Saturday, December 31, 2011

When Inspiration Strikes

Have you noticed inspiration rarely arrives at a convenient time - like now, in the middle of the night, when I can’t sleep because I’ve been inspired to write a novella and can’t turn my brain off? That’s why I’m writing this at 1:00 a.m. I hope the exercise will make me sleepy.

I’ve been working on the new book, pictured at the right, The Great Twitter Adventure – or How 5 Tweeps Saved the World. On this project, the moments when my muse has come to visit have not been when I had nothing to do. Oh, no. Rather, she (her name is Shirley) stops by when I’m at work and have to suppress my urge to write or times like tonight, when I’m so tired I can’t think. She’s been nudging me constantly so that I cannot close my eyes in peace. Luckily, I bought a little hand held recorder last year and I’ve been clicking it on and off for the better part of three hours.

This most recent brainchild, which started out as a short story and quickly expanded to novella size, has come in fits and starts, but tonight all the pieces came together. Yet, I’m physically unable to stay up and write for 24 hours straight. It’s times like these that make me yearn for the old days when I could party all night!

I really shouldn’t complain at all, for the greatest fear and test of any writer is that desolate stretch of time when nothing will come. Shirley has occasionally deserted me, although I have to say that the older I get the less this happens, so there is one advantage to advancing age.

Short, this little musing, I know, but something my fellow writers, every one I’ll bet, can relate to.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Confusion Versus Suspense

I’ve recently read a couple of books that have sent me scrambling to try to figure out what was going on and not in a good way. I became frustrated by the need to repeatedly flip back several pages to reacquaint myself with a character or plot line. Luckily, on this latest, 30% of the way in, I understand enough to enjoy the otherwise superb writing.

Suspense is the wonderful creation of tension, in part by the author holding back information. I think, occasionally, when the author is trying so hard to make a storyline taut, in fact important aspects are not revealed soon enough. Of course, you can’t tell the reader everything. But it is important to tell the reader enough so that he or she has at least a glimmer of the basics. Don’t leave us in the complete dark.

Another suspenseful technique is to throw in enough characters so that you’re never sure who did it, who will be eliminated, who really is the bad guy or who the good guy really loves, etc. There has to be several good characters to pin the blame on in a mystery and competition for the girl’s affections in a romance as well as multiple threats in a thriller.

But the number of characters and their introductions is a delicate thing and must be timed right. If the writer doesn’t include enough information in their first appearance, one character blends into another too easily, especially if the intros are rapid-fire, which was the case a few months ago, when I became overwhelmed and quit reading what looked like a promising book.

In my view, the very best creator of suspense is unknown motivation. What makes a character do what they do? Good or bad. In television crime dramas, it’s all about the motivation. I think that’s true in any good book – whether we are trying to discover why the man really left his wife or why the school bully beats everyone up. And the reader must believe in the motivation. The story’s strength lies in why the hero and villain are who they are.

Okay, enough - back to the book that prompted this post - now that I’ve happily entered the land of suspense.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

To Review or Not to Review

Long, long ago and far away, I reviewed movies for a small newspaper. I found it fun and I think I was pretty good at it. I developed a theory of reviewing that I still use today: review the piece for its intended audience, not for my taste.

I think this is an extremely important thing to keep in mind, whether you are reviewing a book, a CD or a movie. If the book is a thriller and you’re not much of a fan of thrillers, you either have to put on your thriller fan hat or choose not to review it. If you are trying to review a bluegrass band and you know nothing about and don’t even like bluegrass, you’ve got your work cut out trying to be an objective critic.

So, this is the first rule I apply to the review I do for Amazon and Goodreads. I put myself in the place of the booklover who would appreciate the genre I’ve read.

The second comes to me as an Indie author. I don’t do reviews rating a book less than 4. If I can’t do that in good conscience I don’t review the book. There is no way I’m going to write a review for either Amazon or Goodreads less than that, unless (there’s always an exception) the author has been blatantly offensive. I haven’t yet run into that situation, but reserve the option to lower the boom in that case.

Why have I taken this course of action? Because I will not do harm to another writer. There are those who would argue that telling a writer than their work needs help is constructive and good. However, I once had someone who loves me tell me that she didn’t think my dialog sounded real. I did not write for 6 months – at all. Reason eventually won out. As a screenwriter I had received many compliments on my dialog, so I listened to those comments in my head instead of the off-the-cuff remark from a relative. But I tell this story because I know it illustrates how sensitive a writer, or any artist, can be.

I am not a writing expert. If I considered myself one and had lived in James Joyce’s day I would have told him his writing needed work, because I still can’t read it. See what I mean? I doubt that he was as sensitive as I have been, but what if the one piece of criticism killed the genius? Hmmm?

Even when my opinion is requested, I’m very careful and hesitant. So, when you see that all my reviews are positive, if you’ve bothered to look, that does not mean I’m a push over. It simply means I’ve reserved my judgment on those I could not rave about.

Movies, however, I can still pan if I feel like it, because they are a collaborative effort and who cares if I hurt the feelings of someone who must have made a gazillion dollars to put out that tripe? Oh, did I say that out loud?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pricing eBooks – Is There Any One Best Way?

This month I decided to lower the price of the ebook copy of Red Mojo Mama to just $.99 as a holiday gesture. I expected there would be a bump in sales accompanying a lower price. Guess what? Not so much.

In fact, the lower price has not made any difference at all. Sales are ramping at the same pace as last month when the price was $2.99.

This shouldn’t have surprised me really, because I first offered RMM at $.99, following John Locke’s plan. When I realized I would have to sell 6 books to make the same amount of money as if I had sold one book at $2.99, I tentatively decided to try the $2.99 price. My sales did not suffer at all. They actually increased.

There has been a lot of talk on Twitter lately about pricing ebooks: from promotional free books to $.99 and then higher fees from $2.99 up. There is a divergence of opinion on the matter.

Free has worked for some authors in getting their names out there. Others feel free didn’t much impact on actual readers who then come back for more. The decision to price at $.99 seems to throw a book into the giant pond of books that some consider “less-than.”

I’ve personally priced two books at $.99 because they didn’t require the same level of effort as my novel – one is a collection of blog posts done over a couple of years and the other is a collection of short stories and poems written over a 10-year period. This seems fair to me. There are a number of single short stories out there for $.99 – which, again, seems fair to me.

I have made the decision that following the holidays, I will reinstate RMM’s price at $2.99 and it will stay there.

I’d love your feedback on this pricing issue. What do you think?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Excellence Revisited

The last time I wrote about excellence in Indie authors I hadn’t read nearly as much as I now have. I’d already found two outstanding writers in Christina Carson and Will Bevis. Since then, I found several others that I think the reading community will or already are embracing - truly terrific writers in their genre.

Chicki Brown:
Let me start with the first person from whom I bought more than one book. Chicki specializes in what I call Urban Romance and she’s extremely good at it. Her African-American characters come from all walks of life: hairdresser to writer to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and they are all extremely well developed. Her characters walk off the page and into your heart. They face moral dilemmas and heartbreak that speak to everyone.

