Archive for July, 2010

The Value of Time Off

July 30, 2010

I recently spent a week whitewater rafting down the middle fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. As obsessed as I am about writing, I realize the value of taking a break. Getting completely away from everything electronic is a great way to do it. The break revitalized my spirit and energized my writing.

It worked wonders! The night we got off the river, I completely rewrote a chapter for my second book, Prison Earth – A Loss of Face, that had been plaguing me for months.

Once we were home, I started preparing my current book, Prison Earth – Not Guilty as Charged for ebook release on Smashwords.com. You can find it at http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/20138. (The Kindle version is available on Amazon.com, but all other versions can be found using the above link.)

Prison Earth - Not Guilty as Charged

Prison Earth - Not Guilty as Charged

Very few writers are lucky enough to spend 100% of their time writing and promoting their books. We have day jobs that pay the bills, and consume a huge chunk of our day. Once you are published, however, the book, and the task of promoting it, takes more and more of your free time. It is important to carve out a bit of our year to get away from the stress and recharge ourselves.

But now that I’m back, its time to get that query letter ready for the second book…and finish the final edits…and prepare my YouTube video…and…

Sigh…

Clifford M. Scovell
Prison Earth – the series
www.prison-earth.com

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Fair Results

July 12, 2010

Oh my, I’d never want to be responsible for putting on a fair. Hot weather, and less-than enthusiastic crowds made for poor attendance. The vendors at the Marion County Fair, of which I was one, did poorly. I sold five books in four loooonnnng days. All the authors in the Oregon Authors table did poorly. How could we do otherwise? I probably only talked with a dozen people, other than other vendors, the entire time.

There was one happy moment, however. I got to do a reading. Not my own work, but I read two Dr Seuss books to children. That was a great break from the monotony of manning a booth with no customers.

Clifford M. Scovell
Prison Earth – Not Guilty as Charged
http://www.prison-earth.com

An Unfair Fair

July 9, 2010

An Unfair Fair

For the last two days, I’ve been at the Oregon Authors booth at the Marion County Fair, in Salem, Oregon. So far, 97 degree heat and high humidity has turned it into a bust. In two days, I’ve sold three books. Hopefully the temperature will drop tomorrow. Otherwise, I won’t even cover the cost of the table.

Oh well. That’s the luck of the draw. Weather in Oregon was never concerned with what is fair, or unfair. It just is.

More tomorrow.

Clifford M. Scovell
Prison Earth – Not Guilty as Charged
www.prison-earth.com

A Rose by Any Other Name…What Fun!

July 6, 2010

Love is something we all think about, and hopefully, most of us enjoy, but from a writer’s perspective, especially an adventure/mystery writer, it can be pretty dull. Love is about caring, respect, giving, and compassion. Great as this is, it is boring as the central theme of a story: two people sitting around, cooing mushy stuff at each other.

Of course, there is the possibility that one side believes they are in love with a person pretending to be someone they are not. But when you think about it, the best opportunities for conflict in a relationship involve three emotional states that commonly create conflict: insecurity, lust, and infatuation.

Now this stuff gets my creative juices flowing!

Insecurity is the absolute best reason for creating conflict where there should be none. Romance writers would be lost without it, but it should be in every writer’s toolbox. It can be the basis for humor, misunderstandings, conflict, even violence. Insecurity mixed with love produces the most complex and interesting situations. The best thing is, every reader on the planet will be able to relate to your protagonist being insecure.

Lust, on the other hand, is an animal instinct so deeply rooted in us we cannot exist without it. While Lust is mostly associated with sex, people lust for all kinds of things: power, money, gold, possessions, fame…the list goes on. Lust is one of those “about me” things, and presents many wonderful possibilities for conflict. A person filled with lust has no misconceptions about the object of their intentions, nor do they consider the ramifications of their efforts to get it. Lust can be the basis for greed, jealousy, theft, and violence. When you’re looking for attention-getting conflict in a story, it doesn’t get any better than this.

The last emotional tool is as universal as the previous two. When people say, “love is blind,” they are talking about infatuation. Love isn’t blind. A person in love may give their beloved the benefit of the doubt more often than someone who isn’t. They still see them for who they are, and love them anyway.

However, infatuation is the act of overlaying your mental image of the “perfect” mate onto someone who may not come close to that high expectation. It can be befuddling to discover your companion doesn’t want the same things you do. In fact, they may not even like you. Infatuation almost always leads to disappointment, and can also turn into anger, angst, befuddlement, and bewilderment.

As a writer, you many want to clump these three emotions into one mash and call it love. Many before you have done so, but to make your characters believable, it is important to know the difference between them. Insecurity might keep your hero from his desired goal, lust can make normally respectable people do bad things, and an infatuated person may become a puppet for an unscrupulous person.

The important thing is to be consistent so your reader isn’t confused…that is unless you want them to be.

Clifford M. Scovell
Prison Earth – Not Guilty as Charged
http://www.prison-earth.com

A Salute to Our Soldiers

July 4, 2010

The 4th of July is not officially the celebration of the sacrifices our soldiers have made for their country, but in reality, it always has been. Since the Declaration of Independence was signed, we have had to fight for our freedom, initially from a country that eventually adopted those same freedoms. In fact, in most cases, we’ve fought against regimes that claimed to be bastions of freedom, only to be anything but.

Oppressive dictatorships seem to like to disguise themselves in false titles: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Hitler’s National Socialist German Workers’ Party, The People’s Republic of China, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

A Republic is defined as a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them.

A Socialist government is supposed to be one where all the people own everything equally, and share in its governance.

None of the above mentioned dictatorships allowed, or allow their people such freedoms and rights of ownership as America does. None of them allow free speech, the right to bear arms, or the right to peaceful assembly, but all of them had, or would like to see those rights denied us. And that’s why honoring the sacrifice our soldiers make is an even more important a part of our 4th of July celebration than the fireworks, the eating, the family gathering, and dancing around the campfire.

We can enjoy these things because of the sacrifices of our soldiers, both present and past.

And that’s what it is all about.

Happy birthday America, and a big salute to those who made it all possible!

Clifford M. Scovell
www.prison-earth.com

Show and Tell, Part 2

July 1, 2010

A recent posting discussed switching your writing style from telling to showing. An important way to keep the reader involved is to make sure your prose is “tight”. By that I mean, writing short sentences with a minimum of repeated or unnecessary words.

If you must use long sentences, do so sparingly. Long, run-on sentence can be confusing. The reader may lose track of what is being said, or who is being referred to. Most of your sentences should make a single statement.

John ran to the door.

If you must include two statements within a sentence, divide them clearly.

John ran to the door, and Mary jumped out the window.

However, if you use “and”, “or”, “when”, or “but” more than once in a sentence, it almost always needs to be rewritten.

Strive for clarity with your words, but don’t overdo it. Remember, you want the reader to be involved in your story, so keep it simple by avoiding multiple adjectives or pronouns.

The absolute, specific instant his wanton tongue touched the savory, delicious lasagna he knew absolutely that he was madly, irretrievably in love with her cooking.

The tale is lost in unnecessary fluff. This is much clearer:

The instant his tongue tasted the delicious lasagna he fell in love with her cooking.

Avoid “that”. In many cases, that can simply be removed without changing its meaning. If it can’t, try rewriting the sentence without it. You’ll probably do so with fewer words.

I think that I am so good that I will never make that mistake again.

I think I am so good I will never make that mistake again.

The last sentence shows my one exception. Having your character use that to refer to something specific — i.e. “that mistake” — is appropriate.

Repeated words can be annoying, and we don’t want to irritate our readers. This also applies to using the same pronouns at the start of consecutive sentences. After finishing a paragraph, read it again for duplicates. Use different words to give the reader variety. In addition, if you start nearly every sentence in a paragraph with “He”, or “She”, rewrite to shake things up.
For example:

Instead of: He ran into the room. He cried, “I want the rose you stole.” He grabbed it and ran out.

Use: He ran into the room, crying, “I want the rose you stole.” Grabbing it, he ran out.

I’ll stop with one more very important piece of advice: your characters must have realistic feelings. For example, a girl may not outwardly react to her mother’s rebuke, but surely her stomach cramps, she may think angry thoughts, or her fists will clench behind her back. Showing this to the reader gives your character depth, and hints at trouble to come. People can’t get involved in two-dimensional characters. They want to know what’s going on inside.

Her stomach cramped as she struggled to keep her face impassive.
“You’re nothing to me,” she stated flatly through quivering lips.
Her mother’s eyes went wide. “You aren’t listening to me.”
Fearing a sob might shatter her uncaring facade, Alice turned quickly and hurried to her room. “Don’t ever talk to me again,” she screamed as the door slammed shut.

Make them want to know more and they won’t be able to get enough of you.

Clifford M. Scovell
Prison Earth – Not Guilty as Charged
http://www.prison-earth.com