Archive for the ‘Creating A Buzz’ Category


Importance of researching the facts before writing fiction.

How many times have you heard the old cliché? “Fact is stranger than fiction”? Until I started writing I had never really thought about it before, and I blame TV programs such as Myth Buster for stirring me into action on the research front. In truth, it is that and a one star review of one of my short stories, where I had the Vice President of America boarding Air Force One, under the misconception that they were actually named aircraft. The fact is, Air Force One and Two are one of the same, with the descriptions only applied as to who is onboard. Air Force One is the designated name for when the President is onboard and Air Force Two for the Vice President. Okay, so it was no great effort to change the eBook text, but the one star review remains forever and serves as a reminder of the importance of getting things right.

Another cliché that comes to mind and directed at authors’ is, “Write about what you know.” There is a lot of truth in this as research is not as big a deal if you are writing about what you know and love and your knowledge adds authenticity to the read. A good example of this would be the Bravo Two Zero, by Andy McNab, who wrote about his British Special Air Services operation exploits as a memoir. Since then he has gone on to writing fiction thrillers using his expertise in covert operations and weapons to produce a list of best-selling fiction.

“What’s the big deal?” you say “It’s fiction and in fiction we can write what we want.”

“True” I say, Not all readers are intolerant when it comes to stretching the plausible, but if you want to appeal to your market, you have to consider a good percentage of your readers who are well versed in all manner of subjects and even the slightest error of fact will have them toss the sample of the read aside, or they may respond with a bad review.

An example of this would be a gun enthusiast reading your work. Say you write a modern thriller and describe someone firing a Glock 9mil and invoke their sense of smell as experiencing the smell of “Cordite.” There are a number of problems using this description.

1) They stopped using small bore Cordite rounds around the end of the 20th century.

2) It is likely your character would be too young to have ever experienced the smell.

So how would you describe it? The answer is, that if you haven’t fired a gun, then research the subject.

Another example would be safety catches and safety-operational devices of guns and the way different models operate. I wish I had a penny for every time I have seen it described wrong. Research your guns folks. The link above “gun enthusiast” has some good descriptions of how different safety devices work.

“Okay but this is mostly boring stuff about guns.”

Well, yes it is, but let’s look at other examples. For instance, say you want to write about a wildfire in the Pine Mountains to the north of LA. It may be hot where you are for the time of year, but what is the season for likely wildfires in this area. A search of the internet will tell you. You will also be able to find the rescue services response to such events and the names of the equipment used. Who would have known that a bucket dropped into a lake from a helicopter to gather water would be called a Bambi bucket? Bambi bucket sounds just so much more authentic.

One example where I found research of vital importance was when I wrote a short story about Climate Change and the end of life on earth through CO2 poisoning. (The End, or a New Dawn). Here I wanted to have the character experience the death that breathing CO2 would cause and to evoke a sense of dread, or some response in the reader’s mind as to what could happen if the emotive term “Global Warming,” got out of hand and what it would mean physically and mentally before death. Rather that, than use my instinct to write simply that he coughed and spluttered and choked to death. I wanted the description to be medically correct in the depiction of the character’s death and what he would experience. Without research, on the internet I would not have achieved this.

One other thing to consider is that procedures change with technology advances. Ask yourself, does your city police still use a physical identity parade, or show you a number of photos, or do they pop in a computer disk have you watch a slide show. The same question could be asked of fingerprints. Do they still use ink and a roller, or do they digitize your prints from an electronic-pad device direct to a computer?

What can I do other than search the internet?

Well if you are famous, I suppose the FBI, or the local Police department may give you time of day. But for mere mortals there is always the local library, or if you know an expert on the subject in your neighborhood, you could always ask, or even pop into your local police station if you have a question on say procedure. Who knows, you may strike lucky as many people like to talk about their work. The internet is the least time consuming. One tool I have found useful is Google Maps and the street-level view. If you are writing about scenes in a town or city that you are not familiar with, then Google Street View is a useful tool, down to what type of business and other landmarks are around, and what type of trees etc to the type of road surface.

Writing about what you know?