Elise Stokes:
Elise’s book Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula is the first Young Adult book I’ve been able to finish reading because the writing goes beyond it’s genre. It’s a very fun story for both girls and boys of a certain age, but I found it entertaining as an adult as well. I predict Elise is going to create a series that takes off in the Young Adult world of reading.

Dannie C. Hill: I read his book In Search of a Soul and found myself falling in love with the hero of this novel. Dannie explores the depths of a wounded man and how he’s redeemed by the love of a woman and still manages to pack in action and danger. Dannie’s innate talent for delving into what’s important in life will always rise to the surface of his writing.

Russell Blake: You would be hard put to find a better thriller writer than Russell, inside or outside of standard publishing. His books are filled with inside info that leaves you reeling and wondering, “How the hell does he know all this stuff” after you’ve read three that deal well below the surface on complicated topics. You’ll walk away more informed, deeply entertained and glad you found a writer with his enormous talent.

Karen Cantwell: This is the one writer I do not know as a tweep on Twitter. I ran across her book titled Take the Monkeys and Run and just could not resist. Happily, I found it great fun and went on to read the sequel Citizen Insane and a book of short stories The Chronicles of Marr-nia. All were hilarious. I’ll keep reading Cantwell as long as she keeps cranking them out.

I will endeavor to periodically spotlight authors I think are extremely talented as I explore the rank and file of Indie authors with eager anticipation. I hope you’ll try out these authors and give me some feedback here on the blog.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Squeezing Writing In Between the Holidays

Okay, let’s face it. Finding time to write during the holidays is harder than normal with all the gatherings, parties, shopping, wrapping, mailing, cooking, etc., our already short supply of free stretches is even more constricted.

I’ve got a self-imposed deadline of January 31 for publishing my sequel and I can already see that goal as getting more and more difficult to reach.

I tried something new with fellow writer and tweep J. Landon Cocks – a couple of writing dates on Twitter. We agreed to touch base on Twitter before we started, half-way through and at the end of an hour to see how it had gone for each of us.

And it worked! Very well. Both times, I found that making a commitment to write at a certain time with a friend was much more compelling than any promise I make to myself. So, as I move through the next month and half, I will see if I can talk him into this a few more times.

So, that’s one strategy. Another one I plan on employing is writing in between periods of wrapping presents and writing Christmas cards. For instance, I’ll stop after making two presents absolutely gorgeous for a writing break. Or when I'm struggling to make the past year interesting in my holiday greeting cards, stop to struggle with my novel after three cards. That way, the necessary chores will actually drive my writing.

I’m also going to try to limit my writing during this period to the “feel good” portions of the story, to take advantage of the happy feelings that always come over me at this time of the year. I think it will probably make my writing more evocative in those sections.

That’s all I can think of and I’m hoping for some comments that will offer other suggestions to overcome the challenges of continuing the march towards our dreams.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Few Good Links

I had hoped to bring you a very comprehensive listing of how-to videos that would enlighten and help you make your way through all the new social media options. I thought I would learn a lot in the process as well.

Unfortunately, what I’ve found is many, many outdated tutorials for Twitter and Facebook – none of which I can recommend anyone watch at this point. The differences between both of these platforms as they exist today and when these videos were made would be entirely too confusing.

So, the idea of “studying” social media through online videos is not really viable at this point. However, I did find some great videos and links to share with you.

First up, an article from Entrepreneur magazine’s online edition, about how to schedule your online marketing so that it doesn’t overwhelm you. Written for business, it isn’t always on point for writers, yet it is a good jumping off point for keeping your marketing under control.

For an inspiring look at how important social media has become and why you should be participating – watch:

Social Media Revolution 2011

To put the concepts of how to make a triple play in social marketing, here’s a terrific video:

How to Drive Traffic - The Holy Trinity of Social Media Marketing - Facebook, Twitter, Blog

What do to with Twitter and Facebook questions: There is a video out there for everything. If you have a specific question, I highly recommend searching Google or YouTube for that – for instance, I just input “How to pick a Twitter name” and got a link to “How to Choose a Twitter name.” This is the best advice I have for you.

If you haven’t yet heard of it, LinkedIn is becoming a great professional networking site, mainly for employment and sales. However, it’s worth your time to create a profile and begin building connections. It will lend you a professional presentation and you can make great contacts. Here are two videos I found worthwhile.

How & Why To Use

How to Use LinkedIn : Learn 5 Ways in 5 Minutes

This one is an essential for authors. GoodReads is a great site intended exclusively for readers and writers. You can create an author’s page and present your book for consideration. Hopefully, your readers will post reviews and recommend your book. I would recommend that you participate as a reader as well and give reviews back to the community.

GoodReads Tutorial - How To Setup Your GoodReads Account ...

That’s it for this edition. I’ve decided to continue to search for relevant videos and present them as I find them, perhaps at the end of my blogs. I hope you find some value in this list. Good luck out there fellow authors.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Some Ideas for Battling Writer's Block

So much of my life was spent fighting writer’s block that I have collected a few tricks which worked for me over the years. I seldom have the problem anymore and when I do it’s short-lived, like being in a bad mood or something.

Here’s the number one best advice I can give another writer – buy The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. The book has been around for a long time. I have a copy and have given copies away to other writers and artists as gifts for years. Cameron will teach you a couple of very simple, but very powerful exercises that will clear your head and allow your creativity to flow.

Once when I was struggling, a writer friend told me to try using a kitchen timer. Here’s the deal: you wind up a timer to no more than 10 minutes, then type away for that time period; anything from gibberish to your project. After the timer goes off, you must stop and you can’t start again for 10 more minutes. Do not break this rule. You will find that after a few tries the words are flowing and you’re angry with the timer. So put it away until the next time writer’s block is holding you hostage.

Another trick that works very well for me on a novel or screenplay is listing scenes I know I want in the project on an Excel spreadsheet – but any kind of list will work. Then peruse the list each time you sit down to write and see which scene you feel like working on. This really works well for me in fitting the mood I'm in to the right scene - funny, clever, sad, light or dark. I use my mood to enhance the right scene. I get a lot more writing done when I work this way.

Similarly, if I have a strong beginning and ending, I work both ends at the same time, and then fill in the middle.

The “trick” that really isn’t has been the most powerful thing in my writing for the past couple of years. I wrote Red Mojo Mama to the Michael Buble Crazy Love CD. In fact, I wore the CD out and had to download a copy to my computer because I’m working on the sequel right now. My heroine comes out to play to this music. I don’t know why. I’ve tried other CD’s. She kinda likes Al Green, but when Michael starts belting out “There’s gonna be a heartache tonight” she’s 100% there. I don’t what will happen with my next heroine – Victoria – she may like something completely different. But I would urge you to see if you can find something musical to trigger your muse. It almost feels like a Pavlovian response – but in a good way.

That’s my personal arsenal against the eternal enemy of writers – the evil “block” monster. I hope one or more of these will help you.

NOTE: The promised YouTube social media list is almost done. Expect it next weekend.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Macy’s and Gimbels Revisited

Hopefully, most of you will be familiar with the 1947 Christmas classic film Miracle on 34th Street. In it, a very young Natalie Woods plays a child who has been taught by her mother not believe in Santa Claus. However, when Kris Kringle himself takes over as the Macy’s Santa, she comes to believe in him and therefore Santa Claus. This belief is the miracle at the heart of the story.

