Putting Fresh Faces on the Page! – From the Writers in the Storm Blog

by Margie Lawson

Don’t give readers a reason to take a mini-vacation from your page.

That’s what happens when readers come across clichéd phrases or sentences they’ve read before. They know what’s coming. Their brain takes a break from your story.

And for that fraction of a second they are sucked into the muck of their real world. Thinking things like:

I ought to quit reading and get some work done.

Has the washer quit running? I could transfer clothes from the washer to the dryer.

Because those blah-blah thoughts are more interesting than the overused phrase or sentence they just saw on the page.

We’ve all had those random reality-based thoughts when we’re reading. Because we aren’t locked in every sentence.

But we don’t have those reality intrusions when we’re fully immersed in a scene. When we’re locked in, reality doesn’t exist.

This blog focuses on faces. Writers fall into describing expressions in the same old, same old ways. The tried and trite phrases carry little interest, little power.

Facial expressions are more than just a visual. More than just a tag. More than just a beat.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

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Do Movies inspire Your Writing? Here are some that inspired mine

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird was a very meaningful book for me. The book was published in 1960 and the movie came out in 1962. When I first read it in high school, there were no video store rentals and even when they emerged a few years later, older movies like this one weren’t available. I had to scan the T.V. Guide to find out when it might be shown on Television. I finally found it in 1982 or so and watched it with great interest. The movie did a decent job of following the book. The casting was very good, especially Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. I remember reading that Harper Lee, who was present at the shooting, was so captivated by Gregory Peck’s portrayal of Atticus, a character modeled after her father, that she gave him her father’s pocket watch which he wears in the movie.


The Godfather

The Godfather (novel) was published in 1969. It covers the events in the Corleone crime family of New York from 1945-1955. This was the first ‘adult’ novel that I ever read in about 1972. I was only 10. I remember the book being passed among my mom’s brothers and sisters in anticipation of the movie. They went to see it as a group. It seemed to spur a lot of conversation my family. I had to read the book as soon as I could and I was captivated from the beginning. I finally got to see The Godfather and The Godfather Part II in about 1980. I was amazed at how true to the book (almost scene for scene) the movie was. The casting was brilliant and did justice to the storytelling in the book. It went to show the painstaking detail that a director can go to to recreate an author’s vision.


Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck’s book was written in 1937. It has inspired 5 wide-release film versions spanning from from 1939 to 2014. I read this book in my senior year of high school and was struck by the sadness of the tale of the lovable Lenny who didn’t know his own strength and had to be taken down by his best friend, George, for his own survival and for those around him. The book was a captivating read even though it is one of the most challenged books in history due to its profanity. I have seen all of the film iterations and I still favor the original 1939 version with the great Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney, Jr. as George and Lenny respectively. The story is simple, yet poignant and is well told via film.


Harry Potter Series

The seven Harry Potter books span the time period from 1997 to 2007. The eight movies span from 2001 to 2011. Even though the books were considered young adult, I read them all as my older children were becoming interested in them. I heard the stories how they were anti-Christian and promoted witchcraft. I knew from the first page that they were something special and that J.K. Rowling’s gift for telling a story spanned generations and genres. The books were fantastic and I sped through each as soon as they were released. The movies were very well done and, though many details were left out, they were a loving tribute to the writing and very well done. I have read other YA book series like The Hunger Games. Rowling set the standard but also opened the door for this level of writing to become mainstream with adults and children alike.


Jaws

This is an unusual entry, but I have it here for a reason. Jaws is the only entry on this list where I saw the movie before reading the book. The book is more about the relationships among the characters and the shark is secondary. The movie, which I saw in the theater in 1975 when it came out, is more of an action/horror adventure that centers on killing the shark. Much of the intricacy of the book’s relationships are not part of the film making it very different from the book. Jaws, for me, was an example of how an author’s work can be diluted in a movie. Peter Benchley, the 1974 book’s author, was a screenwriter on the film which indicates that he was likely in agreement with much of the change from the book to the film. I’m sure Benchley made a fortune from the film and its sequels. As an author, I suppose he had to make a decision between being true to his vision and cashing in on the opportunity.


So how about you? What movie/book combinations have inspired you? These are just a few of mine, but they were among the most meaningful for various reasons.

Keeping the Writing Love Alive – From the Writers in the Storm Blog

by Jenny Hansen

You are not alone.

This week is Valentine’s Day and, all over America, hearts and flowers are on many people’s minds. Perhaps you are worrying about your secret (or not so secret) love: your writing love. Have you lost that loving feeling? Do you find excuses to avoid your manuscript?

Cosmopolitan magazine is known for their articles on keeping love alive, right? So I looked up what they have to say.

Crazy Cosmo offers advice like “Flash Him,” “Do the dishes together,” and “Outlaw Grunge Wear.”

This is not helpful, even if we’re talking about a human. However, this gem made me smile:

Read the rest of this post HERE.

As an Indie Author – What are your challenges?

ChallengesAs an author, there are significant challenges. Finding original ideas and turning them into something interesting is a significant challenge. If you are a traditionally published author, you have to not only find an idea that interests you, but it has to interest your publisher as something marketable and viable so that they can make money. You also have to please your agent so that they will push your work on a publisher.

As an independent author, coming up with ideas, in my opinion, is the smallest hurdle to be faced. Because we are independent, we are free to publish whatever interests us and then take that work directly to the readers. One thing that indie authors discover quickly through social media, there are niche reader markets for just about every genre you can think of. If you like to right paranormal zombie western romance erotica, there will be a group that will read it.

