Thursday, August 17, 2017

3-2-1 Book Launch

3-2-1 Book Launch

Book releases have changed over the past ten years or so. What was once the primary responsibility of the publisher’s marketing team has morphed into the author’s responsibility. What was once covered with editors/agents emails and flyers to brick-n-mortar shops is now vibrantly alive through social media.

To keep myself on track, I’ve compiled a list of what-to-do’s for my upcoming book launch. Am I arrogant enough to think I’ve covered it all? Nope, not even close. But I work better with a list, and as I reminisce of Bloggers’ Thirteen Thursday, I decided to start with that number.

1) Complete final editing & formating review of manuscript – check and recheck.
a. Visit with establish authors for last minute insight.

2) Format through

Sigil & check all formatting through

Calibre – underway.
a. Visit with technical support staff.

3) Compile list of teasers from manuscript for social media releases – check and recheck. (More may be added at future date.)
a. Read, review, & assess current teasers used in social media.

4) Decide on title – check and recheck.

5) Class on tagline; complete tagline – check and recheck.
a. Finding valuable resources on taglines is the first step to #5.

6) Work with graphic artist on book cover, tweak, analyze, confirm pixel requirements, file specifications, generally make myself crazy and then decide on the final version – check and recheck.
a. Select a brilliant graphic artist. I was incredibly lucky as one of my nearest & dearest friends is said graphic artist.

7) Resize final book cover to several sizes for social media release. Add release date – check and recheck.
a. All on my own & invested the due diligence in Paint.

8) Begin primary release of book cover with release date – underway.

9) Write book dedication – still in process.

10) List book reviewers and design spread sheets for monitoring – underway.
a. Research a viable resource list that is consistently updated and then visit each potential reviewer’s site to find those that are the best fit. Thanks Melanie Rockett

11) Complete all necessary documents, dates, & pricing structure for release with Amazon – underway.
a. Going through the specifics for a 3rd time. Comes from having an attorney in the family.

12) Determine possible author interviews, set dates, schedule return favors as needed – underway.

13) Update all Romance Writers of America

information to reflect current release – pending.
a. Spoke with Houston office and followed their specific advice on how to update member profile.

Finally – The reality is that there’s more to cover. So, brainstorm on all the things that I’ve forgotten to do; try not to hyperventilate; make the next list; and get on with the release.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Summer Memories

Special shout-out to my writing friend,
Marsha R. West.

She put on my thinking cap for summer end.
What are you favorite/not so favorite summer time ends?

Marsha mentioned her first summer job and memories flooded back.

1st summer a bit over 16 and I went to work for Leonard’s (now Dillards) in the cosmetic department.

Three strong memories:

1) All women department – even in the men’s cologne.

2) Old-styled cash registers – counting change a requirement (loads of folks used cash for purchases. At least once a shift, I’d get some lady who dumped all her change on the glass counter-top and counted pennies/nickels/dimes until she made up the odd amount.)

OLD fashioned CC machines: remember the card swipers? No, not where you ran your card through the side of the POS machine. Nope, OLD-SCHOOL. Hand over your credit card, the sales person placed it on a ‘flatbed’ card swipe, loaded a 3-ply form on top, physically swipe flatbed arm over the card to make an imprint on the form, then fed the form fed through a slot in the old-styled cash register, price was entered, last four on card were entered, click amount, click credit, click VISA, MasterCard, AMX, click total, then if the stars lined up right it all went through. What could go wrong with this system? Everything. However, the good news? We weren’t inter-linked to the internet so as long as the store had power we could conduct those sales.

3) I came home smelling wonderful EVERY day. Always some new fragrance to try. Because the senior sales reps knew that young women wearing their fragrances were more likely to reel in men looking for a last-minute wife or girlfriend gift. I had loads of samples.

Heat – hours and hours of it.
Texas girl, remember.

Asphalt so hot that the tar bubbled in street cracks. (When we were little and constantly barefoot, my feet were tougher than the odd ‘tennie shoes’ my mom made me wear.) I wore Sunday shoes – white patent leather – that my dad had to buff out every Sunday morning because I couldn’t walk without scuffing my shoes, sandals for the beach and occasional trip to the discount store, tennis shoes (Ked’s) for the sticker fields that were the cut-through to the local 7-11. On the street, in the yard, even biking, we went barefoot. When they say shoe-leather tough, we really had the feet for it.