I took away another miracle within the story at a very young age. At one point, Kris Kringle tells a mother that Gimbels has the toy her child wants for Christmas when Macy’s does not. At first, the store management is upset, but when the woman declares that she will always be a loyal customer because of this act of referral and publicity goes in Macy’s favor, Kris is hailed as a genius. I think this is as good as it gets in the miracle department.

About ten years ago, I opened a consignment shop and I made this a habit of mine – sending customers to other consignment shops that I knew carried what they wanted. My parents, who have been in the antique business for nearly 25 years, do the same thing.

First, it just makes sense. If you don’t have what the customer wants but know who does, why wouldn’t you tell them? For fear they’ll find the other competitor? So? The next time they are looking for something they are far more likely to come to your place first because they know you’ll refer them elsewhere if you don’t have it.

Second, it’s the right thing to do. I believe if I live my life always at least trying to do the right thing, more often than not, I will manage it.

So, why am I revisiting this old film now? Because I’m concerned by what I see as competitors nipping at each other’s heels on Twitter, specifically writers – probably because that’s my thing.

To be brutally honest, there are many thousands of writers on Twitter right now, all pursuing the same basic dream, many of whom have been inspired by John Locke’s success story – selling 1 million eBooks in 5 months. We all want to be the next Locke – plucked from the many and settled down into our own private dreams, usually a variation of this one – a worry-free, monied existence, finally able to write to our heart’s content rather than work for someone else in a day job. We want this so bad it hurts.

Non-writers out there are begging for the same opportunity – financial freedom. Twitter is the portal to this golden world. Pen a bunch of yearning dreamers up in a confined space like Twitter and you’re bound to get a few scratches and in-fights.

But here’s the thing. We will not all make it. Some will. Some won’t. I contend that “It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game.” – a famous but unattributed quote. Going back to the film, it was when both stores – Macy’s and Gimbels – rose above themselves and began to cross-refer that they both did well.

So, here’s what I propose. When we are lucky enough to find a great writer or fantastic product or funny blogger – or whatever – let’s go out of our way to help promote it or them. Retweet their messages or do an original tweet about it yourself. In that manner, we all do better.

In the end, we live or die as a group anyway. If Twitter remains a positive force, people will hang on to it, help it grow. If it withers away from a plethora of criticisms and negativity, we all lose.

Through lifting each other up, we perform our own miracles every day.

PS - you will find this same post on both my blogs. I want it to reach as many readers as possible.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Big Questions

Not just on Twitter, but out there in the real world, people ask me questions that stop me in my tracks: “How do I become a writer?” - “How do I get a publisher or an agent?" or nowadays “How do I publish an eBook?”

On all of these questions, the problem is that they are huge! I could easily give some one-sentence answer that in later years – when I become rich or famous or both – would be quotable. That would be cute and witty, but would do the questioner no good at all. Neither would a sincere half-answer filled with “you shoulds.” The problem is these inquiries are too big to answer, and here’s why:

· Becoming a writer, finding a publisher or agent or even self-publishing, takes years of trial and error, writing, hard times, writing, disappointments, writing, do-overs, re-writing, studying, and editing.

· There is no way – beyond penning a book about writing or any of the other big questions, each separately – that any of them can be adequately answered. Even then, the manuscript would simply reflect the author’s own journey plus whatever opinions of others are also included.

· How-to books are always subjective. There are no hard and fast rules about how to do anything anymore. What makes one person a gigantic success doesn’t work for the next.

· The most important reason of all is that if a person asks a question as all encompassing as these there is every indication that a basic understanding of the world or the process is missing. As much as I hate this analogy, it holds true – it’s like being at a restaurant with no prices on the menu: if you have to ask what the prices are you can’t afford to eat there. The same is true of a question like “How do I become a writer?” If you ask that question, you may lack the basic drive and curiosity required to break it down into questions you can answer a bit at a time for yourself.

When people ask about becoming a writer - I’ve learned to point people in the direction of Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist’s Way. Her book outlines such a simple process for awakening the artist inside that I figure anyone can read it and figure out if they are truly a writer (or painter or musician, etc.).

Regarding getting an agent or publisher – I point out that years ago, I actually obtained and chose between two different agents for my screenwriting and collected 127 rejection letters in the process, which I point out here to prove 1) it can be done and 2) it ain’t easy.

If there’s a definitive book out there about self-publishing or creating eBooks I don’t know about it. I would recommend two books, however, to get a feel for the culture of self-publishing – John Locke’s How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months! and The Path To Self-Publishing Success by William R. Hicks. Both of these books taught me a lot about the process from concept to marketing.

I’m spending the next two weeks developing a YouTube video list for "how-to" in Social Media, which I hope will help other writers. I will publish the list here.

I believe the best strategy when answering the “Big Questions” is to lovingly offer a starter tip and hope the person who wants to know will take it and run with it. And perhaps, learn to break these giant queries into much, much smaller chunks.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

What is Normal?

When I started seeing a therapist almost four years ago (best investment of time and money ever) I was obsessed with whether or not I was normal. After about the sixth time of asking “Is that normal?” I noticed that I was constantly asking that question. After thinking about it for several days, I realized what a ridiculous question it was and still is.

“Normal” changes all the time, depending on the times, country or culture in which we live. It’s also subject to family structures, personality traits; and physical, emotional or intellectual capacities.

Now, as a writer and blogger, I’m hearing the same question, worded differently. “How am I supposed to do that?” or “Do I have it right for my genre?”

If we accept that the word normal equates, in some degree, with average – then do we really want to be doing everything the “normal” or accepted way? Just as our quirks make us who we are as people, what we do outside the norm will be what helps us to stand out from amongst the rapidly multiplying crowd of authors. Let’s face it there are a ton of us.

However, I’m not advocating trying to be different. Unless you’re really good, it’s going to come off a little strained for most writers. Instead, what do you say we let our natural selves flow a little into what it is we create, without flinching when it feels a little too personal, hits a little too close to home. It is that fear that we may be discovered to be “not normal” or some dark side would be revealed that keeps us from relaxing and letting the truly sparkling stuff come forward sometimes.

I have an example for you. A good friend read my novel Red Mojo Mama and when I asked her what she thought she immediately launched into a diatribe about the sex in it. She mentioned that I was a mother with children who would read this stuff and sex in the shower was so extreme. Really? Let me just say that the sex scenes in this book are extremely mild in comparison to mainstream authors we’ve all read. I let this comment get to me for a while. Her words had made me feel abnormal – weird. Once I realized that she was the one with the problem, I relaxed again and as I’ve been writing my sequel I’ve been able to allow Red to be a sexual woman.

This is a very small example. There are larger things at risk. Will you step out of the box created by friends and family to fully form a character without fearing it will reflect on you? When you find that you have broken a “rule” of the publishing world, but it completely works in your project, will you find the strength to go on with it?

