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Showing posts from March, 2014

Naming Fantastic Characters

Writers search for the ‘right’ names for the people who populate their books (or, they should!). There are many resources available for finding everyday names, of course. At the foot of this post you’ll find a suggested list; but wait a moment before you drop down there. Why? Because here I want to invite you to consider the naming of characters living in invented worlds. Fantasy, of whatever sub-genre, generally requires names that aren’t in common use. Read any epic fantasy and you’ll find it brimming with constructed names, some memorable and others that ought never to have been forced onto the reading public. In fantasy, perhaps more than any other genre, it’s essential to invent names that don’t appear in other books, otherwise readers may associate your masterpiece with the work of another author. But, how to do it? How do you ‘invent’ names? For me, the most important aspect is the ‘mood’ or ‘feel’ of the work. When preparing the background for my fantasy A

Countdown to a Self-Published Book 1 : Making the Decision

We’ve followed the multi-talented Kathryn Craft through the engaging and triumphant story of her journey from pitch to traditionally published book (which is doing fantastically well – congratulations, Kathryn). Now it’s my turn to count down to publication, with my about-to-be-self-published book, Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin . Thirty-four days to publication date: 1st of May (draft cover)  Why Self-Publishing? (I promise this wasn't intended as a follow-up to Stephen Tremp's excellent guest post yesterday.) I started and finished the first draft of Maddie (I nickname all my books for easier reference) while I was pregnant with my second child, more for the sense of achievement than anything else. I wrote it knowing that I would be shelving it for about two years before I would be able to begin the process of finding an agent and a publisher for it – because, with my time and energy focused on two small children, the likelihood of blowing deadlines and

Stephen Tremp Wormhole Trilogy Blog Book Tour

Now that I have completed a trilogy of 325,000 words, I’m reflecting on what just happened while wondering what direction I need to move forward. I chose to self-publish mainly because I keep 100 percent of royalties while maintaining control over the content and cover art. I also maintain the rights. It’s a passion thing, not a money thing, although I do like money. For my initial launch into writing, publishing, and promoting I had to do it myself. And now that the trilogy is completed, at least the writing and publishing part, I feel great. Like I accomplished something similar to scaling a high mountain or running the Boston Marathon. Accomplishments to Date:  My first two books, Breakthrough and Opening, have been sold in Borders Books and Barnes & Noble bookstores in every major city from Los Angeles to Boston. I’ve had over 10,000 in sales and downloads. Moving Forward: The cover art is not a maker or breaker though. Neither is keeping all the royalties. I

Talking About Titles? A Capital Idea!

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng Hello, dearies! After a touch of R&R, I’m back for a bit of Q&A. It seems that a dear friend is at a loss; she’s come up against a crop of royal characters and is anxious to ensure that there’s no mix-up between Queens and queens. Off we go to the CMOS, trailing our cloth of gold behind us. When dealing with titles and offices, the general rule is that “civil, military, religious, and professional titles are capitalized when they immediately precede a personal name and are thus part of the name.” There are, naturally, exceptions to this; after all, people have been known to wear white after Labor Day. It stands to reason that the world of writing has few hard-and-fast rules. For the time being, we’ll stick with the use of royal titles. If you’re using the word alone, such as the queen of Denmark or the sharif of Mecca, you may omit the capital. But , when used as a title, these same words “form an integral and … permanent part of a

Professional Editing

Sending out your work without a careful edit is as unthinkable as sending your daughter to the prom in her nightgown and slippers. But it may be a challenge to find exactly the right editor, especially when you're just starting out. That's why the Story Circle Network created its Editorial Service. Story Circle has vetted each editor and stands behind her work. You can trust her to be reliable, efficient, and thoughtful-exactly the kind of editor every writer wants and needs. --Susan Wittig Albert , bestselling author and founder of the Story Circle Network -- So, you've worked hard on that article, short story, book of poems, memoir, or novel. You've taken Anne Lamott's advice and sat down every day and written your story, bit by bit, bird by bird. Some days your fingers moved like lightning across the keyboard; on others, you spent more time gazing out the window wondering what it would be like to be on a beach in the Caribbean, far away from a computer scre

Creating Your Character’s Backstory

Many writers like to do a character profile before they write the story. You can also create one as you go along. It’s handy to keep track of small details like hair and eye color, relationship to other characters, etc. But it can also help establish a backstory—the character(s) personality, motivation, quirks, philosophies, and why he/she might act a certain way when confronted with an obstacle. Along with the name, age, and birthplace, here are some characteristics you might want to think about: · Physical description (any scars, a limp, etc?) · Family background: (financial & social status, get along w/parents etc.?) · Occupation: · Hobbies: · Marital Status/children/pets? · Moral standards: · Extrovert or introvert? · Taste in music, books, food: · Character traits (strongest and weakest): · Philosophy of life: And digging a little deeper to help with your plotline: · Wha

Whose Line Is It?

