The Cost of Writing

A Writer’s Life

Many of you authors out there are like me. You know what it feels like to feel an idea wiggling its way to the surface of your brain and popping up its head when you’re right in the middle of cooking dinner or in the middle of a project, or you’re two hundred miles from nowhere on a camping trip. You know what it’s like to feel that need to drop everything and run to put words on the page, or screen, as the case may be. You may know what it’s like to be on a roll, in the middle of a vital scene for your book, and have to stop and set it aside, because you have an important engagement to attend and you can’t show up looking like you haven’t slept for days, even if it is true.

Let’s face it. Writers write because they have a innate need to express themselves. We didn’t ask for it, but it is there. We didn’t choose it, although we have chosen not to ignore it in our younger days, when ignoring it was still an option. Writers need to write as much as they need to eat, sleep or breathe. (Probably more than we need to sleep, since writing often takes the place of sleep on many nights.) This needs stems from our creativity deep within us and is as much a part of our inner mental beings as water is to our physical beings.

When I was getting my M.F.A., I had an instructor who was a binge writer. When she was done with the prewriting and was ready to write her story, she would shut herself in her office and not emerge until it was done, be it days, or even weeks before she had the first draft of the story out. She said that her family members all knew better to disturb her when the door was closed, and she wouldn’t come out, except maybe to tend to urgent bodily functions. That was her writing process, and it was effective, because she was publishing and selling her books. But there was a cost. She was on her second marraige because her first husband hadn’t put up with her crazed writing frenzies, and frankly, I was amazed that her current husband and family did.

That’s one of the prices that we pay for following our innate urges and releasing our creativity. Human relationships often suffer. I know there have been times when I have gotten up in the middle of a family get-together, and pulled out my laptop to start typing away because an idea struck me, or I suddenly realized what really happens in a scene I’ve been working on. My family members may have thought I was being extremely rude, and I guess I was, but they didn’t understand about the idea or thought that was nudging away at me to get it down NOW. Those ideas are fleeting, and if I don’t get them down when I have them, they may abandon me and not be there later.

I never go anywhere without my laptop. It goes on camping trips and vacations, even to the laundry mat or out to dinner. I write while traveling in the car, even though I know it makes me car-sick. At a memoir workshop I took a few years back, we were asked to read aloud something that we had written. Everyone else came with sheets of paper in hand, printed out with what they intended to read. When my turn came, I paused to make sure the correct work was on the screen with an explanation that “My life is in my laptop.” That brought a few laughs from my fellow workshoppers, but you know, there is a lot of truth in those words.

Writing is my world. I am passionate about it. And I’ve missed more than a few outings with friends and family, jeopardized my day job by writing late into the night when I had to work the next day, let my grades suffer to get the words just right, and missed out on countless hours of sleep just to empty what’s in my head out onto the page. Writing is a wonderful outlet for creativity and self-expression, but as all good things usually do, it comes with a price. I’ve paid that price time and again, and never thought that it wasn’t worth the cost. So, how much are you willing to pay to be a writer?

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What’s in a Genre?

Genres

I’ve discussed genres a lot here on Writing to be Read. I’ve done monthly genre themes, with author interviews and reviews of books included in each one. We’ve covered nonfiction, romance, western, fantasy, science fiction, young adult fiction, children’s fiction, horror, crime fiction, mystery, women’s fiction, Christian fiction, comic books and graphic novels, and the list goes on. Some genres were easy to find authors to interview and books to review. Others were a bit harder. Likewise, some attracted more readers than others.

Fantasy

Recently, there hasn’t been so many author interviews. I hit a bump in the road and was unable to fulfill my interview and review commitments. Now, I’m ready to jump back in the saddle and get things rolling again. As I contemplate what 2021 will look like for Writing to be Read, I’m wondering wether to keep the genre themes, or explore different areas in the craft of writing, and I would like your feedback. Chances are, if you’re a reader of this blog, then you are also a writer. Leave a comment and let me know which genre(s) you like to write in. Which genre(s) do you like to read? Which would you like to learn more about? Or should I trash the genre themes and concentrate on some other aspect? Which one? Let me know your thoughts.

