Is it okay for writers to have a favorite character? #AmWriting #WritersLife #WritingTips

pnpff (2)I know parents are not supposed to have a favorite child, but does that apply to writers as well? Are we writers allowed to have a favorite character? To be honest, my favorite character is usually the one I’ve just finished writing. But this time I do feel as if Melanie – from Picture Not Perfect – will remain a favorite for years to come. I just love her! It’s so much fun to write a character who’s crazy. You can put them in all kinds of odd situations and just let them go. (And maybe fantasize a bit that you could have just as much fun!)

My question – is it okay for writers to have a favorite character – is not entirely frivolous. Because I do think there is a bit of a danger to having a favorite. Dangerous? How in the world can it be dangerous to have a favorite character? Let me explain.

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I had a ball writing my Gray-Haired Knitting Detectives series. It was my first attempt at chick lit (which turned into mystery but that’s a different story). I had so much fun I didn’t realize I was using the same humor for each of the main characters. Oops! This is indeed the danger of having a favorite character. I tend to write her over and over again. I’m pretty sure my readers are not waiting to read yet another Izzy (the main character in Murder, Mystery & Dating Mayhem). In fact, readers were quite clear about that. Eek!

This was a valuable lesson for me. It’s okay to have a favorite character, but I need to make sure I don’t simply put her in a different coat to revive her for a new novel. I’ll try, but no promises. Although I’m certainly loving Pru, the protagonist in book 3 of the Not So Reluctant Detectives Series, which I’m writing now. She’s completely different than her friend Mel. Huh. Maybe I do just fall in love with whatever character I’m writing.

 

Tips for writing ad copy for an Amazon Sponsored Product Ad #authortoolboxbloghop #writerwednesday #writertips #writerslife

amazon ads 1Writing a blurb for a novel is difficult. How can you possibly condense a novel you’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into down to just three paragraphs? It’s nearly impossible and sometimes feels more difficult than writing the novel in the first place. But even worse is ad copy. I’m referring here to Amazon Sponsored Products Ads.

My goal in 2019 is to quintuple my royalties. (Crazy, I know.) In order to make that goal happen, I’ve been advertising more and more on Amazon. One of the most frustrating aspects of Amazon ads is writing the actual ad copy. Amazon limits the copy to 150 characters. How can you possibly tell enough of the story to interest a reader with only 150 characters? You can’t. It’s impossible.

But then, I had an epiphany. I was in the shower when I realized my mistake. (I really should get a robe.) Ad copy doesn’t need to tell the story. That’s what the blurb is for. Nope, the only thing ad copy should do is get the reader to click. That’s all. Get a reader interested enough to click.

Sounds easy enough, right? Yeah, not really. Here are a few rules I apply to my ad copy:

Tone and voice. It’s important to incorporate the same the tone and voice of your novel into the ad copy. If your novel is witty, be witty. It’s not enough to say the novel is witty, you need to show it.

Don’t lie. Of course, we should never lie. (White lies are okay, right?) But what I mean here is you shouldn’t mislead readers. If your novel is not full of suspense, don’t make it sound like it is in the ad copy. At best, you’ll have lots of clicks with no buys. At worst, you’ll get one-star reviews from readers who feel tricked.

Here are some other tips:

Quote an awesome review. Let a reader pick your ad copy for you!

Indicate prizes your novel has won. I’m not a big fan of bragging about prizes, but it’s undeniable that it works for marketing.

Use genre-specific terminology. For example, does your novel fall into a beloved romance trope such as the reverse harem? Make sure to mention it.

Indicate urgency/discount. Indicate the price is a limited-time only discount. Go further and show the discount by indicating the original price.

Use social proof. For example, if you have over 50 five-star reviews or over 50,000 copies read.

How about you? How do you write ad copy? Any tricks of the trade to share?

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This blog post is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop. This is a monthly blog hop hosted by @raimeygallant. Make sure to stop by the other author blog posts in this month’s blog hop to fill up your author toolbox!

