My Author Crush Faves

What a great month! I love Author Crush month. There is always someone you never heard of who becomes a new fave. I might’ve picked up three new favorites!

After reading Cat Weatherill’s blog post, I downloaded the Kindle sample of her book Wild Magic and fell in love! I absolutely must buy her book! Just reading a few pages of it, I became immersed in not just a magical story world, but an overwhelming sense of magic washing over me. I stopped reading several times and asked myself, how did she do that?! I’m totally going to keep reading and try to figure it out. I want my books to instill that sense of the magical!

Similarly, when I read the Kindle sample for Stephanie S. SaundersVillain School: Good Curses Evil, I was laughing out loud more than I was reading silently! Another must-buy for me!

The title alone made me curious about PJ Sharon’s upcoming release, Savage Cinderella. But reading the blurb on it, I’m hooked. I’ve got to give that one a try as soon as it comes out! (Release day is March 15.)

The rest of the posts this month had all kinds of new and interesting thoughts to consider.

James Scott Bell made me wonder if should give a little more thought to writing short stories. Hmm, something to think about.

Reading Jacqueline Diamond’s post about making her own book covers made me want to give it a try, if only for the fun of it.

Art Holcomb gave me a lot to think about with his thoughts on plotting the larger arc for a series, and how I need to stay enthusiastic about my story in order to write a great book.

Thanks to Gail Carson Levine, I am more determined to write wherever I have to, whenever I have to. I was ten minutes early for Bible study this week, so I turned on the inside light in the car, and wrote another few lines of my latest short story.

Debra Holland’s self-publishing journey is always inspiring, no matter how many times I read about it. Go Debra!

I loved that I’m not the only one who picks out just the right pretty or quirky notebook for my next story. Thanks, Nancy Rue!

And Stephanie’s posts about the books she’s reading that help her in her journey toward healing – well, I admire her so much for making it a public journey so that others might be helped as well.

Even though they aren’t really part of Author Crush month, per se, I also am tickled to death that my dear friends Janice Cantore, Lauraine Snelling and Kathleen Damp Wright put bookends to our month with fantastic tales of newly published novels!

Ahh, what a great month! I always feel so refreshed and excited and motivated by March 1! I hope you do, too! 🙂

P.S. Remember to tune in tomorrow and welcome our new monthly contributor, Jamie Raintree!

Author Crush Wrap Up and Behind the Scenes

We’ve just wrapped up our fourth annual Author Crush Month! Wow. Every year I get so nervous sending out those email requests. I have to work up my courage to press “send.”  And every year I’m thrilled when an author I admire says, “Yes.” The personal contact is fun—authors are real people! And the email banter is special and encouraging to this aspiring author.

So, this month we are back to our new schedule. Kitty talking about self-publishing on Monday. Stephanie about healing through writing, and me continuing with traditional publishing on Fridays.

NEW: This month we are welcoming our new regular contributor! Jamie Raintree has been a long-time follower and commenter on the Routines for Writer’s blog and so it was high time for her to have her own space here that is bigger than a comment box. We are excited to have her join us the first Tuesday of each month to talk about productivity. Be sure to check back this Tuesday and say hi!

Since I’m still processing the tips from February, I thought I’d pull out some choice quotes from my Author Crushes this year:

Cat Weatherill kicked things off with tips from a storyteller’s perspective.

I imagine a narrative as a necklace: there are beads linked by a thread. I spend time polishing the beads so they shimmer and captivate the reader. And I bring in sounds and smells to evoke the atmosphere fully.

 

Stephanie S. Sanders was up next. She talked about being inspired:

For me, trying to write a book without inspiration is like trying to paint a picture in the dark. You can kind of guess what’s happening and slap things vaguely into place, but when you bring the half-finished product into the light, it’s something embarrassing, or confusing, or just downright ugly. If the author isn’t inspired, the reader won’t be, either.

Gail Carson Levine chimed in with her writing quirks:

The reason I work anywhere is because I trained myself to be able to many years ago after reading Becoming A Writer (middle school and up, I’d guess; the language is old-fashioned but the ideas are modern) by Dorothea Brande. I travel a fair amount, and I don’t want my work to grind to a halt whenever I leave home. People who can write only when the moon is full and the stars are in a certain alignment don’t finish many books.

I also liked this tip:

When I’m describing a facial expression, I’ll do a Google images search for the emotion I want to show, but I’ll also make faces at myself in the mirror.

 

Then Nancy Rue finished my Author Crush lineup with some tips for putting emotion on the page:

Since it is a challenge, I work at it pretty deeply, and most of that work is done before I start the first draft. Here’s the process.

