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Showing posts from August, 2013

What's in a Name?

Names are important. We spend a lot of time and energy naming our pets, our children, our books, even our properties. So when I first thought of creating a little press to publish my own books, I wanted a clever brand that would really communicate what my writing was about. I started using Hotbutton Press in emails and on a blog ten years ago. Now I'm ready to take that a step further with a website, business registration, tax forms, etc. Easy peasy, right? Wrong. I'm a little hot under the collar. Someone else beat me to it and there is another Hotbutton Press already. Dang. So now I have to come up with Plan B. What about Red Button Press? Red is my favorite color. A search brings up all kinds of Do Not Press the Red Button links. Too weird to consider. Sigh. How about Red Queen Press since I'm affectionately dubbed the queen around here? Already taken again . Red House Press? Gone too. I just want Hotbutton Press! Hubbo suggests it's just a darli

The Rule of Twenty

I've been to a number of writing workshops focused on how to deal with those moments when your story seems to hit a brick wall. Now, nobody said writing was easy. If you're trying to make (or supplement) a living at it, you learn it's a job. You have to show up at the "office" and work. You can't wait for your muse. I believe it was Nora Roberts who said some days you have to drag her, kicking and screaming, to your computer (or notebook). The late Robert B. Parker, speaking at a SleuthFest conference said, "There's no such thing as writer's block. Sure, writing can be hard. But can you imagine calling a plumber to fix your clogged toilet and having him tell you he can't show up today because he has plumber's block?" One technique that's been mentioned in a good number of workshops I've attended is to invoke the "Rule of Twenty" (not to be confused with another post I did on the "Rule of Three" ). The i

Does Your Story Need a Prologue?

Kristen Lamb, an author, editor and writing coach recently addressed this question on her blog when she wrote about The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues . Since I write prologues for most of my mysteries, I hopped on over to see what sins I was committing. Being a good Catholic girl raised with the guilt-syndrome, all I had to do was see the word "sin" and I broke out in a cold sweat. What a relief it was to find out that prologues are okay for certain books and within certain parameters. Some agents and editors still say prologues are out, period, and some readers skip them entirely when reading, although I can't imagine why. When I get a new book I read everything including the copyright page. I want to find every trace of blood, sweat, and tears that a writer put into the book, but maybe that's just me. For my Seasons Mystery Series , the books start with a prologue, mainly because that's the way the stories came to me. The prologues are written from the

Why Read a Short Story or a Collection?

The Blessing or Curse Collection , a sequel to my thriller, Forever Young: Blessing or Curse , is now available. This collection contains five short stories, about five very different types of people who take a pill to be young again. Instead of dwelling on the thriller aspect, the collection focuses on how the choice to take an experimental pill impacts not only the lives of the test subjects, but also that of their spouses or significant others. The only thriller mention comes toward the end of the collection in a very short bonus section in which the villains from the first novel plot their next moves. Since not everyone might like to read all the stories, I'm also offering a choice to read one or more separately. Catch a glimpse of the covers in the panorama below. What the stories are about: Who'll Mend This Broken Man - Desperation forces Consuela to order the Forever Young pill to cure her husband, Diego, from Parkinson’s Disease; but is the cure really a curs

Layer Four: Internal Conflict Scenes

Internal Conflict scenes introduce and explore the personal dilemma your protagonist struggles with. The verbal camera is focused with a tight spotlight beaming on the protagonist in the background. Use these scenes to reveal the protagonist’s back-story and show him dealing with his guilt, pain, or need which leads up to - and is resolved by - his point of change. These conflicts test the protagonist’s character and faith. They make him question who he is and what he does. These are the emotional complications or ties that bind that complicate the overall story problem.  If the love interest has equal weight, you can explore her personal dilemma and point of change in these scenes as well. Internal conflict scenes can be flashbacks, dreams, and revelations of back-story through memories or an encounter with a friend or foe. You can show him exhibiting one type of behavior in the beginning and a complete reversal of behavior at the end to show the point of change. These scenes re

