Therapy For Fictional Characters

Therapy For Fictional Characters (1)

The personalities that carry out your plot have lives. They have inner monologues that nag their waking moments. They suffer headaches making it hard to concentrate. They have fears.

As complex as we all are, so are your characters.

Convincing fiction comes from convincing characters. When you know what your character knows, describing their reactions becomes natural and your characters comes to life.

What do you suppose this fellow is feeling?

There he is, sitting on a wooden bench outside the hardware store with a stripp

Is he afraid, anxious, expectant, or excited?

Knowing helps you create believable characters, and put readers in the front seat to watch the story unfold.

6 Things Every Character (And Writer) Should Know

1 book numbersWhat’s their baggage?

We all have childhood stories that linger into our daily lives. The fear of spiders because your older sister was intent on torturing you, or perhaps a fear of heights because you fell out of a tree. Think about the micro-moments that make up your personal history. Your characters have similar tales. You don’t have to write a term paper on their background, but knowing a few key turning points in their life will add purpose to their role in your plot.

2 book numbersWhat do they like about themselves?

Even the worst villains have redeeming qualities, something that gives them confidence. Your hero also has something about themselves that gives them pride, or even shame. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Defining this for your main characters could make for an interesting twist in your story as either a heroic save or an epic fail.What if a minor character had a fallible trait that affected your main character? Does that create a ripple effect of events?

3 book numbersWhat frightens them?

Periodically, I have a dream about being swallowed up by the ocean… only the ocean is lapping at my house 120 miles from the coast. Pretty unsettling. I’ve learned to turn it around and go for a swim. But how does your main character overcome fear? How does it limit them or manifest itself in other parts of their lives? The raw emotion that spills out is too intense for an inner critic to stop or censor. Everybody is afraid of something, so are the people populating your novel. Thanks to my sister, I’m afraid of spiders….. even the tiny ones. (Thanks Lynn.) Write your fears into the character’s lives and let them go about finding a way to cope or react. You may be surprised by what they do.

4 book numbersHow far are your characters willing to go to get what they want?

Steal? Lie? Murder? How badly to they want this thing they think they need? The more tense your story and the more intense your character, the further they will push to reach their goal. Everyone has a line they won’t cross, where does your character draw the line? Is it at a crucial point that keeps them from what they’re seeking?

5 book numbersAre they hiding something?

Everybody has a secret. Something in their past they want to forget. Perhaps it’s their true motive they are hiding. Sometimes a small thing can have huge ramifications as it rolls through the plot gathering lies and subterfuge.

6 book numbersWho are their people?

Where did this character come from? What is the culture of their upbringing? Family life? Friends? What are the personality dynamics at play that shape how they interact with everyone whom they come into contact? I think we’re all shaped by our families and extended friends and experiences. Characters have family sidebars that either push them in one direction or pull them into another. That could be a full novel all by itself.

I think this is why series are so much fun. You have multiple books to show the tiny bits that make up a character and begin to build a history through their story. Characters then become familiar to the reader making them feel like friends that are safe and entertaining to spend time with.Jade Weekes

In Wired, Jade Weekes is an art thief, but she never crosses the line of violence – that is,
until she is pushed just enough. Her father’s murder provided a tipping point that makes her rethink the deceptions she weaves so easily. Her past created a plot line for Wired, and the plot of Wired provided a turning point for her character to continue into another story.

A well written book leaves you in a different place than where you started, and characters should grow in a way that allows the reader to feel they’ve taken the journey too.

Making your characters and their actions realistic taps into the readers emotions and keeps them hooked to the last page.

So go on, dig in and see what therapy your characters need to really let readers get to know them.

Thanks for reading,


Wired Judith GainesWired by Judith Gaines

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past. 

Words, Wisdom & Ghosts: Writing Advice From The Saturday Club

The Saturday ClubImagine  a gathering of authors who meet merely to exchange ideas, discuss their work, enjoy food, and share a drink.

Imagine these purveyors of words are Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and that’s just a few of the casual guests at the table.

The Saturday Club was formed in 1855 and held regular meetings at the Parker House Hotel in Boston the last Saturday of each month. The intent was to discuss literature, politics, science and share artistic insights.

Seating Chart for The Saturday Club
Seating Chart for The Saturday Club

When we planned our spring vacation, the Parker House Hotel appealed to us for it’s proximity to Boston’s Freedom Trail and historic sites. My writer indulgent activity was a planned trip to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for a bit of research. It wasn’t until that evening, that I discovered a framed document and the name Emerson caught my eye, followed by a tally of literary icons. A quick online search of the hotel’s history revealed details of the Saturday Club, a cheeky interview with Mark Twain during a stay at the hotel.

Knock Knock
The door to Charles Dickens’ room is on display in a small basement gallery.

In fact, Charles Dickens is reputed to haunt the the hallways. The elevators have a habit of stopping on the 3rd level, where he stayed, but when the polished bronze doors open no one is there.

As a rational adult, I have to say ghosts are not real. As a writer, I believe in the power of stories which you can also argue are not real.

Did we meet a ghost? My rational mind says, “Coincidence.”

My writer’s minds says, “Holy cow, did you hear that?”

