Sunday, January 29, 2012

Car chases and writing

I was taking a break from writing and was watching shows on Netflix. I'm a fan of comedian Eddie Izzard. I watched his show "Unrepeatable" and he brought up a topic that I thought was interesting. Why are there no car chases in books?

In all the action movies we sit on the edge of our seats as cars go tearing around cities, through deserts or off road with good guys after bad guys or some combination of the two. There are plenty of books with a lot of action, but you never read a good car chase scene. Well, at least I haven't. If any of you have read something with a great car chase written in, I'd love to know about it.

It makes you think about what other elements are so important in movies that aren't given the same weight in a book. Especially with the trend of so many books becoming movies, is it any wonder that the fans of the book are often disappointed because the movie changes what we love so much.

I think the biggest difference is that movies have to do a lot of our thinking for us. A book can say a man walks into the room. Immediately as readers we can imagine what kind of man we think has arrived. In a movie, they have to pick out that man and when he walks into the room we aren't allowed to imagine what kind of man he is because we can see who he is.

Reading will always be my favorite getaway, but I do enjoy movies for the entertainment value. The two seem to go together so often, but it is amazing just how different they are. I'm glad that I can enjoy both and even more glad that my writing creates my very own movies in my mind. I've always told everyone that I am easily entertained. I think because I often entertain myself.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Story Ambushes

It seems to hit most often just when I am relaxing. I'm all snuggled into my blankets and just about to drift off to sleep. Suddenly, a new story or a new scene or plot point bursts into action in my mind. You want to just fall asleep letting the scene play out, but you know what will happen -- You'll never remember it in the morning.

You're happily writing away spending quality time with your characters when suddenly a new set of characters arrive. These new characters with a whole different story to tell just don't want to wait their turn.

Story ambushes seem to happen when you are doing so well with other things. Sleep, awake, writing, watching TV -- it doesn't seem to matter when a new idea starts to form, those new characters don't take no for an answer. Inspiration can definitely strike anywhere at anytime. Lately, I've had several new ideas fight their way into my mind for my attention.

It's a great thing, don't get me wrong. I'd rather have more ideas than I can handle than not enough. My trusty notebook that I keep handy for all sorts of random note taking has gotten a workout. Scenes pop into my head that have nothing to do with my current work in progress and are written down so that I don't forget them.

The most annoying part, is these ideas don't pop up fully formed, of course. They just tease. A few characters chime in with only pieces of their story. I know it is just to tempt me to focus on them and delve into their story even when I'm in the middle of working with my other characters.

You'd think they could learn some manners, but I guess when your story needs to be told, it just needs to be told. One of these days, I hope I can get character voice mail or something. They could just leave me a message and I could get back to them when I had more time.

Think it might happen? Guess for now I'll keep my notebook at the ready. It's worked so far.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

When it pours!


I just found out that I received another blogger award. I'm so excited. This time the award is The Liebster Award (“Liebster” is the German word for friend or love) originated in Germany.

A huge thank you goes out to Danielle Smiley for this honor. Her blog Known to Read is a great place to find excellent book reviews. If you just can't decide what to read next, I recommend taking a look at her selections. She's got some great books out there just waiting to find a new reader.

In accepting the Liebster Blog Award, the recipient agrees to:
*Thank the person who gave them the award and link back to that person’s blog
*Copy and paste the award to their blog
*Reveal the 5 blogs they have chosen to award, commenting on their blog to break the news!
*Hope those people in turn pay it forward by accepting and awarding “The Liebster Blog Award” to bloggers they would like to honor.

My blog winners are:

Georgina Anne Taylor - Gothic Fiction and Fairy Tales

Bitch Can Write a Book

Hoplessly Devoted Bibliophile

The Lovely Books

Tana Rae Reads - Book Reviews/Favorite Books I've Read

It is so great to see so many people sharing great books, great blogs and great advice. Being new to blogging, I know that I still have a lot to learn, but each new blog I discover teaches me just a little bit more. I hope to continue to grow and share what I have learned with those just starting out as well.

A great big thanks to everyone that stops by and leaves me a comment or just follows what I have to say. It's nice to know that someone is out there listening or reading or both! Keep up the great work everyone!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Word Count Measuring Sticks

I'm wrestling with a new dilemma in regards to my writing. The first book in my series, The Path of Light, I wrote until I felt there was a place to end. I didn't pay attention to word count or anything else, I just wrote the story as it played out for me.