Romance

I suppose there was a time when genres were more cut and dried, but in this day and age, genres don’t always fall into clear categories. Just take a look at the plethora of categories Amazon has for you to list your book under. When Delilah was published, I got a shock. I had written a western with a female protagonist, who was tough and gritty and made her way in the man’s world of the old west. Her character’s flaw was a lack of trust, and in order to get what she truly needed from the story, she had to have a love interest, so there was a thread of romance woven into the tale. It wasn’t the main story line, but my publisher had picked up on it and listed it as a “Frontier Romance”. Is that what I wrote?

Horror & Dark Fiction

Actually, it may have been a smart choice, even though it wasn’t my original intention. When we re-published the third edition with the new cover, I asked that they list it as a straight western, but it hasn’t helped with sales. Genre has as much to do with marketing as it does with craft. Readers of frontier romanace are a different group from those who read classic westerns.

Christian Fiction

The first group are mostly female and the second are mostly male, and they are looking for different things out of their stories. The women want romance, the men want rugged adventure, and it seems that maybe they want it to come from a big, burly mountain man or a rowdy cowboy. Men who read westerns don’t have the buy-in for a tough female character, but women who read romance have no problem with a female who is tough and gritty having the adventure, as long as she lets her gentler, feminine side show enough to fall in love.

Western

When I was working toward my M.F.A. in creative writing, I was told it was imperative to know who you are writing for, to form a mental picture of your ideal reader in your mind. But, I take an eclectic approach to most things, and writing is no different. I’ve tried my hand at many genres, some more successfully than others, and it can be seen from the example above that different genres have different readers. For me, I found I need to write what is in my head, and then figure out who to market to.

Children’s & Yound Adult Fiction

With the first WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, in 2019, I chose to make the theme paranormal, because most people love a good ghost story. It got a good response and the Whispers of the Past anthology was born. Each entry had paranormal elements, and they were all the type of stories that would make readers think.

Whispers of the Past

For 2020, my thinking was that the old west has a lot of ghosts, and western was a genre I write in, so a western paranormal would be a natural combination, so that was the theme. But, just as not so many people read westerns, not so many authors write in the western genre, and I think I scared many possible entrants away. I had to convince author friends that they could write in the western genre just to get enough entries to create the Spirits of the West anthology, but it contains some very unique stories. Robbie Cheadle contributed two South African western paranormals, playing off South African history, but with western flavor, and Art Rosch contributed a science fiction western paranormal, of the likes you’ll not find anywhere else.

Spirits of the West

As with Writing to be Read, I’m looking toward the future for WordCrafter Press, and it’s time to think about the theme for the 2021 contest and anthology, but I’m at a loss. The paranormal theme worked well, and so did the western paranormal after I coerced some entries out of my author friends. But, one purpose for creating the WordCrafter Press contests and anthologies was to open up avenues to get your work published for new and aspiring authors, and another was to motivate established authors to think outside the box, or work outside their usual genres. It shouldn’t be a struggle to get entries, but it should still offer a challenge for the writer. So, I’m going to ask one more question of all of you. Please leave a comment to let me know, what genres of short fiction you would consider entering, were they the theme for a short fiction contest. i.e. “I would enter a short fiction contest if the theme were…”

Writing to be Read wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for you, my loyal readers. Some of you have stuck with me since the blog began, while others are new sign ons, but I appreciate you all. Please share your own thoughts on genres and help us carry on and move forward together. I’m looking forward to it. 🙂

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“Gunslinger”: The old west with trolls, dwarves, dragons and ghosts galore

Gunslinger

Gunslinger, by Edward J. Knight manages to combine two of my favorite genres, western and fantasy, into an adventure I won’t soon forget. Six guns, swords or sorcery, no weapon is off limits in this fantasy western landscape. And of course, there are a wide variety of villains to fight off, and Beth isn’t your typical female in the story world of Gunslinger created by Knight.

