Live Through Us at The Burrow



Posts related to writing and my writing.

Writing Dialogue

If there’s one thing I can write well, it’s dialogue. It’s probably the only thing I write well. Unfortunately, it’s also the only thing I write. Let me explain. Most of my Cupolian books were practically scripts before the details were added. I didn’t even have tags to tell me who said what. I had to either know, tell by the words used, or guess when I went in later to add what was needed. I’ve gotten better, but it’s still my main method at times.

Here’s the problem. You don’t want just dialogue. They say for your books to be mainly dialogue because that’s what readers like. I could go on as to why, but I shan’t for now. Let me simply say they don’t actually mean that. Dialogue should be less than half of your story. The other half needs to consist of tag lines and action (I don’t mean shooting fight scene action-I simply mean things happening, etc). If you have the same problem I do when writing dialogue, and you want your dialogue to read better, here’s my trick.

Dialogue has several purposes, and pacing your dialogue is extremely important. Slow a scene down by adding more words outside of the quotes-quicken the scene by having less. Use action tags when you can instead of regular tags. For example, if I have an argument between two people, I would set the conversation up with two tag lines, one after each has spoken the first time, and then have no more. This makes a 1,2,1,2,1,2 dialogue that reads fast. Obviously, you don’t want that all the time.

If your characters are talking casually, and you find there’s too many quotes and not enough action, give them something to do. Ever notice how Harry, Ron, and Hermione are always doing homework or knitting elf hats or some other thing you really don’t care about? There’s a reason for that. Take this section here:

“Excuse me?” asked Taika.
“Well, I came over here to prepare for our journey into the labyrinth, but Gevin here beat me to it.” Anya could feel her emotions rising again, but this time they were different, more edgy and with a pinch of anger.
Taika sighed deeply and stepped down from the shelf she had been balancing on. She dusted her hands off and faced the two of them. “Actually, I did most of that planning last night, and I came to the conclusion there is only one way in.”
Anya stared at her and said, “And?” after she didn’t continue.
“We’ll have to sneak back into Cupola.”
Anya peeked over at Gevin who was still busying himself by putting parchment markers into books. “I don’t understand. I thought we knew that already.”
“That part, yes, but not the addendum.”

I gave them something to do. They’re indexing books for Taika. Without this activity, it would read like this:

“Excuse me?” asked Taika.
“Well, I came over here to prepare for our journey into the labyrinth, but Gevin here beat me to it,” said Anya.
“Actually, I did most of that planning last night, and I came to the conclusion there is only one way in.”
Anya stared at her and said, “And?” after she didn’t continue.
“We’ll have to sneak back into Cupola.”
“I don’t understand. I thought we knew that already.”
“That part, yes, but not the addendum.”

See the difference? Now, the second part is great if you want a fast paced conversation, but you should only use faster paces if there’s a reason, like an argument or a quick discussion because the characters are running out of time and have to discover something fast. The opposite is also true. Do not draw out a conversation that needs to be fast. If two siblings are having a fight, don’t describe them at a quilting bee in the process, unless of course they are at a quilting bee and have to fight through the corners of their mouths so as not to draw attention which would be rather amusing. But-you get the idea.

Summary—if you need to draw out the dialogue, give the characters something to do. It doesn’t have to be relevant, although that helps, but find something, even if it’s knitting or poker. Anything.

Here’s my tip jar

I’m going to start charging for my time. Not literally, of course. But I’m wondering if it will ever get to the point where I can, because I surely work enough to be paid at this point.

So, I make nothing on my writing, right? I take yesterday and today “off” to read several books, something every writer should do, a career expectancy, right? Don’t get me wrong. In the evening I have logged onto social media and kept up with it minimally, but I didn’t check e-mails or progress my marketing or continue my editing, etc.

Somehow, this author who is making nothing, is all of a sudden needed by everyone. “Why haven’t you answered my last e-mail?”, “You need to authorize this update on your book.”, not to mention 47 facebook notifications, mostly from people to whom I asked a question DAYS ago, not hours, days. I’m not saying these people or any others don’t have the right to be busy and put me off several days. It’s just ironic that I’m thinking, “No one will miss me,” and yet-BOOM!!

