Give Wolves a Voice

Wolves Don't Play Dress Up Cover

I love wolves. They are my favorite animal and are pretty amazing when you take the time to learn about them. Unfortunately, they have received a bad rap for centuries. Fairy tales, other literature, and movies portray them as bloodthirsty killers. The creation of werewolves didn’t help their cause either.

Years ago, I wrote a story that would make wolves the good guys for once and educate people on some wolf facts. The story is too long to be a picture book and too short to be a book, so it has stayed in my laptop. Target stores is hosting a short story contest through Wattpad, looking for modern-day stories that involve a fairy tale or myth. It is perfect for my story, so I submitted it.

Since my following on Wattpad is small and only votes will push the story to the next level, it doesn’t stand a chance right now. If you would like to help me give wolves the voice they deserve, check out Wolves Don’t Play Dress Up. If you think it’s deserving, give it a vote. Thanks so much!

 

Writing Children’s Books – My Thoughts

Little Alien

When I first starting my writing endeavor over nine years ago, it was exciting, and I had a blast creating and learning. I bought and read the book, The Business of Writing for Children by Aaron Shepard, and it sent me on my way. The author suggested joining a writing group, such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), which I did, and finding critique groups to bounce around ideas and share material with other writers. I did that as well, and it was a great piece of advice. It was the best step I took to improve my writing, meet great people, and have lasting friendships with people who support what I do.

Ways to Improve Writing Skills

I’ve been to many conferences and lectures to hear authors, agents, and writers’ advice on how to improve my writing. I’ve also paid to have agents critique my manuscripts at these events. All of these steps have improved my writing tremendously—or so I believe. I’ve always learned something from any writing event I’ve attended. If you do the research, you can find free and low-cost events as well as big conferences.

So Where Are the Big Bucks?

Good question. I went into writing knowing children’s authors overall don’t make much. I’ve actually spent more money than I’ve ever earned from book sales. I’ve bought more of my own books and given away for promotion than I can count. I don’t write just for the money because I have yet to see any. If anyone has tips on this, I’d like to hear them.

The Joys of Getting Published

I had my first book, Pirates Off the Deep End, published in 2013 by Short on Time Books, a small publisher. I was beyond thrilled to see my work escape the jammed-packed folders of my computer and sit on a shelf with a beautiful, glossy cover. I still am thrilled. Although I don’t have a huge following or really even a small following, many people have enjoyed my books, and it makes me happy. Good reviews make me even happier.

That’s the bottom line for me—writing makes me happy, and I want my writing to make others happy as well. If you’ve read this far, you’re now going to get the best advice I have to offer.

The Old Man, Boy, and Donkey

If you don’t know the Aesop’s fable with the old man, boy, and donkey about trying to please everyone, it’s worth reading. It ends with the old man and boy carrying the donkey over a bridge because someone shamed them into it. The donkey fell off the bridge. Use its moral in your writing, too. Getting a critique is great, but you can often wind up with contrasting opinions: too much detail vs. not enough; too much dialogue vs. not enough; etc.– you get the picture. You can change your manuscript back and forth forever, and not everyone that reads it will be satisfied. At some point, stop changing it when YOU’RE happy with it.

The “It Takes Over 100 Query Letters” Rule

I’ve read time and time again if authors haven’t sent out at least 100 query letters to agents for a single manuscript, they haven’t given it a chance. I would agree with that statement. Persistence is the key to getting published, but it can be frustrating.

For instance, I write children’s books specifically geared for boys but the majority of agents seem to be women. Thus, my dilemma is I have to “sell” manuscripts to women that have humor meant for little boys. Little boys and women don’t have the same taste in “funny.” Let’s do the math:

Subject                           +           Boys’ Reaction         –    Agent’s Reaction  = Accept/Reject

Alien blue fart bubble             Laughs hysterically      Grimaces                    No thank you.

Alien ninja skills                      Laughs hysterically      Moans                         Doesn’t reply

I think I could send 10,000 query letters, and Aliens at Camp will reside in my computer. I’ve read it several times and laughed out loud. It makes ME happy. All I can do is keep trying to find that one agent who shares the same sense of humor and wants a wacky boy’s book. In the meantime, I keep writing because I enjoy it.

Bottom line, I can’t lose sight of the fact that writing is fun for me, and when bad critiques, agent rejections, and non-existent sales get me down, I need to take a step back and rewind. My favorite quote came from a very wise man, Captain Jack Sparrow, and it applies here. “The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem.”