There is no question about it, that if you don’t have the knowledge, that it should not be an impediment to writing about a subject, especially if you are an avid reader of your chosen genre, but if you have first-hand knowledge of the subject, then it places you at an advantage and in some instances it shows in the confident voice of the author that oozes authenticity.

One such author that is a great example of this is British author/ Crime writer, Debbie Bennett, who features on our Book Buzz page and expands on the subject of research in her article. Her latest release is due out soon. Debbie is the author of a number of books, one of which is Hamelin’s Child. Her background in Law enforcement and procedures in the UK, which extends over 25 years, together with knowledge of drugs suppliers/users and their habits, it shines through in one of the most gritty authentic reads I have had in a long time. No wonder it was on the list for consideration by the UK Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award. Mine is not to reason why, but at the current sales promotion of 99c (Usual price $2.99) on Amazon kindle, it really is a steal.

Debbie is from England. I first met Debbie on the Harper Collins writers’ site, Authonomy. It was a few years ago when the site first opened and authors’ uploaded their work for critique. I’ll never forget sampling her work and thinking, wow, or the constructive advice she gave me when sampling mine. Her work was at the time streets ahead of the rest.

Here’s an idea of what she has gleaned from those 25 years to help with her work, which I am sure doesn’t even scratch the surface, but at the same time still uses research to keep her up to date.

“It was working with heroin importation that got me thinking about street drugs which led to Hamelin’s Child and the sequel Paying the Piper (which will be out in the next 2 months). I have (literal) hands-on experience with heroin, though I have to be careful how much I say! But I know what it tastes like and smells like, how it gets in the hair and into your clothes. I also have (or had) a working knowledge of police procedure and how custody works – although I’m a bit of out date on that score now, I do still work in police headquarters and have lot of useful contacts. I even asked one of my police mates (who is also a writer) to tell me how modern radio procedure would work and he helped me with a mock conversation that I have used in Paying the Piper.”

So there you are, even those with extensive knowledge of a subject still need to research to keep abreast of procedures. Good luck with your writing and with your research.

Advertisements

Basic tips on writing and self-publishing a thriller book..

 


Now Released and available through Amazon (Full length thriller 350 pages 9×6) Print and  eBook

Also available through the Amazon Prime lending library. 

Don’t have a kindle? No need, you can download a free app from the book page for kindle to computer or mobile device.

Mystery Crime Thriller

Paranormal – Romance – Thriller

Amazon.com     Amazon UK    Germany   France    Italy   Spain

Basic tips on writing and self-publishing a thriller book.

I’m not exactly a novice at writing and self-publishing, but I still have a lot to learn. The task can be quite daunting at first and for someone writing their first book, the entire process can be quite frustrating. The same is true if you intend to go the submissions route to agents, in seeking a traditional publishing contract. I will start by saying, there are no rules in crafting thrillers, only conventions. The aim is to write in your own style and voice that will define you as an author.

Much of the frustration can be eliminated beforehand by a little research on your genre/sub genre. Here are some of the things that you need to know before you even put pen to paper. The last thing you want is to write 100,000 words by the seat of your pants, only to discover that you have alienated agents and readers alike and whom expect certain conventions in your chosen genre. I can say this with some certainty, having a similar book consigned to my hard drive for eternity. Once completed, you need to be able to say with some certainty for example….This is a crime thriller, or, This is a disaster thriller. Yes, it may have elements of romance, or a family saga, but the genre must be clearly defined. Just remember, if you don’t know in which slot on the bookstore shelf your book belongs, then neither will a publisher, or a reader.

***

1st person, or third person?

For the thriller genre, third person past tense is the norm. Some stories will lend themselves to 1st person. In fact I am working on one now in 1st person, (The Journey) uploaded in draft at Authonomy for chapter critique, but then I have no intention of submitting to an agent, preferring readers to be the gatekeepers. Having said that, if a publisher or an agent were to come knocking on my door, I wouldn’t turn them away. The odds of being picked up by an agent are bad enough, so I would recommend third person for thrillers.

Chapter/Book length.

For the thriller genre, you are seeking to drive the read forward. If you sample books written by mega selling authors, such as James Patterson, you will find that many books are around 3 pages per chapter. In my latest work, I usually work to a loose template of between 1,200 & 1,800 words per chapter and a book length of between 80,000 and 110,000 words. My latest work has come in at the top end of the scale and 80 chapters. It is not uncommon to find thrillers with 100 chapters.

Pace.

The pace of stories for me, are determined by how you craft each individual chapter. With the thriller genre, you are looking to start with an opening in the first paragraph or opening section that will hook the reader. That first chapter needs to create the unresolved conflict/mystery that will drive the read forward, ending with a cliffhanger at the end of the chapter.

In new chapters, if you are to continue with the scene from the previous chapter, then try not to resolve the cliffhanger immediately, but create more suspense/tension, leading to a further cliffhanger ending. As James Patterson says, or words to that effect, if a thriller doesn’t thrill, then you have missed the mark.

If you do fly off into a romantic scene for a chapter, then don’t lose sight of the plot within that chapter, work your way back to a cliffhanger by the end of the chapter, or the pace will slow at best and at worst the reader will lose interest.

There are a number of devices that can be used to increase pace and suspense. One such device used to good effect is the ticking clock. Dan Brown used this in The Da Vinci Code.

You will have a good idea of the pace as you write. If you are not excited as to what comes next at the end of chapter, then you need to step away, think about it, and re-write the section. If you are not excited as to what comes next, then the reader will likely have the same feeling.

One thing that can slow down pace is backstory. Large chunks of backstory will kill a story stone dead if not done right. The way to approach this subject is to add snippets throughout the story. Another way to overcome this is by using dialogue/character thoughts.

A trait that will slow down pace is head hopping. It is common for new writers to change narrative Point of View (POV) within chapters. I am not saying don’t do this, because done right, it can be effective. If you are to do this, then at least leave a space between POV sections, or use *** to denote a POV change. It is far easier to keep the reader’s attention if you can stay in one POV throughout the chapter.

For me, when writing, I think it is important to remember that we are not writing a film script, where the camera can pan from scene to scene and person to person in rapid succession. In films, rapidly changing POV is held together by the audio/visual art of the film, leaving little to the imagination. With books, I tend to believe that what sets the medium apart, is that the narrative creates a flowing picture in the reader’s mind, and in which, the changing POV can have the effect to unsettle the imaginative process for the reader and cause them to switch off.

Overuse of dialogue tags can slow down pace. Give each speaker their own worldview and quirks in the way they speak, but don’t overdo dialect or accents. Add movement, or facial expressions between individual speakers. Make sure the dialogue is realistic and you will find you can cut speech tags to a minimum.

Characters.

It is always a good idea to write character CV’s before you start. If nothing else, a list of characters is useful. It’s surprising how many times Mike will end up as Bill by mistake at the end of the story. For your main Character, you are looking to create someone who the reader will want to follow on their journey. Flawed characters are a bonus. Character traits are what will make them three-dimensional and can be used as a means of adding depth to the story. It is the emotional baggage they have to overcome in resolving the issues that they face, that will add to the satisfaction of the read, with the reader becoming attached to how the main character changes through the story.

Characters emotional responses.

Just because it’s a thriller, doesn’t mean your characters shouldn’t have emotional responses. Emotional responses to words and deeds are what take the character out of being one-dimensional. They may be depicted as hard-boiled, but everyone other than a psychopath has feelings. If someone says to your character “you fat useless bastard.” Then show their hurt or disgust at the insult before they respond with dialogue. Similarly if they witness a traumatic event, show the reader the effect it has on their psyche before stirring to action.

Plotting

Cliché I know, but beginning middle and end is the way to go. Many writers prefer to write the story by the seat of their pants. It can and does work, however, as I have found, using this method you can end up 50,000 words in and stuck in a cul-de-sac with the dreaded writers block. At least outline your plot and know your twist ending before you start if you want to avoid writers block.

Show v Tell

Aim to show rather than tell the story. Don’t have characters “feel” show by their actions and expressions. Every time you write “feel or felt” go back and think how you can show the reader what your character is experiencing. eg …Does he feel sick at the scene before him? Or does he retch and avert his eyes?

I can’t stress enough how important it is to read books in your genre. It is rare for someone who does not read to make it as an author.

Toolbox.

