I’m trying!

Active voice or passive voice? That is the question, and the answer is always ‘active’. That’s my problem. For some reason, I habitually use passive voice, which makes it more work for me when I do edits and rewrites. Grrr! Sometimes I don’t see the problem sentences until someone points them out, and I’m forever grateful to those who care about me enough to do that. Oh well, we all have our weaknesses, don’t we?

Look at this paragraph from my WIP, Where the River Goes. Do you see the lazy writing?

Kade had been standing to one side, listening. He walked over to stand beside David.“Well,” he drawled, “at least you got one thing right.” He put his hand on David’s shoulder. “This boy is rich. He’s rich in ways you’ll never know. He’s rich with integrity. He’s rich with values that would never allow him to harm or harass anyone for any amount of money. He’s rich with family and friends. And you need to thank God above that I’m with him, and he’s my role model. That keeps me from hurting you.” He turned to David. “Come on, family and friend. Let’s get out of here.”

Now, doesn’t this sound better? Tighten up those sentences. Stop being lazy!

Kade stood to one side, listening. He walked to David’s side. “Well,” he drawled, “at least you got one thing right.” With his hand on David’s shoulder, he smiled. “This boy is rich. He’s rich in ways you’ll never know. He’s rich with integrity. He’s rich with values that would never allow him to harm or harass anyone for any amount of money. He’s rich with family and friends. And you need to thank God above that I’m with him, and he’s my role model. That keeps me from hurting you.” He turned to David. “Come on, family and friend. Let’s get out of here.”

I’m trying hard to structure my sentences right the first time instead of facing the job of rewriting them later. I’m learning to avoid using ‘that’ and ‘so’ and other unnecessary filler words. Man! This writing is hard work! Fun, though, don’t you think?

The outline debate

Often writers debate over whether to outline or not. I won’t debate over it. I don’t care what method you use when you write—to each his own. I have published three novellas and didn’t outline any of them. I just started writing and wrote until I was done. About a third of the way in I sketched out a semblance of an outline to sort of know where I was going. However, my characters seemed to change the story, so I’d have to periodically change the outline.

This novel is different. It’s based loosely on a story from the Bible, and I tried to write it from the hip (panster it, if you know what I mean), but I got nowhere fast. One day I sat down and outlined the whole story. I tried using Scrivener, but I haven’t learned that program well enough to make it work for me. Maybe someday. Once the outline was done, I started writing and still haven’t stopped. (Except to eat, sleep, go to church, and other necessities. You get it.)  

My characters still change the plot scenes and I have to revisit the outline a lot, but initially, the plot remains the same. However, I have altered the ending. I intended to kill off a couple of the main characters, but they had a different idea. Guess they didn’t want to die. But who does?

I find it amazing that my characters take on lives of their own. They seem to determine what happens to them and sometimes I feel I have little control. It makes writing fun. I told someone the other day, “My character is lost in the woods and I have no idea where he is.” Their response was priceless. I did eventually find him and take care of him.

I almost dread the long editing process, but I’m excited about getting this book finished. I hope when I read it through it all makes sense without a lot of rewriting. Oh well! I’ll do what I have to do.

What genre?

I’m working hard on a novel, and someone asked me what genre it is. I don’t know! How do I figure that out? I want it to be a romantic suspense, but I don’t know if it has enough romance to be romantic or suspense to be a suspense. So then, what is it?

I wrote a middle-grade novel about a girl who takes off to find her grandpa who disappeared. She has all kinds of experiences as she treks across the country. On top of that, some strangers are after her. So, is it an adventure? Or is it a mystery since she doesn’t know where her grandpa is, why he disappeared, or who is after her?

Then I wrote a YA novel set in the 60s about a girl with a bunch of brothers and a dad with a double standard. She runs away to join a hippy commune. I don’t think it’s an adventure. It isn’t a mystery or suspense. Not romance. Not paranormal or thriller. A character is in the Vietnam war and there are hippy characters, but I don’t think it has enough history to call it historical fiction.  Drama? I guess. I don’t know what else.

I read articles about how to identify the genre of a book, and most books are easy it seems. People write fantasy, thrillers, horror, and romance. They write cozy mysteries, paranormal, crime, and historical romance. So, I’ll just call my books realistic fiction. That’s what they are. Maybe someday I’ll write a romance or mystery, but for now, I’ll work to make my story more suspenseful and more romantic.

Marketing my book.

Last weekend the writers’ group to which I belong had a presenter speak about marketing. In three hours, he had time only to scratch the surface of what we writers could do to market our craft. He discussed building a platform and a brand. It was interesting and informative. His main point was ‘get your name out there’. Make friends. Build relationships. Network, network, network.

