HOW TO WRITE THE PERFECT SYNOPSIS

 

Royal FP(From a Writer’s Work Shop)

Most agents will ask you to send them a submission pack containing three items:

  • A covering letter (see advice here and sample here)
  • A synopsis
  • The first three chapters / 10,000 words of                                                                         your novel

Most agents will look at the covering letter first, then turn to the manuscript. If they like the first three chapters, they’ll be thinking, “This book looks really interesting. I’m definitely tempted . . . but is the author going to hold my interest over the full 300 / 400 pages? Is it worth me making that investment of time to read the whole thing?”

That’s where the synopsis comes in. The synopsis is there to answer the question, “What is the story of this book? Is there a clear story arc and will there be a satisfying ending?”

Obviously the actual experience of reading a synopsis is quite underwhelming. Synopses are boring, technical documents which (we hope) would not be true of your novel. But that doesn’t matter. Agents know synopses are dull, so all your synopsis really has to do is:

  • tell the agent in very clear terms what your story is
  • make it clear what your hook / premise / elevator pitch is (more info here)
  • give some kind of feeling for why the story matters & how the jeopardy increases
  • sketch out an ending that feels satisfying

But – and this should be reassuring – agents do know that synopses are hard to write and they care less about the synopsis than any other part of your submission package.That means you probably don’t need to worry excessively about your synopsis – just follow the guidelines below and you’ll do just fine.

How to write a perfect synopsis

A perfect synopsis has the following ingredients:

  • Length: 500-800 words
  • Main purpose: Summarise your plot
  • Secondary purpose: Make it clear what Unique Selling Point your book has
  • Language: Be businesslike: clear, to the point, neutral.
  • Presentation: Be well-presented: no typos or spelling mistakes. Normal font size, normal margins. Line spacing no narrower than 1.5
  • Character names. It helps if you put the names of main characters in bold or CAPS when you first introduce them. That way, if an agent has forgotten who Carlotta is, it’s easy for them to skim back and jog their memory. (Remember that agents are reading a lot of these things, so they have about a million character names in their heads at any one time.)
  • Extra points. It’s certainly not essential, but if you have a really compelling way to ‘sell’ your story in 2-3 lines maximum, then you could insert that little snippet up at the top of your synopsis as a way of reminding agents why they’re interested in this MS in the first place. For example, a certain Ms Rowling might have opened her synopsis with, “Harry Potter, an orphan, thinks he is an ordinary boy when an owl brings him a letter inviting him to attend wizard school.” That’s not strictly speaking synopsis material, but it does instantly emphasise the book’s appeal.
  • And remember: Tell the story: your job is not to sell the book, write dust jacket blurb, or anything else. Just say what happens in the story. That’s all you need to do.

And luckily there are things you don’t need to do:

  • Go into great detail about setting. If you were writing a synopsis for a Jane Austen novel for example, you might simply say “This novel is set in a small village in Regency England.”
  • Go into vast detail about character – a few quick strokes are all that you need. For example you might say: “Bridget Jones – a ditzy, mildly boozy twenty-something – …”
  • Be scrupulous about plot detail. It’s fine to skip over subplots or ignore some of the finer detail of how X accomplishes Y. The truth is, you won’t have time to include those things in a 700 word summary anyway. Agents know that the synopsis is at best an approximation of the story so you don’t need to have a troubled consicence.
  • You also don’t have to give away your very final plot twist – though you should make it clear that there is one. For example, you could write, “When Olivia finally catches up with Jack at the abandoned lighthouse, he tells her the real secret of his disappearance – and their final bloody reckoning ensues.” Mostly though, a synopsis is the ultimate plot spoiler, and your job is just to spill the beans whether you like it or not.

Authenticity – How to Embrace Being Who You Are!

Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – Brené Brown via http://www.powerofpositivity.com

 

 

Psychologists correlate the attractiveness of authenticity to three things:

 

(1) We believe that people who are authentic are more trustworthy; in part because they’re truer to themselves.

(2) Genuine people often possess a sense of individualism and firmness, which we admire.

(3) Remaining true to oneself requires courage, strength and tenacity – all qualities that we find appealing.

