Thursday, January 13, 2011

Guest Blogger: Madeleine Drake, Author of Faery's Bargain (International Giveaway)

Our special guest today is Madeline Drake, author of Faery's Bargain.

Start With A Question: How to Write A Blog Post that Engages Your Readers by Madeline Drake

When my debut story, Blood Hero, was accepted for publication in March 2010, the release date was set for January 2011. Oh good, I thought. I'll spend the next few months reading books about promotion and platform-building, and then I'll still have half a year to come up with a plan and get started.


At the end of May 2010, my editor emailed me with good news. A hole in the schedule had opened up, and Blood Hero would release in July 2010 instead. "Woohoo!" I exclaimed to the ceiling fan as I did my happy dance. "My first story is coming out in just six weeks!"

It wasn't until I said it out loud until that the panic set in. My first story was going to come out in just six weeks—and I hadn't started on a promotion plan yet. I hadn't even finished reading the book on how to create a promotion plan, for goodness sake.

The thing that scared me most about promoting was blogging. I love writing stories, but blog posts are like little essays, and while I got good grades on my essays at schools, I was writing for a captive audience of one. Blog posts can't just be accurate or persuasive, they have to be entertaining, too. How could I be smart or funny or interesting enough to write weekly essays that other people would actually want to read?

I googled "how to write a blog" and found Darren Rowse's ProBlogger site (http://www.problogger.net/). While Darren's focus is on blogging for nonfiction writers (especially non-fiction writers who are using their blog to promote a business), he had a number of excellent articles on how to generate ideas. I printed out the most useful articles, and sat down on the couch to brainstorm—and voila, I had several dozen ideas for posts.

But when I thought about how much research I was going to have to do for each one, my heart sank. If I spent the time I needed to write the definitive essay on the history of vampires, I'd need to spend days researching for that one blog post—I'd have to give up writing my next story in order to promote my current one.

In desperation, I went to one of the blogs that I wanted to approach for a guest spot, and began reading old posts, hoping that inspiration would strike. As I read what other people had written and noted the comments that their audience had left behind, I realized that I was approaching blogging in the wrong way. I was thinking of it as a form of education.

The way I should have been looking at it was as a way to start a conversation. I didn't have to know everything on the topic I was presenting to my readers; I just needed to know enough to spark a discussion.

So I looked at my list of topics, and I generated a bunch of questions based on them—questions that I thought my readers would have strong opinions about. What was the first vampire book you've ever read and what did you think of it? Who's your favorite vampire and why? Why can't vampires and werewolves get along? What's your favorite thing about urban fantasy? If you could be a Greek god, which one would you be?

I put the question at the end of the blog post, and then answered that question myself as the body of the blog post, doing whatever research I needed to do illustrate what I was saying.

I couldn't have been happier with the results. Not only did readers leave comments on my posts, but many of them got actively engaged in the conversation—debating with each other, recommending books and movies, and contributing their own knowledge of the mythology being discussed. The conversations happening in the comments section were as interesting as my blog post (if not more so), and some of those readers began to follow me from blog to blog. One started contributing information from her own research into Chinese culture, another shared a wealth of information about Eastern European folklore. I may never meet these people in real life, but I treasure the conversations I've had with them online.

How do you come up with ideas for blog posts? What approaches have you found effective for engaging your readers?

Madeleine Drake writes feisty, fast-paced paranormal romance and erotica that spans the space-time continuum. Raised by a pride of cats, a friendly mutt, and the Sonoma County library system, she loves to read about ancient history and mythology, anthropology, gender roles, and sexual archetypes. Her published work includes Blood Hero (Excessica), Faery's Bargain (Cobblestone Press) and First Date (AllRomanceEbooks, in the Just One Bite vol 3 anthology.)



Her homeworld is located out past the constellation Orion, but she currently resides in Texas. You can find her online at http://www.madeleinedrake.com/.



