Saturday, August 1, 2015

Refresh an Old Title

Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with ... Refreshing a "Stale" Title

This subject resonates with me, I must admit! I've posted here my own comments and opinions, but some of the the source material is gratefully credited to the Book Marketing Expert newsletter.


We'd all like higher sales figures - but for many authors, they're getting harder to find. Books are popular and in the public eye for a brief moment, then consigned to the backlist, as the readership looks for the new shiny.

But what about reviving some of those older books and starting to make sales on them again? Most of us who have been writing for a while are sitting on a lot of content and a lot of older books that are taking up virtual shelf space on Amazon. I know I regularly come across readers who've never heard of me (amazing, I know! LOL) or who don't know I have many more books in the market.

You have many options now to revive, renew and even re-release a book with minimal effort. Many of our books are with publishers, so at all times you'd need to check your contract before trying out a new scheme. But many publishers - especially the indie publishers who deal largely in e-books - are often open to suggestions that will benefit both you and them with higher sales.

Release it in eBook: Many authors with older titles haven’t done anything with them digitally and now is the time to do this. If you are someone who’s been published by a traditional house, see if they have the rights to your digital content. Many old contracts don’t have this provision so be sure and check. Maybe you have the option to take back those rights, or at least re-negotiate them with your publisher. And if you're in self-publishing, you'll have worked out the logistics of producing an ebook already. Find a new cover, consider a new edit, add some review quotes - and there you are.

Release it in Audio: This is an increasingly popular market. It's relatively expensive to do as an individual, but you may consider it an option - or one to discuss with your publisher. Many readers are re-finding joy in listening to books, even ones they've already read in print!

Bundle eBook:  A long book can be separated out and put up as separate novellas on Amazon. Make
sure you have a page in the back of each book that leads the reader to the next book in the series. This will also open up new options for promotion and reviews, too. Consider virtual "box sets" too, if you have a popular series, or your publisher can group similar titles together in a new version. Here's a picture of a box set my publisher recently launched, including my older suspense novel "72 Hours", grouped with other novels published in that same year.

Change the cover: I combined two earlier books into one in 2010 - "Branded" - with a brand new cover. Sales started moving up again. It’s not an Amazon algorithm thing per se, but it’s often the newly, refreshed content that helps to spike visibility of the book because it looks new to readers, especially if your book is genre fiction. Readers are always on Amazon looking for a new book to read so it’s a great way to grab their attention. "Branded" is being re-issued again in 2016, under a new imprint at my publisher, as it's more suitable there. It's been an opportunity to re-edit it, too. So now it's going for its third launch LOL.

Short is the new long: The joy of e-publishing is that you can publish works other than novels. Consider novellas with your popular characters; seasonal short stories; interview posts. Make sure all of the new product offers links back to the older books. Over a period of 4 years, I followed an old 2009 novel "True Colors" with 3 sexy short stories for the main romance pairing, and then a follow-up novel for the secondary characters. In all cases, sales of the original novel bounced back up.



In conclusion : There’s a lot you can do with a book that’s been out for a while. As long as the content is still relevant there’s almost nothing you can’t do to it to revive it and give it a second chance. Keep in mind that once you do revive it, you can start to pitch it or, in some cases, repitch it to reviewers. A new book is like a clean slate. Make the most of it!  

Do you have any ideas on how to revive a "stale" title? Let us know!

~~Clare London~~
www.clarelondon.com


Credit to: 
Book Marketing Expert newsletter/Author Marketing Experts

Friday, July 31, 2015

Don't Judge A Book By Its...Interior

After and Before 
The funny thing was I was quite happy with my interiors. I seemed to have avoided a lot of the associated hassles people spoke about when making print books for Createspace. I used Word and formatted the print versions myself, and I was meticulous, and I followed the guidelines exactly.

Then I accidentally received the judges comments back from a contest I entered and BAM! Apparently, I suck. I won't go into detail because that wouldn't be professional. I decided that while I might not be able to win that reader over, I was in a position to rethink my interior formatting.

So I did.

I'd been on a panel with Julianne MacLean last year and knew she used Createspace to format her interiors. So I approached my contact there and she (love her) actually offered me a freebie to see how I liked their service--it's hard to get a better offer than that, right?
After (Createspace) and Before (me)
Top-createspace       Bottom-Me

OK--while at first I wasn't seeing a big difference, I do like the way they did the Copyright page and my list of other books. Then I looked inside at the story itself...