 

 

With that in mind, here are 10 signs of authentic people:

 

  1. They Speak Their Mind

Authentic people are confident about their opinions and perspectives – and share them with confidence. Their thoughts are also well-constructed and, when prompted, are conveyed with both firmness and civility.

  1. They Realize the lack of importance of Material Things

While authentic people may enjoy certain things, they certain do not base their happiness off of them. Furthermore, they do not judge an individual by what they have and do not have. Authentic people focus on a person’s character, not their bank account.

  1. They Relish in Experiences

Genuine people realize the impermanence of life and try to live it fully. This means experiencing what people and the world has to offer – and they make every attempt to do so.

  1. They Set Their Own Expectations

As apparent by now, authentic people are highly individualistic; they do not seek the “approval of others” and never will. Their beliefs, ideals, morals, and value are self-acquired and applied.

  1. They Are Active Listeners

Genuine people exemplify the “two ears, one mouth” axiom. Active listening is listening without anticipating one’s response. 100 percent of their focus is on the speaker and nothing else. (Was the person you thought of earlier an active listener? Please share!)

  1. They Acknowledge Their Faults and Mistakes

It takes tremendous fortitude to admit to your failures – and authentic people have plenty in reserve. They know their weaknesses and mistakes; but what really differentiates a genuine person is they take necessary action to correct them.

  1. They Take Personal Responsibility

This one really doesn’t need to be said, but here it is. Authentic people are hold themselves accountable to what they do and don’t do. They are very responsible for many reasons, including the self-empowerment and pride that comes from being answerable to themselves.

  1. They Make Their Own Way

Genuine people are not a “sit back and wait” group. They find a way to make things happen, regardless of the sweat, blood and tears required. Further, the path they set for is their own – something that requires grit, determination, and…

  1. They Aren’t Scared of Failure

How many of us would love to say, “I’m not scared to fail”? (Raises hand and nods head.) Part of being a truly authentic person is acknowledging the possibility of failure, looking it in the face and not blinking. Whew…easier said than done.

  1. They Aren’t at All Judgmental

Perhaps of all the wonderful traits listed, this last one may be the most admirable. Genuine people can wholeheartedly and honestly accept individuality precisely because they are different. Authentic people are often very smart – and are able to see right through the pointlessness of preconceived expectations and human stereotyping

Ellen Russell Mallory – First Lady of Key West

Ellen Russell Mallory – First Lady of Key West

 

Ellen Russell Mallory (1792-1855) settled in Key West with her ailing husband Charles and two young sons in 1823.  She was first white female settler in Key West.  Her husband and elder son died in 1825.  To support herself and her surviving son Stephen, Ellen Mallory opened her home as boarding house for seamen.  During frequent Yellow Fever outbreaks, she served as the town’s nurse.  She provided a good education for her surviving son, sending him to a Moravian academy in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.  Ellen was a leading figure in the growth and life of Key West until her death in 1855.  Her son went on to become a U.S. Senator, and then Secretary of the Navy for the Confederate States.  Mallory Square is named after her son Stephen Russell Mallory.

 

Ellen Russell Mallory

 

Ellen Russell was born in 1792 at Carrick-on-Suir, near Waterford, Ireland.  Carrick-on-Suir is situated in the southeastern corner of County Tipperary, 17 miles northwest of Waterford.  When she was orphaned at about thirteen years of age, she was adopted by two bachelor uncles (her mother’s brothers), who were planters on the island of Trinidad.  There she met Charles Mallory and married him when she was no more than sixteen years of age.  Charles Mallory was a construction engineer, originally from Redding, Connecticut.  Charles and Ellen Mallory had two children, sons John and Stephen.  Charles Mallory’s health then began to fail.  The family left Trinidad and came to the United States around 1820, leaving seven-year-old son Stephen in school near Mobile, Alabama.  After trying the climate of Havana for a short time, the family moved to Key West in 1823, when the island was inhabited by only a few fishermen and pirates.  Charles Mallory died of consumption at Key West in 1825.  The elder son John died shortly thereafter, at only fourteen years of age.  To support herself and her surviving son Stephen, Ellen opened her home as a boarding house for seamen.

