22 Dec

Please Nominate Fiction Notes!

The Write to Done blog has opened nominations for its 9th annual writing blog recognition. Readers, you were kind enough to nominate Fiction Notes and it was named a 2013 Top 10 Blog for Writers.

Fiction Notes is named a Top Writing Blog of 2013

Fiction Notes is named a Top Writing Blog of 2013

Please nominate Fiction Notes for the 2014 award!

Blogging has its own rewards, of course, but last year’s recognition for this blog, has kept me motivated to provide you with another year of posts. Thanks for the nomination last year. And thanks for all your friendships!

Deadline for nomination is December 24, 2014.

Here’s the guidelines:
To Nominate your favorite writing blog, you need to do 3 things in the comments section of this post:

1. Nominate only one writing blog. If you nominate many blogs, even in different comments, only your first vote will be counted.

2. Specify the correct web address of the blog you’ve nominated. (Fiction Notes at darcypattison.com)

3. Give reasons why you believe the blog you’ve nominated should win this year’s award.

Thanks so much! My motto is always, “I believe in YOUR story.”
I hope you also believe in Fiction Notes.


Darcy

22 Dec

Wisdom: Oldest Bird in World to Hatch New Chick

Photo by Greg Joder, USFWS. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/15853842138/in/photostream/.

Photo by Greg Joder, USFWS. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/15853842138/in/photostream/.

On December 10, 1956, ornithologist Chandler Robbins banded about 20 Laysan albatrosses on Midway Atoll. Today, one of those is considered the oldest known wild birds in the world. Presumed to be at least five years old, the minimum breeding age, Wisdom is now over 63 years old. She has incredibly survived yet another year in the wild and has returned to Midway Atoll to raise a new chick.

It’s known that sometimes Laysan albatrosses will take a year off of brooding, so the best guess is that Wisdom has a minimum of 35 chicks. But she’s continuously nested since 2008 without a year off, so it may be many more.

You can follow this unfolding story at the USFWS service Tumbler site.

Read about her exciting brush with death in this award winning children’s book.

Publisher's Weekly Starred Review.

PW Starred Review.



Buy Mims House Publisher site
Buy Hardcover Buy Kobo Buy Kindle
Buy Paperback Buy iBook Buy Nook
Available on Follett, MackinVIA, and other education distributors

Praise for the Book

“It’s marvelous! I LOVE it! And I got a lump in my throat, tears! And I’m a biologist! Your book is beautiful, meaningful, simple, elegant………thank you for caring, thank you for sharing this story!”
Kim Rivera, National Seabird Coordinator, NOAA Fisheries, Deputy ARA, Protected Resources Division, Alaska Region

“Wisdom’s story makes my heart soar.”
Kirby Larson, author of Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship and Survival and Winner of the Newbery Honor for Hattie Big Sky.

“On December 10, 1956, early in my first visit to Midway, I banded 99 incubating Laysan Albatrosses in the ‘downtown’ area of Sand Island, Midway. Wisdom (band number 587-51945) is still alive, healthy, and incubating again in December 2011. While I have grown old and gray and get around only with the use of a cane, Wisdom still looks and acts just the same as on the day I banded her. . . remarkable true story. . . beautifully illustrated in color.”
Chandler S. Robbins, Sc.D, Senior Scientist (Retired), USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD.

17 Dec

When are 420 One-Star Book Reviews NOT a Bad Thing?

As I’ve watched the growth of children’s independent publishing this year, it’s clear that there’s a major problem: an inflated number of reviews.

In the independent world, a review on Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing, etc. is gold. Many of the publicity possibilities open to self-published folks depend on gaining a certain number of reviews on your book.

The biggest and most influential promotion service, Bookbub.com, is a subscription service that sends email to millions of readers about eBook specials. After its launch in 2012, it grew rapidly, found big investors last year and now commands a huge audience. Originally supported by independent authors and publishers, it currently reserves 25-50% of its ads for traditional publishers. In the independent world, it’s considered crucial to your book’s success to “get a Bookbub.” During the days your book is listed at FREE or reduced rates of $0.99 or $1.99, the book may download thousands of copies.

