Friday, May 25, 2012

Splashes of Color: Making Your World Vivid

Sometimes, you can have revelations about life and writing as you're doing the laundry.

Yes, I'm serious. As I washed loads of clothes last week, I realized how much my wardrobe is in need of color. (And yes, this ties into writing in a second.) But first, let me confess: there is so much brown, black, navy, and white in my wardrobe right now that I ought to be a monk. This is no good. I've started shopping for things with splashes of color that look good on me to create more variety and life in my outfits. It's good for the appearance, good for the soul, and good for attracting the opposite sex (I hope).

But you know... Splashes of color are good for your writing too. And it may be a coincidence, but typically the area of writing I struggle with most is description. That's one tool a writer uses to add color and dimension to their world, which would otherwise be black and white (and brown and navy). You have to use description with a discriminating touch, just as you ought to choose shades of clothing that look good on you. Your descriptions should look as good, as hot, as attention-grabbing on your story as that cute little turquoise tee-shirt looks on you.

It takes as much thoughtfulness to choose the right description as the right piece of clothing. It's got to fit. It's got to be reflective of the story you're telling. It's got to make someone do a double-take. Now, I know in fiction description is often skimmed. I do it. Other readers do too. But as much as possible, we can work toward making our descriptions as popping and appealing as our dialogue and the other things we often do better than describing things.

And we can certainly use the other tools of writing to add color too. Shading comes through to the reader in local dialogue, character personality, funny and unexpected dialogue exchanges, cool facts dropped in carefully to make the reader say "ooh, cool, I didn't know that." These are the things that make writing fun, even when it's a challenge to make it good.

Well, that's my confession of the week. How about you? Do you find it challenging to make your descriptions vivid and bright? How do you like to add color to your writing? (And of course, you certainly don't have to tell me about your clothing, but if you do, I'll commiserate.) Share in the comments below, on the Chipper Muse Facebook page, or on Twitter. I chat in all three areas!

Coming up soon on the blog, I'll be doing a series of posts on point of view. And I expect to have some guest posts from fellow writers. So stay tuned!

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Back with a Classic: Fun with Headlines

As you may know if you have read this blog for a while, I occasionally do a Fun with Headlines post. I look at the latest news stories online and see what makes me laugh. Then I share why it makes me laugh. I haven't done this in what seems like ages, and it's been a busy week that hasn't allowed me to start a new blog series in earnest yet, so I'm offering you a little Friday humor instead, along with wishes for a good weekend!

First, there's the CNN headline: "93-year-old rocks the downward dog." What's funny about this is not the writing, but the fact that I, much younger, can't do a downward dog worth calling a downward dog. I can stick my butt in the air just fine, but that's not yoga. Somewhere, an old lady is kicking my ass in flexibility. This is so not fair.

Then there's the more financially mature headline: "Facebook IPO: Internet glee, skepticism." If only they hadn't used the word glee. All I can think of is the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons intoning his skeptical doubts: "As everybody knows, Facebook will never make any money, because Mark Zuckerberg is going to be arrested in Indonesia someday with an underage prostitute." And in the background, J.C. Hutchins' crazy computer geek, Kilroy 2.0, is cackling maniacally. Yeah, and I haven't even had a full cup of coffee as I type all this. I need therapy.

What about the disturbing "49 headless bodies normal in Mexico?" (titled elsewhere as "49 decapitations: business as usual?") Um. Cancel my Club Med reservation. Thanks.

Of course, it's not all about headlines. Sometimes it's the pictures that are egregious. Like the shirtless Bieber photo in MSNBC's celebrity tattoo slideshow. Not sure what's worse about this picture: the pale vampire skin he sports, the fact that he's shirtless (shudder), or the ridiculous white sunglasses he's sporting.

MSNBC has gotten better with their headlines after my periodic fun-poking. Perhaps they read my blog. But they did give me a great one this morning: "For guys, meat is macho, veggies wimpy." First of all... Duh. Duh duh duh duh duh. No kidding. Second of all, at least Tim Allen has a potential new gig: the meat movie, starring a grunting neanderthal who moves to LA and is forced to live off alfalfa. And finally, it's probably not good to read a headline like this after you recently bought the original Karate Kid and revisited Johnny's evil determination to be macho all over Daniel's anorexic pasty white guido. That movie is the original Diary of a Wimpy Kid, isn't it?

Okay, that's enough blather. Hope I gave you a laugh. And if you come across any funny headlines, share them with me. I love them. And come back next week, when I should be starting a blog series on point of view in writing.

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Book Review: Ginnie Dare by Scott Roche

Science fiction is on the upswing in the teen market, and I think that's a good thing. While strict fantasy has always been my first love (thanks, Tolkien), I cut my teeth on science fiction too. I've been stretched as a writer and as an individual by wonderful and challenging writers such as Anne McCaffrey, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Ursula LeGuin, and Robert Heinlein. And when I see other writers stepping up to write sci-fi for the teen audience, I'm thrilled about it.

Ginnie Dare: Crimson Sands by Scott Roche is in that category, and it's a great read for young readers. Refreshingly, Ginnie Dare is a space adventure, with an alien encounter, rather than another dystopian novel. I love a good dystopia as much as anybody, but it's fair to say they are flooding the market right now. Yet there are so many other subgenres of sci-fi. It's good to see Scott Roche playing in one of them. He does a fine job.

The protagonist of the story, Ginnie, is a bright young girl (15, I think) who wants a career in military intelligence. She's gifted at coding and decoding things, and solving puzzles and mysteries. And boy, does she get a mystery to solve, because when she arrives with her father and their merchant crew at a small colony to drop off supplies, she discovers the colonists are missing and the aliens on the planet are demanding the return of something that Ginnie and her father can't identify, much less find. It's a race to figure out what happened to the colonists before the military boots them off the planet. And Ginnie does quite well at being in the middle of the action.

It's a fun read with a great message about choosing the right things out of life. And Ginnie is a terrific character; she's engaging, smart, determined, yet still identifiable as a typical young teen trying to figure out her world. I think readers will love her, particularly girls who want a strong, relatable, likable heroine who can have adventures without needing to be rescued by the men around her. She's no Bella Swan, in need of an Edward to complete her. But she's not a hard, closed off girl who hates the world either. She's what you want your child to be, actually... curious, healthy, with a strong sense of self. What a great female role model! I hope Scott Roche writes more about her, because I think a Ginnie Dare is much-needed in YA sci-fi today.

You can order Ginnie Dare and learn more about Scott Roche on his website. Out of all the ebooks I have read so far and reviewed here, this is one of my favorites, and I highly recommend it for the young sci-fi readers you know and love.

Now, let's chat: As a teen, did you like science fiction? Or did you prefer another genre? Who were your favorite authors, and how did they influence you? Share, share, share! (I'm nosy, and I want to know. Hahaha!)

And in final news: The winner of the Variant giveaway contest is Rebecca Ryals Russell (@vigorio on Twitter). Congratulations! A hard cover copy of Robison Wells' book is coming your way. Thanks, everyone who entered. I'll be having more contests in the future, so be sure to try again.

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Marketing the Self-Published Book: Tips that Work

Recently, I chatted with a good friend of mine, Ellen Sherrill, who has authored several Christian historical romances. Though it's not a genre I read on a regular basis, I love Ellen's work because she is terrific at creating strong, vivid characters that you can't help rooting for. Her heroine Sugar in Treasure from the Storm is one of my favorites because she's so feisty. (Read my review of Treasure from the Storm.)

Author Ellen Sherrill
Ellen spoke with me about how she has gone about the process of promoting her self-published books, and she had some good ideas and insights that I wanted to share with you.

Tip #1: Make local connections.

Ellen likes to connect with local booksellers and store owners who might be more interested in carrying her work if they know her personally. As a Christian writer, Ellen has made it a point to get to know the cashier at her church's bookstore. The cashier doesn't really read fiction, but she recommends Ellen's books to customers because she knows Ellen. So, making personal connections is effective.

Tip #2: Connect with your specific audience.

Since Ellen is writing Christian novels, she needs to get her books into the hands of Christian readers. So she makes it a point to connect with places where Christian books are sold, and where she is likely to have more of a foot-in-the-door as a self-published author. That means church bookstores, small Christian retailers, local women's conferences, and reading groups. Local conferences are an especially good place to sell books, says Ellen, because the ladies who attend them are making the time to take a special trip and are looking for mementos, gifts, and books to share with their ladies' groups back home.

Tip #3: It's not all about sales. (At least, not always.)

To help build her audience. Ellen encourages her readers to pass her books along to others. As a result, she has reached people she might not have otherwise reached. In one case, a friend of Ellen's handed the book to a daughter, who loved the book and then gave it to the local librarian of her small town. The local librarian loved the book and encouraged visitors to the library to check it out. Ellen's book became quite popular there.

Tip #4: Be bold. (In other words, it sometimes is about the sales.)

Ellen isn't afraid to ask people to buy her book. She told me that a friend of hers began lending Ellen's book to everyone she knew, and when she told Ellen about it, Ellen boldly said, "Tell your friends to buy it!" The woman said, "You're right. I'll do that!" Sometimes, it helps to be bold. After all, when you're promoting your work, you are your own best salesman. Don't be reluctant to ask for the things that will help you make it as an author.

Thanks to Ellen for all these great tips. I highly recommend reading her book Treasure from the Storm.

Don't forget to enter the Variant giveaway contest!
I'm giving away a hardcover copy of Variant by Robison Wells. It's a dystopian YA novel that has plenty of drama and an ending I didn't see coming. There are three easy ways to enter the contest:

(1) Tweet a link to this blog post or any other ChipperMuse blog post.
(2) Leave a comment on this post below.
(3) Like my ChipperMuse Facebook page.

Yes, that's it. Simple, right? The winner of the book will be announced on May 11, so stop by that day and see who won.

Have a great week, and see you next Friday!

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.