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Book Release Day! Lisa Manterfield’s new novel The Smallest Thing

One of the most exciting parts of living a creative life is finding kindred souls along the journey. I had the good fortune of meeting author Lisa Manterfield several years ago at the UCLA Writer’s Studio, and I quickly discovered I’d found a both a talented writer and cherished friend. Lisa’s writing is a marriage of science and emotion. An accomplished writer of both fiction and nonfiction, Lisa is unafraid to venture along the dark and curving paths of human experience (or climb onto high, precarious ledges). She invites her readers to the call of the wild while awakening a sense of timelessness and gravity, united with both the earth and beyond. Wherever Lisa takes her reader, you can be certain it’s new territory and you wouldn’t want to be there without her as a guide.

Lisa Manterfield is the award-winning author of A Strange Companion and I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood. Her work has appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, Los Angeles Times, and Psychology Today. Originally from northern England, she now lives in Southern California with her husband and over-indulged cat.

Her newest book releases today! I’m honored to be among the first to announce Lisa Manterfield’s latest novel, The Smallest Thing. In celebration, you can ENTER TO WIN a lovely swag box that includes a signed copy of The Smallest Thing and some fabulous gifts. We chatted about her experience researching and writing the story, and why her protagonists’ fathers tend to figure so prominently. I got the inside scoop on how published authors can find effective book marketing techniques that work for their readerships.

Ok, let’s begin! First, tell us what The Smallest Thing is about.

lisa manterfield authorpic

LM: When 17-year-old Emmott finds herself trapped in her tiny English village by a government-imposed quarantine, she must choose between saving herself at all costs or doing what’s right for the people she loves the most.

RL: What is the category and genre? Did you plan to write for this audience, or did the story dictate its own voice?

LM: The book is contemporary YA with a strong cross-over into Adult. I didn’t set out to write YA. I tend to write for a slightly older reader, but I needed to tell this story and my main character dictated the category. She was pretty adamant about telling it her way.

RL: This has been a very big year for you as an author! You’ve released not one, but two books, A Strange Companion and The Smallest Thing. How are they similar, and how are they different?

LM: They are both stories that demanded to be told and stuck with me until I wrote them. They’re both set in Northern England, in surroundings that are very familiar to me, and they both have young female protagonists who don’t always behave well. Both Kat and Em make some poor choices in their stories and don’t always treat people as well as they know they should, but in the process, they both learn a lot about who they really are. In both stories, there is a romance element, a struggle with family dynamics, and of course, death. Love, loss, and family always seem to crop up in my work.

Beyond that, my first novel, A Strange Companion, is a coming-of-age love story with paranormal elements. The Smallest Thing is a big mash-up of adventure, thriller, sci-fi, and romance. At their cores, though, they are still stories of young women figuring out who they are in the world.

RL: The Smallest Thing is loosely based on a true story about Eyam, “The Plague Village,” in Derbyshire, England. Can you tell us a little about the historical facts that inspired your novel?

LM: I grew up not far from Eyam and have always been fascinated by the story of self-sacrifice. The Great Plague was raging in London in 1665 and found its way to Eyam, some 150 miles away, when a local tailor brought in a bolt of cloth containing fleas (probably not unusual at that time.) When people in Eyam began succumbing to the plague, the villagers, led by the local vicar, made the decision to quarantine their village to prevent the spread of the disease to surrounding villages and to the thriving market town of Sheffield, my hometown. That decision saved untold thousands of lives, but cost the village dearly. All told, 260 of the 350 villagers lost their lives.

One of the personal stories that stayed with me is that of Emmott Syddall, a young woman whose fiancé lived outside the quarantine zone. It’s rumored they continued their courtship at a safe distance across the village boundary. Rowland Torre was reportedly one of the first to enter the village when the quarantine was lifted. Only then did he learn that Emmott had not survived. I took a great many liberties with the facts in my contemporary version, but the themes of love, self-sacrifice, and community are still what drives the story.

