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Why I Hate Perfect People (in Books)

Posted on March 10, 2014 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

 


Maybe it’s the bitch in me, but I hate reading books where the hero and heroine are perfectly good and the villain is completely bad to the bone. In fact, there seems to be a positive epidemic of this going on at the moment – maybe it’s in reaction to the stroppy heroines of chick-lit, maybe it’s because the world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket and people are searching for absolutes.

Whatever is causing this need for perfectly identifiable goodies and baddies, I wish it would stop before I find myself throwing yet another book across the room in disgust. This is a very bad practice, especially for someone reading on her tablet….We all have little (or big) flaws. When I come across a heroine who is so lovely she never thinks a mean thought, never challenges anyone else, never has a bad hair day, never is without a winsome smile and a plate of homemade cookies, well – immediate turn off.                 

  .

Heroes written to be so, well, heroic – no thanks. Those big, strong, silent types, wonderfully patient and indulgent to the heroine, selfless, manly, broad chested, and completely fart-free – I ask you, who could possibly stay in love with  Mr. Perfect?                                


Then there are the totally mean, verging on positively psycho villains. Most of whose behaviour is clinically psychotic. No matter what you might think from television, there aren’t that many nutzoids running around – the highest figure is probably one in a hundred. Not every fictional villain can be one. And all this with no hint as to why they behave this way. Believe it or not, even psychopaths can demonstrate a reason for the terrible things they do. At least in their way of thinking, their actions are rational, even if the rest of the ‘normal’ world thinks them total fruitloops. Usually, too, there is something in their backgrounds that triggers the behavior, whatever side of the nature/nurture debate you might be on. It would be nice if this was hinted at in the stories.


You see, these characters are just not real. Sure, we want larger than life characters in our novels, but they also need to be people we can identify with. People we can understand. People who don’t make us feel so inferior because we do have bad hair days, don’t bake cookies and sometimes cuss a little…

I spent years covering the criminal courts and the crime beat as a journalist, and then worked as a counsellor, so I say this with some measure of authority: The truth is no-one is all bad or all good. So why should we write about perfect people?

Please, please can we have heroes and heroines with flaws? Villains with a touch of humanity? I’m not asking for every story to be as boring as the real life we’re often reading to escape from, but give me real characters, people I can like or at least understand why I hate them.

Okay, putting away my soapbox now. Thanks for listening!


 

Add Photos to Your Freelance Articles & Ramp Up Your Acceptance Rates?And Profits

Posted on February 2, 2014 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Even the greenest freelancer knows that they should follow the publishers' guidelines to stand a chance of having work accepted. So, because many publications state they will use their own photographic contacts to illustrate an article if they decide to purchase, many writers don't send photos with their work.

 

That's a mistake.

 

The old adage that 'A picture is worth a thousand words' holds very true in the case of space conscious print media. Photos are important, but must be of the best quality, serve to illustrate a point in the article and attract a reader's attention, and must be used sparingly because they add to production costs and take valuable space. But if you are submitting a text piece that has photo potential, don’t hesitate to send some good shots along with the copy.

 

There are two reasons for this: 1) your pictures will add an extra dimension to your writing, enabling the editor to visualize your subject more clearly, and 2) The reason magazines and newspapers send out their own photographic staff, or hire professional photographic stringers, is that they need quality, professional pictures. No family snapshot type deals; your editor is looking for clear, well focused, well-thought out scenes that will complement the written article. You have the advantage of knowing your story and subject matter, so if you can provide top-quality photographs to go with your work, why should the editor look elsewhere?

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE 


Building Your Characters - To Know 'em is to Love 'em!

Posted on January 4, 2014 at 11:35 AM Comments comments (0)

 

Characters make our books – they're the ones who make us womanwritinglaugh, cry, angry, sad. We root for the hero and heroine, yell mean things at the villain – or maybe even have a sneaking admiration for him – and develop a soft spot for minor characters and hope there’s a sequel to tell their story.

 

And the characters readers love can surprise you. I received a really good review of Resort to Murder, and there was no doubt that the reviewer loved one character in particular – Tuesday the Stray Dog. Go figure! In fact, Tuesday seems to have his own little fan base and I'll be putting his story up on my website a little later.178 (200x300)

Most writers base characters' behavior, voices, habits, mannerisms, etc., on people they have met, worked with, sat on a bus next to, spent time in the airport lounge with, sat in class with, or seen on television or at the movies. Remember that all your friends and relatives will be trying to identify themselves in your work, so disguise your characters well!

You can also use magazines to help build your characters – read interviews with celebs and other people who have been written up.

