Inspiration from Game of Thrones. Who Knew?

18679295525_f39cc1bc70_z[1]If you’re a Game of Thrones fan like our family is, Sunday, April 14th was a big day, as it launched the beginning of Season 8, the show’s final season. I wasn’t completely waiting with baited breath, as I had plenty of other things to tend to on Sunday before show time.

One of my tasks was to edit a chapter of the urban fantasy I’ve been working on for some time. I always work on it Sunday mornings before spending the afternoon with my mother. Honestly, I didn’t really think about the manuscript the rest of the day.

After the visit and a few more chores, we sat down to watch the show. If you haven’t seen this series, you should know that it has some of the most creative and entertaining opening credits I’ve ever seen. And that’s when it happened.

I’m listening to the music and watching images of heavy square floor panels open and close when an idea for a second fantasy novel bounded into my head. And then another. I grabbed a sheet of paper and pen and started scribbling down everything I was thinking while the credits went on. By the time the first scene opened (there was no dialogue for at least a couple of minutes) I was still scribbling, and managed to write a page and a half on a notepad before the first word was uttered.

Once they were, I fell into their world and forgot all about mine, which seemed perfectly logical, given that I’m writing a modern day urban fantasy set here in British Columbia. Game of Thrones is completely different. Or is it?

Aside from the main plot, the quest to sit on the throne and rule the seven kingdoms, GoT is a story about relationships, trust, betrayal, love, ambition, and battles for the right to control the world.

As it happens, the components aren’t that different from my current WIP, albeit with healing-focused themes and significantly different twists in my work. Those opening credits last Sunday, however, inspired an idea about how to take the themes and aspects in my first book to a whole new level in a second book.

You might find it strange that I’ve never read one of George R.R. Martin’s novels. But, hey, that’s okay. The TV series is amazing and clearly, the opening credits are inspiring enough for the moment.

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An Inspiring Family Conversation

Cartoon of Girl WritingI don’t often discuss my writing projects with my family. In fact, many writers I know don’t discuss their work in general, some because they feel it might jinx it or diminish their enthusiasm. Others believe that non-writing friends and family wouldn’t be interested. Let’s face it, there’s a reason no one’s made a TV show or reality contest about novel writing. It’d be pretty boring to watch.

My husband, daughter, and future son-law are all accountants, and my son is a science major working in the tech field. You can well imagine that my job doesn’t really fit into conversations easily, which is fine. It doesn’t bother me that no one’s ever asked “how’d your writing go today?” Most days, the answer would be pretty vague and monosyllabic.

This weekend, my daughter was helping me add hyperlinks to my ebooks and later, while we were having dinner she asked when my next book would be published. She also asked me about my creative process. She wanted to know if I create a situation, incident, or plot and then weave my series characters to fit that, or do I look at my characters first and create a situation to fit them? It was a great question, which launched a discussion about the creative process.

You see, my husband also paints water colors as a hobby. My daughter is a terrific writer and articulate communicator in her own right. She exceled at novel analyses in English classes and wrote songs and played guitar in her late teens. Both my husband and daughter have friends who are professional artists, so creativity isn’t completely foreign to their world.

It was a fascinating discussion because I learned things about my husband’s hobby that I never knew (he often gets up at the crack of down and experiments with drawings before he leaves for work), and I learned how my daughter’s friend arrives at the themes and decisions that appear in her paintings.

Through the half hour or so we spent sharing experiences and ideas, I became more excited at the prospect of finishing my current WIPS, of exploring topics in ways that I hadn’t considered in a long time. It was enlightening, inspiring, and a great boost. Isn’t it amazing where inspiration comes from?

Pondering a BookBub Promotion

Following up with last week’s blog about the Left Coast Crime Conference, I want to say that it was amazing. I was too busy catching up with fellow writers and meeting mystery fans from the U.S. to take pictures, but others took photos which have popped up on social media. Anyway, I totally recommend this conference for mystery writers and fans. Next year’s event will be in San Diego.

BookBub imageNow to current business. For some time, I’ve subscribed to BookBub’s book notification service. It’s a free site where subscribers can sign up and learn about great deals on free or discounted books. Authors can also submit their books for consideration and create their own profile, which I did a while back.