RL: You and I share the trait of writing young characters with dead or absent fathers. What is the significance of this in your stories?

LM: Ah yes. My dad died suddenly when I was 15. Thirty years later, I am still trying to work my way through that in my fiction. While neither of my novels is a fictionalized version of my personal story, there are elements of me in there. Like Kat, I was not prepared for the loss of my dad and, also like Kat, it took me a long time to work through my grief and move on. I suppose with Em, I was exploring what it might have been like to try to break away from my dad’s expectations for me, and be my own person. I imagine it would have been just as contentious as Em’s battle for independence, but hopefully not in such a terrible environment.

RL: Your protagonist Emmott is separated from her boyfriend when her village is quarantined. Under the same circumstances, how do you think you’d fare if your wonderful husband Mr. Fab and your devoted kitty Felicity were across Cucklett Delf?

LM: Astute readers will notice that there are no pets in the village. I made a deliberate choice to exclude them. I had no trouble writing terrible deaths for people, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it to the pets.

But, as you’re forcing me to imagine this scenario, I think I would be very grateful that Felicity and Mr. Fab were out of harm’s way. And then I would get down to the business of self-preservation. I’d like to think that I would also be a good citizen and try to be helpful to those trapped with me. We never really know how we’ll respond in crisis until it happens. Generally, I’m pretty cool under pressure, but who knows how I’d act if my life were truly in danger.

RL: Your biweekly inspiring blog posts have attracted a wonderful community of newsletter subscribers. Do you have any book marketing advice for indie authors?

LM: There are mountains of really solid information out there from authors who are insanely successful and have more information than I could offer. The problem is, there is SO much information and much of it is conflicting. It can be completely overwhelming for a new author. So my advice would be to read voraciously, gather information from several sources, and then walk away and think about what kind of author you are and what exactly you want from your career. Then pick the tools that will support that, take a deep breath, and do something that feels right. It may take some trial and error to find your groove, but it will end up being a lot more effective than hurling yourself into someone else’s best practice only to find it’s a poor fit.

RL: Do you maintain complete control over your characters or do they ever take the proverbial wheel?

LM: I tend to let them run wild and free in the first draft. I have an idea of what I’d like to happen, but I try to stay open to possibilities. The “mysterious man in the HAZMAT suit” in this novel was not in my original idea. He came out of a writing prompt, but the second he appeared, I knew he had to stay. His creation dramatically changed the course of the novel for the better.

RL: Do you miss the company of your characters when you finish writing a book?

LM: It took me ten years to write my first novel, A Strange Companion, largely because I couldn’t let go and call the book finished. Perhaps one of the hardest skills to master is finding that sweet spot between revising a book until it’s as good as it can be and knowing you’ve reached a point that there’s nothing more you can do and that more twiddling will only make the book worse. At that point, it’s time to move on.

When I’m working on a book, I am in that world with those characters. I wake up thinking about them and I talk to other people, not about the book as a whole, but about the characters by name. Once a book is finally finished, though, I go through a brief period of mourning, and then I let it go. And I’m a fickle lover; I’m already deep in a relationship with a whole new set of characters.

RL: Thank you, Lisa! I look forward to meeting your new characters and continuing our travels together on the journey of writing. Best of luck, wherever your creativity takes you.

The Smallest Thing is available now! (non-affiliate links)

 

Enter to WIN 

a lovely swag box that includes a signed copy of The Smallest Thing and some fabulous gifts! 

Click HERE to enter.

More about the book…

The Smallest Thing

By Lisa Manterfield

thesmallestthing coverThe very last thing 17-year-old Emmott Syddall wants is to turn out like her dad. She’s descended from ten generations who never left their dull English village, and there’s no way she’s going to waste a perfectly good life that way. She’s moving to London and she swears she is never coming back.

But when the unexplained deaths of her neighbors force the government to quarantine the village, Em learns what it truly means to be trapped. Now, she must choose. Will she pursue her desire for freedom, at all costs, or do what’s best for the people she loves: her dad, her best friend Deb, and, to her surprise, the mysterious man in the HAZMAT suit?