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Review of The Only Story by Julian Barnes #MondayBlogs #BookReview #AmReading

Reading The Only Story reminded me of a meeting of my writing group when I was living in Istanbul. I was working on my novel Life Discarded at the time. When the novel starts off, Morgan is a bad girl – an extremely bad girl. Naturally, that started a discussion about writing a novel with characters readers hated. One of the ‘rules’ of writing – supposedly – is to keep characters relatable and likable. So, how do you write a story in which the characters are not likeable, but which readers want to read anyway? Julian Barnes has managed to pull off just that hat trick.

~ Blurb ~

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~ My Review ~

Based upon the blurb, The Only Story is not a novel I would have chosen to read. But when a book is written by an award-winning author and a book club pick, you go along with the flow. The prose in this novel makes it clear why Barnes is an award winner. Although the story didn’t captivate me, his words did. I found myself re-reading passages again and again. I was actually disappointed I bought a signed first edition as I wanted to mark up the book for future reference.

I can honestly say I didn’t like Paul to the point I’d probably deck him if I saw him in person. Nonetheless, I found him one of the most honest characters I’ve ever read. He didn’t hold any punches! He was emotionally stunted, immature, and a bit of a brat. Without his brutal honesty, I would have found it hard to continue reading. I didn’t care much for Susan either. She didn’t seem to have much of a personality. As this was Paul’s story, I don’t feel we ever got to meet the ‘real’ Susan. The secondary characters are mostly unlikeable as well but extremely entertaining (e.g. Susan’s husband and his elephant pants).

The novel is split into three parts with the first part in first person, the second in second person and the third in third person. This highlights the increasing distance Paul feels to his love story. I must say I didn’t feel the intense passion in the beginning. Paul admits his memories are unreliable. Perhaps the memory of passion has faded as well?  As second person is somewhere between the deeply personal first person and the impersonal third person, the second part of the novel implies Paul is in an intermediary state where his love transitions from intense to suffering to detached.

I found the subtle social commentary throughout the novel interesting. Paul’s deep dislike of his parents’ way of life echoes the feelings of the youth of the 60s. Susan’s referral to her alcoholism as a moral disease is reminiscent of how society thought of alcoholism at the time. And then there’s the spousal abuse about which no one talks. Although Barnes does not tell us what to think of these societal values, he does bring them to the forefront and gently prods us to contemplate them.

Whether you enjoy the novel or not, the story undeniably thought-provoking story.

~ About the Author ~

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Up next for the book club is The Mars Room from Rachel Kushner. Stay tuned …

Celebrating the New Year in The Netherlands ~ New Year Traditions #ExpatLife #Expat #ThisisHolland #NewYear2019

Everyone knows Europeans love to set off fireworks on New Year’s Eve. As a 17-year-old living in Germany, I did not know this. At least not until we went outside at midnight and I nearly peed my pants when someone threw a firecracker at me. (I’m sure my then-boyfriend – who watched me scream in fright – would be shocked to learn I went on to spend five years in the U.S. Army as a Military Policewomen.) Besides setting off fireworks, how do the Dutch celebrate the New Year?

new year traditions 1Fire, fire, fire. I would be remiss if I didn’t add that it’s not just fireworks scaring the pants off of me on New Year’s Eve. There is also lots of fire. Oh great, one of my phobias come to life. They build a huge (Guiness World Record size) bonfire on the beach. (This year it was too windy. They set fire to it anyway. Chaos ensued.) But that’s not enough for the inhabitants of the Hague. Nope. They also like to light fire to Christmas trees. Awesome idea. Let’s start fires everywhere, shall we? Nothing like coming home at 2 a.m. and finding your street on fire.

new year traditions 2New Year’s Borrel. Now, this is an idea I can get behind. Borrel is a loose term used referring to a drinks gathering. It’s customary for companies to throw a New Year’s Borrel for their employees. Depending on the size of the company, this can range from an informal beer and chips gathering in the office to an extravagant party with DJs and presents. I’m okay with either. I’m not picky.

Best Wishes. It’s the tradition to wish friends, family, etc. best wishes the first time you see them in the new year even if this is several weeks after January 1st. I didn’t realize this was different until some one complained about it yesterday. Is it odd? *Shrugs* I kind of like the idea. (My Dutch husband informs me this habit is technically incorrect, but everyone does it anyway.)