Now, since I've released that first book and am currently in the midst of the second, I've been reading all the advice, suggestions and best way to get sales blogs, tweets and Facebook posts. What I'm struggling with is that my first book was over 160,000 words. Most of the advice I've read suggests that books be between 60,000-80,000 words. I nearly kick myself thinking I'd be working on book three now if I'd cut the first one in half.

Then I start thinking that there was really no where in the middle that I would have chopped my first book. Working on this next book, I'm hovering around the 45,000 word mark and feel I'm possibly halfway through the story, but I know there is more to tell. So along with struggling with my characters to get the story told, now I'm spending way to much time wondering over word counts.

It is all silly. I know that I just need to write the story as the story demands. Word counts are simply way points to gauge your progress but can't tell you if your story is finished or not. Sometimes I wonder if I'm wasting my time finding out how best to write according to others and forgetting that I need to write according to me. After all, their story is not my story. Only I know what is best for my story, yet I still find myself wondering....should I stop at 80,000 or should I just stop checking word count and just write until it's done.

Advice is a good thing. I have learned a lot about marketing, suggestions on how to set up a blog, learned to use Twitter and Facebook all thanks to the advice and experiences of others. I think I need to remember that in order to tell my story, I have to forget the advice and simply write. With all the marketing and self promoting, I'm forgetting the most important thing -- I have to write my story, or my characters' story, my way.

Time to switch hats from promoter to writer, it's the hat I'm most comfortable in anyways. I definitely wouldn't be a promoter if not for the writing so I'm going to do what I do best -- write. I wonder if there is some way to hide that word count button so that I will stop looking at it? Oh well, it will at least remind me that I'm making progress every day ... so long as I stop thinking that a specific number should represent an end.

You'd think writing would be enough crazy to deal with and I wouldn't make up new things to drive myself nuts over -- go figure.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Me? Nominated? Award? What?

Now this is the way to start a week, no Monday blahs this time! I sat down to check my email and do all that Monday-type stuff, when I find out I was nominated by Christine Benson for The Versatile Blogger Award! I was surprised, I'm still very new to blogging and learning the ropes. It's great to see that I'm at least headed in the right direction with plenty of room to continue to improve.

The idea behind The Versatile Blogger Award nominations is to use these nominations to make other bloggers aware of other great blogs, as I’m are doing here. Rules for The Versatile Blogger Award.

1. In a post on your, blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, Add The Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

Seven random things about myself are:

  • I love horror movies. One could say I'm addicted, I'll watch even a bad horror movie because I enjoy them so much.
  • I'm a softie when it comes to animals and I nearly cry every time one of the ASPCA commercials comes on TV. I want to rush out and bring all those poor animals home.
  • I watch a lot of CNN. It's not that I'm a news junkie, I just started watching CNN during 9/11 and now I can't stop. I can't stop even when I get political overload or they run a story into the ground. Maybe I am a junkie?
  • My biggest passion in life is a love of baseball. I enjoy sports in general, watching as I am a completely uncoordinated. However, baseball is life. I learned to keep score at age nine and was the official scorekeeper for a independent minor league baseball team for a summer.
  • I like cold pizza for breakfast. It's better the second day.
  • I'm hopeless addicted to Pepsi. It's the best soda in the world.
  • When I was in the fourth grade, I broke my wrist roller skating during a game of red light, green light. I had to learn to play video games one handed when I got ColecoVision for my birthday. (Boy did I just date myself with that one!)

My nominations:

  1. Ron Leighton - The Tales of the Shining Lands
  2. TK Rayford - TK Rayford's Blog
  3. Beth Gray - Author Beth Gray
  4. Morgan Shamy - Morgan Shamy
  5. The Indelibles
  6. Making Connections
  7. Mark Ruckledge - Mark's Blog
  8. Karen Dales - Karen Dales, Author
  9. Colleen Cross - Colleen Cross, Author
  10. Lili Tufel - Lili Tufel writes Romantic Thrillers
  11. L.J. Kentowski - L.J. Writes
  12. Marion Sipe - Visions and Revisions
  13. Lisamarie Lamb - The Moonlit Door
  14. Hey, Tara!
  15. Emily Goodwin - Emily Goodwin
I'm so grateful to have been nominated. I hope that you find some great new blogs to follow.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Maps and Fantasy

One of the first things I used to do when searching out the next fantasy book I was going to read was look for a map. I love fantasy books, series especially, ones with maps. It always helps me picture the layout of the land, and the relationship of the places that the characters travel.

