Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Could your titles actually be putting potential readers off? If you’re anything like me, a cute (to you) title arrives around the time of the book idea, or during the writing of it when one of your characters uses a phrase that catches your eye and provokes a Eureka! moment.
The accepted wisdom is that the cover lures a potential reader, the back blurb reels them in, and then you have 30 seconds of the first paragraph on the first page to seal the deal.
But in my humble opinion, if your title sucks, you seriously damage the chance of your potential reader getting past first base.
I’ve not seen research on this, but I believe a catchy, intriguing title is your first line of hooking a reader – and a sale. For example, after one of my most successful books of a couple of years ago, the Indie published The No Sex Clause, I vowed to use the word ‘sex’ in as many titles as I could squeeze it into! I quickly came to the conclusion that wasn’t a good idea, as ‘sex’ doesn’t fit with other phrases. Sex & Naked Writing? Sex & Another Man’s Son, Sex: The Bride’s Curse? Uhmmm, not the right image at all.
While The No Sex Clause seemed to leap through the ether to readers, I decided it was the idea of a romance novel in which there was a binding clause that the protagonists couldn’t have sex that obviously intrigued a lot of people into pressing the BUY button.
Winters & Somers, which I thought was a neat title and one of my best books, didn’t fare as well. Judgement By Fire grabbed quite a lot of people’s attention, as did Resort to Murder. The latter two are examples of getting readers to ask the question: What? Who? Why? Read the book!
Marrying Money was a fun book that made quite a few readers smile all the way to the checkout button.
So, inquiring minds would ask, just what constitutes title magic?
Unusual word combinations. Common phrases used in an unusual way. Questions or statements that call the reader to seek an answer or explanation. Anything that arouses curiosity. Think of Gone With The Wind. Gone where? Who? Why? Oh, a romance. Gee, the civil war. An old Southern Mansion on the cover..Gotcha.
Elizabeth George’s What Came Before He Shot Her is a prime example. For followers of her Inspector Lynley series, the title promises an answer to the question we’d often wondered about: Why was Helen Lynley killed? Who did the deed? For those who are new to the series, the unusual title raises a raft of questions that pique curiosity enough to take a walk to the checkout.
Canadian author Louise Penny hit the title jackpot with her beautifully written and intriguing mystery series, the Inspector Gamache books, set in Quebec. Don’t titles such as The Beautiful Mystery, How The Light Gets In, or The Long Way Home, when applied to a detective series, just fill you with curiosity to find out more?
So, to sum up: titles aren’t just a bunch of words typed in as an afterthought. They are a vital part of telling your readers what your book is. A good title invites a prospective reader to solve a mystery, to enter a story, to seek the answers that lie between the covers of your book.
Don’t you think titles deserve some serious thought?
***You can follow the links to each of the books mentioned here, and my own books have a free first chapter read here on my website.
Monday, October 27, 2014
“If there’s any lesson I’ve learned in the last five years, it’s don’t be so sure about what lies ahead. There are amazing doors that could open.” – Elizabeth Warren, US. politician.
Whatever your political views, there’s no doubt that Elizabeth Warren has learned a valuable life lesson with these words.. This vibrant and outspoken woman, who was elected to the US senate in 2012, is an interesting character no matter what your political beliefs are.
Certainly, this quote is one that has a lot of bearing on all our lives.
Can you remember a time when you thought you'd hit the end of the road, only to suddenly find another door opening on an opportunity that intrigued you – or saved you?
Are you struggling with a current problem and can’t see a solution? Take some time out, close your eyes and breath deeply.
Then consider your options, write down the pros and cons, and see if you can find the door that is opening for you on to something wonderful!
Saturday, October 25, 2014
She’s a feisty wannabe Private Detective in Dublin, Ireland.
He’s a NY Homicide Cop who writes hot sexy romance novels.
Together they’re Winters & Somers.Sound intriguing? Read on!
Winters & Somers is published by Tirgearr Publishing, Ireland.
PI Cíara Somers makes a good living testing the ‘temptability quotient’ of men for their insecure lovers…but when NY homicide cop and author of red hot romances, Jonathon Winters, makes her take him on as a partner in her Dublin agency, he gets the wrong message from her raunchy style..…especially when he wants her for himself.