Charles Dickens' Door at the Parker House HotelEncounters

I forced my 10-year to go on a ghost hunt with me. Let’s say she was not very excited at the prospect, but didn’t want to miss the possibility of meeting a real ghost. We started on the 3rd floor, all quiet and normal in every way. We walked to the ends of each hall before returning to the elevators. As we discussed heading to the 12th floor, the most haunted part of the hotel according to the desk clerk, the elevator door opened. It was empty.

“Did you push the button?” she asked.

I had not.

She pushed me towards the stairs., “We have to get out of here, now!”

After some coaxing, I persuaded her to take another elevator car up to the 12th floor. That excursion lasted only a few minutes as she was firmly done with ghost hunting.

A few nights later, I awoke around 5am to the sound of what can only be described as a howl traveling down the hallway and past our door. My first thought was that it was the elevators. We were on the opposite end of the hallway from the elevators. My next thought was that it was a delivery truck outside and I strained to hear the engines idling below. Only we were on the 5th floor and the street traffic was barely audible…. and the street was on the other side of the room.

I’d like to think creativity spews its own kind of energy that lingers in a place. Maybe voices can travel through time. I know I’d like to hear what they would say.

Here’s a free writing excerpt from my journal during our stay. It may be divinely inspired or just too much Boston Cream Pie. You decide.

If there are literary ghosts in this hotel, what would they say?

  • Learn where to put a comma.
  • Put your time to the page.
  • Follow your thoughts.
  • Drink with friends.
  • Have deep conversations.
  • Make light of life, it shouldn’t be heavy.
  • Gather.
  • Let your characters live their own life.
  • Live in the pages.
  • Words have flavors, make your story a full meal.
  • People see what they want to see. Readers read what they expect to read. Try to surprise them.
  • Why are you using long words for short meanings?
  • Can you record intent?

Thanks for hanging out with me. If you’re in Boston, stop by the Parker House for the Boston Cream Pie – they invented the treat and it’s worth the visit. If you’re wondering about the rolls, they invented those too.

And if you see gentle man in a morning coat with a top hat, let the desk clerk know the Mr. Parker is back.


Wired Judith GainesWired by Judith Gaines

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past. 

How Google AMP Affects Your Author Blog

How Google AMP Affects Your Author BlogIs your blog mobile responsive? If you’re not sure, take a moment to pull it up on your phone. If you have a tablet, take a look there too. If you’re using a “mobile responsive design” then it will shuffle your content around to improve the viewing experience based on the type of device accessing it.

Google is now taking that a bit further with AMP, Accelerated Mobile Pages. This is another level of responsive design that strips your site to the bones in order to make it load faster and improve the small screen viewing experience. Also, Google AMP pages will be place at the top of search results – ahead of non AMP pages.

You may be thinking, “So what?”

AMP can be a powerful way to make your content pop on mobile devices, or it could kill the effectiveness of your in-page marketing. Headers are visually truncated, side bars shuffled to the bottom or removed, and images within a post may not display the way you want them presented to the reader.

Think about the content you have on your site and how it may be changed. Do you advertise your books with point of purchase links in this space? Do you use sidebars to place ads or Social Media news feeds? How would moving these touch points affect your book sales? What strategies can you employ to keep your titles top of mind in an accelerated mobile world?

40% of mobile users leave a page if it doesn’t load in three seconds
Click image to share.

Here’s a more in-depth overview of Google AMP from Social Media Examiner, along with info on how to make it work with your  site and WordPress blogs. You can also learn more about Google AMP Project here.

A few months ago, I began adding a thumbnail, link and synopsis to the end of my posts as a gentle reminder that I also write mystery novels. Little did I know what a good practice this would become. My side bar links on the mobile AMP view were pushed to the bottom of the article list. Having the link inside the post gives it visibility no matter which screen readers prefer.

Don’t shy away from the technology. If you can write a novel and publish a blog, you already have the skills needed to optimize your book marketing and web content experience.

Questions? Advice? Leave a comment. If you found this information helpful, please consider sharing.

Thanks for reading!



Wired Judith GainesWired by Judith Gaines

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past. 

#Bookish Instagram

img_1446I may be a late comer to this, but I had been under the impression that Instagram was all about pictures. I was wrong. It is a hub of communities and images are the common language.

In fact, there are rich communities passionate about reading and books and authors and anything even remotely related to words.

Head over to Instagram for a moment and search #bookish, #bookstagram or #booknerdigan. These are a few of the many hashtag communities thriving on book covers, artistic compositions of favorite titles, and rich word of mouth recommendations of what to read next.

A lot of authors are building their communities on Twitter and Facebook. But my Twitter feed seems to reach writers more than readers, and I’m too busy with social media for my day job to want to nurture a Facebook community larger than my immediate family. I wanted to connect with readers that love books the same way I do and have fun doing it. Because anything that is fun never feels like work.

bookblabpicI did the homework to find out how to launch on Instagram and build an audience quickly. It’s not gaming the system, it’s coming out of the gate with the foundational knowledge that minimizes the stumbles. I’m eight weeks in and @bookblab is still growing.

What I like about Instagram?

  • Once you know how to look, it’s easy to find like-minded book lovers to connect with.
  • You can post several images at a time and fill a whole day’s worth of content in a few minutes.
  • Visual content inspires written content.
  • The platform does not allow links in posts which discourages spammy content.

