Tag Archives: authors

Peggy Hattendorf: Author & RWISA Member!

Greetings and welcome to The Indie Spot. It is my privilege and honor to introduce to you author and RWISA member Peggy Hattendorf — in her own words! Take it away, Peggy…

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The Interview

1) How long have you been writing?

My professional writing started in the mid-1970’s, when I created volunteer and staff handbooks for a number of agencies in the non-profit field.

I entertained the idea of writing a novel about 10 years ago but purposely shelved the plan for nearly two years due to other commitments. The notion of writing fiction still gnawed at me and I would jot down potential characters, ideas and storylines during this hiatus. When I finally dusted off my old notes, scribbles and research and read over the material, I realized I had the makings for a good story. With new found enthusiasm, I set about writing my first novel. My background with upscale and luxury travel products served a cornerstones in the character development and storyline.

2) How many books have you authored?
At present, I have one novel Son of My Father – A Family Dynasty.

3) Do you have a writing schedule?

Yes. Currently I am working on my second book in the family dynasty series. This one still focuses on the wealthy Barrington family, and I utilize some of my travel destination research for the magazine to add new locations and settings for the book.

4) You’re a member of RAVE WRITERS – INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF AUTHORS (RWISA). Why do you think you were accepted into this exclusive group?

I was honored and humbled to have been selected by personal invitation from Nonnie as one of the first 10 people to join RWISA. I believe I was invited into this organization because I am a strong and focused writer with a distinct voice and style. I take writing very seriously and continue to strive to be the best in all I produce. With my debut novel, I’ve been able to create a captivating story with well defined characters in exquisite settings and locations; appropriately interrupting the narrative with savvy and funny dialogue while maintaining suspense with plot twists and turns to keep the reader engaged until the very end.

5) Modesty aside, what separates your writing from the millions of other writers in the world?

I am a serious writer who continues to advance my professional endeavors, hone my skills and strive for excellence. I write with passion and want to translate that deep purpose to the reader. As a character driven writer, I use that passion to create a compelling and richly developed cast. I write in my head and start assembling this small grouping around a central theme and the storyline develops. I use logic, structure and organization in developing clear ideas and how to express them in a solid story. I’m grounded in data, research and fact-checking for credibility and authenticity. For example, in certain instances, it’s more appropriate for character and life-style to use more formal language in dialogue. I deliver a readable story with good content, a strong storyline, an intriguing plot, crackling dialogue from well crafted characters presented in elegant settings around the world.

6) If you could spend a day picking the brain of one author, who would that be? Why?

I was fortunate years ago to have had this experience. My husband and I had dinner with the late Allen Reed Folsom and his wife Karen at their home in Malibu. He was a screenwriter for years but his big break came with his thriller, The Day After Tomorrow, about a Neo-Nazi cult. We were with them shortly after he sold this debut novel in 1993 for $2 million dollars, a record at that time. As elated as he was to have sold his novel, he said it took him decades to get to that point. He was diligently working on his second book at the time of our visit. Had I known then, I would someday venture into this whelm, I would have been armed with a list of questions to ask him over dinner.

There is another author, Patricia Cornwall that I would find most interesting to involve in conversation. She is a seasoned serial writer and I am writing my second book in my family dynasty series. Her Scarpetta Series is one of my favorites as she uses a strong female lead, Dr. Kay Scarpetta, a medical examiner by training. I too have a strong female lead, also a career woman, Christiana Lynn Barrington. If I could “pick” Ms. Cornwall’s brain, I would inquire as to how she keeps a series “fresh” and interesting writing a total of 35 books in 27 years. As she also writes children’s books and cookbooks, I would be curious as to what prompted her move into other genres. In addition, I would ask if she found her work as a journalist an asset in writing fiction.

7) Are you a die-hard INDIE writer who loves having complete control of your work, or, if you were offered a publishing contract today, would you sign on the dotted line?

