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Writing Is Hard, Sometimes

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Writing is hard. This sentiment repeats itself over writing posts everywhere.

Why is it so? I reflected on this notion and came to realize that it’s not a correct universal statement.

It should read: “Writing is hard, sometimes.”

There are times when you the writer knows what’s in your head, you understand the scene that you want to share, and the words just flow. That’s a great experience, and any writer feels a sense of catharsis, a physical release, and satisfaction. Even though we know, we’ll probably have to rewrite it and spruce it up a bit later; these moments can keep us motivated.

The writing becomes difficult when we face a scene that we need to write, and we don’t want to relive that experience for personal reasons. I ran into this the other day, so let me share my experience.

I have a scene in my new WIP, In The Woods, where my protagonist, Samantha, meets up with an old friend, Zach. Big deal, right. Well, it was tedious to write because the character’s mindset is so far from my own.

You see, I’ve been happily married for over thirty years. To write with the correct mindset of Samantha, I had to remember what it feels like to confront a person whom I’ve admired in the past, held a torch for, and was crushed by the breakup. Not only that, but Samantha was hurt to the point where her character had no other love interests since.

samanthaThe protagonist’s entire sense of trust had been depleted when the man she was infatuated with had left her hometown. Now he walks into her life again, and feelings are stirred. Add the conflict of Samantha having to work side by side with this guy.

Yes, most of us have experienced unrequited love, but do you remember how it felt? Can you spill the right tension onto the page?

Thank goodness I have a dependable memory and also have counseled many broken hearts over the years. I pulled in those real life stories and used them. I found it uncomfortable to go back there, into the thoughts of the past, things better left behind.

But the scene called for the emotional state of a young teenager, hurt and disillusioned, now a grown woman trying to come to terms with herself. I had to go there.

Situations like this scene are when the writing is hard work. We search our feelings even those out of our comfort zones and are willing to relive healed wounds and tap into the emotional drive needed to reach the momentum the scene demands.

Here are three things that may help any writer:

  • First, answer questions about your character’s motives as an objective onlooker.
  • Then let the character speak in their own voice, not your past, but their past.
  • Last, tap your own emotions to create a mood, but do not rewrite your own story.

I wonder, does anyone else want to share a scene they had a hard time writing? Please share and post your comment.

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kai Stachowiak

 

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The Things We Say: through a glass darkly

It’s funny how we repeat phrases often without thinking of where they came from or the context of the meaning. I noticed one such phrase recently

through a glass darkly“.

I had suggested to a reading group at BookLikes.com that we should read a book series called:

withintheglassdarklyWITHIN THE GLASS DARKLY by William Gareth Evans published in 2010.

It’s a Gothic tale based on characters introduced in 1872 by the author Joseph. T. Sheridan Le Fanu in his novella Carmilla which was included in his short story volume named In A Glass Darkly.

indexWhile searching for the original short story volume, so that I could read the story that inspired William and other authors, (even Bram Stoker’s Dracula was inspired by the story Carmilla),

I came across another novel Through A Glass Darkly by Karleen Koen an historical fiction published in 2003.

In A Glass Darkly is also a short story written by Agatha Christieregatta_mystery – first published in 1939 by our favorite sleuth author

and now available in a collection, The Regatta Mystery and other stories .

I was curious of what else would turn up referencing glass darkly . . .

A few more strokes of the keys and I discovered poetry regarding this phrase as well. THROUGH A GLASS, DARKLY is a poem by Gen. George S. Patton, Jr. which you can read by clicking the link.

throughglassdarklyfilmThere was also a well received movie Through A Glass Darkly made in 1961

Directed by Ingmar Bergman, famous for his close up shots without movement of any  kind to magnify the intensity the character’s emotions, as well as the famous double face shot of two characters looking in opposite directions and never meeting each others POV unable to communicate or understand each other.

This is all heavy stuff and with so many people inspired through the ages, and in various art forms,  I decided to get to the crux of the matter.

Glass darkly is a term coined for a mirror.

mirrorMirrors have been around in one form or another for ages. Long ago people used a metal base like bronze to see their reflection and had to polish the metal vigilantly. Later forms were layered with glass tiles on top, but still the image was dark, thus glass darkly. Learn more about the history of mirrors here: The History of Mirror: Through A Glass, Darkly

The term was even referenced in the Bible, yes that long ago . . .

