Friday, October 30, 2009
I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Section 3 of the accident report form. I put "Poor planning" as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation, and I trust the following details will be sufficient.
I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. When I completed my work, I found I had some bricks left over, which, when weighed later, were found to be slightly in excess of 500 lbs.
Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which was attached to the side of the building on the sixth floor.
Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to ensure a slow descent of the bricks.
You will note in Section 11 of the accident report form that I weigh 135 lbs. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel, which was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explains the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collarbone, as listed in Section 3 of the accident report form.
Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley. Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of the excruciating pain I was now beginning to experience.
At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, that barrel weighed approximately 50 lbs. I refer you again to my weight.
As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent, down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up.
This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and severe lacerations of my legs and lower body. Here my luck began to change slightly.
The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked.
I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks, in pain, unable to move, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope and I lay there watching the empty barrel begin its journey back down onto me. This explains the two broken legs.
I hope this answers your inquiry."
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
We’ve decided to add a new feature to our monthly regulars. In the last week of each month, we’ll be bringing you a roundup of all the useful online resources we’ve run across during the month. Enjoy!
2. OpenOffice Writer: Free open source and fully compatible alternative to Microsoft Word.
3. NeoOffice: Full-featured set of office applications (including word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation programs) for Mac OS X.
4. TiddlyWiki: A single html file which has all the characteristics of a wiki - including all of the content, the functionality (including editing, saving, tagging, and searching), and the style sheet.
5. Scribus: A powerful software that helps you create great looking documents of all kinds.
6. RoughDraft: Freeware word processor for Windows 95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, and XP suitable for general use, but its features are specifically designed for creative writing: novels, short stories, articles, plays, and screenplays.
7. AbiWord: Free word processing program similar to Microsoft Word and suitable for a wide variety of word processing tasks.
8. Kword: Part of the open source office suite KOffice, KWord can act like any commercial DTP tool and even typesetting product.
9. Bean: Small, easy-to-use word processor (or more precisely, a rich text editor), designed to make writing convenient, efficient, and comfortable.
10. WordIt: Powerful word processor that is more reliable than Microsoft Word and smaller in size than Word or OpenOffice, with features such as a powerful real-time spell check system.
1. JaLingo: Free OS independent dictionary application.
2. StarDict: Cross-platform and international dictionary software.
3. GNU Aspell: Can either be used as a library or as an independent spell checker.
4. WBOSS: Web-based spell-check script (Web Based Open Source Spell Checker) designed to work with any text input form on any web page.
5. WordWeb: One-click English thesaurus and dictionary for Windows that can look up words in almost any program.
6. GNU Style and Diction: Analyzes surface characteristics of a document, including sentence length and other readability measures.
7. Graviax: Grammar checker.
1. Research Assistant: Free multi-platform open source project for researchers to ease their work in classification of any kind of information.
2. Sonar: Submission tracker that tells you which market has each story, whether a story has been sold or rejected, and which stories are gathering dust instead of earning their keep.
3. Celtx: Valuable tool for writing screenplays or other formatted stories.
4. EverNote: Saves your ideas, things you see, and things you like, then allows you to access them on any computer or device.
5. Writer Beware Blogs!: Shines a light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls.
Monday, October 26, 2009
He clutches the package tighter to his chest and shoots a glance over his shoulder. Still there. No shakin’ them. Whoever’d hired ’em is sure gettin’ his money’s worth. His eyes dart to the "Walk" sign at the corner and he quick-steps through the noon crowd to the other side of the road. Another glance. Stupid gorillas are still there, not two dozen paces behind. Here–cut in here. Nice busy place to lose them between the rows of bright yellow bananas and sweet smelling peaches. On another aisle, pungent onions compete with the scent of fruit. An apron-clad store clerk washes celery and sets it artistically among the squash and eggplant.
Whoa! Hold the guavas, there! What happened to our hero’s panicked flight? What happened to the gorilla goons on his tail?
You may read this and giggle, but I’ve actually seen similar prose in published books–a little less exaggerated, but enough to rip me right out of the scene.
When the action is fast paced, detailed setting description simply does not work. You want your words and sentences short–not choppy, but short and quick to read. So stopping the action to set the scene isn’t the best route to go. Use a broader stroke when painting the scene, and combine the three previous lessons to keep the pace:
He clutches the package tighter to his chest and shoots a glance over his shoulder. Still there. No shakin’ ’em. Whoever’d hired ’em is sure gettin’ his money’s worth. His eyes dart to the "Walk" sign at the corner, and he weaves around rushing nooners to the other side of the four-lane. Another glance. Stupid gorillas are keepin’ pace, not two dozen steps behind. Here–cut in behind the peach stand. The apron-clad veggie hawker shots him the evil eye, but he don’t care. One more second and the goons’ll be closer. One hefty push topples the peaches, and he skedaddles through the store and out the back door.
Keep him in character and in the scene, and use the props to help describe the setting.
Sometimes the pace allows for more description. When it does, use the opportunity to set or enhance the tone. This is a piece from my long-neglected manuscript, Petting Wet Cats. Claire has a suspicion that the town’s mighty Sinclair brothers know the whereabouts of her surrogate grandmother, their great aunt. Since she can’t get anyone to believe her claims, she decides to investigate on her own:
She turned left down Filmore Street, where home after stately home paled in comparison to the Stanfield mansion. The street’s atmosphere of rich antiquity was marred with "Re-elect Senator Marcus Stanfield!" placards planted ten feet apart down its entire length. Marcus’s handsome, smiling face peering at her from the cardboard signs made her scowl. The Stanfield brothers didn’t have an ounce of the kindness and compassion their late parents had possessed. They were nothing more than a waste of skin.
Pulling into the drive of their five-acre estate, she was snagged by anxiety. When Mr. and Mrs. Stanfield were alive, they hosted Easter egg hunts and July fourth fireworks displays for the town’s children. At Christmas, their immense house had always been lit up like a fairy land castle. Today, with the charcoal skies overhead and the wind picking up from another wave of storms, the place looked menacing. The wet weather had given the brick drive a sweaty sheen, and the arched entry into the imposing mansion looked like a gaping mouth ready to gobble her whole.
Describing your character’s setting deserves as much attention as describing your character. In fact, the exercise can enhance your character’s description and add depth to him. It can add depth to your scene, too, when used to help set the tone.
In other words, setting descriptions are a tool readily available to anyone who prefers a pen to a brush, a screen to a canvas. But like any other artist’s tool, it requires practice.
(Transcripts of this four-part series are available at no cost to anyone who wants one. Just leave me a note or comment.)
Friday, October 23, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Once you’ve given your readers an idea of where the action is taking place, props are wonderful tools to keep them there–and the more specific, the more detailed the prop, the better. Consider a ruminative scene where a woman selling dances for a dime during WWII notices the seams in her hose are crooked. Or a heated debate with a medieval monk who folds his hands inside the loose woolen sleeves of his russet cassock. Or hay straws used to keep idle hands busy while Pa is milking Bessie. Or the neon blue beams of the pesky huefly zipping around someone's nose during a ride on a velvety xadron on planet Qamero.
Try this scene opener from Give the Lady a Ride.
On the Circle Bar, the cattle chute between the working pens was similar to a rodeo chute. The tailgate allowed the animal in, and the headgate kept it there. Then there was the sidegate. From here, the animal–whether a bronc or a bull–could explode into the large working pen and put on a show. This gate, the least used on the chute, refused to open no matter how hard Talon tugged.The point of the scene isn’t to clean the gate, but to show how the ranch hands feel about the possibility of the new owner selling the ranch and, as the readers find when they continue in the passage, what they’re willing to do to keep her from selling it. The rusty hinge and the brush are the props that provide detail to the scene, movement, and dialogue action beats. What is basically an “info-dump” passage is brought to life with props.
“You got a steel brush in that box?”
Chance rummaged among his tools and brought one out. “Can’t believe how rusty the hinges are. Guess it’s been awhile.”
“Since the last bull Jake put me on when he was teaching me to ride.” Talon dropped to one knee beside the top hinge and scrubbed it with the brush. “Did I tell you Ben Kilgore would take us on if we have to leave the ranch?”
“Working on a rodeo ranch would be a good job. More complex than just raising cows.”
“Yeah. We’ll get to put our genetics classes to good use.” Red dust coated Talon’s hands and peppered the air, tickling his nose. He twitched and ran the back of his hand under his nose, giving himself a rusty mustache, then scoured the next hinge.
Chance stooped next to him with a scraggly paintbrush and dusted the first hinge clean, then reached back for the oil gun. “Can you believe you’re fixing to teach some five-foot-nothin’ Yankee woman how to ride a bull?”
For another example, let’s go back to Aggie Villanueva’s Rightfully Mine:
The distant stare vanished from Hanniel’s eyes with a bow of his head toward Mahlah. “You are too kind. I am ever your servant and my tongue is your slave,” he forced gaiety as he handed her his bowl of shelled almonds, “for I live for another of your paste-buns.”
Mahlah’s laugh was strained. “Ah, but Rizpah taught me how to make them.”
“And what are you hiding from me, little cousin? I thought you could not cook.”
Rizpah’s response was to quicken her pace. Mahlah lifted her pestle at Rizpah’s retreating back as if to speak, then clamping her mouth shut pulverized another mortar full of almonds. “You must be very lonely, with your sisters and their families all away at Gilead,” she said to Hanniel at length.
There is much more going on in this scene than just making almond paste buns, but the detailed activity of pulverizing almonds with pestle and mortar keeps the reader immersed in the scene, even more than just the unusual Israeli names.
When a reader feels she is “right in the action,” it isn’t because of long descriptive passages, but because of the detailed props salting the scene.
Monday, October 19, 2009
Today I'm happy to introduce you to John Robinson. I met John over at ChristianWriters.com and have found him to be a caring and generous man who is always willing to share his expertise with younger, less experienced writers.
John's books include the popular Joe Box Series (Until the Last Dog Dies, When Skylarks Fall, and To Skin a Cat), Relentless and Heading Home (Sheaf House, 2010).
AC: John, thanks for visiting with us today. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?
JR: Sure. I’ve been married for thirty-six years to my lovely wife Barb. We have two grown sons (one of them married, with a family of his own), and a little daughter waiting for us in heaven. Presently I’m director of business development with a company that does contracting work with the military and the federal government.
AC: Introduce us to your books.
JR: The three Joe Box novels I have out are Until the Last Dog Dies, When Skylarks Fall, and To Skin a Cat. The protagonist is a Vietnam vet and former Cincinnati cop who now works as a private investigator. In the first novel he’s just recently come to the Lord, but given his violent past, he’s not really sure how--or if--it’s going to work out for him. Joe’s a transplanted Southerner with a strong code of honor, but he also has a dark side and a bit of a sarcastic mouth on him. To my knowledge he’s a bit of an anomaly in the CBA, and was a real kick to write! I also have an apocalypse-with-a-twist thriller called Heading Home, due out from Sheaf House August of ’10. In addition to that I have another series started with a soldier-of-fortune named Mac Ryan, and the (working) title for that is Relentless. The sequel is called Burning River, but it’s not nearly done yet. Finally I have a spec-fic novel currently being shopped called The Radiance; it was also a ton of fun to write.
AC: Your books sound really interesting to me. Do you get a lot of women who read your books?
JR: Surprisingly, yeah. Bear in mind, when I set out to write the Joe Box series I specifically did it to give something for Christian men to read. Let’s face it; the CBA is chock-a-block with romances, but not a lot of hard-edged action novels, especially penned by men. I think I was as shocked as anyone when the distaff side seemed to like them as much as the men. For some reason Joe struck a chord with the ladies, but I’m not complaining!
AC: Do you remember when you first decided that you wanted to write for publication? Was that always your goal?
JR: I’d always liked to write, even from my early teen years, and when I was in college I was student affairs editor for the school paper. Years passed though, and that love seemed to fade. But a decade ago it came roaring back, and in an unexpected way. It was New Years Day, 1999, and I was watching one of the bowl games on TV when suddenly I started seeing something different on the screen. Don’t laugh, but it was almost like watching a movie. During that I was unaware of the passing of time. When I roused myself I found only a few minutes had passed, but amazingly I had the entire plot of Heading Home completely lined up in my head; it was then just a matter of writing it down and editing it. That process took about a year. Finding a house that would take such a controversial novel proved to be a challenge, though, and it wasn’t until 2008 that it was sold to Sheaf House (as I said, it’ll be out next August). During those intervening years I wrote and sold the Joe Box novels, and began the Mac Ryan series.
AC: Tell us about your first contract and how that came about. I always love to hear writer’s stories of how they first got published.
JR: Okay, because of its theme and unconventional main character, Until the Last Dog Dies was a booger to get published. My agent shopped it tirelessly, but kept coming to me back with stuff like “they love your writing, John, but the character of Joe Box scares them to death; they’re afraid women won’t buy it.” To which I responded, “jeeze Louise, it’s not written for women!” Months pass, and my agent finally says they’ve done all they could, but can’t place it with anybody. That’s in December of 2002. Flash forward to July of 2003. The CBA trade show is in Orlando that that year, and my agent is attending. As the story was told to me, the head buyer of one of the largest Christian bookstore chains is speaking with one of the marketing directors for Cook Communications, which owns RiverOak Publishing. They’re talking about this and that, and the buyer says in an off-hand way, “I heard you’ve bought a novel featuring a Christian private investigator.” The Cook guy says no, he’d heard wrong, they took a pass on it. To which the buyer says, “that’s funny; we could probably move a lot of units of that.” The Cook guy takes that info to his people, and they tell him, “how about that, see if it’s still available.” The Cook guy finds my agent and asks if Until the Last Dog Dies is still on the table. Stunned, my agent says yes, and they proceed to verbally cut the deal on the floor of the CBA. True story!
AC: Did you have someone who was an inspiration in the development of your Joe Box character?
JR: Being that I’m from the South, Joe is an amalgamation of several of my uncles, plus some of the guys I knew who’d served in ‘Nam.
AC: Do you have a favorite character that you have written?
JR: Besides Joe? Wow, that’s tough. Joe’s mentor, a crusty old retired Cincinnati cop, was fun. And interestingly enough Joe’s cat Noodles, who Joe rescued as a kitten from being burned alive in a fire, is also a favorite. They play off each other pretty well.
AC: I understand that you have decided to pitch your books to the ABA vs. the CBA. Can you tell us the process that brought you to that decision?
JR: With my Mac Ryan character I wanted to take a man who was a little like Joe, but with a darker past, and then take him in a different direction. The result is the spirituality is still there, but much more subtle; think the movie Signs, or Dean Koontz’s later works. I knew this wouldn’t fly with the CBA, so my agent is shopping the first one to ABA houses.
AC: That’s the great thing about story – it can take the Truth anywhere. So with that decision made what lies ahead for John Robinson?
JR: My dream is to finally be able to write full-time. It’s coming.
AC: Thanks so much for being with us here today. I have one last question. What would your advice to someone just trying to break into publishing in this day and age be?
JR: I’d tell them a story I once heard about Winston Churchill. The time was either the late fifties or early sixties, and by then Churchill was quite elderly when he was asked to give the commencement address for a large university.
The day came, and the auditorium was packed with students and alumni wanting to hear strong words of wisdom from the man who’d basically saved Britain during the darkest days the country had ever known. Slowly Sir Winston took the platform. Standing behind the podium, he gazed out at the sea of faces.
Then setting his famous bulldog jaw, he ground out these words: “Never give up. Never, never, never, never give up.” He fixed them with a gaze of iron. “Never.”
And then he sat down.
And the place erupted in praise.
That’s what I’d tell people: “never give up.”
Do you have questions for John? Feel free to leave them in the comments and he will answer as he is able.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Margo entered the restaurant and searched for her sister and niece in the noon crowd. Plastic molded tables were filled with teenagers, mothers and blue-collar workers chatting over plastic food baskets. Above the cash register, a bright sign presented the menu in vivid primary colors and tantalizing pictures of hamburgers, corn dogs and onion rings. The young cash register attendants took orders from those waiting in long lines and called pick-up numbers over the intercom.While that isn’t a bad description–it certainly evokes images–it stops the action and is overly descriptive of a place common to virtually everyone’s experience. If you keep the character in the setting instead of putting her on “hold” while you step in and describe it to your reader, you can keep the action going without missing a beat:
Margo opened the restaurant door and was blasted with chilled, grease-laden air. She paused only a moment before spotting her sister and niece waving from a yellow plastic booth under a sunny window in the corner. Weaving between tables of teenage girls giggling over strawberry sundaes and blue collar workers downing double meat hamburger supremes, she made her way back to her niece’s open arms and bent low for a French-fry kiss and a ketchup-coated hug.In exactly the same amount of words, I described the scene through my character’s actions instead of stepping in as the author and describing it for her.
Sometimes, though, the setting is unfamiliar to your reader and it is necessary to describe it with more detail. When that’s the case, remember a couple of side “keeps”: Keep it short, and keep the character out of it until you’re ready for action. In her Rightfully Mine, Aggie Villanueva provides the perfect example of this:
It was inconceivable that after forty years of chastisement in the Zin desert and the recent military successes in the Transjordan hills, the wandering nation of Israel could succumb to the temptations offered by the Moabite and Midianite women, but the tomb-like encampment attested to the sin. As a result, hundreds and thousands of sprawling black tents suffocated their inhabitants with the lingering, putrid taste of the death within them.
The vast camp of Israel lay crippled by plague. They huddled piteously beneath arcing acacia branches along the oasis-like steam of Abel Shittim, the only shelter available in the scorching summer sands of the Moab plains. Israel was halted only a few miles east of the Jordan they yearned to cross.
In the southwest corner of camp, among the tribe of Manasseh, Rizpah, the second-born of Zelophehad, grabbed a leather pail from a peg on the center pole of her family’s tent.
This is the novel’s opening scene. Ordinarily, beginning a book with description is a sure-fire way to have the agent roll his eyes and tap the “delete” button. But Aggie’s is different. In two short paragraphs, she sets the tone, provides the history, and paints a picture. Then she brings in her main character and puts the story into action. Notice how she introduces her character: Rizpah is getting a leather pail from a tent pole. Aggie is still describing her setting, but she is doing it through Rizpah's actions.
When you’re writing your descriptions, put thought into what your character is doing while you’re scene-setting. Is she involved? Does she need to be? Have you set her aside and stepped into the scene yourself? Should you? Whenever you can, keep your character in the setting.
Monday, October 12, 2009
Setting descriptions can go on forever, too. Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle begins with long prose about the Catskills and the village nestled in them. Even though it was beautifully written–starting with a panoramic view of the mountains and narrowing down to the smoke rising from a corn-cob pipe–it too was mind numbing.
Of course, there are times when your setting requires more elaborate description, like my “baby-bucking” scene in Give the Lady a Ride. In this scene, Patricia Talbert, a U.S. Senator’s daughter from Manhattan, visits a Texas rodeo ranch where the owner is testing his young bulls for their bucking abilities. Not many people get to witness this private rodeo, so I had to provide a vivid description to keep the readers in the scene. But for common settings, I prefer a few well-chosen words carefully tossed into the action to give the reader’s imagination a tickle and let her decide what the place looks like. Most people have been to a diner, an office, a grocery store. The right words can evoke an image–and the reader’s image of her favorite diner is all I need.
But whether you prefer long descriptive prose or short evocative hints, there are a few things to have in mind while describing your settings–the components of “Playing for Keeps”:
Keep in Character
Keep the Character in the Setting
Keep Props Handy
Keep the Pace
Part I: Keep In Character
Whether you write in intimate first person, which allows the reader to experience what the characters experience as if walking around in their skin, or a distant third, where some omniscient someone tells the story, often from several POVs at once, keep in character. Yes, even the omniscient storyteller has a character; it is portrayed through his voice: his manner of speech, the rhythm and complexity of his words, the things he chooses to tell and how he chooses to tell them.
Tom Clancy writes in distant third. His storyteller has a military, no-nonsense, alpha-male voice, and it’s the same whether the character involved in the scene is a good guy or a bad guy. He doesn’t alter his voice for the scene’s POV character as one would for deep third person.
Ryan opened the glass door for his wife and followed her into a store delicately scented with baby powder. Everything around him seemed so tiny and fragile, he figured the best place for his hands was his pockets. He strolled behind his wife along aisles of bright blankets and bassinet covers, terrycloth bibs and baby dishes, pastel infant clothes and shoes no bigger than his thumb. Then he saw the cutest little West Point football jersey and made a bee-line for it. What an adorable gift it would make!
Okay, that’s a little obvious, but you get my point. So let’s change that last part: "Then he saw a toddler-sized West Point football jersey and ambled toward it. Too many of his friends from West Point had died on foreign soil."
That’s better, but while we’re staying in character, let’s allow the description to tell us a little more about him:
Ryan opened the glass door for his wife and followed her into a store that smelled soft, like his baby boy after his evening bath. Everything around him kept little Jack forefront in his mind, from the Sponge Bob baby blankets to the tiny shoes no bigger than his thumb. He saw a toddler-sized West Point football jersey and ambled toward it. Too many of his friends from West Point had died on foreign soil, but he’d still be proud if Jack Jr. chose to go to his Alma Mater.
