3 People Stories Near Water – 2 Peculiar and 1 Miraculous

There are story ideas everywhere from real life.

Near the Water Story #1: About six weeks ago, my husband and I decided to walk part of the Battle Creek River Walk, starting at a small playground with about six parking spots. We were the only vehicle. (Yay! Not crowded.) We walked about twenty minutes upstream and then returned to a crowded area. Two cars besides ours! A woman played on the playground with a preschool girl. We assumed it was her daughter. A man in his mid-twenty’s paced near the river, avoiding eye contact, twitching, and biting his lips. His body language made me nervous enough that I didn’t want to leave mom and child alone in the area. (Can you say Amber Alert?) My husband later commented that the man’s face “seemed weird.” So we strolled nearby, pausing long near the river, man, and mom-and-daughter. We figured it was a natural thing for a couple to do, for who doesn’t like watching a flowing river? But our senses were on alert. Suddenly the man moved quickly to the parking area and got into the back of a newly arrived vehicle with two people in the front. We went to our van and got in, but lingered still. I nonchalantly glanced at the car at the very moment there was an exchange over the seat. The man immediately got out with his small package. The new car drove off. So did the man. Had we just witnessed a drug buy, or is my fictional writing brain overactive?

 

Near the Water Story #2: A couple weeks later, we walked part of the North Country Trail along the Kalamazoo River, about twenty miles east of Battle Creek in Marshall. We saw turtles in the river, birds in the trees, bugs enjoying our presence, and a clowder of cats. We’d witnessed the other animals before, but never the cats. At first there were only five, sitting under a picnic table. About thirty paces past them, a black cat laying on a fallen log near the trail eyed us. Then we saw another lurking in the woods. We hurried on to the street bridge crossing and decided to walk part of the dead-end road parallel to the trail. We hadn’t gone far when we spotted a woman bending over into the back of her station wagon parked near the woods with – seriously – about forty cats near the car, most laying on the pavement, nearly all watching us. (Can you say Crazy Cat Lady?) We were rather committed at this point to passing by her. With her back still to us, she took a five-pound bucket in one hand and a three-pound one in the other and started into the woods. There was no trail entrance there; just trees and shrubs. Without any noise from lady, the cats all rose and followed after her. One of the buckets tipped just enough for me to see inside. It looked like birdseed.

 

Near the Water Story #3: It was my first free day to go along Lake Michigan to do my annual distribution of my summer books. I had five places to visit, and then my husband and I would be free to play at the beach…or walk on it. And we did. When we returned to the van, couldn’t find my key fob. Not wanting to take a purse to the beach, and wearing jeans with only two pockets, I’d put glasses and ID in one pocket and iPhone and fob in the other. Naturally, I took photos! I’d never lost a key or fob before. The only thing I know about fobs is that they open and start vehicles, and cost hundreds of dollars to replace. (I suppose that’s three things.) As my husband had his fob, we searched the van. Normally I only look through things once. This time I searched everywhere (more than my two pockets) three times. No fob. The sky threatened its forecast of thunderstorm, so we snatched our raincoats and slowly backtracked toward the beach. I was picturing every spot I’d stopped to take a photo. A park employee rode a golf cart on the sidewalk from the beach to the parking lot. I flagged him down and asked if he’d seen a key fob on the beach. Jeff later explained that his disinterested attitude was probably from being asked that many times before. However, a passing woman said, “Was it small and black?” She measured with her thumb and finger. “YES!” What happened was that earlier a man walked near her beach blanket and without a word to her, placed the fob on her blanket and walked on. She was with six children and had never seen a fob like this one before. She thought it was a bomb. (!) She was going to toss it high into the sand dune woods, but instead laid it in some weeds. Going from nervous to hopeful to skeptical and back to nervous, we followed her. She pointed from a distance, still seemingly unsure that it might be a bomb. My fob. My short-lost fob was found. Thing is, if I had only searched my pocket, or the van just once, the woman wouldn’t have been passing at that exact moment to have heard me asking the employee about it. (Can you say I believe in miracles?)

