Fiction Vs. Reality…And the Author’s Responsibility

I was going through my list of drafts in my blog roll and found this title but no content. I think there was a specific review or article that inspired this debate, but I can’t remember what it was lol!

Either way, it’s an interesting topic.

Typewriter illustrationSeveral years ago on a car ride my family and I started listening to “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand. I downloaded it from Audible after only a cursory glance at the summary and checking the reviews. So, it wasn’t until several hours into the book that my husband and I both turned to look at each other and asked, “Is this book a true story?”

Why ask that question?

Because it was too unbelievable to be fiction!

Louis Zampirini’s life was quite literally unbelievable in many ways. As history, it’s fascinating and incredible. As fiction, readers would have rolled their eyes at how many dangerous and crazy situations he got into and survived! If you haven’t read the book, please do, you’ll understand so much better what I’m talking about.

So, this question is…where is the line as a fiction author? How do you balance crafting a compelling and engaging story without making it unbelievable? Here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years.

1. Characters lose more often than they win.

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Sure, most days in reality are pretty routine, and we all have those days where everything just goes right. Is that interesting to read about? NO. In real life, maybe the boring days and good days are the norm, but the days and weeks we struggle and fail and do stupid things and hurt the people we love are the ones that push us to grow and do better, or maybe to give up and throw our hands in the air. Readers are pulled in by the struggle. They can connect and empathize with lousy days and bruised emotions.

2. There are only so many times you can win or escape.

galaxy questBe mean to your characters all you want. Kill your darlings, right? However, if the end to every situation is a predictable close call or last second escape, readers will not only be annoyed they’ll lose interest. Have you ever watched Tim Allen in “Galaxy Quest”? They parodied this concept beautifully when the alien ship built to model the TV series spaceship is designed to stop its self-destruct sequence at 1 second because “that’s what always happened on the show.” It’s funny because we all now how irritating that “last second” save becomes after a while. While there are rare stories, like Zamperini’s, where people really do beat all the odds and survive the worst situations, most people fail and miss chances and get hurt.

3. Going through traumatic experiences have lasting effects.

unbrokenLouis Zamperini survived an incredible amount of danger and horribleness in his life, BUT there were deep scars left behind because of what he suffered. The last third of the book that deals with the aftermath of being tortured in a Japanese prison camp is very, very hard to listen to because the lasting damage is so real. I’ve read to many novels (especially YA) where the main character has some tragic past or experiences something truly awful…and bounces back like it was nothing. This is not one of those areas where reality needs to be downplayed. Let your characters be as broken as they need to be. Emotional scars are something we all understand. Characters need that element of reality to ring true with readers.

4. Romance has more leeway, use it.

Most people are fairly rational, even when it comes to relationships. Love can conquer all in movies and romance novels, but real people often give up on difficult relationships and choose not to take risks. Now, I’m not saying all romantic stories have to be 100% HEA, “Enchanted” style storylines. What I am saying is that in romance readers  expect a little more of a break from reality. Let your characters make rash decisions or fall too hard too fast. It’s okay if their choices wouldn’t be completely rational or logical in real life. A lot of romance readers want the escapism, the fantasy. Don’t go overboard, but bend reality a little when it enhances the love story.

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Balancing fiction and reality is tough, because the line between captivating and irritating a reader can be thin. Stretch reality when it enhances the story, not when you want an easy way out of a situation.

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Writing a Book is like Running a (half) Marathon

Last weekend, my husband and I just ran our second half marathon. I intended to write this post after we ran it last year, but that’s how on top of things I’ve been lately!

So, how is writing a book like running a half marathon?

R and S running the course

The first few miles of a half marathon are awesome. Your adrenaline is pumping, you’re excited to get the race going, and 13 miles doesn’t sound that bad now that you’ve actually got your sneakers on the course. You’ll definitely beat your personal best, by at least half an hour.

When you first start writing a new idea, it’s exciting and you think feel like you’ll be able to write straight to the end because it’s that amazing! You can sit for hours on end scribbling down witty dialogue and captivating scenes. 300 pages? That’s nothing, right?

The fun and adrenaline starts to taper off somewhere around mile 6 or page 50.

When it comes to running, your adrenaline is pushing you to churn out a faster pace than you’ve ever run before. You’re pretty sure you can try out for the Olympics in a few years. Everything feels amazing. Until it doesn’t.

