Tag Archives: publishing

Happy Birthday Red Clay and Roses!

 

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the day that Red Clay and Roses went live for the whole world to see.

I want to express my appreciation to all of the people who gave me an opportunity to share this story. Thank you most sincerely for the decision to invest in me and the time you spent reading; perhaps reviewing, my work.

Tomorrow I will put on my lab coat and go to work on an assignment that will pay me more in eight hours than I have earned in sales on this book this year. Yes, nurses often earn more than writers. Does this mean my sales are bad? No, it means my earnings in nursing are better. Most of you know I stepped out of career nursing to write. “You must be crazy!” some people have said to me.

Though I can’t refute that I am crazy, what they don’t understand is this: It is not about the money. Not for me, anyway. It’s about having the time and the peace of mind to dedicate myself to a life that I love. To do what I most enjoy. To spend my time pleasing myself and my readers.

I don’t write genre fiction. I don’t cater to trends. I don’t even write to fit into any specific category.

I write American life drama. Maybe some would call it historical fiction; maybe some would call it literary fiction. There is even a little romance in there. It wasn’t written about the last ten years, so it doesn’t qualify as contemporary fiction, but there are issues explored in it that are contemporary issues. I cannot even claim to know what it is by Amazon or Goodreads definitions.

I cannot claim to to know anything except that I am a perpetual student.

I have learned so very much this year and there is so much for me yet to learn.

Red Clay and Roses was written between April and July of 2012. I spent four months doing nothing but writing. It was not written as a novel to be published. It was a creative writing project that I devoted myself to out of a passion to record a story.

After I wrote it, I placed it on a shelf for about a year. I took it down, read it, and made a few changes. After sharing it with others, which took immeasurable courage, we (my support group and I) decided to publish. It was published March 27, 2013.

I did not know what the hell I was doing. (Not sure if I know now.)

I liked to read. I liked to read stories about life in America. I liked to write stories about life in America.

I liked history. I liked reading about history. I liked writing about history.

I made all of the mistakes it is possible to make. I published Red Clay and Roses in its rawest form. I was clueless. I didn’t know a damned thing. I did not know about blogs, platforms, branding, writing rules, beta readers, editing, blurbs, book cover images, marketing, sales. I didn’t know shit. I won’t claim to be an expert now either. I am learning every day and I am writing and reading every day.  I will say this: I have mentors, trusted confidants, other authors, a reader audience, friends, colleagues, valuable associates that I did not have a year ago.

As I learned from these people, and continue to learn, I made improvements on my product, my book, my novel, Red Clay and Roses. I know now that it is not the best that it could have been, but it is what it is, features, flaws and faults included.  I know that my next product will be even better, because you are who you are. Most significantly, I have the capacity to keep learning from YOU!

I was going to end this post right here with my eternal gratitude, but I think this is a good place to tell you the rest of the story if you will bear with me. I want to tell you how I feel about the concept of success. Success is measured many ways through different perspectives.

I have read numerous posts declaring success is measured by numbers sold, dollars earned, an ability to make a living at the craft, and I suppose that may be true for some, but it isn’t for me. Success is measured by starting a project and seeing it through.

Red Clay and Roses is a success.

After we (I say we because I had support people around me at the time.) pushed the publish button, there was a celebration. Of course, nothing much happened.

For weeks, nothing much happened. I think a few friends and family bought the book, nobody posted any reviews. On the advice of a friend, I started a blog. I didn’t know much about that either, but I learned. (Am still learning.)

Not knowing anything about how to find readers, I went to the library. Surely there would be readers there. I met a reading group, strangers, people I did not know, and they expressed interest in reading my book. So they bought it and read it. This was in May of last year.

They were eight people, a nurse, a middle school teacher, a college professor, an IBM corporate executive, and so on. Ordinary people, strangers who became acquaintances. Four of the eight wrote my first reviews on Amazon. Five star reviews. I was excited, overjoyed. That was enough for me. My confidence was stoked, but they did not stop there.

These eight people, whom I barely knew, were so very impressed with my literary work that they entered me in a contest. It was a surprise to me when they shared the news. What grand support is that?

My book deals with American life during an era of conflict and political strife. It is about everyday people who made tremendous sacrifices to promote social progress, whether they knew it at the time, or not.

The Pulitzer is awarded: “For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.”

This group of eight people had pooled their resources to pay the fifty dollars necessary to submit Red Clay and Roses as an entry for the Pulitzer. Eight people thought my literary work was distinguished.

Now, I chuckle, and you may be laughing out loud as you read this. But I thought it was an amazing honor that they bothered to do this.

I have no unrealistic expectations to win a Pulitzer, or to even become a nominated finalist.

They discourage anyone from claiming nomination simply because an entry has been submitted, so there are no grandiose expectations here. I did not know how simple it was to be entered. It takes fifty dollars and four copies of your book in physical form. That’s all!

I am not trying to belittle the Pulitzer award, I am just saying that I did not know.

Anyone can enter. An author or publisher can submit their own work. Self-published works are accepted, but not in eversion. It is easy to do online. Then you mail in your proofs or your books. I have only sold one paperback copy, but four of them were mailed off by this group of readers, and passed through the hands of Pulitzer judges. Whether or not they felt the book had any merit I may never know, but it has been an exciting adventure in writing.