Somers isn’t the type to let a man push her around – the incorrigible Grannie Somers raised heto be her own woman. But when she discovers that even Grannie drools over Winters, she can’t help but wonder what it would be like to indulge in one of the fantasies that have millions of women reading his romantic books.
And when Somers finally gets her first real case – to capture the notorious jewel thief dubbed The Diamond Darling – she has to survive the help of her weird relatives, the landlady from hell, two stoned friends, a stray dog – and Winters himself….
How could she admit to the World's Most Exasperating man that she wouldn't start an affair with him because she knew he would someday soon walk out of her life and leave her broken hearted?
Other lovers, that hadn't been a problem – she'd known from the start that the passion was a temporary thing, and they'd part company once it burned itself out. Usually she'd been glad when they'd reached that point – some men could become so cloying!
But all her instincts said it was different with this one. Even now she was squirming in her seat as her treacherous hormones let the memory of his touch ripple silkily over her skin.
But at least he'd seemed to understand. He was right when he'd said their relationship wouldn't pay its way – in fact, would probably interfere with their working partnership. So, maybe she'd leave it at that.
She slipped her hand into her fanny pouch – yes, the precious jewels were still there. First, she'd go see Sly Stevie, the pawnbroker. He had a reputation for being sharp and once or twice there'd been rumors that he was also well in with the police, but she was sure he'd treat her fairly. After all, hadn't she been to school with his daughter Breege? And Breege wouldn't be above giving her old man a thorough tongue-lashing if he cheated one of her friends….
This book was so funny and hilarious that I scared my furry grandbaby, Simba, when I was ROFL and hyperventilating and coughing up my spleen! Ciara is such an awesome heroine as a Dublin PI with a kooky and witty voice inside her head. She has these great one liner sayings like, "muffler screamed like an animal in pain" or "Granny would say eat your roughage." Ms. O'Connell wrote such amazing and one of a kind characters, like color horror, Grace, loving, caring and a totally PITA Granny Somers and Ciara's misunderstood paternal grandparents, Margaret and Liam Henley. Jonathan is a NYC cop on writer's holiday and writes these sexy and awarding winning Romance (under another name) books and every female from 14 and up want to jump out of the brushes, kiss him, get an autograph or just chat! He is a fish out of water in Dublin and I could relate because I am a South Dakotan and Dublin is such different, wonderful and awe inspiring place, that Ms. O'Connell makes me wait to visit and maybe live there! The only thing I missed from this original storyline, quack characters, great one liners and HYPERVENTILATING with laughter tale, was more steamy and sexy scenes! This my first Ms. O'Connell book, but not my last! I highly recommend this book to romance readers who love to smile, giggle and YES, hyperventilate with laughter and maybe scare small animals with your coughing/laughing sounds. Winter & Somers gets a score of 4 fingers up and 8 toes!
And here's another review, this time from 'Lara":
This was a very quick and fun romp through Ireland with a hard working girl whose business is not going as planned. Next thing you know she's caught up with an American cop who is a best-selling romance writer with the wrong idea about her. They have plenty of chemistry, great dialogue, she has some funny family and friends, and overall the story reads like a fabulous comedy with a little family drama thrown in for good measure.
Rating: 5 cups
Ciara Sommers is trying her best to start her new Inquiry business, but all her clients are women who think their significant others are cheating on them. She wants better cases to work, but will take what she can get. When asked to help another agency, she agrees but only on her own terms. Will it make things worse for her in the long run?
Jonathan Winters is the most sought after author in Ireland. Leaving his roots in America, he goes to Ireland in the hope he can finally get another romance novel written. After meeting Ciara, he hopes to convince her to work with him. But, will his emotions or his mind run him?
Things seem to be going nowhere for Ciara until Jonathan offers to help her out. She is hesitant at first, but will not give up the side of her business that is going so well no matter what he thinks. Looking into the Diamond Darling case might be just the help Ciara needs, but working with Jonathan might distract her from everything else. When things hit too close to home, will Ciara be able to stick it out or will she run?
