Thursday, December 18, 2014

Letters to Kel: ARE YOU READY?

ALWAYS be ready when inspiration strikes.

Mostly because it strikes when you are least able to drop everything and take notes.

Big bad confession time: I get most of my great ideas ... in CHURCH! Yeah, I sit there in my adult Bible fellowship group, industriously taking notes ... but not on my teacher's lesson. (Sorry, George!)

I don't know why it happens, but it just does. For instance, I got my idea for today's blog just before class started. If I could figure out how to turn on the spigot, and control it, I would be in great shape. I wouldn't sit there sometimes staring at my computer screen, knowing I want to get to a certain place in the story outline, but not certain exactly what the next step is to get there.

So, you have to be ready to write down those ideas when they strike. I keep a notebook in my purse. I have a notepad sitting on my desk. My iPad sits on the table next to my bed -- very convenient for ideas that strike in the middle of the night, because I don't have to turn a light on, and it's a whole heck of a lot more legible than the notes I used to try to write in the dark.

Use what works best for you. Notepad, iPad, voice recorder, whatever.

Don't depend on yourself to remember when you finally get a chance to write down that flash of inspiration that came when you happened to overhear a bit of conversation that struck a memory or filled in that gap in the story you're working on, or you see a picture that reminds you of your character, and you realize that your heroine has a cousin who is just perfect to say that silly line that gets things moving. You know what I mean, that "Ah ha!" moment when you feel like you're "remembering" something, but you're really just filling in the blank spots.

Yeah, you get great ideas when you're driving somewhere, or doing the laundry or cleaning the bathroom or working out or changing the baby's diapers or cooking dinner ... and you just can't drop everything to write down the idea. Well, DROP IT as soon as you can. Don't tell yourself you'll remember an hour from now, or five hours from now. Your head gets too jammed full during the day and things get mixed up, and you "download" in your sleep all the things you crammed into your head during the day -- that's where dreams come from, or at least that's the theory. Let me ask you: How many times did you wake up with this great dream so vivid in your head, but by the time you got up and found some paper to write it down ... it faded away?

BE READY. Don't leave anything to chance. When inspiration sneaks up on you and whispers in your ear ... be ready to snare it before it runs away!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Off the Bookshelf: MANIPULATIONS, Shifters Book 1 by Audie Thacker

If you haven't picked up on it yet, I belong to ACFW -- American Christian Fiction Writers. I also belong to the Speculative group -- those of us who write outside the box of what you'd expect from faith-focused writers. Of course, we count C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein among our forefathers, so ...

On the Speculative group, Audie Thacker announced his new book was free, and it had shapeshifters in it -- and you know I've got shapeshifters (the Hoveni) in my Commonwealth Universe --so yeah, I was interested!

This is an intricately wrought world, with clashing empires and elves and magic and evil schemes and revenge and long-range plots and feisty princesses and warriors with wounded souls and ... whew!

Make sure you have big chunks of time when you sit down to read, because this is one of those books where you want to take it in big gulps, not little nibbles. There are a lot of details and characters to keep track of -- gee, it feels like a real world. An impressive offering, and because it's Book 1, there's a lot more to come. If you like "this kind of stuff," then check it out! I got my copy from Amazon.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

In the Spotlight: SEEKERS CHRISTMAS COLLECTION

In the mood for some short, sweet Christmas romances?

Not sure if you're in the mood for historical or contemporary?

Why not both?

Put a little “hope” in your Christmas stocking this year …
Hope does not disappoint — Romans 5:5 … 
and neither do these award-winning authors from the popular Seekers blog, offering tender love stories of hope from yesterday and today in two separate holiday collections— historical and contemporary.

Mary Connealy,
Audra Harders
Myra Johnson
Sandra Leesmith
Julie Lessman
Ruth Logan Herne
Tina Radcliffe
Missy Tippens 
— 

E-Book on Sale November 10th!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Letters to Kel: THE UGLY TRUTH -- PROMOTION

Fact of the Writing Life: NOBODY is going to sell your books for you until you sell them first.

That might sound like common sense, and at the same time, a lot of us say, "HUH?"

Well, yeah, we have to sell the books to an agent and then a publisher. Unless of course we go the self-pub route, which more and more people are doing.

The trick is getting the attention of readers -- and not just any readers, but the ones who want to read the kind of books we write. Not that easy. Because everybody is jumping on the bandwagon every time someone announces a new promotion outlet or trick. Blogs, Facebook, booksigning tours, giveaways, raffles, auctions on eBay, etc., etc.

