Monday, October 26, 2009

That's What Hooks A Reader Author Pat Bertram

How cool is this! Pat Bertram is visiting The Haunted City Writer here in St Augustine Florida as part of her worldwide blog tour promoting her new release  DAUGHTER AM I
Welcome aboard Pat!

 Murdered grandparents? Octogenarian (former) mobsters? GOLD? Good Stuff! Read the excerpt & give it a test ride. Today Pat is going to post about what hooks a reader. Now pay attention. Don't slouch.

See y'all at the bottom of the page.

The age of writing long descriptive passages (or even short ones) at the beginning of a novel is long past. Today people want to be drawn immediately into the story without wading through unnecessary verbiage. An editor might look at the first five pages before tossing aside your manuscript, but potential customers will give you a mere twenty seconds to draw them in. Once you have caught their attention, they might read a little further, and perhaps they will even buy the book. They certainly will not wade through the first five, ten, fifty pages until they get to “the good part.”

That “good part” must be right up front, especially if you’re a first-time writer. That’s all you have going for you — the ability to get off to a fast start and capture the reader’s attention. Your name certainly won’t do it; no one knows who you are yet. Your credentials might help, but only to establish your credibility after a potential reader has been hooked. And they will never be hooked by your ability to turn a clever phrase.

So what will hook the reader? A character. Always a character. No one reads a book for a description of the weather, a place, or an issue. They don’t even want a description of the character. They want to meet him, to see life through his eyes, to bond with him. They want to know what he wants, what his driving force is. And they want to know who or what he’s in conflict with.

Without conflict, there is no story, but without a character for the reader to care about, there is no story either. Character and conflict are inextricably combined, and together they create the tension necessary to sustain a story. I know you think it’s okay to let the tension rise slowly, which it is, but the tension level at the beginning must be high enough to let the reader know something is going on.

A practiced writer knows how to adjust the tension by temporarily letting up on the main conflict and interjecting intermediate conflicts, or even adding inner conflicts to shadow the outer ones, but all conflicts must be somebody’s conflict. For example, you might be concerned about war, but seeing a specific soldier dealing with his experiences makes you care, maybe even makes you cry. And you will want to know what becomes of him.

That’s what hooks a reader.

Pat Bertram is a native of Colorado and a lifelong resident. When the traditional publishers stopped publishing her favorite type of book — character and story driven novels that can’t easily be slotted into a genre — she decided to write her own. Daughter Am I is Bertram’s third novel to be published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC. Also available are More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire.

Geez.... Now that's what I call a blog post.

Have a snappy, grab ya by the throat opening for a work in progress? Somethin' that's gonna make folks want to read more? Do you have a comment on this topic that you'd want to share to kick off some lively debate? Maybe some brave souls would include some ideas or examples in the reply section & we can all make fun of ya. Nah, wouldn't do that. Post a comment that's gonna make me want to give somethin' away this week. I do that sometimes - 'cause I'm JaxPop.

Thanks for stopping by. Now go buy Pat's book! Buy all of 'em!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

After The Writing Comes The Work

Colorado-based author Pat Bertram has just released a new
book called DAUGHTER AM I & will be a guest on my humble blog this week (27th).

So far I've read a substantial portion of this, her 3rd book, and it's really good. Really good. Not just sayin' that either so go buy it. Hurry up. Stop reading this post & go get it!

I've been following Pat's promo effort. Wow. This is the first time I've gotten up close & personal enough to pay attention to what goes into a book launch. Geez - it involves almost as much work as writing the book (the fun part).

I was in Chicago when my 1st book came out & sick for about 5 weeks soon after gettng home. It was out there for 3 months - no promotion. No chance of creating buzz that way. Even now, I rarely mention BAD LATITUDE. My book signings have been arranged by Deb &, as shy as she is, that's pretty incredible.

So I've been thinking (that's always dangerous) - How far do I want to go with this writing stuff? Book number 2, RECKLESS ENDEAVOR, is nearing the finish line, & a third is in the works. Promotion? Blog tours? Interviews? Getting Reviews? How the heck do I go about setting all of that up? Can I even fit this & the writing in with life, travel & my day job? (Anyone following this blog knows how crazy my life / schedule is.) Guess I'd better decide soon so I can get busy. Make that busier.

Good Luck Pat - I think you've written a hit. BTW - Check out her blog. It's very entertaining & informative. Lots of great stuff over there.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wingin' One (post) From The Road

We're outta town again - Delray Beach, for about a month this time. Nice place - plenty to do.
Here's Deb's view from our temporay "home".

I get to see it too - typically a little earlier each day .....


Got her camera goin' as usual......


Think we're gonna build an aviary at home. Deb's a big butterfly fan ......


.... and lover of strange flowers & plants - The ones that attract creatures like these......

.... noisy lil' finches....


..... tiny Hummingbirds.......


.... and Lorikeets, like the one I'm holding above. Birds are my favorite - butterflies are still just bugs ...




