Sunday, January 29, 2012

Love the book, hate the title. Find another one.


I responded to a @HuffPostBooks piece, written by Randy Susan Meyers, about finding book titles that work.  The information on Huffington Post was very helpful and interesting, and I thought I’d share my response on this blog.

I had a title change just over a year ago, when my sixth YA fiction title "Aiden's Arrival: Honor Before Gold" gained the three extra words. It was likely a good idea, but at least it kept my original working title of Aiden's Arrival.

Now, I've just been going through this title problem again.  I received unasked-for feedback on a title for a book to be published in March.  The refrain, "Love the book, hate the title. Find another one," sounds just like what I heard.  At first, I resisted.  Strongly.  Very strongly. 

The working title for my new YA fiction book was important to me, as it identified the book better as the first of a series.  With one book completed and the second of four nearly written, I was certain that "Prince David, Book 1: Enter the Heir" was right.  However, after a great deal of discussion and convincing on the part of my editing team, I finally agreed that "Zac and the Reluctant Prince (Book 1 of the Prince David series)" was a better choice.  The outcome of that choice remains to be seen, of course, and I am gradually coming to terms with the new title.  After living with the working title for so long, learning to like the new one will take some time.

I think the lesson here is that it often takes a detached expert view to help us authors see the faults in our books, our titles, and our covers. We need to accept the suggestions, see the light, and accept what will help our books reach the most readers.  In the end, though, we'll never know until we see how it does (or doesn't).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Laura Dekker, 16-year old sailor, completes round-the-world journey


I have often written, in this blog, of empowering kids, and of real-life success stories of young people. Often, I've compared those real-life stories to some of my fiction stories, to talk about what young people are capable of. Occasionally, but fortunately not often, a reviewer of one of my books will complain that the characters are too young, and could not possibly do what I've had them doing.  Of course, I vehemently say that young people are way more capable than most of the adults around them think, and I write that into my books.

Now, I celebrate another real-life story.  Laura Dekker, a 16-year old Dutch/New Zealander (and there's a story behind that), has completed a round-the-world sailing journey.  

Laura maintained a blog, in which she vividly describes her experiences at sea.  She also describes her battles with the child protection authorities back in Holland, and about how those battles have left her with nightmares far worse than anything she anything she experienced battling the oceans of the world in Guppy, her 38-foot sailboat.

So, today, I cheer her success, and I’ll close by sharing with you the entry I left on her guestbook:

Laura: You have shown, a very real way, what young people are capable of.  As a sailor, I applaud your extraordinary achievement.  As an author of Young Adult fiction, I celebrate your perseverance, determination, tenacity and courage. A story better than anything I could write.  My sincere congratulations.



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Wilson James' answer to Why I Write


My books have been called inspiring.  I'd like to think they are also empowering.  But, why do I write them?  I first wrote the words below exactly 2 years ago, and I've come back to revisit that blog post because of a piece in HuffPostBooks about why famous authors write.   

In December 2009, I wrote: "I've had in my mind that I wanted and needed to write about my writing, so now I start. It is almost a year since I first published a book, and it's been an amazing ride. It was a big decision to start to publish, but I’m glad I made the choice. I will never forget the emotion that I felt the first time I held a printed copy of a book that I wrote. Since then, I’ve worked to get a number of my other books published.

In the past year, I have felt an even more astounding range of emotions as I consider that hundreds (now over 16,000 - Dec 2011) people have taken the trouble to purchase or download my stories. I suppose that humbled, excited, nervous, scared, thrilled and apprehensive are all emotions that have crossed my mind.

I got started writing simply because I wanted to get the stories from my head to a more permanent method of storage. Ever since I was a kid, I've had a bunch of story ideas rattling around in my head, but there they stayed. I experimented with writing a bit, and slowly did more and more, but it was about three years ago that I finally started writing in earnest. Sometimes, the ideas just pour out onto the computer screen, and at other times I can go weeks without writing anything new.

However it happens, I really enjoy the writing. I like creating characters and bringing them to life on the page. More importantly, I write for myself. I like Jesse Stuart's quote, “Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it.”

There is one other quote about writing that I like, and by Paul Theroux. “Fiction gives us a second chance that life denies us.”

Whether many people will like what I write, I don’t know, but I will continue writing what I want to write, for myself."

In April 2011, I posted these words:  "My books are about empowering youth.  
  • “If my stories help young people, by giving examples of kids persevering in difficult situations, then I will be very satisfied. 
  • If my stories help young people overcome their own challenges, and perhaps find some inspiration, then I will be happy. 
  • If my stories help young people find the tenacity and courage to succeed in their own lives, then I will be very pleased. 
  • If my stories help achieve some better understanding among friends and families, then I will consider myself fulfilled.” 
The ultimate reward for writing?  

“If even one young person finds some example in one of my books that he or she can use in their own life, then I will consider that every moment I spent writing those books was the best possible way to spend that time.”

Some of my successes in Young Adult fiction writing are:
  • A FAMILY LEGACY: THE WATSON WORKS -  made it into the second round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  A reviewer called it "Vivid Storytelling, Well Written," and said "I want to read more."  
  • PLAYING THE BASEBALL CARD - reviewed as a "Great Book, Very Inspiring" and "Seriously Good Writing," and well into the top 1% at Barnes and Noble for almost a year.

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Pictures of Lighthouses