Saturday, December 20, 2014

Calling all authors: Can you relate?

…So, lately, I’ve been hesitant to tell people I’m an author…because…I’ve written and published 8 books, a while back, but then I’ve been working on getting a series of 12 books polished and published as a series, and they’re contracted with my favorite publisher, Champagne Books, but until I get them polished, I can’t get them out there, and since it’s been so long since I actually had a book out there, and people can’t actually buy my work right now…well, I sometimes add that I’m an author to that ‘What do you do for a living?” question people often get when they meet someone…but…sometimes I don’t…
…Yes, I know I shouldn’t feel that way, and once an author always an author and all that, but since my daughter got cancer last year, I barely keep up, and I remember talking to people in the past that hadn’t written for a long time, and thinking, “Wow, that’ll never be me. I’ll always write.” Humph. Na├»ve little ole me. Got slapped in the face with life and reality.
So I asked others if they could relate to the problems of writing style and changes and interruptions to their life. They could.
Hebby Roman said, “I've been writing since around 1990. I was print published in the late 1990's through 2001. I came back to writing early last year. And yes, my writing process has changed a lot over time. I actually have a blog about the changes, entitled: \"Obsessive Compulsive vs. Seat of the Pants.\"
… Kevin Henry said, “I was thinking about being a writer 30 years ago. Could be even longer than that, but it was about then that when people asked where I would be in five years I would say A Writer. It took a little longer. I was imitating and not being very original. I rarely finished what I started. It was a wonderful pile of incomplete manuscripts that all sounded like someone else. Then I finally realized I needed to be me, and an idea presented itself shortly thereafter. My first novella was written like a knitting project. I would write stuff all out of sequence and then put bits and parts together to fill in the holes. It worked well, and I continued that process with the second and to a lesser degree the third story. Those will be published in 2015 by Champagne Books. I’ve begun work on the fourth story, and it’s been more challenging. I have notes and scribbles on cocktail napkins and all sorts of things I want to include. I intend on sitting down over the holidays and start this new knitting project. I guess the answer is for the first 30 years the process was incomplete. In the past three years, the process has become more concrete and much more productive.” 
Ronald Hore said, “I have published four novels through Champagne and one novel-length collection of my novellas. I have seven novellas in total with Champagne. The process changes. The first book arises from an idea, then sequels appear. More of a pantser than a plotter. I write in two main styles, High Fantasy for my novels, and more of an urban fantasy style for my series of fantasy detective novellas. As yet, unpublished stuff might include bits of Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Horror (with thriller thrown in.). I’ve been writing for several years, 30 or 40, with 15 years of non-fiction thrown in. My published fiction dates back about ten years. Process changes, started as a plotter, became a pantser, and now it depends on the project.”

… Angelica Hart and Zi, a writing team, said, “We have written and had published 62 novels/novellas and approximately 230 short stories over various genres. Additionally, we have 7 novels in various forms of draft and have another 280 short stories waiting to be polished. We are the little engine that could.  No wonder I’m so tired. So to answer the question, does the process change, it needs to be answered in two ways. No, it does not. Yes, it does. I’m not fence straddling here.  There are fundamental processes we need to go through to create any work, such as develop the idea, create an outline, character development and determine the genre/audience.  

..."But when writing a piece such as romance, we must immerse ourselves into the components that make it such.  This would be typical for any of the genres produced.  A romantic hero is certainly different than a contemporary hero.  One bigger than life, and the other the result of the character created within the context of the story. One of the advantages and complications of sharing intellectual properties is having to share the depth of the stories and characters.  This requires a lot of prepping dialogue, so that we can approach it as one writer.  If not the conflict becomes apparent if parties are of conflicting directions.  This requires a strong, tight outline with equally tight characters that have been fleshed out before we discover their adventures.  However, the one thing we do not share are the jelly donuts.  They are mine! 