 

Ellen Mallory’s boarding house “Cocoanut Grove”

 

Her boarding house, the “Cocoanut Grove”, was the only lodging in Key West for many years.   With her meager earnings from the boarding house, she sent her son away for further schooling at a Moravian academy in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.  Although, like his mother, he was a devout Catholic, he had only praise for the education he received at the academy.  After three years, his mother could no longer afford to pay his tuition; so in 1829 his schooling ended and he returned home to Key West.

 

Ellen’s boarding house remained a center of social life and hospitality in Key West throughout the remainder of her life.  She nursed and cared for many of the sick and injured in Key West, during numerous outbreaks of Yellow Fever and hurricanes.  The hurricane of 1846 was one of such unusual severity that it obliterated the graves of her late husband Charles and son John.  Ellen lived to see her son, Stephen Russell Mallory, become a successful lawyer, marry well and have children of his own, and become a United States Senator in 1850.

 

After 32 years as the beloved “First Lady” of Key West, Ellen Russell Mallory died on May 15, 1855.  Perhaps at no time was the Key West custom of closing the stores along the route of a funeral procession as a tribute of respect more spontaneously and wholeheartedly observed than when Ellen Mallory’s remains were born to her final resting place.  Nearly the entire population of Key West walked behind her bier to the cemetery.  She was buried in the town’s new cemetery, founded after the great hurricane of 1846, where a stone about six feet long is inscribed:

MALLORY

Ellen Mallory

born at

Carrick-on-Suir, 1792

died at Key West

May 15, 1855

 

Excerpts from an article in The Florida Historical Quarterly; Volume 25, Issue 4:

 

Of those who have been identified with early Key West, one who has been given highest acclaim is Ellen Mallory, Stephen R. Mallory’s mother.  A contemporary noted:  “The first white female settler of Key West was Mrs. Mallory in 1823, the mother of the present United States Senator from Florida; she is an intelligent, energetic woman of Irish descent, and still keeps an excellent boarding house, for the accommodation of visitors there being no taverns upon the island.”

Another noted that “For some considerable time [after 1823] she was without a single companion of her own sex [on the island].  As the pioneer matron of the place, she was presented with a choice lot of land, on which she has erected a house, which she now occupies, as a boarding house, dispensing to the stranger, with liberal hand, and at a moderate price, the hospitalities of the place.”

Key West’s leading twentieth century chronicler speaks and quotes others: “First in point of time as well as in affection and esteem of her contemporaries, was Mrs. Ellen Mallory. Two distinguished men have told of her virtues,” writes Judge Browne.   He repeats Governor Marvin’s judgment: “I mention Mrs. Mallory last because she is last to be forgotten and not because she was the mother of an United State senator and secretary of the navy of the Confederacy, but because she was situated where she could do good and she did it.

Left a widow in early womanhood, she bravely fought the battle of life alone, and supported herself by her labor in respectful independence.  She kept the principal boarding house in town. She was intelligent, possessed of ready Irish wit, was kind, gentle, charitable, sympathetic, and considerate of the wants of the sick and poor.  She nursed the writer through an attack of yellow fever and was always as good to him as his own mother could have been.”

The sentiment of another, crystallized through a long friendship is contained in an excerpt from an address delivered in 1876: “Methinks I hear her musical voice today as she was wont to speak, standing at the bedside of the sick and dying in days gone by.  Catholic by rites of baptism…Oh, how truly catholic in the better and non-sectarian use of that term, was her life, devoted as it was to acts of kindness.  Her husband died shortly after their arrival; she kept for many years the only comfortable boarding house on the island, located first on the north side of Fitzpatrick Street and subsequently, after the proprietors had expressed their appreciation of her character and usefulness, by a donation of a lot of ground, on her own premises, on the south side of Duval street near Front.  With many opportunities of becoming rich, she died comparatively poor.  Next to her God, her devotion centered in her son, Stephen R. Mallory, whom she brought to this island a child of tender age and lived to see occupying a seat in the Senate of the United States as one of the Senators from Florida.

