About Steve Hooley

Steve Hooley is the author of seven short stories published in four anthologies, a Vella serial fiction, and is currently working on the Mad River Magic series – a fantasy adventure series for advanced middle-grade to adults. More details available at: https://stevehooleywriter.com/mad-river-magic/

The Hat and Telling Details

The Hat and Telling Details

by Steve Hooley

Today is National Hat Day. The topic is the hat, more specifically the type of hat and the telling detail.

So, let’s put on our writer’s hat, take off our hat to the “telling detail,” and hang our hat on the proposition that the hat may be the best telling detail.

I had no idea that hats were so popular. When I looked on Pixaby for an image of a hat, I found 101 pages with 10,012 images. Who knew? People love their hats (their specific hat). Consider a number of idioms that use the word “hat.”

  • Put on your (occupation) hat
  • Take off your hat to (someone you want to give praise)
  • Hang one’s hat on (something you can rely on)
  • Hat’s off to (someone you want to praise)
  • Where do you hang your hat? (live or reside)
  • Tip one’s hat (congratulate)

And then there’s a list of superstitions about hats. which we won’t go into.

The following is some information listed on the National Day Calendar:

NATIONAL HAT DAY HISTORY

Since at least 1983, National Hat Day has been observed in libraries, schools, and museums. They have invited students and patrons to wear their favorite hat or hats of their occupation. People of all ages show up in pirate hats and football helmets. Patrol officers, postal workers, restaurant servicers also wear their hats to various events. That date also commemorates the day in 1797 when the first top hat made its appearance in court. Created by haberdasher John Hetherington, the judge claimed the tall, rather prominent hat disturbed the public.

Hats FAQ

  1. When did hats become less fashionable?
    A. Before the 1950s, men and women wore hats as much for a fashion statement as for protection and warmth. However, several possible reasons that faded the hat fad include:
  • Improved technology – Heating buildings became more efficient and effectively reduced the need for a hat indoors.
  • Freedom – During World War II, hats were part of many uniforms including the military. When service members returned home, they ditched the hat with the uniform.
  • Transportation – Before affordable transportation and smooth roads crossed the country, most people rode public transportation or walked. With the increased popularity of the automobile came decreased headroom for hats.
  • Hairstyles – Especially for women, hats covered big, fancy hairstyles.
  • Hatless public figures – One notable figure who may have started a lasting trend was President John F. Kennedy.

So, why do people wear hats?

Again, according to the National Day Calendar:

We wear hats for numerous reasons. Many hats protect us from elements or harm. Others were worn for ceremonial or religious reasons. Some hats just make us look good or cover up what we think doesn’t. Through the centuries, we’ve given our hats a lot of meaning.

  • In the Middle Ages, hats indicated social status.
  • In the military, hats may denote one’s nationality, branch of service, rank, and/or regiment.
  • A Thebes tomb painting depicts one of the first pictorials of a hat.  The painting shows a man wearing a conical straw hat.
  • Structured hats for women began to be worn in the late 16th century.
  • Millinery is the designing and manufacture of hats.
  • The term “milliner” is derived from the city of Milan, Italy. The best quality hats were made in Milan in the 18th century.
  • Millinery traditionally began as a woman’s occupation, as the milliner created hats and bonnets and chose lace, trim, and accessories to complete any outfit.
  • In the mid-1920s, to replace the bonnets and wide-brimmed hats, women began to wear smaller hats that hugged their heads.

Okay, now to the telling detail. Besides social status and occupation, hats often tell us about attitude or what people think of themselves. I noticed on Pixabay that some people (I’m not mentioning gender) seemed to think “their” hat said it all, or at least “they” didn’t need to wear anything else. (Don’t everyone rush over there at the same time to look.)

This all made me finally realize—okay, I’m a slow learner—that instead of flowery descriptions of characters’ height, weight, eye color, hair color, fit and expense of clothing, etc., etc., what we really need to know is what kind of hat do they wear.

Yes, I’m exaggerating to make a point. A majority of people don’t wear hats. But what better telling detail can you find than the character’s hat? I’m certain that you will find some. That’s the point of today’s exercise.

And, if you don’t wear a hat, and want to know all the different styles, and what would be right for you and your personality, here are links to hat styles for men and women:

Men’s Hats

Women’s Hats

Now that we’ve reviewed hats, it’s your turn:

  • What kind of hat do you wear (or would be appropriate for you)? Any interesting history behind that choice? And what does it say about you?
  • Have you created an interesting character whose hat (or item of clothing they always wear, or something they always carry) tells the reader what they really need to know about that character?
  • Any interesting hat stories about you, your family, or your characters?

Naps, Breaks, Vacations, and Drifting

Counter-intuitive Routes to Creativity and Productivity

 By Steve Hooley

Christmas is coming and Hanukkah has passed

One week until Christmas. Twelve days after Hanukkah. Family gatherings, parties, and travel, all will cause interruptions in our writing schedules. Are these interruptions good or bad? Do they help or hurt our creativity? Do they increase or decrease our productivity?

As I contemplated a topic for this post, I remembered hearing of references to the benefit of breaks from writing to increase creativity and productivity. I had always been somewhat skeptical, being more of a puritanical believer in “put butt in chair” and write. I thought this might be a good time to take a look at some of that research on breaks.

Before I start on the topic today, I should mention that JSB wrote on a parallel topic this past Sunday, 12/12/21 – “Ways to Write When You’re Not Writing.”

Back to today’s post:

I found an article in Scientific American that summarized some of the recent research. And an article in Writer’s Digest, (Writer’s Digest, May/June 2021, pgs. 40-44, “The Curiously Effective Way to Beat Procrastination,” Michael La Ronn), had caught my eye with a discussion of “drifting.” These two articles are the basis for today’s post.

Summary of research over last ten years

In the article from Scientific American, titled “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime,” author, Ferris Jabr, begins with a brief intro: “Research on naps, meditation, nature walks, and the habits of exceptional artists and athletes reveals how mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories, and encourage creativity.”

He describes what happens when we don’t take those breaks, and defines “cerebral congestion” as that “sense of so much coming at you at once, so much to process, that you can’t deal with it all.” He then shifts to the benefit of long periods of time (vacation) away from the cause of the stress.

Apparently, people in the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Hong Kong take the fewest days off work each year (10 days), versus European Union (20 days) or the Netherlands (26 days).

