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/

You Are a Winner!

Congratulations! You have won the Publishers Give-a-House Christmas Extravaganza for Readers and Writers, a free, all expenses paid, life-time use of a Reader/Writer Dream Hideaway. And…you get to choose the location, contents, and amenities of that fully-equipped library/office, WITH NO LIMITS. Yes, a dream come true!

So, when you stop dancing with joy, tell us how you will choose and equip your dream site (and remember, your imagination is your only limitation):

  • Location – country, region, city, town
  • Setting – castle in the mountains, cabin in the forest, sea-side bungalow, castle in the Scottish Highlands, English country manor, yacht in the Caribbean, anything you can imagine
  • Library – size, description, book collection, and view from the window(s)
  • Computer/electronic gear
  • Software
  • Amenities – coffee pot, maid service, room service, masseuse

When you have experienced “the high life” long enough to want to revisit your current home, I will be happy to occupy and protect your hide-away for you while you are gone, with no charge for my services.

Hint: If you choose a large enough venue, you could invite all of the TKZ community to come and visit you.

Reader Friday – Black Friday

Black Friday

You’ve survived Thanksgiving by kicking back in your recliner to watch the football game while you enjoyed the tryptophan-induced coma, but today it’s Friday and you have to face the mob. It’s time to battle the traffic, find a parking spot at Wally World, and push your way through the masses to get that gizmo for your child or grandchild, the one that is discounted 30%, the one everyone is fighting for, and the one you won’t be able to find for this price after today.

So…you flip on your flashing light-siren (the one Cousin Larry built for you) and race down the street as everyone pulls to the curb to get out of your way.

In the parking lot, you turn on the loud speaker in your Larry device and announce a bomb threat. “Everyone, please leave the parking lot, and remain calm.”

Inside the store, you pull out your phone and hack into the Wally World PA system to announce a special offer on aisle 13.

When you reach the gizmo, there are still three determined mamas fighting over the last one. You wouldn’t dare take them on, so you don your gas mask and deodorize the area with tear gas.

As you head for the checkout with the precious gizmo, you keep your bear spray unholstered for anyone who is foolish enough to try to jump you.

And as you drive out of Wally World’s parking lot, merrily whistling, you dream of new ideas for your next book.

So, TKZers, how do you fight the Black Friday battle? Or give us some creative ideas for surviving the war for the gizmo. After all, you write fiction.

Text-to-Speech for Editing

Text-to-speech (TTS)– also called Read aloud technology–is a popular assistive technology in which a computer or computerized device reads the words on the screen aloud to the user.

TTS is used for many things, and the number of applications is increasing. If you like rabbit holes, there’s a lot here to investigate. Just Google it and you’ll be amazed. But today let’s talk about TTS in the context of editing. PCs, Macs, Chromebooks, Word, Scrivener, Google docs, and LibreOffice all have it built into their programs. Open Office and WordPerfect do not. Code can be inserted into WordPerfect for TTS, but it sounds complicated.

There are long lists of programs which are supposed to be better than the TTS built into the programs above. Many of them advertise as “free,” but most are only free for a trial period.

We’ve been told to read our manuscript out loud as part of our editing, or have someone else read it to us. I’ve found that even when I read out loud, I still skip over incorrect or missing words and letters. And good luck finding someone else with enough time and patience to read your manuscript to you.

Debbie posted a wonderful article on editing two years ago – https://killzoneblog.com/2020/09/help-i-have-flies-in-my-files.html – including using TTS, but, today, let’s focus on TTS in our editing routine.

Please share your knowledge:

  1. Do you use TTS in your editing process?
  2. In which program do you use it?
  3. Where or when in the editing process do you use it?
  4. How useful do you believe it is?
  5. If you use one of the “monthly fee” programs, which one did you choose?

What’s In Your Closet?

What if…

While on a long hike at your crazy Uncle Harry’s property in the steep hills and deep valleys of Appalachia, you discover a tiny shanty hidden in a brush pile at the back of the property. After moving enough brush to enter the little shack, you find a skeleton shackled to the wall, still holding a moonshine bottle with a note inside.

Would you?

  1. Report your finding to the county sheriff
  2. Leave as quickly as possible, replace the brush, and say nothing to anybody
  3. Use the information for the plot of your next book
  4. Something else

Justify your decision based on the note, and tell us what the note said.

Add any additional details you wish.

The Preface – What sayest thou?

