Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Signing Books & Making Friends

While I was attending ORACON this weekend (the Ozark Romance Authors' annual conference in Springfield, Missouri) I got to share a table with Jennifer Brown and Steven Anderson Law at the Barnes & Noble booksigning event. That's Jennifer and Steven sitting at the signing table.

Jennifer has been a favorite of mine since a mutual friend recommended I read HATE LIST -- and I loved it. The subject matter is heavy, but Jennifer's treatment of the aftermath of a school shooting is compassionate, sensitive, and even upbeat -- without being Pollyanna-ish. The best thing about it is that there's not a single stereotypical character in the entire book. Nobody is predictable.

Though I hadn't met Steven before, I was delighted to learn that he's a fellow Iowan at heart and he even attended the college that's less than a mile from my house. Plus I learned a whole lot about promotion and publicity from this talented guy.

Great events sometimes come in small packages. ORACON is a one-day conference, but its impact on writers and readers is huge. Mark your calendar for September 21, 2013 -- the next ORACON!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A question from a reader about creating and using secondary characters prompted me to think about the people in a book as though they were actors in a movie -- complete with pay scales.

If an actor speaks in a movie, even if it's just one line, the pay scale requires that he be paid a great deal more in terms of money and screen credit than if he just walks through as an extra. And of course, the more actors you hire for your movie, the more money you're paying out -- even if most of them don't talk.

So authors can often benefit from asking themselves this question, before they create yet another character: "If I had to pay this person to show up and say these lines, would it be worth the money? Or could I give that comment to a character who's already in the story, and save the fee?"

In writing, of course, extra characters don't actually cost money. But we "pay" for them with space, and word count. Each new person has to be established and identified, and that takes up room on the page. But if we can use a character we already have in the story, then we can save the space it would take to create that second person -- and use it to further develop the hero, the heroine, and the love story.

Though this is especially true in romance novels where we keep a tight focus on the hero and heroine, it's something for every author to think about. Sometimes (like with a cozy mystery or a romantic suspense) we need to have more characters so that the bad guy isn't obvious. But even when the cast is bigger, it's wise to ask -- "Do I need this person? Does he play a significant and unique role in the story?Or can I combine his attributes and his contribution and his dialogue with someone else, and keep things simpler for the reader?"

Monday, June 18, 2012

Chief Wapello Comes Down

A storm packing heavy rain, lightning, and 70 mile-per-hour straight-line winds hit my town this weekend, tearing up trees, tearing down power lines, and tearing a bronze statue off the top of the county courthouse where it has stood for 120 years.


The statue of Chief Wapello, for whom Wapello County, Iowa, was named, used to stand on the tall peak just to the left of the crane arm (above). During the storm, the statue tore loose and slid down the roof peak to lodge in the valley three stories up, head aimed toward the street, with nothing much holding him there.

After much maneuvering, the crane operator gently lifted the statue free and swung him to the ground as the storm clouds gave way to a beautiful sunset.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Free book on Father's Day Weekend

I often write about glamorous characters who eat very fancy food -- which is why I keep my elaborate cookbooks in my office and not in my kitchen. :-) 

As a working writer, I need an easier way to keep my husband fed -- so the cookbook I actually use is one I put together years ago and published, mostly so I'd have extra copies whenever one got splattered up. (Do you have any idea of the mess it makes when a pumpkin pie doesn't make it into the oven? A whole lot more than if it was dropped on the way out!)

However, as the years go by I've found other recipes, fine-tuned some of the earlier ones, and moved on to an e-reader instead of hard copy... so I redid the cookbook. It's going to be a free download on Amazon this weekend -- June 16 and 17.

You don't have to be a member of Amazon Prime to get the free download (though it's only free on Saturday and Sunday). And you don't need a Kindle to read it -- you can access it on your regular computer if you have the Kindle for PC or Kindle for Mac free software.

To give you a bit of a preview, most of the recipes I've shared here in the blog are included in the Simply Good cookbook.

I hope you'll enjoy sharing some of my favorite food!