One local friend said his first Bookbub, he had 12,000 downloads of his free title. He’s typical of many indie authors because he has a series of books. Of the 12,000 who downloaded Book 1 for free, a couple thousand bought Book 2, 3 and 4. The sales of the other books in the series paid for the BookBub ad, and left him capital to do another book in the series.

A year ago, you wouldn’t be considered for a Bookbub with fewer than 25 reviews on your title. These day, I’ve heard more like 75-100 reviews are needed. When you apply for a BookBub ad, you’re told that they accept less than 20% of the applications.

What’s an author to do? Reviews on Amazon are GOLD! Reviews on Amazon might get you a BookBub Ad–which might get you thousands and thousands of downloads. Which might mean you have a chance of selling other books.

Yes, reviews on Amazon are GOLD! When an author asks you to review a book on Amazon, it’s crucial.

Social Proof. Reviews on online stores is considered proof that others like a certain product, or social proof. Even negative reviews are good because they are proof that the product hasn’t received reviews from only friends and family.

Comparison of Reviews of Two Books

I am going to compare the reviews of two books in a neutral manner. That is, I’ll set aside my personal evaluations of the quality of the titles. One is a hugely popular, free, independent title, while the other is the winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Young People Literature. From that alone, you might suspect that one is better than the other, and on that, I’ll make no statement because it’s not the point here. You may also suspect that the NBA Award winner would have far and away more reviews. Wrong.

LilyLemonblossombrowngirldreaming


This may not be the fairest comparison: picture books and novels may not receive the same amount of reviews. It’s just that these two books came to my attention at about the same time and I was struck by the difference in the number and quality of the reviews for each book.

Comparison of books: picture book v. novel; self-published v. traditionally published; ebook only v. available in many formats.

Comparison of the Amazon Reviews

As of today, Lily Lemon Blossom’s Welcome, by Barbara Miller has 3569 reviews with an average rating of 4.0 out of 5.0 stars.
5 Stars: 1932
4 Stars: 627
3 Stars: 389
2 Stars: 201
1 Stars: 420

As of today, Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson has 50 reviews with an average rating of 4. 8 out of 5.0.
5 Stars: 42
4 Stars: 7
3 Stars: 0
2 Stars: 0
1 Stars: 1

How is it that an eBook-only picture-book has 3569 reviews? It’s easy, if she’s done multiple Bookbub ads. With 12,000 people downloading a typical FREE eBook advertised in Bookbub, a clever author puts prominent links asking for reviews at the back of the ebook. The ASK is important because it tells people of the need for reviews. Again, it’s one of the popular techniques of today’s independent author, a method that successfully gets multiple reviews on books.

Or is it that easy? In the face of such overwhelming numbers, it’s easy to be suspicious that the reviews are inflated somehow. No one can provide evidence to prove or disprove it–yet the suspicions remain. It’s certainly possible for all those reviews to be bonafide, given the surprising power of a Bookbub. Are book reviews artificially inflated somehow just for the possibilities of promotions like BookBub? Or does BookBub allow for for the inflated number of reviews?

Does it mean that one or the other sells better or makes more money? There’s no way to know unless the authors were to speak out on their incomes. It’s easy to say that both are selling well and making money.

Is this just the difference in a “popular” book and a “literary” book? Possibly. Do popular books may get more discussion surrounding them than literary books? Or do authors of popular books just emphasize reviews more than authors of literary books?

When is 420 One-Star Reviews NOT a Bad Thing?

When it is countered by 1932 5-star reviews?

The thing about reviews is that people tend to artificially inflate their opinion of a book. Many people will say, “I don’t like to trash a book. I only want to give good reviews.” It may actually be a good thing that 420 people felt honest enough to give Lily Lemon Blossom a very bad review.

In the end, the 420 matter less than the total of 3569 overall reviews. The fact that so many chose to leave ANY kind of review helps sell the book and the rest of the books in its series. It’s a book that many people are talking about, so there must be something to it, right? People download the free introductory book to find out what the discussion is about.

Get Thee a Goodly Number of Reviews!

