Family: The Living Story

IMG_4672 Seashells

Growing up on the Gulf Coast

By Bonita Y. McCoy

Family can make you crazy. Especially, if everyone is gathered together for a reunion or a vacation. They can make you laugh, or they can drive you to the brink of an emotional breakdown while hollering, “Hang on tight. We’re only halfway there!”

Of course, family also centers you. Anchors you to what is important in this old world like faith, doing the right thing, manners, and traditions. They connect us to the future while tying us to the past.

That’s why family is at the heart of every story, and stories are at the heart of every family.

You know the ones I mean. Those tried and true tales that are rehashed at every family reunion; the ones that live a life of their very own. They draw us close to those who have gone before us and remind us of the blood that runs through our veins. They bind us, heart and soul to who we are.

Like the time the cat ate the toothpaste, and mama thought it had rabies because it was foaming at the mouth.

Or the time my parents advertised a car for sale and a man came to test drive it, before taking it for a spin, he asked for gas money. We never saw that car or money again.

Then, there was Uncle Smokey’s snake charming; Aunt Ruby’s weekly walk to the grocery store packing a pistol. Oh, and Uncle Charlie who snapped his false teeth out with his tongue to scare us kids.  We always jumped and squealed with delight, never failing to scream, “Do it again.”

Families are like that. They have stories. They create stories.

Some of the best were told on warm summer evenings while the mullet fried, and the corn and shrimp boiled. Everyone sat in their lawn chairs as Aunt Mary corralled her poodles. Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Donald were the honored guests. They had come down from Memphis for a visit.

The older cousins had gathered earlier in the day to throw their nets into the muddy Gulf of Mexico, and everyone could smell the results of their efforts.

As the day faded into twilight, the stories would emerge, one at a time like the stars in the night sky. This one remembered; that one added to; another corrected because it hadn’t been told right.

The stories of family, connecting us.

IMG_5820 Gulf at twilight

Twilight falling on the shores

Now I have some of my own. They include the time my middle son broke his arm at Vacation Bible School by bouncing off the bouncy slide; the day my oldest son went off to the Marines, and I watched the van drive away.  And the time my youngest son made his first bucket during a basketball game. Proud didn’t begin to cover it.

The truth is in our stories, we hide bits and pieces of the deep places, the joys and sorrows; the fears and blessings. We mix them in when we say, “I sure miss him,” or “I love it when we…”.

We use them to sum up who we are, to teach others, to grow.

[Click to Tweet] Yes, family is at the heart of every story, and the best ones keep us hanging on in the passenger seat even as our loved one chauffeurs us to the brink because even in all its craziness, there is nothing like family.

So, this summer enjoy the time you have with your family, whether it’s a few folks or the whole clan and remember to share the stories that connect you. You might even have a few new ones to add like the time… Well, I’ll let you tell it.

Writing Prompt: Uncle Mike always told the best stories. His favorite was the one about the raccoon and Mama. 

 

Bio head shot for Inspiration Blog - 2017

Bonita Y. McCoy hails from the Great State of Alabama where she lives on a five-acre farm with two horses, two dogs, two cats, and one husband who she’s had for over twenty-nine years. She is a mother of three mostly grown sons and two beautiful daughters-in-law, one who joined the family from Japan. She loves God, and she loves to write. Her blogs and stories are an expression of both these passions.

You can connect with Bonita online:

http://www.bonitaymccoy.com

http://www.facebook.com/bonita.mccoy

http://www.instagram.com/bonitaymccoy

Or check out her blog:

www. beautifulpiecesofgrace.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

5 Strategies to Grow Your Readership

 

SONY DSC

Marketing is important to any business

 

by Bonita Y. McCoy

When you think about word-of-mouth marketing, you might envision the office water cooler where everyone stands around catching up on the latest shows or current events. A place where someone might say, “Hey, have you read Ted Dekker’s book? It’s great.”

Though this is word of mouth, it’s not exactly what is meant by word-of-mouth marketing. At the water cooler, you don’t have any control over the topic. People might talk about your book, or they might talk about what’s for lunch in the cafeteria.

So, I’d like to take the ‘might’ out of the equation.

Here are five tactics that will help grow your readership and create your network of influencers to spread the word about your next book.

  • Direct Mailing: There is a lot to be said for the personal touch. Deb Haggerty in her workshop at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference pointed out the importance of thank you notes and nice to meet you notes, to people you connect with at networking events.