Along with the intuitive belief that such continuous busyness is not healthy, there is now much empirical evidence from studies that “the benefits of vacation, meditation, and time spent in parks, gardens, and other peaceful outdoor spaces, along with napping and unwinding while awake, can sharpen the mind.” It is argued that downtime restores the brain’s attention, motivation, productivity, and creativity.

Unfortunately, the benefits of vacation may fade within two to four weeks.

Boys in the Basement and the Default Mode Network

The really interesting research has revealed how much the brain goes on working when we are not concentrating, working, or focusing. A “mysterious and complex circuit stirs to life when people are daydreaming.” This is called the Default Mode Network (DMN).

Immordino-Yang, a research scientist at USC, in a review of research on the DMN, argues that “when we are resting, the brain is anything but idle and that, far from being purposeless or unproductive, downtime is in fact essential to mental processes…”

Other research suggests the Default Mode Network is more active in highly creative people.

Power Naps

So, if we need to turn our DMN loose to do creative things for our brain, we should take more naps. Right? Many studies have established that naps “sharpen concentration and improve the performance of both sleep-deprived and the fully rested…”

Here, the interesting data is in the length if naps. One study looked at 5, 10, 20, and 30-minute naps. The five-minute naps barely improved alertness. Ten minutes and higher increased performance, but the 20 and 30-minute naps were associated with half an hour or more of “sleep inertia” (post-nap grogginess). The study concluded that 7-10-minute naps were best.

 Restorative Breaks and Mindfulness Training

Here’s my favorite. Breaks taken in a natural outdoor setting (vs. in a setting full of city noise and chaos) led to a 3-times greater improvement in memory. I wonder how the sound of my chain saw (requiring ear protection) affects the benefit of the “natural outdoor setting.”

And, finally, “mindfulness training” (sustained focus on one’s thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the present moment) is believed to “improve mental health, hone one’s ability to concentrate, and strengthen memory.”

 The Bonus, “Drifting”

This if from the article in Writer’s Digest. When I read this article several months ago, I shook my head. I didn’t know what to think. I grabbed a pen and wrote in the margins: “What!?” “A disease becomes a cure.” “Really?” And “Procrastinate, just not too long.”

But, after reading the other article on brain research and the benefits of taking breaks, I’m trying to be more open-minded about this approach.

If you haven’t read this article, I urge you to do so. Basically, the author is arguing for an approach to writer’s block where you “give your mind permission to do whatever it wants to fuel your creativity. Simply put, you let it be curious.” (Drifting). In the author’s case, drifting took the form of three days off just to let his curiosity explore.

Near the end of the article, he lists 5 ways to “Drift Like a Pro:”

  • Read a Book About Something New
  • Consume Other Content
  • Meet New People
  • New Experiences
  • Travel

And in a final section, he writes, “Teach yourself to drift, and enjoy the journey.”

It sounds too good to be true. I don’t know if I could trust myself to drift purposefully or return from the journey. I worry that it could be addictive, or the easy way out.

 

Okay, time for your thoughts:

  1. What kind of “restorative” breaks have you taken or will you take over the Hanukkah – Christmas holiday?
  2. What type of naps, breaks, vacation, meditation, or drifting do you regularly practice to maintain your creativity and productivity during the rest of the year?
  3. BONUS POINTS – What do you think about “drifting?”

 

This is my last post before the Christmas – New Year’s break. Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy Productive/Creative New Year! See you in 2022.

 

Getting Your Books Noticed

It is my pleasure this morning to introduce Patricia Bradley, one of the regular participants here at the Kill Zone community. During a recent discussion of marketing, her comments on use of social media and success with creating a following caught my eye. She has agreed to share her methods and experience with us. Please welcome Patricia with your comments and questions.

 

Getting Your Books Noticed

by Patricia Bradley

When Steve Hooley emailed and asked me if I was interested in writing a post for TKZ on how, as a traditionally published author, one goes about getting their books noticed, I replied, “YES!”

Can you tell I’m very impulsive and step into things before I think them through? Once it sunk in that I would be posting on The Kill Zone, nerves hit. You see, y’all are my heroes. Posting on this blog is a dream come true, but also very intimidating. It took me years before I even posted a comment.

So here we go: how to get noticed among the thousands of authors publishing today, and how to do it when you’re traditionally published and not in control of the numbers.

I have a wonderful publisher who invests advertising dollars in their authors and their books. They send my new releases out to about a hundred bloggers who review my book on their blogs then post reviews at places like Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub, B&N…and my state’s very own Mississippi Magazine. They also buy advertising spots at conferences and provide swag for me to give away and probably a hundred other things I’m not aware of.

So, if my publisher does all that, what do I do? I promise you, there’s plenty left to do to get your name out there. Number one is to write the next book.

At the same time, you need to be active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram even though these social media outlets seem to change their algorithms daily, shrinking my readership. I am active in several groups that are geared to romantic suspense and connect/interact with my readers there.

One way to connect with your readers is to ask questions. My readers have named a few of my characters, towns, and even suggested titles for the books.

I’ve learned that videos get more attention on these sites than plain posts or even those with photos, so I’ve learned how to make trailers and all sorts of stuff on BookBrush. It’s like Canva on steroids for me. I can upload my covers and use them for all sorts of things, like the short videos and book trailers. I also make all the memes that appear at the beginning of my Tuesday and Friday blogs.

Speaking of blogs, I’ve had one since 2010, but in 2016, I found a theme for it. In 2015, I had less than a thousand visitors. Since then I’ve had over 193,000 visitors with 20,000 comments. I know some say that blogs don’t sell books, but that’s not why I have a blog. I use it to interact with my readers and to catch the attention of people who are checking me out.

I post twice a week on my blog. Some people post every day and some only once a month, but how often isn’t as important as being consistent. If you’ve told your readers they’ll get a post from you once a week, make sure you post something, even if it’s an explanation of why you’re not posting that day. It’s all about connecting.

It’s important for you to tie your theme to the genre you write. For instance, both of my blogs are connected to what I write. On Tuesdays I have a Mystery Question for my readers to solve. There are four stories, three true and one made up. Lately it’s been con games or scams, and thank you very much, Debbie Burke, for your excellent True Crime posts. More than one has ended up on my Mystery Question blog.

My readers love to try and figure out which one I made up, and once or twice, I’ve skunked them. Right now, I get anywhere from ten to twenty comments on the posts. For the week of November 8-14th, I had 1,149 visitors. Since some blogs get thousands of hits a day, that might not sound like a lot, but you have to remember that before my first book released in 2014, readers had never heard of me.

