Monthly Archives: July 2012

Guest Post: Patricia Lynne on being original

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Today’s guest post is by my lovely writing buddy, Patricia Lynne, who has just published her second full length novel, Snapshots. She shares with readers how she tried to keep things original when telling a story that has been told before.

Say you go into a book store. A cover catches your eye, so you pick it up and read the back. It sounds interesting enough so you buy the book and take it home to read. As you read, you start to notice things. A cliché character. Predictable plot. An idea that has been done a million times (like vampires.) By the end of the book, you’re a bit disappointed because you had read that story before. Different names and cities, but over all, the same.

I’ve heard it said that there is no originality left. All book ideas rehash something. And that is true. You can read two books that have the same basic elements. You can love them both. Or hate the second one because you were looking for something fresh and didn’t find it.

When I wrote Being Human, I knew I’d have that obstacle. People were getting tired of vampires. (I saw a lot of agents say in their submission guidelines “NO vampires or werewolves!”) But that didn’t stop me from writing it. I had a twist on this creature that I thought was unique. That twist would be enough to give readers a new story. If reviews are anything to go by, then I managed quite well.

I had the same issue with Snapshots. Cyc is a seer. He can see into the future. I have a writer on twitter who has a seer character. I’ve seen movies with seers and read comics with seers. Nothing new at all. How do I make Cyc different? I started with his ability. He doesn’t randomly see the future. Events don’t send him into a trance-like state as he’s walking down the street. He has to look in your eyes, both of them to see a future. Then it’s the person’s future. He never sees his own. To avoid this happening, he keeps one eye covered.

Another twist I gave Cyc is a lot of seer stories has the seer seeing a horrible vision and that drives the plot. Someone they love is going to be murdered. A tragic accident will bring down a plane full of children. The seer and friends try to stop the vision only to end up causing it. Not Cyc. By the time Snapshots starts, he’s learned not to mess with the future. He knows what he sees is subjective and can change, so he doesn’t try to stop or change what he sees. He just reports it to his adoptive father. In essence, his ability isn’t a focal part of the story. It’s just a part of him and he’s learned to adapt so it doesn’t hinder daily life.

It’s hard to come up with a completely original idea now-a-days. There is always some overlap. But that doesn’t mean you can create a fresh story. Add twists and turns that breath new life into thousands old mythical creature. Give a plotline a few unexpected stops. You can create a compelling story that will stand out in it’s own way. You just may need to be a little creative, but hey, that’s what writers do best!

 

**To help promote this awesome YA book, I’m holding a giveaway! Leave a comment letting us know what kind of stories you’re tired of reading and what you hope will make a come back in a new way. Also add an email address so I can let you know if you’ve won a digital copy of Snapshots!** -Ed.

 

About the Author

Patricia Lynne never set out to become a writer, and in fact, was never gave it any thought during high school and college. But some stories are meant to be told and now she can’t stop. Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo and has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow.

Snapshots Synopsis

My name is Cyclop Blaine and I am a real person.
“You are mine.”
I am a real person: heedless of a childhood spent under the supervision of an old man I only know as Master.
“You belong to me.”
I am a real person: regardless of my teenage years bound by violence as the adoptive son of the Victory Street Gang’s leader.
“You will obey me.”
I am a real person: despite the visions I see in others’ eyes. Snapshots of their futures.
“You will cower before me.”
I am a real person: my life will be my own. I belong to no one.
“You. Are. MINE.”

Step out of your comfort zone

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As I stated in Tuesday’s post, I spent last weekend at a writer‘s workshop on the lovely Georgian Court campus. It was three days of panels, workshops, discussions, tours and networking. Although I came home with a raging headache and feeling completely depleted (who knew sitting on your ass could be so tiring?), I’m very happy I went and had the experience. It was informative, interesting and I made new friends! Who doesn’t need new friends? Even Mark Zuckerberg still accepts new friends (okay…I just looked, he actually only takes subscriptions, but you get what I’m saying!).

Here’s the deal though: I almost didn’t go. In fact, I didn’t register until less than a week before the start of the workshop.

