Weekly Roundup 8-22-18 Caring About Your Characters

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

Creating characters readers will love has a downside in that I grow to love them too. They become something like my own children whom I want to see happy and successful. So what’s the problem?

In my current manuscript, Traitor’s Moon, it became evident early on some of the characters would die. I knew I would have to handle it carefully or risk damaging the story arc and alienating my readers. As much as I want all the good guys to live long and prosper and the bad guys to bite the dust, the story demanded an injection of stark realism. Theoretically it sounds easy enough, but I had no idea it would be so emotionally difficult!

The real kicker is that I haven’t even written this part of the book, and yet I’ve already lost sleep and agonized over what I knew I had to do. Mind you, no major MC’s are involved this time, but the loss will still be wrenching. When I’m writing, and my emotions are engaged, I’m fairly confident my readers will be touched in the same way. This is a good thing of course, but it makes for some very uncomfortable moments as the tears fall and I get all choked up.

Is it reasonable, or even normal, to be so passionate about something which isn’t real? These people don’t even exist for heaven’s sake, so why all the fuss?

As a writer who creates characters out of whole cloth, I can tell you I am emotionally invested in their lives and well-being. If it were otherwise, readers wouldn’t be able to identify with them and the story would fall flat. To be quite honest, I often prefer their company over the flesh and blood beings all around me. So when something bad happens to my loved ones, I’m going to grieve and cry without shame, and hope my readers do too.

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  • Current manuscript: I hit a bump in the road this week with chapter seven of Traitor’s Moon. It’s a common occurrence for me to underestimate how many words it will take to get from point A to point B. There were, I thought, just a few quick threads to cover before the highly anticipated attack scene and its aftermath. I was wrong. The story insisted on telling itself, and I had to follow along obediently or lose some great content. Anyway, those few quick threads became the entirety of chapter seven, meaning the aforementioned scenes will now be featured in chapter eight. Word count now stands at 54,000+.
  • Have a look at some of the great reviews I’ve received this week for Expectant Moon!

“Wow. Just wow. This book was wonderfully written, a ton of fun to read, and the plot was great. I seriously haven’t gotten this much enjoyment out of a book in a long time. I read it through kindle unlimited but liked it so much that I’m buying it. I just have to have this for my permanent collection.”

“OMG, what a wonderful amazing imagination in this book!!! I can’t wait to read the second in this series. Amazing twists and turns.”

“Wow, wow, wow. Absolutely took my breath away…amazing, beautiful, delightful, intense, naughty, and I loved every moment. You Rock!”

  • I love hearing what my readers have to say about my books, as it affirms my work and motivates me to keep writing. I can’t tell you how many times I have been discouraged, only to be uplifted by a great review or friendly email. As a rule, I usually only leave reviews if I can give the author four or five stars. If you feel the need to give a book three or less, consider contacting the author directly to share your concerns, instead of leaving a scathing review. Words have great power so be careful!
  • Bumper stickers are rare these days, but everybody seems to have a T-shirt with something on it. Check these out:

“In my defense, I was left unsupervised.”

“Patience is a virtue, It’s just not one of MY virtues.”

“I turn beer into pee. What’s your superpower?”

“No need to repeat yourself, I ignored you just fine the first time.”

“Some days the supply of curse words is insufficient to meet the demand.”

“I thought growing old would take longer.”

“If I was a bird, I know who I’d shit on.”

“Being cremated is my last hope for a smoking hot body.”

Weekly Roundup 8-15-18 My Publishing Anniversary!

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

art-bright-celebrate-1229838By Rudolf Kirchner on Pexels.

WOO HOO! One year ago I became a published author! It’s been an incredibly busy time of growth, change, excitement, and, yes, discouragement. Though I’ve learned an awful lot, it’s obvious I have much further to go and wonder when, or if, I’ll ever arrive. It isn’t just the constantly changing nature of publishing, but the deep pool of knowledge an author needs to run the business side of things. Self-publishing is not for the faint of heart, and I can’t even imagine trying the traditional route!