I get it. I need to get out of my shell, off my butt, and promote myself. But I hate that! I don’t want to do that! I have a writer friend who wants to do all the writing and illustrating and let ME do all the work of publishing and marketing. I DON’T THINK SO! Of course, like me, that’s what most writers would like.

So, I did a few things the presenter recommended, like fix my tags to include more things such as my website address. That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Then I did something else I loved. I’m in the middle of my novel, and my main characters are having a baby. So—I had a contest on my Facebook author page. Suggest a name for the baby, and if I pick the name you suggest, you win a free, autographed book. One of mine (obviously). I ran the contest for one day, and I had a great response. I chose a name (actually two names) which I announced in a post, announced the winners, and private messaged them to tell them how to choose a book. Guess what. They want to wait for this book!

Now all these people know I’m working on a novel and they feel somewhat invested since they helped me find a name. The two winners are excited about getting a free, autographed novel. Hopefully, they’ll tell their friends, and so on. The word is out! Today, I ate lunch at a local restaurant and with a big smile, the waitress asked me if I decided on a name. YAY!

I’m on the way. I’m building my platform. I’m getting my name out there. Now I’m trying to think of another way to get more people invested in my book. Bless my soul, I’m marketing!

Perceptions

perception

Your perception is your reality. That’s what I’ve always heard, and I believe it to be true. How important is it, then, that we strive to have a right, truthful perception of a situation and more importantly, a person? When we form a perception about a person based on what someone has told us and not what we have witnessed ourselves, this is an untrue and unfair perception which is hurtful to everyone involved.

We form our perceptions from what we see, what we hear, and what we experience. My husband perceived he had a dislike for Chinese food. For years he wouldn’t eat it because he didn’t like it. Then one day he tasted it. His perception changed, and now he enjoys eating Chinese food.

As a teacher, I often heard negative reports from other teachers about students coming my way. I learned that the teacher may have had a bad experience with the student, but I may not have the same experience with that child. Often it had more to do with personality or other factors that were different for me. I learned to judge the child according to the fruits I witnessed myself, not according to what I had heard. I want to form fair perceptions of my students.

This same thing happens in churches with pastors and leaders. Conflict is two-sided. When church conflict happens, some people freely talk about it to others, causing others to form warped perceptions of the people involved. When those who hear one side of the story never hear the opposing side, the perceptions are skewed like a mirror that distorts the image. This often causes church leaders or members to dislike someone simply because of things they heard about that person. They judge a person based on another person’s opinion instead of on the fruit that person bears. This kind of judging is hurtful to all concerned.

Since our perceptions are our reality, we should take measures to have valid perceptions. This takes prayer, forgiveness, and love. An accurate perception of others is a win for everyone.

Where the River Goes (Chapter 1)

Here’s chapter one of my WIP: Hope you enjoy it and give me some feedback.

David yawned, stretched, and looked around the large room. A king-sized bed sat in the middle, covered with a navy blue and cream spread that matched the dark, heavy curtains framing the window. A walnut chest filled with blankets sat at the foot of the bed, and a well-worn leather armchair sat in the corner. The wide window revealed a view of tall office buildings beyond a wide river bordered by huge oak and willow trees.

He had slept here before when he visited the Crandall’s after they moved to the city. Melody Crandall, Kade’s mom, and his own mom, Kathleen, had sent the two friends on a cruise to celebrate their college graduation and as a send-off to their new life as career men. He couldn’t believe his dream had become reality when he was accepted as an apprentice to Oliver Crandall, the biggest business mogul in the state, almost in the nation. Now if only he could convince his dad that Oliver wasn’t a corrupt fraud.

Jesse Kingston had raised his son to be a man of integrity and disapproved when David accepted the invitation to do an internship for a man he considered untrustworthy. And he had good reason. He had done business with Oliver on various occasions, and each time the deal turned sour for Jesse.

Jesse and Oliver had grown up together, and Jesse was proud when Oliver became an engineer. He started a successful shipping company, and Jesse sent clients his way when they needed anything built or shipped. Oliver knew his business when it came to anything on the river. However, according to Jesse, money had become his most valued possession above family, friends, and clients. Gradually, the two men had grown apart and were more like strangers for the past several years.

After David and Jesse held a heated discussion about the issue, Jesse relented. “Just be careful, son,” he had said. “You know what is right. Trust your gut. If you’re faced with a hard decision, think about it and pray about it. Don’t allow yourself to be conned into something unethical.”

