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Story from the Start: Denouement

So the action/emotional tension/suspense reaches its peak, the detective reveals the murderer or imposter, the hero emerges from the smoking remains of the bad guy’s lair with only a few scratches (and the girl on his arm), the heroine politely but soundly cuts the predatory Other Woman to win her True Love for herself, the cowboys capture the rustlers before they can get the herd into Old Mexico . . .

Story’s over, right?

Well, if it is a short story, it can be. If you are writing a serial and your readers know that in advance, it can be. If it is something longer, and you drop the curtain here, your readers are going to feel cheated. Read more

Book Cover Design: People

Of plots, and characters, and book cover design. That’s what I’m thinking about. Dorothy Grant and I were working on the cover for her latest, and she suggested I use our conversation as a springboard for a MGC post. I’m always excited when Dorothy comes to me for a cover – this is the third I have done for her, and every time I work with her on this level (or, really, on any other) I learn things. She may proclaim she is not an artist, but she has a superb sense of design and aesthetic that she meshes well with the marketing expertise you need for a book cover.

I’m going to hop up on my soap box here. Your book cover is not a portrait of a scene in your book. Your book cover is a cohesive marketing tool that must convey the entire body of work in a single image. Depending on the length of your novel, that’s not a thousand words in a picture, that’s 100K words in a single image. Furthermore, readers have expectations, even if they could not express them in so many words. Which is why my first words to anyone I am trying to coach through creating their own cover are: go look at the top 100 best sellers in your sub genre on Amazon. Get a feel for what readers are associating with your sub genre. Then blend those elements into your cover design. *steps off soap box* Read more

When you feel like you just can’t go on

I’ve been battling with depression and negativity about my writing lately.  Since my heart attack last November, the medication I was put on has been reacting with/to the other meds I’ve been on for years, to help me cope with the permanent pain of a disabling injury back in 2004. The combination has made it extraordinarily difficult to think and write creatively this year. Non-fiction isn’t a problem: I can continue my blog output (I try for 3 articles every day), and I’m working on a non-fiction book. However, the process of fiction writing, where I have to make up scenes and scenarios and characters . . . that’s another story. I’m assured by my doctors that as soon as I get off the post-heart-attack blood-thinner, I’ll get my creative mojo back. However, it sure doesn’t feel that way sometimes!

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A Small Art

[UPDATE: because several of you protested that Crooked House by Agatha Christie was nothing like the Chinese Shawl by Patricia Wentworth (and you were right. Crooked house is a different plot) I realized that I’d gotten muddled due to the fact this author uses an Agatha Christie title and a different plot. Which btw diminishes the chances of its being in any way an “homage.”
The plot she uses is from Peril At End House ( which is the one that resembles Patricia Wentworth’s The Chinese Shawl. Mind you I THINK the solution is different and less fiendish in The Chinese Shawl.  Also having looked up the dates, The Chinese Shawl was published 11 years after Peril At End House. So it’s possible that Wentworth either was saying “sure, like that, but let’s twist it this way.” OR that she’d read it and simply didn’t remember. It’s not one of the more memorable Christies.)

Recently I borrowed a book called Crooked House because I was in a hurry, saw only the title,  and thought it was Crooked House by Agatha Christie.

Mind you, I think growing up I read that book about a million times, and I’ve probably read it three or four times since I got married. So, I know the book very well. I just wanted to re-read it on a day I wasn’t feeling well enough to do much of anything. But I accidentally borrowed the wrong book.

Which is okay, since the book I borrowed has the almost exact plot. (A minor deviation at the end where one of the guys is the woman’s accomplice, and the adaptations needed to the 21st century were all I saw.)

Now, this is not copyright infringement.

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Taking Control

I’m almost on time. Getting writing time is … complicated. I have to find something for the children to do that is so interesting they can’t wrench themselves away to interrupt me every three or four minutes looking for the usual validation appropriate for their age. Which, as delightful as such is, is still incredibly damaging to creative flow. I kinda hate summers, and house arrest, and overreaching tyrants who care so damn much. Anyway, almost have this in on time. Enjoy. Read more

Another Indication the Industry is Behind the Times

Let’s face it. The last two-plus months has impacted the publishing industry unlike anything else in a very long time. Oh, we’ve heard the noises from some of the Big 5 that their numbers are up, but a close look at the numbers and you see something doesn’t add up. For one, the numbers they are touting can’t include returns because bookstores aren’t open. They also, if true, put the lie to the old formula publishing continues to push–that they need brick and mortar stores to survive. Those stores they’ve said must continue have been closed. Customers have, at best, been able to order a book and drive up to the curb to have it delivered to their car. There has been no browsing the stacks, no impulse buying. Even so, don’t expect a change in the business model when we are no longer being told by the nanny state that we have to stay home and our businesses can’t open. Publishing has proven over the last several decades that it is perfectly happy living in the past and has no desire to change things just because our lifestyles and reading habits are changing. Read more

Write redux. or ‘Oh no, not again.’

A friend came up with a sort writer’s tragedy: he dictates, was dealing with a difficult section… finished it, and discovered it failed to record. So he did it again, and was better pleased with the second time… only to find a similar disaster had occurred.

One has to wonder if the third iteration was better or different? Sometimes I have this feeling I’m caught in a loop of time, repeating the events, the same writing challenges… and making the same mistakes. Sort of like an infinity of parallel universes… always coming out the same. Being stuck on the set of Monday, for the thousands re-run of the same day. Yes, I did write a story about the two antagonists who kept being re-incarnated to fight each other in the same doomed futile battle, just in changing sets of uniforms appropriate to the time, but I did nothing like as good a job as Douglas Adams did, with the bowl of petunias. Read more