A Question of Villainy

Photo by David Bleasdale , Flickr The Screwtape Letters , by C. S. Lewis, purports to be a collection of letters written by a senior devil (Screwtape) to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter. In one of these missives, Screwtape notes, the great (and toothsome) sinners are made out of the very same material as those horrible phenomena, the Saints . Screwtape is here alluding to the fact that certain people are born with a potential for greatness, endowed with exceptional gifts and talents which set them apart from the general population, and enable them to shape their own destinies. The same principle holds true when it comes to characters in literature. To restate Screwtape’s observation from a Fantasy-writer’s perspective: a first-class villain is a hero gone bad. 1 Quentin Crisp once defined charisma as the ability to influence others without the use of reason . This is a prime attribute of heroes and villains alike: wherever they go, they stand out in a crowd. Heroes t

The First Fifty Pages

Last year, I had the pleasure of attending the MWA University held in Denver. I recapped the sessions on my own blog, and today I'm sharing how I've put one of the sessions to use. Reed Far­rel Cole­man , an author and adjunct pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Hof­s­tra University, suggested that when you're starting a new project, you begin each day by starting at page 1 and editing until you get to the point where you're adding new material. He says he does this until he's written 50 pages. If you want to see the rest of what he said about editing during his session, you can find it here. For my next book, the third in my Mapleton Mystery series , I decided to give that method a try. My normal writing process is to print out each completed scene and read it in a non-writing environment (usually in bed). Then, the next day, I go over that scene, fixing anything I noted on the previous night's read. This gives me a running start for writing the next scene, and it t

5 Focal Points for Writers Reading Books

I always get a good laugh when, invariably, my writers come back to me and say, “How on earth can you read for pleasure?  You’ve ruined reading for me!  Now all I see are major flaws.”  Yes, that does happen, at least in the beginning, after your eyes are opened to the elements of great writing.  I always do assure them that that will pass, and they’ll be able to read for pleasure again without picking a book to death.  Yep, I’m more attuned to the flaws as well, although when a book is too chock-full of them, I quit it.  But, oh, the joys of experiencing a story and characters written by a master of the craft!  We can all learn from the pitfalls and brilliance of other writers—learn what not to do, what didn’t work, and what did.  I’m not talking copy-edit stuff, not grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc., and not even really stylistic issues (wordiness vs. tightness, show vs. tell, etc.), but rather the deeper elements that go into a great book.  | First off, what about t

Going the Long Way Around

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng Hello, dearies! After much squinting and persuasion, your Style Maven is now sporting a new pair of glasses. The frames are lovely; the price tag was anything but. That said, I am indeed delighted to be able to see past the end of my nose again. I blame texting. Not for my nose, mind you. That was left up to genetics. No, it’s the new prescription; I’m certain it was caused by text messages. Those tiny little screens make things difficult enough, but when you must wade through the myriad “pls” and “ppl” and “ur” that pepper each electronic missive, I think the eyes give out in protest. While certain acronyms and abbreviations are usually welcome (CMOS, anyone?), you would be hard-pressed to find an editor willing to give the green light to most of the slang terms found on the Internet today. Though it’s likely to be understood that pls is intended to mean please rather than Polyester Leisure Suit (thank heavens), taking the time to include those app

Seriously, Serialize

Photo credit: Google Images Publishing is changing, books are changing, reading itself is changing – and it’s all changing so fast that authors can feel that they can’t keep up. What’s a writer to do? First, we need to remember that changes in book publishing and the way readers access reading material is nothing new. Stone tablets gave way to inky scrolls which gave way to printing presses, and at every stop along the way Luddites cried. Somehow writers evolved to meet the new technologies. Back in the Victorian Era, which wasn’t really that long ago, historically speaking, one of the new publishing tactics was publishing novels in serial form in magazines and newspapers. Charles Dickens is perhaps best known for using this form, starting with The Pickwick Papers in 1836, but Dickens was not alone – in 1893 Mark Twain first published Pudd’nhead Wilson as a serial in The Century Magazine, and Joseph Conrad and George Eliot published some of their works in serial form as