14:46 Edinburgh (Regent Road) to Stirling bus station via Kirkliston, Bridgend, Linlithgow and Polmont Photo by Ingy the Wingy , via Flickr If you’ve ever taught high-school English, you’re familiar with the time-honored dictum that characters reveal themselves through (1) what they do; (2) what they say; and (3) what other characters say about them. This article is concerned with Item 2. You can tell us – in detail – what a character looks like. You can even tell us what kind of voice a character has (squeaky, gruff, sexy, etc.). But the single biggest challenge for the writer is the question: how much information can you convey about a given character on the strength of dialogue alone? Ideally, your readers should be able to distinguish which character is speaking on the strength of diction, grammar, and syntax, and speech mannerisms indicative of age, gender, and cultural background. To illustrate the point, I’ve prepared two sample scripts. Conversation One: I wa

The 12 Steps to Intimacy, Part 2

Last month, our theme was sex and romance. I was talking about the 12 Steps to Intimacy which romance author Linda Howard adapted from Desmond Morris's book, Intimate Behaviour . There wasn't enough room for all 12 steps in that post, so I'm continuing them here. If you missed that first post, you can find it here . However, if you missed that post, then you missed the link to the foundations for human sexual behavior, so you might want to start here . A quick recap of the steps, for those who simply want a refresher without the details: 1. Eye to Body 2. Eye to Eye 3. Voice to Voice 4. Hand to Hand 5. Arm to Shoulder 6. Arm to Waist Moving on to the last 6 steps: 7. Mouth to mouth Kissing. The first kiss is a milestone in any romance novel. Both parties are vulnerable. Look at the romance books you've read and see how many of these 'first kiss' encounters are cut short. The author is creating tension by pulling the characters apart. How is the

Yoga for Desk-Bound Writers

Right, writers - here is your reminder to move and stretch your bodies so your dedication to your craft doesn't end up causing you physical pain. Here's a video chosen by our Style Maven to make it easy for you to get moving: And some previous yoga- and exercise-related posts you might want to browse through: Stretch Your Body To Revive Your Writer Mind I've Got My Eye on You  

Busybody Ghosts

To be successful, ghostwriters must be more than good writers. We also have to be part therapist, part marketer, part bartender, and part busybody. Ghostwriters have to ask a lot of questions. During my association with a client, I ask hundreds of questions, many of which arise spontaneously during conversation. But I have some standard questions that I almost always begin with. Here are ten of them: 1. Who are your desired readers? (Do NOT let them get away with answering “everyone.”) Be as specific as possible. 2. What do you want your readers to learn? Why don’t they know this already? Why would they want to learn it? Why wouldn’t they want to learn it? 3. How do you want your reader to feel? What emotions do you want to awaken, and why is it important to you that they feel this? 4. What is the purpose of this book? Make money? Educate? Entertain? Save the world? 5. What are the hot buttons, hot topics, or controversies in your subject? If there is a lot

March's Gifts to Writers

March is the month of whimsies, contrasts, and change. Consider the Ides of March, the day Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 B.C. Contrast that with the merriment of St. Patrick’s Day just 48 hours later, when liquid spirits flow freely and the “wearin’ o’ the green” identifies those of proud Irish descent worldwide. What about the weather? In Colorado, March can send six inches of snow to cover the ground one day and melt it with sixty degree temperatures the next. In several areas of the country, early-blooming perennials peek through the ground, only to be snowed upon or frozen before they have a chance to blossom forth in all their glory. Whether it comes in and goes out like a lion or lamb, only one thing is certain: March is most predictable in its unpredictability. What does March teach us about writing? First, we are inspired not to write predictable stories. (Can “predictable” be a synonym for “boring”?) While groundwork for events that affect our characters needs

Build a Platform for Your Book

Platform One at Minehad Railway Station Photo by Ross Hawkes , via Flickr. One thing that agents and acquiring editors often look for is whether the author has a platform.   Exactly what a platform is can cause people to stutter while trying to explain the term. Some say it means you have a cause. Your book is about curing cancer. Or your protagonist is a recovering alcoholic. Or … you have something to talk about that might get you publicity. Even more so, if you yourself have conquered cancer or been sober for twenty years.   Some think it means that your book touches on a topic that is hot, like the politics in the Middle East or the two lovers end up together because of their work on global warming. Because those topics are relevant, you could get on talk shows. Although all of that would most likely be a help in promoting your book and can be part of a platform, it’s not really THE platform. Your platform is your ability to get publicity and sell your book. You are a

Time Out For a Little Fun

Ladies and gentlemen, and all the little children we pretend we wouldn't rather be sometimes, it is once again time to throw off the shackles of responsibility and deadlines and marketing and all that other stuff we writers have to do and just have fun. In recognition of the brutal winter we have all suffered through, I thought we'd start with a joke about the weather. Image Courtesy of In B.C . by Mastroianni and Hart, B.C. peeks out of his cave and sees that it is raining, so he goes back inside to get an umbrella. Then the rain stops and he comes out to see that the sun is shining, so he closes the umbrella and takes it back into the cave, coming back out with fishing pole in his hand. Then it starts to snow, which has him go back into the cave and emerge later with a pair of skis. Now the snow has stopped, and the sun is back out, so he once again goes into the cave, coming out with a golf club. As he steps out of the cave, the snow starts agai