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World and character building has been a rush, and setting up all those clever little hints has convinced you that there won’t be a single reader in the world who will guess the ending. It’s the best opening of a book you’ve ever written or read. Until your creativity takes a nose dive.

That’s when you hit a wall…creatively or physically.

The physical wall you hit halfway through your half marathon is aggravating and painful. Your knees start to ache. Your hip feels like it has no cartilage left. Every step is torture and you’re regretting ever signing up for this stupid race. There’s no way you can finish. Every time a car passes by you hope they’ll stop and give you a ride to the finish line. But no one stops, so you Just Keep Running.

One moment you’re writing like a crazy person…then all the words dry up. Each one feels like you have to drag it to the surface by force. You’re pretty sure you now have carpal tunnel from the frantic writing. Where has it left you? You’ve set up fabulous characters and a storyline no reader will be able to put down, but keeping up the same momentum seems impossible when you move from doling out exciting tidbits to carrying on a consistently engaging story where you don’t lapse into pointless dialogue or never ending description of a walk through the park sounds impossible. But you Just Have To Keep Writing even though you’re now  positive the whole book sucks and you never should have started writing it.

Then something changes again.

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When you see mile marker 11 come into view and you realize you’re almost done, the tears aren’t easy to hold back. Pain, joy, madness…it’s hard to tell. You’re too dehydrated to cry, though, so you hobble onward with renewed energy. As much pain as you’re in, you’re almost there! You can make it.

With writing, the middle section that felt like torture to write and wanted to throw across the room while crying about how terrible it was…everything suddenly comes together. That chapter where your characters endlessly walked through the park went from being a Tolkienesque history of the trees to a pivotal conversation that helped them solve the mystery for fix their relationship. You know how the story ends now!

Sheree Finish Line

Crossing the finish line, writing the end, both feel incredible…but neither one is really the end because you know you’re going to be sore for a week or have a long list of rewrites to work on, BUT it’s a huge milestone to hit and it was totally worth it regardless of the messy shape your body or manuscript is in.

After our race, we got a breakfast burrito and a beer, which I’ll be honest, sounded like a horrible idea at ten in the morning after running 13 miles (the race was hosted by a brewery), but both were actually much appreciated because I was starving and in pain and food and alcohol proved to be exactly what I needed.

Finishing a manuscript is also something to be proud of regardless of the fact that it might have choppy scenes and stilted dialogue and a handful of hints you forgot to ever bring back into the plot. You started a book. You finished it. How many people have wanted to write a book and gave up after a few chapters? A lot.

20170206_074136After running a half marathon, I take a good couple weeks (or maybe a month) off from running. It’s time for yoga, core work, maybe a little biking. My body needs to recover, and honestly so does my motivation.

As soon as you type out THE END, take a good long break from your manuscript, too. Don’t even look at it. Think about it, if you want, consider those problem areas and forgotten clues, but leave the book alone for as long as you can stand it. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting to write sometimes. Give yourself a break so you can come back for the editing round with fresh eyes and some excitement.

Whether you’re running or writing, don’t give up when it gets painful or hard. You’ll learn a lot from your mistakes and be better for it in the end. It took me ten years to publish my first book and a year and a half or running 5 days a week to survive a half marathon. The journey to do something awesome sometimes sucks, a lot, but it’s worth it in the end.

Cheers!

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Catch your breath #giveaway!

To celebrate the next installment of Eliza Carlisle’s adventures, the first book in the series, TROUBLE MAGNET has joined up with a handful of other awesome mysteries to give readers some #freebooks and a chance to win a super cute dragon book bag!

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Readers get to choose which books they want to download and which authors they’d like to follow, AND enter to win the book bag.

If you haven’t read Eliza’s first foray into craziness and murder, you can grab a copy of TROUBLE MAGNET free through this promotion. If you’re all too familiar with Eliza’s knack for getting into dangerous but funny situations, grab a few mysteries from these lovely authors:

https://mybookcave.com/g/7040684d/

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Eliza Carlisle is back! And in more trouble than ever… #Mystery #CozyMystery

 

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Eliza Carlisle Mystery, Book 2

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What’s worse than getting dragged into a murder investigation because you tried to help a friend?

Answer: Getting dragged into a murder investigation, drug ring, and criminal syndicate because someone mistakes you for a friend of your most despised coworker.