Going tranquilly about her duties, or dispelling discouragement with the tonic of fortitude and hope, the picture is beautiful.  Twice as I remember, I had the pleasure of receiving the proffered hand of this lady.  First, with words of ‘Welcome’ to your city, when as a poor young man, I became one of your number.  Second, on the occasion of sore affliction, when the balm of consolation gratefully reached my ears, and pointed my mind to contemplations of future usefulness.  She died in 1855.  Her mortal remains lie in yonder cemetery respected of all men.  She left no enemy on earth. ‘Requiescat in pace.’  Such was the woman who founded the family of Mallory in Florida; is it any marvel that she was the mother and grandmother of United States Senators?”

 

 

A Book Review of D. G. Kaye’s Non-Fiction, “Words We Carry”

It is my belief that every woman on the planet should read this non-fiction inspirational story that reveals the negative self-esteem experiences that many if not all women encounter during various incidents throughout their lives, and the consequences of those experiences often begin in early childhood.

D.G. Kaye writes with empathy, compassion, and a plethora of knowledge using her own experiences to help other women understand the importance of realizing their sense of self that is intimately associated with our self-worth. Self-worth is not a vanity and it not excessive pride. It is how we access our own sense of being, of who we are.

The author, D.G. Kaye, writes with a warmhearted conversational style that beautifully eliminates dogma and in effect the judging of us, by us, and others for what we may perceive as a failure to have fallen victim to ridicule, to embarrassment, and instead we begin to believe in our personalities and our value in the world.

Our society often appears to judge women by our appearance: a cultural sense of what beauty is, a person’s station in life, and least but not last – money. If as a child we experienced being bullied, laughed at, ignored, and ridiculed, our self-worth without a positive, loving alternative from your parents, grandparents, and siblings—is damaged and our chances of feeling unlovable, inadequate, and homely take root in our psyche. A psyche that is damaged presents difficulties in our self-expression, our personalities, and our ability to thrive in the world without a sense of inadequacy. This sense of inadequacy leaves us open to being further damaged by others.

D.G. Kaye, the author, encourages us, helps us to understand, and presents a rationale that can and does present a newer, healthier view of ourselves as well as to develop healthier relationships. Once we rid ourselves of negativity, jealousy, envy, and that awful feeling of inadequacy; our inner personalities, our joy of life, and a sense of inner happiness will begin to shine.

D.G. Kaye’s inspirational non-fiction for women is the best of its kind that I have ever read, and a must read for all women. I give this book a 5-star rating.

 

A Review of Watching Glass Shatter by James J. Cudney IV

A Review of James J. Cudney, IV superb novel, Watching Glass Shatter.

 

The title alone intrigued me. I already knew that James J. Cudney IV, was a fabulous writer and I already loved his writing style. I knew that it would be a great read, but I had no idea it would be so superb and that I would spend hours reading it while ignoring everything else that went on around me. Honestly, if my house had burnt down around me I probably would not have noticed.

I didn’t answer my iPhone, or make dinner or finish the laundry, I was so taken by it, so entranced by it, that I could do nothing else but read this novel that is as true to life as anything I have ever read. The people in this novel, come to life as real as you and me.  James J. Cudney IV’s novel brings a realism to this novel, Watching Glass Shatter, like no other. It is so astonishingly real in every conceivable way.

Normally, when I read a book, I know it is fiction, but not this story, no, anything but fiction. This story is like stepping into a family’s life in a very intimate way, observing, as though you are their invisible friend, and wanting so much to give advice, to hold a hand when tears flowed, to cheer when things go as planned, to grieve when they grieved, to respect their choices, even though poorly chosen sometimes, but necessary.

When I finished reading the last sentence, I knew I didn’t want it to end even though it was after midnight. I realized I had been reading for many hours without stopping for nether food nor drink. I knew in an instant that I would never forget this family, their lives, their losses, and their triumphs. I also knew I would be buying the print version today. I am also thrilled that now, knowing that Watching Glass Shatter is to be printed in several languages, because I am so happy that other people around the world will love this book as much as I do, and I hope the French language is of them. I give this story 5 stars and it doesn’t seem fair…it should be 10 stars!