My Friday posts are reviews of books I’ve read. Ninety-five per cent of the books I review are mysteries of some sort–romantic suspense, thrillers, straight mystery, or cozies. Often I’ll give the first line and ask my readers to give the first line of the book they’re reading. I get just about the same number of responses to the Friday blog as Tuesday’s.

You can check out my blog here. Once you get there, just scroll through and find a post that interests you. Another thing, I also post on other blogs like the Suspense Sisters, How to Write a Novel, occasionally on Suite T, and I comment on a lot of other blogs like Carrie Booth

Schmidt’s Reading is My Superpower and KTZ. In other words, I’m visible. Readers get to know me. Then when they see I’ve written a new book, if it’s in a genre they read, they will check it out.

One advantage of a blog is that it gets readers to your website where they can sign up for your newsletter. They (I’m not sure who they are) say that a newsletter is the most important marketing tool you have, and even though I don’t know who they are, I agree.

Like your blog, you own your newsletter—unlike social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Readers sign up for your newsletter because they want to know more about you. In the past I’ve used Rafflecopter giveaways to get people to sign up for it, but no longer. I figure the 50% who don’t open my newsletter are the ones I acquired through a big giveaway, and they only signed up hoping to win the prize. I do give away a novella when someone signs up on my website. It’s tied to one of my series and acts as a magnet for my books.

So how many newsletters should you send out, and what do you write about? I send out one a month unless my publisher runs a deal on one of my books and I think my readers would be interested in it. Nicholas Erik’s book, The Ultimate Guide to Book Marketing has helped me tremendously, especially with his section on newsletters.

As for what I write about, mine are usually short because I rarely read long newsletters myself. I include something about how my writing is going, often discussing a problem I’m having with the manuscript. If I have a book releasing, I talk about that, then I spotlight a couple of books I’m currently reading—it never hurts to promote other authors. I always end with a recipe. A few of my newsletters have videos—the last video, lifted from my YouTube channel, showed how to get rid of pet hair using a rubber glove.

Before you say you’re too old to learn how to make trailers, videos and memes, I’m telling you, if I can do it, so can you. I came to the writing game very late in life. Not sure it’s wise to give my age, but let’s just say I watched the original Andy Griffith Show as a teenager.

There is so much more I could say, but this post is long enough. In summary:

§ Write the best book you can, then write another one.

§ Chose at least one social media platform and connect/interact with your readers.

§ Consider having a blog.

§ Read and comment on blogs aimed at your genre.

§ Develop a newsletter list and send out newsletters.

I hope this post has given you a few tips on how to make yourself visible. Additional suggestions are welcome!

***

Patricia Bradley is a Carol finalist and winner of an Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award in Suspense, and three anthologies that included her stories debuted on the USA Today Best Seller List. She and her two cats call Northeast Mississippi home–the South is also where she sets most of her books. Her romantic suspense novels include the Logan Point series and the Memphis Cold Case Novels. Crosshairs, the third book in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series, released November 2, 2021. She is now hard at work on the fourth book, Deception, and will soon start work on her fourth series set in the Cumberland Plateau around Chattanooga, Tennessee..

She’s conducted writing workshops at the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, the Mid-South Christian Writer’s Conference, the KenTen Retreat where she was also the keynote, and several other conferences. When she has time, she likes to throw mud on a wheel and see what happens.

Links: Website https://ptbradley.com/ Blog – https://ptbradley.com/blog/ Facebook – www.facebook.com/patriciabradleyauthor Twitter – https://twitter.com/PTBradley1

Amazon – https://amzn.to/2S6DKGY Bookbub- https://www.bookbub.com/profile/patricia-bradley Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7789445.Patricia_Bradley Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/ptbradley1/ Pinterest – https://www.pinterest.com/ptbradley/

That Special Sauce

By Steve Hooley

In recent weeks we’ve had two posts on editing by removing material from our manuscript that shouldn’t be there: Killing the Mosquitoes in Your Fiction and Surgery for the Manuscript. Today we’re going to discuss editing and writing with the focus on what to put into the manuscript to make it successful and unique. We’ve used analogies of entomology and surgery. Today we’ll use the analogy of cooking and baking.

That which should be removed from a manuscript is usually clear to editors and writing instructors with the expected disagreements. That which should be put into the manuscript is a whole other universe. You’ll get as many answers to that question as the number of writers you ask. And the number of books written on that subject is probably too large…huge.

Let’s turn to the analogy of cooking and baking, and let’s examine “that special sauce.”

According to Merriam-Webster, definition #2, special sauce is defined as “an element, quality, ability, or practice that makes something or someone successful or distinctive.”

Now, staying with the analogy of cooking and baking, we all have our favorite restaurants, and probably our favorite entrees and dishes: sandwiches, steaks, pastas, desserts, etc. Something about that food item is different and special. It makes a favorable impression on us, and brings us back again and again, asking for more. It may be a secret family recipe or an unexpected ingredient that the chef adds to the dish. Whatever it is, it’s something the chef does intentionally, and something that sets the dish apart and makes it successful.

My wife makes baked goods at Christmas to give to the people who have provided special services for our family during the preceding year: doctors, dentist, mechanic, accountant, etc. One of those items is a gourmet chocolate brownie. It is so well liked that she usually gets phone calls thanking her for the brownies and telling her how much their family enjoyed them and look forward to them. The unspoken message is, “We hope you don’t forget us next year.”

I asked her, “What is the special sauce? What makes those brownies so good?”

Her answer, “I use quality ingredients. I don’t cut corners. And I put in extra chocolate and add a little coconut.”

Ah, that special sauce.

Now, isn’t that the kind of response we want from the readers of our books?

We’ve all found writers whose stories engage us in such a way that we can’t put the book down, and we come back for more with each new book the author writes.

When agents are asked what they are looking for, their typical answer is “a fresh new voice.” We agree that “voice” is difficult to define, but what those agents are really looking for is something new, different, and appealing that engages readers and will sell lots of books.

I won’t try to define that indefinable recipe, that special sauce, for our writing and our books. This is the tricky point in this post where I have to break the news to you that I don’t have the recipe for that secret special sauce.

If you thought I was going to provide that secret today, I’m sorry to disappoint you. Like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or the fountain of youth, that special sauce for your writing may take a lifetime of searching. But, if you’re looking, you’re looking in the right place. Finding “that special sauce” is the underlying theme and hidden subject of almost every post that is written here at TKZ.