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THE hat.

New Year’s Dive. I realize diving into some frigid water is not unique to the Netherlands but thought I’d mention it anyway as it is a tradition. Each year at least 25,000 people plunge into the North Sea on New Year’s Day. What do they get for their efforts? A hat. It’s hat. That’s it. Okay, that’s being unfair. 1 euro of the entry fee (entry fee is 3 euros for those who want to join next year) goes to a good cause because not everyone has a happy new year. The donation went to the food bank this year. (Go here to support the food bank.)

new year traditions 4Oliebollen. You can’t have any tradition in the Netherlands without involving food. You won’t hear me complaining about that. (My waistline is a different story.) Oliebollen is basically deep-fried dough topped with powdered sugar. Sometimes there are raisins. They go quite well with a glass of champagne at midnight on New Year’s Eve. (That might be the champagne talking.)

What about your country? What New Years traditions do you enjoy?

The Year in Review ~ How’d my writer self do? #WriterWednesday #NewYearsResolutions #WritersLife

09012019.1If you read my blog regularly, then not only do I LOVE you, but you also know 2018 was not my year. It wasn’t the worst year ever. I’m not having major health issues or anything, although there were a few scares, which is pretty normal at this age. (Even though it’s sometimes hard to remember arthritis isn’t the end of the world when you realize you will never just go for a run again – ever.) It was just a tough year culminating with our business managers stealing from us and nearly running our business in Germany into the ground. So, yeah, not awesome.

But surely, that aside, I must have met some of my New Years Resolutions? It can’t have all been bad. Well, let’s have a look at that, shall we? I’m taking this from bad to not so bad so as to make it seem like I improved as the year progressed. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves!

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I’m actually not upset with this ‘complete and utter’ failure. High on the new year, I joined a bunch of writer groups in January last year. I soon learned everyone used these groups to promote their own work. There was no talk of collaboration or helping each other. It was just ‘Buy My Book!’ ‘Buy My Book!’ Lesson learned. LinkedIn Groups are not for me.

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I did fairly well in the summer, but then the Germany situation imploded. I love to read. That’s not the problem. The problem is my TBR is full of books I’ve promised to read and review. Instead of choosing books I actually wanted to read, I agreed to read books because I wanted to help a fellow writer out. Obviously, this is not working for me.

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I’m such a lawyer sometimes, aren’t I? I technically didn’t do an interview or blog each month, but I did do more than twelve interviews and blogs. With each book release, I do a blog tour. These tours include interviews, character guest posts, and guest posts. For my latest release, Picture Not Perfect, I did three guest posts, two character guest posts, three author interviews, and two character interviews!

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I still find connecting on social media difficult. It’s like a swamp and my feet keep on getting stuck in the mud – and there are creepy crawlers in there! I have improved, though. I’ve learned to use hashtags, which has helped me connect with the writing community. Now to figure out how to connect with readers.

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This has been a recent development, but it still counts! I’ve decided to use Goodreads the way it was intended – to keep track of my reading. I’ve also decided to become more honest about what I’m actually reading. Lots of not-guilty reads (We’re not calling them guilty reads anymore). Judge away!

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I must have been psychic to put this one on my list last year, because I certainly needed it! I’ve always had a general idea of how I want my days to look. Mornings are for writing. Afternoons are for marketing and PR. Sounds good, right? Well, I needed more than a general outline to get my butt in gear. I’ve learned to outline my novels better, and I’m working on a publishing plan for the entire year to ensure I keep my butt moving. *Fingers crossed*

 

*Takes a deep breath* That’s it for 2018. 2019 is going to rock! And, if it doesn’t, it won’t be for lack of trying. How’d you do on your goals for 2018?

 

 

Review of A Gentleman in Moscow #BookReview #MondayBlog #AmReading #BookAddict

I’m finally back to enjoying a book club. It’s been years – years! – since I’ve been in a book club that consistently meets. It’s been a bit of an uphill battle. Either an established book club meets at a time I can’t meet or there is another issue (dictatorial leadership in a book club is not my thing). In December, we read A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I loved – LOVED! – this book.

