Themes, casting for Pride’s Children, 2007

Some background

In the summer of 2007, while Pride’s Children was under development, and I had an initial rough draft based on the original Dramatica storyform, life handed me an opportunity, and I grabbed it.

My daughter and three of her friends had been offered an internship at LaSalle University after they won, as homeschoolers, an important science competition. The prize was offered and supposedly won (the university probably expected it to be won by some high school group at an actual school), but the four of us mothers who were the homeschooling parents had to do a lot of pushing and prodding to get the internship to happen.

Finally we came to an agreement: the school would let us live in the dorms during the summer (they were empty), and arrange some daily time at one of their science labs, and there would eventually be a paper presented by the professor and having the girls’ names on it, at the American Chemical Society meeting. I leave off the ACS details and the prof’s name because they never fulfilled that part, despite all our phone calls and emails after the internship ended.

Three weeks were chosen for this internship, and I claimed the right to be the parent chaperone. We would drive down to Philadelphia on Sunday night (one Monday because of the 4th holiday), settle into the dorm, the girls would have their internship during the week, and I’d drive us home Friday afternoon.

They had a ball.

What did you do with YOUR time, Alicia?

I had unbroken time to think. And I used it to do the Grand Reorganization of the plot for all three volumes of the story.

Structure, structure, structure.

Every impossible plot step and twist to turn the implausible story of Andrew and Kary and Bianca into an inevitable and utterly believable end was locked down during those three weeks, in as tangible a form as I was capable of.

Everything that had to happen was examined with a microscope, prodded, probed, and declared viable – or eliminated.

Pride’s Children, the full trilogy, runs on a business management principle: the critical path, which I have modified for my own purposes to mean that each plot step must be the shortest and tightest way to the next, in an unbroken chain from beginning to end. Nothing happens without it being an absolute necessity (in my mind and my story).

Theme and casting notes, please.

From notebook post-LaSalle:


My book is my statement, my mission to the world:

Family matters
Love is based on trust
Children matter – and must be protected
Beliefs are important
Beliefs lead to action
Right beliefs lead to right action
Dignity matters
Good will prevail
Life throws stuff at you
How you handle it is who you are
You can’t stay married to someone who doesn’t want you
Some people are objectively better than others
Evil exists – and can’t be excused
Love transcends age

But at least Firefly reminded me of my capacity for intense love: of a character. Of an actor. Of a story. [read more]

Andrew: a young Rutger Hauer
Kary: Michelle Pfeiffer
Bianca: a young Demi Moore
Michael: Adam Baldwin as Jayne Cobb – big, tall, smarter than he looks, not as smart by far as he thinks he is.

Comparison to Laura Hillenbrand there, too – if she can do Seabiscuit, I can do PC.


That’s it. The short list – though there are many other themes I could and did add. Loyalty, integrity, the meaning and importance of work, what is unforgivable, what we owe our adult children and the memory of the children we have lost, friendship, Catholic guilt and what it means to accept your responsibilities…

Even hummingbirds.

Everything I love.

 

Preaching to the choir: keep writers sane

A man standing on a rock in sihouette in front of a sunset, with the words: Acknowledging Alicia's Angels, by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardtt

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CHOIR

August 22, 2016 at 12:42 PM

My dearest choir:

I think I’m going to name you Alicia’s Angels.

I don’t know exactly how you arrange it among yourselves, but it seems that every time I get discouraged, something pops up:

  • A sale of two paper copies on Amazon
  • Someone reading a few pages on Kindle Unlimited
  • An unexpected review on a blog
  • Another review on Amazon
  • Comments on the blog posts
  • A request for an electronic Review Copy
  • A lovely email with kind words
  • Someone replying to a blog post in a way that shows they got what I meant exactly right
  • An ebook sale
  • The promise of a review
  • Watching how someone on KU reads the whole book in a day or two
  • A reply to my comment somewhere else that carries more understanding than expected
  • An offer of an interview on someone’s blog (which I will respond to when I can – honest!)
  • A kind and accepting response when I think someone might like Pride’s Children, and I offer an electronic Review Copy
  • Hearing other people’s successes
  • Almost forgot: tweeting Pride’s Children for me!