 

Why You Should Never Stop Reading Fairytales!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Stop Reading Fairy tales! by Karen DeMers Dowdall 

I thought it would be nice to re-post one of my favorite posts about fairy tales. Considering that I am really into fantasy, paranormal, fairytales, and witches, this new blog title suits me to a T…Once Upon a time…. It is far better than just my name (it is way too long). This new blog title really makes me happy. I love fantasy stories that begin with Once Upon a time…Madeleine L’Engles, A Wrinkle in time, however, does not begin Once upon a time…it begins with, “It was a dark and stormy night”…that works too.

I have collected volumes of fairy tale books, everything from all of Hans Christian Anderson to all of the Grimm’s Fairy tales, Scotland Folk Tales, Irish Myths and Folklore, among many other volumes of Fairy tales. Perhaps, one could say, I live in a fairytale world of my own making. So true. I can’t think of a better place to live…especially in the world as we live in today.

Also, my collection of books includes my favorite books of tales about Princesses, Dragons, Monsters, and of course…Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit and all his friends, too. Less I forget to mention, my love of everything in King Author’s Court and the Knights, especially, the Wizard Merlin, and also,the Hobbit’s Gandalf the Grey. So many magical creatures that do often represent the best and the worst of humanity.

These stories tell me that most, that perhaps all of humanity is redeemable, because we are not given an instruction manual for raising babies, toddlers, and especially teenagers – God love them, one and all. Oh my goodness, it can be a real juggle out there for those growing up and with our delicate egos at risk…anything can go wrong.

Perhaps, that is why I love Fantasy, Fairy tales, Paranormal, Greek Mythology, and Science fiction too. Quoting the famous words of Albert Einstein, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Well…perhaps it doesn’t work with everyone. I am still learning.

I will add to that quote, if I may, my own philosophy:  “Never stop reading fairytales. No matter how old you are! We are forever learning, and not much teaches us more than a good Fairy tale!”

by Karen DeMers Dowdall June 4th, 2019

 

 

A Telling Time

~This is a telling time, a time to consider consequences as there are worse things to come; if those that are keen with pen and paper fail to support right from wrong. ~ Karen Dowdall

 

“In every age it has been the tyrant…wrapped in the cloak of patriotism or religion to deceive and overawe the People”

~Eugene V. Debs

 

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. ~Thomas Jefferson

 

The world is made up for the most part of morons and natural tyrants, sure of themselves, strong in their own opinions, never doubting anything.  ~Clarence Darrow

 

Ignorance has always been the weapon of tyrants; enlightenment the salvation of the free. ~Bill Richardson

 

The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants.  ~Albert Camus

 

It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice.  ~Henry A. Wallace

 

Tyrants always have some slight shade of virtue; they support the laws before destroying them. ~Voltaire

 

Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of. ~Bill Moyers

 

“Freedom is sloppy. But since tyranny’s the only guaranteed byproduct of those who insist on a perfect world, freedom will have to do.”
~ Bill Willingham

 

“Those who are capable of tyranny are capable of perjury to sustain it.”
~ Lysander Spooner

 

“The essence of tyranny is not iron law. It is capricious law.”
~ Christopher Hitchens, Love, Poverty, and War: Journeys and Essay

 

“All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and shortest means to accomplish it.”
~Alexis de Tocqueville

 

 

 

 

Three Secrets to Great Storytelling!

Whispering

 

 

 

3 SECRETS TO GREAT STORYTELLING as presented on Writer’s Digest. I found this article by Steven James helpful in forming the structure of scenes.  (this is a re-blogging from 2014 but I thought it deserved a revival now, because it is simple, straightforward, and to the point.)

As a novelist and writing instructor, I’ve noticed that three of the most vital aspects of story craft are left out of many writing books and workshops. Even bestselling novelists stumble over them – Steven James But they’re not difficult to grasp. In fact, they’re easy.And if you master these simple principles for shaping great stories, your writing will be transformed forever. Honest. Here’s how to write a story.

Secret #1: 
CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE KING.