I do love being an INDIE writer and am not looking for outside representation. But with that said, if I was offered a publishing contract today, from a recognized publishing house, it would warrant my time and attention to understand the facts and terms of the contract. My desire is to have Son of My Father – A Family Dynasty adapted into a television movie or mini-series and that might be one of the major advantages of having an agent.

8) As an author, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I would like to have the third and final book in my family dynasty series complete. In so doing, this will require more travel for my inspirations, settings and research.

9) What is the ONE tool that has been the most beneficial tool in the marketing of your books?

I joined a very supportive network – Rave Reviews Book Club. I would tell any new author to commence the overall marketing process well before completion of the book and go online and immediately join Rave Reviews Book Club.

10) Name one writer that you know of, member or non-member of RRBC, who you feel should be added to the RWISA Roster of elite members? Why?

I would suggest Rebecca Reilly. I believe she is a gifted writer as demonstrated in her book Haunting Megan.

11) What is the one piece of advice that you could share that would be most valuable for those aspiring to not only be writers, but those aspiring to be great writers?

Enjoy each and every step of this “creative journey” and don’t be in a rush to publish.

12) Do you believe that writers who churn out several books a year are really putting out quality work?

There are certainly a number of prominent authors who publish several books per year to satisfy contractual terms of their publishers and keep their readership engaged through new releases. Some writers are co-authoring books possibly to keep ahead of the competition. It is hard to place a chronological time period on quality work. I believe each body of work should be judged on the quality alone without regard to the amount of time it took to produce the manuscript.

13) If you had promised your fans a book by a certain date only to find that your book wasn’t the best it could be, would you go ahead and publish your book just to meet that self-imposed deadline and deliver as promised, or, would you disappoint your fans and shelve the book until it was absolutely ready? No matter your reason, please explain why?

I would absolutely halt the release date if the book was not deemed ready for publication. At the same time, I would issue a statement that the release date had to be pushed back and add the new publication date to keep up the interest from my fan and readership base. In the interim, I would continue to have contact with my readership via blogs etc.

14) In your opinion, what makes a book “a great book?”

In my opinion, a “great book” is based on a number of key elements and I use the broad categories of fiction and non-fiction works. For a fiction book, I look for the following: *interesting storyline, * intriguing plot, * proper pace and flow, * well-defined characters, *crisp dialogue and * above all it must be a readable story! In a non-fiction book you also need an interesting storyline and proper pace and flow. Moreover, a non-fiction book must: * present an engaging topic, subject or person, * deliver insight or knowledge – possibly not known prior to reading the book and * be well researched with verifiable data and first-hand documentation, if possible. No matter the type of book or genre, it must be well written and hold the reader’s attention.

15) If you received a review of your book which stated that there were editing & proofing “issues,” what’s the first thing you would do? And the second?

I take my writing career very seriously and strive to deliver quality and excellence in all my work. Unfortunately, some editing issues have been brought to my attention and I have engaged Nonnie Jules and her team at 4Wills Publishing to address the items not identified and corrected by the former contracted editors.

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The Importance of your Author Brand and Reputation

By Peggy Hattendorf

Improper branding or a tarnished reputation can sink your career.

Proper messaging and a solid reputation, on the other hand, add both tangible and intangible benefits. A recognized brand is a strategic tool and important business asset which can determine your success as an author – as much as quality or price. Branding is imperative to commercializing your business, advancing product exposure and leading to increased demand for your books and products.

The American Marketing Association defines brand as, “a name, term, sign, symbol or combination of these, intended to identify the goods and services of the seller and to differentiate it from competitors.”  Branding is all activities that raise awareness for your business and helps shape consumers’ perceptions, awareness, associations and loyalty.

Professional reputation is defined as the “public” opinion about your business determined in part by the image and quality of products and services and further conditioned by consumer understanding, knowledge and intuition.  A “good” reputation helps build brand loyalty. The terms brand and reputation are interrelated and sometimes a strong brand image can combat some reputation issues.