The Pulitzer winner and nominated finalists are to be announced on April 14, 2014.

They receive approximately 2400 entries, and there are 21 awards. In 2012 there were three nominated finalists in fiction, but no one was awarded. How they determine finalists and award winners is a mystery. The judges have the final say.

I have read many Pulitzer Prize winners, some I thought had merit and some I did not like. So, at least in my mind, it is all relative to personal opinion…a subjective analysis like it is for any reader. I am not holding my breath or anything like that, but I am honored by these readers who thought my work worthy.

I only mention it to say this; DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOURSELF!

Whether they are Pulitzer judges, a library group, hundreds of strangers found through a marketing campaign, or a few blogger friends, all of your readers are what makes doing this worthwhile. They are the measure of your success.

It is not a finished project until it is read, so keep writing! I love you all!

I am not doing any special promotions or running any sales or ads for this birthday, but if you would like to pick up a copy of Red Clay and Roses you can find it here on Amazon, where you can also find the paperback. You can also find it on Kobo, Apple, Barnes and Noble and smashwords.

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Learning About Books and How to Produce Them: My Lists of Threes

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New Year’s Day I posted a brief “In a Nutshell” about my one goal for 2014: 1) to put my fingers to the keyboard and write.

I also made a 6 point list of things I had learned in 2013 that minimized the enormous amount of information my brain has digested over the past year.  This post addresses #6. “Books are books.” Honestly, it wouldn’t fit in a nutshell, so I have decided to post some of this information in hopes that it might offer to you some insights on the vast amount of information that is out here and how to apply it to the process of writing, publishing and marketing your story. ***Warning***This is a very long post. I picked just three things about each of these three aspects. I do believe this is the longest post I have ever made.

First, writing has rules. Rules offer guidance, but they are not the be all and end all of the writing process. Some of the best literature the world has ever seen breaks the rules.  So why have them?

Rules offer a foundation for getting started.  We all have to start someplace. Obviously there are books and books of rules, but these three have special significance to me. Before I list these three rules, I want to stress to you that these rules are simply someone else’s opinion. They are not carved in stone. Don’t let them cramp your own style.

1. Show not tell. We hear this a lot. I get this. Telling a story is like having it unfold as if it were a movie on a screen, whereas showing allows for more imagination in the reader’s mind to develop from your words a mental image of what is taking place.  For example: Instead of saying, “She angrily slapped his face and he reeled from the sting. He grabbed her wrist,” you might say, “Her reddened cheeks danced with fire as she looked directly into his icy eyes and drew her hand sharply across his face. He recoiled in that instant, shaking off the sting, and grasped her by the wrist.” Don’t state the emotion, but show how it plays out in action.

2. Minimalist versus eloquent prose. This is a preference thing. While the example above describes the difference between show and tell, it also introduces another topic. Details; how many do you need?

Icons, in particular, generally need no lofty description:

“He wore a long yellow slicker and a wide brimmed hard hat that draped down his back. He snapped his red suspenders as he reached for the hose. He smelled of ashes and soot.” He is a, “fireman,” for Christ’s sake, and the building is burning down while he is being so thoughtfully described.

Another:

“It was a great machine, red and covered in grainy brown dust, with yellow paint peeling back from its wheels and dry rotted tires long flattened by labor in the fields.”

Come on…wouldn’t, “Rusty old tractor,” suffice?

Is it enough to say, “Roasted pig?” Or do we need, “The porcine product lay on the silver platter with brown, crispy skin curled back to reveal the tender, moist, steaming flesh inside?”

Admittedly, this is a matter of what your reader audience prefers, but it is something to consider.

On the other hand: I would like to know what color hair she had. It occurred to me with a recent book that I read, not once did the author describe the protagonist’s hair color or features. Throughout the entire book…something critical seemed to be missing. I couldn’t get my mind around the character. Maybe the author did that intentionally, perhaps it was an oversight. But, as a reader, it left a gaping hole in my experience.

I am not saying that one way is right and another wrong, but the reader audience must be taken into consideration. Just like fifty dollar words are not going to make sense to children, an audience of forty year old rural farmers is not going to appreciate the same things that an audience of thirty-something urbanites would, or the same things that a college degreed  group of  50 year old world travelers would, or the same things that teens coming of age would. This sentence brings me to my next topic.

3. Same words.  Don’t use the same word in the same sentence…the same paragraph, on the same page if you can help it. I understand that this rule is important in preventing redundancy. Sometimes redundancy is necessary for emphasis, but nobody wants to read four sentences on one page describing the fog with the word “fog”.

The fog cast an eerie glow to the lamplight. The valley below was obscured by the fog. They walked through the fog across the bridge. The thick fog began to rise and then the fog lifted with the coming of the morning light.”

Perhaps a page that includes the following sentences, “The lamplight cast an eerie glow as morning mellowed its light,” …  “A white blanket shrouded the valley below,”  … “Wispy tendrils surrounded their ankles as they walked across the bridge,” … “Sunlight melted the mist of darkness.”

It might be acceptable to describe fog four different ways, but it might warrant moving away from once you’ve made your point. Once you have established that it was foggy outside, need you say more?

One sentence might be plenty enough for making your point. I get it. It was foggy outside.

Then again, if we NEVER used redundancy, we would not have such great classic statements as, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” (“Tale of Two Cities”).

In general, once you’ve made your point, it is best to move on; else you may lose your reader in the fog. Basically, it boils down to setting the scene and then allowing the reader’s imagination to do the rest.

Reading is a subjective experience. These are just a few writing rules that I have seen mentioned time and time again, and my personal thoughts on them. I could spend hours on the many writing techniques that are illustrated on the many writers’ blogs, but these are a few that struck me over and over again. Reading what you most enjoy is the best way to develop your own writing style. It also helps you see those methods that simply don’t appeal to you.

“Rules” can be intimidating. The best thing you can do is glean that which you truly feel might be useful to you and let the rest fall off like water on a duck’s back. Develop your own writing style, a comfort zone, and don’t let opinions and “rules” alter your style to the point that you are no longer happy writing.

I can’t stress the importance of READING enough.

Second, publishing has become a very simple process in consideration to how it has occurred in the past.  Are you ready? That seems to be the question that plagues most writers.

1. I have already mentioned that I published before I had a blog, before I was influenced in any way by all the writer rules. My writing was influenced more by the work I had read than any set of rules. I have also indicated that I would most likely have been far too intimidated to publish if I knew then what I know now.  Is that to say the writing is not worthy?  Did it require revision and editing? No, and yes. Is it my best? Probably not.

I recently reread some of the novels published traditionally by Anne Rice under the names of Anne Rampling and A.N. Roquelaure. Being an old lady, I have had the pleasure of watching this 72 year old author evolve over time.  I saw her come into her own. I saw her hit her stride. I have seen her falter, and I have seen her rally back.  It has been a fascinating journey. There is nothing that she has not written that I have not read. She is one of the most fantastic contemporary authors the world has ever witnessed. Also, one of the most successful.  Success did not happen with her first books, or Stephen King’s, or Charles Dickens’. The serial publication of The Pickwick Papers gave Dickens the opportunity to test his audience while he honed his craft.  Bloggers have that same opportunity.

Editing, revision, proofing…they are all necessary…mandatory!  Professional editing, copy and line, as well as having beta readers will greatly increase your potential for success. There are things that only other eyes are going to find…hear in your words.  However, picking the pieces to pieces is probably not going to help your progress.

There does come a point when you have to let it fly.  You have to do the best that you can with the knowledge you have and let it go out into that great big wide world!

2. Traditional or self-published? I don’t think that there is a right or wrong here. I am a big proponent for the sense of control that self-publishing offers, but at the same time I can see many benefits that traditional publishing provides. I won’t go into details here, but I would advise any writer to examine carefully what it is that they hope to achieve and what resources they have at their disposal.  There are risks with or without a contract.

3. When do you know it is time to publish?  If you have already edited your edits, and revised at least once, and you find that you have proofed it and it has passed…it’s probably ready to publish…as ready as it will ever be.  Perfection is not going to happen. It isn’t. If you think that it is, you are kidding yourself. Why?  Different people have different tastes, and you will never please them all.  Hopefully, you have written something that is marketable and will please an audience, but do not ever expect to make everyone happy. It is not going to happen in life or in writing.

I spent last week in a serious examination of reviews of books available online. It was almost laughable that some reviewers loved things other reviewers hated. Generally, you could see if it was a make or break novel, but it was profoundly amusing what some thought made the books and others thought broke the books.

I would highly recommend any potential author to go to the reviews and read both good and bad.  Not only will you come to understand and value the significance of being imperfect, you may also find your audience before you push the publish button.

Here is one review that I personally took to heart in consideration of my own type of writing.  It was a book written about a family of sisters who were socialites in the 1930s and 1940s:

 “Yes, these sisters are all rich and/or famous, but I found it very hard to care. Maybe because I found them boring. I’m too old to care about Paris Hilton and too young to find the era these sisters lived in very interesting.”

I found this review, as simple as it was, full of valuable information to me as a writer. There is an audience of people who prefer interesting over famous. There is, perhaps, an era in time that is neglected. People want to be able to care about their characters.

I was also amazed to see books published years ago holding a high sellers rank in the single digits, yet displaying a majority of scathing reviews. Likewise, it was amazing to see books published within the past year with hundreds, even thousands, of stellar reviews ranking around #800,000. I have yet to figure out these phenomena, but I do think marketing is a significant factor.

Finally, marketing, should it be so complicated?  I don’t know if I can answer that question but I am going to share with you a few of my ideas on the subject.

1. I don’t believe establishing a huge fan base and a reader market before you publish is necessarily going to keep selling your books.  I am not saying that it isn’t helpful, it is the greatest support a person can have in this world of many writers and readers, but even that becomes saturated…and where do you go from there? Write more books!

2. The more eyes you are able to put your title in front of the greater your success will be in getting it read.  There are 20 million plus books on Amazon alone.  We are grains of sand on the beach. If you have a fan base and a reader market already established, you are at least going to sell some books and have your material read.  Beyond that, you are going to have to find ways to get your book noticed as broadly as possible, utilizing your fan base and reader audience to promote your book.  Have blog tours, reblog other author’s work, offer guest posts, and ask for interviews.   Again, it may not sell hundreds of copies of every book you produce, but it is a start at getting your name noticed and establishing yourself as an author. The most visible authors out there have more than one book. Did I say, “Write more books?”

I am reminded of how I felt when I went from my little hometown’s bookmobile into the University library with my mother as a small child. Online bookstores are comparable to a whole world of University libraries and the search feature may not be as effective as the Dewy Decimal System if you don’t know what you are doing.  Where do you start once you have your book, your blurb/book description, cover image and all of the elements of a good product to market?

3. Keywords and advertisements.  I haven’t published thirty books, or even three, but I do know that nobody will see your book if you can’t even find it.  Before you title your book, do a search and see what comes up. If your title is too very similar to others, you may find yourself a small fish in a big pond.  I have a friend with a book that has so many similar titles that I have to put in both her title and her author name to pull up her book.

Also, while studying those reviews, look at the categories of similar reads posted at the bottom of the page.  How are these books categorized?  This is helpful information to know when selecting your keywords. If you would like more information on keywords and how they aid searches, you may start with this post, http://sknicholls.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/keywords-and-visibility-on-amazon/

And keep clicking through until you have found what you need to know to categorize your book effectively.  Selecting the most suitable genre is only half the battle.

Once you have figured out how to set your book up where it should be, just how do you get others to notice that it is there?  These are the folks who are not in your fan base or the reader audience you have established. These are total strangers in the greatest sense of the word.  How do you get exposure to a greater audience?

Book signings, independent bookstores, brick and mortar magistrates and/or newspapers if you are traditionally published or have already sold 3000 copies and published through contracted sources, online platforms, magazines, book reviewer processes, contests, offer promotions (but not too many), library groups, book clubs, online advertisements, (This link might be helpful: http://sknicholls.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/ad-your-book/), writer conventions, societies, schools, book fairs, as many of these methods as you possibly can…and few are free. Most are labor intensive and can be expensive. Some methods work better for some genres than others. Oh, and write more books!

It’s a Catch 22. The more books you sell, the better your rankings, the better your rankings, the more books you sell.

Reviews can also make or break you.  Some people are going to love what others hate and some people are going to hate what others love. You can have great reviews but few of them or you can have many reviews but they are poor.  When I reviewed book reviews, I looked for common threads/themes, whether there were many or few…both in the good reviews and the not so good. I believe most readers who are seriously looking to purchase will do the same. Pay attention. Take action. One of the glorious things about self-publishing is that you CAN easily correct things that need attention, or at least put some effort into it…or into future writings. At the same time, some of these common threads/themes may just be differences in style preferences, so don’t over react. Balance poor reviews against good reviews, criticism against praise, before you make any dramatic changes.

NEVER, EVER respond to a reviewer on a selling platform, either favorably or unfavorably. On a blog, it would be acceptable to thank a reviewer for their time and consideration, but to engage a reviewer in debate would be unprofessional and totally unacceptable. Many feel to even show a presence is somewhat distasteful. I suppose it would depend on how well you know the reviewer and whether or not you already have a relationship with them. Personally, I would not post a review if I could not give it at least three stars. But that’s just me…somebody is going to give you a one or two star review, and that’s okay. That person gave you their time…or as much as they could of it.

This is my nutshell cracked open. Did I say, “Write More Books!?”   

Writing, publishing and marketing ramblings of a mad woman. It isn’t all encompassing. I am not an authority on anything at all to do with books. These are my observations as a writer, reader, and author of one fiction book that has managed to pay for the cost of publishing it. Now, if it could just pay for the cost of promoting it and hiring a publicist, I could move easier onto the next project.

In the end, books are books. Ha!

“Red Clay and Roses”: Paperback Progress

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Got my latest proof in the mail from CreateSpace.

I think the brighter book cover image looks much better.

I am going ahead and accepting this proof and proceeding with the process.  I have been over every word. I am not totally 100% satisfied with it.

  1. There is a place in the book, secondary to a revision, where the pronoun “he” was used, instead of the proper noun “Nathan”.
  2. There is a place where quotation marks were used around an enclosed, handwritten letter erroneously.
  3. The preposition “to” is missing from a sentence.
  4. My chapters were long and I opted to put the chapter titles in the header on the left side.  I know it isn’t customary, but I thought it best, now I am not so sure.

None of the issues are the fault of anyone but me.  I would submit another manuscript and make the changes, but each time I have done that in the past, CreateSpace has screwed up something else, and I don’t want to risk it.  It takes too many days/weeks back and forth to get any changes accomplished.   I do understand now why it takes so long for traditional publishers to get anything accomplished.  It seems the more steps and people involved in the process; the more likely it is to be a lengthier process.

Continued Frustrations in Publishing are an Integral Part of My Life Now

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I would very much like to learn how to format and publish my own manuscripts.  I would take a class on how to do this effectively if I thought I could learn it, because depending on someone else to get things right is a terrible frustration for a writer.

