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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Win or Lose...It's All About the Game


More than once, I've become involved in a discussion about the rewards we authors expect for publishing a book. Most people probably would say, "It's the money, stupid!" But is it?
Sure, I want a good royalty check, but is that all there is?

Often, I've heard, or been told, or read that some authors really write for the pleasure of the process and the excitement of having a story put in ebook and/or print. These authors often add they really don't care about making money. Any money.
Really?

For several years, I was involved with a bridge club. A bridge player is expected to know the rules, when to bid, when to pass, and to understand a good hand from a bad hand. Now this club was not cutthroat, as some bridge groups might be, but all of us wanted to win. I know I did not relish winning the "low" pot...that of pennies we members threw in when we "went down." In other words, we threw in pennies when we lost a hand. At the end of the session, the one player with the lowest overall score took home the "low pot,"...the pennies. I hated that, but I took home my share of the low pot over the years. The high pot? I rejoiced and did a little dance if I took home the big win.

So, what spurred me on to win the big pot? The $1.25 I might take home? Was it the money? A dollar twenty-five? No, it was the pleasurable feeling I had knowing I'd played well and had the best score and... I stayed in the game. The $1.25 only solidified that fact.

Let's turn to golf. I learned at age 40, and that's not a good age to begin golf. However, I fell head over heels in love with golf. I took very few lessons, for I am a self-learner and figured out the game on my own through videos and books.

Listen. I could win, too.

On Wednesdays, the day the Women's Golf Association members played at our country club, I won my share of having the lowest score of the day. If I lost, I still went home happy, because winning isn't the entire point.

Mainly, I stayed in the game.

Still, I'd study why I lost. Was it my long game? My short game? My putting? Over time, I learned how I could win more by playing a good short game--I was never a long hitter.

After a mini-tournament that I might win, I'd hear, "Well, you came out here to win, didn't you?"

This sounded like an insult to me. My response became, "Why would I come out here to lose?"
See? It's all about keeping score--staying in the game to compare my score with my opponent--or my score with my last score.
And the money solidifies the fact that I won--even if the amount was very small.

I learned valuable lessons playing golf. Once in a mini-tournament, we played one-on-one. My opponent was a big woman, tall and younger and more athletic. She was bound to beat me in the ground. However, remember I had a very good short game, so after playing 18 holes, we were tied. This meant we had to play Sudden Death--play until one of us won a hole.
Hole #1--tied.
Hole #2-tied.
Hole #3.
My opponent had become annoyed and short tempered, knowing she was the better player overall. Me? Not me. I am not short tempered.
 We teed off on #3, a short Par 3. She landed on the green, but on the upside--she had to putt downhill. I landed just short of the green. I could chip or putt uphill to the hole.
She putted and the ball rolled downhill past the hole and off the green. She stomped her foot and cursed out loud and threw her club. Uh-oh.
I chose to putt off the green and landed about one foot from the hole. Long story short, she became so angry with me, she yelled. I stood there, watching her, and thought: "I have just won this match." She let her emotions take control. Bad move.
Sure, I one-putted, she three putted, and yes, I won. She would not speak to me.
Did I win for the pretty little trophy I got? No. I won for the score. I had a better score.
A trophy? Cash? Those do help, but no.
The score. The game.

I had played the game better than she had.

Over the years, I'd have books that sold very well, but some that did not sell well at all. I'd study the small royalty check and say to myself, "Well, this doesn't matter, because I don't care about the money."
Really, Celia?

One day I realized I did care about the money. Why? It represented a score...staying in the game and trying harder next time.

We might not play just to win or beat an opponent--we most likely play to test our own game.
That's what you do in golf. Test your game against others.

You might have deduced I have a bit of a Killer Instinct. I never had in my entire life, but when I turned forty, somehow my attitude about many things changed. Mainly, I wanted something new, something fun and exciting.
Slowly, I came to realize I do have a Mini-Killer Instinct.
To keep score, of course. Maybe play well and collect a little cash, too.

