Month: September 2014

My Muse Moves in Mysterious Ways

Yopps CemetaryYopp’s Meeting House is the oldest church in my town.  It is also the site of the only segregated cemetery in our little community.  It should come as no surprise that the “white” section covers about three-quarters of the cemetery.  It encompasses the front of the property,wraps around to the right and extends to the back.  The “black” section is located in the left rear corner.   It’s covered with shade trees and it’s the only place in the cemetery where you can hear the creek.

As I walked through the cemetery, I stopped periodically to read the headstones. 100_1118I found Charlotte in the segregated section.  She was about born in 1895 and died in 1905.  My first thought was to wonder what had happened to her. Had she been sick?  Was she the victim of a tragic accident?  My thoughts moved from how she died to how she lived…  I wondered about the little girl she must have been.  How did she fill her days?  Did she have a favorite doll?  Was she scared of the dark?  In my mind’s eye, I could see her, wearing a light blue dress, chasing a butterfly across a field, her laughter ringing in the air.

 

100_1125In the “white” section, I found E.A.R.’s headstone. Surrounded by markers much more eloquent, this stone squeezed at my heart.  Who was E?  Male or female?  What was he/she like?  I wondered at the family’s circumstances, marking their loved one’s grave with such a humble stone.  I imagined an old man, bent from long days toiling in the sun, lovingly preparing a marker for his spouse.

Cemeteries aren’t usually on my list of places to visit.  In fact, the only reason I stopped by today was to get pictures of tombstones.  My family is working on our Halloween decorations and part of our front yard will be a cemetery, complete with the Grim Reaper and an open coffin.  (I know, you’re breathing a sigh of relief that we aren’t neighbors!)   Anyway – there I was, intent on getting pictures of various stones when my muse did her thing…  Grave markers became people and those people had stories to tell!

So, where were you when inspiration struck?

 

 

 

 

 

Because Dreams Aren’t Enough

Life is choices. It’s that simple. It is the little choices we make each day that shape our lives. While we have different struggles and concerns, at the end of the day, we decide what actions we will take to overcome the obstacles before us.

Like many other writers, writing isn’t my day job. While I have a good job, it doesn’t feed my creative side. You might be able to relate. In a perfect world, I’d be sitting at my desk writing novels instead of typing log notes.

I was on Facebook the other day when I came across a video of Denzel Washington talking to a group of students. (Here’s the link if your interested in viewing: http://youtu.be/O0mUqEa7XnM ) He talked about dreams and goals, discipline and consistency.  These are some of the same things we’ve probably all said to our children – maybe not in the same words – but with the same intents.

I wondered why I haven’t been applying this to my dream of being a full-time writer.  And I think I know the answer – I lacked discipline.  The choices I was making reflected this.

WP_20140921_006I looked at my writing space. Unlike my desk at work, my “writing” area wasn’t  organized.  I had notes laying haphazardly around.  Nothing was easy to find.  This was a problem.  If I could stay organized for my day job, then certainly,  my dream job deserved the same level of professionalism.

 

My day job requires that I work from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, five days a week, for a total of forty hours.  Like you, I come home, cook dinner and do a variety of other things. I might sit down and watch a television, maybe do a little social media stuff – stop by a google + community, spend a little time on twitter, etc. The thing is nothing was set in stone, not like my day job.  This was an area I needed to improve. I worked out a schedule that limited the amount of time I was being “social,” included a period for exercise, and allotted time to work on my WIP.

I decided I needed to set some goals in regards to my latest story:  things like a weekly word count and an estimated time to completion.  With a completion date selected, I’m more consistent with my writing because I’m focused on my goal.

So, this is what’s been going on with me.  I’m always looking for ideas for better utilizing my time.  If you have any tips, please feel free to share.

Making Our Make-Believe Believable

I’ll admit it. As a child, I saw monsters in the bathroom and heard wild animals outside my bedroom window. I loved watching Scooby-Doo on Saturday mornings and as I laid in bed on Saturday night, I was sure that a goblin or witch was hiding in my closet or under the bed. Some might say I had an overactive imagination. Others might think I still do.

Imagination is the portal that carries us to other places – whether an imaginary realm, a fictional city, or a table at your favorite café. It introduces us to characters – knights, fairies, detectives, and the girl next door.

As writers, we want to tell stories that our readers will want to believe. Just as the laws of nature are constant in the real world, we must set rules and parameters for our fictional world and we must hold true to those rules. Those rules will serve as a sort of litmus test when considering the actions of our characters and the elements of the setting. It is the consistency of the story’s components that makes it work.

Character assessments are critical. Each writer has their own way of learning about the characters in their story. Some may draw character webs. Others may interview the characters. The important thing is to use the information as building blocks during development and as a reminder of the character’s attributes as the story progresses. For example: If I’m writing about a middle-aged woman named Rose who is an activist with the anti-gun lobby and the only witness to a mob hit, I’m probably not going to have her choose to carry a gun. Why? Because I’m not sure that’s believable. Would Rose be comfortable toting a Glock in her handbag? Would she know how to load the weapon? Or how to use it? Maybe not. However, I might give Rose a can of pepper spray. She may choose to wear a pair of good running shoes or hire a body-guard.

We can apply the same reasoning to our imaginary places. If the leaves of a great oak tree are purple then they should stay purple. If an ogre is immune to magic, than no matter how tempting, the ogre should stay immune.

By obeying the rules we’ve set, we enable our story to progress. Ignoring the rules will cause our stories to stray into the unbelievable.