When I first started writing my own series, I had sketched several different versions of the map to my world. I eventually had a large version tacked on my wall above my computer that I could look up at and keep myself oriented as I wrote. Then I got fancy and came up with a smaller version, slightly different than the original, in the overall shape and size of the realm in general. This was another hand-drawn offering.

Somehow over the years, my large version was misplaced, but I still have my secondary revision. I still keep it handy as I'm typing away on my second book in the series. The places are familiar. The shape of the land as well known to me as my own hometown. I love looking at the cities, the forests, the rivers, the oceans and all the places I created, but that my characters have yet to explore or discover.

My biggest disappointment with my first book The Path of Light in The Chronicles of Vlandamyuir Series, is that I didn't get my map done in a digital format. I know how maps make me feel more connected to the stories I read; I want to offer that same connection to my readers. So, after getting my book out there and realizing that if I love maps, I need to include my map, I went in search of how to accomplish this task.

Since I am a complete klutz when it comes to actually attempting to draw anything myself, I was looking into different programs that might offer me the ability to bring my hand-drawn creation into the digital age. This was easier said than done. There are a number of programs that offer you the ability to create a map for your book or project. The problem begins with the fact that I'm nearly as incompetent when dealing with drawing or creative programs as I am doing it freehand. Photoshop still intimidates me.

So, rather than waste money on programs that I figured would leave me more confused than mapped. I decided to search out any free programs that could give me a taste of what I was getting myself into without making me feel too foolish. Okay, so the foolish part would happen no matter what, because I am at a loss for most things dealing in technology. Write it down, sure. Click, drag, paste, HTML...whoa, I'm lost!

I followed a bunch of links. I looked at dozens of websites. I read several posts on a forum and everyone pretty much agreed -- There aren't a lot of good free programs to draw a map, especially if you are graphically challenged. I did find one option, AutoREALM, that was free. It has a lot of buttons, pictures, options, and stuff I have no idea what it does. After a few hours of "Let's push this button and see what happens," I knew I was in trouble.

Several test maps later, I knew whatever I did it was going to take some practice. Jumping in with both feet, I took out my hand-drawn creation and went about trying to recreate it. I would get the outline settled, add some mountains, plop in trees for the forests, draw some rivers and then decide it wasn't quite right. I am learning as I go, so I suppose that is all part of the process.

My goal, is to have a useable map to go with the second book in the series. We'll see how my graphically-challenged efforts measure up. Another good thing is, I am learning to stretch beyond my comfort zone. I'd never tackle creating a map on my own. I'm still not sure why I'm doing it to myself now, oh right, I do love a good challenge.

Monday, January 9, 2012

About Reviews

There have been a few different incidents that I've come across lately that bring reviews to mind. The first is my own continual struggle as to how best to go about garnering reviews. I have a personal feeling that asking someone for a review is putting pressure on the reviewer. I know there are many, many bloggers and reviewers alike that are professional and requesting that they take the time to review my book wouldn't seem inappropriate.

Perhaps I am naive in thinking that I want someone to read my book and simply give it a review because they enjoyed it or hated it. In the huge market of indie books, I know that a great many readers don't want to waste time on a book they don't know is even well written, let alone a story that they will enjoy. So reviews of any kind can get someone to give your book a chance or pass it up for one that has reviews.

My book has only been out since the end of October 2011, and so far it has four unsolicited reviews on I am proud that while not raving, the criticisms are mostly personal preferences by each reader and not a lot of complaints about bad spelling, terrible grammar or a complete failure to develop a story. Those were my nightmare review points that continue to haunt me. I know eventually, I will run into someone that will rip into my work. Even the authors we all consider successful find someone that dislikes what they write. I am preparing for that ugly review by continually reminding myself that you can't please everyone, and remembering that while not all in review form, I have gotten compliments on the book from readers.

This leads me to the second incident that brings reviews to mind. I was on Twitter and stumbled into the middle of an author rant-book reviewer drama. Some of you might know of the incident, but since I never did quite get the entire story, I am not going to mention anything specific. Instead, I wanted to talk about the overall incident as an author.

