run.

Well these are the tips I’ve gathered. For those like me that don’t feel like dishing out a whole bunch of money for a “free” promotion here are relatively free sites that you post your free book to.

I might add some more to this list. As always check their policies. Some sites due to high demand may charge you to guarantee you a reserved spot. In addition if you want to be featured be prepared to pay extra. Although just to be listed it should be free. Feel free to add free sites you found in the comments below.




Writing With Heart: Creating the Emotionally Engaging Character

It’s always been my aim to make readers care about my characters as if they’re real people with real hopes and fears and this post brings that vision to greater clarity. I think writers out there including myself can take away from the concrete ways presented here to make our characters more emotionally engaging.

Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors

Someone recently asked me about writing with emotion.  This is really about creating the emotionally engaging character because if you don’t write emotion into your character, the reader won’t connect with that character on an emotional level.  It’s hard to explain the difference between a great story and an emotionally satisfying story because the distinction is subtle.

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Write With Your Heart = Showing

Emotion-driven writing isn’t about telling your reader what your character is feeling.  Something like, “She was afraid she’d fail the test” is telling the reader what the character is feeling.  It’s also more than simple actions like gulping or trembling or crying.  Those things are all about writing at the head level.  It’s skimming the surface of the emotional journey your character is going through.

Emotion-driven writing is delving deep within the character and being right there in the moment, going…

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