A lollapalooza of great links to start off the week

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Birth vs Battle by David Corbett suggests that conflict ain’t everything in a story.

The Cyber Exchange Principle from the Writer’s Forensic Blog explains the Locard Exchange – the basis for using forensic evidence in crime detection.

An Almost Perfect Murder by Sue Coletta. Fascinating case study of a surgeon who almost got away with murder.

11 Tips to help you build your online community by Cat Michaels provides sage advice for building your platform.

Do You Know Where Your ISBNs Are? by Joel Friedlander, is a good nuts and bolts on ISBNs plus a free download.

How to write a great love scene by  Jessi Rita Hoffaman, provides some great tips on avoiding the schmaltz and getting to the gold in a love scene.

Who really killed JonBenet Ramsey by Garry Rodgers is an in depth analysis of the case and who the likely killer was of this sweet little girl.

Just for fun – I guess the shelf life for Shades has reached critical mass

And for laughs: Jimmy Fallon does a helluva Trump impression and this made me laugh out loud.

And just to get your week starting off right a little music.

Doing Backstory Right and Other Good Reads

 

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I’ve been away much longer than I realized, in my quest to finish the third book in a new trilogy among other highly distracting activities. And I wanted to reassure my three undying fans I still live and breathe. Also have been catching up on my reading and have some nice reads for you.

The Shocking Truth About Info Dumps by Lisa Cron discusses how to do backstory right. And folks, she is spot on.

Scene Structure: Scenes as Segments and Capsules of Time by CS Lakin Good nuts and bolts on scene structure, especially good statements on time in writing.

Beware the Writing Rules Police by Anne R. Allen. Anne takes the writing rules police to task and kicks their butts.

Burnout, creativity, and the tyranny of production schedules by Elizabeth Bear. Hardworking author Elizabeth Bear makes a good case for taking pressure and time off from writing. I totally get what she is talking about here.

Really Going There by Annie Neugebauer makes a good case for the argument that our best stories come from the places we are terrified to write about.

Have a good week everybody – step away from the political arguments on FB – real life is much better for your blood pressure. 🙂

Book Marketing Trends for Authors and Other Good Reads This Week

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I’m afraid I haven’t had much time to devote to blogging lately because I’m trying to finish a first draft of my novel. More on that later. In the meantime, following are some awesome reads for the Indie’s among us. Enjoy and have a great week.

7 Book Marketing Trends Authors Can’t Afford to Ignore. Kimberley Grabas offers some solid marketing strategies, with lots of actionable tips.

Why do we write? Lisa Kron offers a very interesting perspective on the impact that writing, even entertainment writing, can have.

Self Publishing Notebook. Jonathan Kile offers an interesting a funny perspective on indie writing and publishing.

Vetting Vendors: Public Relations Professionals. Naomi Blackburn has some advice on how to hire a PR pro that won’t ruin your PR.

Scene Structure: Understanding the Truth about Character Arcs. CS Larkin gives us a great nuts and bolts post on character arcs.

And just for fun, check out this Content Idea Generator. Who knows, it might be your next brilliant idea.

I do it because I can – flash fiction challenge from Chuck Wendig

Ah, the first flash fiction challenge for the new year from Chuck. Our assignment: to pick a random pic from Flicker and use it as inspiration for a short story of 1,000 words. I have to admit I went slightly over the 1,000 but just a smidge:

Untitled by Greg Pths https://www.flickr.com/photos/greg-pths/24075149811
Untitled by Greg Pths https://www.flickr.com/photos/greg-pths/24075149811

 

I do it because I can

She looked almost alive, swathed in veils and satin in her simple coffin. Like a princess. Ironic, since her killer left her on the side of the road, naked, bruised and obscenely posed for all to see. With a note clutched in her hand that read; “I do it because I can.”

Her grandmother told me in broken English that it was a custom from her home country – to send the loved one dressed in their best, to Heaven. After what had happened, I wondered how the woman still believed in Heaven. Eyes closed, prayer beads rattling between nervous fingers, her lips moved in silent prayer. Her silver hair glistened in the flickering candlight making her as much of a spectre as her dead granddaughter.