  • As soon as the protagonist and her situation start to take shape in my mind, I go to a book shop or stationery store and let her pick out a blank book. This is where it gets a little woo-woo, but when you think about it, most creative people have to be a little out there or we couldn’t do what we do.
  • Once she’s selected one that fits her personality, I sit down with her and begin to ask questions, in writing, on the first left hand page. She answers, in writing, on the right hand page. This requires lots of time alone, completely away from all left brain tasks, so I can hunker down in my right brain and listen to her. Her answers always surprise me.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed the month as much as I did and picked up some new ideas to help you and your writing.

Author Crush – Lundy Bancroft

          Last week I told you about Leslie Vernick and her books. This week I want to introduce you to another favorite author. Lundy Bancroft. His book “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men” was instrumental in helping me realize exactly what was happening in my own life. The clear explanations and examples made it easy to see the truth of the relationship. Lundy Bancroft writes in a way that presents clear factual information while radiating care, concern and compassion. The shame and embarrassment at being part of a dysfunctional relationship is lessened as he explained and exposed the variety of ways an angry or controlling man will seek domination. Written with skill and compassion, this book is a must-have for anyone needing insight into abusive relationships.

          Last year Bancroft teamed up with another counselor/author, PAC Patrassi to publish “’Should I Stay or Should I Go?” This book is an invaluable aid to the woman in recovering from an abusive relationship. Bancroft and Patrassi present clear processes to help the woman determine if a relationship is worth investing in and how to evaluate progress. Clear explanations and wise counsel are given to help sift through and discern truth from subterfuge and selfishness within the relationship.

          At no time do the authors say, or even imply, a woman should leave a relationship. This book is focused on empowering a woman to make wise, informed decisions within the dynamic of the relationship. To aid restoration of the relationships, they have created a webpage specifically for the man/abuser in the relationship. This page includes a couple of chapters of the book, slightly rewritten to be the most benefit to an abuser truly seeking truth and a way to a healthy relationship.

Author Crush – Leslie Vernick

          As I wrote in a previous post, I separated from my husband about a year ago when I realized that our relationship needed help. I was not able to verbalize it well at the time, but I knew there were serious problems in the way we related. I wanted to find healthier ways to communicate and interact. Over the ensuing months, I devoured books on relationships. I found many books that helped identify the problems, and a few had helpful suggestions for countering those dysfunctions. What I really wanted, though, was something that helped me understand healthy relationships.

          I knew the best way to effect change is to have a clear, concrete picture of the desired change. If I expected to succeed at changing our relationship into something better, I needed to know what that better relationship should look like. Because my faith is so important to me, I wanted something that would help me put Biblical principles into practice in ways that would create and nurture a healthy relationship.

          After months of searching and reading and assimilating copious amounts of information about relationships that I discovered “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship” by Leslie Vernick. This book is a goldmine for anyone searching for guidance in developing a healthy relationship based on Judeo-Christian principles. Those not interested in the faith aspects can still get lots of insight and help in creating emotionally healthy relationships, but the relationship issues are explored from a thoroughly biblical base. Even though the title suggests differently, the focus of this book is the pursuit of healthy relationships. I finally have my clear, succinct picture of a healthy relationship in the definition she gives.

          An emotionally healthy relationship is a mutually respectful, mutually honest and mutually caring and committed relationship. I needed this simple standard to use as a measure. Whenever my intuition says something is “off” in an interaction with anyone, I can quickly compare the situation with this definition and adjust my thoughts, expectations and actions accordingly.

          Leslie Vernick is my newest Author Crush. Everyone of the books I’ve read, () have been chock-full of helpful, faith-friendly insights and suggestions. Visit her website to get a taste of her counsel. Or download samples from Amazon.

Author Crush Month: Debra Holland

Over the last two weeks of Author Crush Month, we heard from James Scott Bell about self-publishing his short story and novella collections, and Jacqueline Diamond shared her experiences self-publishing formerly out-of-print titles in her backlist. I asked today’s guest, my friend Debra Holland, to share her journey self-publishing all of her fiction (though her nonfiction is traditionally published). She expanded on a blog she wrote earlier this year. Please welcome Debra!

Debra Holland Looks Back At Her Self-Publishing Journey in 2011

What a difference a year makes! Last January 1st, I’d hadn’t even considered self-publishing. In fact, I had a negative view of self-published books. I was deep the process of writing my nonfiction (traditionally published) book, The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving. At this point in the process, I’d had my two sample chapters accepted by my editor and was looking at writing 18 more in the next two and a half months. I had secret doubts that I’d be able to write a GOOD book by the deadline. I used every motivational trick I knew to keep myself positive and on track. It was the one of the most difficult things I’d ever done. But the book is out now, I’m getting stellar reviews and making an impact on people’s lives, so it was all worth it!