After (Createspace) Before (me)


The difference seems to be in the margins and in the kerning. It's subtle and yet their version seems a lot more professional than mine. So, I'm sold. I did a good job (IMO), but their's looks like a 'proper' book. I haven't redone all my books yet, just the Cold Justice Series. Now my cover artist is adjusting the cover size so I can load these new versions onto my local bookstore's Cafe Press printing machine. Then I'm going to check out Ingram Spark.

So although it's a bit of a kick in the teeth to hear negative things, you have to try and use them to empower you in some way. It's easy to be bitter and life is too short :) There are other places that format interiors too. Ask around and find someone you like.

Now I have a box of books formatted the old way, LOL. Guess what? I'll probably use them for contests.

The End!
Visit Toni Anderson at her Website or on Facebook or Twitter.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

SHIPPERS


I’m not talking the postal service. UPS, or FedEx. I’m talking about shippers as it relates to fandom.
Shipping from Wikipedia  
Shipping, initially derived from the word relationship, is the desire by fans for two people, either real-life celebrities or fictional characters, to be in a relationship, romantic or otherwise. It is considered a general term for fans' emotional involvement with the ongoing development of a relationship in a work of fiction. Shipping can involve virtually any kind of relationship: from the well-known and established, to the ambiguous or those undergoing development, and even to the highly improbable or blatantly impossible.
I always thought shipping was a fun thing to do. You know, see who can come up with the most unlikely couple. Like the Terminator and Margaret Thatcher. Would she become Margaret Terminator or would the names be combined. Termathatcher maybe?
Mad Max dating Ann of Green Gables.
A buddy movie with Dan Quayle (US R-VP 89-93) and Joe Biden (US D-VP 09-16) Oh! My! What adventures.
What couple would you pick for a remake of Mr. &Mrs. Smith?   
Making people you know as book protagonists. Anne Marie could be Olivia the helicopter pilot in my first book Under Fire. She’s tall but would have to cut her hair. Sorry Toni you and I are just too short to be pilots. We’d have to duct tape blocks on the pedals.
Sandy could slip nicely into Maureen’s Shadow heroine, Sophie.
Of course Maureen has always been cast as a Pip.
Can’t see myself as heroine in any book. The only movie character I see myself playing is Mama in Throw Mama From the Train.
I would love to see Outlander characters Rupert and Angus, kilts and all, in a remake of Strange Brew. Or, as a modern day Abbot and Costello.  Hmmm. Now that I think of it maybe our former Vice Presidents could do the Strange Brew remake.  
But alas, Shipping to some has become dark and mean. Some Shippers believe it is okay to invade celebrity’s private lives. Shippers lurk outside homes, gate crash family gatherings, grope, say they are friends of the celebrities. They demand to know personal details of the celebrity’s lives and want a say in who they date. When they don’t get that, (like they ever would) they get nasty. They invent stories of the most intimate kind and post them to social media. They set up fake social media pages pretending to be the celebrity. Photoshop pics and gifs. Talk about sexual orientation. When called out they say there is nothing wrong with what they’re doing. They say once you’re in the public eye you’re fair game and besides, it’s just harmless fun.
I’ve only leaned about this level of bat sh*t crazy shippers the last couple of months. It’s no secret I love Outlander. I’ve followed the cast and production members on social media and joined a few closed Fan Facebook groups. It was a kick to learn what readers have to say about the books and discuss the story. See costume designs and set locations for the Starz series. Get insider tid bits. Then…. the shippers started. They hate everything. The shippers demand the series producers do things how ‘they’ want them done. After all no one knows what is good but a shipper. Not even the author, Diana Gabaldon. When Diana commented she’d be writing a script for season 2 she received scalding comments basically saying she better not deviate from the book.  
Apparently the last couple weeks it’s gone to whale sh*t on the bottom of the ocean level. A woman got down on the floor and looked up one of the Scottish actor’s kilt. For real. That just creeps me out.
The major actors now have body guards, people have been banned/blocked from Outlander actor and official social media pages, and Starz/Outlander events. Geeze. And we thought authors have it bad dealing with review trolls and piracy.
And you know what? There are many more fandom shippers out there.
Beware.
They  are  out  there  and  they  walk  among  us.
How are we to tell who they are and protect ourselves? It’s not like the Walking Dead. You can’t identify brain dead people by looking at them. I guess if you see someone hanging in a tree holding a camera with a long lens you could be looking at a shipper. But dang.
If anyone wants to play the Candy Land level of shipping with me, go for it. Share your parings and make us laugh.  

