Archive for writing

The Brilliant Banner for Writers…if I say so myself.

Posted in Books, My Opinion, Novel Process, Writing with tags , , , , , , on April 17, 2015 by tgmreynolds

Most writers I know are on a limited budget for advertising and promotion, especially the self-published ones. Even the writers with traditional publishers may have to foot the bill for some or all promotional supplies.

I, myself, am both self-published (4 books) and traditionally published. When I’ve done book signings in the past I had some nicely done 8×10 covers in frames on the table, with teasers about the book and even reviews. It looked well and good and…cheesy. At multiple-author events, the authors who got the most attention (and often the most sales) had a LARGE presence in the form of a banner.

Banners are great for signings, readings, and trade shows. The problem is that many authors have multiple books they need to promote, though seldom all at the same time. They might have a signing for their YA novel tomorrow, then a reading for their sci fi opus on Sunday, and have a table set up at World Fantasy Convention next week. You want your banner to promote your product, but that’s three products, which makes for three banners. Banners aren’t cheap. The stands can be reused, but a banner for each book gets prohibitively expensive.

My solution? An adaptable, multi-use banner.

STEP ONE: Design a banner that covers as many of your bases as possible, without using any specific titles. This is the hardest step. Many of you will want to get your banner professionally designed. I have a background in graphics, so I did my own.

My author banner. 30" x 72"

My author banner. 30″ x 72″

Here’s mine. It’s 30″ x 72″. I’ve cropped off the bottom because it’s not important right now. If you can’t read what it says, here it is:

“Timothy Reynolds. Spinner of Tales, Fabricator of Fictions, Twister of History. ‘Canada’s Modern-Day Aesop’ ~ Barbara Budd, CBC Radio.

That’s my name, a catchy/cute way of saying what I do, and the best promo quote I have. It also has my author photo, a moon with a bloody screaming face, and a generic city scape at night…to add atmosphere. Much of what I write has a dark element to it, so this is not a light and fluffy smiles-and-puppies banner.

There’s no publisher name at all. Not even my own company. Why? Because if I put Cometcatcher Press on it, then I can’t use it when I’m promoting “When Anastasia Laughs”, which will be published by Tyche Books in 2016, or “Tesseracts Seventeen” from Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing, which contains my short story “Why Pete?”.

FoamCoreMounting

Covers as photographs mounted on foam core and laminated.

STEP TWO: Have your cover(s) reproduced as photographs, mounted on foam core and laminated for protection. Almost every film lab can do this for you. I use Western Canada’s best: London Drugs.

I had all four covers done as 5x7s. Why? Because 5x7s are lighter than 8x10s and will remain in place better.

MagneticTape

Magnetic Tape

STEP THREE: You will need magnetic tape. It’s available at Michael’s Arts & Crafts and 10′ costs less than $5. Cut two 5″ strips for each cover. Because the strips will maintain their shape from when they were on the roll, take the strips and place them on a flat surface, under a heavy weight, overnight. Once they are flat, they are ready to use.

A cover and the magnetic strips.

A cover and the magnetic strips.

STEP FOUR: Working on a clean surface, place a cover face down. Peel the backing off of the magnetic tape, and place two strips firmly on the back of the cover, centred left-to-right and down a bit from the top.

Peeling Magnet Paper Off

Peeling Magnet Paper Off

Place the magnetic tape on the back of the cover. Press firmly.

Place the magnetic tape on the back of the cover. Press firmly.

STEP FIVE: While the banner is hanging, place the cover where you want it to be, then place the second magnetic strip on the back of the banner, directly opposite the strip on the cover.

Magnetic strips in place on the back of the banner, holding the cover in place.

Magnetic strips in place on the back of the banner, holding the cover in place.

When it’s all done, you have a banner with one (or in this case, two) covers on display. You can do the same with the publisher’s logo and even a sign with the times you will be present. Other possibilities include: “Coming Soon”, “New York Times Bestseller”, or whatever your heart desires. Reviews, quotes, anything. All I suggest is to not overload the banner.

Two light-weight but sturdy covers magnetically attached to a banner.

Two light-weight but sturdy covers magnetically attached to a banner.

