Tag Archives: write

Publish Your Book With CreateSpace

Are you a writer? Want to see your book in print without spending years trying to find a publisher or carrying hundreds of books in inventory? I gave a presentation August 19, 2017 at Gulf Coast Writers Association (GCWA) on how to get your book published via CreateSpace. It takes you through the steps required to plan, submit, and bring your book to life. And the best part? You can publish your book for little to no money.

Handouts from the presentation — the PowerPoint slide show and a list of links to more information — can be found here.

Writing Fiction — Creating Characters

Two things prompted me to write this post. Gulf Coast Writer’s Association (GCWA) is a large organization of writers based in Fort Myers, Florida, which offers speakers, workshops, critique groups, and lots of networking with other writers and people associated with writing. They have been my lifeline to writing since I moved to Florida. The July meeting featured a workshop on creating characters.

The second item that prompted me to write about characters is a book that I purchased and read nearly thirty years ago—How to Write a Damn Good Novel by James N. Frey. I plucked this book off my shelf one recent night when I ran out of novels for my nightly bedtime reading. It’s as pertinent to fiction writing today as when I first read it. The first chapter is all about characters.

If I can’t get into the head and heart of the protagonist in a novel, I probably won’t finish the book. The story is even better if all the main characters (even the antagonist) are three dimensional. I want to understand where they are coming from. The same goes for writing. I need to get into the head of the character—become the character.

My first attempt at a novel (not published) was written from my point of view. I started by fictionalizing some past events in my life. But the character took over and told a completely different story with events that never happened to me and that I never imagined would. She became a different person than the author, with her own distinct personality.

The idea for my first published novel, The Janus Code, came from wanting to understand a man that I knew. He was a complex personality (bipolar) and I wanted to get inside his head. I started writing without any idea of the story, the plot, the premise, other characters… I let him write the story. Of course, he became a completely different person than the real person about whom I started writing.

With my second published book, Mangrove Madness, (I’d written a few in between) I started with an imaginary character not based upon any particular person. I did have a good sense of her personality. With this story I had a basic idea of a plot, but didn’t know the ending. Again, the character took over the writing and told the story. She decided the plot, the twists and turns, and the ending.

After Mangrove Madness, several people asked if I was writing a sequel. I decided to try, so first I wrote a biography of Ernie Pratt and character sketches of a few other players in the book. I found that I knew them quite well, even though they didn’t exist before I wrote the book.

I know that some writers create their characters in detail before they begin writing a story. Maybe it’s because of the way I write (in the zone) that allows my characters to create themselves. I’m not sure I understand it, but this is how it works for me.

Of Mice and Marquis

Fiction by Judy Loose

Millie hummed as she cruised up I-75 on Friday morning, headed for Busch Gardens with Brian and Becky secured in the back seat. She enjoyed these outings with her grandchildren, driving her Grand Marquis. She’d had the car for fifteen years, and it still purred.

As much as the kids at five and seven enjoyed these trips, Millie enjoyed them more. Right now, Brian and Becky had their heads together, giggling, looking at something on the seat between them.

“What is it, Becky?”

“It’s the mice from my school project.”

Oh no! What was Becky planning to do with mice? “You were supposed to leave them with your neighbor.”

“She doesn’t even like mice. She screamed at the babies,” Becky whined.

“What babies?”

“Joe and Jim had babies,” Brian answered.

“Joe and Jim?”

Joe and Jim were obviously Joe and Jill. Should she turn the car around and take the mice back to Fort Myers? She pointed the car toward the rest area.

“Oh, Nana. You’re not gonna take them home, are you?” Becky pleaded.

Not far to Tampa. The round trip to Fort Myers would take a couple of hours. The kids would be hungry and cranky long before they arrived. So would Millie. She avoided the rest area.

“No, Becky. But they are not going in the room with us.” It was January and cool. They could leave the mice in the car. Would she regret that decision?

When Becky went out to feed the mice that night, Millie peered into the cage. The babies were tiny, pink, squiggly things, like ugly gummy bears. Becky held one up for Millie. No way! She backed off and shook her head; a shiver of disgust ran down her spine.

Saturday, Busch Gardens was great; no one threw up on any of the rides. Brian petted the giraffe; he loved giraffes. The children wanted to take the mice to see the other animals but accepted Millie’s firm, “No.”