How To Grow Your Bookish Community

What’s in a name?
Start with a name for your account that says what you’re about. I knew I would be reposting a lot of content rather than creating original images to build a virtual library of beautiful books and titles readers recommend, so @Bookblab felt like a perfect fit from the start. Occasionally I post my own titles, but mainly I look for my favorites books and authors to promote. Whatever name you choose, you want it to be easy to remember.

instagramlogoGot the picture?

There are also image guidelines I follow. I look for content to reshare that is beautiful or unique, or a book cover that is exceptionally well done. If you browse similar accounts, you’ll see how lovingly some of these are composed. When you talk about a passion for reading, this is the community that builds the altar. Even if I like the book, if I don’t love the image, I don’t repost. Bookblab’s original images are usually tagged with my handle so if they are reshared, I get trackable credit to lead folks back to my account. This is easy to do using WordSwag from the app store.

Where are our manners?

As with all social sharing, etiquette is important. Reposts should be tagged as reposts with the creator credited. I also take it a step further and tag the creator’s account so they know I used their image. Often I get a follow back and some of my posts are reshared as the word of mouth variability of social media takes the content to new homes.

What’s the theme?

Make images relevant to your theme. I post only fiction titles, mainly mystery, suspense and Sci Fi/Fantasy. Staying within a theme helps people know what to expect and focuses your audience.

How & Where?

If you want to build a following quickly, you need to start off with a lot of posts, as many as 8-10 images a day for the first few weeks. This builds your content library quickly and makes your new account look not so new.

A few minutes of research will go a long way in finding your audience. Use Instagram’s search tool and type in keywords or hashtags for your theme. Pay attention to the hashtags others are using. Click to discover what type of content you’ll find with each. This reveals niches within the larger communities. If you post for family and fun, skip the hashtags. If you post for marketing or business you need these to get discovered.

Hanging Out

Like any social media platform, you need to hang out before venturing too far. Learn from the accounts that are successful in the same theme as you before diving into contests and challenges. Also, be honest with yourself and how much time you have to give to the platform. I find that when I’m on Instagram, I spend less time on Twitter. Is that good or bad? It’s a very different audience on both platforms, both equally important when maintaining a fan base. Once a foundation is built, you can spend time on one social network then another without overlapping or having to give something up.

I set a daily time limit for social media marketing, but I may be on a different platform from one day to the next to mix it up and keep it interesting. It appeals to my squirrel-like attention span.

I’d love to connect with you on Instagram and repost your beautiful #bookaholic images. Tag @Bookblab on your posts so it pops into my box and I’ll happily re-share. This is what Indie Authors do, we cross promote and share what we know so we can all get better at our craft and be successful.

If you have tips for Instagram or book marketing, please share in the comments below. Thanks for hanging out with me.



Wired Judith GainesWired by Judith Gaines

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past. 

Book Marketing Hacks and Apps

Hack Apps & PluginsHappy Friday and welcome to Spring.

We typically make January our time to start new habits and endeavors, but really why limit ourselves to one month a year to improve things? I’m thinking this weekend is a perfect time to get organized and put all the writing life hacks I have to good use.

Here’s What I’ve Got

Install your social media network apps on your tablet or mobile phone:

  • Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, G+, LinkedIn, GoodReads, Pinterest, etc.SocialMobile800x600

Install 3rd party apps that make the work easier:

  • Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc. for scheduling content
  • Canva, WordSwag, Layout, Camera Awesome for making killer images to share
  • Repost or R&R for reposting on Instagram

If you find you’re using these a lot, it’s worth paying a few dollars to get the ad-free versions. It makes the user experience much friendlier.

Get Creative With Twitter Content

Text posts are fine, but there’s a hierarchy if you want people to notice.

1 Least effective > 5 Most Effective

  1. Text
  2. Text + Link
  3. Text + Link + Image
  4. Text + Link + Video (native format)
  5. Actually ties with #4… Native promo card
Hacks, Apps & Plugins Twitter Card
Twitter card made with Canva. Click to share.

Full disclosure, I have access to some pretty smart editing tools, but for a quick video with a few title cards (aka words on the screen) iMovie works just fine.

Browser PlugIns

I use Chrome for most of my online, but if you go to the app store for your preferred browser, you’ll be sure to find what you need.  Plugins are tiny programs designed to work within larger programs. Chrome plugins add a small icon in the top right corner of your web browser and is activated with just a click.


Hootsuite – Click to create social posts from your browser window. The app allows you to send the post to any account you have connected to Hootsuite.

Pocket – If you don’t have time to read the site or online article, Pocket will save it and syc to Pocket on your mobile app. Great way to take your reading list on the road.

Klout – This plugin app allows social posting via your Klout login, but it does something else that’s really cool. Once installed, it places Klout scores inside your Twitter feed. Think of Klout scores as showing who has the larger “share of the conversation” on social. Since it’s an aggregate of social network activity – you get to know who carries clout on various topics. Click the Klout icon next to a user’s profile picture in Twitter and Klout will tell you where their expertise shines.

Let me know if you have any plugins or apps for keeping writing, book promotion and life manageable. There are new ones popping up daily and I love learning new things.



Wired Judith GainesWired by Judith Gaines

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past. 

How To Customize Social Media Share Options


Have you noticed how some blogs have interactive content? How about a line of text or an image that turns into a Tweet with a just a click?

It’s not a plugin or pricey add-on to your blog account, it’s simply code. Code even a right brain creative type can produce.


It starts with the url.

