Guest Post: To Catch a Reader by Sarah Buchynski

Sarah Buchynski

My guest this week is the young fantasy author, Sarah Buchynski, who shares her passion for writing; along with some great insights into how she feels is the best way to engage her readers. Wonderful stuff! Welcome, Sarah, and thank you for being here.

Today, I am supposed to write about something I am passionate about in life. However, what really is passion?  I would like to think of it as something in one’s life that brings them great joy.  So, what brings me great joy in life?  There are many things, but I am going to focus on writing.  More specifically, creating a piece of work that others will be entertained when exposed to it.  While I am writing, I am thinking of many things at once.  How can I write down the ideas that are swimming in my head to convey them to the reader without boring them to death?  What would sound better: It was morning and it came fast. The sky was filled with many colours; or: It was now dawn and it had come swiftly.  With it came swirls of pink and red clouds.  The colours painted a beautiful canvas in the sky.  Just for the sake of illustrating a point, the first quote is relatively dull.  It does get the information across, but is it entertaining?  Will the reader be entranced by the scenario, and does it allow them to “enter” the story?  I personally think it would not.  The second example has a bit more detail – this detail can help a reader see the story inside their minds as they are reading.  For fiction works, I think that it is important to paint a picture inside the reader’s mind.  Since I am passionate about entertaining people through my literature, this concept is a priority for me to incorporate into my work.

Everything I do in my writing relates back to how to entertain the reader.  After I get my canvas of words painted on a tangible medium, I then ask myself another question – how can I make my story larger than life, but still believable?  This may seem like an oxymoron, at first.  However, there is a thin line as to where the two are no longer compatible.  For instance, in fantasy, a lot of its elements do not exist in reality.  So when writing, you have a lot of freedom.  Yet, I cannot give a character such weird ability that will leave the reader thinking, “Okay, as if that could really happen…”  Sometimes you cannot make a human character have ultra superhuman abilities, since we live in a reality where people can never be like that.  So, since we are used to that reality, we naturally feel this way.  However, for something that does not exist in our reality, I can make it larger than life because we do not have the ability to anticipate all the possibilities.

A thesaurus, adjectives, treading the line between fantasy and reality, and research are my best friends and tools to making my passion come to life.  The research is like “eye candy” for a reader.  I find that many readers appreciate and enjoy it when writers incorporate a storyline around mystical concepts like ancient times (people, artifacts, places, etc.) or mythology.  However, I sometimes find that simply alluding to these concepts, rather than dwelling on them full-blown in the story, can add that extra “tease” to spark one’s interest in the story and characters.

I hope that whoever read this blog was entertained, while I shared my passion with all of you!

Bio

Sarah Buchynski is a young author that showed a passion for writing even as a child. In her grade school years, she placed second in an essay writing contest for the Royal Canadian Legion and has two poems published in a student anthology with Creative Communications and several works in school-based anthologies. Now she has expanded her writing ambitions with her first fantasy series, Before True Light, which is available as a Kindle eBook on Amazon.

As a writer, one of Sarah’s main techniques is to paint a vivid picture into the reader’s mind through carefully constructed imagery. In addition to the embedded metaphors which older audiences can enjoy along with the story.

Sarah’s other technique is research. Almost every name of places and characters have been carefully researched so that it is relevant to the storyline. Sarah believes that everything in a story should have a purpose to an extend, so that makes research even more important even for works of fiction.

 Before True Light:  The Awakening by Sarah Buchynski Book Cover

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The Passion to Pay-It-Forward by Thomasina Burke

This week, I am thrilled to welcome my guest Author Thomasina Burke, who has kindly come over to share her personal experiences of the devastating Crown King, Arizona fires, and her generous offer to donate 20% of the proceeds of her book, Magic Bridge, to help others rebuild their lives. Eternally altruistic, this not the first time Thomasina has displayed this sort of largesse to others. Read on and discover how passionately she feels.

When I published my book, Magic Bridge, I had no idea that it would take on a life of its own.  I thought it was a sweet story, filled with travel, adventure and the love of a lifetime.  I hoped it would help others to overcome the pain that comes with grief, panic, and sexual abuse, and to treasure each moment with their loved ones.