My own genre, private investigator mysteries, seems to appeal to readers of a certain ‘seasoned’ age. That’s fine with me. I will join that demographic in the next ten years or so and these retiring baby boomers have time to read and money to buy books.

blood orangeI deviated from this genre for my terrorism thriller, Blood Orange, and found that, indeed, the demographics of the readers that favored this book changed. This is something that, as an independent author, I believe you can get away with by searching out the appropriate niche for your writing.

After landing on what genre you want to write in, there are many other challenges that the independent author faces. Becoming known is a significant challenge. When I first started out, I put my first book on Amazon and hoped for the best. My friends and family bought some and posted some reviews.

Marketing

At this early stage, I got some help from a self-proclaimed expert promoter of independent authors. I did get some traction from some of the things that this person helped me with. Interviews and reviews appeared on various blogs. I was interviewed on a podcast, and slowly but surely, my exposure grew a bit.

I soon found that the techniques that this person was using to help me gain exposure were easily achievable on my own. I gradually started to take these things on and found that my reader base continued to grow steadily.

reviewsGetting good, constructive reviews on Amazon and other platforms is a great start. It can be a slow process, however, building up a collection of reviews. One technique that helps is offering your book for free over a weekend. During my first giveaway, I had over 1,000 copies of my first book downloaded and I saw the reviews begin to grow. With the reviews came additional readers.

I want to make this blog post the first in a series that deals with the challenges that we face as indie authors. What I need are your ideas and feedback regarding the challenges that you’ve faced. One thing I learned early on is that I am not competing with my fellow indie authors. We are all in this together and can learn from each other.

So, let’s help each other. Let’s share challenges and ideas so we can grow as a community.

I look forward to your comments and feedback.

Did I Do That?

Image result for steve urkel

As an independent author, there is not much of a barrier between my work and the reader. I have added layers over time including an editor, beta readers, etc., but, even with all of those precautions, mistakes can slip through into the final product.

My first book went through iterations. I had a typo on the back cover, missing page numbers, bad formatting on the kindle version, etc. I was a newbie.

There are purists out there that think that a book should remain in it’s pristine state once it’s published. It’s a snapshot in time that should never be altered. But then God invented Photoshop.

photoshop

I’m more of the mindset in our eBook and print-on-demand world that we should correct errors and continually work toward creating the best product possible. Of course, you should try to do this up front before your book sees the light of day, but what if things do slip through.

Although the figures vary, but many sources agree that the average self-published author makes less than $500 per year. Between promotion, cover design, and editing, corners get cut and errors might sneak through.

correctionSo tell me, as an author, do you get insulted if someone points out errors? Does it depend on the forum they choose to mention it (telling you via email vs. via a review on Amazon)? If you are made aware of errors, do you change your work that’s already published?

Please let me know in your comments. This could be a valuable discussion.

Easy Tax Guide for Authors – From the Writers in the Storm Blog

by Jenny Hansen

Taxes are a bummer for most people, but…we have to do them every year. If you haven’t already filed your 2018 taxes , it’s time to think about them. Before you make squinchy faces at me and say “Boo-hiss…TAXES.” *shudder*, consider that some of the changes from the Tax Cuts Jobs Act (TCJA) might offer you moredeductions than in previous years.

And I know I lured you in with that “easy” word in the title but, at least for this year, I think everyone should engage the services of solid accountant. Even if you normally do your own tax returns. Things are a little wild this year.

Read the rest of this post HERE.

The Benefits of Hearing Your Book Read Aloud

Oops Word on Big Red Button Correct Mistake

This tip has to do with something I learned from a fellow author and reinforced as I was trying to record an audio book version of one of my novels. It may sound silly, but you can greatly improve your work by reading it aloud or by hearing it read aloud to you.

This can be a tedious exercise, but it is well worth it. I’m going to pass on an anecdote from that fellow author I mentioned earlier. It was a situation that could have been embarrassing at best and disastrous at worst.

She had written a middle school age book. All of the spelling, punctuation and grammar were pristine and she was ready for publishing. On a whim, she put the book through the ‘Speak’ utility that is part of Microsoft Word (I’ll show you how to set that up later).

What she found was, in one spot where she used the phrase, “That’s going to result in a large count”, the word ‘count’ was missing the letter ‘o’. The spelling was correct as was the grammar. The context, however, for a middle school book definitely resulted in a problem. Had she not heard her book, this might have escaped her attention.

In my own situation, I was foolishly thinking that I could record the audio version of my first book. Audio books have a huge market and I wanted to take advantage of it. One thing I learned quickly was that my book was hard to read in spots. There were very long sentences, clumsy word sequences, and other things that, when read aloud, revealed themselves.

When we read, we tend to skip over things that might be incorrect or clumsy, especially if we’ve written it. When you hear it read aloud, however, these things jump out at you like a pimple on the end of your book’s nose.

If you don’t want to go through reading your work to yourself, many word processors have accessibility settings that will read what you’ve written to you. It may seem like a waste of time, but, I promise you, it will help you improve your work.

For those of you that use Microsoft Word, I’m going to walk you through a few simple steps to set this up. This works with later versions of Word. If you have an older version, the setup might be different.

First, click the icon shown at the top of your screen:

step 1

Then, click More Commands. When you get the following screen, click the circled dropdown and select All Commands.

step 21

Next, Scroll down to the Speak command, select it, and then click Add.

step3

Then click OK.

When you want to use the text-to-speech command, click the icon on the Quick Access Toolbar.

step4

I hope this has helped you think about another way to improve your work. If you have any questions or anything to add please leave a comment.