Mainly, though, to stay in the game.

Just a side note. Authors don't talk about or speak of the money they make. It's a form of bragging, and we were taught as children that it's rude and uncouth--at least I was. I see this is one of our best attributes as authors.

But we check rankings on Amazon, don't we? We count the number of books we sold and possibly share that with a good friend, don't we? I see nothing wrong with this. It's the same as posting golf scores on a board for the world to see.

Probably, it's to assure ourselves we're still good enough to play the game.
~~*~~


Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

THE IMPORTANCE OF BOOK TITLES


THIS IS ONE OF MY OWN
FAVORITE TITLES.
Why is the title of a book important?

It's the first impression one reads about the contents of the book--the story. Personally, the cover itself is more important than the title, because I am a visual learner. I will consider the cover before I even think of the title. If a cover is unattractive to me in some manner, I won't even pick it up.

Titles are equally important, but often are tricky. It's often the most difficult part of the book, in that it must convey an instant idea, thought, emotion, or hint of the story. I agonize over titles at times, but at others...the title is obvious.

But how do you choose a book to read, either from an Amazon page or a library book shelf or a book store?

What do you look for? Short titles or long titles? Blunt titles or mysterious titles. Cute or funny. Intriguing or obvious?

Titles often come from something in the story:
A place
An object
A person
An event
A time
etc.

Since I'm no expert on this subject, I took the liberty to research titles of books and see what others said. I made a list from numerous articles of titles that were changed from the original one.

Which title would intrigue you? The original one..or the new one?

1. "Trimalchio in West Egg".....or "The Great Gatsby."
2. "Catch-18"....or "Catch 22."  
3. "First Impressions"...or "Pride and Prejudice."
4. "Something That Happened"...or "Of Mice and Men."
5. "The Kingdom by the Sea"...or "Lolita."
6. "At This Point in Time"...or "All the President's Men."

See what I mean?

The title of my recent release is "Beyond the Blue Mountains." I wrote on this story for almost three years, knowing something was wrong with it, including the title. Finally, the plot came together and my two lead characters began to see an end to their common struggles. All this time, the title was "A Life Worth Living." That came to me at the very first of my writing, and I kept it until about a month before finishing the manuscript. But one day, I realized the low mountains in the distance that appeared bluish during certain times of the year were important to the story.
My characters wondered, "What is beyond those blue mountains?"
The light bulb came on. The title became "Beyond the Blue Mountains."
Then I put a train on the cover. Not the mountains. The Mountains could not be duplicated as I "saw" them, so the train is to convey either an arriving, or a leaving...or maybe both?

The very first book I wrote is Texas Blue. I titled it before I had five pages written. Why? The series I planned would have "Texas" in the titles. This first one came about when the man told the woman her eyes were bluebonnet blue.

Second book--Texas Promise--because the hero had ridden away and promised to return, but two years passed before he did. And that's when the story began.

Third book--Texas True--because the younger sister is named True Leigh Cameron-because the older sister said the baby's eyes were "truly blue."

Fourth book--Texas Dreamer-- because the youngest Cameron son ran away at age fourteen, roamed until he was in his twenties and began to dream of being a cattleman and oil man. Big Dreams.

The worst-named book I published is Making the Turn. This is a golf term meaning the point at which you finish the front nine, and move to the back nine. The players have two scores...and we always hope for a better score on the back. This give us a second chance, a starting over point. Of course, it's about a woman who just turned 40 and she must change her life--by starting over.
The cover is a golf green on a pretty course. Each chapter begins with a golf rule that, in my mind, describes what that chapter will tell.
No one got it. Everyone thought it was about golf...duh.
But this novel will be re-released one day with a new title.

