The Big Dark Moment

In a romance, the Big Dark Moment is the crucial juncture when all seems lost between the hero and heroine.  He stomps away and she strides in the opposite direction, and it seems as though they will never be together again.  How can they overcome their insurmountable obstacles?  Will love triumph in the end?

Of course it will.  The prerequisite for a romance is the HEA  (Happy Ever After) ending. But for this HEA to have emotional impact, our characters first must experience the painful Big Dark Moment when their relationship seems hopeless.

Tossing a cog in the story wheel isn’t the way to go about it.  This confrontation must arise naturally from the character’s internal conflicts.  Take Paz and Jen from my WIP.

elegant woman Jen is a fashion designer who looks as svelte as her models. For years, she struggled for parental approval.  Growing up in a wealthy family, she internalized her mother’s superficial values that appearance matters.  But she yearns for a man who can appreciate her for herself and not for her looks or money.                                                   

Drift Lord warrior Paz Hadar isn’t the rich businessman she’d expected to snag, but he brings out her strength and resourcefulness and admires her bravery.  Yet when she tries to discuss their future together, he clams up.  He’s planned for nothing beyond this mission, and so she figures he’ll leave her in the end.  Paz, in turn, gets angry when she pushes him for his plans, believing she can’t accept him for the person he is and wants to mold him into the ideal man. And if he’s not good enough for her, forget it. And so he stomps off.  Jen feels he doesn’t care enough about her feelings to truly confide in him.                                  angry eyes

 Thus they go their separate ways, until each one realizes how much they need the other.  But by then, Paz seeks to prove himself by attacking the enemy all on his own.  Jen rushes to his side, but it’s too late.  He’s been…well, we don’t want to give the story away.

sad woman

 

 

 

Action and reaction propels the story forward, leading to the Big Dark Moment and the final confrontation with the villain. And when Paz and Jen finally commit to each other as we know they will, we’ll heave a deep sigh of satisfaction.  Sour before sweet, despair before joy.  It makes the ending all the more Happy Ever After.  

               wedding couple

 

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LIBRARIES IN A DIGITAL WORLD

Will libraries become a relic of the past when books turn digital?  Like in a Dr. Who episode, will there be one vast library that’s a repository for the entire world, the sole remaining place holding dusty shelves? That was a cool couple of episodes with David Tennant starring, by the way. Think about the trees cut down to produce all that paper and where those once living trees might have come from. Anyway, will libraries, with reduced funding as an additional obstacle, still be viable ten years from now?                          Books

If you think of the library as a multi-media center, then I believe the answer is yes. Besides books, movies, and music, public libraries offer free classes on a variety of topics, meeting rooms, computer centers, literacy and outreach programs. And did you know you could order digital books from the library to download to your eReader?  You can probably research whatever you want by accessing library services online, too.

 A recent article in an AARP bulletin for seniors reports about how Queens Library in New York holds a phone-in discussion group twice a week.  Participants dial in at the prescribed times and chat about books, recipes, current events topics, history, and more. It’s a great way for people to keep in touch and have human contact when they can’t get about so easily. The library’s mail-in program supplies assisted living facilities and homebound individuals with reading materials, movies, and music.  These are great services for people who want to benefit from their local library but don’t have the means to get there.

It appears as though the role of the library in the future is to expand rather than to shrink. So donate your used books to your local library, join the Friends of the Library and support their fund-raisers, and give your librarian a big hug of appreciation for all her efforts.

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SEQUELS: CHARACTER GRIDS

For the first time in my publishing career, I’m creating a character grid to keep track of my characters. I’m doing this three-quarters of the way through book number two in the series because it’s essential for what comes next.

It wasn’t necessary for my earlier Bad Hair Day mysteries because those stories all featured Marla Shore, hairdresser and amateur sleuth. We, the reader, viewed everything through her eyes.