Often characters spring fully-grown into your mind, so clear you can just about reach out and touch them – or at least call them on the mind-phone. That's great at the beginning of the story, but often the familiarity with the characters starts to fade as we continue along, and other characters join in. How to avoid this?

Get to know your characters.

Build them from the ground up, but do it subtly – let them reveal themselves to you just as a new acquaintance would. You meet someone and they seem really sophisticated and distant. But a couple of meetings later, you realize they have a wicked sense of humor. Maybe that self-assurance isn't more than skin deep. Maybe that cool exterior hides a seething mass of anxieties and neuroses.

That's when you'd also slowly realize that they have a past, a time before you knew them, which has careerwomanshaped how they are today.

There's an ongoing argument in psychology about nature v nurture – are we born as we are (nature), or did we grow up this way because of our childhood experiences (nurture)?

Most psychologists today tend towards the nurture and nature combination – we are born with certain characteristics, but the way we are treated and the events in our childhoods decide which characteristics come to the front and shape who we are.

For example, a child born with a tendency towards anxiety may well grow to a relaxed, laid back adult if he is reared in a calm, loving atmosphere where his anxieties are soothed and he learns how to control them, and perhaps even more important, that he is in control of his life. The same child reared in a different environment may grow up anxious and insecure, a candidate for compulsive behavior disorder and numerous other mental health problems, or possibly even grow into a volatile, hostile, domineering and violent character who simply loses his cool if the world around him doesn't fall into line. Because he cannot handle the anxieties that flow in on him and make him feel out of control, he constantly seeks to be in total control, and anything out of the ordinary throws him for a loop.

So, what tendencies does your character have? And how did his life so far shape him? When you're really having difficulty with a character, you may need to think right back to his childhood – where did he come from? What was his family like? His schooling? Even the time in history that we are born in affects who we may become – hence the phrase 'War babies' to describe an entire generation who were a puzzle to their parents.

 

That can sound quite daunting, but it's not really.

Write down everything you want your character to be – is he an Alpha male? One of those people who have to win at any cost? A company executive at 30, and a heart attack patient at 35? Or is he a laid back character, one of those kids whose teachers always said 'Could do better if he worked harder?' and 'Not working to his potential', Think of the ramifications for your story if your character is either one of these, because these characters will behave quite differently in whatever situations you put them in.

Remember that characters often have minds of their own – trying to force them into behaviors they don’t want to do is a great way to spark Writer's Block. Of course, it's not really your character but your subconscious mind that is objecting to the route your plot is taking. At least, I think so…...

Sometimes having a good chat with your characters can clear the air and clarify what you need to do. It makes them real to you, and that's what we are looking for – real characters. Remember the fun you had with an imaginary friend, or a favourite stuffed animal, when you were a kid? Well, try to bring back that feeling with your characters. Talk to them. Listen to them. Interview them. Just make sure you do this in private. Talking to yourself is acceptable in a writer, but answering yourself back can still make your nearest and dearest wonder. And when you start sending your characters birthday and Christmas presents, you're really in trouble…..

There are a number of books on the market for writers about personality types and there are lots of sites on the Internet if you want to delve deeper. Beware, many of them let you take a personality test, and you can spend a lot of time browsing here! Instead of putting your own personality traits in to the questionnaires, you can insert the answers you think your character would give, and get a Personality Type designation for him or her that will help you develop the character.

•What methods do you use to build your characters?

 

Glenys O’Connell is the author or Naked Writing: The No Frills Way to Write Your Book She has a degree in psychology and is a trained counselor.This Blog Was Originally an Interview at http://siamckye.blogspot.ca/2009/10/coffee-with-my-characters.html

 

Overwhelmed By Indie Publishing? Wise Words....

Posted on December 9, 2013 at 3:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Overwhelmed by trying to publish your books independently? Me, too. And I suspect many others, as well. There are so many avenues to do this, so much you have to remember, do’s and don’ts and musts and mustn’ts, a writer could easy lose her mind.

So many of books on Indie publishing give the same advice, pretty much “follow my suggestions and the cash will come pouring in’. So you do. You follow them (even though you maybe need a publishing degree before you can actually figure out how to do that) and then eagerly watch your Amazon rankings.

Which may go okay at first. But soon it becomes like watching paint dry – you’re pretty sure something must be happening, but darned if you can see it.

The most often stated advice is: ‘Write a Good Book.’ Which is very true. But often this comes from people who were smart enough to get in on the ground floor of the Indie publishing ebook goldrush. They put out a good book, and people found it easily because it was, well, a new idea. An ebook (possibly with print to follow) at a great price and not handled by the weighty publishing companies.

