Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Can we avoid Natural Disasters?

As Dear Husband and I weigh our options for the future, we've been considering where in the world we might like to live. Watching all the natural disasters that are overtaking the U.S. makes you stop and think. How do you decide where to live?

I'm a big fan of the desert Southwest, and I had proposed places to live like Arizona or Utah or Santa Barbara. Doesn't hurt to have a wish list, right? Watching the wildfires that are burning in that part of the country, from Arizona north through Canada, breaks my heart. I can't even imagine watching everything I own go up in smoke, and for those people affected, you have my sympathies.

And then there are my friends in Florida. What a great place to retire. What a horrific place this past month. Some of the people who live there tend to believe hurricane season is only slightly more frightening than a thunderstorm up here in the Midwest, with the threat of tornadoes. Again, I can't imagine having to abandon my home and wondering what will be left after the storm passes. The destruction that follows in the wake of those storms boggles my mind. Again, my heart goes out to those people, in Houston, in Florida and the islands that have been decimated. I can't even imagine.

Every part of the country has its own intrinsic dangers. Here in Chicago, we do get tornadoes, although thankfully not frequently. I've watched hurricane level destruction happen right here in Illinois, although tornadoes generally don't cover as much real estate as Irma did.

One of my friends in Cleveland posted at article on how that appears to be the safest place in the country to live. No floods, no storm surges, no wildfires. Do they get tornadoes there?

No place is immune from natural disaster. Tectonic plates run all through the continent, so while California might be more prone to earthquakes, that doesn't preclude other parts of the country. And what about the Great Chicago Fire? Yes, that was a very long time ago, and construction has improved since that time to prevent such widespread disaster, but the fires out west are a testament to what could still happen.

As DH and I consider relocating, I try to remember that tomorrow isn't guaranteed, and wherever we end up, Mother Nature is likely to have some surprises in store for us. We're trying to do our part for those in need after these cataclysmic events, and trying not to look over our own shoulders for when its our turn. Like a lightning strike, there isn't much we can do to avoid a natural disaster should it cross our paths.

If you are able to help those who have been affected by Mother Nature's fury, 
please consider donating to the Red Cross, 
or your religions organization's efforts, or another worthy charity.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

On Tour!

I'm taking the easy way out today - I'm doing a blog tour this week to tell the world all about THE MIRROR. Some of my fabulous hosts have asked me some fun questions, and along the tour you'll find interviews from when I started writing, to my inspirations, to my favorite movie scenes! Of course there are blurbs, and there's a Rafflecopter to win a gift card for a lucky winner (Amazon or Barnes & Noble). So pop over at any or all of these lovely blogs and join the fun. And the best part? THE MIRROR is on sale this week for just 99 cents. That's less than a buck! Pick up a copy quick.

September 4: Fabulous and Brunette
September 4: Hearts and Scribbles - promo
September 5: Christine Young
September 5: Welcome to My World of Dreams
September 6: Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews
September 6: Deal Sharing Aunt
September 7: Lisa Haselton's Reviews and Interviews
September 7: Up 'Til Dawn Book Blog
September 8: K.T. Castle
September 8: Straight From the Library

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Giveaways - Amazon vs. Goodreads

As an author, when I release a new book, I often will do a giveaway as an enticement to gain new readers. If you haven't heard my name, you might not be willing to take a chance on my books. The goal, of course, is that if you don't win the giveaway, I've at least gotten your attention and you might consider buying the book. When best-selling authors are selling their e-books for $6.99 and even up to $12.99 (for an E BOOK!), my books are a bargain for $3.99.

Here's the thing - On my recent release, THE MIRROR, I thought I'd try Amazon one more time because ... well Amazon. The results are disappointing. First off, when I actually did a search for Amazon giveaways (and how many people are aware Amazon does giveaways? I had to look HARD to find them), mine didn't show up. The giveaway must have shown up somewhere, because I did get entries. Yes, I shared the link on social media and promoted it. Most of the entrants appeared within the first couple of days. When I finally DID find how to search the giveaways page, dozens of unrelated items showed up in my search, so 20 pages of partially relevant items (none of which included the giveaway I sponsored).



Goodreads has a Giveaways tab that lets you search by genre. Almost three times as many people found my book and requested it, and most of these come in the last few days because Goodreads also sorts for giveaways that are closing soon. And by popular authors. And other sorts that are relevant to what you like.

