Weekly Roundup 9-5-18 Name That Character!

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Don’t be fooled – naming characters is more difficult than it would seem. Well, I think it should be if you’re doing it right.

Some authors insist on choosing unfortunate, distracting, or uncomplimentary names for their characters, making the story difficult to read or enjoy. You know the ones I mean:

  • a modern-day protagonist with a nineteenth century moniker such as Gladys or Herbert.
  • a sci-fi hero in the far future with a three-part name only a linguist can figure out.
  • a fantasy epic requiring a pronunciation guide for the MC’s (which, I am sorry to say, seldom helps).

I have my own set of “rules” for creating character names which takes additional time, but I believe it’s worth it. The main idea is to make them easy to pronounce, fit the time and place of the story, and match the character’s personality. The last thing I want to do is cause a reader to take a pass on the book because they can’t get past my attempt to be “creative”, cute, or mysterious.

If you think I’m simply being lazy, you may be right! For me, reading serves as entertainment, so I tend to reject books which force me to work hard to understand them – and that includes character names. I suppose I’m missing out on some great literature by being so picky, but life is short and my brain cells deserve a rest when I’m reading.

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This week has been strange as I began saying goodbye to co-workers and cut ties in preparation for my move. I will miss some people of course, but not the job, company, state, or city! I’ve been here almost four years but knew all along it would be temporary. I’m more than ready to get out of Dodge and start fresh in a new place. Moving is a pain, but being closer to my kids makes it worth the trouble.

I finished a crucial chapter of Traitor’s Moon and will spend today editing. It turned out differently than I planned, but I’m very pleased with it. The next chapter features a shifter memorial service, requiring a careful blend of human and paranormal elements to make it convincing. I look forward to the challenge! Word count is now 64,000.

My third grandchild was due on September first, and we are still waiting. The Doctor says everything is fine and my daughter-in-law is feeling good, but tired. Sadly for me, they live 1300 miles away (though the move will bring me 800 miles closer), so I have no idea when I will see the little one. Perhaps next week I’ll have good news to share!

 

Weekly Roundup 7-25-18 The power of reader feedback.

Weekly Roundup is an update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I received a delightful email from a reader this week! You may wonder why this is such a big deal, and to someone else it probably wouldn’t be. In almost a year’s time I have only received a handful of emails, despite encouraging my readers at every turn to contact me, and it makes my day every time.

I cannot speak for all Indy authors, but this one needs affirmation, encouragement, praise or plain old contact with another person. I want to know what they liked about one of my books or how it met a need or spoke to them personally. It boosts my spirits and motivates me to keep going amid the discouragements of life. It validates my efforts in the same way a stage performer feeds off audience applause.

Hearing directly from a reader is not the same as a review, which is usually addressed to fellow readers (unless the reviewer is particularly unhappy with the book!). When a stranger writes to me saying they enjoyed my work, it is humbling to know I made a positive difference in their life or at least provided some transitory enjoyment. Such powerful connections are a wondrous thing and should be celebrated!

Here’s the message I received from an 88-year-old gentleman from NY who appreciated my book Green’s Thumb.

“Hi! Just a note to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this particular book. Since my partner of 26 years died in 2009, I have become an avid reader of m/m romances. I did not meet the love of my life until I was 52, and just five years out of the closet, so am most appreciative of a novel that has more mature MCs. Most are in their 20s and 30s; okay, but not something with which I can easily identify any longer. So the story of Karl and Mitch was a great surprise and more to my taste. Even though I was never married, I identified with Mitch who was more my age when entering the relationship and suffered from the same inexperience. Thanks for this heartwarming story. I shall read it again.”

Wonderful! In my response, I shared that parts of the story were taken directly from my own life. It was great to see how the book meant something to him and met a need. I also told him I plan to include more silver characters in future stories, since older gay men are mostly ignored. The author of this email had no idea how much his simple communication would mean to me, probably assuming it was nothing special. Well, it was, and I am deeply appreciative.

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Update on current manuscript: Traitor’s Moon is gaining momentum! I’m part way through chapter five, having reached over 35,000 words. I’m having fun revealing more of Jack’s history, introducing new characters, and describing the drama surrounding Nolan and his mate. There’s so much more ahead for Gladstone, and I can’t wait to get it all written and to my readers. The feedback from early beta reading is very positive!

Age-Revealing Words!

I ran across an article the other day which reminded me once again of my age – not a pleasant topic of conversation considering my birthday is this week. Here’s a few words and phrases which will reveal your age:

Fuddy Duddy  – Just say “old fart” and you’ll be understood.

Dear John Letter – if you have to explain what a “letter” is, you can forget the “John” part.

Davenport – stick with sofa or couch to be safe.

Long-distance call – Ha! even the word “telephone” is fading, along with “operator” and “collect calls”.

VCR and Videotape – now inhabiting every antique store in the nation.