In the midst of all of this, I am an a hybrid author who would love to see 3569 reviews on my traditionally and independently published books. Don’t you want overwhelming reviews on YOUR book?

But it’s daunting. To get that many reviews, I need a Bookbub; to get a BookBub, I need 75-100 reviews minimum and then a lot of luck; the Bookbub might then be a springboard to even more views and possibly a best-seller! But it’s a Catch-22. How do you get the 100 reviews in the first place, so that you can get the Bookbub to get lots of reviews and sales?

Online reviews as social proof may have been a good idea five years ago, but today, I wonder about their usefulness. But the other conclusion you must draw is that Bookbub.com has become a player in the book world in a huge way: if a BookBub ad has the power to make or break the career of an Indie author, it’s an interesting world indeed. Will it soon make or break the career of ANY writer? Already, indie authors who built up BookBub are muscled out by slots reserved for the better-paying traditional publishers; will it ever become limited to ONLY traditional published books?

The case of the inflated number of book reviews says much about the current state of the industry.

15 Dec

Christmas Eavesdropping

Notes from the Field

During the holidays, it’s hard to concentrate on a story. But it’s not hard to BE a writer. As you go to gatherings of friends and families, one thing you can do is EAVESDROP!

In your story, you want dialogue to sound natural. One way to study dialogue is to just listen and record. At holiday gatherings, you may hear undercurrents of sibling rivalry, jealousy, reconciliation, or love. Usually, these things aren’t said on the surface, so much as in the subtext, or what is understood beneath the surface.

Try this: Take a pad of paper and a pencil/pen with you. Sit off to a side or in a corner, and furiously write everything you hear said in a specific conversation for ten minutes. Later when there’s time, look it over and see what you’ve learned about dialogue. OR, if your family is generous and agrees, find an app to record an hour of conversation! Thanks, fam!

So, here are my notes from the field for a couple hours, recording exactly what I said–just my side of a conversation. Notice how MUCH you can tell about the events and what others are saying just by the snippets of dialogue. (Names and phone numbers XXX-out to protect the innocent.)

Getting daughter out of bed

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dani_vazquez/10479425133

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dani_vazquez/10479425133



I don’t have time to be gentle.
That helps.
No, you can’t consistently count on it. It’s not your car.

Before and During Breakfast

He’s not up yet.

I’ve been in there once or twice.

I need to eat.
I’ve messed around too long.
Could you clean up the kitchen, do the things you haven/t done in two days.
Where? What?
It would be easier with a comb.
Too late now.
We gotta remember to take the trash out.
Nothing.
Oh, man!
Mine.
Both of you stop.
It’s not just her. It’s you, too.
Stop! XXX, don’t take that in your room, please!
Ok.
No. No. It’s a mess.
Whose spoon is this?
Just ‘sec.
Tell MMM she has e-mail.
Five?
What is it, oh, a Pokemon?
ZZZ, work on that kitchen now.
It used to be a road.
What?
Wow. How much?
$15 isn?t bad at all. Who’s sponsoring it?
Cool. It’s not bad.
I’m gonna shower.
I’m gonna shower.
Fix–transmission?
Huh? I’m totally lost.
Oh, OK.
OH, well.
Gimme kiss.
Yes. To school?
No. Gimme kiss.
Lots more than that. I’ll be in the library today. At noon. XXX has to stay ?’til 4. So we?ll just stay.
You might as well read.
Good.
Yep.
Have a good day.

Taking truck to shop

Last night, we lost 3rd and 4th gears. You can put it in gear but you have to hold the stick. 1st, 2nd & 5th are OK.
OK.
Oh, and he said to change the oil and a nut on the valve cover is missing.
Pattison. I-s-o-n. Not e-r.
We also have a Sienna van so we should be in the computer.
Let me give you his number. XXX-XXXX.
OK.
A second number XXX-XXXX. But I’ll be gone a lot, so try him first.
And give us an estimate. Just give us an idea of how long would help.
He’s coming to get me, so I?ll just go in the waiting room.
Don’t change the oil first. Let us know how much on the transmission first.
Is that all you need?