    

Monday, July 27, 2015

Romance, crossbows, salmon...oh my!

First, a warm welcome back from New York to everyone who had the opportunity to travel to RWA this year!

I was sad that I couldn't make it, but I had a few activities going on that I couldn't get out of. One of them was a trip to Alaska. Okay, yes, I confess, it was my honeymoon. :)  But, ever the author, I found a way to turn the trip into research. We visited NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association). It was quite exciting because it was a very small group and it was a comprehensive tour. Comprehensive, and downright intimate. Yes, that's a little rubber ducky in one of the fisheries research labs. 


We went into the necropsy room where yours truly almost got shot by a crossbow. Crossbows are used to tag whales. One was sitting unbalanced on the edge of the examination table when the guide walked by it and brushed it with their elbow, knocking it so that it aimed directly at me. That would have been a dramatic ending to a honeymoon.

The labs at NOAA offered enough intrigue to upstage NCIS. Recently, they had a "fishy" story to investigate. A large ship loaded with fish came into the harbor and was boarded for questioning. The crew claimed that the fish were recently caught in the immediate area, but technicians were able to establish that the fish were from distant seas and illegally transported. I never knew that you could trace a salmon down to its home creek by its ear bone. Some fisheries go so far as to tamper with the temperature of the water when the salmon are babies (fry) to stamp the fish. This temperature fluctuation leaves a mark on the fish's ear bone that can later be traced back to that specific fishery. Yes, I learned more about the life of salmon than I ever thought possible.

In addition to my near brush with the crossbow, I had a bit of a tumble on this mountain. It hurt like heck, but it wasn't the pain that bothered me the most. It was that brief glimpse of the abyss beyond. The mind took the leap that the body did not. I burst out into a full-blown panic attack. My panic was founded though. Two days later a gentlemen from Florida fell to his death in the same area. It was quite jarring to read that, and my heart goes out to his family.

But such is the honeymoon of a romantic suspense author. Romance, crossbows, salmon, and stumbles.


Maureen A. Miller


Friday, July 24, 2015

HOW TO ROCK A FACEBOOK PARTY


 
Since many of the NYUS crew are currently having a ball at the Romance Writers of America’s conference in NYC, I thought a party theme topic would be in order [plus it’s Friday!].

Last weekend I attended a workshop by author Marcia King-Gamble, http://www.lovemarcia.com , on planning a successful Facebook event, and she graciously granted me permission to recap a few tips.  She’s hosted a number of Facebook extravaganzas, including those with international scope.
For those wanting a visual aid, check out this link for step by step instructions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufERYmdUD4g

Otherwise, click on ‘events’ on your home page and then ‘create events’. Give the event a name such as “Launch Party for ‘title of your latest release’”. Then describe the event, where it will be held [which FB page]. When it comes to the date and time, consider the audience you’re trying to attract. Good times are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-10 p.m.
If you’re solo hosting, a good length is one to two hours. However, consider hosting with other authors. The point is to reach new readers, right? Joining forces to invite FB friends/fans is certainly a good step toward that goal. If it is a group event, then more time is in order.

Make sure to select ‘public’ for the level of privacy and invite ‘friends of guests’. As you create the invite, use a great visual where it says ‘Add Photo.’ The invite should be issued two weeks before the event.  

If it’s a group party, have everyone donate a prize.  Popular prizes are Amazon/Starbucks/e-gift cards. Theme the party and collect images to upload throughout the event to keep it interactive.
Create buzz by promoting on FB and Twitter. Post pics of the giveaways, guests, etc. However, don’t overdo your reminders. Consider sending out three reminders prior to the big day.

On the day of the party, remind guests to click on the ‘join’ button to attend. Try to be on line at least ten minutes so you can start engaging early guests. Have short blurbs about the book[s] and images ready to be uploaded. Be sure to tell guests where to find the book. Give prizes throughout to build excitement.
Most of all, relax and enjoy yourself. Be gracious and thank everyone for attending! Now, who has tips on FB parties they would care to share?

Carol Stephenson


P.S. Again, please check out my friend Marcia King-Gamble at Marcia King-Gamble Facebook
 

 


***These notes are my own recollection/interpretation of the presentation and any errors are mine.**

 

HOW TO ROCK A FACEBOOK PARTY


Since many of the NYUS crew are currently having a ball at the Romance Writers of America’s conference in NYC, I thought a party theme topic would be in order [plus it’s Friday!].

