Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Paraprosdokians – A New Look at an Old Technique

by Janis Patterson
I’ll admit, I didn’t know what a paraprosdokian was until a friend sent me a list of them. She’s always sending me jokes and funnies and, I’ll admit, I laughed heartily on reading them. Then the writing brain took over (doesn’t it always?) and I read them again, finally realizing that they were a lesson all in themselves.
By definition, a paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect. Here are a few of the best ones :
-- I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way, so I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
-- I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
-- To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
-- A bus station is where a train stops. A railway station is where a train stops. My desk is a work station.
-- You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive more than once.
-- The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas.
-- To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
-- Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
You see what I mean? Each starts out with a statement that gives you an idea – then the second part puts an entirely new spin on the idea, usually turning your perception of it 90 degrees in a different direction. In other words, a turning point.
In real life, with real people, I’ll bet that most of us like a smooth stream – learn, meet, love, prosper, happy every after with no catastrophes or dead bodies or evil villains or whatnot. Such a progression is comforting and happy – and boring, at least from a story point of view. In our books, whether mystery or sci-fi or romance or whatever, we love to torture our characters and that is best done by surprise and change.
The character we trust turns out to be the villain. The safe house isn’t. The clue that proves the hero innocent is false. (See where I’m going?) A single incident pops up and suddenly the entire story is careening off in a different direction. Could we call these ‘plot paraprosdokians?’ Sure – if we can remember that tongue twister of a word! (You’re on your own there.)
Sometimes these plot twists can happen in a single sentence. Or paragraph. Or, in some rare cases, a chapter or more. It depends, as so much does, on the style of the writer and on the story itself, But they must happen, or your story becomes a sweet, linear telling of events that have no excitement, no challenge, and very probably no real interest.
For example, Bob comes home from work and finds a dead body lying in his driveway. He calls the police. The police find he has nothing to do with the body. Bob goes on and lives his life. Snoooooooze! Even though, if I were Bob, that’s what I’d want to happen in real life, but it makes for a boring and unsellable story.
By contrast, Bob comes home from work and finds a dead body lying in his driveway. The body is that of a fraternity brother from his college days, one who ostensibly died years ago in a frat house. Also, unbeknownst to Bob, the body was Bob’s new wife’s brother.
See? You can go on and on, turning each plot twist in on itself, each time giving your story more depth and complexity, as well as more danger and higher stakes for your protagonist.
Deepen your plotting – become a practicing paraprosdokianist. I think I just broke my spell-check. Whether you can spell it or not, though it works. Give it a try.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The Writing Life--or at least Mine

The downside:

It's hard work. If you are really serious about being a writer, you need to put your fanny in the chair and write on a regular basis.

If you have a big family like mine, sometimes it's difficult because I enjoy being with my family--and writing is a solitary task.

In my case, I do not make the amount of money that really pays for the time I spend writing and doing research.

When a new book comes out, a lot of time--and money--needs to be spent on promotion.

The upside:

I love writing--the creation of a new world and the characters in it. I love seeing what's going to happen to these people I've grown to love (or in some cases, hate.)

Having friends with lots of other writers--some have become best friends.

Making friends with lot of readers--again some have become best friends.

The opportunity to talk about my books to interested audiences.

Attending mystery conferences where I'm able to see my writing and reading friends.

And of course, I have a new book out that I'm busily promoting, Tangled Webs, #15 in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series.

Blurb: Too many people are telling lies: The husband of the murder victim and his secretary, the victim’s boss and co-workers in the day care center, her stalker, and Detective Milligan’s daughter.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Make Mine Mystery
October 5, 2018

Linda Lee Kane

I subscribe to the Fussy Librarian, and they sent out an article regarding, ‘The Readers Speak.’ They asked more than 1200 people about pricing, free ebook promotions, what makes them buy books, and what makes them stop reading book blurbs.
I thought the information was interesting enough to share with all of you, so here goes:
On Pricing
Let’s look at the one area that every author agonizes over-pricing. Also, known
 as: Are ebook readers cheap moochers who don’t care if I eat ramen noodles for the rest of my life or are they willing to pay a reasonable price for this book that consumed two years and caused my children to resent me?
Question: What do you think is a fair price for a full novel in ebook format, that pays an author well, but remains affordable?
All ebooks should be free: 6 percent
99 cents: 8.7 percent
$1.99: 11.8 percent
$2.99: 16.5 percent
$3.99: 20.6 percent
$4.99: 18 percent
$5.99: 11.6
More than $5.99: 6.4
If you think that people are willing to pay 4.99 and 5.99 for your book, you’ve written off 64% of your market.
Now if you’re a best selling author you can get away with much more but until than, be smart and sell at price points that appeal to the vast majority of your readers.
Next month I’ll talk about the Novella Market.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Writing Blurbs

There are two kinds of blurbs, one another author asks you to write praising his or her book, and the one you must construct for your own book.

In either case, I usually keep mine to about two sentences.

I recently did one for a friend and she liked it so well it's going on the front of her book. For some reason, I find it much easier to do for others than for myself.

The blurb I'm working on now is for the next Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery. I've sent one in to the publisher, but I'm not really happy with it.

The book is about a trip Tempe and her husband take to Tehachapi. He isn't happy about the destination as they'd planned to go to the coast and visit her sister. But a call from a ghost hunter has intrigued Tempe. Of course there is a ghost, messages on the wind only Tempe can hear, and a murder of course.

I've tried several different ways to present this, and as yet I'm not thrilled with any I've come up with.

