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Mentors Everywhere – Meet 4 of Mine

There are Mentors Everywhere. Life has taught me this. Whenever I am desperate for help. Whenever I have no idea what to do next, a mentor appears in the nick of time to rescue me from my ignorance. Even if I don’t know exactly what I need. Even when I’m embarrassed to reveal how little I know, I find Mentors Everywhere, and when it is career direction I lack, they usually come from career organizations.

I met Nancy Herkness at an NJRW (New Jersey Romance Writers) conference. She was the workshop leader, and I was being led. For many years, I had done what Nancy was doing and been one of the Mentors Everywhere myself. Now I needed mentoring, specifically with how to market my writing work. My problem wasn’t too little advice. My problem was too much advice. Get with this social media platform. Grab onto that attention-seeking gimmick. Nancy cut through the mind-whirling noise.

“Do this,” she said. “Don’t bother with that.”

I the latter needed most. A list of time sucks and energy burners that yield too little for the dollars spent and the effort invested. A busy woman’s To Do’s and To Don’t’s I could trust, because I trusted her. My sigh of relief was so profound it echoed through that hotel conference room. Nancy was proof there are Mentors Everywhere, and they don’t always have to be me.

I met Jean Joachim at RWA-NYC (the New York City chapter of Romance Writers of America). She is a common-sensible, no-nonsense woman too, with a city girl edge to match. In other words, we speak the same language, which made her the perfect next addition to my personal Mentors Everywhere team. Her advice was also direct and definite. She generously shared what had worked for her as a publishing-marketing author, and what had not. Through many phone conversations, I wrote down everything Jean said. Then we celebrated over cocktails.

“Listen more than you talk,” she told me, and I heard her.

Mentors Everywhere, including the Upper Westside, maybe especially there.

I met Paula Scardamalia at IWWG (International Women’s Writing Guild). A rainy-day version of their bi-annual Big Apple event, another venue where I’d been the teacher in years past. On this particular Saturday, I was damp and too sloppily dressed, visibly in need of being taught, when Paula reminded me by example that there are Mentors Everywhere. She used a tarot deck as the medium for her message, but beyond the cards her own right-on wisdom was unmistakable.

“Try a different direction,” she said.

As it happened, I had been trying too many directions. Writing a bit of memoir here. A few pages of literary fiction there. Paula’s words arrived, accompanied by a flash of recognition. I needed to settle on a single writing road. That flash was followed by another. I should return to the romantic suspense stories and series characters I love to create.

“And know that your work matters in the world,” Paula added.

The clouds of confusion parted. The very next day, I dove straight back into my Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series, and I’ve been swimming happily through the North Country ever since. Paula had proven, once again, that there are Mentors Everywhere.

I met Kayelle Allen at MFRW (Marketing for Romance Writers), the online forum where writers ask questions and other writers answer. Kayelle is the founder and guiding light of this many-faceted organization. I’d been lurking there for quite some time, reading all of her messages, before I mustered the nerve to ask if I might guest post on her immensely popular blog, RLF (Romance Lives Forever), and she agreed. My first visit to her blogsite nearly stopped my heart. I’d blundered deep over my head into unfamiliar territory. Everything was perfectly organized in minute detail and RTF (Rich Text Format), and I didn’t even know what that was. I stumbled forward anyway. My heart hadn’t stopped, but it was solidly planted in my throat, along with huge clogs of self-doubt.

“We all had to start somewhere,” Kayelle told me in one of several helpful emails.

There it was again. Mentors Everywhere. They were on my laptop and my cellphone and anywhere else I was savvy enough to search them out and pay close attention to their sage advice. Four busy women, and many others also, took the time to share their experience. Now, my own experience is far more productive, satisfying and enjoyable than before they appeared.

Look around you. Check out the resources I’ve mentioned. Research and discover others. When you do, pay attention to what they teach you. Take notes. Follow through on their good advice. Because there are Mentors Everywhere.  Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com.

– R|R –

Rocket through the result of Alice’s mentoring. Take the thrill ride that is her latest story, A Time of Fear & Loving – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 5. Available HERE. You can find all of Alice’s books HERE.

What readers are saying about A Time of Fear & Loving.  “Alice Orr is the queen of ramped-up stakes and page-turning suspense.”
“Warning. Don’t read before bed. You won’t want to sleep.”
“The tension in this novel was through the roof.”
“A budding romance that sizzles in the background until it ignites with passion.”
“I never want an Alice Orr book to end.”
“The best one yet, Alice!”