So that I do not to disappoint you too greatly, causing you to fling this post across the room like a rage-inducing book, I will, however, list some books that have helped me on that (as yet unsuccessful) quest of looking for that special sauce.

James Scott Bell:

Lisa Cron:

Donald Maass:

Larry Brooks:

S. P. Sipal:

The list goes on.

Now, it’s time for your input. Please help us find the recipe.

 

  1. What writers have you found whose “special sauce” has addicted you? And what is that special sauce in their writing?
  2. What books have you found to be the most helpful in your quest to find and invent your own special sauce for your writing?
  3. Without giving away the secret or all the ingredients in your special sauce(s), can you tell us about one of them and the final effect you are trying to achieve for the reader?

Atticus – New Formatting Software for Writers

by Steve Hooley

A Writer’s Best Friend?

Atticus is a new writers’ program for writing, editing, and formatting. It is on-line based, but can also be downloaded to your computer for off-line work. The program works on Windows, Mac, iOS, Chromebook, and Linux computers. It is available for purchase, even as continuing additions and improvements are made. At this point, its main advantage is a formatting program for Macs and PCs that rivals Vellum (Mac only) for ease of use and beauty of final formatted file.

Atticus produces both PDF and EPUB files. (As of 10/1/21 Amazon Kindle accepts only EPUB files for new books.) I believe I read somewhere that Atticus plans to develop the capability to produce a MOBI file for sideloading into a Kindle device.

I learned about Atticus while reading a review of Vellum. The review was by Dave Chesson, founder of the Atticus project. At the end of the summary at the top, tucked into the end of “Bottom Line,” was a single sentence: “I recommend Atticus overall, though.” I followed the links. (The tutorials are all the way at the bottom.)

I was excited when I saw that the program worked for Windows. I was skeptical when I read their goal of being a combination of Scrivener + Word + Vellum. And I was pulled in to explore more when I saw the price. At that point, the price for “early adopters” was $117. It is currently $147 ($102 cheaper than Vellum). And all continuing and future updates and improvements are free. They had me hooked, and I began exploring.

I found my way to the tutorials, and studied them thoroughly, reading them first, then viewing the computer views while the tutorial was narrated. The tutorials were exceptionally good.

I was most impressed with the formatting component, the component most fully developed at this time. I had downloaded the free Vellum program (for trial use without the ability to produce a file until you pay) on a Mac laptop that I use to write. Atticus seemed to have the ease of use that Vellum is known for. It had been a couple years since I examined Vellum, but Atticus looked like it had more options and choices for theme and style.

I was not impressed with the writing component. (Atticus is currently working on that component). At the time of this writing, the writing component is bare bones, with very few choices for font and size in the writing frame. The chapters are listed in a column on the left (like Scrivener), but that’s where the comparison ends. I write in Scrivener, and I’m guessing that Atticus will have a huge uphill battle in convincing Scrivener users to switch to Atticus for the writing component. Note that Atticus will allow .docx files from other programs to be easily uploaded and formatted.

At the time of this writing, I have not found any editing tool or component (like Word) in the program. The promise is for an editing component. I hope the developers will use an open-source program (such as Open Office or LibreOffice) and develop it for both the writing and the editing tools. That is a weakness of Scrivener (editing). And, if a writer could have the main capabilities of Scrivener, with added robust editing tools (without having to export the file), while being able to produce a .docx file, the writer might be willing to give Atticus a try.

Bottom line for me: I felt like the formatting component alone was worth the price of the program. Until further improvements come along, I plan to write in Scrivener, edit in Word, then upload a docx file into Atticus for formatting.

My experience thus far:

I uploaded a docx file of my first book in my Mad River Magic series. I had a new cover, and I wanted to reformat the interior of the book with a larger font. I also wanted an EPUB file for “going wide.”

I had first reviewed Garry’s “Ten Tips for Formatting eBooks from MS Word” (9/17/20). I removed as much formatting as possible. I specifically removed the front matter and the back matter (as per Atticus recommendations), creating a separate file for future use, and copy and paste capabilities.

I carefully removed existing formatting from the titles and formatted them with H1 style and 20-point size. I removed any spaces between the title and the text.

I then uploaded the docx file to Atticus. It successfully identified all chapter titles, and the beginning of my Table of Contents appeared in the left column.

Atticus did miss some of my scene breaks, (***) (Atticus calls them “ornamental breaks”). I learned by trial and error to remove them and any spaces, put my cursor on the end of the paragraph before the scene break, then “insert ornamental break” from the menu above the writing frame.

Foot notes were a problem for me. I had learned from the tutorials that Atticus changes footnotes into “end notes” (at end of chapter). I use footnotes for the interpretations of my magic spells. I played around with ways to adapt the endnotes, but finally gave up when I discovered that Atticus handles how it displays the numbering differently in PDF and EPUB files. I stripped out the footnotes. I believe that Atticus should standardize how it displays the numbering of end notes so they appear the same in EPUB or PDF.

The formatting came next. It was easy and fun. A window that shows how your formatting looks is placed on the right, and you can see what you are doing.

Adding and formatting front and back matter followed, and was easy, with a few hitches. Template pages can be added from a menu in the TOC column, and show up in the left column TOC. They can be easily dragged and dropped up and down to change their order. You can copy and paste from your front and back matter file (that you created when you stripped them out of your manuscript). If you have chosen your style and theme first, you can see what the page looks like in the formatting window.

Two problems I ran into here were Copyright page and Full-page images. I will say right away that Chris (with support), was unbelievably helpful. Responses to my questions were quick and accurate. Even when we ran into a real bug that needed to be fixed in the program, Chris had a work-around.

The first was mainly due to my stupidity. The copyright page does not show up accurately in the format window. I was used to Kindle formatting the copyright top and center. Atticus kept putting my copyright at the bottom of the page. When Chris explained that the page was formatted that way intentionally, I checked a bunch of books and discovered that the page I never look at was “now” being formatted to the bottom of the page. I didn’t like the way my tiny copyright looked, so I changed the font size from 6 to 8 point and put about 10 empty spaces below it before I repasted it into the formatted page. It worked.