Around February, Delle Jacobs posted her monthly self-published sales numbers to our group of friends, The Wet Noodle Posse. I was blown away. I made a mental note to self-publish my novels (that two agents hadn’t been able to sell) and wished I wasn’t buried in the grief book so I could do it now. Once the grief book was turned in, I knew I had two weeks before my editor would get the revisions back to me. So I did a read through of each of my two fiction manuscripts, paid Delle to do my covers, and made a 10 minute attempt to format the first book, Wild Montana Sky, before giving up and paying someone to do it for me.

Wild Montana Sky went live on the evening of April 28, and the next day, Starry Montana Sky followed. Of course I had hopes for some sales, but I never dreamed that they’d catch on and I’d sell so well: 27,069 (Wild Montana Sky) and 10,207 (Starry Montana Sky) for the year. These numbers are a combination of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. There are probably another 100 or so sales through Smashwords, which reports quarterly. (Monthly numbers below.)

I’ve been flabbergasted, excited, and humbled at the success of these two sweet historical Westerns. After the grief revisions were done, I began working on Stormy Montana Sky (which I’d begun in 2004 and stopped writing after 50 pages.)

I became a self-publishing cheerleader, speaking to my chaptermates and writing blogs because I wanted other writers to know they had options besides traditional publishing. I also began preparing the first two books in my fantasy romance trilogy for publication.

Sower of Dreams went live on July 31 (799 sales) and Reaper of Dreams followed on August 7 (243 sales.) As you can see, they didn’t take off like the Westerns did, but they are selling steadily at about 100 and 50 a month. The covers are by Lex Valentine. They’ve paid for themselves by the end of the year.

Although I’d finished Stormy Montana Sky by late November, it had to go to my editor. After my revisions, I sent it to several copyeditors, and didn’t get it back in time to self-publish the book in 2011. (Although it’s self-published now.)

In the meantime, I decided to self-publish my Romantic Space Opera, Lywin’s Quest, (a 2005 Golden Heart Finalist.) I hesitated to self-publish it because it’s EPIC at 140,000 words and the next two books in the trilogy are going to be a lot of work. It also didn’t have the copyedits finished in time to self-publish in 2011, although it’s now available.

Self-publishing has reawakened my creativity. When my books didn’t sell, I became discouraged. I stopped writing fiction and switched to nonfiction. What I didn’t know I was doing was stifling my creativity. I’d get a story idea and squash it, thinking, “It’s too much work to write a book that doesn’t sell.”

Now ideas are flowing. The Montana Sky series has expanded (in my head and in notes) to two more full-length books, 3 novellas, and a collection of Christmas stories. I’m having fun playing with story ideas.

The way I write is by starting with the “bones” of a scene. At the end of the day of writing (or during the next day or two) I print it out, and read over it, editing mistakes, making changes, and fleshing it out. Then, when it’s time to write again, I start by making the changes. This gets me into the story and starts the flow. I’m usually doing this several times with each section, so by the end of the book, I have a fairly good draft.

My weekly writing routine tends to vary. After finishing the grief book, I felt burned out about writing, even though I wanted to finish Stormy Montana Sky. But at the rate I was going, it would probably take a couple of years. I asked another writer friend who lives in my area (whom I knew also wasn’t writing) if she’d be willing to come over to my house (which is quieter than hers) and write a few times a week. She agreed, and for the last five months, we’ve gotten together for two and a half hours, two days a week. That has given me enough motivation to write more between times. And as my creative inspiration has returned, I’m more eager to write.

I’m still not writing nearly what I should be, but I’m a psychotherapist, corporate crisis counselor, and martial arts instructor. Also, working out (women’s fitness bootcamp) is a priority three times a week. However, the income from self-publishing has allowed me to cut back on my psychotherapy practice from two days a week to one day, which is a good thing because I was also feeling burned out from a couple of difficult clients.

So far, I haven’t put that extra day to good use because crisis jobs keep dropping into my schedule. It’s hard to turn them down when I know people need me. However, I’m better at refusing the ones where they want me to drive to the other side of LA during rush hour traffic, only to be on site for an hour or two. I know I might have to start turning down crisis jobs in order to write more, but I’m just not there yet.

Having an income from writing, instead of spending money on it through taking classes, going to conferences, buying books, belonging to writers’ organizations, and paying for editing, is wonderful! And I do intend to put the freedom from working that extra day into writing more. Soon. Really.