Driving to work with DH

She said she’d call you with an estimate. It’ll probably take over night.
Where’s my glasses?
My headache is coming back.
No, on the other side.
Yep.
Yeah.
Uh huh.
Uh huh.
So, which do you like?
What is all that?
Huh?
Yep. That’s the one you said I could have? I could put it on my business cards?
That’s weird.
Strange. I gotta call XXXXXX. About YYY.
Where’s the check book? I need one for this doctor’s visit.
Bad time for a vacation with all the other guys messed up.
Wow. Must be nice.
Yeah. He’s the best marketer.
Which one?
That’s good.
By who?
I should be able to make it to the doctor by nine. I was hoping I could go be the house and eat, though. I need to go by and see XXX and then–I need to buy crickets. (Note: to feed the lizards.) And I?ll bring you the car just before 12.
Okay. I know.
Helicopter.
Where?
Yeah.
Kinda misty on the river today.

Yeah, I know.
It was weird yesterday.
Yeah. Like what?
I haven’t heard of him.
What are they building over there?
Boy, that looks terrible. It’s big. Well–it’s just big. Wow. That’s amazing.
I have my keys. I need a check.
Was it on the table?
That’s right. Love you.

Saying Hi to Neighbor

Good morning.
Pretty good.
Already in a rush.

09 Dec

Scholastic Report: Write Funny, Imaginative Stories

It’s often hard to predict what books kids, from first grade through Young Adult novels, will like to read. Scholastic will release in January a research report that clearly expresses a kid’s point-of-view. They’ve released this infographic to advertise the report.

Click image to see full size.

Click image to see full size.

This research has lots of implications for those writing children’s books.

Write funny. Kids develop a sense of humor slowly and in stages. Here are 3 ways to write funny, 5 ways to add more humor, and tips on running gags.

Use imagination. Kids like to be transported to a different time and place. When you create stories, think about interesting settings, historical time periods, or made-up worlds. Create these in enough detail that the kids will understand the actions, but leave room for their imaginations.

How else will this research affect your writing and the focus of your next story?

08 Dec

Tone: Is your Romance Sensual or Intellectual?

Eleanor&ParkI am currently reading Eleanor and Park, a YA romance; one of the interesting things about this story is the author’s choice to create a sensual tone. It’s not sexy or intellectual. The choice of tone is interesting because often a romance can devolve into physical stuff of sex.

Instead, Rowell walks a fine line between the two extremes. It’s sensual because there are physical details. For example, Eleanor notices Park’s hands:

Park’s hands were perfectly still in his lap. And perfectly perfect. Honey colored with clean, pink fingernails. Everything about him was strong and slender. Every time he moved, he had a reason.

Or Park, describing holding Eleanor’s hand:

Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.

Creating the Right Tone

The question is, of course, what tone do I want for my story?
That’s what a writer does as they read great stories from other writers: you think about what they are doing that is working so well, and how to translate that into your own stories.

Do I want a romance that is intellectual, sensual, sexy, titillating, mysterious, or something else? How do I achieve that?

First, I pay attention to the tone of my drafts. While I’m writing, I work hard to characterize, to plot, to evoke a setting. But I’m also paying attention to the word selection and how that affects tone. Sentence structure can affect tone, as can the rhythm patterns created by a combination of words and sentences.

First drafts are about approximating: you want to get close to the target of a great story. As I revise, I am refining so many things, but one of those is the right tone.

It may also mean that I do a couple trial drafts. How does a sexy tone fit with the rest of the story? How does an intellectual romance mesh with the action plot? Experimenting with different tones is sometimes essential. I know that my story should have a lot of action, and I’m comfortable with the tone I’ve created for that part of the story. But integrating that with the romance subplot is trickier this time. The goal is an integrated story, a whole story.

Tools to Create Tone

Writers have only a few tools: words, sentences, paragraphs. That’s it.

Words. Think about the connotations of each word/phrase you choose.
Sentences. While short sentences can speed up an action, long sentences can languish and slow down a story.
Paragraphs. And overarching is how the words, sentences, meaning, and connotations blend to create the right rhythms.

