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Give Books for Christmas!

Books make amazing gifts. They’re the kind of thing that keeps on giving since your loved one can return to them again and again. E-books make a marvelous last minute present. Below, I’ve gathered the websites of several of my author friends for you to visit and (I hope) purchase from. Other author friends, please put your links below in the comments.

My book, “Indian Summer”, is an historical romance set in St Augustine, Florida in 1739. It’s available at http://www.secondwindpublishing.com and http://www.amazon.com The novel is available in E-book and Kindle form as well as printed form. My new sci-fi novel, “The Lone Wolf”, is coming soon form Second Wind. ~ Dellani

For William Beck’s great spy thrillers:
http://www.booksbybeck.com/

For the beautiful & moving Paradise Island, Heavenly Journey by Jon Magee
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Paradise-Island-Heavenly-Journey/133686193356313
And Jon’s other amazing book, From Barren Rocks to Living Stones
http://www.facebook.com/pages/From-Barren-Rocks-to-Living-Stones/283465875540

For books by Bethany Warner
bkwriter.blogspot.com

For the work of Olwyn Conrau
http://www.olwynconrau.com/books.html

Visit Karen Vaughn here
http://www.karenvaughan.info/ Karen Vaughn
Find her book, Dead Comic Standing at http://www.amazon.com

For the books & artwork of Mickey Hoffman
http://www.mickeyhoffman.com/

For the funny and poignant, My Bad Tequila by Rico Austin
http://www.amazon.com/My-Bad-Tequila-Rico-Austin/dp/0981978916/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1291941988&sr=1-1

For your copy of Activate Intuition by Jim Wawro
http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.activateintuition.com%2F&h=f0ed31wfI6BqSkTJ8l_Yv-1xBaQ

To find the work of Mark David Gerson
http://www.amazon.com/Mark-David Gerson/e/B002CQXFPM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

“From a Child’s Perception” is available at www.authorsden.com/annalfowler Anna Fowler

Susie Schecter http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=lifetimes+ago&x=14&y=1
Susie’s website is http://www/. lifetimesago.com

The Pigeonhole Effect

Like the makers of movies, authors play to an audience. Our action is on a page, not a screen, but it boils down to the same thing – audience appeal. As authors, we are only successful if our work appeals to a wide range of readers. Unfortunately, our business suffers from the pigeonhole effect.

The pigeonhole effect is the tendency to park a book in a category and leave it there. If that category has a wide range of appeal, the book does well. If not, it sits there gathering dust until it’s pulled from the shelf, or the end of time (whichever comes first). The pigeonhole effect is necessary for the purpose of marketing (at least that’s what I’m told). I’m more of a mind that it’s for the purpose of setting up a bookstore into nice, neat, orderly sections.

All that aside, we’re still stuck with the problem and have to find ways around it. My suggestion is cross-marketing. Like cross-training in sports, in cross-marketing the book is presented on a variety of levels, in different categories, seeing which audience it appeals to most and go from there.

For example, my book, “Indian Summer”. It is pigeonholed into the category of historical romance. I get a wide variety of reactions to that label – most of them negative. However, if I say it’s an historical adventure, more people perk up. Historical novel gets a better reaction too. It seems that if you tack “romance” on the end, you get a lot of negativism. People who don’t read romance novels have their own idea about what they are. Grant you, some authors fall into the typical romance category, but not all of us do. I get angry now if someone makes a salacious comment about romance novel or the authors of them.

There is much more adventure in my novel than there is romance. It’s a story of spies, intrigue, love and war. Given the nature of the story, it is fit for young adult (14+) and adult readers – both male and female. The heroine, Gabriella, is nobody’s fool. She is 15, embroiled in a situation she cannot control, but rises to the occasion, outsmarting the bad guy more than once. With her help, the spy is caught and brought to justice. Not sounding quite as much like a smarmy romance novel now, is it?

I’ve initiated my cross-marketing plan, hoping to appeal to a wider range of readers. It’s not been in place long enough to see if it’s going to help, but I’m hoping that it will work for me. It’s up to us as authors to break free from the pigeonholes and set our books free!

