More Writing Rituals and Tools

 

Hello there and welcome back! I missed last month, sorry about that.

Last time I talked about my primary writing tool, the digital story bible.

This month I’m going to delve into another step in my rather chaotic process. The writing journal.

Beginning when I was very young, I wrote in a notebook I carried with me. When I was in school it blended in with my other school books, later I switched to smaller ones that could more easily fit into a bag or pocket.

In the years since I’ve switched to a digital format. I keep all my thoughts and ideas in a digital journal, it’s one of the notebooks in my OneNote that I talked about in my last post.

I have, in part, returned to physical notebooks and journals in the last six months or so. This happened for a variety of reasons and I partially blame Grace Duncan (fellow author) and Elizabeth North (owner of Dreamspinner Press).

Every year Dreamspinner Press hosts an author workshop and all those in attendance are given a nice welcome/gift bag. There’s the obligatory beverage receptacle (travel mug, water tumbler with straw) with the Dreamspinner logo, name tag and lanyard and lovely journals among other things. Every year is a little bit different.

Anyway, I’ve been keeping these super sweet journals on a shelf in my office. For the longest time I was afraid to use them, I might ruin them or not organize them the right way.

Grace pointed out there was no right way and leaving these journals sit unused just wasn’t right!

So, determined to put them to use, I bought some colorful stick on tab dividers and made one journal into a reference book. In there I keep things like the HTML codes I use on my website and in my newsletter, a list of reviewers and what format book they prefer. Who to go to for a blog tour, dos and don’ts of social media and promotions and other miscellaneous information.

Grace convinced me to try using one for story development and the third I plan to use as a coding notebook. I began taking coding classes and believe it or not, much of the early stages of website coding is done on paper! Go figure. The Dreamspinner journal is a perfect size for coding projects. All that aside, they’re pretty impressive looking.

At work I help maintain much of the machinery that runs our lab. I need to have a list of some error codes and remember how to reset software. I use a little notebook with a homemade suede cover for my personal reference. We have shelves full of user guides, but I find a few notes jotted down of the most commonly needed tasks is easier and simpler. Using my OneNote was hit or miss since the building is cinder-block and the WiFi is sketchy at best. One draw back with digital journals is you do need a way to be online to use them. Besides, handing my phone over to a coworker who needed the information wasn’t something I was comfortable with, a small notebook was a good work-around. And it’s cute!

To further my handwritten journal evolution I discovered refillable travel journals. These are perfect and pretty cool looking. Seriously, I’m so much about aesthetics I sometimes think I was an interior designer in a past life. I love color and texture in everything! Travel journals not only have removable/movable/refillable pages but many come in appealing colors and textures.

Since I’m not really permitted to be on my cell phone, or a tablet, at work, other than on breaks I would often make notes on scraps of paper. Little, pocket-sized journals are easy to carry and fun to use. I also tend not to misplace, throw out or otherwise lose them like I did with the scraps of paper.

In this picture you can see my big DSP journals, my little handmade one and then a few travel journals I purchased or were given to me as a gift.

I’ve read a few articles that explain the difference between how our minds work when we use a digital format and when we old school it and use paper and pen. (Of course I have fun colored pencils and gel pens to go with my journals!) Our brains actually fire different synapses and different parts are engaged depending on whether we type out notes or hand-write them.

For me handwritten notes seems to bring out the most creativity and that’s how I’ve been brainstorming. Everything I write down goes into my digital journal because the handwritten stuff looks like this:

As you can see, it’s a general mishmash and very unorganized. Writing my bits of ideas out gets the creative juices going. Transferring those ideas to my digital formats organizes them. It’s there I add pics, maps and research links.

My system is ever evolving, hopefully for the better. What I like the best about both methods, digital and physical is they’re portable. I love have access to all my writerly stuff all the time everywhere I go. (I’m sure there’s a blog post in that statement somewhere.)

Every writer needs to develop their own system that works for them. We’re creative types so, at least for me, the tools I use have to be appealing to look at, nice to hold and make me go ‘ooohhh‘ even just a little bit.

Until next month!

Anyone who would like to check out the products of my insane scribbling, it’s all on my website! Click on the banner below to take a journey to Emotion in Motion.

Happy Reading!

Elizabeth Noble

www.elizabeth-noble.com

 

 

The Green-Eyed Monster of Writing and How to Fight It by Sarah Madison

Hey there!

Yes, I’ve been AWOL for a while. Life has been kicking me in the teeth lately, and I’ve bailed on a lot of commitments as a result–my monthly post here being one of them. Truth be told, while I’m in this mood, I need to take a break from posting about my experiences at Writer’s Police Academy. I’ll come back to that thread at some point, I promise, but first I’d like to talk about something else: battling envy as an author.

I’ll be the first to admit I struggle with this. As an interesting sidebar, I’ve noted that depending on what social media site I’m on, I’m a slightly different personality. I tend to be more policitcal on Twitter and reveal a bit too much of my personal life on Facebook. When I had an Instagram account, I was relentlessly perky. Weird, huh?