Taught by Wild Bill Hickock, she shoots like Calamity Jane, and sees her ghost. When an Arapohoe Indian spirit leads Beth and her friends on a quest to stop a dragon from wiping out the army outposts, will her gun be enough to stop the beast? Add dwarves being guided by an angry ghost who is out for revenge, hostile Indians and and a ghost guide with a personal agenda and you have a western fantasy adventure of the highest caliber.

Gunslinger is full of surprises and quite entertaining. I give it four quills.

Four Quill Rating

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Music as Inspiration or Copyright violation?

Using Lyrics in Your Fiction

2020 saw the birth of the book I’m currently working on, and it was all inspired by music. In fact, the female lead character, Amaryllis is based on the music of Taylor Momsen and The Pretty Reckless. So, I had this great idea to set the tone and offer a glimpse into the thoughts of the pov character for each chapter with a snippet of lyrics; lyrics from The Pretty Reckless for Amaryllis, and lyrics from various artists for the male lead, LeRoy. It’s a time-travel story, titled The Outlaw & the Rock Star. The only catch is, an author has to be careful not to infringe on the copyright when using lyrics in her fiction.

Copyright, whether in the literary arena or the music industry, is serious business. Artists and writers protect that which they have created, as they should. As a writer, I can’t imagine the outrage I would feel, were I to learn someone else had infringed on my copyright. My words are my creation. They came from me. No one else on the planet can write them in just the way I wrote them, unless they steal them. And, let’s face it folks, theft is what copyright infringement is. So, I get why writers and artist want to protect their creations. I want my work to be protected, too.

According to Matt Knight on in “Using Lyrics in Fiction” (5 January 2019) on Sidebar Saturdays, obtaining copyright permission for song lyrics involves a ton of research into who actually holds the copyright, and then contacting them to request permission to use specific lyrics in your fiction, and pay the requested fee to obtain copyright permission. It can be both expensive and time consuming.

Knight offers a few ways around obtaining copyright permission, including only using the song title, since titles cannot be copyrighted, or using a small enough portion of the lyrics so that you can claim fair use, or choosing different lyrics from the Public Domain realm. Since this one of my characters is based on the music from one specific band, using Public Domain lyrics doesn’t seem to be an option. Since the lyrics are going to be used to set the tone of the story, using only titles wouldn’t really work. I really feel the story would loose a lot if I don’t include the lyrics, although I might be able to trim some of them a little.

So, I’m left looking at researching each individual song and contacting each copyright holder to gain permission to use their lyrics in my work, which seems like a lot of work. In the case of The Pretty Reckless, I will need copyright permission for multiple songs, so it may be an up hill battle, and it could get very expensive.

I can do the research and strive to obtain all the copyright permissions that are needed. I can’t say I’m looking forward to that part, or that I think it will be easy, but nothing good ever is. I’ve only written about six chapters, but my heart is already invested in these characters and their story. This is going to be more of a project than I realized when I concieved of the idea for this book. Here’s hoping this venture doesn’t cost more than I can afford.


For the Love of Halloween

Happy Halloween

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. We get to dress up and be anyone or anything that we want to be. As adults too big to trick or treat, we find one Halloween party or another to attend, so that we have a legitimate excuse for donning a costume and pretending to be someone or something else for a while. Or we turn our yards into graveyards to scare the kids who come to trick-or-treat, or maybe we channel or Halloween fantasies into the costumes we make for our children. But no matter how well we hide away our inner children, the longing to once again play make believe never really goes away.

But this year, things may be a bit different. The Covid 19 pandemic has turned the world upside-down, and trick-or-treating poses new threats to both us and our children. Social distancing is the new buzz word and large social gatherings are falling out of fashion. Although masks are in style, they aren’t the kind that will go well with our costumes. In fact, in many places trick-or-treating has been cancelled and other types of holiday celebrations are emerging in its place.

