The One Where You Help An Author

My book is coming out this year. That is still a little surreal to say, but I’m excited.

That’s not really what this post is about, though. No, this post is about America’s greatest past time.

Reading.

reading

The world has changed. Bookstores are disappearing and, now more than ever, people are turning to the Internet to figure out what to read next. Why did you pick up that book you’re reading now? Did Amazon recommend it to you? Was it next to another book at the library? Was it on a cardboard standee at Barnes & Noble?

We all have authors we like who don’t get the love we think they deserve. Here are some ways to help out authors in the Age of the Algorithm. I’ll try to go in order of ease.

  1. Read the book

You don’t even have to buy it. Get it at the library. Borrow it from a friend. Find some way to read it.

2.  Leave a review

The most important places to leave a review are Goodreads and Amazon. Goodreads is a great resource. If you aren’t on it already, you should be. The best feature is that it allows you to keep track of all the books you’ve read and want to read. It can also be used to find series, follow authors, and find your next read through user-curated lists. Now, even though Amazon owns Goodreads, the review systems are not linked. Leaving a review on Goodreads does not automatically port over to Amazon.

The important thing about leaving a review on Amazon is that Amazon has a magic number of reviews required to change it’s recommendation algorithms. It’s understood to be 50 at this point. Fifty reviews qualifies you for BookBub deals.

3. Buy the book

You don’t have to buy a book to read it, but it’s always helpful. Timing matters, too. If your favorite author has a book coming out, sign up for preorders or make sure that you buy the book the first week it comes out. Those numbers make a difference.

4. Follow them on platforms

Did you know you can get updates from Amazon about your favorite author? You can get updates on deals, newsletters, and more involving their books.

Also, follow authors on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs…etc.

Sometimes, we give stuff away for free. Other times, we do previews of upcoming books. It’s pretty great.

5. Feature them on your platforms

That stereotype about authors being a bunch of of anti-social cave dwellers is…not entirely inaccurate. But, that’s okay. Most authors have contact forms or email addresses that readers can use to reach out. Even if they’re troglodytes, most authors are excited to talk about their work. You can usually set up a phone or email interview to put up on your blog.

Monster
I’m Instagram friendly!

If there’s a book you really love, take a picture and throw it up on your Instagram. If you tag the author, they might respond.


If you like a book or an author, there’s lots go things you can do to help get their book out there. Ultimately, isn’t that what we want? To be able to talk to everyone about your favorite book?

Disclaimer: authors are people, too. You are not entitled to their time. But, if you are respectful and discerning, you might be able to have access to insight into your favorite books and creators.

The Power of a Moment

ILightning Bottle‘ve been mocked and scoffed at for my movie collection in the past (and not just because they are on my shelf in alphabetical order.)

But, lately, whenever anyone gives me grief about the movies I’ve deemed good enough to own, I have a response:

There’s a moment.

When we think of our favorite movies, do we think about how great the movie was, how amazing the cast performed, how wonderful the soundtrack is?

Well, yes. Those are things you take into consideration.

But, usually, you have a moment. You have that one scene in the film where you were all in. It’s not a forgotten art. The Moment is a gut-punch. It’s the emotional moment that grabs you by the throat and pulls you in. When you see the Moment, you know there’s so much more, something deeper there. Something more to be mined.

And, there can only be a Moment. You can’t make a whole movie of Moments. Without what surrounds it, a Moment is nothing. The rest of the movie can be awful, as long as it has that one, great Moment to raise it above everything else.

The Moment is more prevalent in dramas, but it also comes in other movies. It doesn’t matter how many fight scenes, how great the CGI, without a Moment, it’s just another movie.

I’m a Moment Hunter. And, it’s not easy. Not every movie has one. You have to dig through a lot of garbage to find any treasure. As a writer, I always wonder if I can capture a Moment. Will I recognize it when it floats through my brain? Will it mean as much to me as it would to a reader or a viewer?