FAERY'S BARGAIN

A witch gets more than she bargains for when she lends her magic to a Fae warrior

Tara's witchcraft has failed to save her naga-bitten nephew: the only cure is a rare Faery herb, impossible for a human to obtain.

Kane, a warrior of the Morrigan tribe, is bound to a baigh-duil. He needs a witch to help him send the soul-devouring monster back to its own realm, and he's willing to bargain.

It seems like a fair trade--the herb for help with a single spell. But what will Tara do when she realizes Kane can only perform sex magic and death magic?

Available from Cobblestone Press:

http://cobblestone-press.com/catalog/books/faerysbargain.htm

Read an excerpt from Faery's Bargain!

Warning: Rated NC-17

First time in a thousand years the oracle's been wrong, and it's my question she blows. Kane glowered at the occult shop across the street -- a refurbished Victorian painted lemon-drop yellow and trimmed in white, with all the hand-carved flourishes picked out in gilt. Its windows swarmed with faceted crystals that sparkled like drunken pixies in the San Francisco sunlight.

It was too damned cheerful for a woman reputed to have faced down a naga in its own lair.

He stomped down his frustration, focusing on the cool air against his face and the scents of the ocean and car exhaust. The witch inside that candy house might not be the one he sought, but Kane had to admit she was skilled for a human. He could feel the thick, electric buzz of her wards even from across the street. She'd layered the shielding into the walls and powered it with the ley line that ran right beneath the building. Clever, but also dangerous. Tapping straight into the line for spell-work was like drinking from a fire hose. It required excruciating precision to siphon off just the amount you needed without drowning and heroic strength of will to resist the temptation to drink too deep. Kane had seen a mage lose control of a ley line in mid-spell once. The mage had suffered an agonizing death, and the damage wreaked by the botched spell had taken weeks to clean up.

Pain seared through him. The amulet tucked under his shirt flared hot against his skin, its fiery glow visible through the fabric. He hissed out a cantrip, repeating the chant until the pain dulled and the amulet cooled. I won't be able to maintain the binding much longer.

If the witch in the lemon-drop house couldn't help him, he was dead.

* * * * *

Time-yellowed pages slithered against each other as Tara folded the grimoire closed, letting her fingers explore the arcane symbols embossed on the cracked leather cover. Another ancient tome, another chunk out of her rapidly dwindling savings, another dead end. Meanwhile, Jimi continued to weaken under the care of his confused doctors. She didn't blame them, of course. Even if she could make them believe her, what could they do? My nephew was bitten by a half-man, half-snake monster straight out of Hindu mythology. What do you mean you don't have the right anti-venin?

Even more frustrating, she'd found a cure for the naga's poison -- crith-siol, a plant rumored to be cultivated by the Tribes of the Fae -- but it had proven impossible to get. For the last three months, she'd scoured book after book, hoping to find a substitute for the faery herb. As she searched, Jimi grew weaker. Tara had snatched the boy out of the naga's coils before the monster could eat him, but she hadn't saved him. She'd merely postponed the inevitable, and now she could do nothing but watch her nephew deteriorate, his body shutting down one system at a time. The last doctor had given Jimi a couple of months more, at best.

I wish Gran was alive. Gran would have found a cure by now. Or she'd have found a way to get the crith-siol, no matter what it cost.

Gran wouldn't have let Jimi get caught by the naga in the first place.


The brassy jangle of bells signaled the arrival of a customer. The jangle was cut short by a loud thump and a metallic crash -- the front door slamming shut. An impatient customer. Tara sighed, caught between irritation at the interruption and guilty relief for the distraction. She stepped into the front room of her shop.

The man in the black leather duster frowned at a rack of hand-crafted candles as if he found the colorful cylinders of beeswax offensive. He was tall, dark, and too beautiful to be called handsome. His long black hair was pulled back into a sleek braid, the severity of the hairstyle contrasting with the sensual planes of his face -- sloping cheekbones, amber-brown eyes under upswept brows, and a wide, full-lipped mouth over a strong chin. He was the sexiest man she'd met in ages, and if the humming in her head was any indication, a powerful mage. That delicious hum reverberated down her spine, lighting up her nerves as it went.