Not really. I think the account tends to mold your responses and interactions there. Facebook in particular tends to shape two different kinds of posts depending on the feedback you get from your followers. Either your life is wonderful and perfect as you post images from your trip to Bora Bora, or your life is on the skids–so bad you’re starring in a country music song.

I like Facebook, but sometimes I have to avoid it. Studies have shown too much time on social media–and in particular, Facebook–can make you depressed. I believe it. I’ve posted about that fact before. Marketing gurus tell us we must spend time on social media, making connections and interacting with fans. Mental health experts tell us we sometimes need to take breaks from social media.

That’s advice I can accept. I find that too much time on Facebook and the like (I’m looking at you, Twitter) makes me depressed. Despite knowing most people post about the good things in their lives, skewing us into believing their lives are better than ours, I find Envy, the green-eyed monster, often stalks me when I read the happy posts of others.

These days, I don’t have the energy to deal with the frequent melt-downs and drama either.

But today, after weeks of reading books I thought were problematic at best and stank like sewer gas at worst, I read a book that was really good. One I could barely put down. One that pulled me in and got me involved in the lives of the characters, even though it was a genre I seldom enjoy. And miracle of miracles, the author put real obstacles in the paths of our protagonists, not simple misunderstandings that five minutes of conversation would have resolved if the characters hadn’t been such blooming idiots.

And like always when this happens to me these days, I felt a pang of envy that I would never write anything half as good.

It’s bad enough when you read something that stinks but made its way to the bestseller lists. You know the writing is subpar and the plot grates on your writerly soul, and yet thousands of people rushed out to buy it. Worse, they seem to be gushing over it. Even the people who admit they hated it couldn’t help but buy the next book in the series because they had to know what happened next. Look down your nose all you want, but storytelling like that can’t be as bad as you think.

But at least with a story like that, you can tell yourself its very badness is what attracted some readers to it, and since the author is laughing all the way to the bank, there’s no point getting on your high horse about it.

No, those stories, even though their success is inexplicable (and makes you grind your teeth with rage) are somehow easier to accept than the others.

You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that are so damn good, it takes your breath away. They remind you why you fell in love with books in the first place. No, they aren’t such masterpieces that people will still be reading them generations from now, but they are damn fine stories just the same.

And it kills you that you don’t write that well.

In some ways, this kind of story is harder to take than the drek that inexplicably become a bestseller.

Stop. Take a deep breath.

First of all, this Unbelievably Awesome Writer didn’t become that way overnight. Like you, they wrote. A lot. With passion–sometimes more passion than execution. What they didn’t know, they learned. They put in their time at the keyboard, honing skills until they produced the story that caused such powerful envy in you. Stop fretting about how good they are and how you’ll never write anything a fraction as good. These authors were like you once. You are on the same journey as they are. They are just farther along on the path. That doesn’t mean they are innately more talented than you are. Talent alone is meaningless without the grit to achieve your goals. And it is one thing that can be improved on with training and practice.

Second: this writer whom you hold in awe probably has half a dozen or so authors that make them sigh and fear they will never write anything as good as Writer X. There will always be someone better than you at any stage of the game, be it writing, or making money, or creating art, you name it. And there will always be someone worse than you, who either doesn’t have the knowledge to recognize their work stinks or isn’t prepared to do the work to make it readable, or simply because they are new at it and are farther back on the path. You can bet the author you’re in awe of has authors who awe him or her. Has days where they think their work sucks. Sits biting their nails for the first reviews to come out after promising themselves they wouldn’t read them. It’s the nature of the game.

Third: just because you love it, and the story seems to be univerally loved on all fronts, doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Read the reviews of your favorite books by your favorite authors. Most of them have their share of unkind reviews, same as you. And if someone can hate a story you love SO MUCH, that’s a pretty good indication it’s not for everyone. Everyone–believe me EVERYONE–gets bad reviews and rejected from time to time. Don’t let them dimish your dreams and goals.

Fourth: though it may not seem like it, there are people out there who are going to think your stories are awesome. Don’t disparage their intelligence because they like your stories. It’s rude at best and insulting at worst.

Fifth: Read more books just like it. Yes, read more books that make you cry with envy over how good they are. Don’t read crap. Your brain absorbs what you continually expose it to. Crap reading translates to crap writing. Want to be a better writer? Read the good stuff.

Most of all, let the writer know what you thought of their work. For all you know, your feedback may be the one thing that prevents them from pulling all their hair out and chucking the writing business as a lost cause.

In the meantime, I’m back to reviewing the audio version of Fool’s Gold. With any luck, it will be up on audible.com before the end of August.

 

To Blog or Not to Blog, or…

… Promo is Hell*

*With respect to Matt Groening.

Promotion is one of those necessary evils in publishing. Once upon a time, an author could write a book, send it to the publisher, approve edits (sometimes) and the rest was taken care of. The publisher promoted the work, did the advertising, and handled all that stuff.

Nooooot so much anymore. As I was working out what I wanted to write today, I was thinking about the dreaded B word again—blogging—and realized that, while it’s not the worst thing in the world for me, it is certainly not my favorite. So what am I doing on a blog here where I am voluntarily blogging?