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  And now stays faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

(1 Corinthians 13: 12-13)

Who knew!

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More Info:

Indie Wire The Essentials: The 15 Greatest Ingmar Bergman Films

through-a-glass-darkly“Through A Glass Darkly” (1961)

A slow and painful disintegration of a family vacationing at a summer home on the island of Fårö trying to cope with the deteriorating mental state of the family’s eldest daughter Karin who has suffered a nervous breakdown.

 

Within My World – Dracula, the musical

The musical is by Gareth Evans and Christopher J. Orton, with orchestrations by the noted British composer and producer, Ian Lynn.

Lucky Friday the 13th

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A quick note for those who think like me – Friday the 13th shouldn’t go unnoticed.

It’s always been a lucky day for me. I like the mystery of the day, the pretense that something odd might happen.

It was on a Friday the 13th that I became engaged, and I’ve been happily married over 30 years. It was a Friday the 13th that I landed one of my dream jobs—well a dream for a bit, then turned into a nightmare. Where am I going with this?

It’s still a day of mystery, when we can experience something and blame it on the day.

For some it’s the superstitious bad luck day, though I think that kind of sentiment is waning. People don’t seem to take stock in unknown territories any longer, being connected means having answers at our fingertips. The odd is explained away, easily enough.

But if something strange happens to you today, good or bad, go ahead and blame it on Friday the 13th.

Some great reading for Friday the 13th

Goodreads Listopia: 13 Scary Stories for Friday the 13th

Goodreads Listopia: Paranormal Book Lists

Goodreads Listopia: Best Gothic Books Of All Time

The Savy Reader: Top 10 List of Eerie Books to Read on Friday the 13th!

Don’t forget my books: from the Curses & Secrets serial

More interesting reading and understanding . . .

University of Oxford – Introduction to The Victorian Gothic: Spiritualism

Happy Friday the 13th

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Writing For Yourself – VIP ME

new-year-quotesA new year means new chances for us to create the stories we want to write, read, and share. Stories should make the reader feel and a good way to accomplish this is using the five basic senses, and then some.

The basic five senses are taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing.

Let’s add a few more ‘senses’ to the list: Vision, Imagination, Plot, Movement, Emotion.

These added senses are created when a writer uses the first five as building blocks and configure them to such a degree, that they transcend the reader to a new experience level.

VIP – ME! Check it out and see if you agree.

Vision, more than just the sense of sight, but a total new experience that expands a reader’s mind. The reader is moved to feel emotions by the scene set before them and is challenged to think. VISION / taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing combinations:scottish-coast

When a scene is near the seashore we want to taste the sea water upon our drying lips, know that the waves are tossing the boats about, feel our stomachs churning and the wind blowing against our skin until we have goosebumps, smell the fish and seaweed, and hear the gulls squawking, blocking out every other around us. Vision refers to the entire experience that we can immerse the reader into . . . the reader will ask questions in order to learn more about the author’s vision.

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Photo by George Hodan

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Imagination, is needed when we introduce new places and situations to experience for the first time. A good story draws the reader into a room or a planet, but no matter the setting it will look fresh and is a place where the reader will be want to discover more. IMAGINATION / taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing combinations:

Good stories have vivid settings and take the reader away from their daily lives into a realm so wonderful that they have to keep reading. When a scene is placed on a futuristic planet a reader will experience the taste of new foods that may be tough or squishy, the sky may have different colors and odd clouds, hills explored may have odd formed trees and rocks might feel soft instead of hard, the air is sulfuric or smells rancid because of the different black foliage with spiked rods instead of leaves, the wildlife may have eerie mating calls that fill the night with moaning sounds . . . the reader will be hooked into this new place, and open to experience the ideas you have to show them.

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Photo by linnaea mallette

Plot, is a map quest and the picking up of the clues crafted by the writer—the reader can actually catch the dropped comments, see the stained rug, taste the tainted food or wine. PLOT / taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing combinations:

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Scenes build, one upon another, and the plotting is dribbled in between them, leading a reader to a new experience and surprise. A good story will let a character taste the tainted wine and spill it to avoid any subsequent unpleasantness—the reader will sense relief that the character isn’t dead (yet). Relevant objects are pieces that fit together in the end, allowing the reader to follow the trail while letting them touch the ornate ivory handle of the knife or feel the engraved markings of an antique jewel, objects that will be tied into a symbolic meaning when ‘The End’ is finally written. A good story allows cakes to burn and fill the house with thick smoke and allow the reader to smell the charred pan. Scenes can consist of boisterous crowds and be just as suspenseful when all noise suddenly stops! . . . A good story should always add a different twist to an old plot sequence to prevent boredom.

