The Tortoise Two-Step Vs. the Bunny Hop

As the eBook and Print on Demand phenomena hit the scene and began to grow, it created a new industry supporting and advising independent authors . Whenever I heard about a new site, tool, or technique I filed it away for the day when I would have time to read and try out the information, since I was working and spent my free time writing.

When the day came and I was able to quit my day job and devote myself to being an author, my first impulse was to dive into this backlog of advice and immediately implement all the wisdom I’d compiled. I was hopping off in all directions at once like a schizophrenic jack rabbit. I made very little forward motion in spite of all my effort and was becoming frustrated. Worse still, I wasn’t writing. Even though my first and still-favorite character is called Bunny, this system was not working for me. I needed to prioritize and take my time.

We are often reminded that writing is a marathon and not a sprint. Very few authors become overnight successes and many of the best spent years developing their craft, so I decided to slow down, forget about trying to immediately replace my previous salary with book royalties, and concentrate on writing the best books I can, while testing and  implementing promotional practices one at a time.

The bit of advice I’m concentrating on at the moment comes from Stephen King: know your Ideal Reader. I’ve created a bio of this IR in order to get to know her better.

I have been utilizing Twitter for some time to promote my books and support other authors, with mixed results.  Keeping Stephen King’s advice in mind, I am now focusing my  own tweets on my Ideal Reader and only retweeting what I think the IR might find interesting. For instance, I know my IR doesn’t want books with half-naked men or women on the cover. She isn’t into vampires or zombies, either, but she’ll read a cozy with a ghost or witches, if there are enough cats in it. I don’t write those, but she likes them, bless her heart.

I’ll let you know how my new slow and steady system goes in a future post. Just be patient.








Chasing the Muse

Every writer is inspired by different things. The ancient Greeks ascribed various muses to the arts;  Thalia was for comedy and pastoral poetry, Terpsichore was dance, and Erato was for love poetry. Lately, my personal muse seems to be Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, because, tragically, I can’t seem to write, at all.

I am in the midst of unpacking after a household move and, although things are beginning to take shape, I’m one of those unfortunate souls who requires balance and order in my work space before the ideas begin to flow. I’m getting closer to having my writing nook set up to my liking, but as I work, I feel the urgent nudging of the characters in my work-in-progress telling me to stop neglecting them and get the show on the road. Judy Falls is eager to know all about the body she discovered in the ruined chapel in the woods and the rest of the Bannoch First Ladies are anxious to know more about the wife of the new pastor at First Baptist. It’s a lot of pressure added to the stress of a move, believe me, but enough whining.

Next week is the second Saturday of the month and we are in for a treat as we visit with that brilliant and clever writer, Julie Seedorf. It should be a fun time as her irrepressible character from Fuchsia, Granny, has promised to join us.  I’m not sure who the Greek muse of hilarious cozy mysteries is, but Julie must be very familiar with her.

I’m hoping some of her inspiration rubs off on me! See you next week.


Fiction Authors are Different

After publishng my first novel, Hollow, in 2012 in the early days of  print-on-demand and digital publishing, I began reading every bit of advice I could get my hands on about promoting independently published books.

I tried to faithfully follow all the advice about establishing an author blog, newsletter, email lists, giveaways, tweaking keywords and meta-data, setting up pre-orders, using book promotion sites on social media and planning booklaunches, etc., all with mixed success.

It is only in the past year that I’ve seen articles confirming my earlier suspicions that much of the advice I’d been getting up to then actually was meant for non-fiction authors. Webinars, for instance, don’t really suit most fiction authors.

While it was much easier to break into the market when relatively few indie authors were producing quality work, it has become almost impossible with the millions of new books hitting the virtual shelves every day. Indie authors can become frantic and grasp at each new technique. Thankfully, and perhaps surprisingly, the increased competition has not kept indie authors from supporting each other. In fact, many of us sell more books to fellow authors than to the general reading public and we constantly share helpful advice.

To that end, I want to say to new independent authors of fiction, “When you read advice for independent authors, be sure the wisdom being offered is targeted for fiction writers.”

While some successful indie fiction authors have gone on to make careers out of non-fiction books of guidance for other indie authors, most fiction writers are less comfortable with self-promotion and need to use our limited promotion budgets in ways that work for us.




images writerBefore I retired from my day job a few months ago, my weekday hours between eight and five belonged to my employer. I was forced to be organized and focused in order to write in the small amount time belonging to me. I longed for the day when I could retire and devote myself full time to my writing.