Branding:

  • Improves recognition.
  • Assists in promotion of products/books/services.
  • Attributes quality, value and reliability.
  • Associates an image – “luxury” or “mass-market” as examples.
  • Creates trust, credibility, legitimacy and loyalty.
  • Supports advertising.
  • Differentiates from the competition.
  • Generates customer sales.
  • Builds financial value and resources.

Reputation:

  • Defines public beliefs or opinions generally held about a person or business.
  • Harder to build than to destroy.
  • Requires effort, patience and time to build.
  • Needs consistency and constant attention.
  • Represents your value in the marketplace.

The establishment of a solid brand, positive image and a good reputation are key elements for creating success in the literary world.

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Social Media

Twitter handler – @peggyhattendorf

Facebook – www.facebook.com/peggy.hattendorf

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Web Site/Blog

Website/blog – www.peggyhattendorf.com

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Thank you for supporting our RWISA (RAVE WRITERS-INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY OF AUTHORS) Members!  Please follow and support the entire tour by visiting 4WillsPub.

 

The #RRBC Writers’ Conference & Book Expo is Ready to Fly!

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Have you heard the news? It’s all over town. If you ain’t heard it, well, you’d better sit down. Tell all the authors and the readers alike, Rave Reviews is really outta sight!

Here’s the scoop: Rave Reviews Book Club is launching their first ever Writers’ Conference & Book Expo. Now for the real cool part: It’s a virtual conference, which means no planes, trains, or automobiles need be involved. All you need to attend is a computer and internet connection.

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What’s the WC&BE all about? I’m glad you asked. This event will include sessions on:

  • Blogging for Success
  • Marketing 101
  • Formatting Made Easy
  • Social Media Dos & Don’ts
  • Writing the Perfect Book Review
  • Building Your Author Platform
  • Editors: Sniffing Out the Right One
  • Why Your Brand is Important
  • Indie Publishing versus Traditional
  • Writing in the Senior Season
  • And much more!

If you’re a writer, or if you just enjoy reading, this is the place you need to be.

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The Rave Reviews Book Club Writers’ Conference & Book Expo runs from December 1st thru December 3rd. If you want to attend, you’ll need to register by November 23rd.

To register, click HERE!

For prices, click HERE!

I do hope you’ll join us in what is sure to be an amazing event for indie authors from around the world.

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Reading, Writing, and Responsibility!

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Do writers have responsibilities? If so, what are they? Do these differ from the responsibilities of, say, sculptors, painters, or photographers? And is there a different set of rules for those who write poetry versus those who write fiction?

Though I write in various forums, I’ll speak on fiction for this article. As an author, I do indeed have responsibilities. My first—and most important—responsibility is to know how to construct a sentence. This includes knowing proper punctuation, what and when to capitalize, and correct spelling. If the story in question begins with massive amounts of misplaced commas, run-on sentences, and poor spelling, I’m not likely to find an audience for my work.

Equally important is the need to tell a compelling tale. Nobody wants to read entire chapters with the main character searching for his car keys, getting coffee at Starbucks, or filling his tank with premium gasoline because that Porsche 911 is his baby. By compelling, I mean interesting; the sort of story that lures you in like a carnival barker just daring you to part with that dime, to look inside the tent, to glimpse the man with lizard skin covering his body.

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I try to write reality. If a scene is meant to be dark and raw, I intend to make the reader feel somewhat uncomfortable, even voyeuristic. In one particular review of Jazz Baby, the reviewer mentioned feeling a need for a shower upon finishing the story. I don’t take offense at this notion, I revel in it.

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Are your characters real? Are they fully developed and breathing on the pages? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Weak characters make for a weak story. I’ve read books that were thin on plot but still managed to keep me interested by presenting amazing characters. We won’t find fully formed characters in lengthy physical descriptions, either. We find them in personality traits, quirks, nervous habits, and in the things that make them happy or angry.

