Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Writing Process Part 2

To plot or not to plot, that is the question.

I wrote Marquel with a plot and I'm writing the Marquel sequel with a full plot worked out. To write with a plot, you have characters who are predetermined with profiles and back stories.

St. Blair: Children of the Night was a concept in my mind, but not on paper. I wrote this book from my gut. I knew where I wanted to go, but I didn't know who was going along for the ride, meaning my characters and what they were going to do to derail or enhance the story.

To allow a story to unfold on the page, you sometimes are surprised by who shows up and what they intend to do with your lead.

I like both styles of writing, but realistically, I need to plot. I think it's because I learned this from my mentor, Harry Whittington. It took Harry years to learn to plot and once he did, he could write quickly and pump out books literally by the month! He was a full-time author.

Three quarters of the way through writing St. Blair, I had to plot. I had started the book as two parts allowing the story to develop on its own. Then I was advised to blend the two parts, so I did. But I was still wondering how I would get to to the end.

I so frustrated until Eston showed up. He is an important character who stayed away, didn't present himself for a long time! I was like, ok Eston, you should have come in much sooner, because now we have to back track.

Eston was one of the missing pieces of the puzzle. I needed him! For the longest time I was just hanging out with Sybille and Blair, wondering what was going to happen? They were equally looking to me for the same resolution.

If I had plotted St. Blair from the beginning, I know Eston would have been there. Characters aren't just whims, they are born to carry a story and they will push their way in one way or another.

I respect freestyle writing, I'm prone to dabble in the technique, but I want to have a road map, so I can get to where I am going without a lot of roadblocks.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Amazon and Hachette Debate

Amazon wants lower prices to make it affordable for readers to buy and read more. Hachette, as I understand, wants some rate integrity for their authors and to release ebooks at higher prices.

The debate as been compared to the pulp era when mass market paperbacks threatened the hardcover book industry. Publishers had to seek alternate distribution channels like dime stores to sell books, because traditional bookstores and publishers felt the paperback's lower price would kill their industry.

Having been mentored by pulp legend, Harry Whittington, I can tell you the world wouldn't be the place it is today without the mass market paperback.

The reality of the paperback sales the dime stores generated as excited readers went in to get their next installment of the authors they loved, no doubt grew more in store sales for a multitude of brands. Similar to what happens when a reader is on the Amazon site.

While Harry was an author for hire by publishers in his early years and had representation by agents, too. I'm sure Harry's agents likely might have agreed with Hachette's rate integrity concerns, but the Amazon argument is equally legitimate.

Authors want equal access to sell their stories and readers want to buy them at affordable prices. 

Sure, Harry would have wanted his representatives to make him more money, but if he thought his titles would be lost in the price wars, I don't think he would have agreed with some the pricing strategies that are being debated.

Where do we draw the line on progress?

Amazon, like other bookseller sites make it possible for all authors to get their work released in the same marketplace in the ebook age. 

Even agented authors are taking control of some of their ebook rights and publishing specific works on their own. They don't want to be controlled, but read. Their agents don't agree about crossing genre lines or publishing shorter works, yet authors do.

Agents are good marketers, no doubt. They know how to bring a client to market and the investment needs to pay off. The pricing has more do to with how long the title will trend or even get on the radar. Will a book breakeven?

Markdowns on books happen everywhere. I respect Hachette's rate integrity concerns, as I do Amazon's broad sales approach.

I think the greater concern should be protecting the digital platforms and the writers who fill the pipeline. The add-on revenue streams from other products, ad sales, cross-promotions, films and merchandise that spinoff from book sales are where the growth opportunities are for everyone vs. demanding more from readers who may be financially challenged.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Writing Process Part 1

Most readers want to understand how a writer develops a story and where their characters come from.

For me, the story comes in an aha moment. Something will trigger a feeling or circumstance that plants the seed. With my novel "Marquel," the idea hit me in a moment of sadness. I was very burned out over many things in my personal life and just tired of trying to fix things that were out of my control.

I remember very distinctly that my husband was in the living room watching t.v. and our daughter Marquel was in bed asleep in her room. She was 4. As I was crossing through the dark hallway next to Marquel's room, the character Marquel appeared in my thoughts. She just overwhelmed me with grief.

That was the aha moment.

I wasn't even thinking about writing. I just remember feeling this woman's pain. As I entered our dark bedroom, I didn't turn on the light. I just sat on the edge of the bed and turned to lie down. As my body was in motion to recline, I saw the story flashing through my head like rapid fire flipcards and by the time my shoulders and head hit the pillow I was overwhelmed with the movie I had watched in seconds.

I was so amazed that I sat up in a nervous excitement and grasped for some scrap of paper and a pen.  That is also common for me. I write on envelope, scraps, magazine covers, napkins, anything. And I started making notes in the dark. I wasn't about to waste a minute, I didn't want to forget something. I thought about telling my husband, but I knew he wouldn't understand. So I scribbled key words to remind me of different points I wanted to remember.

I felt I gave birth to the character Marquel that evening. She was in my head and wanted me to get her story on paper. This was the beginning of the fulfillment of a goal I made at age 15.  I said I would have a daughter Marquel and that I'd write book about a character Marquel.

While my daughter was in the next room sleeping, her namesake was pushing her way out into the world through my pen.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Great writing moments

A funny text I sent my daughter after a long night of writing. I was obviously half asleep when I wrote the text to Blair.

Friday, June 20, 2014

15-year-olds unite!

    So I was on the Southern Literary Trail site (I say "so" way too much) looking for places to go in Florida and discovered we must be an island, because it seems we've been cut off the Southern trail?
I need to have a talk with these people! We've got authors as well as sand, sharks, attractions and alligators. We deserve to be recognized! Can I get a witness?

   Anyway, as I was looking around and I found this quote from one of my favorite authors. Actually,  Margaret (Gone With The Wind) Mitchell is my favorite. I discover we have a writer's bond that begun when we were 15.

     At 15 she wanted to do great things. At 15 I wanted to do great things! Do you see where this is going?  Mine weren't as noble as hers, but I set a goal to have a daughter named Marquel and write a book with that title. I have done that. She set out to be a writer and she wrote a phonebook of a novel (For millennials who don't use phonebooks, that means a thick novel). I also had a daughter named Blair and titled a book after her, St. Blair: Children of the Night. Together my novels don't have as many words as GWTW. But that doesn't change the fact that Margaret and I were amazingly determined 15-year-olds. Right?

    Now, I'm no Margaret Mitchell, but I am hoping to be the Susan Boyle of Writing (she's the Britain's Got Talent winner). I will be the United States Late Bloomer Overnight Author Sensation! I picked it, people. The United States Late Bloomer Overnight Author Sensation, soon. Very soon. You can't take it. Make up your own status. No copying. I already have the ability to make this happen! Remember, the 15-year-old me? I got this down.

   This will also be timed with the discovery of our amazingly talented daughters. Look around the blog, people. My kids are plastered all over. Share their story. Grow the vision. I need to get on with the U.S. Overnight Sensation thing so I can live the dream. Late Bloomer means now, I'm not any getting younger.

    While I am at it, I will manifest that my husband get a great role in a commercial with the Dos Equis guy. The Most-Uninteresting-Man-in-the-World meets The-Most-Interesting-Man-in-the-World. Whoa, I sound like Chris Jenner booking everyone in house. Slow down, film mom.

  Just kidding, Tom. Tom is my husband. It's a commercial, Tom, not real life. But I know you just want to drink a Dos Equis with the Dos Equis guy. We'll go for that. Or a Depends commercial. What? It pays!

   Sorry I took that break to talk with Tom, so if you want to see any great Southern Literary landmarks go to the site listed below and tell them I sent you. Also, tell them to have some respect for Florida! Because the United States Late Bloomer Overnight Author Sensation Emily Skinner resides there!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Literary Capital of Alabama

    My husband and I went to Monroeville, Alabama a few weeks ago to see the seasonal amateur play, "To Kill A Mockingbird" in Harper Lee's hometown. The townspeople of Monroeville put on the show for 8 weeks in the springtime.
   Act 1 (weather permitting) is outside with a stage of small of 3 little homes that represent Boo Radley's, the Finches and 2 other neighbors. The 2nd Act is performed in the courthouse (where Lee's father tried cases) and 12 white men from the audience are selected to sit in the jury seats.
    What is truly amazing about the production is the dedication the whole town shares in representing the heart of the famous author's Pulitzer masterpiece. These untrained actors own their roles. They say that vile "n" word the way the novel depicts. Both casually and accusingly. The way the south did.
    I have to say, the show will make you very uncomfortable about this period in U.S. history or it should. Well, it made me uncomfortable.
    To think that racially-demeaning-societal-acceptance even existed in this country is well worth the reminder. The story takes place in the 30s, but I remember the 60's as not too different from Mockingbird.
    But I came to Monroeville as a writer looking for inspiration. I wanted to understand the place where Harper Lee and Truman Capote grew up. Where Harper (Scout) and Truman (Dill) lived and developed their passion to tell stories.
    Once you tour the courthouse museum that displays their story in the times leading up and during their famed years, you'll fall in love with this special place.
    Capote is represented, but perhaps still needs some serious fans to push for his place in the city. Maybe a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" play in the winter months? A professional troupe that can entertain the locals and the out-of-towners?
    Monroeville has two stand out eateries that we tried, David's Catfish House and Prop and Gavel and has plenty of space for a small Truman Capote coffee shop or writing room. Something.
    The museum runs the video of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" in the courthouse gift shop, but they were discontinuing the Capote shirts due to a lack of sales. I personally expressed desire for more Capote. I realize maybe they wouldn't want to have "In Cold Blood" t-shirts and who knows what the licensing is for Audrey Hepburn's image as Holly Golightly, but I would have spent more on Truman goods. I really admire the diversity of his work.
    Regardless of the commercial appeal of souvenirs, I loved every minute in the museum and walking the square and just knowing I was born in the state that claims these literary giants as their own.


Act 1 Stage Outside the Monroeville Courthouse

Statute of of Scout, reading her story

Boo Radley's tree mail. LOL

Mail box marking the 50th anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird

Exterior of courthouse where Harper Lee's father tried cases. It is now the Monroeville Museum

Inside the courthouse where Act 2 of To Kill A Mockingbird takes place

Truman Capote is featured in the museum. He started writing as a child.

Storyboards from the film

More about the film

The town has a landmark for Truman Capote

In the town square

Monday, May 12, 2014

Alert the media

So proud of our daughter, Blair Skinner!

Here is an article about her web series Stand Up Girls Show in Backstage Magazine!

Being a Film Festival Sponsor

   Sunscreen Film Festival has been instrumental in helping our daughters' in multiple ways, so
I figured what better place to promote a Hollywood novel, than a film festival.

   The "Marquel" book trailer screened before most film blocks with a few exceptions. It was a real honor to been seen. I am so late in the game promoting my book that I'm trying to think outside the bookstore and library and just be creative. Bringing my novel to potential readers in unlikely venues is my new goal.

   I am still amazed that Eric Roberts portrayed my character, Zach Manning. I am also so proud of our youngest daughter, Blair, who directed Roberts and her sister, Marquel in the book trailer.

    Just a few photos of the the book trailer shoot.

Marquel Skinner, Eric Roberts, Blair Skinner


Marquel on ID Channel show Blood Relatives

Marquel was on a recent episode of the ID Discovery Channel's Blood Relatives.

She also appeared in their promotions for another show last year, Redrum.

This time Marquel was on an hour-long episode playing an upstanding Christian woman who was suspected, along with other family members, of murdering her husband.

Here are some photos from the show.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The books have arrived!

So excited to share with those who voted for the print cover on Facebook.

Thanks to all who have been so kind to read, review and stay in touch!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

I will see you at Sunscreen Film Festival!

I will be signing copies of my Hollywood novel Marquel at the Sunscreen Film Festival - time to be determined the weekend of May 1 to 4 at Muvico Baywalk in downtown St. Petersburg.
I chose to be a sponsor as they have been instrumental in helping both Blair Skinner and Marquel Skinner with their careers.
Blair met Brunson Green, the producer of "The Help" at Sunscreen and that was before he landed the producer role. He was a just another filmmaker. She did the followup and kept in touch and that's how she got started.
Marquel attended a workshop that the casting director for Twilight (forgive me for not knowing the name) held at Sunscreen and that led to her theater work, then TV/film.
And both Marquel and Blair had web series that screened at last year's festival in California.
So why not have "the film mom" screen her booktrailer that Blair directed and Marquel starred in along with Eric Roberts at the festival that got her daughters off to a great start!
I figured a Hollywood novel would be fitting for a film festival audience.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Visiting Cross Creek

On our Spring Break we went to the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings house and grounds and discovered The Yearling Restaurant nearby.

 It was really special to take the tour and learn about the other writers Rawlings entertained there. To think that Zora.Neale Hurston, Robert Frost, F. Scott Fitzgerald and more were her guests and she stayed true to her modest life.

We have now been to 3 major author's homesteads/hometown tours in Florida. Rawling, Hurston and Hemingway and more importantly, my mentor Harry Whittington's home. I really want a landmark for Harry on Indian Rocks Beach.

 The Yearling Restaurant is a few blocks from the Rawlings home and opened in 1952. They make a buttermilk pie that is yummy!

It is a big place. It would be great for a writers event, etc. They have a blues musician performing at the front of restaurant and the other side has a rustic river motif.

I posted a few pictures below.



Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Naming books after my daughters

Blair with my iPad version of ebook
St. Blair: Children of the Night

Marquel with my first novel
Print Version of Marquel
   When I was 15, I started coming up with names for my future children. At the same time I was also reading romance novels. It seemed that most of what I read then were gothic or historical romances. I was also enchanted by the show Dark Shadows and it's Victorian vampire lead, Barnabas Collins. I don't know why, by I liked older men, then. You wouldn't believe it, but I had a major crush on Cesar Romero. Back then gray was distinguished, now it's just a reminder of the aging process and I'm no longer a fan of gray temples or gray. Sorry gray-haired people. 
   Anyway, I thought I would likely have nine children and I went from rhyming names to romantic names. The rhyming names were totally silly. Bunny, Kitty, Penny, Sunny and so on. Then I started taking names apart and combining them and also changing the first letter.
  I would take a name and go through the whole alphabet listening to how the new name would sound. So drop the R from Raquel and try it as Baquel, Caquel, Faquel... you get the idea.  Marquel is a variation of Raquel. When I hit Marquel I was totally amazed at the beauty of this French sounding name. I had never heard of it and I was sure I invented it.
  I figured at the very least I could accomplish having a daughter and naming her Marquel and writing a novel titled Marquel. I had no idea what her story would be, just that it would be a romance. Funny, I had no clue what I'd do if I had a boy?
   Now the books aren't about my daughters, but I was determined that now I would write and title my books with my kids' names.
   The intro to Marquel has more info about my working with my mentor Harry Whittington. However, it doesn't contain the moment at which I thought up the storyline for Marquel. I had been working with Harry Whittington and trying to get my writing mojo back years after having our daughter Marquel. She was just four at the time and we'd closed our children's store and I felt like a total failure. The business lost money and I, several years trying to build it. I was also in the thick of "trying" to help a very sick pulp legend complete a novel and  feeling totally inept.
   I was sad.
   I was more than sad, I was in a total funk. I remember walking into our bedroom, my husband was still up watching t.v. and Marquel was asleep. I was in the process of lying down, my back had not even touched the mattress when the basis of the novel flashed through my mind at lightning speed. It was like watching a movie in hyper-fast-forward. 
  As my head reached the pillow I was in a further state of sadness for the characters in the story, but also in absolute amazement by their story. I couldn't tell my husband Tom. He wouldn't understand. It's a relational thing I have with my characters. It's their secret to tell. I could not contain myself. I wanted to sleep but I had to jot some notes. I was afraid I would forget something, but I wouldn't.
   It was as though the character Marquel had been born that night and stayed close to me, awaiting a chance to be heard.
   The year before I was pregnant with Blair, I started working 2nd shift overtime as a proofreader. I had never been in a situation where I lived the opposite shift of my husband and child. A mental storyline began. I saw my co-workers more than my family. I spent long nights getting home at 3 a.m. and unwinding til 6 am and then going to bed. While I slept, my husband and Marquel were beginning their day. It's almost like being in a coma. You just sleep and wake up and everyone is gone. When we were in "rush" as it was called, there were weeks of overtime with no days off.
   Blair was my 2nd shift child. I was pregnant with her and working overtime the months I carried her and continued to work nights after I had a month maternity leave. It was my plan to become a stay-at-home Mom and write when Tom lost his job and became Mr. Mom.
   St. Blair: Children of the Night was cooking in my head for a long time. The overtime and demands of family squashed my writing drive. So I started a zine Bohemian Chronicle to publish other writers and get my hand back into the creative process.
  Bohemian Chronicle was soon receiving manuscripts from all over the world. We printed on a dot matrix printer and saddle-stapled the publication from our kitchen table. I wrote the publisher's letter each issue, but all the while, I was still working nights with plenty of overtime desperately trying to become a dayshift employee to be with the kids more.  I eventually moved into a sales job at the same company and found the dayshift a better fit with a set of new challenges. I had to learn how to sell and manage a book of business.
   The long departure from writing made me wonder if I was ever meant to be a full time or established writer. It wasn't until our daughters were grown and working in the film business that my novel Marquel was made into a booktrailer and their contacts interested in making a film. I finished the script for Marquel late 2013.
   As I wrote St. Blair, I was really obsessed with telling a story that would honor Blair. I couldn't produce something substandard with my kid's name on it.
  I prayed a lot while writing this novel and when I finally finished the final rewrite, a calm came over me that reassured me it was good enough. I published the ebook it on Nov 1, 2013 All Saint's Day. The print version and marketing materials are hopefully going to be ready early March 2014. The next books by the end of the year.