Little Black Book – hmmm….perhaps check your contacts list.

Wet blanket – I prefer party-pooper myself!

Making Whoopee – “hooking up” or the old standby “having sex” will get the idea across.

See the full article HERE if you need more!

Anyway, the issue, as it relates to my writing, is the challenge of creating believable dialog for characters who come from outside my own age group. Fortunately, I don’t write for children or young adults so most of my word/phrase choices are at least minimally understandable to my readers!

What can I say? I’m a product of my generation, which includes the way I speak and the words I use to communicate. Now don’t repeat this, but I enjoy utilizing uncommon words or phrases when possible to make the text more interesting. If my readers don’t know what something means, it’s easy to look it up and learn something in the process.

It is thought there are at least 250,000 distinct words in the English language, with 171,000 in current use and 47,000 on the obsolete list. What richness to draw from when writing! So, go head, choose a few antiques for your next book, story, or blog entry which no one uses any more. You can educate your readers AND rescue some perfectly good words from the “obsolete” list at the same time! You don’t want to be a party-pooper do you?

 

Reader Roundup 6-13-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Seems as though everyone and their mother is trying to sell me their book on how to be a successful author. Much of the material I’ve seen is repetitive, common sense stuff with little value. Allow me to share some helpful gems which are worth repeating – and I won’t even charge you for it!

  1. SLEEP. A consistent sleep schedule with 7-8 hours per night is essential to supply your mind and body with the energy and creativity you need. Shortcuts lead to lethargy, sluggish thinking, and a lack of productivity. No more excuses – DO IT!
  2. STOP. Stop writing before you are finished. What?? The best way to jump-start your writing the next day (and avoid writer’s block) is to stop before you complete the section/chapter you are working on. I find it very helpful to leave myself brief notes which include the things I still want to say, giving me grease for the wheels when I come back to it later.
  3. FORGET. Forget about the guilt if you can’t write something every single day! I work full time and often have days of zero writing. There are enough pressures on my time and psyche, so laying a guilt trip on myself is destructive and pointless. Yes, a serious author must remained committed to the task, but there’s no need to beat yourself up in the process.
  4. COLLECT. I’ve mentioned this before, but always be prepared to record ideas when they make themselves known. Just because you are on chapter one doesn’t mean you should ignore a great idea for chapter six or even the end of the book – or subsequent books if you’re doing a series. Write it down, send yourself an email, record it on your phone – whatever works for you. The point is not to let good ideas get away simply because they occur to you at an odd time. Once forgotten, they may remain so!
  5. EDIT. Go over your manuscript with a fine tooth comb, and then hand it off to a team of beta readers. Make corrections and then re-read the thing from start to finish to see what else you and the others have missed. Repeat as often as necessary to produce the cleanest possible product. If you cut corners here, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Readers will forgive occasional mistakes but they will not give your book(s) a second chance if it is riddled with errors.
  6. COVER. You must have an attractive cover if you expect people to seriously consider looking at your book. Even if your writing is top-notch and the manuscript has been carefully edited to within an inch of its life, you have one chance to grab their attention. Spending the time and money to do it right will pay for itself many times over. Remember this – many potential readers will initially see your book cover in a thumbnail size, so make certain it’s clear and eye-catching.
  7. BLURB. Writing a book description, or jacket blurb, is one of the hardest things an author must do. It has to be brief, yet catch and hold the attention of a potential reader within seconds. It ain’t easy! You are competing with hundreds of other books, and readers are looking at the cover, blurb and price to determine if they want to purchase. If you lose them right out of the gate, all your hard work on the manuscript will be for nothing. Personally, I use my beta readers to help me determine if the blurb is doing its job. If not, I write as many as necessary until they give me a thumb’s up.

There are probably a zillion other things I could mention, assuming I’m even aware of them myself, but this is a good start. The next step is marketing, which is a minefield each author must learn to navigate for themselves without losing limbs, and I’m not going to pretend I have it figured out. For now, focus on writing a great story and preparing it for publication, since that in itself is a huge milestone and worth celebrating!

Do you have tips and tricks to share? Comments/questions? Just want to say hello? I would love to hear from you! Click HERE.

***Update on my current manuscript, Traitor’s Moon. I finished chapter one today and am ready to move on to chapter two! This may not seem like such a big deal, but it’s an indication of real progress. I’m eager to write about new characters as well as old friends from book one who have an integral part in the story.

Reader Roundup 6-6-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I have an ongoing list of quotes I like, mostly so I don’t forget them but also to use in my writing. Some are funny, other serious, but all worth keeping. Today I want to share some of the humorous ones with you. Most of the citations are missing because I neglected to write down the source!

I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it left.  (Yep, that’s me!)

I’m as happy as a tornado in a trailer park.  (Been there – almost did that.)

Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.  (A good description of social media today.)

