Friday, November 30, 2012

Character Interview from The Showboat Affair

Character Interview:  Jean Kingston
The Showboat Affair

TWP:  Welcome to The Word Place, Jean Kingston! Tell me a little about yourself--before all this happened.

JK: There’s not much to tell. My mother died when I was three, and my father remarried ten years later. Nona was a lovely person and just what I needed in my life at the time. I went to Stephens College in Missouri on a scholarship and studied both fashion and interior design. I was doing an internship when I met Rand Kingston. It’s a cliché to say he swept me off my feet, but that’s what he did. Good looks, money, prominent family…it was all too much to resist. The old saying, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure,” is apt here.

TWP: It wasn’t a good marriage then.

JK: Rand always had a wandering eye. I knew almost from the beginning he was unfaithful to me, but I stuck it out because I didn’t know how I’d make it on my own with our daughter.

TWP: Are the two of you close?

JK:  No, Juliana was always her father’s daughter. She still is, even married with a child of her own. She knew before I did that he planned to ask for a divorce.

TWP:  That must’ve been a shock.

JK:  Not really, but it did make me angry.

TWP:  How long were you married?

JK:  Thirty-three years.

TWP:  That’s a long time. It appears you’ve moved on with your life though.

JK:  Thanks to my former housekeeper Selina. She wouldn’t let me sit around and feel sorry for myself. Then when she started her own catering business and a brunch bistro, she gave me a chance to use my design skills. It was a risk for her, but because of her faith in me, I’m starting my own interior design business.

TWP:  What about the new man in your life?

JK:  Nick. Nick Cameron. What can I say? He’s wonderful.

TWP:  Everything that Rand Kingston isn’t?

JK:  Like night and day. Of course, we’ve got opposition:  my daughter, his son. It’s caused some problems between the two of us, but we’re trying to work them out. And in a way, I’m part of the problem, too. For the first time in thirty years, I’m on my own, and I like it. Besides, my divorce isn’t final yet, so we’ve got some time.

TWP:  There’s nothing wrong with enjoying your independence.

JK:  Nick’s been very understanding. His wife died twenty years ago, so he’s had his fill of being on his own, but he’s willing to wait on me.

TWP:  Was his first marriage a good one?

JK:   He and Sarah were devoted to each other. She died too young--cancer. He understands what loving and being in love is all about--and I’m learning.

TWP:  I understand you’ve had a problem or two unrelated to your grown children…

JK:  Nick got mugged, and then someone broke into my apartment and tried to assault me. The police think the two incidents are related, but I’m not sure.

TWP:  So what’s next for you and Nick?

JK:  He thinks we need to get away from Houston for a while, so we’re going to Branson, Missouri.

TWP:  I’ve been there. You’ll love it, especially the dinner cruise on the showboat, the Branson Belle.

JK:  What a coincidence. Showboat is the first movie we watched together. I’ll mention it to Nick.

TWP:  Do that, and have a wonderful time, Jean. Good luck--and thanks for dropping by The Word Place.

To learn more about The Showboat Affair, visit my website where you can view a video trailer and read the first chapter. The Showboat Affair is available in print and as an eBook at The Wild Rose Press and Amazon.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Flash Fiction Five

From the November-December issue of The Writer, a great article on "Five Critical Traits for Flash Fiction". I'll admit I haven't written much in the short-short line. Frankly, I've felt overwhelmed at the prospect of trying to limit my innate wordiness and still tell a story. But Faith M. Boughan, a freelance writer, blogger, and assistant flash editor for Abyss & Apex Magazine cleared a few things up for me--and hopefully, for anyone else out there who doesn't venture into this area of writing.

She suggests five things to do--which should be obvious, but they weren't to me until she set them down. First of all, knowing one's audience is important. Many flash-fiction readers don't have time to read anything else and appreciate something they can enjoy quickly.

It follows that the plot must be smaller even than a short story, that the character list should be sparse, and that the focus should be on one happening. She also suggests paring down descriptions and letting the reader use his own imagination. Finally, she advises writers of flash fiction to make the setting less expansive: exciting things can happen in limited space.

She also lists, in a sidebar, a number of resources for writers thinking about trying flash-fiction. You'll find that and much more in the article on page 11 in the regular Writing Essentials feature.

