It’s a WIP!: Excerpt from DOWN FINNEGAN’S HOLLOW.

It'sAWipIf you follow my writing posts, you know my struggle with this story. I work on it, and then leave it for months at a time, and then work on it again. I had submitted it to a small press and I think they wanted it, and I did start revisions on their suggestions, but then I had my little accident and it’s taken me a while to get back into this novel. I think I know why too. I’ve decided to change a major element in the plot, which had me killing off characters. I’ve done two complete revisions to this novel, but it seems I’m due for one more to phase in this new plot bunny.

Anyhoo . . . I thought you might like a little taste of what I wrote. It’s a scene between the MC (Marina) her ex-husband (Adam), and their two children (Trina and Jared.) I like it because the dialogue flows and I could see this scene playing out in any household.

~~~~

A flash of reflected light shone through the front window and the sound of an expensive car engine followed. Marina got up and took a quick look outside as a Jaguar pulled into the driveway.

She snorted under her breath. “I can’t believe you bought that.” She walked to the bottom of the stairs, pulling her light sweater tight around her body. Why was a fancy new car the first thing men bought when they had a mid-life crisis? How did Sissy let him buy something that with the wedding in a few months? She peeked through the small bevelled glass window next to the front door. “You better not have used the kid’s college money.” She turned to the stairs. “Kids. Your dad’s here.”

The doorbell rang and Marina shuffled over to a hanging mirror next to the door. She took a quick glance and tucked in a few wayward strands of hair. Adam’s silhouette cut a dark shadow on the frosted glass of the front door. They’d been divorced for just over a year and yet her heart raced each time he came over to pick up the kids. She inhaled slowly as she grabbed the doorknob.

Adam Hart looked good for his age. Almost too good. He took off his sunglasses and opened the screen door. “Hey, Marina. Are the kids ready?”

“As ready as they’ll ever be,” she said, and stepped back.

Adam was foot taller than her with an athletic build. She was pretty sure he was working out at the gym now, and she noticed a touch of grey in his goatee. “When did you start growing that?”

Adam frowned. “Start growing what?”

“Your beard?”

He stroked the side of his chin. “Last month. Sissy says I look better with some facial hair.”

Marina crossed her arms. “I said that too. Ten years ago.”

He shrugged. “Well I didn’t think I did then.”

“And now you do?”

“Yeah.”

Marina rolled her eyes. “But you said they were too much work to keep them looking good.”

He shrugged. “Sissy bought me some beard grooming tools. I couldn’t exactly say no, right?”

She glanced out at the car and at the cute brunette in the passenger seat. She wanted to hate Sissy, but it was hard. The woman was genuinely nice, cared about the kids and about having a good relationship with them. How could she hate someone like that? She was accommodating to Adam too. As far as she knew, Sissy never complained about the kids wanting to be with just him. Even Viola liked her, when she was in her more lucid moments. So why did Marina feel like she had to hate the woman? Jealously? Bitter ex-wife syndrome? Displaced aggression? She un-crossed her arms and leaned against the wall. She needed to follow her own advice. Sissy was a part of her life now too and she’d have to do the adult thing and deal with it.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Trina’s energetic dance down the stairs dressed in yet another miss-matched outfit. Marina shook her head as she looked over her daughter. The rain boots were still in play but the tutu and wings had been replaced with rainbow leggings, one of Jaden’s old rock tee shirts and a belt she was pretty sure came from an old Halloween costume. Marina covered her mouth to hide her grin. She had to admit, the kid knew how to rebel.

There was a look of horror on Adam’s face. “What are you wearing?”

“Do you like it?” Trina turned so he could get a good look at the ensemble. “I think the belt compliments my style.”

Adam frowned. “Your style? You’re seven. You don’t have a style.”

She pranced past him. “Sure I do. And this is it.”

Jaden stomped toward them a few moments later. His hair completely covering his face and wearing enough black clothing to resemble a moving shadow.

Adam smiled. “Hey kid. How’s the new high school?”