We really did fry an egg on the sidewalk.

Slip-N-Slides. It took until mid-October before the Slip-N-Slide rut in my parents’ front yard finally disappeared. Again, Texas girl – grass stays green a long time here.

Oh, but ours didn't come with a built-in bumper cushion. You stopped when you slid on the grass. Many a swimsuit turned permanently green.

Skateboards. Not high dollar durable fiberglass with titanium wheels. Not quite so elaborate. My dad cut out an oval from dated, stained plywood, sanded it down, drilled holes and connected a metal skate to the bottom, attached a rope through a hole in the front and off I went. From the ages of seven until . . . the ten-speed took precedence, I constantly rode the skateboard. Skinned knees, banged-up toes (no shoes, remember), tan lines from shorts and tanktops, freckles and life was wonderful.

Is it any wonder that we never wanted summer to end?
Did 100° heat keep us inside?

Absolutely not. There were sno-cones to eat; Slip-n-Slide contests; paths to explore; lemonade stands to build and man; dogs to walk and occasionally chase; hide-n-go-seek after dark, and fireflies to capture.

Be inside?

Not on a double-dog-dare.

Friday, July 28, 2017

If Women Ruled the World or something

A recent article brought this blog to mind: 'If women ruled the world. . .'

All right, all right, I'm not insinuating that women can't drive. Far from it. I tool around in a full-sized van, 6600 pounds, thank you very much and I can park the puppy in a rat hole. Do remember, I'm from Texas and things are bigger here than in other parts of the world -- rat holes included. But gals are normally handling a number of things while trying to park and I think it's only fair we should get a bigger parking spot.

There would be a little 'bill' equality . . .

Tools would be simpler.

Now, you're talking my talk.
Don't ask, 'where's the beef?'. More importantly, where's the duct tape? No woman's purse is actually complete without duct tape. Want to know how to hold a fence in place? Duct Tape. Keep air from leaking out of a tire? Duct Tape. Prevent anything from flapping in the wind? Duct Tape. Okay, I rest my case.

And for traditional tools . . . I say, 'Who needs 'em' I have hung many a picture with a shoe, and no, I don't measure before I put it on the wall. Hang and bang--that's my philosophy. And I can screw anything in place with a butter knife or better yet a metal nail file.
Make sure to get a heel with serious heft to it, however. If you're going to bang away, you want it to be effective.

Oh, and not the good butter knife, for crying out loud. That's like your kids buffing the dog clean with your good kitchen towels. Keep an old - we don't have the rest of the silverware set anymore - butter knife in your special tool drawer. Don't have one. Hit any Saturday morning garage sale. A .25C max.

Hiking boots would actually LOOK good.

Toilet seats would stay in their proper position.

And guys would have the right toolbox.
Guys, if you're going to help 'make em', then roll up your sleeves and wade in.

Why? Questions with no answers

Why, Why, Why?

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are dying?

Why do banks charge a fee on "insufficient funds" when they know there is not enough money?

Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?

Why do they use sterilized needles for death by lethal injection?

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?

Why does Superman stop bullets with his chest, but ducks when you throw a revolver at him?

Why do Kamikaze pilots wear helmets?

Whose idea was it to put an "S" in the word "lisp"?

If people evolved from apes, why are there still apes?

Why is it that no matter what color bubble bath you use the bubbles are always white?

Is there ever a day that mattresses are not on sale?

Why do people constantly return to the refrigerator as though it has been magically refilled? Magic is the mom, folks.

Why do people keep running over a string a dozen times with their vacuum cleaner, then reach down, pick it up, examine it, then put it down to give the vacuum one more chance?

Why is it that no plastic bag will open from the end on your first try?

How do those dead bugs get into enclosed light fixtures?

When we are in the supermarket and someone rams our ankle with a shopping cart then apologizes for doing so, why do we say, "It's all right?" Well, it isn't all right, so why don't we say, "That really hurt, why don't you watch where you're going?"

Why is it that whenever you attempt to catch something that's falling off the table you always manage to knock something else over?

In winter, why do we try to keep the house as warm as it was in summer when we complained about the heat?

How come you never hear father-in-law jokes?

The statistics on sanity is that one out of every four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends -- if they're okay, then it's you.

Friday Funnies - I don't have the answers to these questions. Not sure the answers exist. However, if they made you smile or even laugh, then the questions have served their Friday purpose.

