Posted by: Kathleen Mix | September 27, 2015

A Radio Interview: Oh, my!

Last week, I was interviewed on a local radio show. The interview was timed to coincide with the release of my new book, Sins of Her Father, and I appreciate the publicity. But as a writer, speaking in public or making a media appearance is always a stressful event.

When I sit at my desk and work on a manuscript, the words I type are subject to change. I can have second thoughts and edit my verbs or nouns. I can change the order of words or phrases, add or delete, polish and perfect.

On a live radio show, there are no second chances. The words that are spoken, right or wrong, sparkling or clumsy, can’t be snatched back. Since mumbling a correction or retraction doesn’t work, I worried I’d embarrass myself with answers that didn’t come out correctly the first time.

Experts advise authors to prepare for an interview by thinking of answers for a list of anticipated questions. So I brainstormed and composed several answers. If I was asked why I began writing or where I got the idea for my story, I was ready. I agonized over possible questions and what I might respond, but I wasn’t prepared for the first question. The interviewer said: “Your last book was about a cybersecurity expert, is this one about computer crime too?” To my mind, my spur-of-the-moment answer sounded lame.

Experts also advise authors to have two or three main points they want to communicate to the audience. I knew my talking points and wanted to mention the address of my website and title of my book as many times as possible. Working those facts into a conversation is always a challenge, and steering the interviewer who wants to talk about unrelated topics back on subject can be next to impossible. Politeness versus self-promotion. Which way is best to go?

A radio interview is an interesting experience. This was my third, and each one has been unique. Did I sell any books? Who knows. Did I have a pleasant conversation with a radio personality who I would like to turn the tables on and interview? Definitely. Am I glad it’s over and I no longer have to stress about what gaffs I might commit? Yes, yes, yes.

Advertisements
Posted by: Kathleen Mix | September 15, 2015

Release Day

A new book’s Release Day is a highly anticipated occasion when the author is consumed by equal parts of hope and trepidation.

Will readers like the book?

Will reviewers cheer or sneer?

Will all the work put into the project yield a hit, a miss, or an also-ran?

The book is our beloved child facing the world for the first time and we wish it the best.

Getting a book noticed is difficult for every author who isn’t a brand name, mega-bestseller, so we go out on social media and introduce our story to followers, offer excerpts, and mostly, cross our fingers.

Little else can be done. The book is now on its own, like a son or daughter who has left the nest. We still love the story and the characters, but every new book must make its way through the maze of the modern publishing world based on its own merits. As writers, we must trust our baby to survive, then exhale and sit down to write our next story.

Today is Release Day for my new romantic suspense Sins of Her Father, published by Entangled Select Suspense.

Faith Rochambeau is horrified to learn she was conceived during a rape. She’s determined to make her biological father, Victor Telemann, pay for his crimes. Using her computer skills to dig into his life, she searches for the powerful man’s Achilles Heel and a way to extract retribution. She’ll do whatever it takes to get a conviction, even it if means infiltrating his Fortune 500 company.

She fails to plan on falling in love with her father’s smooth-talking stepson, Kent Telemann, who suspects she is a corporate spy. Faith is drawn to Kent, even though she’s not sure she can trust him. If her heart is wrong, he can put her life in danger.

Meanwhile, her father is playing a lethal game he’s determined to win.

You can purchase a copy at http://www.entangledpublishing.com/sins-of-her-father

If you read the story and enjoy it, please consider writing and posting a review on Goodreads, B&N, or Amazon. Be bold and share your opinion with the world.

Today and every day, love to every one of my readers. My baby is strong and I’m proud, but you are the audience I write for and, ultimately, you decide every book’s fate.

Posted by: Kathleen Mix | August 19, 2015

Goldilocks and the First Draft

Writers face a Goldilocks moment when trying to decide how soon to share our work with the world. After creating for a week, or a month, or several months, we wonder: is today too soon, too late, or just right?

Unless you’re Stephen King, your raw first draft should be for your eyes only. Most of us are eager for feedback, but a first draft is rarely ready to bring out of hiding. Instead of being praised for its sparkling prose and page-turning suspense, the work is likely to receive harsh criticism. Discouraging words from a friend, relative, or critique partner have the power to crush a writer’s confidence, and sharing unedited work can send the fledgling manuscript speeding to your computer’s recycle bin. The underlying idea may be fabulous, but the book will never be published because the early draft failed to do it justice.