Thomasina Burke

Somehow, though, it became even more; Magic Bridge has become a vehicle for a number of causes for which I am passionate.  To be able to use something that I have lovingly crafted in order to help others gives me more pleasure than I could have imagined.

I’ll back up for just a second, and give you a brief synopsis and timeline.  Five years ago my husband and I were bumping along a twenty-seven mile dirt road, one that we voluntarily drive every weekend because it lands us in the beautiful hamlet of Crown King, Arizona, where our charming cabin sits on two acres of gorgeous land.  Our hearts were heavy this weekend, as my sister Kelley Bridgette was in the final throes of her long battle against breast cancer, and our thoughts were now turning towards memorializing her life.

That day, my husband uttered these words, “Wouldn’t it be cool to write a book about two people that love each other, enjoyed travelling around the world, and make a promise that they will take the other’s ashes to the places they loved best when the time comes?”  From that weekend forward, as we made our dusty drive, we conceptualized.  Which places of all the places WE have travelled would we choose? Which character would meet their demise?  How?  What kind of journey would the solo character embark on?

So, I wrote that book.  I utilized a creative army of friends that were just able to pull off the enormous task of editing, formatting, cover artwork, creating eBooks, printing, etc.   All along the way I thought each of those was the most difficult; until I had an actual book in my hand with no concept how to undertake the hardest task of all, the beast called Marketing.

Then, a natural disaster occurred which gave me a cause and a platform for my book.  You see, the characters pick seven spots in the world as “their places,” the places that call out to their souls, either through beauty, a lifelong challenge met, or a difficult time in their marriage.  One of those seven places is the hauntingly beautiful Vernazza, Italy, located in the Cinque Terre region of Italy.  A place that my husband and I have visited many times over the years.

Within two weeks of my book’s publication, a horrific flood devastated Vernazza, Italy on October 25, 2011.  After a deluge of nearly fifteen inches of rain in only four hours, a fifteen foot tall wall of water, mud, cars, and debris came coursing through their main street, washing four residents out to sea, and destroying the businesses and houses in its path.  This beautiful little town was torn apart, forcibly evacuated, and destined to become a ghost town but for the efforts of its locals to rebuild their town.

I immediately contacted the “Save Vernazza” team, consisting of three American “ex-pats,” women with a mission to rebuild their town.  I offered proceeds from my book sales towards their rebuilding efforts.  They happily placed me on their website as one of their fundraising partners.

Another type of flood then began, this one a torrent of people from all over the world, those that also loved Vernazza and wanted to purchase my book to support the fundraising efforts.  I spent my evenings packaging up books and sending them throughout the world.  The Rick Steves’ “Europe Through the Back Door” team bought forty for their staff members.   The guys at the local Post Office knew me by name (before I discovered how to print up media mail labels at home).  What a great feeling, getting my books out there for a good cause, helping others through the beauty of the written word.

Then the emails started coming in, first a trickle, and then a cascade from my readers.  The things that they said brought happy tears to my eyes and warmed my soul.  “You captured the essence of Vernazza so beautifully.”  “You have changed my life with your book. “  “I took the time to talk to my parents about their end of life wishes.”  Email after email, telling me how my words had changed their lives in various ways.

The rebuilding efforts in Vernazza have continued over the last seven months, and they have slowly started inviting tourists back to their community.  As one of their fundraising partners, I was invited to come and experience a “behind the scenes tour,” and I will be travelling there in July.  We have come full circle in our good will and giving.

Nearly two weeks ago, I got a phone call from the Fire Chief of the Crown King Fire Department, bearing dreadful news of a fire in our area.  Both my husband and I are volunteer firefighters, he on the Water Tender, and I on Rescue 1, the medical unit.   Chief was summoning us up to Crown King, where a house fire had quickly morphed into a deadly wild land fire.