Do drop by my porch again.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Readers For Life

#readersforlife, RWA supports literacy. As of 2016, $1M raised for fund. Outstanding. 2017: Orlando, When: Saturday, July 29, 3:00–5:00 ET

— K.M.Saint James (@LoneStarMeander) July 25, 2017">Readers for Life

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Don't Slow That Pace

Slowing the pace or resolving a major character conflict at the end of the chapter or scene gives your reader an opportunity to:

1) put down your fabulous writing
2) turn off the light
3) and dream about some other author's characters

Not quite a Kiss Goodbye - but too close for any aspiring author who has designs on a Best Seller list.
Make your readers hang around and hang on, forcing them to read through what would be a natural place to break.


Use strong hooks.

As writers, we WANT to finish the thought, to build to the end - always pushing the conflict up the next notch. BUT - and it's a huge BUT, resolution is the last thing that needs to happen at the end of a chapter. Break the action right in the middle, leave the reader asking the question, ‘What happens next?’ or even ‘OMG, I’ve got to find out more.’; and you’ll provide all the incentive readers need to keep . . . well, to keep reading.

Character answers are a must.
Readers won't tolerate being left hanging or in the dark - indefinitely.

But like good whiskey - a shot at a time is the best way to enjoy.

Instead of wrapping a chapter - Weave the answer through the beginning of the next chapter or scene. Leave the thread dangling until the reader absolutely needs to know. There is power in the payoff with this technique.

Certain notable authors published their works as serials: Louisa May Alcott in A Long Fatal Love Chase, early Louis L'Amour works, and YA author, Gary Paulsen, started his work in 'shorts'.


They believed and used . . . the HOOK.

If you're unfamiliar with STRONG HOOKS, then familiarize yourself with the above listed authors. Sometimes oldies really are golden.

Still not convinced?

Are you watching this season's AGT?
Before every commercial break . . . here's what's coming -- stay tuned, don't leave the room, keep watching.
How about the news? Pick any station broadcast. They honestly spend more time telling you what they're going to tell you, than the actual 'telling' of the news story. Why? . . . here's what's coming -- stay tuned, don't leave the room, keep watching.

What do these major entities know that is important to writers?
Stay tuned, don't leave the room, keep . . . reading.

If you wrap the scene up, put a bow on it, give the package away . . . guess what? Your readers aren't forced to 'stay tuned and keep reading'.

From my WIP - The Grave Digger - protagonist, Emma McBride has come to town to visit her godfather, Gus, who owns The Red Belly Bar. Gus is Emma's closest living relative, and the man who has protected her for years. To catch up on the latest news, Emma is pumping Margot, long-time friend, and the godfather's secret crush.

“Burke? Who is Burke?” Emma searched her memory, drawing a blank, but not liking the fact that some man, some stranger had convinced her godfather what was best. “Is that one of the infamous card buddies?”

“No.” Margot seemed to draw out the answer. “I thought Gus had spoken to you of this matter.”

“What matter?” Tension knotted in Emma’s stomach. She might only happen through town twice a year, but she checked in on a weekly basis. “What is it I don’t know?”

“Gabriel Burke, he runs the business. Each day, for the last six months. Shortly after your last visit, he came.” Margot's snow white brows knitted in concentration. “No one expected him to stay. Then one day, he is a partner with your godfather at the Red Belly bar.”

With a nudge against the china, Emma pushed away the remains of her snack and focused all her attention on her companion. “Exactly how sick is Gus? And tell me the straight of it. ”

Confusion then a bit of anger sparked the older woman’s gaze. “I do not keep the secrets from you, child. But it would seem your godfather has kept too many.”

* * *

If storms came in the form of gauzy lace shirts then the gypsy-like creature, who’d just whirled through the Red Belly bar’s front door, appeared to be a heavy-duty downpour. Faded jeans hugged all the right curves and stopped above a pair of slim ankles. Some nonsense of strappy leather sandals crisscrossed her feet. Pure California or some reincarnated flower child was Burke’s first thought. Until she pulled free the wide-brimmed hat and shook her head. A waterfall of blonde strands unfurled like golden silk down to her slim waist. Then the woman turned and Gabriel Burke stopped thinking at all.