He looked up, and his frown evaporated in the flash-fire of another emotion -- something so intense it made Tara want to squirm.

Can I help you? she meant to ask. But when she opened her mouth, what came out was, "Mine."

Horrified, she barely managed to stop herself from clapping her hand over her mouth. Mine? Where did that come from? It had been a long time since she'd dated, but was she so lonely that the mere presence of an attractive man was enough to scramble her brains?

Apparently so.

The corner of his mouth twitched as if he were fighting the urge to laugh.

Tara flushed. "I mean, I make them. The candles."

He licked his lips, a deliberate, sensual motion, and Tara found herself mirroring the action before she could stop herself. What's wrong with me?

"Um." She cleared her throat and tried again. "Can I help you?"

The stranger smiled. "I believe you can, Bandraoi."

* * * * *

The oracle had been right after all. The witch's aura had responded to him at once, flaring in intoxicating reds and purples the moment she'd emerged from the back room. Her eyes widened with surprise, and the power he sensed sleeping within her stirred, brushing against his aura like a curious cat. He fisted his hands against the near-overwhelming urge to reach out and pet her. She had a touch of the Tribes in her. His body's reaction to it was sharper than a knife to the heart and hotter than a Beltane bonfire. It was like his first fight and his first orgasm squeezed into one frenzied moment.

His witch was short and curvy, and she'd wrapped her luscious figure in a clingy black dress that emphasized her hourglass shape. When she pursed her lips, his cock expanded as his imagination burst open, spilling one wicked fantasy after another into his brain. He pictured her moss-green eyes half-shut with delight, sweat gleaming on her skin, while her wavy gold hair clung to her bare shoulders. He imagined all that power crackling through him as she trembled in the throes of it, her silken voice raw with ardor.

She'd sensed the rousing of her Fae nature; he could tell by the slight quiver of her shoulders, the heat that bled over her cheeks, the pink tip of her tongue wetting her bottom lip. She was perfect -- except for the wariness that glimmered across her face when he'd addressed her by her proper title. Surely she knew Bandraoi was a term of respect among the Tribes? Or hadn't she recognized him for what he was yet?

* * * * *

UPDATED at 5:26 PM (EST)

So, your friendly neighborhood blogger dropped the ball when she posted this last night. I realized after the long day with shopping and kids (they are home for the second day thanks to the snowstorm that dumped over 20 inches of snow on us), that I was supposed to run a giveaway for a copy of Faery's Bargain.

So, here are the details:

1) You must be a follower of The Book Connection to win.

2) Leave a comment on this post between 12:00 AM (EST) on January 13, 2011 and 11:59 PM (EST) on January 16, 2011.

3) Winner will be announced on Monday, January 17, 2011. Check The Boook Connection to see if you've won. You will not be notified by email!

4) The winner has 72 hours to contact me with a valid email address. If I have not heard from the winner within that time frame, I will select a new winner.

Good luck to all who enter!

38 comments:

Roseanne Dowell said...

Great advice. Now I have to figure out some questions for my own blog. Easier said than done. I write romance, by the way. Sweet romance, mystery romance and paranormal romance.

April said...

Excellent post and awesome advice!! Faery's Bargain sounds like a great read as well!!! I am going to check it out further!

Farrah aka The Book Faery said...

I got many of my blogging tips from Darren too. Good for all who blog. Like you, I've learned to ask a question, answer it myself, and of course leave the question for others to share their answers.

Thanks for sharing your blog tip with us today Madeleine!

Admin said...

I absolutely loved this. I get the question "but what do I write about?" all the time...the thing is to engage the reader, have them want to make a comment and you touched on this so well!