Be patient. Wait until after you’ve revised and polished before laying any body of work out for inspection. Most writers have a tendency to show their work too quickly, especially when their intended audience will be agents, editors, or the reading public. Sending out a story that doesn’t shine is a common, and usually fatal, mistake.

Even when the audience is a critique partner or beta reader, a writer should be considerate and not waste the reader’s time on immature work. They normally see a story first, but the value of their feedback is reduced when they’re handed a sloppy or unpolished manuscript and distracted by faulty grammar or punctuation. Before any portion of a manuscript is shared, the writer needs to have done his or her best to strengthen the weak scenes, cut the boring backstory, and layer in the appropriate emotions. Then, and only then, the reader can concentrate on the story and provide a fair analysis of the book.

Showing the world your first draft is too soon. Waiting for the manuscript to reach a state of perfection is too late. Working to improve your manuscript until the day you’re satisfied it’s mature is the moment that’s just right.

Posted by: Kathleen Mix | July 29, 2015

Why a Book is Never Finished

Typing The End on the last page of a manuscript rarely means that the book is finished. The story in the author’s mind might have concluded, but more work remains.
Scenes may need revision, the pace may be slow, or the characters may lack depth. Maybe the theme could be strengthened or the plot tightened. Maybe the sentences need more descriptive nouns or more powerful verbs. Maybe the punctuation would make an English teacher cringe.
With most of my books, I’ve plotted carefully, written several drafts, run the final draft past my critique group, checked phrasing and grammar, and polished every word. I didn’t settle for good enough. I scrutinized every sentence until I couldn’t find any more errors. I kept working and delayed sending the manuscript to my agent until I believed it was as good as I could possibly make it.
In every case, after the book sold, an editor has sent me an email with her critique notes. My editors have always found errors and pointed out places where the manuscript could be improved. Their fresh set of eyes and unique perspective on the subject allowed them to see the manuscript’s flaws.
Which brings us to the moral of the story, so to speak. No manuscript is perfect. No author or editor can see every flaw or opportunity for improvement. No book is ever one-hundred percent finished. All the author can do is make every book the best they can possibly produce at that particular stage of their career.
Every reader is unique, and that person’s background and experience will affect how he or she interprets a book’s words. The reader’s values and beliefs will influence which emotions a book evokes. Even manuscripts that have been edited several times for content and been examined repeatedly for grammar and punctuation will still contain inconsistencies or mechanical errors. A reader might find a misspelled word or a missing conjunction. Years later, the author may have learned new techniques and, when she looks through her own book, may find scenes she wishes she’d handled differently.
For better or worse, writers and editors are human. Try as we may, the books we produce will always be slightly flawed. Some critic or reviewer will always be able to say, “I noticed one small problem.”

Posted by: Kathleen Mix | July 6, 2015

Problems in the Middle

I’m a middle child, so it’s no surprise that I dislike conflict. According to Dr. Kevin Levine in The Birth Order Book: Why You Are the Way You Are (Revell, 2009), middle children are mediators. We compromise, negotiate, and try not to rock the boat. In other words: we avoid conflict.

While this trait can be valuable in life, it becomes a major roadblock when I sit down to write romantic suspense. Conflict is one of the cornerstones of writing fiction. Characters must face internal and external problems in every story. Without them, there is no book. When authors shy away from including conflict, the resulting text is boring.

Obstacles make characters struggle to reach their goals and keep the story of Jack and Jill solving a murder while falling in love from putting readers to sleep. Conflict places the outcome of a situation in doubt and makes a book exciting. It keeps readers turning pages to see how the character will solve a horrible problem, get themselves out of a jam, or find the happiness and safety they deserve. The friction, tension, and opposition of conflict is the fuel that powers a well-written novel.

So in my efforts to write an exciting book, I must fight my tendency to avoid conflict. And when I wreck my characters’ lives and deliberately make their problems worse, I cause myself inner conflict by acting in a manner that runs counter to my instincts. Physically and emotionally hurting the characters I love is hard work. That’s probably why I enjoy finishing a book and giving my characters a happy ending.