The second problem was full-page images. Having struggled with inserting images into the Kindle formatter, I was amazed at the ease of inserting images into Atticus. The problem arose when the pictures (inserted into the backmatter) disappeared in the EPUB file. The empty page was there. The page was titled in the TOC, but no picture. Chris discovered that a true bug had been found and referred it development, but Chris also found a work around – put the page in the “body” rather than the backmatter. The order was the same, the page showed up in the TOC, and it worked. Two seconds to drag and drop.

Downloading the files:

Down loading the files was simple. Clicking the PDF button opened a screen notifying me that the file would be attached to an email. Clicking the EPUB button downloaded the file directly to my computer. If you have Kindle previewer on your computer (a free Word app), you can preview your EPUB file in Word (when I double clicked the file, Kindle previewer opened directly).

When I uploaded my PDF and EPUB files to Kindle, they were accepted immediately, and no changes were required. That was a new experience for me.

Recommendations:

If you have a Windows PC (or a Mac and are not using Vellum), check out Atticus. My plan is to write in Scrivener, edit in Word, and format in Atticus. I believe the program is worth the price for the formatting alone. And I look forward to those free additions as Atticus works on the Writing component and the Editing component.

Addendum:

Atticus had its official launch last week. At this point, the price is still $147, and improvements are continuing to be made. The link above (in the second paragraph) is an updated landing page with lots of details, including a comparison with Vellum. The tutorials at the very bottom of the page give you a good feel for how the program works and prepare you to jump in and format some beautiful manuscripts.

Some other improvements that Atticus has announced are coming soon:

  • Book writing goals and progress
  • Plotting and outlining features
  • Collaboration
  • Large Print
  • Custom font for writing area
  • Find and replace
  • Set opening page
  • Epub and Mobi import
  • Reusable elements (pages like “Also By” and “About the Author”) can be saved as templates and reused in other books

Okay, TKZ community:

  1. Do any of you have experience with Atticus? What are your thoughts?
  2. What would it take to convince you to use formatting software?
  3. We’ve only scratched the surface, but what other components would you like to see in Atticus?
  4. Do you write and edit on the same computer, or do you use two separate computers?

Market Your Novel with Character Interviews

By Deb Gorman

Today, we are honored to have Deb Gorman, one of our faithful TKZ community, presenting a post on a technique she has discovered for marketing. Pleas join me in welcoming Deb. And thanks, Deb, for agreeing to share your idea.

Steve Hooley

***

Steve Hooley, you could’ve knocked me over with the proverbial avian integumentary appendage when I received your invitation to guest blog on TKZ. I was nervous about accepting because most of the time I feel I have a lot to learn from all of you, with nothing to offer in return.

But, of course, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity. I know every author starts out unpublished and that includes those who roam these hallowed halls, so I decided to take the plunge.

I get up every morning thinking, okay, today I’m going to create a page or a chapter or a section that will blow my readers away. And then I remember I have very few readers—and BTW, all are precious to me—so the blowing away won’t be a hurricane. Maybe a soft breeze.

As I write this post, my first two novels are with an agent. Scary. Very scary. She has read one and sent some work for me to do on it. I actually sent it back to her this morning. No contract, though . . . yet. (Note my confidence.) The other novel will be read in the next few weeks and she’ll get back to me. I have to remember that she asked to read them in their entirety . . . so I count that a minor miracle.

Whew! Got that out of the way. Now, to the subject of today’s post—a marketing method I’ve discovered. The newbie talking about the most difficult part of authoring? Hope I get this right.

As you might guess, I’m no marketing expert. (A nod to you TKZers who are, and I study every post you put out about it.) But, having said that, I have discovered a fabulously fun way of marketing a forthcoming novel. I may have mentioned it a time or two in TKZ comments.

It’s called Character Interviews.

Now, there’s nothing new about interviewing your characters. (Nod to JSB) Some of us have discovered secrets hoarded by our characters when we invite them to a private sit-down during the draft process.

But I took it a step further, deciding it might be a fun way to market the story before . . . well . . . the story. Full disclosure: this idea is not my own. I was trolling SM one day and someone (sorry, can’t recall who) mentioned it in passing. I jumped on it.

The idea is to wait until you have a draft of the entire story. Then go through it and search for your characters’ quirks, weird stuff they say and do, fears and failures. Pick your first character to put on the hot seat and sit him/her down and start the grilling. Just for yourself. I am amazed at how much I discover about what makes my rascally friends tick.

Then, I craft it into interview form. At this point, I pick and choose what to reveal to my blog post readers. I don’t want to give away the farm, just a chicken or two, to up their curiosity.

Here’s an excerpt from my latest character interview with the irascible Jake Gruber, from my WIP, No Tomorrows.

Deb: Jake, are you there? Were you able to retrieve your newspaper from the street?

Jake: Yeah, I’m here. Dang newspaper guy . . . hardly ever gets it to my porch these days. Things just ain’t like they used to be.

Deb: That must be aggravating. Have you complained?

Jake: Don’t do no good–but I’m sure your readers don’t want to hear about my newspaper problems. What do they want to hear? Can’t believe there’d be anything interesting enough about me–

Deb: I understand you’ve been neighbors of the Lees for quite a while. You must know them quite well after, what, twenty years or more?

Jake: Don’t hardly know ’em a ‘tall, Deb. We hardly speak. But that’s just fine with me. ‘Bout the only thing they ever say to me is “good morning”. And about the only thing I say to them, well, actually to that strappin’ young man, Roger, is “take care of your danged dandelions over there!”

Deb: Yeah, I think I heard something like that from Annie when I talked to her. But, let’s get to the rest of my questions, okay? Do you have a family? Annie wasn’t so sure you’d–

Jake: No.

Deb: No? There’s no one?

Jake: No.

Deb: But, I kinda heard through the character grapevine that you had–?

Jake: Move on. And what in blue blazes is a character grapevine? You authors are weird, almost certifiable I’ve heard. But that don’t mean I have to spill everything to people I don’t know . . . heck, people I can’t even see . . .

Deb: Okay, okay, Jake. So, I heard you were in Vietnam during the conflict. Would you be willing to tell us just a bit about that?

Jake: Sure I’ll tell you a bit. It wasn’t a conflict. It was war. Conflict’s just a word the government uses to deny responsibility for its boys and girls on the front lines. And you can quote me on that.

As I mentioned, I discover tidbits about my characters during this process. In Jake’s case, I knew he’d been to Vietnam, but I wasn’t aware of how he felt about the word conflict. Tiny detail, yes, but it plays out in the story when he has a conversation with the main character, Annie Lee. And did you notice how I discovered how he feels about authors? Before the interview, I had no idea.

During this interview, Jake goes on to become even more cranky and close-mouthed, especially after I try to get him to talk about . . . well, I won’t give away any more chickens today. The interview ended with him hanging up on me and my readers.

You can read two of my character interviews here and here. The first link is Jake’s interview in full; the second is one from my other forthcoming novel, The Master’s Inn.

Some of my friends and readers have commented, after reading an interview, “I can’t wait for your novel to be released!” Music to my ears, as you can imagine.

I’m discovering there are some quite creative ways out there to market ourselves and our stories. The trick is to find what works for you, and hone it as you would any other craft hack.

Okay, over to you, TKZers.

Do you interview your characters during the drafting process?

Can you think of ways to improve on this idea?

What other places besides my blog could I use this?

Thanks again, Steve, for asking me to guest post, and I hope my tiny offering sparks some creative marketing ideas for y’all.

I will be in and out today due to some unexpected family responsibilities and the funeral of a good friend. I will answer all comments as soon as I can. Thanks for your patience.

***

Deb Gorman, owner of Debo Publishing, lives where she was born and raised, in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her husband, Alan, and their very smart German Shepherd, Hoka. They have seven children, 24 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Deb enjoys writing stories of reconciliation and redemption in families who are hurting, interwoven with threads of suspense. And that describes most, if not all, human families.

You can connect with Deb here.

BOOKS BY DEB GORMAN

AVAILABLE AT https://www.debggorman.com, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble

 

Wood, Writing, and Wacky Ideas

by Steve Hooley

I love wood—growing trees, harvesting lumber, cutting firewood, making things out of wood. There’s no official name for a lover of wood, but someone proposed “lignophile” (ligno – Latin for wood + phile – Greek for love). That would be me.

I grew up in rural Ohio in a house on a wooded lot. As a boy, I roamed the woods, built a treehouse, mowed the trails, and repaired the fences. I didn’t realize how much my early years had affected me until I finished college and got married.

Being the typical newlywed with very little income, a family to provide for, and free furniture sitting on every curb for anyone to take, I began hauling old furniture home to my garage and repairing it. The style of our house was “early marriage.”

After a few years of doing this, I became interested in building my own furniture and began collecting tools. When I returned to my home community after medical school and residency, I began heating our house with firewood, cut, split, hauled, and stacked from the family woods.

Fast forward forty years, and I purchased the family property (house and 28-acre woods) from my parents. My wife and I now live in my enchanted forest, where I continue to be terminally afflicted with lignophilia.

We heat our house in the winter with firewood harvested during September and October. It is hard work, my wife continues to remind me, and we are getting older. But I enjoy keeping the house a toasty 74 degrees while the wind is blowing and the temperature outside dips below freezing. A heating bill of zero is a nice bonus.

I am always looking for easier ways to handle the firewood. We burn 8-9 cords a winter. That’s a lot of wood. And this year, because of above-average rain with soft soil and several windstorms, we’ve had five large trees blow down in our yard and on the forest trails, extra wood to cut, split, and stack.

I’ve cut up those trees into firewood, but I’m running out of places to stack it. And that introduces the topic of this post, experimentation and trying new ideas. I hate the extra time it takes to build an end to a wood stack (a crisscrossed, log-cabin-style, wood column). I’m eventually going to burn it, and then I have to build another one. What a waste of time. So, this year, I stacked the extra wood between trees. But I’m running out of trees in the wood-storage area.

And that’s when I tried a colossal, stupid experiment. I didn’t want to build any ends to brace the stack, so I thought, “Why not build the stack in a big circle? No ends, right?” So, I tried it.

Well, the stack reached about two feet. Because the circumference of the outside circle (created by the ends of the wood farther from the center) was greater than the inside circle (created by the ends of the wood closer to the center), the outer end of wood pieces dropped into gaps, and the pile started to lean.

Being a fan of experimentation, I was too stubborn to start over. “Let’s see what we can learn from “our mistake.” (I had now pulled my wife into my insane plot.) I began gradually moving subsequent layers in toward the center of the circle as I stacked higher to compensate for the leaning. Now my stack was starting to look like an igloo.

No, we couldn’t junk the idea and start over. We needed to finish what we started, learn any more lessons that could be gleaned from “our experiment.” So, we labored on.

The pile survived at 4-5 feet high without falling. We’ll see if it withstands the winter winds. The Roman arch is supposed to be a strong design element, right?

I was just beginning to close the circle, when my wife said, “How are you going to get inside the circle to put the tarp on and off the wood?”

Oh, yeah, I hadn’t thought of that. I should have put in two posts (creating an entry into the circle) that the pile could lean against on either side. But I might as well have dug a post hole at either end of a long straight pile, and I was too lazy for that. That was the whole purpose, to save time, right? And then another idea hit me. I could put in an open box structure—open on both ends to walk through, no digging required—so the wood could be stacked against both sides, supporting itself, and I would have a doorway into my magic garden.

My wife groaned. We left a “dip” in our pile at about two feet high so I could climb over it. I might yet build that box, maybe, unless I get another idea.

Bottom line, my genius circle of success, turned out to be a giant dome-shaped debacle. But…I had not given up. I stuck with my junker, wacky idea all the way to the bloody end, “learning” from my mistakes. Or as the politicians say when they’ve created a disaster, “We must investigate this, so we can prevent this failure in the future.” Right.

So, now to you, TKZ community. How far down the road that’s not working do you drive your clunker of an idea before you abandon it and scurry off to the new manuscript lot? Do you hang in there, try to repair the clunker, and see what you might learn from a “failed experiment?” Or, do you quickly trade in the old beast for a shiny new one?

Tell us about one of your “failed” experiments. Catharsis is good for the soul.

Haiku…an Introduction

Adding poetry to your writing routine

By Joyce Hooley and Steve Hooley

Today we are going to have some fun with poetry, haiku to be specific. We’ll learn the rules for writing haiku and how enjoyable it can be, and maybe even discover that we want to add it to our writing routine. Warning: This post may be addictive.

I was recently introduced to this subject, when my sister published a book of haiku. I did some searching for the rules and quickly found myself distracted, walking around the house with my fingers in the air counting syllables.

In reviewing what has been discussed here at TKZ, in regards to poetry, I found that JSB had discussed epigraphs recently. Six months ago, Clare asked who reads poetry. And Sue keeps us up to date on brain research and psychology. But I didn’t find any discussion on writing poetry, so today is a good day to start.