..."The trick of writing in various genres is to first feel the universes within each.  One of the tricks we do is, we will retrieve ten to fifty images that reflect the mindset of that universe.  That could include geography, the look of a character, outfitting, sights or buildings.  We tape them to the walls of our office.  We will also talk and communicate with each other as if we are in those worlds, thus it helps create the patter of our dialogue. We go to great distances to get into the minds of the characters.  Separating who we are as people and what we intellectualize about the characters.  I as a mother have to think like a telepathic okapi, and I’m neither telepathic nor an okapi, therefore, I have to feel within the world of their existence.  I can’t project myself.  I must project the character. I can’t feel what it’s like to fly since I never have without a plane.  And I have never been in a life threatening conflict, but I must write as if I am.  

..."So, it becomes extraordinarily important to relinquish myself to the identity of the character I am creating.  If we can’t do that, we fail that character and our story and mostly the reader. Therefore, every day we write, we are Water Mitty, dreaming and living vicariously. We both started seriously writing in our twenties, found some success in our thirties but became prolific in our fifties. As partners we learned short cuts to creating ideas.  We have lamestorm sessions where we each present an idea and determine if it is lame or worthy of further creation. Our basic process hasn’t changed, but has been refined.  I don’t turn red-faced trying to get my point across.  The vein in his brow no longer throbs blue.  

..."We have learned to discuss in a way that makes it about the story, the reader and not about our self-esteem. The Golden Fleece we Jasons have retrieved is that we have made a pact to agree to agree. This means we force ourselves to compromise for the betterment of the story and the reader, not our own egos. Having had the privilege to work with various editors we have learned to become more efficient and effective by anticipating what their needs are.  We have as a partnership created defined roles and responsibilities.  Someone may be the lead on a project and the other is the strong editorial force.  Someone may be the ideas guru while the other punches up the color of the universe.  Then on final read, we switch roles.  Thus, hopefully enriching our gift.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Why I Write

I was telling my students (I teach grade six!) the other day that I have considered myself a professional writer since I was seventeen. That means that I've been working at my 'craft' for fifteen years. My students then assumed that, after so much time, I was as successful as J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, or Veronica Roth.

No such luck.

I feel I've done well. I've had articles, poems, and stories published over the years. A lot of them deal with mental illness, which I feel passionate about bringing awareness too. Now I'm starting my adventures of publishing YA novels. But, by no stretch of the imagination, do I have the prowess, skill, or fame of J.K. Rowling.

Not even close.

"Mrs. Greene," a student then asked. "Why do you stay at it?"

The easy answer: I like it.

Of course I like it. If I didn't like writing, I wouldn't do it. But I like lots of things that I don't do. Ice skating is fun, but that is a twice-decade activity that I rarely make time for. I like baking, but I never have the time, energy, or ingredients to make a habit of it.  Sure, writing is fun, but it is also a lot of hard work. Sometimes thoughts and sentences flow out of my fingers beautifully. Most of the time I sit doodling, tapping my pen, and banging my head against the desk.

So why do I stick at it?

I guess I feel it is a worthwhile pursuit. There is an end result that is fulfilling and meaningful. All tales, no matter the content, have value. I know I may never be incredibly famous. I may never win a Pulitzer prize in literature. Most likely, a poem I penned in the twelfth grade will never be stitched onto a pillow. Emma Watson may never portray one of my characters on film. (Alas). Some things I write may be published. A lot will be tossed in the trash. But its the effort of writing that is most important, the action of striving for the best words or phrasing. The strength of putting pain into tangible lines.

In other words...

I write:

I write because I have words trapped in my head.
I write because I have scenes that flash before my eyes.
I write with hope.
I pour out despair: crumble, cringe, collapse.
I write to enlighten.
I write to understand.
I write cathartically, or to fill a void.
I write with humour, a flash of arrogance, the muses' guide.
I write my stories and tell the tales.
I write to thrive.
I write to survive.
I write because I can.
I write because I must.

Jenna Greene: "A writer by design, desire, and ambitions of sanity."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why Aren't You Twitching?

I sometimes get odd looks from people when they ask how I connected with my publisher. Because my answer, invariably, is ‘by twitching’.

Sometimes they just nod and smile. Other times they back away slowly. Perhaps they think it might be catching.

But if you’re a writer looking to place a book with an agent or an editor, trust me—you want to catch this twitching madness. It’s like speed dating, for writers.

