Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

(Taking a break from the Virtual Book Tour Primer to talk resolutions. More on virtual book tours Tuesday.)

One thing I've learned about resolutions is they don't work unless you have some concrete goals and plans. The more you know and commit to the steps of achieving your goal, the more likely you'll accomplish it.
However, 2007 looks like it'll be a year of change for us. Rob is up for command, so we'll be moving in the late summer/early fall. Infinite Space, Infinite God comes out in print around that time, too (although Lida is planning an early print run--yay!) We're also thinking about letting the kids try a year of public school. We feel they could use the experience and Mom can use the rest. The Miscria Trilogy has been at my dream publisher for 2 years now, but despite frequent calls to their wonderful editor, I still don't have their decision. In the meantime, a friend is working on a packaging deal with another publisher and may include another book of mine. Plus, Rob will be at a joint officers training school--now that he's had 2 years in the job, it's time to get him the training, after all--and will be gone during the time we need to get the house ready for sale. Thus, so much of this year is unknown or dependent on others, that it's hard to set concrete goals.
Nonetheless, here are my resolutions:

1. Get a publisher and/or agent for the Miscria.
--Research and query agents and publishers until mid-Feb; send out queries every 6 weeks after that.
--Start with major traditional publishers and move to smaller presses.
2. Write 100,000 words of novel
--Write at least one paragraph a night until school ends; then up the word count.
--Finish Discovery.
--Write one or more of the following: Miscria III; Dragon Eye, PI: Magic, Mensa and Mayhem; Dragon Eye, PI: Migrants, Magic and Murder; or a time travel/romance I've had in mind. I may do the last for NaNoWriMo, but if I feel the call to finish one of the others, I may go for the NaNo goals without actually entering the competition.
3. Personally sell 100 copies of Infinite Space, Infinite God; have 500 sold via Twilight Times Books
--Virtual Book Tour in August
--Hold at least 4 early book signings in VA area
--Hold another 3 in new area
--Contact 3 or 4 Catholic universities about getting on their read lists for courses
--Do some form of PR every day--media release, contacting a potential customer, calling a book store, updating the website…
4. Write 4 more stories; send out a story a month of old or new; never let a story sit at home for more than a week.
5. Keep up with obligations: blog, Montana Catholic, Hereditas, MuseOnline Conference (October); Catholic Writers' Guild.
6. RESIST the temptation to do more until June or September, when I have time; then, keep it in perspective with the above goals!

1. Have a more traditional school routine to prep kids for "real school."
2. Grade papers each night.
3. Make older kids do homework while I write--write in the same room with them.

1. Cull everything--get rid of 25 percent of our stuff.
--Each day, tackle one drawer or closet.
2. Pack out about another 10-25 percent.
3. Hire someone to do minor repairs.
3. Mulch yard.
4. House goes on market in mid-March. Anybody moving to Northern VA?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Virtual Book Tour Primer V--leaving comments

Another way to conduct a book tour is to leave comments on folks' blogs. To tell you more about that, however, I'd like to share this article by Janet Elaine Smith. Janet is a novelist who also writes about useful tips for marketing your books. Check her out at

Before you set off on a virtual book tour, remember that you are visiting various blogs as a guest. You don't run the show. Always leave a comment about something in the blog before you issuing an invitation to partake of something you have to offer, whether it is to purchase your book, to visit your blog or to hang out at your website. Sadly common courtesy is all too often in short supply.

The best way to find blogs that best fit your virtual tour is with this
search: Don't just look for the obvious; be creative. After all, we are all writers, and imagination is our forte. And look for something that you can tie your book into. Let me give you a couple of examples. You know, show; don't tell!

My book Par for the Course is a timetravel that takes a modern day golf pro and sends her back in time to golf with Mary, Queen of Scots, at St.
Andrews Golf Course in Scotland. Mary was the first woman golfer--true fact.

OK, so I did a search for Mary, Queen of Scots. History buffs who like to follow her are always looking for new info. Many of them do not know that she was the first known woman golfer. (I found that info in an old kids'
encyclopedia.) So, when I find a blog about Mary, I go to it and ask a simple question: "Do you know what sport Mary, Queen of Scots, was noted for? If you don't, you can find out in my time travel, Par for the Course.
If you do, or if you want to take a guess, come on over to my blog at and leave me a comment." Then I leave a comment about their blog, like "I was pleased to learn that Mary was the tallest woman in Scotland at the time she lived. I am a firm believer that I am never too old to learn something new."

