Saturday, July 11, 2015

Body of Work: From Character Bibles to Author Roadmaps

Writer's Bible for Star Trek Voyager
Writing is not just a succession of endless submissions, humiliating rejections, and slavish discipline to mastery of craft. It also demands the painful scene of self-promotion and very public "flogging." No pain (ouch!)  no gain.


Welcome to "Fifty Shades of Black and Blue and Write and Read"...AKA selling yourself without selling out.

Deep breath. There. Got your safeword? Let's begin.

Self-promotion can be easier than you might think. (E.g., there exist a few tricks. At least, I came across a few. And I don't mind telling you that I firmly believe in taking the road less traveled, especially if I find it is also the path of least resistance.)

Shall we begin by taking up self-promotion? From social media to distance networking to speaking engagements, there are methods of self-promotion that are well-fitted for authors that range from the painfully shy to the outspoken extrovert.

Authors usually appreciate the etymological derivation of  English language words, so we'll start there.

According to the Online Etymological Dictionary "promotion" is a both an ancient and a rather recently coined word. If we begin with the 15th century's definition, which (being an antiquities language lover) I prefer,  "self-promotion" means "self-advancement"...and I'm certain you've noted that it is defined as an action verb.
promotion Look up promotion at
early 15c., "advancement," from O.Fr. promotion (14c.), from L. promotionem,
noun of action from pp. stem of promovere (see promote).

Meaning "advertising, publicity" first recorded 1925.

Promotional "relating to advertising" first recorded 1922.

Now, we can get to the seemingly horrifying "OMG, you mean me?" part of that self-promotion thing. Yeah, I'm afraid that promotion = advertising.

And we know what "self" means...that's "you". (Stop looking over your shoulder. For this exercise it's okay to look at the reflection in your monitor.)
It looks like taking some form of action for authorship advancement is what is meant by self-promotion. I've blogged about this topic previously. Check out the painless self-promotion ideas I've used to good result.

To continue, here's where peering into your own future and that fearsome "body of work" stuff ties in like a birthday present bow with self-promotion.

It's not that difficult to create a character bible while creating your fictional characters for the page. And you know how important those background sketches are to maintaining teh consistency of your work. 
  I'll admit a good character/writing bible is an effective bedrock for the creative process when you're mired in the depths of character creation. For great tips on creating character bibles you could do worse than consult the "Character Bible How-To" online at

Now, let's advance that character bible concept to your author persona, shall we?
Think about this: might taking the time to create an "author's character bible" possibly lay down a sounder footing for your progress in developing the arc of your projected body of work?

Who knows what you know about your life experience better than you? Who would express that unique persona that is you without causing you to reel back with horror from some flack's excess elaboration about you than you?

How do you control your persona? Just like you control the personae of your characters: you write a character backgrounder. A "character bible."

Perhaps prior to writing about the solid story backgrounds of your characters, you should consider writing a personal character bible about the most important character in your writing life. You.

Consider it your rational resume as an author. Include all your germane experiences that apply to the genre in which you write.

And, so you can feel comfortable (as well as honest and able to defend your bio) it should be "The truth, the whole applicable truth, and nothing but the charming and gritty and fascinating truth."

I've recently done this, and it both assisted in creating an author's CV, and gave me insight into what I should and should not attempt to write per any specific storyline. It also helped a bit in fashioning a path towards a road that may lead to a body of work.

Get started. And, if you're feeling frisky, please post it to this blog (or, if your are enrolled in the Clarion Foundation
Write-A-Thon, post it there.)

I'll post my personal author's bible as an example to my Clarion Write-A-Thon profile.

After all: as a writer, when you are writing, you are your most important character.

What's your story?


This article originally appeared at CreateSpace by the author.

Shhhh...We're Hunting Wemberence Wabbits

(Written on Remembrance Day, July 27th, 2015) Be vewy vewy qwiet. Hear wit? Hear twhat?

We're stalking that weelusive wee small vowice.

Shhhh. We're hunting wemberence wabbits.

You know, those fleeting memories that rush by us like Alice's White Rabbit muttering "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!"

And before we can capture them on paper, *whoosh*...down the rabbit hole they disappear.

Why is this so difficult? We're oft told as writers to "write about what we know." Sounds as simple as a bread and butter sammich, eh? 

So why is writing about one's self so vewy hard?

What's up Doc?

It's just writing which drawn from our own life. This should be the one thing we know all about, right? So why isn't it just that simple?

As today is a historic date in "wabbit hunting" and "remembrance" we should never forget that writing from our own history is going "down the rabbit hole."

Happy hunting writing!

Know...Grow...Go! Writing Juvenile Storybook Fiction (Ages 2-8)

Scout, the Search and Rescue Beagle
Writing for the juvenile fiction market is tricky.

There are rules for this genre that are quite specific to your audience.

The first thing to consider is that your audience is separated into age groups that vary according to your imprint's requirements.

When you are self-publishing online, however, you have a little more latitude in defining your groupings. How much you rely on illustrations to tell your story has a good deal to do with where your juvenile fiction book will be classified.

I am currently developing the narrative and illustrations for a series that falls into the "Storybook" age group: (Ages 2 to 8.) These books feature a character (shown above) I've named "Scout", who is a search and rescue trained beagle.

Even in children's literature, it can also be useful to write what you know.

When I was growing up in Michigan (Michigan haz two seasonz: Huntin' and Fishin'...) we raised beagles and trained them for a year as hunting hounds. I suppose you could call them a "value-added beagle."

In my adult years I have volunteered for search and rescue sweeps, including work with the astounding Tim Miller and his team at Texas EquuSearch Mounted Search and Recovery Team.

I've always loved our beagle breed, and so wished to spread appreciation of their impressive skills, "dogged work-ethic," genius at tracking and scenting, and incomparable compassionate character.

Now, about beagles and science-fiction: Dogs in space? Well, seeing that you ask, a resounding "Yes!"

Working on the series, I wanted to include one book where I highlight the fact that long before the first man went into earth orbit, a dog took that spin. That's really taking your dog out for a walk!

On on November 3, 1957. the Soviet Union launched a doggie-flight with the passenger being a Moscow street stray they named Laika, sole living occupant of the Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2.

How is that for canine "search" where "no man has gone before?"

So, an illustrated Storybook about a trained search and rescue beagle on a space mission?

Absolutely! After all, dogs were in space first!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Starting With the Big Finish: Always Leave 'Em Haunted

June 2015:
The start of a this year's Clarion Write-A-Thon.

June 1960. 
The start of what was my first genre-based addiction.

I was five years old. And the start of this "affliction" that in those less-than-halcyon times was viewed by the adults in my limited milieu as highly inappropriate for a pre-schoolgirl; unspeakably wrong for "little ladies" of the era.

I was hooked on horror and Hitchcock.

The big horror movie event of that year was the release of Hitch's newest: Psycho.

And I wanted to see it like I wanted to take my very next gasping horrified breath.

The hype was brilliant because it had to be.

Because it was a budget flick shot in black and white when Technicolor was all the rage, because the subject matter was dead extreme and quite experimental for those tender times and thought to be at the very edge of what was possible in the genre. Today we tend to forget how Psycho set the horror mark to a new level upon release.

So, Hitchcock dreamed up a gaggle of gimmicks. No one to enter the theater after the movie started, and you had to agree that if you died from shock, Hitch was off the hook.

And for me the worst of all the hype rules: No one under the age of 18 unless accompanied by an adult.

Add to that barrier the final crushing gimmick: after the full theater run ended, Psycho was not to be aired on network television until 10 years later. This was pre-Netflix stream, pre-torrents, pre-DVD. Radio, TV and movies were literally the only shows in town.

You think my teetotaler, church deacon, pillar of the community/pillar of salt of the earth mother was about to take me to see this abomination? In 1960?

She'd rather hand me a loaded Derringer and advise me to go play Dillinger downtown. Way rather. At least bank robbery would be contributing to my upkeep.

What's a horror-loving, hyper-hovered-over kid supposed to do?

For one thing, not get to see Psycho until 1970.

But I did get the maternal unit to buy me an Alfred Hitchcock short story anthology. Hardcover. And I learned a little about closing a story with a haunting image.

"Bad concierge. No tip for you!"

Protip: Sometimes the last line comes to you at the initiation of writing and defines the story arc.

Sometimes during the process of crafting your prose, the finale starts to write itself.

And, sometimes you have to wander the woof and weft of your writing to find that big finish.

By "haunted" I don't necessarily mean "scarred and scared into cardiac arrest." Rather, leave a lasting impression.

Welcome to 2015 Clarion Write-A-Thon. Pull up a pen, dim the desk-light, dare darkness 'til daylight and begin. Ready...Steady...Start.

Ready to think the unthinkable? Steady with the unwavering eye. Start the Write-A-Thon and remember...

Always leave 'em haunted, begging for just a little more terror.