Posts by laurenswrittenword

By day, I'm a magazine Editor with a zillion responsibilities... But by night, I'm out to write the best novel I can, one red wine fuelled word at a time...

Do people know you’re a fraud?

This month, we’re talking fear on the blog.

At first, I was stumped. I’m one of those strange people who love scary movies, who thrives on books that set my hair on end and who gets a thrill out roller-coasters. I haven’t been truly afraid in a very long time–

Or, so I thought.

And then I remembered the thing I am most afraid of. People finding out my dirty little secret.

Before I tell you what it is, let me share with you a few things about myself. Let’s get to know each other a little before I dump my heartache out.

  1. I’m a hybrid-published author of nine books. I make a living in this industry, and love working on all things fiction.
  2. In my time as an author, I’ve hit the top of several lists. I’ve had some glowing reviews, and a decent number of downloads.

BUT here’s the thing: while I can write that down, categorically note it as fact, it doesn’t change the fact that at least once a week, I wake in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. No, it’s not menopause. It’s fear that someone is going to find out I’m a fraud. Fear that the rug will get pulled out from under me when people realise I’m just pretending to be a writer.

You see, I worry that people will find out I’m a fraud. Don’t get me wrong, I pen my own work. But I worry that the things people seem to like about it will fall away. They’ll realise they made a mistake, and that they want their $2.99 and hours of their life back, and I won’t be able to give it to them.

And while I have had many lovely reviews for my work, they’re not the ones that stick in my head. They’re not the ones I remember. At two a.m, when the world is quiet but the voices in my head are SO LOUD, when people sleep but I feel as if I’m running on a treadmill in my mind, all I see are the negatives. The bad reviews that I can remember word for word, because for some reason, they cement themselves in my brain.

Yes, you can chuck me in a screening of Stephen King’s IT and I’ll leave the cinema with a smile, but tell me you’re onto me and that you’re going to let everyone know I’m a fraud, and you’ll send me into a cold sweat.

So why have I written this post? Well, my theory is in order to conquer your fears, you need to face them. I’m putting this out there into the universe because I want this fear to go away.

I’m also sharing it because I feel like I’m not alone. Ever since I told a friend of mine about this horror, she said she felt it too. I think a lot of us just feel as if we’re winging it, when really, we’re not doing so badly.

In order to try and quiet the voices in my head, I’ve started a mental checklist I go through before I sleep. This helps me feel better about my choices, and I hope, if you feel fraudulent at times, that it helps you too.

  1. Did I do the best I could with the time and resources I have? If you can answer yes to this, you at least know you gave it everything you had.
  2. Did I learn something? If you’re learning, you’re improving. If you’re improving, you’re on track to become better tomorrow than you were today, better next year than you were this.
  3. Did I enjoy it? And this is the kicker. Because there’s so much about writing that’s hard, so much loneliness, so much self-doubt and negativity, that if you’re not having fun, you have to reassess. And invariably, for me, the answer to this question is always a resounding yes. I am having fun. I’m having the time of my goddamn life.

And that’s how I manage to keep the mental boogey monsters away.

What about you? Do you have a fear of people figuring you out?

 

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. You can find out more about her at her website or on Facebook.

Exploring genre: Suspense

I write in a lot of genres, and while suspense isn’t one of them (yet!) I absolutely love to read it. 

So what do I think makes a good suspense read? Here are my top three tips:

  1. Having a fabulous twist. A strong twist that surprises the reader can turn a good suspense book into a great one. One of my favourite YA Suspense of recent-ish years is We Were Liars by E. Lockhart for this very reason! I finished the book very quickly, but was left thinking of that twist for weeks afterward.
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  2. Having a strong element of mystery. Sounds pretty basic, right? But sometimes the mystery in a plot can become too predictable, the answers all too obvious. One book I’ve read recently that does the opposite and left me absolutely hanging out to find out who did it was One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. What an excellent read! I loved it so much and don’t know if I’ve ever been so desperate to turn a page.
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  3. Having strong characters. You can have the best mystery in the world, the most surprising twist, but if you don’t create characters that are believable, likeable, and endearing, no one will care what happens to them and your suspense will fall flatter than a sat-upon pancake. 

They’re just a few things I think are crucial to a good suspense read–what about you? 

lauren k mckellar_ms
Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. You can say hi to her over on Facebook here.

Things I wish I knew …

This month at Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking about things we wish we knew when we began our writing journey, aka Knowledge for Newbies. 

I like to look to the future. For me, that’s so much more beneficial than focusing on the past, on the could-haves and should-haves that can weigh on your mind and bring you down. No regrets! Live for the now! And all that other good stuff!

But I also believe we can learn from our past mistakes, and if others can learn from mine, I would be thrilled. Why should we all get caught in the same problems when some advice might help us along?

So here are three things I wish I knew back then.

  1. Great things will happen if you just keep pushing. Keep writing. Keep learning. Keep taking risks and exposing yourself to new situations, new challenges, and you’re going to reap the rewards.
    So many times when I started writing, I would worry and think I should give up, that I should quit. I always managed to pull myself out of those slumps, but I did go on a hiatus for a year at one point because I felt I wasn’t good enough, and I wish now I had persevered and kept on keeping on. “The harder I work, the luckier I get” – the quote is attributed to a bunch of different people, including Samuel Goldwyn, and I definitely think it applies to writing. That and words by another wise American scholar: “Just keep swimming”.keep-calm-and-just-keep-swimming-119
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask. When I first started, I thought “Oh, I couldn’t possibly ask Author X to read my book”. Or “No way would Blog Y want to feature me”. Now, however, I know that unless you ask, unless you take a chance, you won’t stand a chance. You have to push yourself to be brave. The worst that can happen is someone says no–but no one is going to laugh at you for having a go. And if they do, they’re not worth your time.
  3. Make a plan. And then change it. I used to be a complete pantser when it came to writing. To a certain degree, I still am, but I like to go into my books now with a plot in mind. Sometimes, I’ll plan it out, down to each individual scene. Most times, I’ll then change it.
    Regardless, going into my writing with a plan has helped me be more productive when I work because I have greater focus.

So they’re my three top tips! What about you? What’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew back then?

lauren k mckellar_ms
Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. You can find her on Facebook or at her website.

Does romance need a HEA?

This month on the blog, we’re talking all things lovey-dovey. Here, Lauren K. McKellar discusses the ending of a romance novel–does it have to follow a formula?

For many people, romance novels are a great source of escapism, providing an emotionally packed story that transports the reader away from the humdrum of everyday life. Perhaps that’s why when a romance novel doesn’t end with a HEA (happily ever after) it inspires such controversy. If a romance novel doesn’t have a HEA, is it truly a romance at all?

Let’s consider the alternative. If a romance novel doesn’t have a HEA, it usually has a HFN (happy for now). This means that while the hero and the heroine aren’t perhaps together, the immediate threat has passed and the characters are happy for now. Their future isn’t clear, though–we don’t know for certain whether they’ll end up together or not, and in some cases, when one character passes away, it’s not even possible.

In recent times, however, many readers are questioning whether a romance novel needs a happy ending to truly be part of this category. Here’s why.

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Photo: stock.adobe.com

Many people read romance looking for the feeling that comes with a HEA. They’ve found the book in the romance category and while they’re ready to go on an emotional journey, to watch two characters go through hell to be together, they expect them to be holding hands at the end of the story (or making love, depending on the heat level of your novel). They want that sense of emotional fulfilment–they want to close the book and have the “ah” moment that comes when two people get together and everything is set for the perfect future.

In a book with a HFN, you don’t get that. I mean, sure, we could put a warning in the blurb (“at the end, I’m going to kill the hero, so don’t read this one if you’re after a wedding and a baby”), but obviously, most authors don’t want to do that, and I’d argue that most readers don’t want to know that sort of detail before they start a book, either.

That then begs the question: does all romance need a HEA, and if an author doesn’t offer one, are they breaking the reader’s trust?

The Romance Writers of America defines romance novels as having:

An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.”

To me, this implies that a HEA is required to fall into the category.

What do you think? Do you need your romance to have a HEA?

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of several romance reads, and some not so romantic ones. She loves torturing her characters and playing Russian roulette with their lives. You can read more about her books on her website, or come say hi to her on Facebook.

5 tips for a memorable villain

This month at Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking about the bad guys of the story–the villains.

When it comes to writing villains, it can be easy to fall into some bad habits. Here are my top tips for creating a worthy opponent to your fabulous lead character:

  1. Give the villain strong motivation: Why is your bad character a bad character? Sure, you could fall into the all-too-easy “because he/she is just evil”, but how realistic is that? There are true psychopaths in life, but truly memorable villains tend to have reasons for their bad behaviour. Did they suffer during their childhood? Perhaps they don’t have a support network and have battled mental health? Or perhaps again, they’re not really a bad person, simply someone who wants something that puts them at direct odds with your protagonist? Whatever the reason, make it clear to help enhance your villain as a character and make him or her a real person/creature.
  2. Give him or her at least one redeeming quality: Just like your villain should have a reason for his or her bad-assery, he or she should also have at least one redeeming quality. How many people do you know without at least one positive personality trait? Whether you only give us a glimpse of this or you show the quality in its full glory, this can make your villain not just lifelike, but possibly the tiniest bit likeable, creating a very memorable villain indeed.

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    Is your villain a real person or just a shadow in the dark? Photo: Stock.Adobe.com

  3. Avoid the villain reveal: We’ve all seen it. It’s the climax of the story. The bad guy has the good guy trapped, tied up in rope, and he’s about to slit our hero’s throat! Calamity! The end is in sight!
    And what better thing to do when you have the hero completely in your clutches, ready to die a slow and painful death, than launch into a monologue, explaining your motivation to date and exactly why you did what you did? This is a cliched action performed by many villains, and outside of scenes in Inspector Gadget (where they also use the infamous “I’ll get you next time, Gadget” line) I don’t think it flies. It’s not realistic. And not only that, but there’s no motivation for the villain to tell the hero all that information, making the villain less life-like and therefore less scary in a time when you want him to appear all powerful and ferocious.
  4. Offer up a worthy opponent: Is the villain in your story all powerful, the strongest man in the universe–but a bit low in brainpower? Often, we can get carried away creating a heap of braun to combat our good guys and leaving our villains lacking in one major department–mental strength. This doesn’t just apply to villains involved in a physical showdown with our hero–whether your bad guy is a land developer with cold, hard cash to your hero’s tree hugger, or an opponent vying for a job at the same company, fighting your hero by dismantling his or her computer and leaving her stranded at the copy machine, you want to make sure your villain has the smarts to help create believable and truly deep drama.
    Yes, some villains are perhaps unintelligent, bumbling idiots. Yes, these sort of people do exist in real life. Do they make a worthy opponent for your fabulous lead character, however? And are they helping to create the maximum amount of tension between your hero and themselves by giving readers the notion that perhaps they could win? I don’t think so.
  5. Bring the villain into your home: Bringing your villain into the “safe” place of the hero can up the tension and raise the stakes. This can work in multiple ways: you can physically bring the villain into your hero’s home ground, or you can take someone close to your hero and turn them into the antagonist. This is particularly useful in contemporary reads. Think of things like the child putting the mother in the nursing home; the parents telling the child they can’t run riot in the rain late at night; a loved one not believing the hero when he or she tells about the fantastical thing he or she has seen. Having someone close to your hero display villainous traits or become a villain by offering an opposing viewpoint he or she feels passionately about can sometimes result in the most tension-filled novel of all.

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel, as well as an editor of fiction. You can get in touch with her via her website or Facebook.

3 Facebook advertising tips

This month at Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking marketing for authors.
When I first learned of this month’s topic, my first idea for a post went something like this:

  1. Hi, fellow authors. My advice is to study what I’m doing, and then:
  2. Don’t do it. It’s not working.

But that’s not entirely true. After all, I know some marketing activities have worked for me, resulting in sales of books and website views, more than I could have ever dreamed of.

Sound too to be true? That’s because in a way, it is. This method I’m talking about requires patience. It requires time and research. And worse than all that? It requires money.

