Monday, October 27, 2014

Villains, Sex Fiends and Zombies, Oh My!

Writing is a difficult thing.  Sometimes one must step back to see the whole picture because all the focus is on one aspect.  Let me explain.  As writers, we have a difficult time with characters, scenes and sentence structures.  Villains are characters.  Sex Fiends are scenes.  Zombies will address a sentence structure issue.

Villains.  They're the bad guys in a story.  I read a novel which described the character in this manner:

She was the vilest creature to ever walk the earth. She oozed evil, walked in darkness and only thought of the bad things she could do.

Now think about that. Can you visualize a character that is so vile that she would ooze evil, slink about in the dark and spend her waking hours thinking of bad things to do?  Suddenly, the Grinch looks like a saint.

Bad people don't exist.  People who do what others consider bad things, do exist.  Let me explain.  I'm a church-going, upstanding citizen of the community, family man and a successful businessman.  I decide to beat the stray dog which has been getting into my garbage can and strewing it over all the yard.  I get caught in the act.  I'm an terrible (aka bad) person because, in the eyes of those around me, I am hurting an innocent creature.  I don't see my act as wrong.  I'm trying to remedy a situation.  There were other options open to me -- such as putting out poison, shooting the dog, or possibly using a trap.  Okay, the last one might be considered more humane if it didn't involve a leg-hold trap.

The bottom line is simple.  I'm considered evil.  But, wait a minute, I don't consider myself evil.  I see myself as really a very nice guy.

In reality, what villain considers himself evil?  Only in a campy movie does the villain walk about the room, squinting their eyes in slyness, tittering or laughing evilly and rubbing their hands together in glee at the prospect of doing something dastardly.

Villains are regular people.

Sex Fiends.  You have a character who is involved in bed to bed to bed sex acts.  How can you write those scenes without blushing or ignoring the incident?  Trust me, the "he swept her off her feet, holding her in his arms, kissing in a deep embrace while kicking the bedroom door open with his right foot. The next morning..." days are long gone.  There are savvy readers and a savvy writer can create the mood for the sex scene and not write it... unless it is porn which demands details. A good writer can avoid the awkward details.

Enter a helpful skill set: Afterglow. Let the characters get hot and heavy and move to the bedroom THEN break.  Enter Afterglow.  By using the sequence after the sex, you can allow the reader to fill in the blanks.  Consider this:  He pushed the stray lock of hair behind her ear. Her eyes flickered open and he smiled. "Good morning, beautiful. Did you sleep well?" She smiled and traced her index finger down the side of his face. "Last night was incredible." They kissed. "Just you wait," he whispered and jumped out of bed. "I'll be back in a couple of minutes with an incredible breakfast." He stopped at the door and smiled wickedly. "And then..." He disappeared.

The above allows us to see them in the morning after an evening of what apparently seems to have been a good night of sex.  Of course, written another way, it could have been different...

He lay there, panting. "Was it good for you?" He took a deep breath. She pulled the sheet closer and moved to the edge of the bed. "Yeah, I guess," she whispered. He cast a glance in her direction. "You probably got to get home. How about I give you $20 for cab fare." He grabbed the opened beer, guzzled and then wiped his mouth with his bare arm. "Being a stud tonight has worn me down." He laughed, reached over and slapped her butt. "Maybe we'll meet up again next Friday night - interested?"

Obviously, a totally different result of an interlude.  Afterglow can be the vehicle to move beyond the act and allow you to describe how the scene was played.  In the first example, it is easy to see that they have a mutual respect for one another and there is a tenderness involved.  The second example reveals a more brutal, casual meeting with the male being a complete jerk.

Zombies.  No I"m not going to discuss horror or even the creature.  What I am going to discuss is what most writers find very difficult.  Active versus passive sentence structure.  Zombies will help us in the cause.  How?  These "writing" zombies, just like the horror zombies, want action.  They want active sentences, not passive ones.  It is an easy thing to do... add "by zombies" to the sentence to see if it is passive.  If the sentence makes sense with "by zombies" added, then more than likely, the sentence is passive.

Mary was given the award.
Mary was given the award by zombies.  <-- this sentence is passive!
Mary was given by zombies the award.  <-- still passive sentence!

Mary gave the award to John.
Mary gave the award to John by zombies. <-- doesn't make sense, sentence is active!
Mary gave by zombies the award to John. <-- still doesn't make sense, sentence is active!

Zombies may be the living dead but they know their sentence structure and want it to be active!

Writers will meet up with all types of strange creatures on the path to finalize the manuscript whether it be an article, a short story, a poem or even a full length novel.  Villains, Sex Fiends and Zombies are just 3 that can make the path an easier road to follow.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Texting - The New Whispering

Remember when Billy would lean over and whisper into Johnnie's ear about something.  All the while, Johnnie was watching you and then, suddenly the two would burst into laughter?  Or how about when Eileen whispered to Alice and she wrinkled her nose while staring at you.

You felt left out and the butt of the joke.

You were taught it was rude and inappropriate to whisper when somebody else was in the room, even if the secret wasn't about them.  Still, there were those who felt it was the only way to discuss a matter of sudden urgency that you didn't need to know.

Today?  There's a whole new way to do this and it is just about as impolite as actually whispering in another's ear.


I first noticed this a few years back while I still was a member of the work force.  I'd attended an office meeting with approximately ten other co-workers.  We sat around a large table with our Blackberrys to take notes.

DINK-DINK.  I had a text message.  I discreetly brought it up and read the note.  My one co-worker, sitting across the table from me had sent: Can you believe this blowhard? 

Stupidly, I replied: At least the coffee is hot.

Several more texts were passed before I realized the speaker was now noticeably watching us.  I smiled at the speaker and turned off my Blackberry and became more studious of what was being said.  My co-worker, instead, found a new connection, the person to my left.  They texted for several minutes until she burst out laughing.  Our boss asked us ALL to put our Blackberrys away and to take hand-written notes.

The "whispering" didn't stop there.  I started to notice more and more indications of whispering.  Two young girls, sitting in front of me on the public bus, sat, enthralled with their phones, texting.  Rather than talking so others could hear them, they were texting each other and giggling.  So, if you're in a public place and see two or three people actively texting on the cellphones, giggling or nodding while giving you that strange look, you might be the brunt of their high-tech whispering. Just remember, the whole world isn't out to get you, just part of it.

Anyway, at that moment I thought I'd seen it all, two people sitting side-by-side and not talking, but texting to communicate.

I was wrong!

My son, his wife, and their daughter got new cellphones.  They came to the house for a social get-together - I think it was either Thanksgiving or Easter.  My son was sitting in the living room with me and his wife and daughter were in the kitchen with my wife.  He took a message and replied.  I didn't think too much of it.  Every so often, he'd text something to somebody.  My granddaughter's boyfriend showed up and we were all in the living room.  Yup, my granddaughter was texting her father, mother and boyfriend.  The four of them were having separate conversations.  Were they about me or my wife?  I don't know, I didn't care.  They were all using my wi-fi so I realized that I had control.  My other kids and their kids showed up and everyone - except me - seemed intent on texting each other.  Grandkids were texting grandkids, my sons were texting their wives or kids and vice-versa.  It didn't matter, nobody was really talking. I knew what I had to do.

Next social get-together, their phones didn't work.  They didn't connect to my wi-fi automatically, even though they'd been given the password prior and saved it.  I'd changed the password.  As they tried to connect and couldn't, they'd ask for the password.  I told them that once everyone was present, I'd give them the new password.  I used the ploy of not wanting to have to repeat is that many times.

With the family all present, I established the rules of the house.  We were gathering for a social event.  To make it a social event, we needed to talk, not text, each other.  I'd be willing to share the password on the condition there was no texting between family members or over-socializing on social media while at my house.  Everyone sheepishly agreed and I gave the new password.  They connected so their phones would work.  Now, when they visit, the phones stay pretty much in the purses or pockets and there is verbalization between family members.

I even caught one grandchild leaning over to whisper in another's ear!  All three of us giggled. Sure, it was rude, but at the same time, it was nice to see kids talking to each other, not texting.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Numbers! Stats! Geek Mode!

First, I'd like to thank all the people who have taken the time to read my writing tips that I offer each week at my author webpage:

I was checking my stats. Yeah, looking at the numbers.  I track several of my pages so I can have some inkling of what my visitors are interested in and what they really want.


Just offhandedly, I'd say there is a lot of interest in Character Details and/or Descriptions.

Imagine my shock.  My writing tip of November 25, 2013, about Character Details has had just under 10,000 views. Yeah, I was impressed and then the old cost accountant analyst in me kicked in and I started playing with the numbers.

Today is October 13, 2014.  Not even a full year has passed.  So, if we take away 31 days from November 25, 2014, it would be October 25, 2014.  Now subtract 13 from 25 for another 12.  31+12=43 days and we subtract that from 365, gives us a remainder of 322 days since that writing tip was published.

I've told you before, I'm a geek.  An old geek.  Deal with it.

Continuing on.  If we take the exact number 9891 visits and divide that by 322 days -- that gives us 30.7 visits per day as an average.


I have people visiting this particular writing tip on an average of 30 times per day.

That is awesome information.  If we just divided the number by 11 (number of passed month) is 899.1 visits per month.  Almost 900 visits to this one page per month.  SHOCK!

Several other pages had very high visitation counts and I won't bore you with the numbers except for one which I found to rather curious.  My novel, "2012: Timeline Apocalypse" has had almost 3k views.  The book was released on October 10, 2010.  Surprisingly, the last time somebody viewed that particular page was October 5, 2014 at 8:36 AM.  The novel is about the Mayan calendar's "end of time" and is a great read.  Of course, it is fantasy since the world didn't end back then.  I still believe the cartoon I saw with two Mayans working on the calendar is probably the closest to the truth.  One asked: Why'd you end it on that date?  The other replied: Because I ran out of stone and won't be around to worry about it.

I've only been tracking the page views for about two years so some of the older pages, like my "2012" novel, don't truly reflect the proper counts. In fact, several of my writing tips, at the very beginning, don't have accurate numbers, but those from 2013 are correct.

Once more I have to thank all my readers.  These numbers are an inspiration to keep me writing a weekly tip to help authors, both old and new, learn and expand their writing horizons.  Hmm?  Maybe I'll do a tip on creating a character for this week's writing tip.

Until next I ramble on...

Monday, October 6, 2014

FREE Book Followup

One could say that last Wednesday, October 1, was a disaster, a collision of accident just waiting to happen.

First, I scheduled it for the first of the month which happened to fall in the middle of the week.  THAT was the plan.  BUT, plans get changed.  I knew that I'd basically be open and free that particular day to really keep an eye on what was happening.

Remember.  THAT was the plan.

I also scheduled myself for a coffee chat with an old friend.  I scheduled my car for an oil change, tire rotation, tune up and factory recall check.

My wife decided we should go camping that week.  That one caught me off-guard.  It would be fun to go camping, sitting in the autumn air, lazing by the lake, an easy life.  I could get some editing done on a book.

Oh, wait!  No Internet at the campground.  Okay, there IS Internet at the campground, right outside the main office on the somewhat covered patio.  No electricity, though.  Not that it really mattered, but if you were more than 20 feet from the front door, there was no Internet connection available... just an intermittent connection of one-bar strength.  Did I mention that the main office was on the OTHER side of the lake?  About a 3 mile drive.  Okay, not a killer-sized distance but still, not very convenient when forced to drive at the posted speed of 10 mph for about half of the distance.

So, I went into town (about 40 mi) and did the coffee thing.  The car dealership called late the night before to cancel my appointment since they didn't have a loaner car for me.  I was able to access the Internet at the cafe.  Yay!

I returned home from the camping trip late Friday night.  I have pieced together these figures.

I started a campaign one week in advance with some Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.

I posted at 15 social media sites via Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and GoodReads to get the word out the day of the free giveaway.

I tweeted during the day and had several (from what I can tell, about 30) friends also tweet, retweet the information both before and during the event.

I "sold" a total of 89 books.  That's right.  I gave away a whopping EIGHTY-NINE books.

No reviews... YET.  Although I have had one person tweet that she is reading the novel and has figured out just who she hates the most in the group.  At least I know somebody is reading it.

Of course, the book did make it up to #19 position at one point.  Since I was unable to check the Internet late at night, I didn't get to see all the numbers.  My wife's phone has Internet but I think the mobile version of Amazon doesn't have all the bells and whistles - I never saw a ranking position, even after the event until I got back home on my computer.  Unfortunately, that was real sales and now, it is sinking miserably into oblivion.

Now, I do want to mention one tidbit.  The book may have done even better, that I don't think I'll ever know, but for the ranking that was sent to me where I was in position #19, I could see 10 other books on the image and they all had one thing in common that my book didn't have.  They all had reviews!  Not just 3 or 5 but upwards of hundreds of reviews.

I feel that my unknown book was rubbing elbows with other books which had status reviews, most of them averaging well over 4 stars. For my book with 0 (zero) reviews to be in the top 20 books and #20 had 179 reviews - I think that is something to crow about.  #18 book had 342 reviews.

Perhaps if my book had had reviews, it might have done better.  Maybe not.  Who knows?

Will I put Pangaea, Eden Lost up for free again?  Probably not.

Why?  I wanted to get my name out there.  I sort of succeeded in that endeavor with 89 people now holding a copy of the book.  In addition, within that book, are sample reads of three of my other novels that are available: Three Steps: The Journeys of Ayrold, Ancient Blood: The Amazon, and 2012 Timeline Apocalypse.  Perhaps they will be intrigued enough to purchase those books.  Also, if I'm lucky, word of mouth will help the sales of Pangaea, Eden Lost and I'll see a profit from this endeavor.

So, with crappy planning on my behalf in so many areas, I would still say this could be a positive action.

Tell you what... In about two months I'll do an update to this and see where it stands. Call me Pollyanna but I'm hoping for great results of this adventure.

Until next I ramble on...