It’s sad, really. We may be seeing the destruction of many time-honored traditions which are no longer deemed ‘safe’ activities. Thanksgiving celebrations are being limited to maximum numbers, as well. Apparently, no holiday is safe.

2020 WordCrafter Halloween Book Bash

I hope all of you will join us for the 2020 WordCrafter Halloween Book Bash tomorrow evening. For the past two years, WordCrafter has hosted or participated in Halloween book events on Facebook, and this year is no exception. Many of the activities and events being used to replace traditional forms of celebration are of a virtual nature, so our celebration this year is probably trending. It is a short one this year, only three hours, from 6 p.m. MDT to 9 p.m. MDT, but we’ve got some great contests and games, and some fantastic book promotions and new releases. My co-hosts are authors Mark McQuillen, Ellie Raine, Jordan Elizabeth, and Amy Cecil. It’s my way of keeping Halloween traditions alive during tradition crushing times.

Spirits of the West

I think the thing that I’m most excited about though, is that WordCrafter will be promoting their newly released western paranormal anthology, Spirits of the West. This anthology contains eight unique stories with hints of paranormal and western flare. Contributing authors include myself, Roberta Eaton Cheadle, Jeff Bowles, Art Rosch, Tom Johnson, and the author of the winning story, “High Desert Rose”, Enid Holden. It’s an antholgy like no other and I am so pleased with how well it turned out.

However you choose to celebrate this Halloween, be safe and have fun.

Happy Halloween!

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“Terminal Sequence”: A medical thriller conspiracy of truly evil proportions

Terminal Sequence

I reviewed the first in this series, The Gamma Sequence, when it came out, so when a chance to review the third book, Terminal Sequence, I jumped at the chance. With this series, Dan Alatorre has created a horrifying conspiracy where, Hauser, one maniacle mind, holding genetic power over human life in his hand, tries to play God. Of course, he created a team of protagonists to combat this evil genius.

In Terminal Sequence, our heroes develop a computer virus with the ability to launch a terminal sequence into Hauser’s network and bring his operations to a halt. But injecting the sequence into the network is a challenge, and with Hauser’s operatives knocking off the good guys right and left, we also have to ask if there will be anyone left to do it. And if any of the team members do survive, can they accomplish the task before Hauser has a chance to complete his evil plan? They may succeed with some help from surprising allies, but you’ll have to read the book to find out.

Thrilling action from start to finish, Terminal Sequence, is one that you won’t want to put down. I give it five quills.

Writing to be Read

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Winter Wonderland My Eye!

Winter Wonderland

Yesterday in Colorado an unseasonably cold winter storm hit us. We went from temperatures in the seventies and eighties to near zero temperatures almost overnight, and at 8,500 feet, we got at least eighteen inches of snow to go with it. Not that I didn’t know it was coming. I pay close attention to the weather in these parts, but knowing a storm is coming and the reality of its impact are two different things. Oh, I made all of my winter preparations, making sure all the yard and garden tools were picked up and put away, digging up my Gladiola corms and storing them for winter, taking down all the hummingbird feeders and cleaning them for storage, too.

I told myself that the approaching storm was a good thing. We need the moisture and the snowfall will surely help get all the wildfires that have been raging across the state under control. I envisioned all the writing I would be able to get done now that there was no more yard work to becon to me and no sun to entice me outdoors. I saw myself staring out the window at a pristine wonderland while soaking up the warmth of the pot belly parlor stove, tapping away at the keys on my laptop as the word count on the book I recently started soared.

But this morning, reality hit when I found I couldn’t step off the porch without shoveling a path through a foot and a half of snow. So, I pulled out my winter coat, gloves and snowboots and bundled up and out I went, shoveling paths to all areas to which I need access.

The Juncos were struggling, perching in the rafters of my front porch to get out of the snow, and I swear, I could see them shiver. Although I’m sure birds have some kind of inner sense that tell them when bad weather is headed their way, they could not have predicted these cold temperatures at the end of October, and they seemed to be at a loss as to what to do. So, a path to my shed to get bird seed was in order, and then one was needed so I could get to the bird feeder to fill it, so my little feathered friends wouldn’t have to tough the freezing tempertures on empty stomachs.