Well, glad you asked! (Even if you didn’t really.)

Blogging is one of those love-it-or-hate-it things. The good news is… it’s not always necessary.

I find there are two different camps of authors when it comes to blogging. Most fit in one or the other, though a few hover in between. One camp is the “You must blog or you will never get anywhere!” camp. The idea being that the only way to keep up with the readership is to have regular posts to your blog and it’s the absolute end all-be all of promotion. These are the bloggers who post at least a few times a week, if not daily. Everything is bright and shiny with all the links working and everything in order.

The other camp consists of authors whose blogs haven’t been updated in a solid six to eight months and the last one was an announcement for their second-to-last release. It sits with cobwebs in the corners, a not-so-small family of spiders under the eaves and a solid coating of dust over all the surfaces. These guys often forget they even have a blog. *coughI’veDoneThatcough*

I tend to be somewhere in between. I get really excited about my blog, make all these plans to write a whole bunch of posts and ideas for different types of posts, then… I get busy or have health issues or something and I let it go. And then the only thing that goes up for months at a time is maybe a release announcement, my Friday fiction post, and a guest post here and there. I don’t quite get to the point of cobwebs (and spiders aren’t welcome in my blog any more than my house!), but I certainly let it get neglected.

Back when I was first published I, like many other new authors, muddled through, trying to force myself to do All The Things. I tried to blog, and Tweet, and post on Facebook, and even Tumblr and beyond. I went nuts trying to keep up with it all. Then I heard a piece of advice that stuck with me and I haven’t abandoned it since.

Find a couple of things that work and stick with them.

Well, then. Tweeting is (mostly) out. I have some followers and I retweet and share other tweets, but for the most part, I don’t try. Brevity has never been my talent and 140 characters is downright criminal for me. My tumblr is not for the faint of heart and, thus, not the most appropriate place to share everything. So what, then, do I do? I wasn’t sure I could blog—I drew a blank on topics and always thought I should basically be writing the next Epic Adventure (read: way too long) to make it worthwhile.

So I asked myself where do I spend most of my time? Well, duh. Facebook. Why not make what I already use work for me? I know how the algorithms work. I know what time of the day is good to post (early afternoon or late morning. Too late and people have gone home and too early and no one’s had coffee yet. And weekends are notoriously slow.). I know that pictures gain more attention than text and that links are outright suppressed (always post a picture and put the link in the description or comments).

Of course, the downside of using what I know—where I spend most of my time—is that I spend… way too much time on Facebook, but that’s a blog post for a different day.

So, then, to blog or not to blog? For me, that means… sometimes. I am not likely to let it go completely. I like posting my weekly fiction and I like hosting other authors. If I can ever get myself motivated (again), I will probably post a few other things here and there, but worry not, I’ll likely let it go again, as well.

Should you blog? Well… look at your habits, look at what you like to do and what you do best. That should tell you plenty.

And remember that if Promo is hell? Well, you’ll be in good company.

Writing Rituals… or the things I do to write a novel…the story bible

Happy one year to Authors Speak. My first post was a year ago this month! Thank you Lou Sylvre for all you do for this group.

One of the things I’m often asked as a writer is: how do you write a whole book?

I don’t have a concept of a life without creating a story and writing it down. I have, literally, done this in some form for my entire life. Writing is second nature and storytelling is ingrained to the point I can’t not write.

The drive and desire to write does not create books, screenplays and poetry. Telling the story is the end result but it’s only one part of the process.

We writers are a fickle lot and there are an infinite number of ways to create that product, a completed novel (or screenplay, etc). The simple fact is, however, the creation of all stories does have a few common elements. It’s how each writer goes about organizing and using those elements that is individual to each and every one of us.

So, since this article is about me, I’m going to talk about what I do—my rituals—to write a novel. Firstly, I write novels, not screenplays or other forms of written works, so that in itself dictates a number of my writing rituals and tools.

A book is a book, right? Doesn’t matter if it’s fiction, non-fiction or part of a series. They’re all books, aren’t they?

Wrong.

Every so often I’m asked to write something for a friend or coworker that isn’t fiction. It’s sort of like training to compete in one sport then trying to switch for a day to another sport. Yeah, you can muddle on through and probably not embarrass yourself, but you won’t be in the best form.

Everything I do in the course of creating and writing a book centers around the fact that book is fiction and a novel.

The first thing that happens when I set about creating a new novel is the basic plot idea. For me, plot and title come first. After I have those I begin plugging in characters and locations.

My initial ritual with a new novel or series is making a list of plot points. The order doesn’t matter and is likely to change, but I want a general idea of major events in every story. If the initial story is going to be part of a series I make a separate list of major events I’d like to include in the series.

The next step I take is to plan out where my story will take place. For that I use maps, books and the world’s best location explorer, the internet. Specifically, Google Earth and maps.

This is where the creation of my story/series bible begins. I have a bible for each series, and for every book within a series. I think all the authors I personally know have some form of bible for their works. For me, setting up my bible and organizing it, filling it with research, scene ideas and reference photos is one of my very most important writing rituals.