Inspired by the historical story of the plague village of Eyam, this contemporary tale of friendship, community, and impossible love weaves the horrors of recent news headlines with the intimate details of how it feels to become an adult—and fall in love—in the midst of tragedy.

ISBN:           978-0-9986969-2-8
Category:      Upper Young Adult Fiction
Publication:   July 18, 2017
Pages:          286
Size:             5.25 x 8.00 in.
Price:            $15.95
Binding:        Perfect Bound
Publisher:     Steel Rose Press

Stay in touch with Lisa Manterfield!

http://www.LisaManterfield.com

Facebook: AuthorLisaManterfield

Instagram: @lmanterfield

Twitter: @lisamanterfield

Goodreads: LisaManterfield

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Cover Reveal! Book 4 of Between Series is HERE!

At last! The awaited cover reveal of the much-anticipated fourth book in Cyndi Tefft’s BETWEEN series has arrived! Sacrifice of Greatest Price will soon be in our hot little hands. (Well hello again, Mr. MacRae;) Until then, have a peek at this teaser and follow Cyndi for word on the book’s release date. Enjoy!

Three in one, forward and back

Here and gone, to deepest black

Silver blooms, swollen with child

Birth crimson globes, untethered wild

Life meets death where the sun meets the sea

Blood sacrifice, for you and for me.

It has all come down to this.

Sacrifice of Greatest PriceA prophecy, passed down through generations of MacRaes, tells of a blood sacrifice. A simple stone placed in an ancient dagger unleashes an army of hell transporters with glowing red eyes who have now come to exact that price.

In the epic finale of the Between series, Aiden and Lindsey will be tested in ways they could never have imagined. Visions of the past, from thousands of years ago when the Broch of Gurness in Orkney was whole, provide more questions than answers. But every secret will be revealed as the MacKinnons and MacRaes join forces to fight a battle they cannot hope to win.

Follow fabulous Cyndi on Twitter @CyndiTefft, or here on  Facebook, or click on Ask the Author with all your Qs at 
Learn more about author Cyndi Tefft at cynditefft.com. I recommend you check out this page to see book trailers and goodies created by Aiden’s Angels, uber-fans of the BETWEEN series. 

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Tips and Strategies for a Successful Book Launch

You want to sell books, right? The journey to publication was long, wrought with *tears and massive revisions (*Oh, was that just me?). The sole purpose of our admirable, satisfying, and daunting craft is not to send our books to a blind oblivion, buried under the three million other books published each year. We not only want our books seen, but more importantly, read.

I’ve included several links below to some great tips online. These are tried-and-true methods of book PR pros who know how turn the publication of a book into an event. The launch of a book is (typically) one-time-only, happening live–and the more attention you can attract to your book event, the more readers you’ll reach. (And in turn, sell more of your already published books.)

keep-calm-and-smell-all-the-new-booksJoel Friedlander  of The Book Designer blog, says, “For many authors, this is a critical time in the life of their book. First, decide whether you want to run all of your activities on a single day, over the course of a week, or extending to a longer time period. Any of these options is workable. Remember that you’re in charge, so you get to decide the exact parameters of your book launch. ”

Let’s look at book launch opportunities. You won’t be doing all these things, so don’t become overwhelmed. Read through these exhaustive lists and create your own menu of options, the action items that you feel you can tackle.

My method: I am creating my own Book Launch Marketing Plan. Examining each article I’ve linked to below, I’m copying and pasting each idea or action item which appropriately fits my audience, budget, time schedule, and let’s get down to it–capability. I’ll then organize them in an effective order. That way, each day, I’ll know what I’m supposed to be doing and who I should contact or reach out to–or help. (We’re all in this together.) This approach is easier and allows tasks to be accomplished, while averting the pitfalls of attacking a gigantic to-do list. It will also help me focus on key components, which are much more trackable. You can do this too!