I sat in the back row and watched as mourners came and went. Some cried at the coffin, others crossed themselves defensively, lest the same thing happen to their child. Still others sat in the chairs and stared straight ahead. I waited for the killer to arrive. I knew that he would. That he would want to see his handiwork and the devastating effect it had on the world.

My partner sat in our unmarked, just outside the church – smoking and watching. We exchanged texts throughout the afternoon. Mostly to amuse ourselves and in the end for nothing at all because the killer never came to pay his respects.

As the last vestige of sunlight refracted through the stain glassed windows I rose. Tomorrow was another day for catching killers. Awkwardly, I knelt in the aisle, crossed myself and went outside.

After pushing through the ancient door of the church, I stood on the stoop and looked around, trying to adjust to the gray light that shrouded my world. The engine on the unmarked turned over and I squinted at my partner, who cranked a hand to get me moving.

I plunked into the passenger seat and closed the door against the cold. “So?”
My partner, Joan waved a gloved hand. “So nothing.”
I sighed at the tired little church as we pulled away from the curb. Joan smacked my arm with the back of her hand. “Cheer up, it’s beer o’clock.”

I nodded and stared straight ahead, wondering what made the human race so cold and uncaring. But soon, I was perched comfortably on a bar stool and doing shots and beers with Joan and the hard edges of life were softened.

Joan nibbled on a pretzel thoughtfully. “He’ll probably show at the funeral.” She turned bright green eyes on me. “Where he can watch from a distance.”

I nodded, then drained the rest of my beer. “Probably.” I tossed a few bills on the bar and stood. “Let’s go.”

She dropped me at my house, where lights in the window told me Cassie was home. “You want me to come in?”

I frowned at her. “For what?”

“I could make dinner. You two could stand to eat something besides pizza.”

I smiled at her. She was a good woman, a good person. She cared. We both cared. But I had to pretend I didn’t see that extra caring in her eyes – since my wife left last year that look in Joan’s eyes was too much of an invitation. I couldn’t take advantage and I didn’t want to.

“Maybe another time.”

I stood on the sidewalk and watched as her brake lights disappeared into the fog, then turned slowly toward the house. It was probably the fog or the street light reflected in the wet pavement but I saw a flash. When I turned toward it, it disappeared. Could’ve been the beer and whiskey too.

Cassie opened the door and frowned at me – her golden curls backlit and crowned her head like a halo. I smiled – she was my angel. “You gonna stand in the rain all night?”

I hurried up the walk then gave her shoulders a squeeze before going inside. “Daddy’s home.”

The house smelled like coffee and spaghetti. And the table was set and waiting for me. Cassie pulled off my coat and nudged me into a chair. I sipped my coffee and the warmth spread through my body, taking the chill out of my tired bones. “Looks good.”

Cassie smiled proudly. “Made it myself.”

I stared at the plate of spaghetti and meatballs. “Oh-oh.”

She smacked me with a napkin and said, “Eat, you old bear.”

Afterwards, I helped her with the clean up and dishes. “How was your day?”

She told me about school and a boy she liked and wondered out loud if I’d pop for a pretty dress she wanted for an upcoming dance at school. “You think it’ll make him love you?”

She blushed. “Oh Dad, you’re such doof.” She frowned. “How was your day?”

I told her about my unsuccessful stake out and she nodded in sympathy. My daughter was an old soul who understood my need to seek justice in the world and sympathized. She snapped her fingers. “Oh, I almost forgot.” She pulled an envelope out of her pocket and handed it to me. “This came for you.”

I frowned at the unaddressed envelope then tore it open. Inside was a note: “I do it because I can.”

My heart dropped to my toes. “How did you get this?”

Cassie recoiled at my reaction. “It was taped to the door when I came home.”

I went to the window and looked out, then I went to the front door and threw it open. And I felt him out there in the fog, watching and waiting. I withdrew my gun, then said to her, “Lock the door behind me and call Joan. Tell her to get over her now!”

Then, I stepped into the fog, gun raised, flashlight poised. I stepped off the porch, scanning the yard, the bushes, then went around back. The gate was open and my breath caught in my throat.

I burst into the yard but it was empty. Hands trembling, I ran the flashlight beam across the yard and along the house. Then I saw them – footprints in the sodden grass, leading to the back of the house. Panting, I followed them to my patio door which was locked. I pounded on the door. “Cassie! Cassie!”

