Friday, May 18, 2018

Writing: Character Description

NOTE: The price of the Kindle version of my novella, Surgeon's Choice, has been cut by $1, and it is available via Amazon for this reduced price of $2.99 for the remainder of May. If you've already read it, tell your friends. (Actually, tell everyone--your enemies may enjoy it, too).

One of the problems I have is that I get so wound up in the story I'm telling that I neglect to at least give a minimal description of the person about whom I'm talking. That usually comes in the second or third draft, often following a suggestion by my first reader.

As many of you know, I like fiction by the late Robert B. Parker, and I often read through those books again and again, learning each time I do. I going through Taming A Sea Horse I found these two examples of describing a woman (his permanent girl-friend) and a man (who isn't a very wholesome character).

Here's his description of the woman's clothes. "She was wearing a black skirt and a lemon-yellow blouse with black polka dots and a pearl-gray jacket. Her necklace was crystal and pearl, large beads. She wore clunky black earrings and a big bracelet of black and gray chunks of something." He goes on to describe her stockings, her shoes, her purse, and the overnight bag she carried. I think it's a bit much, but maybe not.

Then the man: "Sitting on a barstool drinking Budweiser beer from a long-necked bottle was a guy with a round red face and a big hard belly. He was entirely bald and his head seemed to swell out of his thick shoulders without benefit of neck. He had small piggy eyes under scant eyebrows that were blond or white and barely visible, and his thick flared short nose looked like a snout." He goes on to describe his dirty white T-shirt, his overalls and work boots. I could really picture this man from what Parker wrote.

So, what do you like when a character is introduced? Do you like a physical description, something about their clothes, a particular mannerism? Prefer to picture the character in your mind from the author's description, or formulate your own picture of them? Let me know.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Money and Religion

Bloggers are subject to lots of different rules, or at least, suggestions. They're told to involve their readers, tell a bit about their own lives, talk about current subjects that might interest their followers. But conventional wisdom is to shy away from two subjects: money and religion.

More subjects have been added to that list, and I wonder about them. For instance, it may be okay for a blogger--especially an author (we wouldn't want to drive away a potential reader, would we?)--to talk about their devotion to a particular football team...unless the people who read it are fans of another team that's an arch-rival. So we soft-pedal that.

Those who blog or otherwise post on the Internet have been warned that they should only use photos and images that are freely available. Otherwise, they might be sued for copyright infringement. (Note: I use Pexels, so the images I post are okay).

Recently authors have been told to be careful about using a particular word in a series title, because that word is copyrighted. That has kept the authorial world stirred up even further.

There was a time (although it seems so long ago) that we could express our opinion without someone jumping in and not only voicing one that dissents (which is fine with me) but trashing us for holding that belief (which isn't fine, in my opinion).

So, authors and others who blog, are you careful about what you post? Or, for that matter, what you say in public? Is this a new thing, or has it been going on for a long time, and I've not noticed it? Let me know.

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Writing: Just Write?

There's an old joke about employing people with small hands to screw in a stubborn lightbulb, because "mini hands make light work." There are times when I'd like to have some of those hands working for me. I had no idea when I first began writing that this is a business, not a hobby--and there's a lot more to it than just choosing words and putting them on paper.

When I was under contract with a traditional publisher, they did a great deal of the marketing, although I found that quite often the things I lined up were more effective than an outside publicity entity. I had some input into cover design, but the final product was--at best--a joint effort in which I didn't make the final decision. And the editing of my manuscript was often "farmed out" to an independent editor--but I still had to respond to those edits and later check the galley proofs for errors. In other words, I still had to do things in addition to writing.

As an indie author, I can pay for a professional cover designer (well worth it) and an independent editor (also a valid expense, although some indie authors choose to skip that step). But I have to approve a cover, and as an editor once told me, it's my name that goes on the book, so how I respond to edits is up to me. In summary, the details of publication, including the how and when, fall to me. And that's when I long for those additional hands.

The trade-off? Better royalty payments for indie authors and more true independence. Is it worth it? Sometimes. Would I change? It varies from day to day. Is there more to writing than crafting a plot that holds the reader's attention? Definitely.

Unfortunately, along with the "Love your books" comments that come our way, authors sometimes get the question, "When's the next one coming out?" Do you now realize what goes on behind the scenes? I'd like to know.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Teddy Bears and Security Blankets

Among the programs we like to watch are re-runs of M*A*S*H. (And can you believe the "police action" which was the setting for the show took place half a century ago?) Anyway, one of the things that is part of the show is the stuffed bear that the company clerk, Radar, sleeps with. His teddy bear (ratty, and with one eye missing) is his "security blanket" of sorts. And he doesn't want to part with it.

I thought of this the other day as I completed the Continuing Medical Education I do on a regular basis as part of the requirement for continuing my license to practice medicine in our state. I've been retired from medical practice for about fifteen years, but I continue to fulfill the requirements and pay a rather hefty amount to keep my license current. Why? It's not just because I occasionally am called on to prescribe. The license isn't something I renew regularly because I worked awfully hard to get it. When it comes down to it, I believe that I keep it active because--deep in my heart--I don't know if this writing thing is going to work out during the time of my "retirement." So I like having another profession as a security blanket.

How about you? Is there a thing or an activity that you're unwilling to turn loose of because you don't want to lose your security blanket? Realistic or not, many of us have something we're still hanging on to. I'd be happy to hear about yours--or your comments on mine.

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Friday, May 04, 2018

Writing: New Novel

Made you look! But, no, we're not having another baby, or even another grandchild. But the emotions are similar. I've seen the cover design for my next novel, Guarded Prognosis. And I'm as delighted as I was when I saw the  cover of my first novel.

This will be my twelfth novel. I've also indie-published four novellas, so all-told this will be sixteen works of fiction that have appeared under my name. I had no such expectations twenty years ago, and was thrilled when my non-fiction book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, appeared. (BTW, it's been going for more than a decade, is now in its second edition, and I love the cover designs my publisher came up with for both of them).

My previous novels have been traditionally published, and my input into their cover design has varied. But I was ultimately responsible for this one. To design it, I turned to the woman who has done the covers for all four of my novellas, and as usual, Dineen Miller has done a nice job. See for yourself:

If all goes well, this book will be available for pre-order next month, and published in mid-July. (Hint--subscribers to my newsletter will get the first news).

Authors, I'm still feeling the thrill after so many novels. (Oh, not as many as many of my colleagues, but it's still a nice feeling to see that cover). Does it go away with time? Readers, what do you think of the cover Dineen has designed? Any other comments?

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