My apologies to Mr. Clancy, but if you understand what I’m trying to illustrate, my butchery of his work was worth it. To me, anyway.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Thursday, October 8, 2009
We made it! AC has officially reached the 100 follower mark in less than five months since its inception. Thank you all so much for your enthusiasm and your encouragement. We hope to continue bringing you helpful and fun articles on writing, marketing, and reading right on up to the next 100 followers!
Congratulations, Lafreya! Your name was selected as the winner of our special contest for our first 100 winners. We’ll be sending you your choice of any of our three published books: Rocky Mountain Oasis by Lynnette Bonner, Behold the Dawn by K.M. Weiland, or A Man Called Outlaw by K.M. Weiland.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Line Editing - we will correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, typos and word usage.
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Monday, October 5, 2009
What we sometimes miss in the ubiquitous phrase “self-promotion” is that because we’re promoting ourselves, we have to be just as appealing—and sometimes more so—than our products. In a rather interesting exercise, I made a list of the last ten novels I bought and tried to determine what had influenced me to buy them. At least three of the purchases were made as the result of my favorable impressions of the authors.
Media consultant Laura Holka, producer of The Pat McMahon Show, reminds us:
Never underestimate the power of “Holy Moly—I love that gal” energy and chemistry! Remember when Sally Field won the Best Actress Oscar and said “You really like me, you really, really like me” and everyone laughed and thought she was corny? She may have been a bit over the top but no one forgot her. She was so genuine and appealing that people remember that acceptance speech to this day. Likeability—I can’t stress the importance enough.
Marketing should rarely, if ever, be focused on the seller; good marketing is all about benefiting the consumer in some way and convincing him that your project—your book—is going to make his life better. Stating the obvious truth that his purchase of your book will certainly make your life better isn’t going to make the sale. You have to go the extra mile; present a cheerful, helpful face to the public; be willing to communicate with people; answer questions; and offer encouragement. It isn’t enough to post a big ol’ grinning snapshot on your website or blog. You have to be genuine. You have to be selfless, kind, and generous. People remember that. People will like you for it. And, when the time comes to support you by buying your work, they’ll be more than happy to do you a favor in return.
In a wonderful list of reminders from a recent blog post on The Seekers, novelist Elizabeth White didn’t pull any punches:
When people ask me for my number one suggestion for how to break into publishing—which happens quite regularly—they might be surprised at my answer…. So what is it?
Well, it’s what your mama told you when you skipped off to the backyard swingset with your little friends as a preschooler.
And I’m not talking about the fake-smile kissing-up kind of nice.
We all know that even though it takes fewer muscles to smile than to scowl, smiling still requires a little practice! Professional likableness is no different. Once you get into the habit of putting a little extra dab of kindness and cheer into your communications, it becomes the easiest thing in the world—and the rewards are boundless. Doors don’t get slammed in the faces of polite visitors anywhere near as often as they do rude intruders!
As much as some of us might like to live in tranquil solitude, typing away at our latest masterpiece from the seclusion of our ivory towers, we’re not likely to sell many books that way. Connecting with readers is the single most important step on the road to literary success. No readers = no book sales = no writing career. Australian-based author, speaker and business consultant Joanna Penn makes the convincing plea to use our greatest marketing tool—our own (presumably exceedingly likable) personalities—to pull in our audiences:
Have the courage to be different, and to be yourself. Behave as you wish, write what you want and not what society wants you to write. Follow your own path and you will find your own form of charisma. You will attract people who are interested in what you are writing. Be passionate in your interests and your business and writing life. Emotions count more than logic. Engage people with what you are saying and they will be passionate fans for your work.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Behold the Dawn tells the story of Marcus Annan, an embittered knight who, after taking part in the near assassination of a corrupt abbot, flees to the tourneys—the huge mock battles which remain popular despite the Pope’s ban in 1130. Years later, haunted by guilt, he is driven to the Holy Land by news that the abbot, now a bishop, is threatening retaliation against the life of a friend. Arriving too late to save his friend’s life, Annan promises to deliver the man’s widow to safety in France, never suspecting she will be his path to redemption. Wounded in battle and hounded by the bishop’s men, he is forced at last to face long-hidden secrets and sins and to bare his soul to the mercy of a God he thought had abandoned him years ago.