Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Found: Useful Writing & Twitter Ideas

Warrior FantasticFor someone who writes short stuff, I read precious little short fiction. Tried to remedy that when I bought Warriors Fantastic, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and John Helfers. The collection had some stories with great twists on fantasy tropes though I skimmed through a fair share of the stories.

Sad part. I had never encountered many of writers before and don't think I'll go searching for them. Part of it is because I like more depth to my characters. But the stories just didn't hook me into their worlds.

As a writer, the collection offered me some great lessons on using the three-act structure for stories: introduce your characters and setting, throw the characters to the wolves or other evil-doers, and then, let the MC win or lose. [Since this was genre fiction, the good guys usually won, and the bad guys lost.] You've probably heard that saw repeated so much you consider it a cliche. But it's a useful one.

I've been struggling the last couple of weeks with the two short stories I've been trying to write while doing the final, endless edits on The Ghostcrow. [Thanks to my beta readers, the whole focus changed by adding deeper MC motivation. The story's more complicated than Dumdie just escaping from a demon now. She's going to walk away with a better understanding of her ability to see ghosts.]

Oh, I have nice little outlines for both the Cassy Mae and Highgrim stories. But they just weren't jelling. At the moment, both consist of a hodgepodge of disjointed scenes. Further problem: I couldn't decided what details to put in and which to leave out. Result: I've two unorganized messes in my computer.

Yeah, the light bulb went on while reading the last few stories in the book. Locate your projected word limit and divide: 2000 words for intro, 2000 words for complications, and 2000 words for solutions. If I add any deeper motivations, the story can grow. One thing about self-publishing; I don't have to fit my story into a word-box.

As for Warriors Fantastic, it was a pleasant read, what I read of it. [The editors led off with the best story,[an original take on Valkyries by Alan Dean Foster, which is why I bought the book in the first place. Have decided most of my dissatisfaction with the stories was the lack of character depth. But I'm also thinking these were mostly guy stories about people who like to fight. As such, there are some interesting takes on fantasy paradigms that make the book worthwhile. I'm giving it a hemming & hawing recommendation.

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Interesting & Useful #Twitter Blogs

In the early days of my critique group, one of our most common comments was "You're Telling". Just as I use my crit group to improve my writing, I've been reading blogs on improving your #Twitter presence. One of the most pertinent: a blog by MMJaye on Google+: "Show, Don't Tell, on Twitter" If you despair of anyone looking at your Tweets, you might take a look.

One of the best of the commentaries on making your tweets more effective was Richard Stephenson summery on points to use and habits to avoid. Take a look at The Indie Author's Guide to Twitter.

  Then, if you are compulsive enough to want to measure your results, you might look at Peg Fitzpatrick's blog on The Philosophy of Hastags .

  No, I don't measure my results other than checking my click-throughs on the the url-shorteners. But, Fitzpatrick gives lots of info on how you can better market with Twitter. With those automatic retweeter services, I pay less attention to retweeters though I always follow them. Thanks to the notifications I can scan the names and check out the new ones.


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   Anyone else reading the comic book Mercedes Thompson story, Hopcross Jilly, put out by Dynamite? It's now in the fourth issue with Jesse, Mercy's step-daughter, being featured in a parallel story line to Mercy's involvement with some gruesome burials. Jesse's  getting bullied in school while a witch stalks the bad kids... again. The overall arcing mystery is the discovery of strange graves with the kids skeleton's lined up with their heads in the cardinal directions. Oh, and their fingers and toes are missing. How's that for a premise to work against the cliche of high school mean girls?

My take? The artwork is dark, which is okay, but all too often the panels are murky rather than sharp.  My other quibble is the advertising. No, the 90-pound weakling hasn't returned to haunt us. But the garb they've put on the revived Red Sonja must be uncomfortable to the extreme. Guess I'm getting old or, maybe, I'm not a day-dreaming adolescent boy.

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Miracles of miracles. I've actually been writing in the mornings ... after I read my three comics and check my most important emails. Perhaps the most liberating change in attitude: I've decided since I'm not selling anything ... just giving my stories away ... so why am I wasting time checking stats? Then, someone on Barnes & Nobel bought four of my books at once. Or, at least, I sold four different estories there on the same day. That was a nice, warm fuzzy for a pipsqueak writer.

Hey, what's not to like?
My cut from a Nook is bigger than a sale on a Kindle.

Have also been taking time to learn how to build my own banners for #marketing. Have tried a couple tools, but PicMonkey seems to work for this computer klutz. Here're a couple banners I've created all by myself. I won't tell you how many attempts and redos it took to get to the finished product.



Yeah, they still some editing. But they say adding pics to tweets helps them get noticed. I'll be converting my reviews snippits to banners as I have free time.


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