Tag Archives: authors

What I Learned at the Pike’s Peak Writer’s Conference

This is how I looked the day after the conference. I had so many new ideas my hair exploded!

me

It is easy to be intimidated by conferences, pitches and critiques. The reason I signed up for the conference was to absorb new ideas and improve my craft. Since I’m only three years in, my sponge-like brain was ready to sop it all up.

From Chuck Wendig, I learned to “not care too much.” By that he means don’t get so wrapped up in one manuscript that you become afraid of rejections and are paralyzed. He is a great example of the opposite. He published his first novel, Blackbirds, only three years ago and cranks out books like some people bake cookies. Okay, not that fast, but he makes it look easy. Although that book crossed too many genres for traditional publishers, he has sold tens of thousands of copies. Long live Miriam Black! He has written books about writing for his beloved Penmonkeys along with a variety of fantasy novels. He blogs on TerribleMinds.com and his books can be found there as well.

Chuck Wendig and me

 

From Gail Carriger, I learned that writing can be like breathing. It is something we have to do in order to be happy. But sometimes we have to make choices. We can’t do it all. Gail had a career in archeology. Typing all day for work and writing her novel at night became too painful. She chose to write novels since it is her oxygen. She has a slew of humorous fantasy books on the New York Times and USA Today Best Seller lists, so I would say that was a very good choice! The first book of the Parasol Protectorate series called Soulless was published in 2009. She’s at GailCarriger.com and her books are here.

gail carriger

From Jim C. Hines, I learned that we all have an opportunity to include diversity in our books. We can write characters of any race and sexual orientation, and can include strong women protagonists. We can give our readers someone other than white heterosexual males to root for. His first book Goldfish Dreams was published in 2009 and is told from a young woman’s point of view. Go Jim! He has written three fantasy series since then. He can be found JimCHines.com and his books can be found here.

jim c hines

From Hank Phillipa Ryan, an investigative reporter for NBC’s Boston Affiliate, I learned to ask questions like, “Will anyone care? Do I care?” She encouraged us to work even when it’s hard since we’ll always feel a sense of accomplishment. She taught us that it’s never too late to start writing novels. She wrote her first book, Prime Time, after being a reporter for nearly forty years. It won an Agatha Award for best new novelist. Hank is my hero. She can be found at HankPhillipiRyan.com and her books are here.

hank phillipi ryan

The theme I heard all weekend was, “Writer’s write.” Authors don’t get stuck on one book, they continue to stretch and grow and learn about their craft by producing many more. We all have a voice and whether it’s heard by a few or by thousands it is still important to just write it down.

Are you writing a book?

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Treasure from 1893 Speaks Volumes about Publishing 120 Years Later

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Many years ago while visiting Wisconsin, I drove to a rural farm sale outside a small town. It was my last stop after several garage sales. Price tags hung from farming equipment along with assorted household items and antiques. It drew a crowd of curious neighbors as well as treasure hunters. I fell into the latter category.

Drawn to the tables laden with books, I found ancient leather-bound volumes and others in cloth. I sauntered along the stacks of old family Bibles and velvet photo albums. While leafing through Ladies’ World and The Ladies’ Home Journal magazines from the 1800’s, one raindrop plopped down on my head followed by another. I grabbed a box.

After filling it with as many old books and magazines as I could carry, I paid the lady $5.00, and staggered to the car just before the sky opened up and it poured.

I took the magazines home and glanced at the fine drawings and paintings. As an illustrator, I really appreciated the attention to detail. No photographs were included in these early issues. I was amused at the old advertisements, but nothing grabbed my interest, so I put them away and forgot about them.

Today, I read The Ladies’ Home Journal from 1893 with a different perspective. Now that I am a writer, several ideas jumped off the 120 year-old pages.

Long fictional stories and excerpts of books were included in each of the three issues I purchased. All were beautifully illustrated and captioned. Back in the 1800’s, reading was a very popular form of entertainment.