What every author needs to make this a success is knowledge of what our fans want. How do you search for a book in a store? What appeals to you? What kinds of books do you want to see more of? What do you wish to see less of? Are there too many of one “type” of book on the market? Has it been saturated with sub-genres you don’t like or can’t understand? If you walk into your favorite bookstore, which section to you automatically head for? Why? Are there sections you avoid? If so, why? I would appreciate your feedback to my questions, or pose those of your own. Everyone has an opinion, let’s discuss them.

 Dellani Oakes is an author with Second Wind Publishing. Her historical novel, “Indian Summer”, is available at http://www.secondwindpublishing.com or at Amazon.com

Beating the Block

author dellani oakes banner with conduct unbecoming from Christina

Writer’s Block!  These ominous words send shivers down the spine of any writer. Insidious, it strikes with no warning, clogging the brain, paralyzing fingers, bringing grown writers to their knees. There are many types of writer’s block, each with its own pernicious characteristics. Below, I have listed those which plague me the most often.

1) Mid-Line Crisis: This is less destructive than its brothers, but still annoying. This is the unfinished sentence, incomplete thought or dialogue left hanging. The tortured …. of the soul. Though frustrating, it is not insurmountable. Usually a little brainstorming, trial and error and copious use of the delete button get me past this tiresome creature.

2) Ex Thesaurus: Also known as “What Word”? This usually runs with mid-line crisis and is fairly easy to circumvent. A visit to Thesaurus.com or a quick flip through the desk copy of Roget’s can pull a writer past this hurdle.

3) Post Climactic Stress: Or “Where Do I Go From Here?” The hero has saved the day, villains vanquished, lovers unite, children dance around May Poles – celebration time! All right, where does the story go now? It’s not over, but it needs to be soon. However, these pesky little loose ends suddenly electrify, screaming “Solve Me!” What to do? Falling action after the climax isn’t always easy. The one question a writer fails to answer is the one readers will point to and say, “Hey! What about this?” To avoid the lynch mob, sometimes it’s better to eliminate a secondary thread unless it’s absolutely necessary to the plot. Otherwise, it’s a trip to blockage category # 4.

4) The Never Ending Story: As much as we might want our book never to end, it must. Sometimes though, we can’t seem to find a stopping place. The book goes on forever until we get fed up and stop writing, or force an ending. I have one book that is 873 double spaced, typed pages. Not only can I not find an end point, I can’t even read all the way through it without getting lost. The problem is too many sub-plots. (Hearken back to Post Climactic Stress.) Everything needs resolution, making the book go on forever. It will require a major re-write or splitting into multiple books. None of these minor blocks are as frustrating as the fifth category. It really needs no introduction because even the most prolific writers have, at one time or another, suffered from it.

5) The Full Monty: Like its name implies, this is full blown, frontal exposure writer’s block. Insurmountable, uncompromising, frustrating, infuriating, aggravating, annoying, constipating…. There are no words at our disposal formidable enough to fully describe this condition. Any writer who has never experienced Full Monty Writer’s Block obviously hasn’t written long enough. Suddenly, out of nowhere, completely by surprise it strikes! I equate it with being hit by a Volvo station wagon at 90 mph. Hm, can a Volvo go 90? Maybe an Escalade? In any case, WHAM! In the face, hard core, heavy metal writer’s block. There’s no way to avoid it. Once in awhile the Muse takes a coffee break and so must we. As frustrating as they are, embrace these blocks. They force us to leave the security and sanctity of our homes and participate in life for awhile. Use this time to observe others or engage them in conversation. Each encounter gives us a little more grist for our imagination mill.

 

To Buy Dellani’s Books

What I Like, a Reader’s Perspective

I’m excited today to have as a special guest, Cherry De, a new friend from Facebook.  She is posting today about what she, as a reader, likes.  This is important for all authors to know so we can tailor our work to the readers. 

 

I enjoy reading paranormal romance. So the authors whose work I worship are that of Anne Bishop, Sherrilyn Kenyon, JR Ward, Karen Marie Moning, Jim Butcher, Angie Sage, Joseph Delaney, Buffi BeCraft-Woodall and many more. Why? Because the story-telling quality of their work is absolutely superb! It does only transports you to another world, it grabs-the-reader-and-runs-away-with-you kind of book. Makes one forget that it’s lunchtime. That to me is serious business indeed! There are some books where you find your mind wondering while reading it though it should have all the good fantasy or romance elements. That story-telling quality I would call mediocre. Not bad, but not that good either.