Ellen said...

Thanks for sharing your suggestions! This sounds like a super book!

Word Actress said...

Great post, Madeleine. I had a blog for a while called The One & Only Mary, but it was eating up all my writing day coming up w/topics. I was approaching it, like you said, from an educational perspective. Last year, I decided to Guest Blog at least once a month, instead, and that really worked 4 me. I'll add your advice to my 2011 Guest Blogging. It's fun to come up with questions. Thanks so much! Mary Kennedy Eastham, Author, The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget, the upcoming novel Night Surfing and my third book idea, The Girl With Sand In Her Hair

Margay said...

Very good advice. Blogging is not as easy as some might think.

Rebecca Camarena said...

Very interesting how the questions in your blog post generated discussions. Great advice!

Rachel Lynne said...

Your post is just what I needed! "Ask and you shall receive'!
Last week I drew many new followers and had lots of comments that were just as you said, mini conversations. I couldn't believe the increase. I commented to a friend in the publishing end of the bus. and she said, "you asked a question."
Duh, why didn't that sink in until you said it? LOL, I'm listening now!
I was drawn to your blog because of the topic and I'm leaving with another book I just have to read: your mission is accomplished!
Great, great post!
Thank you,
Rachel Lynne

Nina Pierce said...

Excellent post. I find the posts that get the most response on my blog are those that generate some kind of discussion. I've passed this link on to some friends who are always wondering what they should blog about.

Tribute Books Mama said...

Thanks! for sharing this

C.R. Moss said...

Good post! I'm bookmarking it for future reference. Thanks for sharing.
=)
C.R. Moss

Rachel Newstead said...

I've run into problems quite similar to yours. I write an animation history blog, which means my posts by necessity are those which require days of research. Who animated what scene, who contributed what gag, what inside jokes are there that the casual viewer misses, and so on.

How should I apply your advice to the sort of blog I write?

Madeleine Drake said...

Hi, Rosanne! If you want some examples of the kind of posts I came up with using this method, most of the short pieces at:

http://maenad.tripod.com/mdrake/maddythoughts.htm

were created this way. I don't know what sweet romance readers might have questions about, but if you hang out on a list of paranormal readers, you'll see them debate stuff all the time (dark paranormal vs light, traditional vamps vs vamps with new rules, how much sex they like in a story, vamps vs werewolves vs wizards, YA vs adult paranormal, etc)--that's one way to get started on the brainstorming, see what your readers are already talking about.

For the mystery romance, there are probably issues related to the justice system that people have strong feelings about...issues that show up in the news related to criminal cases...issues that you write about in your stories. Thinking about those issues could be another way to kickstart your brainstorming process.

And of course, this isn't the only way to come up with ideas--maybe it's not the most compatible method for the way you write. If it doesn't work for you, Darren Rowse has an article on the site mentioned in my post about different types of blog posts. Maybe his approach would help you out?

Madeleine Drake said...

Thanks, April! I'm glad that this post was helpful, and hope that you enjoy Faery's Bargain.

Madeleine Drake said...

Hey, Farrah, thanks for stopping by! I followed your profile to your website, and bookmarked it for future reading. Very cool! :)

Madeleine Drake said...

Hi, Dorothy! It does feel overwhelming sometimes to constantly come up with the next idea. Especially when you read the blogs of those writers who do have a talent for humor, and realize that you can't make yesterday's stop at the gas station nearly that hilarious. Thank goodness we don't all have to be Dave Barry in order to blog successfully. :)

I checked out your website and your manual on promoting self-published ebooks looked so good I had to buy it. I know there's more I could be doing beyond blogging.

Madeleine Drake said...

Thank you, Ellen! I'm delighted that you found this post helpful. :)

Madeleine Drake said...

I know what you mean, Word Actress. For a non-fiction author, the short, educational article approach makes so much more sense than it does for us fiction writers.

"The Girl With Sand In Her Hair" -- what an evocative title!