On Sunday, after dropping her grandchildren at home in Fort Myers, Millie sang with the music in her car. She adored Becky and Brian, but she was glad to take them home. As she stopped for a red light, she opened the front windows for fresh air and something crawled across her shoulders — must be a bug. She reached up and flicked it off. A mouse flew out the window and into the next car. A woman screamed, the light changed to green, and Millie stepped on the gas.

~~

When Millie traded in her old stand-by Grand Marquis a month later, she didn’t tell the salesman about the mice that kept appearing — on the dash, in the back seat, in the trunk, or the one that had crawled up her leg the day before.

Crows

A Story by Judy Loose

Won Third Place Nonfiction in GCWA 2016 Writing Contest

raven_calling

“Nana, birds talking to me.”

“What are they saying, Jason?” Sara sat on the back steps of the townhouse deck with her three-year-old grandson. He had quite an imagination. The clatter of the crows was so loud she could hardly hear herself think. The noise irritated her, plucked at her nerves. The birds always congregated in the woods behind her home, but nothing like today. They must be migrating. Did crows migrate? Hundreds, maybe thousands of blue-black wings filled the sky, landing in the woods behind the condo complex. Some were huge, maybe ravens. Did ravens and crows hang out together? The way they were gathering was creepy. It made Sara nervous.

Her grandson was talking. “I’m sorry, Jason. Nana wasn’t paying attention. What did you say?” The din of the birds was distracting.

“They say, ‘come…come…come with me.’” Jason cocked his head. “Can’t you hear, Nana?” He almost looked like a bird. Thin and pale with dark hair and eyes. When he ran, his little arms flapped in the breeze like a baby bird trying to fly.

She listened to the cawing, and it did sound like come…come…. “I hear it, but they’re probably calling to each other. It looks like they’re having a big crow party.”

“We go to party, Nana? My birthday. Jason’s three.” A Halloween baby. Tonight was Halloween.

“You’re having a party tonight, baby. Everyone will be here. Mommy and Daddy, all your cousins and friends. Everyone’s going to dress up.” Too bad Jason’s birthday landed on Halloween, hard to distinguish between birthday and holiday.

“Let’s go in and get ready.” She stood and took his hand to lift him to his feet.

“No, Nana. Birds talking to me.” Jason pulled away. He still had some of that terrible-twos attitude and disagreed with everything.

“OK, Jason. But let’s listen to them from inside. Nana has some cooking to do.”

“I wanna stay here.” He plunked himself down on the steps and folded his arms tightly against his chest.

“You can stay but don’t leave the deck.” Sara didn’t want to argue; she could see him from the kitchen.

As she stirred batter for a cake, Sara watched Jason through the window. He turned and looked at her every few minutes, grinned, waved, then returned to concentrating on the birds. She mixed orange and chocolate frostings, washed dishes, put things away…stopping now and then to peek out at her grandson.

Finished with her chores, she opened the door to call him. No Jason. Her heart squeezed and her breath stopped. He couldn’t have wandered far. He’d waved at her only minutes ago. Sara scanned the yard and spotted him sitting in the grass by the trees. The air escaped her lungs like an explosion.

He was surrounded by birds. So many birds. What were they doing? Silence, no cawing. Sara panicked and stumbled down the steps. As she ran toward Jason, the crows flew, blackening the sky, the whir of wings so strong her clothes swirled around her. Sara’s heart drummed against her ribs, banged in her ears. She thought it would burst by the time she reached Jason and grabbed him.

“Nana, you scared them.” He started to wail, and the crows wailed with him, screeching all around…in the trees, from the roof…as Sara hurried to her house and slammed the door behind her. Jason yowled in her arms.

**

By the time they’d dressed for the party and the guests had arrived, Jason was happy and playing again. He joined the children and a few adults trick-or-treating. Sara felt silly about her reaction to the birds that afternoon. She told no one. The birds must have landed in the grass, and Jason couldn’t resist. But why didn’t they fly away? They only flew when she ran from the house.

The doors were open to the warm night air. “Do you hear those crows?” She could hear them cawing, calling out, Jason…Jason…. What an imagination she had, worse than her grandson’s. But weren’t crows usually quiet at night?

Looking out, she could see their black bodies flying, covering the sky, blocking out the moon. She shivered and returned to the warmth of the party. Where were the trick-or-treaters? She wished with all her heart they would return with their candy.

Noise at the front door drew her attention and the children piled in, grinning and chattering and comparing their take. Jason sailed by her and out the back door before she could stop him.

“Jason!” she screamed. “Don’t go out there!” Everyone stared as she sprinted after her grandson.