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~ My Review~

review gentleman in moscow 3I’m finding it hard to write a review for this magnificent book. I’m not sure where to begin. The prose was sublime. Towles is obviously an accomplished writer and storyteller. No wonder it takes him four years to write a novel. The novel was reminiscent of Russian literature (of which I’m a great fan). For example, Towles uses footnotes to write asides to the story. Russian writers love to do this. Lucky for us, the footnotes Towles uses are much shorter than those used by Russian writers.

I absolutely fell in love with the count. It was not ironic to call him a gentleman, because he certainly was one. He wasn’t a snob, though. He adapted quite well to his circumstances. Of course, his situation could have been much worse were it not for a certain poem. His little instructions regarding what it means to be a gentleman never failed to put a smile upon my face.

All of the secondary characters were a delight to read – even when the character was himself not exactly delightful. Of course, I loved Sofia. She was the perfect daughter for the perfect gentleman. But my favorites were the count’s cronies. I bet they were a bunch of fun to be around! Had it not been for the oppression of the Soviet Union, these three would have been troublemakers. Or should I say, even worse troublemakers!

As a lover of Russian history (yes, I’m a bit obsessed with Russia), I enjoyed how Towles intermixed history in the story. I was especially moved by the account of the dekulakization of Ukraine. He weaved this tidbit of history (and how misunderstood the slaughter was by the West) into the story seamlessly. As I read the story from my chair in my home in The Hague, I was transported to mid-20th Century Russia. When I looked up from my chair, I could almost see the Bolshoi in front of me. I was sad the story had to end.

I can’t recommend this book enough.

Grab a copy on Amazon

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Welcome 2019! New Year’s Resolutions #NewYearsResolution #Letsdothis #BestLifeEver

We’ve nearly survived the first week of 2019!!! Who cares that it was a short work week with the first falling on a Tuesday? We did it! I wrote about my resolutions for my writer life on Wednesday. Fortunately (or is it unfortunately?), there’s more to me than just being a writer. That means it’s time to make some new year’s resolutions for the Dena behind D.E. Haggerty. I’m a little obsessed with resolutions. I like to have goals in life. I don’t always achieve those goals. In fact, I fail a lot. I don’t let that get me down. I just dust myself off, have a glass or two of wine, and start all over.

Let’s go! Here are my personal resolutions for 2019:

new year resolutions 2019.4Lose Weight. This is my goal every year. Every year, I succeed. But I also fail. I can’t allow myself to fail anymore. I’m getting older and I don’t want to enter my fifties at my current weight. I know if I do, that’ll be it. I’ll accept being heavy for the rest of my life. Nope! Can’t do that. Not only is that bad for my general health, but I have severe arthritis in my knee, the pain of which is only exacerbated by being overweight. Time for a change!

Be Healthy. This sounds suspiciously like a repeat of the first resolution to lose weight but it’s different. Being healthy is about more than my weight. I also need to take care of my entire body. This includes taking care of a bunch of not life-threatening but niggling health issues. Must make time for them this year.

Reduce volunteer commitments. I’m not saying I won’t do any volunteer work at all. After all, I’m already on a committee for a benefit happening on April 13th. But I do want to reduce commitments that only suck the life out of me. There are always things we have to do, which we don’t want to, but why add to that if unnecessary? I know I’m a glutton for punishment but that has to stop sometime. Maybe in 2019?? (After the benefit, that is.)

Resolve Germany. No, I’m not going to solve all of Germany’s problems. And – don’t get me wrong – I don’t think Germany has tons of problems, although their tax system could use a complete overhaul. Nope, I’m talking about our house/business in Germany. The management of this is exhausting! We need to find a solution in case we can’t sell the place.

new year resolutions 2019.5Obviously, I need some plans of actions with the above. Right now, the resolutions are all a bit vague. As I learned this summer in a goal setting class, you need to have a plan of action in order to meet your goals. I’ll just add that to my to-do list.

Okay, 2019. Let’s do this!