“All right, I guess.”

“Make any friends yet?”

“A couple.” A lone eye peered out from between a small part in his hair. “Where are we going for dinner?”

“There’s this really nice restaurant downtown that Sissy wants to try.”

A scowl came to his lips. “Seriously? I thought we were going to a burger place.”

“This is a special night.”

Jaden rolled his eyes. “Why does everyone keep telling me that?” He grabbed his coat and headed out the door. “They better have hamburgers.”

Adam shook his head. “Doesn’t he eat anything else?”

Marina tried to hide her smile. “Nope.”

He glanced down the hall toward the back of the house. “How’s your mother doing?”

She inhaled slowly. “Not good. She eats like a bird when she does eat, and I have home care people coming in twice a day.” She looked past him and out the screen door. “The doctor says it could be any day now.”

Adam put his hand on her back. “I’m sorry. Are you sure you don’t want her in palliative care? I’d pay for it. It’d be a lot easier on you.”

Marina blinked back her tears. “Thanks, but this is what she wanted, and with her memory loss and confusion, it would be too stressful on both of us if she were any place else.”

Adam stayed quiet for a few moments and watched her. “If you need anything, you have my cell number, right?”

Marina nodded.

“I mean it. Day or night. She’s always been good to me. Even after the divorce.”

Marina turned away to him. “She always liked you.”

She gazed into his eyes. The deep blue was still prominent, but there was something missing. That hint of mischief she fell in love with wasn’t as prominent anymore; dimmed with the onset of middle age and maturity. Maybe that’s why he decided to turn their lives upside down. Trying to recapture the spark of youth before it was gone for good.

The horn sounded on his car and briskly turned away and looked out the screen door. “I was wondering if I could keep the kids overnight tonight.”

“Really?”

“Well, this place we’re going to, it’s pretty fancy and we might not get out until late. My place is a few blocks away and it would save me the trouble of driving all the way out here.”

Marina waved her hand. “Sure. I guess.”

“Great.” He opened the screen door without looking back. “I’ll drop them off in the morning.”

Marina nodded as he walked off. She wondered how much of an argument Trina would give him on staying overnight. She wasn’t even sure if Adam’s new place had any of the kids’ stuff. She watched them drive off and shut the door. Reaching for her purse she pulled out her cell phone and checked the battery. She better keep in on all night. Just in case.

 

A Company of Writers: Writing those first few pages.

companyofwritersOpenings suck. Seriously, they do. You always hear “Don’t worry about the opening, just get the story out!”, but any writer will tell you that once the story is ‘out’, the opening line of your manuscript becomes the do-or-die moment. As a matter of fact, the whole damn first paragraph, page, chapter fall into this category as well.

No pressure. Really?

This is evident in a series of tweets I recently saw. If you’re on Twitter, I suggest you save the hashtag #tenqueries. Some agents ask for a first chapter sample with your query and every so often these agents will give their first impression of the subbed chapters. Their comments can be a real eye-opener, especially when the reasons for rejection are easily fixable.

I’ve beta-read a lot of first chapters. Sometimes that’s as far as I can get, and sometimes that’s as far as I want to get because I now the author will make the same mistakes throughout the entire novel, and if I’ve picked up on that, you can bet agents and publishers have too.

Many times, first chapter problems are a result of the writer’s over-enthusiastic prose. They want to ‘set the tone’ or ‘mood’ for their story, but instead, bore the reader with info-dump and back story that drives the reader away. I once read a chapter where the author wrote three pages on the political climate of an alien race to explain the reason the MC was making a brief stop at the planet. Nothing in those three pages had anything to do with the plot. All irrelevant backstory.

Another problem I’ve come across is this need to outline the MC’s entire day. What they did, wore, ate from the moment they got up. Unless there are elements of foreshadowing, it’s pointless to keep it in your story and they you will lose the reader’s interest. I’m not telling you to throw it out, just don’t put it in your story. All this information is useful to YOU, just not always useful for the reader. Back story can be used SPARINGLY; a brief glimpse into what may be motivating your character to take the action she or he does.