Here’s my sales breakdown by month:

APRIL

WMS 11 (.99)

SMS 5 ($2.99)

MAY

WMS 479

SMS 106

JUNE

WMS 2454

SMS 638

JULY

WMS 5085

SMS 1842

SOWER OF DREAMS (SOD) 3 (July 31)

AUGUST

WMS 5106

SMS 2180

SOD 97 (.99)

REAPER OF DREAMS (ROD) 45 (Aug 7) ($2.99)

SEPTEMBER

WMS 4348

SMS 1733

SOD 104

ROD 44

OCTOBER

WMS 3975

SMS 1445

SOD 104

ROD 47

NOVEMBER

WMS 2386

SMS 1047

SOD 119

ROD 57

DECEMBER

WMS 3232

SMS 1227

SOD 129

ROD 50

TOTAL SALES

WMS 27,069

SMS 10,207

SERIES 37,272

SOD 556

ROD 243

SERIES 799

During this time, I’ve done very little promotion. I’ve written some blogs and done some guest blogs. I’ve requested reviews from about 10 review sites and the books have been favorable reviewed by all those who said yes. I had a brief pop of sales in October from Pixel of Ink picking up the book. If you look back through my blogs over the last six months, you can read about other things I think work. http://drdebraholland.blogspot.com

Barnes & Noble sells very few of my books in comparison to Amazon. I’m frustrated with that company because there’s so much more they could do to improve sales for all their authors. (But that’s another blog post.) However, in adding up the numbers for this blog, I was able to see how the consistent (although small) sales can add up over time.

I’m more grateful than I can express to all the readers who bought my book and to the authors who led the way on the path of self-publishing and to those who continue to support and educate me.

I hope you are all taking the time to reflect on what you can do to make 2012 the best year ever! Best of luck with keeping all your New Year’s resolutions. Here’s to a wonderful, healthy, and prosperous 2012!

 

Dr. Holland has a master’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Therapy, and holds a PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Southern California, and is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has twenty-five years of experience counseling individuals, couples, and groups. Dr. Holland is a popular psychotherapist, consultant, and speaker on the topics of communication difficulties, relationships, grief recovery, stress, and dealing with difficult people. She is a featured expert for the media, and does entertainment consulting.

 

Author Crush Month: Gail Carson Levine

Sigh. My Author Crush on Gail Carson Levine. Where do I begin? I adore everything she writes.

I could start with my “most embarrassing moments” like the day when I met her in person and embarrassed my husband so much he just walked away. She was tucked in the back tent at a book festival with no one around her. It was early in the morning and I don’t think anyone knew she was there yet. (My husband was shocked I could recognize an author on the spot…so goes an Author Crush.) Then I did the unthinkable. Yes, I see the cringes now. I brought out my WIP, which I had packed along JUST IN CASE! Ms. Levine is not only an author, but also a writing teacher so I *knew* she wouldn’t mind. (My husband left the kids with me so I got my then 7-yr old to take pictures.)

I could also tell you how after letting enough time pass from the Book Festival Incident, I contacted her for this year’s Author Crush Month. Days later, our Routines for Writer’s website got hacked, then flagged as evil by Google. She happened to check us out on that day of shame.

According to the rule of three, I have one more embarrassing moment to go with Gail Carson Levine. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, Ms. Levine had recently posted her writing routine, or quirks as you may, on her blog. She gave me permission to re-post it here for our readers. Enjoy.

Quirks

I write anywhere. Well, not in the shower, but in airports, on planes, in doctors’ waiting rooms (routine exams – I’m not sick). Wherever I shlep my computer I write if I have at least fifteen minutes. At home, I write in my office or on my laptop, which lives in the kitchen when it isn’t traveling with me. In the kitchen, it’s on a counter. I could put it on the table, but I once read that it’s not healthy for people to sit for long periods, so when I’m downstairs, I write standing up. The laptop is called Reggie, named after the dog character in The Wish, years before we got our puppy Reggie.

In my office I sit, except when I get up to pace or to stare out the window. The view is lovely no matter the season: stone walls, ancient tall hemlock, antique outhouse (we do have indoor plumbing).

Right now I’m at a poetry retreat waiting for the day’s session to start. I’m in an austere place, a former orphanage on the grounds of a current convent. My room was once an orphan’s bedroom, and it’s small! There’s no desk, only a bed, wooden chair (no cushion), metal gym locker, narrow bed, high dresser, no private bathroom, alas. I’m standing on tiptoes to type on my laptop atop the dresser.