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We also have the responsibility to get it right. Get what right? I’m glad you asked. If you’re writing a story set in the mid-1970s, would you insert a character discussing the pros and cons of using Google Chrome on your laptop? What about a story where Grandma speaks of meeting Grandpa on the observation deck of the Empire State Building in the spring of 1921? Maybe Cousin Lexie, in a poignant scene, reminisces about watching Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory under the stars, at a drive-in movie, back during the summer of 1956. None of these events could happen in real life. Google Chrome and laptops didn’t exist in the 1970s. Construction on the Empire State Building didn’t begin until early 1930. The Gene Wilder classic film saw release in 1971, not 1956. Don’t put your lead character in a 1990 Ford Pinto. Do your research, get the facts straight.

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The biggest responsibility we carry as writers is to entertain those who would spend hard earned money and valuable time in reading what we’ve created. Just because I think my story is interesting doesn’t mean others will.

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We are indie authors. Indie is short for independent. Our souls aren’t contractually bound to some monster corporation that basically owns what we’ve worked long and hard to create. But neither do we have access to said monster’s deep pockets for advertising, public relations, and connections to people like Oprah Winfrey, The Ellen Show, or any of the late night gabbers. We’re not likely to find our work climbing the New York Times bestseller list. We must seek out those tools for ourselves—and usually with limited budgets.

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Thankfully, we have the internet. This amazing invention literally brings the entire world to our very fingertips. There isn’t a nation or continent we cannot reach—unless we’re talking about, say, North Korea. Does anybody really want to be Dear Leader’s favorite writer? It’s mind-blowing to hear from somebody on the other side of the planet sharing their thoughts about something I wrote. This is the real reward for the author—in my humble opinion.

But let’s face facts: Just having a Twitter account or a Facebook page won’t make us internationally-known authors. Sure, social media does help. We establish our own little corner of the web through the bread crumbs we sprinkle using tweets and likes. However, we are competing with 100 million other writers scattered across the globe.

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There is another tool, though. This tool is the wave of the future. And it grows bigger by the day. I’m talking about Rave Reviews Book Club. Why a book club? I’m glad you asked. RRBC isn’t just your average ordinary book club. It is an online worldwide community for supporters of the growing indie movement. This is the place to find readers for your work. It is also the place to find great novels, memoirs, and books of poetry—at reasonable prices. That’s right, it offers something for readers and writers alike.

How far you go is entirely up to you. If you support many, many will support you right back. Those who join looking to get support without giving it will find a stocking full of nothing come Christmas morning.

Rave Reviews Book Club is the brainchild of Founder/President Nonnie Jules, an indie author herself. RRBC is designed to grow the author’s name and presence on the internet. The club offers all sorts of amazing tools to help indies succeed. What are those tools? Well, writers get their books (linked to Amazon) added to the club’s online catalog. Supportive members find themselves sitting in any one of the amazing seats of honor up for grabs each month. We’re talking about three slots for Books of the Month, Member of the Month, Member of the Week, PUSHTUESDAY winners, and, of course, the many Rave Waves BlogTalkRadio programs the club produces each and every month. Imagine being interviewed live, speaking to a worldwide audience, while discussing your latest book for a full thirty minutes!

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It’s simple: Club members buy, read, and review fellow members’ books. They tweet links to those stories they’ve enjoyed. And just maybe, if you’re super supportive, you’ll find yourself being hosted by fellow members on their blogs.

Listen, most of us indie authors aren’t indie by choice. Without an agent, the monster corporations can’t be bothered with what we’ve created. They often view us as inferior to the mainstream. That’s where responsibility comes into play. Write it well, get it right, and entertain your readers. It’s really that simple. The work will sell the author.

 

 

 

Have You Met … Jenny & David?

Jenny Hinsman

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She is the author of a past Book of the Month selection entitled:  ANGEL OF DEATH and another title: SOULS: A NOVEL.  Jenny graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in business. She currently resides in Michigan with her husband, two sons, a furry son (pet dog) and a furry daughter (pet cat). Jenny is an avid reader and loves to escape with a great book. She is a huge animal lover and supports rescue organizations that help save all kinds of four-legged family members and more. All of her family pets have been rescues.