What really smacked me upside the head were the advertisements for one year subscriptions.

Inside the cover of The Ladies’ Home Journal was an advertisement for Mark Twain’s, The Century, FREE to anyone who subscribed to the magazine. This was a leather-bound edition! I believe Twain’s idea to advertise his book by giving it away, reached a wider audience. This compilation of short stories was perfect for the type of reader catered to by the Journal.

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At the time of this periodical’s publication, many authors feared short stories and magazines would take over the publishing industry. This point is often made to compare the same fear many have about ebooks replacing real books. It didn’t happen then and many believe it won’t happen now.

The first article by Frank R. Stockton, explains how he garnered a huge audience by frustrating them. In a beautifully illustrated essay, “How I wrote ‘The Lady or the Tiger?’” he defends the history of his controversial short story.  It caused quite a “hoopla” or “hullabaloo” back in the day.

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Stockton was invited to a dinner party along with several other literary guests. As part of the evening’s entertainment, he was asked to prepare a story. When he didn’t finish it in time, he demurred. Later, he completed this ultimate cliff-hanger about a young man who falls in love with a princess who becomes his lover. They end up in an arena which has two portals. A tiger paces behind one of them. The princess tells her lover to open one of the doors. He let the reader decide which one.

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He received many letters from irate readers left in the lurch. Many offered their own resolution to the ending and begged him to finish it. Most women couldn’t fathom the barbaric nature of a woman who would send her lover through a portal to be eaten by a tiger.

A second book was written with more detail about the lives of the two characters, but still didn’t include an ending. The readers went wild again. At one point, graduates of Vassar College put it to a vote. The tiger received 18 votes and the lady only six.

Ten years later, readers were still talking about it. Not only did The Ladies Home Journal showcase the author, but offered his short story along with eleven others for free along with a one year subscription to Scribner’s Magazine.

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The book is offered free with 10 cents postage and $3.00 subscription.

Like so many who have written their first book, I am watching the publishing industry and new authors to see how they approach selling ebooks. I had been concerned after seeing prices drop from $5.99 to $2.99, and then given away for free on Amazon.

In 1893, there were probably those who thought Twain foolish when giving away The Century. I would bet the giveaway put his work in the hands of many who may not have been acquainted with the great writer.

Today, that is the goal as well. The free price is usually a limited time offer and it gets the book out to more people and the writer’s name on the lips of many.

Writing controversial books is still an effective way to get people talking. Just look at Fifty Shades of Grey!

No matter how many people are in a writer’s platform, a book is still sold by word of mouth. The more tongues wagging, the better the sales.

Here I am in 2013, reading this old magazine from 1893 and can still learn something. Now that’s what I call a treasure!

What do you think about giving books away?

Do you think controversy sells?

Related Articles:

The Ladies’ Home Journal

Mark Twain – Wikipedia

Frank R. Stockton – Wikipedia

Scott Turow and His Sinking Ship

The Nutley Hall of Fame

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Do You Curse Brightly?

While finishing my paranormal thriller, I have made some major cuts and additions. I think my sex scene is sexier after eliminating the mechanics and expanding the sensual description. I fixed the parts where the chicken went into the oven and came out as roasted rabbit. I deleted overused words like “perfect” even though at one time I thought they were perfect.

Reading best-selling thrillers while writing my first have inspired me, until yesterday. In the middle of an intense scene where agents were kidnapped, the protagonist, “cursed brightly.” (insert sound of needle scratching record here) WHAT??? It pulled me right out of the story. I stopped reading and set the book down.

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The hammer actually smacked my poor thumb, hence the realistic grimace. Continue reading

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A Quicky! Fan Art for Chuck Wendig

Have you met Chuck Wendig? Well this is a picture of him, but usually he is attached to a body.  He looks a bit bereft which is not a good description of him. In fact over at his hilarious, irreverent and twisted blog, Terrible Minds, he has a lot to say. Continue reading

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