I find, the older I get, the harder a time I have with meeting and interacting with new people. It’s especially bad when there are groups of people there that already know each other. I feel if I jump in on a conversation, people will look at me weird like “who asked you?”  I’m better than I used to be, but I’m really pretty shy until I get to know someone and as a writer, I’m very much an observer and am quite content to sit alone and watch what’s going on around me. Some people see that kind of behavior and feel sorry for me, but don’t. Where do you think I get a lot of my scenes and dialog from?

Anyway, my mom was the one who got the email from GCU about the workshop and she forwarded it to me with a little note “if you want to attend, we’ll treat you as a birthday gift”. Which was awesome of them, but stripped me of a possible excuse not to go.  I told her I’d think about it but wanted to ask a couple of guys in my writing group if they would be interested in going. I contacted my two friends thinking safety in numbers! At least I’d have someone to talk to. Sadly, neither could make it. There went that idea. I debated it, worried about sharing my work with professionals and people who probably have been writing for far longer than me. I worried if they found out I was self-published that they’d look down on me and make assumptions about the quality of my work.  I worried I’d look like the sorry loser in the corner who was too shy to join in.

After staring at the registration page, I finally typed in all my information and hovered my mouse pointer over the “register” button. I clicked it before I could talk myself out of it again. I got confirmation and it was a done deal. No turning back allowed.

When Friday came, I was nervous, but surprised that I was calmer than I had expected. People were friendly and there were all different levels of writers there, including those who haven’t even started a project yet and were just curious. I found it easy to share  work with my peers, although I admit I was nervous one of the panel would tell me perhaps to pursue a different career…(okay, I know my writing isn’t awful and they were all very nice and encouraging, but those are the kinds of scary scenarios that were going through my head).

I left the weekend with a lot of information and feedback, some goodies included signed books and fliers for local groups. I made friends with a group of women who are working on YA and Chick Lit novels and we are going to work on forming our own little group. I would have missed out on some great people and advice on my work if I didn’t take the chance and step outside of my comfort zone.

Sometimes you have to be willing to take risks to better yourself. Even if it doesn’t work out the way you planned, at least you won’t be sitting around wondering “what if”.

Have you taken the chance and attended a workshop or a writer’s group?

Want to be treated like a professional? Act like one.

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As many of you may have heard/seen lately, there are a lot of “bullies” going around and leaving deliberately mean reviews on people’s books (mostly on Goodreads, but I’ve seen it on Amazon as well).

Is it nice? Of course not.

As the author, should you retaliate and snap back at these people? Absolutely not.

Not only would that be feeding the trolls (which we know only makes them more surly) but it comes off as very unprofessional and as Indie/self-published authors we are already fighting against stigma and stereotype. Don’t give people additional reasons not to “like” us.

I often hear from other Indie authors about how they wish people would take us more seriously and not look down their noses because we opted to go a different route. One of the ways we can help turn that around is to act professional. Not only do you need your book to be well edited, properly formatted with eye catching covers, but you need to be conscious of your behavior and the things you say and do on social media/the internet.

This weekend I attended a Writer’s Workshop at Georgian Court University (more on the workshop in Thursday’s post) and I was lucky enough to be able to participate in a round table discussion on critique groups.  The workshop was run by author, Jon Gibbs, who describes himself as a hirsutely challenged British Brad Pitt (EDIT: I didn’t get it quite right! ‘A hirsutely challenged British Brad Pitt, but without his looks or physique’.)  He reminds me more of the lovely #11 Doctor, Matt Smith, but it might just be the accent and the sense of humor.

At this discussion he shared with us his Critiquee’s Charter, a list of eleven things to remember as your work is being critiqued by others. While it was meant to be used with a critique group, it also works when dealing with reviews. Let’s face it, reviews *are* critiques, just from the everyday reader rather than a group of writing peers.

I’m going to copy & paste the points here, but please be sure to visit Jon’s blog, and follow him as he’s got great things to say and books to share!