We never made it up, as the fire snaked its course down the main road, cutting off access and quickly turning into a Federal Type I fire.  Nearly 1200 hotshot crewmembers from around the United States descended upon Crown King, to fight the “Gladiator Fire.”  True gladiators giving of themselves to try to protect our homes, our forest, and our community.

I wanted so badly to be there, providing medical rehabilitation and help in whatever way I could.  Unfortunately, I have a “real job” as a nurse in the Valley of the Sun, and they needed a time commitment of two weeks.  So, I sucked it up, and did the only thing I knew I could do to help; donate book proceeds to the Crown King rebuilding fund.

I contacted every Arizona news station, was featured on several news shows, and got the word out that sales of Magic Bridge would be going to the Crown King fundraising efforts.  I brainstormed with my good friend and publicist, and came up with another feel-good idea, www.ebooks4firefighters.com.  A website in which Independent Authors could donate their eBooks to the brave men and women that often spend months away from their homes, as they go from fire to fire.  If you are an “Indie” and would like to donate your book, please visit this website.

It has been a long two weeks, one filled with ups and downs.  At one point the fire was less than a mile from our cabin.  We’ve had temperatures in the triple digits here in Arizona, coupled with fifty mile an hour winds, low relative humidity, and every other condition that wild land firefighters dread.  Somehow, they have done it.  We just got the word this morning that we can start returning, first the full time residents, and then the part-time cabin owners.

I will be heading up that twenty-seven mile dirt road tomorrow, and I have an idea what I will be seeing.  The road up will be a burned-out moonscape, but eventually I will come to the “real” Magic Bridge, the gateway to Crown King, and enter our delightful, quirky little town.  I’ve heard that the town itself is mostly intact, with towering Ponderosa Pines, rustic cabins, and our historic Main Street housing the Saloon and General Store.  My husband and I will wind our way one more mile up to our cabin, possibly covered in red slurry from the fire suppression efforts, and containing a refrigerator filled with an interesting science experiment of spoiled food.

I will be able to go to bed tomorrow night, lulled by the sound of pine trees rustling in a gentle wind, knowing that Magic Bridge has made a profound impact on other’s lives.  Sometimes, life just doesn’t get any better than that!  I encourage all authors to find their passion, and “pay-it-forward” through their book.

Author Bio

Thomasina Burke is a native Phoenician who loves just about everything in Arizona. She and her husband Bill reside in Phoenix, but every weekend they head up the dirt road to their cabin in Crown King, Arizona. A Registered Nurse and Volunteer Firefighter, she can also be found hiking any of the Phoenix mountains, Irish dancing, or planning a new travel adventure. “Magic Bridge” is her first novel.  She can be reached at tommey@thomasinaburke.com or through her website, http://www.magicbridgethebook.com/

The Fishing Pole: Musings on Amazon by Katherine Gilraine

This week I am thrilled to welcome my Guest Blogger, Katherine Gilraine, with her thoughts on the Amazon phenomenon

The saying goes, “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he will eat for life.” We can all relate to that at one point or another in our lives, and in the world of publishing, we have to learn what constitutes the fish, and what constitutes the fishing gear, so to speak.

Self-publishing has turned the process of getting books released on its head. We the authors know it, the readers know it, and while it’s still new, we got used to the fact that self-publication is a very viable method of releasing written work. Not only that, but with gumption and hard work, it is profitable.Guest Blogger Katherine Gilraine on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Curzon"

However, in recent times, Amazon has been dominating the e-book and e-publication market to such a degree that there have been noises that it’s a monopoly, and how they’re taking over the e-book market.

Let’s be clear: it’s not. Why? It’s not a publisher. It’s a distributor, first and foremost, and an extremely effective one. Considering that its best-selling product has been the Kindle, of course it will do everything in its power in order to keep the Kindles well-stocked. Amazon has recognized the power that e-readers have on the world of reading, and it has been ensuring that there is no shortage of material for it. If it means opening up the doors to self-publishers, then by all means.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

So how, might you ask, does this relate to the fishing-pole saying?

Let’s see what Amazon symbolizes in respect to the saying. Amazon isn’t the teacher who teaches you to fish. By no means. No. Amazon is, more or less, the fishing pole and a bucket, next to a sign in the road that says, “This way to the river”.

