Monday, April 25, 2011

Stephen Covey, a life teacher, coach, writer and a really cool guy, has been a positive example for me for years. I've read his first book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, several times, and as a writer, I can particularly see the relevance of habit 7, Sharpen the Saw.
What Covey asks is that we examine our hectic lives and make sure we are making time for renewal, learning, reading and exercise of the mind, body and spirit. When I was teaching the Covey concepts, I found that most people had trouble with this habit. Covey likens it to being "so busy mowing the lawn you forget to put gas in the mower."
In the writing community, we see this a lot. Writers who are so busy blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, networking and pounding out their 1,000 words per day--no matter how they tally it--that they forget to "put gas in the mower."
I try to incorporate different forms of art into my life in hopes it will nurture my creative writing. The Writer's Brush by Donald Friedman examines how writers practice the visual arts. It's an amazing book, and if you admire the writing of Vonnegut, Kipling, Bronte and the like, I predict you'll be spellbound by their visual art. Imagine developing your entire creative potential-- pumping gas into your creative engine-- by drawing, painting or sculpting.
What perspective would you gain about your story? About your writing? About your life?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Publicity and Promotion

Publicity and Promotion

by Jacqueline Seewald

Many people in the public eye believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Just ask Donald Trump! Publicity positive or negative promotes a career because it puts that person in the limelight. Of course, writers would like to be recognized for the quality of their work. Nevertheless, being ignored by reviewers is not something that authors appreciate. Readers aren’t going to buy books they’ve never heard of. No reviews? No publicity? Consequently no sales.

My next Kim Reynolds mystery novel THE TRUTH SLEUTH featuring a reluctant psychic amateur detective is the third novel in a series. THE INFERNO COLLECTION, the first novel in the series, was endorsed by Sara Paretsky as well as BOOKLIST and sold well to libraries all over the world. The second novel in this series THE DROWNING POOL also received excellent reviews from BOOKLIST among others.

Will THE TRUTH SLEUTH get good reviews? I hope so. However, I am prepared to promote my novel to the best of my ability. Small independent publishers do little to promote their authors. These days even the major publishers do not put much effort and money into book promotion either. Writers have to think proactive.

Should a handful of review publications wield major power, in effect deciding what most readers will and will not be able to read? Is there another better system for writers to become known to readers? Will e-books democratize what may be an archaic system in the publishing world? Are individual readers (and hopefully librarians) paying attention to the internet reviewers that are coming into their own? Time will tell. What is your opinion?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Contests: To Enter or Not

Before I published my first novel, I entered contests, curious to see what others thought of my writing. My critique group had given helpful feedback, but I wanted more. When the results came back from my first contest, with only mediocre results, it gave me pause. Should I continue to write? Could I ever be published?

Later, the contest scores got a little higher, sometimes with helpful comments and yes, even the occasional compliment. Sometimes scores would range greatly, making me wonder just who was right, or if I were only wasting my money. I am not easily discouraged, though, and when a novel of mine came in second in a contest, my husband and I attended the awards. I received a check and a complete and thorough critique as my award. This critique, from a published author, made me a little discouraged in spite of the win.

I kept writing, and after having my first novel published, I quit entering contests for a while. The contest money was needed for marketing and a little online advertising.

Later, prodded by some writer friends of mine, I entered that novel in a contest, and it came up a winner. I could now put a gold sticker on the book, announcing my award.

More recently, my 2010 book, The Tapestry Shop (Five Star/Gale), won a Bronze Medal for Popular Fiction from Florida Book Awards, an annual contest sponsored by Florida State University and co-sponsored by literacy and arts organizations.

I have learned to be selective in the contests I enter, first, because books cost money, and some require a book for every judge. Secondly, the genre in which I write is usually not a listed category, which means my books might be read by someone who has never read historical fiction. I’ve learned to look at who the judges will be. As a published author, the advantages of entering a contest are different than they were earlier, when I wanted feedback and suggestions. Now I want recognition for my published work.

