Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Unpacking Your Characters

The first time I met my best friend, he was a 6' 3" package of charm, humor and witty banter, all wrapped up in blond hair and tied off with a pair of arctic blue eyes. It took nearly a year for me to dig deep enough to understand that his crooked smile and steely gazes meant he was laughing at me. Its taken a good amount of time since then to figure out he's enjoying my passion and not making fun of me. We've known each other for over 18 years and I'm still learning things about him I never knew.
If he were the MC in my novel, I don't have even 18 hours to show my reader's all of him, much less a couple of decades. Real people, in real life aren't what readers want though. They want the fantasy, mystery, blond hair and blue eyes without spending time in the character's nothing box' or cleaning up  their dirty laundry
Your reader must feel they are deep in the heart and mind of your characters, but not so deep they'll run away. So the question is; how do we unpack these characters?
In an earlier post about filtering, I talked about some of the words that separate the reader from the character. Words like: knew, realized, watched and understood. To get even deeper in the package though, a writer must go deeper. We can't tell the reader what the character is doing, we must show them and let them feel it.
There are a few ways to do this. I'll only cover a few today.
1. Include movement. This is a tough one because 'left foot-right foot writing is frowned upon. So you have to be careful. here's an example- "John dug the shovel into the rich soil."
A sentence with movement, but a little bland. "Splinters tore through the soft flesh of his palm. John sunk the blade into the dark earth, turning the scent of moisture, grass and mulching leaves into the crisp morning air."
You can feel the shovel and experience the scene because the description of the movement takes you bodily into the scene.

2. Never leave your characters alone. The character might be alone in the scene. Your reader may be alone while reading. You were probably alone when you wrote it.However, You and your reader are in the characters mind, or the character is revealing themselves to other characters through dialogue and reaction.
Another example- " Terror shot through her heart as the darkness of the alley swamped her."
Do you see it? Feel it?Maybe, but...
"Her ears dulled behind the thumping of her heart. The constriction of her throat kept a scream from clawing over the dry patch where her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. Before, night was a soft, warm mask of anonymity. This blackness slithered down the alley walls in clutching fingers." .
Our character is alone, but now, you are beside her in that alley.
3. Use of dialogue. This one is hard for me,because I'm still trying to find my voice. Giving your character a distinct voice will automatically conjure love or hate by the way they speak.
"What if I were to call the police and make a report? Would that make you feel better?"
Now lets give this speech some voice.
"S'pose I dial up ol' sheriff Calhoun. S' pose I tell him how y'all was tresspassin' on my land. His holdin' cell o'er in Jackson's got some real nice vermin infested cots. Y'all be right at home."
The next time this character speaks will you recognize him? Will you expect him to spout pretty words or articulate his syllables. No? You've just started to unpack his character.
These techniques expand your word count, deepen your reader's connection to your characters and bring your scenes to life. They also complicate your writing, turn your prose into poetry and distract from the plot if done incorrectly. Middle Grade writers, short stories, and children's writers especially want to avoid too much description because their readers have short attention spans. Even in a short story though, if the writer focuses on the important parts of the story and doesn't waste word count on details or dialogue that doesn't move the story forward then the unpacking is worth it.
Take a paragraph or chapter you're working on and try some of these techniques. If they don't work or they ruin your writing, then try something else. However, if you find you like being with your characters even more, then keep writing and learning.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tips and Tricks