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Old Dog; New Tricks; Any time Surprises

Kent District Library puts on writers conferences in Grand Rapids. I attended once before, spoke on marketing another time, and decided to go again this spring. Realizing the conference is mostly for newbie writers, and having nine books published, I wasn’t sure what I would get out of it. Then came the emails of the waiting list, and to let them know if we were unable to attend. I thought to give up my spot, but something compelled me to go, not for what I could get out of it, but what I could give to others.

The physical conference set-up was different from my other times. Attendees sat around tables, six per table. I sat with six strangers. Previously, we were packed in rows, where I only socialized with the persons on my right or left, and everyone was on their own for lunch. This time, all morning and during the provided lunch we six were able to get to know each other. One had never heard of critique groups. Connections and invites were made. Towards the end of lunch I finally confessed that I was published, but…and then I rambled a bit about the confusion between author Sandy Carlson (for my MG historical fictions) and author S. L. Carlson (for my YA fantasies). I gave them each my business card (I was the only one with any), but warned them my website needed some serious updating. From their feedback, I realized I ought to set up a separate website for S. L. Carlson. It meant additional research and work, but what an unexpected epiphany… coming from newbies! This old dog learned new tricks from young pups. I thank you! Woof.

The breakout session on podcasting was eye-opening-new to me as well. Yet another reason to attend writers conferences: to keep updated on the industry’s technology.

Keep on writing. Keep on learning. Woof-woof!

 

First Whole Novel Revision

Did it. I finished writing my next book in the War Unicorn series, standing now at 64K. The writing was a long and hard part. My relief is sweet, but short. Now onto the next hard(er) part (whole novel revision) before more revisions and sending off to my first editor for even more revisions.

Most of my chapters have already sailed through my critique group. They are a remarkable group. I find it amusing how one can spot things the others don’t, and that’s true for each person. I love my critiquers!

For this first whole novel revision, I’m basically using Darcy Pattison’s book Novel Metamorphosis. It’s meant as a workbook. The spine glue on my copy is coming apart even though the only writing in it is Darcy’s signing on the title page. The book is well-worn because I’ve used it for nearly every one of my manuscripts. This particular book is a bit more complicated than my others, so I needed wider eyes to evaluate it.

I just finished my Connotation Worksheet, found on page 69 of her book, but expanded it. In order see my characters more clearly, I adapted her basic form to my own categories. I have many characters. By doing this, I am able to see where to strengthen the individual’s relationship to his various aspects. These are some of my categories across the top of my page:

CHARACTER    FAV FOOD   SECRET   AFRAID OF   ANTAGONIST   MAIN GOAL/DESIRE

 Okay. Enough sharing with you all. Off to do more analyzing of my novel so I can revise better and delight you each with this book coming out in September. And here’s the cover reveal:

Carlson-WarUnicorn2Escape 4mb

Poetry and Me

I mentioned recently to my brother how a high school friend on FaceBook made a reference to a poem, and that I was quite surprised by how many of her FB friends worried about her v.s. recognizing the quote and the amusing application to her situation. We’d undoubtedly both memorized “Jabberwocky” because Dale and I grew up together, had many of the same teachers, and it’s such a fun and adventuresome poem which rolls around your tongue as you dramatically speak it aloud.

Back to the conversation with my brother. He, too, remembered how I loved to memorize poems. I grinned on my end of the phone, recalling in my mind snips of lengthy ballads by great poets. Then he started quoting one I used to say: “Once there was an elephant who tried to use a telephant…” — one I’d learned in second grade! That’s the poem my brother remembered I’d memorized.

Besides reading, speaking, and memorizing poems, there is also the writing end.

I’ve tried. I’ve tried writing poetry. I never feel good about the end results, and tuck them away in files either tossed or on computer disks I can’t even access any more. Even so, I take a stab at writing one or three now and again. They’re hard. They’re hard to write. They’re hard to critique. (Four just came through my critique group.)

Besides, I find poems to be rather subjective.

Back in South Dakota, a couple decades ago, I created three very different poems, different both in styles and themes. I gave all three to three teachers I worked with and asked their opinions of which they liked best. At the time, I wanted to try to focus my poetry writing. When they got back to me, each had chosen a different poem she really, really liked, and responded “eh” to the other two. It turned out my experiment was more about subjectivity than poetry style or theme.