Movement, let the story roam and breath to discover more about the characters, and also reveal truths to the reader about themselves. It’s nothing a writer needs to do intentional, the smart reader will pick up the vibe and relate things to their own experiences. Allow achievement of goals and the ability to learn something new. MOVEMENT / taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing combinations:run2007calendarphoto-resized

A story with movement will have the characters eating at the corner greasy spoon or running over hills to the next scene, they’ll see road signs and other people bustling about boarding trains and planes, often characters touch each other with hugs and kisses and a reader can relate to the scene through their previous love experiences. As characters flee a crowded market they may smell the fresh-baked bread from the open window of a bakery they just passed (who can’t relate to that smell), and they might hear whistles blowing, perhaps the police chasing the antagonist or the misunderstood protagonist . . . the reader will remain active mentally and kept on their toes with the momentum of the story scenes.

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Photo by kai-stachowiak

Emotion, allows the reader to be involved in the character’s lives and problems and swept away from their own daily life. Total reader investment is a good mark for any story and is usually an indication of a great suspense story. EMOTION / taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing combinations:red-sky

A scene that takes the first five senses and transforms a reader into emotional investment is true success. Suppose the setting is the deep woods. A character could be all alone eating a leftover cheese sandwich with dry bread and tangy mustard spread all over, maybe upset because their significant other dumped them in the middle of nowhere. Okay, now we have an experience most of us can relate to and we’re there with them, angry with the person who just dumped them. Then  a shadow crosses the path and now everything else is forgotten. Of course the lunch is dropped to the ground that’s covered in dried pine needles and dark green ivy wrapping around the towering trees with rough dark bark. They’re spruce trees that fill the air with a deep pine scent, comforting the character until he/she smells smoke. Then the crackle of a fire draws near, raging closer at tremendous speed. All the five senses have been deployed but the emotions have ramped up from the every day to urgency . . .  a great story will move a reader to feel something, not only a little, but will get them to want to do something, vicariously through the characters.reading-a-book

This investment compels the reader to keep turning the page, to look for the resolution. They can empathize with or at least understand a character.

Progress of my next novel, IN THE WOODS, is going well. I’m going back to my writing boards and pulling together the experiences that my characters’ extra senses will use in my next story. I like the setting—the North East Kingdom of Vermont. It’s a suspense thriller with some supernatural elements added. I’m very excited about my new characters and hope they keep revealing themselves to me.

Until my next update, Keep reading – Keep writing!

Two Important Marketing Insights for 2017

Good-bye 2016 —Time To Set New Goals

Indie authors are looking back and saying to ourselves, “What the hell happened in 2016?

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Picture by axelle b

This past year the best outlined plans landed off the mark from our original vision, morphing just like our characters. This can leave us feeling vulnerable and lost in the marketing part of our business.

Last year’s strategy may be missing a few check marks or not working out as we had originally planned, but I’m here to say that’s okay. It’s good to be flexible and mindful of new trends. Our eyes should always focus on the customers’ needs, which are always changing, so our plans need to change, too.

All authors search for new readers, so we have to keep reaching out with the platforms that are being used everyday by our potential customers. Easy, right? Well not always easy.

Change is a scary thing, but it doesn’t have to be. Once you see the facts then you might embrace change and realize the importance that the internet and Wi-Fi have on potential customers.

First let’s look at some interesting facts . . . the internet contributed over $2.2 trillion in annual retail sales in 2015 and by 2017 there will be more internet traffic than all prior internet years combined!

That’s a lot of traffic. Wi-Fi and mobile-connected devices will generate 68% of all internet traffic by 2017.

Wow! I’m sure you see where this is leading us . . .

Facebook has 1.55 billion active users and is a good option to drive traffic to our sites, but if we use that platform alone we’ll miss opportunities —so let’s think bigger.NetMarketShare google-search-share

There are 3.5 billion Google searches every day or 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Google now processes over 40,000 search queries every second on average.