If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.  (Gotta keep my reputation intact.)

“Excuse me, excuse me for being so rude. It was not me, it was my food. Instead of staying way down below – it just popped up to say hello.”  (This little gem came from a co-worker years ago after I accidentally let one rip.)

I don’t mind coming to work…but this eight hour wait to go home is just bullshit! (I  don’t really think this way, but too many of my co-workers do!)

Perfect health: the slowest possible rate at which one can die.   John L. Hart  (Not exactly a great motivator for healthy living!)

Handle every stressful situation like a dog. If you can’t eat it or play with it, pee on it and walk away!  (This would be great if I could do it without getting arrested.)

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.   Albert Einstein  (He must have been referring to my job…)

Now it’s your turn. Send me your gems and I’ll see how many I can use in future books!

Questions/comments? Just want to say hello? I would love to hear from you! Click HERE.

 

Reader Roundup 5-16-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

Here are some of the books I’ve read or re-read recently:

The Xenogenesis Trilogy by Octavia E. Butler. The trilogy is made up of Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago. If you enjoy Post-Apocalyptic stories or Science Fiction (with aliens) you MUST read this trilogy! I’ve read these wonderful books so many times I’ve lost count, and I still enjoy coming back to them again and again. The author’s fertile imagination and storytelling ability are superb, and you will not be able to put them down!  Get it HERE.


The House by the River by Lena Manta. This Greek author weaves a tale of five sisters who feel stifled by their childhood home and succeed in making their way in the world. It isn’t all roses and happiness, and there are enough twists in the story to keep it interesting. The beginning of the book seems rushed to me, but the author has a lot of story to cram in, so it’s easy to overlook. Get it HERE.

 

Off the Old Head of Kinsale by Mike Enfield. Don’t allow the odd title of this gay romance put you off! It’s 1915, and Edmund finds himself on the RMS Lusitania, on his way to join the army as a Chaplain. David, the Steward assigned to his cabin, takes a fancy to the charming man under his care. When they give in to their mutual interest, the two seem destined for each other – but the war gets in the way. A very different read with an HEA I highly recommend! Get it HERE.

Reading brings so much pleasure, and I can’t imagine a world with nothing to read! Hmmm…maybe that’s a story idea I should look into.

 

Reader Roundup 5-9-18

Reader Roundup is a weekly update on what’s going on in my world. Welcome!

I have learned much since launching my first books last August. Many revisions have already taken place as I update/correct/improve the manuscripts, but there is always more to be done. Time is, as always, in short supply, so do I spend it writing new material or improving existing books? Some authors advise focusing only on new material, rather than wasting time on older work. I want to do both and hate having to make a choice!

This week, I put off starting on the second book in the Gladstone Shifters series to do some work on Green’s Thumb, which has already received significant revision. You see, a recent review caught my eye, and I took the reviewers words to heart (yes, I pay attention!). Later today I should have the manuscript in better shape and it will replace the version currently for sale. Now I have another problem – I want to expand the book!

A number of earlier reviews for Green’s Thumb made note of its brevity and “hurried” whirlwind romance, reducing its real-world credibility. I may or may not agree with that assessment, but I acknowledge the story could be improved by fleshing it out with more back story and additional interaction between the characters. Now that I recognize it needs to be done, where will I ever find the time to actually write it?

I already have readers demanding the next Gladstone Shifters book, so how can I justify delaying new material by going back and improving an older book? Not an easy decision, but I think I need to file my notes for Green’s Thumb for sometime in the future. The old adage “strike while the iron is hot” applies in this case, and I don’t want to lose the feel of the series or characters by allowing too much time to pass between books.

The quality of my writing increases with each book I write, so at some point I will be able to bring my earlier works up to speed while producing new novels which won’t need major post-published corrections. Until then, I have to figure out how to balance it all and keep everybody, including me, happy.

 

 

 

How Many Misteaks Can You Find?

Put on your spectacles and see if you can find all the errors in this ridiculous story! I have been keeping track of boo-boos as I read, and these were found in various eBooks and news reports. Some are garden variety errors, while others are truly cringe worthy. One thing is certain – if we don’t catch them our readers will. Have Fun!

It Never Seizes to Amaze Me

Darlene was passed indigent, woken up by the careless made careering around her room. The smelt of her breakfast tray repealed her, and she was weary of what the new cook might have sent up from the dinning room. The variating menu made her shutter as she took a cautious peak under the domed plate. She was conscience of the made watching her, champing at the bit to return to the safety of the kitchen. Trying a different tact, Darlene ignored the oppressing meal, righting it off as a lost cause.

“You may buddle up this mess ay ess ay pee and throw it in the wooden stove! If this is the cook’s idea of an aspirational meal, she is the hugest dumbie I have ever known.”