But the paranormal romance series I’m working on now features warriors from the stars who join forces with a special group of Earth women to prevent a coming cataclysm. Each book involves a different warrior and his destined mate. Book One sets the story into play and creates the world building elements. By Book Two, my characters have scattered and each one has a specific job to accomplish. When all the guys come together at the end of this story, I have to know what each of them has been doing.                                                                  

Have I confused you yet? It’s complicated, especially when you add my two villains into the mix. How are they reacting to the heroes, and what countermeasures are they taking? Figuring out this grid is giving me a headache, even though I have most of these details in my notes.

For those of you who write series with spinoff characters, what methods do you use to keep track of each character’s movements?

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TEDIOUS TASKS FOR WRITERS

Are there times when you feel brain dead or too tired to think straight? Never fear, you can still accomplish something by doing a mindless task. Here’s a list of boring jobs to do when you want to be productive without much mental effort.

  • Organize your Internet Bookmarks or Favorites
  • Verify that the links are still valid on your Favorites list
  • Verify that the links are still valid on your website
  • Update mailing lists and remove bounces and unsubscribes
  • Transfer files from floppies (if you still have them) onto your hard drive
  • Back up your files to other media
  • Clean out and sort files on computer and in office drawers
  • Erase old messages you don’t need to retain in Email folders
  • File papers in your To Be Filed stack
  • Do research for your next scene
  • Convert your old version word processing files into latest version on your computer
  • Search for and eliminate duplicate photos and files
  • Write blogs like this one

What else would you add?

CONTEST WINNER

Congratulations to Karin Tillotson from Sharpsville, PA for winning my MAY MADNESS CONTEST. Since Karin is a newsletter subscriber, she has also won the bonus prize. 

The winner is selected using a random integer generator at http://www.random.org/integers/

We had 91 entries.  Thanks to all who responded! 

Keep watch here or on my CONTEST website page for the July book launch contest to celebrate the debut of Silver Serenade.

REFERENCE BOOKS

Who said books were outdated? A home library can be a boon for writers even with the advantages of the Internet. For example, I needed to know the difference between a Chinese junk and a sampan for my current WIP. My characters have to go from an island off the coast of Japan all the way to Taiwan. They hire a boat from a small fishing village. Which type of vessel would be appropriate? Here’s what I found.                                               Chinese Junk

First I looked online at Wikipedia on these sites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junk_(ship)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sampan

From these articles, I learned a sampan is a flat bottomed boat used for fishing or transportation in inland waters like lakes and rivers. It’s propelled by poles, oars, or an outboard motor. Sampans are still used in rural areas in Southeast Asia. They may have a shelter on board and be used as living quarters.

On the other hand, a junk is an oceangoing vessel with several sails. War junks and merchant junks were common in the past. With their longer range and multiple uses, this type of ship suits my purpose. I have only to watch videos of Horatio Hornblower to get a feel for the claustrophobic interior.

Suppose my characters walk the deck. What do I call the different parts of the ship? Here I checked my home library and found the following books:

SHIP: The Epic Story of Maritime Adventure by Brian Lavery, Dorling Kindersley ,2004.

The Visual Dictionary of Ships and Sailing, Eyewitness Visual Dictionaries, Dorling Kindersley, 1991.

I love these visual dictionaries. You can find almost anything. We have several of them on our shelves and they’re wonderful references.

Here are some more recommendations, although I have older versions:

The Dorling Kindersley Visual Encyclopedia, Dorling Kindersley, 1995

The Visual Dictionary of Everyday Things, Eyewitness Visual Dictionaries, Dorling Kindersley , 1991

Ultimate Visual Dictionary, Dorling Kindersley, 1994

What’s What: A Visual Glossary of the Physical World, Reginald Bragonier, Jr. And David Fisher, Ballantine, 1981

Descriptionary: A Thematic Dictionary, Marc McCutcheon, Ballantine, 1992.

Illustrated Reverse Dictionary, Reader’s Digest Association, 1997.