Every time I pick up an article or book talking about promoting your books, getting people to at least read the blurb and consider buying, someone says that WORD OF MOUTH is still the best method of promotion. But how do you get people to talk about your book? Well, you have to get someone to read it, and get them to start talking, telling their friends.

Someone once said that even bad publicity is worthwhile. Rotten reviews, the really scathing, virulent, poisonous reviews, get people interested -- they want to know why someone is so fired up against your book, perhaps even more interested than if someone was passionate about your book. I don't think I want to go that route, but think about it, how many best sellers out there became best sellers because some group went foaming-at-the-mouth, condemning-the-author-to-eternal-perdition violently against it?

The glory days of authors who can sit in their cozy writing rooms and just write and do nothing else are long over -- if they ever truly existed. Yes, the best thing you can do to promote your books is to write one great, compelling story after another. But a very, very close second is to let people know the book is THERE.

So begin talking about your book before it's published. Get a blog. Join groups where you can talk to readers -- but don't be obnoxious! Don't spend all your online time talking about "my book, my book, my book," ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Offer them something they're interested in, something they want or need, something that entertains or makes them think, and then as a side note, mention you write this type or that type of books. Then when the book is released you can say, "Oh, by the way, my newest book is ..." And people will react like a friend just announced a baby has been born, or they got a new job -- they'll be congratulatory, and those who are really interested will come look.

It's hard. I hate promotion. But I do the little I can figure out to do. And when I run regular ads and I post regularly and just get my name out there ... yeah, my sales pick up.

So let people know your book is coming. Find opportunities to show off your cover and talk about the story without being obnoxious. Establish yourself as someone who can be trusted, so people will listen and give you a chance. Get yourself a website and/or blog, where you can post about your books and people can communicate with you, to ask questions, or even invite you to author events. Find people who are interested in what you write. As for the rest ... once you figure it out, tell me?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Off the Bookshelf: NO DAWN FOR MEN, by James LePore and Carlos Davis

Sometimes you read a book blurb and your immediate reaction is WHATTTTT??????

Part of you immediately insists, "No way." And another part says, "I gotta read this. It's just too ..." And you can't finish that statement because you're not sure what it's "too" of ...

NO DAWN FOR MEN takes J.R.R. Tolkein (Hobbit, LOTR) and Ian Fleming (Bond, James Bond) and tosses them into pre-WWII Nazi Germany for a little Indiana Jonesing ....

When I mentioned it on my Speculative group on Facebook, one person's reaction was to picture Gandalf walking into the Prancing Pony and asking for a vodka martini, shaken, not stirred. Or Gollum doing a Goldfinger speech.

Bottom line: FUN read. Very clever. A few spots where you want to say, "Okay, so that's where the author got the idea" for that character/event/detail in one or another of their famous books. Then a moment later you say, "Uh, wait a minute, that never happened!" I don't want to give anything away, but there's a search for a dangerous item that Hitler wants, that has to be destroyed, and the person carrying it is worn down by the burden, and a beautiful girl, and daredevils and nasty villains and ... READ IT.

I really, really hope the authors weren't playing with us, and I wasn't reading too much into a casual line, and there will be another adventure of Prof. Tolkein and Mr. Fleming.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

In the Spotlight: A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW by Julie Lessman

Today's spotlight is on fellow ACFW author, Julie Lessman, with her new novel, A LIGHT IN THE WINDOW.

One Woman. Two Men. 
One stirs her pulse and the other her faith. 
But who will win her heart? 

Marceline Murphy is a gentle beauty with a well-founded aversion to rogues. But when two of Boston's most notorious pursue her, she encounters a tug-of-war of the heart she isn't expecting. Sam O’Rourke is the childhood hero she’s pined for, the brother of her best friend and a member of the large, boisterous family to which she longs to be a part. So when his best friend Patrick O’Connor joins in pursuit of her affections, the choice seems all too clear. Sam is from a family of faith and Patrick is not, two rogues whose wild ways clash head-on with Marcy’s — both in her faith and in her heart. 

While overseeing the Christmas play fundraiser for the St. Mary’s parish soup kitchen — A Light in the Window — Marcy not only wrestles with her attraction to both men, but with her concern for their spiritual welfare. The play is based on the Irish custom of placing a candle in the window on Christmas Eve to welcome the Holy Family, and for Marcy, its message becomes deeply personal. Her grandmother Mima cautions her to guard her heart for the type of man who will respond to the "light in the window," meaning the message of Christ in her heart. But when disaster strikes during the play, Marcy is destined to discover the truth of the play’s message first-hand when it becomes clear that although two men have professed their undying love, only one has truly responded to “the light in the window.” 