What’s your favorite Moment? Is there a movie you love just for its Moment?

Remembering NaNoWriMo and Trying to Inspire Others

A friend of mine, Briana Hansen, is vlogging her National Novel Writing Month journey. I’m being supportive, as you should be ifRemembering NaNoWriMo and Trying to Inspire Others someone you know is doing it. It’s tough. It’s hard. You need a support structure.

I have the added benefit of having done it myself.

My journey is atypical. The way I write is different from others (everyone’s writing is different). I write novels by hand and I don’t set pen to paper unless I know what the story is, who the characters are, and where it’s going. I spend most of my waking moments planning.

So, when someone says, write a novel in a month, it’s easy. If I have one ready.

My NaNoWriMo experience was a class assignment in college. I finished in 8 days. The whole class hated me. Everyone finished by the end of the month. So, from someone who wrote 55,000 words in 8 days, let me tell you how I did it.

1. Stop worrying

55,000 words is not a novel. These days, a novel is between 75,000 and 100,000. So, writing the NaNoWriMo’s requisite 50,000 is not a whole novel: it’s the bones and muscles without the flesh and clothing. Don’t worry so much about what it looks like. When you reach your goal, set it aside. You can always come back to it later, flesh it out, and dress it up. This is not a polished product. That’s what revision is for.

2. Just go.

Don’t check your word count every ten minutes. Don’t look at the clock every hour. This is a marathon. It’s going to take time. If you’re on a roll, but you’ve already written for your two hours, keep going. Why stop? When you do stop, stop in the middle so you can pick up where you left off and get right back into your flow.

3. There’s no such thing as writer’s block. Unless there is.

There will be a time (maybe more than once) when you sit down with your hands over the keys and you have no idea what comes next. The truth behind writer’s block is that it’s self-doubt rearing it’s ugly head. If you want to do it in 8 days, you turn off your inner editor and squash self-doubt with the power of will (not really; you squash it with the power of blind, speeding momentum). When self-doubt threatens your word count, sit it down and give it a talking to.

Trust your characters. Trust your plot. Trust everything.

Trust that you can always change it later.

4. Ride the wave

Coming from someone who’s written five of them and knowing people who have written more, writing a novel is an emotional roller coaster. Briana is still in the honeymoon period. She’s in love with the idea, she’s in love with the process, she’s in love with everything around it.

There will come a time when you hate it with such utter contempt you can remember why you decided to do it in the first place.

This is natural. Ride the wave. It WILL drag you down, but don’t worry. You’ll get through it. The process of writing a book looks a lot like the hero’s journey. You have a time when the walls are closing in, you have your own dark night of the soul about your project. Remember, at the end, you get to bring your holy grail back to the villagers. And, you’re never the same after you finish.

5. Support

Don’t do this alone. Seriously. Even if it’s just one friend, get a support structure in place. Writing a book is like being in a relationship: sometimes, you need someone you can vent to.

That’s what I got for all you NaNoWriMo kids. I wish I could have joined you this round, but time does not allow me to.

What are your tips for NaNoWriMo? Tell me about your journey in the comments! And, if you are going through it alone, check out Briana’s vlog and comment.

Pilot Reading Tonight

My sitcom pilot, The Fabulous Life of Arthur Watkins, is tonight.

Second City Hollywood at 6:30pm

Here’s all the media for it:

Reclusive author ML Reeves can’t keep it together. After her book series, The Fabulous Life of Arthur Watkins, hit the New York Times Bestseller list and stayed there, she’s been crushed by fame, movie contracts, and a rabid fan base. When a long stint of writer’s block has book five behind deadline, Arthur Watkins, the 15-year-old main character, appears to ML. But is he there to help or will he only make things worse?

