Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Little of Me, a Little of Someone Else

Is your protagonist really you?
How do you separate him/her from you?

Frankensteins monster I am not my characters. I’m not a depressed stand-up comic. I’m not a rich workaholic. I’m not a radio talk show host. I’m definitely not someone who must eat human flesh to survive (at least I’m pretty sure I’m not).

I am my characters. I laugh. I cry. I strive to be a good person. I get annoyed. I’m rude (not very often, but it happens!). I know what it’s like to wait in line to buy a ticket, and when I get to the front, they’re sold out. I hate traffic. I like cake (actually, I love cake).

Sometimes I even talk out of both sides of my mouth (just like my characters!).

Of course, I don’t consciously try to pattern my protagonists after myself. I mean, who in their right mind would want to read about me? I’m dull (seriously). Readers would be bored after a page and a half. And I don’t try to write characters who are simply an exaggerated version of me. That just seems weird and egocentric. Introducing Alvin Worloff, the smartest, funniest, most interesting man in the world. He doesn’t drink beer often, but when he does, it’s Dom Perignon! There he goes on his jetpack to rid the world of talking velociraptors!

Um, no.

On the other hand, how can my characters be anything but me, at least on some level? I mean, they emerged from my head; their actions are informed by my thoughts, experiences, and emotions. Their every thought is filtered through my lens. They have to be part of me, almost by definition.

Sure, I do my best to portray them as being unique individuals, unlike me for the most part. Give them a different set of values, have them believe in stuff I don’t. Make them do things I would never, ever, ever do (cannibalism comes to mind). But I think if you’ll examine any of my characters, you’ll recognize at least some aspect of me, no matter how hard I try not to let any of my DNA creep in.

But what should I expect? I created them.

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Eyes Open! Stay Awake!

No boredom Sometimes you become so interested in the research for your book that it takes over the story. What do you do to keep it from becoming a treatise that only serves to make your readers’ eyes close with boredom?

Some people, old roommates mostly, call me lazy. I prefer the term efficient. I don’t like waste, be it energy, food, money, brainpower, or time (especially food).

I know a lot of writers enjoy spelunking in the proverbial stacks, unearthing long-forgotten historical tomes. Their jaws drop in wonder at a newly-discovered journal from the 1300’s or a never-before-seen map of the ancient Roman empire.

I’m not one of them. I strive to do exactly as much research as necessary and not one iota more. I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of including too much research in any of my books or stories. Ever. Really, EVER.

Readers don’t need to know how the sausage is made. They just need to know that one of my characters has stopped at a street vendor to get a delicious brat on a bun.

Don’t get me wrong, I work hard to make sure that what I write is as accurate as possible and, in order to do that, research must be conducted. It’s just not my favorite thing. That’s why I rarely worry about bombarding my readers with all kinds of arcane knowledge. I try to give them just what they need to understand whatever is going on in my book.

I operate on a simple plan: if it serves the story, it goes in.

If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

*****

Still a few more days left in Amazon’s The Big Deal sale! More than 350 Kindle books for up to 85% off, including RUNNING FROM THE PAST for only $1.99!

RUNNING cover

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Every Day is an Education

What are three things you know now that you didn't when you started as a fiction writer?

1. Writing is easy. Writing something that is good, that other people want to read, that other people want to represent, that other people want to actually spend hard-earned money on? That is HARD. But as my father used to say, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.

2. Writing is subjective. REALLY subjective. Before I began writing, I knew, on some level, that not everyone liked the same books (substitute: movies, songs, flavors of ice cream, Spice Girls). But I sorta figured that most people didn’t have wildly divergent opinions about the same work. Boy, was I wrong! It’s amazing to me how two people can feel totally different about the same book or story. “How can any self-respecting publishing house put out this dreck?” versus “That’s the best book I’ve read all year.” And that happens more often than you might think. Of course, this is a good thing (usually).

3. Before I began writing fiction, I’m not sure I even knew anybody who claimed to be a writer. (You know, those unkempt weirdos always mumbling to themselves and gesturing insanely in the air—I steered clear.) Now I know plenty of “writers,” and they are the most intelligent, witty, fascinating, generous, friendly, engaging, erudite (look it up, people!), welcoming, gregarious, and informative people I’ve ever met. Did I mention how welcoming they are? It’s difficult to be a wallflower at a mystery convention no matter how hard you try, trust me. (Based on the above description, I’m not sure I belong, but if you don’t tell anybody, I won’t!) I mean, it’s actually COOL to be a writer!