No Jason on the deck or in the yard. She flipped on the outside lights. Nothing. No child, no birds, no noise. The emptiness chilled her.

“Jason!” Sara was frantic. Adults carrying flashlights poured into the yard, searching, crashing into the woods.

No Jason.

Sobbing, Sara sank into the grass. “The crows took him,” she said over and over.

Someone called 911. When the police came to organize the search, they sent Sara to the hospital in an ambulance.

**

A mild stroke, the doctors said. When she told people about the crows, they thought she was hallucinating, her mind scrambled. Sara knew better.

She returned home two weeks later, Jason still missing. The official opinion: kidnapping. Easy to take a child with crowds of children in the streets. No one would notice a stranger enticing a child into a car and speeding away.

Sara brooded around her house, seeing Jason in every corner. He would never visit her again. Her heart was broken. She pictured him sitting in the grass surrounded by crows, talking to them. No Jason, no crows. Silence.

**

A year passed, and the crows never returned. Not even the few who usually hung out in the woods during the summer. Halloween came, Jason’s birthday. No party this year. Sara had no treats for the youngsters ringing her bell. She turned off the front light and slipped out the door to her deck.

She stared across the lawn to the spot she remembered seeing Jason. Why was she torturing herself? She should move from this place. But something kept her here, some illogical hope that he would return. The night carried the voices of children as they skipped from house to house.

Sara sat on the steps. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

And then they came. Thousands of crows glistening in the moonlight descended on the lawn in front of her. What were they saying? Nana? No, just cawing. So loud she couldn’t bear it.

As she stood to go inside, a giant crow landed on the railing. “Nana?

Sara collapsed on the rough wood floor. The sky filled with crows and ravens…cawing…calling her…Sara…Sara…Nana…and the air from their wings lifted her…lifted her into the black night…floating…flying…with Jason flying beside her.

Teeth

A story by Judy Loose

Second Place Nonfiction in the GCWA 2016 Writing Contest.

Dan hated his new teeth. Just uppers, not lowers. He still had his own bottom choppers. The plate fit improperly and hurt when he chewed, so he liked to remove it when he ate.

Living alone, he often dined out or picked up something to go rather than cook. On this particular hot summer night, coming home late from work, he decided to stop for pizza. The pizza shop was full, so he took his food with him. Enticing smells rose from the seat beside him in the car — mushroom, pepperoni, extra cheese. He could almost taste it. For a while he resisted, but it was a long drive. Opening the box, he grabbed a slice.

Of course, the teeth were extracted before the first bite.

Cruising down the highway, he continued eating. Not the safest way to operate; worse than texting while driving. Soon the pizza box sat empty. Almost home, he spotted a Dumpster behind the grocery store across the street. He lifted the empty box and tossed it. Perfect shot, right into the trash.

Home at last, he collapsed in front of the television before his nightly ritual — shower, dress for bed, clean his teeth…

No teeth!

Dan pulled a pair of jeans over his pajama bottoms, found a flashlight, and headed for his car. He searched the seats, under the seats, in every crack and crevice.

No teeth!

There could be only one answer. He drove back to the grocery store. Did he really want to go Dumpster diving? What were his choices? Forget it and get another set of teeth? But teeth cost big bucks. He didn’t have money to throw away. Child support for five boys, two in college, helped make the decision.

Dan looked around to see if anyone was watching. The store had closed and no people roamed the streets. He tried leaning over the side of the container, shining his flashlight to see.

No teeth!

He hoisted himself up and dropped into the nightly trash. Luckily, it held mostly boxes and not much food. His pizza box sat on top, wide open and empty, so he proceeded to rummage through the debris.

No teeth!

He heard a blip of a siren and a blue light flashed against the wall of the store. A head peeked over the top of the Dumpster, and a light blinded him.

“Police.”

Dan climbed out and brushed himself off. “Looking for something I lost,” he tried to explain.

“Dan?” The policeman lowered his flashlight and laughed. “What are you doing in there?”

Dan recognized Sam, his niece Marcy’s father-in-law.

“I threw away a pizza box and tossed something with it.”

“Why no shirt?”

“I was ready for bed when it dawned on me.”

“What did you lose?”

Dan hesitated. He didn’t want to tell him. Embarrassing!

“Come on, man. What’s so important you’d go digging through the garbage in the middle of the night?”

“My teeth.”

Sam doubled over, his laughter escaping like hiccups. “Oh, man. Wait ‘til I tell the guys.”

“Don’t tell Marcy.”

Still chuckling, Sam went back to his cruiser and drove off.

Dan decided to give up and go home. Walking back to his car he spotted something shiny in the middle of the street. Taking a closer look, he realized…

His teeth!

He leaned to pick them up, but they were imbedded in the asphalt. Apparently, they’d been run over a time or two. He found a screwdriver in his trunk and dug out the teeth, only to discover a crack down the middle. He was tempted to toss them, but changed his mind.

Asphalt covered the broken teeth, but stubborn Dan dropped them into a jar and filled it with paint thinner.

The next day he examined the dentures and decided the crack could be fixed. He found some crazy glue at work, glued them together, and clamped them in a vise.

It worked. They felt better than before they broke, but a faint taste of solvent lingered for a few days.

Dan wore those teeth for three more years before getting new ones.

Note: This is a true story as told to me by Dan, who is no longer with us, so the story can’t be verified. Any embellishments on the truth are his. I did see the teeth with the crack that had been crazy-glued. No sign of the asphalt, but the teeth looked a little gray.

 

Bragging Rights

FAPA-GoldI don’t usually post about myself and my writing, but I won an award. The Janus Code by J.C. Ferguson (that’s me, Judy Loose) is the winner of the Florida Authors & Publishers Association 2014 President’s Award Gold Medal for Adult Fiction: Action/Suspense. It’s exciting to win a prestigious award—first place. Wow! It’s probably silly to be so pleased, but it does feel good to have professional writers and publishers approve of my work.

This is also a credit to the Gulf Coast Writers Association. They have three winners this year. In addition to my award, Alice Oldford won a gold medal in the Home and Garden category for her book, Recipes and Life and Patti Brassard Jefferson won a silver medal in the Children’s Picture Book category for Stu’s Big Party.

Thanks for listening to me sound off.

The Trials of Editing

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could write something – an article, a story, a book – and publish it without any more work?

I don’t know any writers who can safely do that. I imagine there might be some who have grammar and structure so embedded in their brains that it comes naturally. But I don’t think we see our own mistakes. I catch things in others’ writing that I don’t in my own. I’m not exactly sure why. It may be that we are so involved in our own stories that we can’t see the trees for the forest.

I’m planning to publish another book this summer and I’m on my bazillionth edit. After editing it several times myself, I sent it to an agent and she went through it. I sent it to my sister-in-law who is a good editor, sent it chapter by chapter to my critique group where each person found different things to correct, went through it again and found more edits….

Now it’s with my very good editor, The Grammar Granny, and she is finding so much more. Yesterday, she sent me a note telling me to look for “just” in the manuscript and try to get rid of a few. I found 283 occurrences in the book and whittled it down to 66. A replacement wasn’t required for most of them; removing “just” didn’t change the meaning at all. And I wasn’t aware I was doing it. It’s “just” one of those words that “just” disappears in my mind as I read.

Besides using one word too often, another big problem in my writing is commas. I know all the rules but don’t think about them when I write. Going back and finding all the places I added them but shouldn’t, or should have and didn’t, is tedious and difficult. (Did I get them right in that last sentence?)

My last book, The Janus Code, was self-published. It had been edited several time by myself and others. Yet when the first books were printed there were errors. Typos!

I track all my changes in MS Word as I’m editing. After the last edit, I forgot to accept all changes before sending it to CreateSpace. Even though I wasn’t seeing them on my computer or my printed copy because I had it in the “final” view, all the changes showed up as the old AND new versions. If I replaced a word, you could see both the deleted word and the new word. Luckily, I only had 10 copies printed, but I sold some or gave others to friends before someone noticed. The proof was correct, so I never looked at those first copies until a fiend or two pointed out the problem to me.

My advice to all you authors and would-be authors out there: please have another pair of eyes, or several sets of eyes, look over your work before you publish. Read your proof and read your first copies after the proof. You’ll be happy that you did.

Back to my editing….

Quotation Marks (or lack thereof)

QuotationMarks
I guess it’s supposed to be fashionable to write without quotation marks. But to me it usually marks an author who is trying to be “literary.” I know that I have read and enjoyed some books in the past sans quotation marks, but they were good stories.

