Sunday, February 22, 2015

Five Things Writers Should Shed

This week I read a brilliant article in the Huffington Post by Michelle Combs, titled “What Not to Wear After Age 50: The Final Say”. The article basically dismissed all those idiots who think they have a right to tell us how to look and what to wear once we’ve reached that age. Combs’ response was to say that the only things we shouldn’t wear are shame and regret, rose-colored glasses, too many hats, etc. I loved the piece and recommend it to every woman!

As someone who’s been writing and publishing fiction for 35 years, I have my own take on what not to wear from a writer’s perspective. First, I totally agree with Combs when she says take off the rose-colored glasses. Holy cow, I can’t tell you how many writers I’ve come across who are deeply disappointed or downright angry that their books aren’t making any money. I’ve actually seen writers on Twitter literally beg readers to buy their book. Come on, people. Writing is not a get-rich-quick-scheme. The chances of making it big are remote at best, which brings me to my second point.

Combs’ statement about wearing too many hats also applies to writers. If you have a family, a day job, volunteer somewhere, and are working on six different writing projects, ask yourself if quality or quantity is better. Authors are placing so much pressure on themselves to publish frequently that quality is suffering. Step back and take stock.

Third, stop comparing yourself with others. Every writer’s journey is different. We bring our unique experience and perspective to the table, then use whatever time, energy, skill, talent, and tenacity we have. Keeping up with the Jones’s has always been a no-win situation.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to try something new. This doesn’t just mean writing in a new genre, but perhaps taking a course, attending a conference, joining a critique group, or simply taking good advice from a writer who’s been there. It doesn’t hurt writers to step out of their comfort zones now and then. The writing experience is deeply connected to personal growth.

Having said that, I want to say finally, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You can gather all of the thoughtful, informative info in the world on marketing, publishing, and writing, and I’m betting that your efforts still won’t be perfect. Mistakes happen. Deal with it. Just to your best to avoid the ones you could have avoided with a little more research and effort.

There are many more tips I’ve learned over the years, but these will get you started. And if you have any to share, please do so!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

5 Steps To Flash Fiction -- reblogged from

Every so often, I do a post on writing flash fiction. So here's one.
  1. Get a core: a prompt, a character, a word, a thought, a genre.
  2. Attach two characters to it.
  3. Think of a conflict involving those characters and the core.
  4. Choose a point of view.
  5. Decide what happens after the conflict is resolved.
Now, depending on how long you want your piece to be, you can write just the conflict, or you can include some background and include the resolution.


I'm watching a fire in the fireplace. So let's have my core be fireplace.

Let's have two men in a cabin heated by wood. One of them is scared and one of them isn't. The conflict is one of them wants to stay in the cabin and one wants to leave. The scared one tells the story. One leaves and one doesn't.

Two versions of Flash Fiction

Warming His Bones

I'm shivering.

When I complained, Mike said, "Shut up and wrap one of those quilts around you."

"They probly got bugs in them. We'll freeze here. We gotta light a fire or get out."

"And the cops see smoke and then what? We're back in the can. Shut up or I'll give you somthin' to worry about."

I knew he would, sooner or later, and that ain't no way to live. When he turned away, I gave him a poker upside the head, like I did my wife. Lit a fire, got warm, put his coat on over mine, and left before the cops could get there.

It's snowing real hard.

I'm shivering.
If I wanted this to be micro flash fiction, like my monthly Hot Flashes, I would take the climax only and just add enough for context.
Warming His Bones

I'm scared, but I'm scareder of Mike, and he says no fire.

When he turns away, I give him a poker upside the head, like I did my wife. Light a fire, get warm, put his coat on over mine, and leave before the cops can follow the smoke.

It's snowing real hard.

I'm scared.
If I wanted this to be 2000-word flash, I could put in all kinds of detail, background, atmosphere, foreshadowing, and characterization.

You try!

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Have You Thought About Your Social Media Legacy?

My husband and I need to update our wills. The task is long overdue, but when it comes to this stuff, procrastination rules the day. I paid attention, though, when I came across a brief article about the importance of letting your family know what you want to do with your social media presence after you’re gone. Honestly, I’d never thought about this before, but I also realized that I needed to address this with my family. You see, I have many networking sites, and they only know about two of them, let alone the passwords for each. If I passed away tomorrow, where would they find my long list of passwords?

The other issue is what, if anything, do I want to leave behind on social networking? It didn’t take me long to decide that I want it all gone after I pass, but this won’t be true for everyone. Those who liberally share photos of growing family members might want to leave a legacy for future generations. Perhaps there are pieces of writing or blogs that they want others to enjoy. It’s a decision that each of us must make, but once you’ve made it, you’ve got to let someone you trust know about your wishes. Whether you leave something in your will with the location of your passwords, or do it another way, is up to you. This brings me to another recent article, I read in PC Magazine.

The article states that Facebook will now let you provide a “legacy contact”, which is a person who will post announcements and messages on your “memorialized” timeline. The legacy contact will not be able to log in as the deceased or access private messages. The article provides instructions about how you can add your legacy contact.