Everything in a story must be caused by the action or event that precedes it.  As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story. But when readers are forced to guess why something happened (or didn’t happen), even for just a split second, it causes them to intellectually disengage and distances them from the story. Rather than remaining present alongside the characters, they’ll begin to analyze or question the progression of the plot. And you definitely don’t want that. When a reader tells you that he couldn’t put a book down, often it’s because everything in the story followed logically. Stories that move forward naturally, cause to effect, keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. If you fail to do this, it can confuse readers, kill the pace and telegraph your weaknesses as a writer.

Secret #2: 
IF IT’S NOT BELIEVABLE, IT DOESN’T BELONG.  

The narrative world is also shattered when an action, even if it’s impossible, becomes unbelievable. In writing circles it’s common to speak about the suspension of disbelief, but that phrase bothers me because it seems to imply that the reader approaches the story wanting to disbelieve and that she needs to somehow set that attitude aside in order to engage with the story. But precisely the opposite is true. Readers approach stories wanting to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to enter a story in which everything that happens, within the narrative world that governs that story, is believable. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustaining her belief in the story. The distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in deep belief. We need to respect them enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.

Secret #3: 

IT’S ALL ABOUT ESCALATION.  

At the heart of story is tension, and at the heart of tension is unmet desire. At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. As soon as he gets it, the story is over. So, when you resolve a problem, it must always be within the context of an even greater plot escalation. As part of the novel-writing intensives that I teach, I review and critique participants’ manuscripts. Often I find that aspiring authors have listened to the advice of so many writing books and included an engaging “hook” at the beginning of their story. This is usually a good idea; however, all too often the writer is then forced to spend the following pages dumping in background to explain the context of the hook.

IN CONCLUSION

By consistently driving your story forward through action that follows naturally, characters who act believably, and tension that mounts exponentially, you’ll keep readers flipping pages and panting for more of your work.

 

15 Ways to Earn Your Audience as a Writer

 

 

 

 

 

a reblog of Writer’s Digest,  guest post is by Chuck Wendig. Wendig is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, and the Heartland YA series, alongside other works across comics, games, film, and more. A finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the cowriter of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus, he is also known for his popular blog, terribleminds.com, and his books about writing (including The Kick-Ass Writer). He lives in Pennsylvania with his family. http://www.writersdigest.com

 

 

  1. Swift Cellular Division

The days of writing One Single Thing every year and standing on that single thing as if it were a mighty marble pedestal are long gone. (And, if you ask me, have been gone for a lot longer than everybody says—unless, of course, you’re a bestselling author.) Nowadays, it pays to write a lot. Spackle shut the gaps in your resume. Bridge any chasm in your schedule. This doesn’t mean write badly. It doesn’t mean “churn out endless strings of talent-less sputum.” It just means to be generative. Always be writing.

  1. Painting With Shotguns

The power of creative diversity will serve you well. The audience doesn’t come to you. You go to the audience. “One book is less likely to find an audience than three?” Correction: “One book is less likely to find an audience than two books, a comic, a blog, a short story collection, various napkin doodles, a celebrity chef trading card set, and hip anonymous graffiti.” Joss Whedon didn’t just write Buffy. He wrote films. And comics. And a web-series. The guy is all over the map. Diversity in nature helps a species survive. So too will it help the tribe of storytellers survive.

  1. Sharing Is Caring

Make your work easy to share. This is triply true for newer storytellers: Don’t hide your work behind a wall. Make sure your work is widely available. Don’t make it difficult to pass around. I have little doubt that there’s a strategy wherein making your story a truly rare bird can serve you—scarcity suggests value and mystery, after all—but the smart play for creative types just setting out is to get your work into as many hands as possible with as little trouble as you can offer. This is true for veteran storytellers, too. Comedian Louis C.K. made it very easy to get his new comedy special on the web. And that served him well both financially and in terms of earning him a new audience while rewarding the existing audience.

  1. Value at Multiple Tiers

Your nascent audience doesn’t want to have to take out a home equity loan to try your untested work. If you’re a new author and your first book comes out and the e-book is $12.99, well, good luck to you. Now, that might not be in your control, so here’s what you do: Have multiple expressions of your awesomeness available at a variety of tiers. Have something free. Have something out there for a buck or three. Make sure folks can sample your work and still support you, should they choose to do so.