I truly admire people who can write poetry. Truly. I just can’t do it myself. So, instead, I think I’ll go rummage through some of my dusty books and, alone in my house, dramatically read aloud a few choice favorites. Please feel free to do the same.

What I’ve Learned About Whole Book Writing – One, Two! One, Two!

Nearly everyone in the profession says to first get your story written – the rough draft bit. Only from that point can you see: 1) character development; 2) plot twists; and most importantly, 3) the big picture. Here, you might be like me, and after seeing all the holes and inconsistencies, you drop your head to the desk and never want to write another word, because calling what you spent months writing a rough draft is simply being polite. But you pick yourself up to see what can be done.

After the rough draft is completed, you start hacking away at it, cutting scenes and even chapters which don’t push the story or character development forward. I’ve even thrown away major characters because they were redundant or didn’t serve much purpose.

Then comes your rewrite.

Then comes revisions, lots of them.

Then comes letting your critique group read some. Although sometimes my dear critique group reads subs which I later eliminate, but that is because they only see slices at a time (1-3 chapters) v.s. the big picture (whole novel). They do, however, keep me writing and writing and writing, as well as continue being terrific friends.

Then come the editor’s comments to address.

Then comes the word-by-word read to make sure every single word is right, and not just spelled correctly. (And sometimes, you all still miss some.)

My next book, Escape: The War Unicorn Chronicles, Book 2, is scheduled for a September 2018 publication date. A month ago, I switched plans and decided to combine two books. Whatever was I thinking? Plus, I feel writing in two points of view is distracting, both for the writer and the reader, yet here I am, doing just that.

It was only after finishing the rough/rewritten/revised draft of one and starting on the next, that I realized the two needed to be mashed together. I’ve already cut out about 20,000 words from the second story, but need to now finish that rough draft  to another 20- 30,000 words, making sure they not only make sense as one story, but that they mash seamlessly together. I’m painfully deleting from that first story. Painfully, because I adore those scenes, those dialogues, those descriptions and interactions, but…“One, two! One, two! And through and through the vorpal blade went snicker-snack!”

So…1) finish your rough draft; 2) delete and add; 3) rewrite; 4) revise; 5) send through critique group; 6) revise; 7) send to editor; 8) revise; 9) do word-by-word check; 10) release your baby to the publisher.

 

What I’ve Learned Writing a Series

War Unicorn was published last fall with Books We Love. I loved (and hated) my characters enough to keep thinking about them, wanting to send them on more adventures. Hence: a series began.

I have two of five planned books in the series written, awaiting final editing and approval and release dates. I find the remaining three books harder and more complicated to write because of the additional people and places, but I must persevere.

What I’ve learned in writing a series:

1)      Characters – Keep the main characters consistent throughout; obviously, there will be additional characters thrown in the mix with each book, but keep your protagonist and main antagonist forefront;

2)      Plot – Not only does each individual story have its own arch with a satisfying endings, the entire series need to have an over-arching plot thread which makes sense; maps of the world, outlines of plots, family and other relationships trees also help here;

3)      Space your release dates (and therefore, finish writing each story) to keep your readers interested and not too far apart in time so they don’t forget who is who and what they want;

4)      Writing a series is a major commitment; if you begin one, don’t give up; set clear goals (if your editor doesn’t do it for you), and push through to see them accomplished.

5)      Keep on writing, and good luck to you.

End of Year Writing and Marketing

2017 was busy; hence, my long silence on my blog. Two of my books were published this year: THE POWDER HORN OF MACKINAC ISLAND (MG time travel, published in March) and WAR UNICORN (upper MG fantasy re-published in October through Books We Love Publishing). Both books need reviews, if you’re so inclined, since reviews on Amazon are like golden nuggets to a book.

I took a sabbatical this year from my War Unicorn series (I’m now working on the third book) to write what has turned into my memoirs. Hopefully, it will come out before Christmas. Yes, I’m talking Christmas of this year! It has the shockingly long title of THE ROAD LESS-TRAVELED OFTEN INVOLVES SMACKING FACE-FIRST THROUGH SPIDER WEBS (subtitle: A Life of Animal Encounters). It includes wild boar, bear, moose, otter, cattle, ticks, snakes, hawks, and bees, to name a few…and me, of course…and often my family. The book is 50K (50,000 words). That’s a lot of animal encounters!

Each of these books require a different marketing plan, different bookstores to contact, online sites, blog hops, ways to promote, etc. I am so foolish, and would never, ever recommend another author to do so. Why, oh, why didn’t I stick to just one genre and age group of readers? Why?

My end of the year writing and marketing tip: Stick to one genre and age group of readers and keep on writing.

Marketing and Promoting Your New Book

War Unicorn has been published with Books We Love Publishing, LLC.

Calrson-WarUnicorn-TheRing-150

So how do you go about marketing and promoting, especially if you (like me) had surgery immediately after it was published? There are several sit-down ways to start your promoting. Here are a few to consider with your own new release:

  1. Update your website to include cover photo, short synopsis, and links to buy the book.
  2. Tweet it, post the cover on Instagram, shout your hurray on Facebook, or any and every other social media platform on which you are involved.
  3. Consider doing a book launch, a blog tour, and/or a physical book-signing tour. (Requires about thirty times more contacts for every one interested party, as well as much planning.)
  4. Seek reviewers. (Reviews are an author’s golden treasure.)
  5. Start contacting libraries, schools, bookstores, etc. for signings or speaking engagements.
  6. Do giveaways on Amazon and Goodreads (or others) to stir interest in your book.
  7. Enter your book in contests – however, only those which you’ve researched and know are ligit.

And while you’re at it, why don’t you go check out this new and fabulous MG fantasy by S.L. Carlson:

WAR UNICORN Print: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1773627201/

WAR UNICORN Ebooks: http://books2read.com/u/3Ro6jp

And if you are so inclined, please leave a golden token (review on Amazon or Goodreads). Happy reading!

Friday the 13th Short Reads

(Frowny face…because I thought I’d published this last Friday.)

When you haven’t got time for a full (or even cereal) breakfast, what do you do? Perhaps you grab a yogurt or a breakfast bar.

With reading, if you haven’t time to read a full novel, try articles or short stories. For instance, I have bookshelves lined with folk tales from around the world for quick, interesting reads.

The same time-issue goes for writing. A few posts ago, I wrote about taking a break from novel writing to write short stories. It refreshed my writeability. Three of those stories were published last week in two anthologies.

THE YELLOW BOOKE, VOLUME 6, October 2017, “The Hairy Man”: https://www.oldstyletales.com/tyb6 (The ebook version is free.)

31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN Volume 2, Published October 2017, “The Babysitter Mystery” and “The Hand”: https://www.amazon.com/dp/197805715/

31 Days of October, Volume 2

Eat, read, and write in short bursts, but don’t forget to also take the time to relax with a good meal, or a good story. To really and truly enhance your time, include friends — eating out at a restaurant, discussing a book in a book club, or being in a writing group (critique group, attending a conference, etc.).

 

Health and the Writer

I hurt my knee. I’ve been using a walker and a cane for a week now, even though I injured it a couple weeks before I started using those aids. Using them makes me look and feel very old. This week I go in for an MRI and then back to the doc to see how to go about repairing it. If I were a sports player, I would have had the MRI done the day it was injured. But I’m a writer…and therefore used to waiting — waiting on agent-editor responses, waiting on edits for revisions or rewrites, waiting for publication date, waiting to hear from booksellers, etc.
How, you ask, could injuring my knee have to do with writing? It does. Three weeks ago, I got news one of my books (War Unicorn) was accepted for publication, and I was sent a contract. My husband was not at home so I couldn’t shout and jump around with him— and thereby limit my jumping near my introverted mate. Instead, I did a wild and woolly happy dance all over the house — for a long time. Owie.
So my advice, author to author, is that when 1) you get a contract, call someone to scream the good news, or go out and celebrate with an ice cream cone or glass of wine v.s. jumping around like a wild woman; and 2) take good care of yourself by eating well, exercising, spending time both alone and with friends; and 3) writing exercise — injure your character, feel the pain…and write about it.