Not everyone is skilled in all aspects of writing. If you have a full toolbox, then great, but if not, don’t let it be an impediment. I would rather be a good story-teller than a professor of grammar. Of course, if you are both, then great. If not, there are many things you can do to acquire skills. You can take night classes at college, or maybe join a creative writing group. If time is of the essence, then there is a wealth of information on the internet.

If you take a look at publishers, they have editors, proofreaders and copyeditors. All these skills are rarely possessed by each discipline.

Substantive editors… They will look at the overall plot, pace, continuity, characters etc.

Line editors…. They will provide a line by line edit for grammar and punctuation.

Proofreaders… They will re-check edited work for house style/ consistency, regards punctuation and grammar and they will correct typos.

Copy editors… Final check for typos, punctuation and formatting errors before print.

Most books, by the time they are finished and polished to the best of your ability, regardless of your skills, they will come back from a publisher, or a freelance editor with a mass of red marks for alteration. In some cases whole sections have to be re-written. I only say this, because it is nothing to take offence at, and in preparation for when you have the experience.

Once you have 10,000 words written, you can upload for critique to sites such as Authonomy.com. You can exchange reads with other authors who can provide valuable feedback. There is a game being played on there to win a Harper Collins review, but regardless, take out the gamers and it is a useful site. Just don’t get caught up in the game and continue to write. One thing I would do, is to go to the books on there that have received HC editors’ reviews. If nothing else it will give you an idea where your story could fall down.

If there are aspects of grammar and punctuation you don’t know, then there are many sites on the internet with the answers.

Okay, so you’ve finished your book…what then?

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning, especially, if you intend to self-publish your work. Here it is easier to tell you what not to do.

Don’t ask friends and family to read and give their opinion. They will only tell you that your work is great.

Don’t rush to publish and don’t think that paying for a line edit will catch everything. It is a rarity to find an editor who posses all the individual editorial skills to complete the work to perfection. Put the book to one side after editing and then come back to it with fresh eyes. Only when your book is edited and proofread to the extent that you are pushing commas around for clarity are you ready to format your work for publishing, or for submitting to agents. My site contains guides for formatting your work both as an eBook and as a POD (Print on Demand) paper book.

If you are still game for self-publishing when you have finished, then good luck on your journey. You may not make your fortune, but trust me, it is a very rewarding experience.

Don’t have a kindle? No need, you can download a free app from the book page (scroll down right hand side) for kindle to computer, or mobile device. Declan Conner’s latest release, Missing: The Body of Evidence now available as an eBook and a print book through Amazon. (Print book 350 pages 9×6 inches.)

Mystery Crime Thriller

Tags; Paranormal – Romance – Thriller – LAPD, Female detective – CIA black projects – Astral travel – Spontaneous combustion.

Amazon.com     Amazon UK    Germany   France    Italy   Spain

Declan’s author page on amazon UK

Declan’s author page on Amazon.com

How to format an eBook

How to format a POD print book

 


      

I was humbled recently to be asked to do an author interview at the local University here in Brazil. I really didn’t know what to expect, so this was a learning curve for me.

They had sought me out after some of the English lit students had visited my web site. I have a section on my site, where I ask for help translating one of my shorts, Mystery of the Crimson Robe, to Brazil Portuguese. To date my site has had in the region of seven-hundred hits from Brazil, so this was a great opportunity for me to meet some of the people behind the page hits, and to put a human face on the the sites statistics. They were fully aware I was self published, so I was intrigued as to why they would want to interview me. But then thinking about it, maybe Lee Child or Stephen King, were otherwise engaged.

On arrival at the University, the Professora gave me a list of the twenty nine questions that the students would be asking and told me they would be filming the interview. I had five minutes to prepare and to say I was nervous, doesn’t adequately describe the fear I experienced. I was about to do an exit stage left, until the Professora told me the students were probably more nervous than me.

The interview lasted two hours. I soon learned that they had downloaded my short story books from Amazon etc and studied them. I thought afterward, it was the most rewarding, if not challenging experience I had encountered in my short writing career. I wasn’t expecting what transpired. I thought that was the end of it, but after the interview, they asked if I would return for a seminar in front of the entire English lit students. I agreed.

