Tag Archives: writing insights

Shopping For Characters

Casting Director

In my last post, I told you that I visualize my characters before I flesh them out on the page. So I pretend I’m the casting director for the movie about my book.

Hunting Season

When I’m  in this developmental phase, I do a lot of people watching. I’ll sit at the mall, I’ll eavesdrop on conversations, I’ll eyeball parents–grandparents– at the soccer fields. Any seasoned hunter will tell you that opportunity only knocks once and you have to be alert at all times. After all, you never know when your next victim, umm, I mean character, will emerge from the shadows. Take that Sunday at church…

I’d been hunting for Newcomb: storyteller, man in his fifties, wise, confident, white hair, medium build. I had just about conceded defeat until an elderly gentleman several rows in front of me caught my attention. The lighting made his white hair glow. I perked up and watched his every move, noted how the light caught every strand of hair, imagined him in the tunic he’d be wearing in my story… I don’t remember the sermon but I’ll never forget discovering Newcomb.

Let ‘Em Have It!

Annoy WriterI love this mug’s saying, not only because it’s funny but because it’s true! Channeling one’s anger (or any emotional experience) into a character is a GREAT way to add depth.  I purposefully made DeMorley (a conniving minstrel lacking musical talent) my Nashville music biz punching bag. I poured my negative experiences-the filth, the lies, the BS-into DeMorley. Not only was this refreshing and fun to do, but it saved me from paying a psychiatrist or being arrested for assault.

I hope this helps and good luck writing!

 

 


Are You Crazy or Just An Author?

So your book is published. Great! And now you’re trying to promote it. Welcome to Fight Club! But what works?

If you search the web, you’ll be inundated with info, promises, sworn testimonies…

I found one company that claims a book trailer is the key to success, never mind the fact that they produce videos for a living.

Others promise to tweet your book to thousands for a small fee.  I decided to try one since they have 44,000 followers. I even went in with a realistic expectation: sell 2 books and get some new followers on Facebook or Twitter. Fail. Waste. Moving on…

And then there are the gurus offering free videos. I watched several but found the info commonplace and felt like I was stuck at an Amway convention. Sure enough, at the end of the freebie, they get to the point of their spiel: sign up for their not-so-free courses for the REAL secrets to success. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe I’m a fool for not buying.  I guess I’m a cynical tightwad who’s not willing to toss in $500 +/_ to find out.

Frustrated, I asked two friends, D.Alan Lewis & Teal Haviland, what their experience has been marketing books. Their candor was refreshing and if nothing else, confirms I’m not going crazy. Not yet.

Have Paid Promotions Increased Sales?

“I have paid for 2 different ads on Facebook and saw zero sales for the books being promoted during the sales drive. I’ve paid for small ads on various websites and have seen little to no sales from the effort. So far, I’ve not found anything that really works well. I know some folks have had success with various social media platforms, but most authors that I talk with are still struggling with sales.  Social media is a great and mostly free way to advertise, but it doesn’t translate into big sales.  Still, everytime I push books on Facebook, I do see a few sales, so it does help.” Alan

“I have paid for advertising on Facebook. From what I can tell, I’ve had little success from it and feel it’s been a waste of my money. I do, however, have author friends who’ve paid for advertising on Facebook and they say, if done right, that it can be very effective. I haven’t tried the things they’ve suggested, yet, because I’m waiting to pay for further advertising when I have my entire series done and released.” Teal

Do You Use Social Media?

 “I do use social media, namely Facebook,Twitter, and a personal blog. Because of the tools available through these sites, I’m able to automatically send every post on Facebook to my Twitter account.  My Amazon Author Page is set to display all my Twitter messages, so everything on Facebook is sent all over the place. I have a blog on Google which is automatically shared on my website and on my Amazon Author page, so again, the word is shared through multiple venues. Since Facebook only allows 5% of your friends to see any kind of marketing post on your page, I found that having multiple pages helps to increase the number of folks seeing an ad.  In my case, I have a personal page, an author page, and 3 other pages that are dedicated to different books/series.” Alan
“I have used social media for marketing, mainly Facebook and Twitter, but I’ve been taking a hiatus from any marketing right now.” Teal

What Has Helped Sales?

“So far, I’ve not found anything that really works well. I know some folks have had success with various social media platforms, but most authors that I talk with are still struggling with sales.  Social media is a great and mostly free way to advertise, but it doesn’t translate into big sales.  Still, everytime I push books on Facebook, I do see a few sales, so it does help.” Alan

“I think the key to the marketing conundrum so many authors find themselves in, is to realize that there are things that will work one time, that you’ll then do for the next book and it might not work at all. Even if you do everything the same. Our industry and what readers consider “hot” are constantly changing and we, as authors, have to be willing to go with the flow. We need to just write the stories we want to write and release them to the world, then do our best to let the readers out there know our book is there.” Teal

Any Sage Advice?