Nancy Martin's Rules of Writing and Promotion: Part 3

In this final of three installments, novelist Nancy Martin takes time from the release of her latest mystery,  Little Black Book of Murder , to talk with Kathryn Craft about her recent Facebook promotions. Now that we've heard about how fun and popular they were, it's time to scratch the bottom line ... Kathryn: Now the tough question—do you think your efforts have translated into sales? What lessons have you learned from these efforts that you can pass along to our readers? Nancy: Let me say first that I am usually embarrassed by plugging myself, and cringe when I see writers openly campaign for awards and reader attention. In a recent New York Times column, essayist Philip Lopate said there is nothing more becoming in an author than modesty, and I am firmly in that camp. Sure, self-promotion might work, but I am too Presbyterian to do it! I think too much unseamly shilling demeans the writing. And readers aren't stupid. They recognize ego and flop sweat when th

Nancy Martin's Rules of Writing and Promotion: Part 2

In this second of three installments, novelist Nancy Martin takes time from the release of her latest mystery,  Little Black Book of Murder , to talk with Kathryn Craft about her recent Facebook promotions. We pick up where we left off , with Nancy telling Kathryn how she was inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey ... Nancy:  It hit me that I could do a countdown to my book launch and post a different pink dress every day for fifty days on Facebook. I wrote a couple of sentences about each dress and why it was iconic, but I always included info about my book, too—usually providing a link to a bookseller. Within the first two weeks, the campaign went viral. I started out with 600 "likes" on my author page, and by the end of the fifty days, I had over half a million people looking at my pink dresses—and seeing info about my coming book. My publisher jumped on the bandwagon and bought some FB ads, and we were careful to steer viewers to booksellers where they could pre-order book

Nancy Martin's Rules of Writing and Promotion: Part 1

In this first of three installments, novelist Nancy Martin takes time from the release of her latest mystery, Little Black Book of Murder , to talk with Kathryn Craft about her recent Facebook promotions. Or click through to read parts two and three . Nancy, welcome back! Kathryn: Nancy, Congratulations on your new release, the ninth in your Blackbird Sisters mystery series. New York Times Bestselling Author Susan Andersen said of your series, “Smart intrigue dressed in cool couture.” Was that true from the very beginning? When did you realize that you could turn that into a marketing advantage on Facebook? Nancy: Thanks for your good wishes, Kathryn. The use of haute couture clothing in my books began early in the creative process as I built my main character, Nora Blackbird. If Nora was supposed to attend fancy balls and galas for her job as a society columnist, she needed great clothes to wear. But the whole point of her needing a job in the first place is that her parents ran

Having a Little Fun

As some of you may know, Wednesday is Hump Day, and if we get over today, we sail on to Friday and the end of the work week. For some bloggers, like my friend LD Masterson, it is a good reason to offer some humor to help folks over the hump. How appropriate, that it is Wednesday and my turn to blog here at BRP, so here are a few funnies to help you through the day. First up is something from Pearls before Swine . In the first panel we see a bunch of lemmings at lemming's leap. One of them says, "Okay guys. It's time to end our little lemming lives. Bob you start us off." Bob says, "All right,Fred." (but the word is spelled alright.) Fred says, "Wait, wait! You yelled alright in that speech balloon but that's not a word Bob. It's all right - two words - ask anyone." As Bob is falling off the cliff he says, "Oh crap really?" Fred says, "It's a shame to go out on a grammatical error."   F

Seven Ways to Write Better Stories by Failing

Help! They’ll hate my story. I can hear them now. ‘It’s lovely and so… you!’ Yes, they hate it.  Even if they say they don’t, can we believe them? At least, the verdict we get from an agent or competition judge will be honest. But honesty is cruel. No wonder new writers shudder when entering a major contest. Since 2009, many of the 3500+ contestants in the Writers’ Village * fiction award have asked me ‘Please be kind!’ Their terror is real. Why? If readers reject our story, they stomp on our soul. Here are seven defences against the terror of rejection. 1. Join the club! Virtually all authors who have left an enduring legacy were scorned in their debut years. It took Agatha Christie 23 attempts to get her first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles into print. Every publisher in London laughed at William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Even J K Rowling had her new novel The Cuckoo’s Calling turned down by ten publishers before they discovered who had written it.