 

The Town from Hell: Part 3

This is the final installment of my fake picture book about the town from hell, Winthrop.

DAB Page 9 DAB Page 10

DAB Page 11.jpg

If you want to find out the huge secret the townspeople are hiding, check out the real book, Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell. It was given a 5-star review from InD’Tale magazine and is up for a RONE award.

The Town from Hell: Part 2

The continuing saga of my fake picture book about the town from hell, Winthrop.

DAB Page 5 DAB Page 6

DAB Page 7 DAB Page 8

The next blog will finish the Town from Hell picture book. If you like the artwork, visit T.W.Kirchner Art & Books to see more.

The Town from Hell

What would a town from hell be like? It wouldn’t be a good vacation spot for sure. In my YA supernatural/horror book, Dagger & Brimstone: Town from Hell, Winthrop is the town from hell. It’s a fictional town in the middle of the desert where the book’s protagonist couple go on vacation, and their experience is far from pleasant. For fun, I used a 6- by 6-inch watercolor pad and created a picture book of Winthrop. I’ll post the fake picture book in three consecutive blogs.

DAB Page 1.jpg DAB Page 2.jpg

DAB Page 3.jpg DAB Page 4.jpg

What’s living in Winthrop? More than visitors realize…

Leave Whos to the Owls

Owl Orange Eyes.jpg

The sound of an owl hooting is amazing—it’s almost like they’re saying “who.” When it comes to writing, however, who’s can leave you as wide-eyed as an owl.

Who Are You Again?

Critique group tip: If several chapters of a manuscript, whether very rough or highly polished, have been read, the reader should be able to answer “Who is the protagonist” by naming them—without hesitation. If they can’t remember the name or it takes them a while to answer, it’s time to adjust your manuscript. Once the reader has a connection with a book’s character, the name will be etched in their memory.

Writing in First Person

If the protagonist is also the narrator, the task of getting his or her name in the text is a bit more challenging than with third person. Writers using first person are often concerned with the “I…I…I…” syndrome, or removing a bunch of I’s from a paragraph but also end up with a “who” problem. Getting a protagonist’s name in front of the reader is a trickier when the manuscript doesn’t have many secondary characters.

Too Many Characters

Readers, especially readers with the superpower to get you a contract, invest in a book’s characters. If the manuscript has protagonist overload, the “who” factor could exist, especially if characters aren’t distinct or not enough dialogue tags exist.

Because you have spent a lot of time creating your book’s characters, you know them inside and out. Yet, readers won’t have any knowledge of your character beyond the back cover if the book is a standalone or the first in a series. Your job as an author is to give readers substance about your characters so they can grow to like or dislike them. Removing the “who” factor is a good place to start.

Valentine’s Day Fun

Cupids Tag

Cupid’s Book-Lover Tag

Posted on February 10, 2016 by Abbie Lu

Copy and Paste the following in your blog to participate in this tag.

Cupid’s Book-Lover Tag

The Rules:
1. Tag the creator (AbbieLu @ Cafe Book Bean) 2. Have fun answering the questions. 3. Tag 5-10 people to join in the fun. 4. Thank & link those who tag you. 5. Don’t worry about the rules!
You don’t need to be tagged to participate.
Love is in the air!

1) Favorite Love-Story book?

I couldn’t come up with one. That’s pretty sad.

2) Share your best Valentine’s Day memory?

My husband proposed to me on Valentine’s Day.

3) Favorite fictional hero/heroine?

For movies: Superhero would be Thor, otherwise Indiana Jones

4). What story has the best most memorable romantic moment; kiss, proposal, etc.?

Not sure on this one.

5) What is your all time favorite Romantic movie?

The Princess Bride followed by Pretty Woman

6) You can go anywhere for a romantic getaway (fiction or non-fiction,) where do you go?

Any of these places

7) Who do you want to be your valentine?

My hubby

8) Chocolate or flowers?

Dark chocolate or living or cut flowers…not picky about that

9) Novels: Romance or Adventure?

Adventure

10) What fictional villain, do you secretly love?

I wouldn’t say love, but Jack Sparrow is interesting…is he really a villain?