As many of you know, I enlisted the services of CreateSpace to accomplish the design of my paperback.  When I sent my manuscript off to my independent publisher for the eversion, he had it published in three days. The only problem that we encountered was that the TOC did not function.  This, we determined, was due to a translation error.  He works on a Mac and I work on a PC.  We removed the apostrophes from the chapter headings and, voila! The problem was solved.

I have been working with CreateSpace since June 6th on this paperback.  Again, I sent in the manuscript from my PC and it was no different from the MS I had sent to my independent publisher.  I had some final edits and a revision that needed to be accomplished, so I made those and sent them the changes on the service file that they required.

I paid extra to have them help design the paperback. There have been ongoing problems with font, front matter, images, handwritten letter size, paragraph spacing, page headers, chapter headers, page numbering, semi colons added to the TOC and other things I DID NOT ask for….I could continue the list, but I fail to see a point.  Suffice it to say, things have not gone well.

Finally, after four or five rounds of proofs, all of which have taken seven to fourteen days to accomplish, I thought we finally had everything good to go and was looking forward to seeing the (hopefully) final proof.

Yesterday, I received this.  For some reason unknown to mankind (or womankind), CreateSpace personnel decided to use lowercase letters in my TOC.  Why would they do that?

Also, there were four places where there was a gaping space between paragraphs.  Again, why?

I know that these things may sound trivial to you, but they are not understandable to me.  I have had to pay them an additional $135.00 to correct errors which should not have been errors in the first place.  I could have ignored them and said, “Whatever, just publish the damned thing!”, and pressed the approve button.  But why should I?  Why should I expect less than perfect satisfaction on a product purchased.  And when these are corrected , are new problems going to appear again?

You would think that they would want to have the best reputation possible with as much competition as is building in the market.  I truly appreciate that they provide a service for something that I don’t feel I could have accomplished alone.  I would just like for it to be the premium service that I paid for.

I hope my readers know that I am genuinely thinking of them as I go about insisting on a quality product.  I am proud to be an Indie author.  I am proud to be able to be in control of producing a quality product.  CreateSpace, of all people, should understand that.  Don’t they want to make Amazon proud?

Am I just being overly sensitive and expecting too much?

Are Pseudonyms Outdated?

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Photo: Reuters

The original purpose of pseudonyms was to allow women to write in a man’s world.  In the 1700 and 1800s men were of a mind that women could only produce emotional memoirs successfully and men wrote the serious literary work.  Like Charlotte Bronte writing as Currer Bell, a name that could have been male or female, but allowed her to publish more readily.

I don’t want this piece to come across as author bashing.   I am curious on what your thoughts about pseudonyms today are.  Do you think their use is outdated?  Are the purposes different?  Do they have to do more with confidentiality and protection?

I have a girlfriend who writes erotica under a pseudonym.  I don’t blame her.  People could easily stalk her in our high tech society.  Serial Killers could single her out. (Okay, maybe I watch too much Criminal Minds.)

I wrote Red Clay and Roses using only my initials and last name.  Originally I did that for anonymity.  It was my first work and I didn’t want to embarrass myself if it turned out that it was crap.  When others started reading it and telling me to publish it, I felt better about it, but still felt that going public like that would open a whole new world and I was not sure I, Susan Koone Nicholls, was ready for that and I wondered if my family was ready, being such a revealing factual based story.   I think they are okay with it now, but I have not yet submitted to my hometown paper.  That might change things.

I have a murder mystery in progress.  I am very seriously considering writing under a pseudonym because I believe that genre is better accepted as a male dominated genre.  Then I think about  Faye Kellerman, Sue Grafton, Karin Slaughter, and other female mystery, thriller, crime novelists who have become quite successful in their own right without any use of male pseudonyms, just good writing.  For marketing purposes it might be better to write under an already established platform as S. K. Nicholls.  After all, not all of us can be J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith and unmask when reviews are great but sales are soggy.  I think she did a great thing to write under a pseudonym anonymously in that she is already famous.  Do you think she would have unmasked had her work received the same reviews as “The Casual Vacancy”?

Where are you going with your words?

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This is wordpress and most everyone on it, (except some visual artists or musicians), blogs words.  I am wondering where all of these words are going to take you.  Where do you want to go with them?  I was looking up some literary terms, thanks to another blogger, and I read the definition of story arc: A story arc is an extended or continuing storyline in episodic storytelling media such as televisioncomic bookscomic stripsboardgamesvideo games, and in some cases, films.

That brought to mind my book’s potential.  I could see it being a two hour television movie, but beyond that there really isn’t a lot of potential that I could see in the way of story arc.  I don’t see a sequel, unless it is solving a cold crime, but certainly not a series.  My murder mystery work in progress is different.  I could see it being a series that would make for a good nighttime crime  drama series.

Where do you suppose your writing could take you?…a T.V. show, an epic film, a video game, made for T.V. movie, a mini-series, a long running series, an adult swim show, a cartoon series, a sit com, a soap opera?  How would you classify your words if they went visual through another media? Would you want that or would you want your words to remain forever locked in the imaginations of your readers?  Would you want to be involved in the screen play writing?  Don’t be modest.  Be grandiose for just a minute and imagine.  What are your thoughts?