I had to be able to get to the coal bin, so I could keep heat in the house, so a path was needed from the house to there, and another to the generator to keep the electricity on. My neighbor offered to plow my driveway, which is a great help, but I needed a path to the gates and an area cleared so I could open them so he could get his ATV in.

Now, here it is, afternoon and I stopped for lunch, but that is a lot of digging. I still have to dig a vehicle out, so I can at least get out in case of emergency and clear off my back deck. I’m working on this blog post, which should have been posted this morning, and I haven’t typed one word on the new book. The yard work may be over, but shoveling has taken its place. Winter wonderland my eye!


“Fool’s Gold Rush”: Old friends, action, humor – what more could a reader want?

Fool’s Gold Rush

Reading Tim Baker’s Fool’s Gold Rush was like a reunion with old friends. As in all of Baker’s books, Ike is the anti-hero the reader can’t help but like, and Brewski plays the role of the loyal sidekick. Already, the reader is guarenteed a great action adventure. And Fool’s Gold Rush delivers.

With a plot that takes more twists and turns than a winding mountain road, this tale will keep readers turning pages. While trying to help his sister get away from her abusive husband, Lee gets caught up in a scam to raise money for her hospital bills and pay off the gambling debt he owes to Ralph Denobian. When Ike and Brewski come to collect, they decide to lend a hand and end up in the middle of a kidnapping and a plot to steal Ike’s gold from the museum. When the kidnapper finds out about the gold, the deal changes and he wants to exchange the gold for Lee’s sister and her autistic son, Ronny, but when the thieves get away with the gold, making the exchange may not be possible. Ike knows nothing comes easy, and with every setback he bares down and regroups until he finds a way to make things work out in his favor.

Like all of Baker’s books, Fool’s Gold Rush is well-crafted and filled with plot twists, unique characters, and lots of surprises. I give Fool’s Gold Rush five quills.

Other books I’ve reviewed by Tim Baker include: Eyewitness Blues, Unfinished Business, Pump It Up, Living the Dream, Doomed to Repeat, Blood in the Water, 24 Minutes, Full Circle, No Good Deed, Backseat to Justice, and Water Hazard. (Yep, I’m a long time fan.)

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Spend Hallow’s Eve with WordCrafter

2020 WordCrafter Halloween Book Bash

WordCrafter hosts a Halloween book event every year, but this Halloween may be a little more weird than usual. Trick or treating and in person parties are just extra chances for exposure to Covid 19. If our kids do trick or treat, candy will not only need to be inspected, but also disinfected, before eating. In fact, Halloween may not be all fun and games this year. It has the potential to be downright scary for real, and that’s not fun at all.

That’s why I’m inviting all of my readers to join in on a virtual Halloween party, the 2020 WordCrafter Halloween Book Bash. It’s a short event this year, running 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. MDT on All Hallow’s Eve on Facebook. I hope you’ll all join myself and my co-hosts, Mark McQuillen, Ellie Raine, and Jordan Elizabeth for an evening of ghosts and ghouls, witches and warlocks, vampires and werewolves, and lots of books. There will be games and giveaways, so you can get your copy of the authors’ latest releases. Don’t miss out on all the fun. Spend your Halloween with us.

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Anthologies: An alternative path to publication

I’m seeing a lot of promotions for anthologies these days. This excites me because short fiction anthologies are a wonderful way for rising authors to gain new readers. If you look for them, there are plenty of opportunities for short fiction submissions and contest entries, and many of those hold the possibility of having your short story featured in a new anthology.

All authors want to see their work published, but full length novels take months or even years to craft and polish before being ready to consider publication. And if an author is considering the traditional route of pitching their work until they find an interested publisher, they could be looking at that manuscript gathering dust on the shelves for a very long time. Short fiction offers a chance for authors to get their names out there on multiple works in a much shorter period of time than it would take to write and publish multiple novels.

