Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tips Tuesday by Christine Locke

Very short post this time, I know, but I have picked up a few worthwhile tidbits this week:

1.  Catherine, Caffeinated

Have you seen this bog?  It's full of excellent "self-printing" advice from an indie writer who doesn't like ebooks and is not afraid to admit it.  Here's a link to all her posts about self-publishing.  Wow!  What a treasure trove!

2.  Paragraphic Designs

These are gorgeous, premade book covers.  Truly some of the most beautiful I've seen.

3.  Wattpad

Have you joined this site yet?  It sounds like a great place to share writing for the YA crowd.  However, if you just need a quick cover to post somewhere like Wattpad or Open Salon, one of the "clubs" to check out is The Book Cover Club.  I linked to an entry there, "Very Basic Bookcovers" --SO helpful if you've never had to figure out how to make a "cover" from a photo.

Happy Writing!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why I will not sell my novel on twitter (or Facebook) by Christine Locke

My twitter feed has become a most strange place.  I wish I could say it was fantastically strange, or weirdly strange, or any other such cursed adverb (you do know that adverbs are cursed, right?) which I might find inspiring.

My twitter feed is for advertising now.  And I'm ashamed to say I added to that endless infomercial.  Now, don't get me wrong: I LOVE and appreciate the company of my fellow writers.  I will not be "unfollowing" anyone who tweets their book.  But I won't be tweeting mine.  Anymore.

I realized the other day just how silly I was.  Here I am, the author of a novel that is perfect for a 14-year-old (or so) girl, tweeting various forms of "buy it!" to people who are...not 14.  Most of my twitter friends are maybe my age, maybe older, maybe younger.  I think I have some of my target audience in there (I sure hope I do!  I really want their perspective!), but I don't think any real 14-year-olds are going to buy my book from a tweet.  If they are on twitter at all.

So, I'm going to tweet about writing. I'm going to tweet about teens I find inspiring.  I'm going to tweet about the Olympics.  But I'm not going to tweet about my book unless I'm asking your advice or venting my author-ly frustrations.  I'll tweet a little to say I've finally finished the new book (when I do...oh, golly...IF I do...), or I'll tweet if I'm giving one away--maybe.  Not even sure about that.

The upshot is this: I'm looking for interaction, not a transaction.

Same goes, all of the above, for Facebook--oh, except I am "friends" with teen girls there.  I'm friends with their mamas, and I guantee they are NOT going to buy my ebook because I used social media to heckle their babies about it. 

So, no matter how tempted I might be, no matter how badly my fingers itch when I watch my amazon rank fall 50,000 places in one day, no matter...I WILL NOT TRY TO SELL MY BOOK ON TWITTER.  Now I'm going to go write that 500 times.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tips Tuesday: Changing Your KDP Details, Author Central Foreign Pages & Kindlegraph by Christine Locke

1.  Did you know you need separate author pages on amazon for the UK, France and Germany?  I didn't!  The "Congratulations!" email that KDP sends you when you first publish with them details this, but you have to scroll down to see these links when you read the email on a cell phone (as I did), so I missed them.  Here are the links to set up your foreign author pages:

2.  If you cannot change your book's description on KDP, if you have tried to change your book's information without success, if it seems that amazon will not update your book's details, then try doing it through your Author Central account.  I followed KDP's instructions four times with no results until KDP Customer Service said that because I had entered my book's description through Author Central, I would have to make future changes there.  I love KDP and I have long been a fan of amazon.  One tiny change I would recommend that they make, however, is please tell those of us with Author Central pages that we have to make our changes there!

3.  Kindlegraph allows you to digitally autograph books for your kindle readers!  Their introductory video clearly explains the process, and it is very easy to enroll your book.  I've always thought it's a little sad not to be able to ask an author to sign their ebook, and now we can!  You can either use a signature in the sites cursive-looking font, or use your mouse to create and save your own.  We already have virtual book tours through blogs.  This opens up possibilities for virtual book signings....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday by Christine Locke

An idea from a cool site I plan to join: http://www.sixsunday.com/
It's time for another Six Sentence Sunday.  Hope you enjoy these from Open Door, available now on amazon.  Feel free to join up and post six sentences of your own in the comments!  Back to work on the sequel for me....

"...As the tears fell to the table Carin knew more questions stemming from the fear she never named.  Her mother’s unusual actions and notions did not matter, she always told herself, because after all they were safe and happy together.  But they were not together now, and they were neither of them happy.  For the first time in her young life Carin believed she might not be safe.  What led them to this point?  Was her mother reacting to true, living threats in the world around them?"

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tips Tuesday: Writing with the Kids Around by Christine Locke

Are you a parent and a writer?  Is your writing still "part-time" or "on the side," in other words, not supported by day care?  If so, how do you find time to write?  Having older children (beta readers!) can be a blessing to a writer of young adult fiction, but what about little ones who still need so much attention?

I started Open Door early in my last pregnancy.  After my daughter, above, was born, there was just no time for writing.  I became terribly discouraged.  Would I ever finish?  Would I still have the same passion for the story when/if I could return to it?

The answer to both questions was yes, but finishing that novel took a little more creative planning than I originally expected.  Here are a few tricks I've learned for writing with (young) kids in the house:

1.  It sounds overly simple, but make a game out of your household chores.  My baby likes to pretend to vacuum with the Swiffer wand while I mop the floors.  She also loves to "help" unload and load the dishwasher.  Having an 18 month old help me makes the chores a little harder to do, but at least I am doing them while she is awake.  And she is having fun being my "big" girl.  My son, 6, can take part on a different level.  He is capable of a whole new range of independent tasks, and he is proud of being asked to do things that his little sister cannot yet accomplish.

2.  A light touch does it with online presence.  Thanks to the miracle of smart phones, I can follow back the real people who are gracious enough to follow me on twitter with just a moment's attention.  I can also do some courtesy retweets, responses, and original tweets without spending an hour at my laptop.  The same goes for Facebook posts and email monitoring.  The key is to take care of these things during downtime--waiting for the coffee to brew or sitting outside my preteen daughter's dance studio.

3.  Think about your story before it's time to write.  I have learned the value of the story summary and outline.  I used to think that truly creative writing should be more free-form, and that may be true.  However, I just won't get a coherent first draft without the summary and outline.  When I have the short summary and outline in place, I will even write a list of scene descriptions.  I do use my precious writing time to do this important pre-work, and it helps the process later on.  But once you have these steps and while you are in the process of writing the story, think about it during the day.  Tell you kids about it, even--the point here is to already have ideas swirling around your mind when you do get that chance to sit down with your ms in progress.

4.  Ask for help.  My husband and I found that in the evening after dinner, he can watch a family movie with the kids while I escape to the office to write.  I'm back in time for bedtime prayers and kisses, and he gets some quality time with all the children, including the (pre) teens.  If this is not a good option for you, do you have a friend or neighbor who is also a writer or is starting a home business who might trade with you for a couple of hours of young child care?

5.  This is the MOST important, and hardest, step for me: when you have time, WRITE!!  If you stay home with kids and they are napping, WRITE!!  (You already did the chores and monitored your online stuff, so no excuses!)  If you've gotten a precious hour with the help of friend or neighbor or spouse, WRITE!!  If you cannot sleep at night and you're going to be awake anyway, WRITE!!  This is, hands down, the absolute biggest challenge for me personally.  There are so many other activities that seem so important.  But I finished a book that is now getting 5 star reviews by forcing myself to write, write, write, whenever those free moments came.  It's still tough, but now that I've done it once, I know I can do it again.

How do you find time to write with young children?  I'd love to hear your tips and thoughts!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday by Christine Locke

Here's a new idea from a friend: six sentence Sunday.  I'll share a brief (guess how long?) excerpt from my first novel, Open Door, as a quick break from my writing streak (almost 1200 words so far today!).  I hope you enjoy it, but it will have the added benefit of reminding me that I have managed to finish one of these projects before...have fun!

"'...Come to them when they are together in this house.  I invite you.  Anne Mallace'
            Matthew called the doctor and closed up the mansion.  He filed papers and made certain inquiries.  Always, in the months that followed, Matthew Thomas kept the final words of Anne Mallace in the breast pocket of his suit.  Through all that would happen, he pondered her requests, and he watched."
Back to the grind for me.  I'm hoping to have the second novel, In Time, out before my children need to get back to school.

Thanks to fellow writer and blogger, Susan Buchanan, for the idea!

Mystery, murder & magic, oh my! by Christine Locke

Joseph Campbell said that if we don't understand the meaning of our cultural symbols, we are doomed to a shallow existence, "like diners going into a restaurant and eating the menu." I always thought the smartest thing anyone other than J. K. Rowling ever said about Harry Potter was that the series is "the greatest evangelistic opportunity the [Christian] church has missed." The reaction of some Christians to Harry Potter is an example of Joseph Campbell's warning, probably the best example I have ever seen.  These two ideas intertwine in my mind whenever someone asks me how I can be a Christian and write about magic, ghosts, and violence.

When writing a work of fiction, symbols are employed.  This is true even when we experience realistic fiction, like, say, a western in which the good guy wears a white hat and the bad guy a black one.  The ability to understand the action of the story depends in part on the ability to process the symbols .  You can watch the whole western and figure out that the guy in the white hat is the one that ought to win, but if you understand symbols employed by the author (because they are symbols frequently employed by that author's culture), you don't need to do that.  You can tune in to the final showdown and pretty much get the point: "Ah! guy in the white hat--brings order to disorder, defends honor and honesty, stands up for the little guy, ought to win!"

