Monthly Archives: January 2016

Ways to introduce minor characters in your novel-part one

Every tale needs a protagonist and antagonist, a hero and villain, a good guy and bad guy. But a tale also needs minor characters, maybe just a character in a barbershop, something to divert or give a change of pace, a set-up for what is to come. Consider this scene for my work-in-progress. My lead character, the good guy, is investigating a murder in a small town in 1927. He goes to a barbershop to get a haircut, one in which he will learn something from the barber that will help him in his search for what happened. But we might want to delay that a bit because you don’t want to cut to the chase, you want to give credence to everyday life. So here is a scene where I introduce a minor character.

When the second man got out of his chair and paid Delfare, the proprietor of the shop, I was told I was next. I looked at the man sitting by the window, about 5’8” with a bald head, maybe about thirty. He was wearing Levi’s, a green wool shirt with red suspenders keeping his Levi’s in place, his large blubbery gut sagging over the top of the Levi’s, covering his crotch like giant padding. He had to sit straight, his feet spread to accommodate what seemed to be emergent fat.

“Oh Hargrove don’t mind, do you Grover?” Grover shrugged his blubber.

“Grover is a fixture here aren’t you? He got in the way of a falling tree, thumped him on the head real good. Grover can’t work anymore. He gets bored, comes in here to partake of town talk. He gets bored every day, don’t you Groves?” Grover sighed.

The scene creates verisimilitude, it delays the heart of the scene, and every tale needs sidebars and small little diversions. And this seemingly innocuous character could play a pivotal scene later.  After all, he is hanging around a barbershop, hearing all sorts of gossip and rumors. It could be this innocuous character could play a big part later. And this is one way to set up the reader for what comes later, for they already know about Grover Hargrove.

You won’t find Grover in Silent Murder, but you will find my protagonist and what happened before he got to this small town.

 

coyotemoon_silentmurder

 

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Admiring Melville’s Bartelby while dealing with depression

My favorite fictional character when I was studying literature in college was Bartelby, the Scrivener. Before college my favorite TV character was Maynard G. Krebs. Everyone is apprehensive of the future, especially college students, wondering first if they can make it through school and then where they will end up in the job market. And my view of work was similar to Krebs, as played by Bob Denver as seen here in a clip from “The Many Affairs of Dobie Gillis.” Work indeed; it is scary. Which brings me back to Bartelby.

Bartelby is not a beatnik like Maynard, and his aversion to work is also different. In the short story Bartelby has lost his job due to administrative change and now finds himself working in law office as a scrivener, a scribe, who is hired to copy legal documents. On his third day on the job when told by his boss what he wanted Bartelby to do, my hero Bartelby said “I prefer not to.”

And what employee in a dead end job does not want to say that. He said the line with calmness and matter-of-factness. He did not defy in hostility, he simply with great sadness said, “I prefer not to.” And he got away with it. Bartelby became a fixture in the office, a mournful, sad presence, often looking out the window at a brick wall. In fact it turned out he ended up living in the office, much to the surprise of his boss. Day after day, “I prefer not to.” Sadly Bartelby was forced to leave, his presence became not intolerable, but embarrassing. Bartelby ended up in the Dead Letter Department of the post office, but I shall not reveal the ending.

From time to time when I lived in the real world with a real job I would say to my boss, “I prefer not to.” For some reason it never worked. I guess I never ran into a boss like Bartelby. I either received a stare in return or laughter, or “I don’t care, do it anyway.” Preferring not to do something is valid, but not caring is a bad attitude. Though maybe that is the Bartelby within me speaking.

Maynard had an aversion to work because it was unhip, uncool, and it was . . .well it was work. I had the same aversion in my youth. Today like Bartelby, as I look at a blank page in Word, attempting to write the next word, the next sentence, the next paragraph of my new novel, my mind says, “I prefer not to.”

Bartelby fell into an existential trap, but I deal with dysthymia or melancholy, depending on which counselor or therapist I listen to, but I think both forms of depression overlap, blend, merge, and swirl into each other. I took medication for a few years, but it had side effects and given the choice, I “prefer not to” take pills.

It has been suggested that the narrator of “Bartelby” is mask for Melville and that Bartelby is a darker side of the writer Melville. If that is true then both must have been depressed, but if you get enough literary critics together they will debate, argue and interpret the story in diverse ways. I just like a guy who says, “I prefer not to” when asked to work.

After I publish this blog I may or may not write, or work on my new, yet to be online website. I will see what I prefer to do, if anything.