At this stage – newly published author with one book up – sometimes called the ‘dribble’ stage, these notices from other humans keep me sane. I’m not writing in a vacuum. Someone out there likes my writing, and takes the time to say so.

And it keeps me both writing – and connected to the outside world.

For writers who don’t get out much, the connection is vital.

Shameless and continuous self-promotion – becoming ‘that author’ – is bad, so I watch my steps in public. I mention PC, as you’re supposed to do, when it comes up naturally in conversation. I hand out one of my artisanal business cards (with cover and contact information, and yes, the required link to Amazon), but only when appropriate. I don’t talk about it (much) unless asked – so easy to slip over the line and become ‘the bore.’

It isn’t a major problem – I don’t get out much – but every time I see an example of ‘bad author behavior,’ I add it to the list of things not to do.

I’ll figure out the thing to do, one of these days, and we’ll move on to the drip stage, and then the small stream stage…

Meanwhile, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Alicia

 

Pride’s Children summer 2016 sale KCD

paw-ad-7616-hi-res

Summer reading sale until June 30 – Kindle Countdown Deal US & UK. 0.99!

For new followers and readers – and I’m still looking for reviewers (contact me for electronic Review Copies). Please recommend me to your reading friends.

Pride’s Children is up to 20 reviews now on Amazon.com

Do yourself a favor – if at all doubtful, check out the negative as well as the positive reviews; no book is for everyone, and I’d rather you not be disappointed.

I’m up to my ears in writing Book 2 at the same time as I’m trying to do some promotion for Book 1; if anything, I’m even busier than when I was writing and then publishing.

 

 

Worldwide sale means thirteen Kindle marketplaces

Pride’s Children is on sale at ALL worldwide Amazon Kindle marketplaces April 26 to May 1, 2016 – 0.99 everywhere.

liebjabberings

worldwide

IT DOESN’T MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS* – sale details below

Okay; I promised myself this one when my brain-fogged brain figured out that Kindle Countdown Deals are only available for the UK and the US: have a sale EVERYONE who has access to a Kindle or Fire device (or app) can take advantage of.

Amazon is not to blame; country regulations are to blame. At some point in the future, maybe France’s arcane regulations will allow online Countdown sales; don’t hold your breath – the French (or should I say the French government, for good or ill) have all kinds of regulations designed to keep prices for books high, digital books out of the marketplace, and bookstores in business.

It’s their country – their laws and rules and taxes.

The only time it’s my problem is when I wanted to hold a Kindle Countdown Deal for Pride’s Children…

View original post 681 more words

You like a writer’s style and voice – or you don’t

let fiction bloomEDITING? REALLY?

Way back in the dark ages, I submitted the manuscript (digiscript?) of Pride’s Children to an organization dedicated to vetting indie novelists, and giving them a ‘Seal of Approval’ which could be used on the cover of their novel to indicate ‘quality’ or ‘goodness’ or ‘lack of indie crap content.’ I will call them XXX.

And then I forgot all about it.

I just received their reply, a reply to which I take a great deal of umbrage.

Here is their email:

Dear Alicia,

I regret to inform you that your book Pride’s Children did not gain XXX approval. Our assessor said that though the book had an interesting premise, it would need a thorough line edit before it could be considered for approval.

In particular, she found the following issues:

Extreme overuse of incomplete sentences to the point where it becomes a repetitive sentence structure.

Too many short choppy sentences and heavily divided sentences make the reading scattered.

Subjects of focus erratic and hard to follow both in paragraph and some sentences:
“True, Thomas Pentell had insisted on an early dinner at Les Cles, almost too early for this Dior- she lengthened her neck, lifted her chin- cleavage only worked if you showed it.”