This scene is in Chapter One, the closing of Emma's POV and her scene, and then the opening into Gabriel's POV and his scene. *** marks the spot. The conversation is designed to leave the reader asking questions. It's already established how much Emma loves her godfather, how she visits this specific town to spend time with her godfather, even how Emma expects - as we often do - that her godfather will live forever. Now, she's learned he's ill. That someone - some stranger - has influenced her godfather's decisions. Someone who's only been in town a short time, and now has partnership in her godfather's bar. You bet she has questions, and so does the reader.

Share a hook from your WIP, or one from your favorite books.

As always, you’re welcome to drop by my back porch. It’s heating up here in the deep south. BBQ is on the grille (Veggies, too) and beer in the cooler. Drop on by anytime.

Until next time

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bungling your Blogging - TAKE I

In my daily perusal – read – of a multitude of blog and websites, I’ve discovered some uh-oh moments. Despite the type of blog, the number of individuals involved with the blog, or the purpose of the writing, the mistakes exist. No Grammar Police hat worn here. But I will say that on-page mistakes threaten our reader's pleasure.

Good writing is hard work. More importantly, easy reading is harder work.

GOOD GRAMMAR -- Wait! Don't stop reading yet.

I know . . . I know . . .The word GRAMMAR should be issued in a whisper.
Ears snap closed like a gator before his midnight snack.
Patience, Padawan - this could be useful information.

I’m aware of the Kurt Vonnegut Tweet circulating that condemns the semicolon as a useless brush with higher education and writers would do well to exorcise (not quite Linda Blair in The Exorcist, but close) the tiny punctuation mark from their prose.

Well, you caught me. I did go to university. I did study English (English Composition minor). So, I’m guilty of exercising - not exorcising - advanced punctuation. However, if you don’t know the difference between a semicolon (;) and a colon (:) and when to use each, then you have a writer's duty: learn it.

WHY? Is that your writer's duty?

Q: How can you possibly break grammatical rules if you don’t know them?
A: You can’t.

Kurt might have hated the semicolon, but the man knew how to use it before tossing it out of his literary realm.

Brief explanation –
Use a semicolon to bring together two complete sentences (related sentences) without a conjunction.

**The hard-drinking party girl closed down the bar; her next day was spent hugging the ceramic throne.**
Two related sentences. Same subject in both sentences. Second sentence demonstrates the result of the first sentence.

The much-maligned semicolon certainly sports more uses than the one above, but to strengthen writing without sending the brain into grammatical shock – pick out one aspect of a semicolon and develop the habit.

Painless? Not necessarily.
Guaranteed writing growth? Probably.
Stronger reader comprehension? Absolutely.

And if you’re taking the time to share your thoughts, advice, information with readers, make it worth their reading while.

I’d planned a short discussion on comma and phrases and clauses and then realized . . . there is no such thing as a short discussion for the comma.

Lengthy subject: The Chicago Manual of Style, 7th Edition, dedicates fifty-five (55) pages to the use of the comma.

Please, if your version of the manual style has a different page count on the ubiquitous comma, don’t notify me. I’ll take your word for it. Suffice it to say, the comma covers a great deal of written ground. If unfamiliar with the comma, consider some of the suggested reading listed below.

However, grammar lessons isn’t over – in this knock-out round, let’s discuss,

Subject – Verb VS. Subject - Predicate

I chose this picture because I’m envious of anyone with this conditioning. Ring-side managers would need to call out paramedics/chiropractors if I even managed to get my leg in this position.

Yet, the picture is accurate for many of us (I’ll include myself here, thank you very much) in readily knowing and understanding the difference between Subject – Verb and Subject – Predicate.

For bloggers, who venture to amazing places, enjoying delicacies I can often not pronounce or engage in hang-gliding, sky-diving, rock-climbing that I’d not be brave enough to try; for the newbie writers finding their literary feet; for the article innocents preparing for the world of submission and rejection, I beg you to learn the basis of sentence structure for Verb VS Predicate.

Simple sentence:
She danced.

She is the subject.
Danced is the verb. (A verb that shows action.)

I said it was a simple sentence, but now it gets a bit trickier.

What if the verb didn’t show action? What if the verb was one of those sly ‘state of being’ verbs?

Forms of to be

be, am, is, are, was, were, been, being

Other Linking Verbs

appear, become, feel, grow, look, seem, remain, smell, sound, stay, taste, turn

Simple sentence:
She tasted.