A friend and I have been trading e-mails back and forth for about a month or more now. She is an author and has a book about a blind character as do I. While we've been chatting we've traded marketing tips and tricks we've learned as we're both trying to get our debut novels out to the public. I thought I'd share a few and the links to some of the references.
1-Give Aways- I've heard from more than one author that giving away a copy of your book or another person's book on your blog brings higher traffic to your blog. I've only done this once and I had a single person, who already owned the book respond. My author friend had an increase on her blog and gave her book away to a new reader. Lots of blogs have give-aways where you're entered every time you leave a comment. If you're looking for new writers or you like a particular author go visit their website or blog and see if they're giving something away. You may be able to offer your book for them to give away as well.
2-Reviews off of Good Reads- Here's one I hadn't heard of before. Go to Search out your genre and look at who read it. Search out your favorite authors or books that are like yours and then leave messages for the people who have reviewed. Ask them to read and review your book and be willing to supply free copies. A lot of them will jump at the chance to read and review and goodreads is one of the best sources for readers to find you.
3-Blogtours- There a a couple of ways to do this. If you know bloggers who review and have large followings of their reviews, you can set up a blog tour of your own during the month or so your book debuts. If you're like most writers your network isn't as large as you'd like it to be. For a small fee, you can hire a tour company to host your book and send you on a tour. The World Of Ink Network hosts tours and interviews where they reach more than 80,000 people all over the nation and they're prices are minimal. They will also host you on their website with a banner and information about your books.
4-Blogtalk radio- This one has been a lot of fun for me. So much so that I now, co-host a blogtalk radio show of my own. There are a thousand blogtalk radio programs out there. research your genre, specialty, or subject along with blogtalk radio and you can find programs willing to host an interview and talk about your book. If you can't find a show, research individual hosts or companies who host blogtalk radio programs.
5- Treasure hunt- If you have been scheduled or are scheduled for a book signing in a book store, then you know sales in this environment are usually low. The exposure you get is great, but people need a reason to come to you and look at your book. A treasure hunt in the bookstore sends customers around the store with a card or paper with strategic questions. The answers are found in books. Hand out the 'treasure map' with your questions, making sure the final answer can only be found in your book. Offer a prize like a candy bar or swag. When the 'hunter comes to you for the final answer you can talk about your book and they will pick it up and find the page number you give for the hint within the book. Its great for starting conversation, stimulating interest and spreading the word. If your book has travel in it, ask location questions from different books. e.g. if your setting is in Paris, ask them to find the name of the town from "Angel's and Demons", by Dan Brown give the page number as a hint. If you've got a romance set on an Island like Hawaii, with a military character and a cowgirl, then ask questions about Hawaii, cowboys and the military. Make sure the final question always comes from your book.
In a world where you're competing with 30,000 books and authors on any given day, a foot up can't hurt. Give it a shot and let me know what worked for you.
In the meantime, keep writing!  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Love A Good Critique?

I'm one of those people who think Valentine's Day was created by Greeting Card companies, jewelers and florists. It was, however, pointed out to me recently that at this time of year there is lots to love and Valentine's Day is the perfect opportunity to show it.
Well...I love being critiqued. I participated in a blog critique a few months ago with Michelle Hauck, where I got fabulous feedback on my Urban Fantasy. Using the other writers wisdom and talent for my own benefit, I'm doing it again.Once more, I'll get 10 superior minds reading and editing my work. Thanks to all of you in advance.
Title: The Third Centurion
Genre:Adult Urban Fantasy-
Word Count: 80,000

Thanks to all the great feedback, I'm posting my first rewrite-feel free to comment and keep correcting me. Thanks to all of you!

A late night break-in at her bookstore ensnares owner Danielle Lyndon in a web of ancient magic when the thief seeks a two centuries old text. Danielle, bound by a familial oath to guard the books, refuses to help the thief’s brother, Aaron, find his runaway sister, especially after Danielle ends up caught in the cross hairs of his paralyzing silver gaze.
Crazy metallic glares aside; Aaron manages to be in the right place at the right time to save Danielle from being run down. When he admits he might be the key to releasing Danielle from her families obligations to the antique collection of books. Danielle offers to help him save his sister.
Little does she know ‘help’ requires her to traipse through the backwoods of Alabama, following Aaron’s newest lead to a collector of stone statuary.
When the collector turns on Aaron and Danielle, they narrowly escape before learning about a group of runaway girls, kidnapped and hexed into stone statues. Caught in his desire for revenge, the collector mistakenly exposes the source of the hex when he unmasks a 600-year-old witch who feeds off of youth and beauty to escape death.
 Unfortunately, Aaron and Danielle are caught by darker powers than they know. They must sacrifice everything to strip the witch of her magic and break the hex before she steals Aaron’s powers to keep her ageless.

THE THIRD CENTURION, my completed 80,000 word Adult Urban Fantasy with series potential, crosses elements of THE ALCHEMIST, with the mythology in A BEAUTIFUL EVIL
I am the author of two romances, Killing Casanova, and Burning Bridger. My short stories, poetry and essays are also published in an anthology by Behind Our Eyes Inc. and in the on-line magazine Magnets and Ladders.   When I’m not writing I work as an editor for Ink and Quill Publishers, co-host a blog talk radio program with The World of Ink Network and support The Utah League of Writers.
I sincerely appreciate your time and consideration in this matter,
Traci McDonald
Staff Editor: Ink and Quill Publishers
Twitter: tracimcauthor 
 35 word pitch-

When one man’s extraordinary magic crosses paths with a dark witch obsessed with youth, He risks his immortality to rescue stolen young women, defend his life and protect the only woman worth living for.

