Chapter Titles

Bloggers note: Since I was so derelict in keeping up with my blog while Casey was here, I’m throwing in an extra blog in a poor attempt to make up for it. Whether or not you buy that poor excuse, I hope you enjoy it. Oh, sorry, no pictures. I’ll make up for that too in the next blog. Promise!

Why do authors (writers) not use chapter titles?

More often than not, when I open a book I find only Chapter 1, Chapter 2 …. Etc. in the Table of Contents. Worse yet, many times I don’t even find a Table of Contents or, it’s stuffed way in the back of the book, still without titles.

When I decided to write my first book, one of the first rules I remember reading as I researched things authors should do was: “Use anything and everything you can to pull your readers in and hold their interest”. Or, words to that effect.

At the top of the list were covers, followed closely by your’ books description. Then came a raft of other things and, to be honest, I’m not sure if table of contents and chapter titles were in there or not.

But, shouldn’t they be? After the cover and book description, aren’t they one of the first things a reader sees? Or should?

So, why not use them?

Why not make them catchy? Have them jump out, catch the readers eye and try to make them want to get to that chapter? To make them want to know what’s going on in “What Happens in the Stable, Stays in the Stable”. I mean, what could possibly happen in a stable that you couldn’t talk about? (You’ll just have to read Horses of Tir Na Nog Book 1 to find out. Oh, and no skipping to Chapter 33, either!)

For me, coming up with intriguing chapter titles is almost as much fun as writing the chapter. It makes me go back through each chapter trying to find something catchy. Something that will jump out, catch the readers eye.

Sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes I pick something that doesn’t work and I have to go back and end up spending as much time hunting for a title as I did writing the chapter. Sometimes there’s just nothing there.

When either of the latter two happen, it sends a giant red flag up. Is my chapter that bad? If there’s nothing I can find to catch the readers attention what’s going to make them read that chapter? Come on, there’s got to be at least one line in there I can use. If, on the second pass, I still can’t find anything … that chapter needs to be rewritten!

The opposite works for me too. I can’t tell you how many times, while hunting for a candidate chapter title, I come across ideas to tie that chapter to the next or the next or the next. I’ve even changed the ending in one of my books because a chapter title line gave me a better idea for the ending then the one I’d put in my outline.

More often though, a title leads to enhancement of a subplot, or even a new subplot. Sometimes, even a new chapter, new characters and in two cases, new books in the series and their titles.

There’s two messages here.

In case you missed it, the message here is that not only do chapter titles make my readers think, they make me think too.

Some of the chapter titles I’ve come up with that I love (Nope, no ego here!) are:

  • My Soul is Yours
  • Fireman, Fireman, Light my Fire
  • If You Ever Want to See Your Mother Again (No, I don’t write mysteries.)
  • Your Problem is What?
  • Weasel Weenie and Turkey Butt
  • The President’s Training Wheels are Missing?
  • Eighteen Pashmina Scarves and One Assassin
  • You Live in a Fairy Tale Medieval Village and Work in a Chocolate Shop?
  • Roger … Three Down. Two OD’s and a … Scrotum Sling?
  • Dreams, Fantasies and Nightmares are no Match for Reality.
  • A Horse is a Horse. Right?
  • What do You Mean Your Hose is Bigger than Mine?
  • A Guide to the Witness Protection Program. Keep Moving!
  • Europe, Chia Pets and Ice Cream Sunday Socials.
  • Life in the Petri Dish
  • About the Author

Yes, these are from all four of my published books. With some thought, think you can figure out what those chapters are about? I hope so. Or, I hope they totally stump you and make you want to know. Especially, that last one!

 

Whether or not you use chapter titles is up to you. For me though, I would no more publish a book without them then I would a book without a cover.

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What’s your opinion? Chapter titles or no chapter titles? And why?

Play Time is Over and I’m Back

Sorry for the long absence but I’m back now.

Wow! December and January were crazy but wonderful months. My fantastic writing partner, Casey, arrived on December 4th and was with us until this past Monday. Sadly, for us, she went back to New Zealand but I’m sure she’s glad to be home.

The good news is, we’ll meet up with her in London in two short months for more adventures.

This was her second trip to San Diego. She was here in June for two weeks and this time for seven weeks. While I’m not done showing her our fantastic city, she’s seen a good portion of it and eaten in most of our favorite places. All of our friends absolutely adore her, and everywhere we went she made new friends with the bookstores staff, restaurant owners and wait staff, zoo and Safari Park keepers, and everyone else who met her. Even Sheryl’s Navy Marine Corp Relief Society co-workers want to know when she’s coming back for Taco Tuesday!