It is still a struggle for me, sometimes, to go forward with something that feels a little different. I hope that will continue to be a smaller and smaller consideration over time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Self-Publishing and Social Media Course of Study

I’m hoping this post will generate a lot of sharing. The past four months have taught me that I “don’t know nothing.” Seriously, there is so much to learn about self-publishing, social media and marketing that I’m often in the process of getting up to speed on a tool I’ve either just learned about or finally gotten around to exploring.

I had decided that I love Twitter and blogging so much that I was interested in getting a degree in Social Media. So, I went in search of a community college, University or online college that offered one. Well, one doesn’t exist (that I can find) and the “certifications” available online are in my mind very questionable and extremely expensive at $3-4K a pop. I thought, “Why can’t I get my own certification?”

What I mean by that is this – why not take advantage of all the how-to YouTube videos out there to become an expert? So, I’ve decided to do just that.

I plan on creating a course of study – by subject. For instance, I will develop a course for self-publishing, one each for Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, etc. and one on each of the available tools for managing these sites.

So, I’ll be surfing the web to see what worthy videos are out there. When I’ve compiled the list I will publish it right here as a way for writers to self-educate. I invite anyone with a video that’s helped them to please share the link in the comments. I will attribute the link to the first person to offer it.

Let’s help each other become more proficient at what we do. Eh?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Double-check Your eBook After Publication

I am actually in the process of correcting the formatting on one of my eBooks, and have recently uploaded a corrected copy of Red Mojo Mama – my first book.

Here’s what happened to me. I published Red Mojo Mama, bought it and checked the first 10 pages or so and everything looked fine. So, I let loose a sigh of relief and closed the book for a couple of months until I had to re-open it to research something. This time the search took me into the second chapter – and there I found it. My paragraphs were all messed up.

I turned off my Kindle and thought, “Oh, no!” – figuring I would return on the weekend and figure out what had gone wrong and how to fix it. Part of me, suspected that it was just my Kindle, because I’d seen this same problem on a few books I had bought from authors who have obviously sold several hundred copies of their books.

See, I’d sold nearly 100 copies without a comment from anyone. Oddly enough, it was a few days later when a very kind man mentioned it to me after reading, and liking, Red Mojo Mama. He told me what was wrong and from the goodness of his heart, offered to fix it for me. I took him up on it, offering to be a beta reader for his next effort. During the process, he was giving me tips. Unfortunately, unlike publishing a paperback on Amazon, Kindle publishing does not offer an opportunity to review before clicking on the "publish" link.

Now, I find I have a few corrections to make to one of my other books (only discovered after reading 53% of the book) and have yet to double check book 3.

I suspect this is the by-product of that profound relief we authors feel when our baby has finally gone to press and being a newbie at the process. Let’s face it; there aren’t any definitive guides out there for how to e-publish. There are more than a few that point this or that out, but nothing that covers the whole spectrum. I’m also instructions-challenged. My head spins uncontrollably when I read instructions, unless I’m currently in the process. I have to have my hands on the thing I’m trying to put together, from tri-cycle to IKEA furniture to eBook, in order to understand instructions.

I struggled with myself whether to tell the two authors I can think of that they need to fix their eBooks. With encouragement from my helpful friend, I’ve decided to do so. More importantly, I realized I needed to write down this experience and share it.

In the meantime, a very thoughtful tweeter, Mimi Barbour, wrote up the instructions and I’m passing along her blog post link below for those who need them. I’ve already made use of her kindness and highly recommend you stop by her blog.

Mimi Barbour's Twelve Steps

I figure if Indie authors stick together and help each other, we will improve the overall perception of our collective product and thereby, help all of us sell more books.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Rules and Writers

First, let me say, I don’t think most writers are very good with rules. The hard and fast bumps up against their creativity and it’s not a pretty picture after that.

Very often – the most-acclaimed writers break the most time-honored rules and not only get away with it, but it propels them to a place of fame.

· William Goldman – the screenwriter for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and many others (Misery, The Princess Bride) – broke almost every rule of screenwriting early on – yet is fabulously successful. When I was screenwriting, the seminar gurus would hold up his work as incredibly good and at the same time warn the class not to try to duplicate him, for fear of alienating potential producers and directors.

· James Joyce – author of Ulysses – became literary legend by creating the “stream of consciousness” technique, telling a story completely outside the usual conventions of a novel.

· A more contemporary example might be the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger who employed two narrators, telling the story entirely in first person in the present tense. Many editors and readers consider this method a mistake, yet her “mistake” worked out quite well, don’t you think?

Do I think we should all just throw up our hands and break every statute of conformity willy-nilly? No, because rules in writing are not really rules anyway. They are instead guidelines for how something is normally done and in a professional way – which are sometimes “Bible-ized” by those who are more comfortable with set ways of doing things.

In my opinion, a set of conventions should always be considered, used if appropriate, bent slightly if more appropriate and tossed away at last resort if they are not working period.

We should not, as writers, be married to an idea because it is through examining rituals, conventions, and normalcy that we actually change things for the better. It is the exposure, through narrative, of what doesn’t work that we sometimes discover what does.

Malcolm Gladwell (Blink, The Outliers, The Tipping Point) does this all the time – expose a conventional way of thought for the reality that lies beneath it. Fiction writers do the same thing, no matter what their subject, but an example would be Kathryn Stockett – whose recent blockbuster debut novel The Help, broke with the accepted wisdom of playing down dialect and accents, to reveal the truth of her black characters – which is that they did speak differently and think differently than their white counterparts.

The old adage “Rules are meant to be broken” holds special meaning for creative types. We know it to be true but are pushed to stay within our boxes. It’s up to each of us to find the happy path between the two extremes.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why I Write

There is only one true reason I write – because I have to. There are other reasons that I will list, but at the base of it all is the driving need to write, to get something down on paper or some lasting form.

I’ve thought about that a lot. Why do I have to write? Well, in part, I believe it’s to prove I exist. Sure, I can touch my face or I can see my fingers flitting over the keyboard, but that doesn’t prove there is a mind beyond those movements. The very fact that my body exists doesn’t prove that I exist. Only my thoughts, feelings and imaginings prove that there is a mind behind the movement, the physical being.

I love to see my name in print – as a byline or author credit. It’s not an ego thing, although I do derive pleasure that can only be attributed to my ego. It’s oddly like a headstone or graffiti on a bathroom wall. I was here. I am here now, but later it will prove I was here.

Writing always relieves my internal angst. I can only let go of a problem or idea if I write it down, otherwise there will be no rest. I will not sleep until I’ve done at the very least a scribbled note about the idea or issue.

With the ideas, it’s as if I’m afraid I may wake up mentally blank – a great and desperate fear of mine. For a creative, is there nothing more terrifying than the looming danger of losing one’s mind – as in Alzheimer’s?

With the troubles, it’s a matter of laying them down to rest beside me and luckily they are often solved in my sleep. The writing has saved my sanity. When I’ve teetered on the edge of despair, it was lack of writing that pushed me over.

I’m a perpetually cheerful person, so I’m surprised at the darkness this post represents. But perhaps that’s why I’m able to live in the light, because writing takes away the gloom.

I also write for the pure joy of it. My heart literally soars when I've put down a phrase, paragraph or article that sings. There is no greater high for me.

