Thursday, August 28, 2014

One Stop Shopping

Debra is thrilled with the new 'buy' buttons on her publisher's web-site.

In today's fast paced world, time savers and convenience features are huge. The Wild Rose Press is implementing what I think is a brilliant addition to their catalog.

In the past, readers could browse the TWRP catalog looking for specific authors and titles and could then buy the book through the Press either in digital format or in paperback if it was available. However, if a reader wanted a Kindle or a Nook version, they'd need to hop on over to either the Amazon or Barnes and Nobel site.

No longer. Starting with their new titles and then working backwards until the entire catalog is updated, TWRP is including the Amazon and B & N buy buttons with the proper links on all of their titles. Like I said, I think this is a brilliant maneuver. Because sometimes taking that extra step of needing to log into a completely new site to order a book might cause someone to say 'forget it'. And that could cost sales.

It's all about getting our books into the hands of readers. And anything that can help in that, is all right in my book!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What Readers Don't Want

Paula looks at reasons given by readers for not liking a book.

We often read or hear about what readers want in a romance novel – strong characters, good plot etc. Equally important, it seems, are the things they don’t want. Some time ago, I compile a list (from various sources) of ‘not wanted’ features in novels. Here is my ‘top ten’ of dislikes (with some of my original list combined at times) – in no particular order:

1. Too many characters introduced too quickly in the story (especially at the beginning

2. Too much backstory at the beginning

3. Too much description of places and/or narrative and/or researched details

4. Slow pacing, with nothing much happening for several pages

5. Too much description of characters doing ‘ordinary’ things like cooking or gardening i.e. scenes which don’t advance the plot or give an insight into the character(s)

6. Unnatural dialogue/characters who talk like they’re in a 1940s slushy movie/characters who use each other’s names all the time in dialogue

7. No emotion and/or feelings stated rather than shown

8. Plot holes or loose ends not tied up at the end of the story

9. Hero/heroine not very likeable – selfish, petty, ‘too stupid to live’

10. Author intrusion – telling us things the characters don’t know or see.

What would you add to this list?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Book Is Rereleasing

For the first time, I’m involved in a rerelease of one of my books. It’s kind of cool, because it means I’ve been writing long enough for this to happen. J That’s also a really positive spin on the actual reason I’m rereleasing it, but I won’t go negative here.

Suffice to say that my current publisher loves the book and wants to rerelease it under their imprint. So I said yes. And they gave me a gorgeous cover, although it took me a few days to adjust to it.

First of all, I’m really not good with change. So anytime something changes, it’s a big deal to me.

Second of all, this was my first book ever. Although I’m not a fan of the “my book is my baby” argument that authors sometimes use, this is my very favorite book that I wrote and am most proud of. I’ve associated it with my original cover for so long at this point, that they are connected.

When my editor sent me her cover suggestion, saying, “Here’s your book,” my first thought was, “that’s not my book.” Because it looked different. I needed time to connect to it.

But now that I have, I love it.

For the moment, I’m going through the manuscript and doing a last round of edits. Honestly, I’m not rewriting the book, unless there is something that jumps out at me. So, I’ve fixed POV problems, I’ve fixed blatant errors that I wish had been caught before it was published the first time, and I’ve tightened things up a bit. But I’m not deleting scenes that, if I were writing the book now, I might not include or I might do differently.

It will be rereleased in November and I can’t wait!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Introducing characters in film or on the page

