Pretzel Power and Author Events: 5 Dumb Things

You want a pretzel? We’ve got a pretzel.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you the Bavarian Inn Lodge “Big Twist”, which powered me through an entire whirlwind of signing books, fandom, and fellowship with other authors. Located in gorgeous Frankenmuth, Michigan ( my new favorite town in America), it’s a magnificent Grand Dame of a resort that I will be going back to– and soon.

The event? Once Upon a Book. The host and organizer was Stacey Rourke (buy her books, she can really write), and it was more than just a book signing. It was, as usual, a learning experience. Fellow authors, and young authors– please take note.

  1. Thinking of attending an author event? Look at the organizer. If they write, look at their books. Are they crisp, attractive, professional? Is it a dalliance? Is it their life? They might treat the event like their books, and you can use this information to help you determine where– and with whom– you want to sign books.
  2. Is the venue superior? Remember, readers love books as much (or more) as we do. They want to be comfortable, engaged in fun, and treated well. If you wouldn’t stay/eat/visit the venue, why should your reader?
  3. Look at the other authors signing. Are they professionals? Are they serious? Are they committed to writing great books? Is the event a chance for them to be away from their family for a vacation, or is it an opportunity to both have fun and meet readers in a superb setting? I met an author I’ve admired for years, and I told her so– because people who are doing things the right way should know that they’re being seen. (Thanks Mary!)
  4. If there are authors attending that you admire, plan on introducing yourself. I’m an extrovert; this is easy for me, but even if you’re shy, watch your favorite authors and take notes. How do they conduct themselves? What are their public strengths? What would you do differently? Why do they impress you, and if so, can you adjust your own career goals and improve?
  5. What are the readers saying? This is a tidal wave of honest criticism that you must process. Listen to them. See what they’re reading. See who they come to meet. Ask them questions about books, without pressuring them to buy yours. If you’re forgetful, take notes. Every author event has an area where serious readers can be found reading the books they purchased moments ago. This is your goal. You want your books in their hands as they read and get lost in your worlds.

Also, wear pants. Trust me on this one.

Now, to quote my friend Lawrence, what are you going to do about it?

 

Cheers,

Terry

 

“That’s SO funny” means it isn’t. 5 Dumb Things about writing.

I’ve always said that making people laugh is one of the hardest things to do. Writing books with humor is a challenge to even the most nimble authors, and making a character who is genuinely funny even more difficult. I reference the people in my books, who, be they witch, vampire, asshole at the bank, or good hearted truck driver, are all real people to me when I write them.

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Now, let’s break that down– genuinely funny— as it contains two of the most important parts of your main character.

  1. Genuine. I have a single goal when I create a character, and that is for the reader to think, “I know this person.” I want my readers convinced that the character is someone they might meet the next time they leave the house. That’s critical.
  2. Three Dimensional People. I use this term to describe the characters because they should exist in every plane; you should feel their personalities, their voices, and the background of their lives. All of these make them have a weight on the pages. Don’t skimp on background. Don’t use background instead of dialogue. Here’s why.
  3. Dialogue Is Good Voyeurism.  I’m not talking about watching your neighbor through their window, you dirty little critter, although if they’re leaving the curtains open while they dance naked to Bon Jovi and you have a box of wine and nothing to do on a Friday night hey who’s fault is it anyway I mean– sorry. I meant to say, dialogue– good dialogue– is the single best method to get inside the head of your characters. For readers, one page of dialogue is equivalent to an entire chapter of exposition, because it tells you why they act as well as how they will act in the future. This is how we bring readers with us to the last page. They must burn for the Great Reveal in which all becomes clear.
  4. Real People Are Hilarious.  Don’t think this is true? Go to the returns desk at any major retail store on the planet. Then wait. Within fifteen minutes you will see: Thieves. Liars. People with sweaty ‘bra money’. Flimsy excuses. Glorious expressions from the employees. Anger. Resolution. You might even see an adult in a onesie, given the state of our planet. It’s all there, and it’s free. My point is: real life is a fountain of hilarity, if you observe the right places. If you want unlimited rage, go to the Department of Motor Vehicles. If you want funny, go everywhere else. Then– write it down.
  5. Read Aloud. Let me repeat this: read. your dialogue. out loud. You should laugh, or cringe, or feel. . . something. What you should not feel is nothing. If that’s the case, the dialogue is flat and it needs to die. Start over, keeping the best sentence you have, then ask yourself. What would your character do if they were at the returns desk at Walmart? It’s a great start, and you might surprise yourself by learning more about your own characters.

I know Carlie, Ring, Saavin, French and Wulfric inside and out because to me, they are real. I can hear their voices, see their walk, and imagine how they might deal with an overcooked steak  (steak cannot be undercooked, fight me!) or  flat tire. You know, life. This is why I’m able to make Carlie more than a Quirky Girl Doing Cute Things.