That was a few years ago. Now the digital world is crammed with books; some terrific, some not so much. Anyone could put out a book, and some of them maybe shouldn’t have. Some readers at one point veered away from Indie published ebooks altogether after being disappointed in a couple of purchases.

I think that’s changed a good bit now; there are wonderful books out there and the prices of Indie published eBooks generally compare very favorably with the high rates asked by traditional publishers who are now dipping their toes in the ebook stream. So much so that several well-known traditionally published authors are trying out the Indie route for themselves.

I’m published by The Wild Rose Press, and would always speak very highly of them. But I wrote a book for writers, Naked Writing: The No Frills Way to Write Your Book, taken from years of teaching creative writing. I loved this book, and Indie publishing seemed a great way to go with it. The book did well for the most part, both print and ebook.

Next came The No Sex Clause, a book I wrote for fun (and it still makes me laugh) about a former High school bullying victim, now a famous writer (no, it’s not autobiographical!) who hires a companion to accompany her to a dreaded high school reunion, falls in love with him, and finds herself running home to the foster parents she hasn’t seen in years. Anna Findlay is forced to re-evaluate her childhood experiences and her own life, proving that Christmas – and falling in love – can work miracles.

The No Sex Clause did really well for a while. I offered it for free and the sales continued after the free time was up. Plus it got reviews. I have considered using the word ‘sex’ in all my titles!

Then another publisher I was with, who will be nameless, finally gave up her stranglehold on three novels she had of mine after a short fight. So there I was, three books that I really believed in and no home for them. Most publishers aren’t keen on looking at previously published books. It seemed logical to Indie publish them, too. And that’s where overwhelmed came in.

Naked Writing had been straightforward, my market was writers who wanted to either start or improve their books. But novels? Winters & Somers (Irish romantic mystery/comedy) Judgement By Fire (Canadian romantic suspense) are out there already, with Marrying Money (romantic comedy) soon to come.Suddenly, life seemed to get complicated as I hit a steep learning curve.  And I’m learning more – sometimes painfully - every day. Here are Wise Words that I didn’t know when I started to publish Independently:

• Wise Words: Know Your Market

• Write a Book you love

• Dream up a short, catchy title that says something about your book

• Use all the tools Kindle can offer, even though it means signing up exclusivity for 90 days for your ebook.

• If you do a print version, shout it from the rooftops! Make sure it appears on at least the major outlets, like Amazon, Smashwords, etc.

• Get a really good cover that speaks to your target reader.

• Price it properly – you’ll probably have to fiddle around with pricing until you hit on the one that readers seem to find most attractive for your book.

• If you do print and ebook, look into programs such as Kindle Selects Price Match – your readers who buy the print version can get the ebook version either for free or at a lower sale price.

• Don’t be afraid to experiment with pricing changes, sales locations, marketing strategies.

• Make sure you read the small print.

And if you’re looking for books to read that will help you, here are some I recommend:

Blog It! By Molly Greene

2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron

• No Rules, Just Write! by C.J. Lyons (Not sure if still available, but any of her writing books will work!)

How I made over $42,000 In One Month Selling My Kindle Books by Cheryl Kaye Tardiff

We Are Not Alone by Kristen Lamb (hard to get)

Do you have favorite books that have helped you with your publishing ventures? Please comment and share!



 

Cover Reveal: Marrying Money!

Posted on November 18, 2013 at 1:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Just love this gorgeous cover by Ramona Lockwood for Marrying Money - Lady Diana's Story - the first in the Marrying Money series and about to be released in a couple of days in ebook form. You can read the first chapter for free uner the First Chapters tag above at www.glenysconnell.com  

Cover Reveal: The No Sex Clause!

Posted on November 11, 2013 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

COVER REVEAL: My Christmas time romantic comedy, The No Sex Clause, is coming out in print soon and I wanted to share the very drool-worthy cover created for the book by Erin Dameron- ill. The book is already available on Kindle but, dinosaur that I am, there's nothing quite like holding a brand new printed book in your hands, is there? Especially with such a gorgeous cover model; :-)

Enjoy! 

 

 

Writer's Block ? Is that Old Bogey Man hiding under your Bed????

Posted on October 13, 2013 at 7:30 PM Comments comments (0)

By Glenys O'Connell @GlenysOConnell

              

Remember when you were a little kid, and you were afraid to get out of bed in case the monster that lived under there grabbed you? I’m sure you do – you’re a writer, and writers are born with over active imaginations. Your childhood was probably peopled by characters both human and fantastical who were as real to you as if they actually existed. And some of them were probably genuinely scary. Like Writer’s Block.

 

And you were probably genuinely scared, just like that heart pounding, no-one-can-save-me-now feeling you get when you sit and stare at the blank screen, absolutely sure the Writer’s Block monster is going to grab you and drag you down to….well, you probably had your own ideas of the scary place those monsters took little kids to.

BUT – the whole point of this article is that Writer’s Block is exactly like the monster under your bed – it’s scary but really, really it simply doesn’t exist. And yes, you’re scared, you’re really, really scared. But the source of your fear isn’t real.

Now, do you feel silly?

Well, don’t. You’re not the only one to break out in a sweat, convinced you’ll never write again. And, as a psychotherapist, I can tell you I’ve had clients afraid of stranger things than Writer’s Block – and their demons have seemed every bit as real and inevitable to them as your Block seems to you.

Want to know how I can speak so definitely? Well, it’s not some alchemy born of training as a psychologist, I can tell you that. Even though that kind of training encourages students to poke and prod at all the monsters in our heads, learning just what particular button to press to make them disappear in a puff of psychic relief, that’s not where I learned the secret about Writer’s Block.

No, I learned it from successive news editors at newspapers where I worked for years. News editors – now there is a really scary monster and believe me, they do exist, and their teeth and fangs are real…..

And when the deadline looms and your editor yells across the newsroom: “I want 500 words and a sidebar on that (fill in your own blank!) for the front page!” No reporter who wants to live long enough to get a lunchtime, paper’s-to-bed-beer is ever going to say: “Oh, Mr. News Editor, I’m sorry but my Muse has left me and I’ve got Writer’s Block, so you’ll have to publish with a blank space on page one. Maybe people can use it for a grocery list…”

Yeah, right. And maybe that reporter can join the ranks of the unemployable.

So, what to do about those times when you can’t write? Well, first of all, drop this idea of Writer’s Block. Ever noticed that, when the words of the beast appear in writer’s journals and articles, it’s always capitalized? We’re scaring ourselves, is what we’re doing. Creating monsters to excuse the fact that we’re simply not doing our jobs. And there are a number of reasons why.

Fear is probably the most common. Let’s face it, being a writer is a dream most of us have nurtured for a long, long time. And we can go about saying that we’re writers, we’re going to write a book/article/screenplay, whatever and people will look suitably impressed or insultingly bored, whatever. And eventually, they’ll ask, like, when is this going to be published?

And that’s the scary thing at the root of most so-called blocks. Because eventually, if we ever finish our work in progress, we’re going to have to send it out into the big bad world. A world that may reject it. What if we’ll not make it? What if people laugh? What if our stories are old and hackneyed and boring and…..what if we’ve no talent?

Well, the sad news is that you won’t know until you grab that monster by the nose and wring out your story, painful word by painful word, until it’s there in all its glory. Then you’ll send it into the world, and start on the next one. And the next. And someday, if you hone your craft, you’ll be published. And I hate to burst that glow of hope, but then you’ll face Writer’s Block’s big brother – SecondBookitis. The paralysis that grabs writers of a newly published first book and convinces them that they can’t perform the same trick again. Welcome to the real world, baby.

Another reason, why you can’t seem to make your fingers fly across those keys is that there is actually something wrong with your story. There’s a clash between what you’re writing and what your brain feels is right. Sometimes if can be as simple as an implausible scene. Someone in your story is being asked to step out of character, and refusing to do so. You’ve got an unlikely situation, and it’s simply not working, no matter how wonderful it may have seemed when you dreamed it up.

Go back into your WIP. Read what you have. Research, research, research. Maybe there’s something there that you’ve got by wishful thinking, not by checking facts. Think about it. Take long walks and consider your story– your cardiovascular system and your dog will love you for it. And somewhere around all this, the answers will pop into your head. The plot will right itself, the characters act as they should, and all’s right with your imaginary world.

But dwelling on the idea of Writers’ Block will only reinforce your righteous conviction that something is stopping you from writing.

Something is. You.

There are a few tricks around writers block. One often recommended it to simply sit and write – anything at all. Gibberish. And eventually it will morph into something meaningful. That no doubt does work for some people. All it does for me is give me a few pages of depressingly useless nonsense and a headache, but it’s worth a try. It could work for you.

My own favourite is to always end my writing sessions at a point where it’s easy to pick up and carry on. Some writers stop mid sentence, or mid page, mid-chapter. I always stop at the end of a chapter (yes, I write short chapters!) but with a cliffhanger ending that segues smoothly into the next chapter. Those days I use a novel planner notebook with an outline and small outlines for each chapter. Okay, I don’t keep strictly to the outlines, and something I've scheduled to happen in chapter seven might not occur right then – or even at all – but it means I know where I’m going. And when I sit down and start writing, the first thing I do (well, after playing several games of solitaire and checking email) is to read the chapter from my previous writing session. I allow my Infernal Internal Editor(I.I.E – say it aloud and extend the E!) the opportunity to do his thing (I just know my IIE is a male – only a male could be THAT nitpicky!) following the guidelines of the outline, I head off merrily down the path that flows directly from that chapter, marked out in the outline for the next chapter.

Maybe wouldn’t work for everyone, but if you’ve reached the stage of thinking you’re blocked, well, it’s worth trying anything rather than suffer.

One thing you can be sure of is that the only way to rid yourself of the pain of all those words and ideas dammed up in your head is to put them down on paper. Get the work done. Pour out that story. Tell what's in your heart. Polish it and primp it and send it off like a mother sending a child to school for the first time. Weep a little. Be scared for you know all the dangers that lurk out in the big world that threaten your baby. But that baby needs to be out there – and you know it.

So just get on with it. You’ll feel better for it, you know.

Now, all together, loudly: There is no such thing as Writer’s Block.

We’re writers, and we will write.

We will hone our skills – and that involves writing, writing, writing. And that’s just what we’ll do….

Writers’ Block – phooey!

This Excerpt is Taken from Naked Writing:The No Frills Way to Write Your Book! You Can Read Chapter One by Clicking the First Chapters Button At The Top of This Page.

 

No Frills Writing Is Free - Get It While You Can!

Posted on September 7, 2013 at 11:05 AM Comments comments (0)

 Yes, the rumours are true! I'm giving away copies of Naked Writing: The No Frills Way to Write Your Book! for FREE today (Saturday) Sunday and Monday, on Kindle.

This is the book based on the creative writing course I taught in third level classes and online for years. And all that info is yours for the asking - just for three days!

It's on Amazon.com Amazon.ca Amazon.co.uk

and all the other Amazons as well - folks in Germany, Spain and other places have already snagged their copies. :)

You can also read the first chapter on the First Chapters page - see the tab at the top of this blog.

Enjoy!

My Review of Autographs, Abductions and A-List Authors, by J.L. Wilson

Posted on August 25, 2013 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

 4.5 Stars!

I must confess I’ve never been to a writers’ conference – time and circumstances always seem to get in the way. However, now that I’ve read Autographs, Abductions, and A-List Authors by J.L. Wilson, I think I’m going to have to get myself to one just for the experience!

Of course, I’m sure that the murder, mayhem, jealousy, ambition and just plain fun that Ms. Wilson portrays so well in her book are not on the schedule at most conferences (except perhaps for the fun). Even so, the book is a witty and engrossing read with characters verging from the insane and paranoid to the plain weird and downright sexy. The plot is engaging and even plausible, offering a smorgasbord of methods to murder your competition.

And, most intriguing of all to myself as a seasoned murder mystery reader, I didn’t guess who the villain was until the very end. Mind you, I’d have been happy to hang out with fictional author Bea Emerson and the very attractive Detective L.J. Remarchik as they raced to solve the puzzle before a murderer sent Bea to that Great Publishing House in the Sky….

Here’s the Blurb from Amazon:

Bea Emerson's first MrWAR Conference (Mystery/Romance Writers And Readers) is almost her last. When a best-selling author dies while autographing a book for Bea, it puts her under suspicion of murder and under investigation by Abilene homicide detective L.J. Remarchik.

However, Bea isn't too disturbed by that since L.J. is a handsome older guy. Then another famous mystery writer is murdered and Bea almost dies with him. That convinces L.J. she might need some special protection. He decides to undertake that task personally and the sparks between them fly.

It isn't until the famous Silver Stylus award ceremony in which Bea is a contestant that the true killer is unmasked, almost costing Bea her life and her award for Best First Novel. While L.J. is able to save Bea from a killer, he can't help breaking her heart — or can he?

Go check it out yourself on Amazon by clicking the cover above, or the following link: http://tinyurl.com/kbfo8dd

Glenys O'Connell: www.glenysoconnell.com

Twitter: @GlenysOConnell

 

 

Unhappiness Can Be A Trigger for Better Things...

Posted on June 1, 2013 at 10:55 AM Comments comments (0)

          I'm back blogging on my Talking About Depression site, with a new post pondering the differences between simple human unhappiness and real depression - and how unhappiness can be a spur to action for change. You can read it here.