Monday, November 29, 2010

Early American Writer

James Fenimore Cooper is one of America's first novelists. In his first series, The Littlepage Manuscripts, Corny Littlepage was the hero of the Satanstoe. Other books in the series, (written in two years!) are The Chainbearer and The Redskins. All the novels deal with the anti-rent controversy of the mid-1840s.

Cooper's strong political feelings in favor of the landed gentry progressively colored each book until the last is considered more of a diatribe than a novel. Since he favored the "landed gentry" they obviously favored him, by publishing his books that espoused their needs with no care to the essence of a good novel. (Even then, it paid to have connections!).

Cooper's best known and hallmark Leatherstocking series wasn't named for a character. The protagonist was Natty Bumppo--a"natural man." The five books tell Bumppo's life from his youth (Deerslayer) to his death (The Prairie). The Leatherstocking series also includes The Pioneers(1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), and The Pathfinder (1840).

Cooper was a family man; he married Susan DeLancey in 1811.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Active Senior

Now that I qualify for this marketing category of "senior," I'm really conscious of how my peers are represented in books. Several mystery writers have had senior protagonists, but most often in the Cozies and the protagonist is a bit ditzy and whimsical. The Man from Yesterday by Seymour Shubin offers a a fresh character with senior status.

In this mystery, retired police detective Jack Lehman becomes embroiled in investigating a heist that hasn't yet been reported to the police. In his seventies, Lehman can't always recall details on demand, and the local constabulary thinks he's a bit balmy--even when his life is threatened. Nonetheless, Lehman is doggedly active, aggressive and creative in his search for the truth. His emotional relationships with wife and son, as well as memories from the past, are also interesting.

Shubin has created a believable character and good supporting cast in this intriguing story.

Friday, November 26, 2010

GITP Guest Linda Sandifer on Platform

Thanks to Linda Sandifer for providing this Guest Post.

Linda Sandifer is author of thirteen novels in various genres, mostly western romance. She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Idaho's Blue Sage Writers. Her latest release, The Last Rodeo (contemporary fiction) is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. It is also available in the Kindle Store. Learn more about Linda's books at her Web site.

Build Your Platform Today
© 2010 Linda Sandifer

We writers continually face the challenge to keep our writing fresh for today's readers and also to be knowledgeable about new technology and marketing trends. We are expected to be able to describe our book and its concept in one line and to state our platform right up front. The platform has, in fact, become increasingly important to agents and editors before they will consider a contract. They want a ready-made audience and a way to create a buzz for your book. In this tough market, it isn't sufficient anymore to assume the publisher will handle the marketing so you can sit back and write your next book. They want you involved.

So what is a platform for a writer? According to Merriam Webster, a platform is simply "a plan, a design." It is: (1) "a declaration of the principles on which a group of persons stands," (2) a "device or structure incorporating or providing a platform," and (3) a "place or opportunity for public discussion."
We spend months, sometimes years, plotting our books. When the book is finished, it's time to take a good hard look at ourselves. What have you got going for you--other than having written a marvelous book--with which to get readers' attention? If you look through Writer's Digest Magazine, you'll see some of the "Breaking In" writers state their platforms as social networking; i.e., a blog and an audience on Twitter and Facebook. This might also include doing guest blogs and having a website. Some writers write articles for magazines, ensuring a byline. Other writers speak at conferences and talk to writers' and readers' groups, or they teach writing classes. It's always smart to join a writer's organization that reflects your genre. This will open more doors with which to reach readers. If you have special expertise pertaining to your book it will give you more credibility. For example, you're a doctor and you've written a medical thriller.

What if you feel you don't have any particular expertise with which to build your platform? No title behind your name. No Masters or PhD. Does it doom you and your book? No, just dig deeper. Be creative. Perhaps you did an incredible amount of research for your book. Perhaps you spent a year talking to locals and exploring the Australian outback where your book is set. Is there a way you can "brand" yourself? To identify yourself in some unique way?