The opportunity to review another story by Ms. Grace (aka Glenys O’Connell) is a true pleasure and having it set in Ireland a delight! I love this romance not only for how clean it is but also how humorous the characters are. I laughed a lot and cried a bit as well. The mystery in this book concerns Ciara’s family history and is an endearing romance. Get this story in your hands and enjoy it, one and all! It will not disappoint you and will leave you with a smile on your face!
Reviewer for Coffee Time Romance
Reviewer for Karen Find Out About New Books
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
What is a log line? It’s the essence of your entire novel – or movie – boiled down to one or two sentences.
Sound crazy? Well, it’s not. Loglines have a lot of impact on your writing, as well as being a great device for when you’re in the elevator with the publisher, editor or agent whose attention you need to grab in 50 words or less!
The following is an excerpt from my book, Naked Writing: The No Frills Way to Write Your Book !
First of all, be brave. Write down your novel idea. How long is your description? A few pages? A page? Three paragraphs? A couple of sentences?
If your answer was the last option, a couple of sentences, then you're in luck. That's exactly what I want you to do - boil your entire story idea down into two or three crisp, bright sentences. This usually sets students off into groans and moans, but later when they realize what a valuable exercise it is, they're delighted.
Why should you express your idea in so few words? Several reasons:
1) You want to know how strong your idea is. Will it last the course?
If you are able to write it down in two or three sentences, and it still makes sense and sparkles brightly, then you can be fairly sure you've a workable idea. If not, it might be that you need to set it aside until other parts of the puzzle pop into your head.
I always keep an ideas file on my computer. I used to just scribble down notes, but in the end I had several purses crammed with bits of paper, receipts, and paper napkins, all with unintelligible scribbles that once were great ideas. I still scribble down ideas when they come to me - but as soon as I can, I type them into my computer file. Funnily enough, by the time I do this I have a lot more detail for the idea.
Antidote for a Weak Idea: Set it aside in your Ideas File, and read it every now and again - strengthening additions will occur to you. Look at your file to see if any other ideas can be merged to form a stronger whole. Ideas do not arrive in our heads fully formed, sometimes they come in bits and pieces and the smart writer is alert enough to capture them as they arrive.
2) Now you have this one paragraph mini outline. It keeps you focused on your story. Write it out on sticky notes and apply to your computer monitor, your diary - even the bathroom mirror if you dare!
3) This short form is your pitch to an editor or agent. In screenwriting, it's called a 'logline' and is used to capture the attention of producers and directors. In our case, we're going to nurture this simple paragraph, use it at the beginning of query letters and as the basis for the synopsis which is our selling tool when the book is finished and ready to do the rounds of publishers and agents.
See how useful this logline is? So how do you do it?
Take the most important part of your idea, add the names of the two main characters, and describe the problem they must overcome. Here are some examples from well known books:
Consider these:A young couple fall in love and vow to remain together despite the opposition of their families and an edict from the ruling prince, but a misunderstanding brings about tragic consequences - Romeo and Juliet
A rebel leader goes up against the might of Rome, is betrayed by his own people, and is martyred. But his teachings of love and peace live on and are still celebrated 2000 years later – Jesus Christ, The New Testament
A man and woman struggle against powerful opposition to solve the riddle of an ancient code and find a precious artifact. They learn the truth about it, and in doing so they learn the truth about themselves and fall in love. But they face a dilemma when they find the artifact and realize the dangers it could pose. - The Da Vinci Code
A man whose family has worked a piece of land for generations believes it should be his, and is willing to kill to hold onto it. But his stubbornness results in the death of his only surviving son and he is left to question the true value of the land he so coveted - The Field.
Try it – I guarantee when you see how much this exercise clarifies your novel or non-fiction idea, and how useful it can be as part of your pitch, query letter, and later on, promotion, you’ll learn to love loglines!
And here’s a bit of shameless self-promotion: My latest romantic suspense, Another Man’s Son, is now out in print. It’s part of the delightful Lobster Cove series from The Wild Rose Press, and you can read the first chapter on my website here.
Monday, October 20, 2014
While we can find a source of inspiration in many things, it’s always a pleasure to find a person who inspires, by their work, their life, and their achievements.
