Book needs blurb. Author needs hug.

Writing cover copy is a particular set of writing skills, but skills can be learned, right?   Practice makes perfect. No pressure. These are just the words that make or break a reader’s first impression of my book. IT’S FINE, REALLY.

<sobs>

Here’s my first stab at a blurb for The Sharp Edge Of Yesterday, the next novel in my Rough Passages supers series. Thoughts, anyone?

Grace Trapani is fighting for her life. The Department of Public Safety wants her behind bars, her estranged husband wants to control her body and soul, and the power in her blood makes her a threat to her own family.

She left behind everything she knows to protect her daughters, but she can’t hide from the destructive forces growing inside her. Only a dedicated group of rebels within the Department can help her escape imprisonment and death.

I know it needs something. Salt? Garlic? A swift, sharp kick? Anyway.

Also, Grace’s last name is currently up for revision. It might end up being Horn or Reed, or maybe Keiffer?  NAMES ARE HARD TOO. Ideas welcome.

To end on a less-whiny note, pretty pictures! The top image is the full-wrap cover painting. Below is a detail on the front cover. It’s coming out pale on my monitor, not sure why. It’s gorgeous, really.

I LOVE THIS COVER THOSEoY Postcard

Sweeping Away Distractions

storysculpting header 2 brushes and paints

I have a serious inertia problem. Getting started is a bitch. Switching tasks is worse.

Yes, I know, concentration is hard for everyone. All the same, those who know me IRL will attest to my epic difficulties settling AND my amazing ability to barnacle once I’ve landed.

A high inertia score does have its upside. I have been known to forget meals and forego sleep entirely while immersed in a Big Doing. I can be nigh-impossible to pry loose from a task once settled. The trick these days is avoiding the perils of the internet.

I do not blame the internet for my inertia, no. Back in the day, I could channel-surf for hours. I could waste hours reading the newspaper. I would clean things. But unlike those old-school distractions, online bread & circuses ars ubiquitous and inescapable. It’s not only on my computer, it’s on my phone. My reading tablet. It tempts from all sides, at all hours, and willpower is a finite resource.

The nasty reality is that I either lose creative time to social media and my various online obsessions, or I can forfeit creative energy to the effort of ignoring those temptations.

Or I could enlist the aid of artificial intelligence in my fight to focus.  That’s the route I’ve taken. I now have an internet-blocking program to  fight the good fight for me.

I forked over ducats for the Freedom app. (Green butterfly logo.)  It has a simple interface, seamless cross-device compatibility, and it was the most customizable program I found. See, I need certain kinds of internet access for many aspects of my creative work, from use of the online thesaurus to historical fact-checking etc, but I need to be prevented from channel-surfing my way through other sites.

Why that app? There are pro’s and cons to all the internet blockers. Better bloggers than me have written excellent comparisons. I will not attempt to top them. A search on “reviews of apps to cut down on distractions” or “internet blocking app review” will net a fine selection. I did a lot of research. (Yes, I saw the irony in spending time online researching ways to spend less time online…but it had to be done.)

The Freedom app’s best aspect for me is the ability to schedule by day, time and device — I do not even have to will myself to turn on the distraction-remover. It happens automatically. And if I need-need-need to override it, I can do so on the phone or tablet easily.  But mostly I don’t.

I do not regret the hours I spend diving down figurative internet rabbit holes after odd facts & critical resources, and I am infinitely improved by time spent with the generous amazing folk who have befriended me in the virtual world.

But. Oh, BUT.

The online party never ends, and I can’t stay  24/7/365.  I have reading to do, I have plants to water,  I have a cat to brush…

I have stories to write. And now I have more time and more energy for them.


Not tired of my words yet? My published works are available on Amazon and all the other usual online retailers. Handy link: https://books2read.com/ap/xqvlwR/K-M-Herkes

The devil is in the details

storysculpting header 2 brushes and paints

I love world-building. I hate being bogged down in lengthy explanations. Those two ideas seem to contradict each other, but they don’t. Constructing a whole reality idea by idea doesn’t have to mean burying the reader in excess information. It’s successful if it’s real. It works if it works.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how that gets done lately, and here’s the stream-of-consciousness result.

I like a sausage-making metaphor: massive quantities of information has to be smooshed into a compact, spicy form that looks, feels, and tastes nothing like the disparate ugly ingredients of its origin. I also like a phrase stolen from role-playing. “When in doubt, roll and shout.”

Research is critically important, but it isn’t narrative-friendly.  If I haven’t considered all the implications of every idea that I dream up, then I will write something idiotic or miss obvious contradictions. But if I don’t provide all that background I made up when I write about things that don’t exist, then the reader will drown in unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts.

It’s a tricky balance. Part of the problem is the difference between real life and narrative life.

None of us notice everything about everything in our daily lives. We take reality for granted. Most of us don’t ponder the intricacies of electrical power generation and distribution when we turn on a lamp. We don’t discuss historical origins and socio-political underpinnings of every news event. In conversation we don’t provide definitions to each other for nouns we use every day.

But stories are condensed life. Dialogue is more than conversation. Writers can make every interaction and description a springboard for adding information to the mix. But does can mean should? (NO)  How much of the sausage-making needs to be shown?

When I come up with some clever new idea, the first thing I must decide is, does it work? Do all the imaginary events, objects, people, histories, actions, and places I want to include in my world make sense together?  Then I have to decide does that idea need to be in this story? The last tricky hurdle: when I describe these ideas, do my descriptions feel plausible?  That isn’t the same as the descriptions being precise.  Far from it. 

There’s an art to achieving realism.  What’s the right amount of information to make a world feel real without boring the reader to tears?  Alas, the answer is it depends. There’s a spectrum of tolerance for raw information. Pleasing every reader is impossible. I wish there was a formula or even a rule of thumb, or an easy middle road, but there isn’t.

There are tricks & tropes to ease data delivery into a story: the newbie; the research montage; the fish out of water, the amazing discovery–there’s a whole kit of craft tools. (A new one I’ve learned: slotting critical facts around cliffhanger action.) But those still only cover the how, not the which or the  how much.

Texts thick with numbers, vocabulary, and dates leave me cold, so they aren’t what I write. I use the technique I like best as a reader: immersion. I describe my worlds the way someone living in them would experience them. Then I add the minimal explanatory material to that framework.

Enough and only enough: that’s my descriptive mantra.  Brevity entices the reader’s imagination and sets it roaming free.  If I’ve done the does it work part of my world-build properly I don’t need to show much at all. My readers don’t nee a treatise on economics with every passing place name reference.  I can even leave details vague in my own mind until I need to write about that place.

A last phrase I keep in mind when dealing with world backgrounds is one attributed to several classic showmen, “Always leave them wanting more.”  If I build my world in broad strokes and use sharp wordcraft on the little I let into my story, readers will know there is more and come back for seconds.

If the devil is in the details, then get thee behind me, details.