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Welcome to the Flock.

Lisa Brunette_AuthorThis is the web site for Lisa Brunette, the #1 Amazon best-selling author of the Dreamslippers mystery series. 

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What People Are Saying

"Clearly author Lisa Brunette has a genuine flair for deftly crafting a superbly entertaining mystery/suspense thriller." - Midwest Book Review

"The launch of an intriguing female detective series." - Kirkus Reviews

“Lisa Brunette’s Framed and Burning is a brilliant, suspenseful whodunit…” - Qui Xiaolong, Author of Shanghai Redemption, named one of the Wall Street Journal’s Best Books of 2015


Guest Blogger: Taking Your Social Media to the Next Level

Like Me

by Andrea Dunlop

LB: Today on the blog I have Seattle-based author and social media consultant Andrea Dunlop. I asked her to critique my social media activity because I get a lot of compliments, but I honestly feel like I'm bumbling around most of the time. Here's Andrea.

As a social media consultant, I often work with clients who have either a small presence on social or are starting from scratch. So when Lisa reached out to me to give her social media a critique for a guest post, I was excited. She’s already done some of the hard work of cultivating an audience, so there’s something to build on. 

There are a million ways big and small to improve your social media reach, and what’s more, new tools, platforms, and hacks pop up every day. I don’t pretend to know all of them (no one does), but the depth of the practice is what makes it so much fun to be a constant student of social media. It’s never going to be the same every day.

Below I’ve included some notes on what’s working well for Lisa on her blog, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as some recommendations for each. 

Lisa’s Blog 

What’s Working 

Consistency: Lisa posts an average of at least once a week, which is my gold standard for author blogs. If you want to make your blog your main thing and a possible revenue generator, you’d want to blog more frequently (read a great series about that here from Ramshackle Glam’s Jordan Reid). But for most authors, your main goal is to bring some extra traffic to your site and keep readers engaged between projects. Once a week is great for that. 

High-quality content:  In addition to posting regularly, Lisa mixes in short posts with guest posts and longer, more in-depths posts on writing and publishing, such as this essay. Lisa has learned a lot of helpful information from her work, and she shares it with readers in a digestible way. 

Reader Engagement: Many of Lisa’s posts about her writing involve a call to action for her readers, asking for feedback on a new prologue, or posting a call for beta readers, for example. Involving your readers in the process is an excellent way to galvanize your most passionate fans. 

What to Work On

Focus: I love that Lisa mixes up her content, but it can also make the blog feel a little scattered. Lisa is doing a variety of interesting things (writing, indie publishing, game design) and this unique mix is part of what makes her worth following. This also means that she can hit a number of disparate audiences, which is great. The challenge here is making the content cohesive. Always think about what your core blog readership would be the most interested in.

Too Lisa-centric: Before you think I’m being critical here, this is a problem with most author blogs I see. Of course your fans want to hear about you and your books, but it’s easy for that to become monotonous for any reader who isn’t one’s husband or mother. Now of course there are exceptions and plenty of lifestyle bloggers who build platforms based almost solely on their own experiences, but again, that’s not going to work as well for an author blog. I would suggest to Lisa to add a bit more about what else she’s reading and content that focuses on fellow authors in her genre. Featuring others is also a great way to build community, which is one of the best long-term marketing strategies out there. 

Lisa’s Twitter

What’s Working 

Consistency: Lisa tweets several times each day, which is a good bar for this platform (and why some people find it so intimidating!). The shelf life of a tweet is short, so if you don’t want to be on Twitter every day, you can always schedule tweets using a tool like Tweetdeck, but you also might consider whether this quick-moving, conversational platform is right for you. 

Art: Lisa is taking full advantage of the banner space on Twitter by using it as ad space. You don’t get much space for text on Twitter so the more you can use the visuals, the better. Twitter has really upped its game with its visual components to keep up with competitors like Snapchat and Instagram. 

What to Work On: 

Avatar: I really recommend using a photo, rather than a painting or other drawing for your Avatar. There are exceptions, of course, like Grammar Girl, but she’s a persona, so it works. One of the things Twitter is the most useful for is networking; therefore, I prefer a clean, clear headshot (no hats and glasses please). 

Too Lisa-centric: My biggest critique of Lisa’s Twitter is that it's almost exclusively about Lisa. This doesn’t mean that Lisa is a narcissist; it just means she’s not using the platform to its full effect. Twitter is one of the easiest platforms to use to share work by fellow authors and writers by tweeting about books you’re reading, links to essays, pictures from events, the list goes on. A good ratio is: for every tweet that’s about you/ your book, you should have about four that acknowledge someone else. Cheryl Strayed is an absolute all-star at this. 

