Category Archives: PAM UPHOFF

Pam Uphoff.

Dream a Little Dream For Me

Pam Uphoff

 

“A dream is a succession of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations that usually occur involuntarily in the mind during certain stages of sleep.”

Wikipedia

 

But why?

Oh, the theories are numerous. Dreams help us incorporate memories. Process emotions. Solve daytime problems. Play out our subconscious desires.

Frankly I think it’s file cleanup and de-rezing the wetware so we can function the next day, but whatever it is, I really like dreaming. It helps sort out plot problems and throws all new situations at me.

Dreams can be like brain storming—throwing out ideas as fast as possible and only analyzing them later. And they get pretty wild.

The flat-out weird dreams are my favorite.

My Zoey Ivers books? Half BSing on the internet, meshed with this totally bizarre dream . . . I mean bouncing balls that thought they were Elvis, Einstein, and Benjamin Franklin?   A computer that thought it was a T-Rex? My Dad the FBI agent walking out into a cyber desert to fight a gigantic rattle snake? WTF?

I got up at 3AM and started writing that one down. Turned into a two book YA adventure. There will be a third book Real Soon Now, and maybe more later.

OK, maybe last night’s that ended with one of my fictional characters screaming in the back room while she was being tortured wasn’t one of the better ones. (Eek! Not Rael!) Was my subconscious trying to tell me I have to be more brutal to my characters? Was this a message that I’m only showing the good side of my macguffins and eliding past some obvious problems.

Maybe it was just free association in a sleeping brain. No deep messages needing dream analysis.

But you know the thing about nightmares? You can play around with the ideas. How did your character get into this fix? How does she get out of it? Be creative. The above nightmare? Oh please, Rael was screaming so the guys in the next room didn’t realize she was actually loose and beating up the torturer, collecting interesting improvised weaponry and so forth.

And yeah, that kid in the dream has a problem! Or maybe he is the problem!

No doubt it’ll all show up in a story down the road.

If I go to sleep thinking of the possibilities for the next scene . . . Okay, it mostly keeps me awake . . . but sometimes an idea falls into place.

Sleep apnea was actually great for this. Once I got that really fun overnight test, I realized that I wasn’t actually just laying there awake, thinking about the WIP. I was flipping between REM sleep and awake so fast I wasn’t recognizing the dream state. But I sure planned some good scenes that way. And typed them half-asleep the next day.

I almost miss that. But with an oxygenated brain, I have plenty of uninterrupted dreams to stock the idea cabinet.

So . . . what do your dreams do for you . . . and what do you do with them?

Oh, and the new book, a complete stand alone unconnected to anything I’ve ever written:

 

 

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Filed under BY THE MAD GENII, PAM UPHOFF, plotting, WRITING: ART

The Absolute Basics

 

I was surprised by the number of people last month who were having trouble with the first step of writing—writing the whole story.

So you’re getting the Kindergarten level talk, in the hopes that you can spot where the problem lies.

So . . . at its simplest, what is a story, after all?

A story requires:
• One or more characters
• A problem that matters to them
• How they solve the problem
• What they are like after having solved the problem

That’s it.

Oh sure, depending on the length and complexity of the work there will be several attempts and failures, before they grit their teeth and give it their all. But let’s start with the absolute basics. Take out that story you’re having problems with, and let’s have a look.

Who’s the Main Character? Not necessarily the only POV character or even the only Protagonist POV character. But who is doing the heavy lifting in your story? Don’t lose track of that.

What is the problem? Why does it matter to the MC? It doesn’t? Well there’s a point you need to address. Sometimes the first problem is the tip of an iceberg, but make it matter TO THE GUY WHO IS GOING TO RISK ALL FOR IT! Do you just need to show the character’s motivation, or are you using the wrong character as your Main Guy Gal Person Sapient Being?

How is the MC going to solve the problem? Does he need to acquire knowledge, skills, equipment, clues? Does he need advice? Does he need helpers? Does he need to study the problem and understand it better before he can solve it? All these things are interesting adventures and the meat of the story. If you’re writing a Mystery, your detective has to go around asking questions, interviewing people, getting beaten up, following red herrings . . . A Fantasy? Must find magical items, companions, steeds, sword fighting lessons, whatever.

Make your character do some work! You can put in a whole lot of world building while getting your hero ready to go. Get some try/fail sequences in there. Nothing like failure to make the MC realizes he needs [fill in the blank].

Think of several ways a sensible person (or hysterical, if that’s what the MC is) would try to deal with the problem. Then have him try one and fail. Get more stuff/training, try the next way, and fail. And the next.