This is certainly true of two time Poet Laureate of the United States, Ted Kooser. In this interview with Writer’s Relief, the poet talks about his work and his philosophy.
Asked what gave him the most joy when writing, he gave this wonderful reply: “It happens when I am sitting with my notebook, picking away at a poem, and suddenly something wonderful unexpectedly rushes in from my blind side and I exclaim, “Yowie! Did I just write that?”
Wouldn’t we all like to feel like that more often?
Here’s the link to the article in Writer’s Relief – just click on the photograph or the poet’s name and it will take you there!
A two-time United States Poet Laureate, Ted Kooser is the author of eleven full-length collections of poetry, including Weather Central and Delights and Shadows, winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Characters make our books – they're the ones who make us laugh, cry, angry, sad. We root for the hero and heroine, yell mean things at the villain – or maybe even have a sneaking admiration for him – and develop a soft spot for minor characters and hope there’s a sequel to tell their story.
And the characters readers love can surprise you. I received a really good review of Resort to Murder, and there was no doubt that the reviewer loved one character in particular – Tuesday the Stray Dog. Go figure! In fact, Tuesday seems to have his own little fan base and I'll be putting his story up on my website a little later.
Like many characters, Tuesday was based on a real dog. He was a stray, unlike Fizz, pictured here, who looks a lot like the original Tuesday but has been a pampered pet all her life.
Most writers base characters' behavior, voices, habits, mannerisms, etc., on people they have met, worked with, sat on a bus next to, spent time in the airport lounge with, sat in class with, or seen on television or at the movies. Remember that all your friends and relatives will be trying to identify themselves in your work, so disguise your characters well!
You can also use magazines to help build your characters – read interviews with celebs and other people who have been written up.
Often characters spring fully-grown into your mind, so clear you can just about reach out and touch them – or at least call them on the mind-phone. That's great at the beginning of the story, but often the familiarity with the characters starts to fade as we continue along, and other characters join in. How to avoid this?
Get to know your characters.
Build them from the ground up, but do it subtly – let them reveal themselves to you just as a new acquaintance would. You meet someone and they seem really sophisticated and distant. But a couple of meetings later, you realize they have a wicked sense of humor. Maybe that self-assurance isn't more than skin deep. Maybe that cool exterior hides a seething mass of anxieties and neuroses.
That's when you'd also slowly realize that they have a past, a time before you knew them, which has shaped how they are today.
There's an ongoing argument in psychology about nature v nurture – are we born as we are (nature), or did we grow up this way because of our childhood experiences (nurture)?
Most psychologists today tend towards the nurture and nature combination – we are born with certain characteristics, but the way we are treated and the events in our childhoods decide which characteristics come to the front and shape who we are.
For example, a child born with a tendency towards anxiety may well grow to a relaxed, laid back adult if he is reared in a calm, loving atmosphere where his anxieties are soothed and he learns how to control them, and perhaps even more important, that he is in control of his life. The same child reared in a different environment may grow up anxious and insecure, a candidate for compulsive behavior disorder and numerous other mental health problems, or possibly even grow into a volatile, hostile, domineering and violent character who simply loses his cool if the world around him doesn't fall into line. Because he cannot handle the anxieties that flow in on him and make him feel out of control, he constantly seeks to be in total control, and anything out of the ordinary throws him for a loop.So, what tendencies does your character have? And how did his life so far shape him? When you're really having difficulty with a character, you may need to think right back to his childhood – where did he come from? What was his family like? His schooling? Even the time in history that we are born in affects who we may become – hence the phrase 'War babies' to describe an entire generation who were a puzzle to their parents.
That can sound quite daunting, but it's not really.
Write down everything you want your character to be – is he an Alpha male? One of those people who have to win at any cost? A company executive at 30, and a heart attack patient at 35? Or is he a laid back character, one of those kids whose teachers always said 'Could do better if he worked harder?' and 'Not working to his potential', Think of the ramifications for your story if your character is either one of these, because these characters will behave quite differently in whatever situations you put them in.
Remember that characters often have minds of their own – trying to force them into behaviors they don’t want to do is a great way to spark Writer's Block. Of course, it's not really your character but your subconscious mind that is objecting to the route your plot is taking. At least, I think so…...