Then she screamed. “Daddy!”

From conquering fear to business models that don’t react – best reads of the week

It’s been a while since I’ve done a link post – and I think I want to get that back in on this blog. The holidays and general craziness is over for now, so time to get back to basics. Following are some super reads that I wanted to share.

Overcoming Fear by Jo Eberhardt. This has to be one of the best things I’ve ever read on overcoming our own doubts about ourselves. I actually cried as I read this heartfelt and often funny story. Do yourself a favor and read it – it will make your day, put a little bounce in your step and lift your head just a little higher.

THE E-PUBLISHING REVOLUTION IS DEFINITELY NOT OVER (Regardless of what you’ve heard)
Literary Agent Laurie McLean, is pretty sure the ePub revolution is not over and that Indies still have some serious say in the world of books.

75 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers. Yup that’s right WiseInk has 75 resolutions from which to choose that you could conquer this year. I have to admit, there were quite a few I think I’m going for.

9 Ways To Make Your Author Resource Box Sizzle by Publicist Joan Stewart. You know she has some great examples of the mini bios that authors can do for various platforms. Some of them really quite good.

Business Musings: The Reactive Business Model by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It’s a long read and there was a lot of ‘back story’ to get to the point but when she gets there, it’s worth the trip. And I couldn’t agree more with her.

As a little bit of further inspiration, I tossed in this trailer for a movie called, “Joy,” which I just saw this afternoon. If you are someone with a dream, I highly recommend the film. One of the most inspirational stories I’ve seen in a long time.

Have a great week.

Annie

The Indie author’s list of new year’s resolutions

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Ah, it’s that time of year when we reflect on the year that has passed and the changes we want to make in the coming year. Typically, losing weight, quitting smoking and/or drinking and having higher self esteem tops the list for many. Though as indie authors, our lists are a might different. Here’s a few that might resonate:

  • Buy, download, read and review every book written by someone who retweeted you on twitter.
  • Write, edit and publish four books by the end of the year.
  • Learn how to write standing up to stop the spread of writer’s ass
  • Stop seething every time that writer you follow on Facebook posts yet another glowing review or quotes herself
  • Stop obsessing over that one review that befuddles you
  • Discover the mysteries of tweeting. Cat pictures only go so far.
  • Learn to make and like a writer’s drink, like bourbon or something manly.
  • Delete the blog you started for your characters (how lame was that?).
  • Force yourself to learn how to use that horrible template from Create Space without throwing your computer out the window.
  • Stop checking your sales dashboard every twenty minutes – get a life.
  • Find something that tears you away from the computer and has absolutely nothing to do with writing.
  • Stop subscribing to marketers claiming they have the product that will make you a best seller.
  • Write better, write calmer, be happy with the stories that belong to you, share accordingly.

How about you? Any special resolutions you have made for yourself? Feel free to share or add to the list in the comments.

Note: I am offline for a few days, but will happily respond to any comments on my return. In the meantime, have a happy and safe holiday.

Annie

The Unvarnished Truth – Do We Want it?

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Porter Anderson wrote a very thought-provoking post on Writer Unboxed the other day: Truth Be Told? Truth Is on Thin Ice.

He opens with a formula for ‘authenticity’ as developed by branding expert, Marc Ecko, which is this:

Authenticity is equal to your unique voice,
multiplied by truthfulness,
plus your capacity for change,
multiplied by range of emotional impact,
raised to the power of imagination.

And then Porter uses this formula to springboard into the main topic, which is truth in publishing. And poses these questions:

How good are you at truthfulness? Why don’t we tell the truth more in publishing? And especially in writing?

He answers them in part by using his own experiences from an event called Author Day that he put on in London. Long story short, during the conference things were said that were kind and encouraging, afterward criticism was launched from the same people that was not so kind.

And then he makes the point that many of us have made. We say things that we don’t mean about books we don’t read, to be nice. Or write reviews that a more glowing than they should be, and so it goes. And it’s of course, something that all of us have done. We have our reasons. Maybe to be nice. Maybe to avoid conflict. Maybe because we’re worried that if we are totally truthful, someone may turn around and do the same to us. And each person has their own version of truthfulness, and some versions can be quite devastating.