Another one I did was for my book In St. Patrick's Custody. I did a lot of similar blog entries to the one above only tied to this book of when it was close to St. Patrick's Day. I then invited the blog visitors to go to Patrick and Grace's website, (a fictional website I set up especially for the protagonists of that book--another promotional idea, by the way!) and leave me a note in the guestbook. Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Another one I did for In St. Patrick's Custody was in connection with homelessness, because Grace ended up in a homeless shelter. That one got picked up and noticed by a few print newspapers and it led to a couple of actual print interviews about the issue of homelessness.

I don't always leave a bunch of signature lines in a blog, but I do give the info if it pertains to the book I'm blogging about at the time. For instance, with Par for the Course, I usually include "Named best timetravel of the year by Affaire de Coeur Magazine."

With In St. Patrick's Custody I might end with something like "Responsible for countless new volunteers in homeless shelters across the country."

Good luck! Janet

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Virtual Book Tour Primer IV

Here are two letters I sent to bloggers asking to be on their blogs. The first is an initial letter. I introduce myself, comment on the blog (how I came across it and something I liked about it), then ask the blogger if he'd host me. I always make sure I tie myself or my book to the blog, so he knows I'm not just picking him out blindly and that a post aobut me or my book adds to his blog. Then I offer more information. Here's where a website comes in handy! Finally, I offer an advance review copy of the book. This is especially important for any site that you're asking to host you specifically because they blog about something that your book applies to. Sometimes, they'll want to review the book as well as interview you.

Dear Mr. Akins,

My friend Ann Lewis recommended your blog to me and I’ve been enjoying it greatly. (It was refreshing to see someone else who held a similar opinion on the “genocide” of the Cylons. )

Since you are a SF fan, I was wondering if you’d be interested in reviewing my husband Rob’s and my anthology of Catholic SF, Infinite Space, Infinite God. It’s out in e-book right now from Twilight Times Books and will be out in print in August. I’m planning virtual book tours in December and August, so if you are willing, I’d love to have you host us on one or both of those months.

I’ve attached a short blurb about ISIG, and if you’d like more information, please check out the website at Then, if you are interested, please e-mail me back and I’ll be glad to send you an electronic ARC.

This second letter is a follow-up. The blogger has expressed interest and wants to know more. Virtual book touring is still very new and many people don't know much about it. The thing I try to emphasize is that she is doing me a big favor and as such, I want to make it as easy on her as possible.

Dear Dustiam,

Thanks so much for agreeing to host rob and me on our virtual book tour to promote Infinite Space, Infinite God.

By hosting me (or Rob and me on your site), you’d devote a post to us and Infinite Space, Infinite God. We’re on a virtual book tour right now and are planning another for August, but any time that’s good for you is good for us. We can do this in several ways:

--You send us interview questions that we answer. You post the Q&A.
--You tell us what you’d like us to write about and we write an entry for you to post.
--We write our own interview and you post it.
--You just review the book.

We’ve done most of these, so whatever’s convenient for you is good for us. I’ve enclosed an electronic copy of the book. Let me know when you plan to post and I’ll put it a notice about it on our ISIG website ( You can also find more information on the website, including the other stops on our virtual book tour, where you can see what other bloggers have done in hosting us.

That's it until Saturday, when I'll post some other things I've learned about virtual book tours.

Have a Very Merry Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Virtual Book Tour Primer III

So now you've got or are creating a kickin' website about your book and you have a good idea who your book tour audience is. Now we can get into the meat of the tour itself: finding the Blogs!

Blogs are essentially on-line "journals" (usually by a person) about whatever interests them. As such, they cover the gamut of exposure, expertise and opinion. Some, like LiveJournal, are more like on-line diaries, while others may be specifically targeted toward news. Some are by people who simply want to express themselves (regardless of their knowledge or experience on a topic) while others are serious commentary by experts in their field. Some of these may only have a few faithful viewers, while others may get thousands of views a day. Thus, as you search, you'll also need to evaluate each blog to see if this blog is one on which you'd like to promote your book.

Here's where I went to find my blog stops:

1. Friends. Not only might they have a blog they can host you one, they may know of a blog that would be interested in you. I found several Catholic blogs through friends, some of which have large audience.

2. On-line groups. If you're on a Yahoo group or other forum, post a request asking if anyone blogs in your target area, or can recommend any blogs.

