Your Narrative – Is Your Ignition Switch in the ON Position?

May 19, 2014

ignition

Lots of stories – fiction and nonfiction – have characters who undergo some sort of change. Like in real life, characters don’t normally experience something and punch through on the other side completely unaffected. Those experiences (basically the plot of your story) is what alters their way of looking at themselves and the world around them.

Transformation.

In a writer’s perfect world, the character’s evolution and plot resolution come together like the Rescue Beagles and margaritas. But there are times when stories become unbalanced, and one overtakes the other. When this happens, it’s because the literary ignition switch is in the OFF position.

Sure sure, I see you scratching your head and cursing me for being confusing – so let me offer an example. I recently read a story about a man who lost his father and decides to go on a surfing Walkabout. Totally get that…when something horrible happens, escaping the confines of the everyday can be an attractive solution. The problem was that the author spent most of his time in his own head with long lyrical and esoteric passages of talking to nature and the waves, asking for answers – but he never fully developed the relationship between him and his father – his humor, his wisdom, his love for his son, and sadness knowing he was dying. The result was that I couldn’t appreciate the author’s sense of loss; the achingly long narratives; or the journey itself. In fact, there was very little attention paid to the actual physicality of the surf Walkabout, so he could have easily stayed home and knit toilet paper doilies,  replacing the surf and sand for knitting needles.

In this case, the key wasn’t even in the ignition, and the action was AWOL.

If you’re going to take some sort of action (walkabout, live on a boat, join the Hari Krishnas/join a group of space trash collectors) due to an igniting experience (divorce/death/threat to world peace/alien invasion), then it’s vital readers understand how influential the ignition and action are in altering you/your character’s life.

When writers strike a perfect balance between cause and effect/affect – ignition/action, then I can happily follow them into the depths of hell because I get it. I feel what they’re going through, so I’m silently sobbing/cheering them on to find their happy place, and I appreciate the lengths they went through (walkabout, live on a boat, join the Hari Krishnas/join a group of space trash collectors) to find equanimity. It’s impossible to have one without the other. Write without the ignition in the ON position, and your readers will toss your book against a wall.

How about your story? Is your literary ignition is on? If so, how? Is your character’s inner journey in balance with the plot?

 

 


Ah, Spring

March 21, 2014
price fam in pitts

The Price Clan attempting to stay warm. Pure folly.

As a So Cal gal, Spring came with my having never really paid much attention because all the seasons are pretty much the same. Oh, we may have the occasional rain or wind, but for the most part, our seasons pass without fanfare. “

“Duuude, the waves are gnarly, wanna hit the beach?” That’s when we know it’s Summer. Or Fall. Or Spring.

“Duuude, had to put on a hoodie over my t-shirt and shorts.” That’s when we know it’s Winter.

My trial by fire in Pittsburgh has been a delicious ride. Snow! Rain! Weather! Hell yes, baby! No more getting away with a hoodie over my t-shirt and shorts. No, siree. I’m thinking in layers these days. Sweatshirt, jacket, scarf, hat, hood, mittens…in between mutters of “holy grits and weenies, it’s cold outside!” Takes me a half hour to get dressed, only to remember that I need to go pee.

So the arrival of Spring yesterday brought promise of warmer weather. Tossing off the coats. Skipping through the yard with sandals. Um. Yeah. Got 1.5 inches of snow, instead.

Looking outside, the snow has all but melted, and replaced it with a sense of renewal. I know those little flower buds are eager to belt their bad selves out of the ground and make the world all gorgeous. Even the Rescue Beagles seem more eager to sing the song of their people by baying at every moving particle that floats past their window.

So it’s with that sense of renewal  that we bid adieu to our beloved Pittsburgh and head for our next adventure in…Burlington, Iowa. Where, you say, scratching your head as you google Mapquest. Yah, it’s right on the Mississippi River. In the middle of nowhere. It’s a quaint little town that’s home to some burgeoning new projects, one of which the hubs is on for the next couple of years. Wow. We’ve been Westies, then Easties. Now we’re going to be Mid-Westies. There’s symmetry in being a part of all the major food groups.