The first few pages must grab the reader; make them want to know why your MC is doing what they’re doing. It doesn’t have to involve a lot of explanation, just enough to pique the readers interest. Once they’re interested, they’re all yours.

In the Company of Writers: A Guide to Writing Realistic Dialogue.

companyofwritersDialogue can be one of the hardest things to learn in writing. You express much with prose, but to make your characters come alive, they have to talk, and making your characters stand out from each other can be done easily when they speak.

Some things to keep in mind when writing dialogue:

  1. Speech patterns: How do your characters talk? Accents? There are countries where a person’s social status is determined by their accent.
  2. What genre is the story? Fantasy stories, especially high-fantasy may have a more formal feel to the dialogue.
  3. If it’s a historical novel use speech patterns and language attributed to that era. Research is highly recommended for these novels.

This online article has good examples of dialogue problems.

https://blog.oup.com/2017/02/how-to-write-dialogue/

Stiff dialogue can be another problem. Long winded conversations can bore a reader especially when the dialogue is either retelling what the reader already knows or is explaining a situation. Known as “Well You Know Bob”, it’s easy to make this mistake.

http://authorkristenlamb.com/2013/12/do-you-have-as-you-know-bob-syndrome-how-writers-can-butcher-dialogue-how-to-fix-it/

In the same area is dialogue that gives too much away. This is a particular problem when the writer is working on a mystery of some kind. In reality these conversations would never be spoken as most of what is in these long speeches could easily be written or shown in the story.

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/keep-it-simple-keys-to-realistic-dialogue-part-i

Dialogue tags are meant to only distinguish who is saying what. If you have only two characters in your scene you can get away with pronouns (especially if they are m/f) or by occasionally mentioning the character’s name. Your dialogue tags should NEVER get in the way of the dialogue, or pull a reader out of the story.  If6

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/keep-it-simple-keys-to-realistic-dialogue-part-ii

Here are other great links on writing dialogue:

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2011/07/05/25-things-you-should-know-about-dialogue/

http://www.nownovel.com/blog/fantastic-dialogue-writing-advice/

http://www.nownovel.com/blog/how-to-write-dialogue-tips/

Of Writers and Prose: Promoting Yourself, Not Your Work.

[DISCLAIMER] First of all, I’m not an expert at this and I’ve never claimed to be. This is just my perspective and how I view the publishing industry.

Quill-InkI read a blog post a few months back claiming that Twitter was no longer a viable option for authors to promote their book. You can read the article here.

http://www.justpublishingadvice.com/poor-twitter-growth-is-bad-news-for-self-published-authors/

 

No shit. It never was.

What struck me about this article is that it equates statistics for Twitter with readership and author visibility, and while no new growth may be bad for Twitter, that doesn’t mean it’s bad for authors. I understand what the article is saying, but to compare Twitter with writers is LITERALLY comparing apples to oranges. As a writer, I know my books aren’t for everyone and depending on the genre, writers will have a limited audience. If you look at Book Bub’s genre listing, you’ll see that mysteries top the chart compared to YA, which agents are constantly looking for.

EXISTING accounts/readers are the ones that authors need to focus on. EXISTING readers tell other readers about your book; WORD OF MOUTH. Companies are notorious for offering sign up deals and discounts to NEW customers instead of rewarding their ESTABLISHED customer base. Imagine there were no freebies or low-priced books. What do you think would happen if an author offered a discounted price to ONLY NEW READERS? While you must look at your books as a business; this is where the business model for companies and the business model for readers MUST branch away. The approach cannot be the same.

So what’s an author to do?

Yes, we need new readers, and we find them by connecting with them via social media, but here is where I see a lot of writers going off the rail; they don’t connect with their readers, they talk AT them, instead of TO them. A while back I helped a writer from my writing group try and understand social media. He has a book coming out and his publisher is all over him about getting ‘out there’. Over the course of an hour or so, I explained how you can use social media to HELP sell your books; because that’s what it is – a TOOL (I’m pretty sure I wrote a blog post on social media tools, but I can’t find it).