Madeleine Drake said...

Thanks, Rebecca! I checked out your Writer's Life blog, and I can see that I need to start reading it regularly. :)

Madeleine Drake said...

Isn't it funny how that works, Rachel? :) And it's such a simple thing to do. I'm so glad that you're seeing an increase in your followers, and hope that you enjoy Faery's Bargain.

You've got a fabulous web page, by the way. It really conveys a "haunted Savannah" feeling.

Madeleine Drake said...

Thank you, Nina, both for stopping by and for passing the link on to your friends. :)

Madeleine Drake said...

You're welcome, Tribute Books Mama! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Tribute Books said...

Madeleine - I really liked how you said a blog post should be communication not education. It's the same principle of talking at someone rather than talking with them. Great point!

Best wishes,
Nicole
Tribute Books

Madeleine Drake said...

Thank you, CR Moss. I'm happy you found it useful. :)

Cheryl said...

Great to have all of you with us today. Madeleine, it sure seems like you've learned well how to engage our readers.

Best of luck.

Cheryl

Madeleine Drake said...

Excellent question, Rachel. I went to your blog and read several articles, to see what kinds of things you've been writing. If your readers have come to expect educational articles and they want the trivia...you might just have to do the research. Focusing the articles more tightly will mean less research, because you're covering less ground, but then you have to weigh that against whether your readers will be disappointed with shorter posts.

But your readers probably do have opinions about animation, right? Whether some techniques are better than others in a particular instance, whether a particular film worked or not, whether they would have made different artistic choices, etc... What are your readers arguing about? What are they excited about? What are they speculating about? If you went to a convention with your readers and eavesdropped, what kinds of conversations would you expect to overhear? What would the panels be about?

I've found that asking people "What's your favorite X, and why?" or "Which do you like better, X or Y, and why?" usually gets responses, because people like to talk about their likes and dislikes.

What if you alternated your research heavy posts with something lighter and more op-ed? That would give you twice as long to do the research for the articles that your readers have come to love, but it would also give you the opportunity to engage them in discussion.

Or you could try something creative. How about taking a classic bit of animation and asking people how they might update them with today's technology and techniques? (How would you make Steamboat Willie today?)

Or an alternate history scenario--what do you think cartoon A would have been like if B had never been invented? If animator C had never joined the Warner Brothers team? If animator D had done it instead? (What if Pepe Le Pew had been Disney character? How would the writers of Bugs Bunny have handled The Little Mermaid? These are silly examples, I know so little about the era of animation your blog seems to be focused on, but I bet you could come up with some good ones.)

Of course, occasional interviews with other experts in the field or guest blogs will also give you more time to do research for the in-depth articles.

I'm just throwing out ideas here, to try to spark the brainstorming process--you know your readers and what they like better than I do, so you're probably going to come up with much more targeted ideas than I can for your blog.

I hope that helps...

Madeleine Drake said...

Excellent question, Rachel. I went to your blog and read several articles, to see what kinds of things you've been writing. If your readers have come to expect educational articles and they want the trivia...you might just have to do the research. Focusing the articles more tightly will mean less research, because you're covering less ground, but then you have to weigh that against whether your readers will be disappointed with shorter posts.

But your readers probably do have opinions about animation, right? Whether some techniques are better than others in a particular instance, whether a particular film worked or not, whether they would have made different artistic choices, etc... What are your readers arguing about? What are they excited about? What are they speculating about? If you went to a convention with your readers and eavesdropped, what kinds of conversations would you expect to overhear? What would the panels be about?

I've found that asking people "What's your favorite X, and why?" or "Which do you like better, X or Y, and why?" usually gets responses, because people like to talk about their likes and dislikes.

What if you alternated your research heavy posts with something lighter and more op-ed? That would give you twice as long to do the research for the articles that your readers have come to love, but it would also give you the opportunity to engage them in discussion.