I can see where this idea will appeal for some, but probably not for me. I do know that at least two of my 300+ FB friends passed away quite some time ago, yet their FB pages still remain up and dormant. It’s rather disconcerting. It also makes me wonder how many other people on FB are now deceased? Maybe some are still alive but for health or other reasons just don’t participate anymore and never intend to.

Personally, I prefer to tie up loose ends. If I disappear just because I’m bored and don’t want to do participate in blogging or social networking anymore, I’ll let you know.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

A Cautionary Tale About Movie Contracts

When I was an unpublished writer, I went to a fair number of conferences, hoping for insights about how to find a publisher. To tell the truth, I was a little shocked by the number of writers bemoaning their contracts. At that time, I wanted to say, “But at least you have a contract. That’s something isn’t it?”. The other thing I never had the nerve to say was “But you read it, didn’t you? You knew what you were getting into.” How na├»ve I was.

Over the years, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read blogs and articles about the lousy contracts writers find themselves tied to. These days, there are plenty of bloggers explaining why today’s contracts are terrible, and why you shouldn’t sign at all. I don’t agree with some of their assessments, but when established, well-known authors get tripped up, I take notice.

This week I came across a blog by Tess Gerritsen, author of the terrific Rizzoli & Isles thrillers. Did you know that she is also the author of Gravity, the movie starring Sandra Bullock?

When the Bloody Words Conference came to Victoria in June 2011, Ms. Gerritsen was one of the keynote speakers. She was very candid about her publishing experiences, and she is again, as she discusses why she’s suing Warner Bros. over Gravity. You can read the details in her blog, but here it is in a nutshell.

In 1999, she told the film rights to Gravity to New Line Productions. The movie never got past the development stage, and New Line was later acquired by Warner Bros in 2008. After the movie was made, but Ms. Gerritsen wasn’t given credit as was stipulated in her contract. Ms. Gerritsen has since learned through round one in court that if the company you sign a contract with is sold to somebody else, along with the intellectual properties, then the new owner has no legal obligation to honour the contract either through acknowledgement or financial compensation of the author’s work. In fact, the new owner can exploit the script however they choose. As Ms. Gerritsen puts it, Hollywood contracts would very well be worthless.

The judge in the round one of her court battle did open the door for Ms. Gerritsen to file an amended complaint which will further examine the relationship between New Line and Warner Bros. This is important because, based on what she says, a writer for Warner Bros. had come up with a nearly identical script which he claimed as his own. Ms. Gerritsen, though, has apparently uncovered a relationship between New Line and Warner Bros. that went back as far as 2000. Hmm.

The bottom line is that contracts can be a slippery slope, folks, particularly if you’re dealing with the movie industry. Writers not only have to consider what is, but what might happen down the road. It’s always a good idea to have experienced lawyers or representatives from established writers’ organizations take a look at your contract before you sign.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Whose Data Do You Believe?

You know I’m a big fan of statistics, right? I’m always intrigued when Author Earnings releases another data-filled report outlining their findings in book sales. If you follow Author Earnings, you’ll know that Hugh Howey and his team look mainly (but not always) at Amazon data which they analyze to help authors see what’s happening in the industry. Since Amazon has 67% of the U.S. ebook market, Howey makes it clear that the data doesn’t include all ebook sales everywhere. In this report, he also makes it clear that other data sources such as Bowker, Nielsen, AAP, and BISG have gotten their stats wrong, and here’s why.

After analyzing 120,000 titles from Amazon’s bestseller’s list, Howey discover that 30% of the titles sold in the U.S. don’t have an ISBN number. This means that there’s a pretty large “shadow” industry that isn’t being monitored by ISBN-based sources such as Bowker and Nielsen. Wow! Who knew? Apparently, not many. Howey claims that the pundits who’ve been writing about the stagnating ebook market over recent weeks are using bad data from Nielsen or Bowker. Here’s a tiny bit of what Howey did find:

As of mid-2014, indie authors took home 40% of the earnings while the combined efforts of the big five publishers slipped into second place at 35%. He also found that the lower ebook prices now offered by the big five publishers have had no impact on the number of sales of indie author titles. This is in direct contrast to what I’ve read elsewhere.

After five Author Earnings reports over a twelve-month period, Howey has found a “continued progressive growth of indie market share at the expense of traditionally published ebooks.” Again, this conflicts with what others are saying.

It’s important to note that Howey provides a readable explanation as to how he arrived at the conclusions he did (you’ll see the main points in the executive summary at the top of his report). He’s also quite clear in stating that, despite a full year of close analysis, the industry is still quite young and the long-term future is hard to predict.

There’s plenty of interesting charts and graphs in the report. Most of all it makes me more wary about the sources used by other popular bloggers/writers. I’m not saying that Howey is perfect, but when he quotes numbers and percentages, he takes the time to say how and where they came from. I wish more people did this. There’s so many contradictions out there, that things must be increasingly confusing for new writers trying to choose the best option for their careers. To read the full report go to