If there's any single word in the English language that expresses this concept, I don't know it. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: The spirit or genius which marks the thought or feeling of a period or age . Another way you could put it would be the ethos or customs of the times. Having written books set in three distinct periods, I've come to the conclusion that, important as correct historical detail may be, still more important is to understand--and accurately present to the reader--the Zeitgeist of your chosen setting. Included in this term is the status of women, the possible paths open to them, and the consequences they were likely to face if they stepped outside the conventions. Your female protagonist may  do anything she chooses, but if she acts in an unconventional way for the times, you must explain why, and how she suffers as a result. For instance, in my Regency novel, The Improper Governess , my heroine goes on the stage in order to

Taking Inventory of Your Cemetery of Stories and Ideas

Writers Anonymous : There are not enough cemeteries to hold all the dead characters I left behind by not finishing stories. "Old Graveyard" by Evgeni Dinev from Every writer I know has a folder. What's IN this folder? Every note, every picture, every first line, every character sketch, every idea for a story you've ever had. I have one. It's quite large. It's called WRITING. Inside the folder, you will find other folders that represent various "states" of projects. I have a NOVELS folder that contains novels that are completed, novels with outlines, novels with ideas. I have a SHORT STORIES folder that contains the same elements as my NOVELS folder. I have a STORY IDEAS folder that is full to the brim of ideas. I even have a NEW STORY IDEAS folder because of course those ideas are different from the those in the STORY IDEAS folder. I have a SNIPPETS folder that contains hundreds of notes, each note has a line that I h

Busted!—Authors Caught Raising Questions in Opening Sentences

When considering how to open their stories, authors too often ask themselves: What information do I want to feed out to the reader at the start?  This approach is fraught with problems. If you are a writer, you undoubtedly already know that we change our minds about this a lot, until our openings become the most often-rewritten aspect of a manuscript. Make no mistake: opening a novel can be tricky, and the effort deserves all of the time and attention you are willing to apply. But a surer approach can be found with a different question: What is it my reader wants from my opening?  The basic answer: He wants to gain orientation to the story while questions are raised. These questions create little mysteries that tip him into the story. Since this technique works regardless of genre, let’s look at the ways a few disparate authors successfully employ it—with only their first three sentences. The Salt God’s Daughter  by Ilie Ruby We ran wild at night, effortless, b

Gold Medal Writing

You probably think I'm going to talk about how you should practice and never quit trying until you win. Nope. Though that is true. Instead, I'm going to illustrate what tension looks and feels like. My husband and I love watching the Olympics. We're not all that caught up in who wins. We genuinely want all the athletes to do well as they take their history-making runs. We sit on the couch to watch the skiers and snowboarders. My body tenses as they start off. I'm leaning forward, alert. I'm practically holding my breath as they defy gravity to make it down the hill. I fist pump when a move goes well. "Yes! Did you see that? Wow." I gasp and raise my hands to my lips when they fall. "Oh crap. Are they okay? That must suck." I exclaim when the judges, in my humble opinion, get it wrong. Irritation ignited a verbal response. "What the heck were they thinking?" "That other guy totally did better." "Th

The Siren Song of an Idea

INT. Late afternoon. The WRITER is sitting at her desk, typing on a laptop. The typing is slow but steady. SMALL VOICE:  ( in a sing-song manner) HelllOOOOoo. THE WRITER ignores the SMALL VOICE. SMALL VOICE: Look at me. I’m shiny. The WRITER continues to type, now bending over the keyboard and typing with, perhaps, a touch more force than necessary. SMALL VOICE: Hey. Pay attention to me. I’m so shiny. WRITER: Go away. SMALL VOICE: And glittery. Look at me, I can spit sparkles. I’m a living firework display over here. WRITER: Go away. SMALL VOICE: Are you sure? WRITER: Yes. SMALL: But I’m soooooo shiny. The WRITER stops typing . WRITER: Okay. You win. What are you? SMALL VOICE: An idea. WRITER: Ah. SMALL VOICE: A new idea. An idea for a plot far, far better than that tired old thing you’re working on. This idea is fresh. It’s bold. It’ll set the world on fire. WRITER: I can’t think about you right now. SMALL VOIC

Hosting and Guesting on Blogs

I've heard from various sources that the best way to get noticed and respected in the book industry is to do unto others, and not engage in blatant self-publicity. To that end, I concentrate on my group blogs more often, instead of my personal one, except when I have a special book promotion. At my group resource blog, Book Beat Babes , for my day, I often invite other authors to share posts containing information or observations about the publishing industry, or writing in general. Book Beat Babes Before a post runs, I include the guest's name and something about that person in my preview column to the right. In the post for that guest, I start with a small introduction at the beginning about the guest, and follow that with my name in a smaller font. That way, I'm not trying to steal the stage from the guest, yet also show that I had something to do with that guest being there. On the guest's day, I tweet, I Google Plus, I put the link on my timeline and