I guess the above kind of gave away a few spoilers so, I’d best get on with what we did.

While a lot of touristy stuff was included, it was also a working trip and we got tons of writing related stuff done too. So, in no particular order, let me see if I can remember most of what we did and where we went.

Since Sheryl and I volunteer at the San Diego Zoo, we got her a membership, which will still be good when she returns in October and we attend the La Jolla Writers Conference. Her membership, after my personal guided tour in June, let her explore on her own during the four Saturdays we worked as Interpretative Volunteers.

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Sheryl and Casey on the miniature train at the zoo 

Also included this time were two trips out to Safari Park. On the first trip we took a truck safari out onto the African and Asian Plains where we got to feed the Rhino’s and Giraffe’s. The second trip took in what we’d missed the first time and included a stop at Orfilia Winery afterward where a bottle of Chardonnay, cheese and crackers were sacrificed as we chatted, laughed and looked out over the vineyards from the patio.

Oh, that’s also when she started her list of things to do at Safari Park the next time. Including, the zip line, the balloon ride, taking in the new Walkabout Australia exhibit, another trip out onto the plains and, of course, a stop at the winery on the way home. (We’re quite sure she likes the zoo and absolutely certain she loves Safari Park. But then, so do we.)

Pre-Christmas included taking in the Donna Summer Play at La Jolla Playhouse and dinner with friends at Mr. A’s rooftop restaurant overlooking the city all lit up for Christmas. On Christmas Eve we did a dinner cruise on San Diego Bay where she, Sheryl’s sister Jini, and several women from the tables around us tore up the dance floor.

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Sunset from Mr. A’s

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Casey and Jini whooping it up on the dance floor (That’s Casey in blue with her arms raised)

 

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Our table on the harbor dinner cruise. Jini, Casey, Me and Sheryl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas day was quiet as we tried to explain American football to Casey over a BBQ’ed turkey breast, cranberries, mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans. “Why are they wearing so much stuff?” she kept asking. “Our rugby players are real men,” she added. “They would never be caught in all that padding.”  I’m certain she’ll never understand our football but who cares. Next up, we’ll be watching football (real football, as in soccer) while touring the pubs in England and Ireland.

Aside from my home cooked meals, she’s now been to dinner at 26 of San Diego’s best restaurants, which leaves two we didn’t get to: The Prado and Indigo Grill. Yup, they’re already added to the October list.

Her three favorites? Well, they all begin with “C”. In order: Coasterra, Coasta Brava and C-Level. I’m pretty sure she also liked The Melting Pot where she had her first ever fondue dinner and gooey, chocolate smores fondue for dessert.

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Dinner at Coasta Brava

She’s been all over the San Diego area and now knows her way around almost (I said almost) better than I do. If she’s not sure, she just looks for a plane landing at SD International and knows immediately where she’s at!

She’s been to the beach, stuck her toe in the water on the other side of the Pacific. She’s been up the coast on the train, been to the aquarium, two wineries, Balboa Park and several museums, four bookstores, the Hotel Del, Point Loma, the Cabrillo Monument and the lighthouse.

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An interesting Witch’s Books and Supply Store just down from Adams Ave Books

Every beach area we have she’s visited and eaten in: Mission Beach, Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, Imperial Beach, Del Mar, Oceanside, San Juan Capistrano.

She’s covered the entire bay front on all sides, the Embarcadero, Harbor island, Shelter island, Coronado. She’s seen the Midway Museum, the Star of India, the Maritime Museum and on and on.

Believe it or not, we actually got a lot of writing stuff done too. We updated our outline and added several chapters to our coauthored romance novel, Light My Way. Updated our Marketing and Advertising Plan. Rewrote and added several chapters from our coauthored business book, How Not to Fail in Business Without Really Trying. Attended a Writers Guild presentation on creating an email list and Newsletter; which was already on our to do list.

We held a local book signing and did an author talk at the Bonita Library. We visited four book stores and I’ll be dropping our books off for consignment sale at two of them. We emailed a book store in Alnwick, England to see if we could do a signing there in April and get our books on the shelf. They don’t do signings but, I’ll be sending our books to a friend there so she can hand deliver them.