Most of all, don’t leave tone to chance. Decide what tone works for your story, and then work to make it happen.

01 Dec

3 Reasons I Failed NaNoWriMo – and Why It’s OK

I am a failure.
I signed up for NaNoWriMo–again. And again–I failed to make 50,000 words.

But I have good reasons.

World Building. I did massive work this month on world building. Since I’m writing a science fiction novel, I needed to invent technology, figure out where to locate installations, design the installations to meet the needs of my sff characters and the needs of the story, create scientifically accurate details throughout, along with the usual backstory.

I used Google Earth to investigate Mt. Rainier and the surrounding area, worked on backstory and characterization, and dug into the details of scenes. Many scenes that are still to be written have been written about; that is, I’ve written notes about who, what, when, where, why and with what emotion. When I do sit down to write the scene, it should go quickly.

November is Hard. I’ve never understood the decision to make November the NaNoWriMo month; it’s one of the busiest months for me. Arkansas has a major reading conference, besides the Thanksgiving holiday. All together there were 7-8 days I simply could not write because I was busy all day with other activities. For me, burning the midnight oil does no good, but at that hour, all I can write is crap. Still, I wrote steadily on the days that I could and made progress.

Writing Style. Fashion swings wildly. Many editors believe that writing should take a long, long time. The fad in the Indie world these days is very rapid writing. In the end–I write as fast as I can and still turn out something that pleases me. I must please myself, not an editor or a contest like NaNoWriMo or anyone else. I can only write as fast as I can write.

My Speed is OK

BlueOKIt’s really OK that I didn’t write 50,000 words this month.

  • I had a great time at the Arkansas Reading Association conference.
  • I had a great time with my family.
  • I wrote about 32,500 words, which is 32,500 words more than I started the month with. More than that, I know my characters better and know that it was a very good month of work.

That’s all I can say.

24 Nov

Never Visited a Place? You Can Still Writing About It – Here’s the Secret!

Two years ago, I wanted to write a story set in Campinas, Sao Paolo, Brazil.
I had never been there.
I only knew the name of two people who lived there.

Yet, I could convincingly write about the setting. Here’s the secret.

Google Earth

The free app, Google Earth, is immensely helpful to writers. I use the free, desktop version.

View satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, galaxies far in space, and the deepest depths of the ocean.

In 2011, Google Earth added the street view. They send out cars that drive along a certain road and take a 360 view of the landscape. That means you can put Google’s orange man on the street and look around. Today, the street view is available on all seven continents. See more on the background, scope and how to use Street View.

WhereisTheGoogleCar.com asks people to take a photo of the Google car when they see it and post the picture. It’s a “social experiment” to track the location of the car(s) on any given day.

Thank You, Google Earth, for Helping Me Write!

GPS Coordinates: Context.
When I wrote Abayomi, the Brazilian Puma, about a mother puma who died in a chicken coop trap near Campinas, Brazil, I was lucky enough to have an incident report that included GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates. Google Earth immediately zoomed me into the right position, so that I was visually hovering right above the chicken coop. The context of the coop was crucial: Brazil has increased sugar cane production for use in making ethanol for automobile fuel, and the coop was nestled amidst the sugar cane fields. Pulling out some, though, it was also apparent that the sugar cane plantations were very close to large urban areas. This wasn’t a remote rural area. Instead, the pumas lived within sight of skyscrapers. How did I know this?

Abayomi was recently named a 2015 National Science Teacher's Association Outstanding Science Trade Book.

Abayomi was recently named a 2015 National Science Teacher’s Association Outstanding Science Trade Book.

Google Photos: Visual Details.
Google allows users to upload photographs that are marked with GPS information. On the maps, these are shown as tiny rectangles that when clicked open up the photos. Very near the chicken coop was such a photo that showed a skyline of skyscrapers of the city of Campinas.