The week following the interview, I had a good number of the students join my Facebook page, including the University. One of the students emailed me and offered to translate one of my shorts for free and asked permission to make one of the stories into a video game. This project is ongoing.

A month later, I went back to the University as a guest for the seminar they were holding. The seminar included a number of topics, one of which, presented by Samuel, was the depiction of Alice in Wonderland in pictorial form through the ages, which I found very interesting. What surprised me was how much of the Portuguese language I understood. My sponsor for the evening, Magili Sampaio, took the stage to give her presentation, and I nearly fell of my chair, when on the Power Point screen appeared…... DECLAN CONNER-EDGAR ALLEN POE.

The presentation was in Portuguese, but basically she was saying that my work was on a par with Edgar Allan Poe. Magili thought that although my stories were contemporary and written in a different style, she considered my stories covered the same type of subjects and mindset.

Different book covers of mine kept popping up on the Power Point screen as they discussed the stories. To say I nearly fell of my chair is an understatement. To put the cream on it, Samuel had edited the film he had taken from the first interview and added Portuguese sub titles and played it back. At the end of the film they all applauded. There was a question and answer period, followed by group photo’s, one of which they have posted to my Facebook page.

So who is the Edgar Allan Poe guy? Well if I didn’t know about him before I do now.

Edgar Allan Poe – born, January 19, 1809. He is best known for his tales of the macabre and mystery, Poe was one of the earliest American writers of the short story and is claimed to be the inventor of the detective genre. He is also credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He is claimed to be the first well-known American writer to try to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career. The financial aspect of his life; is one point on which I feel I definitely can share an affinity with him, besides our liking for bow ties.

All I can say is that I have never felt so humbled in my life and as a celebrity for a night (or two) if I never achieve anything else with my writing, then the experience will have made it all worthwhile.

O grupo.

J Carson Black, thriller author, hits 230,000 eBook sales in July.

J Carson Black, (Maggy) to her kindle-board forum friends, may be self-published, but with her runaway sales success in such a short space of time, surely it can only be a matter of time before one of the big six publishers recognizes both her talent as a writer and the substantial loyal fan base she is building. (In addition, she is a nice person.)

After selling 137 eBooks in February and 1,280 in March, in April 2011, her reported sales were 10,000 for the month and by May; the total sales to date were 73,562. They have now hit a mind-boggling 230,000 sales to date.

When you consider that she has no marketing machine behind her of the kind that traditional publisher can provide, or the many other services, together with their ability to get printed books on the bookstore shelves, the achievement is all the more of a remarkable phenomenon. I would even go as far as to say her success exceeds the remarkable achievements of Amanda Hocking and JA Konrath as her catalogue of books are mostly in the mid price range for self published eBooks. Although the 99c price tag did play a part in the initial traction together with a special summer promotion … pricing alone cannot explain, how her sales have taken off to the extent that they have, or we could all copy her route to success.

I first met Maggy on the kindle-board forum site in late in March, where she is an active member. I had seen her join in discussions offering advice and encouragement to new members of the site and it was there I noticed she was a fellow thriller writer from the book covers on display in her forum signature. All her book covers were attractive and I chose to look at The Shop. The book description drew me in and I downloaded the sample. I didn’t get through the sample fast enough before I clicked the buy button. It was clear from the opening she had a handle on the thriller genre and the narrative voice was distinct for me to want to read all of it. I wasn’t disappointed, the consistancy of voice, great characterization and a knack of bringing the scenes to life was there throughout and with a satisfying plot to put the cream in an already iced  cake, it was well worth the buy. When I started to ponder after the read, I felt like I had read a traditionally published book from a top thriller writer.

With the hustle and bustle of just starting out on a self-publishing career, I put my thoughts to one side, until I noticed her books started to appear everywhere on the also boughts on Kindle. A post followed this on kindle boards that she had sold 10,000 in one month. In a way I wasn’t surprised as I could imagine readers with circles of friends who had similar tastes in thrillers would be recommending her work by word of mouth. I thought her achievement that month was staggering considering up to that point, her sales had trickled along by comparison, although growing from month to month.