Begin with these links:

Mr. Friedlander adds, “Putting together a book launch can be a lot of work. But there are a lot of tangible and intangible benefits. If you’re in this for the long haul, you’ll recognize that these benefits will repay your efforts in many ways. For instance, by going through the launch, you can:

  • Create better relations with other bloggers in your field
  • Better understand your readers and why they respond to you
  • Explore aspects of your subject that might be of interest to different groups of readers
  • Learn which approaches work best in driving traffic, and interest, about your book.

Managing a book launch can be an exciting and awarding adventure. You’ll learn a lot, and you’ll be able to use that learning for your next book. What are your ideas? What works and what doesn’t? Please comment below!

More Resources

Book Launch Media Kit—Using Your Testimonials

Book Marketing: Your Online Press Kit

Let’s connect! Follow me on Twitter @TheRJLacko

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How to Use an Unreliable Narrator in Your Story

The character who is an unreliable narrator can be one of the most powerful tools available to a writer, telling the readers a story that the reader cannot take at face value. In this post, Now Novel, an excellent resource for writers, explains: “The unreliability may be obvious to the reader throughout the novel, may be revealed gradually or may come as a single revelation that results in a major plot twist. This may be because the point of view character is insane, lying, deluded or for any number of other reasons.”

In my novel, Radio Head, protagonist Shelby has undiagnosed schizophrenia. From her point of view, everyone has a song inside–and she can hear it. The reader is drawn into what may prove to be magical realism, or possibly the delusions of a mentally ill young woman.

illusions

What does the writer stand to gain from using an unreliable narrator to tell a story?
What is the purpose of the unreliable narrator in fiction? How can the writer ensure that the reader understands that the narrator is unreliable?

Here are highlights from the post:

The narrator is unreliable by the very nature of who that character is. Some stories are related by narrators by who are such terrible people that they cannot tell their stories objectively. In general, even people who commit the worst crimes do not go around thinking of themselves as monsters; they justify their actions to themselves. In Lolita, Vladimir Nabakov signals Humbert Humbert’s unreliability to the reader in a number of ways such as his outrageous claims, his endless justifications for shocking acts and his contempt for others. Alex from A Clockwork Orange is another example of a reprehensible character sharing his unreliable narrative of violence and mayhem with the reader.

The unreliable narrator can also be used to great effect in stories of crime and mystery. Both Agatha Christie’s classic novel The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and the recent Gillian Flynn best seller Gone Girl employ unreliable narrators whose lack of reliability is crucial to the construction of the mysteries at the hearts of both novels. In these types of books, the reader starts out trusting the narrator and it is only as the story goes on that something begins to seem amiss.

The unreliable narrator is not always deliberately deceptive. Sometimes, a narrator is unreliable due to youth or naïveté. The young autistic narrator of the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon or the five-year-old narrator of Emma Donoghue’s Room are simply reporting the world as they understand it. These books rely on the readers to make inferences based on clues from the narrators and an assumption from the outset that due to the ages and circumstances of these characters, they are not always accurately interpreting what is happening around them.

The unreliable narrator can be of particular use to the writer of horror and supernatural fiction or fiction in which the writer wants the reader to question the line between fantasy and reality. A  recent example is Yann Martel’s novel The Life of Pi in which the reader may increasingly wonder about the reality of events as described by the narrator.

A narrator can be unreliable due to having incomplete or incorrect information although initially neither the narrator nor the readers is aware that this is the case. The narrator of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier initially misunderstands nearly everything she learns about her new husband’s dead wife, and therefore, the reader does as well.

Read the remainder of the post to learn how Lionel Shriver combined several of the above types in We Need to Talk About Kevin. The post also outlines the dangers of using an unreliable narrator and how to avoid them.

How have you used the unreliable narrator in your own writing?

Now Novel  is an organized, easy to use novel writing method. We help motivate and structure your writing process. Follow Now Novel on Twitter @nownovel.

Follow me on Twitter! @TheRJLacko

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Sell More Books with Calls To Action at the End of Story

A good book makes you want to live in the story. A great book gives you no choice. When a reader comes to the end of your novel, he or she lives in the world of your characters. If the story was compelling enough to get to the last word, chances are good this reader wants MORE. More of what you, lovely author, have to offer.