So no matter where you are in your writing career, I encourage you to enter contests, always keeping an eye out for category and who will be judging. If you’re unpublished, look first for who that final editor is. If it’s an agent or editor who takes your genre, the reward could be huge.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Where'd You Get that Idea?

One of the most frequent questions authors field is “where’d you get the idea for your story?” Most of us have a head (and a file drawer) full of them and we confront the problem of which one(s) to use for any given story. We amass ideas like junk mail…lots and lots of junk mail…and we find them nearly everywhere.

My favorite idea spots are bookstores. As a writer of historical romance, the non-fiction sections draw me. Local history sections are gold mines, as are museum gift shops and stores in tourist towns. I can spend hours browsing titles, looking for unusual topics or histories of events. I’ve discovered books about gold rushes, frontier medicine, Indian life, women telegraphers, and beer brewers (among others). I’ve found information on famous people and completely unknown people in unusual situations. Suffice to say, I buy a lot of books.

But, one should not forget magazines. For historical writers, there are an abundant number of periodicals with articles on everything from the history of ice skating to medicine healers to undertaking. I subscribe to at least one history magazine at any given time. I’ve also found intriguing character, plot, and setting ideas in travel magazines, women’s magazines, and Readers’ Digest. If something strikes my imagination, it goes to my idea file. This is usually in the form of the torn out pages of the article but can be handwritten or computer-generated notes.

Visits to places can also prompt ideas. Sometimes, it is the setting itself that might conjure up a situation. This means ideas can come from the beach, a vineyard, or a mountain road. It might be the entire setting or it could be something that occurs there (such as a burro ride as opposed to the Grand Canyon). Museums can inspire with displays or an off-hand comment by a tour guide. I particularly love historic home tours with their wealth of information on period lifestyle, the inhabitants, and events of the era.

News items can offer more ideas. Natural disasters, crimes, and human interest features can launch a myriad of stories. Just think about it: one evening’s news might include spots on a hurricane, an autistic child, a crooked home-repair business, and a freak accident. Hmmmm…all sorts of stories there if one combined them.

And, of course, there’s people-watching. Traits, whether physical or behavioral, can be fodder for creating characters that are vivid but believable. Looking around, it’s easy to spot the outlandish things people do or say. Sometimes, it might be a mannerism. Other times, it might be how someone looks. Noting real-life situations can springboard ideas for how characters might respond or how conflict might be increased.

Ideas? They abound. All the writer need do is remain aware, take notes, and start tossing settings, characters, situations, and conflicts together.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Bumper Crop of Spaghetti

So, are you wary of anything you see, read, or hear today? Do you play jokes and pranks on unsuspecting friends? Are you like me, who forgets what day it is and takes everything at face value? According to Wikipedia (hey, it's only April Fool's Day, so why not use a less than reliable source?) ...

The origin of April Fools' Day is obscure. One likely theory is that the modern holiday was first celebrated soon after the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar; the term referred to someone still adhering to the Julian Calendar which it replaced.

In many pre-Christian cultures May Day (May 1) was celebrated as the first day of summer, and signaled the start of the spring planting season. An April Fool was someone who did this prematurely. Another origin is that April 1 was counted the first day of the year in France. When King Charles IX changed that to January 1, some people stayed with April 1. Those who did were called "April Fools" and were taunted by their neighbors.

In the eighteenth century the festival was often posited as going back to the times of Noah. An English newspaper article published on April 13th, 1789 said that the day had its origins when he sent the raven off too early, before the waters had receded. He did this on the first day of the Hebrew month that corresponds with April. A possible reference to April Fools' Day can be seen in the Canterbury Tales (ca 1400) in the Nun's Priest's tale, a tale of two fools: Chanticleer and the fox, which took place on March 32nd.

Some all-time classic hoaxes and pranks include the following: