Thursday, March 26, 2015

Rules to Use and Ignore

Rules about creative pursuits are slippery.

Just today I read a post from a young writer saying she didn't realize there were rules when she started and another from a veteran writer saying ignore the rules and write your heart out.

There are rules for spelling and grammar that need to be understood and adhered to or our writing would be unintelligible.

There are genre expectations that readers have. Sometimes those expectations can be turned on their heads for great effect, BUT that sort of thing is best done by someone who totally understands the genre. A mystery must be solved. The killer must be caught. The price of magic should be dire. The question put forward in the beginning of the story must be answered by the end.

All the rules put forth by advice books are mostly reminders to write as cleanly and clearly as possible. The war on adverbs fascinates me. I have a friend who cannot abide the use of the word just. Absorb that advice but don't let it inhibit your writing. Let it steer you to more careful and efficient use of language. We all have a word or phrase that we overuse. Be aware of your own bad habits and clean them up in the second draft.

To me, it all comes down to learning to be a competent storyteller. Once you understand the flow that a story needs to draw the reader along, you've learned all the rules you need. Then there is the presentation of that story which is a craft that should be constantly evolving.

Read, write, repeat. Reading in and out of your genre helps you pick up techniques to improve your own work. Writing is practice and every time you build a story you get better at it. Keep learning, keep an open mind and your skill will grow.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Social Media Gaffs

I have made a mess on Twitter. Luckily, I have so few followers, no one will notice.

I joined a site that offered help with social media. It said to use a specific hashtag and all the other members of the site would retweet your message. Sounds great. What goes around, comes around, right? So I found a retweeting service and dropped in that hashtag. Right away I started getting lots of thank yous for the retweeting. However, I didn't seem to be getting that many retweets of my own messages.

Then I read an article where a man said he checked the feed before following anyone on Twitter, and if it was just a run of Buy My Book tweets, he passed. I agreed. I hate seeing that stuff myself. But it made me wonder what my feed looked like. I was horrified when I checked.

My Twitter feed was a long list of authors crying Buy My Book! People I didn't know selling books I'd never seen. Yikes. It was like I was standing on a street corner shilling whatever a passerby handed me. That was not what I wanted people to see when they checked me out on Twitter.

So I turned off the automatic retweet.

Then I thought about how people say to have a conversation. Hmm. Where are these conversations? When I look at my Twitter home page it rarely has anything resembling a conversation. I was obviously looking in the wrong place.

I bit the bullet and signed up for TweetDeck. Eureka! I think I have found the conversations.

When I started following people on Twitter I put everyone I followed in a list, as had been suggested by a number of articles. Tweetdeck can give me a feed of each list. And that allows me to finally make some sense out of the barrage of tweets.

It also showed me the life of a tweet...not even a second? Tweets fly by so fast I can't even read who's sending them. Wow. I need to rethink and rework how I approach my tweeting.

Lesson learned.

Please leave any suggestions, tricks or gaffs in the comments.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Free Books for Honest Reviews - Story Cartel

I am experimenting with Story Cartel for Dark Deeds. It's a great set up for readers and authors. You can get any book on the site for free with the request that you give it an honest review.

You can get Dark Deeds HERE

Reviews are so important for authors. Not only do they help readers decide to purchase, they are a requirement for some advertising. A few of the better sites require a certain number of reviews at a certain average. For example - 5 reviews on Amazon with a 4.5 star average.

For new authors getting reviews is difficult. I have sold about 40 ebooks of Lethal Seasons and I have 1 review on Amazon. There are a few more reviews on other sites, but for some advertisers only Amazon counts.

I've had friends balk at giving a review. "I loved the book, but I don't know what to say."

It isn't a book report, so get that childhood trauma right out of your head. A rehashing of the plot isn't what people want to see. As a reader, I want to hear about pacing and characters. Other people notice different things. I once got a review that said my sentences were too short.

A few lines about how you feel about the story is best.

"A face-paced story that had me on the edge of my seat."
"The pace plodded and I lost track of the characters."
"Loved the hero in the beginning, but he turned out to be a wimp."
"The side-kicks were hilarious. I want to see more of them."

As an author, hearing feedback like that might influence my next book. I don't write for the critics that will give me a finely honed review on all the nuances (or lack there of) in the story. I write for people who tell me they love the characters and want to visit with them again.

My favorite review so far is only 2 words: "So good." I wish s/he'd written a bit more. It would be great to know which parts they liked best, or least. But I am thankful s/he took the time to write a comment.

The next time you finish a story, remember to review it where you bought it!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Don't Eat the Couch

Do you ever find yourself saying inane things to your pet? Bertie seems to have a liking for stuffing - the pillow kind, not turkey-related. On one end of the couch the upholstery has been ripped open by various cats sharpening their claws and a little stuffing peeks through. Every now and then I catch Bertie licking it. And I end up yelling, “Don’t eat the couch!” It goes along with: “Don’t chew on the chair,” “Don’t swallow the yarn,” and a generic “No biting!”
I think commands to animals need to be short and to the point. I caught my sister trying to reason with her cat. As Rascal was sharpening her claws on the side of the chair, in a conversational tone, Rose said, “We don’t do that on Mommy’s chair.” Needless to say, Rascal did not stop. I suggested she try, “No!” or even “Stop!” I didn’t think a full sentence would do the job.
Bertie is a chewer. She rips apart any cardboard she can get her teeth on, leaving sheds all over the floor. She likes to chew on sticks in the kindling pile. And she had started trying to tear apart the blue rocker in the picture above.
I bought her some chew toys that were made for dogs which she disdainfully batted under the refrigerator. It isn't easy being the servant of a cat.
Bertie, Queen of Socks, guards my clean laundry. She's quite possessive. I can't put them away until she tires of them, or abandons her post to go bite something.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Dark Deeds in Print

The print book is now available!

This has been an very interesting book launch. I was sick, my editor was sick, then I was almost okay, and then I was sick again. That took up most of January and the beginning of February. As a result, I didn't do all the things I had planned to do for the launch of Dark Deeds.

The publication date was delayed. No big deal, it was my own artificial deadline. And looking at the sales, very few people were even aware it was late.

Not much advertising was set up. I felt a little panicky, that I had missed out on an important event. But then I remembered - this is the long-tail approach. I can set up advertising for tomorrow, or next week, it doesn't matter. The book is up there for as long as I leave it there.

In fact, it makes more sense to spend some dollars on advertising after the book has a few reviews. Pushing a book with no reviews isn't easy. I've come to the conclusion that it's a waste to spend time and money marketing a book with no reviews. Quite a few of the better ad sites require a certain number of reviews at a specific star average - like 10 reviews with a 3.5 average - before they will accept a book.

So that's the next step with this book.

If you would like a free copy of Dark Deed to review, please email me at m.alice.sabo(at)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dark Deeds Presales

The Dark Deeds ebook is now available for presales on Amazon. Place your order now!

The ebook will be released on Friday the 13th. The print book will come out before the end of the month.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Tension in Writing

I was disappointed by one of my favorite TV shows lately. It had a 3-episode arc that fizzled for me. The set up was good - a kidnapping. The middle piece was all right, but it felt a little stretched. The final episode was a total let down. By the time the heroes arrived, the captives had almost escaped. That didn't satisfy me as a viewer.

When I see things that don't quite work for me, I like to take them apart to see how I could fix them. For the scenario above, I don't think enough time elapsed for it to be 3 episodes. There were other things going on, and a nice red herring thrown in on top, but still not enough meat for that much time. Although I have to say that the red herring's timing was rather suspect. The viewer was set up to expect one thing and it turns out to have no relation to it. That didn't sit quite right. Unlikely coincidences can work very well, but I don't think this was sorted out well enough.

Part of the problem might be unreasonable expectations of a viewer.  There were equal numbers of captors and captives. It looked like they could have gotten out of the situation any number of ways. But there was a lot of hemming and hawing and passive response that I thought was totally out of character. Plus the action depicted shouldn't have taken the huge time period that took up 3 episodes. It seemed like it should have been only a couple hours, but I think it took days.

The same thing happened in another show. I have been losing interest in this one despite interesting characters. The plots seem boggy. I watched one more episode to see if it had gotten better and saw the same problem - tension stretched so long it lost its power.

In this one the characters go into a battle. One is wounded, another thwarted, a third has to confront the minor monster. He prevails but is mortally wounded...and then they go back to their safe place and talk about how to finish the battle.


They vanquished the minor monster and should have pushed on to attack the big-daddy monster. Instead there's a slo-mo grief scene about the fallen comrade that just felt so off. Then they mill around and say valiant things to one another, swearing to risk their lives for victory. Hmm. Didn't they already say that when they started out at the beginning of the episode? Isn't that the whole point of why they are there in the first place?

So, of course, they get captured by the next minor monster. That just frustrated me beyond words. Mostly because it pivoted around an obvious ploy that I saw coming ten miles out. Sheesh. An obvious ploy needs a little more finesse. Sometimes it can be used to great benefit. To work well, it needs a balance of skepticism.

The good guy is duped into believing he has finally flipped the bad guy. The good guy needs to have strong doubt going into this encounter. Or he needs the sidekick saying "Don't trust him!" In this case it was a moment of tulips and hearts...really? So when he got captured, I didn't feel bad for him. He was an idiot to believe it. But all his cohorts seemed to believe it, too.

And then they all get dragged to the real final battle where they aren't heroes at all, because the minor monster goes sideways and kills the big-daddy monster in a drawn out scene that was telegraphed halfway through the episode.


The lesson I get from this is that tension cannot be stretched indefinitely. I think it was Hitchcock that said something about rollercoasters - the up makes the down more powerful. You need contrast and balance. A humorous scene can revive the viewer/reader from tension-exhaustion.

In the example of the battle, returning to the safe place to talk was misplaced. I think the battle should have advanced at that point. There was no need for an emotional respite after the short battle and death of the comrade. The intensity should have increased before there would be a need for a pause.

Balance and contrast, ups and downs, another set of tools for my writing.