Last night I gave up on a book written by an author who according to his credentials has a degree in English and creative writing. The lack of quotation marks drove me crazy. He added way too many “he said” and “she said” (the quotation marks are mine) to guide the reader. This made the writing choppy. A talented writer can add he said and she said without the reader even noticing. This was not the case with this book. Sometimes each quote was a separate line and sometimes he bunched them together in one long paragraph. So there wasn’t even consistency in his style. I might have continued reading if the story didn’t feel jaded and cynical. I wasn’t in the mood for that type of novel. It was supposed to be humorous, but I guess it wasn’t my kind of humor.

This morning I decided to look up the lack of quotation marks in certain novels and found a lot of people who agree with me. There’s a post in Jenny and Kelly Read Books blog that I liked called, “No More Books Without Quotation Marks…EVER! /mommie dearest.” I found an article by Lionel Shriver in the Wall Street Journal of all places called “Missing the Mark.”

The article I found most interesting goes into the history of quotation marks. A post by Richard Lea is in The Gaurdian’s Book Blog, “Don’t be scared: dialogue without quotation marks.”

In case you’re wondering, the book I didn’t finish was The Bend of the World by Jacob Bacharach. I can’t give you a review because I didn’t finish it. Who knows? It might be a great book.

On Writing – Writer’s Block

Every writer probably has writer’s block at one time or another, unless they are very disciplined. Even when writing, sometimes we are suffering from writer’s block. We just keep writing words even though we know they are not going anywhere, or at least not where we intend them to go. For me there are several types of writer’s block.

Procrastination: I’ll do it tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow…for days, weeks, or even months.
Possible solution: Schedule a time to write every day. At least write something.

Priorities: I need to do “this” first – task, project, work, play, or whatever. For me it’s usually my work. I’m self-employed and always feel guilty when I write for myself before finishing the work piling up for my clients. Which is more important – editing my current book for publication and working on the next one or finishing the website, cover, or book format for someone waiting for their finished product?
Possible solution: Schedule my writing as if I’m a client.

Complete writer’s block: I sit in front of the keyboard and can’t think of a thing to write.
Possible solution: Just write anything to get started. (This blog started as an exercise in writing something, even if it’s not the manuscript I should be working on.)

Writing goes nowhere: Maybe the plot isn’t going where I think it should or I don’t like the way the character is developing or a thousand other excuses. Whatever the reason or non-reason, what I write isn’t doing anything for me.
Possible solution: Stop! Outline the plot or write a backstory for the character. Go back to the beginning and read to see where it went wrong. Try to read it as if it was written by someone else. Organize.

My main “writer’s block” is setting my priorities. If I’m going to get any worthwhile writing into my busy schedule, I need to consider my own writing as important as my clients’ work. Let’s see if I can serialize my last published book for Kindle, finish editing and publish the next one, or complete the draft of the story that’s stuck in the middle.

I’d love to hear other writers’ opinions on this subject. Leave me a comment.

And wish me luck…

Writing in the Zone

For me, writing is a ‘Zen’ kind of thing. It’s almost a form of meditation. If I’m able to get into the zone, the words flow. When the creative juices are sloshing around in my head, the story takes over and all else shuts down – the story almost writes itself.

If not in this zone, my writing sucks. Or worse than that, I don’t write. When I’m creating a new story, if my mind wanders to other things – the day’s events, problems, work, etc. – then my writing becomes stilted or boring. If I were the reader of these poorly written words, I would put down the story and not bother to finish it.

Other activities in my life have that same meditating effect as writing in the zone. Gardening washes all small talk out of my brain. Painting quiets the mind chatter. Painting pictures is what I mean, but routine tasks like painting walls can do the same. I think for some of my friends, house cleaning accomplishes this quieting effect. I know several women (and a couple of men) who clean like crazy when they are stressed. This doesn’t work for me. Probably because my mind is moaning and groaning about doing a job that I don’t like.

I haven’t flown (piloted) a plane in several years, but this was a task that pushed out all other thought. Flying a small plane takes total concentration in order to keep track of all that is happening. Maybe this was because I didn’t fly often enough for it to become routine.

I know that driving a car is so habitual that my mind wanders to all sorts of other places. I’ve even been known to write haiku in my mind as I drive. This is probably not the best way to drive. I should be paying close attention to everything that is happening on the road. Yet, at some level my mind is totally aware of the road, the car, and all the drivers around me, even though my talkative mind is very busy with non-driving related thoughts. I haven’t had an accident from lack of attention since I was sixteen or seventeen and still a novice.

The above random thinking is what happens when I’m not writing in the zone. Sorry if I’ve bored you today.