Our guest blogger today is Joyce Hooley, retired pediatrician who has worked in public health and clinical pediatrics in the U.S. and in Africa. She is a world traveler and has written books about her experiences in the places she has lived and worked. She currently lives and writes in North Carolina. Her recently published book is Fifty-Two Haiku, A Year on Plott Balsam Mountain.

Joyce, thanks for joining us today and introducing us to writing Haiku.

 

On Haiku

By Joyce Hooley

Most people, when asked about haiku will offer a simple definition: it is a poem written in three lines with a total of seventeen syllables. The first line, they will tell you, must contain five syllables, the second seven and the last five. But that definition does not capture the spirit of haiku. More accurately, at its essence, a haiku is a short poem that uses an image from nature to evoke a particular season in a particular place, and then uses a break in the rhythm of the poem to juxtapose that image with another image, or to juxtapose two aspects of the central image, and thereby prompt reflection. Haiku originated in Japan where it was intended to evoke Buddhist reflections on nature. But with this juxtaposition of images, haiku can also contain the elements of the most basic story: a subject (encapsulated in an image,) and a transformation (encapsulated in a juxtaposition.) It is for this reason that writing haiku can be such a great exercise for any writer. It is a method for sharpening focus. What am I trying to say? Can I distill it to a vivid image and one revealing transformation or contrast?

Haiku evolved from a 13th -14th century Japanese poetry form, a hokku, which was the beginning verse of a rengu, a longer poem written by two or more poets in collaboration, line by line, back and forth. It was not until the 19th century that the term “haiku” was used to refer to the evolved form. Matsuo Basho was one of the most famous of the early writers of haiku. Below are a few examples from his approximately 1000 haiku. Notice that, translated into English, these haiku no longer contain seventeen syllables.

Clear water—

A tiny crab

Crawling up my leg.

 

The squid seller’s call

Mingles with the voice

Of the cuckoo.

 

Stillness––

the cicada’s cry

drills into the rocks.

I wrote my recently published collection, Fifty-Two Haiku: A Year on Plott Balsam Mountain, in the year 2010. As I went about my daily activities that year, my walks through the woods and my garden chores, I challenged myself to stay present to each moment, alert for an image of the season that would inspire a haiku. I jotted down descriptions of sensory images that caught my eye, or ear, or nose, and kept these in a small notebook. I was still practicing pediatrics at the time, but I had Mondays off and each Monday morning I sat down and composed from one of the most compelling of the images. The rest of the week as I had time, I edited, tweaked, and played with the poem. It was, for me, a form of the discipline that Julia Cameron, in The Artist’s Way, calls her “morning pages.”

The practice greatly elevated my days. Robert Haas, in his introduction to The Essential Haiku, Versions of Baho, Buson, and Issa, (Harper Collins, 1994) wrote that when Buson, the great mid-eighteenth-century Japanese poet, was asked by a student if there was a secret to haiku, he replied, “Yes, use the commonplace to escape the commonplace.” I was not trying so much to escape the commonplace as to dwell in it more fully, to be alive to it, to relish it. Writing haiku helped me to pay attention.

 

Thanks, Joyce, for a great discussion on haiku.

 

Okay, TKZ community, now it’s your turn with any comments or questions for Joyce.

And then it’s time for you to try your hand at haiku. Put on your thinking caps, look around, find a sensory image that distills the essence of what you are experiencing, and transform that image into a haiku. So, lay down your pencil, get your fingers in the air, maybe get out the thesaurus, and start counting syllables. Let’s get those neurons firing and create some poetry. Where else can you write poetry and have it published in the same day?

After Jim’s recent discussion of epigraphs, and learning about haiku, it struck me that we could write our own haiku epigraphs for our books. Written by us, totally unique, and custom made for our book. An epigraph in three lines.

 The assignment for today: #1 or #2, and an introduction:

  1. Since nature is the traditional topic for haiku, look out your window and share something in a haiku that surrounds and inspires you, or is unique to your world.
  2. Write a haiku appropriate for an epigraph for a book you have written, are working on now, or have plans for writing in the future.
  3. Please give us a brief introduction to your haiku.

Here’s my nature haiku as we cut firewood for winter heat:

 

dead tree bows to ground

submits to saw and splitter

winter heat in rows

 

Okay, please share your creation.

9/11…Heroes and Houdinis

Those Who Run to Trouble,

and Those Who Escape

By Steve Hooley

 

On this 20th anniversary of 9/11/2001, let us take a few moments to pause and remember those nearly 3000 who lost their lives on that terrible day. It is appropriate to honor the first responders, 343 firefighters and paramedics, and 60 police officers, heroes who gave their lives as they rescued others. And we must not forget that more than 2000 second responders, or Ground Zero workers, died from illnesses attributed to their time at the site, working to recover and identify the remains of those lost, helping to give families closure. Heroes all.

On this Patriot Day, a National Day of Remembrance, it is appropriate to reflect on heroes.

Heroes have always pulled us together, from the time prehistoric people gathered around the campfire to hear stories of conquest and victory, to modern day gatherings in front of the wide screen TV to cheer heroes of athletic competition. Heroes inhabit our stories, keeping readers on the edge of their seats, turning page after page to see how—or if!—the heroes will escape the traps and predicaments thrown at them.

Heroes pull us together, and they pull us into stories. We need heroes, and 9/11 gave us many of them.

Here are two accounts of true heroes from Biography.com, “Real Life Heroes of September 11, 2001:

Frank De Martini, a construction manager who worked for the Port Authority, and Pablo Ortiz, a Port Authority construction instructor, were inside the North Tower when it was hit. They survived, but instead of seeking safety they began to help people trapped on the tower’s 88th and 89th floors. Along with some of their coworkers, the two are thought to have saved at least 50 lives by opening stuck elevator doors, clearing offices, directing people to exits, and otherwise providing a lifeline amid dust, flames and obstructions. They were likely trying to come to the aid of additional people when the North Tower collapsed at 10:28 am.

United Airlines Flight 93 was the fourth plane hijacked that morning. Yet the plane’s departure from Newark Airport had been delayed until 8:41 am, and the terrorist hijackers didn’t seize control until around 9:30. The timing meant that when passengers and crew phoned their loved ones, they learned of the other attacks, and understood the hijackers’ intentions for their flight. At least four passengers — Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett, and Jeremy Glick — decided to fight back and try to keep the plane they were on from becoming another destructive missile. Burnett told his wife, a flight attendant, “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.”