I wonder what my father, who was an orphan and grew up in an orphanage, would think of me being here. Laugh? Roll over in his grave?

The reason I work anywhere is because I trained myself to be able to many years ago after reading Becoming A Writer (middle school and up, I’d guess; the language is old-fashioned but the ideas are modern) by Dorothea Brande. I travel a fair amount, and I don’t want my work to grind to a halt whenever I leave home. People who can  write only when the moon is full and the stars are in a certain alignment don’t finish many books. In an airport, under a giant TV blasting endless headlines, weather, and commercials, I can work. I’m irritated. I wish the thing would shut up, but I work.

I don’t write outdoors much. In winter it’s too cold, obviously. In warm weather there are bugs and beauty. Beauty distracts me!

My desk in my office is a disaster area. I swear when I finish the first draft of used-to-be-called Beloved Elodie, I’m going to clean it up. If I need a pen, I have to feel through the layers to find it. On the desk is a memento of my father, a gift from one of his friends. It looks like a hinged wooden box. On top there’s writing that says, “For the man who has nothing, something to put it in.” The joke is that when you open the box, it turns out to be just a block of wood. There’s no cavity. My father loved the joke.

This is a poem I wrote about my office, imagining it as part of a museum show of offices of kids’ book writers:

My office

stands in for me, part of an exhibition
children wander through. Jason heads
for the wooden skull from Mexico.
Brianna goes, Ew! and Yuck, don’t touch that.
Ella likes the hand-made Christmas-tree ornaments
around my windows: the quilted heart in muted pinks,
edged by brass beads; the striped parrot;
the black paisley angel. Sara picks up the small,
lead Tinker Bell on my desk. Everyone marvels
at my origami swan made from a Tokyo candy wrapper.
Ms. Kramer points out my English usage books.
Outside, somebody calls, Wow!
J.K. Rowling’s office!

They’re gone. No one paid attention
to my quiescent computer, with a hundred e-mails
locked inside. The children didn’t notice
the hand-hewn, 1790 oak beam or the 1920s
pewter lamp. They glanced past the photograph
of the rosebud with its red petals folding
in on themselves, its shadowy hole, the two
droplets of dew.

When I’m home I don’t listen to music while I work; I prefer silence.

If the writing isn’t going well, I get sleepy, and I have to take frequent breaks, to stretch, answer an email, anything that will wake me up. I like to write while I eat breakfast and lunch and my nightly snack because I can’t sleep and chew at the same time.

I almost always write directly on the computer, but when I use a pen, it’s a cheap gel pen on a steno pad. I don’t like ballpoints because you have to press too hard, and I don’t like Sharpies because the ink bleeds through to the other side of the paper.

I don’t have a big family, but my husband is delightfully proud of my books. When I’m stuck and suffering, David, who is supremely sympathetic, suffers too.

My sister and his sisters and my brothers-in-law like my work. His sister Amy directs a public library, and I went there to speak. Libraries run in David’s blood; Amy and four cousins are or were librarians (one is retired).

I’m trying to think of a quirky quirk for you. You all know from the blog that I don’t plan my books out ahead of time, that sometimes I wander around in a fog for a ridiculously long time. If I thought it would do any good, I would tie a shoe around my neck, touch Reggie’s nose, stand on my head (if I could) for an hour to make the writing flow. How about this? When I’m describing a facial expression, I’ll do an Google images search for the emotion I want to show,  but I’ll also make faces at myself in the mirror.

When I wrote the Disney fairy books I had to keep scale in mind because the fairies are only five inches tall. I had to ask myself, What’s a five-inch creature in relation to a quart of milk, to a caterpillar, a potato, a cherry? To remind myself I kept a five-inch bottle of hair goop on my desk the whole time.

Here are a few prompts:

  • One of the exercises we did at the poetry retreat was to write a list poem, which is basically a list. So write a list poem about your writing place. To make it work as a poem, the items should be detailed, can be fantastical. Surprises are nice, and it’s good to end with an item that goes against expectation or packs an emotional wallop.

 

  • Sometime before next week’s post, write outside your comfort zone. Write in the living room while the family is watching television. Bring your pad to breakfast and write while you chomp down on your pancakes or your high-fiber cereal. See if you can zone out of the distractions, see if the distractions themselves take you somewhere unexpected.

 

  • Again, before next week’s post, write in an unaccustomed mode. If you usually write longhand first, go directly to a computer, or vice versa. See if there’s a change in your writing. Does the new method open you up? (You can then return to your usual way, but sometimes it’s good to shake things up.)