3. Google. Type in "blog" and your target area. Do more than one search. For example, for "Infinite Space, Infinite God," I searched under "Catholic science fiction blog," and "Catholic fiction blog." If your book has been out for awhile, Google the title name and see if anyone's already mentioned it. I found a blog that didn't show up on a general search when I typed in "Infinite Space, Infinite God."

4. Search host sites. Most host sites like Blogger or MySpace allow you to search just their websites. Sometimes you can find blogs that have a loyal following but don't show up on Google.

5. Check links on websites and blogs you visit.

Once you've found a site, look it over. Do the entries tie in with your book or your interests? Does the person seem sympathetic or potentially interested? Is there a counter--and if so, how many people have visited the site?

If you like the blog and would like to "visit" it on your tour, you now try to contact the blogger. A good way to start is to find one of his posts you like and leave a comment. If it applies to your book, so much the better, but at very least, leave your name and your book name and website. For example:

What an interesting post! I didn't realize Dr. Thinxalot has postulated
a "human percentage" for determining how much genetic tinkering our DNA
can take. Incidentally, that's a topic we've explored in our SF anthology
"Infinite Space, Infinite God." I'll have to look for more of Dr. T's
--Karina Fabian, editor, Infinite Space, Infinite God

If there's a contact site for the blogger, write her a note complimenting her on her blog and asking her if she'd be willing to host you on your virtual book tour. You may have to explain what that is and how it's done. (I'll post a sample e-mail Saturday.) If you cannot find contact information on the site, ask her via a comment.

On Saturday--inviting yourself to a blog, being interviewed, generating "buzz."

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Virtual Book Tour II

I've got another interview coming up on my virtual book tour, and it's looking like the tour is going to run into January, with an e-zine interview and more blog guest appearances. That's the joy of a virtual book tour--you can extend it without compromising finances or worrying about leaving the kids. It just takes some of your writing time.

Today, we're going to talk about some preliminaries before launching a book tour. I've found these to be very helpful not just in the tour but translating that tour into real interest for my book:

#1 Preliminary materials. If you're developing a media kit, these should be in your bag of tricks. These are things you can offer your host to make his page stand out or his interview even better:
--A print-quality graphic (.jpg is good) of your book cover. Ask your publisher.
--A print-quality photo of yourself. (Get a friend to take a good digital photo.)
--50-, 150-, and 250-word blurbs about your book. Hosts can use these to advertise your upcoming tour, weave them into their introduction, or post them elsewhere on their site.
--A fact sheet. This is more for you than them. Just list some of the more vital pieces of info about your book--from website to the chapter names and pages in your manuscript, interesting topics, factoids (Infinite Space, Infinite God took 2 years to find a publisher, for example), and interesting stories. This is one thing I did not do and I'm constantly racking my brain or searching my manuscript in order to answer an interviewer's question. Learn from my mistake.
--Your own set of questions. (Optional) Some bloggers will ask you to write up your own interview. If you know what you want to talk about ahead of time, it's easier. Be sure to tailor the questions and answers to the blog's audience, however.

#2 Create your own website for your book! This has been the single most useful thing I've done. I created a website on tripod for Infinite Space, Infinite God before the tour and I constantly refer to it in the interviews and correspondence. It's only been up a month and has had over 400 hits. The website holds all the information you'd like to tell folks: summaries, your bio, a calendar of your book tour and other events, a media room, and most importantly, Purchasing Information!
There are a couple of places to create websites for free. I have sites on and Both have ready-made templates and easy to use editors that let you add text, photos, special effects, contact sites--all the basic website stuff. No programming experience is needed and they come out great! Check out for an example of a book promotion site. It took about 3 hours to build because of all the text to type in, and I add to it twice a week it seems. The editor is so easy, it only takes minutes.

#3 List who your target audience is for your book and who might be interested in you. You wrote the book--if people would find you interesting, chances are they or someone they know will find your book interesting as well.
For ISIG, I'm targeting science fiction fans, Catholics, Christians, people interested in technology and morals, and educators.
However, I am a homeschooler, military wife, writer, Mensan, former AF officer, current military wife, Colorado State University alumni… If I can find a magazine or paper that might be interested in me or my book, I can probably find a blog or e-zine that would be interested.

OK. You have your homework. Contact me if you have questions. Tuesday, I'll post how to find stops on your tour.

Friday, December 15, 2006

ISIG an EPPIE Award Finalist!

I'm so excited!