 The Critiquee’s Charter  

 1.   As the person submitting my work for critique, I understand that people have taken time away from doing other things to provide me with feedback, something which will undoubtedly help me more than it will them. Though I may feel upset by their comments, and may not agree with their observations, or decide not to implement the changes they recommend, I will keep that to myself.  I will remember that I am grateful, and take the time to thank them for their input.

2.    I recognize that not everyone has the same critique style. Therefore, unless we’ve agreed on a specific method beforehand, I will accept feedback in whatever form the critiquer cares to provide it.

3.   I want people’s honest opinions. If they give them in a way that upsets me, I will recognize that one person’s ‘rude git’ is another person’s ‘straight-talker’, and re-read item #1 until I feel better.

4.   If all I want is applause and a pat on the back for a job well done, I will not waste my critiquers’ time asking for feedback. If I do, I understand that it serves me bloody well right if I don’t get the glowing praise I expected.  

5.   If I think the critiquer just didn’t ‘get it’, I will re-read #1 until the urge to say so has passed.

6.   If I think the critiquer doesn’t know what he/she is talking about, I will re-read #1 until the urge to say so has passed.

7.   If I want to disagree with a critique, I will re-read #1 until the urge to do so has passed.

8.   If several people make similar observations, I will at least consider the possibility that, despite my undoubted genius, I may have missed something important.

9.   If someone gives me a harsh critique, I promise to remember that I am (in years at least) a grown-up, and will resist any temptation to ‘repay’ them when I review their work.  

10. I understand that some people actually set out to critique in a spiteful, hurtful, manner. They like to show off at the expense of others, and have little or no interest in helping anyone improve their work. On those rare occasions when I come across such a person, I will remind myself that idiots like this are the exception rather than the rule. I will learn to recognize and ignore him/her, and remember that (as a certain old gran used to say), ‘It’s better to be upset by people like that, than to be people like that.’  

11. At all times, I will try to remember that critiques are just opinions, which, like spouses and children can be embraced or ignored however one sees fit. 

12. __________________________________

Jon leaves a blank for #12 to ask “What would you add to this charter?”

He writes with a tongue in cheek manner, but the points make a lot of sense and I think they are ones you should reflect on whenever people are remarking about your work. I’ve talked before how it’s not wrong to get upset when someone says they don’t like your novel (we’re only human after all) but your reaction to that comment could hurt you and your career even more than the bad review. Take a deep breathe and remember this charter before you end up doing something you’ll regret later.

While I’m at it, I’ll give a quick reminder of some other things you should keep in mind if you want to be taken seriously:

1) Don’t spam people on Twitter or Facebook to buy your novel.

2) When someone follows you, send a direct message telling them you hope they’ll buy your book.

3) Don’t bash agents that reject you. They will find out and yes, they do talk to each other.

4) If it’s on the internet, someone can and will find it, so remember that when you’re putting things out there.

5) Don’t put out shoddy work just to try and make a buck. I’d hope if you’re reading and following the blog that you’re not that kind of person, but I know they’re out there making the rest of us look bad.

Can you add anything to the list?

Ultimately you have to remember, if you want to be treated like a professional then you have to  learn to act like one. Let’s give others a better impression of self-published authors. Without them, we’ve got no one to buy our books and enjoy our stories.

Happy Birthday to you, Tears of a Clown!

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It took 3 months of initial writing, a reading, edits, copies to betas, more editing, another reading, another copy out for editing, more corrections made, yet another copy for MORE editing, MORE edits made, a proof copy sent, FINAL edits made and *WHEW* a book was born! Anyone who thinks this is a quick and easy process isn’t doing it right.

It’s taken time and a lot of corrections but finally Tears of a Clown is ready for reader consumption everywhere! But uhh..remember, don’t eat the clown…they taste funny! (Yeah…I groaned as I typed it too.)