*

On the other end of the spectrum, 9/11 created opportunists who took advantage of the chaos and the dust cloud of catastrophe to play out their selfish deeds.

One group we will call “disappearers,” “vanishers,” or “Houdinis,” for lack of a better word, a small group of people who took advantage of the chaos and confusion to escape the bonds of their identity, then disappear, never to be heard from again.

Here are two links to articles about three people who vanished on 9/11/2001 without any evidence that they were present at the World Trade Center on that day, a doctor, a banker, and an immigrant.

Sneha Anne Philip was a physician in trouble. She had lost a past job for tardiness and alcohol-related problems. She was about to lose her current job. She was in legal trouble for falsely accusing a coworker of attacking her. Her marriage was in disarray after repeatedly staying out all night drinking, with accusations of leaving the bars with female lovers.

The night before 9/11, Sneha had been out all night, and had not returned by the morning of 9/11. This was not unusual, and her husband was annoyed but not surprised. Surveillance video of Sneha’s apartment lobby, showed that Sneha had returned to the lobby and was waiting for the elevator, when she suddenly left the lobby at 8:43 am, three minutes before the North Tower crash

She was never seen again.

Juan Lafuente was a vice-president at Citibank, which allowed him to keep a flexible schedule. He often attended meetings related to his work without notifying his supervisor in advance. There is evidence that he planned to attend a meeting at the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11, but his name was not on the pre-registered list, and the final attendee list was destroyed when the building collapsed.

Juan suffered from depression and was being treated by a psychiatrist.

Tracking Juan’s path revealed the time that he had used a Metro Card at Grand Central station, and showed that it was uncertain as to whether he would have made it to the World Trade Center before its collapse.

Juan was never seen again.

Jimenez Molinar was a 20-year-old “undocumented immigrant” from Mexico, who worked as a delivery boy for a pizzeria in New York. Jimenez called his mother on September 8th, letting her know he had found a new job at the pizzeria. The evening of 9/11, Jimenez’s mother received a phone call from one of her son’s roommates, notifying her that Jimenez had not come home. She received a similar call on 9/20. The caller refused to give her his name or address, because he, too, was an undocumented immigrant.

Police checked the government databases while volunteers surveyed the local pizzerias. Since most businesses that hired undocumented immigrants used fake papers, it is not surprising that no evidence of Jimenez was ever found, or even that he was in the country.

Jimenez was never seen or heard from again.

These disappearances could have been spontaneous decisions to disappear, or possibly the premeditation was already occurring, and these people jumped at the chance to use the situation for their purposes. And there is still the possibility that they were caught in the destruction of the World Trade Center collapse, even though their remains were never found, and there was no evidence they were there.

Our stories are filled with disappearances, but how many of them are the spontaneous type where preparation meets opportunity?

Heroes run toward trouble. Houdinis escape.

We discuss heroes all the time. Let’s discuss characters who disappear without a trace.

 

  1. Tell us about one of your characters who disappeared without a trace.
  2. What is your favorite movie or book with a mysterious disappearance?
  3. Have you used 9/11 as a setting for of any of your books?

Building the Next Generation of Readers

Building the Next Generation of Readers

Encouraging Children to Read

Steve Hooley

 

With children going back to school, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss reading and children.

Most of us have children, nieces and nephews, or grandchildren. We want them to be successful in adulthood, and one of the best correlations with success is early reading. Reading is required to learn in every area of knowledge.

As writers, we want more people to read and more people to buy our books, so we want everyone’s children to become readers.

But, like construction, the process of creating an interest for reading in children takes repetition and multiple steps. It takes time, and it takes someone (parent, relative, teacher, friend) dedicated to helping the child learn and grow.

So, how do we build passion for reading in children? What do children want to read? And what do the “experts” suggest as the best processes to achieve that goal?

Current trends

In this age of TV, computers, and cell phones, all competing for children’s attention, how do we interest them in reading? And what are children today interested in reading?

A quick look for current trends of what children are reading revealed this list:

10 Current Trends in Children’s Books

  • Empowered females
  • Dragons
  • Unicorns
  • Pugs (Yes, apparently children like that breed of dogs)
  • Wild creatures
  • Ghosts, monsters, and scary things
  • Mysteries
  • Gross and goofy
  • Nonfiction titles

And a quick look for an “expert’s” tips on developing good reading habits, revealed this list:

8 Tips to Help Young Kids Develop Good Reading Habits

  • Make reading a daily habit – read to your children at a young age
  • Read in front of your child
  • Create a reading space
  • Take trips to the library
  • Let your child pick what to read
  • Find reading moments in everyday life
  • Reread favorite books
  • Learn more about how children read

I’ll add my thoughts:

  1. Read to children at an early age
  2. Allow them to explore picture books
  3. Help them learn to read at an early age
  4. Give them access to age-appropriate books
  5. Provide/protect a time to read (with TV, computer, and phone turned off)
  6. Give books as gifts
  7. Show an interest in what they write. Encourage them to write stories.

 Okay, now it is your turn:

1. What factors encouraged you or made you a reader?

My story

I don’t remember being read to at an early age, but I’m certain I was. I do remember going to kindergarten for two years before first grade, and reading second grade material by the end of those two years. During my third-grade year, our county library started a book mobile that included a stop at our elementary school. I remember the excitement of being allowed to explore those books. I also remember a large collection of “Bible fiction” given to my father and placed in the family book shelves. I became especially interested when I discovered that many of those books contained adult material. I spent too much time exploring those books, and my parents soon discovered why. The books disappeared. One of my best influencers was the elderly librarian in our little town, who wrapped her arm around my shoulders and directed me toward “the classics” that I “needed” to read.

2. What has worked with your children or relatives to create an interest in reading?

My failure

After my wife and I spent every Wednesday, this past summer, watching two of our grandchildren, reading to them, having them read to us, taking them to the library, and working through a workbook on language skills, I asked each of them, “Has anything made you interested in reading?” The first answered, “Nothing.” The second said, “No, not really.”

My success

On the other hand, I have a granddaughter who lives two hours away whom we visit every several months. She likes to read and write. We trade stories when we see each other, and she loves to read her stories out loud to me.

3. What suggestions do you have to build the next generation of readers?

I hope you have better ideas than I did., and I hope you will share them.