Google Street Man and Maps: Topography
Google Earth also allows you to see the topography, or the terrain, of a setting. Is it hilly, flat, or somewhere in between? You can use the Street Man or simply fly around. We have a friend from India who flew us–through the miracle of Google Earth–over his parent’s house in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Distances: Measuring the Earth
I love the extra tools of Google Earth,too. For example, you can use the ruler to measure distances in kilometers or miles. I learned, for example, that a drone in a story would have to fly about 5 miles–as the crow flies. Very valuable information! I can then answer so many questions:

  • Is that within a drone’s range? Yes.
  • How long would the flight take, figuring 50 mph? 6 minutes.

That gives my hero a very narrow time window to locate the villain and disable the drone.

Other Options
Google Earth has in impressive area of other specialities: historical maps, Mars, the Moon, 3-D buildings, favorite places, maps about climate change and much more. See the range of services at their showcase.

I’m researching Mt. Rainier for a story: through Google Earth, I’ve gotten context, followed trails, found fantastic photos, and almost feel like I’ve been there. No, I haven’t felt the wind on my face or heard the chatter of birds. I’m adding to the Google Earth info such things as the flora/fauna of the region. I’ve hiked other areas in the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve hiked in mountainous areas. I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to recreate this landscape for a reader. It won’t hurt to have a beta reader from the area vet it for me, but I think it will be close. For me, Google Earth is the next best thing to being on-site myself. Add to that Flickr Photos that are Creative Commons licensed, and my story take on an added weight of reality.


(Click the photos to go to the original flckr.com sites.)
MtRainier1


MtRainier2


MtRainier3


MtRainier4

19 Nov

What is Really Necessary to Do Online? Authors You Have Surprising Freedom!

I’m doing a survey of your burning questions for 2015 about writing and publishing. I’ll be answering some of the questions over the next few months.

If you haven’t taken the survey yet, it’s a simple 3-question survey.
Answers are anonymous. Takes just a couple minutes. Please take the survey now!

Today’s online world for authors is confusing!
I’ve written about setting up an Author Website.
I’ve blogged consistently here for about seven years.
Please follow me on Pinterest.
Come and check out my Facebook Fan Page.
I have a Linked-In account.
Watch me on YouTube.

What do I think is the most important thing for you to do?

Write.

A writer is a person who writes.
A published writer is a person who consistently submits what they’ve written.

That’s it.
The rest of it? Sure, if you’re a mid-lister, and if you have time to spend, it can help your writing to sell better to be online. Sure, if you network with writers, editors, illustrators, marketing people, and others in the publishing industry, it’s easier to submit and find that right fit for your work.

However, that’s not your main job. Your job is to work on your writing. Period.

What do you LIKE to do?

SocialMediaMonopoly


After you’ve got the writing and submitting down, you can look around the online world to see if you want to join those who create content.

You could just participate by consuming content.

  • Repin or Comment on Pinterest
  • ReTweet or Like on Twitter
  • Like, Share, or Comment on Facebook
  • Do the comparable on the platform of your choice

But most prefer to find a home base where they create content that goes along with what they are getting published.

First, evaluate yourself. Do you like to write short, write long, take/edit photos, produce audio, or produce video? Those are the only options you have, regardless of the platform. Think about which form of communication you are good at, and can consistently produce.

I’d suggest you consider two things when looking for an online home base:

  • What Kind of Content Can you Consistently Produce? The most important thing on ANY platform is that you show up. Consistent posting of content is crucial. Without it, you won’t develop an audience!
  • Where Does Your Audience Hang Out? This is a very different question from, “Where do your friends hang out?”
    If you want your writing to connect with an audience, then you need to FIND your audience. Develop relationships, listen to questions, answer questions, become a part of the community. If they most do Slideshares, go there. If they prefer Instagram, go there. I have a young friend who introduced me to WeChat, an app that lets you keep track of friends and family. It’s her favorite app. Now, when I need to talk with her, I jump on WeChat, and almost instantly, we’re connected. This sure beats leaving her voice mails that never get answered! Go where your audience hangs out.

Your goal is to find that sweet spot between the ways you like to communicate and the ways in which your audience communicates. That’s the only logical way to operate online. Don’t let anyone tell you that you MUST do this or that online. Build your writing career by writing your own work, by submitting your own work for publication (or self-publishing it), and finally, by finding your audience.

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