Sunday, January 29, 2012

Not Bad at All

A friend of mine has self-published three ebooks on the past six months with remarkable success. Her royalties for January has exceeded $10,000.

This author had never been published before, and after rejections from traditional publishers, decided to strike out on her own. Her books sell from 99 cents to $2.99 each. At that price, she's sold lots of digital books.

Not bad. Not bad at all! 

As the publishing industry is shifting toward ebooks, authors have the opportunity to take control of their destiny.

USA Today had an informative article about self-published authors in December so I'm not going to rehash what's been reported. And there are several other articles in various writing magazines about the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing.

The common thread for success seems to be promotion. These authors did more than simply write stories. They spent time getting the word out about their books. The same holds true for success in traditional publishing.

Check out these successful self-published authors.

Until the next time...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Yesterday and Today for Writers

Sometimes I wonder if literary giants such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Steinbeck could survive as novelists in today's publishing world.

No doubt Hemingway could find some war to cover; Fitzgerald might get lucky and land a position as a screenwriter; and Steinbeck wouldn't have to look far to find downtrodden folks for subject matter.

But it's the other side of being a writer that could pose problems for them -- such as promotion, blogging, twittering, and social networking. Perhaps even the most basic elements such as getting their foot in the door of a publishing house -- or harder yet -- with an agent.

Can you imagine Hemingway sending a query letter to a publishing house and trying to sell this idea in one sentence? "It's about a fisherman who goes out and catches a big fish but sharks eat it on his way back to the port."

Or Fitzgerald describing a story "about a mysterious rich man who falls for a rich married woman and they are involved in an automobile accident that impacts a lot of people."

Or maybe Steinbeck querying a publisher about a "story  of a down-and-out family from Oklahoma that faces hardships as they seek work in California."

Okay, perhaps I'm simplifying this a bit but I wonder if queries, by today's standards, would have doomed many of the authors? Or if their manuscripts would have been lost in slush piles, or worse yet, rejected by some green editorial assistant?  

Fortunately for them, and for us, they came around at a time when they could devote their time to writing and not everything else involved in the publishing business. 

Until the next time...

Friday, January 20, 2012

It's Never Too Late to Bloom

I've been reading Debra Eve's inspirational "Later Bloomers: 35 Folks Over Age 35 Who Found Their Passion And Purpose" on my Kindle this week.

It has stories about those who hit their stride at middle age or later in life. Eve noted that she was in a boring job in her 30s and decided there had to be more to life than what she was experiencing. So she embarked on several different paths to enjoy life to the fullest.

Along the way she decided to write a blog,, about the famous and not-so-famous people who excelled in various endeavors after discovering what they really wanted to do when they grew up.

Among those included are chef  Julia Child, singer Susan Boyle, writers Bram Stoker ("Dracula"),  Edgar Rice Burroughs ("Tarzan"} and Richard Adams ("Watership Down"), Bertha Benz (of Mercedes-Benz), scientist Mary Somerville, evolutionist Charles Darwin, and American Renaissance-man Benjamin Franklin.

I'm sure most of us know people who discovered their calling in their later years. What's a shame is that some people don't have the opportunity, and others simply don't care, to find themselves and get the most out of life.

I have several friends who weren't published authors or poets until their 40s or later. I met a woman several years ago who got an Ed.D at the age of 85. While in grad school several of my classmates were over 50 and became special-education teachers. I know several women who, after raising their children, went on to become nurses.

I believe the message that Debra Eve conveys is that it's never too late to do what you have the talent to do.  Just go for it.

And you might discover something else along the way -- yourself!   

Until the next time...

Monday, January 16, 2012

And the Winner Is...

Remember the days when we only had the Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony awards? I know there were probably others but those were the Big Four -- and probably still are to those who care about those things.

They received the main coverage from the media. Fans would even fill out sheets from newspapers and entertainment magazines predicting the winners in various categories. They would root for films, Broadway shows, TV programs, and music genres and the respective artists/stars in each medium like others would pull for teams and players in athletic competition.

But somewhere along the line TV decided that we needed more award shows because it was easy to draw audiences to those kinds of programs because of the celebrity star power.
Among the other award shows are MTV Music, American Music, People's Choice, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, Independent Spirit, Directors Guild, and Critic's Choice. And I bet I have only touched the tip of the iceberg.

I read where the Golden Globes attracted nearly 17 million viewers. I suppose that sounds like a lot -- it probably depends on one's perspective -- but in a nation of 310 million that means more than 290 million found something better to watch or do. But it was probably an inexpensive way for advertisers to spread the word about their products to a desired audience.

I wasn't one of the 17 million. Were you?

Until the next time...

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Retirement Homes

I received an AARP Bulletin in e-mail today that contained a story about the 10 best places to retire. Naturally, those places are warm-weather spots where you can play golf, tennis, enjoy the outdoors, and see sunshine most days of the year.

But I started thinking about it. I live in a moderate climate (Kentucky). We'll occasionally have a big snowfall or ice storm, but for the most part the weather ranges from 15 to 45 during the winter months. The summers can hot and humid but they are tolerable. Spring can be rainy and falls are generally gorgeous.

But weather aside, why would I want to pack up and move a 1,000 miles away and leave family and friends behind? I don't. Can I make new friends after leaving? Of course. Been there, done that during my career. But why leave friends at this stage of my life?

And why leave family? Do I want to miss important events in the lives of my two granddaughters? No. Do I want to be away if something catastrophic happens to family members? No.

About the only move I'll consider, if I live long enough, will be to a senior retirement home where I live.

So nothing against those places in Florida, Arizona and elsewhere. They are great places for a vacation. But for retirement, I'm staying in my old Kentucky home.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A Watchful Eye

There's a lot you can take in when when you're watching people in real life who someday may populate your novel in one way or another.

Among the points of interest are faces, eyes, hair (style, color, texture), body type, skin tone, posture, teeth, and mannerisms. And if you're within earshot, their speech patterns, dialects, and voice.

I particularly like to observe mannerisms when I'm in a people-watching mood -- gestures, facial expressions, and body language. It's a great way to make characters stand out from each other in stories.

Another thing, you can make the same observations by watching TV or a movie.

So there's more layers to your characters than simply dialogue. If need be, keep notecards on each of your characters with all their characteristics for an easy reference as your write.

And there's no reason you can't blend some of the traits of those you watch to create distinctive characters in your story.

Until the next time...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tapping Into Emotions

Do you ever have trouble conveying emotion in your writing? I believe most of us do at times. It may be one of the most difficult aspects in producing fiction and nonfiction that moves the reader to a deeper level and an understanding of the characters.

So how do you convey emotions? For me, it's as easy as looking into my own emotional experiences. I've got lots of them. I suppose that comes with age.

Sadness? I remember something sad in my life that corresponds with the story I'm writing. Some examples of sadness can be the death of a friend or relative, the breakup of a relationship, moving to another town and leaving friends (and vice versa), or the loss of a beloved pet.

Happiness? Some things that touch the core of my emotions have been the  births of my sons and grandchildren, watching them open presents at Christmas and celebrating their birthdays; attending a family reunion; getting back in touch with old friends; and completing another book and seeing it in print.

Pain? How about an injury, toothache, migraine headache, or any kind of ache, for that matter. And I've experienced it vicariously when my wife and children have been hurt and when I've witnessed the pain suffered by others. 

My life has run the gamut of emotions so I tap into my feelings to a particular time in my life while I'm writing.
As noted above, that's easy for me to do.

But let me offer this caveat -- it's not always painless. I've been brought to tears at times so proceed with caution.

Until the next time...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ramblings: In the News

Ramblings: In the News: Some novelists will tell you that you simply have to read newspapers and magazines, watch TV news or listen to the radio to get story ideas....

In the News

Some novelists will tell you that you simply have to read newspapers and magazines, watch TV news or listen to the radio to get story ideas.

Those are great ways to let your imagination take off in the "what if" direction -- what if this instead of that happened? Subconsciously, that's where a lot of stories come from, even from our own life events, as we embellish, insert some twists and turns, come up with some juicy sub-plots, etc. Those nuggets become a mother lode.

But looking at headlines -- without reading the story -- can be a great exercise in letting your imagination run wild. Give some thought about following headlines and then read the story and compare:

I do advise following up on news stories because of the remote chance you could imagine the real thing. You've heard it before: Life is sometimes stranger than fiction!

Until the next time...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Write Resolution

No doubt many folks have set resolutions for 2012 to make themselves healthier, wealthier, and perhaps, wiser.

Good luck on all three. I'll settle for being healthier. I'm not wealthy, at least in the category of the infamous 1 percent, but wouldn't mind a few extra coins in the piggy bank.

As for wiser, I'd like to think that with age comes a tad bit more wisdom (kind of a strong word, but I hope you know what I mean).

Since this is primarily a blog about writing -- and I do go off on  tangents from time to time (see above) -- I'll try to focus more on the writing life this year.

My primary goal this year is to do some creative writing on a daily basis. Last fall I started another novel but life got in the way and I abandoned the project. I may go back to it, and I may start something new. Only time will tell. But I do plan to write each and every day this year.

I've read and heard from folks who say they plan to write a 150,000-word novel this year. Really? Does a person really know that the novel they want to write is going to be so many words before they write that first word, sentence, paragraph, chapter?

I believe a more realistic goal is to write daily on the novel or nonfiction manuscript. You'll know when you're finished. It could be at 70,000 words. Maybe 85,000. Or it could reach 150,000. The key is to tell the story. The word count will be determined by that.

One more thing. Writing is discipline. It's not rocket science. To be a writer, you have to write. Daily.

Until the next time...