Meanwhile in this e-book of supernatural short stories for $2.99  you will find two more literary characters, Frankenstein and his monster, created by Mary Shelley, and reimagined by yours truly in an alternate ending.

coyotemoon_cemetaryb

 

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Let the reader be unaware while being aware

In a previous blog I talked about ending a chapter in my book with a character named Pamela slowly opening the door to a shack deep in the woods. A writer always hopes to end a chapter leaving something that makes the reader start the next chapter, always a good idea because it prevents the reader from raiding the refrigerator or cupboards for comfort food while reading your comfort story. You kids out there-eat healthy snacks.

There are two good methods for this. One is to pick up where you left off and this I did at the beginning of the next chapter. You keep the action and story moving.

But there is another method and that will frustrate the reader-and in this case it is a good thing. And that is to delay what the reader expects is going to happen. At the end of the chapter in which we find out what is in the shack, three characters are deciding what to do with new information they learned that clouds the murder investigation they are working on.

This time I do not pick up where I left off, but begin the next chapter with what would be termed in film language as a jump cut. I cut to a conversation with an unknown person telling a story. But who? After whoever tells a lengthy story one of the three characters from the previous chapter asks a question of the unknown narrator of the story. So the chapter begins with a story and reader has no idea who is talking. Only after the three characters ask questions of the storyteller do they find out who he is and how they came together for the conversation.

Good writing gets the reader to the point where they must know what happens next-keeps them away from cookies and such you know-and cutting the chapter with a cliffhanger is one way, and beginning a chapter with something unexpected that keeps the reader reading to find out what is going on is another.

If you can do this trick with seamless precision the reader is unaware of what you are doing-and if they do they are glad you know what you are doing- and they are aware they must keep reading.

The following e-book has no chapters just short stories, but I think you will keep reading them. It is here at Amazon

coyotemoon_cemetaryb

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What a writer should never throw away-no matter what

The following is a story that takes place in the 19th century and you are to guess what it has to do with a murder mystery I am writing set in 1927. I was doing some research for my novel and ran across the story in a file cabinet at a museum.

The story goes that an Indian woman and a white man hired a wagon and driver at a livery stable. They had the driver take them to a specific location that is outside of town. The driver noted that they carried two bags of tools. The white man told the driver to return at four in the afternoon to pick them up. This the driver did. He noticed when he returned the two bags of tools were gone, but the Indian girl and white man each had a heavy suitcase with them. It was thought the Indian girl knew about some treasure that was somewhere nearby where they were dropped off and she got the white man to help her. Neither were known in the town and neither were seen again. So what does this have to do with a murder mystery set in 1927?

Nothing. At least on the surface.

But a writer should not dismiss anything, no matter how remote it is to your story. I kept the story in my notes, then in writing a chapter I realized how I could use  it. My murder mystery began, interestingly enough, where the Indian girl and white man were dropped off. It was Ford’s Prairie. In my mystery a woman’s head was found on top of a grave leaning on the tombstone at the Ford’s Prairie cemetery.

So I had a local from the community relate this old tale from the 1800’s to my amateur detective. The reason is that it could be a red herring, to make the reader think the two stories might be related. Then again there just might be a connection. Doesn’t matter. The point is never ignore what you find while researching. It may seem unrelated to what you are working on, but you might be able to use it. As a researcher you are mining for nuggets and what you think is fool’s gold could be more useful than you think.

This e-novel has already been researched and is found on that Amazon place, not the jungle; that is another story.

coyotemoon_silentmurder

 

 

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How to prepare to write- for tomorrow

If you want to  get your writing off to a good start today then you should have prepared yesterday. In the e-Book I am currently working on I finished chapter three with Pamela slowly opening a door to an abandoned shack deeps in the woods. What is on the other side of the door?

I was wondering the same thing when I finished chapter three and was done for the day having written nearly 2,000 words.

So I wondered what will happen next, what do I write about tomorrow? Rather than do nothing but shutdown my computer for the day, I decided to make notes for tomorrow. That way I do not waste time wondering what happens next when I sit down to write tomorrow. I am facing two options. One, somebody or something is inside, or two, nothing happens. Sometimes nothing is good because the reader is expecting something. I already have a car by the side of the road; the car owned by a character Pamela and two others are looking for, thus the reason they go to this shack wondering if he, Dennis by name, is in the shack, and whether he is alive or dead.

It matters not whether he is there or not, the idea is to decide which, then what the characters decide to do with what they know, for there is always something to be learned even if Dennis is not there. But I won’t tell you what, that is not the point.

