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Showing posts from January, 2016

Adventures in Audio, Part 2 : Tag-Team Writing

Image by Alan Levine , via Flickr Writing novels tends, on the whole, to be a solitary occupation. Novelists will occasionally team up to produce a jointly-authored book (Katherine Kurtz and I have written 7 books together), but such projects tend to be the exceptions rather than the rule. This isn’t necessarily so in other realms of creative writing. When it comes to writing TV and/or radio scripts – especially comedies – a good many famous works in the genre are the fruit of teamwork involving two or more writers. For example, in the late 1930’s, the celebrated comedy duo Bud Abbott and Lou Costello hired vaudeville aficionado John Grant to help them script their material, collectively producing classic routines like Who’s On First? Similarly, Jack Benny’s reputation as a radio comedian was build on gags he scripted with the aid of behind-the-scene writers like Bill Morrow and Ed Beloin. More recent examples of comedy-by-collaboration can be found in the British SF come

Risks and Benefits of Unusual Characters

Emotionless, by Timie, via Flickr When I created a homicide detective in my first Jackson book (which has now been translated into six languages!), I purposefully made him a good guy, a family man, someone everyone could relate to. I knew, even back then, that I might spend years with him, writing from his perspective over and over, and I didn’t want to get burnt out on his character flaws. But I throw that caution out the window when I write standalones. I haven’t yet written a protagonist that disgusts me, but I certainly have created some unusual characters. In the Jackson series (#8, Rules of Crime ), I introduced Carla River, a transgender FBI agent, who underwent a change from male to female while working for the bureau. All that’s in her past, and I don’t focus on her sexuality, but still, her nature surprised some readers. I created this character four years ago—long before Caitlyn Jenner became a household name. My current thriller, Point of Control , features an FB

Amazon Giveaways : An Experiment

Last year, I released a book. It’s a fantasy novel 160,000 words, part one of a series. That’s a tough way to start a career as a novelist – people don’t want to risk twenty bucks on a huge tome. But it gives us a good zero point. Nobody really knows who I am. Everything I do for promotion is essentially starting from nothing. So when something works, we can see the effects really clearly. When I did the giveaway, I committed to keeping good data in the hopes it would be useful to others. So, here goes. This isn’t the book I experimented with, but the photo below shows what your options are. You choose how many books you want to give away. Bear in mind you have to buy these through Amazon at list price rather than at cost. Then you choose one of these three options: Click to enlarge Random: Set the odds of winning. Lucky Number: every nth participant wins. First come, first served: give away books to the first entrants to ask for them. I used the first option. Hard to

The times, they are a-changin’...

Crystal Palace, view from Water Temple If you remember Bob Dylan’s song coming out, your age is probably pretty close to mine. I turn 70 this year and, in some ways more significantly, 70 1 / 2 . According to IRS rules, this means that instead of socking spare cash away in an IRA, I have to start taking money out. And I have to start taking Social Security. For the first time in 25 years, I’m going to have a regular income. To tell the truth, I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with it. I suppose I’ll have to learn to budget, instead of saving as much as possible and hoping more will come in before I run out. It’s going to be interesting! To complicate matters, I can go on stashing pre-tax money in my SIMPLE IRA and post-tax money in a Roth IRA as long as I’m writing and earning. And I am still writing, with plenty going on in the coming year. I’ve just started on the 23 rd Daisy Dalrymple mystery (I had to go to my website and count the list). Working title is The Corps

New Year, New Rules?

Hello, dearies! It's that time again. Off with the old, on with the new, and adjust everything in between. I must confess to lagging a bit behind in the Great Closet Sweep, but I have managed to rid myself of several "church socks." If you're like many people, the breath of fresh air that is seasonal style change can feel more like an arctic blast, chilling you to the bone and shoving you in directions that you'd rather not go. Fortunately, there is a safe harbor for the steadfast soul: the Chicago Manual of Style. From its humble beginning in 1891 as a single-page in-house style sheet for the University of Chicago Press, the CMOS has slowly grown into a behemoth volume of more than one thousand pages. Now in its sixteenth edition (2010), the CMOS is considered " the industry leader on style matters ." To keep pace with expanding knowledge, perspectives, and vocabulary within the publishing industry, the CMOS editorial staff utilizes an advisory bo

How Not to Be a Failure

So we’ve all made New Year’s resolutions, right? My big one this year was to write two thousand words a day. Okay, one thousand. Then family matters caused me to skip a day. I promised myself to get back to my work in progress the next morning. Right? Right. Um, not so fast. I found out friends from out of town were coming. I had to clean the house. You know, that house I’ve overlooked for way too long. Good thing I had the week to do the cleaning because, boy, what a mess. Oh, and all the mail I needed to shred. Bags of it with my name, credit card numbers, bank numbers. Half a day’s worth of shredding mail. The daily junk mail goes in the recycle barrel, so at least I don’t have to shred that. Good. I was on a roll. Uh, oh. I forgot about the critique. My critique partner and I rarely miss our twenty pages, give or take, every two weeks. I wasn’t ready. Now, where was I? Because, you know, with all the family matters, house cleaning, and visitors, I had no time to think ab

My Sabbatical Year

I’ve been a ghostwriter for 17 years now. It’s been a wild wonderful ride filled with the most amazing stories. I was privileged to hear them first and help get them out into the world. I’ve blogged before about the joys of ghostwriting and how much it has given me. I’ve been fairly successful. I’ve been involved – mostly as a ghostwriter, sometimes as a content editor – in nearly 50 books in those 17 years. In 2015 alone, I ghostwrote and finished three books (the last one just last month). But there are some downsides to ghostwriting. The biggest one is that I’ve been so busy writing other people’s stories that I’ve neglected my own. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t written my own books – I have. Over ten of them, in fact – fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Nearly all of them published before 2010. But for the last five years or so, as my ghostwriting business has grown, my own work has languished in drawers or my laptop file folders. I had and have plenty of great id