What's been your experience with flash fiction?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Starting and Starting Over Again

The copies I ordered of A Very Kate Christmas arrived today. It's a neat, compact little volume (5 stories) with a few minor technical glitches which I can fix with the next printing and which do not detract from the stories themselves. I plan to use the copies I ordered as Christmas "cards" for a few folks who I know will enjoy the book.

There is much to learn about indie publishing. I just finished reading (on Kindle)The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe by Jeff Bennington. When I spotted it, it was free but has now reverted to 99 cents. Take my word for it--if you're looking at indie publishing, it's a must-read. One of the tips he gives is to have a few print copies available, so that's what I was trying out with A Very Kate Christmas. It's a learning process.

Bennington's book is divided into four parts:
He made me realize I am either going into business or just playing around at a hobby. It's my choice. So the first few months of 2013 will be focused on the former--and there's lots involved. I'll be blogging about each faltering step as I take it.

His book on indie publishing isn't the first I've read, but it probably should have been. The old saying about not putting the cart before the horse is apt. However, the following is a list of other books (all available on Kindle, some free, all reasonably priced) I've plowed through in the past six months or have downloaded but haven't yet read:

  1. Get Up to Speed with Online Marketing (Jon Reed)
  2. The Visual Guide to Kindle Formatting (Presented by 'everything indie'--website
  3. The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing (Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier)
  4. Get Connected: 101 Places to Promote Your Book Online (Compiled by G.E. Johnson)
  5. The Beginners Guide to eBooks (Gary McLaren)
  6. Building Your Book for Kindle (Amazon Kindle)
  7. Newbie's Guide to Publishing (J.A. Konrath)
  8. How to Get Your Book Reviewed (The Savvy Book Marketer/Dana Lynn Smith)
  9. How to Sell More Books on Amazon (The Savvy Book Marketer/Dana Lynn Smith)
  10. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (Mark Coker)
  11. Promote Your Book (Patricia Fry)
  12. Virtual Book Tour Magic (The Savvy Book Marketer/Dana Lynn Smith)
  13. How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months (John Locke)
  14. Format Your eBook for Kindle in One Hour (Derek J. Canyon)
  15. Publish on Amazon Kindle with Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon Kindle)
  16. How to Format Your eBook for Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, and Everything Else (Paul Salvette)
  17. Secrets to eBook Publishing Success (Mark Coker)
Lots to read and think about, huh? But even if you take only one idea away from  every book, that's 17 ideas you didn't have before!

Feel free to add to the list.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

8 Ghost Stories and...

Ghost #1 - The Girl in the Mist:  In the 1920s, when the Crescent Hotel was a girls' school, one of the students fell/jumped/was pushed from the fourth floor balcony. A postmortem revealed she was pregnant,  a scandal for an unmarried young lady in those days. She's been "seen" at various times, the most recent being in a photograph of someone eating in Dr. Baker's Bistro. She appears in the window behind him and appears to be cradling the head of a baby. (I saw the photo.)

Ghost #2 - The Lady in White: Someone staying in a suite in the remodeled area once known as "The Pain Asylum" (see previous post) saw an upside-down figure reflected in the television screen (turned off) wearing a 1930s era slip or nightgown. Other guests have reported hearing the wheels of a gurney coming down the hall from that direction. (I saw this photo, too.)

Ghost #3 - Child: One of the nurses apparently brought her little girl, a child about 2, with her to work one day. The toddler fell over the railing into the stairwell and all the way to the first floor. Much 'activity' in this area has been reported. (I didn't see/hear any.)

Ghost #4 - Breckie: Breckie was the child of a professor at the girls' college. The family 'lived in', but Breckie, a delicate child because of a congenital intestinal malformation, wasn't allowed to go outside or play with other children. He has been 'heard' bouncing a ball on the third floor and saying, 'It's not fair!' A participant in a previous ghost tour, a teacher from Iowa, reported seeing a group of children running past her up the stairs and was asked by another child, "Which way did they go?" She said he ran up three or four steps and faded from view.

Ghost #5 - Dr. C. F. Ellis: The first physician employed by the girls' college has been seen in the elevator area across from his office.

Ghost #6 - Theodora: The petite office manager/administrator of the Cancer Curable Baker Hospital, has been seen by housekeeping staff outside the now closed-up door of the room where she lived. Room #428 is one of the three most haunted/most requested rooms in the hotel today. Theodora was a 'neatnik' and has been known to pick up towels dropped on the bathroom floor or even pack a guest's suitcase and set it in the corridor outside the door! When paranormal investigators (invited in by management) took a dinner break, they came back and found the door blocked by equipment they'd left behind.