Let the tagging begin:

http://cafebookbean.com/

https://nyreader.wordpress.com/

https://golnaranart.wordpress.com/

https://daerickson.wordpress.com/

https://pippaminx.wordpress.com/

http://shannonathompson.com/

 

Describing Fictional Characters

The object of the game Guess Who is for two players to guess which of the 24 characters their opponent has selected and visa versa. The first one to guess right wins. Players narrow down the field of “suspects” one question at a time such as “are they male or female” and “do they have brown hair.” After several rounds, many of the “suspects” are still standing because they all fit the same descriptions. The bottom line, physical descriptions given in great detail are wonderful for a police sketch artist but not for characters in a fictional story.

Guess Who.jpg

Physical Attributes Just Scratch the Surface

A character’s hobbies, habits, gestures, likes and dislikes will give a reader a more in-depth look than a running list of physical descriptions. In The Troubled Souls of Goldie Rich: The Zombie Next Door, my young adult/safe for middle grade adventure, the main character is 14-year-old Goldie Jean Rich.

Goldie’s physical attributes are petite, curly hair and young-looking. The rest I’ve left up to the reader’s imagination because it is not an integral part of the story. It doesn’t matter if Goldie is a blonde or redhead nor does it have any bearing on this story if she is of Hawaiian descent or Italian. The same goes for her best friend, the eccentric and fun-loving Rita, and their classmates, Jonny and Blake, who hang around the girls because they have crushes on them. Goldie is also adopted and may/may not look like the rest of her family. That’s up to the reader.

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Characters Need Problems, and Goldie Has Her Share

The problems a character has and the way they handle them add to their personality. Entering high school is scary and exciting. Shy Goldie is anxious to be a freshman because of how she sees herself. She confides in Rita “I’m going to look like an eight-year-old when I start high school in three months” to which Rita replies, “Get over it, Goldie.  You look at least nine.”

Gema, Goldie’s adult sister, is watching her over summer break while their parents are on vacation. The sisters butt heads constantly. After catching Goldie reading a book about voodoo, Gema asks her sister if she plans to make a voodoo doll in her image. Goldie fumes silently, “Obviously, she (Gema) didn’t know me that well.  I couldn’t sew, make crafts, and I didn’t fare well with pointy objects.  My last experience with a serrated knife left a permanent scar on my hand from the three stitches I received at the emergency room.”

Goldie’s teenage attitude sneaks out here and there. When she and Rita are plotting to hide a video camera in Gema’s house, Goldie has the situation under control. “Gema has all this stuff already, and I know exactly where she keeps it.  It’s in her art studio that I’m not supposed to go into, locked up in a file cabinet that I’m not allowed to look in.  But I know where the key is hidden, so we won’t need to pick the lock.” She added, “It didn’t hurt that gadgets and computers had become a hobby of mine since I’d joined the computer club at school.  It wasn’t as geeky as it sounded.  Or maybe it was.  At least, I was putting the knowledge to good use now.”

Habits, Hobbies and Gestures Make a Character

Goldie blushes constantly, especially when she’s around her crush Blake. But, as usual in teenage drama, the guy she doesn’t like, Jonny, is the one who shows interest in her.

The tennis court seems to be the only place Goldie isn’t a walking disaster. She falls down more than a bowling pin and is in double trouble when she doesn’t have her glasses on. “I jumped backwards and stumbled over my own feet. My cellphone flew out of my hand and zoomed through the air. It smashed into my flimsy, green aluminum lamp, knocked it off my nightstand, and it crashed to the ground.”

She is a horror movie addict, watching everything and anything scary—especially zombies. With a big bowl of buttery popcorn, her little dog, Chanel, on one side and Rita on the other, she’s a happy girl. When the zombies are in real life and not on the TV screen, however, Goldie doesn’t find them as fun, but it’s exciting for the reader.

Goldie has a definite personality, which I hope readers find likable, and her image will vary from one reader’s imagination to another. I keep in mind something I read a long time ago that fiction writers shouldn’t force their opinions about the characters on the reader. Lay it all out there, and let the readers decide.

If you like mysteries, a short, fast-paced read, dogs, and, of course, magical zombies, give The Troubled Souls of Goldie Rich: The Zombie Next Door a try.

Supernatural, Paranormal, Fantasy or Science Fiction?