These titles are on Amazon's Best Free Books List. Does the title give you a hint about the story? Do you like the title?
***The Girl In-Between
***Teaching the Boss
***Clarity
***The Intern
***Hope to Escape
***His Grandfather's Watch
***Owen's Day
***The Girl on the Train.

All these books have 30,000+ reviews each...so they must be good stories. But the titles? Most are good, but when I read the blurb, the title had little to do with the story.

Do titles matter to you? They do to me. "The Billionaires Kisses" tells me enough that I don't care to read it.

"Hope to Escape" sounds intriguing, though, as does "Owen's Day."

What is your thought on titles...either your own or books you might read?
Of your own books, which is your personal favorite?

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

CLEAN WRITING



CLEAN WRITING. No, not what you're thinking.
This kind:
Writing science research papers taught me the process of clean writing—manuscripts free of too many useless words. Useless words in a science paper are considered descriptive, emotional, and repetitive.
Science papers? "Just the facts, ma'am."

As a result, my first fiction manuscript was a failure. The editor told me my writing sounded like a textbook--every sentence perfect with a key idea followed by sentences of facts to support that important discovery.
That sort of hurt, but the statement opened a floodgate of words that's still gushing. I could use adjectives! And adverbs! And descriptions! But also…too many useless words and phrases.  

Still, I absolutely love to embellish sentences with adjectives, adverbs, and well…a long list of writing errors. If I remove the useless words in the previous sentence, I think it reads like a textbook. Where is that fine line?

AVOID USELESS WORDS: We consider good writing concise, vigorous, and active. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, as a machine should contain no extra parts. Fine idea. But an automobile is a machine. The first cars were little more than a buggy with an engine attached. They were unattractive and uncomfortable. The automobiles today contain endless useless parts, but we buy them because of those extra appealing parts. We want those 

I do agree, though, certain useless words or phrases need to go.

1.  "there is no doubt but that" should be "no doubt" or "doubtless"
2.  "this is a subject that" should be "this subject"
3.  "the reason why is that" should be "because"
4.  "owing to the fact that" should be "since" or "because"
5.  "he is a man who" should be "he"

AVOID USE OF QUALIFIERS: A qualifier is a word or a word group that limits the meaning of another word or word group. The worst offenders are rather, very, little, and pretty.

"I should do pretty well on the exam, for I am a rather brilliant student, but if I make very many mistakes, I'll try to do a little better."

AVOID LOOSE SENTENCES: A loose sentence is one consisting of two clauses, the second introduced by a conjunction or relative. Too many loose sentences in one paragraph will sound mechanical and singsong..as noted here:

"The last concert of the season was given last night, and the hall was filled to capacity. Jane Doe was the soloist, and John Smith accompanied her on the piano. She proved to be quite capable, while he performed admirably. The concert series has been successful, and the committee was gratified. The committee will plan for next year's programs, and they will offer an equally attractive program."
Blech!

I could name an author who writes exactly this way, but that would not be nice. And...you are not that person. This person would not be reading my blog post....

The compound sentence is the framework of writing when used wisely and sparingly.

A kind editor—in so many words--told me: "You begin too many sentences with well, now, so, or why. In some cases, these words are acceptable, especially when included in dialogue. Southern people talk this way, but in written narration, use sparingly.

This made sense to me, because when I talk with a friend—on-line or face to face—those little words pop up all the time--like this example:

"What did she say when you said her hair was orange?"
"Well, first she stared. Then her eyes sort of bugged out, and before I knew it, why, she started bawling."
"Oh, my goodness. Now, here's what you should have said, darlin'. You just do not want to make her any madder."
"So, what should I have said?"
~~*~~
And so, well, I need to bring this post to a halt. I need to make a little lunch, because the fact is that my husband is mowing this morning, and he'll be starving. There's no doubt, though, that he won't say an unkind word to me if lunch if just a little late.

(If you can edit this paragraph, you will receive an A+)

What annoys you in a novel?
What mistakes do you commonly make?

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas