First Lines and Free Time

Can you believe it? This is the thirtieth day of my Daughter Am I blog tour! Only five days left. Oh, dear . . . what am I going to do with all that free time? As if I don’t know.

For one thing, I’m going to get back to writing. I figure if I tell myself this enough, it will sink in and I will actually do it. I keep hoping I’ll stumble on a new idea to give me a renewed enthusiasm for the story, but perhaps that idea will come during the writing. I’ve been rereading what I’ve already written so I know what the story is, and it’s different, but then what’s the point of writing the same?

For another thing, I’ve decided to follow the story of A Spark of Heavenly Fire in real time on my blog. I just checked the book. The story begins on December 2. Whatever happened to December 1? That’s when the original story started. Apparently, when I condensed the first fifty pages, I decided to leave the rest of the timeline intact. The book originally began with Rachel Abram’s death on December 1, then the jogger’s death on December 2. Somehow in the rewrite, the order got reversed.

My original first line was: “There’s something terribly wrong with me,” Rachel Abrams said. “I feel great.” I always liked the idea of starting with that line, but sometimes we need to do what’s best for the story.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I have to focus on this tour — there are still articles about Daughter Am I to write, comments to respond to, and the end-of-the-tour party to plan. As if that’s not enough, my party will run concurrently with the Second Wind Publishing new release party. Daughter Am I will be in good company. JJ Dare’s new book False World has just been released, and so has One Too Many Blows to the Head by Eric Beetner and JB Kohl.

Today’s tour stops are all wonderful, and that’s due in no small part to my hosts.

I’m in South Africa with horror writer Joan De La Haye talking about: Creating Interesting Characters.

I’m talking Over Coffee with Sia McKye about: Running with a Gang of Rogues.

And I’m on Bobby Ozuna’s blog talking about: The Story Behind the Story–an Author Interviewed.

DAIClick here to find the Daughter Am I Blog Tour Schedule 

Click here to buy Daughter Am I from Second Wind Publishing, LLC. 

Click here to buy Daughter Am I from Amazon.

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News from the Blogosphere

I’m exaggerating a bit — whatever news I have is from my own private byte of  the blogosphere. 

I just finished reading Jeffery Deaver’s Roadside Crosses, and I sure am missing out on all the excitement of blogging. Hundreds of thousands of people do not read my blog, and I can’t imagine that anything I say could inspire murder, except in a literary way. And perhaps not even that.

I hope I’m not as obsessed about blogging as Deaver’s characters, though I might come close. I wasn’t going to turn on the computer first thing this morning — trying to wean myself away a bit at a time — but it didn’t work. I got up did a couple of overhead presses, a few curls, a couple of bench presses, decided that was all the exercise I needed, and fired up the computer. I didn’t post to this blog, though. I posted to the Second Wind Blog, so perhaps that doesn’t count as obsession. On the offchance that you will have to ever discuss what I meant when I wrote Daughter Am I, you might want to check out the article: Message in a Novel

Tomorrow I will be in South Africa!! Way cool.

I’ve also been invited Over Coffee with Sia McKye at her blog tomorrow. Well, I’ll be there if I write the article, and I will as soon as I finish this one. Sia told me to “talk about the fun you had creating a cast of rogues. In their time, they were men to be reckoned with. Even now, being up in years, their spirit is willing, they have experience and they have taken the main character under their wing, determined to protect her. It cracks me up that you have a character that shakes so bad he probably couldn’t shoot the broadside of a barn.   

I think, what’s lovely about this story is the caring between them all. The determination to protect though they aren’t the men they used to be. It speaks to their heart, their sense of adventure, the enduring quality of what makes people what they are. Even the wicked or “bad” can care about things. I think you show a glimpse of the good in their heart, regardless of what they did in their life.”

Hmmm. Maybe I should get Sia to write the article. She knows the characters in Daughter Am I better than I do!

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Writing, Blogging, Promoting — My Aha Moment

Fellow author Dale Cozort recently returned from agent Donald Maass’s High Tension Workshop. (Okay, it wasn’t recently —  it was back in April, but who’s counting?) Cozort reported that according to Maass, the keys to keeping modern readers’ interest are finding something fresh — a different way of looking at events — and finding ways of getting the reader to identify with the character or with the scene.

According to The Everything Blogging Book by Aliza Sherman Risdahl, the key to keeping blog readers’ interest is “Taking hobbies and interests and finding a different way of looking and talking about them.”

In a recent comment, blogger extraordinaire and my marketing guru Sia McKye wrote, “There’s only so many ways to market things. If you observe, market and promotion tend to follow certain patterns. That’s because those ways work.” This seems a bit depressing to me. If everyone is doing the same things, then how does anyone ever stand out in a crowd?

Then I had my aha moment. If the key to writing is to find a different way of looking at things, and if the key to blogging is to find a different way of looking at things, then obviously, the key to promotion is to find a different way of looking at things. I know this syllogism would never pass muster in a logic class, but there is little logic to be found in writing, blogging, and promotion. Hence, at least in my mind, the conclusion works.

I am aware that those of us who are published by small independent presses are at a disadvantage when it comes to selling books. The publishing corporations and the major independent publishers use resources to which we have no access. Still, I have never been one to let such minor considerations get in the way of my dreams, and I intend to do everything I can to become unobscure.

So the question arises — how does one find a different way of looking at those promotion and marketing patterns? I’m sure you will be as glad as I am when I hit upon the solution. At least you won’t have to listen to my constant yammering about finding ways to promote.

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Who Are Your Writing Influences?

During my No Whine, Just Champagne writing chat on Gather.com last night, we discussed our styles and who influenced us the most. I’d never really thought about it before, but if anyone influenced me, it would probably be Taylor Caldwell for two vastly different reasons. One, I like books that tell of unknown events or show history in a different light or speak of real life conspiracies, and she did that very well. Two, she had an execrable style (in one book I swear she used the word inexorable on every other page. About drove me nuts.) which taught me to pay attention to what I want to say, don’t duplicate words or effects, and write shorter books.

As fellow Nowhiner, Sia McKye wrote, “I liked some of her story premises, but damn, I swear that woman could spend 15 pages describing the turning of a leaf, or a field. sheesh. You could condense her story by 40% and not lose the story, just the extra stuff.” Amen to that. So, I have tried to tell interesting stories with an historical/conspiratorial slant, and while I do put in a bit of historical background, I do not spend pages describing leaves. Nor have I ever used the word inexorable. Okay, once as a private joke, but that’s all.

Another Nowhiner, one of the best style mimics I ever came across, posted the following piece:

I would have to say that there is nothing in life sweeter than partaking of a nice piece of cheesecake at the Broadway Deli, saying hello to the dames as they walk by, talking with my friends from the track, and reading Damon Runyon, whose style is unique among mortals.

Or Hemingway. I read him in college. He was good.

Elmore Leonard walked into my living room with a large suitcase, a gun and an attitude. “Whats up” I asked him. He didn’t answer or smile, before he shot me through the heart. Now there is some style, I thought just before I died.

Ann Tyler, invited me to her large house in Baltimore, and allowed me to sit in her parlor, while she continued her often interrupted monologue with Silky, the cat who had belonged to her first husband’s daughter’s girl friend Ramona. The third time the phone rang, it was Ramona herself, and the monologue became a dialog, from which I learned a good deal about the complex relationships among those who had inhabited this world.

See what you’re missing? You are welcome to join us any time. The group No Whine, Just Champagne meets every Thursday at 9:00 pm ET for a live chat, though the discussion continues on unlive after the chat is finished.

So, I told you my writing influence; who are yours?

As a Writer, Where and How Are You Dropping Your Pebbles?

My guest blogger today is marketing consultant Sia McKye. McKye writes:

I’m a reflective person by nature.  I think about many things in life.  Look for lessons and ways to make things better for me and mine.  To me, life is like a giant puzzle made of pebbles.  Sometimes it’s comprised of hard labor.  Other times, the fun is in seeing how to work all the pieces tossed at us, and make a picture of it.  Don’t like those particular pieces? Rearrange them.   I’m also an optimist but with my feet firmly planted in reality.  I know if I work at it hard enough, think it through, I’ll find a way.  And so it is with my writing.

To be a writer is rather solitary.  We pour our hearts and souls into our writing–our characters, our created world.  They’re part of us, aren’t they?  When someone rejects that, of course we feel it AND feel they’re rejecting us. On one level that’s true, but we have to learn to compartmentalize, or we’re dead in the water.  We have to have tough Rhino skin or we’re not going to survive.  And yah, it sucks.

As with most of the entertainment/arts groups, publishing is a tough playing field to break into.  A key element to be a success in any field is to be focused, working at perfecting your skills, and believing in yourself and your abilities.

I think about authors like Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Catherine Coulter.  They all started out with Harlequin and or Silhouette.  Many curled their lips at books from Harlequin.   Whether it’s a lightweight romance publisher, or POD and E-book publishers-who cares where you start, so long as you start? I believe these authors honed their story telling skills and learned what readers like and didn’t like, and built a readership base in these forums. And who are we to curl our lips, or diminish the worth of an author that makes those choices? Now, these authors are now regularly on the Best Sellers lists.

Singers start out playing local, market themselves aggressively, and get their names out there.  How?  Singers play for anyone that lets them sing.  Bars, lounges, you name it.  Actors do the same with local theatre, and work their way up. They network like crazy.  Are you doing that as a writer? 

Pebble in the pool effect.   Think about American idol.  These singers are looking for shortcuts and there isn’t anything wrong with that, but even the shortcuts come with fierce competition.  As authors, we do contests too, so we can relate.

What’s important here is: if the pebble isn’t first dropped into a pool of water, no ripples happen.  The pebble has to be dropped more than once. It’s the same with writing.  Every time you write a story, you drop a pebble and every time you query, or enter a contest, you drop another one.  Every blog, writer’s conference, and joining a writing group is another pebble.

 Maybe only a few of us will make it big.  The truth of the matter is; it’s not solely dependent upon talent.   There are lots of talented people.  Sometimes chance or fate or whatever you want to call it, steps in.  But, if we’re not putting forth the effort, and getting our writing, our name out there, it can’t be offered.

There’s a quote I like and I’ll share it with you.  Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.”

 …or dropping the pebbles.

It’s something I think about frequently-what am I doing with my pebbles?

Stacking them in a pile with no work or thought given them?

Am I hoarding them in a drawer where no one can see them?   

Am I allowing fear of success or failure, hold me back?  

 

By putting our work out there, we’re on the dance floor or to continue the metaphor, dropping our pebbles.

 As a writer, where and how are you dropping your pebbles? Are your pebbles used to the best effect?

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