One of the reasons I spent a year writing before any attempt to publish was the sheer number of things I needed to learn. I came very close to giving up when I realized how complicated and time-consuming it was. The process would have been far easier and more pleasant if I’d had a mentor to guide me and answer questions. l still wish I had some fellow authors I could talk to when I need to vent or ask advice.

At the beginning, my sales figures were the primary driving force, and I was riding high for a while – until Pronoun closed up shop. Sales tanked after that and I am nowhere near where I’d like to be. Once more, I seriously considered calling it quits, but made a commitment to stick it out for two years before making that kind of decision. In the meantime, I had to find an other source of motivation and settled on two things:

  1. I love to write.

I have tons of ideas for future stories; so many in fact I don’t think I’ll live long enough to ever see them all published. Writing is so fulfilling and downright fun I simply MUST keep going!

  1. Readers enjoy my work.

Even though sales are slow, I realized it wasn’t because my books were bad. I’ll probably never be famous or rich, but I believe I have something to offer and feedback from my readers tells me I’m on the right track.

My goals for the next year include improvement in the mechanics of writing/editing and more effective marketing. Meanwhile, each book will be better than the one before it and adds to my back list. Perhaps I’ll get a lucky break and win an award or be offered a movie deal! What?! I can dream can’t I?

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Current manuscript:

Progress has been slow on chapter six of Traitor’s Moon. At this point of the story, I’m transitioning from the set up to the main action points and the primary romance. It’s tricky weaving all the threads together without leaving out anything important. I’m hoping to finish the chapter in the next day or two. Current word count is 46,000+ which is close to novel length and I’m only half done!

Quotes I liked:

“Too often do reviewers remind us of the mob of Astrologers, Chaldeans, and Soothsayers gathered before the “writing on the wall”, and unable to read the characters or make known the interpretation.” Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre, September 19, 1850.  (Well said, Charlotte. Some things never change!)

“The breathless voice belonged to a vivacious blonde. Her clothes screamed popular cheerleader. Perkiness seeped out of her pores in puke-inducing waves.” From Lone Wolf by Shelley Munro. (LOL. Can’t you just picture this person? How did she do it with only 23 words?? Thanks Shelley!)

Weekly Roundup 7-11-18 “The Visit” A blast from the past.

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

I ran across a bunch of stories and poems I wrote during my school days and chose “The Visit” to share with you today. This one was a 10th-grade English class assignment which I have never forgotten. Enjoy!

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The Visit

I never dreamed I would ever see my home again, but here I was twenty years later on my old street, my thoughts enveloped in times past. I rounded the curve and the full view of the old homestead shot out and drew my breath away.

Strolling up the walk to the door, I could almost feel the earth trembling with joy to see a familiar face. I turned and scanned the yard. Up ahead, the brick patio lay still and warped, obviously long in need of repair. Off to the left was my mother’s redbud tree. I recalled when the beautiful pink blossoms would burst into view each spring, bringing needed color to the just-waking earth. The large oaks, still rich in grandeur, which had graced our grounds throughout my childhood, were dropping their first leaves of the season. Many a year I remember raking their leaves into one huge glorious pile, and in a running leap, fall in childish ecstasy into the crinkly softness of the Autumn gifts.

Pausing before the door, I turned the knob and entered the familiar hallway, worn now from a million steps of past tenants. Slowly I closed the door and let my wandering memories once again renew themselves afresh. Stepping lightly into the living room, I could almost see us on Christmas morning, all sitting on the floor, sleepy-eyed and waiting for the signal form Grandma for us to start opening our gifts. “Ready, set, go!” she would say. Paper flew, and the room buzzed with oh’s, ah’s and thank-you’s. Along the bookcase would hang our stockings, stuffed with assorted goodies and fruit. We never had a fireplace to hang them on, but it didn’t matter much to us where we put them, just so long as they were filled.

I moved on through the dining room, kitchen and family room. The long-gone laughter of our young voices seemed to spring from the woodwork and draw from me a yearning to be young once again. Many times I had eaten, played, laughed, and of course cried in these rooms. Left now were only the cloudy remains of our times together, forever embedded in these walls which could not speak.