 

Another quality I look for in a book as a reader is that the story needs to make sense. Sherrilyn Kenyon’s story-telling quality is superb with the gritty, fast-pace, kick-ass heroes/heroines. But with her Acheron book, there were a few “snags”. The story did not flow very smoothly because a couple of the scenes did not make sense. Like, how did Tory knew that Talon can’t shoot hoops, when the “explanatory line” that Talon can’t shoot hoops was written a page after the comment… It lost me there for a second while reading it. That is irritating!!

 

I also like a good ending. Let me quote Jim Butcher (http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/3447.html) where he says that a story is like sex, you gotta give a reader a good climax or they will thrash your book. That is very true. L Fosters’ story-telling quality is five out of five, but her Servant: The Awakening ends in a cliff hanger. I would never buy another L Foster ever again. I called that a “reader-learned-her/his-lesson-experience” (RLHLE).

 

Another RLHLE is reading Ian Irvine where he cuts-up his story in three or four different threads. Ends a thread in two chapters and begins another in the next chapter. By the time the book goes back to the first thread, I have forgotten what the story was all about in that thread so I have to go back and read it again. Took me positively ages to finish the book! Avoided Ian Irvine ever since.

 

So, what does a reader wants from a reader’s point of view? A superb story-telling quality, has to make sense, an ending that gives a good climax and a book that does not give a reader a RLHLE. I know, I am a demanding reader. But, then, there are writers out there that delivers me these. So what do I do? I buy them. I tell my friends about them. I look forward to their next release.

~ Cherry De

Editing, the Writer’s Nightmare

indian summer scanned cover 500 x 750So, you’ve finished that four hundred and sixty page novel. You sit proudly and pat the cover page tenderly, smoothing the white surface when much to your horror, you see a mistake! Cold sweat breaks out on your brow, fingers tremble, mouth suddenly goes dry. As your eye wanders down the page, more and more errors jump out at you! Fear grips your heart as you stumble from the desk, desperate for a calming cool drink. It’s a nightmare, but you can’t wake up. It’s real. Your brainchild, the fruit of your creative efforts, is flawed and it’s up to you to fix it.

This is a scenario each of us faces. Sometimes it’s as minor as a misplaced comma or a dangling modifier. Other times an entire scene, or even half the novel is so bad it has to be scrapped and retooled. I started an historical novel about ten years ago, set it aside since it wasn’t going anywhere, picked it up a few years later and realized the reason it hadn’t gone anywhere was that it was garbage! No other word for it. After careful review, I threw away all but ten handwritten pages. Of those ten pages, perhaps parts of seven survive in the retooled version.

Several things were problematic that I didn’t realize until much later. First, and most important, the point of view and style were all wrong. Set in St. Augustine in the Florida territory in the late 1700’s, it was told in first person by a young Spanish woman. I had chosen to do it like a diary (not really sure why) and it was far too limiting to my story.

Second, after doing some more research, I found that the time period would have to be moved from the 1780’s to 1739 or I could not incorporate certain facets of the novel. It would have been grossly inaccurate.

Third, and most difficult, the man I had intended to be the bad guy simply wasn’t working. No matter what I did, even in the retooled version, he wouldn’t be villainous. The heroine refused to fall in love with anyone else. Even the good guy couldn’t be relied upon to behave. He became the villain, the villain became the hero, the heroine didn’t succumb to another man’s charms, and they all lived happily ever after. (Except for the villain, because he, of course, was dead.)

It got terribly out of hand. After lots of time and effort reading and re-reading, honing, changing, and fine tuning, it is a really solid piece of literature that I am proud to put my name on. Five years ago, when I started re-writing it, I wouldn’t have given ten cents for it. It was the catalyst that started me writing in earnest and made me realize I had stories inside me to tell. None of the rest are historical in nature, the rest are sci-fi, because with that novel I learned something else important. You can’t do too much research if you want to be historically accurate. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’d rather spend my time bleeding profusely from multiple wounds that tracking down that evasive, all important fact.

