Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Few Twists Down the Road

Recently at my 'regular' job, I was asked to facilitate a fiction writer's workshop. This wouldn't be for employees but for customers who come in to the operation to utilize our programs and services. Now other than conducting training sessions on work related issues, I don't usually get the chance at work to dip into the creative side. So here was an opportune moment to do something more enjoyable. I planned out a three session workshop and figured we'd see what happened.

Seven eager people attended the first class, anxious to learn more about the writing process. I'm no expert, but since I've been writing for a long time and have been fortunate enough to publish both short stories and novels, it was a chance to offer some suggestions and guidance.  The first week, we talked about characters and how to make them memorable and different.  I handed out copies of a  profile sheet that I've used for years, where the writer can fill in as much detail as they'd like when creating a character. Knowing that staring at a blank computer screen or a blank page can be intimidating, I worked up the opening to a short story (with some help from author M S Spencer) took it to a point of conflict and stopped.  I gave this out as an assignment and explained it was up to them as writers to continue the action. They could change the narrative, introduce new characters or whatever they pleased.  We would read their results aloud next time.

The second class had four new people who were quickly brought up to speed. Most of the others read their efforts. I was pleased to see so many different paths were taken, or as one guy said "A few twists down the road."   After everyone had a chance, we discussed the importance of a settings, including the time period when the story takes place. Similar to the character profile, I gave them all a sheet for creating settings. That week's assignment was to describe a setting for their own story.

Week three brought even more people to the party. Several read their efforts at settings, one of whom went on to incorporate that into a humorous short story that had everyone laughing.  We talked about plot, using humor even in the most serious stories and how to weave conflicts into a chapter or a short story.

As we reached the end of our time, I was pleasantly surprised by the reaction. The group begged to continue. 'Three weeks is not enough', one fellow complained. 'This is just like a book. You've got us interested and wanting to keep going.'

After working out a few logistics, I was able to grant their wish. Now we will continue to meet periodically but the focus will be on providing them the opportunity to workshop their own efforts and gain valuable feedback from the others.  I'll be curious to see how it all shakes out as we follow those 'few twists down the road'.

My own writing efforts were rewarded again this week with the release of "Fleeing Beauty". This is the third installment in the Jamie Richmond series.  I hope you'll check it out.  And if you get a chance, stop by M S Spencer's blog to see what she's been up to.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Crazy Times

I think it was Henry Ford who once said "Never complain and never explain."  I'm not sure if those are real words to live by but every once in a while, they seem to make sense.  But for the most part, when things tend to get a little crazy and I am remiss about something like posting, an explanation seems in order.

Lately my time to write has been very limited. I work a full time 45 hour a week job and I also teach one night a week. That part sounds easy, since I have office hours at school for about an hour then spend on average 2 1/2 hours in the classroom. Sounds simple, right?  But that doesn't take into consideration the numerous hours of preparation needed to make it happen. I also received the final revisions for my approval on my next book and had to race through them to meet the deadline. Then there are occasions when I want to be writing but I need to do some form of promotion to help raise awareness of my books and generate sales. Hey, as my protagonist in WHY 319? would say, 'sleep is vastly overrated'.

So today was mostly spent doing promos, exchanging emails with potential fans and taking care of a few business things. Now it's a chance to write a little blurb about 'Fleeing Beauty'.  This is the third book in the Jamie Richmond series.  I like to think each one is a little better, a little snappier, where a bit more of the characters are developed. What continues to be a challenge for me is that these are written from Jamie's perspective and as a guy, it's not easy to think like a woman.  But somehow, it seems to work.

Here's a little snippet from the book, which is scheduled to be released Tuesday, October 21.

I don’t want to die.
I’m not ready for it. There are too many things I haven’t experienced yet. Places to go, people to meet, adventures waiting to be discovered. I want to gaze at the stars over the Mediterranean Sea while making love with Malone. I want to fly in a sailplane. I want to stand on a beach in Key West and dip my toes in the ocean and the gulf. I want to travel to exotic lands, dine on their cuisine and dance my little ass off to the local music. I want all of that and much more.
But I don’t think any of that is going to happen.
We’re all going to die.
Once this gang gets what they’re after, there is no reason to leave us behind. They’re not going to lock us in a closet and make a run for it. We’ve all seen their faces. We know their names. We can identify them. There is no way they will let us live. Their leader has a violent streak and it’s only a matter of time before he lashes out again.
My mind is flashing on ways out of this. But nothing makes sense, nothing that will allow me to stop them, to guide us out of here safely.
I don’t want to die.
But there is nothing I can do to prevent it.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Update: Why 319?

Occasionally I'll go to websites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble to see what's happening with some of my titles. I try to do what I can to help promote my books. Sometimes I'll give away a copy of an eBook to generate interest or as part of an event with the publisher. But what always gets my attention is when someone takes the time to write a review.

I learned the hard way a long time ago that you can't please everyone. There are some people in this world who just ain't happy unless they have something to complain about. You could make them a wonderful dinner with a nice steak grilled to perfection, a tossed salad filled with fresh veggies, a baked potato the size of your fist and a heaping bowl of fresh fruit.  After they enjoyed their fill, they might look at you and say 'What, no dessert?'  You know the type. We all do.  So as a writer when it comes to reading reviews on your work, you'd better have a thick skin.

Sure enough on Amazon there are currently 8 reviews for "Devious" the first book in the Jamie Richmond series.  Most of these are very positive, three, four or even five stars. Yet one unsatisfied customer ranks it with one star.  As Chuck Berry and Bob Seger would say, 'C'est La Vie.

Now my latest mystery "Why 319?" about the serial killer on the loose in Metro Detroit, has only been out for a month now.  To my surprise I found two reviews on Amazon for the book, both ranking it for five stars. Gotta love that.  To make it even sweeter, it's now available as an eBook.  Here's a link to where you can find it.  I hope you enjoy it.  And if you'd like to write a review, go for it. Good or bad, your feedback is welcome.