Not In The Mood To Write?

Common advice for writers is to put the seat of their pants on the seat of a chair and turn on their computer and start writing. This advice always gets a good laugh because everyone knows writing good fiction is a lot more complex than that.

But it’s good advice nevertheless. Some day when the muses are avoiding you like the plague, try it. Doesn’t matter if you have an idea or not. Just sit there and start writing. The alphabet. Drivel. Anything.

Because the physical act of writing causes something to happen. It’s like those laugh therapy groups. Even if you aren’t in a laughing mood, the physical act of laughing changes your body’s chemistry for the better and, before you know it, good things are happening to your body.

Same principle applies because the physical act of putting words on paper changes your mind’s chemistry and slants it towards writing something viable. What mind wants to scribble dribble forever? Even on the worst days, my mind … and yours … wants to do something worthwhile. So the rest is just a matter of figuring out where  your mind wants to go and going there.

Okay, the first few lines … or paragraphs … or pages … might end up in the waste basket as you and your mind come to agreement as to where you are heading. But the rest could be pure gold.

When Fiction Imitated Life

I think this post is about writing.  Maybe not.  You be the judge….

I find that, unbidden, animals creep into my work.  Recently they have become psychic because it works for the story but also because psychic animals are fun.  Wolf Legend has a psychic wolf.   Wanted Sharpshooter has a rogue psycho cougar.  But I never thought of psychic animals as being anything other than clever additions to fictional stories.

Until now.  What follows was my life last week:

First I should mention that we have a cat named Smoke.  He’s our first cat ever and we have him because our daughter got him as a kitten to become another barn cat to keep their barn free of mice.   Smoke, however, didn’t want to be a barn cat.  He kept coming to the house and meowing very politely to let her know that he’s a house cat, not a barn cat.

Since our daughter already had three house cats and didn’t need any more, she decided her parents needed a cat.  So we got Smoke.  As soon as he came to our house he knew this was where he wanted to be.  He walked around and inspected his new kingdom and informed us that it was acceptable and climbed onto my lap and started purring and has pretty much been there ever since.  Even though we aren’t cat people.  Or, to be honest, we weren’t cat people until Smoke came into our lives.

Anyway, to get back to what happened in the last few days:

My DH Dick started feeling sick Thursday night. So did Smoke. Didn’t come to get us for bed as usual and was quiet.

Dick got worse Thursday night. So did Smoke. Stayed in one spot on the bed all night. Didn’t move. Didn’t do anything.

Dick was really sick Friday morning. So was Smoke. Managed to crawl onto a shirt that Dick had dropped onto the floor and he stayed on that shirt.  Didn’t move, didn’t do anything.  Was really sick and puking and refused to get off that shirt even though Smoke generally prefers me to Dick.  But that day when I offered him one of my shirts, he refused it and went back to Dick’s shirt, where he stayed.  So I left him there while I took Dick to the ER.

It was acute appendicitis.  Dick had surgery and, as happens after surgery, he felt generally awful for the rest of Friday and all day Saturday.  He came home Saturday evening. Smoke also felt awful during that time, couldn’t even climb onto the bed and, when I lifted him there and touched his stomach, he cried out in pain. So I put him back on Dick’s shirt on the floor, which was where he wanted to be. He lay there without moving.

Sunday both Dick and Smoke felt awful. Both lay around and did nothing, Dick in bed, Smoke on the shirt that he refused to give up.

Monday, Dick felt awful until afternoon, when he began feeling better. Same with Smoke. Didn’t move, stayed on Dick’s shirt and felt awful Monday morning, but Monday afternoon he, too, started feeling better.

Tuesday morning, Smoke felt better still.  He came into the kitchen and let me know that he wanted his morning treat and, when I only gave him half a treat because he’d been sick, he meowed until he got the whole treat. Same with Dick. He wanted a full breakfast and is now feeling pretty good.

Oh yes, when I went into the bedroom later that day to put that shirt in the hamper, Smoke watched me pick it up, accompanied me to the laundry, and watched me drop it in the hamper without interest.  Because whatever had happened during those last few days was over.  Both cat and man were okay.

Coincidence?  Probably.  But maybe not.