So this makes me wonder, should I have a virtual tip jar where people can tip me if I respond to them in a timely manner? Hmm?

On the upside, I’m nearly done reading library book 2 and will probably finish reading library book 3 by the end of the day. All except apparently there’s some horrific storm that’s approaching that’s so bad they’re calling school out early.





Whoa, Dude!

And all the while I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be safer to have the kids there!!!???

Just one of them days, I guess. (I tried to find the Looney Tunes clip of this, but was unable. My apologies. Again proof that’s it’s just one of them days!)

Marketing Your Sculpture

Your writing is a work of art. No one would tell an artist, “I think your art would sell better if his nose was bigger.” OK, maybe they would. I’m not an artist, so that’s just a guess, but I am a writer. And I know that some literature sells better than others. So do sculptures.

I recently beta-ed a friend’s work. The first chapter was from the X genre, but the rest was from the Y genre. Two opposite genres, btw. So, people into X will get mad come chapter 2 or 3, and people into Y won’t have the patience to get to their desired writing.

Now, my friend’s sculpture was beautiful. It was perfect. It was a glorious piece of art! But it won’t sell. So, he has to make his nose bigger. Is it fair? No, of course it isn’t fair! How dare his piece of art be treated as nothing more than a common piece of merchandise. Sadly though, that’s the way the market ball bounces.

So, how to do that? Listen to what others say. When an agent tells you to change it, consider that. When a beta says to change it, consider it. When your editor (providing you’re lucky enough to have one) tells you change something, consider it. Notice I said consider, not do. Every human being is different, period. So their opinions are going to be different. And you want to appease the masses. The bigger the mass, the more the sells, the bigger the income.

“But I don’t care about sells!”

Then this post is not for you. Don’t get me wrong. That’s great! The fact that you don’t care about sells means that you can produce high quality art without the pain of pleasing anyone but yourself. Wonderful! But for the rest of you, sculpt your beautiful art book, and then place it on a shelf in your house. Take a copy of this beautiful piece of art and change it. This copied sculpture is not yours; it belongs to the masses, and your job is to make them happy, not make great art. See the difference? I hope so. It’s probably the most painful lesson of authorship, but it’s necessary to rise in the market.

The Current “Trends” of Writing

I recently decided to get my books edited. It was mainly a factor of affordability. When I got my samples back, I noticed something. There were several “don’t use passive voice” (aka “was”), “don’t use helping verbs”, and “don’t use adverbs”. But only from the freelance editors that cost less. The editors that have been around for a good while and charged way more than I could afford. The ones with a looong resume or outstanding work, they didn’t mention these things at all. Not once.

They did mention important factors such as repetitious wording, arcs, etc. Active voice and adverbs are not rules are trends, they are a style. And no, they do not apply to all modern best-sellers. Using them is a style I personally like. Let’s look at some modern examples.

One of my favorite new series is the Ivy Pocket series. It is filled with adverbs and not empty of linking verbs. The Curiosity House contains both in great quantities. I could go on, but I shan’t bore you. If you’re ambitious enough to click on those links and read their samples, then you’re ambitious enough to find more on your own 😉 .

There are examples of middle-grade books without adverbs (but not without the passive voice that I could find). The Serafina series is one, but I don’t like it. I tried to like it. I have the first two books, both signed by the author who wished me well on my writing! And I really like the man! But I can’t finish his book. Heck, I can’t even get through the second chapter. Why? Voice. Style. It’s not my preferred style. Period.

And please, do not say, “Oh, well children’s books can get away with lower quality writing” because not only is it not so, it’s insulting, and not just to children. I’ve read plenty of recently published adult romance novels with adverbs (aka fun speech) galore, and they were best sellers! So please, if you like that style, use it, but don’t try to enforce it on others. Some of us find it lacking personality (aka boring). I’ve seen it done well, but that’s very rare from my experience. Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m actually of a lower intelligence who simply cannot process sentences without embellishment. Maybe I have so little of an attention span that I can’t force my eyes to maintain a constant pace without it being broken by “bad writing”. But personally I think this whole trend started by one article that other indie authors were too afraid to speak up against. Yeah, not me.

Justifying My Witchcraft

After a recent article on a celebrity practicing real witchcraft, I felt it necessary to post this. I am a person of Faith. I do not believe I should “practice magic” or “speak to the dead” as my God commanded me not to. However, I write fantasy in such a manner as practically praising witchery. How is this so? Let me explain.

My fantasy falls in line with stereotypical fantasy witches, Harry Potter if you like, things that are not real. Real witches do not ride brooms. Real witches do not have magic wands and cannot call out a spell and turn someone into a mushroom. Real witches do sacrifice living beings of various types. They do carve and/or write or draw symbols and spells into the floor or other objects. They chant. They pray. Many are nature “worshipers” if you will. My fantasy witches, at least the good ones, don’t do any of this. (OK, there was that one scene where Anya used the blood of Avaline, but she didn’t kill Avaline.)

I make every last thing up in my stories. In fact, I go out of my way to make stuff up. Gramwhats? I googled the name and several variations to make sure it didn’t match anything. I tried very hard to invent spell names and even character names (to a degree) that were not already in use. Not only did I do this for originality, but for the simple fact that my books are fantasy, not reality.

I love the Harry Potter world, but not all magic is equal. For example, I will not watch Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Why? Because Asteroth is mentioned several times in Scripture as a pagan deity, obviously to avoid. Yet the characters of this Disney movie are in search of the “star of Asteroth” to do their bidding.

I go so far as to leave religion out of my stories (at least the fantasy ones) altogether. This is also for fantasy’s sake. If I put God in there, I can’t have a lot of what happens. God is real, fantasy is not, so I can’t mix the two into a believable story in my mind. The same goes for science-fiction. Brief mentions of morality and God are OK (to me), but any more than that, and it brings me back out into reality where I start thinking too logically, ruining the whole story. I do not leave God out of my story simply to include a larger reading audience (although that does make it easier) I do it for other reasons as well. It’s a sign of respect to my God, not a sign of neglect.

I have total respect and understanding of anyone who disagrees with what I have written and therefore will not read it due to religious obligations. But. I wanted to make it absolutely clear how far out of my way I go to make sure it is not real witchcraft and just fun and games.

My Worst Writing Ever

It probably isn’t my worst writing ever, but it sure felt like it. I did something new today. I have a writers’ group that meets once a month. This time, I needed help with the first chapter of The Cupolian series book 3. It was off, but I didn’t know how to fix it.

Someone had offered for us to try an exercise of having someone other than the author read our works. No sentence, in the history of man, has ever caused so much panic in a room. Faces flushed, gasps echoed. The thought, the very idea, was so terrible, so heart wrenching… But today, I did just that. I handed my work, work I knew was wrong, over to someone else to read. Out loud. In front of others.

She mispronounced every name but one. I let that go, but that might have actually helped. By her mispronunciation, I was able to see my book from an outsider’s perspective, as though I was hearing the work of someone else. And it wasn’t that painful, just terribly, terribly shameful. I was mortified! I didn’t want these people to think I was that bad! But I was.

I’m trying to look at this correctly. Point for me for the bravery I displayed in what I did. Point that I recognized what was wrong when she read it, and most importantly, that I didn’t think the work was well written. What if I had thought that was good? It made me afraid. Does this mean the rest of my work is that terrible? The knowledge that I thought it terrible is what I’m having to hold onto to keep my sanity at the moment.

I came home to read it again to myself, just to make sure I didn’t think it was better when I read it than when she did. Nope. Still terrible. That’s good!

But how do I fix it? If I start on it now, while it’s fresh, I may spend forever on one chapter, rewriting and rewriting, never actually finishing the rest of the book. But if I wait until I finish the rough and go back, what I think I should do, I may forget the moment, the feeling I have right now, and I may not edit it as well as I could if I did it now. Ugh! Then again, if I finish the rough first, and I’m hoping this is what happens, I may become inspired and know a new chapter for #1 instead of the one it has now.

I’m still so embarrassed. But I’m not going to quit. I wanted to. I wanted to say, “Why am I doing this? I’m terrible!” But I’m not going to. This too shall pass. I did a brave thing today, and I grew as a writer because of it. I’m proud of me.

Why Authors List Their Books for Free

We’ve all seen it, the giant list of “FREE on Kindle!” ads that infiltrate every web page, tweet, or e-mail known to man. But why?

Self-published authors don’t have thousands of dollars to throw into marketing and publicity. We don’t have all the connections that big publishing houses do, so we have to do it the best way we can. See, publishing houses send their books to certain people/connections they have, and those people publish a review of the book in their little magazine. Those magazine get sent off to book stores and libraries, and the reviews get quoted on the books and the books’ sale pages. These reviews cost money whether in shipping free book(s) to them or paying for them, or in building up the relationship required to get said books reviewed. They also cost years of time investment.

We don’t have that. So, we offer our ebooks for free here and there. But again, why?

Because Amazon doesn’t like reviews from people who haven’t bought from them. They will actually go through and delete reviews at their beck and call. By having the book free, the review is still from a “verified buyer”. It also brings the book to attention. Amazon will promote those books that are new or hot, even if they’re free. This draws attention to the books for a while after the hotness wears off. It’s a slow dive down. It also draws attention to the other books the author has written, sometimes resulting in sales.

But what if I didn’t like the book? Well, there’s a catch 22 there. The author needs a certain number of reviews to be taken seriously, especially by Amazon, even if the reviews are bad. Amazon will put higher review numbered books on top of lower reviewed books, resulting in even more publicity for the ones that need it less (ya gotta have money ta make money). But, I don’t leave bad reviews on any self-published work. (that I know of) I’m friends with too many of them, and that could get awkward. So, if I don’t like their book, I don’t leave a review.

I want readers to be honest, but I don’t want bad reviews anymore than the next author, and I need reviews as much as the next author…sigh…so it’s a catch 22.

Final note-please, if you like a book, review it. It doesn’t have to be a perfect review. You’re not being judged on your writing abilities. Help an author out 🙂

I never asked to be a storyteller

This is probably something I shouldn’t admit, but I never wanted to be a storyteller. I only said, “Yes,” to promote my writing. But. It grew, and it won’t stop growing. On top of everything else I’m doing, an insane schedule to be sure, I have to come up with new material. That’s right, I have to write it all.

It started with the Haunting in the Hills Festival. I attended it in 2015 and realized that it would be an excellent place to sell my books if it ever came to that. Anya and the Secrets of Cupola hadn’t been released yet. This year, I had two books, and I was going to sell them any way I knew how. I inquired about the festival. One thing led to another, and I’m being asked to perform at the Ghost Train. I decided to go all in and try to perform at the Haunting this year, too, but they didn’t want me. I don’t blame them. I’ve been there. Those storytellers are awesome. I had no idea how much work went into one story.

I do now.

I spent a MONTH working on my first story, a story I had already written. I performed it for my Writer’s Circle for critique and help. It was then I was asked to perform at the Apple Festival this year. I said, “Well, what would you want me to perform?”

“That story you just told.”

There’s just one tiiiiiiiny problem with that. That story was less than 10 minutes long. I was expected to perform for 30 minutes at the Apple Festival. Also, the story I told was gruesome in nature, and I don’t think it did very well. This means I have spent the past week killing myself to get the right material for the festival. That’s right. Seven days. Not 30 … 7.

It hasn’t been fun. It’s been grueling. It is hard, hard work. I had no idea what went into storytelling, but I sure am finding out! The hard way.

So THEN, by complete happenstance (or God’s intervention, you never really know), a friend of mine posted on facebook that they needed a story teller for their church. Next week. With pay. Who turns this down?!?!?