Award-winning author of “The Daughters of Boston” and “Winds of Change” series, Julie Lessman was American Christian Fiction Writers 2009 Debut Author of the Year and voted #1 Romance Author of the year in Family Fiction magazine’s 2012 and 2011 Readers Choice Awards. She has also garnered 17 RWA and other awards and made Booklist’s 2010 Top 10 Inspirational Fiction. Her book A Light in the Window is an International Digital Awards winner, a 2013 Readers' Crown Award winner, and a 2013 Book Buyers Best Award winner. Contact Julie and read excerpts from her books at www.julielessman.com, or through FacebookTwitterGoogle Plus, or Pinterest or by signing up for her newsletter.

URLS:
JULIE’S WEBSITE:  http://www.julielessman.com/
BUY LINKS:  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Letters to Kel: FILLING IN THE WHITE SPACES

Have you ever thought about all that white space on a standard screenplay page?

Why do they waste so much paper, indenting the dialogue on both sides, inserting parenthetical that are indented even more, in the dialogue?

Part of that is to help with estimating timing, to know how long the screenplay is going to be. Standard formatted screenplays translate to about 1 minute of screen time per page of script. Of course, there is some variation you have to allow for, depending on how much action there is versus how much dialogue. A long exchange of snappy one-liners between two or three characters, with not much else happening on camera, might take a lot less than one minute per page. And in an action-intensive movie, a single line, such as "Bandit's car races up the incline, dodging a long line of state trooper cars and jumps the river, hitting Buford's Cadillac with his back wheels as he lands," could take up two, three, four minutes on the screen -- depending on whether the director decided that scene needed to be done in slow motion to get all the impact he wanted.

So what is all that white space for, anyway? That's what YOU have to fill in, when you're translating your screenplay into a novel. Right now, I'm turning my screenplay originally titled "Walk the Wolf Trail" into CHARLI, the 6th book in my Quarry Hall series. The screenplay took up 100 pages on my computer when I uploaded it into Word. I'm 30 pages into the book now, and there are 116 pages -- so how did I gain 16 pages already? Especially considering those "extra" 16 pages are single-spaced and the lines go from margin to margin instead of maybe 20 characters wide in the center of the page.

I'm filling in the white space -- taking you inside the characters' heads and senses, showing you how they feel, what they're thinking, what sensory impressions they are experiencing. A line of script says, "Bright summer morning," as it sets the stage, but in the book, I can go on for a paragraph or two, describing the chill in the air, the dampness lingering from the storm the night before, the smell of mud, the sight of leaves scattered across the lawn, the scent of coffee brewing in the next room, the rumpled bed from the heroine's restless night, the books scattered across the office floor, where a gust of wind knocked a window open and pushed the books off the shelf. On and on. WHY describe the scene? To put the characters THERE in the middle of it, so they feel like they're there.

On a film set, the artistic director and the people in charge of props and costumes and sound effects and the set create everything for the audience to see -- you, as writer, are in essence fulfilling all those functions. You could just say, "Jasmine walked into the room," but your character would in essence be acting in a blank room. Would you sit through a movie where characters walked through empty rooms, no color, no sounds, no furniture, no props? Or worse -- a movie where things and people suddenly appeared a second before they were needed or someone had to join a conversation? I don't know about you, but I HATE books where you had no idea there were other people in the room until they entered the conversation, or you had no idea the characters were in the kitchen until someone reached over and poured himself a cup of coffee. You wouldn't watch a movie like that -- so don't make your readers endure a book like that.

FILL IN THE BLANK SPACES -- set the stage, fill in the details, let them know what your characters are feeling, seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, thinking, remembering.

While all those details can be left to the director and the designers in a movie, that's your job now. Don't give your readers a boring movie. And while yes, it's a good thing to engage them so they use their imaginations when reading your book, it's a little disconcerting when readers imagine your heroine is a tiny, curly-haired blond with pixie-like features and a voice like a lark, but in an important scene she suddenly picks up and swings a broadsword weighing 200 pounds, and roars out a war cry that makes the rafters shake, and the hero shouts to his sidekick, "Who is that raven-haired Amazon covered in blue and scarlet tattoos?"

Some surprises are good for readers, but not when your story constantly conflicts with the images they're been painting in their imaginations because YOU didn't give them any details. This is YOUR playground they've been invited into, and YOUR imagination movie they're watching. Make sure they see and hear and taste and smell and feel and experience the emotions and memories and thoughts that YOU did, when you wrote the story. NO BLANK SPACES, PLEASE!