Lisa’s Instagram 

What’s Working: 

Selfies: There are lots of smiley photos of Lisa and shots from her everyday life. Super cute! Lisa’s Instagram makes me want to go hang out with her, maybe swing by her house for dinner. Her account gives me a sense of her personality. 

What to Work On: 

If Lisa just wanted to use her Instagram for fun, her approach would be fine, but right now it’s underutilized as a marketing tool. As an author, Instagram doesn’t always seem the most obvious choice for social media, but it’s one of the most powerful tools out there if used well. Don’t take my word for it; take Vogue’s 

Some tips for Lisa: 

Consistency: Three times a week is a good minimum; every day is better. Do this by…

Mixing it up: Instagram is not only a great place to share selfies and other in-the-moment photos but also stylized images about your book (a few examples over on my page), inspirational quotes, videos, and more. Lisa has a ton of great images collected on her Pinterest page that would repurpose well for Instagram. 

Books, books, books: If you are an author, you should be reading constantly and you should also be snapping photos of what you’re reading and uploading them to #bookstagram. Especially if you’re hoping to reach a younger audience, #bookstagram is where it’s at. Check out my favorite Bookgrammer @BookBaristas to see how it’s done. 

*For more tips on Instagram, read here

Andrea_Dunlop

Andrea Dunlop is a social media consultant based out of Seattle, WA with over a decade of experience in book publishing. She is also the author of Losing the Light (out now) and the forthcoming novel She Regrets Nothing, both from Atria Books (Simon & Schuster). You can read more about Andrea’s consultant services here. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. She is currently running an introductory special for new clients, so book before August 1st to receive ten percent off your consultation fee.

Lead image courtesy of Pixabay


Upcoming Event: The Other Side Reading Salon

TheOtherSideReading

Next month, I'll be featured with several other writers at a reading salon near Portland, OR. The theme is "heat." So of course I'll be reading from Framed and Burning. Or maybe I'll share some in-progress bits from Dreamslippers Book Three, offering a different kind of heat altogether!

It's at Happyrock Coffee Roasting Co. in Gladstone. I've never been before, but I'm told it's a lovely place, and one should make a day of it and have lunch first in Oregon City overlooking the river. Our host is Nancy Slavin, author of the poetry collection Oregon Pacific and a past guest here on the blog.

For more details and to RSVP, see the event's Facebook page


Call for BETA Readers: Dreamslippers Book Three

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I'm looking for a few good readers to give feedback on a draft of the next book in my Dreamslippers mystery series.

In Bound to the Truth (working title), the multigenerational PIs with the ability to 'slip' into dreams are hired to investigate the murder of an up-and-coming Seattle architect. Did Nina Howell really fall under the spell of a domineering, conservative talk show host--as her wife claims? Find out as the dreamslippers chase down a killer while at the same time navigating the murky waters of the Seattle dating scene.

Why BETA Readers?

When writers get to the end of a draft, they are so happy to have crossed the finish line on that particular marathon that they can only see the manuscript through the burnished glow of completion. It's as perfect as busting through the marathon tape feels for the first runner.

But of course it's not, really. And writers know this, logically, even if they can't see the forest for the trees. That's why we draw on BETA readers, people who can tell us whether or not a plot thread works or if a character needs more development. In the digital gaming industry, we call this playtesting. Advertisers know it as focus testing.

What BETA Readers Do

My BETA reader program works like this:

  1. I send you a draft as an electronic copy in any format you wish, to read on your computer screen, tablet, phone, or other device.
  2. You spend two weeks reading the draft. Many readers say my books are page-turners they can read in one sitting, so this should be more than do-able.
  3. When you're done with the manuscript, you'll take an online survey to give me feedback on it. This includes multiple-choice questions as well as opportunities to provide narrative notes if you like. The survey could take five to thirty minutes to complete, depending on the responses you choose to give.
  4. That's it!

What BETA Readers Don't Do

This should be an easy, pleasurable task, which is not to say you couldn't list it on your résumé. But here are the limits:

  1.  BETA readers DO NOT copyedit or proofread. On par with the big five publishing houses, I hire professional editors once the story is locked down to major changes. In case you're curious, this means three passes: developmental editing, line editing, and a final proofread. 
  2. BETA readers try their best to ignore any typos, grammatical errors, and the like, realizing that they are getting a raw draft and that the polishing comes later.
  3. Note that while it is OK to make suggestions for revision, it's better if you just share your experiences as a reader and not try to figure out how to fix it. I really just want to know what's working and what's not working. When people get into suggestions, they start rewriting it the way they would if it were their book, but, um, it's not. 
  4. You won't need to mark up the draft in any way. Just read it and answer the online questions. I'll send you a link for that when we get started.

When All This Happens

In about two weeks. Yep, I'm lookin' at you, Aug. 1. That's when I'll send BETA readers a draft, and they'll have until 9 am PST on Monday, Aug. 15 to finish the survey.

But if you're planning your big summer road trip for exactly those two weeks, no worries. There might be a second round kicking off on Aug. 29. And I plan to write more books, too!

How to Sign Up

Simply email me at this handy link to let me know you'd like to participate.

For more about my BETA reading program and the philosophy/practice behind it, check out this interview on the topic for Layered Pages.

Answers to FAQ

Yes, I always list my BETA readers in the acknowledgments for every book. Your name in lights, publishing style!

No, you don't need to have read any of the previous books in the series to sign up for this BETA reader round. In fact, it's great if you haven't. Ideally, I'd like to get a mix of noobs and fans. A reader should be able to pick up any book in the series and start right there without feeling lost.

Yes, you really can put this on your résumé.

No, I'm sorry, but there's no payment or reward for being a BETA reader besides the exciting glimpse into my writing process, your name in lights as stated above, and good karma! Warning: You never know where this will lead you. I served as a BETA reader for the celebrated mystery writer Qui Xiaolong back in the 90s, before it was even a thing, before his writing was 'celebrated,' and look at me now.

Yes, my BETA readers are my favorite readers.

About the Dreamslippers Series

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Framed-and-Burning-w-Medallion-Thumbnail

The Dreamslippers are a family of PIs who solve crimes using their ability to 'slip' into your dreams. But that isn't easy. "The launch of an intriguing female detective series" (Kirkus Reviews).

Book One

In Cat in the Flock, 22-year-old Cat McCormick begins an unusual apprenticeship with her private investigator grandmother, Amazing Grace, who's mastered her dreamslipping gift. But following a mother and girl on the run, Cat goes undercover inside a fundamentalist megachurch in the Midwest, where she finds hypocrisy amidst true redemption. But there's also evidence of a cover-up. Will she tame her wild dream ability in time to discover the truth?

Kirkus Reviews: "A mystery with an unusual twist and quirky settings; an enjoyable surprise for fans of the genre."

 Book Two

"A savory mystery with a side of supernatural" (Mudville Dames). In Framed and Burning, the Dreamslippers have to defend one of their own. Someone sets fire to Mick Travers’ art studio, killing his assistant, and Mick won't give an alibi. His sister is convinced he's innocent, but her granddaughter and the police aren't so sure. Was it really Mick, or is something even darker behind the fire?

On My Kindle: "Lisa Brunette continues to develop vibrant characters in a stunning story that will keep you reading well past your bedtime!"
 

 


'Framed and Burning' Named indieBRAG Honoree

Small brag medallion transparent

Those of you with a copy of Cat in the Flock probably noticed this gold seal of approval on the cover. In the indie publishing world, the medallion is a tremendous honor, as it's given to only 10-15% of books submitted and marks a book of high quality and contribution. I've been on pins-and-needles since submitting Framed and Burning to the same scrutiny a few months ago, and I'm happy to report that it, too, will receive the medallion.

Yep, that means that both books in the Dreamslippers Series are indieBRAG honorees.

The medallions are awarded based on an initial screening and then review by a team of readers chosen from a global pool. Authors who submit their books have no guarantee of receiving a medallion, and whether chosen or not, they receive a "report card" showing how their book scored according to set criteria. You can read about the Book Readers Appreciation Group process here, and here's the honoree listing for Cat in the Flock

 


The 1944 Movie 'Laura' Reveals Just How Broken Publishing Is - and Maybe the Whole Economy

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Sometimes I like a good film noir classic, as in the 1944 movie "Laura," named one of the 10 best mystery films of all time by the American Film Institute. This one was just right for a Saturday night movie binge because it features a young Vincent Price as a pretty boy gigolo, if you can imagine that, and a victim who's made a life for herself as a successful advertising exec, a rare career woman for her time.

 What I didn't expect in this strange but clever whodunit is that one of the main characters and ongoing suspects is an eccentric writer, a dandy who pens columns while sitting at his bathtub desk. From his posh penthouse apartment in New York, he brags about making fifty cents a word on his writing.

 Hold up, I thought. Fifty cents a word? In 1944? 

 Those of you who've never tried to make a living with your words probably don't know this, but fifty cents a word is considered a good rate today. Yeah, in 2016. I'm part of several online freelancer forums, and there I regularly see rates of $150-300 for a 700-word article, which works out to about 20-40 cents per word. The top echelon magazines reportedly pay their freelancers $1-$2 dollars per word, and there are a rare handful of freelance writers making bank, but the vast majority of words that get written in America today sell for far less. Disturbingly, there are plenty of publishers who expect writers to work for "exposure," or for mere cents per word. 

 Here's what writers today should be making per word, if we take 50 cents in 1944 and adjust it for inflation: $6.82.