The Author Platform and Blogging: Identifying My Readers

acorn 2Remember Scrat-the squirrel from Ice Age?  He was my favorite character…  Always trying to secure that nut. With all of his efforts, he didn’t seem to accomplish much.   He had the momentary satisfaction of thinking he’d succeeded only to realize his acquisition had slipped from his paws…

I was thinking about my author platform and the decisions I’ve made and realized I’m a bit like Scrat.  I’ve put forth a lot of effort but I’m not exactly where I want to be.  In other words, I haven’t secured my nut.

To be honest, I didn’t realize how much effort went into building an online presence.   If I had, I probably would have closed my laptop and called it a day.  Novel Notions was my first effort at blogging and to be honest, I liked it.  I’m not very tech savvy, but I figured out Blogger and was satisfied.  Then came a 2013 writers conference …  My blog wasn’t enough, I needed a website.  I needed a Facebook Author page,  a Pinterest page and a Twitter account.  Good grief!  Because working a full-time job, taking care of my family, and trying to squeeze in a little writing time wasn’t enough!  I needed to do MORE!

I went to work.  I got a website using GoDaddy.  I set up a Facebook author page (which I rarely update) and I kept blogging.  Slowly, I built a small following. After all that work, I thought I had my nut.  Only, I didn’t.

At a 2014 writers conference, it was suggested that WordPress was the way to go.  Using WordPress would allow me streamline and hopefully save a little time.  I thought long and hard about this because in essence, I would be starting over.   In April, I made the switch.  Only, I didn’t put much effort into posting. (I continued posting to Novel Notions even though I knew that blog would be ending.)   Crazy right?  Because I knew from experience, consistency mattered when it comes to building and maintaining a following. It’s taken me a while but I getting back into the swing of things.

Only, I’m not sure that I’m chasing after the right nut.   There are so many expert voices out there offering advice on building an author platform.

There is the thought:  Content is King.   Typically, I blog about things I’ve learned from my journey as a self published writer.  I might offer writing tips or an experience I had in marketing.  Only, this kind of content is more for fellow writers.  The readers of my books on the other hand, probably aren’t checking out my blog for writing advice.

This leads me to: Know Your Readers.  Are we referring to the readers of our blog? OR the readers of our books?  I’ve always assumed this pertained to my book readers and yet, my blog content is aimed at other writers.  And that’s the quandary in which I find myself.  A blog is supposed to be a plank in an author platform.  It is supposed to help build a following, which in turn, hopefully leads to more sales.  Yet, I only seem to be targeting other writers… (I realize other writers do buy our novels and that is wonderful but I don’t think they should be our target buying audience.)

I visited several blogs – and found that the majority was a lot like mine (though bigger and better established) – offering content regarding writing/marketing.  There were a few who focused on their books and their books only but I found those kinda boring.  If I had written a book on gardening, I could blog about bees and the latest cultivating techniques thus offering quality content and identifying my audience.  But I didn’t…  I write fiction and my readers are females ranging from teens to older adults.  (Yes, there are grandmothers who read YA fiction)  I don’t necessarily want to post pics of the latest “hottie” nor do I plan on offering fashion advice or dating tips…

On second thought:   My blog is just a part of my website.  Maybe my website that should be focused at my “book readers” and my blog should be focused on  my “blog readers?”   Maybe I just freaking over think things…

So I’m left wondering, what is the magic formula?  And where do I go to find it?   Because, I’m really wanting that nut!

 

 

Book Cover Deja Vu?

I recently downloaded a couple of YA novels.  Because they were located next to each other on my Kindle, they caught my attention. Is is just me or is there a resemblance?  While there are several differences, to my eye, the model appears to be the same.  Which got me thinking…  What’s the chance of other books having similar covers?

the faerie guardian             mindspeak

Seeing as how I didn’t know – I did a search and was surprised by what I found.  One of my favorite trilogies is the Home Series by Megan Nugen Isbell.  I liked her covers.  They were simple yet sweet and I thought they captured the mood of the stories.  It was the cover of Last Train Home that initially hooked my attention.

last train

 

 

love and other

But as I looked at the cover of Love and Other Unknown Variables, I realized that certain images must resonate with us.  What else can explain the fact that out of the thousands of stock images available cover designers are choosing some of the same ones.

Of Dreams and Shadow, book cover With my first novel, Of Dreams and Shadow, I hired a graphic artist to design a custom cover.  Dreams is a young  adult paranormal novel.  I thought the artist did a wonderful job capturing the feel of the book with all the shadowy  swirling action.  That being said, I don’t think the cover says Young Adult and I can’t help but wonder whether a different cover would draw more readers.

My second story, The Reasons Why, is a new adult novella.  I decided I wanted to use a different cover designer.  I  wanted a cover that said new adult/contemporary romance.  After searching the internet, I found exactly what I  was looking for – a cover that hinted at the longing my characters  felt.  Perfect!!

reasonswhy_500x750

But apparently, I’m not the only author who was drawn to the image:

 

12a_sing-me-to-sleep                       12b_for-petes-sake

Was I surprised?  Absolutely.  Was I upset with my designer?  Absolutely not.   Like me, and obviously the other designers, she connected with the image.  She purchased that image and designed a cover that I ultimately bought.  And even though there are other book covers out there that share the same image as mine, I can’t imagine any other image capturing my story the way those two hands do.

Below you will find the links to two different websites.  Indie Book Launcher takes a decidedly custom cover position while Creativindie sides with the stock image folks.  As a writer, you will have to decide which option suits your needs.

http://www.indiebooklauncher.com/resources-diy/the-dangers-of-stock-photos-on-book-covers.php

http://www.creativindie.com/is-your-book-cover-designer-lazy-and-unethical-stock-photography-and-cover-clonescliches-again