There are 966 million websites right now in 2016. There are 2.7 billion blog posts every day. WordPress powers over 60 million websites.

8 out of 10 consumers will shop online if offered free shipping. 51% of U.S. online shoppers cite slow site loading times as the top reason they abandon a purchase.

Big numbers can be scary but also revealing.

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Picture by George Hodan

While Facebook has a lot of activity it can only lead readers to shop online. Our distributors and our websites need to meet the current needs of the consumer.

There’s lots of competition out there. Yes, we can do the conventional—measure and tweak, and we should—but there are some things in this publishing world that we just cannot control.

So what’s an author to do?

Let’s start putting the odds in our favor by overcoming the most obvious wall we need to climb —being seen via internet and Wi-Fi.

Here are some current marketing insights that may help:

#1 Make your website mobile friendly.

  • Yes, we’ve heard this already but now there is a dire need to ensure you are mobile friendly NOW. The grapevine says that Google, the main search engine that uses Googlebots to crawl websites and comprises of 78% of all market share searches, will now be ranking mobile friendly websites first. That’s right, Google puts mobile at the top of the list —before all the other formats used like desktop. Now more than ever, we need to make our sites mobile friendly.

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    Picture by Petr Kratochvil

In the USA, 94% of people with smartphones search for local information on their phones. Interestingly, 77% of mobile searches occur at home or at work, places where desktop computers are likely to be present.

#2 Make your website as fast as possible

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Picture by George Hodan
  • Customers expect speedy results. An increase in site speed from 8 to 2 seconds can boost your conversion rate by 74% (this is based on data monitoring real user activity from 33 major retailers)

Authors sell books and so we should try to have our sites work as well as the best retailers and our best distributors’ sites.

  • Test your site for speed here: https://testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com/  A report will be sent to you to assist you (or your site’s admin) by explaining the actions you can take to improve the site’s speed.
  • Avoid software that most mobile devices won’t support such as Adobe Flash. Make sure everything translates properly by eliminating pop-ups and JavaScript from landing pages. (e.g. Error 404)

I’m working out my plan for 2017 and hoping to get lucky.

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Picture by George Hodan

I’ve tested my sites and discovered that I need to reduce photo sizes.

That boils down to a lot of work because I’ve used many photos in past blog posts.

I’ll have to go back and reformat (compress) the larger sized pictures and delete old clips that may not be working any longer.

It will take a lot of attention but worth my time if it means getting a better rating after a Googlebot search.

Let’s not forget our main mission: To get our platform, our brand, seen via the Internet and Wi-Fi

  1. This year while using social media I want to slice into the heart of marketing and steer readers to my sites. I can’t do this unless my presence is Google friendly. So, I will take care of my sites as best I can.
  2. I offer a good product but still face the challenge of reaching the right audience, so I will research the places where my target market can be found—and try to be where they shop.
  3. I will continue to support other Indie authors, via Twitter, Facebook and social media. Helping other author’s books become visible is not only good karma, it’s good business. When books are uplifted and deemed worth your time then they become more appreciated by the public (your followers), as well.

I don’t plan on giving away novels for free just because some authors who publish ‘how to books’ suggest this as a marketing tactic. Yes, you can get your email list puffed up this way. It works well in the short term, but in the long term these kind of practices can cheapen the Indie book industry as a whole. I may offer discounts or give short stories as gifts.

This past year the public expected books to be discounted or free. I admit that I’ve snagged a few free books myself. But I also know full well that a free download doesn’t usually mean a review in return (if that was the goal).

Personally, I review books that I buy more often than the freebies. This is a touchy subject among authors and I only suggest that you do what’s best for you. I plan on doing whatever I can to promote the value of books and believe that free books belong in the library (my favorite place). Today, even our eBooks can be gotten via a library.

Most likely, there will be free book bargains again this year, but my target in 2017 is a customer who is willing to pay for what they want to read. If anyone has any suggestions on how to accomplish that, please share. I am open to new marketing ideas and appreciate feedback. Please post your comments. We all need to support each other in 2017.

Wishing you the best in 2017four-leaf-clover-drawing

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Top Marketers are saying: If you’re not mobile first, you’re not customer first . . .