“Write. Rewrite. Edit. Release. Do your best to market, and let it go. Then, rinse and repeat. Your readers will find you, eventually. Make sure they have a lot to get their hands on when they do.” Teal


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 8

On the 8th day of Christmas: the continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous paragraphs can be found in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”)

The south corridor is darker than usual, which is no surprise to Wendell: Doors remain shut when someone dies. Some hide. Some mourn. Some—like kids trying to ward off the Boogie-man—hope that wood, varnish, and steel will delay their fate.

Only one door is open. Yellow light spills into the gloomy corridor. He makes his way to Ira’s room and peers in.

The bed is made. A wheelchair sits in the corner. The room is empty.

A middle-aged man emerges from the bathroom holding some toiletries and spots Wendell hovering in the doorway.  

  “May I help you,” he asks as he makes his way to the bed where a duffel bag sits.

 “Ira Rubin. Is it true? He’s gone?”

 The man stashes the toiletries in the bag. “Went in his sleep.” He zips it shut. “Were you a friend?”

“I suppose, although now that I think about it, I wasn’t a very good one.”

The man grabs the bag and heads for the door. He extends his hand to Wendell. “I’m Cliff Rubin, Ira’s son.”

Wendell stares in disbelief at Cliff’s hand and then into his face. Hooked nose, close-set eyes, piercing gaze. Just like Ira.

He throws off his doubts, regains his wit, and shakes Cliff’s hand. “I’m Wendell Bennett. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Cliff sucks in air and gives a solemn nod. He reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out a white envelope.

“He left this for you.”

“What’s inside,” he asks, fearing the worst news possible.

“No idea; yours is sealed shut, just like mine was.” He taps the pocket holding his letter. “Kinda how he lived: all sealed up, keeping everyone away, all his thoughts secret.” Finger tap, tap, taps. “I sat on his bed for over an hour working up the courage to open it.” He pauses and draws in a deep breath. “Figured it was a suicide note.”

“Suicide…” Wendell staggers against the doorframe.

 “No,” Cliff says as he helps Wendell maintain his balance. “That came out wrong. I thought it was, but it turns out to be an apology.”


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 7

On the 7th day of Christmas: the continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous paragraphs can be found in “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy & Miracles.”

The next morning, Wendell Bennett shuffles down the north wing of Villa Velencia. Up ahead is a women’s silhouette. He shields his eyes for a better look and inches out of the shadow. She recognizes him and approaches with sure steps. Wendell, uncertain who she is, stops. She closes the gap and buries her face into his flannel shirt. Ruth’s perfume is intoxicating and he relishes her body close to his, but is unable to fathom why she’s embracing him.

“He’s gone,” she whimpers.

“Who’s gone?”

She releases him and pulls out a Kleenex to dot her eyes. “Ira. He passed in his sleep.”

“He…died?”

“I came to you as soon as I heard. You were his only friend.”

She let the moment hang and notes the pain crossing his face like a dark cloud.

She touches his arm. “I know he was annoying, but you should have heard him talk about you.”

Wendell takes in her eyes that dazzle like sapphires.

“Oh, how he admired you,” she gushes. “Said he’d never met a smarter man. Couldn’t wait to get helped into his wheelchair every morning just so he could talk with you. You gave him such joy. Did you know that?”

Wendell stares at the floor, his mind a whirlwind of questions. In a flash, he remembers their bet.

“The miracles,” he mumbles.

“What?”

“I need to see him.”

“You can’t; they’ve already taken him to the funeral home.”

Wendell raises his eyes. “I still need to see his room.”

Ruth leads him by the hand toward The Commons. They reach the south corridor, and Wendell pats her hand.

“I need to go alone.”

She considers arguing the point but lets him go.

He waddles away as “Little Drummer Boy” fades into “O Holy Night.”


Love, Joy & Miracles; Day 6

Merry Christmas!

On the 6th day of Christmas: the continuation of the short story, The Miracle Man. (Previous inserts can be found under “Past Posts” under “Love, Joy, & Miracles.” )

“Well if he’s in the kitchen, I want to file a complaint.”

“You just don’t get it, do you?”

Wendell sets his mug down. Jaw line is tight. “Look. I’m glad you’ve found something that gives you purpose, even joy, but it would take a miracle for me to believe again.”

  “A miracle?” There was excitement in Ira’s voice.

 Wendell crosses his arms. “I was speaking hypothetically.”

 “Hey, you started this. So I’m curious: what would you call a miracle?”

“Boy! For a guy with tubes crammed up his nose, you sure are a cocky-cuss!”

“And I thought a hot-shot lawyer like you would be more open-minded.”

“I am open-minded, Ira. I just know the difference between fantasy and reality.”

“So you’re scared.”

“Of what?”

“Truth. Love. Peace. Joy.”

“Please!”

“But what if miracles happen? Wouldn’t that make you consider another verdict about God?”

“Okay,” Wendell snaps; nostrils flare. “You want a miracle? I’ll give you one, but remember: You brought this on yourself.”

Wendell surveys the room and considers his options. He zeroes in on the group sitting off from the others. His years as a prosecutor kick in and he formulates his case in a matter of seconds, and as was his custom, begins with a feint. “I want God to give them joy.” He gestures at the woman cursing like a sailor. “Or make ole what’s-her-name shut up.”