3A. Writers drink. A lot. Especially mystery/thriller writers.

(This entry is “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thanks for the Support!

RUNNING cover My new release, RUNNING FROM THE PAST, came out Tuesday.

I don’t much like crowds.

Not at the mall. Not at concerts. Not at sporting events.

I was never one to run with the crowd, either. Growing up, I usually gravitated toward a small group of friends, and I pretty much did what I wanted—no peer pressure steered me (or so I thought, anyway).

But recently, I’ve come to like the crowd, especially the “crowd” in crowdsourcing.

Because that’s, in part, how my latest book got published.

A little background: I had this book I’d finished. I really liked it, but my agent at the time couldn’t really envision a place where it might “fit.” As an experiment, we put it up on Wattpad (a share-your-work site), which required me to get a cover, so I bought one from a professional cover designer. It got a fair number of reads on Wattpad, but I took it down after a while, and it ended up sitting on my hard drive while I worked on other projects.

Fast forward to last fall, when Amazon announced its new crowdsourcing program, Kindle Scout. Conceptually, it’s a little like American Idol for books. To enter, all you need is a finished manuscript (in one of three genres) and a cover.

So I figured, why not? No downside, really.

I submitted my package, and after being approved, I put an excerpt up on their site for 30 days (along with many other writers). Then readers (dubbed Kindle Scouts) perused the selections and nominated those books they’d like to see get published.

After the campaign was over, books with the most nominations got reviewed by Amazon staff. Using an undisclosed evaluation process, books were then selected for publishing, and I was fortunate enough to get a contract from Amazon’s new imprint, Kindle Press. I’m convinced that my success was due to a tremendous amount of support from my friends—in real life, on Facebook and Twitter, and elsewhere.

So, thanks friends!

The contract seemed fair enough: an advance (modest), 50% royalties on ebooks, potential sales of audio and translation rights (I kept print rights—a trade paperback is forthcoming!). But what really piqued my interest was Amazon’s promise of marketing. Say what you will about Amazon (and I have absolutely only good things to say about them!), they know how to sell books.

So far, everything has been great. I got a very thorough, very professional copyedit. And things have gone smoothly with the rollout.

As for promotional efforts, when Amazon talks, people listen. Their initial press release announcing the publication of the first group of Scout books was picked up by many on-line publications/websites, including: PC Magazine, Publishers Weekly, Digital Book World, Christian Science Monitor, Geekwire, Entrepreneur Magazine, MarketWatch, and Entertainment Weekly.

Of course, whether all this early buzz leads to sales is anybody’s guess. Right now, I suppose it’s more of a curiosity to most people than anything else (Crowd-sourced books? Preposterous!).

I guess only time will tell.

And the reaction of the crowd, of course.

(This entry was “simul-posted” on Criminal Minds.)


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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Will You Review?

My book came out yesterday, and today I’m faced with a task I’m ambivalent about: soliciting reviews (believe it or not, it's hard for me to ask people for things). Are there any reviewers/book bloggers out there who would like a complimentary review copy? Please let me know and I’ll “gift” you the Kindle version.

And while we’re on the topic of reviews, Amazon reviews also are important, to the author (and publisher), as well as to other readers who use these reviews when deciding if a book might be something they would enjoy. So, please, if you’ve read a book lately, consider taking a few minutes to leave a thoughtful, honest review, on Amazon or elsewhere.

This author thanks you!

RUNNING cover


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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

PUB DAY!

Today is the official publication day for RUNNING FROM THE PAST!

 

balloons

 

RUNNING cover


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Monday, March 2, 2015

Tomorrow!

(To the tune of Tomorrow from ANNIE)

Myyyy book’ll come out,
Tomorrow,
Bet your three-and-a-half dollars,
That tomorrow,
My book can be read.

Justttt thinkin’ about,
Tomorrow,
Gets me all excited,
That by tomorrow,
I’ll be outta my head.

Myyyy book’ll come out,
Tomorrow,
So you gotta hang on,
Til tomorrow,
Just one more day.

Tomorrow!
Tomorrow!

Unless
You want to
Pre-order it
Todaaayy!!

RUNNING cover


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