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Book signing at Donny’s Cafe

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Author talk at the Bonita Library

Most important, we got to know each other better. Because of such short notice and almost no advertising, hardly anyone showed up at our author talk and we sold no books at the signing but, that’s okay. Transitioning between each other during our talk was like we had been doing it forever. And, creating a poster for Casey’s books, setting up for the signing and creating an email list after the Guild presentation just emphasized how much we think alike and how well we work together.

I know I’m missing stuff, but I’m exhausted listing it all. I could also add a thousand more pictures but I’ll just stick with the more interesting ones.

Was it exhausting taking her to all those places? Not a bit. She is so appreciative and such a pleasure to be with. Everyone loves her and she is captivated by everything she sees. Simply put, I can’t wait to see her in England and Ireland.

As for a writing partner, I am the luckiest writer in the world. No one could ask for or have a better partner. She is smart, witty, creative and as much a pleasure to write with as to be with. I just hope that I, as the other side of this partnership, in some way return just some of that.

The best part? In addition to all that, I now have a best friend that truly defines the term BFF. And, if you read my autobiography, you’ll realize I’ve found yet another pretty girl with a cape to share my dreams, and writing life, with.

 

Casey and I love comments. Please let us know what you thought about my blog, or anything else related to our writing, travels or posts.

 

Book Signing and Author Talk

BOOK SIGNING – Saturday January 13th

Come by and purchase a signed copy of our books!

Bob and Casey, his co-writer from New Zealand, will be doing a book signing, this Saturday, January 13th from 8 to 10 am at Donny’s Cafe. (Donny’s is located at 3901 Bonita Road, next to Mission Cyclery and across from Glen Abbey)

AUTHOR TALK – Tuesday January 16th

On Tuesday January 16th from 5 to 6 pm, Bob and Casey will do an author talk at the Bonita Library. (4375 Bonita Road, across from McDonalds and the Vons Center)

Come find out how two authors, separated by 6,750 miles, not only support one another but manage to co-author their latest novels.

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The Holidays

It’s the holidays and Casey is here spending them with us. So, I’ll be taking some much needed time off and running her around to show her all the wonderful places we didn’t get to last June. Yes, we’ll also be doing some writing.

I’ll fill you all in on our adventures shortly after the holidays with a new post.

Happy Holidays and Happy Writing everyone!

 

When I Write A Scene

When I write a scene, I don’t want my readers to be an observer. I want them to be a participant.

I want them to feel, taste, hear, smell what my characters senses are feeling, hearing, smelling or tasting. I want to draw upon their imagination to pull them into the scene so they become the character.

In a restaurant scene:

When they take a bite of their salad I want the reader to feel the cool crisp crunch of the lettuce. The sweetness of a cranberry mixed in with the crunch and woodsy taste of a slivered almond. As the brie, smothered in cranberry sauce is set on the table, I want their senses to light up and drool with my characters.

I want to describe the richness of the butter they’ve dipped their lobster in and the firm, slightly sweet taste of the lobster that blends and complements the butters’ saltiness. Make the reader hurry while sprinkling the vinegar on their chips because they see the crispness of the flour coating or breading on their fish and can’t wait to take their first bite. Then, describe that wonderful aroma of the vinegar mixing with the salt and oil on the chips that makes them grab a chip before delving into the fish.

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Sorry. I couldn’t find a lobster with drawn butter.

But it’s not just the food that makes the scene, it’s the setting too. The ambiance of the room, the furniture. Are there dark wooden booths with soft warm colored cushions that scream comfort and “Stay as long as you want” or modern, uncomfortable, no personality chairs and tables that tell you “Hurry up, the next seating is waiting at the door”?

Is there a fireplace, a fire pit or standing heaters? Each creates a totally different feeling. Don’t forget about the attentiveness (or lack thereof) of the staff. Are they helping my characters enjoy a wonderful relaxed meal or hurrying them along because they have a hot date at the end of their shift?

In a sex scene:

When he licks the inside of her thigh, I want the reader to feel the excitement she feels, the tingles that run through her. The surge of heat that overtakes her. The softness of her skin that he feels. The taste of her. The smell of her.

Once again, I want to carefully paint the room, the bed, the couch, the table, where ever they’re at. Making love on the table tells the reader something totally different about my couple then if one of them led the other to the bed. As does, who led who to the bed and what articles of clothes they lost, and how they lost them, on the way.