Authors must keep one thing in mind when promoting themselves and using social media; it’s about being social. There’s nothing wrong with promoting your work, but like the linked article states; Twitter is no longer a viable option for authors to promote their book.

And it never was.

Of Writers and Prose: To the market with your book. It’s Easy and Cheap. Trust me.

Quill-Ink[DISCLAIMER] I’m not an expert at this and I never claim to be. This is just my perspective and how I view the publishing industry.

Last month I wrote a rather long post on, well it was supposed to be on selling your book and the whole thing kinda got away on me. I’ll try to be more on topic this month. You can read the post HERE.

Marketing your book is easy.

It is, really.

Seriously, I’m not messing with you.

If you have your book on Amazon or Smashwords or one of the other ebook or POD sites, then you have a purchase page generated for your work. Guess what. That is known as the ‘MARKET’; the place where readers go to buy your work. If you want to ‘market’ your work, then you put it where it can be purchased.

It’s. That. Easy.

As I said in my last post, MARKETING and PROMOTING have become synonymous with each other when they are clearly two separate entities, and that’s where the confusion and frustration set it. Writers who say they don’t know how to market their book are really saying they don’t know how to promote it, and that’s another post altogether, but first we need to understand the difference.

Markets include brink and mortar bookstores and online retailers; it about how you get it into the reader’s hands and where the public can access it. Some writers like to keep it simple and have it on just one outlet. Others, like myself, have their book in as many places as possible. I believe the more places my book is found, the bigger my market, and with each new market I’m increasing my ‘potential’ audience. Some people call it ‘target’ audience or ‘target’ readers. I prefer to call them ‘potential readers’. Using the word ‘target’ denotes competition and despite what it looks like, authors are not in competition with each other. I’m not a target and I don’t like to be labelled as such. I doubt anyone else does either.

The biggest mistake I see with writers is not having any book links visible on their website. More than once I’ve clicked on a writer’s blog or website and all I see are paragraph after paragraph about their books, but nothing showing me where to purchase. If you have more than one book, you NEED to have them all on one page so a potential reader can view them all. Don’t put a link to one book on your Twitter account. Not even if it’s a free one. Make it as easy as possible for them to find ALL your work. Like this:

http://darkeconteur.weebly.com/books.html

All my books. All the markets. Period.

When you’ve piqued a reader’s interest, they’ll click your link and the first thing they see should be your books. I know Instagram won’t let me post the book page link, but I can post the web page link. Go figure. Make sure all the links work too. As savvy as we all like to think we are, mistakes can and do happen. Do this with all your social media sites. If you are solely on Amazon, make sure you have the links to all Amazon sites. The four main English ones are .com, .ca, .uk, and .au. If you do good sales on the other markets, say Germany (Amazon.de) include them also, and again don’t link to just one book. You should have an author page for each Amazon site with your books neatly along the top or down the length of the page. USE THIS LINK.

Remember, you’re trying to make this as easy as possible for potential readers. If a reader has to click more than twice to find a market with your work, he may abandon the whole idea altogether.

Writing Update: February 17th, 2017

Wow, it’s been over six months since I did a writing update, and I’m really ashamed to say that I haven’t accomplished much writing in those months. I’m not a huge fan of forced writing but I don’t believe in ‘waiting for the Muse’ either. If I did that, I’d be spending my days doing nothing but waiting. So, what’s been going on?

I’ve stopped revising Down Finnegan’s Hollow.  I did a bit of revision to it to make sure certain details were accurate, especially the timelines, but other than that, I haven’t really worked on it. The first draft is finished so all it needs is a good revision, but right now it’s not interesting to me. Maybe because of a new story idea? It came to me while I was reading one of the classic books I downloaded from the Gutenberg Project. That, along with my English thesis research really sparked an idea. It’s going to be slow going on this one; a lot of research required that I can’t get online, but it should be interesting to see where it goes.