Last weekend I attended a workshop by author Marcia King-Gamble, http://www.lovemarcia.com , on planning a successful Facebook event, and she graciously granted me permission to recap a few tips.  She’s hosted a number of Facebook extravaganzas, including those with international scope.

For those wanting a visual aid, check out this link for step by step instructions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufERYmdUD4g

Otherwise, click on ‘events’ on your home page and then ‘create events’. Give the event a name such as “Launch Party for ‘title of your latest release’”. Then describe the event, where it will be held [which FB page]. When it comes to the date and time, consider the audience you’re trying to attract. Good times are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-10 p.m.

If you’re solo hosting, a good length is one to two hours. However, consider hosting with other authors. The point is to reach new readers, right? Joining forces to invite FB friends/fans is certainly a good step toward that goal. If it is a group event, then more time is in order.

Make sure to select ‘public’ for the level of privacy and invite ‘friends of guests’. As you create the invite, use a great visual where it says ‘Add Photo.’ The invite should be issued two weeks before the event.  

If it’s a group party, have everyone donate a prize.  Popular prizes are Amazon/Starbucks/e-gift cards. Theme the party and collect images to upload throughout the event to keep it interactive.

Create buzz by promoting on FB and Twitter. Post pics of the giveaways, guests, etc. However, don’t overdo it. Consider sending out three reminders prior to the big day.

On the day of the party, remind guests to click on the ‘join’ button to attend. Try to be on line at least ten minutes so you can start engaging early guests. Have short blurbs about the book[s] and images ready to be uploaded. Be sure to tell guests where to find the book. Give prizes throughout to build excitement.

 Most of all, relax and enjoy yourself. Be gracious and thank everyone for attending! Now, who has tips on FB parties they would care to share?

Carol Stephenson


P.S. Again, please check out my friend Marcia King-Gamble at Marcia King-Gamble Facebook

 


***These notes are my own recollection/interpretation of the presentation and any errors are mine.**

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

When I'm Struggling With A Story

To all my friends and fellow authors at the Romance Writers of America conference starting today in New York City – have fun and just know that I'm so jealous.  I wish I was there, but I'm home working on my next book (deadlines). 

I'm struggling right now trying to finish a holiday novella.  Don't tell anybody but I've restarted this one for the third time, because nothing around me is putting me in the holiday spirit.  I've tried scented candles.  Christmas carols.  Watched holiday-themed movies.  Drank hot cocoa.  Nothing has worked.
 

Why?  Because I live in Texas and it's bloody hot here.  The last time I blogged here at Not Your Usual Suspects, we'd been having rain for a solid month.  Today it was 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside (the temperature inside the car read 110 degrees).  Not conducive to thinking about cheerful romps in the snow and the scent of pine filling the house.   

But, I still have to finish the book, because I have a deadline when it has to be turned in for edits.  I have to invoke my imagination and beg my muse to help me picture the scene and help it take shape. 

It's not a magic trick or voodoo science.  It's listening to your characters and where they're at in the story.  What's the locale?  Is it snowing?  Is it cold?  Are they spending the holidays in a tropical setting and maybe missing building their annual snowman? 


Get into the mindset of the hero and heroine.  What are they wearing?  Are they bundled up against the cold, snowbound in a blizzard, or maybe stuck at the office party in atrocious Christmas sweaters?  (Sorry, even inside with the A/C blowing, I'm not doing putting on a sweater.)

Clear out the space around you.  If you're writing area is cluttered, that can steal your focus.  (I'm guilty of that most times.  I can get so focused on the words I kind of ignore the stuff piling up around me.)  Right now the only things on my desk are a stack of sticky notes, a Diet Coke and since I'm trying for the holiday spirit, a scented candle.  (I'm trying a cinnamon one.  If that doesn't work, I'll switch to peppermint.) 

So, if you get stuck, try a couple of these tricks and see if they might help you get over the hump and finish the book.  That's the bottom line– finishing the book.  You can't forget that because there's somebody out there waiting to read it.
Now I'm going to sign out of here, because I've got a holiday story that's calling my name. 