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If I want to change the mood, I can plop them down bare ass naked on an imitation leather couch in the middle of the winter or set the mood with the throw grandma knitted that one of them has had forever. Yes, each sets a totally different mood and tells a different story. Oh my God. If only Grandma could see me now!  

Especially in sex scenes, I let my descriptions speak to the reader. Let the scene stir their imagination.

In a setting:

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When they’re looking at a cathedral, a castle, a bridge or a famous landmark I use all their senses to describe it. Anything that distinguishes it, that makes it unique, that piques interest. What makes it a castle and not a cathedral? Or, is it both? The sounds it makes, traffic around it, trains at the station across the street or river. Boats sailing, chugging or being rowed nearby.

Don’t forget smells. A nearby Starbucks, a coffee vendor on the Galata Bridge in Istanbul. A spice market, Christmas tree lot, the sea air smell of the ocean, a restaurant nearby, the fish market,

I not only want the physical details to come to the front, I want subtle and not so subtle feelings to build it into a vision of it and it’s surrounding. It needs to be appreciated, the feeling you get while looking at it needs to form in the readers mind.

The excitement and energy of the moving banner signs of Times Square or the flashing lights of Piccadilly Circus. The fascination of the London Eye as the cars slowly move skyward and the people in them wave to you as they disappear. The beauty of the Eifel tower as its lace like structure disappears into the clouds.

I need to use all of my senses! I don’t just see the Eifel Tower. What about the young people on the lawn of the park next to it? The lovers so involved with each other they don’t even know it’s there! Describe my amazement when the Tower Bridge opens like a regular bridge, instead of rising straight up, like I always think it’s going to.

Some would quickly call this show, don’t tell. But it’s more than that. Much more. It’s drawing on all of the pieces from all the senses to fit together to make the scene. It’s painting a picture with your eyes, ears, nose, fingers, feet and anything else you can use to bring the reader into the scene.

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One last thing. Once you start approaching writing this way, you’ll find that by changing one little sensory image and you can change a mood, take your character totally out of character or repaint the picture and send your reader in a direction they were not expecting! But, that’s the subject for another time and another post.

Happy writing all.

 

What’s your approach to pulling your readers into your story?

Is Sex Okay in Your Love Story

Is it okay to put sex scenes in your love story?

That depends on several things. How adept are you, the author, in describing a sexual scene? Does it fit comfortably with your story and character images? How appropriate is it for your target age group? How will it be received and perceived by your readers? And finally, does it meet any publisher’s or seller’s restrictions.

For me, it’s a “Yes, sex is definitely okay in a love story”. Then, I’m going to add a lot of: Only if’s.

What works and doesn’t

Let me first comment on what I’ve seen others do, that I thought didn’t work. Don’t try and play it too safe. If your couple is going to make love, have them make meaningful love. Let their touching, petting and actual love making express their love and feelings for each other. If you try to avoid being graphic, the scene is going to lose its meaning.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, don’t be too graphic. This is a love story, not porn. Make the scene realistic and meaningful but not too explicit.

Less is more

If you’re going to add a sex scene, use the reader’s imagination as much as possible. Lead them to where you want the scene to go but don’t take it there. Let them get there on their own. For me, less has always been better where a sex scene is concerned.

Undress your couple in a provocative way. Describe the trail of clothes they left. You’d be surprised how much you can say just by painting a picture like the one below.

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Next, lead them to a bed, a couch, a wall, or table and leave them locked in a passionate embrace. Your reader will fill in the rest. And, trust me, they will do it better than any words you write can. Especially if you lead them to someplace other than a bed. Remember, there’s an unspoken message and image in where you lead them.

Keep your characters in character

Be certain the scene you paint and the characters’ actions fit the characters you’ve created for your reader. If your male MC is only 5’ 8” tall, don’t have the female MC amazed when she sees he’s hung like an elephant. Unless of course she’s noticed early on that his jeans don’t fit quite right.

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Also, if he’s been gentle and caring, keep him that way. Contrary to the belief of some, most people don’t change when they lose their clothes.

Be tasteful

Make sure your sex scene is done tastefully and that it fits comfortably into your story line. Don’t just dump them into bed on page three. Let them get to know each other and the reader get comfortable with who they are and their feelings for each other. Finally, be sure the scene’s appropriate for your target age group. If your books are aimed at teens, back off on the explicit descriptions. Make them age appropriate. (Yeah, I know, teens these days know more than you and I but it’s not your place to get them there.)

I’ll end with a few Only If’s and several No-No’s.

  • Never exploit one sex or the other in any way.
  • Always make it obvious that it’s consensual, and enjoyable to both parties.
  • No drugs or violence, ever!
  • Make sure the partners are clearly past the age of consent.
  • Finally, unless they’re trying to start a family, make sure they have safe sex. Especially if they only recently met and don’t know if their partner is disease free or who they might have been with.

Remember, this is a love story! Making love should not just be a physical act. It should enhance and convey to the reader the love, trust and feelings they have for each other.

Oh, and happiness too!

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One final point. As soon as you put a sex scene in, stand by for the seething reviews to roll in. No matter how tasteful and careful you are with your love scenes, you will surely offend someone. Actually, a few someones. So, be ready.

That’s my opinion. What’s yours? Am I too prudish or not prudish enough?

What’s in a Name

What’s in a name?

Picking names

I have no idea why but one of the questions that I’m always asked when I talk about my books is: “How and why did you pick the names for your characters?”

Until the first time that question was asked, I really hadn’t given it a lot of thought.
My first reaction was to answer with “I just pick names that I like or that sound good”. But then I realized that I actually put a lot more effort into selecting names than I thought. I didn’t just randomly pull names out of a hat, or find cool names on the internet. I had a process. And, that process was to find a name that fit my character’s image.

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Names and Images

Without realizing it, all of us form an image when we hear a name. That image can be based on someone we know, or knew with that name or an image we build in our mind from the name itself.

As an example, I went through school with a crush on a girl who called herself CJ. CJ had dark hair, was tomboyish, smart, pretty and popular. I also liked the ring of CJ as a name.

On the other side of the spectrum, I have never personally known anyone named Shannon. But when I hear that name I immediately think of Irish, smart, perky, red hair, pretty with lots of freckles.

Your image of CJ or Shannon may be totally different than mine but that’s why, as an author, you need to describe your characters. Tell your reader what you see and want them to see.

However, it’s really important that you pick a name that fits or at least doesn’t fight with the image you want your readers to see.

If I were to poll most of you, I think we would all share some common traits for a Shannon. Even if we didn’t, I think you would be able to picture Shannon as Irish and having red hair and freckles. While CJ I suspect would be neutral to most of you; which is a good thing. That’s because it would allow me, the writer, to form her into whoever I want. To make you see the CJ I see.

But what if I pick the name Storm or Beatrix? How about if I try to make Storm the girl next door that’s shy, bashful and has dirty blond hair? Or, a middle aged Librarian with mousy brown hair, thick glasses with boring frames and a permanent glare.

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Does that image fit the name? Not for me. (In this case, not even for the horse.)

Storm should be like her name. Wild, carefree, a whirlwind of fun and danger with dark brown, black or fiery red hair.

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And Beatrix? Should she be short, anorexic skinny, with blond hair and be from Norway? Well, the blond hair and Norway parts would fit but certainly not the short or anorexic skinny parts. Especially coming from Norway! That’s not to say that there aren’t short, anorexic skinny girls from Norway! There are! Or were! They just all moved to France and became runway models!

A name isn’t just a name

Okay. So, my point to all this is to be careful picking the names for your characters. Make sure they reflect the image you want the reader to see, as best you can. If not, keep them neutral so you can build that image and most of all, don’t pick a name that will conflict with your image.

Unless you’re doing a humorous story! Then … all bets are off and go for the most far out conflicting names and images you can find. Make Storm a wimp and name your witch Beatrix! (Oh god, every Storm and Beatrix will be hexing my Web and Facebook pages! Honest! I love witches and Storms and Beatrixes (?) Beatrixi (?)!)

Have fun with your names

Which brings me to my final point: Have fun with your names. No matter what genre your writing in.

Some of the names I used in my books?

Shawn (not Sean) because I grew up with a Shawn and we were always kidding him that his parents couldn’t spell. A line I used in my book, about his not being able to spell it right.

Aoife (Pronounced ee fa) because I loved the name when I saw it on a waitress’s name tag in Ireland and everybody (including me) still stumbles on it every time they see it.

Rae, Leigh, Paige and Jessie because they’re not common names and therefore help my readers remember my characters.

Bert, Matt and James because they’re common and manly and fit my secondary heroes, who back up Shawn.

So ….off with you Igor (or is it Egor?)! Go carefully and pick your character’s names. And don’t forget to have some fun with them!

Happy writing!

Let me know:

What are your favorite names and why?

If your a writer, how do you find names and select them?

If your a reader, what names do you love to find in stories? Names you don’t like and why? Finally, what names are overused?

What’s it like to be a writer?

What’s it like to be a writer?

I woke up this morning and had to write a song.

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After I sent my song (such as it was) off to someone I’ve never met but, who offered to help me with it, I realized how lucky I am. I also realized that I don’t think about that often enough and certainly don’t say “thank you for being in my life” enough to the people who’ve touched it in so many ways.

No, I am not dying and this is not my last confession to clear my sole before I leave earth. It may however be motivated by equal parts of writer’s block and fear from when the young lady helping with my song opens what I’ve sent and, throws up all over her keyboard. And in those two things, is really the heart of this post.

My Life then, and now.

During my life, I’ve had several careers (lives, as I like to call them), traveled the world (several times over), met some of the most wonderful people on earth (spread pretty much all over the earth), seen places and things most people will never get to see.

And, somewhere in all that, I met, married and now live with my soul mate, the love of my life and the most wonderful person I know. Unfortunately, none of that praise will win me forgiveness for turning her into a “writers widow” on a regular basis.

Just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any stranger, I connected with an author on the other side of the world in New Zealand. An author who instantly became my BFF, who I share almost everything related to writing with and who is co-authoring a romance novel with me. But, that’s a story for another blog post.

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Becoming a writer.

If by now, you haven’t figured that this is about my becoming writer, you are beyond help and destined to read fantasy for the rest of your life. (I’m only kidding. Honestly, thanks to many of you, I’m actually becoming a fantasy fan! Well. Sorta. Kinda.)

Becoming a writer (author?) has been the most wonderful, terrifying, rewarding, stressful, rocket ride I’ve ever been on. I’ve had to learn about things I never dreamed of: Horses, Firemen, EMT’s, Nurses, Policemen, FBI and Secret Service Agents, the sex trade, animal diseases and treatment, rescuing people, dreams, drugs, sex, making love, and the history of so many places I can’t remember them all.

Add to that, formatting, editing, publishing and marketing. I’ve created flyers, book covers, written attractive (I hope) book descriptions, and on and on and on. I actually now know what “Social Media” is, have a Facebook, Twitter and some other accounts I can’t find. I even, very stressfully and with a ton of help from my writing partner, now have a website.

And now, I’m a song writer! (Well, the jury is still out on that one. Or hung, as the case may be.)

Some very special thanks.

So, where am I going with all this? Well, first to thank so many of my friends that have helped me on this crazy but wonderful journey. Thank you for working through 8, 10 and 12 hour time differences to help me create my covers, flyers, business card, posters and media pages. For beta reading, critiquing, suggesting and barfing on my work when it sucked. For buying my books and posting reviews. And thanks to everyone who took my business card or a flyer and made my century when your eyes went wide and you said “You published a book!”

But I need to give special thanks, not only to my wife and my writing partner, but to all my author friends for being the most wonderful, supportive, creative, and helpful people I’ve never met. We come from all over the world, speak different languages, write in different genres, create our works in totally different styles. Yet, never hesitate to help one another! Never fail to offer a kind word or suggestion or volunteer to help. Each of us knows how much one kind word means, especially when we are stuck, down on ourselves and everything we’ve just written is trash, makes no sense and wouldn’t even make a good pile of ashes if burned.

For those of you who have let me beta read, do a review or help you in some other way: Thank you for trusting me with you first, second or twenty fifth born. For giving me the honor of reading your work and trusting me to be gentle and constructive in my suggestions and lavish in my praise.

And finally, to those of you afraid to publish your work, I have one word: Do it! (Oops, that’s two) I promise, you will never be sorry. Well at least until your first bad review comes in. But, even then, once the tears, kicking the wall and smashing your keyboard stage is over, you’ll learn to use them to help you become a better writer. And, don’t forget, we’re all here to feel your pain and to help you get past it.

Your reward? The first time you see your book in print, on Amazon or someone’s eyes light up and they say, “You published a book?”

Thanks everyone, for being in my life!

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As an author, who has helped you and what have you had to learn? Let me know, I may need it for my next book.

By the way. Does anyone know anything about apples?

Does Travel Help Your Writing?

Does Travel Help Your Writing?

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Okay, this really isn’t our plane but it’s the best I could find. (No, that’s NOT me with the red sports car and umbrella.)