David jumped out of the king-sized bed and looked out the window. He would stay in the Crandall home until he was able to find his own place. From here he could see the river where Oliver made his millions, the same river that had been a playground for him and his best friend, Kade Crandall, Oliver’s son. Even though the two boys were quite opposite—blonde David, a music lover with big dreams, and dark headed Kade who enjoyed nothing more than playing a joke on any unsuspecting victim—they shared a love for their families, for the Island, and for the river.

A hard knock on his door brought David back to the present. Before he could answer, the door flew open and David was body-slammed onto the bed.

“Argh!” David threw up an arm to shield himself from his attacker and rolled over.

“You’re such a wimp.” Kade rolled off the bed and onto the floor. “Nothing has changed since we were kids.”

“Except one thing.” David wrapped a leg around Kade. “Now I’m taller than you. Ha!” He rolled on top of Kade and they wrestled until another knock on the door caught their attention.

“Come on, guys, breakfast is ready.” Sadie, Kade’s younger sister, threw a pillow at the two. “Hurry up or we’ll eat without you.”

David jumped up and before she could get away, he had her in a headlock.

“Ouch!” Sadie squealed “You big bully! Let me go!”

“Not until you say ‘I love you, David. You’re the most handsome man who ever lived.’” David loved to tease Sadie even though he knew she would reciprocate when he least expected it.

“I don’t love you, David, and you are not handsome. Let me go!”

David laughed and scrubbed her head with his knuckles before he let her go. He laughed as she ran off down the hall rubbing her head.

As usual, Oliver had eaten early and gone to the office, but Melody Crandall enjoyed the camaraderie of the three young people as they laughed and teased each other. As a teacher she loved children, but none so much as her own.

“David, I haven’t seen your mom and dad in a while. How are they?” Melody asked. The Crandalls and Kingstons had stayed good friends, but when Oliver’s business expanded he moved his family upriver into the city.

“They’re great.” David swallowed and wiped his mouth with his napkin. “Just the other day Mom mentioned she’d like to see you again. She misses you, you know.”

“I know. I miss her too. Kathleen and I had a lot of good times together.” Her eyes misted, and she gazed out the window. “Is she still giving music lessons?”

“Yes, when she isn’t playing in a symphony or something.” David had inherited his musical ability from his mom.

“Come on, David, and I’ll drive you to the office. Dad said he would meet you there.” Kade downed the last of his coffee and he and David bounded out the door. As they drove through the heavy traffic, Kade turned the radio down.

“Hey, I like that song.” David started to turn it back up but Kade’s solemn expression stopped him. “What’s going on, Kade?”

“There’s something I need to talk to you about, David, before you start working for Dad.”

“Yeah? What is it?”

“Dad told me this morning he’s giving me the Public Relations job. Of course, I’ll work under supervision for a while till I learn the ropes.”

“Hey! Congratulations! That’s a big deal for you, right?” David extended his fist, but Kade ignored the gesture. “What’s wrong? Is there something else?”

Kade shook his head and knitted his brows. “You do realize that means I’ll be gone most of the time. Dad’s sending me to Europe next week.”

“Wow! Europe. You sure you’re ready? I mean, you’ve only been there three months since graduation.”

“I’ll be going with Scott, one of Dad’s secretaries. He was in PR but Dad’s moving him. He’s going to train me.” Kade grinned. “I’m sort of an apprentice, but a little different.”

“I’d say so,” David shrugged. “You’re the boss’s son. Won’t be long until you’ll be the CEO.” This time when David extended his fist, Kade gave him a fist bump.

“A word of caution, though, David. Be careful.”

“What do you mean, Kade? I’m working for your dad.”

“I know. Just be careful. Dad can be a little like a Venus fly-trap.”

David stared at Kade. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Kade laughed and shook his head. “Never mind.” He parked the black Escalade in the parking garage. “We’d better hurry. Dad hates it when people are late.”

Self-publish or traditional, that is the question.

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I’ve self-published all my books, but I’m considering querying a traditional publisher for my next novel. My knowledge about this issue is limited, but I’ve thought about the pros and cons of both methods.  As I see it, the benefits of self-publishing as these: it’s much faster, the royalty is considerably more, and the author has more control over the book.

The only benefit I can see to publish traditionally is getting the book into bookstores such as Barnes and Nobel and being able to have book signings there. However, this is a pretty big benefit. Readers can’t read a book they don’t even know exists. Right?

I’ve read a lot about both methods of publication, and it seems to me that getting a publisher to accept a book can take years, then the royalties are small. It’s my understanding that authors still have to do their own marketing. I may not be seeing the whole picture, but I want to.

I think the time factor is the thing I most dread. I am so torn. What do you think? Am I missing something?