Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Tale of the Whale Who Got Away...

...Or making hard choices while revising your novel


Whenever I write a novel, or short story, so many ideas come to me that I immediately write down as I'm going on along.  I have so much fun with my characters I sometimes wonder if I'm getting enough interesting scenes into the story.  I start to worry that I'm having too much of a good time listening to my characters bantering back and forth to make them feel more real and alive, that I start to wonder whether or not there's enough action going on in the book.  When that happens I start coming up with more  scenes that help get the readers' pulses pounding.  

But then when I go back to start the second draft I look back over the entire story and find that word count is much higher than I originally planned.  I try to aim no higher than 120,000 words, which by industry standards is still pretty long for a novel.  Mind you, even though I'm an independent author and don't have to abide by what most publishers want, I try to keep within certain guidelines such as length.  Why do I do this?  Because, I don't want to wind up boring my audience by not letting them get to the final climactic scene.  If you take too long letting all the events you've been building up to finally happen, you could start losing their interest.  PLUS... you could wind up using too many good ideas and confusing them along the way.  

In my case, my first drafts usually come in at about 130-160,000 words.  So I often wind up with plenty of trimming to do, which I actually don't mind.  A fair amount of those excess words come from scenes where I repeat the same idea that I used earlier or later in the book, in which case I get to decide where in the story it works best and delete the other sections where it appears.    Other times I'll find a scene that while extremely interesting and exciting, does not really add anything to the main story.  In fact, it serves more as a distraction than anything else.

That's what happened with the fellow in this photo...


This is a whale skeleton located at Long Marine Lab in Santa Cruz, a location I used in my second novel "The Ship".  As you can imagine it's quite large and has been out in the sun and rain for many years.  But where it was located, really got my imagination going.  You  see, this fellow stands not more than fifteen yards away from a cliff that looks out onto the ocean.  Mind you, there is a fence so no one falls in, which is a good thing because it's a sheer drop down onto some nasty rocks far below.  
In fact I was standing one windy day looking out at the waves when I heard a metal creaking noise behind me.  Immediately my imagination went into overdrive and I could see clearly in my mind that the whale skeleton, perched on its metal poles, had begun to move.  I'll admit that I quickly whirled around and saw that it of course had not moved.  And while I stared at it, half expecting it to do so, I heard the sound again.  This time I realized it was coming from the de-salinazation plant off to my left.  But still, the idea of the bones moving and coming to life was stuck in my head and I knew I just had to use it in a story.  Especially when I went to leave and took one final photo and wound up with this image


My mind was on fire.  I kept picturing those bony jaws clamping down on someone and shaking them like a dog chewing on an old shoe.  I had already begun work on "The Ship" and had been working on a scene that took place at Long Marine Lab, so I immediately added to the scene.  I'd created a nosy reporter who was following Cassandra, my billionaire heiress, and her new love-interest Julie Cloudfoot around and decided to have the reporter be the victim.  She was a tabloid journalist who was going to expose Cassie's coming out of the closet unless Cassie bought the photos showing her and Julie kissing on the beach and other places.  But one of my other antagonists intercepted the journalist near the fence overlooking the ocean after the woman had issued her 'business offer' to Cassie who had just left.  My villain had not wanted Cassie threatened and used some of his abilities to animate the skeleton and killed the journalist.  It was a fascinating scene that I really loved, especially after the journalist was dead and the whale skeleton flung her lifeless body over the cliff and into the sea.