 

Jennifer is an extremely supportive member of RRBC and you will find her most often visiting everyone’s blog tour, AND leaving her signature stamp behind…a comment. Now, how many of us can say that we usually take the time to perform that little selfless gesture of support?  Well, Jennifer does!  It should come as no surprise to anyone that her Twitter feed is filled with support of her fellow members.  If you’re not following this treat, you better hurry, as she is one of the best of the best! (@JennyHinsman1 and on FaceBook). Do pick up a copy of one of her books and stop by theANGEL OF DEATH trailer on YouTube.  Once you visit the trailer, I assure you, you’ll want to run out and get your copy of “that” book!

 

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David Calder

Well, if you’re from New Zealand, you just might be his relative because that’s where he was born.  He was educated at Auckland University, as a visiting scholar at Princeton, and at Pasadena City College.  He’s a keen outdoorsman and lover of nature, music, family, history, politics and good writing (now that’s my kind of guy!).  David served in the NZ army during the Vietnam era, he has been a member of pop and rock’n roll bands, and has had careers in the US car and software industries.  He has resided in New Jersey, the Netherlands, UK, California and Washington State through the 70’s and 80’s.  Since 1995, he has divided his time between NZ and Los Angeles as a full-time novelist, poet and short-story teller.  This is one busy (traveling) guy!

 

David writes about action and adventure, Israel and Israeli politics, the Middle Eastern conflict and terrorism in all its different shades of evil.  He has authored a few books:   “THE CHILDREN OF THE NAKBA,” and “REDEMPTION COVE.”  He’d love it if you’d pick up one of his titles, and share your opinions of his writing via a review on Amazon.

 

David has been a member of RRBC since January, 2016, and already he has gotten off to a great start!  He’s uber-supportive of his fellow members.  He recently sent Nonnie a message to say that“the site and everyone I’ve met, have been great!”  Just what we like to hear, David!

 

Please follow him on Twitter @DavidKiwiWriter and on his website!

“HIS REVENGE” LAUNCH WEEKEND BLOG TOUR

Greetings once again, dear readers. One of the true pleasures I find in doing this blog lies in the opportunity to introduce both new and established indie authors to you. Allow me direct your attention to the talented John W. Howell, author of the newly released novel His Revenge. But enough from me, this moment belongs to Mr. Howell. So take it away, John…

“HIS REVENGE” LAUNCH WEEKEND BLOG TOUR

This is the second day of the 4Wills Publishing “His Revenge” Launch Weekend Blog Tour. Again I would like to thank 4Wills Publishing for setting up the tour and my host for having me here today.

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The purpose of the tour is to introduce you to my latest book His Revenge. It is the second John J Cannon story and continues John’s wish to bring the terrorist Matt Jacobs to justice. In the first book, My GRL John was able to thwart the plot to destroy the Annapolis midshipmen on their summer cruise. Of course, terrorists being what they are not content with just one try to embarrass America. In His Revenge, Matt Jacobs takes his hatred for America and John Cannon to another level.

His Revenge is available now on Amazon and KDP Select

Today John Cannon has agreed to an interview. To give you a little idea of John’s background here is some information about him.

John Cannon is a lawyer from San Francisco who decides to take a leave of absence from the firm to pursue his passion which is to become a charter boat captain. He has taken up residence in a small South Texas coastal fishing village. Since his arrival, John has been entwined in terrorist schemes to destroy symbols of America’s greatness. In the book My GRL he bought a boat of the same name only to see her used as a weapon. His latest story His Revenge has John once again pitted against those who are out to harm America and to kill him. John is not a superhero and does his best to cope with situations over which he has little control.

Me: “So John we are happy to have you on the tour.”

John: “Believe me it’s nice to be able to sit down and have a conversation. You sure this room is secure?”

Me; “Yes quite. Your comment brings up the first question. Why are these terrorists constantly after you?”