Even before I published Delilah, I had two short stories accepted for publication online. Then my story, “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, was accepted by Zombie Pirate Publishing and it appeared in their The Collapsar Directive anthology. I learned very quickly that one difference in having short fiction published in an anthology, as opposed to being published online, was the spirit of comraderie among all the authors featured. The other cool perk of being published in an anthology was the invitation to submit to the next planned anthology. Hence, my story, “The Devil Made Her Do It”, appeared in the next anthology ZPP put out, Relationship Add Vice.

The trick to getting into an anthology is to read the submission guidelines and submit a story that meets them. Most of the time, that may mean writing a story specifically for that submission call or contest. When I was invited to submit a story for Dan Alatorre’s Nightmareland, the guidelines were pretty general, “horror”, and I happened to have a piece of flash fiction that fit into the genre. All it required was a bit of polishing and my story, “The Haunting of Carol’s Woods”, was ready for submission and acceptance. But, many submission calls are more specific.

For the above mentioned submission to ZPP for Relationship Add Vice, submission guidelines required a story that contained elements of romance and crime fiction. Chances are that you don’t have a story sitting in your files with those elements and you would need to create a new story to submit to meet these guidelines. I did have the beginnings of one, as it happened, but that certainly isn’t always the case.

The submission guidelines are important. Read and follow them carefully. Other than the type of story, they may include specific formatting requirements and other submission instructions. Many publishers are strict about their guidelines and will put down a story without finishing it, if the story doesn’t meet even one of the specifications. Of course, that doesn’t apply only to anthologies. Every submission you make should conform to the given submission guidelines, whether we’re talking about short fiction, novel manuscripts, articles or poetry. Why read something if the submitting author can’t even follow directions?

With each of these anthologies, I got that same feeling of comraderie and networking with my fellow authors. I love that feeling. Because anthologies, by definition, have several different authors, they also carry with them the advantage of widening the pool of possible readers. Each author promotes the anthology to their reader audience, so it is possible to extend your own reach beyond your own reader following and gain new readers who read your work in the anthology and want to read more. It’s a win-win for all authors involved.

Naturally, when I started WordCrafter Press in 2019, the first undertaking was to launch a short fiction contest and compile and publish the resulting anthology, Whispers of the Past. The submission guidelines required a paranormal stort story and the contest winner received a $25 Amazon gift card.

Spirits of the West

For 2020, the contest submission call requested a piece of short fiction with elements of both the paranormal and western genres. It may have seemed a weird combination to some, but to me, it seemed only natural. The old west is filled with ghosts and spirits, and my first novel was a western. I think it was the western genre that threw potential authors off, but what resulted from this genre combination were some very interesting stories, including two South African ‘westerns’ by WtbR team member Robbie Cheadle, “The Thirstyland Journey” and “The Ghost in the Mound”, and a science fiction ‘western’ by WtbR team member Art Rosch, “Clouds in the West”. This author of this year’s winning story is Enid Holden, and she has two stories included in the anthology: the winning story, “High Desert Rose” and another paranormal western, “The Queen of Spades”. And my contribution is a story I wrote specifically for the occassion, “Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”. “Wenekia”, by last year’s contest winner, Jeff Bowles and “Gunsmoke” by author Tom Johnson are also included. This unique collection of paranormal westerns have been compiled into the Spirits of the West anthology and scheduled for an October release.

Authors can find calls for submissions or short fiction contests all over the internet these days. If you just look for them, you’re sure to find one that works for your writing style and preferences, or maybe one that offers a challenge and takes you into writing realms where you’ve never before ventured. In January, I’ll be announcing the theme for the 2021 WordCrafter Short Fiction Contest, so be sure to watch for that, too. If you want to get your name out there, grow your audience and have people read your work, short fiction anthologies are a great start, or they can be a supplement to already published books. Find one that suits you and submit a story today.