What? What did she taste? Isn’t taste an action? I always thought so, but if it’s an action verb, why doesn’t the sentence seem complete?

Because taste is a tricky linking verb and now needs a predicate to modify – to complete the sentence.

She tasted the sweet flavor of the season’s first apple.
She tasted the bitterness of defeat.
She tasted salty. (Tasted salty? Who would think that, much less write it?)
As he nibbled her neck, she tasted salty.

Don’t wrinkle your nose. If you’ve read a handful of romance books, you’ve encountered something similar.

The point is:

What comes after ‘tasted’ is vital to sentence comprehension, which means ‘tasted (verb required for a predicate) the sweet flavor of the season’s first apple’ is in fact a PREDICATE.

A PREDICATE or better known as that which modifies the subject of a sentence. In this case, the subject is ‘she’.

All right, before your brain explodes from grammar TNT, I’ll remind you that as a writer, you must possess – and actually – read grammar HOW TO books.

A few healthy examples : The Chicago Manual of Style

English Grammar for Dummies

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips.

If you want to be considered a Professional Writer, even a semi-competent writer, then EARN IT!

Homework doesn’t end just because you are an adult. If anything, it’s a more serious form of homework.
Whether Ms. Smith gave you an A on a writing composition isn’t nearly as important as if your readers enjoy the stories you share, the information you impart, or the wisdom you reveal.

Don’t bungle your blogging.

Oh, and if you've been paying attention, you'll have a read a number of colons (:) in this blog: find them.

Summer is in full 'steam' on the back porch. Do drop by again.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Feeling Friday Fabulous

Been to the Chiropractor and he successfully put everything back where it went, and now it’s a lovely Friday morning.

We're headed for hot

But then it’s almost July 4th and in Texas . . . that means scorcher.



My dad grew up on a farm and told of working the fields in the summer. They’d pull a watermelon, put it in the ‘crick’ to cool, then by lunch, when they were more sweaty then dry, he and his brothers would pull the cooled melon and split it open on a rock. They ate the meaty center – best part and the rest wasn’t worth the effort. He'd call today’s watermelons ‘whimpy’. In his day a 30 to 40 melon was standard. Hence, why they could eat the center only. He always smiled when he told the story. Hot days, hard work and brotherhood. Yea, that’s worth smiling about.


Have you picked your own? Canned or made jam?

I remember standing in my mom’s kitchen – oh, so early for the summer rise (probably 8am) and stirring a boiling pot of fruit and sugar. The smell alone was close to Heaven, but then on a cold winter morning, with hot buttered toast and a smothering of that homemade jelly (Plum has always been my favorite) . . . that was truly Heaven times 2.


Always a favorite top to the 4th of July. Years ago, I purchased my kids (almost grown) those silly battery-operated toys that spun with light. You can only find them in stores a couple of times of year, but 4th is always a great time. Last year, my youngest decided I needed my own. Now, I can make light as well.


BBQs, way too much to eat, too many mosquitoes, lots of OFF, and such sweet memories.

I hope this Friday – whether you’re slaving over the typewriter or the BBQ pit – finds you fabulous, and ready to make new memories.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Virgin or Seasoned PRO - Details

Each week, I download multiple books to my e-reader.

Some I will finish and be excited that I’ve discovered great writing, a new author.
Some I will finish because I’ve discovered an innovative plot line.
Some I will finish because there is witty dialogue, superlative character development, or the use of literary device that is a struggle for me.

Many . . . many, I will not finish.

I’ll return them through my Kindle Unlimited – or simply delete from all my devices and take a hit on the cost.


Because reading time is precious and obvious mistakes in the first few pages of a book, does not bode well.

Sound pompous? Sorry for that, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are only 24-hours in any daily calendar.

After the writing, a bit of cooking, straightening, more writing, research, networking, working (the day job), family, more writing/editing . . .

You get the point.

Time is too precious of a commodity to waste on bad writing. (As a writer, I understand bad writing – only too well. However, that bad writing is edited to good writing or it goes into the delete folder. What doesn’t it do? See the light of readers’ e-readers.)

This mini-rant focuses on DETAILS.

Ancient adage: the devil is in the details.

This is never truer than in writing – good writing, that is.

Whether VIRGIN (newbie writer) or SEASONED PRO (established author), basic mistakes are unforgiveable to the reader.

