Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ask Your Beta Reader

It helps a reader to know what you are concerned about. Here are some question you might want to ask so you can get actionable feedback on your book:

- What's the one word you'd use to describe each character?
- Who was your favorite character?
- Favorite scene?
- On which page do you think you know what the story will be about?
- What do you wish were different in chapter one?
- What's your favorite Chapter?
- Where did you skim?
- Why?
- Where did you cringe?
- Why
- Where did you cry/gasp/laugh?
- Why?
- What was too predictable?
- What do you consider the dark moment?
- Were you satisfied by the end?
- Why?

You'll notice there are many whys... that's because it is much more helpful to know WHY something is good or bad so you can go back and do more or less of that thing.

Remember to thank your Beta Reader!

Good editing!

From the Inkpot

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Melodrama is the stuff of old movies, old stage plays, and many old romance novels.
It's hard, sometimes to spot it in my own writing, but for some reason, it screams out to me in my clients' work. And not in a good way. Why does it matter? Don't we all know what the back of a hand on the forehead means? Is it not relatable. No, frankly it isn't.

Do you ever watch old movies? Can you picture Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Mae West, Joan Crawford, and Ronald Reagan (just checking to see if you are still reading) swooning or opening their mouths in perfect circles, eyes bulging?  Isn't it somewhat laughable today to think they were expected to overact like that?  But that was how they made things bigger than life to excite the viewers.

Now it is authenticity that draws viewers in. Think of Nicole Kidman or Meryl Streep at their best. We can see numerous emotions cross their faces in a matter of minutes as something dawns on them. It is often the music itself that sounds melodramatic or old school. To see an amazing example. Watch this clip from Birth, beginning at 1:50.  You'll see so many emotions cross Kidman's face. Can you even count them?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpJj9c2OV-0

Incredible right? It didn't take exaggerated emotions to get the ah-ha moment across. Her revelation appeared much more like it would in real life if a boy was claiming to be her reincarnated husband (especially her old beau Tom Cruise)... only to end up being true.

Next time your character wants to express undying love, fear, surprise or any number of other emotions, instead of making the dialogue big and unrealistic, use the words or feelings that your character would really have. Method act on the page.
Do the hand on forehead test and say the lines.  Do you feel like you are in a soap opera? If so, make the emotion come from the inside, from real dialogue, real narrative. Let it arise out of your Point of View. And give us the real thing.   Good Writing! - From the Inkpot


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Secondary Characters visit Catherine Hamrick's Blog

By way of my guest post on her quite popular blog, I'd like to introduce you to Catherine Hamrick.  She's one of those rare writers who take your breath away, even before it's captured by one of the big publishers. I describe her writing as Haven Kimmel if she wrote from the South.  She's not only a seasoned editor and writer, she's an accomplished cook and a keen observer of culture and the beauty of down-home folks. What more is there in this world?  Riding on her coattails, I selfishly hope others will read my post.

I'm honored she featured me and doubly honored that she calls me a "Triple-Threat-Talent..." Wow, figured I had to use that description in a post of my own!


Do come, read up on my take on Secondary Characters, then tool around on Catherine's site.  She has an eclectic blog; no doubt you'll find something there that will fascinate you. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

What’s platform?

I have no book out in my own name yet, after 26 years of writing, but I've explored many other realms, gone on many tangents. I've taught in a variety of venues, published short fiction, poetry, articles, and essays. I've gotten paid to blog, done work-for-hire screenwriting, ghostwritten, have been super involved in a variety of social media - general and on my topics. I've professionally edited / midwifed many books and scripts and shorts and...  All those endeavors have put bricks in my "Platform." What is platform?  Frank Dorchak's recent post about platform made me think on the subject.

And this is my thought on it -- this week.

Maybe this isn't flattering, but platform seems to be a modest way of saying pedestal, as in: put you on a pedestal... look up to… find admiration enough to buy your product. At least that’s one way to look at it… the higher your pedestal, the more people will see you. The more people see you, the more people will likely buy your product. Getting yourself up on that platform is said to be one key to success now.  I'm building one hell of one!   - Inky


Monday, July 20, 2015

Congratulations to Runners Up Joan Johnston and Cindy Myers. 
And a whopper of a congratulations to the RMFW Writer of the Year Susan Spann.
We had a great time at the BookBar!
Fun seeing everyone who could attend.  Quite a crowd!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Ghostwriting - Caution

Cautionary tale from one who has taken the ride.

Today I got word from my attorney that my celebrity collaborator on a ghostwriting project has an attorney that doesn't respond.  Things went sour thanks to a betraying agent WHO I BOUGHT IN ON THE PROJECT.  She wanted said celebrity to push me off the project so she could put another "more seasoned" ghostwriter in my place.  I was not an employee, I was a collaborator.  I didn't cooperate in my own ousting.   I may name the top agent sometime in the future, but for now I'm being discreet.

Helping others tell their stories can be fun, advance your skills at interviewing and delving deep into POV, give you the opportunity to midwife great stories.  It can also be lucrative.  But beware of the pitfalls.

I write a column for BTS Book Reviews and coincidentally the disappointing
call from my attorney happened on the first day of my ghostwriting series.  Instead of earning a sizeable amount of money (as per my contract), I'll end up going in the hole for my attorney's retainer, my travels to the celebrity for interviews, rental car, etc.  Not to mention my lack of income as I turned down new editing clients. 

It was a writing debacle and a lesson learned.  But perhaps a subject for a book I can write in the future.  The question is, do I write it as nonfiction from my perspective going into a very big project and having it yanked away from me through interference with a contract?  Or do I write it as a murder mystery and leave some blood behind on the page. 

A question to ponder. 

You can see the list of all the subjects I cover on my BTS teaser page:

-  Inkpot


Friday, May 15, 2015

Authors Speak about Howard Fogg's WWII and Art Careers

Thank you again, one and all, for the invitation to speak, for attending, and for the terrific articles about Howard!

May 6, 2015 Left Hand Valley Courier:

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

There was fun to be done!

“Oh, the places you'll go!
There is fun to be done!
There are points to be scored.
There are games to be won.”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Oh, the places we went! (The Bookbar on March 29th for a fabulous book launch by Becky Clark, Peg Brantley, and Shannon Baker.)

There was fun to be done!  (With this trio?  Surely you jest!)

Yes, games were won!  (Wine, anyone?  Or would you prefer the excellent hot chocolate?)

Oh, the places you'll go in their new books! 

And links to their websites!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SOTQ Blog: Grand Canyon

“The English novelist J. B. Priestley once said that if he were an American, he would make the final test of whatever men chose to do in art, business, or politics a comparison with the Grand Canyon. He believed that whatever was false and ephemeral would be exposed for what it was when set against that mass of geology and light…”
― Kevin FedarkoThe Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon

These two sentences express a truth so close to my heart it had never occurred to me to express it. But as I prepare to send off my thirteen-years-in-the-making book, I realize I’m holding it to this standard. Are the characters and story line true and worthy enough to give readers the tiniest hint of the feeling of gazing at the Grand Canyon? That awareness that things are much more beautiful and awe-inspiring than you recalled, and why hadn’t you looked up sooner to notice? The feeling that you always want to carry this awareness with you, because life would be emptier without it? That’s what I want people to feel when they close the back cover of my book.

P.S. The Emerald Mile, if you haven’t read it yet, is an amazing mix of historical exploration (first third), politics and hydrotechnology (second third), and adventure (last third) that shouldn’t work but does because of great writing. It passes the Priestley Grand Canyon test for sure. Also, the non-fiction characters just happen to be better than any we fiction writers could invent. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Location, Location, Location

by Nib
I’m a sandwich generation. In my case, it means I was raised by parents who had no love for the outdoors, preferred to watch television most evenings, and had it not been for their individual recliners, would have been the original couch potatoes. Somehow, I raised two daughters who, despite all my efforts to the contrary, can watch TV for long consecutive hours and have great tolerances for sedentary behavior.
I have some kind of mutant outdoors genes. From my earliest memories I was outside running, roller skating, riding my bike, all accompanied by skinning my knees, falling from trees and knocking the wind out of my lungs, smashing my tailbone on hidden concrete abutments when jumping into a roaring irrigation ditch.
When I married young and moved to the Nebraska Sandhills, I jogged on county roads or pedaled my mountain bike through isolated sandy pastures. Folks in my community thought I was nuts and couldn’t understand why I just didn’t plant more fence posts or throw more hay bales if I needed to exercise. One old geezer loved to pull up beside me in his rusty sky-blue Dodge pickup while I was jogging and lean out his window. “If you’re not in a hurry, I’ll give you a ride into town.”

When I escaped from Nebraska, I finally felt free to indulge my passion. I moved to Boulder, CO and immediately began hiking and mountain biking. I bought a road bike and enjoyed days of pedaling the foothills trails and roads. I took up snow shoeing, SCUBA and kayaking, cross country skiing, week-long backpack trips in the wilderness.
Then I ended up in Flagstaff, AZ, gateway to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, Lake Powell and desert, mountains, prairies. After a lifetime of being considered a freak for wanting to play outside, I was living the dream.
I’ve accidently plopped back down in Nebraska, temporarily. (Only 89 more days of our year and a half sentence) but even here I manage to ride my bike, walk and jog. Again, I’m sort of a freak but not as bad as it was fifteen years ago.
When I left Nebraska I vowed I’d never live anywhere icky again. (So much for vows.) Life doesn’t always work out the way we plan. But here’s the deal about writing fiction: we can always make it work out our way.
That’s why Nora, the protagonist of the Nora Abbott Mysteries, gets to live in really great places. She doesn’t have to face the cloying humidity of southwest Nebraska summers or day after day of milky skies all winter or the raw wind of March on the prairie.
In Tainted Mountain, Nora started out in Flagstaff, on a ski mountain in June. Spicy pines, flashing Indian paintbrush and fiery penstemmon amid the green grass of the slopes. Sunshine and blue skies with mountain air so fresh you’d need to slap it.

In Broken Trust, Nora got to move to Boulder, CO, my heart home. In October, with the oak flashing its red leaves, young people surging on the Pearl Street Mall as another semester at CU is underway. The majestic Rocky Mountains held back by the famous Flatirons and everywhere the beauty and quirkiness that makes Boulder so special.
And in Tattered Legacy, Nora travels to Moab in the spring. The iconic red rocks and hoodoos  (don’t you love that word?) and fins of Arches National Park and the giant spires that march over the desert valleys bring Nora into a landscape so amazing it leaves me nearly speechless.

And I got to go to every one of those places. I got to hang out and be there. So even if I’m spending one last winter in the gray gloom of the Nebraska prairie, I can keep the beauty of the outdoors with me.

What is your favorite place, your heart home?
BTW-- Tattered Legacy is available for pre-order now and will officiall launch March 8. Signed copies are available now from The Plains Trading Company Booksellers

Monday, February 9, 2015

A sweetheart of a day!

    What could be more fun than Valentine's Day in Heart City? Valentine, Nebraska! The first Tattered Legacy event. What a sweetheart of a day!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Editing Pelicans

I’m a casual bird watcher and in my SF work-in-progress I’ve included descriptions of several off-world birds, including their habits and song.  I was once editing a chapter that included the description of one of “my” birds while also keeping an eye on several American White pelicans cruising around the lake.  When they’re not dipping their heads to fish, I think the pelicans look like barges, sailing majestically and without effort past their smaller kin, the Canada goose.  Flying, the pelicans tuck their necks and spread their wings wide, the black feathers on the edge of their wings accentuating the eight or ten foot wingspan – an exquisite sight.  Yet a pelican’s ungainly beak, awkward stance on land, and humorous waddle made me wonder how I would “edit” a pelican if they were one of my creations, which lead me to the conclusion that I wouldn’t.  They are fabulous. 

I then considered unforgettable characters from several of my favorite books.  Some of those characters are, of course, as handsome and sleek as a kestrel in flight, but most are not, and the characters that capture my heart and wring it inside out have to cope with multiple internal flaws or challenges and often a few external ones.  Just like the pelicans, memorable characters carry on in spite of their awkward beaks or throat sacs, and frequently because of those beaks or sacs they save the day.

The pelicans reminded me that each character I write, whether hero or villain, needs to have his own story and character arc, and that loose skin and long, heavy beaks are interesting and appropriate traits for my un-edited pelican, which may be equally appropriate for a character in one of my books.  “My” birds can’t all be swans and this is good.  Hopefully, just like the pelican, they are unique unto themselves and memorable in their own fashion. 

I do think though, that I might just have to give some future character a throat sac…

~ Folio