Here’s an example:

Now give it a test run.

Want to add an image to your custom tweet?

Post the image on your feed, then cut the Twitter picture url and paste it to the end of your custom url. (Don’t forget to include %20 to add spaces.)

Let’s say you want to include a Tweet on your blog that readers click to Re-Tweet or Follow you? Publish your tweet, then find it in your feed and look for the stats bar underneath. Click on the ••• to bring up the menu as shown below.


Select ‘Copy link to Tweet’ and then simply paste it into your WordPress blog copy. This is what you get:

If your blogging platform supports embedding code, that’s another way to add a Twitter card to your site.

How else can you use this new power of sharing?

Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ also support sharing in the same manner. It’s all about the code. These networks will automatically pull text from your site to create the look of the card. All you need to do is add your url to the end of the codes below:

Click to Tweet

ALWAYS test your share url so you know exactly what it will look like for your readers when they click.

Click to Share on Facebook

By activating share buttons on your blog, you give readers an easy way to spread your content. When you give them the option to share within a post, impulse has the opportunity to take over while they are still enthralled with your insights and message.

So, at the end of the day sharing is less about technology and code, it’s psychology. It’s giving readers an easy way to connect, identify and share what they like while they’re in the moment.

If you found this helpful, please consider passing it along to friends and followers.

Have a great week!

Goal Tending

Carpe Diem - GoalsJanuary has set in. The days grow dark before dinner, work takes up most of our week, and caring for our families takes up much of the rest. This is the reality for most writers.

I’ve just deleted several lines that made the situation feel dire and pointless. Why write? Why try if I’ll never finish?

It’s simple. Writers write. It’s a matter of self expression, self discovery, sanity and the love of a good story that needs to be told. If we’re not writing, then we’re agonizing about our writing. It’s the one activity that carries every emotion in the dictionary with the placement of each letter.

Non-writers think our minds are ever-flowing with creativity and ideas. We know that we struggle to express the essence of an idea in just the right amount and configuration of words.

Writers love writing. Writers hate the moment just before starting.

But this post is not about the struggles to make time to write or forcing a flow of literate prose onto a page. It’s about goals.

The Hare

The stories we learned as children were meant to share a lesson. Big word sprints may get you towards a finished story in chunks, but then add in the days (or months) wasted in mental anguish trying to carve out the necessary time. This approach sets you up for writer’s block and writer’s guilt.

The Tortoise

Set a low word goal for your writing session or carve out fifteen or twenty minutes and see how much you can get done. Do this every day. Slow and steady wins in “The End” when you finish your story. There’s also some wonderful things happening in your brain (and your writing) when you take this approach.

  • Because you reach your goal, you feel a sense of accomplishment and boost self-esteem.
  • Because you write every day, your work is moving forward towards the ultimate goal of a complete story or novel.
  • Because you write every day, your characters become real within the story, the plot doesn’t stray as much, and your writing will improve as your comfort with the story increases.

It’s not really a race.

Take pressure off yourself to be done. Instead focus on showing up. Keeping a low goal that’s highly achievable will make it easier.

Don’t compare your work or your progress to anyone else. Strive to be better than you were last week.

How am I applying this mindset?

writing targetsI’ve set a writing project goal of 25k words. Not only does this seem easy compared to a 60k word novel, it’s making me rethink plotting and pacing. There’s always room to learn and refine your craft. Good writers are always learning.

I’ve set a daily word goal of 500. That’s just a few short paragraphs. I hit that goal every time, but most days I write much more. I’ve discovered that by 500 words, I’m either in the flow or not. Either way, I’ve furthered my story and that feels like an accomplishment. Even after work, dinner and family time, I’ve found this is a manageable goal.

I also give myself permission to write crap if necessary to get going. Until your muse kicks in or your mental flow pours out words, it helps to just write and see what happens. You can always edit and delete later. And sometimes you discover what your characters were up to when you weren’t looking.

What else qualifies as a writing goal?

Anything that enriches your writing and makes it possible to write. IMG_0956

  • Reading – Essential for writers! Study how your favorite writers fill in backstory seamlessly or add character details. Read like an apprentice.
  • Research – Learn your main character’s hobby so your description takes on tactile detail. Talk to experts related to your topic, plot or characters.
  • Walk – Sunshine, fresh air and day dreaming about your characters can help you discover motives, plot connections and new twists. Movement is as good for your brain (and creativity) as it is for your body.
  • Create – Get out of your head and create something with your hands. Play an instrument, play with clay, pick flowers, paint, build something, cook something from scratch. The new thought processes and sensory input will shake loose fresh ideas for your writing.

My goal strategy: 
*Daily       **As Needed

  1. Set a small goal**
  2. Take a walk & daydream**
  3. Write a little*
  4. Read a little*
  5. Do something creative other than writing**
  6. Repeat*

Yep, it’s winter. It’s cold. Sleet is pinging off the windows and you feel like sinking into the sofa with cocoa and a blanket. Sounds like a perfect moment to tackle a small goal. #amwriting

If you found these ideas helpful, please consider sharing. Thanks for hanging out.  @jpg_writer

Free Tools & Analytics That Show If Your Book Marketing is on Target

Finding Yr Audience DIY Book Mktg-2

This post was first published in January 2015. To make this more useful for you, I’ve added new content and tips. Thanks for reading. ~

Once you’ve published your novel, and perhaps setup a blog and started tweeting, how do you know who you’re reaching? How do you know if the content you publish is drawing them to your books and creating sales?