Monday, July 20, 2015

If Seinfeld Can, Why Can't I?

by Janis Patterson

While The Husband loved the TV show Seinfeld and still occasionally watches DVDs of it, I found it stultifyingly boring and even more uninteresting. It was heralded as a show about nothing, and as far as I am concerned it definitely succeeded. However, it was undeniably popular. (Does that say something about me, or about everyone else?) I much prefer shows in which the actors are attractive, shows in which there is something going on – explosions, genuine humor, dead bodies, passionate kisses on a sunset beach... something!

Still, I have to admit that the show did something right to be so popular and on the air for so long, so I've decided to explore its particular trope and find out what made it so successful. Except I can't find what it is. All I can find is that it is regarded as a show about nothing. (Perhaps a metaphor for the supposed emptiness of modern urban life?)

Okay, I can run with that. Most of our lives are filled with nothing. Oh, we're busy all the time, usually with things that seem important at the time but have little cosmic impact. Things like deciding what to serve for dinner tonight. (Always a biggie for me, as The Husband is a very picky eater and I am a rather indifferent cook.) Shopping for same. Making lunches in the morning. Laundry – what gets tumble dried and what gets line dried and if any of it gets bleach. Deciding if I really want that cute pair of shoes we saw at the mall. Trying to switch the appointment for a much-needed oil change because that's the only day I can take an elderly neighbor to a much-more needed dental appointment.

See? All important at that minute, all demanding your immediate attention, but in the grand scheme of things generally dismissed as the minutiae of life. Six months – heck, six weeks – afterward, are you going to remember if you had that oil change on Wednesday or Friday, or if those shoes were the red ones or the blue ones?

So what does this digression have to do with murder? Because everything in a murder is important. How many times does the detective (professional or amateur) bring the miscreant to justice by reason of a single fact uttered some time before? Jessica Fletcher was a master of this – a throwaway line uttered perhaps days ago in the storyline, perhaps at the very beginning of the show, and she remembers it. Worse, I can't remember it at all. Of course, now that I write mysteries my 'sleuth' instinct is honed to dangerous acuity, watching every line and usually being able to figure out what is a clue. That, however, is a reader/viewer trick, trained by far too many hours spent absorbing other people's stories.

Real detectives, however, don't have that luxury. They can't automatically know that the fact so-and-so wore red shoes on Tuesday is important. They have to give every bit of information weight. They don't have editors and beta readers and directors and cinematographers giving focus to every necessary nuance. I think that's the main reason most real-life cases are not wound up in 20 chapters or 47 minutes. There is too much everything to deal with and that unfortunately translates to nothing to deal with.

So – I am getting too close to saying something instead of sticking with my intended policy of blogging today on nothing. That's perhaps fortunate, as I have nothing else to say.


Stay cool this during this hot July, write well, read widely and don't get overwhelmed by nothing.

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Crime of the Century?

In the US, my books are described as mysteries. Here in the UK, they’re crime novels. Either way, my books always have someone - either a police department or a private investigator - trying to solve a crime. Usually, but not always, this will be a murder. 

To this end, I’ve always believed that one of my most important jobs as writer is to outwit the reader. I don’t want them guessing whodunnit - or even whydunnit - on page 5. The joy for the reader, or so I’ve always thought, is trying to spot the clues and solve the puzzle before the sleuth.

I recently read The Insect Farm by Stuart Prebble. 



From the publisher: A cleverly plotted mystery of love,jealousy and suspense, Stuart Prebble's eagerly awaited new novel - The Insect Farm - will linger long in the mind of its readers. Brothers Jonathan and Roger Maguire each has an obsession. For Jonathan, it is his beautiful and talented girlfriend Harriet. For Roger, it is the elaborate universe he has constructed in a shed in their parents' garden, populated by millions of tiny insects. But Roger lives in an impenetrable world of his own and, after the mysterious death of their parents, his brother Jonathan is forced to give up his studies to take care of him. This obligation forces Jonathan to live apart from Harriet -- further fuelling his already jealous nature. Their lives are abruptly shattered by a sudden and violent death, and Jonathan is drawn into a cat-and-mouse game with the police. Does Roger know more than he is letting on? A cleverly plotted mystery with a shock ending, The Insect Farm -- Stuart Prebble's awaited new novel -- will linger long in the mind of its readers.

Jeffery Deaver said this about the book: Only rarely do a gripping psychological crime story and a literary writer’s insight and masterful style coincide. But The Insect Farm has that distinction. You’ll read this book fast, so compelling is the story, then - I guarantee - go back and read it again to savour the author’s gift for rich, lyrical writing. A tour de force.