Okay... one more bird ..... an action photo of a thumb-sized Hummingbird....


So Deb's photography stuff is thriving while my writing is .... not. Drove 520 miles round trip (in part) to get one of my desk chairs (but not my big screen computer - sniff...) trying to get comfortable. No luck. Guess Mickey Muse wasn't up for this trip. The way the writin's goin' - this blog may become a pictorial, with a new host, I mean hostess. Guess I'll go hang out ..... here (& wait for Mickey).


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hall Monitors

Remember Archie & Edith singing "Those Were The Days"? Me too, but nostalgia ain't my thing.

Paging through my high school yearbook the other day made me think about how fast this life flies by. Actually, that's a total lie, I never thought any such thing - it was more like - 'geez, look at that mop of hair!'

Now it's my blog so I get to brag! Here goes:  I graduated in the top 10 of my HS class. Positively sure of it, 'cause there were only 13 of us, so the odds were stacked heavily in my favor. Here's the class photo, see if you can find me. (Hint: Row 2 third from left)

Okay. That wasn't really my class but below is a picture of me at 16 in all my polyester glory. No big deal but this is the the last photo ever taken of me without a beard. My school had a very strict dress code. See that hair? They wouldn't let me graduate 'til it was cut. Couldn't touch the eyebrows, ears or collar. No jeans. No sneakers. No stubble. I started growing my beard the day after graduation. I was 17.

My English teacher gave me a "D" 1st marking period junior year, even though I never scored anything lower than a "B". Thought my mother was gonna kill me. At the parent/teacher meeting, Miss Schwartzenbach explained, in her most condescending tone, that, while my results were worthy of a higher grade, "the effort wasn't." After that, instead of absorbing the info as it was doled out, which was my standard approach, I became more engaged in the process & English Lit, of all things, became my favorite subject, well, maybe it held 2nd place, a smidgeon lower than Phys Ed. At the end of the year, the grade was changed. It seems Miss S & Mrs E were in "cahoots."

There were no silver spoons in our household. The public school in my hometown had an awful reputation & my mom decided, when I was 7, that private school was a must. My dad didn't share her enthusiasm. To pay the tuition, she struck a deal. In exchange for working as the school janitor for zero pay, my tuition was waived & my education from then on came complete with my own personal hall monitor. On the plus side, I received a very good education. I can tell ya, I never got away with nothin'. Cut class? Yeah right. Study Halls? No way. Full load. Mom explained what she thought the word 'homework' meant, whereas she believed that study hall was a wasted 'social hour'. Okay, but geez, I played 3 sports, always had practice or games, had a job working most nights & weekends. Well, it didn't kill me, but gettin' whacked in the head with a broom wasn't much fun. No worries, Mom's only 4'10", no permanent damage &, by my senior year I'd learned to duck. Swooshing sounds still get my attention.

I've since learned how to tie a Windsor knot.   

Back to the school stuff & realtime bragging about someone that deserves it. My niece Valerie is in Washington DC this week as part of The National Young Leaders Conference & she's one of the youngest invitees, maybe even the youngest. Her grades make mine look pathetic. Can't say too much 'cause she gets embarrassed, wouldn't even let the newspaper interview her or use her name. The NYLC sends updates on the conference to teachers & guidance counselors involved with the participants. Uncle Dave, that's me, gets these updates, since Val included me, listing me as her "College & Career Counselor". Now that is cool.

When I was writing BAD LATITUDE, Val would read sample chapters & give me feedback. I made her one of my primary characters in both BAD LATITUDE & RECKLESS ENDEAVOR. One of these days, I'll be reading her work & then.... I guess I'll get nostalgic.

Here's a copy of part of today's email update about Val's day in DC. She's running around the halls of Congress meeting Senators & such. Congrats Val! Proud of ya kid!  

Dear Mr. Ebright,

Today's NYLC schedule afforded Valerie a special opportunity to interact with the lawmakers and staffers who determine our nation's legislative agenda on Capitol Hill! The day began with a welcome address delivered from the floor of the House of Representatives. Valerie and her fellow scholars sat in the actual chairs used by House members! After the House floor, Valerie proceeded to her congressional appointments. These meetings with representatives, senators or staffers gave Valerie a chance to challenge our nation's elected leaders with tough questions and get a firsthand view of life and work on Capitol Hill.

In the evening, Valerie switched her focus from legislative matters to judicial topics, engaging in the "Testing the Constitution" simulation. After reviewing yesterday's discussion of the role of the Supreme Court, a history of some of its most famous decisions and an introduction to legal reasoning and debate, Valerie jumped right into the simulation. With her fellow scholars members playing the roles of justices and attorneys for the petitioner and respondent, Valerie debated whether the constitution and case law favored a car passenger's Fourth Amendment right to privacy or a police officer's need for safety during a traffic stop. The details of this simulation were taken from the real-life case of Arizona v. Johnson.