Ghost #8 - Irish workman: Trying to attract the attention of a pretty girl below, this young man fell to his death during the construction of the hotel. Now guests in Room #218 report strange happenings in this area where he died.

The last stop on the Ghost Tour is the morgue where autopsies were performed on those unfortunates killed by the man in whom they'd placed their last hope. It's now a storeroom/workroom, but the accoutrements of its grisly history remain, including the 'cold storage' area for bodies. I won't relate what happened the night I took the tour, but you may well ask, did it make a believer out of me? Nope. But don't let that stop you from taking the tour--you'll enjoy every minute of it. I did.

According to my stats, my blog received around 130 views yesterday and today--but no comments! The contest is still 'on' until this time tomorrow, so leave a quick comment at both posts to be entered in the drawing for a copy of A Very Kate Christmas.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Story ideas from the yourself!

Just returned from my annual fall get-away, roughly defined as "me-time" when I can do what I like when I like without constraints of large beasts and small persons, (not that I don't care about both!), meetings, appointments, and other necessary (often enjoyable) events that seem to crowd the calendar more and more.

This year I went to Eureka Springs AR. Click the link for information about this fascinating place, because this blog post is not a travelogue. Rather, I want to tell you about the 'haunted' Crescent Hotel and throw out some early Christmas candy in the form of story ideas. Please feel free to help yourself!

On Tuesday I hung out on the back porch, ensconced in a larger rocker, Kindle in hand, until it grew chilly. Then I walked up to the fourth floor (elevator down for repairs/replacement) and hung out at Dr. Baker's Bistro until time for the 8 o'clock Ghost Tour, where one may meet guests who checked in but never checked out!

The hotel gets its name from its location on a crescent-shaped ridge overlooking the town. The Cherokee culture includes the premise that flowing water is conducive to spirituality, and there are 68 named springs in Eureka Springs, plus Blue Spring 10 miles away.

The hotel was a grand place when it opened in 1886 and through the 'gay nineties', with stables for 100 horses, a pool, tennis courts, bowling alley, and an orchestra. The rich and famous stayed here to 'take the waters' until the development of of modern medical science pooh-poohed the belief in the healing waters of the springs. 1908 until the Depression era, it was a girls' college which doubled as a hotel during the summers. Then in 1937 came "Dr." Norman Baker, who bought the building and established the Cancer Curable Baker Hospital. His 'miracle treatment' consisted of injections of herbs and carbolic acid! Not a popular figure with those who recognized him for the charlatan he was, he had a well-protected office (bullet-proof glass) and kept weapons handy.

He had the doors of the patients' rooms removed so the staff could check on them during the night without disturbing them. Also to further minimize 'disturbance', he sealed off the wing of the building once used as accommodations for wealthy guests' servants and placed the terminal patients there. The steel doors masked the sounds of their suffering in the area which became known as "The Pain Asylum".

Well, fortunately, Baker was arrested in 1940, though he served a relatively short term in prison.  But--immediately the records disappeared, so no one has any idea how many patients passed through the doors (and out again, often feet first) in four years.

I hope you'll follow the links to get some background on the history of this fascinating, still imposing old structure (again a hotel) and will come back again tomorrow when I spin you the tales of not one but 5 'residents' who never left--and also tell you about the three most 'haunted'--and most requested rooms in the hotel.

Disclaimer: I am not into 'the paranormal', but I love a good 'ghost story'. 

Leave a comment on this blog and the one tomorrow--specifically about a story idea that has 'rattled your cage'--and be entered in a drawing for a copy of A Very Kate Christmas.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dropping Out suppose it's official: I'm a NaNoWriMo drop-out! Sigh. I was ready for November. The idea sparkled. Appropriate character names, including a lecherous villain, graced the planning page. A rough plot lurked in the wings. (I'm a pantser so I don't have every scene set in stone.) I'd created a cover and posted a brief blurb.

Then it began.At 12:01 AM on November 1, my eager fingers descended to the keyboard and began to type. Things plunged downhill from there. As I blog, I have 24,453 words written--surely 24,453 of the worst words I've ever written in my life. Whereas before, I always approached each day's word quota with eagerness and enthusiasm, this year I dreaded even opening the document!