I know I have a quick temper and when someone says or does something to me, my first reaction is to fight back. Apparently, the author in question felt that the book blogger's review of their book was more of a personal attack rather than a critique of the work. I know there are many "reviewers" that often give out poor reviews for little or no reason. I can understand the author feeling angry enough to want to respond.

Unless requested, I think it is bad form to respond to any review, especially a negative one. No matter what the reviewer might have written, I think as an author we come off looking bad in any of these exchanges. Instead, I think we all  have to trust that readers will see the review for what it is. I know myself, a bad review that I felt was unwarranted often prompted me to read the book rather than turn me away.

I found a link and read the review that apparently sparked the drama. I didn't think the blogger said anything personal about the author. The blogger simply didn't find the book to her liking for several reasons and listed those reasons. Could any author really ask for more? At least it wasn't a bad rating with a simple, "This book sucks" comment.

In these days of social media, where it is so easy to take to the internet and vent our anger, I think as authors, we really need to take a step back. Before we ever sit down to criticize someone for their opinion, we need to think how it will look to other readers. Most bloggers are simply readers that share their views on what they read. I don't know if this is someone who asks for a free copy to review a book. By creating a rant in Twitter, Facebook or even our own blog, we run the risk of alienating other readers and other bloggers.

We should also remember that what we rant online in anger, stays out there forever. We can't take it back once we've hit send, publish or post. As we'd hope that reviewers take an open minded approach to our books, can we not give the reviewers and bloggers the same benefit?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Blessing and a Curse

Funny thing about the desire to write, it can be so fulfilling and such a curse.

I've always enjoyed the fact that these ideas for stories play out in my mind. The characters become like friends. You really feel you get to know them. It becomes like watching a movie as you follow them through their story. Their choices leave you on the edge of your seat, and you feel their emotions as they battle with their problems and obstacles.

Having all those plots swirling around in your head is even better than reading, because you can interact with them. If something happens that you don't like,  you get to fix it. You can change the tone of the story. You can add new characters. You can change where the action takes place. It's a little like the Choose your own Adventure books I read as a kid. You make a decision as the story progresses and so you determine how the story ends.

The curse is how isolated it can make you. How do you explain to other people what goes on in your mind? They'd think you were crazy. Sometimes you think you are crazy as you find yourself growing so attached to your characters. I spend a lot of my time at my computer typing away as I try and get all the happenings down on paper.

At times, it might feel as if life passes you by as hours can disappear in a blink. Then I just remember what I have created. I can go back over the passages and bring those characters to life in ways that often surprise me. The best times are when I've logged several hours of writing. Then the next day I go back and read over what I wrote and find myself becoming engrossed in my own words. When I am amazed sometimes at what I have created, I know that I have my characters help in doing what I do.

I can't imagine not writing every day. I can't understand how other people don't go around with ideas just begging to be written. I guess it makes sense because I don't know how someone can dunk a basketball or throw a 100 mph fastball. We all  have our gifts, talents or curses. The one I have allows me to share all those rantings in my mind. I believe that I am blessed.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Character revolts!

I'm used to the characters in my story taking over and often changing where I planned the story to go. It is common for me to battle with the voices in my head over who is really controlling the story. Therefore, you wouldn't think I'd be shocked by the revolt my characters led to start the new year.

I sat down to write my first words on my book for 2012 with the idea that I was starting the process off on the "write" foot. I had been neglecting my writing a bit too much, and my characters proved it as the first words typed out on the page became a battle of epic proportion. I was in the middle of one chapter and those characters refused to behave. Dialogue was a mess, friends wanted to be enemies, no one wanted to follow the plot line and some just refused to even speak up or participate at all.

The characters not involved in the chapter then decided they wanted some attention. My characters seem to have super egos, not mentioned in two chapters and suddenly they have to get my attention. Wrenching my story line into their direction, those characters at least were behaving normally, even though they were getting ahead of themselves.

So, I took matters into my own hands...I left the pages and went to work on the book cover instead. I'll teach those crazy characters to try and hijack my story -- or is it their story? Maybe I'm just going crazy -- or was I already crazy?

Today is another day. I'm heading in for battle armed with my delete button for anyone that gets a bit too rowdy. If this is any indication, 2012 is going to be a very wild ride. I'm buckling in for the duration!