Off we go, into the wild blue yonder.

Pre-flight Check …. Done

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Takeoff ….. Yup, we’re in the air!

Time to get some writing stuff done!

Our 777 broke through the clouds, leveled out and I slid my Surface out of the seat pocket in front of me. I had three things I wanted to do, or at least start on, during our 12+ hour flight to Beijing. First, was start a beta read for another author. Second was work on my next book, which I had only a rough outline and some notes for. And, finally, jot down some ideas for my author Facebook Page and start trying to design my author web site.

In fact, none of that happened. I started with the beta read but it quickly became apparent that there was too much going on around me to concentrate. Next, I pulled up my book outline and notes and was immediately interrupted by the flight attendants serving beverages.

I gave up on the Facebook Page and Web site before I even started, pulled out my Kindle and opened the book I was reading. Thirty-six percent of the book, two meals and 3 movies later, we landed in Beijing.

For the two weeks we were in China and Thailand, I read every night but, added nothing to my novel.

Where did the writing go?

It’s now been a little over a week since we returned from our trip to Asia. My body has almost caught up with where I’m at yet, I sit staring at my computer, wondering how long it will take me to get back into writing. I know I left with dozens of ideas in my head but, they all seem to be hiding now or, are still on the plane, somewhere over the polar region.

Based on that, the answer to “Does Travel Help Your Writing?” is a resounding “NO”. One might even say it hinders it, not just during the trip, but afterward. At least until you can get your head back into write mode.

Does travel help your writing? … NO!  But wait … maybe that’s a Yes?

But is that really true?

Looking back on this and previous trips, I think about the tons of notes I’ve jotted down. Every time we had a day off, or came back early from playing tourist, we would crash in the bar lounge area and, first thing, out came my notebook. In fact, I came back with a plethora of notes; not just for my next novel but ideas for a second autobiography, guest posts and several short stories.

It’s here that I should include a caveat. My autobiography, Love is a Pretty Girl with a Cape to Share your Dreams With centers around my life of traveling all over the world. It consists mainly of funny things, stories and quips from my travels. But, I don’t think that type of travel inspiration would apply to most writers so, I’m not going to count that as helping you write. (I hope that makes sense. If your writing your own autobiography and it includes your travels, ignore my caveat.)

Other than my autobiography, my travels and travel notes have, in one way or another, inspired events, chapters and sometimes, a whole novel. In each book of my romance trilogy, I have taken my couples to places I’ve traveled to. In book one, Horses of Tir Na Nog, it was primarily local attractions and places where we hang out. That was to give them time to discover each other and my readers a chance to get to know them.

In book two, The Sisterhood, they get married and for their honeymoon, I took them to all of my favorite places. London, (our home away from home) and Canterbury at Christmas. Paris, to ring in the New Year and finally, Istanbul (to captivate them with its history, as we are every time we’re there).

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Book three, Dreams, finds my characters again traveling, but this time within California.

Use your senses to create a picture.

How does this help my writing? The most obvious answer: It gives me something unique to help pull my readers into the story. But, it’s really much more than that.

When my first book was edited, Jason, my editor, commented on every other page, “Show don’t tell”.

“Right. What the hell does that mean?”

Then, I pictured a place I had traveled to and asked myself, how should I describe it? How can I pull the reader into the picture I’m describing? That led to (for example) describing my characters arguing instead of just writing down what they were yelling at each other. Describing their affection toward one another as they realized they were in love. And, as I got better at it, not just putting words on paper but painting a picture of each scene with the words I wrote.

The more I think about it, almost every day of every trip has generated ideas for a scene, an event or something I could have my characters do to make them and their lives more interesting. Describe …

  • a garden we visited
  • a tram, train, or tube ride we took
  • a fantastic meal we had and the restaurant we had it in
  • the wonderful aromas and tastes of the food
  • the excitement and beauty of sitting in a town square, covered with snow at Christmas
  • anything that pulls your eye to it. (And what pulled it there.)
  • anything that fascinates you (And what fascinates you about it.)

I would like to think that I’m a good writer but, even if I’m not, I love what I write and, it gives me a chance to relive so many wonderful adventures.

Conclusion

In reality, travel has not only helped my writing, it’s allowed me to become a much better writer and share what I love with my readers. And, isn’t that really what being a writer is all about?

Comments and Questions

Have a question?

Care to add a comment based on your experience?

Let me know.

 

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