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.

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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.

Be A Writing Example!

I’ve always been jealous of retired teachers who have taught in the same city for 30 to 40 years, and have former students come up to them, remembering them. We’ve moved around too much for that to have happened to me. But today there is the Internet. That changes the entire game. Or can.

A former student contacted me via Facebook. She asked if I was the Sandy Carlson who taught in her elementary school when she was in second grade. She was so impressed that I had a story published in Cricket Magazine that it inspired her to write. In high school, she finished her first novel. She has since finished college and has a job about 2000 miles from our school where we first met. And years ago, my husband and I moved about 1000 miles away from our school in a different direction.

Again, Yay for the Internet! And…boo for the Internet. Her message to me was buried for five years. (Shaking my bowed head in shame.) The good news is she is still interested in writing and still excited about her one particular book even after her one reject. 

I suggested some newbie-writer things to her, like attending a writers conference, joining a critique group, not fretting over a rejection, and then I asked if she wanted to exchange three chapters with me (as author equals), that I would be willing. She is. We will. 

I remember Moriah as an intelligent and observant child. I can’t wait to read her grownup chapters. Yay for the Internet. 

POWER – Imagined or Real

The solar eclipse happened yesterday afternoon here in Michigan. We were not in the total eclipse path, but we knew the sun would be partially covered. Knowing that it’s a bad thing to look directly at the sun at any time, when it started getting dark outside (not quite dusk-like; about fifteen minutes before the darkest it would get here), I decided to sit on our front porch to horizontally watch our neighborhood darken.

Earlier this summer, bees decided to build their hive under our porch. I’d often sat out on the bench, watching their busy goings to and fro. They’d never bothered me. But right at the height of the eclipse for our area, three of the little guys stung me.

This got me thinking about power. Actual or not, I figured the hive thought I was the one causing the disruption in their daylight. In other words, they assumed I, who was not normally that close to them for an extended period, had the power to block out the sun. It was imagined, an assumption. A misassumption, but one they acted upon. Then I felt their response in actual power, in their stings.

A gossip has the power to cause much damage with lies and assumptions. A result can be with actual power when people react to those lies and assumptions.

Think about your characters. What are their powers? Are they real or imagined? Is there a motivating stimulus and a character reaction? A villain and a hero? Bees and an innocent by-sitter? And where is the real power?

Shake Up Your Writing

We have all heard about mixing into our stories unexpected twists and cliff hangers (or “To Be Continued” as the Kdrama “W-Two Worlds” puts it).  Making a list of “What ifs” is another good writing-shaker exercise. I’m sure you know about these, and hope you continue to use them to push your reader further into your story. But by Shake Up Your Writing, I am not talking about any of these good things. I’m talking about turning ninety degrees from what you normally do, and go off on a designated writing tangent.

For instance…

Last spring, a friend invited me to a GoodReads writers group. They have monthly, themed short story contests. I don’t normally write short stories, but I like my friend. She was hosting the contest that month so thought I’d encourage her efforts by joining the group and writing a story for her. Anyone of the 140 members can vote each month. You just can’t vote for your own story. That first month I won first place.

Huh. Did I mention I don’t normally write short stories?

I’ve remained in the group even though I don’t participate each time. The result is that this fall, I will have three of my stories published in two different anthologies. I hadn’t thought about anthologies (or short stories) for a long time. In 2012, two of my short stories were published in an anthology put together by a former writing group (The Black Hills Writers Group). And about five years before that, a non-fiction article got published in another anthology. My WIPs are novels. The present one is a l-o-n-g series. So the DWT (designated writing tangent) of writing short stories has served me well. It has stretched my brain. It has been a lovely distraction so that now I am ready to get back to my poor wandering hero with his war unicorn.

Whether you try your hand at non-fiction, or picture books, or biography, shake up your writing! Then get back to work.

 

Just About All I Know About Poison Ivy

This is just about all I know about poison ivy:

  1. I can identify it easily and quickly, even from other similar 3-leafed plants.Samsung
  2. It really, really likes me, and seeks me out as a host, at least once a year.
  3. I’ve made up songs about the vegetation, and included it in stories, as well as taken many, many photos of it, here, there, and everywhere, in all seasons.
  4. I often get it from gardening in my yard. The sneaky stuff comes in from the neighbor’s wooded lot, or entwines around the base of a pretty but thorny rose bush, camouflages itself in the phlox and hostas and weeds, and even shows up in itty-bitty plants in our lawn. I know I’m in trouble when I tug at some easy-to-pull-out weeds and a poison ivy vine in my grasp acts like a sling shot and warps around my arm like a snake seeking warmth.
  5. I search the yard a few times each summer, scouting for the culprits. I then double-grocery bag my hands, put over my long-sleeved shirt, and gently pull the vine up best I can. Then I turn the bag inside out and throw it in my kitchen garbage, not the lawn waste can.
  6. I’ve never gotten a poison ivy rash by pulling up the plants.
  7. I’ve tried Poison Ivy Round Up, and must say that it does work, but I end up with dozens of brown circles in my  yard or in the untimely death of other plants in my various flower gardens. And then I’m afraid of the clean up. Is the oil still on the dead plant?
  8. I know it’s the poison ivy’s oil which is the culprit to my rashes.
  9. I have received its gift of rashes by putting on my camping hat after I placed it on the ground for a photo (a line of rash down my neck from the hat strap). I developed a rash on my knee in October – is no month safe? – DSC02248when I knelt in my jeans in a swamp for this nice-but-so-not-worth-it-in-the-end mushroom on rich green moss shot. I got it from a friendly dog who nosed my neck and right ear, where the rash broke out the next day. I even got it from gnats. Yep, those itty-bitty bugs in early spring. I was sitting in our backyard, loving the feel the of the sun on my face, when all these gnats started landing on me. I shooed them away and noticed there were many more hovering over a nearby poison ivy  plant. My face blossomed where the gnats had landed. A friend moved to South Dakota and found these pretty red plants in her yard, so picked them for the house. She didn’t know poison ivy leaves were red in both spring and fall.
  10. I’ve learned various ways to get rid of the oil, for instance, by immediately rubbing it off with paper towels, by pouring rubbing alcohol over infected skin, by washing with Dawn dish soap, or by rubbing honeysuckle blossoms over the area. I’ve discovered it I get the oil on my clothing, that I must wash them no less than three times in hot water. I also started laundering them in Dawn this year.
  11. If I don’t get medical help within a day of the rash breaking out, blisters start developing the following day…and the next…and the next. I break out with the itching-oozing love-marks all over my body, where I know there was no way the plant touched. One time, before I realized I had it, but just knew my neck itched (from another close-up nature photo shot). In the shower, I washed my neck with the washcloth. It felt SO good that I rubbed and rubbed and rubbed and ending up spreading the oil around in some not-socially-polite-places to scratch.
  12. Steroids are the only meds I’ve found to stop the rash from growing. Believe me, I’ve tried the lava soaps and straight Clorox and even scraping. Only steroids seem to work for me. That said, when I’m on steroids, I’m more hyper, shall we say, than my usual hyper. This past May when I got the rash, I stripped the wallpaper, patched the holes, and painted our bathroom – three times. This time of getting the rash, I’m starting vacation. You know, the kind where you relax, and just sit, or read, or do nothing? Oh, my poor, poor husband. My poor, poor husband!

A Writer’s Obsession(s)

Whether a writer or not, we all have our obsessions. Here are my top three:

  1. Striving to be a better writer
  2. Giving self-rewards
  3. Balancing writing with “real life”

The ways to strive to become a better writer is first of all read; read within the genre you write and read without. You may also watch; while watching shows, dissect plot or character inconsistences so you won’t. Watch Korean dramas (e.g., W – Two Worlds, or Goblin) to catch unexpected plot twists and characters who pull you out of this world and straight into theirs.

There are writers conferences, books, courses, webinars, writer support organizations (like SCBWI, RWA, NaNoWriMo, etc.), and critique groups. Go to them, join them. Learn, grow, read, make connections.

Of course, to become a better writer, the absolutely top thing to do is to write. A lot.

Giving self-rewards works for many writers. You may write to a word count or within a time frame or have a goal by a certain date. When you reach major goals (e.g., finished with first draft, or ready to send to agent, etc.), treat yourself to a rare and special treat for this milestone.

Balancing writing with “real life” is the trickiest. There may be obligatory events, which you do want to attend, but which take you away from writing, like with school or church or work. There may be children or aging relatives to attend to. Or when the grass climbs to knee-high, you run out of clean dishes to eat off of, or your editor returns your manuscript for edits the night before your vacation, saying she needs it back within the week (true story for me)…you need balance, and wisdom. Prioritize, but do not ignore the most important things to you. (For me, family trumps all, even writing.

Become a better writer. Reach for your goals. Balance your writing with real life.

“Thank you for being honest.”

I just returned from a shopping trip where I handed the clerk $20. I donated the coins change, but as I started out of the store, I realized I held a $20 bill in my hand.

I returned to the clerk serving the customer after me and said, “You gave me a $20 bill.” She looked confused, and then embarrassed. “I should have given you five.” She exchanged it and then said, “Thank you for being honest.”

It was my turn to feel embarrassed. She’d given me too much change. It wasn’t quite an unusual occurrence over my decades of shopping. But it got me thinking. I wondered why anyone should be thanked just for being honest? Shouldn’t honesty be the norm, the line below which ought to have repercussions and shame, the line above which ought to have respect and thanks?

I might have to wait another decade for the chance to “be honest” with another clerk, but as a writer, I can have my characters be honest – as the norm!

I see my books like society’s teeth braces, ever so slowly, over time, straightening out the line, the line of what should be normal. My characters go through difficult times and sometimes create trouble for themselves, but in the end, my good characters are better than the norm of good. (And my bad guys below that line, the farther down, the more interesting on my poor main characters.)

I know from my thousands of folk tales that other cultures honor and respect different virtues, like lies and trickery. In my fantasy or historical fiction worlds, goodness is expected. It’s the norm. Even so, there are some characters who prefer the lies and trickery, feeling that is the norm. For if my main characters didn’t have something to overcome, it would make for some awfully dull reading.

As far as the real world goes, all of us may make mistakes, like today’s clerk, but being honest is, and should be, the norm.

Thank you for listening/reading.