John: “I believe they want to use me for their own ends. There was a time I was kidnaped and used to potentially blow up the Annapolis midshipmen.”

Me: “Why you, though?”

John: “For one thing their leader has come to hate me for spoiling their plans.”

Me:”Their leader? You know who this person is?”

John: “I am not at liberty to comment on that specific question. There is an ongoing investigation and I have been told not to comment on any aspects of the case.”

Me: “Spoken like a true lawyer.”

John: “What?”

Me: “Oh nothing. So you feel in danger?”

John: “Well let’s see. I’ve been left unconscious next to the dead woman who sold me my boat, drugged, kidnaped, tied up, and caught in an explosion. I guess I would say I feel I’m in danger.”

Me: “Wow. You lived through all of that?”

John: “Yes I did and that was just in the first book My GRL.”

Me: “So what happens in the second book His Revenge?”

John: “I would like to say nothing, but that wouldn’t be the truth.”

Me: “And not good for sales John.”

John: “Oh yeah (laughs) sales. Not my job. Anyway, the head of the terrorists believes he can use me as a spokesperson for his twisted propaganda to disrupt the confidence in the President and to add uncertainty in the oil market.”

Me: “How would they ever get you to help them?”

John: “There are many ways to get someone to co-operate including threatening innocent lives if you don’t do as they ask.”

Me: “Did you?”

John: “Did I what?”

Me: “Co-operate?”

John: “It wasn’t in my nature, but you’ll have to read the book to find out for yourself.”

Me: “What’s next for John Cannon?”

John: “I would like to say I’m going to Disneyland but I know our boss has another adventure ready to go and it will be out in mid-2016. The title is Our Justice and should be pretty good as well.”

Me: “Thanks for joining us today John.”

John: “It was nice. Thank you. Maybe next time we could share a cup of coffee.”

About John W. Howell

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John’s main interests are reading and writing. He turned to writing as a full-time occupation after an extensive career in business. John writes fictional short stories and novels as well as a blog at http://www.johnwhowell.com. John lives on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of south Texas with his wife and spoiled rescue pets. He can be reached at his e-mail johnhowell.wave@gmail.com, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/john.howell.98229241 or Twitter at @HowellWave

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My GRL is available on Amazon and wherever e-books are sold

If you are interested in a tour or other services to support your writing contact 4Wills Publishing

When Does It End? (And Other Writing Matters!)

Writing entertaining stories and articles takes skill and know-how. But there’s more to writing than simply constructing sentences, scenes, and characters—though these are worthy and necessary talents to possess.

Outlining helps keep the plot in place. An outline is merely a road map meant to guide the author from the beginning of the journey to its ultimate climax many chapters later. An outline allows for travelers (both writer and reader) to exit the highway and visit attractions found in that area between start and finish.

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Creating characters that are compelling and alive will ensure the reader retains interest throughout the story. This is perhaps the most important aspect of telling a great story: If your characters are dull and lifeless, than so too will be your story. The only good dead characters are zombies and vampires.

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Okay, so you’ve outlined your story. You’ve developed believable characters that you can actually hear inside your head. They have personality and charm; they can even make your readers laugh or cry or feel anger. You sit at your desk (or wherever it is you feel most comfortable) and you begin your story. This is actually the easy part. The scenes unfold with ease as your fertile imagination gives birth to word combinations that nobody else has considered. Time ceases its existence. Days blur into weeks, weeks run together forming months. Before you know it, the journey is almost over.

Next on the itinerary is the ending. That perfect place to bring the characters, the plot, and the months of your hard work to its ultimate close.

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But how and when and under what circumstances will this story end? The ending can make or break a story. A misplaced ending will sink even the best stories. So how do we decide on the finish line? That is something the author should always have figured out before putting the very first sentence onto the page. You should know exactly where you are going before you load the kids, the dog, and suitcases in the car and jump onto the highway. The getting there, those spaces in between start and finish, are open to changes and tinkering along the way. The ending is something that must stand out. It is the very last moments of your creation. It’s what remains with readers in their immediate memories. An ending that lingers and comes back to a reader without invitation is usually the best sort of finish.