This is a page from the bible for Gone Away. There are personality traits for the two main characters, inspiration photos and links to research. This page is what I call my basic story board. It holds all my general ideas. Eventually I’ll create individual pages for the characters, plot, location and so on that has much more detail.

Some people use paper notebooks, I know others who employ index cards or journals. This is the digital age, and all of those tools have been recreated in the virtual world.

I use OneNote, which is a digital notebook system. It can be used on a computer, tablet or phone, so I have it with me wherever I go. At one time I figured out that if my OneNote notebooks for the Sentries series was somehow transformed to traditional paper notebooks each one would be hundreds of pages long and probably form a stack about three feet high.

I love my digital bibles. They are filled with photos, links and articles and become a scrapbook for every project. If I have an idea to use a waterfall or certain type of car in a story I can collect images and details, putting them on my digital pages. As I write it’s helpful to go back and refresh my memory with a visual image or check details from articles and links I’ve saved. If I’m planning a series I keep a list of what needs to be included in book #1 as foreshadowing for later books. On the reverse side of that I have other notebook pages with lists of events and characters from earlier books to reference in later books in a series.

This is one of the dozens of pages created for The Vampire Guard series and contains info on the organization featured in the series and some of the secondary characters.

Another nice feature of using a digital system is I can easily move pictures, information and links from one bible to another.

My final step before beginning the actual writing is characters. There is so much of a character that never makes it into a book. I know all sorts of details, childhood pets, favorite color and what kind of pizza they like! Every detail that comes to me about a character is recorded in case I need to use it. Images go in the character sections as well. Photos of people who look like my characters are a helpful reference when writing descriptions.

For me creation of my bible is one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing a novel. As I work on each bible the story begins to gel in my mind. The plot ideas and characters start to take on a life of their own and the story begins to play in my head. From there on it’s simply a matter of recording that story.

More on that another time.

http://www.elizabeth-noble.com/

Writer’s Police Academy Part 2: Death Scene Investigation by Sarah Madison

Last month, I wrote a general introductory post to Writer’s Police Academy and my experience there. For this month’s post, I’d like to go into more detail. As I mentioned in the previous post, attending WPA is a lot like going to any big continuing education meeting. A variety of seminars are listed simultaneously, and you must pick and choose which to attend. Also like a CE meeting, there were loosely defined tracks: several classes on arson, for example, or legal issues.

Because I already have somewhat of a medical background, I initially decided to forego the more medical seminars and attend courses where I thought my education was lacking. It didn’t take me long to change my mind, however.  In part because my background didn’t always lend itself to a direct translation into police/crime-based information, but also because this is where my interests obviously lie. To deny them would cut out an important–and authentic–voice in my writing.

This became apparent to me early on in the weekend because some of the very popular classes were limited as to the number of participants. As such, the organizers of WPA held a lottery for the courses and attendees were chosen at random. Some courses had to be limited for logistical reasons, such as the emergency driving course, or the live fire handgun class. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for both Death Scene Investigation and Ballistics.

Death Scene Investigation proved to be the first course of the day for me.

We were taken into a classroom and shown graphic images of actual death scenes, and then given the opportunity to say what we thought had occurred based on the blood spatter and evidence visible in the photographs. Before each set of photographs, the instructor gave us as attendees the option to leave the room before the next set of images were posted. Some people took the opportunity to do this. I confess, even though I have a pretty strong stomach, at times I felt a little queasy knowing I was viewing the scene of someone’s murder. That didn’t stop me from feeling a little spurt of pride, however, when after being shown photos of a brutal attack of a mother vacationing in a cabin with her two children, the instructor asked for speculation as to who the murderer was and I correctly guessed it was the estranged husband.

Now granted, the odds are high that a murdered woman is usually a victim of a domestic situation.  But when the instructor asked why I believed this was the case,  I pointed out that the woman was on vacation alone with her children, that the murderer had waited until the children had gone swimming, that the attack was brutally centered on her breasts and genitals, possibly signifying a strong personal hatred or previous sexual relationship, and that her left hand had been severed–the ‘ring’ hand.

The instructor was so pleased with my reasoning, he gave me a T-shirt!

After the initial instruction about basic procedures (more on that below), we then entered a room that had been staged with a fake death scene. We were given time to observe the evidence and then determine what took place. This was a little tricky since the room was small and there were a lot of us in it. Most of us could only clearly see a small portion of the scene. However, I won another T-shirt when asked for speculation as to what had happened and I said there had to be at least one shooter from outside, as the glass on the inside of the room indicated a bullet had been fired into the room. But I missed the bloody footprint, as well as the driver’s license (conveniently) abandoned in the trash basket.

My notes from the course are barely legible, as I wrote at top speed trying to keep up, but here are the highlights:

  1. Blood spatter goes in all directions–look for cast-off. In our arranged death scene, blood spatter had been placed on the ceiling and many of us neglected to look up. When a blade goes into a body, suction is formed around it, so if it is pulled out, the blade comes out with force and cast-off ends up behind the perpetrator.
  2. Passive blood drops don’t change size past four feet in height, therefore you can measure the size of the drop that falls from a height of under four feet to determine the height at which it fell (think of blood dripping off the tip of a knife point). There is a mathamatical formula for working this out, but don’t ask me to explain it! If a tear-shaped droplet forms as a result of cast-off, the fat end of the droplet will be closest to the source and the tip points in the direction of flow.
  3. Don’t assume all the blood is the victim’s. You may only get one chance to get a sample if it came from the murderer, so identification and preservation are critical. Knives become slippery with blood and it is easy for the perpetrator to get cut under those circumstances.
  4. A scene with a lot of evidence is frequently divided into grids (much like an archeological dig)
  5. Every death is treated as a homicide until proven otherwise.
  6. A void pattern can be as important as a spatter pattern (ie, what was in the way of the spray and where is it now?).

You can’t assume the perpetrator has left the scene–so you must complete a search/clear building first. Victims can only be assessed–not declared dead (coroner must declare death). A first responder can only say “pulse/no pulse.” The coroner is often an elected official with no real medical background. Larger counties will have both a coroner and a medical examiner, but it depends on the state.

The first responders will use codes when calling for backup because people listen to police scanners. An officer cannot assess/help/call for backup until the home is cleared.

One thing that came up again and again during the weekend is how often murderers confess to their crimes. It’s almost as if committing such a horrific act weighs on their conscience to the point they can’t help but confess given the slightest opportunity. Spontaneous utterance (confession) can be accepted, but an officer must Mirandize immediately afterward.

Officers on the scene can question anyone present to get background statements but there is a fine line between a witness and a suspect. When in doubt, read Miranda rights, but that may shut a witness/suspect down.

If a witness/suspect asks if he should get a lawyer, the correct response is to say, “It’s up to you. I’m not in a position to tell you your rights.”

If a suspect doesn’t call 9-1-1 immediately after a situation that ends in death, then self-defense credibility drops rapidly.

Once you’re assigned to a crime scene, it’s yours until the investigation is complete to avoid cross-contamination of a scene. If a crime scene occurs in a private home, the entire street will be closed off until secure.

That’s pretty much what I got out of the course–that and the realization I had halfway decent observation skills! I enjoyed the class so much I revised my planned schedule so that I could take more courses that were similar. I also learned there is too much to learn in a single course! I took notes, but quickly realized I’m going to have to invest in some more reading material if I want to be truly accurate describing crime scenes. I have a book on blood spatter on my Amazon wish list now. 🙂

And of course, I want to go back to WPA again!

Tune in next time when I will talk about K9 units and ballistics.

Tools of the Trade: What I Learned at Writer’s Police Academy Part 1 by Sarah Madison

Something I’m often asked is how much research I do for my stories.

It’s a good question. I adore research. I’ve been known to dive into the rabbit hole and not come up for air for months. I spent weeks researching The Battle Of Britain to write a simple dream sequence for The Boys of Summer, and what I learned made me determined to share some of the essence of what those young pilots experienced in defence of their country–far beyond the intended scene.

I used my own experiences as an event rider when writing Fool’s Gold, a story set in Olympic level sport horse competition. I once wrote a story about a main character who suffers a spinal cord injury, and immersed myself in both medical texts and the writings of survivors of such injuries.

When I decided to write a series of stories with FBI agents as characters, I knew I needed more than my love of shows such as Bones, NCIS, or The X-Files to give me a feel for how crimes are investigated (even if there is a paranormal element). Among other books, I read A Very Special Agent: Gay and Inside the FBI by Frank Buttino. I also read books on forensics, profiling, and true crime accounts of hunting serial killers. My wish list on Amazon has everything from bloodspatter analysis to books on training cadaver dogs.

So you can bet when I first heard fellow author Eden Winters speaking of her experiences at Writer’s Police Academy, I was all ears. Then I found out Jamie Lynn Miller had been going for years and had fantastic things to say about it. So when Shira Anthony asked if I’d like to share a room with her, I jumped at the chance.

I had a terrific time and I learned a lot. I would definitely go again, given the chance. Because the first thing you need to know about Writer’s Police Academy is that you simply can’t fit it all in on one trip. There are too many courses, there’s too much information and too little time. It was a jam-packed weekend, but that’s a good thing. Think of it like a continuing education seminar in which four different courses are offered at the same time and you have to choose which to attend. It means you have to come back!

The second takeaway lesson I got from WPA is that there’s a reason you’re drawn to certain things. Given I have more of a medical background than the average person, I decided to avoid much of the crime scene courses and concentrate instead in areas where I had little experience, such as ballistics or arson. But shortly into the first day, I realized that I had a natural affinity for some things, and that by avoiding them, I was actually turning my back on the kinds of things I was not only interested in, but most likely to include in a story. I rapidly reassessed my schedule and changed it accordingly. I also changed it when I heard a particular class was good or fun. The great thing about WPA is most courses were offered more than once, with a couple of exceptions. That meant you could pick up something the next day that conflicted with a different lecture before.

So while I took copious notes at the speed of light (just like being in school again), what I really got out of the lectures was a better sense of what I wanted to know more about (and where to find out more about these subjects) and potential contacts for questions among the speakers, many of whom were happy to give out their emails to answer any questions that might arise about procedure, etc.

WPA is held in Greenbay, WI. The venue was pretty amazing. The hotel was a stone’s throw from the airport, and the amenities pleasant. WPA works in conjunction with Northeast Wisconsin Technical College to put on the Academy every year, drawing on the lecturers from the college and volunteers to put on a great program. They also get some pretty amazing authors as keynote speakers for the big dinner at the end of the weekend. Tami Hoag and Lee Goldberg were the 2016 speakers. Ms. Hoag in particular was delightful, but I regret to say I could barely keep my eyes open by the time Saturday night rolled around. The buses rolled out at 7 am, which meant you had to have grabbed breakfast and be ready to roll. Classes were scheduled tightly, and sometimes the logistics of choosing to attend two different lectures on opposites sides of campus left you running in August heat for a bus to take you to the next class–or just running, period.

Snacks, sunscreen, sunglasses, bottled water, and a jacket for when you’re in air conditioning were all essential, as were sensible shoes. And don’t forget your camera! For those who arrived early on Thursday afternoon, there was a prison tour, as well as a special ops demonstration of equipment and police dogs in the parking lot coinciding with registration. I confess, I found the heat debilitating after my long flight, so I probably didn’t take full advantage of the demonstrations.

Our first day started out with a bang–as we rolled into the campus parking lot, we were greeted with a major accident. Two cars were involved. There was at least one obvious fatality and several serious injuries. Some people were still trapped in one of the vehicles, and the driver of the van appeared to be under the influence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we watched, police and rescue vehicles came roaring in and took over the scene.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got to see the ‘jaws of life’ in action, as well as watch as the police put the impaired driver through sobriety tests and then arrest her when she failed. The procedures were narrated throughout so we could hear as well as see what was going on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then to our amazement, a helicopter arrived to airlift out the victims!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that was all in the first hour! You can see why it will take me several posts to go through my experiences at WPA. I want to give as much detail as I can, as it will help solidify the information learned for me as well.

In the meantime, the newly expanded version of Unspeakable Words (Sixth Sense Series Book One) was released on March 1o, 2017! You can check out the series and see while I thought Writer’s Police Academy was such a great idea.

Ch-ch-chaaanges!

Well, hello there again and thank you for stopping by my little corner of Authors Speak at Rainbow Gate!

Writing professionally requires certain things and not all of them pertain to the technicalities of putting words together to form a story. Sometimes writers have to make choices about what to write. There is the hard reality that we have to make a living as well as writing what we love.

There is absolutely no reason one can’t do both.

That choices can be difficult if one isn’t willing to expand horizons and change a bit. However, there are a lot of choices and with a bit of thought it’s easy to discover there are other stories that need writing.

I’ve always said I’m a serial offender. I write in series. Series have much to offer in the way of extended plots and character development. It’s my writing as well as reading preference.

However stand alone books have a great deal to offer as well. Some stories don’t need four or six books to complete. There are readers who’d prefer a story be told with the covers of one book.

I decided it’s time to switch gears and write more stand alone stories. Some discussion with Lynn West, Dreamspinner Press editor in chief, helped me decide on a good direction to pursue.

Romantic suspense will still be part of my line-up, though I think the Circles series has come to an end. The next mystery will be a full length novel with more development and probably a more complicated plot. However, my mysteries will be in the same high action/adventure (sometimes in the wilderness) style as the Circles mysteries. I’ll still be working on The Vampire Guard, however it’ll be my ‘written for me’ side pet project stories. Sentries has been completed, though I may offer free stories on my website from time to time.

This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve taken a new path. I’ve always tried to live by the adage “I’m nothing if not adaptable”. Honestly, every change of direction for me has always been a good one. I’m excited over this change.

Coming soon, awaiting contract decision and in the works are two Dreamspun Desires books, a BDSM featuring an ice dancer and a hockey player. Of course there is a murder mystery planned, it will take place in Wrigleyville. There may also be a scifi romance in the future.

I hope you’ll join me in my new writing adventure!

I’m always excited and happy to take requests from readers, so if anyone has a plot bunny bouncing around you’d like to share please let me know!

Elizabeth

PS…you can find all my books on my website, click on the banner below.

There is also a great new repository site for finding Quiltbag/LGBTQ+ books. Check out Queeromance Inc.

Changes, legacies and thinky thoughts

My basement flooded recently.

It’s a special sort of treat said no one EVER!

So what the heck does this have to do with writing you ask? Well, it turns out quite a bit.

When I moved to this house twelve-ish or so years ago I had visions of using my finished basement in all sorts of grand and glorious ways. I could have a whole other floor of living space. I thought creating a living room and dining room down there would be a great place during the hot summer months. It’s nice and cool, I’d save on my electric bill.

Then the darn thing flooded–every few years. Yeah, that’s soooo much fun I can’t even begin to describe it. My oldest son (thank heavens I had the foresight to give birth to a plumber!) suggested an indoor pool during the last flood. Excuse him, he’s convinced he’s funny.