Infinite Space, Infinite God is a finalist for the EPPIE awards in Science Fiction. Rob's and my previous anthology, Leaps of Faith, was also a finalist back in 2004, but it was under the Anthology section. This time, ISIG competed with novels and anthologies, so it's even more thrilling.

I'm especially grateful to the terrific writers who contributed to the book. This honor is for all of us!

For more on the EPPIE awards (for electronically published books) check out

BTW--if anyone is interested in ordering a copy from me, TTB is planning an early run for April/May. I'm selling autographed copies for $16 (trade paperback) and $22 (hardback if they become available). E-mail me if you're interested.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Yangtse River Dolphins extinct

Yangtse dolphin 'is extinct', a victim of economic explosion

Today, we mourn the loss of a species. The world has lost a little of its wonder.

My son, Alex, cried when he heard the news. He'd like everyone to pray for the breeding population of finless river porpoises at the Tian-e-zhou oxbow lake.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Virtual Book Tour Primer, Part 1

The virtual book tour for Infinite Space, Infinite God is going very well. I'm scheduled at seven different sites, and am working on a few more. Check out the schedule at From there, you can follow the links to see my interviews.

I've had several people ask me how I arranged this tour. It was actually very easy, and I'll take you step by step over my next few posts.

What is a virtual book tour? Like a regular book tour, you go around talking about your book, yourself, and your writing. The ultimate goal, of course, is to generate sales, but mostly, you're creating a buzz in hopes that people who might otherwise never learn about your work have a chance to "discover" you. The beauty of a virtual book tour is it's on the Internet: no expense, no leaving home and most of it can be done at your leisure.

There are several ways to conduct a virtual tour appearance. The simplest is the book review--your host reads the book and reviews it on his site, or you write your own review for him. The next is the interview--again, your host can e-mail you questions you answer, or you can write your own interview for her to post. Then there's the guest chat--if your host has a chat room, you can talk to the audience. (Have a general topic in mind and a brief, prepared intro about yourself and your book.) Your host could have a contest for a copy of your book or hold a "reading" where you post a chapter or scene from your book. Use your imagination and ask your host--he or she may have a different idea.

Of course, you'll want to talk about your book, but don't limit yourself to that. Think about the things that affect your readers. For example, Infinite Space, Infinite God is Catholic SF; so at first glance, I should target blogs about Catholicism and science fiction. However, I tried to make this more than just a fun read; I wanted folks to use this book to discuss and learn. So I might reach high schoolers, homeschoolers, other writers, maybe even theology/philosophy-and-technology sites. I'm a writer working with a small press, so I can reach those people by talking about the experiences that led to the publishing of ISIG--and writers are terrific readers! I'm a busy mom, so I can talk about writing and raising kids--moms read or they may be looking for something for their SF-loving husbands.

Saturday, I'll post the steps I took to put together the book tour. See ya then!

If you have any specific questions, please drop a comment or contact me through my contact page and I'll answer it on a post.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Thoughts on God, the Weather, and Intelligent Design

Saturday, it was a lovely warm day in Virginia. I think everyone was happy--except maybe the weathermen. They'd predicted temperatures in the thirties. Sometimes, I think the weather is God's way of reminding us that we don't know everything about His creation.

Along those lines, here's a great video someone directed my way about the design of the universe. It's a good one for kids and adults.

My Book Tour Begins!

I'm going on a book tour--and I don't even have to leave my own home!

It's a virtual book tour. This month, I'll be visiting various blogs "talking" to folks about writing, writing while raising kids, and Rob's and my anthology, Infinite Space, Infinite God.

Here's my schedule so far:

Dec 3: (balancing motherhood and writing)

Dec 4, 7: (Catholic SF and writing what you know)

Dec 11: (ISIG goals and audience)

Dec 14-18:

Dec 28:

Other blogs I'll be at but don't have dates for yet:
Ineffable Twaddle:
SF Gospel:
Jimmy Akin:
Claw of the Conciliator: (Faith and Writing)

For more info and an updated schedule, check out

If you have a blog and would like to host me, please e-mail me via the contact page.

Pretty Cool, huh? I promise that each interview I'll try to say something different, so please drop by and give them a peak. In fact, if you're looking for some good blogs on Catholicism, Christianity and/or writing, check them out anyway.

(FYI--blogger is not allowing me to post links. Figures on the day I need them most. I'll try again later, but if you see this before I can fix it, just cut and paste.)