It feels so good to eliminate all that nasty conflict.

Posted by: Kathleen Mix | June 5, 2015

Crafting Book Blurbs

The back cover copy on a book, known to writers as a blurb, is often the deciding factor in whether or not a browsing reader will make a purchase.

This past week, I’ve been working hard to craft perfect blurbs for two of my upcoming releases. Like most writers, I find preparing a blurb the equivalent of speaking in a little-known foreign language. I don’t have a background in marketing, but a blurb is a marketing tool and the words must be carefully chosen. I have to keep in mind that my book is now a product I’m trying to sell.

When writing a blurb, the first problem is to find a way to condense three hundred pages – or more – into about a hundred and fifty words. After spending months writing the book, I’m eager to tell a potential reader about the wonderful scenes and fabulous characters, but space limits nix that desire. I need a short summary and can only mention the most significant points.

The second problem is that my short summary can’t be casually composed. It must do several important things. A good blurb will portray a book in a favorable light, be concise, tell potential readers what kind of a book it is, and target the readers who might want to read the story, all without giving away the ending. It must be intriguing and use keywords that help the person reading it decide if the book is one they’ll enjoy.

Before my first book was published, I’d imagined that an editor would write my book’s blurb. I soon discovered I was mistaken. An editor or someone in the publisher’s marketing department may change a couple words, but the bulk of the text comes from the author. It reflects their writing style and the tone of the book. It provides a clue to the writer’s level of expertise. And all this is good. How else can a reader make that buying decision?

We’ve all picked up a book in a store, turned it over, read the blurb, been unmoved, and put that book back down. We’ve also read a blurb that told us the book we were holding was exactly what we were looking for and immediately headed for the register.

I’m hoping the blurbs I’ve just sent to my publisher’s art department will do the latter, but as the saying goes, only time will tell.

Posted by: Kathleen Mix | May 14, 2015

When Life Intrudes

Life has a horrible habit of intruding on my time to write.

A three- to four-hundred page book requires a large investment of time. If I can sit down every day and write a few thousand words during each session, then pages accumulate quickly. But some days are stacked with little emergencies that won’t wait for my character to fight her way out of her latest predicament.

I can’t ignore a leaky pipe in an upstairs wall that’s causing the collapse of the ceiling below. Or my dog getting sick on the new carpeting. Or my car registration somehow unpaid and about to expire. Or a neighbor’s horse marauding through my garden.

Some mega-bestselling, big-name writers can lock the door to their office and leave the frustrating interruptions of life to an assistant, housekeeper, au pair, or family member. The rest of us must leave our desk when the washing machine overflows.

I’m not complaining. Sometimes a conflict in my life can spark an idea for a conflict one of my characters could deal with too. Fictional characters can’t live charmed lives or readers will scoff and mumble, “This isn’t a real person. Real people are people like me, somebody whose car breaks down, and their kids get sick, and their mother-in-law drops in when least expected.”

A good book makes the protagonist face a big problem. A rich story makes every character, major or minor, seem real. Life’s little problems can be frustrating, but they are the events and circumstances that keep a writer’s pantry stocked with the ingredients necessary to formulate a book containing twists and turns and subplots that readers can relate to.

So, I have to think positive. Somewhere, somehow, in some story I’ve yet to write, I’ll appreciate the woodpecker intent on tap-tap-tapping until he makes Swiss cheese out of the beams and destroys my porch.

 