Don’t make winning easy. Make him or her have a desperate dark moment, an emotional crisis, followed by renewed determination to win/solve/escape or whatever. Maybe a whole new strategy is needed?

And then go out there and do it.

And then, after the Big Win, show the character more mature, better skilled, filthy rich, more confident . . . or just going back home. A story has to have an ending. It has to have a conclusion.

That ending is an important part of the writing process.

Figure out what it is going to be. This will give you something to aim at, while you write.

You may decide later that it’s unrealistic, and change it.

No problem.

But if you don’t have a clue, not even “Frodo drops the ring in the ocean, then goes home and lives happily ever after” you are going to have trouble aiming your story. When you decide, “Wait, the ocean won’t work . . . umm . . . oooo! Let’s melt it in a volcano! And it has to be *the* volcano deep in enemy territory!” you’ve at least already got him on the road and collecting companions, weapons, experiences, and magic dodads. You’ve described the world, the people, established the personalities of his companions . . . you just have to get off the river and hike for the volcano.

Then you have your MC after the Big Win. Or if he made the ultimate sacrifice, you show your other characters getting with life, and the big hole left that the character used to fill. But show the reader that he died for a purpose, and achieved it.

And that’s it.

Main Character. Problem. Solution. Aftermath.

If you are missing any of those, you’re mucking about with the trained and honed expectations of a reader’s lifetime of stories.

Now, here is an old post with some story type and basic plot information: Back the the Basics
Which may also help clarify your problems.

But the number one problem with never finishing writing a book, is starting editing before it is completely written. Rereading may be necessary if a manuscript has been tucked away for very long between writing sessions. But in most cases, reading the last paragraph or two is sufficient to get your mind back into the story.

And the second reason many manuscripts are never finished? Not enough time to work on it. Do you need to find more time, or just pull the plug on the greatest time sink on the Earth? Yes, the Internet.

Master it, use it.

If you have trouble leaving it, try writing away from access. Bargain with yourself. “Five hundred words every morning before _any_ internet at all.” or “I can only have a soda/coffee/tea/beer if I’m sitting at the computer, writing.” “News and weather with the first cup of coffee. Then it’s time to go to work.”

Whatever works.

Get out that “never could finish it” manuscript. Analyze it. Main Character. Problem. Solution. Aftermath.

You can do this. I know you can.

And the Promo:

If you’ve never read anything of mine, try this one, the first taste is only $0.99

Or my most recent book:

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Filed under BY THE MAD GENII, PAM UPHOFF, Uncategorized, WRITING: CRAFT

I Quit!

I. Quit.

No, no, not MGC.

But I’m taking a hiatus from my big series and trying some new things this summer.

Now, why would I do a silly thing like that? Well, it’s pretty simple. I’m a (nearly) complete unknown and as such my sales numbers are low. And since I’m in this for the money–yeah, I’ve got an husband bringing home the bacon, but he’s teetering on the brink of retirement, and I’d really like to bump up the projected (post retirement) household income. That means I need to do a number of things. Marketing . . . I’m also working on. But another (and much more fun!) thing I can do is broaden my fan base by publishing in other genres.

But how is a writer of a huge series to break the bad news to her fans?

Well it depends. If the series is at a natural stopping point, it’s easy. This is one of the advantages of an overarching Mega Problem. Once it’s solved, you can give your readers a brief glimpse into the Happily Ever After and then quit.

Hahahahaha! As if!

And the more popular, the more fans will want you notice that there’s a problem behind the problem and keep going.

In my case most of the stories are stand alones . . . but it’s one big saga with a fair amount of background that builds up. But there’s no clear cut end point. It’s just a Cross-dimensional Multiverse full of potential. It has been mentioned that it would make a great SF soap opera.

So again, why quit?

There’s a dozen reasons.

I need to broaden my reader base, so getting out of this specific sub- genre and into Time Travel, Space Opera, and Urban Fantasy sounds like a good idea. I mean, Regency Romance may sell better, but I seriously doubt I could tempt any of those readers to try my older work . . . where SO and UF have plenty of overlapping interests with my old series.

And then there’s the challenge. Something that will stretch my knowledge base and send my research in a new direction. Time Travel hurts my head, BTW. And I have zero knowledge of how Law Enforcement actually works. Which is really necessary when you’ve got a thin blue line standing up against demonically engendered werewolves. Space Opera will be the easiest, what with me being a space fanatic. All I have to do is check that what I know really is so. Ouch! Our knowledge of reality changes so fast it’s easy to fall behind.

I recommend this to all writers. It’s too easy to get into a rut, to coast. “Oh, I know everything about this Universe, after all, I created it. I don’t need to research anything!” Too easy to depend on the character building you did in the previous books and leave your character flat and uninteresting. Or viciously attack and maul him, to give some space for Mr. Perfect to (re)grow. Kill her, because you’ve come to hate her.

It’ll be a good separation, a refreshing vacation. I’ll come back to the Wine of the Gods with a new perspective, new enthusiasm.

I’m breaking the news to my fans gently. Umm, because, being an addict of my own series, I seem to have, umm, let me count. Oh bloody . . . eight stories in the pipeline. Not counting the novella that’s out with the Beta Readers. That will be published next month. So while I’m going to write other stuff this summer, I’ll also get out at least one more big Wine of the Gods book sometime this fall, and the rest at reasonable intervals. So it’s just a slow down, not really quitting.

I can get over this addiction. I can stop any time.

Can you? Tell me how that works, eh?

And, being unfortunately well acquainted with my subconscious, as soon as I post this, it will pop a story into the frontal lobes, crack the whip and make me write it . . . What’s that? Xen teams up with Ebsa, Ra’d . . . and Eldon! To defeat the Cyborg Empire!

Oh, just kill me now!
But first, buy a 99¢ short story. I promise I won’t leave [spoiler] in [spoiler] for too long.

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Filed under BY THE MAD GENII, PAM UPHOFF, SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

Summer of the Lab Rat

Lab Rat

The Real World is not a laboratory.
Unfortunately.
If it were, we could control for single variables.
Trying various things in marketing ebooks is a case to point.

My best sales period (tripled my monthly average) was immediately after:
(1) Last year’s Labor Day Sale, organized within this group, which had very few books on it, so potential readers weren’t overwhelmed by the sheer number of books, plus it was widely shared.
(2) I released four titles in quick sequence, all in September. Then one in October, and one in November.
(3) Amazon started the KULL.

Hard to duplicate that last. 😉

So, how about this year?
(1) No big promos. Minimally hyped—facebook, my LJ page, and a mailing list.
(2) New titles published in February and March.
(3) A “Summer Reading Blitz” of four books released from the middle of June to early this month. Roughly three weeks separation between books, squeezed tighter when sales spiked and died.

It picked up my badly sagging sales and got them back to what I consider my average. And then they kept selling.

But since you can’t duplicate an economy, have the same distractions (Politics! Outrage! All! Day! Long!), get Amazon to do something that might have people taking a chance on an unknown author . . . nor repeat the biggest variable: Different books . . . it’s a tough comparison.

So my conclusions are . . . dubious. Yes. Dubious is a good term.
(1) Forget summer, for multiple or big releases, if you want a large spike to get you some visibility.
(2) But the sales will trickle in, as dedicated fans get back from vacation.
(3) Multiple releases work best at weekly spacing.
(4) I should work at expanding my very small mailing list.
(5) I should go back and read the marketing advice here, and follow it.

 

Now one take away from this marketing experiment is that releasing several new things in a short time works. But however I peer at it, my main conclusion is that I have still not broken out of my usual circle of readers.

To do that I’m going to have to force myself out of my comfort zone, both socially and professionally.

Attend school board meetings. Pay attention to local and state politics and contact them when I have something to contribute. Get back to writing letters to the editor. Attend some of those museum things I keep getting invites to. And look around for other venues where I can be helpful and spread name recognition.

Write in other genres. Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance and MilSF are selling well, and each would be a small first step out side my usual habitats.

When, all things considered, I’d rather crawl back into my introvert’s retreat of a house and write as the Muse dictates.

But, if I’m going to write as a business, I’ve gotta do it anyway.

That will be my next experiment.

 

And speaking of marketing . . . this totally awesome cover was designed by Cedar Sanderson for the the tail end of the Summer Reading Blitz. And the start of a spin off series, for those who haven’t read my exhaustively long main series:

https://www.amazon.com/Directorate-School-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01JXYH4EI/

28 Directorate Cover 4

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Filed under BY THE MAD GENII, MARKETING, PAM UPHOFF, PROMOTION

Who the Heck Do You Think You Are? by Pam Uphoff

(Pam is out of town and asked me to post this for her.)

 

“Wolfson, we’re going t’have a chat when I get done with this job.”

What? What? Look, you’re a bit character, you don’t even have a first name, or a rank. You can’t just stand up and demand a major role.

(Picture steamed author with fingers posed motionless over the keys, mind blank.)

Fine, fine. You’re a lieutenant. Oh, you want a first name? Mortimer.