Then I took an unauthorized break and organized A Very Kate Christmas, a volume of five stories I loved writing and which are, I say with appropriate pride, pretty darn good. One of them even won the Editor's Choice Award in a 2008 contest, saw publication in an anthology, and brought me a three-figure check. (See previous blog for details,)

After that, the train of disillusionment picked up speed as it rattled down the steep grade to...the decision to drop out. A little guilt crept in, and I thought, "Well, maybe I'll make it..." But then I took off for my annual fall get-away and left the guilt at home.

There's always next year. Then again, maybe not. I have enough to work on without creating a new novel requiring editing, revising, proofing, etc. I'm venturing into indie publishing this coming year (A Very Kate Christmas is a trial run/test, and I still have to get it up as an ebook), and I think that's going to take up all my time and more.

Meanwhile, judging by the stats, an average of 15 people view  The Word Place, everyday. Sometimes it goes to 25 or even more. So here's a request (plea?): if you don't already follow this blog, please take a second to click on the 'follow' button and help me reach my goal of 100 followers. Thanks in advance!

And, if you're in the market for a stocking stuffer, white elephant gift, limited-price exchange present, etc., go here and consider purchasing A Very Kate Christmas. You can't beat five stories for $5, and it ships in 3-5 days.

PS:  Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Time Out for a New Project!

All right, so this is why I haven't been hitting the keyboard for NaNoWriMo:

Just before Christmas 1881, a passing hand hears a baby crying in a deserted lineshack on a ranch in the Texas Panhandle. Stuffing her inside his coat to protect her from the bitter cold, he rides to Jericho where she is placed in the local orphanage. On Christmas Eve, Dan and Olivia Forrester, an older couple married only six months, see her and know she is meant to be their daughter. "The Christ Child brought you," they remind her each year in December. And as Kate grows up, she learns the lessons the Babe in the Manger came into the world to share.
Here are five stories for $5--a perfect stocking stuffer or hostess gift or just a treat for yourself! (Not a children's book)
Share my venture into Indie Publishing with A Very Kate Christmas. 


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Excuses, excuses...

This week has not been conducive to writing, and thus I am behind. I am so far behind, as a matter of fact, that I will have to write approximatley 5500 words between now and tomorrow night in order to be at the right place. Then Monday I have things to do, and Tuesday I'm taking off on my annual fall get-away aka some me time. Of course, the lappy will go along, but that doesn't guarantee getting/staying on target.

Frankly, I haven't bought into my story yet. I've come to a place where a major crisis has occurred, but I'm still not excited enough about the story to keep going and resolve said crisis. I don't have to finish, of course, but I want to as a matter of principle. There's really no good excuse not to do so.

Thus, to recap:
  • Alec has been dismissed from Belle Plain College.
  • Ruth has left voluntarily (read escaped!) after a horrifying attack on her reputation--and a stealthy one on her person.
  • Julia has left with her out of loyalty and also fear of being targeted for being Ruth's friend.
  • Royal alone is left to ferret out what he can about the undercurrent of selective persecution.
  • Just before leaving for Liberty Hill under the protection of Julia's parents, Ruth receives word that her father has been killed in a farm accident, and her little sister Rachel is staying at the manse--which means she's at the mercy of the Reverend Harbin Manning, whose lust for Ruth started all these intrigues. 
 Can it get any worse? Oh, yes, it can get a whole lot worse...if only I would put my fingers on the keyboard and get busy! And it is critical I do so, else I'll get so far behind that I'll just give up.

Anybody else out there as unmotivated as I am? How can we help each other get back on track?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Moving Right Along...

I'm where I should be at the end of NaNoWriMo Day 11, but I'm not particularly any happier with how the story is unfolding than I was last week. In a word (or two), IT STINKS! That's not to say it can't be fixed, but HOW?

The Reverend Harbin Manning (are you remembering Arthur Dimmesdale of The Scarlet Letter's infamy?) is working his nefarious plot to ensnare Ruth. No, he doesn't quite have her tied to the railroad tracks or the buzz saw, but he's got her where he wants her. At least, he thinks so. He's even dropped a word or two in the ear of Belle Plain College's dean who is now WATCHING her for so much as a toe out of line. She wants to pack her trunk and leave, but her roommate Julia and Julia's soon -to-be love interest Royal are encouraging her to stay, stand firm, and fight.