Now, does this mean that in our actual life, we think all the good guys and gals need to wear white hats?  Do we send our soldiers to war wearing white wide-brimmed headgear?  Even the suggestion brings a chuckle and a note of concern since, after all, doing so would make our good guys an easy target.  Which speaks to the complexity of "real" life which we can avoid partially in a novel.  In a story, we get to delineate good from bad to the extent that we wish; it's refreshing to do so.  In real life, there are so many shades of grey, even when we try to minimize them.  We have to camouflage our soldiers though we whole-heartedly believe they are on the side of good.  Not to do so puts them in harm's way. 

I can write about ghosts and magic in fiction because the story is not real.  It's not meant to be real.  It's not even meant to be realistic fiction.  I'm employing symbols when I write about magic, or ghosts, or even depictions of violence.  There are many things we experience every day that seem magical, that fill us with a sense of confusion and uncertainty and awe, maybe fear or joy or wonder.  Take, for example, the subject I'm currently exploring with the Legacy series.  My daughters are growing up, entering their teens.  Soon they will be young women.  But there's a part of me, to be honest, that expects to walk downstairs when I finish writing this and find them waking up, aged 9 and 7, asking me what to wear to school today and needing me to comb their hair.  When my child hugs me and has to lean down to do so, I am filled with wonder and sadness.  How can this be so?  Wasn't she just small enough that I could take her in my arms and cradle her?  Wasn't that just yesterday?  Yet, she is beautiful now.  I am proud of what she has become, even if I don't always understand how it can happen so quickly, how her childhood has slipped away from me.  It happened so fast.  I turned around and she was grown.  It was like...magic.

And maybe there's a loved one you lost too early in your life.  I know it happened to me.  And maybe you like to think of that person watching over you, even offering you guidance.  If you believe it is wrong to hold that thought, maybe you dream about them.  Maybe in the dream they come and meet your children, tell you they are proud of you, tell you your problems aren't so bad and you will be OK.  In a work of fiction, that same idea can be represented by the ghost offering guidance, demanding certain levels of performance the way that person did when they were living, requiring something of us that we are able to give, setting them (and in the process, ourselves) free.

There are lots of possibilities for future blog posts here, but, in short, I have always let my children read the books with magic in them because sometimes it is easier to learn about the hardest things in life when we absorb them first through symbols.  I processed the death of a relative I loved very much by weeping over the passing of a magic spider, Charlotte, and I will be ever grateful to E.B. White for employing that lovely, accessible symbol for young children puzzled and terrified by death but longing to understand.  Then I fell down a rabbit hole with a friend name Alice and learned that although the world is an incomprehensible mess I must still accept responsibility for my own actions.  And there were all those trips to Narnia...of course I can write about magic.  I was never going to write about anything else.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why Write Fiction? by Christine Locke

A writer might want to make money, make a better world, to be heard, to have fun....

But here's the real answer.  Write fiction because there's nothing else you've ever really imagined doing.  Because it's the one thing you can't stop.  The one activity you can't live without.  Because if you were on a desert island, you'd want water, bread, paper and pens.  Because even if you're poor, the world sucks, no one reads it, and your writer's block is the opposite of fun, you'd still write.

Now given that, one of those secondary reasons might make more sense.  I've always liked the idea of a better world.  I'd love to think that someone will read my story, feel empowered by the example of a character, and go out into their own life with more fire and maybe even some inspiration.  That would be really cool.  It hasn't happened yet, getting told that.  But maybe it will.  In the meantime, I'll keep writing.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

IN TIME...stealing time away to write it... by Christine Locke

I am 18000 words into the Open Door sequel, In Time.  The plan for the book came together in days, and now it's a mad dash to get the thing on paper before the images fade.  Part of me is nervous, writing now, since there are those of you who care about what happens to Carin and Griffin and Mallace Estate as much as I do.  But I'm delighted by that and I'm beginning to see where this story will go for the third installment, a place I never would have forseen when I started Open Door.

I'd love to hear from you, and if you are a young writer I'd be especially interested in hearing what you're thinking about and how your ideas come together on the page.  There's a google+ badge to the right, or catch me on twitter Christine Locke @wrtrdoll.

Back to writing...

Monday, July 2, 2012

My best beta reader secret... by Christine Locke

is really not a secret.  My best beta readers have been my daughters.  In fact, I've learned that if they can't put the story down and nag me for more when I only give them half of it, then I've got something.  In fact, that was when I realized I could stop tweaking Open Door.  My daughter wouldn't leave me alone until I gave her part two.

Other beta readers have become my second rung--even my best friends and most constructive critics.  My girls are not going to sugar coat it for me or walk me through it.  Their readings are my fool-proof litmus test, and I've totally loving it.  Here's the scale:

* "Oh m'gosh, Mom, is this about me?"...(bury it UNDER the trashcan!)

** Read a few pages and wander off reading a text that's probably not real...(scrap it!)

*** Leave the manuscript open to about 25% read under the bed until I come back and dig it out myself...(needs a lot of work)

**** Read half of it and tell me its great...(good story, bad pacing)

***** "Mo-om!  You left me hanging!  Is it ready yet?  Is it ready yet?"...(BAM!) 

Try it out on the nearest willing teenager.  Just steel yourself for that fake text....