I couldn’t agree more. This book is the best I’ve read this year. (I don’t know the author and only dowloaded the book because of a great review I read). The story lived on in my mind but, weeks after I’d finished reading it, I saw that one reviewer had described the book as “predictable”.  It was only then I realised that, yes, I too had been one step ahead and had worked out the who and the why very early on. No spoilers here, but there’s a fire and I didn’t guess the mystery surrounding that. But knowing the killer’s identity - did it spoil my enjoyment of the story? Not one iota!

So in future, I’m planning to relax a little. Maybe I don’t have to lose sleep over the red herrings and the misdirection. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not the crime of the century if the reader has her suspicions…

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Backstory

I love developing my characters’ backstories. For one, they are the easiest ones to tweak when your real story suddenly changes direction. They also provide a wealth of information about your characters, their story arc, and why they react to the situations you drop them into (to say nothing about giving direction to your plot development).



Recurring Nightmares?
And while it might be tempting to have your character react in predictable ways, having him or her do something unexpected (but logical--for him or her) provides more depth and can entice a reader to find out why that character responded that way. Because our experiences are as unique and individual as our personalities, your character’s reaction to any given situation will be a combination of everything that has happened to him or her to date. This is why being able to modify a backstory to get the reaction you need in chapter fourteen is so powerful—and fun!
A past life?


It also helps that very little of these backstories actually ever appear in your book—like a very potent spice, a little goes a long way. Plus I want my readers to fill in some of those gaps with their own reactions and ideas. Like your character’s backstoy, every reader brings their own experiences (backstory) to your book, so they will react to situations in ways you would not. That can make your book more powerful for them because they have invested themselves in your book in a very real sense.

Be creative and flexible with your backstories, and let them evolve organically and change to make your characters grow and change in unexpected ways. So, do you have any favorite backstories you’ve created or read lately?
Was your character kidnapped are abandoned as child?
 

Monday, July 13, 2015

PLAYING FAVORITES


In her NYUS blog of May 20, Building a Character—One Trait at a Time, Sharon Calvin ended with a question:  “Do you have any favorite character(s)?  What . . . makes them memorable to you?”

For me there could be only one answer, Jane Eyre.  And that set me thinking.  Why was Jane Eyre my all time-favorite character?

 

Well, for one, she fulfills that basic requirement for any protagonist—she’s sympathetic (exception, the anti-hero, but that’s a subject for a different blog).  As the story unfolds, heartless Aunt Reed treats Jane with what today would be called child abuse, siding with her bullying son, locking poor Jane in a dark, gloomy room.  That alone puts the reader squarely on the child’s side.  But Bronte doesn’t leave it at that.  Her heroine fights back.  Alone, orphaned, unloved and unwelcomed though she is, Jane has the courage to defy Mrs. Reed and, of course, is punished.

The punishment-- Jane fans know this already--is banishment to the harsh Lowood School (isn’t the name perfect?) under the cruel direction of Mr. Brocklehurst.

But for a kind teach, Miss Temple, Jane would have died there as does her friend Helen (in the 1944 movie version famously played by a preadolescent Elizabeth Taylor). 

When adult Jane leaves Lowood to strike out and see something of the world that has been denied her for so long, we cheer her on as we read.  Despite all she’s endured, her childhood spunk is alive and well.  And as governess of little Adele, Mr. Rochester’s ward—and unacknowledged daughter—she lavishes her with kindness.   In this case, an abused child has not grown up to become an abuser.

So what impact did my favorite character have on writing a favorite character of my own?  At first glance, not much.  When the reader meets Deva Dunne, the protagonist and amateur sleuth in my Murders by Design series, she is an adult, was never mistreated as a child, and is now a sexy, twenty-first century woman with a talent for solving crimes.  But Deva, like Jane, lost her mother as a child, so she knew sorrow early in life and as the series opens, she is a young and recent widow still mourning her beloved husband.

 

Yet part of the joy and, yes, the fun in reading about Deva is how she fights, like Jane, to rebuild her life.  As Jane left Lowood, Deva leaves familiar surroundings to seek a brand new life.  Not Thornfield Hall--Naples, Florida.  And that doesn’t include a Mr. Rochester but a guy named Rossi.  Like Mr. Rochester, Lieutenant Rossi is also irascible, difficult and—this is very important—smoldering.  Though a feminist before the word became an everyday term, Jane like Deva ultimately finds much happiness in a life with her man.  I like to believe this is part of the reason the reader enjoys knowing them.  They’re both independent-minded women who face death, and life, with courage.