First 250-

Danielle’s finger trembled on the trigger when the dying embers of the fire collapsed into a shower of sparks. The dark form in her sights jerked away from the cascade. She swallowed back the golf ball sized lump lodged in her throat and thumbed back the gun’s hammer. “Ya’ wanna explain what you’re doin’ here after closing time?”
A small gasp escaped from the figure as Danielle slid her hand along the cold wall. Her clammy fingers groped to flip the lights inside the bookstore on. “Better yet,” she said, glaring at the girl shivering in front of the large fireplace. “Why don’t ya tell me how ya managed to get in.
The words were meant to be a fierce accusation. In the flood of florescent lights, the previously sinister intruder reaching for the locked collection looked as if she needed a hot meal more than a defense. Her fine reddish-blonde hair hung over too narrow features, hollow cheeks and wild blue eyes.
“I’m…I…No, don’t shoot.”
A stream of tears rolled down the gaunt cheeks. Danielle forced her mouth into a scowl to  stifle her unwelcome urge to offer the girl a blanket. “don’t move,” Danielle croaked clutching the butt of the pistol until it dug into her palms.”We’ll let the police sort it all out.”

With a huff of pent up breath, she blew a dark tangle of hair off her forehead. Although the burglar was close to six feet tall, the thin girl’s shoulders hunched and her hands fidgeted over the locked glass cases surrounding the hearth and mantle.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Author Review: Johnny Worthen

It was my privilege to meet Johnny Worthen at the St. george Book Festival in October. Worthen is a unique character: kind, funny, and brazen in his attitudes and opinions. He is exactly the man you see and doesn't make excuses for it. His characters and stories are a reflection of the man.
Best Selling author of Eleanor: The Unseen, and the Utah League of Writers Author of The year for 2014, Worthen explores the complex life and mind set of a young woman living in a rural town. Her life's goals are to do no more than  to remain as congruent with the unremarkable countryside where she lives as the tumbleweeds and dust devils. When the only friend she's ever had returns to the school she attends, Eleanor steps from the shadows to become seen. However, there is so much of Eleanor no one will ever know or understand. As she claims her own courage and strength from tragedies and triumphs, Eleanor's strange world exposes not only her secrets but her heart.
Some of Worthen's short fiction delves into his life experiences, paranormal tendencies and flourishing imagination. His characters are founded in contemporary backdrops which give readers a place from which to relate while pushing the boundaries of "Normal". Worthen's stories unfold like the wings of a butterfly, methodically unveiling the depth and breadth of the characters without forcing the reader to rush, but to wonder.
I struggled to understand the story from the beginning but couldn't put it down because my questions begged for answers that only reading the book would provide. His technique is patient, trusting and elegant in its nature.
Johnny Worthen is an award-winning author, voyager, and damn fine human being! He is the tie-dye wearing author of the nationally acclaimed ELEANOR, THE
UNSEEN and the adult occult thriller BEATRYSEL and DR. STUART’S HEART.

This year look for Johnny’s THE BRAND DEMAND, a political mystery, and the genre-bending comedy noire, THE FINGER TRAP Meanwhile, Eleanor’s story continues

A frequent public speaker, trained in modern literary criticism and cultural studies, Johnny writes upmarket multi-genre fiction. “I write what I like to
read,” he says. “That guarantees me at least one fan."
To read more of Worthen's work go to for Eleanor: The unseen or to his website for his short fiction.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Stop The Presses!

I always have the goal to market and publicize my books better. I've been looking at things like: search engines, book trailers, blog tours, and press releases. In my attempt to gain more information about what works for marketing your books I've learned...
There is no one right answer for every writer.
I wish there was. It would be great if I could buy a book, or take a class and suddenly be an expert on the market value and how to get my reader's to invest. Instead, there are a million websites, books, classes and services which can help. One of the resources I've been investigating is The Press Release-
In her book,Get Your Book In The News, by Sandra Beckwith, she explains the nine things you need from a press release.
"The purpose of a press release is to garner publicity for your book (s)." You can do this by:
-Distribute the press release to the press with advanced review copies of your book.
-Distribute it without advanced review copies.
-Distribute your press release without the book, through press release Distribution sites. These web based services help you inform a large number of media outlets.
-Host your release in Press rooms of media distribution services.
-Give the information to bloggers for getting reviews
 and scheduling your book tour.
-House  it in the press room of your website for journalists who are looking for information about you, your book, or your topic with the information they need in a concise, clear manner..
 -Publish it on your website for browsers and fans with the information that will show up in web browsers.
-Give it to event organizers who are scheduling you for speaking engagements.
-Give it to your family and friends who you know support your publicity efforts.
Now that we know what its for...Did you know there is a certain way to do it?
me either. So as I learn more from Sandra and Beckwith Communications, I'll keep you updated. Look for Part II of Stop The Presses next month and go check out the book. In the meantime, keep writing.