It’s funny in a way. Most of my friends are looking at retirement in the somewhat-near future, settling down, looking at ocean cruises to Mexico and Alaska, yet the hubs and I feel like we’re just getting warmed up. Oh, we’ll return to California when we retire, and the kids start sprouting grandkids. But for now, it’s fun to see new things, and meet new people. So I guess you could say my life is stuck in Spring mode – even in the dead of December…or end of March.

Spring is about newness and getting all twitterpated about wonderful possibilities. So it’s no small wonder that I’m editing two fabulous new books that are scheduled to come out in the Fall. Hoo boy, talk about excited.

FSO - lo RESAmy Biancolli’s sense of humor is so deliciously dry and witty, that I find myself routinely gasping for air in between gusts of laughter. FIGURING SHIT OUT: Love, Laughter, Suicide, and Survival is destined to be one of those books that people talk about in the grocery line, or the bank (does anyone go to the bank anymore?), where someone is guffawing, “I’m telling you, this book is hysterical.”

The inciting moment is anything but funny, but Amy looks at life through a different lens, and it’s refreshing and honest. We aren’t issued a set of Life Instructions when we’re born. The Cosmic Muffin sits back and pats us on the head and says, “Sorry, but you’re gonna have to figure Life out on your own.” Amy’s take on life is like putting a sprig of mint in my tea.

 

Finding Dad- loresConnecticut is lucky because they have Kara Sundlun as their morning wake-up call on her show Better Connecticut. But we’re all lucky because in November, we’ll have her fascinating book FINDING DAD: Love Child to Daughter. Kara discovered she was the love child of her mother and Rhode Island’s governor, Bruce Sundlun, and made the tough decision to meet him…even though he didn’t want to. And it all played out in the media. And you thought you had it tough?

In so many ways, Kara had to be the bigger person and meet her father nearly 80% of the way. But what happened because of her decisions is what makes me believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Leprechauns, and unicorns. Human nature is a funny thing, and where I would have tossed in my towel and punched out, Kara hung in there, and ended up with exactly what she’d always dreamed of.

So happy Spring to y’all. Hope it doesn’t snow on your parade. But if it does, go read a good book. A Behler book. I guarantee that you’ll walk away muttering, “I wish it’d snow, so I can read more.”


FANCY FEET Author, Heidi Cave – Global BC tv interview

August 4, 2013

FancyFeet-sm

Major huzzah to our beautiful author, Heidi Cave, with her TV interview on Global BC in Canada. She is the perfect example of why we don’t act like idiots behind the wheel. Slow down, relax, and enjoy the ride. Be a survivor, not a victim.


Be Consistent With Your Book and Your Promo Plan

July 9, 2013

Promotion

I’ve come across a number of book proposals that appear to be at odds between the book’s focus and the author’s platform and/or promotion plan, and the result is usually a rejection letter. It’s like in math, and 2 + 2 has gotta equal 4.

What do I mean by that? Let’s say your book is about knitting, and your premise is that knitting is a great therapy tool for easing tension and phobias. However, if you’re not a well-known name within the knitting community and your promo plan doesn’t include some serious contact with therapy groups, or well-attended classes where you’re teaching people to knit, then I’m going to have a harder time taking your book’s premise seriously.

Anyone can have a fabulous premise/focus/intent for their book, but the promo plan and author platform must support it. Otherwise, I’m going to have a much harder time promoting your book. Imagine if said knitter sits at home knitting toilet paper doilies or pickling eggs, who is she going to talk to? She’s not in touch with any audience, so this makes promoting her book an uphill battle.

Let’s say she works in a bank, and her idea for promotion is to give a talk to her bank mates during their lunch break. That’s also a misfire because it’s a gamble that her fellow bankers will be interested in her book. The genre buyers at bookstores would look at my sales team like they had just gulped down engine grease.

How is she in touch with her intended readership?” they’d ask. And they’d be right.

The Misfire

Publishers promote and sell memoirs based on the author’s platform and targeted promotion plan. It’s not how many people you know, but how many people know you for your book’s topic. You could be the cop who writes true crime, or the partner of someone who had a heart attack – the clincher here is how you put your experiences to work in the public eye – and then base your platform and promo plan around it.