So, as you see – I write because I have to.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Character-Driven Plotting Versus Outlining

There’s probably an official name for the kind of writing I do, but I’m going to call it character-driven. What I mean by that is I start with a character and a situation and then let the character take me through the story. I am always making notes and lists as I go along of things that need to be added into the story somewhere along the way, so that my protagonist doesn’t lull me into forgetting that the reader doesn’t know always what the she is thinking, even if I do.

In fact, I use Excel to track the notes and plot points as I go along. I number and re-number them, then sort by the numbers, to make sure they fall into the right slot in the tale. I suppose this could be an outline, of sorts, but it’s a living document that changes every time I sit down to write.

There are very strong proponents of outlining your entire story before you even begin to write. I’m not knocking it. I just can’t imagine it. My characters say and do things I hadn’t planned on and often they are the best parts of the story. They literally take over and it’s not only a great help to my writing, but it feels absolutely wonderful when it happens. I am transported into the story, happily, and begin to feel it happening around me.

This may be why I find it very hard to write a dark story. I don’t like being inside that sinister place, which I believe exists in all of us. In fact, I will happily abandon a movie that gets too dark for me (literally, I couldn’t finish the second and third Lord of the Rings movies because of it) or close the covers of a book which dwells for more than a few minutes at a time in the ugliness of life. I’m a lightweight. I just can’t take it.

Anyway, back to the outline concept. I’ve tried several types of outlining. When I was screenwriting, I did the index card thing – covering an entire wall with color-coded cards with scenes on them. Outlining by chapter in a very general, overall way, worked best for me, but my characters always managed to break out of the mold I had created anyway.

So, how do you do it? What’s your approach?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What Does Writing Feel Like to You?

I always wonder what it feels like for other writers when they are in the actual process of putting thoughts or storylines down on paper or computer. Here’s why.

I’ve had many interesting experiences after finishing up a writing session. For instance, I often don’t remember the piece at all when I sit down to read it. Or I’ll realize, after the fact that I’ve written something that I dreamt about the night before.

During the process, I’ve more often than not, struggled until a certain rhythm takes over. Once, when I was screenwriting, I typed (on a real typewriter) for an hour or so and as I did I saw the story unfolding on the white wall behind the typewriter – actually saw it happening. I just wrote down what I saw. I called it writing “in the zone” like Joe Montana used to talk about some of his phenomenal football plays.

Now, since finding a certain voice, I can describe my creative state as true bliss. I told a friend recently that when I write it feels like my best friend is sitting beside me and I’m just putting down what she says. In other words, I feel outside myself but accompanied – and I feel strongly that this sense of an entity is what people call the muse. Additionally, it feels divine. Not to imply that my writing is divine, but the inspiration is beyond me somehow. I feel a part of things – the Universe – as the thoughts flow.

That’s what it feels like for me. But I’ve observed others who seem so disturbed by their gift, so determined to always get it right or wait until the right moment. I can remember feeling that way too, but wish for them that they would get to this place where writing is truly joyful.

One technique for getting there is something I learned quite a few years back. I call it dumping. Rather than trying to actually say anything, I just sit at the computer and let whatever pops into my head out through my fingers. At first it’s total tripe but then something magical happens. From the soup of meaningless drivel comes a nugget, no a kernel, of something that begins to grow all on its own. And before you know it, I’m writing. It may not be on the intended project, but usually when I switch to the project the feeling continues.

You might give dumping a try. In the meantime, I’d really love to hear you describe how you feel when you write.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Study in Characterization

It is my task here to describe a transformation in character without giving anything away. Let’s see how good I am.

I just finished reading The Geronimo Breach (more on that in a minute) by Russell Blake, who was one of the first people I started following on my first day on Twitter, July 1.

In fact, one of his other books, Fatal Exchange, was the second Kindle book I bought. It convinced me that there are Indie authors that are quite good. While I’m not a huge thriller reader, I was pulled into the story by a strong, captivating female protagonist and just general good writing.

So, when my reading schedule freed up, I bought The Geronimo Breach and cozied up with my Kindle. About six pages in I was astonished, revolted even, by the character, Al Ross, who I hoped with all my heart wasn’t the protagonist. It isn’t giving anything away to tell you, his first impression on me, and those in his fictional world, was of a drunken, selfish, no-account loser. I wondered what in the world Blake had in mind, but the story was interesting and I trusted him as a writer so I kept plugging along, never really changing my mind about Al.

And then I did. After careful consideration, I’ve figured out the turning point, at least for me, when I began to care what happened to Al. Suffice it to say, I cannot reveal what happened to change my mind – no, my heart – or I’d give part of the plot away.

Somewhere in the last third of the book, I no longer just cared a little about Al - I was suddenly rooting for him. Blake had accomplished the toughest part about writing even when you have a likable main character – making the reader care what happens to him or her – and he did it in spite of starting out with a reprehensible human being. Al is ultimately redeemed, but in keeping with Blake’s style, not in an overly sentimental way. He doesn’t experience a gigantic epiphany and suddenly become good. He does what normal people do. He changes slowly.

I firmly believe Russell Blake will become a literary force, like Elmore Leonard or Walter Mosley. In the meantime, I’ll support him by purchasing his books and, as a writer, I will pay attention to his skill. It’s massive.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Having a Split Personality

All week I’ve been noticing a strange phenomenon. When I log onto Twitter as WritingGroove I say totally different things and react to dissimilar tweets than I do as RedMojoMama. Likewise, I’m not nearly as funny on this blog as I tend to be on Red Mojo Mama Musings. Writer gal is perhaps witty, but more serious.

Although, it was my intention to have two different agendas, I am so totally surprised at the reality of it. I created the two separate monikers because I wanted to be able to express writer stuff to other writers and the stuff of life to everyone else, including writers. I knew I had a separate message for writers than the general Twitterworld and wanted to detach the two so as not to bore the non-writers completely (which I have a tendency to do in real life if I go on and on about writing.)

So, I intentionally created my split personality. Yet, it feels a little odd sometimes. I can almost feel myself mentally putting on my imaginary writer’s outfit – granny skirt, Indian print tunic and my dangliest earrings – when on this side. WritingGroove is much more philosophical than RMM and interested in how creating is going, both on Twitter and on this blog.

Now, Red Mojo Mama wears flashy clothes in bright colors, often red. She wears dangly earrings, too, but they are more about sparkle that artistry. She’s always up for a joke, lives life ferociously within her means to do so and has more energy than WritingGroove. RMM is obviously the author of the character, Lydia, who is RMM in the book by the same name.

If truth be known, Lydia “Red” Talbot is everything the author wants to be. She’s brave, feisty, kick-ass and strong. I, WritingGroove, admire her, too, but I’m more cerebral. If that last sentence seemed a little strange, it is and that’s what I’m talking about. I belief the split is now complete.

Soon, I’ll be launching a third personality to support a business I’m jumping into. I haven’t thought up a name yet and she’ll be completely invisible to my current friends on Twitter as well as locally based. Still, I worry that with the impending three-way split, I’ll further divide and begin to act distinctly different out in the real world.

Ah, well, that is in the future. For now, I’m still me – complete and whole – when I log off. I think.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Encouraging Other Writers

I have been given several gifts as I’ve explored my path towards writing fulfillment. Let me tell you about two.