There doesn’t seem to be a cut and dry answer when choosing a genre for some books. If a book has a ghost element, is it paranormal, supernatural or fantasy? When does a book with a vampire, werewolf or demon cross over from the supernatural or paranormal category into horror? Some books, such as Twilight, may fall under romance or thriller although most of the characters are supernatural. This is my take on paranormal and supernatural, using my book Pirates Off Kilter as an example. Please feel free to leave comments if your opinions differ.

Supernatural Characters Include Phantoms and Ghosts

In Pirates Off Kilter, pirate captains François l’Olonnais and Red Boots add a ghostly element. To me, ghosts are supernatural characters. L’Olonnais is evil, but not evil enough to make the middle grade book a horror. The Klopt family, who l’Olonnais frequently haunts in the Pirates Off series, may disagree.

Paranormal Characters Are More Solid

Witches, sea witches, vampires, werewolves and ghouls are paranormal in my book. Literally, sea witches are in my book. Volange and her brother Dedris are sea creatures that cause problems for the Klopt family. Enchanting but scary, Volange’s voice is melodic like a siren’s—a creature that is both paranormal and mythical. Dedris is just as powerful and tricky as his sister is. He may appear passive with his fiber-optic looking hair and lavender eyes; however, he turns Hoody Klopt into a statue with a wave of his hand.

Dedris Sea Witch

Science Fiction Is a Whole Other Realm

Science fiction doesn’t have to be in outer space, but Star Wars and Star Trek come to mind first. An alien invasion of Earth and weird science are science fiction, too.

 Any way you look at it, it’s all fantasy—to most people. The bottom line: if a book is good or even marginal yet entertaining, it doesn’t really matter how you categorize it. If you like supernatural, paranormal or fantasy, check out the Pirates Off series available on Amazon.

Plots, Protagonists and Pirates

Protagonists in books are supposed to go through some kind of change from the beginning of their adventure to the end. Usually, they learn or grow through their experience, accomplish a goal, or attain both. In fiction writing, the character’s transformation makes up the plot.

For most of the crew of the Fleurie Jean in Pirates Off the Deep End and subsequent books in the Pirates Off series, their main goal in every book is to complete a task, which is usually delegated by a ghost pirate and is non-negotiable. The crew, Tommy, Connor, Dillon, and their captain, Hoody, always gain a valuable lesson from each quest. The fifth crew member, Cosette, changes in a different way.

Cosette and Her Pirate Boyfriend

Captain Jacques Mignard was a terrible boyfriend for Cosette back in the 1800s, and he didn’t improve after he turned into a ghost. Because he double-crossed Volange, a powerful sea witch, she turned Cosette into a ship’s wooden figurehead, a curse that was in place for over a hundred years. Mignard was unable to reverse the witch’s spell when he became a ghost, and he couldn’t find anyone who could.

Cosette figurehead

Cosette went from the front of a ship in France to a restaurant’s wall in New England when the days of wooden ships had past. She hung there in limbo for a long time until Connor and Tommy sawed her off. To fast forward, they cut a deal with Captain Mignard, which involved taking Cosette, the figurehead, to Volange to have the spell reversed.

Read the Fine Print on Any Contract

Tommy is clever, or so he thought. However, Volange had hundreds of years’ more experience in making deals than the 12 year old. After Mignard’s original deal with the sea witch went sour, Tommy bargained with Volange so she’d bring Cosette back to life. She held to her word, and Cosette was freed of her figurehead state and made a living, breathing—dog. A Brittany spaniel. However, if Tommy didn’t make good on his part of the bargain, Volange vowed she’d reverse Cosette’s living status and turn her into a figurehead for eternity.

Brittany spaniel

Spoiler Alert : Cosette Changes Once Again

Tommy and the rest of the crew go to Scotland to fulfill the bargain with Volange. Tommy’s ever-present mentor, Francois l’ Olonnais even provides “help” by recruiting a Scottish ghost pirate, Captain Red Boots, to guide them. Boots refreshes the boys’ memories that pirates can’t be trusted, and they learn the value of brotherhood, selflessness, and the fine art of negotiation. Cosette learns that she can trust the Klopts with her life, which she gets back with their persistence, and that the world has changed a lot since the 1800s.

Cosette 1 watercolor

Characters have to grow and change to make a story interesting. From figurehead to canine companion to person, Cosette wins the Pirates Off character prize for going through the most changes. Dealing with the Klopts on a daily basis, however, should be a prize in itself. Read about Cosette and the crew’s latest adventure in Pirates Off the Mark.