“A preface is an introduction to the main text of a book, when an author or critic can write directly to the reader.” (vocabulary.com)

Following is a preface to an ancient story:

You who so plod amid serious things that you feel it shame to give yourself up even for a few short moments to mirth and joyousness in the land of Fancy; you who think that life hath nought to do with innocent laughter that can harm no one; these pages are not for you. Clap to the leaves and go no farther than this, for I tell you plainly that if you go farther you will be scandalized by seeing good, sober folks of real history so frisk and caper in gay colors and motley that you would not know them but for the names tagged to them…

Here you will find a hundred dull sober, jogging places, all tricked out with flowers and what not, till no one would know them in their fanciful dress. And here is a country bearing a well-known name, wherein no chill mists press upon our spirits, and no rain falls but what rolls off our backs like April showers off the backs of sleek drakes; where flowers bloom forever and birds are always singing; where every fellow hath a merry catch as he travels the roads, and ale and beer and wine (such as muddle no wits) flow like water in a brook.

This country is not Fairyland. What is it? ‘Tis the land of Fancy, and is of that pleasant kind that, when you tire of it—whisk!—you can clap the leaves of this book together and ‘tis gone, and you are ready for everyday life, with no harm done.

And now I lift the curtain that hangs between here and No-man’s-land. Will you come with me sweet Reader? I thank you. Give me your hand.

  • Without cheating by using Google, can you guess the name of the book or the story?
  • Have you used a preface in your books?
  • Do you wish you could be so direct with your readers?
  • If you could be so bold, what would you say?
  • And, as a reader, do you enjoy a message from the writer?

Reader Friday: Pets and Animals in Fiction

Pets and animals in fiction is a huge topic. Interestingly, a quick search of Amazon didn’t bring up any book on the topic. So, readers/writers, there’s a void to be filled by an animal enthusiast. I did find an excellent post on the subject by Sue Coletta  – Tips to Include Pets in Fiction

Today, let’s discuss two things:

Your favorite pet:

Looking back at your entire life, which pet was/is your all-time favorite? Tell us about that pet and why he or she was so special.

The roles pets and animals play in books you enjoy:

As a reader of fiction, what way of using pets or animals in the story do you find most enjoyable? Explain.

Reader Friday: Anatomy and Physiology of Villains

 

Course: Villains 300, Anatomy and Physiology Lab

Over the past couple weeks, we’ve had two excellent discussions that can help us with crafting more interesting and complex villains. Debbie described the villain’s journey. And Sue discussed the three dimensions of creating characters. So, I thought today would be a good day to apply and reinforce what we’ve learned.

In high school and college biology courses, there are two components: the lectures and book work, and the laboratory sessions (labs) for exploratory, hands-on learning. In biology, we have anatomy (the structure of the organisms) and physiology (how they function).

Debbie’s look at the Villain’s Journey is the physiology of the villain, how the villain has functioned. And Sue’s look at the three dimensions of character is the anatomy of the character.

Today is lab day, so let’s study and dissect some villains.

  1. Pick a villain (one). One of your own villains. Or a villain (created by another writer) that you have found complex and interesting. Or create your own new villain. N.B. Any new character you create and publish here is yours. You maintain the copyright. No one else may use your creation.
  2. Study the physiology, the live function, the journey, of the villain.
  3. Study the anatomy, the 3-D layers, of the villain. Yes, you must euthanize your specimen. We will provide chemicals for a painless, humane demise.
  4. Report your findings to your colleagues (that would be the rest of us, here at TKZ) today. Give us a concise report on the journey and 3-D anatomy of your specimen (I mean villain).

Reader Friday: Food Prep and Writing

Food Prep and Writing – Cooking up Analogies

Two weeks ago, we asked for any suggestions for improvements to Reader Friday posts. Robert Luedeman said, “More recipes! We must have more recipes!” He was kidding, but it made me start thinking about analogies, comparing food preparation and writing.

Whether you’re cooking, baking, frying, grilling, or just gathering all your ingredients and planning the steps of the process, there’s a lot of “food for thought” and plenty of opportunities to create some new analogies.

Now, I’m worthless in the kitchen and stay out of my wife’s way. She bounces around from counter to counter and from microwave to microwave. I don’t want to become road kill, so I leave the cooking to her. But she did give me an idea for an analogy. Whenever someone compliments her on one of her great dishes and asks her for her secret, she always points out that you have to start with quality ingredients. No cutting corners. Quality in, quality out. And the same can be said for producing a great work of fiction.

So, there’s my weak example of an analogy. Now it’s your turn.

  • Remind us of an existing analogy.
  • Invent a new one.
  • Or, if you agree with Robert, that we need more recipes, share one that you’re proud of. Maybe you can even rename the recipe with a literary phrase.