When Eliza sees the man dead on the floor of Saul’s Diner, she’s more annoyed than scared. Until they all realize the man’s death wasn’t caused by a heart attack and Queen Bee Danielle blames Eliza’s cooking. Fit to be tied, Eliza is determined to let Officer Gordon figure out who really killed the guy and put her energy toward not getting kicked out of culinary school after a reporter prints Danielle’s spiteful accusations.

But Eliza is Eliza, and staying out of things never works out quite the way she expects. When she is somehow mistaken for a friend of Danielle’s by the people who actually killed the guy in the diner, she quickly finds herself up to her eyeballs in creepy fish, a burgeoning drug ring, scary criminals who like to put black bags over people heads before they kidnap them, and baking a three tier birthday cake at the last minute for someone she doesn’t dare refuse.

Eliza has never hated Danielle more, but helping her is the only way to save herself. After that, Danielle is fair game.

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Life & Being now on #iBooks #Nook #Kobo #Smashwords

Life & Being has left Kindle Unlimited and is now available on iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and Smashwords! If you’re a non-Kindle reader, now’s your chance to pick up a copy 🙂 If you enjoy it, I’d love to hear your thoughts in a review!

Life & Being

Life and Being PreAgentA 007-style handoff between a girl he knew in high school and the college’s star football player catches Sanford Camden’s eye. He almost wishes it hadn’t. Almost.

Despite the fact that he hasn’t spoken to Dahlia Carter since they graduated high school two years ago, he rushes to catch up with her, warn her the local police are watching the campus. Unfortunately, his warning isn’t received very well. Insulted that he thinks she’s a drug dealer, Dahlia storms away. That should be the end of it. Move on. For some reason Sanford can’t quite explain, it’s not the end. It’s only the beginning.

Dahlia can’t decide whether Sanford is simply as weird as his mannequin parents, or if he’s not quite all there. Neither option explains him showing up at a party she’s working to basically stalk her and hurl questions. Of course, her grabbing him and locking lips just to piss off the skanky girl hounding him doesn’t make a lot of sense either. It puts everything at risk, in fact. If her dad ever finds out…about any of her extracurricular activities…she won’t have to worry about Lillian Devry scratching her eyes out. Her dad will kill her first.

An insane father seems like the biggest stumbling block to Dahlia’s freedom, until long-hidden secrets begin bubbling to the surface, and what once seemed like paranoid delusions become threats to her life neither Dahlia nor Sanford are prepared to fight.

Life & Being is available now on Kindle and is coming soon to other retailers.

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Lessons Learned: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I’ve been on a quest to read some of the classics I should have read by now. Actually, I listen to them on audiobook while I run, but same difference. I wanted to read classics not just so I know what people are talking about when these books come up, but because reading is one of the best ways to improve your writing, so why not learn from the masters?

As Stephen King said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” I’ve got the writing a lot part down, but I’ve neglected reading lately, particularly classic literature.

stephen-king-read-a-lot-quoteIn 2017 I’ll continue my quest, and share you all what I’m learning along the way.

So, on to Betty Smith’s “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”

2017-01-03-03-58-11This was a different type of book than I’d normally pick up, but my friend Denise recommended it so I thought I’d give it a try. This is a coming of age story, but it doesn’t really have a focused plot. The reader simply follows the characters’ lives for a certain period of time. I have to admit, it wasn’t one of my favorite books for that reason. I like a clear-cut storyline I can follow.

However, I found the book absolutely fascinating from a historical perspective. If you want to know what early 20th century life in Brooklyn was like, read this book! I don’t write historical fiction because it is way too much work. I’m not willing to put in the research, time, and effort to do it justice, so I leave it to those more capable. If I were ever going to write historical fiction, though, I’d use this book as a guide.

Aside from the careful attention to detail in this book that made it so fascinating, one of the most poignant lessons I learned from this book was the importance of writing realistic characters, and I mean realistic to the point of almost being painful. Because this is a historical fiction novel meant to capture the great difficulty most poor Brooklynites faced in the first few decades of the 1900s, it truly delves into the awful situations of the time.

***Spoilers head***

There were times the family has so little food, they would play a game pretending they were explores at the North Pole waiting for supplies to arrive-slowly starving in the mean time. Sometimes the rescue didn’t come quickly.

The mother, Katie, admits not only that she loves her son more than her daughter because he is an easier child and different enough from her that she can understand him, but also that her marriage choice has left her facing a bleak future of staying with her drunkard husband and carrying the family largely on her own.

Francie, the main character, is often told by others that she’s barely pretty enough to be considered passable. It breaks your heart when she falls for the first guy willing to dote on her and ends up bitterly heartbroken when she realizes how cruel people can be.

The handsome, charming Johnny, a young man teen girls dream of being swept off their feet by doesn’t turn out to be Prince Charming at all. He’s a drunk who folds under pressure, never wanted the children he has, and despite loving his family is incapable of being the father or husband his family needs and deserves, and dies young and penniless.

The early 1900s in Brooklyn were a harsh time period. Betty Smith doesn’t sugarcoat it to give readers a nice, feel-good story. She highlights the unfair struggles real people face, the crushing mistakes they make, the regret they face over unrealistic or selfish choices, and the often bleak hope they hold onto that things will get better.

Lesson learned: If you’re goal is to tell a realistic story, develop characters who are deeply flawed, make choices they regret, face unfair situations, and are sometimes unlikable. In other words, write real realistic characters.

Beta Reader and Review Crew

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Signup for opportunities to read early copies of DelSheree’s books and to review books currently available.

Beta readers provide feedback on early drafts within the requested time frame while reviewers MUST review each book requested within 30 days to remain an active review member.

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You are welcome to join the FB group even if you don’t want to review or beta read and just want to have fun and discuss books!

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Who’s ready for 2017?

2017-fireworks

It seems like everyone is happy to say goodbye to 2016. It was a weird year, to be sure. I know for myself, going back to college made things a little crazy, as did a few too many writing deadlines.

A hectic year has pushed me to reevaluate a few things, get organized, and set more realistic goals and deadlines.

So…you’ll see a few changes this year, and yes I’ll explain why.

1This first big change is that I’ll no longer be offering free ebooks on retailer sites like Amazon and iBooks. I’m already in the process of changing free, first-in-the-series books back to their normal prices. Amazon will be the slowest to change, so if you want free books, go get them now.

Why no more freebies? Basically, because it no longer works as a marketing tactic. There are too many free books to have good discoverability any more. It will be more effective for me to offer short term deals on books than to keep them perma-free, so that’s what I’ll be experimenting with this year.

If you want free books once all the price changes go into effect, the only way to do that will be through my newsletter. The plan is that each monthly newsletter I send out will have a coupon code for a free book. If you’re not already signed up, sign up now. All you need is an email address.

Sign up here: http://eepurl.com/C35Q5

2The next big change is that I will be pulling my books from the Kindle Unlimited program. I’m doing this for 2 reasons.

  1. I’ve struggled to ever find success with KU in the various times I’ve tried it out. I just can’t figure out how to really market for KU well, and I have a strong enough reader base on other platforms that it makes more sense to distribute my books wide.
  2. From the beginning, I’ve had my doubts about the fairness of the KU program in how it rewards and pays authors. Recent changes have only increased my dislike of the ethics of the program. While it’s a great deal for readers, it devalues books, and authors often get paid less than half the listed price for a book that is read 100%. I’m just not doing it anymore.

So, most of my books will be out of KU by early spring. The Oblivious Girl’s Handbook will stay in a bit longer because of contractual obligations with a box set it’s part of, but after that I’m out of KU for good.

3The last major change is that I’m scaling back. What does that mean? I can’t say exactly, except that means I’m going to stop overloading myself by saying yes to too many things and setting unrealistic goals. I need to be able to focus on school this year so I can finish my degree in December and start looking for a new day job, while still having time for family and occasionally cleaning my house.

For sure, I’m done with box sets for the time being. The two I’m currently in and the one I’ve committed to for 2017 will be it. They’re a great way to cross-market, but they take a ton of time and effort. As do comic cons, teaching, author events, school visits, etc. As much as I love doing all that stuff, I just don’t have the time right now.

As far as my writing plans, I really can’t say. I tend to write when I’m stressed out, so I may keep on as usual, lol. What I won’t do is push myself into corners where I’m struggling to meet pre-order dates or publishing deadlines. I’ll be writing on my terms and my deadlines. That may mean fewer books or no pre-orders or longer spans between books. I don’t know. I just ask that readers are patient as I finish my last year of undergrad classes. Encouragement is always appreciated, but if you’re waiting longer than usual for a new book just remember that even authors have day jobs, families, laundry, dishes, homework, and those other day-to-day things going on.