WIPs, I need opinions!!!!

I am having a writer’s dilemma:  I have two works in progress and I have decided if I am to get either one of them finished in a timely manner, I am going to have to choose which one to deeply dedicate myself to.  The first one is a mystery murder/drama which may actually evolve into a series.  It is told by the Governor’s lover, a gay man who despises the Governor’s wife.  This one is very serious with little humor.

The second one is a sort of autobiography; the names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.  It is told in the first person.  It is the life of an orphan who has matured into adulthood.  My life has not been a mundane one and it has some very exciting characters and events. While it has some very serious moments there is ultimately more humor in this second one

Read, if you will, the two opening few paragraphs and tell me in comments which one peaks your interest most.  Which one, if either, makes you want to read more right away?  They are very different.  The first one is set in Orlando, Fl., a bit in Chicago and quite a bit in Washington, DC.  The second one is set in New York City initially, but progresses back to GA and then to Florida.

 

One:

 

Delgado was not a name former Florida Governor Timothy Harrison would have chosen for his only son, had that choice been his exclusively. It was merely a Democratic political device of the times, and a Latin family name of his late and only wife, Maria E. Bohling-Harrison, chosen and insisted upon by her at their son’s birth, 33 years ago.

Maria was of mixed decent, with a Puerto Rican mother and an Irish father, but her Hispanic phenotype was unquestionable.  She was a dark and richly radiant beauty.

No red hair, but her fighting Irish spirit as well as her peppery Latina voice were clearly recognizable genotypes.  Although calm and composed in general public appearances, privately she most often displayed fiery temperament.

Living vicariously close as observer in those early years of Governor Tim’s second career, I was a young and impressionable man in awe of it all, the splendor of idealistic illusion.

Tim’s first career had been one of engineering, until that time, when he had been promoted to the point of actually ceasing to engineer anything but managing, instead, those in Civil Engineering who continued to work in the field.  The frustrations of such management were met with savvy political skill and relatively easily quelled despite the presenting problems of a population explosion in the new millennium of Central Florida.  Law, as a career choice, and the politics thereof, had initially been no more than hobby on the heels of his aging parents healing processes and the dealings with various condescending doctors during those processes.

It was during our last year in Law School at Barry University, and with all of the turbulent successes of that year and the years that followed, that Gov. Tim and myself were drawn together as friends and colleagues.  He was a young man then, at 43 years.  Not that I realized such at the time, being a younger man still at 23.

Two:

In one smooth motion, I clicked off the safety and pulled the hammer back on the little pearl handled Saturday night special and fired.  The bullet grazed the shoulder of the Wolfman Jack “wanna be” and hit the headboard just beside his friend, Johnny’s, head.  I could have hit his heart if I had wanted too.  I had not hesitated to use the gun.  On my grandmother’s back porch back in Georgia when I was four years old, I was shooting squirrels out of the pecan trees and skinning them for breakfast at the age of four.  I knew how to use a gun.

The gunshot brought a scurry of people up the stairs.  From the inside of the locked room I could hear people screaming for the key.  I was standing on top of a table, in my stilettos and evening gown, where the Wolfman Jack like character and his friend, the greasy long haired near toothless  Johnny, had been telling me to dance a performance for them.  I had feigned some moves and was trying furiously to inconspicuously unlock the window so I could escape when the Wolfman Jack guy leaned forward to approach the table.  That’s when I kicked his jacket in his direction and saw the glint of the gun hanging out of its pocket.

Nick was the first person through the door.  He snatched me by my long blonde hair and jerked me down from the table by the hair of my head.  I dropped the gun and scrambled to get my footing in the high heels.  It was only a matter of seconds before I was being dragged down the stairs, through the kitchen, out of the back door, and into the yard.  At least two dozen people stood watching; roughly one third of the party, and Nick proceeded to rip the evening gown from my body.  I stood naked and bare foot in the back yard in front of God, the Devil, and everyone else.  I was bruised and scratched when he was done.  I had fought back, but at 5’5” and barely a hundred pounds soaking wet, I was no match for him.  The party was over for me, and I was glad.

Multiple Points of View

Sarah M. Cradit, author of “St Charles at Dusk”, wrote a very helpful post called Five tips to writing  Multiple Points of View (POV).  I am reading her first novel in the Series, “The House of Crimson and Clover”, now.  She is quite adept at utilizing this literary device.  In her use of the literary device in a style of writing, the literary voice and person perspective of the characters actually play a role in the POV.

I have thought a lot about this post and I wanted to let you know that my book, Red Clay and Roses, offers a little taste of this done in a slightly different style than what I am finding in Sarah’s work.  This work was based on a compilation of true stories.  Since my first few chapters are real life interviews, the narrator, Hannah Hamilton, has opportunity to explore a couple of characters by inquiring directly on their point of view.  I used multiple points of view in a way that let’s the reader into the minds of two characters, Beatrice and Moses.

Beatrice, the Good Doctor’s wife, is in denial about her husband’s work and thinks the world of him.  The Good Doctor plays a small but most significant role in the story, but knowing him through Beatrice is paramount to understanding the story line, and how his work affected her.  Beatrice, who also has a less than significant role in the story of the romance between Sybil and Nathan,  makes a major contribution to the story line by allowing us to come to understand her delusions and /or hallucinations.