Ana posts a craft article from the RWA-Scriptscene loop on introducing characters
As all spec writers know, there are two things that count above all else when it comes to this screenwriting malarkey, and that's story and CHARACTER. No one ever disagrees with this, ¦ because you'd have to be CRAZY, right??
Yet too often, characterisation is underwritten in the spec screenplays I read. What's more, this will be the case from the get-go, with writers relying on cliche and familiar introductions for their characters. And as you can guess, those writers start as they mean to go on … It's a sad fact of screenwriting life that very few badly introduced characters miraculously turn into rounded, well-drawn and authentic characters over the course of the rest of the narrative! Supersadface.
So here's 10 character introductions I would like to see a LOT less of. Ready? Let's go!
1)  Character waking up in a messy room. This character's life is a mess! We can tell this by the fact s/he wakes up amongst overflowing ashtrays, empty bottles and glasses, plus dirty clothes strewn everywhere. Extra bonus points if s/he talks to thin air too about how terrible everything is. S/he may also receive a phone call from their Boss firing them and/or their mother, telling them to get their lives in order. EPIC FAIL. MORE: How Best To Introduce A Character?
2) Character running/jogging. Characters are not what they SAY, but what they DO,¦ and it would seem the average character runs. A LOT. Look, this was cool when Clarice Starling did it back in 1991, but remember this: she wasn't **just** running, she was undertaking an FBI OBSTACLE TEST. Think about that for a second – obstacles. Ooooooh! Protagonists need obstacles, right? RIGHT. MORE: All About Obstacles 
3) Character training (especially boxing or martial arts). Is your main character female? Great! Then introduce her in a gym, kicking the shit out of a punchbag and maybe grabbing a poor defenseless man between her thighs and pinning him to the floor. Because I know that's what I do when I'm not script reading. All women do, yeah? WHAT. MORE: 5 Ways To Write A Complex Female Character
4) Character in the shower. Look, we ALL like a bit of shower hottie action and I don't want to ruin everybody's fun, but it IS a cliche. Gratuitous shots of your tortured hero in the shower, so we can see scars and bruises all over his/her body. Tattoos of various life affirming quotes (Semper Fidelis is a favourite) are optional extras for the true cliche. BULLSEYE. MORE: 4 Tips To Write An Unusual Character
5) Character taking a lecture/meeting. Sure, lectures and meetings are handy expositional shortcuts, but these are such oldies, we need to tread VERY carefully. If your character is simply delivering information the audience needs to know? BAD. If your character has to deal with something in the course of that lecture, “ a heckling student, perhaps?,  then that exposition is easier disguised and your character's nature revealed in doing so. MUCH BETTER. MORE: 11 Expositional Cliches That Will Kill Your Story
6)  Character at work that has absolutely nothing to do with the story or character's motivation. Sometimes writers will introduce characters in unusual places of work. Whilst a great start, the first time we see a character, we need to get a sense of WHY we're seeing him/her there (and not somewhere else). If we consider Ray in WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005), we meet him at work, operating a crane. Why? To show this character is very much an Average Joe: a blue collar worker, he is a straightforward guy who believes his own eyes. That's why we can believe ultimately he will do whatever needs to be done to survive. That's his motivation. MORE: An Ounce Of Behavior Is Worth A Pound Of Words by Daniel Martin Eckhart 
7)   Characters in the middle of a battle that turns out to be a simulation. Argh, can we put this one to bed now?! I last saw this opener produced in X MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006) and it felt older and stinkier than a three-week-old Gorgonzola even then, yet spec science fiction screenplays STILL persist in introducing their characters and arenas this way. If you're even going to attempt to try this one, you simply must subvert it (and our expectations) in some way! MORE: 5 Expendable Heroes We Hate To Love
8)   Character in the middle of a rescue, gunfight [or similar] and someone DIES and it's HIS FAULT. The Tortured Hero usually becomes tortured on the basis of someone dying on (usually) his watch: cue our hero, gathering the (usually) female character (who's dead) in his arms and wailing "Noooooooooooo!" To be fair, I haven't seen this character introduction in a produced movie for a good while (though Hugh Jackman seemed to do it a lot in the resolutions of his movies in the early noughties), but sadly spec screenplays are still doing it, usually within the first ten pages. Over and over. MORE: What Is A Hero?
9) Character in the middle of an exciting event  gets rewound. I blame MEMENTO for this one. We'll join a character on page 1, right in the midst of the action. Sometimes it will be high octane; other times, it will be some sort of intriguing "smaller" occurrence. But whatever: because suddenly it's all gone and those dreaded words appear as a caption: "48 HOURS (OR SIMILAR) EARLIER."Yaaaargh! You can't do this to us! I'm so bored of spec screenplays rewinding like this; it feels stale and old. What's more, too often those events rewind to characters waking up; running; in the shower! NAUGHTY WRITERS. Sheesh. MORE: All About Non-Linearity 
10) Character gets no real introduction at all. Yet all of the above pale into insignificance when we consider the average character in spec screenplays gets NO introduction. That's right, NONE! This generally happens one of three ways I find:
i) Walking. That's right: your character is walking down the street. Or ambling. Or striding. Whatevs. Doesn't matter how many synonyms you use homies, it's still just someone walking. What does this tell us about this character?? Not much, that's what. MORE: How To Make Your Screenplay Visual 
ii) Clothes. Get this: clothes do not maketh the (wo)man. Right? Right. Yes, yes, whether someone is disheveled or pristine DOES make a difference, so use those words, not whether they're wearing jeans or not. PLEASE. MORE: Character Introductions & Voice by Julie Gray
iii) Nothing. That' right. NOTHING. The character simply starts talking. OMG. No!!! MORE: All About Opening IMAGES
So next time you're wondering about how to introduce your characters, think about WHO they are, WHERE they are, WHAT they're doing, and what this means to the story. Remember, when it comes to character introductions: start as you mean to go on.
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

A New Series

Debra contemplates beginning a new series.