You know what to do. Keep your eyes and ears open, take a few notes, and write people who you every day. But, you know, with dragons and swords and stuff. That’s what I do.

I’ll be in Frankenmuth, Michigan for Once Upon a Book (Aug 11-12). They claim to have the World’s Best Chicken Dinner. My body is ready.

Cheers,

Terry

Virginia. So Much More Than Ham.

I’ll be in one of my favorite cities next week, Roanoke, Virginia. I’m speaking at the Roanoke Regional Writer’s Conference. It’s on the beautiful campus of Hollins University.

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Virginia is incredible. It’s just so American, and Roanoke is a shining example of a great town. If you haven’t been– go. See the star. See the town. See the people. They’re Virginians, so they’re steeped in history with the friendliness of the South, and the sights of the North.

Roanoke Writer’s Conference.

I can’t say enough good things about this event. It’s a wide spectrum of thinkers, writers, and writing styles wrapped up in an atmosphere of sharing– and there is an unmistakable joy for the written word. It’s my second year, and an absolute highlight for me.

In case you’re still not sold on Roanoke, let’s recap some things: The star!

Rivers, nature, and bridges that are statistically likely to terrify nearly one third of all humans!

And, of course– the city itself. Lovely.

So, to sum up: Books, fun, ham, Roanoke, coffee, friends, and nature. Can’t wait.

Tennessee Valley Author Event: A Good Time Was Had By All

Seriously. What an event.

I was able to enjoy several hours with people who love books as much as I. There were a thousand fans crowded into the venue, and the authors didn’t fail to bring their very best. I made new friends:

This is Lorie. She hugged one of the male models (not me) and then smelled her shirt, declaring it to “smell like him“. It wasn’t as creepy as it reads. Honest. She was delightful.

Her friend Cindy was my first-ever assistant. She was amazing. Cindy made certain that my table was a well-run affair, leaving me to talk books, take a few pictures with fans, and pass out chocolate fortune cookies. People like Cindy– who have an innate love of books– are solid gold.

This is Cindy. She takes book events seriously enough that they merit a dress. She has a sunny disposition and she too enjoys nearly all kinds of baked goods. We became instant friends. To reiterate for those of you who have not met me: pie is our friend.

This was my author table, which, according to Cindy, “Looked way more organized than she expected, given that I’m a dude.” I appreciate that kind of compliment.

So there you have it. A rousing success. Some new friends. Lots of books, and I managed to write 2200 words while staying in Knoxville. Until next time, friends.
Cheers!

Indie Authors: Enemies Through The Gate

Dear Publishaurus: It’s over.

You had a good run. As gatekeepers, you were able to determine what was “good” or “bad”. You mercilessly sheared artists for the bulk of their rightful funds, and you did so all while demanding that the clamoring masses come to you in your shrine (New York) in order to reinforce this system.

Then came Napster.

I can draw a direct line between the immolation of the music industry and the ongoing crumbling of what has been a model of archaic business practice– the publishing world. Amidst the cheers of this new landscape, there are stalwart detractors who immediately use the same arguments in order to stave off the inevitable.

“Traditional publishers protect the public from poorly crafted art.”– Uh-huh. And where were you during the heady days of soft core smut that flooded the market and made dump trucks of money for you and your authors who tapped into the frustrated sexual zeitgeist of middle class women? Do the names Pat Booth, Judith Krantz, and Sidney Sheldon mean anything to you? They wrote, in my opinion, some of the most marketable fiction (that happened to be soft-core porn) of the past forty years, and yet I didn’t see them being held back from the delicate palate of the general public. Perhaps I missed that altruism on your collective part, but I doubt it.
There are absolute gems among the Indies of the publishing world, and anything other than embracing your new overlords is a death rattle that wastes your dwindling freedom on arguing a point that smart publishers will have conceded five years ago. The barn door isn’t just open, it’s off the hinges.
“We provide business acumen that independent authors cannot understand.”– That may have been true prior to the digital age, but now, that assertion isn’t merely false, it’s lazy. The speed with which Indies act is beyond anything that a publishing house can muster. Another issue: Indies share. Indies help one another, and we do it in a manner that is organic, inexpensive, and result-oriented.When your budget is smaller than most grocery bills, creativity and firing for effect become the norm. Lean becomes efficient, and that leads to– with the proper product– sales that weren’t generated by an ossified industry that still regards the right to determine artistic value as their own domain. And much like the larger dinosaurs who had primitive yet redundant nervous systems, the death throes are already occurring at the other end of the beast.
Don’t worry. The head will catch up soon, and when it does, the surprise will be as genuine as we in the Indie community expect.
Remember, we’re watching from the front.