Without becoming a digital guru, you can discover a lot about your fans. Knowing their interests and understanding why they follow you will help you produce effective book marketing content.

If the information you uncover is surprising, then you have some work to do to attract an audience that will potentially become your raving fans. Consider that the folks reading your tweets and blog posts may be on the fence about buying your book(s) or perhaps they’re browsing a subject and your name appears in a search. They want to learn more. You can use the built-in analytics of your social media tools to learn what they want to know. Let’s take a look at Amazon Author Central, WordPress, and Twitter.

Amazon Author Central

Most often, you’re probably signing into Amazon KDP to look your sales stats. Once a month, or at least within the first two weeks after publishing your novel, login into Amazon Author Central and view your sales by Geography. You’ll see the U.S. with sections highlighted, the darker the area the more sales you have in these regions. This is calculated by Nielsen BookScan, which is estimated to cover 75% of all retail print sales.

Why is this important? Now you know where your audience lives and most importantly their time zone. This allows you to schedule blog posts, promotional tweets and content to when they will most likely see it.


Yes, I know there are other blogging sites and services out there, but the tips here should still apply. It’s not the service provider, but the data provided in your stats and dashboard that you’ll find helpful. Here are the four things you’ll want to review.

  • Pull up your stats summary and make note of which days of the week are getting the most traffic. Those are the days you should be posting.
  • How often are you posting? If you can look at six months to a year’s worth of site traffic you should see a natural ebb and flow of visitors. After a post has brought a boost in traffic, note how long it takes for the visitor traffic to slow down. This is your guide to how long you can pause between posts before losing repeat visitors. Aim to be on the leading edge of the timeline before your audience moves on.
  • Next, migrate to your posting summary and sort by most popular posts. This is where you get insights into what your audience likes. You may have written a post two years ago, but it’s still getting random traffic from web searches. It should be easy to look at the top ranking posts and identify the similarities in content. Now you know your sweet spot and can build your audience by writing to their interests.
  • If your dashboard gives a list of referrers, make note of who they are. Knowing where your traffic comes from lets you know how effective your marketing is on other sites. i.e. A lot of Twitter traffic shows your content posted there is working.

Bonus: These interests, and the comments on these posts, can help shape your fiction writing as well. Knowing who you’re writing for and weaving the story to hold their attention will help give your writing focus.


If you’re using a Twitter management program like Hootsuite or Socialoomph, then you’re familiar with their stats and dashboards. They’re very good at showing follower counts and click-throughs. However, Twitter Analytics is a robust tool that gives unique insights into your audience demographic.

TwitterAnalyiticMenuCroppedTo begin, log onto Twitter with a web browser and click on your icon in the upper left corner. This gives you a menu which should include Analytics. If this is missing from your menu, Google Twitter Analytics while logged in and it will bring up the same screen.

At the top you’ll have a few choices: Tweets, Followers, Twitter Cards, and Tools. We’ll just consider the first two.

Tweets gives you an overview of followers over time. Below that you’ll see each tweet, how many impressions it had, and if anyone engaged with it. Impressions are the times the tweet was viewed by someone on Twitter. You may have several thousand followers, but they are not all looking at Twitter at the same time. Also, tweets come and go quickly on timelines. This means only a limited number of people will see your content at any given time. If your tweet gets shared, you’ll see the impressions increase. This is where the engagement comes in. Engagement is when another person either clicks your link or shares your content.

TwitterAnalyticEngagementSummaryCroppedWhy is this important? Knowing what times of the day have the most impressions can help you schedule tweets for the most viewers. Guy Kawasaki recommends tweeting your most important content four times within a twenty-four hour period. This ensures the most reach among your followers. Keeping these two points in mind can help you fine tune your timing.

Also, knowing what garners a click can help you know what works and what doesn’t work when you’re trying to get clicks to your point of purchase or website.

TwitterAnalyticFollowersCroppedThe second tab, Followers, gives you a list of your follower’s top interests. This tells you exactly why your they are

following you. Interests should match your writing genre and topics. It might even give you some insights into sub-genres that could play into your fiction writing. It even takes it a step further and tells you which states and countries make up your following, as well as their gender distribution.

Why is all of this important?

Put it all together and you know the gender, interests, location, the best time of day to reach your audience, and what content resonates with them most.

Your audience is made up of fans, people who have chosen to read what you write and seek out the content you provide. They are the fans who will talk about your blog posts and recommend your novel to friends. When you write a post or share a comment on Twitter you now know who you’re talking to, and that’s where a conversation begins.

Final Note

The only sure thing about marketing on social media networks is that it will keep changing. Your follower makeup will change. What works and doesn’t work will change. Data will give a you a leg up on trends and messaging so you can effectively reach your audience and when they move you can move with them.

Writing your novel is your art and craft. Selling your novel is business – be engaged. Listen, ask questions, and talk with your fans.

Have an idea or helpful insight? Leave a comment and help everyone market smarter:)

November 2015 Addendum

New resources are popping up every month with services to help you take the guesswork out of determining what readers want and make writing less stressful. Here are a few recommendations:

Buzzsumo – Check out the popularity of topics before writing your blog post. This is also helpful in seeing what new insights you can to existing trending topics.