Okay, I suppose a definition is in order at this point. Twitching is the art (and science) of crafting a ‘pitch’ for your book, in less than 140 characters—yes, you read that right, not words but characters—in order to participate in any of a variety of ‘pitch parties’ offered on Twitter. Twitter + Pitch = Twitch. Simple, eh?

Essentially, a twitch is a query letter writ small. It should contain the same basic elements as a query:

·        The main character, by name or vivid description
·        The central conflict around which the plot is based
·        The stakes of success or failure by the MC

The way the whole process works is that writers with completed and polished manuscripts pitch those manuscripts during a Twitter contest. Agents and editors monitor the feed for the contest, which normally seem to last about 12 hours. They ‘favorite’ twitches which attract their interest, indicating to the writer that they are invited to submit per the agent/editor’s guidelines—normally a  query and set amount of pages, ranging from 10 pages to a full manuscript. 

There is such an amazing community of writers hanging out on Twitter. People who support and encourage each other. People who offer to read queries and/or manuscripts, and provide critiques to help improve them. People like Dan Koboldt, Michelle Hauck, Brenda Drake, and Tamara Mataya and Jessa Russo, who spend inordinate amounts of time, energy and good will lining up agents and editors to participate in their contests. And then spend even more time and energy running those contests, so aspiring authors will have an opportunity to connect with said editors and agents. I can't begin to imagine the time and effort these folks pup in, all gratis. It's their way of giving back to the writing community. If there is indeed heaven for writers, these guys are going!

I participated in several pitch contests in my journey towards publication. I found them to be a terrific learning experience. You pretty quickly garner a sense of what does and doesn’t work, by watching what kinds of twitches end up getting requests. And you learn the art of brevity like nothing else can teach. When you only have 130 characters, including spaces, to tell about a 120k-word novel, you tend to cut to the chase.

Twitter contest are also a marvelous opportunity to make friends with other writers who are in the same boat. This is a group of hopeful authors, proud of their work and daring to put their words on the line in the hopes of capturing the interest of an agent or editor. I also find it fascinating that the writers themselves, far from trying to subvert the competition, instead retweet other contestants’ twitches to indicate their approval, and send them messages of encouragement. I’ve met so many super folks through these Twitter contests, people I’m proud to call my (virtual) friends. Many have offered suggestions and critiques on my manuscript, my query letters and my pitches to help make them better. And I’ve tried to pay that forward, offering advice and critiques to others who may need a little help along the way. Because, as some sage so wisely said, what comes around, goes around.

Even though some of my twitches in various contests received requests from several agents and editors, initially those didn’t pan out. Receiving a request through one of these contests is no guarantee of anything other than an invited opportunity to submit. While a particular twitch may engender interest on the part of an agent, it doesn’t mean that that agent it going to necessarily find the book itself exactly what they’ve been craving all these years. 

The twitch which ultimately led to my offer of a contract to publish my fantasy novel TRAITOR KNIGHT was:

Morgan risks death, dishonor & a woman's scorn when he poses as a turncoat to unmask the traitor plotting his kingdom's downfall.

I honestly didn't think it was one of my best efforts. But it caught an editor's interest. And that's what counts. It's not always adherence to the established formula (Character + Conflict + Stakes) that does the job (although in this case I pretty much did just that). But sometimes it's the voice or an intriguing story element that results in a request. In any event, I was asked to submit a full manuscript (which went out within ten minutes of that request). Not that I had any haunting feeling that this was 'the one'. I had several other full and partial manuscripts out with other agencies at the time, and this was just one more in the bunch.

You hear a lot about 'it only takes one yes'. I had my share of rejections over the years I'd been querying TRAITOR KNIGHT. But it does just take that one time when it resonates with an agent or editor. When they can see your vision, hear your voice. When they get it. This was that time for me.

Just to be clear, I'm by no means advocating that writers leave off the querying process and rely solely on Twitter contests. Down that path lies madness, despair and most likely, dragons. But I am advocating the notion of adding  Twitter contests as a significant part of a writer's arsenal. It's simply one more means to an end. It won't work for everyone, but there are enough stories with a 'happy ever after', mine included, to assure you that these contests can be a potentially valuable resource.

Keep querying by all means. But consider twitching once in a while too. Who knows, you might even have fun. And you may well see me there. Because even though I'm not participating, I still monitor the feeds, and root for friends I've made along the way.  One more way of paying it forward.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Power of Suggestion

The Power of Suggestion when writing your first novel:

In my never ending journey to learn more about writing I have been sleuthing books on how to become a better writer. The most mind-bending one was a recent read by Rob Parnell titled The Easy Way to Write a Book that Sells that discusses mindset/attitude being tackled before the mechanics of the process. He begins with the history of the written word and quickly progresses to the huge advantages that writers face that write today. Could we be in more ideal times? From the use of word processors to the internet’s vast library resources, we have the perfect tools at our disposal. We as a people understand the written word like never before as books on writing have proliferated. Anyone who wants to write a book can easily acquire the tools for the mechanics of the journey. But what I want to focus on instead is the way a writer thinks about the world that can encourage or discourage the journey.

The brain is a complex machine. Psychologists say that at some deep level we remember everything it experiences. How to tap into this well of knowledge is at the crux of the matter. Our minds are always active, always trying to solve problems, experience the moment, helping us to cope with modern life. It is a miracle.

It has one flaw. It can only focus on one or two things at any given moment. Otherwise it gets stressed. But our subconscious is a different matter. It’s a vast storehouse. It enables us to enact routines like driving a car or playing a musical instrument on auto-pilot. That same process can allow us to write books if we embed the process in our sub-conscious. At least according to Parnell who thinks understanding this puts you half the way to writing your next novel. I think he’s on to something. Learn the proper techniques of writing early on in your writing journey and you can focus on storytelling through your sub-conscious.

He goes on to tackle the “Commentator”. You know that part of you that makes you feel inadequate to a task if you let it. I used to call it the mind-loop. He suggests grasping hold of it and stop letting it have sway over you. Some Commentators are not useful to the people they serve, not wanting to change their view of the world they will try to have sway over you and keep you from achieving your full potential. Parnell suggests grabbing hold of how it speaks to you and redirect it back with positive thoughts. Challenge its views and see the other side of things. Because, the sad truth is, if you don’t really believe that you will write and finish your first novel, your Commentator won’t help you. And it’s this same voice that writes your book. Get his/her head on straight and you’re half way done because you need that voice to be healthy, mature, and insightful to write your book the best way possible.

Parnell has written and taught writing for over thirty years and he can’t believe the number of writer wannabes that don’t finish their first book. This book is aimed at that group too. He wants to give them tools to help them finish and feel good about it. J

Happy writing everyone!
Best, January Bain
Forever Series
Champagne Books



Monday, December 15, 2014


This is my second year writing a holiday romance. The two stories could not be further apart in content or heat level. Ely’s Epiphany (Secret Cravings Publishing, 2013) is a sizzling hot M/M Christmas romance about two ex-Green Beret partners who reexamine their relationship after two decades. It’s a holiday sequel to Search & Rescue. On the other hand, this year’s Christmas story (The Twelfth Night Queen, Secret Cravings Publishing, 2014) is a sweet Regency M/F historical featuring a noble damsel in distress, a dashing Earl who would love to come to her rescue, and a villain with a secret who fights to keep the couple apart to possess the damsel himself.

Whatever the holiday, there are several factors to consider when writing a holiday story.  First of all, start your planning and writing well ahead of the holiday. Some publishers plan their publication schedules a year or so ahead. Others have deadlines much closer to the holiday (as late as October 1st for Christmas). This year I was rushed with edits and a release with another publisher and ended up submitting my story a couple of days before the October 1st deadline. BIG mistake. Even if you’re offered a contract (my story was, thank heavens), you’re at the back of the edit line and doomed to a later release.

Why can later releases spell disaster? The sooner a “seasonal” book is released, the more opportunity the author has to market it during that window before the holiday which is critical to sales. For example, readers get into the Christmas spirit in November. I admit to being a Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movie addict. When not doing NaNo, I’m baking, humming carols, and hitting that BUY button on my Christmas reads. The earlier the release, the better.