Slowly, reverently, I climbed the creaky stairs to the bedrooms above. Starting at the far end of the hallway, I opened a door and looked inside. Here was the first room I occupied as a child with my two older brothers. In the corner once stood our old wobbly bunk beds. I always had the top bunk, but in six years I only fell out of it once.

Opening each door seemed to break the seal on the closed reservoir of my memories. Every thought was relished, pondered, and loved, adding to the mounting joy in my heart. At last, I reached my room. As I peered inside from the doorway, every detail once there came to life. Tears mounted and rolled down my quivering cheeks as I began to fade quickly. For the last time, I looked upon the room I had lived, loved, and died in. You see, they only let you come back for forty-eight hours. I had to wait twenty years for my turn. I guess my time is up now…

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My teacher, one of the few nuns I liked, was primarily responsible for encouraging me to write. She really liked this story (I got an A+), saying: “Oh, tis a truly lovely composition. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s a heart-string tugger.” I’m sure she was just being kind, as it’s hardly an award-winner, but it has a special place in my heart.

My mother was an avid reader, and I must have presented her with everything I wrote, asking for her opinion. Clear as day, I recall her silence as she read the story, only to start crying at the end. What she never knew was how much time I spent as a child feeling unloved and alone. Secretly, I wished I could either run away or die so that my family would realize they loved me after all and would actually tell me so. That never happened, but the reaction I got from my mom was satisfying on some level. Returning home as a ghost in a story was the closest I ever got to sharing my true feelings.

Other things:

Traitor’s Moon – 25,000+ words and ready to start chapter four, which is mostly about Jack and William as they make an important visit to Arizona to retrieve some of Jack’s past.

Had a great idea to use in a future story which came to me out of the blue while I was at work. Of course, I wrote it down right away, and then spent the rest of the day thinking of ways to use it. Good for my books and distracts me from my job!

Finished a great book titled “Raver: The Horsecaller Book 1” by Candace Carrabus. This romantic adventure fantasy is hard to put down. I love an a author with a good imagination! Check it out HERE.

 

 

 

 

Reader Roundup 6-27-18 What? No Aliens?!

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

FINALLY! Someone in the scientific community has been brave enough to suggest what I have always believed – we are alone in the universe.

“Alien life should be everywhere. Yet, by all appearances, humanity seems to be flying solo in our galaxy, and perhaps the universe. Many solutions have been proposed to solve this riddle, known as the Fermi Paradox.

Researchers of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute have another answer. It’s likely intelligent life doesn’t exist at all, outside of Earth.

The researchers write that there is “a substantial ex ante probability of there being no other intelligent life in our observable universe,” and we shouldn’t be surprised if we fail to detect any signs of it. In other words, there is no need to speculate about the fate of aliens. It’s likely they’ve never existed.”  (See the full article by Michael J. Coren HERE)

Many people sincerely believe in the existence of extraterrestrials, and the news is filled with claims of alien craft sightings and abductions which serve to keep the speculative fires burning. Why? One reason may be the desperation to believe someone/something will come and rescue this planet from its own foolish inhabitants, bringing peace, prosperity, and a reversal of the damage we have inflicted on the earth.

Personally, I believe they are looking in the wrong place for such deliverance. I hate to break it to you but if such life existed, and was intelligent and powerful enough to travel from planet X for a visit, they would more likely see us as a pestilence to be removed or a food source. So, do you REALLY want them to find us??

So, whether or not they exist, why are aliens so often found in popular literature today? Because the mere possibility of alien life makes for great stories!

Strange beings from outer space add drama, excitement, interesting allies or enemies, and that Ohhh/Ewww factor, adding spice and fueling our imaginations. Good aliens often shame us for our reckless behavior while evil ones make us look good in comparison or give us someone to conquer. Any way you slice it, intelligent life forms from outer space provide a vast array of creative possibilities for interesting fiction. This is why I enjoy writing about them in my own books, not because I believe they actually exist.

OK – on to other things this week.

My birthday: yep, the only day of the year which belongs to me has come around once again, and no, I’m not going to tell you how old I am! If you want to give me a gift, buy my books or just send cash.