RazorSocial – Ian Cleary’s site and newsletter is crammed with actionable marketing tips relevant to today’s authors. You’ll find information on tools that help with Content, Analytics and SEO to help your optimize your blog and author sites.

StoryboardThat – Lay out ideas, scenes or entire novels. This site helps you visualize the action.

Trello – One of my new favorites. This replaces the legal pad “To Do” list and post-it notes all around your computer. Get your tasks, goals and notes organized on a virtual board. Site supports more than one board. I have one for my work life and one for my writing life. There’s also a handy mobile app that syncs to the site. Evernote is similar – the only difference is matter of preference.

Sococo – Virtual office. How does this help? Imagine you have a team of writers for a publication that work remotely or you collaborate on novels. Sococo gives you a virtual meeting space where you can video conference face to face and share screens. When it’s on, all you have to do is talk and the other folks there can hear you, unless of course you’re in one of the private conference rooms.

Bonus Tip – Metadata counts. Whether it’s the category and product description for your book on Amazon (or other sites), or the descriptions and setting of your blog, the words that make it easy for search engines to connect readers to your site play a big part in discoverability. Take the next 20 minutes and strengthen every word, every category connection and every link that takes readers to your book.

Have a tip? An idea? A helpful new tool for writing & marketing? Leave a comment and let’s crowdsource smarter ways to reach readers.



Wired Judith GainesWired by Judith Gaines

Jade Weekes emerged from the oily wash of the Seine five years ago with no memory of her life, but an uncanny knowledge of fine art, museum security, and a knack for walking away with priceless treasures. Now she’s tracking an elusive Van Gogh with ties to an underworld struggle that will reveal her forgotten past. 


Getting Inside Your Characters

Character ResearchAll writing projects come with some form of research and fiction navigates this pursuit to some interesting destinations. Recently, I spent the day as Jade Weekes, the main character of my art mystery series, crisscrossing The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Becoming your character and looking at the world from their point of view is an easy way to get inside their minds and explore how they think and most importantly, how they react.

How Jade Views Art

Every work of art has multiple layers of history, emotion and humanity. Each artist brings their personal experiences to the canvas, building up layers of paint to capture their thoughts or painstakingly scraping into wood or stone to unveil what only they can see. The next layer is the life of the art work. It passes from creator to patron, to buyer, to museums and thieves – each individual imbuing it with their personal history, continuing a journey of thought as well as emotion.

This is the connection Jade has with Dalì, Mìro and van Gogh. She identifies with their stories as she struggles to paint the picture of her own identity. She looks at a Degas sketch and sees the man not the dancer.

Jade’s Gallery Review

Jumping into Jade’s mindset begins with walking through security. She’s a security expert as well as a thief, and she notices much more than docent wandering galleries or nylon queue barriers organizing visitors.

Jade pays attention to the people around her and looks for groups that offer distraction so she can slip through these barriers unnoticed. She’s aware of the behaviors that attract attention. She knows how to hide her intent. She knows how to look innocent.

Roses, Vincent van Gogh 1890 Once red, the pigment used for these roses faded to a tinged white over time.
Roses, Vincent van Gogh 1890
Once red, the pigment used for these roses faded to a tinged white over time.

A short list of what she looks for?

  • Psychological barriers meant to keep visitors a pre-determined distance from the art. This includes ropes, toe molding, and carpet borders that create a subconscious line not to be crossed.
  • Cameras – specifically, missing cameras. Next she has to verify the void in surveillance or identify if another measure is in place such as sensors attached to paintings. It’s no surprise to her that some galleries are tightly quarantined within small spaces with multiples cameras covering every angle and foot traffic herded in a predetermined pattern. This is where her favorite acquisitions reside.
  • She counts docents and notes how many alcoves and galleries each covers. Jade is a master at body language and knows which are experienced and who can be distracted.

Jade plays scenarios through her mind, timing how long it would take to reach an interior gallery and what obstacles lie between it and a door. The door would not be the main entrance, but a service access, perhaps even the cafeteria. After all, she became good at her job by thinking beyond the moment. Her imagination takes the art all the way to a safe house. If she were setting up the security, the process would be the same – looking for the cracks in the shield.

The Art

I must say, I began to feel a bit paranoid after a while. Eyeing wall hangings and surreptitiously locating security cameras had me playing the “what if” game, constructing micro-plots. Writers see plots and red herrings at every turn.

Animated Landscape, Joan Mìro 1927

Joan Mìro is among my favorites at the MET and I spent a great deal of time working out how to get in or close to the gallery with his work. Due to bad timing, the adjoining galleries on both sides were closed off. I managed to get this view from a distance. His dreamscapes are something Jade can understand, as her dreams – filled with grotesque images and mutilated art – play a backdrop to her inner character.

This is the Color of My Dreams, Joan Miro 1925
This is the Color of My Dreams, Joan Miro 1925

If blue is the color of Mìro’s dreams, Jade’s would be the complex hue of the Seine.




Bouquet of Sunflowers, Claude Monet 1881

It was Monet’s opinion that his sunflowers were the lesser of van Gogh’s. Jade can visualize how each brings its own qualities of light and color to the flowers. Looking at the ridges of paint building up from a base shade to ever more vibrant hues makes it easy to imagine a hand holding the brush, a frown, and bristles molding the paint like clay to give life and texture to the image.