  1. Be You

The best audience isn’t just an audience that exists around a single work, but rather, an ecosystem that connects to the creator. The audience that hangs with a creator will follow said creator from work to work. That means who you are as a storyteller matters—this is not to suggest that you need to be the center of a cult of personality. Just be humble creator of many things. You’re the hub of your creative life, with spokes leading to many creative expressions rather than just one. Put yourself out there. And be you. Be authentic. Don’t just be a “creator.” You’re not a marketing mouthpiece. You’re a human. For all the good and the bad.

  1. Engagement and Interaction

Very simply: Talk to people. Social media—though I’m starting to hate that phrase and think we should call it something like the “digital conversation matrix”—is a great place in which to be you and interact with folks and be more than just a mouthpiece for your work. The audience wants to feel connected to you. Like with those freaky tentacular hair braids in Avatar. Get out there. Hang out. Be you. Interact. Engage.

  1. Head’s Up: Social Media Is Not Your Priority

Special attention must be paid: Social media is a side dish; it is not your main burrito. See #1 on this list.

  1. Hell With the Numbers

Just as I exhort you to be a human being, I suggest you look at all those with whom you interact on social media as people, too. They’re not resources. They’re not a number. They’re not “followers”—yes, fine, they might be called that, but (excepting a few camouflaged spam-bots) they’re people. Sure, as you gaze out over an audience, the heads and faces start to blur together like the subjects of a pointillist painting, but remember that the audience is made up of people. And people are really cool.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

An earnest plea to your existing audience to help you find and earn a new audience would not be remiss.

  1. Share Knowledge

As you learn things about the process, share them with others. Free exchange of information is awesome. Be open and honest. Be useful.

  1. Embrace Feedback

Reviews, critiques, commentary, conversation—feedback is good even when it’s bad. When it’s bad, all you have to do is ignore it. Or politely say, “I’ll consider that!” and in the privacy of your own home, shred the feedback with wanton disregard. When it’s good, it’s stellar and connects you all the more deeply to the audience. The audience is now a part of your feedback loop, like it or not.

  1. Do Set Boundaries

That feedback loop is not absolute. I’m not a strong believer in creative integrity as an indestructible, indefatigable “thing”—but, I recognize that being a single-minded creator requires some ego. Further, the reality is that once something is “out there”, it is what it is and there ain’t anything you can do about it. So you have to know when to turn off comments, back away from social media, or just set personal and unspoken boundaries for yourself.

  1. Don’t Wrestle Gators If You’re Not a Good Gator Wrestler

What I mean is, don’t try to be something you’re not. If you’re not good in public, don’t go out in public. If writing guest blogs is not your thing … well, maybe don’t write a guest blog. Again, this isn’t a list where you need to check off every box. These are just options. Avoid those that plunge you into a churning pool of discomfort. You don’t want to lose more audience than you earn.

  1. Take Your Time

Earning your audience won’t happen overnight. You don’t plant a single seed and expect to see a lush garden grown up by morning. This takes time, work, patience, and, y’know, earning the attention of other fine humans one set of eyeballs at a time. It’s why you put yourself out there again and again.

  1. Have Fun

Relax. Enjoy yourself. This isn’t supposed to be torture. You should have fun for two reasons: First, because people can sense when you’re just phoning it in, or worse, when you’re just moping. Second, because fun is fun. You should enjoy writing; enjoy putting your work out there.

BELLA THE WINTER MOUSE

Bella, The Winter MouseSome time ago, I befriended an adorable winter mouse, I named Bella, who wandered into my yard one day and became my friend for one long lonely winter.  Little Bella first caught my attention by peeking out from behind a wooden rocking chair on my back porch one cold December morning as I worked busily cleaning away cobwebs and dust from window panes and dusty corners.

I pretended to ignore this curious little field mouse. I was hoping that she would scurry away as almost all little critters do to avoid the murderous intent of larger critters.  As I continued dusting and sweeping, I kept stealing glances to see if the little  mouse with the large pink-ears was still watching me from its hiding place behind my old rocking chair.  As I furtively turned my head to get a better view, I was taken-aback to see the funny little brown mouse standing up on its hind legs with its little hands clasped in a pleading gesture as she stared at me.

My heart went out to the furry little winter mouse and I reached into my jacket pocket for the small package of peanut butter crackers I had accidentally left in my pocket the day before.  I opened the package , stepped off the porch (making sure the little mouse saw what I was doing) and placed a peanut butter cracker on the frozen winter grass.  I felt sure this would appease the determined little mouse to take the cracker and scurry back its winter nest, preferably far away from my back porch.  I then stepped back into my house and shut the door behind me allowing the little mouse to know it was now safe to scurry away with the peanut butter cracker.

The next day, as I gazed out of my backdoor window I saw my neighbor’s old Tom Cat on my back porch. He had apparently cornered something behind my old rocking chair. All at once, I knew Old Tom had cornered the little winter mouse who, no doubt, had returned for another peanut butter cracker.  I quickly stepped outside with broom in hand and shooed Old Tom away giving the frightened brown mouse with the large pink ears time to escape. It was the least I could do seeing how it was my fault the furry winter mouse had returned for more peanut butter crackers.

This time the little winter mouse scurried underneath the wooden porch and dashed away, but where to, I wondered. Surely, Old Tom would catch it now and it would be my fault.  Sadly, there was nothing I could do—this was nature, the natural cycle of life and death. I sighed deeply and bowed my head as I turned away from the window.

Little did I know Bella was quite familiar with all the hiding places around my house as I found out one chilly morning in the wee hours before dawn a few weeks later.   While snuggled up in my bed, underneath a quilted coverlet, I reached over to turn on the lamp on my nightstand.  As I did, (to my dismay) my winter mouse stood before me on my nightstand.  Her tiny hands were clasped tightly in front of her, grasping a peanut butter cracker I had left on the nightstand.  Her pink belly and soft brown fur trembled in the bright light.  We stared into each other’s eyes, nose to nose, for what seemed like a long time before she suddenly dashed, cracker in mouth, to wherever she had made a home – in my house.

Well, I thought, a friend it one thing, a Boarder is quite another.  So, early that morning, I crept, as quite as a mouse, with my flash light in hand to find the freeloader’s hideaway.  And find it I did. Apparently, my little curious winter mouse liked music, because I found her and her nest behind my credenza.  Her little brood of six pink baby mice seemed quite comfy— snuggled up in one of my missing fluffy slippers.

Well, enough is enough, I thought.  One winter mouse is tolerable for a winter, but not Bella’s brood of six baby mice.  I found myself in dilemma of what to do with Bella and her babies.  There was the mudroom, I thought, and that presented another dilemma. The mudroom already had several guests.

The injured red flying squirrel was healing well in a shoebox on the third shelf, Tabby, my 12-year-old tabby cat, somewhat incontinent and nearly blind, slept there each night on top of the filing cabinet, Fluffy, my snow white Tibetan Lhasa Apso also preferred to sleep there where his food was kept, like wrapped around the 25lb bag.  (You should know that Lhasa’s are very protective of their people and their food.)

I had no choice. Bella and her babies were going into the mudroom, in a covered shoebox, secured with tape and with small holes for air.  I placed the shoebox on the floor very near the mudroom backdoor that had a small bit of daylight between the door and the floor.  Every day I would leave one peanut butter cracker for Bella on the back porch. It didn’t take long before she waited for me every day at the backdoor, standing up, her little hands folded across her tummy and I would hand the peanutbutter cracker to her. She would reach out with her tiny hands, and grasp it and hold it to her chest before dashing away. She was the sweetest mouse. Her cute little personality and her big brown eyes were so expressive.

In early spring, I went to the backdoor and there was no Bella. I hurried to the mudroom and found the shoebox empty. They were gone. Bella, my winter mouse had gone back to the corn and alfalfa fields with her young.  I hope they all survived, but I would never know. I never saw her again. I still think of her sometimes, on a chilly winter morning when I turn the light on.