Writing Resolutions

There could be two interpretations for this title; how to write a resolution, or resolutions about writing. In honour of this new shiny year, I’ve tried to embrace both. 10. Phrase your intention in a positive way. Don’t say ‘I will lose weight’; say ‘I will have a 30 inch waist’. 9. Make it Achievable. To reach the top of the mountain you have to climb for days. It’s not a journey completed in one step. Neither is writing a book or a play or whatever your project may be.  8. Resolve to do something that makes you smile. If thinking about it makes you happy, you’ve got a better chance of following through. If your first thought is “Oh crap” (or something less G-rated), I’d wager you have a smaller chance of success. 7. Keep it Simple. 6. Privacy is Good. No one needs to know your resolutions…unless you need peer pressure to keep them. On the one hand, I understand this. On the other hand, it mades me nervous for your success. 5. Just Do It. Nike is right. 4. Don’t make

New Year, Final Draft

Photo by Cara Lopez Lee I suspect that fellow writers will appreciate the idea of starting a New Year not with a goal to start something new but to finish something old. I’ve been writing a novel for several years. No matter how diligently I move forward, something always needs fixing. I’m not talking about some phony excuse to procrastinate, but actual problems: a conflict falls flat, a character feels one-dimensional, dialogue is missing, dialogue is redundant, internal life is absent, internal life is excessive and now momentum is absent...another draft, and another A couple of months ago, I took a painting class with my sister. We each created our own interpretation of the instructor’s sample creation: a moon shining through flowering branches. At one point, while I tried to create a tunnel-like sensation of moonlight, I kept going over one section that wasn’t quite working. The teacher took one look and said, “Stop. You’re going to ruin it.” I knew what she meant. I was

New Year, New Writing: Resolutions and Declarations

In 2010 ( a | b ), 2011 , 2013 , and 2015 , we at BRP wrote posts on writing resolutions. I even wrote a piece in 2010 on envisioning your writing career by making resolutions . Parts of Happy New Year 2016 image by IceHawk33 at Free Digital Photos used ’Tis the season to make resolutions, yes? A new year often begets new goals, new resolutions. Unfortunately, by the end of January, many of those resolutions are left in the far, dark recesses of our mind. One reason resolutions often fail is we resolve to do something, but we don’t set out a strategy to actually complete the task. Whether you use the term “resolution” or “declaration,” it’s important for you to understand what you are resolving or declaring in your writing goals, and developing the structure to bring your goals to fruition. Let’s think about resolutions for a minute. Merriam-Webster defines “resolution” in the following ways: the act of finding an answer or solution to a conflict, problem, etc. : the

To Drone or not to Drone

I remember the word, drone, when it was a verb or, at best, an inglorious adjective, certainly not a hip noun. Drone used to mean going on and on about monotonous stuff that no one cared about. My, how times have changed! Multirotors, nicknamed drones, are sweeping the country in more ways than one. Drones are often employed by the government in military operations, but also perform such mundane tasks as delivering library books for universities. Once cleared, Amazon plans to use them for thirty minute package deliveries. This drone had been used at a local concert for aerial shots. I was surprised to learn how accessible drones are, and in many cases, inexpensive.They're so popular that they now need to be registered with the FAA for $5.00, if they're over 0.55 pounds after the batteries, propellers,and camera are loaded. They come in various prices, shapes, sizes, and capabilities. I've seen ads from reputable companies, such as Dell, listing sale prices of le

New Day, New Year, New Goals

A recent online article noted that e-book sales declined last year and suggested this trend would likely continue, based on quarterly sales reports by the big five publishing houses. Whether or not that’s so in the long run, e-books still appear to be a viable industry, one that invites us to reach out to the myriad readers who use electronic devices to read. The author also stated that a large number of downloaded e-books go unread, in part or in whole, but that plot-driven novels are more likely to be read than ones driven by characters; young adult sales reportedly plummeted by almost half last year. Gabor from Hungary Will this article deter me? No. Why? First, it’s based on the big five. The other side of that coin is small houses and independent publishers that abound throughout the country; no practical way I know of exists right now to bring them into this equation. Instead of succumbing to doubt, I am venturing into the e-book arena for the first time, beginning this mo

New Year's Resolutions

After the whirlwind of Christmas has passed in a blur, we stare at the bright start of the New Year and with it comes the practice of making resolutions. Resolutions should be good. They should act as that little push to make Sally, Dick, and Jane do those healthy/productive/necessary things they should have been doing all along. On the flip side, Dick’s good resolution may turn out to be Jane’s nightmare. What if Dick’s resolution is to spend more time with his family, so he takes a job that will allow him to do so. The catch is: they have to move to California. Jane and kids must leave their friends and community for this to happen. That is a major conflict of interest. How will the situation be resolved? Will they overcome the inciting incident and end up a stronger couple or will the added pressure of constant togetherness in a place where no one feels at home make them realize they were never truly compatible? Will Jane and the kids stay or go back? Will Dick give up his hig

What's New?

Out with the old, in with the new! This month, our theme is everything new including new gadgets, new projects, new books, new habits, new goals... anything the team dreams up. Join us as we return to our weekly blogging schedule after our December hiatus. It's good to be back. Tell us what's new in your life for 2016! Happy New Year!