I had been playing around at writing since my late husband, Pete, and I were married in 1982. In 1988, we had bought our first home together and there were four bedrooms, one for each kid, our master bedroom and a fourth that we wondered what to do with. It was Pete who insisted that it should be my writing room.

I still didn’t sit down and write very often. One Saturday morning, he led me from the bedroom, still in my nightgown, to the writing room and firmly said; “Now I’m going to make breakfast and bring it to you. I’ll bring you lunch. Except for potty breaks, you can’t come out until you’ve written 10 pages.” And then he pushed me gently towards my IBM Selectric typewriter.

I wrote that day - 11 pages. After that: I wrote nine screenplays, we bought a computer, I placed highly in a contest and gained two offers from agents, settling on one, met with all kinds of Hollywood people. Nothing sold and I moved on – BUT I had started writing for real, instead of just talking about doing it. I will always treasure this gift my Pete gave to me.

Secondly, years later I was struggling to write again and a very kind woman gave me a copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book is geared towards bringing out the artist who resides inside us through simple means – so simple it seems too simple at first. But it works so well. Shortly after receiving this book, I sold a romance to Woman’s World for $1,100 and finally thought – “My God, I am a writer.”

So, I’ve made it my mission in life to encourage other writers to start or stick with it. I meet people who so obviously have a writer buried inside that it’s almost painful to view. If I don’t have the means to give them the book at that time, I at least give them the information so they can get it themselves.

But as writers, we all know, this is a delicate state of mind – the writing doesn’t always want to come. Our muse has left temporarily. This is when we need each other the most. So, if you spot a fellow writer that needs a push or a helping hand – give it. It’s the least we can do in return for our own gifts.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Finding a Balance Between Marketing and Creation

Whether you’re an Indie author or going the traditional route, there’s a lot of marketing you must do – both of yourself as a writer and your material. If it’s not building a social media platform, it’s sending queries out to agents and publishers. This is actually true of most artists - if they want to sell their work.

I’ve found, lately, that aside from blogging, I haven’t written much. I’ve mostly been involved in marketing my first novel, Red Mojo Mama, then my second book, Tell Them You’re Fabulous. When I’m not doing that I’m trying to make connections and build my own social media platform. At first I chastised myself for not writing enough. This past week I’ve finally realized that this is a necessary step for me.

I don’t know about you, but between my day job, where I’m forced to put on a professional business hat, and the self-promotion I do nights and weekends, it’s hard to switch gears into the creative mode. So, I spend many hours on Twitter or making changes to my Facebook page, and at the end of the day, writing is the last thing I can get my mind around.

That’s okay. For the moment, I’m just staying in touch with the next book. I still have a compilation of short stories to publish over the next two weeks - then I’ll have three books online. I’m making friends and adding followers on Twitter and each one is a precious resource and well-spring of joy. I’m having the best time.

But I’m also doing business the old-fashioned way – putting a product out there and shaking hands (figuratively) with people I think might like it or may let someone else know about it. I am creating the life I want to live – as a freelance writer without an obligation to a day job.

So, if you find you are busily creating your own world and temporarily neglecting your writing, take a mental tally. Is this the thing you are supposed to be doing right now? Maybe so. Once you’ve made your mark – carved a place for yourself – I’m willing to bet your efforts to write will come more into balance with your marketing endeavors.

As I wind up this current project of publishing my third book, I can already feel the artistic juices flowing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Writing from the Heart

I’ve learned a lot about being a writer over the years, but there’s one lesson I have to reconfirm, over and over. That’s because this lesson requires courage.

Recently, I posted on my other blog about sensing my late husband around me. I wavered for days about posting this because, frankly, it was very intimate and that’s scary. I was writing from the heart – laying it all out there – and rejection of that would have hurt.

As usual in these cases, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Others have shared their own experiences of feeling the presence of someone who has passed on. I can’t tell you what great joy that gave me. But again, I had to be reminded of the truth: when you write from your heart it will always turn out okay, even what’s bad is good.

I’ve read some authors that were truly tough to read but their work was redeemable because I could find truth within and truth is treasure. Writing from the heart results in your truth being revealed.

Again, rejection is what makes it so tough to do. You have just bared your soul to your readers. What if they reject you? Every man jack of us is afraid of that, no matter how tough an exterior we project to the world. But here is the reward – if you can bear to expose yourself you will ultimately create something good.

When I began writing Red Mojo Mama I was afraid of being too fluffy. What would people think? Would they realize I know that this is just a fun read? Would they judge me as a lightweight? Then one day, while I was laughing out loud at what I was putting on the page, the dam burst and I thought “What the hell! I’m having fun. This feels good. This is what writing is all about.” And I gave up my fear and wrote. God, it was fun.

So, if I could pass on just one tip about writing it would be this - get past your fear and write from your heart. It will pay you (and your readers) dividends in the end.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Writing is a Lot Like Living in an RV

I love analogies! It’s my favorite way to explain things. Last night I had a profound realization: for me, writing is a lot like living in an RV.

Wanda, my home, is a 23-foot RV. I took up residence three and half years ago. I moved into her from a 3-bedroom home. Doing so meant giving up enormous amounts of stuff, some useful, some simply sentimental. This is exactly what’s required in rewrite.

So, I started rewriting my life. In the process, I found that the things I used regularly needed to be easily accessible, so I put them where I could get to them without much thought or effort. Exactly the same as making some layers of plot and character completely obvious.

Other things, like tax paperwork, photo albums, old writing samples, winter clothes, got stuffed into distant corners and overhead compartments. This is also how I treat the complex points of a story, the plot twists, the deeper aspects of characters.

At the end of the day, however, I have 2’ by 8’ of floor space. When I stand in the middle of Wanda’s interior, it’s only one or two steps from any part of her. This is how I like to write; simple, concise, mostly easy to understand, occasionally requiring extra work.

It’s also the way I like to read. I’ve recently tried to read some of the more difficult classics and authors that are brilliant, like James Joyce, but honestly, I failed – probably because I couldn’t gain access to their deeper meaning. An analogy – their old Victorian home had too many rooms and too much in the attic for my taste.

So, in reality, for me – moving into Wanda was practice for honing my craft.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Excellence Does Exist in Indie Publishing

I’ve read about 10 books written by independently published authors over the past month and I’m very proud to say there is quality to be found.

Let me say, right up front, my novel Red Mojo Mama, is not heavy lifting. It is fluffy, fun reading with perhaps a few precious moments. So, I’m not judging this from the POV of a “great author.” Not even a little bit.

But, I’m a voracious reader and have been all my life. Before I started tweeting, I flew through 3-4 books a week. Unless you’re an idiot, if you read that much you have to come away with the ability to recognize when you’ve encountered something extraordinary. So, far – that has happened twice since I bought my Kindle.

The first such experience was halfway through The Killing of Train-Man Brown, a short story by Will Bevis – available on both Amazon and Smashwords. Within the first few moments, I was invested in the narrator and seconds later I was captured by Train-Man himself. Drawing a reader in that quickly is phenomenal and extremely difficult to do. The tale then took me through a life – two really – lived in one time and changed by another. I was amazed, saddened and in the end heartened again by Train-Man – the man and the story. It was 30 minutes of pure joy.