 

  • Write a chapter in your future memoir about yourself as a writer, whether or not writing will be your career. What got you started? Write about your real past, but also imagine the future. What has been a turning point or what will be? Describe your greatest past triumph and your greatest upcoming one.

 

  • If you like, post your own writing quirks here.

Have fun, and save what you write!

Check out Gail Carson Levine’s website at www.gailcarsonlevine.com and her blog at www.gailcarsonlevine.blogspot.com.

Author Crush Month: Art Holcomb

I’ve mentioned reading Art Holcomb’s articles on Storyfix a couple of times. I find them very inspirational. I’m sure you will, too.

The Continuum of Story:
a guest post by Art Holcomb

Let’s talk for moment about your current writing project and the Continuum of Story.

George Lucas, the creator and point-of-origin for all things “a long time ago and far, far away”, is a master of story.  The original STAR WARS film, released in 1977 (I was in college at the time), followed the three act pattern precisely, and you can go back now and easily apply all the principles of classic story engineering and structure to that film.  But as amazing a story as the first film was, fans were all a bit puzzled when the “roll-up” of words at the beginning of the film read “Episode 4: A NEW HOPE.”

It was the biggest tease in the entire film. Each cheering fan, as s/he walked out of the theater, knew that there was more Lucas-y goodness to come.

Of course, we would all have to wait three years for it to arrive. . .

Then, in 1980, we saw that A NEW HOPE really had been just Act I of a larger three act story that would soon include Episode 5: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (as Act II) and Episode 6: RETURN OF THE JEDI (as Act III).  True to form for every good serialized story, we were delighted each time to have these ambitious and fascinating characters back for further adventures.  And in the years between each film, the public’s love of STAR WARS was fed by books, comics, conventions and all manner of Jedi/Empire/Republic-related merchandise.

And even more was promised to a hungry public by the great Jedi Himself.

Of course, this time we would have to wait 16 years . . .
In this interim, we found out that these characters were always planned to be part of a larger arc of 9 films (some even have said 12). The original episodes 4,5 and 6 making up now a new Act 2 of the complete saga, Episodes 1, 2 and 3 back- flashing us into an Act 1 of this new paradigm and the three (as of this date) unreleased films (rumored presently to be entitled Episode 7: THE HIDDEN CIRCLE, Episode 8: THE REPUBLIC IN CRISIS and Episode 9: VICTORY OF THE FORCE) – and said at this writing to be in various stages of production and pre-production – as the Act 3 finale of perhaps the most ambitious single filmed story every told.

Now . . . why do I bring this up?  

For you who are writing or planning a book or film series with sequel and prequels, the lesson is clear. Chart the larger arc out first and then decide when you want to start telling the story.
Good for continuity – good for character development.

But I want you to think today about the story you’re currently working on.- the one you think of as a stand-alone piece.  Consider the effort you’ve made thus far: you’ve hopefully created powerful characters, used the building blocks for story engineering and structure to set them against substantial obstacles and will, in all likelihood, bring them all home safe and sound.  

That said, think for a moment like George Lucas and consider your story and characters now as part of a continuum. Although you probably haven’t written your characters’ back stories yet, you can probably imagine tales in their “past” or “future” just as compelling as the one you’re currently writing. It means that you now can look at back story less like a developmental exercise and more as a source of potential story

Consider it for a moment:  Your Main Character’s true beginning, and even truer End.  A timeline now stretches out before you: to your left is your character’s past, to your right, his/her future . . . and in the middle, directly in front of you is the story you’ve decided to tell.

My point here, though, is not to get you to create a novels series or a brace of related screenplay but to get you to look at each individual section of that arc and see which story therein really excites you. What really is the best tale for these characters to tell? There may be more than one, but there will certainly be one that really excites you, one that you can see bounding out of bed each day or giving up happily those hours in the evening and early morning to write about.

To do your best, you will need a story that holds your attention the way you want your prose to hold your reader. An exciting story means an excited and dedicated writer – which, in turn, gives you your best chance at reaching your reader in a powerful and memorable way.

Thirty-five years later, I can still see the original STAR WARS film in my mind, so powerful in impact it made. And the following movies, even though their quality varied, wove together a great tale – one that might not have been so memorable had Lucas started somewhere else in the saga.

So, give some serious thought to your current project and ask yourself:

Have I seen the entirety of my story?

Am I telling the best story within that continuum?  

Am I spending my valuable time telling the story in whose characters’ lives that I feel is most compelling?  

Will my interest in this segment of the continuum maintain the enthusiasm necessary to not only propel me to the end of the story BUT give me the excitement I need to do my absolute best work?