I’ve heard mixed reviews from authors about paying to feature their ebooks on the site. The main complaint is that BookBub’s fees are high–several hundred dollars, in fact. The more you want to charge for your book (the maximum is $3.99), the higher the fee is.

The approval process is also daunting. BookBub accepts only a fraction of the 100-300 daily submissions it receives. If you’re turned down you must wait another month to reapply. Also, they prefer books that have already obtained lots of reviews, although I’m told there are exceptions.

Still, BookBub sends daily emails to millions of subscribers and featured books can sell thousands of copies in a couple of days. A mystery writing colleague I met at LCC tried it with great results. So, I took a look at BookBub’s submission requirements and realized I have some prep work to do before even submitting my first Casey Holland mystery, The Opposite of Dark.

I’ll have to write a shorter book blurb, double check all my links and find a couple more, as well as the original price for my ebook, which is listed in five different countries. I also should be adding Amazon links in the back pages of The Opposite of Dark . Hmm.

I’m overwhelmed with busyness right now and, given the high fee, I’m still pondering if this is a good investment. Not everyone makes their money back, so if any of you have used BookBub to promote your books, I’d love to hear about your experience. Do you think that paying to feature your book on this site is worth your time and money?

Human Drama on a Sunday Stroll

conflicto_2[1]Last week I was out for a walk with my mom in her neighborhood. On her street, there are a number of assisted living facilities for seniors. Plenty of seniors using walkers are out and about on sunny days.

On our way home from the store, a man and a woman, in their 20’s or early 30’s, were having an intense discussion about thirty feet in front of us. She was carrying a bouquet of log-stemmed red flowers wrapped in cellophane. He had his hands in his jeans pocket and kept his head down while she did all the talking.

Suddenly, the woman’s voice rose in anger. She looked at her companion, then turned away again. At one point she stopped to face him and her voice rose a second time. With the traffic passing by on this fairly busy street, I couldn’t hear what she was saying and didn’t really want to, except to gauge if we were heading into a dangerous situation. Still,  I slowed my pace.

My 84-year-old Mom doesn’t walk fast anyway, so as we lagged further behind the couple, I kept watching, wondering if things could spiral out of control. I also worried that they might be heading to my mom’s building and could bring their conflict inside.

Suddenly, the young man marched ahead a few steps, then abruptly spun around, and said, “Don’t tell me how I f—g feel. You don’t know how I feel!” He turned back and kept walking.

She said nothing, but continued walking and was soon beside him again. After a minute or two, more words were exchanged but in a calmer tone. They reached the three-way intersection, and crossed the side street. At that point, she abruptly turned right and crossed the street we’d been walking down. He raised his arms slightly above his head, then brought them down hard in obvious frustration. He watched her a moment, then turned left, heading in the opposite direction. By the time we reached the intersection, both had vanished, as if nothing had happened.

Writing about conflict is one thing, witnessing it in real life is something else. Human drama is everywhere. As writers, observing and capturing emotions of the moment is part of our job, but at that moment all I thought about was protecting my mom. What if one of them had been carrying a weapon? What if they’d spotted us and decided we’d been intentionally eavesdropping?

So I write about it now, wondering if those two people resolved their differences or if further drama will enfold in their lives.

Book Launch Memories

Speaking at Golden Ears, Oct 21, 2014This week, I had the pleasure of attending a book launch for a colleague who’s about to have her first children’s book published. It’s been a long haul for her, and I wanted to get my hot-off-the-press copy. Her name, by the way, is Eileen Holland and her book is Sophie Trophy (I hope to have her guest blog in the near future!). It’s a delightful story for the 8 to 10 age group.

Her event Monday night was held in the same room where I launched my second novel back in 2008. Seeing Eileen’s happiness and exuberance brought back great memories of other book launches I’ve attended and hosted, and I have to say there’ve been a few of them. Looking back, I’ve attended launches at arts centers, community halls, libraries, bookstores, a pub, a restaurant, a church, and of course, there’s been a few Facebook online launches.