 Yet, when I started the second draft I saw how crowded the book already was with characters who really mattered.  Plus, there were already so many good scenes that were more relevant, that this scene became a distraction.  So I copied and pasted it into a separate file where I keep other fragments of work, and saved it.  (Does this sound familiar to everyone?  It should, I keep telling you all to save any scenes you remove from your stories because they might prove useful in another story with other characters)


So the other day I came across these photos of the whale skeleton again and started thinking about how I had to let that scene go.  I still wanted to use it in another story, but I couldn't imagine how I'd make it happen.  Julie and Cassie, along with most of my characters were back on the East Coast and I had practically no one left out in Santa Cruz, then I remembered Julie's younger brother Johnny.  Johnny had been introduced in "The Ship" and had played several crucial roles in that book.  By the end of the story he was still out here in Santa Cruz, because he was a student studying marine biology and sometimes helped out at Long Marine Lab as part of his studies.  He also had gotten a girlfriend named Michelle who had a secret or two of her own (those who've read "The Ship" know what I'm talking about... hint-hint).  So now I'm starting to think about their story and I'm planning on recycling the whale skeleton scene with a new villain and victim.  The overall tale itself will be a love-story in the vein of Beauty and the Beast, only I'll be reversing the sexes and making it more of a Handsome and the Beast tale.  That will probably see the light of day in 2016 or 2017 depending on how much writing I can do and how fast I get things done.  

So now you understand why I keep telling you all to save scenes that you need to remove from one story.  They can come in handy down the road with a bit of reworking.  It's been almost w years since I wrote and removed that scene and I had no idea if and when it might prove useful.  But now I have the characters and a storyline where it can come into play.  There are countless other pieces of story I have saved that I will be sorting through which might come in handy too.  I'll have to root through them and see what I've got.  But I'll keep you posted.

You can find out other interesting things about what went on when I wrote "The Ship" on the new Facebook Page I made for that book.  You can find it at:


That's al;l I have for today.  Until next time, take care everyone, and keep writing.



Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Cards Have Arrived...

Last week I talked about getting business cards to help market my other blog site "The Vampyre Blogs - Private Edition".  Yesterday, the cards arrived and here is what they look like...


Front
(click on card to get a better look)


The front view contains information about me, the blog site and where to find it, along with my e-mail and a little note at the bottom letting people know the site is a precursor to the book which will be coming out in December of this year.

Back
(click on card to get a better look)

The back view talks about the novel itself.  The title of the book and it's release date is clear and visible in the center, with a quote from Nathaniel above it.  Underneath the title, is another note that explains that "The Vampyre Blogs" is part of my Para-Earth series and that other books are available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online outlets.

"So what happens next?", I hear you ask.  This is where the fun begins.  I will be distributing these cards to everyone I know in my college classes.  University and college campuses have a lot of vampire fans, so it's the obvious first line of attack.  I will give them not just one card, but several so they can share the info with family and friends who also like vampires.  

But I'm not stopping there.  I'll be leaving small stacks in places where students hang out, like at the coffee shops and library.  I'll also be keeping a bunch on me whenever I go out and give some to co-workers (current and former) as well as anyone who shows interest in our conversations about vampires.  

I'm also asking friends on Facebook if any of them would like to have some of these cards to spread around to their friends and coworkers.  I'll be mailing them the cards and putting their names on a list of people who will get a free paperback copy of the book when it comes out in December.  If anyone reading this blog is interested in taking advantage of that offer, please let me know in comments below or e-mail me.  

I want "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" to flourish and become a highly anticipated release.  So any and all help is greatly appreciated.  

Remember, the site itself contains short stories done in blog entry form, by various characters who appear in the novel.  However, NONE of those entries will appear in the book.  I'm not just going to re-package the blog site.  Instead, you'll be getting a brand new novel-length adventure.  The stories on the blog site is simply is 'bonus' material for all my visitors.  A little taste of what's to come.

I can't stress enough the importance of getting the word out about any novel/short story is for every author.  It doesn't matter if your an unknown or Stephen King.  If people don't know about your work, you'll be lucky to sell just one copy.  I have no idea how well this line of attack will work, but I'm going to give it one hell of a shot.  

Until next time... take care and keep writing.









Saturday, April 11, 2015

I'm About to Try Something New to Grow My Audience...

Building an audience and marketing yourself...

These six words strike fear and terror into the hearts of almost every new author I meet. 


It also has the same effect on some of the more experienced authors I know as well.  Why?  Because there isn't a 'silver bullet' that will solve the problem for you.  There are so many different methods out there to try and raise audience awareness of your work and who you are.    Plus there's no guarantee which method is going to be the right one for you.  So you have keep trying and trying until you find one that works.  This is especially hard if you don't have a good budget to work with.  Many sites will promote your books for a fee.  Oh there are some that will do it for free, but the results vary from author to author.  

You can also hire a publicity group to try and build hype, but even then you have to be careful.  The words "Buyer beware" applies to hiring someone else to promote your work.  There have been a number of scams out there where new authors have gotten burned, so be careful how and where you spend your money.  Talk with other authors who have a good track record and ask them who they used or believe to be trustworthy.

It's important to try and build an audience in advance of your book coming out.  This way you have at least a base group of people interested in checking out your work and buying it.  Remember, this is what readers face when they go into a bookstore or library...


This is also what they see in their mind when they're shopping online for something to read.  

There are so many choices out there, so they need our help.  They need to know a bit about your work in advance so they can narrow their search down. 

But how do you find those readers?  By helping them find you.  How?  Well, blogging helps.  It get's people familiar with who you are and your style of writing.  You can share thoughts and insights about the writing process so they get to know you a bit more and what to expect in your book.  Sharing snippets from your work is always a good thing too.  It gives you a chance to hook them in advance so they're all ready to grab that book as soon as it comes out.



This brings me to today's topic.  As many of you know, I'm working on my first vampyre book.  It will be part of my Para-Earth Series.  In it you will meet a Union soldier from the Civil War who was blown into one of those strange Para-Earths and managed to find his way back to this world.  But the experience changed him in more ways than one...  I've been chronicling some of his adventures along with those of other characters who will be appearing in the novel.  All of the entries on the blog are basically short stories so the readers can meet and learn about the characters before the actual book comes out.  I've also made it plain to the readers that the entries they are reading are supplemental material and will NOT appear in the novel itself.  The novel will be a complete long brand new adventure in and of itself.  And I've been getting more and more positive responses along with more followers.  But that hasn't been enough for me.  I want more people reading that blog and spreading the word.  The question is how to make that happen?

Well, I thought about my target audience, namely fans of vampires and where might I find them?  Since I'm attending university, I realized the populace of any community college or university will surely have a large audience into vampires.  But how to get the word out?  My solution... business cards.  I've ordered some and will be sharing them here on the blog as soon as they come in.  After that I will be dispersing them among classmates and leaving them all around the campus for people to find.  After all, most colleges will have a Student Hall or Union building, plus there are the cafeterias as well.  Not to mention dozens of coffee shops, laundromats, etc.  Basically any place where people congregate or have to sit down and need something to look at is a good place to leave or hand the cards out.



Plus, I'm already asking Facebook friends if any of them would like me to mail a stack of cards to them to hand out.  Many are already saying "Yes".  And I make that same request here as well.  If any of you would like me to send you some of the cards to distribute to friends, family, co-workers, etc.  just let me know.  As soon as I've got the cards I'll be asking for addresses and mailing them out to you.

How well will this work?  I don't know.  But the cards will be directing people to the blog itself so they have something to read in advance while the book is being prepped for its December release.  

If you'd like to check that blog out for yourself here's the link: http://thevampyreblogs.blogspot.com/ 

 I hope you find what you read fun and exciting.  I have high hopes for Nathaniel (my vampyre) and company.  They will not be a one shot deal.  I'm going to be making more novels about him as well as my other characters who will sometimes overlap with him.  

That's all I have for now.  I hope you find this idea interesting and I promise to keep you all informed on how things go.  How will I know if this effort is succeeding?  Well, the number new readers on the blog will be a big indication, so I'll be keeping an eye on it once the cards start going out.

Until next time, take care and keep writing!