She still doesn't know Alec's "secret". Alec has asked Royal not to spill the beans, but he's not quite ready to tell Ruth himself. It's a delicate subject, you see. But Ruth's a farm girl. She knows about the birds and the bees--or, at least, the cows, chickens, pigs, and horses.

This is turning into a real melodrama! Blecccch!

Turning to a more interesting subject: I've formatted all five of my "A Very Kate Christmas" stories and plan to self-publish them in a small volume just to see how they're received outside of the fan fiction forum where they started. Of course, they're now 'mainstreamed' without any visible connection to their roots. The first of the stories, "A Very Kate Christmas: I Was Hungry" won the Editor's Choice Award in a contest in 2008 and was published in Words of Belief: 'Tis the Season. I also got a check for more money than I've ever received for any single writing piece!

Since then, I've written four more Kate stories:  "An Unexpected Christmas", "Unto the Least of These",
"He Shall Feed His Flock", and "The Reason for the Season". I expect there will be a Volume 2 eventually. I like writing Kate Christmas stories! And if Volume 1 comes together well, I'll be offering it as a give-away on a blog where I'm guesting December 13th, so stay tuned for more info.

Tomorrow I'm headed into town again for another NaNo session away from the distraction of the internet. At some point, I really need to get a few words ahead so I can take off on my annual Thanksgiving trip without guilt. Of course, I can write in the evenings when I'm done sightseeing, but it would still be nice to have a cushion.

Until next week--Happy NaNo-ing to all involved. Keep those fingers working and the words popping!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It's still a good idea, but...

So here we are, NaNoWriMo Day 8. I was behind, so I holed up in one of my favorite spots in town and caught up. Getting a little bit ahead would be nice, too, since I have a full calendar this month, and there will be days I don't get in many words.

The story of Ruth and Alec is unfolding, but I'd like to scrap it all and start over. However, that's what the post-NaNo months are for. The idea is a good one, but I'm not happy with the way I'm spinning it. It starts slow, is sluggish, doesn't have enough angst, and is definitely out-of-step with modern romance. Of course, it's not a modern romance. It takes place in 1881, when most young people had some restraint. In short, they weren't all over each other from the first hormonal surge. Yet, the sexual tension needs to be there.

My villain, the very Reverend Harbin Manning, is villainous enough--think Reverend Dimmesdale, the nemesis of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter. But he needs developing...realistically...though his lust for Ruth must remain more in the mind than of the flesh! His influence with Ruth's father needs developing, too. Why does he have so much "pull" with the successful farmer, a man who has done a marvelous job raising two motherless girls on his own?

Alec is about to find out the secret of his origins. This, too, needs to be handled sensitively, but he needs to react realistically to the truth. And how will Ruth handle the truth? Naive and protected, she won't be prepared to face the ugliness Alec is called upon to deal with.

So I press on. I have to get the words down and fix them later!

On an added note, I am enjoying watching a large group of Red Hatters in all shapes, sizes, and styles of dress/hats having lunch here while I work. Were I more assertive, I'd tell them they were being mentioned in my blog and blithely pass out some promotional postcards for my books. Alas, I am not. So I shall pack up and go about taking care of some errands now...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What started out as a good idea...

At the end of NaNoWriMo Day 4, my word count stands at 8,556 words, slightly ahead of schedule.

8,556 of the WORST words I have ever written. Blecch! Of course, first drafts are notorious for being bad, but this one is SO bad. It was a great idea, and I think it can be salvaged. I keep waiting for my characters to come to life and the plot to take fire...but meanwhile, I must press on to the eventual goal of 50,000 words.

Yes, yes, December is for rewriting, but I wont' get to it until January. Or maybe February...or March...or sometime.

So what's wrong with my brilliant story idea? Well, for starters it's set in 1881, and I'm rather out of my comfort zone there. Also, young people (which populate my story with the exception of the villain) didn't speak the way they do today, so if I try to be accurate, the dialogue is somewhat stilted. Plus, my villain is a "man of the cloth", and I feel somewhat guilty for making him so despicable. No, no, he doesn't DO anything awful...he's just a weasel...a grinch...

What to do? Keep on keeping on, I guess. Get those 50,000 words down, then go back and clean things up. By the time I get to the end of this thing, I'll figure out what's wrong with it and, hopefully, how to fix it.

Meanwhile, to all you other Wrimos out there...keep writing! And so will I. I won't like it, but I'll do it.