Monday, February 15, 2010

Keepin' It Real

It came today! When I saw my son walking toward the house from the mailbox with the package, I got all giddy like a kid at Christmas. Cutting through the bubble wrap, I finally held in my hands what I'd been waiting the past ten days to receive. A virtual plethora of knowledge sure to boost my writing to the next level. A simple book entitled, The Writer's Guide to Places.

This outstanding work, written by authors Don Prues and Jack Heffron, provides authors with intricate details about 51 U.S. cities and 10 Canadian provinces. Its purpose is to help writers create realistic scenes, characters, and dialogue pertinent to the places their stories are based in. It's almost like taking a trip to the destination of your choice without leaving home. So far, I'm loving it! These men did an awesome job of researching every aspect of this book, making it an invaluable tool for the writer who wants the detail but may not otherwise have a means of obtaining it.

Being that I've already written two novels based in Philadelphia which contain very few actual facts about the city, I now feel empowered that I have some new knowledge to incorporate into future volumes of the Forever Love series. I can send Dana shopping at the Italian Market, and now appropriately place Gartano's on Philly's South side with the other quaint bistros of its kind. The boys in the band can enjoy a good hoagie while they dream of playing for a sell-out crowd at Veteran's Stadium. I love to keep my writing as real as possible, and this book will certainly help. However, there's still one thing I just can't quite bring myself to do.

I simply can't picture Mitch Tarrington saying, "Yo!"

I think I'll let Rocky keep that one.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Judge Not....

I'm a little ticked. Okay, more than a little because it seems this keeps happening over and over. This morning, a good friend directed me to a blog geared toward Christian authors. Thinking it was right up my alley, I eagerly scanned the site and soon learned that this group consists of several writers who share tips, blog about their work and experiences, and spread the word to readers in the market about new Christian book releases. Excited about the possibility of joining this group, I went to the page outlining membership criteria. There it was, staring back at me in bold black print:

(not verbatim)"We only accept works published through a traditional publishing company."

I was ticked!(I know, I already said that, but it bears repeating)Why are there still so many closed-minded individuals and groups in the literary world who look down on self- and independently-published authors? What makes an author who holds a traditional publishing contract any better or more qualified to write than those who chose an alternate route? In my opinion, and the opinions of many others I know, absolutely nothing!

Let's think about this. Self-publishing companies have made it easy for the average person to publish their work and take it to the marketplace. I am fully aware that there are many self-published works out which are poorly edited or not edited at all. As the saying goes, one bad apple spoils the bunch. But is that really fair to the rest of us who did take the extra time with our work to ensure its quality? Is it fair to say because "anyone can do it" (self-publish)that it's a sub-standard method or that all self-published works are sub-standard? I say, no, it's not fair at all. If anyone cares to do the research, many of our current, best-selling authors began as self-published. John Grisham sold his first books out of the trunk of his car. Nicholas Sparks kept his "day job" for three years after releasing his first book because he never thought he'd be successful at writing. Stephen King originally self-published as did Amanda Brown ("Legally Blonde"), William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White ("The Elements of Style"), and Christopher Paolini ("Aragon" series). I could list many others, but I think you get the idea.

I believe those who are so narrow in their thinking about alternatively published works need to wake up and take a look at what's really out there. At the risk of sounding vain, I'm self-published, and I personally have a proven sales record for my work, an established and ever-growing fan base, and two awards in a national contest judged by librarians and book sellers. My work is not "sub-standard" by any means. Neither are the works of the multitude of other self-published authors I know.

Now, as I close on my thoughts, let me state my disclaimer in that I don't mean to project that one publishing method is superior over any other, or step on the toes of those who hold contracts with traditional publishers. I am simply making a point that there is no reason whatsoever for self- or independently-published authors to be judged unfairly because of a few "bad apples." I've read plenty of traditionally published works that I personally felt should never have made it into print.

I say, forget about the publisher or method, and read a work before you judge it. Give it a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Very Thought Provoking

Ever have writer's block? If you're an author between the ages of 1-200, then the answer to that question is most likely a resounding "yes." Ever wonder what you could do to get those creative juices flowing again?

I came across an article by Gretchen Rubin on Yahoo Shine about how to provoke the thought process to help produce ideas, solutions, and strategies. While it wasn't written with the author in mind, I still believe that we can apply her principles to guide us through those times when the muse takes a hike for the hills.

Go For A Walk--Nietzsche wrote, "All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking." Studies have shown walking increases alertness, focus, and energy.

Do A Headstand--Yoga buffs believe that ideas are stimulated by increased blood flow to the brain. (I'd recommend not doing this while sitting at your computer! HA HA)

Think About Your Problem Just Before Going to Sleep--Your mind keeps working while you dream and can often produce the solution you're looking for.

Try Touch--Touch or be touched--pet an animal, cuddle your kids, or get a massage. It helps you relax and can get your creative juices flowing.

Public Transportation--Looking out the window of a bus or train with the changing views and constant motion can stimulate your mindpower.

Shower--A long shower works for many people.

Talk It Out--Some people benefit from talking to others. Great ideas often come out of conversations.

I'd love to hear your tips for breaking through writer's block, and if any of these work for you!