Take a look at your book proposal (for info on how to write one, click here). These are the #1 elements I see in a promo plan in book proposals that make me want to toss myself in front of a herd of rabid camels:

  • I’m available for book signing events
  • I have a Facebook page, Twitter account, and a blog
  • I have public speaking experience

Let’s take ‘em one at a time.

I’m available for book signing events

This is a tepid thing to say in a book proposal. You’re available? Well, I should certainly hope so. What you should be asking yourself is how and why would a bookstore want to host your signing. Do you have the ability to draw people to your signing event? Which gets us back to your platform. How many people know you? We schedule book events for our authors, and I can tell you that bookstores aren’t as willing to host author events unless they feel confident the author will bring in paying customers.

I have a Facebook page, Twitter account, and a blog

This has never flipped up my Victoria Secrets because I have yet to see an uptick in sales because someone started a blog, FB page, or spent hours tweeting. Establishing a following takes a long time, so if you’re waiting for a book deal to start that blog, then you’re already too late.

Showing your pretty face sells books. Whether it’s on radio, TV, print, or at a live event, people get excited seeing and hearing the author. Very few authors know how to effectively utilize the magic of social media, so their efforts don’t yield a lot of result. Unless I see that your blog is wildly active with huge numbers of comments and participation, I’m not easily impressed.

Call me an idiot (not really, please), but Twitter eludes me. Every time I visit it, I see tons of tweets flying by, and I wonder if anyone is listening. Unless you happen to be in the Twitterverse at that moment, all those tweets that happened hours ago have passed you by as well. It’s like nailing Jell-O to the wall. Unless you cook with Elmer’s Glue, the experience will slide down the wall.

I have public speaking experience

This is nice, but what does that mean? I have experience filling my car up with gas, but this doesn’t make me a mechanic. What is your speaking experience, and how does it relate to your book? Do you do seminars, or warm up the gang waiting for the train with dirty jokes? Do you speak for a living, or does this equate to calling the kids in for dinner? See, I can’t use this is information because it doesn’t tell me anything. If you’re vague, then I have to wonder why.

So in the end, it’s important to be focused and deliberate with your promotion plan and establishing your platform. If you’re a soccer coach who wrote a manuscript about the joys of baking as a stress reliever, then you have some serious work to do so editors will jump on their desks and scream, “We got us a live one!!!”

The idea is to make yourself an attractive target that showcases you and your book in the best light.


Who needs reality shows when you can read

July 8, 2013

Image

Who needs reality shows when you can read Behler books – unbeatable, unforgettable, soul-swelling memoir.


Do I Need a New Book? Yes, you do…

June 24, 2013

need a new bookAnd since we have established this fact, may I suggest our newest release:

Testicles-smLEARNING TO PLAY WITH A LION’S TESTICLES is excellent reaching for the beach/vacation/avoiding work/general malaise. We’ve rated this as a 3 on the Boxes of Kleenex Scale, and a 5 on the Laugh ‘Til Your Abs Hurt Scale, as author Melissa Haynes travels to South Africa to volunteer on a game reserve, blithely believing she’s helping save the animals when, in fact, they end up saving her.

So yes, you need to buy a new book. This book.


Have You Planned For Success?

February 4, 2013

sorels

I never thought I’d see the day where my daily shoes would be *Sorels. I’m a SoCal native, and my shoe choices leaned more heavily toward Rainbows or deck shoes. Socks? Phht, we don’t need no steekin’ socks. It’s SoCal, baby.

Then I moved to Pittsburgh, and the idea of wearing Rainbows or deck shoes became pure fantasy during the months of October-March/April. Had Baby Daughter not spent a year in Boston, I wouldn’t have known about proper footwear in frigid weather because I hadn’t planned for it. I know squat all about cold climes, and believe me, it’s all about the planning, baby.

The same can be said about your writing career. Most writers get an amazing idea and increase their BIC index (Butt In Chair) to 24 hours a day in order to bang out their tomes. But at some point, you need to take stock of what to do after writing The End. This is where reality slaps you upside the head and you realize This. Is. A. Business. And successful businesses take planning.