I suspect all writers have had the experience of a character taking over a story. I was lucky this time, he was satisfied with playing a minor part . . . so . . . how’d I wind up with his backstory as a short story, and how’d he wind up with major roles thereafter?

And it can be worse than that.

. . . Raod and company weren’t the only strollers, but there weren’t many people about. Joggers of both sexes, a grayhaired couple meandering . . .

One young man didn’t look either athletic or relaxed.

He was focused on Rael, scowling.

Young, dark-haired, light complexioned, he could have stepped out of an antique picture of an arrogant young Uruguayan noble from before the nuclear war. His scowl deepened as he stalked toward her. He stopped two meters away from her outstretched legs.

“We know who you are, why you’re here. It won’t work, we’re not stupid.”

Rael cocked her head and thought that over. What? “Good. Now go away.”

He leaned forward, eyes narrowing.

Is he actually trying to look intimidating? Rael looked him over: feet in new high-fashion leather boots, faux combat pants, tight black muscle shirt with almost enough muscles to carry it off. Fuzz on his chin that might be an attempt at a goatee. Gorgeous eyelashes around crystalline blue eyes.

Enough glow to her inner vision to show he was a Oner, not a Halfer. Projecting it as hard as he could. High Servaone, possibly low Clostuone. Hell, as young and untrained as he is, he could be higher.

“We won’t fall for your act.” His voice went falsetto. ” ‘Oh, I’m all depressed and need more pain killers than the doctor will prescribe. Oh, woe is me! What shall I do?’ Well, Chica, you get nothing from us, capich? Nada.”

Rael could feel her smile spreading. “Wow! Three languages in one sentence. Must be wonderful to be multilingual.” She stifled a snicker. “And voice acting as well. Do I know you? Nah, you’re too young.”

He stiffened. “Are you laughing at me?”

“I laugh at a lot of things.” She shrugged her left shoulder. “I get into a lot of trouble that way. What’s your name?”

“Eb . . . None of your business, Cocina.”

She frowned. “Did you just call me a kitchen? I’ve never been called a kitchen before.”

His face went expressionless, blank for a moment. Near panic in his eyes. “No! No, you misheard. So just be warned, we know who you are and you won’t find any drugs on any of us, and we won’t help you at all.” He turned and stalked away. Quickly.

Rael leaned her head back, grinning. Trying to control laughter, because laughing had a nasty tendency to become suddenly painful. Oh, One! I have just met the Empire’s stupidest drug dealer. She sobered suddenly. He can’t have been older than sixteen. Was he clued in enough to know he was disposable? Someone with a few more street smarts was watching from a distance. Probably the same man who sent the kid out here to deliver an ultimatum. Heh. So they think I’m a Narc? I really ought to be insulted. I . . . almost wish I was capable of the work.

Did you see that? He flubbed his lines. Made himself memorable. The stupid wannabe gang member is now the Main Character of six stories of various lengths, at least two of which will be novels when I get around to editing them.

What causes this? Why do some characters suddenly click with a writer’s subconscious and come to life? How the heck do they take over a chunk of the backbrain and take over the writing process? I mean, my MCs take over all the time. It’s these walk-ons that suddenly spring to life that baffle me.

So, fess up. Give us an example of the moment the %$#@ stood up and became real in _your_ writing.

Oh, and Mr. Flubbed his lines can be found here:

http://www.amazon.com/Dancer-Wine-Gods-Book-15-ebook/dp/B00KI8KLOY/

 

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Filed under PAM UPHOFF

Marketing

The Second Annual Labor Day Sale

I love my writing, except when I hate it. Then I look at my sales figures and despair. Really. My stories are not _that_ bad. They can’t be! All I need to do is get enough people to try them.
“All” hahahaha! Yeah right, like Super Introvert has a clue how to even start marketing.
Right. Well . . . Cedar’s doing a Labor Day Special.
Can’t hurt right?
http://cedarwrites.com/2nd-annual-indie-author-labor-day-sale/

 

 

Labor Day Sale

Umm, how about the book that had just crept past 200 sales in almost three years selling over a hundred in a week? Call me gob smacked. It briefly broke into the top fifty in its sub category. Call me impressed. And that was before the KU pages counts skyrocketed.
As you can see, my sales had flat-lined. Too long since a new release, on top of a umm tepid recovery, plus end of summer back to school stuff. Or so I told myself.

So, I settled down to do a bit of analyzing. On KU, the second in the series has, so far, had 70% of the page numbers. The third in the series has half that, the third and forth books are starting to move.