A platform boils down to any means you have to get your name and your book out there. Start building your platform early on, even before your book is finished. A solid platform will help you get published and maybe even become a "name brand" writer. But, first and foremost, write the best darned book you can! Everything else aside, your book will stand on its own legs. It will be the foundation for your platform.

Here are two of Linda's platforms: her blog and her Web site.



3 comments on original post:

  1. This is so true, Linda - and not easy for us "breaking-in" authors. It can take years to get a name for yourself, I think.
    Great, and interesting, post.
  2. Thanks, Sue. Glad you enjoyed it. I think it's hard for all authors, even those of us who have been around for awhile.
  3. Thanks for this post! Lots of good information to think about.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Telling the BackStory

Here are two books that have different and effective ways of telling the backstory. The tactic often used is a direct narrative about the past, but these authors were more creative.

In the historical piece, The Diezmo, Rick Bass used a first-person narrative, and the reader learns right at the beginning that the story is a remembrance, told fifty-years after the fact. This allows information to be presented that the narrator wouldn't have known at the time, and we're told that:"...he always paused near the end. It was not until much later...that I found out he had been skipping a sentence..." (page 11). Background information about characters is given ("$1400 worth of jewelry…")--precise facts that the narrator wouldn't have known at the time. Bass could also relate incidents about other people who weren't in the narrator's presence--information the narrator learned during the ensuing 50 years ("John Alexander and his group spent the rest of the day lying in that pool...In the meantime--never dreaming of Alexander's success...")

The book's Epilogue reinforces the fifty years that have past before the telling, and gives closure to the story.

The other title is contemporary. In Blue Dog, Green River author Brock Brower chose to make his first-person narrator the recipient of a story. The "I" character is river rafting with a friend, and the friend, Paul, tells the story. Opening lines: "'I spaced the dog [Blue Dog].' Paul Nozik started telling me his story up on a Navaho sandstone ledge..."

The narrator isn't really a participant in the story, but the verbose Paul tells it all, including the background of other characters, the geology of the region, and more. The reader is reminded of the passive narrator on occasion: "Paul stood up, dusting his palms, you could see excited. He does love to tell you the best part of a story…He got me up, politely dragging me along for company, talking his way around to the far side of this squared-off limestone." Brower breaks up Paul's storytelling with chapters from Blue Dog's perspective, in an omniscient narration rich in language and detail.

Both authors kept their stories short (Blue Dog, Green River - 108 pages, The Diezmo- 208 pages) and I enjoyed reading these well-crafted books.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Contact-- Finally

I while back I contacted the Barnes & Noble "corrections" department and asked them to consolidate my meager titles under one name. Contact was made by e-mail with an addie given to me by the rep in the distribution department. I hadn't been able to find a single link on the site for "customer" or "author" service.

So I e-mailed my request. Received nada in return and after two days with no changes to my B&N page, I assumed my missive didn't get through.

So I emailed my request again--this time with a delivery confirmation tag and a return receipt request. Ah! Delivery confirmation! but that was it.

Yet when I visited my B&N page the next day, my titles were consolidated as I had asked.

Wouldn't you think a company with a big online presence would at least have an auto-responder to let people know they "heard" you?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bright of the Sky - Review

Bright of the Sky (Entire and the Rose, #1)Bright of the Sky by Kay Kenyon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I downloaded this eBook after reading a blurb about it in Kindle Nations (I think).

I liked the writing, the concept and the characterizations. The beginning was a bit slow, with the introduction of characters that weren't even necessary to the true story. The point of view shifted a lot, and it took me many pages before I realized who was the main protagonist. Once I got to that point, I found the action very dynamic; it kept me "turning" the pages and wondering what would happen next.

Why isn't this a 4-star or more? Partly because of the tedious beginning, and then because of several glitches in the storyline where information seemed thrown in or inconsistent with what was previously told.

I imagine I'll read book 2--again, because of the good character development. I want to know what happens to these people.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Incredible Premise

A number of years ago, I read The Discrete Charm of Charlie Monk by David Ambrose and I recently revisited it. The book is incredibly inventive--filled with VR, biogenics and more. A mystery with political overtones and families in distress. Each page brings something different.