How do you get a jump on writing/submitting holiday stories? Identify a publisher who accepts holiday stories. If you’re already published, that should be easy enough to do - JUST ASK. Of my four publishers, one doesn’t do holiday stories. Another does an in-house call for holiday submissions among its authors. Another put out a call late in the year. The last one – SCP - loves holiday stories and posts a call for submissions almost a year ahead.

The call for submissions is critical. The call for submissions includes what the publisher is looking for (subject matter and length) and when it’s due. If you can’t deliver on all of those, don’t bother submitting. The publisher knows what they’re looking for. If the call allows flexibility in the subject matter or length , then go for it.

HOWEVER, before starting to outline/write the story, it’s smart to read a few of their Christmas bestsellers from the previous year to determine what they accepted in the past. My story last year was an M/M that was a bit dark with an unexpected HEA ending. Fortunately, it did fine. This year, I was more traditional and went with a warm and fuzzy Regency Christmas story. Make sure the story you write is marketable.

Submit your story early. Publishing houses tentatively plan to publish a limited number of books each year. If you watch author announcements of contracts, it’s evident that publishers don’t wait until after the deadline to offer contracts. Why should they? If they see a book they really like, why not snap it up while it's still available? The author may have submitted elsewhere and might accept a contract before the deadline. On the author’s side, an early submission can also allow the author to recover from a rejection, edit the story as needed, and/or submit elsewhere.

Have time set aside for edits and marketing. I personally like to do a less than 48-hour turnaround with edits. I set everything else aside to complete the first edit and do a read-through. Everyone is busy around holidays, so get that book back to the editor to get it published. Have your marketing plan set in place early because you don’t know when something could interfere with your plans.
UPDATE. I wrote this post in early October. I should have followed my own advice about submitting early. The book didn't need a lot of edits, but my personal life got in the way in a big way and while my edits were turned around in 24 hours, I was still stressed. Lesson: SUBMIT EARLY!


Finally, as the year draws to a close, I want to thank the authors at The Writers’ Vineyard for sharing all their expertise over the years. I’ve learned from everyone and look forward to doing so in the future. Happy Holidays to all!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Toys From Christmas Past

Christmas brings out the kid in all of us.Close your eyes, think back what special toys did you tell Santa or your parents you wanted for Christmas? Please share what you wanted and let us know if  you receive the toy? Do you or have you purchased the latest and greatest craze for your own kids?

Check out the toys of Christmas past

1910s Teddy Bear, Erector Set and Lionel Trains
1920s Crayola Crayons, Tinker Toys and Raggedy Ann
1930s Monopoly and Viewmaster Slide Viewer
1940s Scrabble, the Slinky and Silly Puddy
1950s Yahtzee, Hula Hoop and Play-Doh
1952 Match Box Cars
1959 Barbie Dolls
1960 Mr. Potato Head (One million sold), and The Game of Life
1962 Operation
1964 GI Joe and Easy Bake Oven
1966 Barrel of Monkeys
1975 Pet Rock (five million sold in six months), Pong and Slime
1977 Holly Hobbie Dolls
1978 Anything Star Wars
1979 Atari
1980 Rubiks Cube
1982 Cabbage Patch Dolls and BMX Bikes
1983 My Little Pony
1984 Care Bears
1988 Anything Ghostbusters
1990 Anything Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
1993 Anything Power Rangers
1996 Ticklw Me Elmo and Buzz Lightyear
1997 Teletubbies and Beanie Babies
1999 Anything Pokemon
2001 Bob The Builder and anything Harry Potter
2002 Bratz Dolls
Rest of the 200os Anything electronic, Nintendo, Xbox, Playstation, Wii,
2011 Angry Birds
2014 My guess...anything from the movie Frozen

Please visit my website I write something for everyone, murder mystery Bolt Action and Ghost Story Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary, and for children, picture book What If A Zebra Had Triangles, chapter book Sled DogTales and a puzzle book, Directions For Life for teens and adults. Thanks, Victoria Roder

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How My Character's Character Can Direct My Stories

Have you ever noticed that a character in one of your stories has completely changed the direction of the tale? Mine do it frequently.