Okay, I don’t want to push the comparisons too far here.  Jane and Deva are entirely different people.  What remains similar, though--and what inspired me about Jane--is her ability to rise above her problems, and not permit them to defeat her.  Deva doesn’t either.  Ask Rossi.

 

 
Links: cozy mystery, Amazon, Charlotte Bronte, interior design, Naples, Florida. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Who needs easy...?

I had a couple of things happen recently that made me blink. First was a friend of mine saying she thought I was bonkers when I started writing, "but look at you now!" And then a comment from another friend I hadn't seen in ages saying, "OMG, look at how far you've come. I remember when you were trying so hard to make this work."

And you forget.

You forget in the melee of madness of trying to succeed as a writer that you have achieved something amazing. Something almost everyone you ever meet will say to you that they'd love to do. And you've done it. Not once, not twice, but (if like me) closer to twenty times. You've written a book. You've published a book. And some strangers, not invested in you in any way, actually enjoyed reading it.

You forget.

Instead of taking a moment to celebrate hitting lists, selling x copies a day, getting great reviews (and lousy ones), I'm thinking "My WIP sucks. I have no idea how to add any sort of twist to this story. There's no conflict! My hero and heroine haven't even thought about sex because they just met and are running for their lives for cripes sake."

Seven years ago I have my astrological chart read by Mary O'Gara. Funnily enough I don't have an ironclad belief in astrology or psychics and yet I've found odd weird snippets unerringly accurate, enough for me to believe in some magical process going on in the Universe.

Years ago, the secretary at the Gatty Marine Lab's dad did a reading based on my ring--he said, "She's going to work abroad, Canada, Australia, here (Scotland) and Canada again--it doesn't make any sense!" He was absolutely right on both counts! A woman read my colors at a charity function. You chose wax colors and she melted them and made a gift card and she read the patterns like tea leaves. She said (giving me a weird look), "Your job has something to do with the computer, but also," cough, "sex and passion." Well, yes, it does, and it isn't porn, which was obviously what she was thinking ;)

So, back to Mary O'Gara and my chart--I'm paraphrasing Mary's words here: I have a rare kite pattern (as good as it gets for a writer), a moon in Aquarius (capable of understanding anything that I want to), Neptune in my 3rd house (which rules fantasy and the sea, encourages deep emotions  but also things not always being as they seem). I have a key square which gives lots of energy, but keeps us discontented enough to work hard. My 5th moon is in Capricorn which means a lot of creativity. I focus. I finish things. I have Saturn in my 8th house but I have no idea what that means!  My main problem, apparently, was believing what I did had value. That I deserved to be paid for doing something I loved. Mary said I needed to work on that, and trust me, I have. To work on my self esteem and self respect. I did that, too. It took a long time and it's a work-in-progress/constant battle. She told me I had a great chart for a writer--but not an easy chart.

And that, my friends, is why I forget to celebrate the milestones.

I'm still focused on the work, on the writing, on trying to get better. And while I think we all need to occasional pat on the back for some accomplishment, that shouldn't be anyone's focus. Writing doesn't get easier with time or experience. Maybe we just become more aware of our potential to get the book done. We have self belief even in the face of writing utter rubbish as a first draft. That's a powerful gift.

You don't need a good astrological chart to be a writer. You need to put in the hours, the graft, the toil.  Learn the craft. You need to be professional. Hold your tongue. Pay attention to the market, but not so much you lose sight of the most important thing--the writing itself.

If I ever write a blog that tells you, "I did it, I'm here!" then you'll know someone has stolen my identity. I don't even write THE END on a finished story because the story is never finished. This is who I am, this is the "discontented enough to work hard" part of my personality. It's even in my astrological chart!!!  LOL.

What about you? Have you "made it?" Are you there yet? How do you know?






Monday, July 6, 2015

Oh What A Relief It Is

Don't let the title of this blog fool you. I'm not talking about antacid! (You remember Plop, plop, fizz, fizz? Or maybe I'm dating myself.)