Product Description from the publisher:

"Charlie Monk is the ultimate spy, willing to do absolutely anything to accomplish his mission. He has no conscience, no fear...and no memory. Charlie's friend, Dr. Susan Flemyng, thinks she may have found a way to give him his memory back. As the two of them embark on a series of scientific experiments to try and recover Charlie's long-lost memory, they find something terrifying in the deepest recesses of Charlie's mind. Their discovery will turn science on its head, call reality itself into question-and force Charlie and Dr. Flemyng to risk their lives for the entire human race."

"The entire human race." Now there's a broad statement. One which many SF books fall into—perceiving the intricacies of western civilized endeavors as really having global impact. ENTIRE is too massive a word. Ethnologists are still discovering "lost tribes," so it's a bit over the top to think that some Dr. Frankensteins in D.C. will really be able to make changes in the entire human race.

Oh well, it's a premise that has been used for decades. A premise that repelled me from SF books in mid-twentieth century when everything was male-driven and western Judeo-Christian driven. I find fault with it, but books sell because of it. Most readers are, after all, part of the societies that consider themselves the "entire human race" and so if they see a threat to their niche, they assume it's global.

Reminds me of that great movie "The Gods Must be Crazy."

Ambrose, nonetheless, continues to create upbeat, nervy, and intriguing stories. They are often marketed as mainstream and not SF or mystery, even though his web site's sub title is "Hitchcock meets Hawking."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Public Libraries

I really enjoy reading books. I'm usually reading two or three books at a time. You'd think my house would be overflowing in books. But only one wall of one room has filled bookshelves. I used to have many more than that, and I also once vowed I would always buy a copy of my friends' books. There is a long shelf on my wall filled with autographed books of friends. But I couldn't keep that up; so many of my friends are writers—rather successful writers, too—that I would have gone broke in two years.

But I'm able to appease my reading habit (greatly increased in the winter months) by going to my Public Library. The "New Books" shelves are where I start browsing. Every week I'm there, returning five or six books and borrowing six or seven more. I recently came across mention of a title online that I thought I'd enjoy. My library didn't have it. BUT, they ordered it for me on Interlibrary Loan. No charge. I used that service quite a bit when I was doing research for a science book I wrote. I borrowed books from Portland and Chicago, from military libraries and universities.

Our local library foundation is oldest in the state, dating back to the mid-19th Century—one of the first libraries West of the Mississippi; the building that holds it now is much newer and was recently updated. The library fills other of my needs, too, with lectures, workshops, visiting authors and more.

When I was a kid, the town library was a Carnegie Library--an impressive place with a Greek colonnade at the front doors. I remember the doors as being massive, although I'm sure that's a trick of time. Inside the floors were marble tile; I think of the whole building as one big room with the ceilings fifteen feet or more high. In cavernous spaces like that sound bounces around and intensifies. No wonder librarians have the "shhh" reputation.

The Carnegie Library concept really made books accessible to more people, but back in the early twentieth century when Andrew Carnegie opened one of his libraries in Pittsburgh (his home city), many authors weren't too keen on the idea. According to the Carnegie site, local mystery writer, K.C. Constantine, wrote: "Any writer who sees that one copy of one his books in one library has been lent twenty-six times in one year…and knows that he was paid only one royalty check from the time the library made the original purchase knows plenty about involuntary servitude…"

I appreciate my books being in libraries. When I go to other towns and cities, I check the shelf or computer inventory to see if they have my titles. If I sold to every library in the country, that would be a nice dividend. Occasionally I find a real gem at the library, a book I read and am so taken with that I BUY THE BOOK.

Now, with the eBook evolution, I admit I don’t visit as often; and this winter, when slick roads and whiteouts will make driving the 15 miles to town a treacherous proposition, I will snuggle up with my eBook reader and a steamy mug of tea, glad not to be going out.

But I won’t ever stop going to the library. I like the eBooks, and I also like holding and flipping pages of a dtBook.