Or you could try something creative. How about taking a classic bit of animation and asking people how they might update them with today's technology and techniques? (How would you make Steamboat Willie today?)

Or an alternate history scenario--what do you think cartoon A would have been like if B had never been invented? If animator C had never joined the Warner Brothers team? If animator D had done it instead? (What if Pepe Le Pew had been Disney character? How would the writers of Bugs Bunny have handled The Little Mermaid? These are silly examples, I know so little about the era of animation your blog seems to be focused on, but I bet you could come up with some good ones.)

Of course, occasional interviews with other experts in the field or guest blogs will also give you more time to do research for the in-depth articles.

I'm just throwing out ideas here, to try to spark the brainstorming process--you know your readers and what they like better than I do, so you're probably going to come up with much more targeted ideas than I can for your blog.

I hope that helps...

Madeleine Drake said...

Apologies for the duplicate post...blogger choked and told me that my post didn't go through. But when I posted it again, it showed up twice.

Madeleine Drake said...

Exactly, Nicole. :) Thanks for stopping by to say hi!

Madeleine Drake said...

Thank you for having me, Cheryl! :)

JM said...

Excellent post. I think a lot of guest bloggers - authors and otherwise - struggle with this concept. Thinking of it not as a classroom but as a conversation can really take the stress off!

For me... Ideas depend on the blog. For my weight loss blog, it's the focus on letting people know that they aren't alone - I'm going through it, too! For my writing blog, it's more being excited about the novel I'm currently editing and want to get published - very relate-able.

Michelle Miles said...

Good idea, Maddy! I'm so glad I stopped by today! :) I'm going to remember this next time I'm struggling to write a post. hehe

Madeleine Drake said...

Great point, JM, about how your approach varies based on what the blog is about and what your readers are getting out of it. :)

Joylene Butler said...

Excellent post. I started my blog when my first book came out in 2008. I had no idea what to write, except maybe to let my readers know I was one of them. I wrote stuff about my journey as a writer. Thinking my life was too boring for words, I started promoting other writers. That brought a small following. Then I started talking about the mechanics of writing. That added to my followers. Then I started posting pics on the eagles on our lake, and my followers tripled. Nobody was more surprised than me. I'm still not sure what I'm doing, but your post gave me some great ideas. Thank you! My next book comes out this summer and having some ideas for blogs makes my life easier.

Madeleine Drake said...

Hey, Michelle Miles, who also happens to be my awesome critique partner and the author of the sexy contemporary romance series, The Coffeehouse Chronicles... ;) Thanks for stopping by!

Madeleine Drake said...

Hi, Joylene!

Funnily enough, you're not the only blogger who's benefitted from adding animals to your blog. One of my writing buddies who writes gay erotica (Gavin Atlas), discovered last year that the number of hits and comments for his personal blog went way up when he started chronicling the little day-to-day dramas of the pigeon family that settled in his apartment balcony. What do pigeons have to do with gay erotica? Nothing. But the combination of cute animal pictures and stories about them brought readers back to his blog--he had people rooting for the baby pigeons to make it out of the nest. It was something personal from Gavin's life that his readers could connect with emotionally.

I went to your blog and saw that you're doing a number of other great things to engage readers besides just talking about your own writing process:

- posting inspirational stories and quotes (if they feel good when they read today's post, they'll be more interested in tomorrow's)

- answering questions (another fabulous way to engage readers)

- simple but helpful articles, like the one on common misspellings (you don't need to be a writer to benefit from this)

- fun contest that anyone can participate in (guess when will this lake near my house freeze over?)

- gorgeous pictures of the lake [which I assume is] near your house (they're beautiful images, which makes people happy anyway, plus they're something you're sharing from your personal life, which makes people feel like they know you a little better)

No wonder you're attracting so many followers! Keep up the good work!

V.R. Leavitt said...

Great advice for bloggers! Thanks so much for sharing what you've learned.