Posts by Publisher

Can’t Judge a Book…

Posted by on Jun 17, 2014 in Writing | 0 comments

We hear it all the time, “It’s not what’s on the outside that counts, but what’s on the inside”. There are any number of other ways of saying the same thing, including “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” While it is true that the outsides aren’t always a good judge of what’s on the inside, we still have to start somewhere, and that’s where the outside comes in. We have to be interested in the outside in order to take a look or make time to explore what’s on the inside. I am, of course, talking about books. I’ve purchased and downloaded literally thousands of books. I have books to my right, books to my left, books stacked taller than me, boxes of books everywhere. Obviously, I have an addiction, I need a twelve step program. They say the first step in getting over an addiction is admitting you have a problem…well, I have a problem. I digress. The reason I’m talking about my…not so secret illness isn’t actually to effect a change, it’s to point something out: We judge books by their covers. We pick out visually stunning books, unusual books, oddly-shaped books, not because we know what’s on the inside, but because of what we see on the outside. Now, I’m not actually saying this is a bad thing. We use our senses to see traits we desire. When we look at a person, we look for symmetry in features, we look for indications of disease, indications of genetic abnormalities, qualities we like, etc. We use our eyes for all kinds of clues. This isn’t exclusive to looking at people or books. We use our eyes for almost everything, but it’s especially important for books. We can’t smell a book to see if we’re going to like it. We can’t taste it, or feel it to let us know whether we’re going to like the contents, and that’s even more true when it comes to e-books. All we have to judge the books by are the covers and the descriptions. Now, I’ve read some truly great books without looking at the cover, but it’s rare, and I often forgo those books for others that have intriguing covers. When picking a cover, make sure to look at other books in its genre. Look at the bestsellers. What makes them popular? Think about why you would want to pick that book up. We’ve already discussed titles, so moving beyond titles and author names, what else on the book would make you want to read it? Think about these things before creating a cover. Once a cover is created, take a look and see what your first impression is of that cover. Usually, your first impression is correct, so if you look at the cover that you created and your first thought is “Amateurish”, it probably is, and you may want to reconsider it. If you look at the cover and think “I wouldn’t pick that up,” you should reconsider your cover as well. Most of the time, the cover will click when it’s right. There are a lot of blogs and tutorials about picking and creating a cover, so I’m not going to go into that, but they are not unlike the saying, “You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.” Sometimes, you have to try on a lot of different styles before finding the one that’s just...

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Nothing Personal

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Writing | 2 comments

I hear it all the time: “It’s nothing personal.” What does that mean anyway? Usually, that phrase is connected to strong emotions from the person being told it, and rightly so. If it was nothing personal, it wouldn’t need to be said. This actually isn’t a vent about the phrase, nor is it a plea to some unsuspecting person to not take something personally. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. As writers, we are told to write what we know, and there’s good reason for this advice. We cannot faithfully write something that we know nothing about. A reader’s reasonable suspension of disbelief will go right out the window if we have not studied our subject, if we do not know what we are talking about. That includes emotion. One cannot write emotion if one doesn’t understand emotion. If we’ve never experienced love, heartbreak, embarrassment, hate, anger, happiness, how can we convey those emotions to our readers? My last post was about observing emotion in other people, how it makes them look. With this blog, I’m turning it inward. So, here’s my proposal: Take it personally. Feel the emotions you were granted as a human being. Explore what they mean. Describe them. Write them down if you can, when you are feeling them. I’m not saying to take your frustrations out on anyone, I’ve been in the customer service business long enough to know one person can wreck your entire day, and most of the time, their anger isn’t even directed at the person with whom they are yelling. What I’m saying is to feel your emotions. Take a moment to assess what a particular emotion does to you. Therapists call it being in the moment, and sometimes, it can almost be described as a spiritual experience. Be the observer of your own emotion. Think about where you are. Think about what your muscles are doing. Did you hunch your shoulders? Did you thrust your chin out? Did you feel pulsing in your forehead? Did you hear the blood pounding in your ears? If you have a mirror, take a look. Is your face red? Is it pale? When you start feeling an emotion, stop and take a look at what it does to you.  Have you ever laughed so hard you felt like you’d just done 50 crunches? What was your face doing at the time? Did you squint your eyes? Did tears run down your face? What thoughts ran through your head when you were in that moment? No matter how ridiculous those thoughts are, observe them. I remember being angry and frowning so hard one time that I worried I would have permanent frown lines. I was surprised that other people had the same thoughts when they were angry. Writers are tasked with the incredible burden of tearing our souls out and putting them on paper. It’s a long, sometimes extremely painful, process, but if we do it right, our readers will feel what we feel, they will identify with the characters in our stories. They will want to read more. A reader isn’t stupid or unobservant, though. Most readers can spot contrived emotions and scenes paragraphs away. The only way to sound truly genuine is to be truly genuine, and we can only do that if we know and understand ourselves and our...