Putting calls to action in the back of your book is a form of passive marketing that will help you to sell more books. You only need to set up these calls to action once and you’re done–but they will continue working to help you to sell books.

556_woman_reading_book_on_grass_3001BookMarketingTools.com has some excellent ideas for directing readers where you are mostly likely to keep them as a reader–or better yet, a fan.

Below are Book Marketing Tools’ call to action ideas that you can strategically place in the back of your book to encourage your readers to buy more books from you–or connect with you so they are more likely to buy from you in the future!

6 Calls to Action To Put In The Back Of Your Book

1. The link to your homepage. This is a simple one, but putting the link to your website at the end of your book will help to guide the readers to your website, where you will hopefully have appealing bonus content, as well as your other books listed for sale. If your website URL is only listed in the front of the book, your readers may never go back to the front of the book when they are finished reading. Put the link in the back of the book as well.

2. A bonus offer if they sign up to your mailing list. Inform your readers that they can get a special bonus if they go to your website and sign up for your free mailing list. Bonus offer ideas might include additional worksheets for a nonfiction book, art, a novelette about your main character, or a sneak preview to your upcoming book. Once you have a mailing list setup, then you can notify each person on the mailing list every time you have a new book coming up.

3. A chapter of another book of yours. This works great if you have a series of books. They will keep reading since they are already at the end of the book, and you can end the first chapter of the next book with a cliffhanger (and a call to action to buy the book). Be sure to promote the additional content such as a chapter from the next book, in your book description.

Read tips 4, 5 and 6 HERE! 

Book Marketing Tools exists to empower authors with tools, education, and community to help them sell more books. Their Ultimate Author Checklist for Book Marketing online is a FREE guide that helps authors to make sure they have done all of the important steps for creating their book marketing engine. Click here to get this free guide.
What Calls or Action have been successful in your book marketing plan? Comment below or tweet me @TheRJLacko

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Kill Writer’s Block Now: The Fast Track to Creativity Starts Here

Staring at a blank page?

No me, my friend; I’m already off and writing this blog post, charmed by the prolific Charles Bukowski, “Writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.” (The Last Night of the Earth Poems)

Garnering the wisdom of two of my favorite writing instructors, I’m here to solve your blank-page-trauma in only five minutes. Yes, you can be power-typing a brand new story before a fresh pot of tea is ready. Here are my tried-and-true, never-fail rules for copious creativity:

Know what a story is. If you haven’t already (why haven’t you?) get yourself over to WiredForStory.com, home of famed storycraft maven Lisa Cron. You must learn, internalize and copy/paste at the top of your page Lisa’s mantra:
A story is HOW and WHY what happens (the plot) affects (the protagonist) who is in pursuit of a deceptively difficult goal (the story question) and how he or she changes as a result (what the story is about).

If your idea is “Mom makes a peanut butter sandwich,” then apply Lisa’s guideline as follows: Why does she make it?  Does she have a child who will order a burger and fries in the school cafeteria if no PB&J is offered? Slow down the action and tell us HOW she makes it. Make her think about the pattern on the plate, the weight of knife, and whether she’ll choose Tupperware or a ziplock and WHY. How does she feel about all this? When the sandwich is complete, how has she changed by the experience?  Satisfied in her parenting skills, or comforted after concern from pediatrician about high fat and cholesterol in child’s diet? Is she thinking about her own mother, or suffering any symptoms as a result of a nut allergy?)

Writing Prompt Helpers. That peanut butter sandwich prompt was genius Rebecca, but where can I get ideas so shiny and bright? Generally, I have a character or situation to begin with–especially when I’m starting a new chapter in an existing fiction piece. If I’m at ground zero, I Google “writing prompts,” like a trained chimp, ahem. The silliest prompt can elicit some profound thoughts, so don’t be afraid to grab the first one and go.