Starring
Catherine Alter
Nina Berenfeld
A.S. Freeman
Mackenzie Horras
Patti Moore
Shawn Ryan
Melanie Specht
Travis Van Rijn

The Fabulous Life of Arthur Watkinslemonnotsure  braceyourselves morder

I’m Judging You (Or The Other Side of the Rejection Letter)

We held auditions for the stage read of my pilot this weekend (it’s at 6:30 on April 17th at Second City Hollywood and you’ll see two shows for the low, low price of FREE!) and these auditions put me on the other side of throwing yourself at the mercy of someone else’s judgement.How to audition

It’s not easy being an actor. We had 39 people show up.

There are 8 people in my pilot.

One of them only exists off-stage. That’s right. I’ve cut the story down to the essentials (how many people are in an episode of The Big Bang Theory? You’ve gotta keep it tight). Now, there are a few non-speaking roles in there. The first scene takes place at the Hugo Awards, so you would presumably have a whole audience in there somewhere.

But, they don’t talk.

On top of that, I already had two of my characters cast from people I know from the show I write for at Second City.

It was a little ridiculous. Even I was getting nervous about auditions and all I had to do was sit at a table and watch. It’s hard to imagine how they feel. Worse, you’re throwing yourself at the mercy of someone’s highly subjective opinion, someone who has a look, a style, a character, in mind and you need to rock it. I only write down you’re name if you’re interesting. I only remember you if you impressed me. The first thing that goes out the window is “Nice.” I can’t waste too much time saying how wonderful everyone is. I have to get down to it.

sorryimnotsorry
I’m a little sorry.

There were a few people I saw that I thought, “It’s too bad that I don’t have a part for you.” Literally. Out of eight characters, three of them are male, and one of them can’t be half-assed or borderline. You have to rock it.

You have to either read my mind or change it.

Here’s what I learn from having to drop the gavel:

1.) Sometimes, it’s how you look.

I need a 15 year old boy. But, the character is so important, I didn’t want to cast a 15 year old (everyone on Glee is in their 20’s, so you can get away with it). If you look like you’ve walked a hard road to 30, it’s a hard sell, even when it’s just a read.

2.) Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how you look.

One guy, clearly older than 25, read for the 15 year old character and nailed it. So, he didn’t perfectly fit the role as far as looks were concerned. He hit the important part, which was in the attitude and the speech pattern. He brought something to it. What I’m saying is you can change someone’s mind.

3.) Go all out.

I can’t imagine how nervous you are. Whenever I submit my stories to agents, it’s always from behind a computer screen where I can listen to Take A Chance On Me or Maybe This Time and dance around in my pajamas, because I’m a writer and that’s pretty much what we do. I’ve had pitches with agents in the past, but even those were one on one. It’s not as terrible as standing in a line with 7 other people. The person who ended up as my lead took the direction I gave her and made something out of it, even in a three page scene. I was able to look at her reading the role and think, “I never saw the character this way, but, damn, it works.”

4.) Don’t be cocky.

Sometimes, you have to psych yourself up. I get that. I’ve performed live before and ten minutes before every show, I had to sequester myself and talk myself into it. I had to amp up. I had to get ready. I’m an introvert, so I could keep that amping up in my head.

Don’t do it out loud.

Please.

If saying you’re going to fucking rock these auditions is what gets you into the room and gets you psyched, great. Don’t do it in front of the people in charge of the auditions. They don’t all think you’re psyching yourself up. Some of them think you’re just being a jerk.

If you are just being a jerk, stop. STAHP.

5.) Bring a headshot.

It’s LA. You should have one.

Even if they don’t ask you to bring one, you should bring one. A little professional can go a long way. If you single yourself out, maybe you don’t need one. But, you should have one. It’s like bringing a resume to a job interview. Yeah, you already sent one, but maybe they didn’t feel like printing it out. And, it’s easy to say, “Would you like a copy of my resume?” They can say no if they’ve got one. If they don’t, you’ve already set yourself apart from everyone who forgot theirs.

I know rejection sucks. I’ve been there about 120 times in the last 2 years, and those are the ones that bothered to answer.

You can do one of two things:

Keep going

or

Quit.

So, it’s up to you.

What’s the next step?