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There really is no stock answer for a proper ending. Some authors prefer to tie up all loose ends, leaving little to ponder—Jimmy and Thelma eloped and ran off to Fiji, where they grew old together and lived happily ever after. However, some authors choose to leave endings loose and open to interpretation—Jimmy and Thelma ran away together, but did they marry? Did they ever get to Fiji? Or did they decide on Hawaii, because Jimmy had gone there as a child and had always dreamed of returning?

By tying up loose ends, the author signals closure to this particular journey. By leaving ends dangling in the breeze, this invites readers to become part of the journey. We get to decide what has happened to these characters that we’ve invested time into getting acquainted. Neither way is wrong.

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When do we end our story and prep it for that first rewrite? Only the author will truly know that answer. Have your characters and plot line arrived at that point you imagined before beginning? Is Disney World in sight? Check the map; make sure your destination isn’t supposed to be the Eiffel Tower. If everything feels right, go back to the beginning and start that rewrite! Most importantly, have fun.

 

Connecting With Readers

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As writers, most of us are thrilled to read reviews of our work posted on sites like Amazon and Koobug. Unsolicited, these words can spur sales of our books. They can also let us know where we lack in this craft we’ve chosen.

Then there are those messages that are of the personal nature, not intended for anybody but the author. I receive these every so often in the message box of my Goodreads account. These come from readers who were touched by something I’ve written or were reminded of some lost memory stirred back into their conscience by one of my short stories.

“Thanks for the message in your story,” they may write. “It brought back an event from my younger days—an event I’d long forgotten.” We never truly forget, though. It may slip from our thoughts but it’s always there, tucked away until the moment it’s challenged to reappear.

The thing is, I don’t set out to weave messages or lessons into my work. I write to entertain. But even so, messages appear. I believe these are out of our hands. Our egos tell us we are just creating. But there is somebody somewhere who has experienced what we’ve written.

I recently wrote a short story called Remaining Ruth, in which a teenaged girl cuts herself with a razor blade, in the privacy of her bathroom, just to have that one thing her parents can’t take away from her.

The messages were almost immediate: “I, too, was a cutter.” “I knew a girl just like Ruth.” “I didn’t cut myself but I did develop an eating disorder.”  “My sister did this for years.” This particular story touched a nerve with so many readers, though that wasn’t my intention.

My novel, Jazz Baby, has prompted many such comments as well. Talk centers around the race relations within the story; Emily’s sexuality; the struggles Emily faced to achieve her dreams; women’s rights issues. I was asked by one reader why I chose to not use the N-word in the story—after all, it is set in 1925 Mississippi and New Orleans. The truth of the matter is: that wasn’t a conscious decision. I hadn’t even really thought of it until the reader brought it up. I suppose there may have been a desire to avoid the stereotypical racist clichés. The very real racism of the deep south of early twentieth-century America is indeed present within the story; I just found more creative ways to express it without resorting to what’s been written a million times in a million other stories.

And somebody found a message in that unintentional deletion.

Not every message need be heavy, either. After I wrote an essay about a childhood incident entitled Bigfoot Was My Father, I received many wonderful stories from readers wanting to share some silly moment their own fathers provided. I am honored and humbled that so many people consider me worthy of their memories.

As authors, we create worlds and characters that wouldn’t exist without us. It’s what we do. We convince ourselves of a story’s originality, of its uniqueness. But there will always be somebody somewhere who will be reminded of a long lost moment in time. It may not be spelled out in exact detail, but it’s there. It may be the metaphor you used to describe the loss of a loved one or the silly joke your main character’s love interest tells while trying to woo the girl. It will remind somebody of something. And that’s a blessing. It means you’ve written a piece in which others find a connection. It means your story matters to another human being.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says: There is nothing new under the sun; that which has been will happen again.

I believe that. We just tell it in our own personal way.