My current manuscript: I have finished chapter two of Traitor’s Moon! Word count is 15,000+ and so far I have added eight brand new characters to the series. In consultation with one of my devoted beta readers (thanks TC), I have decided to create a “Cast of Characters” list for both Expectant Moon and Traitor’s Moon. I don’t want the story to be confusing for my readers, so I’m hoping the list will help them keep track of everyone as they read.

Chapters one and two were mostly setting up the new story, so I’m looking forward to chapter three and the excitement and drama you’ve come to expect! Hang on Nolan, you’re in for a wild ride…

A great quote: “Miles had claimed, not even a week ago, that he could never be attracted to a man with such a stick up his ass. He was not happy to discover he might have been wrong. The only explanation was that Evan, like any decent mold, grew on you after a while.” Loved it! My thanks to Beth Bolden and her book “Bite Me” Kitchen Gods Book 1. Check it out HERE.

Have a great week, and I’ll see you on the 4th of July!

 

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 5-23-18

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

Two things have kept me busy this week: promoting Expectant Moon and thinking deep thoughts about BEAR, DRAGON, and CAT shifters.

As to the first, Expectant Moon has been well received so far and garnered ten five-star reviews. This makes me happy! A recent FREE promotion on FreeBooksy resulted in over 2800 downloads. This also makes me happy! Overall sales are not what I was hoping for. This does NOT make me happy! Until I figure out what I’m still doing wrong, I suppose I will have to be satisfied with whatever I can get. There’s a magic formula of “behind the scenes” tricks for selling on Amazon, and I don’t have it figured out yet. I honestly don’t think it’s the books themselves – it’s the cursed marketing which is giving me fits! Like many authors, managing the business side of writing is a time consuming, confusing, and often frustrating endeavor. I didn’t really sign up for this part, but I’m stuck with it now!

On to more pleasant things…

Now, who doesn’t want to think about shifters?? They are so COOL, and lend themselves to really interesting stories! Some of you are wondering why I am spending time on anything other than book 2 in my Gladstone Shifters series. I have been working on the outline and background material, but have not yet started writing the story because other ideas have been popping up in my brain and I cannot ignore them!

I have found it beneficial to stop and record new ideas whenever they reveal themselves. I always carry a small notebook and pen at work for furious scribbling when no one is looking. Often, I get great ideas while in the shower or on my way somewhere in the car. Even dreams have presented new ideas or helped me solve problems with a current manuscript. Sometimes it’s simply an interesting book title or a general idea I might want to use in the future. Other times, I get the entire story line in a flood and have to hurry up and record it  down before I forget.

The bears are on my mind because I am toying with a bear shifter story for either Christmas or Valentines day (you’re going to love it!). I have dragons on the brain right now because of a series of books I have been reading lately. They too will get their own story in the future – probably a series. Recent articles in the news regarding cougars and lynx got me all excited about cat shifters – particularly because they reside right here in the states.

For those readers who are waiting for more Science Fiction books, never fear! I have some great stories on the back burner, and have been adding new ideas all the time. Imagine vast ocean creatures waiting to get their tentacles on the humans who have invaded their planet. Hey – they just want to talk!

 

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.

 

 

 

The World I Like Best

I have always considered reading as a healthy way to escape for a while. One glance at the news gives ample reason to seek a temporary way to stop the real world and enter an imaginary one. Like a pressure valve, it enables me to face the sometimes harsh reality of life by being able to remove myself from it, even if only for a short time.

It was only recently I understood that writing the story serves a similar purpose for me. One of the perks of being an author is the opportunity to let my mind and imagination LIVE within the story I am creating. Even more, I get to influence each event and character to my liking. It satisfies a bone-deep desire to have mastery over something – anything – since real life gives only a fleeting illusion of any sort of control. It also compels me to keep going, since I miss the characters and the lives I’ve designed for them.

Writers, then, are doubly blessed – or cursed, depending on how you look at it. There is something deeply fulfilling about creating an imaginary world which is uniquely mine. The setting, characters, action, and outcome are all mine to fashion, and I relish in crafting a story in which I get the final say. Nothing in real life allows such complete creativity, enabling me to enjoy not only the worlds created by others, but the ones I craft myself. A double blessing indeed.