I'm talking about the relief of getting a book to its editor.
Lately I've been under crazy stress to keep juggling all the balls I've got in the air. I've got my day job on set, I'm prepping to give my Itching to Pitch workshop for the Orange County Chapter of RWA, I've just finished narrating an audio book and I'm prepping for the next one in one week and oh, somewhere in there I had to finish my second round edits of the last book in the Adrenaline Highs series and take care of my family. (Which includes remembering this sweet boy's 12th birthday today. I figure since I didn't have a pic to post regarding relief, I'd post something awesome cute instead.)



Isn't he sweet? Okay...enough sentiment and cuteness. Onto the rest!

I've had to prioritize everything day to day to keep my sanity. I'll admit, that most days I didn't get everything done. Stuff got pushed. Mostly the writing. Which killed me. I hated knowing that every day I didn't get to my writing or editing that it was pushing the release date of this last Adrenaline Highs book, but it couldn't be helped. Mainly because I'm human and there's only so much I can get done in a day.

But now that one narration is under my belt, now that those edits are out the door, (after several mammoth editing sessions the last three days - including July 4th - that took me until 2 a.m.), I actually feel like I can breathe. To celebrate, I'm going to watch the world cup. Go USA!!

I've come to grips with the idea that I'm not going to be a writing machine until I retire from the day job or stop narrating books. The prep time it takes for those two jobs, not to mention the actual hours involved to complete them, is just short of massive. But they make me happy, just like the writing does. So how do you decide between jobs you do that fulfill you on different levels?

I've decided...you don't have to decide. You just have to live your life the best way you can and enjoy what you're doing when you do it.

I guess you could say my relief is double sided. Yes, I'm thrilled I got this book to the editor and it's getting closer to publication. And, yes, I'm happy that I've come to terms enjoying all the things that make my life full. Here's to not making yourself crazy over the juggling act! (I know I'm not the only juggling!)

What's your biggest relief? I'd love to know.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Bad to the Bone: How Bad Can Your MC Be?



Last night I watched HEAT for the first time. My husband had seen it multiple times before and at one point, about halfway through, I asked him, “So, who are we supposed to be rooting for, Robert De Niro or Al Pacino?”

He shrugged and said, “Which one hasn’t murdered anyone?” 

Well, I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler alert to say that Robert De Niro, the criminal to Al Pacino’s cop, was the one who had killed people. Still, I was kind of rooting for his character. He possessed intelligence, nobility, and a loyalty to his “coworkers.” He also seemed to be against killing people, unless, you know, he really really had to...or they were really annoying. Whereas Al Pacino’s character seemed kind of crazy, agitated, and unkind. (According to IMDB, in an earlier draft the character had a cocaine habit and, even though that was later removed, Al Pacino kept the erratic outbursts.) So, I still kind of rooted for De Niro’s character right up to the end. 

Currently, I am also in the middle of the THRONE OF GLASS series by Sarah J. Maas, which revolves around Celaena Sardothien, a vicious assassin who has brutally killed people for money and out of pure anger. Sure, she has always had “rules” for herself, but they are so minimal they are obvious (e.g., she won’t kill kids.) I won’t get into all the changes the character goes through, partly because I’m only in the middle of book two, but I will say that despite her past actions and her current fiery anger, I’m enjoying it enough to keep reading. Sure, some of her thoughts and actions bug me, but not enough that I can’t ultimately root for her. Her past was so awful, you can see her as a victim, and she has other qualities, like loyalty and even compassion, that come through.

I tend to like “good” main characters. Of course, they should be flawed, but I don’t usually like it when the “flaw” is that they mercilessly inflict excruciating pain before killing their enemies. But, obviously, I have my exceptions, which has me thinking, why do these characters work as protagonists when they are so well suited to being villains? 

Here are a few ways to have your bad character thrive as a protagonist.

  • Use a Bad/Good Scale (think Barney’s Hot/Crazy Scale). Your character can be as bad as you want, as long as he or she has an equal or more amount of good qualities and actions to balance it.
  • Make the actual antagonist worse than your bad character. If the bad character’s murderous rage is used against a group who would harm thousands of innocent people if they aren’t stopped, suddenly that murderous rage seems more like an asset.
  • Explain why the MC is the way she is. What has happened in her past that has sculpted her bad motivations and behavior? This doesn’t equal absolution, but it can help the reader understand that these negative actions don’t take place in a vacuum.
  • Have the MC strive for good. He is trying to be better, even in his own way. He is trying to help others, even if those others are also “bad” characters.
Now go have fun writing your bad boys and girls! :)