Book Beat Babes

Book Beat Babes

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don't Forget the Plot! by DL Larson

The other day a gentleman returned several books to our library. He's a regular, friendly and we usually converse at the circulation desk. I'd say he is in his mid forties, and an avid reader of various styles. He orders many books from other libraries and enjoys series. So I was quite surprised when he said he had grown tired of a particular series after the second book.

"Why?" I asked. "Did you not like the story-line?"

"I did in the first book. But the author forgot the plot in this last one. It turned into erotica with no purpose."

"Oh. Too much detail?" I laughed, surprised at his honesty.

"No. It just didn't have anything to do with the story. It became ridiculous and I lost interest."

Ouch.
That statement revealed a lot.

When a writer writes, a few things are expected in every story: plot, character growth, and involving the reader in the unfolding story. No matter what genre, plot needs to be strong and purposeful. Plot moves the story from the beginning all the way to the end. Plot is the anchor in every book, no matter how many sex scenes.

Good to know.

Til next time ~

DL Larson
www.DLLARSON.com

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

How Do You Like Your Romance?

It's easy for readers to get confused by the variety of romance books available.

Here are some broad categories:

Historical
Contemporary
Sweet
Spicy
Erotic
Paranormal
Futuristic
Humorous/ Romantic Comedy
Inspirational
Time Travel
Romantic Suspense
Romantic Element in a Mystery

A sweet contemporary romantic comedy
http://amzn.com/B0097EVXBK

However, there are a great many subgenres, such as combining a sweet with a time travel going back in time, which could also make it historical. Or, you might see a paranormal featuring vampires, taking place centuries ago, making it historical as well. Or, you could have a humorous paranormal vampire book. Then, there are all sorts of contemporary romances, ranging from sweet to spicy to erotic, some combining humor, some combining inspirational messages, some containing mysteries.

It's a confusing, yet exciting time for those who love to read or write romances.

I used to enjoy historicals, but for some reason that phase passed. My favorites these days are contemporary sweet romantic comedies, which I also enjoy writing. I also like reading cozy mysteries with a bit of romance thrown in, but so far I haven't written one myself.

What about you? How do you like your romance?

Find all of  Morgan Mandel's romances & mysteries
at her Amazon Author Page:
 
Excerpts are all at:
 
Twitter: @MorganMandel

 
 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Environmental Hints

As I was loading my breakfast dishes into the dishwasher this morning, I noticed most of the plates in there were our smaller ones: salad, luncheon, etc. size. I realized it gave me a hint as to what we'd been eating over the last couple of days.

It reminded me of the importance of leaving our readers with environmental clues as well. The space your characters live in should tell us something about them. Perhaps they prefer a particular style of furniture. A specific color palate or scheme. Do they leave things lying around in a cluttered mess or are they neat and organized? What kind of food is in their fridge or their pantry? Produce, fruits, and veggies would tell us they are health conscious. Soda pop, chips, and cookies would tell us they like to indulge. Do they have pictures on the mantel that tell us a bit about their family? Or is the space bare without any artwork on the walls?

What kind of clothes do they wear? Obviously my cowboys always wear boots, jeans, and hats. Does your heroine wear jeans? Flirty dresses? Is she most comfortable in a pair of strappy high heels or running shoes?

What kind of car do they drive? Pick up truck? Convertible? Corvette? Honda? Cadillac?

All of these small details add up to give our readers a deeper glimpse into our characters. So make sure everything you include has a purpose. You'd be surprised what readers can learn from our characters' environments.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Friday, April 24, 2015

More on Marketing Your Book(s)



As I near the finish line on a holiday novella to release towards the end of this year I continue to gather ideas and identify resources on marketing strategies for writers and I’ve come across some additional interesting sites.  A previous post of mine titled, Marketing for Writers, focused more on marketing the writer herself and creating a brand, something that takes time and continual effort to achieve, and of course is very important and should be high on any writer’s to-do list.

I realized that with a holiday novella I needed to look at some of the marketing options available for the type of immediacy required with a seasonal story.  Additionally, marketing an e-book is different than marketing a physical book but there is quite a bit of overlap, specifically in using social media.

In the end, a critical issue for all writers in the ever growing sea of books available is discoverability.  If the reader doesn’t know your book exists, they can’t buy it.  I found a posting from 2013 at a site titled, Your Writer Platform, and one of the tips is to focus more on discoverability rather than selling.  The difference between the two can be subtle but I think it is important for all writers and not just Indies to explore the difference.  Here’s the link to this site:


Which brings us to another important distinction to make and that is the difference between a platform and a brand.  Here’s a very interesting column posted back in June 2012 that describes the difference quite eloquently:


Understanding the difference between both issues - platform and brand as well as discoverability and selling - can actually assist you in making your marketing decisions in a more efficient and effective manner which can further lead to saving time and money – and who doesn’t want that?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

You've Gotta Work Your Way Through! by DL Larson

I found or rediscovered a note on the side of my filing cabinet. I don't remember where it came from, the pages aren't curled yet and the paper has not turned yellow, so chances are I found it on Facebook. But for those writers struggling - something every writer does - this is for you.

These are not my words ... I'm simply sharing what I found ...

'Nobody tells this to people who are beginners: I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME.
All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste.
BUT THERE IS A GAP.
For the first couple years you make stuff, just not that good. It's trying to be good, it has potential, but it's not. But your taste,the thing that got you into the game, is still killer and your taste is why your work disappoints you.
A LOT OF PEOPLE NEVER GET PAST THIS PHASE, they quit.
Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this.
We know our work doesn't have this special thing that we want it to have.
WE ALL GO THROUGH THIS.
And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it's normal and the most important thing you can do is: DO A LOT OF WORK.

Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.
It's only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap.
AND YOUR WORK WILL BE AS GOOD AS YOUR AMBITIONS.

And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I've ever met.
It's gonna take awhile. IT'S NORMAL TO TAKE AWHILE.
YOU'VE JUST GOTTA FIGHT YOUR WAY THROUGH!'


Now go write something!

Til next time ~

DL Larson
www.DLLARSON.com

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Chris Karlsen Reveals the Inspiration for Her Mystery/Suspense Book, Silk

Please welcome mystery/suspense author, Chris Karlsen, to Book Beat Babes today. Morgan Mandel
Chris is a Chicago native. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was in her late teens where she later studied at UCLA. She graduated with a Business Degree. Her father was a history professor and her mother a voracious reader. She grew up with a love of history and books.
Her parents were also passionate about traveling and passed their passion onto Chris. Once bitten with the travel bug, Chris spent most of her adult life visiting the places she'd read about and that fascinated her. She's had the good fortune to travel Europe extensively, the Near East, and North Africa, in addition to most of the United States.
After college, Chris spent the next twenty-five years in law enforcement with two agencies. Harboring a strong desire to write since her teens, upon retiring from police work, Chris decided to pursue her writing career. She currently writes three different series. Her historical romance series is called, Knights in Time. Her romantic thriller series is Dangerous Waters, and he latest book, Silk, is book one in her mystery/suspense series, The Bloodstone series.
She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and five wild and crazy rescue dogs.
ABOUT CHRIS KARLSEN'S MYSTERY/SUSPENSE BOOK, SILK 
London-Fall, 1888
The city is in a panic as Jack the Ripper continues his murderous spree. While the Whitechapel police struggle to find him, Detective Inspector Rudyard Bloodstone and his partner are working feverishly to find their own serial killer. The British Museum's beautiful gardens have become a killing ground for young women strangled as they stroll through.
Their investigation has them brushing up against Viscount Everhard, a powerful member of the House of Lords, and a friend to Queen Victoria. When the circumstantial evidence points to him as a suspect, Rudyard must deal with the political blowback, and knows if they are going to go after the viscount, they'd better be right and have proof.
As the body count grows and the public clamor for the detectives to do more, inter-department rivalries complicate the already difficult case.
Purchase on Amazon
Next, Chris reveals her inspiration for Silk.
When A Setting Is Perfect by Chris Karlsen
I was in the middle of writing another book, part of my Knights in Time series, when Rudyard Bloodstone came to me. As a character he was that rare protagonist who was crystal clear in my imagination from the start. But I pushed him to the back of my mind until I finished the other story.

When I started my latest release, Silk, a suspense thriller with Rudyard as the protagonist, I had much of killer drawn out as well. I didn't think twice about the setting either. It had to be Victorian England. I would be hard pressed to name a more atmospheric setting for a murderer. Growing up my parents were big fans of horror films. The films then weren't the gruesome Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers Halloween-slasher types of the 1980's. We watched the typical Hammer Film horrors. Those were the ones where a young Englishman in deep debt agrees to spend the night in a haunted house somewhere in the moors or countryside away from London for a large sum of money. All those movies were set in either Victorian or Edwardian times, which were perfect for a scary movie. Having visited England many times, I was familiar with the Victorian influences, especially in London. So, what better setting for my murder suspense than Victorian London?
I knew with Detective Inspector Rudyard (Ruddy) Bloodstone I make him a veteran of the Zulu Wars of 1879. Eleven Victoria Crosses (the equivalent of the Medal of Honor) were awarded after the Battle of Rorke's Drift (Jan. 1879). Rudyard is a recipient of the VC, but he's a war hero who doesn't believe himself one. To Ruddy, he only did what was necessary in battle. A civilian now, he is a down to earth, determined and clever detective, a keen observer with a droll sense of humor.

The killer, William Everhard, is a wealthy nobleman, a member of the House of Lords, and friend to Queen Victoria. I wanted to hold a mirror to the society of the period, the difference in classes and attitudes but without being too Dickensian. I wanted to show both the good and bad. Mostly, I wanted to use the "feel" of the city. To me, this is the perfect setting: the cold fog, the beautiful carriages pulled by handsome teams of horses, the gardens for strolling, the grittiness of Whitechapel, dark allies and the terror Jack the Ripper sent through the population.

As a writer, one of the biggest joys of writing historical settings is living the period, experiencing the culture, if only on the page. I enjoyed walking Victorian London with the characters in Silk: sitting with Ruddy while he visited his friend's pub, walking around a crime scene taking in every detail with him, or simply strolling through the park with him, and his adopted stray, Winky, on a Sunday afternoon. I even liked sharing the dark and dangerous places I took them when needed.
Setting is more than scenery. I think of it as a living, breathing thing, another character. Like fashioning a character exactly the way you envision him or her, finding the perfect setting is one of the best parts of storytelling.    

Connect with Chris Karlsen at: www.chriskarlsen.com
Please welcome Chris by leaving a comment below.
 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Good Editor

Any writer knows that a good editor is essential. Whether you're 'traditionally' published or an indie, having someone help you fine-tune your work is a must.

I have always been fortunate to work with really great editors. When I started my career with Wild Rose, I was assigned a fabulous editor whose 'voice' I still hear in my head when I write. When she moved on, I received a new editor, and we've been working together ever since.

Together is the right word. When it gets to the editing stages of a book, we work collaboratively to polish it up to make it the best it can be.

An editor who knows his/her stuff is key, but when that editor will take it one step further and go to bat for you with higher ups, then you know you have a gem.

Right now Christmas at The Corral is in the copy-edit-waiting-for-the-pre-galley stage. To give you a bit of background, it's the first in a holiday spin-off set at The Corral, the bar when my trilogy takes place. I've always referred to The Corral with both letters in the title capitalized, since it's the name of the place. Proper nouns and all that. When I wrote This Feels Like Home, I worked with a different editor (since it featured a bullrider and thus fell into TWRP's western line) who insisted the T in The Corral should be lower case based on some new formatting manual. It drove me crazy that it didn't match how I'd used it in the first two books, but it wasn't worth a total knock-down-drag-out, so I let it go. When I wrote the Christmas spin-off I went back to my traditional way of using the capital T.

Yesterday I got an e-mail from my editor asking which was the proper way to refer to it. I told her of my preference for the capital and the issue in Home. She went to bat for me with the copy editor and sent me this message:

Well, it's RIGHT in this one! I argued with the CE that it's the NAME of the place. She cited CMOS rules. I said, "Tell that to the owner of the bar."

I had a smile on my face the rest of the day.

Moral of the story? When you find a good editor: keep her, trust her, and she'll have your back.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Friday, April 17, 2015

What Marketers Can Teach Writers About Word Choices



I have a love/hate relationship with marketers, both personally and professionally.  Personally because, darn if they don’t influence me to buy something I don’t need, and professionally because the really good ones are expensive to hire and they make it look so easy. 

Some marketing techniques are more “DIY” than others but the branding, the naming and the tag lines are not as easy to produce as most people think they are.  Oh, sure, once you’ve seen a commercial or marketing campaign it seems obvious but the making of that commercial or marketing campaign most likely took many people working long hours to produce.

A recent segment on CBS Sunday Morning explored just this process with David Placek, owner of Lexicon which has named some of the most well-known products in our lives.  The segment title is “What’s in a name?” but don’t let this deter you from checking this out.  Word choice is as important when picking a name for something as it is when writing dialogue and narrative. 

Furthermore, concise word choices are especially important for writers when it comes to their “elevator” pitch at conferences as well as in how they pitch to readers, the ultimate audience.  Whether that marketing pitch is in person, on social media or on a web page it has to grab the reader quickly, especially these days, due to the proliferation of available reading material in this age of online immediacy.

So, take a moment and watch this short interview and find out how some of those well-known products got their names.  It really is fascinating.

Here’s the link to the interview:


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Using Music in your Writing! by DL Larson

I have a character, an alien, who loves rock 'n roll. His personality is perfect for searching out old tunes and singing and dancing to the beat. He is also extremely forgetful which causes trouble for me, the writer, to be sure credit is given to the musical artist inside my story.

The music industry has placed severe restrictions upon writers. Using a line of a song is taboo. Writers may use a title only, if they give credit to the artist who owns the song. Or the performer more accurately. Yet a writer's work may be used without permission if credit is given for their words. It doesn't matter how many words are used as long as credit is given. The credit may appear in the middle of a paper, at the end in a bibliography or in footnotes. Whole paragraphs have been used. Yet music artists retain their works completely.

Writing a book takes considerable time, probably longer than it takes a musician to write a song. A nonfiction book may take years of research before being published. Yet no one expects the general public to site the title only of a book when they want to share some bit of information inside the pages. The lopsided thinking is unjust and in my opinion selfish of the music world.

I'm all for giving recognition to artists of the written word, in any form. But I am frustrated the music industry has hog-tied writers in such a way. Many editors/agents shy away from stories with music in it for this reason.

I don't want to go into piracy issues, that's a different topic all together. And I realize money is behind all these restrictions. But it is also a cloak of injustice to writers. Most writers offer accolades to another artist when using some snippet of their work. No one wants to be charged with plagiarism. But not being allowed to use a line from a song when credit is stated for all to see, is wrong, in my opinion.  

I'd love to see these restrictions lifted.

But I won't hold my breath for it to happen.

Til next time ~

DL Larson
www.DLLARSON.com


Friday, April 10, 2015

Plagiarism - Part 2



So, how does one actually detect plagiarism?

Well, in the academic world one of the most frequently used tools is a program called Turnitin.  Here’s the website:


Since I have access to this program through the university for which I teach I have not gone through the process of creating an account so you will have to explore this on your own.  One of the features I like about Turnitin from an instructor’s perspective is that it breaks down the similarities with student papers by several categories to include websites, journals and other such reference material, and of course to other student papers.  It returns a fairly detailed report for instructors.  The students won’t see the same level of detail that an instructor sees which makes for an interesting discussion when it’s clear they’ve gone to one of the paper mill sites for their assignment.

But there are also a plethora of “free” sites to explore but remember that free is a four-letter word and proceed cautiously.  Just search for free plagiarism checkers and you will find lots of possibilities.

In the end, if you are actually writing and then rewriting your work then your chances of plagiarism are likely very small, especially if you are not frequently engaging in the copy and paste routine.  As I indicated in my last post, it’s best to keep a separate file for all of your research material so that you don’t accidentally include it in your story word-for-word and without proper citation.

I also suspect that if a writer is plagiarizing then her voice in telling the story will be affected.  So, stick with your own voice and your own writing and you should be able to keep the plagiarism devil away from your door, or at least from your word processing program.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Better Dialogue! by DL Larson

I wrote pages and pages of notes when I attended the workshop with writer/agent Donald Maass. He spent a great deal of time on dialogue. He mentioned the 'he said/she said,' days are over. 21st Century writing requires more with less words.

During the workshop, each participant chose a scene in their WIP to rewrite the dialogue. He requested we create a scene that conveys anger, insults, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, etc.  The scene below is what I wrote:

Tracy peered out the window. "I don't see anything."
"Hmm, If you'd only look. It's happening right there."
"No, it's not. There's nothing there. Is this a prank?"
He tossed her the binoculars. "Here. Hurry. I have to go to gone and departed."
"What?"
He cleared his throat. "Look again."
"Oh good, Lord. What is that?"
"You asked to see and now you have. Now go home."

Then he asked us to delete more from the scene. I thought this was a pretty tight scene already. But I slashed away and came up with this:

"I don't see anything."
"It's happening right there."
"There's nothing there."
He tossed her the binoculars. "Look again."
"What is that?"
"You asked to see. Now leave."

Is this better? I don't know at this point. But I understand the exercise to create tension and emotion in the dialogue without using obvious direction. I may never use this scene in my WIP, but I will use the tool in future dialogues. I don't need to say, 'he said/she said,' after every spoken word. Editors have become sticklers for tighter dialogue and this exercise will help in creating fresher scenes.

If you find a scene in your WIP that drags, try this exercise. Think of a sculptor nicking away the clay or marble to reveal the sculpture he wants to create. The tension is in your writing, it's merely hidden beneath too many words.

Til next time ~

DL Larson
www.DLLARSON.com




Sunday, April 5, 2015

Back from the Islands

It's hard to believe we've been back from our cruise for a week. We had a wonderful time visiting several Caribbean islands. Here are a few photos.

St. Thomas - U.S. Virgin Islands


St. Kitts - West Indies


St. Maarten - Netherlands Antilles


Tortola - British Virgin Islands


Happy Easter!

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com

Friday, April 3, 2015

Plagiarism - Part 1

When it comes to tough topics for writers I think Plagiarism is worse than the so called writer’s block, at least in my opinion.

But what is plagiarism and how do you know if you’re doing it, or how does someone else know?

Plagiarism is basically defined as the misappropriation of someone else’s work or ideas.  Here’s the Wikipedia link to a lengthy discussion of plagiarism and well worth the time to read it:


I think if you’re a fan of copy and paste you just might want to closely analyze what you copy and from where, as well as where and how you are pasting text.  I keep research files and folders on my computer where I copy and paste information and links for reference but I know that those files and folders are not my work.  They are for reference – period!  If I’m not writing the words myself then it doesn’t go into any of my work without the source being referenced.

History is full of plagiarism examples but you don’t have to go too far back to find many startling examples, at least back to the 18th century when according to the Wikipedia link above, “the modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal emerged,” especially in Europe.  From James Frey to Cassie Edwards there are many cautionary tales for all writers on just how damaging even the accusation of plagiarism or misrepresentation can be.

As you may recall, James Frey, who was one of Oprah Winfrey’s author picks for her book club, went from being an admired recovering addict who shared his gut-wrenching story with the world to being a celebrity writer accused of manufacturing at least part of the book which he previously presented as a memoir.   Technically, his situation is more an example of misrepresentation but when you search for writers who have plagiarized; his name often shows up in the results.

Cassie Edwards who had written more than 100 historical romance novels and who was long herald as a meticulous researcher, especially for a fiction writer, became notorious for “lifting passages” from numerous other sources without acknowledging those sources.  Many of her books have now been pulled from print and you most likely have to go to a garage sale or similar source to find the ones that were pulled from publication by her publishers.

Some of Cassie Edward’s books are still commercially available but from what I’ve been able to research her various publishers had to review all of her books and pull from publication the ones that were not properly cited.  I can’t really tell if she’s written anything new or not but the story was well covered years ago at the following cite:


If you want even more information about plagiarism and the two examples above or any others well you can just “google” it – and therein lies part of the reason that plagiarism is on the rise and has been since what we now know as the Internet and search engines became widely available.  Like many other tasks that use to require leaving your home, or at least getting out of your pajamas in the morning, plagiarism is just a few clicks away.

While not a crime, plagiarism is widely considered a breach of ethics and many intellectual property law suits have been brought in the civil courts by victims who’ve not been recognized or compensated when their work has been copied or used without their permission.  And - it’s not restricted to writers!  Recent examples of court awarded copyright infringement settlements in the world of music have highlighted just how pervasive plagiarism is and just how easy it is to do.

We are all influenced by the world around us and the events we live through so it’s understandable that some of those influences will show up in our own work but this isn’t what plagiarism is about.  Plagiarism is about not properly recognizing someone else’s work or ideas when you are using it to create or enhance your own, especially for monetary gain.

More about how to detect plagiarism and the concept of “fair use” in my next post, but in the meantime just be careful where you copy and paste, especially if you’re still in your pajamas.