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Plan a Blog Tour – My Five Tries to Learn How

Plan a blog tour? For way too long, I had no idea I was supposed to do such a thing, or what it might be. I stumbled upon the yahoo self-publish group and began lurking there. I was amazed and grateful for how much information writers share with each other. As a writer of small town romantic suspense, this site was an internship on my laptop, especially the internship in book marketing I desperately needed.

Still, nobody said, “Plan a blog tour,” in those particular words. I did find out about guest blogpost spots and that I needed to acquire some, which brought up a scary question. Why would anyone want me on their blog? Nobody knew who I was. I hadn’t written a novel in sixteen years, and this was the first book in my first series. The Riverton Road Romantic Suspense series. By now, I know I should tell you the title.

Back then, all I knew was that I could barely find the nerve to ask for posting spots. I was nowhere near the Plan a Blog Tour stage. I’d still never heard those words, but I was aware of how to say “Please.” I did a lot of that until, lo and behold, I had seven appointments with guest post destiny. Too bad I had almost no clue what to post.

On my own blog, I mostly scavenged my many years as a workshop leader for material on how to write novels and get them published. I might have done more of the same in my new guest role if a kindly author I met at a conference hadn’t taken pity on me and said, “You want readers to get to know you and your work.” I responded with something like, “Exactly,” so I wouldn’t come across as a total airhead. What I really wanted to do was kiss the pointy toes of her chic pumps in gratitude, but she’d already disappeared, probably in search of more savvy company.

Meanwhile, in her well-shod wake she’d left a valuable suggestion. I should write about my work, which I took very literally to mean my work process. “I can do that,” I told myself, then set out to write posts about how I wrote. My favorite result was “The Struggle to Escape Chapter Twenty-Nine,” which appeared on Elizabeth Meyette’s blog.

The title basically tells the tale. I was quite far along into the book, and I got stuck. I can be funny, so I peppered the post with humorous bits, but I came closest to what I now consider the Plan a Blog Tour lynchpin when I brought my hero into the post. His name was Matt Kalli, and he said, directly to me, “You have to make something happen here.”

I understood he was referring to Chapter Twenty-Nine of his story, A Wrong Way Home. I didn’t hear him also prodding me to make something happen in Plan a Blog Tour terms. Consequently, with Book 2, A Year of Summer Shadows, I continued to wander pretty much clue-free through the blogosphere. Until Maria Ferrer, a publishing maven who always steers me right, gave me some good guidance by getting me to post an actual excerpt from my book on her blog.

Unfortunately, Maria’s sage advice was forgotten by Book 3. A Vacancy at the Inn is a Christmas story, and Christmas is a heartwarming time. Therefore, I wrote heartwarming guest post recollections from my personal life, about my brother Michael making holiday gifts from found fragments, me discovering Grandma’s recipe for Dandelion Wine, and so on. Barbara White Daille’s blog featured “The Best New Year’s Ever,” about a triumphal moment in my breast cancer journey, but I wasn’t yet traveling the Plan a Blog Tour trail.

Finally, in the middle of guest posting for Book 4, A Villain for Vanessa, I was taught the most powerful Plan a Blog Tour lesson of all. “It’s about the book, stupid.” Kayelle Allen, the amazing founder of MFRW (Marketing for Romance Writers), is too gracious to use such harsh words, but her Romance Lives Forever blog made the truth vividly clear, even to dim-bulb me.

A survey of her site taught me how to Plan a Blog Tour by showing me the essence of what to post at every stop on my itinerary. Interviews about the book. Blurbs for the book. Anecdotes featuring the book. And excerpt, excerpts, excerpts from the book, which were the huge clue I should have retained from Maria Ferrer’s guidance two books ago. At last, my best writer brain was listening, and at longer last, I heard.

The blog tour now happening for Book 5, A Time of Fear & Loving – eleven guest posts from October 16th through 26th – is all about the book. Each post is an excerpt from the story with a provocative, attention-grabbing introduction. I am spotlighting each post across social media, like here on Facebook. Stop by and check out the evidence that, with a lot of help from my author friends, I have now learned how to Plan a Blog Tour.   Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com.