The Truth Bureau – are we ready for it?

Ultimately, Porter suggests developing what he calls the Truth Bureau. A group of anonymous readers who agree to give the unvarnished truth about books that are submitted for their critique. The books of course would be anonymous too, with no clue as to the author or any other identifying data that might give a clue. This would then ensure that we could learn the real truth about our books. It would possibly be set up as a service for which authors would pay. All from the view of course, of improving their work.

I found this to be a very interesting idea. Certainly on the face of it, there is a lot of potential to opening the doors of truly improving our work. And I don’t know any writer who is serious about their craft who doesn’t want to be better than they are. It’s a natural desire for any artist to strive for improvement – otherwise, you are in essence just phoning it in. And what writer worth their weight in words wants that?

Of course there is the bugaboo of having yet another thing that we indies must pay for. And you can’t swing a dead cat (sorry cat lovers) without hitting some guy with a service that guarantees he will realize your writer dreams. There’s even one guy out there promising people he will make you a best selling author on Amazon – even if you hate to write. Think about that one for a minute. Gives one pause, doesn’t it?

The other main stumbling block, I believe to something like the Truth Bureau is I think, human nature. We can be quite cruel to one another, especially when anonymous. The Internet is teeming with trolls and flamers and people who love to visit their hatred on poor unsuspecting strangers. The whole review system online is problematic. There are so many concerns people have; if they are authors they know that whatever they say online can be found and used against them; writers are cautioned against responding to negative reviews; and conversely I’ve seen writers attack reviewers, which only ends up making people think twice about writing them. And the list goes on. And what’s to say that people wouldn’t sign up to be an anonymous reviewer just to get their hate on?

Likely a service like this would have better oversight than Amazon, where anybody can lob hate bombs with impunity, but there would still probably be damage done before they were removed from participating.

What about a co-op?

Personally, I do like the idea of a Truth Bureau because it has great potential to help authors and thusly readers. Perhaps a co-op of writers and readers who are not completely anonymous but instead are committed to truthfulness. With a list of criteria to follow in their critiques, to avoid the feedback from becoming personal would work. The names of the authors could be left off, so that wouldn’t act as influence and perhaps the reader picks a genre that they read and gets a choice of 3 or 4 titles to choose from. Or perhaps I’ve just described a critique group. Not sure.

I do agree with Porter though, who I believe to be one of the good guys out there, telling the truth as best he can. We need more truth online in general, and in publishing specifically. The current review system is broken. Is is unpoliced and you honestly have no idea what you’ll get. Good. Bad. Hate. Love. It’s all up for grabs. And a crap shoot at best.

In the meantime

But in the meantime, given the way things are currently I will probably still continue to give overly nice reviews. Sorry but I’d rather be safe than sorry. Even with authors I don’t know, I am ever aware of the fact that if I’m too honest I will be attacked whether by the author or their fans or someone else. So, for now, I won’t write the unvarnished truth. Is this wrong? Perhaps. But in my experience, it is the rare person who wants the total truth about their creations. And sometimes a little truth goes a long way.

What about you? Are you totally truthful in critiquing another’s work? Are your reviews/critiques overly nice? Short and sweet? Any ideas on how a Truth Bureau could work? Feel free to tell us what you think in the comments.

Note: I’m offline for a few days but will happily respond to any comments when I return.

Annie

Parting thoughts about NaNo

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Well, it’s December 1st and those of us who participated in NaNo, likely are taking a collective breath and saying, “I can’t believe I did the whole thing.”

Technically, I was a ‘winner’ because I hit the 50K mark, although the draft wasn’t finished at that point. In fact, I wrote over 3,000 words yesterday but forgot to post it, so even my word count is off. Still, it was an experience and something I can now cross off my bucket list. And you can too.

Why I did it

A lot of people may wonder why any writer would try to write a novel in 30 days. For a long time, I did too. But this time around, I had a few reasons:

  • I’d tried before and failed, so I wanted to see if I could do it.
  • I was writing a novel anyway, so what could it hurt?
  • I hoped to connect with other writers.
  • I thought the deadline would serve as extra motivation.