Sometimes having a good chat with your characters can clear the air and clarify what you need to do. It makes them real to you, and that's what we are looking for – real characters. Remember the fun you had with an imaginary friend, or a favourite stuffed animal, when you were a kid? Well, try to bring back that feeling with your characters. Talk to them. Listen to them. Interview them. Just make sure you do this in private. Talking to yourself is acceptable in a writer, but answering yourself back can still make your nearest and dearest wonder. And when you start sending your characters birthday and Christmas presents, you're really in trouble…..
There are a number of books on the market for writers about personality types and there are lots of sites on the Internet if you want to delve deeper. Beware, many of them let you take a personality test, and you can spend a lot of time browsing here! Instead of putting your own personality traits in to the questionnaires, you can insert the answers you think your character would give, and get a Personality Type designation for him or her that will help you develop the character.
- What methods do you use to build your characters?
Monday, October 13, 2014
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Wednesday’s Writing: It Seems Not Everyone Could Love Another Man’s Son…The Things You Learn From Research.
Hard though that may be to imagine, it does seem that not everyone could love Another Man’s Son..
But no, I’m not talking about my newly released romantic suspense, Another Man’s Son. What’s not to love there? I suppose you could call this a story behind the story.
When I first came up with the title – sometimes titles come to me and bring the idea with them, rather than the other way around – I did some Googling to see what else was out there with that title. I’d hoped it was mine alone, but it turned out there was at least one other book with the same title: Another Man’s Son by Katherine Stone - a lovely book that has a completely different genre and storyline to mine.
As I was researching I couldn’t help but look at some of the articles that popped up on the subject. According to research (yes, there have been studies of this sort of thing) PD – Paternity Discrepancy – or PF – Paternity Fraud - is not uncommon. PD or PF is ‘the disconnect between what men think is true and the genetic reality’. And research shows that it's a lot more common than we might believe.
According to one study that pulled together 19 other studies, there are more than a million dads out there in the USA alone taking care of another man’s child. Whether they know it or not.
Sadly, not every man who loved a woman was also able to love her child – if that child was another man’s. Some even suggested that the woman have her child adopted. In more than one heartbreaking case, the man sued his partner after finding out he’d been raising a child or children that weren’t his.
I can only imagine the hurt and sorrow that lies behind some of these stories.
I started out wondering about the whole paternity issue, and why a 21st century woman would marry a man she didn’t love, just because she was pregnant with another man’s child?
In my novel, Another Man’s Son, Ket Morgan Junior knew he wasn’t the father of the son Kathryn Fitzgerald was carrying. But marrying her would give his father the grandson and heir he wanted, and that would mean more power in the Morgan companies for Ket.
For Kathryn Fitzgerald, being 19, pregnant and alone in Lobster Cove, a small Maine town, was terrifying. It seemed her lover had forgotten about her – he didn’t know about the child. Her father had been drinking heavily to cover the grief after her mother’s death. She had no-one to turn to for help.
When Ketler, her boss at the Morgan Bank, proposed a marriage of convenience to her, it seemed like the answer to her prayers. Ket would get the son and heir his father was pushing him to have, and Kathryn would get a safe, financially secure life and her child would have a bright future.
She was too innocent – and grateful – to question why Ket would want to marry a penniless nobody like herself when he could have his pick of the wealthy debutantes.
What seemed like a miracle turned into a nightmare – and when her baby’s father came back to town on the day of her baby’s christening, he left believing she had betrayed him and had Another Man’s Son.
Seven years later he was back in town – could Kathryn make him understand her actions in passing off her child as Another Man’s Son?
See, there’s that title again. It seemed that my characters wanted their journey to be named Another Man’s Son, so off we went with the writing.
There he was. Without conscious thought, her feet found a path through the crowd toward him and then he stood before her. She saw immediately that while he looked the same, there were subtle differences beyond the seven years that had passed since they’d last met. Back then, he’d had the gawkiness of youth with the foreshadowing strength of the man he might become.
And now—now he’d fulfilled that promise of manhood; the veiled glances of every woman in the room were testament to that. But there was the stamp of hard experience on his face, lines around his beautiful brown eyes. Ben Asher. The man she’d once loved so deeply she thought she’d die when he boarded the bus bound for the military training camp.