When that glorious day came and I cleared out my desk and said good-bye to my coworkers, I gave myself a couple of weeks to relish my newfound freedom, then, when I was through decompressing, I tried to approach my writing desk like I had my old office; sitting down around 8 a.m. with plans to work until noon, break for lunch, then get back to it. I repeat: that was the plan.

I soon succumbed to the seductive idea of unlimited time. I didn’t need that strict organization or laser-like focus, anymore, so I cut myself some slack. While I simply couldn’t afford to be distracted in my former schedule, now I found myself available to socialize, to start household projects, to stand and chat with the plumber while he fixed a faucet, to linger over my lunch, or take an extra walk when the day was fine. My manuscript grew at a snail’s pace, but my burden of guilt doubled by the day.

Most beginning authors, especially indies, struggle to balance time spent networking on social media and doing promotions with producing more and better content. Surprisingly, that balance is even harder to find for the newly retired. At least, it has been for me.

I’ve discovered two things: one, I don’t need to feel guilty when I don’t write. I write for the joy of it. No one but me is making any demands upon me. (Well, blessedly, some of my precious fans occasionally urge me to hurry up and produce the next book. Thank you!)  My second discovery is that there is no such thing as limitless time. I must set priorities and goals and work on them on a regular schedule, blocking out segments of time off along with the daily word counts.

Of course, these rules don’t just apply to writers.




It’s a poor writer who blames her tools…

This has been an interesting week. I’ve spent a lot of time watching webinars on improving my skills and craft, and keeping up on world news.

My activities intersected when I read this quote from Carly Fiorina (posted on, 11/20/15, from a speech following the Paris terrorist attacks)

This Is a War We Must Wage and Win

…ISIS is becoming increasingly technologically sophisticated. They are utilizing encrypted communications that allow their recruits to disappear. They have established a 24-hour help desk to help fighters evade law enforcement.

How does this quote relate to my time spent learning the tools I need to become a better writer? It shows how important it is to keep current on technologies as they become available to us.  We can be more successful, whether for good or evil, by utilizing new skills and processes.

tools1One of the tools I had been dragging my feet about is the writers’ software, Scrivener. I continued to struggle with all the complicated formatting issues of Word because I was afraid of Scrivener’s learning curve, even though fellow writers raved about it.

When I asked my son, here on a visit from Italy, to help with a problem I was having formatting a Word file, he suggested I use Scrivener. He uses it in his translating work.

I finally bit the bullet and downloaded the free trial. It looked just as complicated as I’d feared and seemed to dry up my creative juices as soon as I opened the program. However, after walking through the help files, followed by watching a webinar, I’m flying through the outline and first draft of my current work in progress, A Corpse in the Chapel.

My latest book, A Body in the Belfry, releasing in all formats 12/1/15, is the last I will produce the old way. I’ve become a confirmed Scrivener fan.

This year, my list of things to be thankful for, as we sit down to Thanksgiving Dinner, will include the Scrivener program and all the wonderful training videos out there.

Wishing you a blessed Thanksgiving.


Own your passion! Respect your gifts!

3d FLC cover   I have a dear friend and former co-worker whose experience can be an inspiration to us all.  My friend, I’ll call her Michelle, joined the Department on a short-term contract to help out in technology. She did the work with such competence and flair that she was hired full-time as head of the education technology department. Michelle’s unique vision and passion for education soon led her to become CEO of her own educational consulting company and she is now one of the faces of the Maker movement for rural education.

Interestingly, along Michelle’s journey, she was frequently the object of resentment from coworkers and others. They tried to discourage her from implementing her dreams and seemed angry when those dreams became reality. Dreams, they seemed to say, are not to be taken seriously. 3d .png Body cover

Independent authors face this same attitude.

One member of an author’s Facebook support group posted this today: “What books have you written?” People ask this question when I introduce myself as a writer. This question has always been terrifying for me. If I give them the titles of my books or tell them where my writing can be found, they may read and find out…I’m not very good. This lack of trust in myself once kept me from publishing my work.3D Hollow

Why are so may of us afraid to trust our vision and gifts? Just having a dream is an accomplishment, putting it into action is an act of bravery and should be admired.3D Vain BRAG

While we never want to be accused of taking ourselves too seriously, we should be proud of taking our passions very seriously, indeed.

We may not all become CEO of our own successful company, or 3D seadriftsee our work on the best seller lists, but if we have followed our vision and stepped out to bravely use our gifts and passion to turn that vision into something concrete, we should not be embarrassed, ashamed or afraid of criticism.  3D Something Blue

The images on this page represent the fruits of my passion to write, they are books I’ve written and published for all to see.

Writers, creators and dreamers of all kinds, I urge you: respect your gifts and own your passion.

