Writing Improvement Software

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Review: Old Bony Blue Eyes by Lita Burke

Wizard Kadmeion’s magician-for-hire business has improved, plus the harpies and certain fey-folk flourish under his magical care. All is well until a dragon named Lady Betrayal summons him.
Kadmeion owes the dragon a favor. He agrees to fetch the book Dragon Lore and cast its spells for Betrayal. Career-enhancing magic fills the book. If Kadmeion acquires it, then his reputation will bring wealthier customers.
Dragon Lore has a deadly guardian. To help their quest, Kadmeion, Bright, and Furgo first enlist the help of Luck, who they discover is no lady. Then they must convince the bickering egos of War to give them a weapon. The last task is visiting Death’s library, where a wizard may check out the Dragon Lore and keep it until the end of his days.
The problem with visiting Death’s island is coming back alive.
A wizard may roll dice with Sir Death for a safe return passage or fight his way out. Even with Luck and War helping, Kadmeion might not succeed. Despite their cleverness, Death’s blue eyes might be the last thing the wizard and his friends ever see.
      This was a fun and entertaining read. It was my first book in the Genre of Clockpunk Fantasy, and I was really pleasantly surprised. There is strong character and world building here, and the subtle humor of some of the situations had me smiling often. I liked Bright, and I think I will equally enjoy the next book in this series, Glitter Ponies, where more of Bright's heritage and his own family ties will come into play. Wizard Kadmeion is a colorful character, but the author almost had me in tears when he looses something very dear to him.
       Lita Burke attention to detail will wrap you up in this story right away. It's very obvious that she is well versed in magic, as well as steampunk and clockpunk. Though this was Book 3 in the Clockpunk Wizard Series, it stood alone very well. I never felt lost, nor was I left feeling like I was missing the bigger picture because I hadn't yet read the first 2 books.
This story is cleverly told, and well written. I'd highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good fantasy read. You can find all three books in the series by clicking the books below. I also highly encourage you to follow the link to the author showcase for an in-depth interview with Lita Burke. It's very interesting! See her Author Showcase here.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Are You Embarrassing Your Characters?

Your characters. After living every detail of their lives over the course of months, or even years, they easily come to mean more to you than words on "paper". You take such care in your main character's descriptions, but after some of the books I've read the past couple months, I have  to wonder just how much thought went in to naming them.
Character names have now made my small list of writing peeves. Many names evoke visions of certain characteristics, and can really help in giving your readers an even greater sense of your characters. It's not uncommon for authors to shorten names, as well, just as we do in real life. This is where the horror of it all comes into play.
We can expect that a name like Alexander would be shortened to Alex, or even Lex. Isabella easily turns into Izzy or Bella. But why, for the love of God, would anyone shorten Kelly to Kel, Nelson to Nel, or Cary to Car?
I'm old enough to have listened to a classic song by Johnny Cash called A Boy Named Sue more than a few times, and while I've yet to come across a book that actually has a male character named Sue (thankfully), some of the names I've seen haven't been that far off from being an embarrassment to the character having to suffer with it.
This post is simply a reminder on behalf of all the characters currently hanging their heads in shame, and for all those standing in line waiting anxiously- and a bit fearfully, to be named, please, use as much care in the names you choose as you do with their descriptions.
Because names really do matter :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Author Showcase: Lorrie Farrelly

Lorrie, thank you for joining me!

Q. Reading your bio, you've had quite a varied and interesting life, and I can see just from reading Dangerous where you've brought some of that experience into your book. Have you been able to draw from your life experiences in your other books?

A. Two of the biggest loves of my life, both at home and through work, have been kids and animals. I’ve been so fortunate through teaching, working with exchange students, and working at Disneyland’s Circle D Ranch, to have had the chance to get to know literally hundreds of wonderful (and, yes, even a few not-so-wonderful) kids. And I’m even more blessed to have had my own at home – although not quite so many! I don’t think I could write a story that didn’t have kids and/or animals in it.