Because if this is not going to be the best thing you’ve done by far, why type another single word into this story??

Each writing moment is an opportunity.

To show yourself the breadth of your talent. To breathe skill and life into these great characters and make them come alive for your audience.

But your characters, your audience and you all deserve a story that propels you to that keyboard.. Respect the process and yourself enough to not spend your time on a weak and uninspiring plot. Find the greatness that lies within your creations and TELL THAT TALE!

Remember: your time is limited.  

And mark my words . . .

Do this once and your writing changes forever.

Art Holcomb is a screenwriter whose work has appeared on the SHOWTIME Channel and a comic book author of such comics as Disney/Marvel’s X-MEN and Acclaim’s ETERNAL WARRIORS. A number of his recent essays appear in the collection: Warm Hugs for Writers: Comfort and Commiseration of The Writing Life (Amazon Books US and www.storyfix.com). He appears and teaches at San Diego Comic-Con and other conventions. His most recent screenplay is 4EVER (a techno-thriller set in the Afterlife) and is completing a work book for writers entitled The Pass: A Proven System for Getting from Notion to Finished Manuscript.

He lives in Southern California.

Author Crush Month: Jacqueline Diamond

As I mentioned last week, this year I’m going into Author Crush month in a slightly different way. I want to see what other people are doing in the self-publishing world. Last week, James Scott Bell talked about how he is self-publishing short story and novella collections. This week, my friend Jacqueline Diamond is going to talk about self-publishing her out-of-print back list. Please welcome Jackie!

Judging a Book by its Cover

When I began my journey into reissuing my older books, I wasn’t worried about covers. It seemed to me, in my naiveté back in late 2010, that simple blocks of color with text—accompanied by low prices—would work fine. What did readers expect, anyway?

Well, not simple blocks of color with text. The buzzword, I later learned, is Discoverability. This means standing out among all those thousands of tiny rectangles on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Plus instantly conveying the genre.

Not asking much, are they?

My friends said, Hire a designer. But that’s expensive. Besides, you need to have an idea of what you want your covers to look like, and I didn’t. For instance, should I pick a unified theme, even though I write romantic comedies, Regency romances, mysteries and paranormals? I didn’t like that idea, but how should I choose?

In case you’re wondering, I’ve sold, to date, 93 novels. I’ve regained all rights to about 16 and own the digital rights to 11 more. In addition to reissuing my older books, I currently write the Safe Harbor Medical miniseries for Harlequin American Romance. My February release is The Detective’s Accidental Baby (at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble).

Some friends steered me to websites where generous and talented designers from around the world upload photos and pictures for free use. So I taught myself to use Photoshop Elements and set to work adding titles etc.

Flowers on the Regency covers. Various and sundry stuff on the various and sundry books. I was learning as I went. One stunning but subtle picture of lavender flowers in an old teapot entranced me but didn’t entrance readers for my romance Old Dreams, New Dreams. Out it went in favor of a funny silhouette of a couple, with the woman obviously pregnant. You can see all my current covers at www.jacquelinediamond.com/books, in the right-hand column.

Nor was I just sitting around playing with Photoshop. I was revising and updating the books and reformatting them. Writing three Safe Harbor Medical romances a year. Teaching writing through Long Ridge Writers Group. Serving on the board of the Orange County Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Occasionally sleeping.

What I needed was a vacation. What I got were further adventures in covers.

My Regency covers, it seems, might be pretty but fellow author and Regency blogger Anne Glover felt I could do better. She introduced me to a wonderful designer, Kelly at customgraphics.etsy.com, who created a charming period-authentic cover for my Regency The Day-Dreaming Lady (at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble), which I posted at the end of January. I’m planning to post more of her covers as well.

As for the contemporaries, while rewriting (extensively) and updating my two-book series The Runaway Heiress, I got inspired by my teddy bears. I photographed them and designed some, shall we say, unique covers for Unlikely Partners (at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble) and the sequel, Capers and Rainbows (at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble). I just posted covers and books at the end of January, too.

Are they discoverable? I expect so, but they don’t necessarily shout Romantic Comedy. What do you think?

And the journey continues…

 

 

For the past thirty years, Jacqueline Diamond has been busy proving that writers can’t be stuffed into a box. She’s sold 93 novels including romantic comedies, Regency romances, mysteries and paranormals. She also wrote How to Write a Novel in One (Not-so-easy) Lesson, which she self-published digitally. A former Associated Press reporter and TV columnist, Jackie received a Career Achievement Award from Romantic Times magazine and has twice finaled for the prestigious Rita Award. Please join Jackie at her website, www.jacquelinediamond.com, to read free writing tips and free first chapters. You can follow her on Twitter @jacquediamond.