Sometimes as writers doing research, we uncover obscure, fun details to add to our stories. Look what I found when I put Japanese Fishing Boat into an online search function: A Japanese trawler was sunk by a giant jellyfish. Cool, I can use this info in my story. These creatures are real and can weigh up to 400 pounds. Read more about it here:

http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2009/11/02/enormous-jellyfish-sink-japanese-fishing-boat

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/6483758/Japanese-fishing-trawler-sunk-by-giant-jellyfish.html

 So while many things can be looked up on the Internet, sometimes a real book is just what you need to meet your research requirements. With the digital age upon us, don’t toss these tree killers–or whatever activists are calling them these days–into the bonfire just yet. Regard them instead as treasures of knowledge.

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PIRACY

Piracy is becoming an increasing concern among published authors. I am not referring to folks like Captain Jack Sparrow here. I mean Internet pirates, shady characters who offer unauthorized downloads of our books for free. Why does this hurt us authors? We’re not paid any royalties, for one thing. Secondly, those downloads don’t count towards our sales figures. When our sales figures stay flat, the publisher is less likely to buy our next book. Your favorite series might be discontinued. Thus no one wins. And it hurts to see a new release, or even a book that hasn’t yet come out in digital format, being offered this way to any Joe who wants a free ride.      

So what’s an author to do? Until publishers start using their clout to oppose these sites, all we can accomplish is to file a protest and request that the book be removed. Most of these sites originate outside the U.S. where they don’t respect our copyright laws. But at least authors are sharing these sites now so we are becoming more aware of them. Here is a yahoo group about the topic: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AuthorsAgainstE-BookTheft/

They offer the following statement to use when requesting your work be removed:

“The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.”

It takes time from our daily writing schedules to police the Internet, looking for illegal copies of our books. What can you, the reader, do to help? Report to us if you see our book listed at an unauthorized site. Don’t be tempted into buying it for a cheap price or downloading it for free. Get the book at the library instead. Think of it this way: Would you want to labor for a year on a project only to see it given away for free? Do you feel authors should be compensated fairly for their work? It’s bad enough when our books are so deeply discounted that we’re lucky to make a dollar per  book. Usually, it’s less. That’s why authors keep their day jobs. Ultimately, readers will pay because there will be fewer choices on the bookshelves for your reading pleasure.

BREATHING LIFE INTO YOUR BACKLIST

It’s hard work to breathe life into your backlist but well worth the effort. Fans who get hooked on your latest title will search the bookstore shelves for everything else you’ve written. Hoping to catch new fans with my upcoming futuristic romance, SILVER SERENADE, I’ve begun the process of updating the offering of my very first three published books. These futuristics ended up as a threesome that I now call the Light-Years Trilogy. Belgrave House is converting them to digital media so people with eBook readers will be able to download them onto their Kindles, Sony Readers, Nooks, and more. Originally published in mass market by Dorchester, these titles are currently available online in trade paperback format at iUniverse.com. You’ll have to look for me under the name Nancy Cane. That’s my alter ego for my earlier titles.

It may seem like an easy transition, but I have spent hours reading through CIRCLE OF LIGHT, book one in the trilogy. Not only am I proof-reading for conversion errors, but I’m tightening the prose and adding a Glossary. So my ebook fans will get a new and improved version plus an added bonus!

Hoping to attract interest to the digital version, I’ve posted a new blurb and excerpt on my website as well as on iUniverse. And this doesn’t even count the numerous other places where my books are listed. I still have to do books two and three, but I feel it’s worth the effort. I’m very excited about the potential to bring these titles to a new audience.

If you have the rights back to your earlier works, now is a great time to exploit them. With digital formats, self-publishing, and print on demand, you can breathe new life into your backlist. A whole new generation of readers is out there, just waiting to discover your fabulous stories.

PLANNING A PROMO CAMPAIGN

How soon should you begin publicizing your new release? As soon as you sign the contract. But what if you only have a short lead time? In four months, my new book will launch. Am I prepared to announce it to the world? Not totally. There’s a lot of work to do first.

In this digital age, most of my promotion will be online. But with the choices of what to do being so overwhelming, how can you choose which are the best? Don’t be like me: I take a look at what other authors are doing and hit the panic button. Where will I find the time to do all that? Then I remember the advice from workshops I’ve attended: focus on a few targets and spend your energy there.

Where should you start? Consider breaking down your campaign into manageable parts and tackle one at a time. Decide on a countdown. What’s the most important item to start working on now? Get a calendar and mark out your dates. Here are some items for your list:

BLOG TOUR: Besides keeping up with your own blog, look for popular bloggers with a focus on your genre, inquire about a guest blog opening the month of your release date, and fix a schedule for a visit. Your host may want you to offer a giveaway, so decide upon the book or item you’re donating. An ebook download or bookstore gift card are alternates to a signed print book and will save you postage. Once your tour schedule is arranged, publicize it on all your sites.

BONUS FEATURES: Add bonus features on your website related to your story so readers who like the world you’ve created can read more about the characters, immerse themselves in the world building details, consult a glossary, or get a taste of sequels to come.

BOOK TRAILER: Have you uploaded your trailer to all the possible sites?

CHAT ROOMS: Find the chat rooms for your genre, decide which ones to target, and garner an invite.

CONTESTS: Plan contests leading up to your release date and celebrating the book’s debut. What prize will you offer? Consider a bonus item for people who leave blog comments or for your newsletter subscribers. Publicize on sites beyond your own.

INTERVIEW: Interview yourself about the new book and offer it as a guest blog, post it on your website as a bonus feature, or consider recording it as a podcast.

SOCIAL NETWORKS: If you already have friends on Facebook, should you start a fan page? Are you taking advantage of all these sites have to offer? On Goodreads, for example, you can now offer giveaways. Spend a day at a time on each site to make the most of them. Some examples: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Shelfari, LinkedIn, Filedby, Authors Den, and more. Or pick one day a week and that’s your day to put aside writing and spend it on promotion.

READER FORUMS: Visit discussion groups in your genre and begin participating several months ahead of your release date. Avoid blatant self-promotion unless it’s a group just for that purpose. Look on the social networks for these discussion groups as a way to get started. Your publisher may also have a listserve for this purpose.

VIRTUAL BOOKSIGNINGS: Okay, I’m not quite sure what this is but I’ve read about it. I believe you sign up with a bookstore online, like an indie, and show up for a virtual event. This concept requires more research on my part.

It’s a lot easier to write this list than to do it. As with any overwhelming project, it will be more attainable if you break it down into manageable tasks. This means focusing on one item at a time.

My first goal is to design my contests for the next four months, decide on the prizes, and load up the info onto my sites. Then I’ll send out an email newsletter announcing the contest to my fans along with other news I want to share. But wait…this may bring people to my website. I already hope to gain more readers from eBook followers when Silver Serenade comes out from The Wild Rose Press. Have I updated the books list on my website with the ISBNs and such for my titles which are available in eBook format? Not yet.  Better get cracking.  Onward and upward!

THE ACCIDENTAL READER

In this dawning digital age, when people download books onto ebook readers like the Kindle or Nook, how will an author get noticed? It’s hard enough already with so many books on the shelves, but what happens when your book no longer appears in brick-and-mortar stores? I’ve received many letters from fans saying my book cover caught their eye in the library or my catchy title snagged their attention in the bookstore. Am I going to lose those accidental readers when my books can only be ordered online?

Internet marketing will become even more important in this new age. But participating in guest blogs, chat rooms, review sites, social networks, listserves, and discussion groups can leave no time for anything else…like writing the next book. Commenting on sites of interest, hosting guest bloggers, posting online book reviews, and interviewing other authors are some other ways to gain recognition. Myriads of possibilities exist, limited by time and energy.

As a reader, I like to browse through bookstores. It’s a pleasure we’ve taken for granted. Now you have to read excerpts online or examine the virtual book cover. Will this give you the same thrill as holding a book in your hand? Do you care? How can we, as authors in the digital age, attract new readers without spending hours at the computer after we’ve already spent the day there writing? Because we can’t rely anymore on the accidental reader who spots our book on a shelf made out of real wood.