Excerpt from Beatrice:

Mrs. Handley was a red-haired woman, though not much hair was left.  Thin places were seen between tightly wound pin curls.  She stooped so low that she had to turn her neck to look up at me.  She was arthritic and twisted, with gnarled fingers.  She had a broad smile with slightly bucked straight teeth, yellowed and  trimmed in gold. She looked as if she had been a pretty woman in her prime, bright blue eyes and lean figure.  Her step was spry.  She wore a navy plaid dress with a white sweater sitting over her shoulders.  There was a white full apron tied around her small waist.  Her yellowed slip was hanging out from under her knee-length dress, and her shoes were flat with soft soles.  There was something finished about her, yet askew.

She looked in Trudy’s direction, “Trudy’s not a real nurse, you know, she’s only a sitter.  She just sits, and that’s all she does.  Gets paid to sit, and to sleep.  She has a night job, so she just sits and sleeps because my sons think I need a sitter…like a baby sitter, only worse because she sleeps.  I could be dead back in the kitchen for hours and she wouldn’t know.  Isn’t that right, Trudy, hum?”

Trudy said nothing, and pretended she hadn’t been addressed.

“Probably sleeps on her night job too,“ Mrs. Handley continued, as if Trudy wasn’t present, “You know you could offer our guest some tea, you could, but she won’t because all she does is sitting.”

“I’ll get it myself, of course I will, because you can’t get good help anymore, you just can’t,” she continued, as she made her way to the back of the house where the very large kitchen was located.  I followed.

She put the kettle on to boil and proceeded to tell me all about the house.  “The Good Doctor and I, we built this place, designed it and had it built just like we wanted it.  That’s bamboo on the ceiling, came all the way from the Philippines.  And these floors, this isn’t pine, you know, its mahogany.  You can’t even get this anymore, all that rainforest preservation and such.  We were one of the first couples in this area to build our house out of brick.  I know everybody does it now, the newer homes, but nobody did it back then around here, no, just stick-built houses with clapboard walls or some artificial siding, back then.  Yes, we bought the best red brick and these walls, no they aren’t stick built like today.  Today, they throw up stick built walls and insulated siding and then slap the brick right over it. No, these walls are all poured concrete with steel reinforcement  inside.  I watched them put it up myself, we did.  We were staying in the little house out back and I watched them build every inch of this house, and lay every brick.  The Good Doctor, he had a colored boy move into that old place out back with his family.  There’s nobody, but the spirits, living out there now, though.  Do you believe in spirits?”

“Yes well, sort of, I don’t think I have really given it much thought but I do believe in a spiritual presence,” I said.

“Well, you should.”

The kettle had begun to boil and she set out three cups and saucers.  She steadied her right hand with her left hand as she poured the hot water and set the saucers to steep the tea.

“What music is that playing on the stereo?” I asked.

“Oh that’s Freddie Hubbard’s album, ‘Red Clay’. I think Negros play the best music.  They always have.  I’ll turn it down a bit.  Music is the best thing to keep bad angels away.  I like the Big Bands too.  I have a tremendous album collection, 45s, 33 1/3rds, goes way back to some 78s that my mother had.  Tommie Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, I liked it ‘sweet’ and ‘hot’.  Like Bean and Prez.  We were swing dancers back in those days and man weren’t we good.  I was a little bitty thing and whipped right over the backs of my beaus back then.  You can’t see it now though, can you?”  Her broad smile faded.  She stepped into the den and went toward the living room to turn down the stereo.

Trudy stood up and stretched, and stacked some of the newspaper across the top of her head.  “Well, Ms. Bea, since you have your own real nurse here today, I guess I’ll head on back to the house.”

Beatrice didn’t respond to her with words. She looked in my direction and said, “She’s supposed to stay until seven, but I put myself to bed.”  She walked to the living room door and that’s when I saw all of the brass on the door.  She opened the door wide and Trudy made her exit.  Beatrice closed the door behind her and reached into her apron for a large ring of keys.  She bolted three deadbolts and slid across three chains and one bar lock.  “There,” she announced, “We’ll be safe enough in here now.  I have to keep the fairy babies out, you know, they are everywhere when it rains.  The rains spook them up out of the leaves in the woods and they come scratching at the windows and doors.”

“Fairy babies?” I asked.  “Are they sprits too?”

“Oh yes, of a sort, much more annoying than most spirits, but they aren’t dangerous, just annoying.  They do bite and sting when you swat at them.  You hear their wings humming before you can see them, worse than mosquitoes, they are, and much bigger, too.  They will buzz holes in the glass.  That’s why the windows are boarded, yes, to keep the fairy babies out.  When they bite, I can feel it right down to my bones, I can.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Also, Moses Grier, who tells his family’s story and brings up the first climactic point later in the story, is interviewed at The Colored People’s Old Folk’s Home.  Incorporating the interviews allowed me to get into the thought processes and voices of these two characters.