Last week if you remember I was lamenting my lack of foresight in giving my minor characters better names now that I was considering using them as main characters in stories of their own. These thoughts are still wandering around in my head, but I found in the last week they've been pushed a bit out of the limelight as new ideas and thoughts are whirling around in there.

I'm thinking about starting a new series. Because I have time to work on three books now that school has started again, right?

I've had the idea in my head for years to write a story about a rock star. Now that my music taste has evolved, he'll probably be a country star, but the idea will remain generally the same. In my early musings it had always been a stand alone book. But recently, the idea has morphed and grown and now I'm thinking the country star book should be the first in a new series of three. I'm sure it all stems from my love of reading series, and the fun and success I had writing my Corral series. I'm still working on a name for the series, but I've got the main characters thought out. Each book will focus on a different brother from the same family. At one time I thought about two brothers and a sister, but that seemed a bit similar to the format of my first series, so I thought I'd shake it up a bit. I've even thought about the love interests for each of the guys. And, I've written the teaser blurb for each of the stories.

Now I'd love for these to be print books, just because it's more fun for me, not necessarily better sales, but I like having actual books on my shelf. If they are print books, each needs to be a certain word count. For a while TWRP was going to print for books 65,000 and over, but I think they've dropped that count down a bit. But any way you look at it, that's a lot of words. And right now I have no time to write them.

School is back in full swing and right now it's all about getting a new set of students used to routines, schedules, and procedures. Which means I'm tired by the end of the day.

But I'm hoping my ill-timed muse will hang around until things get running a bit more smoothly...and then I can really put pen to paper, or more accurately, fingers to the keyboard, and get going with these stories.

In the meantime, I'm working with TWRP on getting my Corral series into a boxed set and waiting to hear back on the mss I submitted to my editor at the end of last month. So for me, lots of goings on in the writing side of life.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Advice about writing from well-know writers

Paula chooses some writing advice from writers

I found a website recently with 8 or 10 pieces of advice (or rules?) about writing from several well-known writers, and I've picked out one from each list - usually the one to which I felt I could relate to most, and have added my brief comments about each..

Neil Gaiman: The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
I'm not sure this is absolutely accurate, as there are some 'rules' or at least some 'good practice' advice that we should follow, but to me this advice basically means, 'Don't slavishly follow every rule you find about plotting, characters, or writing. 
Elmore Leonard: Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But said is far less intrusive than grumbled, gasped, cautioned, lied. I once noticed an author ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated,” and had to stop reading to get the dictionary.
I agree with this, at least most of the time, although I think there are odd occasions when another verb might be needed.
Kurt Vonnegut: Start as close to the end as possible.
I love this! So often we start our stories too soon - I know I have done so in the past! I've even read advice that says, 'Write your story and then get rid of the first chapter'.
David Ogilvy: Write the way you talk. Naturally. Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
I'd amend this to say, 'Write the way your characters talk' although that assumes you can hear their voices in your head. However, I'd certainly agree that most people do use simple words and short sentences when they are speaking.

John Steinbeck: Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
This is intriguing advice which I had not thought about before. In one sense, I think I do write to one person i.e. myself!

Henry Miller: Work on one thing at a time until finished.
I don't always do this. Sometimes I put one story on a backburner while I write another, but I don't usually work on two things at the same time. I need to concentrate one story and one set of characters, and not keep switching to another.

Zadie Smith: Work on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.
I definitely need to train myself to do this!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Balancing Act

Finding the balance between writing and real life is always difficult. We’ve all written about that before, and it’s similar to finding the balance between any responsibilities we may have, whether it’s family and work, work and writing or even family and friends.

Discipline and routine help me balance writing and real life, but sometimes, even that doesn’t help. Right now is one of those times. In a few short weeks, my youngest daughter will have her Bat Mitzvah, and while I have many people helping me do everything, none of them are able to read my mind (the nerve!) and now is the time that all the last minute details get ironed out. School starts in a couple of weeks and there’s prep for that as well, including tutoring to try to get ahead of the curve. And my critique group meets in a week and I have to prepare my work and critique the others’ beforehand. And finally, I have a book coming out September 10, for which I need to arrange publicity.

So I have a lot on my plate. When my plate gets full, some of my writing slides off. As much as I’d like to get to work on my new manuscript, I need to put that on the backburner for now. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get to it now and then, but my plan is to get to it steadily in mid-September.

Until then, I may be a little AWOL. But don’t worry, I’ll be back!