The foam core is very light weight, as is the magnetic tape. I had considered using adhesive Velcro, but then the banner couldn’t be rolled up smoothly. This method with the magnets allows complete removal of the artwork and for the banner to be rolled and stored indefinitely without damage being done to its surface or shape. For a stronger attachment, put magnetic tape near the bottom of the cover as well.

(NOTE: I’m still not sold on the white borders I put on the covers, but with a sharp blade I can remove them easily.)

STEP SIX: Get yourself a 6×8 Rubbermaid lunch box for storing the covers, a hard plastic tube for the banner, and you’re all set for your next signing.

MATERIALS: Magnetic Tape: $5. Banner on heavy outdoor vinyl: $63 & Stand (includes carrying bag): $40 (both from Vistaprint), Plastic banner tube $21 from a local Digital Post store. BTW, VistaPrint is always having sales, so set up an account, do the design work, and wait. They will send you an email shortly with the latest sale. You can save anywhere from $10 to 33% of your entire order. Their online design & preview kicks ass, too.

Note: in some of the photos above you can see what look like creases on the banner. It was damaged in shipping. I called VistaPrint and explained the situation. Without seeing photos or getting witness statements, they immediately ordered a new one and it was shipped out the next day. It should arrive here next week. Their customer service is second-to-none.

I hope this gives you some ideas and inspires you to get out there and promote your writing with a professional presence. Other things to help are bookmarks with the cover, where to buy it, and your website URL. If you don’t have your own website…GET ONE!

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

The Porn of Writing

Posted in Books, My Opinion, love it or leave it, Novel Process, The Novel Process, Writing with tags , , , , , , on February 21, 2013 by tgmreynolds

Good evening.

I have found that writing stories both short and long is such an intimate activity, where we delve into our own souls and the world around us to find the depth and meaning which will give our characters and tales life and spark the imaginations of our readers, that I’ve started a blog about the whole story-writing process. It’s writing through a steamy lens, but still G rated. It’s less a manual and more an homage to our moments of creation.

fiftyshadesoftgrey.wordpress.com


This week it’s CHARACTER.  

For those who missed it, last week was the IDEA.

Coming Soon: The Menage-a-Plot, Straddling the Setting, Tying Down Conflict, Resisting Resolution.
Enjoy.

Cheers,

T Bone
(Tim G. Reynolds/TGrey)

www.tgmreynolds.com

Tim Reynolds`writing tools

The Writing Tools of Tim Reynolds

Write or don’t write… there is no ‘try’.

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it, Writing with tags , , , , on September 20, 2012 by tgmreynolds

One of the many topics our writing group beats about the head and shoulders with a verbal stick is which short story markets to write for. Paying? Non-paying? Established? Newbie? Electronic only? Print only?

My opinion is simple: Writing short stories only for paying markets is like making only movies that will win Oscars or singing only songs that will be on a commercial album. A waste of time. Write because you have a story to tell, not a story to sell.

The Shelf of Tim Reynolds

My digitally-rendered bookshelf, including mock covers for a couple ePub-only sales.

“What if I write a great story and give it to a no-pay market when I could have been patient and sold it to a major market?” So what. Write another one. In the past year I have written 18 short stories and two poems, so I’m not particularly sympathetic when someone whines about where to sell their one short story. If your story sold to a small market but you want to sell to a major market (one which pays pro rates or anything at all), then write another story. Then write another one. And another one. Don’t stop writing and don’t stop submitting.

Another reason to keep writing short after short is that it’s highly unlikely that the first story out of your head will be the best thing you EVER write. Most writers get better when they write more. When I look at what I wrote a year ago compared to now, eighteen stories later, I can see a difference, a level of polish developed in twelve months.

Make each story a little different, a little better than the last one, and write a lot. I get sad when I speak to writers who have one or two short stories that they have been working on and polishing for a year or two (or more!) and never submit anywhere. Write the best story you can, have someone with experience critique it, do your revisions, then submit it. While the editors are looking at it, start the next story. Create new characters to fall in love with and keep the ball rolling. Personally, I have no time to stress over what an editor might say because I have at least one short story and two novels on the go at all times. At least.

If you want to call yourself a writer, at some point you have to gather all of your research, brainstorming notes, and brilliant ideas, and write. It doesn’t even have to be good. That’s one of the biggest mistakes rookie writers make — thinking that what they write must be good. They’re dead wrong. It just has to be written. It’s in the proofreading, revising, and editing that the greatness comes out.

Write crap then revise brilliantly.

The more you write, though, the better your first drafts will get and soon you won’t be writing crap and revising/editing won’t be so tedious. Writing is a craft. Or a sport. Tiger Woods did not walk out onto a golf course and win his first championship without hitting bucket after bucket of balls with his dad. There’s a reason there are driving ranges and batting cages and backyard ice rinks. Skill comes from repetition. Anyone can throw a football. Whether it’s 50 yards or 5 inches, it’s thrown, by definition. But to go from 5 inches of a floppy toss at age 2 to pin-point accuracy in the rain with four three-hundred-pounders of the Packers D-Line bearing down on you… that takes throwing and throwing and throwing. Years of practice and more bruises than you can count.

Writing is the same. If your stories suck, don’t stop writing, just stop showing your work to other people until you think it’s ready. Write. Write. Write more. Then, dammit, write until your brain wants to explode from the sheer magnitude of the ideas busting to get out. It will happen.

Do I guarantee it? No. But I can guarantee one thing: You will never be a great writer if you don’t write.

That’s it, that’s all folks.

Ciao for now.

T-Bone.

Shanghai Steam (a Wuxia Steam Punk anthology)

Posted in Books, Short Fiction with tags , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2012 by tgmreynolds
Shanghai Steam from Absolute Xpress

Shanghai Steam, due October 2012.

From my blurb on the Shanghai Steam Facebook Page:

By blending actual martial arts with the mythical and science-fictional, and then setting it all in a real place in a specific time, I tried to make ‘The Ability of Lightness’ feel like a true story that no one had told before. From the research into tai chi movements, to the Chinese calendar for that exact year, to the layout of Galden Namgey Lahtse monastery, I wanted the story to not just entertain the average reader, but to ring true with anyone familiar with t’ai chi or even the monastery itself. Of course, the dragon cave and the dragon are fictional, but a reader should be able to use my story to actually find their way through some of the monastery, or even replicate the motions Yu makes as he’s practicing his t’ai chi. As for developing the ability of lightness, we all have the capability, if we just reach deep down inside ourselves…”

That’s it, that’s all. More to come later, I suppose.

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

End the Glorifying of Serial/Fame Killers

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2012 by tgmreynolds

RANT & Rhetorical Question TIME: Does knowing about horrific crimes deter us from committing anything similar? Or does it just titillate and entertain us? 

What if there was an immediate publication ban on the names of all fame/serial killers so that they can’t achieve ANY degree of fame or infamy. We don’t learn from past mistakes so why glorify them? 

Give the f**kers a numerical code, not cool monickers (Hillside Strangler) or ANY photos. 

For every sick, twisted, murdering freak loving the press and attention, there are dozens more already trying to figure out how they can do one better. Bundy, Gacey, Dahlmer, Berkowitz… if we didn’t even know their names people couldn’t identify with them and perpetuate their infamy. 

How many people would follow the story of a serial killer and his trial if the details were limited to “Some guy killed some people and will probably not be put in general population in prison because he has still has rights he gave up when he took another life”?

And not just ban the publication of the names and details, but make the penalties for doing so so steep that a publication couldn’t afford to violate the rule.

Yah, I hear you now chanting “Freedom of the Press!”, “Freedom of Information”, “The people have a right to know!” “You can’t tell us what we can and can’t know!” “That’s censorship!”

You say that now, but I bet if any of you lost a family member to serial/fame-killer(s) you’d change your tune. Have I? Of course not. I don’t need to feel the pain first hand to recognize that a serious-ass problem exists and everyone of you who repeat a name or read an article are part of the problem. 

Evil doesn’t create these beasts, WE do. 

(Rant done. Back to writing about fictional societies that are even more broken than our own.)

 

Ciao for now,

T-Bone.

PornStar Cleaning?! Where this writer gets his ideas…

Posted in Books Books Books, My Opinion, love it or leave it, Short Fiction, The Novel Process with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2012 by tgmreynolds

“Where do you get your ideas?”

“What’s going on inside that head of yours?”

“Have you considered getting therapy?”

Time to answer at least the first question, which in turn might give up some insights into the second. No comment on the third.

“Where do you get your ideas?” is a question every published writer hears at least once. The more we get published, the more we hear it. The question can be asked, but can it actually be answered?

Of course. I can answer it for me, quite easily. But that’s not the question that’s really being asked. What’s really being asked is “Where can I get ideas like yours?”. Read that, too, as “Teach me to find ideas the way you do. Please and thank you.”

I can’t. Sorry. I can only tell you what I do, how I go about it all, and then you have to extrapolate the tidbits that fit your personality, your way of thinking and doing.I know for a fact that sometimes the way I think totally escapes the understanding of some people, and by ‘some people’, I mean my wife, Sue. 🙂

So, what do I do?

Well, I’m a big fan of “What If?” I see something: an object, a scene, a person, a word… and I ask myself, “what if…?” I once saw a Schnauser (dog) having its way with a Siamese (cat). I asked myself what their offspring be? (The answer became a short-lived, very off-colour joke in my comedy routine. Someday it may make it into one of my stories, but not yet.

Next: a man with MS moved slowly along the sidewalk, every step taking effort and concentration. My father had MS but his symptoms never manifested themselves like this stranger’s did so I asked myself “What if… I inherited MS from my father and it didn’t show up until now, when I’m in my fifties?” Then I asked “What if I wrote about a hero with late-onset MS who not only had to deal with this new illness but still save the world?”

Working cover for unpublished novel.

Then I asked “What if, when this hero died, when he failed at the task he was given, thousands of others died, too?” And I finally asked myself “What is the task that this MS-dealing, fifty-year-old hero is given that is so damned important to mankind?” The answer became my as-yet-unpublished novel, The Broken Shield.

“What if…?” should also lead you to opposites, and just so we’re clear, “What if…?” can also be “Who would…?” “Where would…?” “When would…?” “Why would…?” or “How could…?”. Write the answer to your first ‘What if…?” in the middle of a piece of paper. Let’s start with “Who would drive a vehicle off a bridge?” Write some possible answers: a parent, a police officer, a motorcyclist, a cab driver, a bus driver. Ooo… a bus driver.

Now I ask “What if it was a bus driver and everyone on the bus dies?” Answers might include “he burns in Hell”, “he becomes a ghost”, “he’s a hero”, “he’s brought back to life and suffers hauntings at the ghostly hands of his victims”. Hmmm… interesting choices. Let’s pick the oddest one, the hardest one to imagine… he kills everyone and he’s seen as a hero.

A hero? A bus driver kills all his passengers and he’s a hero? Bullsh*t. Can’t make it work. No? “What if the passengers were all pedophiles?” Nope, it’s still murder even if it’s what they deserve, and rest assured that not everyone will agree that this is the meaning of justice. Some say that justice belongs only in the hands of the courts or God, and many say not even the courts have the right to judge.

“What if they were aliens?” Nope. Even ET has rights. Okay, but we’re on to something here. “What if they’re not human?” Aliens are out, at least without rewriting “Alien” and it’s many sequels. Veloceraptors might work, but it’s just a re-imagining of a Jurassic Park-type tale. “What if they were…. demons!” Of course! No one sympathizes with demons. Well, almost no one. But reviewers are highly unlikely to vilify you for destroying demons, are they?

Okay, so far we’ve got a bus driver who drives his bus off a bridge and kills all his demonic passengers. Interesting idea. Now, “Why are they on the bus?” “What about the rest of the passengers?” “Where are they?” “Where are they going?” “Are they disguised?” “How does he know they’re demons?”

Answering these questions leads us to things like: “they’re on the way to a convention”, “they’re the only passengers” Why? “Because they hired the bus and the driver.” “They’re going to feed on souls.” Souls? “The souls of children.” Where? “In a school.” (Boring!) “In an orphanage” (A bit better). Wait… orphans? That’s an interesting direction. Let’s explore it a bit more. No one will miss orphans so they’re perfect targets for demons. But won’t an empty orphanage raise questions? Not if the orphans are outside the system. Maybe they’re… victims of a disaster.

And that’s where my short story Shut Up & Drive came from. I asked “What if…?” and “How could…?” and I ended up with a story of Juan, a bus driver who is hired to drive a load of disguised demons into earthquake-ravaged Chile so they can feed on the souls of children orphaned by the disaster. Juan can see them because he once died in a plane crash that killed his own family, but he was revived and can now see and hear things the rest of us can’t. You might be able to guess how the story ends, but when you started reading this article did you think a bus driver who kills his passengers could be seen as a hero? Read “Shut Up & Drive” when it comes out in the disaster-relief fundraising horror disaster anthology from HorrorAddicts.net this fall.

“What if…?” Hard to ask, harder to answer, but well worth the pain.

Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the tough questions. “What if my hero was not just a crime scene investigator, but a serial killer as well?” His name would be Dexter and he’d have a TV show.

“I’m a man but what if my hero was a woman?” Or vice versa, obviously.

“What if my hero was a gay woman?” “A transgender person?” “A trans-species person?” (formerly a chimp or an alligator?)

“What if my hero travels in time but gets stuck? Stuck in other peoples’ bodies and times?” Sounds like Quantum Leap to me.

Don’t forget the little questions, too. “What if my hero is a slob?” “What if he never washes dishes and just uses paper plates?” “What if he only gets take-out?” “What if he is a crime scene cleaner who gets paid an obscene amount of money but can’t stand the smell of PineSol so he never cleans at home?” The little questions can lead to big ones or just small, character-defining ones.

Sometimes an idea pops into the head fully-formed and ready to write. I have a novel that came to me in a dream, but it was only 80% formed. The other 20% came from asking questions like “Who is this famous ghost?” “Where would my hero run away to?” “Who would he run away from?” “How did they fall in love?” “How can I make this story different from the movie Ghost?”, and then sifting through the long list of answers.

For this whole process to work, you must overcome fear. Fear? Fear of an idea sounding stupid. (No one wants to read about a photographer who snaps pictures of covered bridges in Madison County!)  Fear of facing your fears. Fear that you’re a bad person if you come up with a strange, dark, twisted idea that makes readers scream and run for cover. (I can’t write about a killer clown/demon/thingy… people will think I’m strange and broken and need help!)

So, look at the world around you and ask “What if…?” What if my Yorkshire Terrier was the size of a black bear? What if my cat could speak fluent French but I only spoke a little? What if the clock I got from my mother-in-law only ran backwards when she was visiting? What if I really want to be a writer but I don’t know where to get ideas?

That’s how I do it. I look and see and ask. I drive around the city and let things seep into my brain. Sometimes the fun even comes from misinterpretation. My eyes saw a sign for ProStar Cleaners. The first time past my brain read “Prostate Cleaners”. Oooh! Gross! The second time it read “PornStar Cleaners”. Now THAT has some story potential.

Have fun, let your imagination off its leash and see where it runs to. If it runs too far, don’t worry, it’ll always run home again, eventually, and you’ll get a kick out of the stuff that it’s dragged home when it barks at your door. Is that a dinosaur bone Titan is chewing on? Cool…

That’s it, that’s all. Go imagine something cool. You have it in you to do it, I know you do.

Ciao for now.

T-Bone.

Writers and Editors

Posted in My Opinion, love it or leave it with tags , , , , , , , on January 21, 2012 by tgmreynolds

The hardest part about being a writer isn’t the writing (or it shouldn’t be), but rather the waiting for an editor to say “I LOVE IT!” or “Thank you sir/madam for your submission but your story/novel/haiku is not the right fit for us.”
To hell with instant gratification, I prefer instant REJECTION. Waiting to be rejected?! That’s nuts!

Yes, editors are busy, and yes, all submissions must be received before decisions are made so that the best COLLECTION can be created. I understand all that. I was an editor, too. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. 🙂

***

What I hope all the submission editors I contact understand is that a story may be my baby, but I’m not adverse to editor-suggested surgery to make my baby a better fit.

Literary Liposuction for the drawn-out ending? DONE!

Bookish Botox to fill in the historical flavouring? DONE and DONE!

Adjective Implants to lift the prose above average? Hell yah!

A Motivation Manicure to give the tale a more refined touch? Just tell me where and when!

Point of View Nip & Tuck? What are we waiting for?!

Writers not willing to make refinements might just have an overinflated view of the value of their work. Of course editors wanting to take a Flowers For Algernon-type tale and make it a space opera with Einstein-the-ape and a world-eating turtle who gains and loses intelligence need to be… well… use your imagination.

Just my collected and typed thoughts for the day before I actually pretend to get down to the task of writing.

That’s it, that’s all.

Ciao for now,

Tim.