 

Author Crush Month: Stephanie S. Sanders

My author crush on Stephanie S. Sanders all started at the dentist office. My son and I were in the waiting room—waiting. And her debut book, Villain School: Good Curses Evil  had him laughing out loud. He told me all about the book and said “You’ve got to read it.” Wow, if that isn’t an endorsement proving that the author reached her target market, I don’t know what is. I did read it, and liked it just as much as he did.

Here’s what she had to say about her writing routines:

 

 

 

 

I’m lazy. I have to admit it. If I can put something off until tomorrow, I probably will. That being said, I’m also very motivated when the work is something I enjoy. I’ll miss meals and forget to use the bathroom if I’m on a roll with a project I love. That’s probably how I ended up writing Villain School: Good Curses Evil in a little over a month, my fastest book ever. I woke up with the idea in my head, fell in love with it, and nobody could stop me.

I’ve always been told that writing a book is a combination of creativity and hard work, which is true. I’ve also been told that you can’t wait around for inspiration to strike. That’s just laziness. If you want to be a writer, you have to churn out the words assembly-line style from dawn to dusk. That’s impossible. I mean sure James Patterson seems able to do it, but not all of us are James Patterson.

For me, trying to write a book without inspiration is like trying to paint a picture in the dark. You can kind of guess what’s happening and slap things vaguely into place, but when you bring the half-finished product into the light, it’s something embarrassing, or confusing, or just downright ugly. If the author isn’t inspired, the reader won’t be, either.

                                                  

I have a folder containing several half-started stories or even a few finished ones that began as good ideas and then fizzled out. Sometimes I revisit them to see if the spark returns. Usually, I just start something new. I wish I could say that I sit dutifully at my computer and crank out my mandatory thousand-words-a-day, but I just don’t. Sometimes I try. I really do. I stare at that blank, white Word document and peck out a few lines or even pages, but if I’m not inspired in the first place, my efforts quickly fade, and I find myself perusing Yahoo News or checking Facebook.

Once in a while, though, when inspiration strikes, I’m able to see a story in my mind: the characters, the setting, the plot—those three magical ingredients that every writer needs. When the characters feel like people I’ve known for years, when the setting is a place I want to be, and the plot is a kind of momentum driving the characters toward their destinies, that’s when the magic happens. That’s when I forget about the tray of chewy chocolate chip bars in the kitchen or the fact that I’ve had three pots of coffee and the bathroom is all the wayupstairs. I forget I’m in my pajamas at 2:00 pm, and the bills aren’t paid, and that box of Goodwill donation stuff is still clogging up the entryway. All I know is there’s a story inside me, and I must write it.

Facebook Pages

https://www.facebook.com/villainschool

https://www.facebook.com/sssauthor

 

Websites & Blog

http://www.villainkids.com/

http://thegoodvillain.blogspot.com/

http://www.stephsanders.com/

 


Author Crush!

          My life is so busy right now, I end up walking around in a sleep-deprived fog more days than not. I am working nights, 11 pm to 7 am, in a nursing home about an hour from where I live. I am also attending college, carrying a full course load. I started out working full-time, but have dropped down to part-time. Even so, I there are times when it is all I can do to get through the night-days. Sometimes I forget or miss things. Or I’m late. That’s what happened last week. And last month.

          February at Routines For Writers is Author Crush Month. This is the month we invite authors we admire to guest blog with us. Normally, I would be introducing a few of those guest authors. This year, though, I procrastinated and didn’t send out invitations soon enough. I still planned to introduce you to several of the authors who have influenced my life this past year. Last week, though, I didn’t realize it was February. (Maybe I need to Discover how to use a calendar. 😉 )

          About a year ago I came across two books, both on the topic of abusive relationships “The Verbally Abusive Relationship,” by Patricia Evans and “Why Does He Do That? Inside the Mind of Angry Controlling Men,” by Lundy Bancroft. I have devoured scores of books and articles on this and related topics in the past eleven months. These two books, along with “In Sheep’s Clothing, Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People,” by George K. Simon, Jr and “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship,” by Leslie Vernick are the most readable, informative and helpful on this topic. I will be sharing more about these authors and their books in the next few weeks.

          (Well, not next week. Next week, Art Holcomb will be blogging with us. He’s a screenwriter and has written some wonderfully insightful guest blogs on Larry Brook’s Storyfix.com. He’ll be doing the same with us next week.)

          Now it’s time for me to head off to try to catch 15 winks before my next night-day begins.