Tuesday, May 16, 2017

"All's Fair in Love for Books" (a take from my recent book-fair experience)



I’d been out of the groove of the book thang for several years, and so decided (with a new book coming out this year) that I needed to get familiar again with marketing my works (and myself) at book fairs.


I’m scheduled for several events throughout 2017, but my first was the Sistahs On Lit Book Festival this past April. I’d forgotten what was really involved with things like setting up the table or coordinating sales with my helpers, but I got the hang of it after a little bit.

I enjoyed myself, but came away with a few lessons learned.

  • Bring the kitchen sink, but leave everything else. Overly excited, I had more than my share of props for my table. Next event: sticking to a few just to generate interest.

  • Organize the organization. I consider myself a fairly-organized person, but when multiple things are happening, the organization takes a quick backseat. Next event: using small containers with the essentials for quick retrieval.

  • Curiosity doesn’t have to kill the cat. Sitting at my table, I was curious about the other authors’ works, but was hesitant to go over to any of them and strike up a conversation. Let’s be real: sometimes folk can be rude or disingenuous and no one wants to be bothered with that. I took a chance though, and made a new author-friend or two. Next event: get to know a few more of my fellow vendors as we do our book thang.

I have another book event in a few days. Am I ready? Here’s hoping …

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

“Novel Beginnings: Stuck Before Even Getting Started”



“It was a dark and stormy night …” (a tried and true opening for sure, and just as oft-played)

The novel idea has been fleshed out, the research done, the writing utensils prepped (for those of us who prefer paper before processor). But the first page remains blank. For some time. Just … blank.

In the midst of writing Broken Benevolence, I paused to turn back to the beginning, staring at the opening lines with a bit of wonder. I know how it starts (fans will too in the near future), but the wonder came with actually seeing … that I started the book (the third in the Dr. Naomi Alexander series).

Writing that opening sentence can be the hardest part of writing a novel; it's a form of writer's block all its own. I utilize an outline, and while that may help with the meat of the story. I still struggle with putting that first sentence down. The options for beginning a story are varied and numerous. Should I start with a description of the setting, or maybe some dialogue? Begin with some backstory narrative, or right in the heart of the action? What about having the main character …?

Any one or even combinations of those options could work (if done right), and so the page stays blank for just a little longer.

Inevitably, my outline helps me get going. I may still pause at getting that first sentence started, but referring to my outline helps me do the one thing necessary: write something. That first sentence may not even make the cut, but it’s enough to keep the pen flowing over the page, or the keyboard clacking away. The same can be said about starting new chapters, but the 'anxiety' is different and not quite as intense.

The feeling that comes when that first sentence (or two) of a novel kicks off, though, is akin to a mild high as 'the Zone' approaches, and the dark, stormy night becomes a bright and sunny day.

 
Broken Benevolence is scheduled for a Christmas 2017 release.
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Engaging, commercial fiction for grownups.
 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

“Get Over the Fear, Dear”


In my blog (some time ago now), “Getting ‘Thin’ Can Be a Big Mistake,” I stated that I didn’t really have a number “10” for my list of suggestions. But on fifth thought (yeah, I went back and forth on this a few times), I’d like to offer a possible number 10: getting over the fear of being ‘out there.’

Writers write for the utter joy of it. We do. Honestly. But loving to write doesn’t necessarily equate with being fully comfortable with being exposed as authors or having hundreds (or even thousands) of others seeing our work—especially for writers who are introverts. Case in point: S.F. Powell.

My introvert tendencies far exceed my extrovert ones, but if I wanted others to get joy from my work, I had to let them know it was out there. All authors have traces of self-doubt (even bestselling authors), some with more traces than others. But doubt about my work wasn’t a major factor for me; it was a ‘fear’ of people knowing the work existed period—which in turn meant folk knew that I existed, that I have work out there to be ‘judged.’ Yet the ‘judging’ doesn’t bother me as much as one would think (basically: you either like it or you don’t; hopefully you do, but if not, moving on).