Posted by: Kathleen Mix | April 16, 2015

Million-Word Magic

Many years ago, I read an advice-to-aspiring-novelists article that suggested a person had to write a million words before they could completely understand all the elements needed to produce a successful book. The takeaway message was that writers write and learn by doing.
At the time, I had just finished struggling for eighteen months to complete my first 50,000-word manuscript. The idea of writing a million words seemed daunting.
I now have a different perspective. I’ve finished my tenth novel, and I’m close to that magic number.
I haven’t officially tallied the words I’ve written in finished books, unfinished books, and short stories. But rough estimates put me close to the million-word mark, and I figure I’ll know the exact word that takes me across the line. Everything about writing will suddenly fall into place. I won’t have to work half as hard, because I’ll have arrived at the point where I unequivocally know what I’m doing.
Suddenly I’ll know how to begin a story in just the right place and hook every reader’s interest. I’ll be able to effortlessly make every character intriguing, lovable, and relatable. I’ll know the secret of plotting. I’ll never hit a brick wall, and my middles won’t seem to lag. Every plot will unfold in perfect order and at the perfect pace. I’ll no longer have to tug at my hair and wonder why I ever started the dang book.
At least that’s what I’m hoping. I’ve learned a lot about writing in the last fifteen years and still have this fantasy that some day I might have all the answers.
My fingers are crossed. (Which makes it very difficult to type.) I’ll let you know if sometime soon a magic word suddenly transports me into the land of full knowledge.
Meanwhile, has anyone out there reached the million-word threshold and suddenly found enlightenment?

Posted by: Kathleen Mix | March 27, 2015

The Ghost of Facebook Past

I’ve recently had a birthday, and the occasion has sparked a bit of pondering about my age. I’m not admitting a number. I will admit that many people might consider me old because I was a teenager before the invention of Facebook.

Although I’m on Facebook now, I find the lack of social media in the past very comforting. By growing up before Facebook was invented, my immature pranks and crazy actions have been allowed to fade into obscurity, where they belong. My teenage years are recorded only in my memories, a shoebox of mementos, and the photograph albums collecting dust in my mother’s closet.

I’m thankful what happened in the past can stay in the past.

Unfortunately, today’s teenagers and college students won’t share the anonymity I enjoy. Years from now, the young people posting tonight’s party photos may wish they could erase the proof of their past. A job offer from a conservative company may be torpedoed by an inappropriate selfie or images from after a wild party. Status updates that seem embarrassing in retrospect will still be out there in cyberspace for prospective in-laws to find and read and form negative opinions.

Kids posting every tiny event of their lives on Instagram may consider me old. But I’m not haunted by the words I wrote years ago in ill-thought-out status updates. The Internet has no embarrassing images of me with weird hairdos or wearing silly-looking clothes. I know what I looked like and remember the outrageous things I did, but the world doesn’t have a clue.

Hurrah for my lack of history. I’m free of the Ghost of Facebook Past.

Speaking of Facebook, I’m KathleenMixBooks Please stop by and Like my page. You can also follow me on Twitter @kathleenmix

 

Posted by: Kathleen Mix | March 5, 2015

People Watching

I’m a dedicated, unapologetic people watcher and eavesdropper, because real people are a mine of fictional inspiration.

One of my male acquaintances has taken to always wearing a hat. I haven’t seen the top of his head in years. Is he bald and vain? Would one of my characters be more memorable if he was bald and vain too?

A woman who lives on my street walks her dog three times a day. She waves to every car that passes in the manner of a toddler Mommy has told, “Wave bye-bye to Grandma.” The gesture seems telling about her personality.

Real people in real situations are often stranger than fictional characters. Some are so strange that if they could be transplanted into a novel in their entirety readers might consider them unbelievable. But odd personality quirks or interesting body language can be effectively used by writers who want to make characters multi-dimensional. The hairstyles, mode of dress, and manner of speaking of customers or employees strolling the aisles of Walmart or arguing at the next table in a restaurant can spark ideas for outrageous or fascinating characters.

Even people we don’t meet in person can be fodder for fiction. Fascinating people can be found on TV and in the newspaper. Some we might find interesting because of their wonderful deeds, quick wit, or engaging smile. Others are amusing. We want the villain in the novel to be a worthy adversary for our hero. In reality, many crooks act stupidly and their mistakes leave us shaking ours heads in wonder. A dumb crook can be a great comic relief character.

Fiction writers often find inspiration for characters in the people around them. We just don’t make the people in our books recognizable. A wise writer will use false names and disguise the person used as a blueprint for a character, especially if the resulting character will play an unsavory role.

Mystery and suspense writers often wear T-shirts with sayings like: Be nice to me or you could be murdered in my next book. Beware, we’re watching, and we are not always joking.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

Categories

%d bloggers like this: