Every Author Needs A Sounding Board

pexels-photo-247708

A great story begins with a fertile imagination, but developing that terrific idea into an equally terrific book involves a whole lot more. Perhaps your story lacks a whiz-bang ending or there’s an embarrassing hole in the plot. Maybe you’ve plotted yourself into a corner and can’t see a way out. Possibly, you wonder if anyone else will find the basic idea as interesting as you do.

The solution is easy – get yourself a sounding board. Several, if you can. Something magical happens when discussing ideas with another person. They see it with fresh eyes and their own unique mix of personality and experience. I’m not talking about a “professional”, simply someone who is well-read, trusted, and has a good imagination.

pexels-photo-1438084

Just the other day I presented a seed idea to one of my sounding boards (who happens to be a co-worker). Not only did she improve on the basic idea, she helped me nail down the major plot points, improve the ending, and gave me a lead-in to a follow up story in the series! I literally could not have done it without her help, and the story went from “cool” to “WOW” in three short conversations.

Everything I have published or am currently writing has been improved by my sounding boards. I don’t always take their advice or run with their ideas, but the simple act of discussing it opens up new paths to wander and concepts to explore. We communicate in person, on the phone, or via email and I love the way our interaction jump starts my creative juices! Since these are people I respect and trust, I feel safe sharing my struggles and new ideas. At the same time, they are happy to support my quest to improve and grow as a writer. Double win!

Don’t have any sounding boards? Ideally, you will want readers (not fellow writers) who are well-read in multiple genre’s, are supportive rather than pushy, and can be trusted to keep your wonderful ideas to themselves. They’ll save you time, improve your work, and stimulate your own creativity – so start looking!

Weekly Roundup – CELEBRATING INDIE AUTHORS!

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

pile of books

Sunday, October 13 is Indie Author Day – something well worth celebrating! While I have a great deal of respect for authors who choose the traditional publishing route, it requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and tenacity to land a book deal. Frankly, I can’t imagine ever joining their ranks, so indie author it is! Here’s what it means to me:

Exposure – I have the ability to actually publish my work right now, instead of sometime, maybe, in the future. Am I where I want to or need to be yet? No, but I have the freedom to grow and improve as a writer while putting my stuff out there. Traditional publishers aren’t going to allow that!

Control – This is important and I’m not willing to give it up. The work is mine and I choose what to write, when to write and publish, how to market it, and at what pace I can produce new work. With traditional publishing, the author has to relinquish an enormous amount of control to conform to someone else’s ideals, timetable, and goals.

Responsibility – Going it alone carries a heavy weight of responsibility. I consider it the price I pay for being an indie author, and yes, sometimes I wish I had the money to hire out some of the more onerous tasks. But you know what? The joy of publishing my work and receiving feedback from readers makes it all worthwhile.

I have a simple theory regarding who I am as an author and what kind of books I currently produce. There are three categories: Walmart, Target, Macy’s. Right now, I’m a Walmart author, but getting better with each book. Within a couple years I expect to graduate to Target, and if I keep at it long enough, I may reach the Macy’s level and we can talk about a traditional publishing deal. Meanwhile, I’m happy with who I am and what I’m learning. The most important thing is that I have a creative outlet for my stories and readers who enjoy my work. Being an indie author makes it possible, and I’m more than OK with that.

Want to join in the celebration? Here are a few ideas:

  • Buy an indie book. You’ll encourage the author and perhaps find a new favorite.
  • Leave a review. If you normally skip ’em, make an exception for indies.
  • Send an email. You have no idea how much it means to hear from readers.
  • Spread the word about your favorite indie via social media, bog posts, book share sites, or word of mouth. 

**********

What I’m working on:

  1. Dragon Rescue (book 5 in the series). Yep, I’m still trying to finish up the manuscript. It’s turned out to be much longer than anticipated, and may end up as a novella. The difficulty is my writing time has been severely curtailed by long work hours and exhaustion. Plus, I’m gearing up for another move in early November. As with the first four books, Dragon Rescue will appear in serialized format on my blog as soon as I can manage it.

 

  1. I have a great idea for a gay romance series involving senior characters! Everybody celebrates youth, vigor, and hot action between the sheets, but the reality is there are many older gay men looking for love. They still have a lot to offer the right person, and I want to address that need with a series of humorous stories with HEA’s. I think they would be well received.

 

  1. The collection and refinement of ideas for a new fantasy series is an ongoing process. While each installment will be novelette length, I intend to publish them as collections. I can’t tell you much more without revealing secrets, but this project will probably follow the publication of  Rise of the Draman.

 

  1. Somewhere in the murky future I want to release my books as print on demand through Draft2Digital. I can still do that and remain in Amazon’s Kindle Select program for eBooks. Do I expect to make a lot of money? No, but giving readers a paper option is important to me and broadens the reach of my books a little more. I don’t have the time to deal with it right now, but I’ll get there.