And it is not from conceit that I worry about people knowing about my existence (“Who cares about you and what you’re doing?” you might say), but rather, the whole idea of my head being permanently out from its ‘turtle shell’ is daunting. Strangers know who I am now (but I don’t know who they are). Only true introverts get where I’m coming from with this, so extroverts, a little patience and empathy please. How would you feel if your head were permanently situated inside your turtle shell, and you couldn’t interact, or be social or, I don’t know … extrovert?

There are ways however, that introverts can be ‘out there’ with their work without being ‘out there’ (e.g. social media), so it’s not a bad row to hoe if an introvert is selective. Small dalliances in the social media world may not lead to bestseller status, but not every writer is looking for that, so introvert writers must do what feels comfortable, and resist the pressures and advice (that make them uncomfortable). I didn’t like much of the social media arena at first, but I’m finally coming around (albeit slowly).

Although it is a necessary evil for even minimal writing success, getting over the fear is not easy or a one-off experience. Getting over the fear can be a lengthy process, and may require more of a ‘toe-dipping’ approach. 😉


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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

“A Toe-dipping Experience”


You’ve see this (I know you have), either in movies or in real life: a person approaches the edge of a body of water, and instead of jumping right in, they … dip their toe to get a sense of the temperature and determine whether to splash, or ease in, or just turn around and leave water-play to everyone else. That’s what this perspective-writing-through-blogging thing has become for me.

I haven’t decided to leave the water-play to others, but rather to ease in (a toe, a foot, an ankle, the other toe, the other foot …)
This ‘toe-dipping’ is sort of how my love for writing took off. While my classmates bemoaned it, I rather liked my English-Lit classes and the writing assignments that went with it. I secretly enjoyed the post-reading discussions of characters and setting and symbolism, while (mildly) complaining about them aloud (as all sophomores in high school were bound to do). Remember Cliff’s Notes? Yeah, those little yellow books could be spotted in many a locker, but the teacher always, always found a way to have questions not covered in those books, resulting in lengthy silences among the group after the question posed. I avoided answering questions many times even when I knew the answer, just to fit in and not be ‘labeled.’ Ahh, the pitfalls of peer pressure …

Nevertheless, my love for reading and those English-Lit assignments also fed my desire to write. Ahh … the advantages of peer pressure.

My 'toe-dipping' with the written word outside of academic instruction started with personal essays about life events, interspersed with poetry. It wasn’t until adulthood that I went the toe-foot-ankle-leg-body route and decided to write a novel. The water was quite chilly at first, but I’ve been wading around for a bit now, and things are starting to warm up …


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"Playing God"



There’s a hidden satisfaction that comes with being an author of fiction. We are creators of people, creators of worlds, and creators (or destroyers) of every action in it. It is an addiction that makes us forget the pot cooking on the stove, miss the next train, forget to pay a bill, or even “lose” a day or two when we ourselves are lost deep in our writing zones, barely making time to “come up for air” (Did you say it was Tuesday? Already? Wow…)



Fiction writers, with the stroke of a pen, can make their characters sick or well, hungry, sad or silly, or make them experience a gambit of emotions in the space of two paragraphs. We name them and give them brown eyes and long hair, or green eyes and short hair. We give them triumphs and tragedies. We also have the power to kill our characters, or (as in the case of Like Sweet Buttermilk), bring them back to life …



In the original version of Like Sweet Buttermilk (LSB), Rick Phillips died. Readers were upset; they liked the ending—but they didn’t. Given the flow/chain of events, his death made sense. And then, it didn’t. Although his death occurred in the original published version—it wasn’t my original idea for the ending. Sometimes writers go against their original instincts or plans for a work in the interest of spicing things up or to challenge the status quo or simply challenge themselves. Nothing wrong with that at all; it’s an experiment in creativity every artist is entitled to. But the original ending of LSB, while fitting, stuck in my craw. For some time. In fact, for too long.



With the relaunch of LSB, I changed the ending to match my original idea for it. And, like fine wine, Like Sweet Buttermilk has gotten better with time. I’ve set things right in my fictional world and I’m not looking back. I had plenty notes on or about Mr. and Mrs. Phillips; so much more I wanted to “say” when it came to them, and now I get to. It’s a good thing. In the works following LSB, Dr. Alexander has two new friends—and exploring the dynamics of those relationships will be my pleasure.



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