Recently I attended the Tulare-Kings Writers group and the topic was on writing blurbs. It helped, but I'm still not sure what I'm going to use. My critique group also had some suggestions.

How about the rest of you writers? Does writing blurbs for your books or others come easy?

And readers, does an intriguing blurb often cause you to buy the book?


Friday, September 21, 2018

Panels - The Fun Side of Being an Author

Writing can be hard work, author promotion laborious and grueling, and as far as making money, well, that seems to be the biggest challenge for most of us. Do we give up? No. We enjoy writing and much that goes with being an author is just pure fun. Author panels are one of the more uplifting things we participate in.

Four weeks ago, I was at the Killer Nashville International Writers Conference, sitting on a panel. Two days later, still at the conference, I was sitting on a second panel.

Writing Effective Subplots Friday 8-24           Differences in Men & Women Sleuths Sunday 8-26   
Caroline Fardig, me, Jaden Terrell, Dick Belsky, Lynne Hesse, Michael Norman, Steven Cooper                                                                                                                                                                                                        Chris Greyson, me, Rebecca Butler
I could go on and on for hours talking about the Killer Nashville Conference with all their panels, writers’ sessions, workshops, and more.

For years before I was published, I went to every author event I could make hoping to learn how to become an author. How I envied the authors who spoke at sessions or with a group. I usually joined in when it was time for audience participation, something I did in preparation for the day when I too would be a speaker or panelist.

The first official panel I participated in was at the Southern Festival of Books in mid-October 2015 here in Nashville, Tennessee. The panel was called: “Who Can You Trust – Three Mysteries.” The other authors with me were Phyllis Gobbell and Elise Blackwell. Our moderator did a great job injecting some “umph” into this presentation. As you can see I was in my glory.

The Killer Nashville conference, always held in August, was moved temporarily to late-October in 2015 and I took part in their panel called "Debut Authors".
In 2016, The Southern Festival of books invited me to be part of a panel of authors for a second year. I joined Kelly Oliver and Jaden (Beth) Terrell to talk on "On the Case: Private Eye Series." To get on another such group with this Festival will not happen again until I publish a new book.

But I'm still invited to other panels even without a new publication. I appeared on a non- traditional rotating panel at Bouchercon 2016 in New Orleans, I've been on ones at bookstores, and, of course, Killer Nashville year after year.
Author panels are handled pretty much the same where ever you find them. They primarily provide new or midlist authors an opportunity to reach a small group of book-buyers, but best-selling authors appear on them too. I’ve been on panels with bestsellers. I’ve also gone to panels where the “big-huge-names” in the writing world participated.

If you’re going to be part of a panel of authors, my advice is never worry about what to say. If you’ve written a book, you’ll know it inside out and backwards. There’s no way to be blindsided by a question. Most of your answers will come out naturally with enthusiasm because you are talking about your work of love. If you wind up on a panel with a talker, don’t worry about how to handle it. I’ve had it happen and the moderator is usually an expert on cutting that talk short. If not, I’ve butted in myself. It’s easy to interrupt and make a couple of comments to pull the talker back into the rhythm of the group.

Do any of you want to share your experience(s) on a panel or experience(s) watching an author panel?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018


by Janis Patterson

I'm so happy! Next week we're off to the fantastic Tradewinds Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida for the Novelists, Inc. (NINC) conference. The Tradewinds is a world-class resort, with many and varied restaurants (from crystal-and-white-tablecloth to a funky cafe open to the sea breezes), several bars (from dark and elegant to a rustic palapa on the beach) and all kinds of entertainment, including a multi-story inflatable water slide. As great as it is, though, I am not a resort person and probably would never go there if it were not for NINC.

So what is NINC? It is a professional organization for professional writers. It is the greatest group for working writers that I have ever found. There is an e-loop, so we can stay in touch with each other, but no local chapters. In a way that's sad, but most of us are so busy working we don't have time to socialize.

Except at conference. Held in late September/early October every year, the NINC conference is the only conference I most definitely will not miss. (I hope I didn't jinx it by saying that...) Once a year working professional writers can get together to learn, to meet with friends and get up to date on industry news. And have fun. It's great to see friends you don't see from one year to the next. It's also great to get to talk to industry people (agents, editors, publishing people, tech people and more) in both business and social gatherings.

One thing that makes it so great is that we writers are all pretty much in the same place - oh, there are best-sellers with dozens of books and fairly new writers with just two or three or four books, but all are published and all have met certain standards to qualify for membership. All have dealt with traditional publishers or are self-publishing or both. We all speak the same language and know what the others are talking about. It creates a feeling of being among family that is unprecedented.

If you are a published author, look into joining NINC. It's one of the best things you can do for your career, whether you go to the yearly conference or not. There are stiff requirements - number of books published and by whom, and a financial floor, but nothing that should be too difficult for a professional writer.

Can you tell I'm excited? The Husband (who moonlights as my assistant) is coming too, and as always we've reserved a waterfront room so we can sit on the balcony and watch the moon on the water after going out for a romantic dinner. Then, during the day, we can see friends and go to workshops and party... never forget the partying! Hopefully one of my dearest friends in the world who lives about half an hour from the Tradewinds will be able to come in so we can take her to dinner. This year I'm even reporting on two different workshops for the NINC newsletter!

Unfortunately, before we can leave there is a lot to do. I have a new book (A Well Mannered Murder) I want to finish before we leave so I won't have it hanging over me while we're at the conference. There's always housework, and laundry, and packing... I'd better get busy!