Monday, October 6, 2014
“Argue your limitations and sure enough, they’re yours.” #Richard Bach #quote
Do you talk to yourself? Most writers do – and we’re not alone. Most ‘Normal’ people talk to themselves, too. Not always out loud, but there’s that inner voice in your head that comments on just about everything you do, advises you, comes up with great (or not so great) ideas, comforts and inspires.
Because lots of us have voices in our heads that talk us down. Sometimes they may even sound like someone in our past who has told us our ‘limits’. Your mother, another relative, a teacher, a friend, an employer, people who may have said things ‘for your own good’ or to ‘stop you getting big headed’. Perhaps people who were afraid to step out on Life’s High Wire themselves, and passed that fear on to you. Or people afraid they’d lose you if you became successful, or who were genuinely afraid you’d be hurt if you strove for high dreams and fell flat on your face.
But now that self-talk is firmly embedded in your mind. You want to write a book? It’s too much work…I’m not talented enough..who would want to read what I have to say…it’s silly, everyone would laugh….no-one from my social class has ever…I’m too old….
You want that beautiful home, that fulfilling job? You want love? Success? Happiness? A healthy inner voice cheers you on, tells you that you do deserve good things; but that negative inner voice will come up with all the reasons why it’s a bad idea, you don’t deserve it, who would love you anyway,. and why can’t you just settle for, well, second best?
Or fill in the blank here for what your little voice says:__________________________________
It may be a little voice, but it puts huge limits on you. It may help you stay within your comfort zone, but it doesn’t help you achieve the dreams that are in your heart.
Negative Self Talk Limits You.
Basically, your mind accepts what you tell it. If you say you can’t, well, you can’t.
Say you can, then that wonderful organ, your brain, will have all its neurons scurrying around for ideas and plans to help you do what you want to achieve.
Of course, it’s not that simple;sometimes you want something that just won’t work out for a number of different reasons that may be beyond your control. Funnily enough, if one dream doesn’t work out, your clever brain often comes up with a substitute dream much more suited to you, and do-able.
So, spend some time every day having a chat with yourself; tell yourself that you are a smart, caring, competent, deserving person.
It won’t be easy, it won’t be painless, but you can erase the limitations that experiences and other people have encouraged you to put on yourself. Talk nicely to yourself, be positive, and believe that you can.
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes. Write it out and hang it where you’ll see if often:
‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it – boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Johann von Goeth #quote
Glenys O’Connell is a trained counselor and the author of Depression: The Essential Guide and PTSD: The Essential Guide
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Find a way to turn them into goals. Plan your writing career as you would any other endeavor that’s important to you. Dream big, for sure, but keep one eye firmly fixed on your own reality.
In fact, it seems to me that there are several secrets to being successful as a writer and getting published. Consider these:
1) Believe in yourself and don’t give up. Writing can be disheartening at times – you sacrifice time you could be doing other things in order to write. It’s hard, and sometimes it may feel that there are only rejections and it will never get any better.
2) Write the book of your heart - let your passion for the story shine through. Forget the idea of a ‘formula’ and write the book you want to read, the book that tells the story that you need to tell.
3) Realize that a good writer is in a constant state of ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’ – writers should always be honing their craft, learning and growing, to constant become a better writer rather than merely a good writer
4) Be prepared to put yourself out there - there are many wonderful books that their creators have consigned to a box under the bed for fear of rejection, or fear of what other people might say or think. You have to believe in yourself and in the story you want to tell. What someone else thinks – be it a relative, a friend, your boss, an agent, publisher, editor, or even your creative writing teacher – counts only in so far as you can see a way to use their comments to make the book better in your own eyes.
5) Do the work. This is the biggie - no-one ever became a successful writer by talking about the book they’re ‘going to write someday’. Get the words on paper, learn your craft, learn to edit and polish, send your work out and learn from the critiques you receive from editors and agents. Then, when you’re published, be prepared to promote, promote, promote….no matter how difficult you find this, or how shy you might be.
That's my two cents' worth. What have you discovered about your own writing and the commitment you need to make it successful? Do you have any tips for other writers?