Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tragedy: Name That Author #1

Okay, now I've posted game questions in the past. I've quoted from books and asked you to name the title. I've quoted poems and asked you to name the poet. This time the game will be a bit more ... tragic. This idea came about, by the way, when I mentioned on my author facebook page that generally people who have careers in the arts live longer. As always, there are exceptions and yes, what I'm going to do here is describe the circumstance of an author's tragic death. Then someone, I'm certain, will guess the author in question. Ready? Starting with an easier one.

As it is known, depression will often run in families. In this instance, the author I'm describing died after putting the end of his favorite shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Now, he may have been feeling the riggers of alcoholism and spent time in a hospital due to extreme paranoia, but then there was also the depression. Sadly, both his brother and sister commited suicide as well.

So, who is this famous author?

So, time's up! The answer .... drumroll please .... Ernest Hemingway! 

Don't worry ... I will post a new one next week :-)

Friday, June 28, 2013

I'm Stuck Between a Rock and a Murder Case

Right now, I'm stuck. It happens. Hopefully not too often. And if somebody can give me some creative mojo to wiggle me out, maybe I'll become "unstuck". They are those moments I've backed myself into a corner and can't seem to find my way out. I hate that. It gives me a major headache. So, this time I thought I'd take a break from murder mystery and "go back to school", so to speak. I needed to look up some advice on developing my plot and get me out of my rut by pointing me in the right direction.

Here's what I've found and maybe if I'm lucky it will help!

Check This #1: Create a plot skeleton, i.e., outline or sketch of what will happen. Keep in mind the main character needs to accomplish something and there will be challenges along the way. This step is not too detailed because quite honestly, points of it will change as you write. The characters will indeed take a life of their own and tell YOU where they need to go and what to do.

Have I done this? Ah, no. Sometimes I wait until so many pages into the story to figure that out. I start with a story idea and then develop from there. But this time, I'm thinking this may be the particular advice I should follow.

Check This #2: Layer the plot, paint it with setting details, make it come alive with well-rounded characters. Remember that the story needs to progress, it will take a journey with sensible twists and turns, ups and downs, to make it interesting and progress toward the resolution. The dynamic characters should experience change, which happens as they experience life. The evil guy in the story may be the static character. This one always remains evil, but you could make him complex with some vulnerable traits, too.

Have I done this? Well ... sort of. Lots of times I will add to the story, flesh out characters, add descriptors when I go back through for my first edit. I really haven't gotten into the story that far yet.

Check This #3: Periodically analyze the action to see if that is where you want to go and don't be afraid to change the course if it doesn't feel right! This is where you can decide if a scene stays or goes. Do the events add to the plot, or do nothing for it? Remember, if you slow things down too much, you lose reader interest. Heck! You even lose writer interest! That's really a bad sign.

Am I doing this? There are a couple of points already where I find I'm rambling. Those areas will definitely have to go.

Check This #4: Pretend you are the character. Sometimes characters come off too mechanical, sometimes too emotional, sometimes ... well, the actions are just plain ridiculous or unrealistic. As the story progresses and your characters must act, ask yourself if that is what you'd do or how you'd react. Question whether the act seems reasonable, senseable. Just because you want the character to do a certain thing in order to force the plot in your desired direction, doesn't mean it's the best choice of action.

Have I done this? Mistake wise? Yes. The reason I know is that when I've gone back and read something I'd written a long time ago and said to myself, "why ever did I think that worked?" or "who would do such a stupid thing?" then I know it's that kind of mistake. This time around? I guess it will have to wait until I let the story simmer a bit. For me, that kind of observation technique most often comes with time.

Check This #5: When the process is slow, stop thinking so much. I know this sounds contradictory to all points above. However, there are times when you get so bogged down, like your sinking deeper and deeper into that quicksand. I've read that it's because you are stopping to rethink everything you've just written, re-edit, re-write, re-everything! Do I do this? Most definitely!

Am I doing this with my current WIP? Oh boy, am I ever! Why else would I be here, writing this article instead of writing my story? The idea is to simply write and continue to write without editing, UNTIL the story is finished. Soooooo very hard for me to do! And really, I think it's because I'm not sure where I want to take this plot. Hence, I refer back to Check #1. I guess that's what I'll do.

Check This #6: When the story ends, check it all! Okay, this one's a biggy! I call it crossing all the i's and dotting all the t's of my story. In mysteries this is extremely important. In my recent publication, DYING TO DREAM I found myself crosschecking everything, lots of times. Matching up events, times, character interactions, experiences until I felt my eyes cross! Now I've decided the best way to keep from making so many mistakes that will need to be checked and double checked is to take notes as you write. What this character does, where that one goes, when this one does this or that. It's time-consuming, but it will help. Of course, if you just use those beta readers who offer to read your story, they might catch those inconsistencies for you! So much the better.

Am I taking notes this time? Ahhhhhhh ... Okay, getting out the pad and pen to start, but first? Going back to try developing that plot skeleton!

Bottom line? If all else fails, just write the darn story! It might not be the most productive and sensible approach, maybe it will leave you lots of work to do at the end. But at least you'll have a completed story, and plenty of time to revise, revise, revise!

P.S. These are just a very few of the multitude of tips out there on writing and developing a plot. I think this was mostly a cathartic exercise for me, but hopefully it helps all of you, too!

Happy writing!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

To Friend or Not to Friend ... That Is a Tricky Question

With social media being the giant it is, especially for those of you who are trying to market yourself or a product or both, it gets to the point of obscurity as to who you message with, tweet with, video with, etc. In other words, who ARE some of those people? Do we really need THAT MANY friends? Does it all boil down to a numbers game?