Plague novel is really exciting to me right now. I added in the extra bits I needed, and have a solid revision of the first seven chapters. I also managed to connect these novels with the post-apocalyptic novel set in the future, so that’s cool. It’s just a matter of revising the rest of the first novel, finishing it and the other two in the series. The second series is really cool too with a different take on some old monsters.

I did NaNo this year too. Didn’t finish as work picked up and that shot it all to Hell. My novel; a magical realism story. I’d like to see this one in the hands of an agent, as long as they don’t ask me to change it to YA. Nothing wrong with YA, but not every novel on the planet has to be YA. Seriously. Anyway, if you’re curious I posted a short excerpt HERE..

Anyway, that’s it for now. I’m hoping to do an update at least once a month, so here’s to accountability and a new year!

Oh, and have you noticed that I’ve been keeping up with my blog posts. *pats on back*

How was your 2016 for writing?

Of Writers and Prose: How the ever-loving $#%^& do I sell my book?

Quill-InkFirst of all, I’m not an expert at this and I’ve never claimed to be. This is just my perspective and how I view the publishing industry.

A writing friend of mine wrote this blog post last month. I’ll give you all time to read it. It’s a very interesting read as it shows the frustration that every author, especially new ones, are experiencing with publishing right now.

https://loveslastrefuge.com/2017/01/06/i-am-the-poster-child-for-failed-branding/

I’ve known Nya/Diane for several years and I feel her pain. The genre she writes has taken a really big hit over the last several years with indie publishing houses closing and pirating. It’s frustrating to see all that time and effort you put into a book go down the drain, and to be honest, it’s made me leery of any publishing venture outside of doing it myself.

The biggest concern is that with all the new writers publishing books, the digital landscape has become congested. Clogged even. What’s a new author to do? Hell, what’s a mid-list author to do? I have six books out and I barely make enough to buy one of those expensive coffees you have to order in a different language, but that’s my fault. In the last year I’ve done next to no promotion of my work. I’ve been too busy with school and Job That Pays to give any attention to my writing career. It isn’t that I don’t know how to market myself, or that I feel it’s hopeless; I just haven’t put any time in to doing it.

Some marketing terms that are bantered around the industry leave a bad taste in my mouth. For instance the phrase ‘target audience’. I hear this A LOT, but to me a reader isn’t a target. They’re not to be hunted down and pummelled with links to Amazon sites. Readers deserves our respect, and we need to treat them that way. Instead of throwing book links at them, why not connect with them through hobbies or other interest. Many new writers only connect with other writers, and while that’s good for learning the ropes, it’s the connections outside of the writing bubble that we need to make.

Whatever way you plan to publish, make no mistake, it’s a business and must be treated as such but promoting yourself and your work isn’t, and it shouldn’t be viewed that way. Promotion is about you; making a connection with people. There is a difference between promoting your work, and marketing it.

Marketing: noun

  1. the act of buying or selling in a market.
  2. the total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the        producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising,    shipping,storing, and selling.

Vs.

Promoting: verb (used with object), promoted, promoting.

to help or encourage to exist or flourish; further:

            to promote world peace.

2. to advance in rank, dignity, position, etc.  Education.to  put ahead to the next higher stage or grade of a course or series of classes.

4. to aid in organizing (business undertakings).

5. to encourage the sales, acceptance, etc., of (a product), especially through advertising or other publicity.

 

I put these two definitions up to show you the difference. It’s very subtle, but it’s there. Think of it this way, MARKETING is your Amazon or blog page with your books; the site where readers can PURCHASE your work. PROMOTION is the act of bringing readers to those sites. With the rise of digital publishing, these two terms have blurred. Yes, they are connected to each other and they may seem like they’re the same but MARKETING is not PROMOTING, and PROMOTING is not MARKETING.

I think this is going to require more blog posts.

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