Anyway, in the future if I can’t get those psychic or empathetic animals out of my work, instead of mentally excusing their existence because it’s only fiction, I’ll accept the reality that art imitates life more than I’d ever realized until we got a cat named Smoke.

Self Promotion

Self-promotion is on my mind a lot these days because the very first professional promotion of any kind starts April 8th for Spirit Legend, my third book, my fourth e-published anything. I never had to self-promote before because I sold my works to publishers and they took care of the rest.

My first foray into promotion uses the simplest promotional package I could find. I figured I’d start easy and gradually work my way up to complicated.  My experience with this simple package makes me realize what’s behind something I’ve noticed that puzzled me greatly.  Why many not-so-great books get wonderful reviews and sell well while other, possibly better books, don’t get reviewed and don’t sell at all.

The reason is simple.  There’s nothing easy about promoting books.  Nothing!

This first foray of mine into publicity doesn’t require me to do anything except spread the word about a Book Blast that starts April 8th and continues for a week.  I’m to name the book blogs that will feature Spirit Legend but that’s not hard, I have a list.  Then all I have to do is check the blogs on the days they are featuring my book and comment and reply to comments if there are any questions.  Which, by the way, the promoter said may not happen because it often doesn’t.

Sounds easy, right?  Wrong!  I’ve already learned that spreading the word isn’t simple.  I do know many places where I can post information of this kind, but each place has rules.  Different rules for different places and I’d better not break any of them!

So that’s where I am now.  Slogging through the muddy waters of mentioning my Book Blast.  That’s all I’m doing and I’m already lost.  I’m sure that when the Book Blast begins, I’ll find myself equally lost as I pick my way through the maze of book blog etiquette. And It’s possible that none of it will be worth the effort and expense.  Sales may not increase.  Name recognition may not be helped.

But no matter the result, I’ve learned something.  Authors who figure out how to work the system sell books while those who don’t know how to do it right sink like stones.  Now I know why a book I read by an author who can’t even write a sentence in decent English is not only selling very, very well, I know why her novel is being chosen as ‘best of’ in several categories. And it’s happening even though many reviews of her novel commented on the fact that her English is very bad.  Some reviewers were shocked and turned off by her poor grammar.

Yes, the story line of her novel is good. Excellent.  Still, with so many other books out there that also have excellent story lines and, in addition, are easy to read, I suspect that the reason she’s selling so well while others aren’t is that she knows how to self-promote.  She knows how to work the system.

I wish her luck.  I just wish every writer out there could learn those same deceptively simple skills.

Anyone out there know the secret?  If so, please let all writers know. Most of all, let me know in time to get things going for my Book Blast!

WHAT A BEAUTIFUL COVER!

novel... Spirit Legend... cover picture

Meet Ian and Charlie.  Charlie is a forester.  She’s employed by Ian Macallister to care for the piece of Northwoods forest that his company owns.  Macallister Outdoors recently added to their wilderness holdings, and Ian wants Charlie to give him a tour.  If you look at the cover closely, you’ll see a third character. Its in the lake.  Watching.  Listening.

You’ll find all kinds of things on this cover.  The north woods.  The characters of my new book.  The spirit that holds them in thrall when they are stranded beside the tiny lake that sits in the center of the new acquisition.  The attraction between Charlie and Ian.  The spell the spirit casts.  Or does it?  In short, you’ll get a good feel for the story before you read a sentence.

This cover came into existence because I decided to end the torture of creating my own cover and to go with a professional.  I don’t want to admit how many hours… and hours… and hours… I spent creating the covers for my first self-published stories.  And  how comparatively poor they were.

I chose Laura Shinn because I liked her other covers, I liked her, and I hoped she would do a good job.  I knew she’d do better than I could.  I’m amazed with what she came up with in what I suspect was a couple hours of work one evening.  I could be wrong about that, but that’s what I think and is what can happen when you’re a professional and good at what you do.

Thanks, Laura.  And to every other self-pubber out there, consider having a professional cover done.  It won’t break the bank and it will do more to promote your book than anything else I can think of.

My next book will definitely have a professional cover.  I hope Laura will have time to fit me into her schedule.