To Read or Not To Read

To Read or Not To Read? That is the question.

 We had some requests for specific authors’ posts during a recent Words of Wisdom discussion, so I have searched the archives and found three posts from those authors, on the same subject – reviews and feedback, and how to handle them. I hope you enjoy the discussion, add your own comments, and even respond to others’ comments. The livelier the better.

I’ve invited the original authors of the posts to join us. We hope they will stop by.

Don’t Read Reviews

I know this is going to sound counter-intuitive, and for many authors, nearly impossible, but here’s my advice: don’t read your reviews, ever. Turn off that Google alert. Skip the Amazon reviews section. Ignore your Good Reads’ ratings. And if you must know what a blogger or traditional media reviewer is saying about your book, enlist someone you trust to skim the contents and give you the highlights.

This applies not only to negative reviews, but positive ones. Because here’s the thing. As we all know, a reader’s opinion of a book is enormously subjective. The way they approach a story can vary at different points in their lives, or even their day. They read things into it that you might never have intended–and they’re all going to have vastly different opinions about what worked and what didn’t. I’m always startled when I get feedback from beta readers–everyone always manages to come up with different favorite sections, and least favorites. So, when taking their advice, I usually try to find the commonalities, the issues everyone zeroed in on. In the end, much of what they say is taken with a serious grain of salt. – Michelle Gagnon (1/31/2013)

 

Writing Obstacles

4.) Listening to Naysayers – Everyone has advice on a topic they have no experience with. It’s rare that people who say “I’ve always wanted to write a novel” have actually even started one, much less finished one. Yet that doesn’t stop them from shelling out advice. Some advice I got was: write what you know, write a shorter story because it’s easier, write for a house that lists what they’re looking for in great detail (i.e., category romance) so you don’t have to think too hard. Surround yourself with positive people and those who support your writing endeavors.

5.) Putting Too Much into Writing Contest Feedback – Generally I found contests to be a good experience. They got me noticed and looked good on my writer resume, but you have to take them with a grain of salt.

As I studied the craft of writing, I entered various national writing competitions to see how my work stacked up. These were mainly through the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and their many opportunities to compete. There was a rush when I received word that my entries were named a finalist. Even my first entry had some success and the first time I entered the Golden Heart contest for aspiring authors in the RWA, I was a finalist. These things can go to your head and you have to stay focused on your objectives. Good feedback and negative feedback can have an effect on you, just as good or negative reviews can. Keep things in perspective.

In contests you get lots of judges’ comments and editor/agent comments when you final, but you have to take whatever works for you and disregard the rest. You must develop a sense of your voice as a writer and not chase every suggestion, otherwise you will lose your instincts by constantly needing reassurance you’re on the right track. – Jordan Dane (2/4/2016)

 

Writing Reviews

But I’m thinking I should change my ways. According to an article in the Economist, it’s the sheer volume of reviews–not whether they’re good or bad–that sells books.  People are much more likely to “click through” and buy a book if it has received lots of reviews, research indicates. Even when that volume includes a healthy slice of unfavorable reviews, the book still sells better. In fact, it’s better to have some negatives–readers mistrust books that have only favorable reviews.

In her MySpace blog, author Deb Baker discussed the importance of her reviews, and issued an appeal for more of them. She’s right on the money. When it comes to reviews in today’s online marketplace, volume counts.

So, I’m thinking we should join together and become an army of critics. We could post reviews of all the books we’ve read to get the numbers up. Or we could find a midlist writer who has, say, only 9 reviews, and bump him into the double digits (the threshold for boosting sales).  It doesn’t matter if you liked the book or not. Just post your review.  It would be our own version of crowdsource marketing.

Do you like to post reviews, and do you think writers should post reviews about other books online? Have online reviews played a role in your book’s success? – Kathryn Lilley Cheng (2/23/2010)

 

  1. How do you handle reviews and feedback?
  2. How do you think you should handle reviews and feedback?
  3. Any other comments on reviews and feedback?
  4. What do you think about Kathryn’s “army of critics” – “crowdsource marketing?” I’m ready to join. How about you?

Reader Friday – PANIC!

Sorry for the late post this morning. So, let’s talk about PANIC today. There was certainly some of that coursing through my system this morning. I always experience a bit of panic at the end of the fall season, before winter, when I think of all I have to get done, and not enough time to accomplish it.

  1. What (in your nonwriting life) are your most common panic triggers?
  2. Do you use that emotion when writing about panic?
  3. What is your favorite book that set off the PANIC alarms, and kept you reading, or kept you from sleeping?