So you need to ask yourself, “Am I a Rainbow gal walking around in Sorel Land?” If so, then you might want to consider these points:

Writing/Research

I reject many manuscripts because the authors didn’t do any research. I remember reading one story where the main character was taking a romantic moonlight stroll along the Amazon River. I nearly broke  a rib laughing. I’ve been to the Amazon and the last thing anyone (with a brain, that is) would do is stroll outside at night. Not unless they were interested in seeing how long it took for the mosquitoes to drain your blood supply. Research, baby.

If your character has MS, then you better research the snot out of MS because you’d be amazed at how vital and active many MS patients are.

Stamp this on your forehead: If you don’t research, then you haven’t planned for success.

The same goes for writing. My last post said something about authors whose writing skills are still at the remedial stage, then they don’t need a good editor, they need to learn those skills. And it’s true. You can have a great story idea, but if you write like you barely made it out of 8th grade, then no reputable editor will take pity on you and offer you a contract. They’ll kick you to the curb. Quickly.

Being an expert in your craft should take precedence over your desire to be published. Sadly, I see the opposite in large quantities.

Stamp this on your forehead: If you haven’t learned how to write, then you haven’t planned for success.

Editing

I know I beat this particular drum to the point of excess, but it bears constant comment because not all editors are created equally, as I mentioned in a recent post. If your book is poorly edited, then you are going to suffer the ultimate humiliation of having everyone tell you how many mistakes they found.

You must, must, must be absolutely certain of the kinds of editors your publisher hires. Do they have experience from solid houses, or did they serve a small internship and were set loose to wreak havoc on unsuspecting books? Be especially aware with e-publishing because these houses  oftentimes have a much smaller operating budget, and can’t afford to hire experienced editors. Keep your focus on those who have been in business for at least 2-3 years.

Stamp this on your forehead: If you haven’t checked out potential publishers’ editors, then you haven’t planned for success.

Publishing Intent

Before you begin the query process, you need to have a dialog with yourself about your writing intent. Are you a hobbyist who’s simply having some fun? If so, then you should probably take trade presses off your list because they’re not looking for hobbyists. They’re looking for career writers. Instead, you could think about slapping it up on CreateSpace and see what happens. But the idea is that you have a realistic vision of your writing and arrange your publisher query list accordingly.

Stamp this on your forehead: If you haven’t analyzed your writing career, then you haven’t planned for success.

Marketing/Promotion – You vs. Your Publisher

With the advent of DIY publishing and the need to self-promote, many authors have forgotten a very important element in the equation; the publisher. They have a responsibility to you as well, besides assuming production costs. You need to find out exactly what they will do for your book once it comes out.

Do they send out physical ARCs to media and reviewers? Do they schedule signing events and interviews? Do they provide you with free books? Do they take out ads? Marketing and promotion differs for each house, and you need to know which houses will best enhance your exposure to the marketplace.

Stamp this on your forehead: If you haven’t found out what publishers do to promote your book, then you haven’t planned for success.

Distribution

You may love your editor like you love Twinkies, but if they can’t get your book out to the marketplace, then all the niceness in the world won’t make up for the fact that your book is circling the drain.

When I talk about distribution, I’m not talking about Ingram and Baker & Taylor. They are warehouse distributors who simply fulfill orders placed by bookstores and libraries. I’m talking about independent distributors who have sales teams that pitch your catalog to genre buyers. It means those publishers have store placement.

The same goes for e-publishers. I’ve run across many who only sell their e-books on their own sites. In cases like this, you need to ask yourself what is driving the marketplace to their website. In most cases, nothing. And so your e-book circles the drain. Your e-publisher should have your e-book available in every digital online site in order to increase your footprint.

Stamp this on your forehead: If you haven’t asked potential publishers about distribution, then you haven’t planned for success.

In short, if you truly honor yourself and your writing, then you must plan for your success. You can’t leave it up to the four winds or chance because the streets are littered with broken-hearted authors whose new mantra is, “Shoulda, coulda, woulda.”

*Sorels are deliciously warm and waterproof bundles o’ love. You can slog through rain or snow, and your tootsies will remain in Nirvana.

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