Brainstorm without borders. For no-nonsense writing advice from an accomplished writer and busy mom, you can’t go wrong with Author Jody Hedlund. I love her brainstorming plan, and I think it’s a must-do at the beginning of every creative venture. Jody says, “Before writing, I come up with pages of ‘what if’ possibilities for my story. I make long lists of all kinds of wild and crazy ideas that I could include in the story. I don’t limit myself. No idea is too stupid. I write down everything and anything… Usually the first few ideas we have are somewhat boring and cliched. So if we stop there, we’ll find ourselves frustrated. But if we list a hundred (or more ideas), then finally we’ll start digging deep enough into the creative well to pull out fresh ideas that excite us.”

This is solid advice, but one HUNDRED? (Yes!)
My next tip will save you from spending the entire weekend on that list…

The 5 Minute Miracle This is my own, personal, golden ticket. I set my phone or kitchen alarm for 5 minutes and I type as fast as my little fingers can. I don’t care about spelling, punctuation, capitalization–nada. I don’t stop to sip my coffee or pet the cat. I type without censure. You may call it stream of consciousness, but it isn’t. Why? Because of Lisa Cron’s mantra at the top of my page. I start with who, and I steer myself toward how, and that leads me to why, and then aha! Even I didn’t see coming the natural progression to the change experienced by my protag as a result. I type these scenarios as fast as I can, and when the alarm goes off, I have several ideas, a bunch of junk to be edited or cut, and some real, solid, satisfying fiction leads I may have taken HOURS to arrive at, without these tools.

Same goes for dialogue. If I’m working a scene and I don’t know exactly what my characters ought to say, I five-minute the heck out of them, and when the buzzer goes I’m surprised to learn what they “really” wanted to say all along.

Set your alarm, find a prompt, and let the five-minute-miracle unfold.

Oh, then tweet me about your adventure @TheRJLacko –or comment below, of course!

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Filed under Best Writer Tips, Fiction Novel Writing, For the love of writing, Your highest potential

A writer’s manifesto for 2012. Read this and get to work

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m writing “to” novelist Chuck Wendig. It helps me cut the crap when self-censorship creeps in. I love Wendig’s writing voice, and I just feel freer to speak my mind on the page when I’m in his literary presence.

What you’re about to read was actually blogged by Chuck Wendig last April. Who cares? If your manuscript or writing goals are in need of a New Year’s resolution-esque shaking of the collar, a smartening up, or a come-to-Jesus, you need to dig in and read these excerpts.

25 Things Writers Should Know by Chuck Wendig:

1.You Are Legion

The Internet is 55% porn, and 45% writers. You are not alone, and that’s a thing both good and bad. It’s bad because you can never be the glittery little glass pony you want to be. It’s bad because the competition out there is as thick as an ungroomed 1970s pubic tangle. It’s good because, if you choose to embrace it, you can find a community. A community of people who will share their neuroses and their drink recipes. And their, ahem, “fictional” methods for disposing of bodies.

2.You Better Put The “Fun” In “Fundamentals”

A lot of writers try to skip over the basics and leap fully-formed out of their own head-wombs. Bzzt. Wrongo. Learn your basics. Mix up lose/loose? They’re/their/there? Don’t know where to plop that comma, or how to use those quotation marks? That’s like trying to be a world-class chef but you don’t know how to cook a goddamn egg. Writing is a mechanical act first and foremost. It is the process of putting words after other words in a way that doesn’t sound or look like inane gibberish.

3.Skill Over Talent

Some writers do what they do and are who they are because they were born with some magical storytelling gland that they can flex like their pubococcygeus, ejaculating brilliant storytelling and powerful linguistic voodoo with but a twitch of their taint. This is a small minority of all writers, which means you’re probably not that. The good news is, even talent dies without skill. You can practice what you do. You practice it by writing, by reading, by living a life worth writing about. You must always be learning, gaining, improving.

Read the post in its entirety here

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Filed under Best Writer Tips, Fiction Novel Writing, For the love of writing, Guest posts