A mailed note to the person is best, but if all you have is their email, then send a message that way. The point is to keep the connection alive, and the door open for future contact. In doing this, you will add to your list of influencers, beta readers, and writing buddies.

Postcards with the book cover on the front are also an effective way to use direct mailing. These are great to announce to friends and family that your book is out.  A colorful card addressed to the individual will make a bigger impression than a post to no one in particular on Facebook.

With Direct Mailing, start with the those you know and build from there. It does take more time, but the personal touch will turn the fans on your mailing list into super fans.

IMG_loved your work

  • Reviews: Set aside a number of books to give to readers in return for an honest review. The key here is an honest review. Never pay for a review. If you’re just starting out, remember to get reviews from those outside your family circle. They will carry more weight.

In business terms, a review is a referral, so make it a habit to ask readers to write one. It will influence future customers who are trying to decide between your book and the one next to it.

  • Create an Author Partnership: The idea here is to gather a group of authors who write in your genre and pool your influence and readership.

Several writers have done this with blogs, but another way to use a group like this is to add excerpts from one writer’s novel in the back of another’s.

Traditional publishers use to do this all the time. They would market the author’s upcoming release in the back of the current work and then have an excerpt from a new or lesser known author there as well. By doing this, you’ve given another author a chance with your readership, and you’ve given your vote of confidence. My only warning: be familiar with the other author’s work.

Then when that author’s book comes out, it’s their turn to host your excerpt from an upcoming title.

  • Street Teams: This is a team of friends, family, and fans who are willing to read your book, share about it on social media once a week for a month or so, and give an honest review. Some authors hold book launches with their street teams. Others provide their teams with swag like bookmarks, postcards, or even tee-shirts with the book’s title and cover on it.

These teams can be set up locally or the author may choose to set several up in different cities to widen the sphere of influence.

Street teams are a great way to involve others in the behind the scenes activities of your writing life. They are extremely valuable, so treat them with respect and a great deal of generosity. The more you give; the more you get.

  • Share and Share Alike: Social Media runs on likes, shares, and comments. If you want social media to work for you, create real connections.

We have all seen the posts where the only time you hear from that friend is when he or she has something to sell you. In author circles, that something is their book. Don’t be that friend.

Share other people’s work, pictures, funny comments, and they will share yours. Like those shots of the pig in the tutu and pass them on. Make real connections with real people, and when you announce that your book is coming out, they will be the first to congratulate you and share it.

Word-of-mouth marketing is all about people. As professionals, we should treat others with respect and try to be others-oriented. It’s not about what others can do for us, but rather, what we can do for them. If you use these strategies with others in mind, you’ll not only find success; you’ll find satisfaction. And who knows maybe it’ll be your book being discussed at the water cooler.

Click to Tweet: In business terms, a review is a referral, so make it a habit to ask readers to write one. @InspiredPrompt #marketing #writetip

Writing Prompt: Make a list of potential Street Team members, then construct an upbeat email to send to them, or write three thank you notes to friends and family who support your writing.

Loving Your Points of View

young couple walking hand in hand

Love is everywhere

By Bonita Y. McCoy

Romance, romance, romance. It’s February, so it’s everywhere.

Cute little cupids sit on store shelves proclaiming love and admiration. Heart-shaped balloons float above the checkout lines in the grocery stores. And romance novels fly off the shelves.

So, in honor of Valentine’s Day and all things romance, we are taking a closer look at the points of view used when writing a romance novel.

Point of view is defined as the perspective from which a story is told.

Single Point of View

Now, some stories are told from a single point of view. We enter the action in the head of a character, and we remain in that same character’s head throughout the entirety of the story. We see and experience everything from that character’s point of view.

Many romances are told from a single point of view. While this is an effective way to keep your reader in pace with the story, it limits your reader’s experience. The reader only sees the thoughts and emotions of that one character–whether it’s the hero or the heroine–and misses out on experiencing the struggles and setbacks of the other main character.

 

If you chose to tell your story from a single point of view, be sure to put in a lot of dialogue so the reader can get a feel for the other character’s thoughts and emotions.

Multiple Points of View

Most authors use multiple points of view to tell their stories. It’s standard practice. However, the author needs to know the best way to make the switch from one point of view to another.

For example, have you ever picked up a novel and by the end of the first chapter felt completely lost? You had no idea which character’s head you were in or what you were supposed to be feeling.

That experience is called head hopping. The author switched between multiple points of view too often and too fast, leaving the reader, frustrated and confused.