I’m a pantser, so I usually do very little plotting before I leap into writing a novel or novella. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. Ideally, stick with what method works best for you. What I have noticed, however, is how things sometimes can change quite unexpectedly. Does this ever happen to plotters?

I first noticed it when I wrote The Queen’s Pawn. The queen in the tale was originally designed and written as somewhat scatter-brained. As I got into the story, she changed. In fact, she turned out to be quite a strong individual. That might not have happened to me if I had spent hours plotting the story and the characters fully in advance, but it made complete sense in the context of what I wrote. I had to then develop a backstory that told why she acted that way, adding depth to the tale. I had to figure out what motivated her. The same thing happened to a lesser degree to her bratty daughter. Why did she behave the way she did? The insight into the characters I gained changed the direction of the story. When I started writing the sequel, my knowledge of these and the other characters affected the plot line.

To a degree, the same thing happened when I looked to do a sequel for The Dark Lady. By the end of the first book I had wrapped up the plot to my satisfaction, put most of the villainy in its place. When I was asked to expand the story, I had to consider what might happen next. While there was much nastiness still afoot, I realized that a minor character in book one would make a great major protagonist. Thinking of how that individual would react, gave me the background plot for the next two volumes of the trilogy.

I suppose I could do a lot of plotting before I begin, but I’m too impatient. I often enter a scene not knowing exactly how it will turn out. My knowledge of the characters, how they would react, or what they might say, will often govern the end result. That might even change where I originally planned to go with the tale.

I guess a lot of my writing is often a co-operative affair, with me shoving the story in one direction, and the characters throwing road-blocks in my way. Fortunately, some characters are quite happy to toe the mark and do what I tell them. It’s the rebels in the crowd who make writing more interesting for me.

I had just finished writing this essay, when it happened again. I was writing a scene between two characters having an argument. One decided to reveal something I hadn’t planned to bring up. That throws a new wrinkle into my plot. I may just let the characters solve it themselves. After all, they started it.

Do plotters have this problem, if it is a problem, or does their tale always run true from start to finish?

Struggling writers are curious to know.


The Novels:
The Dark Lady Trilogy
The Queen’s Pawn
The Novellas:
Knight’s Bridge
The Housetrap Chronicles (six…so far)


Monday, December 8, 2014

Critique partners? Yes!

Have I mentioned how cool my critique partners are? All my CPs have been happily married for long enough to be mothers of grown children. They've raised families and have gone on to start careers as writers.

Lizbeth Selvig is not only a published author with Avon's Impulse line, but an experienced horsewoman and rider, active with her pony club for many years. Her daughter is a veterinarian and custodian of Liz's many 'grand animals' while her son and daughter in law have given her an actual human grand-daughter.

Nancy is a full teaching professor (who wants to keep her two identities separate, so I'll say nothing more specific about that.) She's signed a contract for two of her books – but can't talk about that either, yet, lest she preempt the publisher's promotional plans. She continually impresses me with her work ethic and productivity – and her kindness in providing many a ride to our meetings.

Ellen has been learning to fly a small plane! She's already qualified to fly solo – and her WWII home front romantic-intrigue novels are sure to find an audience when the right publisher comes along.

I am pleased and proud to be in such fine company. Though I don't feel too shabby, with my multiple publications and multi-faceted artistic background, I feel I've got plenty to learn from the varied backgrounds of the others.

My CPs have given me numerous suggestions that make my stories better and my characters more believable – not to mention my grammar and spelling better. Each of them comes from a different perspective and finds different kinds of problems in my work. Nancy writes short and is great at getting to the pith of a story. Liz has worked professionally as an editor and catches every problem in punctuation. Ellen asks questions that get to motivation and character. There's not a lot of markup when she sends her feedback, but it doesn't take much from her to get me rethinking everything.