Weekly Roundup 12-12-18 Jump-starting Your Creative Flow

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

Sometimes the well of creativity and imagination runs dry and it’s up to you to find a fresh source. There are many ways to get the juices flowing again, but it may not be from the comfort of your favorite chair. Great material is all around us if we are paying attention, so try these the next time you need new ideas or inspiration:

  • Conversations – go ahead and eavesdrop at work, home, or the grocery store. The breadth of topics is astonishing.
  • The news – always full of colorful characters and interesting story ideas.
  • Dreams – sounds crazy I know, but as your brain cleans house every night you may pick up an idea or two. Keep pen and paper on the nightstand to record them before they disappear!
  • Books – you aren’t the only one with good ideas, so feel free to borrow from other writers (not in a plagiaristic sense of course!)
  • Entertainment – movies, concerts, TV, even your 5 year old’s school play.
  • People watching – go to the Mall or search your favorite magazines to find your next hero, romantic character, or bad guy.
  • Advertising – there are signs everywhere and many are clever or amusing. Churches, businesses, yard signs, billboards, and posters abound.
  • Change of Venue – get out of the house on a regular basis. Try visiting a library, cafe, park, museum, Botanical gardens, aquarium, pet store, or even a subway ride.

Sometimes the greatest story ideas come from a single word, a new face, or a familiar smell, jump-starting your imagination. So get to it! We’re all waiting to see what that creative mind of yours can come up with.

###

Traitor’s Moon – Chapter twelve is finished! Word count stands at 100,498. (I love crossing the 100,000 milestone!) I have at least one more chapter, plus the Epilogue and then the book is done. I’m still hoping to have the writing finished by December 31st.

I had a blast working with Everet in this latest chapter, one of my sub-plot characters who is about a hundred years out of date. As it turns out, I probably could have written an entire novel about him alone, but this wasn’t the time. The Gladstone Shifters is primarily a romance series, with a healthy dose of intrigue and drama thrown in to keep things interesting, and Everet’s journey hasn’t reached the romance stage (yet).

 

Reader Roundup 11-28 18 November Birthdays

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

Apparently March is a popular baby-making month, since my November calendar is filled with birthdays! In fact, today is my youngest son’s special day, and he insists on getting older every year, dragging me along with him. November also included birthdays for my sister, niece, and granddaughter. Break out the cake, ice cream and balloons – and don’t forget the presents.

Most of my extended family are several states away, so I make an effort to send a card and call them on their day. It feels nice to be remembered on your birthday, even if you hate the idea of getting older. Hey – you’re going to age no  matter what, so you might as well get some attention and gifts out of the deal!

###

Had our first winter storm here a few days ago. It wasn’t too bad, but all snow and ice make me nervous if I have to drive in it. My recent move brought me 800 miles northeast, and the winters in my previous home were nothing in comparison. I went from six inches of annual snowfall to sixty-eight! Since I used to live here for many years, it shouldn’t take long to become accustomed to it again. No one here seems to pay much attention to the weather.

###

Traitor’s Moon – I’m finally making some significant progress! Chapter eleven was completed over the holiday weekend and I got a great start on chapter twelve. Following that, I should be able to wrap things up with one more chapter and the Epilogue. There is still a lot of story to tell, both major plot elements and minor story threads. It’s all important! I love seeing my characters grow and change, new ideas introduced, and conflict resolved.

I don’t plan out everything in advance with my books. I prefer to work with a rough outline of ideas and then allow the story to tell itself as I write. I’m sure a lot of authors would cringe at the idea, but it works for me. Some of the best elements in my stories are ones literally added as I’m writing, and they often surprise me. For instance, in my current manuscript two of the main characters have a unique and humorous way of interacting which I hadn’t even thought of previously. Initial feedback from beta readers confirms their verbal fencing fits the characters well and made the story more enjoyable. Cool!

You might think my mind is totally consumed with finishing Traitor’s Moon, but you would be wrong. While my new job requires more concentration and less time for my mind to wander and create, I’ve still been churning out story ideas! As always, it’s been a mixed bag; dragons, fairies and elves, various romances, sci-fi, and of course the next book in the Gladstone Shifters series. If I could start writing full time today, and lived to be a hundred, I would still have file folders full of ideas. That’s OK, it keeps me out of trouble.

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!

####

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…

####

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!

 

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!

 

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.

The Odious Apostrophe

The Odious Apostrophe

 

Apostrophe, Apostrophe,

or should I say catastrophe?

You make me nervous, angry, mean,

You’re Satan’s punctuation scheme.

I put you in and take you out,

Confusion reigns, along with doubt.

Unlike the period or comma,

You thrive on messiness and drama.

English would be much less rotten,

If you could only be forgotten.

Alexander Elliott