According to Jami Gold, an Indie Author, and Developmental Editor, the best places to switch from one point of view to another is at the end of a scene or a chapter. When you switch in the middle of a scene, you risk losing your reader and causing the above-mentioned frustration.

If you chose to tell your romance from multiple points of view, limit the number. Most books on writing suggest no more than four or five points of view. Any more than that and the story tends to get bogged down, making it hard to follow.

So then, if one is too limiting and five is too confusing, what is the ideal number of points of view for a romance?

The ideal number is two. It’s what the readers expect. After all, most romances do involve two people, and the reader wants to see both sides of the romance as it develops. They want to be privy to the inside scoop. Using two points of view meets this need.

Advantages to Two Points of View

There are also some advantages for the author when using two points of view.

One, it gives the author the ability to cut away at pivotal points in the story by ending the scene and switching to the other character’s point of view, causing the reader to keep turning pages to find out what happened.

It also allows the author to use deep point of view with both main characters, giving the reader a greater understanding of the fears, hang-ups, and past baggage that each of the characters is bringing into the relationship.

The use of two points of view adds levels of complexity to the story. It allows the author to show the world through two different value systems, ideologies, and social strata.

Plus, two points of view gives the author the chance to show the protagonist through the eyes of another character. The hero can admire the heroine for her kindness or can comment when she’s not around about her fears. It gives the author another outlet to paint the picture of the protagonist for the reader.

So, not only does the use of two points of view work for the reader’s benefit, it also works for the author’s benefit as well.

Now we know, two is the magic number both for Valentines and for Romance writing.

Writing Prompt: Carol laid the romance novel down with a thud. The author had used five points of view in the first chapter. Frustrated, she felt cheated.

 

To Blog or Not to blog?

pexels-photo of computer of Inspired

Happy New Year rings out, and with those words, we begin planning, setting goals, and trying our hand at new enterprises. As a writer, your new enterprise might be a blog.

Many of us hesitate to start a blog. We worry about what to say, where to get our ideas, and how to manage something so technical. After all, most of us aren’t computer programmers. Right?

So, here are six steps to get you started.

The First Six Steps:

  1. Decide what topic your blog will cover. This will help when you need to pick a theme for your blog site. Will it be a devotional blog, a business blog, or maybe a blog about the cool historical facts you unearth during your research for that new book? Whatever the focus of your new blog is, make sure it’s broad enough to give you wiggle room, but not so broad, your content is weak.
  1. Choose a blogging platform. The top four I’ve heard discussed in writing circles are WordPress.com, WordPress.org, Blogger, and Squarespace. All but WordPress.org host their own sites. With WordPress.org, you need to find your own host and domain name.
  1. Pick a domain name. For fiction writers, your name.com is the best choice. After all, you are your brand. However, if you write nonfiction, then the topic of your book or the area of your expertise might be a better fit. Domain names are offered by either your blogging platform or your host.
  1. If needed, find a hosting option. Some of the best hosting sites are Hostgator and Bluehost. They are inexpensive and easy to use.
  1. Select plug-ins and/or widgets. The number of available plug-ins and widgets is crazy. I think there might be one that will even wash your clothes for you. Because of the large volume, be careful not to overload your site with too many. However, with that said, there are two that you absolutely need. QuickieBar allows you to put an opt-in form to gather e-mail addresses at the top of your blog, and Mashshare or Digg Digg makes it easy for your readers to share your site on social media.
  1. Content is King. Over the past ten years, the number of blogs on the internet has grown by leaps and bounds, going from a few thousand to millions. So, what’s going to set you apart from the crowd? Your words. Plain and simple. People will take notice if you give them something to notice.

Don’t worry so much about how long the article runs or if it’s too short. Be more concerned about the information you’re passing on to your readers. Would you take the time to read what you’ve written? Is it visibly appealing? Nice photos? Text laid out well? Enough white space? A well-written piece will get noticed, and better yet, shared.

Click to Tweet: Six important steps for effective blogging #InspiredPrompt #blog writer

Now, that you’ve got the basics for starting your blog in the New Year. I’ll leave you with the most important lesson I’ve learned over the course of the two years I’ve
been writing my devotional blog Beautiful Pieces of Grace.

Don’t be in a hurry.Typewriter Don't give up

Consistency and longevity are the keys to blogging success.

God’s blessing for this New Year,

Bonita Y. McCoy

Writing Prompt:Technology made her quake in her boots, but she wasn’t about to tell her new boss. If he wanted a blog, a blog is what he’d get. Now, to find out what he meant by a host.