Yep. I’m talking about Facebook advertising.

While this doesn’t work for everyone, I have found it to work for me quite successfully in the past after carefully choosing my target audience. Here are my top tips on making it work for you:

  1. Know your market. It can be daunting, picking the right key words for your ads, and I have to admit that it took me a bit of trial and error. Start with the basics (e.g. eBook readers) and then narrow it down to those who like reading eBooks AND enjoy your genre AND say, read books by one of three authors you would consider yourself on par with. Keep defining your audience until you are quite narrow.
  2. Have a compelling call-to-action. While I have found some generic book ads work well, the ones that have worked the best for me are either promoting a limited-time-only price reduction, or a new preorder. I think that implication that if they don’t get on the gravy train now, they could miss out, makes people more likely to one-click.
  3. Create strong ad content. Whether you’re using a teaser quote image from your book or a combination of the cover and perhaps five stars, letting browsers know this book has been positively reviewed, make sure your visual is clean, consistent, and fits with Facebook’s recommended size guidelines. I also always include my tag either in my image or in the copy of the ad, to try and intrigue the audience, for example in the below: Young woman at the beachThe quote about her world turning upside-down had quite a few readers leaving comments and I believe helped this ad convert to many sales.

There are many courses out there telling you how to use Facebook ads, including a great one by Mark Dawson. I by no means proclaim to be an expert, but these are just a few things that I have found work for me.

What about you? What do you think of Facebook advertising?

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. You can find her on Facebook here or at her website.

Interview: Katie Hamstead

This month, we have two new members of our blog (squee! So exciting!). To celebrate, we’ve decided to interview all Aussie Owned & Read-ers, so you can learn a bit more about us.
Today, I had the pleasure of hitting up the lovely Katie Hamstead, author of many successful books including the 
Kiya trilogy. Welcome, Katie.

AO&R: When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
Katie: I feel like this is something that gradually happened for me, something that I naturally fell into. Through my teen years I enjoyed storytelling, so I would write things down as my preferred outlet … after sports that is! It wasn’t until I migrated to the U.S. and couldn’t work while I waited for my green card, then fell pregnant, that I found time to write.
I started by finishing stuff I’d began as a teen and typing it all out because the handwritten paper was deteriorating, then the Kiya trilogy happened. I felt so good about the trilogy that I decided I wanted to publish it. The rest is history.

AO&R: When it comes to your characters, who is your favourite and why?

Katie: It’s a toss between Naomi/Kiya and Cadence from the Cadence Duology. Both feel like they live in my heart and soul and opened my eyes to their stories rather than me telling their stories.

AO&R: What is the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Katie: Stay true to you and write from the heart.

AO&R: Which path do you enjoy more – indie or trad and why?
Katie: I’ve tried self-publishing but I prefer working with my publishers. My books sell better when they have that extra support and outreach.

AO&R: Being an Aussie, what about our culture/country do you bring to your writing?
Katie: I have several books set in Australia: Cadence Duology, Branded, Dancing in the Athenian Rain, and Brownlow Baby. People have commented that the alternate setting to the U.S. is fun, while still having a parallel culture they can empathise with. Even my space opera/fairy tale series has a strong Aussie influence in the characters and settings.

AO&R: What’s coming up for you this year? Katie Teller
Katie: So far, I have released one book, Brownlow Baby, but I also have the second book in my fairytale galaxy series releasing 28th March, Myths of Mish. Then later this year I have an Aussie historical romance releasing. All this while I’m trying to work at an elementary school, but luckily, I get summer off. I also have editing projects and rewrites for my FTG series. So, busy as always!

FAST FIVE with KATIE HAMSTEAD

Pantser or plotter? Pantser
Coffee or tea? Hot chocolate
Contemporary or historical? Historical
Novella or full-length? Full-length
Series or standalone? Series

Keep up-to-date with Katie’s releases via her Facebook page, her publisher’s page, or find her on Goodreads.

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Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel. You can get in touch with her sleep-deprived, newborn-raising self via her Facebook page or website. P.S. Send wine!