What was good?

The good things that came out of NaNo for me were:

I met the target. This may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people but setting a goal and accomplishing it is good for your ego. And it was good for mine.

I met two lovely writers. I ‘buddied up’ with two other writers for sounding board stuff and encouragement. Both writers were kind, intelligent, and fun. And I hope to stay in touch with them.

It made writing a priority for me. While I am always writing because I make my living that way, I don’t always work on my stuff. The non-client stuff. NaNo changed that because I had a deadline and was forced to make my novel a priority.

The time limit made my internal editor shut the heck up. One of the things that writers go through is endless conversations/arguments with their internal editor. And it can be a real sticking point and stop you dead in your tracks if the dialogue gets out of hand. Because of the finite time period I had in which to meet my goal, I had to force my internal editor into silence. The good thing about this is that I learned I could do it.

What was not so good?

That’s right, at least for me, NaNo is not all sunshine and unicorns. It presented a few problems for me which I didn’t expect:

The external pressure seemed a little artificial and unnatural. I have no problem with deadlines – actually in my line of work they are a way of life. But the arbitrary deadline of x number of words within x number of days felt a little forced. And it created an unnecessary anxiety in me. Like somebody was peering over my shoulder, ruler in hand, waiting for me to crap out.

I went out of touch with friends, family, and colleagues. Participating something like NaNo requires tremendous focus. You have to make choices and usually those choices have to do with cutting everything that isn’t absolutely necessary out of your life temporarily. So, I didn’t chat with friends on the phone, barely took a minute for the holiday, and my social media buds probably think I’m dead.

It stressed me out. Even though I participated in NaNo willingly – the tight deadline and the volume demanded stressed me out. I dreamed about writing. I barely left my desk and I was pretty grumpy throughout. Oddly, it reminded me of working a regular ‘job’ where someone else was in charge of my time and energy.

It forced me to decide. Now, making decisions is not a bad thing. However, again because of the pressure and short deadline I was forced to make decisions about the story that had I had more time to consider might not have made. I had to ignore glaring outpoints in the storyline and plot and gloss over a lot, which I otherwise wouldn’t have done. I can fix those things during the editing/revision stage in subsequent drafts, so it’s not permanent. However, in some ways I wonder if I ended up making more work for myself than I otherwise would have.

What didn’t matter?

NaNo has evolved quite a bit since its humble beginnings and there are a lot of non-writing activities offered, as well as other things. Most of them, unnecessary in my opinion:

The write-ins. I didn’t do any travel to do any IRL write-ins but I tried a virtual one. After about ten minutes I logged off because it wasn’t conducive to writing for me. Mostly it was a couple of cute guys who liked to giggle a lot, giving timed exercises to the participants. I could see how that might’ve helped other writers but it did nothing for me.

The offers, sponsored products, and freebies. I didn’t decide to participate in NaNo so I could receive discounted products or freebies. It’s nice that they offer such things but I already have 25 books on writing, structure, marketing and so forth that I haven’t yet read so more wouldn’t have helped any. And who had time? Also, I’m pretty old school, a simple word processing program works just fine for me when I write.

All in all, I’m glad that I participated in NaNo and can now check that off on my bucket list. It was an experience and I did get a pleasant little high when I reached the 50K mark, and met a couple of people who I otherwise probably wouldn’t. And by the end of the day my draft will be complete. So, yay. And thank you NaNo for being there.

What about you? Did you participate? Did you love it or hate it? Did you finish? Did it change the way you write or your process? Was it a help or a hindrance? Regale us with your NaNo experiences in the comments.

In the meantime, write on brothas and sistahs.

Annie

Happy Turkey Day and it’s been a turkey of a day

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I hope we’re all having a nice day with way too much food and never enough family and friends around us.

That said, I woke up this morning to a computer that said it would not comply with my wishes to work. After trying to coax it and a lot of begging and pleading, I dragged my old PC out of the closet and am using that. Can you say flash to the past? I forgot how slow the thing was. Oy. Computer fixer upper coming Monday.

In the meantime, I’m chiseling my words on stone tablet with sharp stick. Gotta watch the splinters.

Have a great holiday everybody.

Annie