I’ve chosen one selection from the many that have recently visited my e-reader. For the sake of literary discussion, I’ll term the selection: the red dress book. (Not anywhere in the title so don’t bother with a search.)

Why purchase this particular e-book?

Cover: Dramatic. Eye-catching
Title: Witty
Book blurb: Concise, Enticing
Even better it was listed as 9th in this author’s series, but it was billed as a stand-alone.

The problem with my purchase started on page 1 and continued through page 4.
Perhaps, the problem went further.

I did not.

The first 4 first pages of dialogue - whining dialogue, I’m sorry to say – contained no scene-setting, little character introduction, no backstory, or emotional meat. Who were these characters? Where were these characters? Why were they here in this moment in time, and MOST IMPORTANTLY – why should I the reader care about them?

Broken down into simplest form:

QUESTION: What did the characters reveal to the reader through their actions/observations?

ANSWER: Almost nothing.

Let’s start at the beginning. The characters are captured in a ‘surprise’ attack, held ‘somewhere’ by ‘someone’ for ‘some’ reason. Oh yes, they were chloroformed during the capture.

Have you ever undergone general anesthesia?
Been to the dentist for major oral work and received lots of Novocain?
Received muscle relaxers or pain meds while recovering from an injury?

Cement that instance in your mind.

Did you wake up instantly?

Or did you come back to your surroundings slowly? Take stock? Hear muffled sounds? Feel the sturdy bed beneath you? Or the cool sheets against your skin? Was there a stale taste in your mouth? Did you roll your shoulders, flex your fingers, or stretch your legs?

Chances are - what you didn’t do was immediately start into a bickering conversation in full sentences, filled with biting innuendos. Yes, you guessed it. That was the writing sin of the characters in the red dress selection.

If you, brilliant writer that you are, can’t accomplish this linguistic feat, neither can your characters.

Let’s return to our chatty characters.

QUESTION: What did the author reveal through the characters’ eyes?

ANSWER: read on . . .

The characters are restrained, sitting back to back, tied at the wrists. How? It’s a mystery as the author chooses not to tell and, more crucially, not to show.

Did I, as the reader, feel abrasive rope? Biting metal handcuffs? Sticky unforgiving duct tape? The cutting edge of ‘cop’ zip ties? Nope, because the author missed this small, but important detail.

The characters were sitting on the floor. What kind of floor? Was it cold concrete? Smooth laminate? Damp dirt or shifting sand? Again, the reader doesn’t know because the author missed the opportunity to scene set.

The female character wore an expensive red evening dress -- one she valued because she lamented its loss, but that's it. One tiny detail revealed. The size of the room: did it echo their whispers? Or muffle the sound? Is there cool air against (bare) arms? – I’m speculating on that evening dress – or humid heavy air? How dark is the dark? The pitch black of nothing? Or light edging around near/distant windows? Were there any other sounds? The hum of equipment? The scratching of mice/rats? Any noise from outside? Traffic? Wind? What smells were in the room? Damp and dank? Clinical and antiseptic?

Does an author need to put all those answers on the first four pages? Absolutely not.

Details in an opening scene can be likened to inviting a first-time guest into your home. Said guest will use all of his/her senses upon entering. Does each detail register to consciousness? Of course not. But if you’ve burned dinner – they’ll know. If the electricity is out and it’s dark as a tomb or hot as a Texas summer afternoon – they’ll know. If kids are slamming doors, exchanging sibling love at full holler – they’ll know.

So the author’s choice, more succinctly put, the author’s obligation is to present details.

Details add to the scene.
Details reveal or ‘show’ more than plain dialogue.
Details enhance the readers’ enjoyment.

Once again, back to our chatty character:

QUESTION: What did the author reveal about backstory?

ANSWER: Read on . . .

What relationship existed between the two characters?
1) Lovers – current or ex?
2) Professional associates?
3) Business adversaries?
4) Arch enemies?

Why was the female with this man? Right then? At that exact moment when the story began?

None of these answers were revealed during the 4-page conversation.

However witty the dialogue, if it does not move the plot or scene forward, then it is wasted page space.

What did the author reveal?

The characters had been taken during a surprise attack. Both of them. Both were PIs, or at least trained as investigators of some type. Both surprised from behind. Neither suspected. Neither heard anything. Neither felt the air move behind them, heard twigs snap, doors ease shut?