My first launch back in 1995 is still one of my favorites, not just because this was my first published book but because it was a house party for friends, families, and writing colleagues. We served a lot of food and wine that night, I sold books, and everyone had a good time. Best of all, I didn’t have to worry about being out of the room by a certain time or cleaning up early. Honestly, if I hold another one, I might just do it again, which brings me to my second point. Will I ever do another launch? Even though, I’ll be bringing out book number ten over the next few months, it’s not a question I can answer right now.

While I didn’t hold a physical launch for my latest Casey Holland mystery, Knock Knock, I did the usual launch-day announcements. It was the third week of November and I was in over my head with weekend craft fairs, the day job, and my publisher’s launch of one of my novellas a week after that.

While it’s still gratifying to see a new book in print, I’m not overly excited to be the center of attention again. The speech preparation, venue rental, RSVPs, and catering issues have always caused this introvert a fair bit of anxiety. Still, maybe another house party is the answer. We’ll see. The Blade Man is coming either later this year or early next…I’ll let you know when.

Two Projects, Lots of Decisions

volunteer-1888823_960_720[1]This week, I’ve been immersed in two projects (until I came down with the flu yesterday), one is the third-draft edit of my urban fantasy novel. It’s been a challenge, a genre I’ve never written before, but it’s slowly coming together. There’s been positive feedback from my writers’ group, but the novel far from reaching the beta reader stage. I’m making lots of changes, page by page, deciding what to cut, what needs fleshing out, and trying to come up with a deadline for myself, given that this project could go on for years. I’ve already been at it for quite some time, and I maybe I should decide on a timeframe to complete the book.

The second project, in its own way, is also challenging, although this one has a set deadline. In the city where I live, I’m also a volunteer with the city’s Citizens Advisory Group. Our task this month is to review twenty-four grant applications and submit our top five for consideration.

Happily, we can do this online and on our own time, so I downloaded the booklet and began reading it late last week. After making notes on all twenty-four, I found it increasingly difficult to decide which organizations most deserve grant money because they all have merit. Collectively, the applications could have an important and positive impact on communities, our environment, and the physical and emotional well-being of residents of all ages.

After a lot of pondering and determining my own criteria, I came up with five and submitted them on Monday (before the flu took hold), but I wish there was more money to spare. Our small city’s budget isn’t large and the demands far outweigh the available funds. As I’m only one of over two hundred people in the advisory group, my decisions might not have any impact on the final outcome, but at least I tried and did what I thought was best.

To Succeed or Not—It’s More Complicated Than I Thought

search-for-success-intro-220x140[1]In an earlier blog, I wrote about the question of success for writers…what it means, how we define it, and I pretty much decided that it’s up to each of us to define our own measures of success. This often involves meeting goals, some that might have little to do with large royalty checks and tons of book sales.

Of course, the reality is that the world beyond our front door will judge us by our income, book sales, awards and prestigious reviews. Whether that matters is up to you, but apart from my own definitions and goals, I find the overall topic of success fascinating. So I was pretty excited to come across a book called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.

In this book, Gladwell makes it clear that the success achieved by Bill Gates and the Beatles, for example, is not just a matter of talent or IQ, but of cultural background, family and community support, opportunities seized upon (right time, right place) and decisions made. There’s also the matter of the extreme amount of practice put into mastering their skills.

Gladwell cites the famous study which suggested that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to achieved the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything. This goes for lawyers, rock stars, and writers, I expect.

It makes me wonder how many hours authors put into writing before publishing that first book (traditionally or through self-publishing), and if that practice is a sufficient foundation to reach multiple book publications and huge sales (whatever huge means). I’m just not sure that the 10,000 hour rule is all that straightforward.

For instance, if authors manage to put in 10,000 hours of writing practice before publishing that first book and landing a contract, is it enough experience to help them write the next two books that publishers often expect in quick succession? Will the authors have the mastery to produce the same quality of work that landed them a contract in the first place?

While Gladwell provides some intriguing anecdotes and stories, not all of the answers are there. He discusses the concept of failure as well, through the story of one of the most intelligent men in the world, yet very few people know who he is. It’s an insightful story.

I do think that Gladwell is spot on when he reveals that the super stars portrayed in his book are well aware that they didn’t get there alone. Again, this is also true for writers. If you’re interested in the topic of how success is created in some people and not in others, then I would definitely recommend this book.