Let's take this a step further. Of the winners, how many people actually read the book and leave a review? I ran an Amazon giveaway in 2015, and of the three winners, I received zero reviews. Okay, not everybody leaves a review, so I can't say I was disappointed, especially with a population of three, but these are people who buy and one might assume read books. This time, I did get one review that is "most likely" from one of the winners.

For the a giveaway at Goodreads, and generally I give away five books at Goodreads, I often receive reviews from the winners. Granted, Goodreads is a site designed for readers, but by that same logic (not everybody leaves a review), it might be reasonable to assume zero reviews again. However, for the GR Giveaways I've done, I've been lucky enough to receive, on average, reviews from three of those five people who've won.

Different people may have different experiences, but for me, based on the inability to FIND my giveaway on Amazon after the first week when doing a search, and based on the number of entrants, and based on the response of those entrants (i.e., reviews or sales to the people who didn't win), I'll stick with Goodreads.


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Symmetry

The post in which I confirm for many of you that I am, indeed, a weirdo.

I was walking in the Big City the other day, on my way back to the office after lunch with Janet, when I happened to look up (it's always a good idea to look up while you're walking, especially in the Big City). And in Chicago, you look UP. Maybe it's because my latest book has architecture in it, but I was struck by the symmetry of these four buildings - Presidential Towers (and yes, that's the Willis Tower in the background, pronounced here in Chicago as SEARS Tower). Chicago is full of fine examples of architecture, unusual looking buildings, unique designs, skyscrapers, but for some reason, I'd never noticed these four towers, identical, built in perfect symmetry. Sure, I've heard of the twin towers in New York, and we have Marina Towers right here in Chicago, identical or mirror image buildings standing side by side, but maybe I wasn't paying attention to know what or where these buildings were. Staggered the way they are, at an angle across two blocks, they made an impression on me and my sense of symmetry.

Inspiration is everywhere, and I think I've mentioned that many times in interviews and blog posts and whatnot. I can't say the Presidential Towers inspired me, but they did make the world stop for a moment, not an easy feat in a busy city like Chicago. This might be one of the first instances where I wasn't inspired to write, but what I was writing inspired me to see something I hadn't noticed before.

Often, when I'm writing, I surprise myself by drawing parallels, plot points that conveniently (or maybe subconsciously were created to) come together. There's a beauty in symmetry, something that reaches deep down inside and says "this is the way it was meant to be." 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Biorhythms and the effects on plotting/pantsing

Remember when I told you I'm always working ahead of the class?

This book has been a completely different experience for me. That isn't to say every book isn't different, but my method is generally pretty much the same. I'm a pantser for the most part, and when things get away from me, I step back and plot. I tend to throw everything out there and sort out the mess afterward, but I generally work in a fairly straight line with a few diversions along the way. It can be messy, but its linear.

When I started the research phase of this book, I met with a friend to get background, and to my surprise and delight, she got very excited about my initial visions for the book, asking me questions like "and then what?" And then she said "what about if they do this?" Reference back to where I tell you I make this up as I go along. I learn things when my characters learn them, or when they reveal their secrets to me. So plotting ahead threw me off balance. A lot.

Two weeks ago I told you how I threw at least two chapters worth (and definitely more than two) into the first chapter. This story is gushing out and I can't control the flow! Some stories are like that, I get into the groove and write for hours and hours, and then other stories I have to grunt through every word, struggling to find my way. The problem this time? The scenes are popping up at me out of order. All of them! WAIT! I can't keep up!

Part of this is due to my heroine. She's that sort of person. Leaps before she looks, enthusiastic, gung-ho, full speed ahead. Her boss calls her wreckless and unpredictable - and talented.

I'm not sure if its the phase of the moon (maybe its the effect of the eclipse! or maybe the Perseids) or biorhythms or what. I've been writing scenes like a mad woman, but they're helter skelter. In the wrong order. All over the place. Then I stop and say "but what about this plot point?" or "that plot point?" And then I write another scene that I'll have to tuck in somewhere. This is exhausting! But also exhilarating.

I'm sticking with pushing the blame on my heroine. She's that kind of an "all over the place" kind of person who doesn't want to miss a minute of her life. As an author, my process is completely up-ended, but I'm enjoying the ride.

Just when I thought I had this gig figured out, a character shows up to show me there's more than one way to craft a story!


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Are you a pack rat?

Are you a collector? A hoarder? or do you resist the temptation to buy tchotchkes and collectibles? Me? I am not a fan of what I arbitrarily call "junk." When I go on vacation and want to bring home a souvenir, I more often than not talk myself out of it because I don't want to worry about storing things I might never look at again. My recent trend in souvenirs is Christmas ornaments, because at least they're useful. But I do have some collections.

As we contemplate relocating, I've been dreading the thought of hauling along some of my collections that I haven't looked at it in ages, things that I value, but no longer hold any tangible value and are "taking up space." I happened on a store the other day, Rediscover Records. This is where I tell you that for 40 years, I have amassed a fairly large collection of vinyl, most of it rock and roll, everything from Carly Simon and James Taylor to AC/DC and Black Sabbath. I have eclectic tastes. As I talked to the proprietor, we discussed Supertramp and how nobody knows who they are anymore. I have a real connection to most of those records, and while I hate to part ways with them, realistically, I haven't put one on a turntable for probably at least ten years. I'm telling myself I'm supporting local business by donating my collection (or collecting a small consignment fee - thank you, Rich).

I went through a phase where I was trying to digitize my collection so I would have all those records that you can't find anymore. Anyone ever hear of the New Seekers? Not to mention Rick Springfield's first two albums which I'd bet he wishes no one still had copies of. I don't think even the record store would be interested in those albums. Transferring vinyl to digital was a time intensive project, and when the digital phonograph broke, I decided it probably wasn't worth the effort. How many of those songs did I really HAVE to have? And the rest? I could get on digital. No physical storage woes.

This collection represents 40 years of my life. No, this isn't an easy process, but did I mention I am NOT a pack rat? And my desire to not store "stuff" is outweighing my sense of nostalgia. With that being said, I did find some records I don't think I can bear to part with. There must be some way to salvage them, to play them. Maybe I need to try digitizing one more time.

One collection that will follow me wherever I go, one I am NOT parting ways with - my books. Sorry, but every book on my bookshelf has a permanent home. They have earned that spot as "a book worth re-reading" and as such, are a functional part of my life. They are doing more than just taking up space.

So I wave nostalgically at my record collection as I support +RediscoverRecords. I hope the vinyl finds a new home with someone who will love it as much as I did. If you're looking for vintage rock and roll, Rich has a great collection, and now he has most of my old favorites, too.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

I can't "write" 55

I've been toying around with the new novel, getting my facts, doing my research, and trying to get it all down on the page.

I have a "rush forward" personality. From the time I was in kindergarten, I was always the kid in school who worked ahead and got scolded by the teachers to wait for the rest of the class (until one teacher in high school actual let me work at my own pace). Once I understand something, I want to learn more, so I blaze ahead.

When you're writing a first draft, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Following Stephen King's method of writing, get it down. You can clean it up later.

As I get my thoughts in order, I went ahead and sent my first chapter to 1) the person I'm asking for help with research, making sure I get the occupational aspect for my characters right, 2) my critique group to see if I have a viable story. These are the days that make authors want to crumple it up and throw everything away! First, I need to thank Sarah for providing me with the research. I think she was surprised at the vomit that I'd written as a first chapter (it'll get better, I promise!). Second, my crit group took on the role my teachers always had. "Slow down, wait for the rest of the class."

Many times, a first draft is for the author. What do I need to know about my characters? About the setting? About their lives? In my rush to start writing, I threw EVERYTHING into the first chapter. The main characters, the supporting characters (there were ten of them right off the bat), where they are, where they're going, every subplot and conflict. Best description for this? Traffic jam. All of this information is critical to me as an author, but as a reader, it's confusing. I don't need everything all at once.

With the story unfolding in my head and my facts documented, I can now slow down, spoon feed my readers. Let them meet the main characters and what drives them, then peel back the rest of the information as it becomes relevant. Enforce a speed limit.

This is still a first draft, and I'm 10,000 words into it. Yes, I expect a large chunk of those words to disappear upon rewrite, and the first Chapter 2 has already been rolled into Chapter 1, with much of Chapter 1 relegated to the "you can bring this back later" territory.

Chapter 1 is the most important chapter in any book. This is where you draw your reader in, tease them with what lies ahead, but make them want to keep reading to find out. With the ruler to the knuckles from my initial feedback, I can move forward at a more realistic pace and use much of what I pulled out as plot points for subsequent chapters. Yes, I will likely continue to rush forward -- that's what I do, after all. But that's what first drafts are for, and I know I have a support group that will keep me in check so I don't get too far ahead of the rest of the class.