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Showing Emotion

Posted by on Dec 15, 2013 in Writing | 0 comments

I know I’ve talked before about showing and not telling, it’s an incredibly important part of the craft of writing. Showing something instead of telling brings the reader into the story. It makes them feel the character. It makes them empathize with the hero or heroine. It takes them into the emotions, transports them into the world you’ve created. To reiterate, showing versus telling is the difference between saying, “She was sad.” and “She took a shuddering breath as tears continued to course down her face. She hugged herself as she tried to regain control over herself.” I could continue that line, but I think it illustrates my point. Showing emotion is one of the most complex and difficult parts of good writing. Just like when we watch actors on the big screen, we can see through awkward parts where the writing is forced or unrealistic. We look at the character as a whole and say, “He’d never act like that,” when the hero, who’s been calm and collected, even humorous at times, all of a sudden goes completely insane, throwing things, or panics and cowers in a corner. It immediately takes us out of a story when the main character does something completely not…him or her. All reasonable suspension of disbelief suddenly goes out the window. So, what am I getting at here? First, I want to emphasize that consistency is extremely important, especially when talking about characters’ emotions and actions. Without consistency in characters, there is no story. There is nothing that will turn a reader off faster than a character doing something that they just wouldn’t do, and especially without reason. Second, I want to talk about getting the readers to feel the emotions on the page. How do we do that? Practice. But how do you practice emotion? Simple. Watch people. Watch them when they’re happy, when they’re sad, when they’re angry. Watch unguarded moments between two or more people. Don’t just look at their faces, but look at the full picture. Look at the way the person stands, look at where their arms are. How do they move? What type of movement is it? Is it a jerky movement? Is it precise? What do they sound like? Look where the tension is. Did they bunch up their shoulders? Slump them? Write down the movements, the impressions, the feelings. This is best done in the real world, not on films or movies. Actors are wonderful. They have to think about and then conjure up emotions that they may not be feeling and make an audience believe it. However, to really see emotion, one has to see it in real life. Watching people is a skill just like any other and it takes practice to understand what’s really going on, but being able to capture authentic emotion is one of the most difficult and important tasks a writer has to complete when creating a world. Without the reader being able to empathize with the characters, the story goes...

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South Carolina Writer’s Workshop

Posted by on Oct 30, 2013 in Writing | 3 comments

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to South Carolina as a guest speaker there. I prepared for weeks, I put together note cards and went over exactly what I was going to say. I made a mental list of everything I was going to pack. I usually write it down and check it off, but since it was one day not three like I usually do, I figured I could survive. I forgot a few things, but I did survive. We drove there, which even the drive up was nice. The event was wonderful, the hosts were gracious and kind. I had a lot of fun. I can’t thank the hosts enough for their generosity and warmth. They had never met me, had only talked to me in email, but they treated me like I was one of their own. The sessions went swimmingly and the participants had great questions. What I didn’t expect, and I totally should, was how much I learned. Let’s face it, presenters are often in a room either alone or with a few presenters. We don’t often go to other people’s panels because we’re busy doing our own. When the final panel came around, it was time for everyone to present at the same time on his or her particular field, and answer whatever questions arose. I think, no matter who presented there, the other presenters got information that they could take home with them, and that speaks a lot about the presenters there. We were all writing things down or filing things away as information to be used at a later time. That is the sign of a good, even great, symposium, when the presenters learn things from each other. So, South Carolina Writer’s Workshop, thank you! I hope to see you again next...

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What is an author?

Posted by on Sep 3, 2013 in Writing | 1 comment

I was going through some of the stuff I used to write and thinking about how much I love and miss it when I’m not doing something creative. I miss my characters, their antics and their lives. I miss the imaginary world they live in and the “what ifs” of it all. That got me to thinking: What makes an author? Dictionary.com defines an author as: “the maker of anything; creator; originator”. Authors are the creators of worlds. They are the imaginers, the people who look at the world and wonder. They create futures. They end worlds. Being an author isn’t easy. It’s not a path most people choose, it’s chosen for them. There are ideas constantly swimming in their heads bugging them day and night. An author understands sleep deprivation. They understand that if they don’t have pen and paper by their beds, they need to get up and write down what’s going through their heads or else it will be gone forever. An author understands losing time when writing, losing hours and even days; of forgoing sleep and food because the story has them by the throat and won’t let up until it’s done. An author looks at things as they would relate to stories. An author could see something on the side of the road and think of a thousand ways to use it in a story. An author has hundreds of story ideas, notes scribbled on the backs of receipts, papers stuffed in nooks and drawers. Every sentence is ripped from our beings like a physical limb. Words and sentences we put on paper are part of us, part of our experience. We put ourselves into everything we write. Our emotions go into our writing, our lives. We sometimes pull pieces of our souls out in order to connect to our audiences, and if we get bad reviews, it’s like we as people are being judged and found wanting. And yet, we still need to put words to paper, we still need someone to share our pain and our troubles, our trials and the trials of our characters. Authors are gluttons for punishment, but when we finally have a finished product, when we have finished one of the numerous stories haunting us, have sent it off for better or worse, it makes it all worth...

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