Next I discovered Suffer the Little Children by Christina Carson. In no time, I was attached to Nannie and the child she takes on, Little Bit. How their story unwinds and the changes that come to the both of them are nothing short of gripping and magical. Perhaps spiritual is a better word than magical, but at different moments both seemed the perfect word. Carson has created a novel that entertains and changes the reader. You will become a better person, if you read and absorb just a small part of the world she presents.

I write this piece for a single reason – in defense of Indie authors. We have been bashed by the publishing industry – both originally as we attempt to gain the attention of an agent or publishing house and afterwards, when so often, the impression is given that this body of writers “couldn’t make it.”

This is SO not true. These are just two examples of writers that should not have been overlooked. I don’t know that they ever submitted through traditional means, but that’s rather irrelevant. The fact that I’ve read so much traditionally published material that is pure tripe supports the conclusion that Indie authors have nothing to be ashamed and everything to be proud of.

After all, we took a chance on ourselves. We made our dreams come true. And a few of us are incredibly good writers. Stand and applaud for Will Bevis and Christina Carson. They can be our standard bearers until we have a Academy of our own!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Newly-found World of an Indie Author

Four months ago, I promised to tell folks what my self-publishing experience was like as I went along. Yeah…no. I didn’t do that, mostly because I got so caught up in it I forgot all about this blog…and much of the rest of the world.

Here’s just a bit of what I’ve found:

· Getting a print copy of your book published and printed on Amazon is incredibly easy and can cost at little as $.00 (excluding the cost of buying copies of your own book). I spent $150 to upgrade to Professional and to buy my ISBN number.

· Getting a Kindle copy published on Amazon is even easier and completely free.

· I’ve also tried Smashwords for other eBooks. This wasn’t as easy and I’ve had zero sales on Smashwords.

· I floundered around for a while, selling hard copies to friends and family, and a few online. Also a few Kindle copies sold. I tried several ideas for marketing – none worked – then I bought a Kindle.

· The minute that happened I got a promotional email from Amazon for a book by John Locke called “How I sold 1 million eBooks in 5 months!”

· I bought the book, my first Kindle book – for just $4.99 and my world expanded. Buy the book and you’ll understand why.

· It’s impossible to explain exactly what happened, without writing a book myself, but I can say I now have a successful blog – nearing 1800 views in the past month.

· Twitter is best thing I’ve discovered – to promote my blog and therefore my book.

· In one month, my book sales increased 1600%.

I also discovered how much I love to blog. So, I’ve reactivated this blog – to be strictly about writing. My other active blog right now “Red Mojo Mama Musings” is to express feelings and thoughts about the world.

If you are a writer on the cusp of becoming an Indie author – a new phrase I discovered as well – I hope you buy the Locke book to give yourself a fair idea of what must be done and I hope you’ll stop by occasionally and see what I’ve found out.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Art of Storytelling

Two perspectives on storytelling have always irked me a bit. One is the distrust some people have of anyone who can tell a story well and likes to do so; fearing that they are lying in some way. Another is the individual who can’t tell what good storytelling is and often launches into the most boring and minute details while telling you a “good story.”

I just finished reading Pat Conroy’s 2010 novel “South of Broad.” It is definitely a well-told tale; part love letter to the city of Charleston, South Carolina and part the epic adventures of some high school misfits, who remain friends into their varied and often tragic adulthoods.

I truly enjoyed the read, although, as famous and acknowledged a writer as Conroy is, I found myself chafing occasionally at the dialog of supposed teenagers and frequently at the horrors they all endure together and separately.

The true nugget of the novel, for me, was one passage that completely illuminated what good storytelling is; a snippet near the end of the book.

“While she inspects the house, I spot a lone magnolia blossom high in one of her trees and scramble up to retrieve it, feeling older with every branch I climb. I break off the flower, the first of the season, inhale its sweetness, and decide it was worth the climb. I hand it to Mother and am delighted when she pins it to her hair.”

This is the main character Leo King describing a moment between him and his mother. Here’s where the true craft of storytelling comes in: the women never claws through her purse for a hairpin or rushes back into the house to find one. In one fell swoop, Leo hands the flower to his mother and she pins it in her hair.

Such a thing could not happen in real life. There she would have to find a means of pinning that flower to her hair. As readers, we do not want to be dragged through the tedium of that task and so we accept the movement from hand to hair, just like that. That’s how we prefer it.

It is not a lie, in any shape or form; not even by omission. It is simply the grit of actual living that has been culled from the moment. It’s also necessary. If we told the truth – in all its tiresome itemization – a story would never be told, a novel never written. All forms of narrative would be far too long, and we would fall asleep in the telling, both teller and listener.

Praise be for the great storyteller! For eons, around the campfires of old, in the courts of kings and before the television screens we have embraced this gift, without always acknowledging that it is at the core of our being – either to tell a story or to listen to one.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Next Great Adventure – Self-Publishing

I, like every other writer, have long heard all the negatives about self-publishing. It was almost enough to put me off of the idea, but things have changed in the marketplace and it’s time to rethink a few things.

First, there has always been a stigma to being a self-published author - with good reason. There are a lot of crappy self-published books out there. However, the still-prevalent feeling that if you can’t interest an agent or publisher in your book it probably isn’t publishable is no longer true – for a couple of reasons.

The prospects for a successful book, whether fiction or non-fiction, is much reduced over a decade or so ago. With the advent of the computer age, slowly printed books have taken a dive, and most recently that dive has been off the proverbially cliff. Bookstores, our traditional outlet for reading material, are suffering badly, and not just the Mom-and-Pops. Borders filed for bankruptcy last month, in spite of rumors of a planned acquisition of Barnes and Noble.

Being a former journalist, I’m more than aware of the decline of print news media. It appears that all printed reading material is now being challenged by the vastly available online products or the electronic readers.

So, what’s a writer to do? Well, how about jumping into the mix instead of standing hopelessly on the outskirts of successful publishing, wishing and waiting for the tide to turn your way?

That’s my plan. Instead, of continuing to collect very positive rejections from the agents who’ve read my manuscript, “Red Mojo Mama”, I’ve decided to offer it as both a Kindle and Amazon Print-On-Demand book. Then I’ll branch out to the other electronic reader outlets.

I have the same plan for two non-fiction books I haven’t even attempted to market to agents – “Leases, Landlords, and Locations” and “Tell Them You’re Fabulous.” I’ve spent so much time and energy on breaking through the maze of traditional publishing; I hadn’t had the time to pursue marketing these two books yet.

Here’s the thing – we writers hold on to our completed projects like they are the last thing we’ll ever do. “Red Mojo Mama” is just the first novel I’m truly satisfied with and want others to read. There are so many other novels inside me fighting for my attention. As I’ve waited for Red to hit, I’ve become immobilized – a waste of time and energy. I’m not giving up my dream of being the next big Random House author – oh, no. Instead, I’m moving forward, hoping for some small success and writing again. I want to do a trilogy of books based on Lydia “Red” Talbot, my heroine and hope that someday all three will be picked up. But in the meantime, if I can get 150 people to read Red and fall in love with Lydia, it’s all good; anything more than that will be a huge success in my mind.