 That would be almost $5K for a 700-word piece, which is a far cry from reality. And you wonder why so much of what's out there is written in listicle format and laden with gifs! Even if the 50-cents-per word bit were a dramatic embellishment, and let's say the actual writer pay at the time was half that, at 25 cents per word, or a quarter, at 12 cents per word, which is about what I make today on stories for my local paper, we're still looking at serious stagnation, or even devolution. Depending on whom you ask, the publishing industry is either experiencing a glorious renaissance or is in its death throes. If it's the former, writers on the whole aren't experiencing the golden part of this age, and if it's the latter, then I suppose things will only get worse from here on out. 

 In my overly long, SEO-designed headline above, I promised I'd mention how this relates to the overall brokenness of the economy. This writer wage stagnation/devolution is another example of how we've been shafted in the last generation as productivity has actually gone up but salaries haven't kept pace, pay for CEOs and others at the top soared while most other pay stagnated, and benefits such as pensions and employer-paid health care became a thing of the past. I'm no economist, though, so let me refer you to these nine sobering wage stagnation charts put out by the Economic Policy Institute.

 Sure, EPI is considered by some to skew liberal and/or is tainted by its labor backing. But you know what? It's hard to argue with the data. For example, since 1979, middle-class wages rose only 6% and low-wage workers' salaries actually fell by 5% while those with the highest salaries saw a 41% increase. Here's another: In the 1960s, CEOs typically earned 20 times what a typical worker earned, but today they rake in 296 times what a typical worker makes.

 So writers in this analysis are low-wage workers whose salaries have fallen over time. Our economy is one big film noir movie, but the villain is greed and the policies that support and enable greed. Spoiler alert: The mystery of who killed Laura, the advertising exec, is far more fitting and poignant than anyone in 1944 could have imagined. Yep. You guessed it. The writer did it.*

* Or at least, he thought he did (plot twist!).

  


My Latest Game-Writing Project: Smash Squad

 

 I've been a writer and narrative designer in the digital game industry for going on nine years now. For the past five years, this has meant helping developers create strong storylines and integrate them with the "play" part of the game. But this spring I had the opportunity to shift gears and concentrate on just the writing itself, and in a very different type of game than the hidden-object puzzle adventure fare that was my focus at Big Fish. 

 The game, which just released on iOS, is called "Smash Squad," and it's an incredibly fun, addictive, fast-paced, top-down physics battler. While definitely focused on a pinball-style battle mechanic, it also has a role-playing and collectible element as well. The creative team obviously had a blast coming up with characters like Broomhilda Sweeps and Lumber Jacques. 

Smash_Characters

 My task was to write the core narrative text, given a villain named Klon, a guide character, Trixie, and a set sequence of worlds the player would move through as the game progressed. This involved guidance from and discussion with the developers at WG Cells, with initial feedback on a trial sample to get the tone and story beats in line with the overall vision for the game. It was a great opportunity for me to stretch into more of a sit-com, one-liner writing style after years of working on mostly super-serious mystery games.

     Questria_Text_edited-2

 The team generously gave me leeway in developing a story arc to fit the game's mechanics. I decided it would be fun to have Klon try to recruit the player over to the, ah, Klon side, and they gave me the green light. 

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 Writing for games means making use of the world-building in the game's environmental art, as in this sequence below, which highlights the statues in the second level, Sooper City. This way the characters, though only onscreen for a short time and in 2D, are tied to the world, and the player can fill in the rest with her imagination. Here's how it looks in the context of the map world. While this dialogue string references the statues in the world, the previous one played on the giant octopus.

   Sooper4

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Let me know after playing Smash Squad what you think of the story - I'm always looking for ways to improve my craft. If you haven't played it yet, check it out! The game is available now in the App Store.  


A Hotel for Geeks, Complete with Joystick Sink!

Modular

Last week my husband and I took a short trip to Walla Walla and stayed in a hotel room that at first felt to me like stepping into an airplane in the 1960s. The furniture is built-in, curved, and modular. Case in point: The microwave is behind this abstract cupboard (above pic). Then I realized this is a safety feature: Everything is attached to everything else, so even if you wanted to steal the beside-the-bed lights, you couldn't, as they are built into the cabinets.

But THEN I realized the hotel was actually designed with nerds in mind. Behold, the sink handle is a joystick!

Joystick

Also, this is definitely a Lego toilet.

Legotoilet

 That is all. Oh, if you're planning a trip to W2, and this looks fun to you, the hotel is the Courtyard Marriott. We went because the man had a business meeting, so we got the government rate, but I suspect it's pretty pricey otherwise. On that note, is it becoming impossible to travel now? I mean, who can afford a couple hundred a night for a hotel? I don't know what I'd do without Airbnb.