The abstracted made span around and left the room, closing the door. Her absents gave Darlene a chance to distress and consider her boaring life. Yes, her boardem grew huger every day, scaring her sole. She got up and glanced out the window at the rot iron fence around there small front yard. The eradicate heartbeat which kept her in this room made it difficult for her to gleam slithers of information about the outside world.

The few tit-bits she heard edged her on to escape the homely atmosphere, and she shunned upon the selfness of her family as they left her alone day after day. Her room was filled with interesting bobbles, but she dreamed of a latter to climb down from her perch or ascend through the crowds. But it was no use, as her feet were made of led and she was entirely too plaint. She would never be able to sew her wild oats in Silicone Valley, hunt a wildebeest, buy a cumber bun, or order something eatable from a resterant. What an opressing life!

(Hint – there at least 56 misspellings, incorrect usages, or non-existent words. How many did you find?)

Personal ethics in a Fiction story

I have written previously regarding my book, Second Chance Earth, but let me summarize quickly.

A ruined Earth is taken over by an alien presence who desires to cleanse and repopulate the planet. The people involved have no control over what the entity has already done or intends to do, yet try to make the best of the new life they have been given.

A recent 1-star reviewer has very insistently stated:

“…this is a horrifying tale of humanity giving up its freedom to become happy puppets for vastly superior aliens” and one which “tells of the utter brainwashing and destruction of the human spirit”.

The reviewer goes on to say “I am not sure if the author of this novel understands what he actually wrote” and that I “do not have a grasp of the ethical and psychological meaning of my novel”.

As discerning readers know, most post-apocalyptic literature is dark and disturbing by its very nature, so there should be no surprise when reading a book of this genre. I would also point out that this book is:

1. A NOVEL – “A long written story about imaginary people and events.”  Merriam-Webster

2. A work of FICTION – “Literature created from the imagination and not presented as fact.”  Britannica.com

3. A form of ENTERTAINMENT – “Something which holds the attention and interest of an audience or gives pleasure and delight.” Wikipedia

There isn’t a work of fiction anywhere which remains untainted by the author’s own value system, interests, beliefs or imagination, but no reasonable reader would expect everything presented on the page to be an actual statement of the author’s personal beliefs. If this were true, many writers of horror or murder mysteries, for instance, would need to be locked away to protect society!

I love my book, and believe it is a creative and interesting tale in which the survivors are controlled, but given the means to live pleasant and  productive lives. I doubt there are very many post-apocalyptic stories out there with the happy ending mine provides! Based on written reviews so far, the vast majority of my readers also love the book and do not believe the author is ethically or psychologically deficient.

Now – would I want to live in the world I described, under the control of such a powerful alien being – NO, I would not. In this, I agree with my ardent critic that the story could be seen as a “horrifying tale”. On the other hand, if aliens really were to take over the world, it is extremely unlikely they would have the slightest concern for our freedom or well-being. In such an encounter, we would be fortunate to survive at all, let alone do so in a pleasant manner.

At the end of the day, my book provides a bit of short-lived entertainment, not a treatise on morals or ethics, and certainly not a statement of my personal views. I am grateful most of my readers understand this and will continue to enjoy novels which appeal to their own imaginations. Long live fiction!

 

 

Where it All Started

My desire to write dates back to a 7th grade challenge given by my English teacher. A speech contest was coming up and we were all encouraged to enter. I cannot remember my personal motivation at the time, but it was probably a desire to boost my fragile self-esteem by finding something I was good at. It would never be sports or academics, and I had a terrible time making friends. I was a lonely, rudderless kid searching for a place in the world.

There were various themes from which the contestants could choose, and I selected to speak on Big Brothers/Big Sisters. I did my research, interviewed someone at the organization, and set about to write and memorize my speech. I recall how nervous I was that night, standing on the stage in front of a hundred strangers. The speech went off without a hitch, and I was flabbergasted to be awarded first prize! I don’t have that trophy any longer, but I kept it for years as validation.

From there I was emboldened to continue writing other things – mostly short stories, songs and poems. (I still have some of these, and might be persuaded to share them with you sometime if you ask nicely!) My new-found confidence spilled over into drama and music, as I finally found something  I could DO, something which reflected the real me. I never got over the nerves of performing in public, but I didn’t let it hold me back. Public speaking became a regular part of my life for many years, though my writing took a back seat until very recently.

In some ways, publishing my books is just as nerve-wracking as public speaking. It is difficult to leave my creations out there for all to see (and criticize). Reviews are both a blessing and a curse, since most authors tend to take negative criticism very personally – even though we are warned not to. I am learning to appreciate the feedback from my readers; even the ones who are unnecessarily vicious in their comments. I have learned much already, and my readers are helping me to be a better writer, editor, and businessman.

The learning curve has been steep, but I hope that a year from now, or ten, my books will be better in every way. Who knows? Perhaps I still have a chance to win a trophy or two.