Detail – Bouquet of Sunflowers, Claude Monet 1881

She expresses her emotion through art. Her passion is mirrored in what she pursues. Being in Jade’s thoughts for the day and regarding these works with her perspective launched new ideas for Enigma and more stories beyond that. She sees Gauguin’s passion in the rounded, sensual curves of his work and the frailty of van Gogh’s tree boughs against an open field and senses his unrest.

What are your characters doing? What are their interests? Taking on their viewpoint during a research excursion can bring you closer to their motivations and give you insights on their personality and logical reactions to the events in your story.

Click to enlarge:

The Flowering Orchard, Vincent van Gogh 1888
Detail – The Flowering Orchard, Vincent van Gogh 1888
The Siesta, Paul Gauguin 1892-94
Still Life with Teapot and Fruit, Paul Gauguin 1896

What Rush Can Teach Writers About Relevance

I posted the article below a little over four years ago. It still rings true, even more so for me, after seeing Rush perform last week in Greensboro NC. The show covered 40 Years of music by three talented musicians who are also writers, composers and artists among their many passions.

What lessons can writers learn from Geddy, Alex and Neil?

  1. Always sound like yourself – then you’ll never sound dated.
  2. Life experiences hold a common thread that crosses generations.
  3. Your audience is smarter than you think – they’ll get the big ideas you’re trying to share. Give them something to think about.
  4. Explore your interests and collect experiences – this fills your creative well.
Rush R40, Greensboro NC
Lessons writers can learn from Rush. R40, Greensboro NC







Thank you for the music.



Be OriginalLast week, as I was driving home from my day job, I set my iPod to shuffle and settled into the flow of traffic. The Moody Blues “Forever Afternoon” was perfect for unwinding, a melodic story within the context of the album and still fresh after 43 years. The next song was BU2B by Rush, a song so new it’s not even on a disk yet by a band that’s been around since I was a kid. Wow.

I had one of those moments where a snatch of conversation from earlier in the day, the two songs playing adjacent and my own quest to find a place for my writing exploded into one word: relevance. What is the magic elixir that made classic musicians like the Moody Blues, Zeppelin and the Beatles survive the wearing away cynicism of time? How about Rush? Their music catalog is full of timeless songs and still their new music is fresh and well…  relevant. Trust me, I too feel some days “I’m ahead of the wheel and the next it’s rolling over me”. Really, “It’s just the kind of day to leave myself behind”.

See what I mean?

Certain emotions and human experiences remain the same no matter the year or generation. Tapping into that crosses time. Being original, being a leader at what you do will set you apart and make it hard to date your work. Techno pop had its day, but it sure sounds retro these days when I hear A Flock of Seagulls on the radio. The best compliment you get is how great your writing is, not how much your book is like so and so the famous author.

Keep in mind this is hard work. You have to dig deep to be original. However, as you pull in collective human experience, your plot and characters are becoming real, breathing elements for your readers. Your story will take on new turns and layered dimensions. Relevance cements the connection between you and your reader and in ten or twenty years you will still have a connection.

I’m now looking at my current work and thinking about how well I’ve layered my themes and character motivations. Will it be relevant in ten years? Have I created a unique voice for them?

I’m not sure if I could name one book that has stood the test of time for me, but there are many that I love to go back to on occasion to reread a passage. My favorite? That’s easy.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately...."

How to Look Like a Pro Day One on Twitter

DIY Book Mktg

Don’t be an egg.Look Like A Twitter Pro

  • Customize your header, add a profile picture and make your bio relevant to your audience. Studies show that using your face as your profile image increases followers & engagement.

Character counts.

  • Keep tweets under 110 characters.
  • This increases the likelihood it will be re-shared. RT’s tack on up to 20 additional characters to a tweet. Keeping the original content short means users do not have to edit your content to get the RT under 140. Obstacles = No Sharing. Editing is an obstacle, plus you have no control over how your content is changed.

Use #hashtags appropriately.

  • Don’t hijack a trending hashtag just to get impressions. This can get you into serious trouble if you don’t know the meaning or origin of the #.
  • If a word in your content is a high search term, give that word a hashtag as it appears in the tweet. i.e. “#SocialMedia is a high search term on #Twitter.”
  • If you are participating in a conversation or event that has an official hashtag, USE IT. This helps others find your content.

Use search to find your audience.

  • Looking to converse with Maserati lovers? Search #Maserati, or one of their models, to find folks talking about this topic. #Hashtags in their tweets will clue you in on where their conversation is and lead you to more followers like them.
  • Your Twitter Analytics will show you if your followers are the same folks you set out to find.
  • Follow to be followed.

Make content actionable.

  • Tweets need a call to action too. What action do you want followers to take? Click a link, watch your business’ video, follow you, download your content from a site, sign up for service? Links, images and video are all ways to get followers to engage with you.
  • Twitter Analytics will tell you in great detail what actions happened that are viewable to everyone on Twitter as well as the Follows, profile expands and url clicks only you can see.
  • FYI – the lifespan of an average Tweet is 1 hour. That is why quality content is so important it increases your chance of getting a re-tweet and extending your social reach.

    What is the average lifespan of a Tweet?
    Click image to Tweet.

Sound like you.