I decided as a budding author that I owed it to myself to look further in to her success to see if there was anything I could emulate to hasten my own success. One thing I found was that she had some of her books previously published and wondered if that had helped in the minds of potential buyers as part of their decision-making process. She also had a number of books uploaded; so that once a reader had tasted her work, she had other books on offer for them. However, other than that I was stumped.

I was just building my blog site at the time and I had introduced a Book Buzz page and contacted Maggy to see if she would care to take part and she agreed. I was hoping for some revelation of a secret formula, but there was none, other than the realization that it was attention to basic detail, (Book cover, book pitch and of course a good story, well written.) She had also carried out very little in the way of marketing, so there were no revelations to be had there. This spurred me on to write an article “How not to sell 10,000 books in one month.” with a fable entitled “The Secret” to emphasize the requirement for attention to basic detail for those starting out. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, although attention to detail is a prerequisite, clearly to hit the kind of figures she has achieved it has to be all about the writing and the story, the enthusiasm of her readers to recommend her and the Amazon algorithms taking care of the rest.

Well done Maggy. I can’t see the bandwagon stopping here.

Amazon.com, J Carson Black, Author profile and books America

Amazon.co.uk, J Carson Black, list of books UK


Does self- publishing destroy your chances as a route to being traditionally published?

I read many forum posts where people advise that if you self publish, then you are burning your bridges for any hope of being traditionally published in the future. This may have been true a number of years ago, but not anymore.

In this digital age of eBooks and POD technology, combined with a financial crises that has resulted in many publishers reducing the number authors in their stable and new books published, It is no wonder that authors are turning to self publishing.

The cry from the traditionalist is loud and clear … “Don’t do it, or you will never get published by a print publisher.”

In practice, this no longer holds true. There are winners and losers in the self-publishing arena, just as there are in print publishing. One advantage the self-published have over a new talent picked up by a publisher is that they will have a record of accomplishment of sales and for them to be successful they will have established their own marketing base through a web site or blog and made good use of building a social network.

The problem publishers have in the current challenged economic world is to find winners that will ensure a healthy bottom line. Winning a contract from a publisher is no guarantee to a successful career, it never has been. New writers are considered a long-term investment, with many failing to earn out their advance royalties and being cut adrift without that second book ever being considered. Of course, it is not all doom and gloom, publishers still look for new talent in the time-honored fashion and there are success stories.

“Okay, you talk the talk, but where is the proof?” you say. Well all I can give you is examples. However, don’t take my word for it, join the various kindle forums and you will see for yourself. I’ll start with some of the more widely known examples.

Amanda Hocking… multi book deal for $1 million.

J A Konrath … publishing contract with Amazons new imprint.

Dianna Laurence… Foreign rights sold to China for 2 books. Both books published.

Margaret Lake. Contacted this week with regards to Chinese translation rights.

Kate Rowan … Contacted by a Turkish publisher this week for rights to her books.

Lexi Revelliion … Contract signed with Hungarian publisher for hardback, paper and eBook.

Louise Voss and Mark Edwards… Killing Cupid. Four book deal just announced with Harper Collins. The Contract signed allows them to continue to keep their books available until ready for publishing in 2012.

Steve Dunne … The Reaper. Self published and picked up by Harper Collins. (Older event)

There are many more and if you wish please leave details in a comment. In addition to these, there are many threads on Kindle boards in the US of authors turning down contracts.

***

I had no sooner posted this article than I found this just now on Kindle Boards from Sibel Hodge.

“I’ve had an email forwarded to me from Createspace from Bliss Publishing in Thailand, asking about the foreign rights for My Perfect Wedding. Does anyone have any advice about this? What do I need to do if they want them? “


The answer is yes, as I know from my own experience. But don’t just take my word for it. Indie author and short story writer, Suzanne Tyrpak confirms what is possible, with over 10,000 sales of her short story compilation, Dating my Vibrator. I met up with Suzanne on kindleboards and asked her about her experience and her new release, Ghost planes and other disturbing tales, published on the 4th of July. She talks about her success in this weeks Creating a Buzz page. A sample of Suzanne’s work also features on the Short Story page.

Ghost Plane an other Disturbing tales vailable on Kindle and smashwords.

 Free promotional offer on smashwords. Ends this weekend10/7/2011 10/7/2011 

Ghost Plane and Other Disturbing Tales