Breaking the fourth wall (see above sentence – not the only one)

Switching of perspective between first and third person

Too much description – telling not showing

Should you wish to re-submit after having the book line edited, you will need to use the form on the Submission page and pay a fee of $50.

If you are unsure of the difference between a line and a copy edit, please read this article [link removed] on the four kinds of editing

We also recommend you read The Elements of Active Prose: Writing Tips to Make Your Prose Shine

Regards from,

C.J
XXX Submissions

Please note: we do not enter into any discussion on the results of submissions.
Do not reply to this email. No one checks the account, so no one will see it.

—————————

There are many things wrong with this ‘assessment,’ but I summed them up in a short email:

Dear CJ:

I regret to inform you that it is doing fine as it is; any ‘line edit’ would absolutely destroy the style and voice.

The ‘flaws’ you point out are deliberate choices.

Those who like it, love it. It is gathering a nice bunch of reviews on Amazon.

Thanks for your consideration.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt, PhD

I sent the email – and then realized there was a donotreply on the email address, so I decided to put it up here instead (though I doubt anyone from XXX will see it).

I have detailed some of those deliberate choices in my post Rules for punctuating consistently: a writer’s unique style.

For example, and to confirm I know the difference between first and third person pov, I use First person and italics to indicate direct internal monologue (ie, an actual thought the character has in exactly those words); there are one or two of those in places where we have access to the character’s thoughts. For indirect internal monologue (general musing), I use Third person and no italics, and that is how we see the story, from the three characters’ points of view. Orson Scott Card taught me how to vary the Third person distance; once you get the hang of it, you can do everything from describing the landscape to being in the character’s head at his/her most intense moments.

I NEVER break the fourth wall.

ALL description is done from the point of view of the characters, a SINGLE character per scene.

And if XXX had bothered to look carefully, the dialogue in that little exchange where Bianca is reviewing in her mind the meeting she just had with Pentell, as she is being driven home, is very carefully marked with single quotes – memories – to distinguish it from the conversation she is simultaneously having with Michael in the car.

It takes a long time for a writer to develop a voice.

You either like what I’m doing – or you don’t get it, and don’t like it, because it isn’t the way you’re used to getting stories fed to you. There isn’t much I can do about that.

But the thought of what a ‘line edit’ from someone like their ‘assessor’ – who has no idea what I’m doing consistently and on purpose – would do to Pride’s Children made my stomach hurt.

Thanks for letting me rant – if you got this far.

Have you had a similar experience with an ‘editor’ – either as a writer or in school? Business English and fiction have no commonalities!

Complete sentences? Really?

Please share your pain.

——-

*Thanks to Stencil for the ability to make 10 free image/quotes per month, more with a paid account.

Pride’s Children Kindle Countdown US, UK

US KCD 4:2:16 UK KCD 4:2:16THE COUNTDOWNS ARE HERE! GRAB PRIDE’S CHILDREN AT DISCOUNT PRICE!

I am delighted to announce that Pride’s Children: PURGATORY is available in the US* and UK* right NOW – on a Kindle Countdown Deal.

Amazon US and Amazon UK are live (I checked). Please tell anyone you think might like Pride’s Children – and I hope they will also SIGN UP on the right hand side – scroll down -TO Follow this blog** so you get news of further sales and advance warning for Book 2, Pride’s Children: NETHERWORLD.


My official motto is now: “I’m working on it.

I am; I am so close to the Book 2 revision I can taste it. Just let me get this sale started… Why? Because you can only run one KCD in each 90-day period you are signed up for KDP Select (Kindle Digital Publishing Select), and the price has to remain fixed for 30 days before and 14 days after the sale (the 30-day + sale (up to 7 days) + 14-day periods all have to be within that 90-day period), and on some days my brain refuses to do math. Fortunately, Amazon Kindle’s little pop-ups guide you through setting up the sales, and I think they are a wonderful tool to get more readers.