If the author doesn’t provide a reason on page . . .
that makes the character inept, newbies, or TSTL (too stupid to live).
Inept or newbies can be trained during the story’s evolution, repaired by another character, or simply highly humorous. Case-in-point: a Stephanie Plum novel or a Pink Panther movie.

TSTL is not repairable. It’s replaceable. Characters must be cheered on, rooted for, and supported even, and especially during, their darkest periods. Only characters who are worthy of investment will keep readers turning the page.

Final QUESTION: What were the characters’ emotions on page?

ANSWER: No shock. No fear. No panic. No sense of urgency to be free. Unfortunately, the author provided a void of reaction.

Do we, as readers, believe that lack of reaction?

Do we commit to the characters?

Do we keep reading?

Answer - I didn't.

My surprise - this was the 9th book in this series by this author. How had this author missed so many, tiny and grand, details?

If you, as an author,
1) Aren’t utilizing ‘beta’ readers, you should.
2) Don’t work with critique partners, you should.
3) Especially an established author - haven’t had your recent work critiqued, you should.

As writers:
We’re never too smart to learn.
We’re never too busy to edit/review/critique.
We’re never too highly published to work the craft.

VIRGIN or SEASONED PRO – the devil’s in the details.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sly as a Fox

Common phrases can be trite and throw-away.

Or they can layer on depth and provide alternative options to explore characterization.

Today animal phrases are roaming (pardon the pun) through my brain.


On an early hours’ walk, a fox crossed my path. Not unique for loads of people who enjoy country living, but considering that I’m buried in a ‘metropolis’ of suburbia, pretty unusual for me.

So the fox crosses my path and now I’m wondering (at a quick pace, I might add) what does it mean?

Is it like the crossing of a black cat? (bad luck)
Is it like crossing paths with a crow? (change on the way)
Is it like a path-crossing tortoise? (A sign to stay steady, stay true to the course)

A visit to an ‘animal symbol' site: What’s Your Sign (catchy), a click on the fox and I discovered that depending on the ancient belief system of choice, the meaning will alter.

Celtic beliefs – the fox successfully negotiated the twists and turns of the forest and it was viewed as a guide.

Native American beliefs – (Northern Tribes) viewed the fox as an animal of wisdom and as that of a messenger.

Another site – Spirit Animals holds that the fox is again a guide and will foretell of resolutions to problems. ‘Solitude and Silence’ are required as the fox is a stealthily animal.

(Note also that when the fox hunts, he/she will point straight toward the prey and be fully focused.)
Not a bad thought for the writer's life.

From a phraseology standpoint, I discovered a number of common ‘catch’ phrases:

Sly as a fox.
Clever as a fox
Cunning like a fox
Crazy like a fox

Whatever the phrase, remember how long the wily fox has existed in literature:

The Gingerbread Man – folk tale. ...
Fox In Sox by Dr. Seuss. ...

The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. ...
Aesop's Fables. ...

Breaking characters down into bit pieces and then connecting the pieces in an interesting puzzle-like fashion is the goal of any established writer.

A few famous characters that could easily be likened to the fox:

1) Sherlock Holmes
2) Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo
3) Agatha Christie’s Mrs. Marple
4) Flynn Rider in Rapunzel

5) Will in Robin Hood
6) Vizzini in The Princess Bride
7) Even the everyday run of the mill – teenager.

Point made?

Characteristics of the clever and sly fox can be artfully woven in a written work, can show intrinsic layers and depth to a character, and can provide reader insight with the clarity of minute details.

Whether protagonist or secondary lead, hero or heel, victim or villain, the fox can add complexity to any character.

At times, the simplest of phrases can open doors of development for characters.

A cliché, trite and overused, never belongs on page . . .

but the deeper meaning, a clearer understanding of the cliché can mean the difference between readers who root for a character, cheering them on, shedding tears for their losses, and would never dream of putting the book aside until all is resolved . . . and readers who can and will toss away an author’s earnest words.

Here’s hoping that ‘the turn of a phrase’ makes all the difference in your writing.

Texas sayings

~Watch your step! Cacti, tumbleweeds, and an occasional armadillo might be ahead.

~Welcome to the land of tar-bubbling summers, gas-guzzling pickup trucks, standard Stetson headgear, and mile-high hair.

~Welcome to the Lone Star State, and Romance With A Texas Twist!

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