When I neared the halfway point of my WIP, troubled by the unsettling feeling that there was no dynamic tension and the whole thing was winding up too soon, my CPs put their fingers on the problem. My hero was acting as if he took the strange and magical elements of the story at face value, when he's the sort who would doubt and question everything. As much as he'd want the magic to be true, he's a cynic. He'd be motivated by concern for the heroine, but would not accept her purported identity without question, and the whole quest could fail if he hangs back too long.

There have been episodes like this with every story. Sometimes I think I should cite them as co-authors, since the stories would not be the same without them, but so far I'm sticking to thanking them every chance I get, and particularly in the acknowledgment sections of each work I have gotten published

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Serious Fun

I take writing pretty seriously. I work at it every day and I set goals for finishing manuscripts. Sometimes I have deadlines to meet; edits due back to the editor by a certain time, blog posts, such as this one, needing to be written on schedule
Because I take my writing seriously, I occasionally have to remind myself to let go and have some fun with it. I don’t want to become one of those people, you know the ones, who take themselves so seriously that other people begin to roll their eyes and then stop inviting out for coffee.

Then again, I didn't start writing and don’t keep writing just for the fun of it. So why did  I put on my trail shoes and start down the path marked ‘the writing life’?  It wasn't because of the money, because, God knows, working at the donut shop would likely pay better. It wasn't because of the reviews and the praise I may or  may not get. Oh, the praise is lovely; no doubt about it, but it’s beyond my control and looking for it constantly can make a girl crazy. It wasn't for the terror of facing an empty page and thinking ‘now what?’.

Honestly, there are days I have to think long and hard to come up with a reason. When I do, it always comes back to the same thing—joy.  I love making up stories, I love the way words sound together and when they come together well, when they sing? It’s pure bliss. I love creating characters who become so real they sit with me as I type and talk in my head even when I’m not writing. I love the challenge of trying to capture time and place, like catching fireflies in a jar, of making manifest on the page the sights and sounds of my imagination. 

To do all of those things, any of those things, I have to be willing to sit back, to play, to let the story run wild and free, at least in the early draft. The more I can let go, the better the work becomes. I guess you could call it serious fun.

 'Til Next Time

Saturday, December 6, 2014

No NOOKie?

Barnes & Noble has announced a severing of its partnership with Microsoft for its NOOK e-reader. [ ] NOOK has had problems trying to compete or simply catch up to Amazon's Kindle from day one, and while Microsoft had invested more funds into NOOK's technology in recent years, the device has not matched expectations of the market. 

Why should authors or readers care? Barnes & Noble are not dropping NOOK, they supposedly are negotiating with potential partners to take over for Microsoft. Will the tech ever catch up with Kindle, which is now more like a full functioning tablet? Likely not. NOOK owners love them as they are. The problem with NOOK is it is merely a symptom of B&N's overall illness: slow-thinking Corporate Mentality. 

Back in the heyday of The Big Box Bookstore, B&N was a vibrant company which allowed its store managers leeway to interact with their local communities. Here in Tucson for example, one B&N store held a Local Author Night every month, inviting even independently published authors to participate. For a time, despite Amazon's growth into the behemoth that now dominates the market, stores which maintained their local ties remained at least somewhat viable. But when Corporate stripped individual managers of their flexibility to "save money," Author Night and other community involvement programs bit the dust, eliminating reasons for locals to go to B&N. Many never returned. 
 Barnes & Noble has also sought to inject excitement into its stores to combat the tepid store traffic that has plagued much of the retail industry. The retailer has gotten more creative with how it organizes its titles, added new displays and toys, and introduced big-ticket gifts like a $100 Crosley turntable ahead of the crucial holiday shopping season.

Hey B&N, here's a suggestion: Try involving the book-loving community again. New displays are not enough reason to step into a store. Neither are toys when people can get them at every other retailer in town. Have you ever heard someone say, "Ooh, I heard B&N has reorganized its titles and displays! Let's check it out!" 

Give the managers free rein to organize writing nights or Local Night or any decent reason to actually invite the book-loving public into their stores and you may find sales will crawl upward again. It may not save NOOK from its descent into the Betamax dust bin, but you may be able to earn customer loyalty back, at least a little. 

Happy writing,