The sales carry through is not so impressive—but the first book is on sale for 99¢. The second and subsequent are at $4.99. None-the-less, there was a small bump up the next weekend.

KU went the other way, with an initial bump, and the next weekend a big jump.

If I were a marketing Guru, no doubt this would mean something. being me, all I can say is, QUICK! Stop dicking around with editing and publish those stories! So I booted a novella and a few days later a short story out the door. Now I need to quickly polish a couple more and hopefully keep up the numbers.
Thanks, Cedar! And Sarah and Amanda and everyone else who spread the sale page all over, and all my readers, and Mom and Dad, cats and dogs . . . It was great. A very nice boost that I will try to capitalize on.

I think what we’re seeing here is a sign that I’d pretty well saturated the tiny bit of the market that was aware of me. This sale, with wide spread links, broke out of that bubble. I have no idea how far, how wide this new exposure is.

But it points to what I need to do, in order to build a readership large enough to sustain a career.

I’ve tried all the easy things. Talk it up on facebook, send things off to book plugs.

Paid advertising . . . was less than impressive. I gave the Amazon marketing a go. I too could be that obnoxious ad on your kindle . . . I committed $500 to the effort, but they actually only charge you on click throughs. For 5668 “impressions, ie flashed up on some poor schmuck’s kindle, I have five clicks, ten page views and no sales. Well, it only cost me $0.95 to crush my ego. I understand that one click through per thousand impressions is average, so . . . maybe I need to target the ad better.

Or I may need to completely rethink where to advertise.

Did I mention that I was bad at this? Yeah. No kidding.

But if Cedar does the Christmas sale, as threatened, I’ll be there for sure.

So, who else has something that has worked for you? Or not?

And to the other authors in the sale, how did you do?

Oh, and to keep up sales, a new short story:
http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Karma-Wine-Gods-Book-ebook/dp/B015IL8VRY/

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Filed under MARKETING, PAM UPHOFF, PROMOTION, Uncategorized

Who the Bloody %$#@ Are You?

Unsuspected Knowledge
Pam Uphoff

“I started writing . . . and there it was . . . ”

The subconscious mind is a fascinating things, of which I know virtually nothing. But I have come to trust it, err, myself, err, whatever. I have trained myself (with much backsliding) to turn the fingers and keyboard over to, well, that otherwise uncommunicative part of myself.

I’ve decided it’s in many ways like a computer. It’s got no personality, it doesn’t do anything unless I tell it to—and then often cacks up—but it runs all sorts of odd things in the background while I’m otherwise engaged.

But then I realize it doesn’t have _a_ personality, it’s got dozens, hundreds. Could well be up to thousands, by now. They’re all in there. All the Characters I’ve ever daydreamed or written. I may sit down and consciously, logically make a list: He’s 19, black hair, blue eyes, medium height and still growing, fit, but not a weightlifter. Comes from the lower classes, but he’s ambitious. He’s transferred from the local college to the big university . . .

And suddenly it’s the first day . . . he’s walking into his assigned dorm building, luggage in hand, and there’s a dozen seniors hanging around, ready to put any newcomers in their place. The whole scene just rolls out of the finger tips, all as seen by the character.

[Wait, I wasn’t planning on a hazing . . .]

There’s another new student right behind him. Snotty and rude to the hazers. He starts the fight, the MC jumps into help . . .

[Wait, that’s the MC from that short story. He can’t be the _sidekick_!]

A commanding voice breaks up the fight. It comes from an elderly professor, but the bully boys are instantly cowed.

[Where did he come from?]

He has insecurities . . .

[What? He’s cocky and ambitious! I should know, I planned it that way!]

. . . and he has to work hard to keep the grades up, kicks ass in the martial arts sorting. . .

[The what? Did you invet a whole alien university while I wasn’t looking?]

Winds up in remedial firearms, having never fired a gun in his life.

[Where is all this coming from? That wasn’t in the brief!]

And then he falls in love with the President’s daughter.

[No, no, no! Stop. I am quite certain she was in love with the other guy and you . . . figment of my subconscious, are going to . . . fall for the girl who’s kissing the other guy? All right. Fine. But you’d better be prepared for the scandal!]

Being affronted and ambushed by my subconscious is one of the best parts of writing. Or maybe the worst. Really, it wouldn’t be so bad, if only “Subconscious I” weren’t a better writer than “Conscious I” am. And didn’t have a better understanding of characterization.
I consciously hate that subconscious bastard.

So, tell us about the last time a character hijacked your story?

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Filed under PAM UPHOFF, WRITING: CRAFT