Writing to the Review is like Teaching to the Test

Working in the education field, I sometimes hear teachers lamenting about how the Federal regulations have them teaching to the tests, rather than teaching children the love of learning. They say this is taking much of the joy out of their job, since they aren’t free to be creative, spontaneous and remain true to their gifts as educators.

For writers, there is a temptation to remodel our writing style to fit the comments of reviewers, in essence, to write to the review.

While we certainly need to pay attention to constructive criticism, using reader feedback to improve our craft, if we try to please every reviewer there is a risk of losing the joy of writing and of transforming our unique voice into a counterfeit, or even losing our passion for writing.

When the criticism is about the quality of my writing, I try to take it to heart and keep honing my craft.  But, when a reviewer comments on the content of the story or the personalities of the characters, I try to remember they are simply expressing a personal preference.

I recently began reading a book by a new author, planning to provide a review, but the author’s style and subject matter were so personally off-putting, I couldn’t finish reading the book. Since I was not the person this author was writing for, I chose not to post any review. I didn’t think it would be fair.

Rather than removing the essence of who I am, in an attempt to please everyone who picks up one of my books, I’m going to try to target readers who will appreciate my style by being as clear as possible about that style in every book’s description.

Someone once told me, “Follow your passion, whether anyone follows you, or not.”  If you are one who writes from the love of writing, that sounds like good advice.

Author, know your reader

I’ve been reading a bit about the importance of knowing my target audience. Naturally, I want the whole world to read and love my books, but that’s simply not practical.

Although I’m sure anyone who reads my work will become a fan for life, I can’t afford to make the whole planet aware of what I have published. My promotional budget is limited, so it only makes sense to use my resources to target the people who are most likely to appreciate what I write. Who, then, is my target reader?

I write contemporary mystery/thrillers featuring mature women with a Christian worldview. Fans of lusty historical romances will probably not be satisfied with my books. Being a woman of a certain age, I tend to write for women with a common cultural and generational frame of reference. Also, while I do not dabble in the paranormal in my writing,  I am convinced my readers and I have at least two supernatural experiences in common.

The first of these paranormal incidents happened on my fiftieth birthday when I became invisible. I was shocked and dismayed, initially, but eventually learned to take advantage of my ability to blend into the background to surprise those who underestimated me.

The second other-worldly phenomenon came to my attention gradually. Someone would snap a photo of me, alone or in a group, but when I looked at the picture I noticed someone had stepped in front of me just as the shutter clicked. No one else seemed to have noticed, but the woman in the photo was obviously years older and at least a few pounds heavier than I, although she was spry enough to jump in and out of the focus in the blink of an eye. Recently, this phantasm has taken to stalking me and jumping in front of me when I look in a mirror, too. I don’t think this wraith is dangerous, simply annoying.

Talking with some of my contemporaries, I’ve discovered they have these phantoms of their own, so I’ve come to believe most of my target audience share these experiences, even though they are reluctant to speak of it.

I still haven’t figured out how to use this knowledge in my promotions, but when I do, the top of the best-seller list will be all mine.

Face-to-Face with Readers

Last weekend I was privileged to have been invited to speak at a Christian women’s retreat in beautiful Montana. The organizers encouraged me to bring some of my books to sell and sign during the weekend.  I was a little insecure about shipping the cartons of books because I was afraid I would have to bring them all back home with me. I’m still not too confident when it comes to promoting and selling my work.

Well, I’m happy to say I did sell most of the books I took with me (phew!), but even if I hadn’t sold a single one, the blessings of being with those women and their encouraging words about my speaking and writing were priceless.

If you get a chance to meet with your readers, please don’t let your insecurities or fears of “tooting your own horn” hold you back. I’ll be feeling the glow of warmth and inspiration from last weekend for days and weeks to come.


I currently have one weekly Christian devotional guide published and am working on a daily version. These are written under my full name, Jonna Hawker Turek, and are taken mostly from my weekly inspirational blog, Power Walking with Jonna, on WordPress.

devotional guideWriting and promoting nonfiction is completely different from producing my novels. In the novels I can try on and discard one persona after another, but nonfiction calls for authenticity and transparency. With one genre I exercise my imagination and with the other my character.

Publishing anything makes a writer vulnerable, but I am learning to take the critical reviews of my fiction without flinching; looking for the helpful within the hurtful. I haven’t promoted my devotional guide since publishing it a few months ago and I haven’t received any reviews, yet, but I’m afraid I will be completely defenseless when the unflattering ones inevitably do arrive.

This writing game isn’t for sissies.