I enjoy writing westerns because I so love them. That love is a gift from my dad, who used to tell me (with a completely straight face) his tall tales of riding shotgun with Wild Bill Hickok. He also loved road trips, and somehow Tombstone, Bodie, or Buffalo Billl’s gravesite always turned up on the tour, even if we were driving from Seattle to Vancouver!

All of my stories have at least a touch, and sometimes much more than a touch, of the paranormal. Growing up, I was fascinated by the work of such incredible writers as Ray Bradbury, Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, Ambrose Bierce, and Shirley Jackson, not just in print, but on television as well. (I still get delicious chills remembering Charles Beaumont’s and Jerry Sohl’s creepy “Talking Tina” doll on The Twilight Zone, to whom spooky Chucky owes a very big debt: “My name is Talking Tina, and I don’t think I like you.”)

And most important of all – and the reason all my stories have such strong romantic elements – is the love and devotion of my husband, Wally. He’s been by my side since we were little more than kids, and if I’ve been able to capture in words what true love, passion, and great heart really are, it’s because he has shown them to me every day, and in so many ways.

Talking Tina! Oh my, that was a creepy one! Ok, from your answer above, I can see why your books are so rich and varied. Excellent insight you've given us all, thank you!

Q. Many writers end up getting inspiration for plots in rather unexpected ways. Was there anything in particular that sparked inspiration for writing Dangerous- or any of your books?

A. DANGEROUS came about because I happened to see a segment of the old Rescue 911 TV series. It was not a reenactment, but an actual video taken at the scene (and still available today on YouTube). When a pregnant doe was struck by a car on a Southern California freeway, several motorists and a passing Highway Patrolman stopped to help. As it was clear the deer was suffering and could not survive, the officer did the merciful thing and put her down. He then walked away, obviously very emotional. A few moments later, however, sadness turned to hope when a fawn was delivered. Named “Freeway,” the little fawn was taken to a wildlife preserve, where she thrived. I was so moved by that incident, I knew I had to write a story that incorporated a similar event. That story became DANGEROUS.

Q. Wow, that is incredible. I never saw that series but I'm going to watch that one on YouTube! Are you writing full time, or do you have a day job, as well?

A. I no longer teach full time, but since we have a very busy household – including a 20-month-old toddler and five animals – my time for writing is more part-time than full-time. Recently, I’ve been writing short stories, which seem to better fit my current, slightly scattershot, opportunities to sit down and concentrate. One of my stories, THE SHERIFF OF HEL’N GONE, will appear this fall in Prairie Rose Publications’ Halloween anthology, COWBOYS, CREATURES, AND CALICO.

Q. They say you can't force creativity. Do you have a strict routine you follow when writing, or just let it come to you?

A. I have to let it come to me. I don’t seem to have much choice, as that’s the only way writing has ever worked for me.

Q. I'm the same way. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you wrote your first novel?

A. Nothing. Everything was a learning experience, and one of the most important lessons I learned was that I needed to take independent control of my own work if I was to have a satisfying creative life.

Q. I couldn't agree more. Despite the mistakes we make, sometimes, there are valuable lessons that must be learned. With 6 novels to your credit, what can your fans expect to see next?

A. Right now, watch for my short stories and novellas through Prairie Rose!

Q. If you could give only one piece of advice to aspiring authors, what would it be?

A. Read, read, read! The more a person reads the work of terrific writers, the better he or she will write. It’s from reading that we intuitively learn structure, pacing, the flow of language, the art of writing. Of course, knowing the rules of grammar is absolutely basic. Make sure work is proofread and carefully edited. But most of all, read!

Q. I agree, it really does help! Is there anything you'd like to say in parting?

A. It was such a delight to talk to you today, Chameleon. Thank you so much for inviting me!

Lorrie, thank you! I look forward to reading more of your works!