It is about preparing for the next day and you do this by deciding what you want the characters to do, or what you want to have happen. You only have to make quick little reminder notes, something simple, something to trigger your thinking and writing. So when tomorrow arrives and you read your notes, then you are off and running.

I currently have finished chapter three and have no idea what happens next, so I must leave you and make my notes.

On my Amazon page I have finished e-books. Here is one filled with wonderful paranormal horror stories. It has two four star reviews.

Cemetery_Tales_and_other_PhantasmsA-351x597

 

 

 

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Are readers dictating e-Book prices

Everyone wants a good deal, especially if something is free and e-Readers may be dictating the future of e-Books. There are many sites devoted to getting cheap if not free books. I will not list them all, they are easy to find with Google magic. I subscribe to Book Bub and I can select what type of books I am interested in and everyday in my inbox are books, some for 99 cents, some for free. Some are $2.99-what to they think I am a millionaire. Being an avid reader and bargain consumer I love it. The cheap ones I mean.

Book Bub is one of the best and I don’t want to know how many sites like them are out there. As an indie e-book author on Amazon I am afraid to find out. But we just might be on the forefront of change, as who will spend $3.99 for an e-Book, especially by an unknown, when they can pick and choose great buys, some from famous authors by signing up for a newsletter, a newsletter that, in essence, does the search for you.

The original prices for my books were $2.99 because that is what everyone said at the time. It became the standard. Of course one must always wonder who THEY are. Are they The Hardly Enlightened Yahoos. It was, however, the prevailing accepted price. Then someone said it should be $3.99 because if you value your work, believe you have written good stories, then you should be paid accordingly to distance yourself from those $2.99 folk.

I thought about it, then changed the price. I did not notice any significant downturn in sales so kept it at the higher price. At some point I thought of reverting to the original price during a sluggish sales period, but I then read a blog that said once you raise the price it is not a good idea to go back as the readers who paid the higher price may feel cheated. It made sense, but I have to come to the opinion it doesn’t matter. In the end you must do what you feel is best, not what others say or think, no matter if you believe they-remember them- make sense.

But will it now make a difference? Is $2.99 now too high a price with so many savvy readers paying 99 cents, at the most $1.99 for quality books. There is a proliferation of sales and cheap e-Books, and the smart reader knows this and loves it. In the future indie authors may be squeezed out of the market  just as they are squeezed out from traditional publishing. I have no illusions of being a best selling writer, but a steady income  of mad money would be nice.

So what to do? This year I will advertise more, and I may revert to my old price (still percolating in my sub-human brain), but all of us Indie e-Book authors are facing important questions, none of which have to do with plot and structure.

On my Amazon page you will find my books at $3.99. Buy now before the price drops.

 

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Webinar thoughts for Indie writers-beware

We live in an information age, and there is too much information, much of it sounds good, until somebody points out an obvious truth that blows up what you thought was true, but then you wonder if the ‘new’ truth is accurate. For an indie writer writing e-Books I heard over and over you need to have lots of books on Amazon. But someone said, it does not matter how many books, it is a myth, you need to learn to market, that Amazon is a search engine, and you need to increase your ability to get searchers to your books, then somebody tells you, but . .  wait a  minute. Halt. I am getting confused here.

I have attended three webinars, all were free. I learned many things, but in two of the webinars, the hosts, who were writers themselves, had a lot to say about marketing, and if you are a writer I need not go into all of that, you have heard it before. While their information-what they would share of it-was good; it told you what to do, but not the fine points of how. That would of course cost you money, as much as $500 to $700 for their course module. I have no doubt it can be done if you follow what they say. It is not the work that bothers me, but there are two points to be made.

One is that many people will go all in, but not follow through over time. The exhilaration and excitement wears off. The second is that you have to ask yourself how many books must you sell to offset the cost of what I am buying. If you are sure you can sell a few hundred books, then go for it. It is also true that what works for some people will not work for everybody. It is impossible that everybody will succeed. Some succeed, others will do the same things, but fail.

I made a purchase at the first webinar I attended. It had little to do with marketing and strategy. It only cost about $90 and would position my books on the Internet with very creative web pages. It was something like a website. Unfortunately I don’t think people ever found it. I think the product had an un-search engine. I liked the pages I was able to create, but it was a waste of money in the end.

So yes, I am leery, but I am also leery of professional marketers and pitchmen. They talk a great game. In the end if you attend any webinars, or come across anyone or anything that promises a result you desire, remember to weigh the cost.

This book will cost only $3.99 on Amazon. So save hundreds of dollars today.

coyotemoon_silentmurder

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