For those that don’t know the story behind the story (I should make this a regular feature for authors! Think MTV’s Behind the music, but about books!), let me go into it a little. I belong to a fairly popular internet site that allows people to post weird and unusual websites with your own hilarious headlines and then everyone can comment on the stories.  There are other general chat areas of the site, places we call the “Cafe”.  The idea for Darcy came to me while I was talking with a friend on the site about the somewhat recent trend in YA lit of love triangles with plain Jane girls being the object of affection. I jokingly said “Wouldn’t it be funny if I wrote a story about that and the girl was something crazy that guys would never normally go for, like a clown?” We laughed and I came up with all these ideas like that one love interest has some weird clown kink and that’s why he’s attracted, etc. I thought it was funny but knew that I couldn’t write something that was totally ridiculous and unbelievable. Then it hit me. What if she wasn’t a circus clown but someone who wore the face makeup, like a fan of the Insane Clown Posse, a Juggalo?  I’m not a fan myself, but I did find it interesting that the Juggalos paint their faces like clowns/mimes to attend concerts. Why couldn’t my character be like that? The only twist would be that she  would be such a fan that she’d wear the makeup *EVERYDAY*. Thus, Darcy was born!

While there is certainly a lot of humor and comedy in the book, there are also lessons well learned about bullying and not judging a book by its cover.  There’s typical teenaged angst and some steamy parts as well. What’s a love triangle without some action, right? Don’t worry though, Darcy is a good enough girl that she keeps her V-Card. I don’t think I could have written a scene like that with a “clown” and been able to keep it serious.

Since we’re celebrating a birthday, there ought to be presents, right?

For the locals (US & Canada residents) I’m going to offer 1 signed ARC of Tears of a Clown and 1 signed print copy of Near Death.

For those who are international, I’ll offer a digital versions of both books and Kindlegrams (which you don’t actually need a Kindle for).

Since Rafflecopter hates WordPress.com sites, I’m going to make this super easy.  Leave a comment below stating whether you love or hate clowns and why (and an email address!). That’s it! You have until Monday July 23rd 10pm EST.  Good luck and thanks for helping me celebrate!

On-Air Promotions

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There is a growing trend these days that I don’t think indie authors know enough about: Internet radio and Podcasts.  A couple months back I did a post about vlogging (video blogging) and commented that it would probably be the only one I ever do. I’m not a fan of how I look on video or in pictures, so that’s definitely one avenue I won’t take much advantage of, *BUT* I can definitely talk and had, at one time, planned on going into radio. That’s where these new Internet radio stations and Podcasts come in handy because they don’t want to see what I look like, they just want to hear me talk!

Last week I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to be interviewed for a podcast called inThirty, Tech Podcasts in 30 minutes. Because they discuss all sorts of cool tech news and gadgets, we focused more on how to publish e-books and Kindle‘s KDP program. There was a little talk about my process and why I opted to self-publish as well.  If you guys want to hear the melodic tones of my voice, and get some good information on the program, take a listen!

Navigating the Amazon Book Store

Also, they cover a wide range of tech topics. You can find something there for everyone regardless of your level of tech knowledge, so be sure to check them out (click on their name earlier in this post)!

Another blossoming option is to look for book reviewing/writing related  shows on Internet radio. They are similar to the podcast but often allow for a call-in segment so people can actually participate in the interview and ask their own questions just like a “real” radio show. The shows can range from 15 to 30 to even 60 minutes. Blog Talk Radio is a good site to check for shows to be on or to even start up your own. I’ve considered starting up a talk of my own about some of the books I read, either as an online book club kind of situation or just recommendations. We’ll see if I have the time to put into it!

Next week, Friday July 27th at 6:30pm EST, I’m going to be a guest on Broadcast from the Bistro which is a show that has author interviews, tips for bloggers and authors alike and dubs itself as a place to relax about books and learn a few new or forgotten ideas.  Right now the shows are 15 minutes long and she is looking for more authors to chat with so if you’re interested, contact Babs at:

asatthebistro@gmail.com

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to doing promotions. Get in on the ground level with some of these new technological crazes. It will get your name out there to a whole new group of people and you’ll be in the know while others are scratching their heads wondering how else they can promote their books.