Wendell turns, eyes narrow, and he delivers the real terms. “Better yet, how about a miracle for me and…” He points an index finger at Ira. “You.”

Ira doesn’t bat an eye. “Such as?”

“I want Ruth to give me a hug and a kiss tomorrow. And not something done in the spirit of Christmas, but the real deal.”

 Ira rubs his chin, whether to counter or in wonderment, Wendell is unable to discern.

  “And for you…” Wendell raises his finger like he did when making his closing arguments. “I want your son to visit on the same day.”

Ira’s eyes widen. “My son?” His voice is hollow.

“Yes. The one who never visits because of your quarrel.”

 Ira bites his lower lip.

Wendell sneers and sweeps an arm like a symphony conductor. “There, you see? Those can’t happen, not by tomorrow, so let the matter—”           

“I had a dream…”

Wendell’s arm plops to his side. “Ira, seriously, let it go.”

Ira gets a far away look. Fingers drum his chin as he mulls over Wendell’s requests. “Okay,” he says with a head nod, “tomorrow.”

Wendell’s mouth drops open in shock. “Tell me you’re joking!”

Ira’s determined expression tells him otherwise.

“Then you’re a bigger fool than I thought!”

“Perhaps.” Ira’s voice is silky-smooth. “But I’ll risk it all if it means you find joy this Christmas.”

Wendell’s blood boils, and he clinches his fists. “Then let’s raise the ante: if the

miracles don’t happen tomorrow, you promise to never, and I do mean never, talk to me about religion again.”

“And if they do?”

Wendell rolls his eyes. “They won’t.”

“Hey, a bet is a bet.”

“Fine.” He plants his hands on his hips. “I’ll go to the Christmas service.”

Ira considers his offer and gives him a faint smile. “Good. Then it’s settled.”

He flicks his joystick and rolls away.

Wendell stares after him in disbelief. “It’s not going to happen, Miracle Man.”

Ira rounds the corner and the oxygen tank chimes down the hall.


I’ve Been Duped!

“Its Beauty is its Deception!”

Have you ever wanted something SO BADLY simply because it was attractive?

Maybe a new car? A relationship? The dream job?  And let’s say you get it only to discover that the car still breaks down, the relationship comes with baggage, or the perfect job is managed by crazy people?

Well, I have! As a writer, I draw upon these experiences to craft my stories. Sometimes I regurgitate it unfiltered through a character and let them deal with the consequences. Now THAT’S fun! Other times I become the magician, getting you to focus on the shiny, red scarf in my left hand while my right hand is preparing to WOW you with a rabbit. Well, not a real rabbit, unless of course that’s part of the plot, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make right now…or is it? 🙂

(For those following the “FREE Book” posts, here’s the conclusion to Chapter 01, Tears of Min Brock.)

Quinn lifted his throbbing head and glared at the women. “Why must you two be so loud?” he thundered.

Elabea remembered a time many summers ago when his eyes sparkled with life, but that was before he went off to fight in the Dark War. Now they were opaque and lifeless. Spying the parchment in the fire, he asked Elabea, “Where did you get that?”

His eyes became icy.

Backing away, she meekly answered, “It was attached to an arrow stuck in our door. What is it?”

It is from the land of lies!” he slurled.

Claire!” Elabea whispered, noting that despite the flames, the parchment was not burning.

“Don’t say the word!” Areall yelled, her placid expression now like churning rapids. Turning her fury on Quinn, she shouted, “Your night of drink is making you talk too much!”

“I’ll talk when and how I like!” he yelled back.

While they argued, Elabea knew this was her chance. Darting to the fireplace, she grabbed a small stick on the hearth and plunged it into the coals.

“Stop!” Quinn roared as he struggled to rise from his chair. “Leave it!” Becoming dizzy, he slumped back down.

“Amazing,” Elabea muttered as she dragged it onto the cool hearth. “It’s not burnt and is even free of soot. It’s so…beautiful.”

“Beautiful?” Areall replied derisively. She crept toward the parchment as if an evil spirit possessed it. “Its beauty is its deception!” she snarled. Unwilling to get any closer, she whispered,“Burn it! Destroy it or you will curse us. The Cauldron will know and see. They will come!”

Elabea calmly picked it up. “They’ve never come before! Besides, how can something so beautiful be evil?”

Areall reached for her but Elabea was too quick. She raced out the door.


To Be “That Guy”

I wanted to share one of my favorite short stories, The Window by G.W. Target.

This was the only online version I could find that wasn’t rewritten and that also captured the heart of Target’s story.  I’m still amazed at how much he packs into this short tale, the ole “less is more” adage, as well as how many applications it has, too.

Every time I read it, I come to the same conclusion: I want to be as selfless as the first man by the window. Unfortunately, I’m too much like the other fellow. Of course, we all have to start somewhere in regards to personal change and revelation which, hopefully, leads to life revolution. Besides, if I trumpet something to the effect that “I’m very much like that first guy,” well, it’s sorta like confiding that you’re a humble person, isn’t it??

Anyway, I hope you enjoy The Window and that it gets inside your psyche and makes you squirm…in a good way. 🙂


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