– R|R

After blog touring, take the thrill ride that is Alice’s latest story, A Time of Fear & Loving – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 5. Available HERE. You can find all of Alice’s books HERE.

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The Best Story Idea – Dig Deep – Wait for It

Redge and Alice at Home

A best story idea. In my opinion, this is one of those. It’s about two grandkids, an incontinent dog and how I took the path of most resistance. But first, I must own up to something. I’m not a dog person, which could explain why we had three cats and no dog until 3:15 p.m. one December Saturday. The two grandkids began a ten-day stay with us on that date, and ten days with an eight and three-year-old to amuse can be a challenge, which would explain the dog decision, if it hadn’t already been made several weeks before.

Our granddaughter, the eight-year-old, really wanted a dog and reminded us of this regularly, with dog stories, dog stickers, dog drawings and plenty of dog talk. But, what sent her message straight to my heart was Halloween. After several seasons of princess looks, this year she’d insisted on a brown puppy costume with white spots. Right then, I knew we had to get a dog. Three-year-old brother agreed, though he’d have preferred a dinosaur, and that was the source of this Best Story Idea. Meanwhile, I silenced my personal doubts by asking, “How much trouble can a puppy be?”

We set off for PAWS with small pooch intentions and a pet carrier and collar to match. I’d convinced myself all would be well, until the pooch with the most kid appeal turned out to be something other than a small puppy. He was a large, reddish-brown, part-husky mix titled Taylor and, as it happened, the perfect centerpiece for a Best Story Idea . He needed a home, and the grandchildren wanted to give him one. Plus, the trip to the shelter, combined with the pet selection process, had been long and arduous, and, frankly, I was tired. So, I agreed, though I suspected this was not my own Best Story Idea ever.

We put Taylor on hold while we hurried off to buy a dog crate larger than some apartments I’ve lived in. On the way, our granddaughter came up with Redge as a more fitting name. Taylor sounded too aristocratic for a lop-eared, cross-eyed animal of lumbering dimensions. Exactly how lumbering? I tried to measure him once, but Redge thought we were playing Capture the Tape Measure, along with the measurer’s hand. You’ll have to take my word he was a very large dog. You will also have to take my word that he gradually lumbered into my heart.

There are loads of Redge-experience anecdotes, most Best Story Idea material, many having to do with the fact that being cross-eyed caused him to see anything approaching him as an attacker.He lunged a lot, frightened people a lot, including the grandkids, and, when we tried tethering him for a brief moment of peace, he dragged our sizable dining table across the room. The leading dog trainer in the area finally threw up her hands and said, “Maybe you could find him a home in the country.” Eventually we were forced to take her advice.

That should have been the end of this particular Best Story Idea, except I had some self-examining to do. Why had I brought a dog bred to be a natural chaser into a house with three cats? Why had I taken the path of most resistance to adult common sense and good judgment? The truth was I knew the answer to all my Redge dilemma questions. Back on dog-search day, I’d been impatient and tired and eager to be done with the entire scene, so I latched onto the first choice instead of holding out for a better one.

As writers, we too often do the same when we don’t wait for the Best Story Idea. We latch onto the first word or phrase that comes to mind, or the first character quirk, or the first action gambit. We don’t push ourselves deeper into our imaginations in search of the word that most vividly expresses what we need to say, or the character detail that is less a quirk than a revealing motivation, or the plot turn that grows organically from what has already happened but is nonetheless unexpected.

We don’t wait long enough, or think clearly enough, or exercise our brains hard enough. The resulting scenario lumbers across the page, destroys the furniture it should have polished to a patina and, worst of all, disappoints the readers we were supposed to delight and enthrall with our Best Story Idea ever.

Why not write right past our first, most easily available choices to the better ones lurking further down? Then press on even deeper to the best we have in us, the phrase or detail or event that makes a story come alive and dance into our readers’ hearts, without a hint of lumber in its pace along the path toward an extraordinary read. Which is what occurs when we work hard and wait as long as it takes for the Best Story Idea to appear.

As for my previous reference to incontinence, at the same years-ago moment I was writing the first version of this cautionary tale, Redge was peeing on my kitchen floor. I like to think he was puddling me another Best Story Idea.

Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com.

– R|R

Alice writes romantic suspense novels. Check out her storytelling choices in her latest book A Time of Fear & Loving – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Book 5. Available HERE. You can find all of Alice’s books HERE.

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