Probably the greatest challenge, aside from generally editing the book, was to speak in the voice of an old black man while remaining respectful and doing so with dignity.  I did not want it to come across as some sort of Uncle Remus rendition of a character, but I did want it to be authentic to what I actually experienced with Moses.  Editing his interviews was a challenge because spell and grammar checks simply don’t suffice when speaking grammatically incorrect on purpose.  Every detail has to be inspected for consistency.

 Here is an excerpt from one of the interviews of Moses as he tells of his family’s life:

They had always taken phone calls at the brick house of the Handley’s, and the sisters were aware that Eula Mae was keeping house for them.  But Eula Mae had concocted some sort of story about Moses buying up pecan orchards and making money off of pecans, and how well off he was since he had made these investments.  She had been telling these sisters how they owned lots of land all around for growing pecans and how they had built this big brick house.

“Now it was true, that we was surrounded by pecan groves, but me ner The Good Doctor owned none of them,” Moses went about explaining.

“Eula Mae come a runnin from the house one day late in June 1955, had to be, cause Nathan done got into medical school and Althea she was already gone, and Eula Mae says to me, ‘I done made a terrible error, Moses, they is a comin down on the train fer to see us.’  Well, I didn’t think it was all bad til Eula Mae went to tellin me all ‘bout her lies she’d been feedin her sisters and what was we a goin to be able to do ‘bout this?”

“What did you do?” I asked.

“Coincidentally,” he said, “the Handley’s was a goin to Florida fer two weeks vacation ‘long ‘bout that time.  Them two boys what Eula Mae had raised had already gone off to boardin’ school, and The Good Doctor and his wife was a goin down to stay a while, like they was doin from time to time.  Eula Mae done taken all they photographs off they walls after they left and hid’em out to our house and when her sisters come in on the train we picked’em up at the train station and brought’em out here like it was our own house, you know to the Handley’s place.”

“That’s funny, did you pull it off okay?” I questioned.

“Course we did, we was all up in they house, and Mama had set’em up a room each upstairs and was cookin like it was her own kitchen, cause really it was, you know, and they was a playin the piano and singin, and Ms. Bea had all these records of black folk music, cause she liked it, and they was just like they was in our own home. They was a eatin on the Handley’s plates with they silverware, and a usein they dishes like they belonged to us.  That just weren’t done in them days.  Black folk weren’t served with the same utensils as white folk.  We didn’t even dine at the same tables nor in the same cafes.  Early in June in 1954, we had all went up to Washington D.C. on the train to see Nathan graduate when he received his B.S. degree.  Eula Mae, me, Althea, Ms. Bea and The Good Doctor, in separate cars, you know, blacks and whites.  We had separate hotels even in different parts of the city,” he laughed.

While these two examples are different from Sarah’s use of multiple points of view as a literary device, they do demonstrate how a character’s point of view, even in dialog, can move the story along and give insight into how the character’s thinking and behavior affect the whole story line.

Emotional Inspiration

tears5

Image from MD JUNCTION

“Put a voice in your hurt and give your tears a sound”

So very often I read an article written by someone who has suffered an angry moment, a pain or a loss.

I wonder sometimes if these people are crying tears as they write their words.  Sometimes I am deeply moved even to the point of tears myself.  Writing and reading can be so very therapeutic.   The therapists at a facility where I was employed as a nurse would have their patients write every day.  They also had required reading assignments.  Writing is cathartic and reading is distracting in a good way.

Some of the very best, most passionate writing I have ever read came from these clients most often while the instigating event was fresh in their minds.  These are very often the folk with the most powerful voice.   I am fortunate to have had these people share their work with me.  It has aided both my understanding and my capacity for empathy.

KEEP WRITING!  KEEP READING!

Going Home After the Novel

We recently went on a short vacation to North Carolina from our Florida home, which gave us the time and chance to go back through my hometown of LaGrange, Georgia, the setting of my first novel, “Red Clay and Roses”.  That first novel being factional; that is a fictional account of a true story, we were want for a little sightseeing.  We stayed in that Small Town, USA setting a couple of days and I took some photographs.  We also chanced to visit Callaway Gardens, also mentioned in the novel, and it’s lovely little chapel.  I have put together a little slideshow which the reader of my novel might compare to their imagination.  I always liked doing that; visiting a place that I have chanced to become acquainted with through a novel.  These are a few shots of the town proper and the gardens.  The azaleas and dogwood had already passed their peak when we visited, but it was a delightful journey home just the same.  When my next novel comes ready for publication, I have some shots of the orphanage that I spent time at in my youth.  I had the wonderful opportunity to go back and speak with some of the young ladies who reside there now.  I wish I could have stayed longer and gotten more photos of the places mentioned in the book, but this is what I have put together in a little slideshow:

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Whether you have read the novel or not, this gives but a glimpse into the setting.  Unfortunately, the town train depot stands no more, and there are but two tracks where there were once near a dozen.  I would have liked to have included Sybil’s apartments and the home of The Good Doctor as well as The Heart Of LaGrange Hotel, but as there are people living there now, I did not feel it appropriate.  I hope this may aid your imagination and apologize if it has hindered it.  It was a travel back in time for me.  I wrote the story on remembrances and found most of them to be accurate, though somewhat changed with time.