  • Be yourself. Followers like humans, not marketing robots.
  • Be helpful, never spammy
  • If you want another person’s followers to see your comment or reply, add . before the @ in their Twitter handle. i.e. “.@Cool_Dude51 Thanks for the advice on social etiquette.”
  • Lurk on #TwitterChats until you feel comfortable joining in. Twitter chats are a fun way to meet people passionate about a particular topic. #FlipboardChat #BrandChat #IndieChat #NostalgiaChat #etc.
  • Say Thank You for Retweets, acknowledge those that favorite your content, then go and do the same for them.

Use Twitter Ads to schedule embedded media content.

  • Even if you don’t pay to promote content or find new followers, you can use this section of Twitter to schedule native media posts. Native images and video are displayed more prominently in feeds, which gets your content noticed.
  • If you decide to pay for Twitter promotion, match your campaign to what you’re trying to accomplish to ensure the quality of the engagement is aligned to your long-term goals.

Understand theJpgWriter-Twitter-Analytics-2 reality of followers vs. impressions.

  • Your tweet has the potential to be seen by all of your followers.
  • Your tweet is actually seen only by the followers actively looking at their twitter stream when your content publishes. Out of 500 followers, your tweet may be seen by as little as 15 people. Some days I get great impressions and engagement, other days I get goose eggs. That’s why it’s important to repeat tweets and tweet often to reach your followers and to help new people find you.

 Use 3rd party apps to maintain your sanity.

  • Do not try to keep up with live tweeting all day everyday. This is a sure-fire way to make you hate Twitter and wish you never jumped into social media.
  • 3rd Party apps like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Socialoomph, Klout, Buffer, etc (you get the idea) allow you to schedule the tweets you want to share so when you go onto Twitter later, you have time for replying to comments and engaging in conversation.
  • This is the best way to take a weekend off from social or take a vacation without going dark online. There’s always time to catch up on thanking others for RT’s and comments when you return. After all, they’re human too and also take breaks – you just don’t notice because they scheduled their tweets.

Before jumping into conversations or trending hashtags, keep this in mind:

Are you adding value to the conversation or are you adding noise? Is your comment relevant or intrusive?

Social media is experienced through mobile phones, tablets and computers, but there are still real people on the receiving end. (Yes, I’m sure there are more real people than bots.) Behave the same as you would at any live gathering, with the same good manners, helpfulness and tweet unto others as you would have them tweet unto you. Find your comfort zone and be yourself.

If you found this list helpful, please consider sharing.



Flipboard for Authors & Bloggers

FlipboardForAuthorsBloggers-JudithGainesIf you follow me on Twitter, you know that lately I’ve been playing with Flipboard, an app that allows you to aggregate online content into custom digital magazines. This content is composed of websites, news sites, blogs, and social media.

Flipboard launched on iOS in 2010, went through rounds of development which included the addition of Android, and has now launched a web version. Simply, the creation and consumption is now available to anyone on any device. You can read a brief history on the company here.

Why do I like Flipboard?Flipboard-Logos

I first encountered the app on iPad and loved that I could read feeds from Twitter and Facebook in a magazine format. The graphical layout is clean and building mags around topics was easy and intuitive. But over time, as with all things, I got distracted, it wasn’t top of mind and I migrated to other apps. Then recently came across #FlipboardChat on Twitter. A quick search brought up tons of conversations which got me thinking how about Fipboard could be useful for so much more than I originally imagined.

Flipboard Basics

As with most social platforms, you’ll need to set up an account. You can use existing social media profiles from Twitter, Facebook or Google+ for quick sign-in and to make keeping up with passwords easier.

Next, select topics of interest to create your first Flipboard mag. As you click selections, more topics will appear. Once you’ve added All of your favorite topics, you can click DONE at JPG_FlipboardSelectionthe bottom of the page. Now you’ll be redirected to your personalized magazine. The process inside the app and online are similar enough to be self-guided. Privacy settings allow you to either keep your content to yourself or make it public.

With Flipboard, you are not limited to one magazine. You can throw all your interests into one collection or create separate titles. You can  Flipboards from other members, and if you find an article intriguing, you can LIKE it or “Flip” it into one of your own magazines.

Creating Flipboards for a purpose.JPG_FlipboadMags

Curate Content – A good portion of my blog posts are either about writing or the business of being a writer, so it was natural to want to curate content from around the web that builds on these topics. Forgive me if you’ve already come to this conclusion, but I realized quickly that a curated Flipboard mag is a perfect extension to a blog or web site. Readers who like the content on your site will appreciate that you’ve taken time to collect more viewpoints on the same topics and put them in one easy to access location and format.

But don’t limit yourself there. Do you have a main character with a passion for race cars? Vintage clothes? Art, perhaps? You can create mags from their point of views to add personality beyond your novel for fans to enjoy.

Add a few of your own interests too. Writers are a complex collection of eclectic interests. It’s okay to show you like tree house architecture; some of your followers may like it too.


Novels don’t write themselves and the ideas that bring them together often come from lots of research. My own WIP includes a  lot of information on art FlipboardJudieGaineshistory and WWII, apartment layouts and maps of downtown Chicago. What better way to get a feel for nightlife in another city then reading about news and events that help add vivid detail to the story. It becomes a resources for you, as well as readers, who want to learn more about your work.

What are your ideas? What stories and interests do you want to collect? Cookbooks? Travelogues? Go take a “flip” in your character’s shoes and have fun.


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