I told her that I would be at a festival this weekend with many storytellers and would be able to ask them of their interest. One of them was even a preacher and would probably be perfect for what she was wanting. But, I still need to keep on my toes. None of them may be able to do it on such short notice, so I may be performing again in another week. Groan!

It’s really funny. I mean, granted, this may go nowhere, but it may go somewhere. This may be nothing more than a seriously insane month, or it may be the beginning of something amazing. It’s just odd that I haven’t “advertised my services”, but that invitations keep coming up. In fact, one of my professors was really interested in storytelling and wanted to talk about it with me. (it came up by accident. It wasn’t a purposeful interaction of the subject.) I had to tell him that I’m just a children’s author. I’m not pursuing story telling; people just ask me to do it.

I later realized that that probably came across as arrogant, but that wasn’t my intent. My intent was, (because he kept mentioning places for me to try, groups that might interest me) “For the love of Pete, don’t ask me to tell another story. I’m booked!!”

When I’m no longer in school, I’m sure things like this won’t be so difficult. When I have a larger repertoire, it won’t be so difficult. But now? When I’m just starting out? I simply don’t have the time to write a 30 minute show every week. That’s just crazy!  (I also have a backlog of invitations from other authors to join them in book signings. I every intention of getting back to you, but it’s a bit impossible until after this weekend. I am so sorry!!)

A Whirlwind of a Day

Wow. I haven’t posted since June. That’s pretty crazy. I thought it had only been a month. Sad.

Well, I have been really busy, I’m currently working on a Kickstarter campaign for a picture book. Please, check it out—maybe even donate 🙂 As soon as it’s finished, I will finish my first non-fiction, What Does Spider Poop Look Like? And then I get to finish book 3 of The Cupolian Series, Anya and the Cavern of Trials. It’s almost finished writing wise, but then I still have to edit it, format, get a cover…. But I hope to have the series finished with both books releasing next year.

But that’s not why I’m writing today. No, I’m serious, that’s not.

Yesterday was one of the craziest days of my life, and I’ve had some doozies. I went to the Thunder Road Author Rally at the Maynardville Public Library. It was great!


I met some great authors and learned a lot, too. I was placed with other children’s authors, so I was able to talk to people in my own genre. That was a real blessing, as unless you’ve written children’s, you just can’t understand the business children’s.

After the rally, I drove to Kentucky to participate in the Blue Heron Ghost Train with Big South Fork. As soon as I walked up to the ranger in charge, I was being interviewed by a local public broadcasting station. Whoa!

Now, I’ve never really delved into this here, but I do have a bit of an entertainment background. So, giving an interview wasn’t that big of a deal for me. I can honestly say that I handled it very well. However…

Several hours later, the guests arrived. Again, I have an entertainment background, mostly stage. You know, the live stuff. But for whatever reason, all that went out the window when those people arrived!!! Maybe because it really mattered this time. My reputation as a writer was on the line. If my story wasn’t good enough…well, you get the idea.

And apparently, it wasn’t. The audience didn’t seem to respond to it. I honestly believe it had to do with audience/story meshing. My story wasn’t right for that audience. I was afraid of that. Of course, it could also be because something was missing from the story. I don’t know what. I just know it was. Something was wrong with it, two somethings to be truthful; but I never figured out what they were, so I was never able to fix them. I think another thing wrong is, my stories are made to be read, not told, and I think that has a lot to do with it. Imagine listening to your favorite book. Some people like that, but most people aren’t really into audio books. They’re just not.

So after getting up at 6 in the morning and driving through two states, having surprises and telling tales, I was exhausted to say the least. I’m still pooped. I could go to sleep right now, but I have too much to do! My next event is this weekend at the Haunting in the Hills, and I have to find my registration papers. And then I got invited to be a story teller at the Apple Festival the weekend after that, and I don’t even know what I’m going to tell yet-cringe!

Oh well, worrying helps nothing—wish me luck!

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