NOTES:

*I know the Kindle Countdowns don’t reach other countries – I believe Amazon is working on it; some country’s protectionist laws make it not possible there. BUT I will be having a general sale – 5 days at 0.99 everywhere at the end of April (will let everyone know when that happens), so if you can’t get to this deal, there will be one VERY soon.

**Wordpress changed a bunch of things to make things ‘better’; I will master them as soon as I can (I do change slowly, especially when my time goes to writing). I’m sure the improvements will make things easier once I understand them – they usually do – but right now I’m suspended between two worlds and the brain refuses the jumps.

Pride’s Children’s on its way: reviews starting

 

I’M WORKING ON BOOK 2, I PROMISE.

Even I want to find out exactly how Kary and Bianca and Andrew…

Meanwhile, I leave you lovely reviews on Amazon, 6 so far, by those hardy souls who have finished reading, and taken fingers to keyboards. There are a few on Goodreads, too, if you look me up, and one on Amazon UK (Colm was kind enough to put it on the UK and US websites).

I need to reach something like 25 so that I can advertise on BookBub, should I choose to go that way. It’s expensive, but their ROI (return on investment) is good (according to their own advertising, so there’s that).

I am content for reaction to roll in slowly as long as it doesn’t come to a complete halt, but new books have that long uphill slog to become better known, and mine has the same hill to face as any other: Discoverability. The two ads I ran with the Kindle Countdown generated one or two sales – maybe one of those buyers will review.

The biggest problem I see with sales is not the low rate of return (all newbies get that unless they have a big publisher doing a lot of pushing, or are on Oprah), but that the buyer often doesn’t read what she or he has bought, precisely because it was a bargain. Catch-22 is the name for that phenomenon, because they wouldn’t purchase it at all at full price because they don’t know the author.

Technically, the buyer can read it later. Practically, new bargains often push the impulse buy lower on the stack. I’ve observed this behavior in myself, and I am not unique. I have all kinds of books I thought I’d try, and/or I thought I’d buy to give the author(s) a boost when they had a launch of special deal, sitting on my Kindle or in my Amazon queue.

There is no solution to a Catch-22 except to bypass the whole thing.

DO WHAT ‘THEY’ SAY – GET MOVING ON THE NEXT BOOK

As I said, I never expected huge movement at the beginning – I expect to be treated based on merit, and with the normal discovery speed – so I am putting my BIC* and continuing down the path of revising and polishing the (very) rough draft of Books 2 and 3.

QUESTION: Will I be writing in public again?

That I haven’t decided, but the inclination is not to try to post things as I work. It takes time away from writing.

My main reason for doing it the first time was to enter the conversation about writing and publishing early, and to get a feel for the market.

What resulted was 1) me making a lot of writer friends – in other genres – on places such as Wattpad, and 2) getting a tiny band of followers, some of whom had enough faith in me, an unknown, to follow along from week to week (hoping I would finish the thing they had committed their time to).

I’ve discovered about half the blog readers did NOT read along, for many different reasons, one of which had to be that fear I wouldn’t finish for some reason. The internet is littered with half-finished novels, and novels that were a good start but never got the polish, so I don’t blame anyone.

Now that I know I CAN finish, and that I have developed a reasonable set of publishing skills, I think a better use of my time will be to work straight through rather than taking time to post, especially every week.

If you have a strong opinion on that, please chime in on the comments.

WILL I BLOG? AND IF SO, WHAT ABOUT?

It turns out that I like rambling on about the writing journey, the chinchilla, life in general, and CFS, so I will blog about those as the spirit moves me. Those posts will be at my writing blog.

A FAVOR: if you have a question you would like me to answer ABOUT Book 1 – send me an email at [abehrhardt (at) gmail (dot) com], and I’ll be delighted to answer.

Happy reading – whatever your fancy takes you to. It’s all good.

 

*Butt in chair