Marketers, promoters, agents, publishers, business gurus will all tell you to reach out wide and far, create that platform and sell, sell, sell. But when number sense start pummeling common sense into the ground, you have to start wondering how much good this can do versus how much bad.

First, you have those loyal, supportive followers. Bless you all! They will be there for you, give a cheery greeting when you need it, suggestions when you ask for them, or just a thumbs-up to let you know you aren't forgotten, that you count. And the most truthful ones will "let you have it" when it's deserving!

Then, here's where I think the ground gets a bit shaky. It's like a "here comes an earthquake, hang on and don't fall into the abyss!" type of situation. It involves those unpleasant followers, the ones who lash out, give everyone around them a bad name, give THEMSELVES a bad name, as they post, comment, etc., and I'm not sure why. Maybe they are angry with the world, maybe life hasn't given them a fair shake, maybe somebody took away their favorite toy! Whatever the reason, they tend to post not so nice words. You have to wonder what that makes us. I mean, we are their friends, right? Not really. I refer back to the numbers game. Wanting to spread your word far and wide, getting as much exposure as you can, will make you click "yes" when a total stranger asks to be your friend. I've done it, hundreds of times. Guilty as charged.

So, where am I going with all this? To tell you the truth, I'm not so sure. Throwing the baby out with the bath water analogy doesn't seem constructive. If we have a product to sell, we still need to social network. And filtering through friend requests would be a very, very time-consuming task. I guess this is just the nature of the beast. Personally, I will take the good along with the bad, but I have to continue to grow that extra thick skin. If somebody comes bashing on my turf, I guess a shrug of the shoulders is the best response. But guaranteed, if that somebody comes back a second time, it will be to click on that friend button to erase all memory.

Where do you stand on this issue? Has social media grown into a "no man's land" or need the sign "enter at your own risk" at the welcome gates? Is it really worth it to use as a marketing tool? I say yes, I will take the risk. But what do you think?

A Penny is Still Just ... a Penny

A penny. Right? Well, it is if you really think about it. Yet, how many of us look at a price tag of $19.99 and think, "Wow, that's a great deal!" But when we see $20.00 it's not the same reaction? I can't explain it. I really don't think that penny is going to buy me much. Not unless I intend to add up the so-called one penny deals over a period of, say, hmm, a year ... and I'd have to purchase, oh, maybe ... now wait, my math skills are a bit rusty ... well, I just know there'd have to be a lot to gain me even one dollar's worth of pennies. 

Really, when you think about it, we are "SALES OBSESSED" consumers. When I go to my favorite department store for a shopping spree because there's a thirty percent off coupon in my wallet just screaming at me to go buy that $80.00 pair of shoes I've been dying for, or a really pricey designer dress that's so perfect, except for the price, and even though I do this and I save -- according to the nice lady at the register -- a wopping $300.00, I've just burned, well, it's more than my budget should allow on my credit card. Of course, when I argue with my hubby that I saved $300, he just gives me that eye roll and explains in very rational terms that the bottom line is that I've SPENT $$$ to get that discount. Uh, well, duh?!

And how about when some people will drive to ANOTHER CITY just to find gas at $3.45 rather than go up the street and pay, let's say $3.49? (eh, no ... I truly haven't done that one). If this is a one time thing and it's going out of their way to get it and it's a modest 13 gallon tank in their car ... well, you do the math. 

Soooooo when I look on Amazon this morning and see my Dying to Dream ebook has been discounted from $2.99 to $2.51 I'm wondering, will this mind-set philosophy work? Who knows? A penny is still just a penny, even 48 of them! At least, it's getting closer to buying you that cup of coffee :-)


Monday, June 10, 2013

Is There a Real Backstory to Your Story?

I always find it interesting how story ideas come about for a writer, so I thought I'd share mine. Maybe you will find this one interesting as well!

The idea for DYING TO DREAM sprouted several years ago when I was researching about haunte
d sites situated in Louisiana. I found out about Oak Alley, a former plantation with rumored hauntings. I started with the idea of a woman who painted pictures of people she dreamed about, but not just the ordinary variety. These pictures took on a life of their own, changing form and position often, speaking to her, etc. Then, the woman is somehow directed by spirits to find a property for sale in Louisiana and buy it. The haunted moments started once she moved there. That is where I left it ... unfinished.

Fast forward to 2009 and I dusted off the story, using some of the original ideas, tossing out others, and what you see published here is the finished product. My heroine became a psychic who dreams as the spirits who reach out to her. She becomes them, knows their thoughts and feels their emotion, and sometimes, if she's lucky, she learns their mysteries. Using this she is able to help solve a couple of murders and find out some puzzling details about the family history. Oak Alley is written into the story, by the way, as the plantation house in Vacherie.

They say write what you know. So, even though I've never lived in Louisiana, I do have a background in the French language and have studied Spanish. I decided a couple of my characters could benefit from the knowledge, and I have a splattering of French and Spanish phrases throughout the story, which I think adds a little authenticity to them as well as giving the setting some cultural flavor.

As for the paranormal aspects, I've always been interested in the study and phenomenon of spirits. I've even been on a couple of ghost tours! Most of it is all in fun, but still ... who knows? If you read the book, you will notice how each chapter opens with a line or two from various authors and poets about ghostly topics. (And yes, I checked to make sure they are in the public domain and break no copywright laws!)

Even though I love all my characters, I'd have to say Tante Louise is my favorite one. Her feisty attitude along with the French flare and voodoo mystery adds so much flavor to the story.

And the romance? Ah, yes. There is romance Trent and Marin in the present, as well as a tragic couple in the past. But how that turns out, I will leave it to you to discover when you read my book! Enjoy!
So, what about you? If you write, does your story have a background history to it? How do your ideas come about? I'd love to hear them!