The tools to success as an author are, without question, within the author. Story, writing skills, marketing, and perseverance. Those are the bare bones, and Amazon is only supplying you with the tools to utilize those bare-bone skills: distribution, marketing, and access. In exchange for getting the right to distribute your e-book – and this is only made exclusive with KDP Select – the tradeoff is a much greater exposure. But does Amazon, in and of itself, drive people to your book? No. That is where you, the author, employ your marketing mojo. The tools are there, and what you do with them is entirely up to you. No two people use the same fishing technique.

Now, to touch back on the monopoly issue.

It’s pretty clear: Amazon is the dominant market for e-books right now. B&N’s Nook is a second. Behind that is Apple iBooks. But in all actuality, Amazon is not discouraging competition. Far from it. It’s simply doing business and pushing out its next product. The reaction from the other e-readers and e-reader markets, theoretically, should be “Okay, I see X by Amazon and raise you Y by [competing product].” It’s just simply not happening. Instead, there have been a slew of bad decisions.

B&N had cut percentages to affiliates in digital sales. Big Six publishers have recently declined to renew their contracts with Amazon, and this is sure to have echoing implications for authors who have been traditionally published with the Big Six. On top of that the Dept. of Justice had come down on Apple and some Big Six companies over e-book pricing. And none of this does the authors any good.

So yes, authors will put their digital eggs in the Amazon basket, because they see Amazon rolling out one innovation after another, and they know that their faith will be rewarded. B&N and the Big Six are still holding onto the trad-pub and print-book-first model of publication, while Amazon has been thinking of what innovation to put into place in 2020, and it shows in their success.

My personal experience was with Amazon’s KDP Select program, which does appropriate exclusive rights to digital distribution – in other words, once in KDP Select, your book goes nowhere but Amazon in digital form for 90 days – but in exchange for it, you get a series of marketing options. Amazon Prime members would have free access (which doesn’t impact your royalty), and an option of free-copy marketing days. I had opted to make the first book of my series free, and when Amazon does promo, they do promo. All I did, really, was put the links on Facebook and Twitter.

In only 24 hours I had moved well over three hundred copies across three countries, and sold my other books – yes, as in royalty sales. The next couple of days after the freebie promo ran out, I started seeing paying sales of the first book. The ranking for the promo day, at the end, had listed my book as #6 in Science Fiction Adventure subcategory. In one day.

Apart from that I’m seeing the momentum carry forward past the one-day promo, which is resulting, directly, in sales. Needless to say, my two books will also get their turn with the free-copy promo.

But bear in mind this: Amazon had only appropriated rights to the digital distribution only with my KDP select membership. I am still the owner of my first publication copyright, being self-published, and I see the tradeoff of exclusive distribution for the sort of exposure boost that it provides as a good one.

Fact is, while Amazon isn’t a publisher, it is doing what most publishers aren’t: keeping the author and the customer in mind. Self-published authors have either been through the traditional publishing gamut or had opted out of it because it was not suitable to their needs. With the advent of Kindle and e-books, Amazon had also extended a hand of partnership towards the self-publishing world. This partnership is of very mutual profit: Amazon gains more material for distribution and potential profit, and the author gets an entire market for their work. And avid readers who want to discover new authors have the chance to do so.

Let’s cut to the chase: Amazon did not get to where it was by thinking of profit or by wanting to hold onto a business model that is rapidly growing antiquated. It has been doing nothing but its business, and it has encouraged the competition from other e-distributors, who had failed to rise to the challenge. Monopoly it is not, and a publisher it is not, but it is certainly one of the most effective distributors there is. It offers you an enormous potential, but it will not actually step forward and teach an author how to market a book. The author still has to do work.

If you have to take it back to the proverb, you can say that Amazon for a self-published author is a fishing pole with a baited line. You just have to figure out how to use it, and once you do, the possibilities are endless.

Kat Gilraine

For more information on the author, please visit http://www.katherinegilraine.com

Amazon storefront: http://amzn.to/InrIwW