Sci-fi is far easier for me to write. Once I have a believable setting, the lone wolf cover scanned 500 x 750rest is easy. Don’t ignore the laws of science, throw in some really good fight scenes, add a few interesting aliens and voila! Creating my own world is far easier than working within the confines of someone else’s, but that old adage “write what you know,” is nonsense. What I know is boring! Who wants to know about raising kids, doing endless errands, making phone calls and taking out the garbage? No one.

Writing is the ultimate escapism. For that short span of time, things work out; the hero and heroine fall in love and live happily ever after. The bad guy gets his just desserts, the good guy wins, and there is always a happy ending. It’s far more interesting than washing the dirty dishes, cooking dinner or sorting laundry.

But I digress. Despite the thrill of putting words on paper, the hard part is making sure that everything is right. We can live with the small stuff like ending a sentence with a preposition. Frankly, it sounds odd if it’s correct. However, misplaced modifiers, sentence fragments and subject – verb agreement are very important. Even if a writer can’t name the errors, wrong is wrong!

One solution is to read and re-read your own work, honing and perfecting it. It’s easy to miss simple errors that way. Sometimes running off a hard copy helps, but it’s still hard to catch it all. Better yet, get people who are gifted in grammar to help you. They might not be able to name the error, but they can spot one and may be able to offer suggestions on how to correct it. If you can afford it, have an editor review it. Few of us can, so it’s up to us to read and re-read our own work until it is smooth and as error free as it can possibly be.

For goodness sake, don’t rely on the grammar check in Word! It’s garbage and will cause for more problems than it solves. I don’t care if it’s the primary word processing program used world wide, the grammar check is terrible. Spell check, on the other hand, is a Godsend, but won’t help you if you simply type in the wrong word. I once finished typing out a test for my 11th grade class only to find that I had one very important little word wrong and the spell check hadn’t caught it. Instead of saying, “What is the theme of this story?” I had, “Shat is the theme of this story?” (For those of you who don’t know, that’s the past tense of the verb ‘to shit’. — 11th graders knew that!)

There is no easy way to get through the editing process. It is tedious and time consuming, but if it makes the difference between selling a book and having it gather dust, it’s well worth it.

© Dellani Oakes

To Buy Dellani’s Books

amazon page for books

To Outline or Not to Outline?

I continue to be amazed by people who make outlines of their stories, know where the story line is going and most of all know the ending before even writing the book. Who are these godlike folk and why am I not like them? I am a very off the cuff writer, I don’t know where the story is going to go, although I like to have a general idea before I begin. I usually start with an idea or, more often than not, a sentence that seems to resonate in my mind until I get it down on paper. Novels and short stories start the same way, a compelling first sentence.

I read an interview with Tim Powers with fascination. He talked about outlining everything in careful detail, knowing exactly where the story is going before he even begins writing. He stressed how important, vital, necessary this was. I read snippets to my husband asking him (like he knows), “How can he do that? How can anyone do that?” Outlines? Those are things you write after the term paper is written and only because the teacher requires it. If they had a crown for that, I’d be Queen.

I rarely know where my stories are going. I don’t always know what I’m going to do with a character after I’ve introduced him, but I know he’d not be there if he weren’t important in some way. For me, writing is an exploratory process. I can’t sit down knowing what will be, I have to let it unfold. I think the idea of outlines is very intimidating for some writers, especially new ones. To know everything in advance takes some of the fun out of my process. Don’t misunderstand, I think it’s marvelous that some people can do that. I find it incredible that they are organized enough to work their way through the entire book before actually writing it. It is a matter of preference and personality.

Having tried the outline, I can honestly say it doesn’t work for me. I can’t even write a short synopsis of a book because I put in too much detail. I got half way through my first outline and thought, “If I am going to spend this much time on it, I might as well just write the book.” The outline hit the trash and I put all that creative energy into the novel instead.

What I think I was trying to say when I started is this: Don’t be intimidated by the idea that you must outline. Don’t think you can’t start the novel you’ve been dreaming about because you have no clue how it’s going to end. Go with what is comfortable for you and find your way. By all means, try outlining because it is a wonderful tool, but don’t lock yourself into the thinking that you have to follow it once it’s there. Nothing is cast in stone, everything is malleable. Then when the creative juices flow and the words pound at the inside of your skull demanding to be set free, you can give them the outlet they need, hammering away at your keyboard or pouring from your pen. Whatever you do, just keep writing and let the outlines take care of themselves.