So, I’ll chronicle my experience, here on the blog, and hopefully it will be so positive that others will choose to give it a shot. I’ve got books coming – from Amazon – that will help me to market my books on social media sites and in other ways. So, I’ll pass along any tips I can.

All you aspiring authors – stay with me. It promises to be an exciting ride.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

You're a Writer If...

…you write. I’ve known quite a few writers who have hesitated to identify themselves as such. Why? Well, because they are under the mistaken impression that you must have been published to be a legitimate writer. Really?

Ever heard of a guy named Van Gogh? He never sold a painting in his lifetime. Does that mean he wasn’t a painter? I can almost hear the “yeah, buts” out there.

It’s as simple as that. There are varying degrees of accomplishment as a writer, but all that’s required is that you write in order for you to call yourself one - legitimately.

I recommend to friends that feel uncertain about their status to buy themselves some business cards with the title on it. You may prefer another designation – like wordsmith, which I’m fond of – but it is truly amazing how seeing a title behind your name gives you validity, silly but true.

Buy some business cards and see what I mean.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Writing About the Worst Things

Why is it that when I’m going through tough times I cannot write? Not even about the events that are happening. I can’t seem to use my power of communication with myself.

This drives me completely crazy. Perhaps, I need to view it as if I’m speaking to someone else, like I do when I blog – write a letter to an unseen audience, just don’t publish it.

Whenever I’m writing to the world in general, I can speak my mind, say what I have to say quickly, expediently and I think, meaningfully. So, as I write out my problems, I think I’ll begin to express myself to you – my invisible friends. Yet, you’ll never know.

I think, sometimes, that I might avoid writing about issues because nothing is more real to me than things that are written. If it hits paper or a medium like this – a blog - for me, it exists; at least in the author’s mind. By avoiding putting it in words, I pretend something doesn’t exist.

This is probably the exact opposite of how most people see it. Written words are fantasy or unreal to so many others.

But, I’m lucky. I have the ability to express myself without too much effort or pain. Why should I deny myself this tool? When I’m working through a situation, I find I dream solutions all the time. So, I’ve obviously adapted a way to tell myself what I need to know. Yet, a writer writes.

So, I vow here and now, to communicate with myself when times get tough. I will force myself to journal daily. I’ll sit down to Toby, my computer, and let the clarity come. I think it may be a sign of maturity as a wordsmith (my favorite term lately) to have realized this flaw and move forward on addressing it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Boredom Can be a Good Thing for Writers!

I read a Harlen Coben novel over the past weekend and there was a passage in it that rang true for me. In fact, I thought, “At last, someone else has put it into words.”

The idea is that for at least some creative types a lack of stimulation is a good thing. The brain settles down and then the thoughts and ideas raise to the surface and insist on attention.

I gave up having a television about three years ago. It has been the best thing I’ve ever done for my writing. The hours that were spent in mindless entertainment over the years are ones I’ll never get back. It’s not until the quiet seeps in that I find my muse. I still curl up with a book, sometimes for a full day, but when I close it I’m ready to continue with words – this time the writing of them.

I just watched the film “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly”, a true story of the 42-year-old editor of Elle magazine who has a stroke and is paralyzed except for the ability to control one eye. A therapist devises a way for him to communicate using blinks and he then proceeds to write a book about his experience. Yes, he wrote a book with just the use of one eye. Amazing.

However, part of the will to complete a project like that came from being trapped inside himself, alone with his thoughts. That’s actually the same state, only mentally, of course, that I’m talking about here. The activity of the brain is heightened because it’s the only thing going on.

Stimulation is not a bad thing. It is the womb of ideas. However, often an artist doesn’t have any lack of ideas, rather the will and strength to focus on one long enough to see it to fruition. Allowing a sense of restless boredom in can be just the thing to kick start a writing spree. At least for me.

And I was so happy to have Harlen agree!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I Have Logophilia and It’s Incurable

Before you panic – and I know you were almost there, trying to decide whether this requires a gift or maybe a card would be sufficient – logophilia is the love of words. Boy, do I have it and bad!

I’ve always loved words as far back as I can remember. In the fifth grade, I fell in love with pugnacious. The sound of it thrilled me. I would find any excuse I could to use it in a sentence - “You sure are pugnacious, today!” For those of you who aren’t crazy for words, pugnacious means ready to fight, combative. It wasn’t that easy to work into daily conversation without starting a fight myself, especially at age 11.

I moved on to tintinnabulation, a word created by Edgar Allan Poe, to describe the ringing of bells. Say it. It does, indeed, sound like bells pealing their musical sounds. And it’s very fun to say. So, in Junior High, I ran around saying tintinnabulation like everyone knew what it meant. I got some very strange looks.

Today, I’m a writer who rarely uses words beyond the scope of the average reader. I write very simply and I find myself annoyed by writers who will throw in a perfectly good, but seldom used word in the middle of a very prosaic sentence. Oops, there I go. I just did it. But, hey, I love prosaic – meaning dull or ordinary. I was listening to a news story on NPR this morning and the reporter referred to Congress as recalcitrant. How many listeners did he lose with that one?

Anyway – my love of words hasn’t diminished but rather increased. Only now, I don’t go around flaunting my beautiful, melodic expressions to just anybody. More often than not, I hoard them; sounding them out in my head or saying them out loud in the privacy of my own home. The interior of my car is splattered with the invisible remains of linguistic sounds I tossed out while driving just to hear them and for no other reason.

I told you. It truly is incurable.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Life in Three Stages

I believe most people would recognize that we live our lives in stages in many senses; each stage defined by sociologists, psychologists, our parents and their parents, basically the world outside our own selves.

I recently had an epiphany, which relieved my mind greatly. I was struck in a flash by the distinct stages of my own life as defined by myself.

I realized that if I were to divide my life so far, at the age of 59, into parts that were clearly on one path, it would divide fairly close to thirds. Until the age of thirty, I would say I had spent most of my life without direction, in pain and basically screwing up everything. This was my infancy.

From thirty to sixty- or 59 to be more exact - I have been in the process of finding myself, growing and becoming a personality that is individual. I am now clearly my own person, unafraid to declare my beliefs and more importantly, fearless in pursuing my one true passion – writing.

I’ve spent sometime beating myself up for taking so long to get here. But the truth is I wasn’t ready to write anything substantial until a few years ago. A story had to be about something other than what I knew because to write about what I know – as everyone says you must – I would have revealed too much of myself. Even to me.

So, now I’m set for the last third of my life, during which I plan to do what I do best – write – and pursue another great love in my life – travel. These are to be the top priorities as I cruise through the best stage life has to offer – what I’m calling my True Blue period.

We all develop differently. I am not a prodigy – that’s for sure. But I’m not a failure either, because I’m not yet done with trying to secure my success in the one thing that matters to me – writing. I guess I’m a late bloomer. Picturing myself as a bulb that’s been lying dormant for years, finally gathering enough nutrients and water to push through the ground and at last bloom into a beautiful tulip – my favorite flower – is somehow warming to my soul.

Whatever stage you’re in, may you soak up everything you can and enjoy as much of it as possible.