After this last flood I realized I don’t even like it down there anymore. It was time for a change. I decided I needed to move some of the shelves and furniture and things down there up into my main living space.

One of those pieces of furniture was this cute little dresser.

Since it’d been previously sitting in my basement for a decade plus I decided to go through what was stored in those drawers. Discovered something interesting.

Writers keep A LOT of paper. Lined paper, blank paper, colored paper, no pens just paper–I don’t even write by hand anymore! Some of those papers (and notebooks) had things written on them.

Writerly things.

One of those drawers was filled with different stories I’d written or begun to write. Some were from long ago when I was in school. A few were finished, others were not. I’d venture to say I could look in any closet or filing cabinet I own and find such a stash. These little writing clippets range from not so bad to OMG I hope no one ever sees these!

For the better part of the last six or so years I’ve written almost exclusively on my computer. My research, notes, ideas, visual aids are all on there. I have a few friends who’ve I tasked with the duty that if I drop dead they MUST come wipe my hard drive. I’d die of embarrassment if some of those things were seen by others.

Which is silly, I’d be dead so what’s the difference?

My recent find in that little dresser made me think, what about all that stuff I have written on paper and squirrel away throughout my house?

From a writer standpoint this stuff is awful. Gimme a break some of it was written as early as grade school! That’s not to say the ideas are horrible, some I think I might revisit and use. But the writing–gah, blah!

But then I thought how my kids make comments about my writing. Not what I write, but that I DO write. It’s part of who and what I am. My youngest son has commented numerous times the thing he remembers most about me when he was small was I was always creating stories. Writing them down and later typing them out.

Even if I think these handwritten bits and pieces of stories are horrible is it possible they might become something treasured to my children or grandchildren someday? A memento of who Mom was?

Maybe. I won’t know because of that whole being dead thing.

The fact remains, useful or not, these early stories I created do represent me. I’ve decided I’ll collect them all from their hiding places in the back of closest and forgotten drawers and put them in one place for others to find someday. If my kids don’t want them, they can toss them, no hard feelings and I’ll understand. However, it’ll be their choice. I shouldn’t take the opportunity from them to save something they might find precious and meaningful.

Now, as for the raunchy pictures that are purely research on my hard drive–they gots to go!

Until next month,

Elizabeth

To read the better stuff that is eBook compatible and not handwritten visit my WEBSITE.

 

Defending Your Copyright: What You Need to Know

Recently, I found out the hard way what you can expect in a battle to defend your copyright.

First, let me put a disclaimer here: this information, to the best of my knowledge, only applies in the US. You should check into the regulations within your own country.

summer_fling-200x300I’ve posted extensively on my website about the conflict I got into with Amazon over my right to publish A Summer Fling, but I’ll share the highlights with you here: a short time ago, I updated some information in my bio on a long-standing free short story on Amazon.

The next day, I received an email from KDP saying that prior to my submission they’d received a complaint and takedown notice from a third party and they declined to re-publish the story. A story that had been available for the last three years. I was given four days to prove I was the author of the story in question or face a lifetime ban from publishing on Amazon.

I was aghast. My initial thought was I’d done something wrong with the file changes. I contacted friends, who assured me this wasn’t all that unusual, and that Amazon was getting tougher about establishing copyright due to copyright claim jumping as well as people stealing the pen names of established authors to publish their own stories. Self-published authors may be at greater risk.

This is a good time to state here that in the US, copyright is conferred at the time the work is created, and it is not necessary to register it with the copyright office to claim copyright or even defend that copyright in court. Is *is* necessary, however, if you intend to sue for damages due to copyright infringement. I have since learned that having your works registered will go a long way toward defending your copyright in many cases without going to court–something most of us would probably prefer. I also believe in this age where theft of digital products is on the rise (funny how everyone wants access to the end product but few want to pay the actual creator of these works…), it behooves us as authors to think proactively about our stories.

From the US copyright office:

1. Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship.
2. Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form that it is perceptible either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.
3. Registration is recommended for a number of reasons. Many choose to register their works because they wish to have the facts of their copyright on the public record and have a certificate of registration. Registered works may be eligible for statutory damages and attorney’s fees in successful litigation. Finally, if registration occurs within 5 years of publication, it is considered prima facie evidence in a court of law.
4. The United States has copyright relations with most countries throughout the world, and as a result of these agreements, we honor each other’s citizens’ copyrights. However, the United States does not have such copyright relationships with every country. For a listing of countries and the nature of their copyright relations with the United States, see Circular 38a, International Copyright Relations of the United States.

Here is the link for the US copyright office.

That said, I was able to provide Amazon with ample proof that I was the copyright holder of the story. I sent in the original draft (written in 2011), as well as links to where it appeared as a free story online during a fest, and then the 2013 Smashwords creation. I also, for good measure, retroactively registered the copyright and provided Amazon with that case number. Satisfied there was no way anyone could contest I was the author of A Summer Fling, I sent the email and dismissed it from my mind.

Only the next communication changed everything. Amazon no longer disputed that I had written the story. The problem was some third party claimed I didn’t have a right to publish the story. WTH?

This was no longer a case of random copyright theft. The number of potential claimants in this case was quite small. Two as a matter of fact. The first party contacted Amazon on my behalf and received a generic email response that told her nothing.

A fourth refusal from Amazon to re-establish the story included a generous invitation to continue publishing with them in the future–and a suggestion to hire a copyright lawyer. In the meantime, I’d been on the phone with Author Central and KDP, and I’d forwarded Jeff Bezos all my communications with KDP–including a statement from a now-defunct ebook retailer (who happened to have closed doors 24 hours before this problem arose) showing they had no publishing rights to my story. Because now I’m suspicious. Highly suspicious.

And then suddenly, I receive an email from Amazon stating ‘on further review’ they’ve decided to reverse their position and put the story back up again. No explanation. I have no idea if it was my loud persistence, the intervention of one of the two possible claimants, or my contacting Jeff Bezos about the matter that resolved it.

I doubt that copyright registration would have made a difference in this case because this was about publishing rights, not copyrights. But I will definitely be registering my previous and future stories with the copyright office as an extra layer of protection.

I will also download copies of *every* agreement signed to allow distribution of my stories. I was fortunate to still have access to a copy of the ARe agreement, even though I don’t know if they were the source of the conflict.

The takehome message here is to be proactive in defending your works. I was facing hiring a copyright lawyer to determine if a free story was being blocked by accident or a malicious attempt to lay claim to all my self-published stories. You can see why I had to seriously consider hiring that lawyer.

 

Bio:

Sarah Madison is a writer with a little dog, a large dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. When she’s in the middle of a chapter, she relies on the smoke detector to tell her dinner is ready. She writes because it’s cheaper than therapy.

Sarah Madison was a finalist in the 2013, 2015, and 2016 Rainbow Awards. The Boys of Summer won Best M/M Romance in the 2013 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards. The Sixth Sense series was voted 2nd place in the 2014 PRG Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Mystery series, and 3rd place in the 2105 PGR Reviewer’s Choice Awards for Best M/M Paranormal/Urban Fantasy series.

If you want to make her day, e-mail her and tell you how much you like her stories.

Website: http://www.sarahmadisonfiction.com

Amazon

Dreamspinner

E-mail: akasarahmadison@gmail.com

Facebook

Twitter

 

I Write What I Love and Love What I Write

There’s a ton of advice for writers whether they be published, aspiring or true hobby writers. We’re all authors, the difference is some of us are professional authors who get paid in currency. The truth is we all get paid in compliments and reviews no matter in what the forum and format we publish. Follow the rules of grammar, research your facts and write what you know, that’s preached in dozens, if not hundreds, of books offering writing advice.

typewriter-and-books

 

I say don’t worry about writing what you know, you can learn about a topic you wish to include in a story.

I believe in writing what you love!

One thing we all have in common is at some point we write a story for ourselves. We write the tale we want told, the one we want to read. There are various reasons we authors write different stories. Some are continuations of other stories–the birth of the series. Others write about events in their lives or a world they created as an escape.

All of us who write stories that are shared with the public in some manner sometimes create those stories to please others. I’ve run contests where fans can choose character names, or situations one or more characters need to face in a certain story. I created an entire series from prompts offered to writers in a fandom group I once belonged to. I’ve participated in author auctions where readers bid on their favorite authors to write a story for them. The money goes to charity and they’re a lot of fun. I’ve also written stories for group projects that required adhering to a certain theme.

Those stories turned out to be good stories and were well received. Some have won amateur and professional awards.

Then there are the other books and stories. The ones I wrote for me. The ones that were total self-indulgence.

Some of those books were a bit of an experiment, the representation of stretching my writer’s wings so to speak.

forthelongrun_final01

 

Others progress a bigger story, but are written around plots I had swimming around in my head for months or years. These were stories that include elements I’d been waiting to work into a story. I simply had to wait for the right story to come along.

 

collaredsouls_postcard_front_dsp

quarry-final-150-dpi

Then there are stories I write that fall into that pure self-indulgence category. These are the books that are truly for me. The story I wanted to tell and I don’t waiver much, if at all, from my original plot ideas.

jewelcave_postcard_front_dsp

tetheredpairfs   5468032

Each of these books have something special to me, near and dear to my heart.

Readers may be surprised to learn authors have favorites, and write books not only for their audience but themselves, but I’m here to say it’s true! Books are important to different people for many reasons. We all have our comfort reads and for me, I have my comfort writes. Even though I adore all the books I’ve written (and the fanfic), these are the books that I go back and read again and again, not as their creator and not as an author, but as Elizabeth the person, the reader.

One might think that because I created these works I’d know everything inside the covers. Not so! When I read them, or any book, as a reader more than once I always find something new. That’s the joy of reading and of writing. Discovering something that makes you feel good inside.

I’m always excited to hear from readers. If you’d like to contact me for any reason I can be at elizabeth.noble19@gmail.com, or visit my website, Emotion In Motion.

Elizabeth

new-en-banner-91216-copy

Circles

The Vampire Guard

The Sleepless City