Saturday, October 19, 2019

When no ordinary excuse will do

Not unlike most fiction writers, I'm constantly asked the same question.
"How do you come up with this stuff?"

The simple answer is, I don't. It comes to me. Every writer is different of course, but there is this common thread for those who write fiction. It starts when we're very young. When we make up our very first story.
Remember the old "the dog ate my homework" line?

With fiction writers, from a very early age, the story has a plot twist. A one-liner becomes an essay.

My homework was done but it vanished. Poof. I think the dog took it and buried it out back with his bone. Then a coyote came and dug up Sinbad's bone and leaped over the back fence with it. Well you know that old man next door is crazy and he shot that poor coyote. Even had a burial ceremony for it last night about 1am. It was a huge bonfire and they roasted that beast on a spit. I had my window open and my room still smells of smoke.

So notice several elements are in play here. In order to be convincing, there must be details. The dog has a name. We have witnesses and further crimes to distract from the homework event. And the clincher, the room smells like smoke. Evidence of the crime has been introduced.

"How did you rip your brand new shirt?"

Little Cindy was riding her trike in the road, so I ran out to bring her safely back to the sidewalk and tripped over an injured bunny. When I landed, after leaping to the side to avoid the bunny there was an old kitchen spatula laying there and my sleeve got caught on it. Luckily it wasn't too rusty though so I'm sure I won't need a tetanus shot.

What a masterful tale has been woven. By the time it's over, our little storyteller will no longer be in trouble for playing tag football at his friend's house in his dress shirt. Instead, he's rewarded for being the neighborhood hero by the parental units who are simply relieved that he won't require a trip to the ER.

Now most children's excuses are simply not that elaborate. This is where parents should be on guard. Watchful. Pay attention to your child's excuses. They may be more than an indicator of wrongdoing, they may indicate a career choice.

Not always of course. Might just indicate a supercharged imagination. Which is a fabulous trait. Encourage it. Build on it. Help your children channel that creativity into something positive.

Most of all, enjoy it. Appreciate the sheer entertainment value. Give them bonus points for effort. The next time the storyteller in your orbit, be it your child or sibling or well, anyone, gives you an incredibly tall tale as an excuse, ask them to "please write that down for me."

You might just end up with an original anthology of work by a future bestselling author.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

To serialize or not to serialize?

Seems one of the latest rages in publishing is to serialize your novel. Chapter by chapter, publish once a week and keep the reader hooked. Now this works for digital publishing, but what about that paperback? Not so practical.

That's the issue for me. I love paperbacks! I love to open up a closet and find stacks of them waiting to be read. But I also love a good continuing saga online. A blog or website I can tune into each week and get my fix of a really good story.

Right now, I'm working on a new series. I've completed the first two books, and am working on the third. While I've had a bit of success interesting a few publishers and agents in my current work, nothing has panned out so far. Leaving me to decide what is the best way to introduce my new series.

This is where I am in my decision-making process. So I turn to you, my faithful blog-readers.
Would you like to see my next masterpiece published online, chapter by chapter?
What about if I give you a look at the first chapter, and let you decide?
Stick to the original plan, and let you purchase the format you like best?
How about waiting and offering it as a box-set?
Or do I keep on querying those literary agents and see where that takes me?

Comment below, let me know what you think!
What would you do?

Happy reading!



Saturday, October 5, 2019

How fictional is fiction anyway?

A common question from readers relates to how real characters and incidents in a fictional novel are. Sometimes the answer is obvious. Or seems to be. If you're an avid SciFi reader or Fantasy reader, clearly many other-worldly beings and events are fictional. Make-believe. Never gonna happen. But even characters and events in these genres have an elemental truth to them.

There are so many times a story leaps off the page as if it could be true. The characters real. And leaves the reader wondering whether the writer has based their story on personal experience.

Often that answer is yes. Or no.
Or might be.

The truth is a mixture of all of the above. Writers do tend to incorporate their own personal experiences into their writing. How much is dependent upon what they are writing and whether it's relatable. Writers also tend to not answer the question. Because what fun would that be?

My debut novel, All About Annie, is a classic example of how this all comes together. The book, aboout a woman who sees herself in the pages of a bestselling mystery, has her wondering, is it real? Is she imagining things? Why would someone write about her?

Among friends and relatives who've read the book, there are those who insist half the book must be from my own past. Others who insist none of it relates to me. But they all want to know if it does. And I would never tell. Some think they are in the book. See themselves in there. Which makes me secretly smile and nod. I've done my job. Made them wonder. And this is the beauty of fiction.

A good novel draws you in. It provides you with a relatable story. Relatable characters. And sometimes it gives you the sense that it could happen to you. It could be you. Or not. So next time you pick up a good book and feel like it's partly telling your story? Smile, appreciate it, and let the author know they did their job. Because the review I received above? Yeah, made my day, month, year. I am eternally grateful for the compliment.




Warmest of holiday wishes to all my readers! Thanks for being there during this chaotic and challenging time. Here’s hoping 2021 brings good...