Social Marketing: The One Thing You Should Never Do

One of the biggest mistakes I see new authors- and some not so new, doing is bombing every group and community on Facebook and Google+ as soon as they have a new book out. It's truly the equivalent of showing up to a party as a casual guest, having a bad attack of gas in the middle of the room, and slipping quietly away before everyone can start pointing fingers. Chances are really high you'll not be invited back. Chances are really high that you'll also get banned from half the rooms you book bomb the first time, and banned from the other half the second time you do it.

Social marketing can work if you use it properly. But it does take more time and effort than bombing, and that seems to be something too many authors aren't willing to give up. You really need to assess your goals. If your plan was to make money- maybe even a living at it, you'll have to take it a bit more serious than throwing flyers to the wind and hope the right people pick one up and actually read it. I assure you, having 100 people pay attention to your posts will be far more effective than 1000 people who roll their eyes in irritation and keep scrolling to find the interesting posts on their timeline.

There is more than one formula to this, but here is a fast, basic one that will get you going in the right direction at least:

If you haven't already (and you probably have), get a Twitter account, a Facebook account,  a Google+ account, and a Goodreads account. If you don't have 2 1/2 hours to spare 3 times a week on these 4 accounts, just stop here and go back to walking around in the dark. If you can spare the time, keep going.

Twitter: everyone has at least 2 or 3 friends, some have hundreds, but for now, just add the friends you do have. Seriously don't have any friends, or maybe they aren't on Twitter? Move past this step for now, we'll come back to it.

Facebook: Choose 3 groups on Facebook to belong to. I know, there are thousands, how does one choose?! Exercise restraint here or you'll fall back into your old bad habits. You're an author, yes? There is little sense in talking to other authors about your book. You need readers to buy it, and hopefully review it. Don't get me wrong, authors read plenty, and you'll want to join one of these groups, just make sure that 2 of your groups are readers. One group I highly recommend on Facebook is this is an excellent author group for getting answers to just about any question you can ask about writing, publishing, and marketing. You can also get sales and reviews for your book. Over 1900 members- many with 2 - 7 books to their credit.

Do not, under any circumstance, post your book with the buy link unless you're asked to in the reader groups. Engage people, talk about other books you've read, comment on posts other members make as they speak about books they've read. Offer your advice- as an author, on books they are talking about IF you've read the book. This doesn't require you spending 2 hours in the room. Just make some comments, maybe a post here and there. Let people get to know you. It won't take long at all for people to ask what you've written, and that's your in. That gives you total permission to tell the whole group what you've written. BUT, be careful. Don't take that as an invitation to bomb the room freely. Trust me, it only takes once or twice for everyone to see it and your job is complete here.

Google+: The rules apply here pretty much as they do for Facebook. Don't hesitate to use the same restraint. Friend people that have similar interests as you, and not just about writing. Many will friend you back. Make your posts anecdotal and interesting, or post information you come across on the web that people may find useful, or at the very least humorous. It's the best way to get shared and +1'd. Post about your book once in a while- especially if you are having a free giveaway, or a .99 cent sale.

The author group you'll join on Facebook and Google+ will be where you'll spend more time than the reader groups. It's here that you'll build your network. Many authors have a network of friends, co-workers, family, and just general fans of their work, or of them. Once you follow as many of these as you can on Twitter, your own following will bloom like crazy. But don't just bomb Twitter, either. The more interesting you can make the header of your post, the more likely people are to retweet your tweet.

Goodreads: This one can be a little more involved, but setting up your author page is paramount. Let it sell you. Friend readers and authors on Goodreads and watch your following grow. But just as with the others, make sure you post and comment. Instead of spamming links to your book, make sure your Goodreads author page link is on every post or comment you make. People will be curious and go look.

The bottom line here, in case you haven't figured it out yet, is that you should be selling yourself first. And believe me, that's a whole lot easier than selling your book first. People are simply a lot more receptive to something they are gently led to than shoved in the direction of. If you found this post helpful, please share it with your author friends. Maybe if enough people see it we can significantly cut down on the gas bombs that go off in social rooms all across the web constantly :)