I hope everyone’s 2017 is starting off well, and I hope you all have a great year of reading ahead of you 🙂

 

Release Day! The Ghost Host: Episode 2 #kindle #kindleunlimited #paranormal

The next installment of The Ghost Host is here just in time for the holidays!

The Ghost Host

Episode 2

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It’s bad enough that Echo already has ghosts haunting her 24/7, now her past mistakes want to join the fun and come back to haunt her, too?

Moving to Georgia was supposed to be a fresh start. So far, it’s turned out to be a fresh start at more chaos. After battling Devourers for the soul of her childhood friend, Echo learns the depth of what her abilities might cost her. She’s always been pretty good at failure, which is concerning when the fate of the spiritual world is suddenly in your hands.

If that isn’t enough pressure already, Echo’s personal life is a mess. She and Malachi are both freaked out by her ability to control him and have no idea whether their relationship was ever based on more than their bond as Medium and Keeper. Kyran is keeping his distance from both of them to keep from doing something stupid, things are still tense with her parents, college is proving more than she bargained for, Agent Morton is doubting her stability and brings in his son Griffin to help keep her grounded-which only causes more problems between her and pretty much everyone, and Echo gets pulled into her first case: a young boy whose mysterious injuries and claims of monsters in his dreams has everyone baffled and terrified of what it might mean if he isn’t lying.

Oh yeah, and a past mistake Echo thought had already been dealt with is back to settle a score. It can’t get much worse than that, right? Except, for Echo, things can always get worse.

Buy now for $0.99 or read FREE on Kindle Unlimited

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Secrets and Shadows Box Set is here!

Are you ready?

ss-17The Secrets and Shadows Boxed Set is a compilation of TEN not to be missed Young Adult Paranormal, Fantasy and Science Fiction full-length novels that will have you turning the pages faster than ever before.
Packed with fairies, witches, shifters, ghosts, space soldiers, aliens, deadly magic, gritty dystopian worlds, complicated relationships, and the ultimate swoon worthy love interests, follow ten badass heroines with remarkable powers and gifts as they face extraordinary challenges and decisions with potentially deadly consequences. They will stop at nothing to protect everyone and everything they love. They are fierce!
With over a million words and more than 700 combined four and five star reviews, this is your ultimate young adult collection of mesmerizing paranormal, action-packed urban fantasy, enthralling time travel, gripping dystopian and captivating space operas from 10 Award Winning, New York Times, USA Today, and International Bestselling authors!
Check out this epic line up and secure your Limited Edition copy today!

The Ghost Host – DelSheree Gladden
Everyone thinks Echo Simmons is crazy, but being The Ghost Host isn’t just a YouTube hoax like people think. It’s the only way to control the ghosts haunting her…at least until the FBI shows up asking questions.

Waken – Angela Fristoe
The people of Everod have been waiting for Janie and if she hopes to survive she’ll need to confront who and what she really is.

The Midnight Society – Rhonda Sermon
Witness protection has a protocol for every threat – except magic.ss-3d-box-set

The Other F Word – Susan Stec
Even with wings you can’t fly away from fate.

Chosen – Laxmi Hariharan
His family is being held to ransom by a deadly mastermind.

Sunset Empire – Melissa Eskue Ousley
She may be guilty of arson, but she didn’t kill the burned girl haunting her.
When Elyse is haunted by vengeful ghost lurking in the tunnels under Astoria, she discovers her family may be responsible for a fire that nearly destroyed the city, as well as mysterious disappearances spanning hundreds of years. Helping her uncover the truth is Phantom, a boy with a hidden weapon and a dark heritage of his own, that could turn him from friend to hunter.

The Retreat – Kelly St. Clare
Earth was ruined. Humankind destroyed. And it’s old news.

Swords & Stilettos – Kristin D. Van Risseghem
Seventeen-year-old Zoe must devise a kickass plan to thwart evil or watch the world burn.

Saven Deception – Siobhan Davis
The truth doesn’t always set you free…
In a futuristic undersea city, Sadie falls hard for captivating Logan – only to discover he comes from another world! Romance and intrigue combine in this addictive page-turner.

Talented – Sophie Davis
As an exceptionally powerful mental manipulator, seventeen-year-old Talia Lyons can read and control the thoughts of others. In Talented, the first book of her epic story, Talia inhabits a pounding, siren-ready world as she trains to become a highly specialized covert operative.

Buy now for $0.99 or read for #FREE on #KindleUnlimited

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