Stephen King: My Favorite Teacher   ~ by Joan Hall Hovey

Joan with Stephen King

Joan with Stephen King

The year was 1984, a lovely summer’s day and I was sitting in the packed, buzzed audience waiting for Stephen King to appear.  To say I was excited is an understatement. Uncool? Totally. I’d bought my hardcover copy of his book Different Seasons for him to sign.  I wouldn’t be denied. I had all his books in hardcover – Carrie, Cycle of the Werewolf, Danse Macabre, Salem’s Lot –  there would be  many more to come. He was my hero in a time when I was already much too old to be star-struck.  I’ve read that it is mainly teenagers who are addicted to Stephen King’s work, and I was hardly that.  Though probably immature.  I’m at a much more more advanced age now and that hasn’t changed, and I hope it never does.  Stephen King was  the Elvis Presley of the literary world.

I hadn’t had a novel published yet; that was still a dream, floating somewhere above the horizon. But I’d written and published some articles and short stories, enough to make me eligible for a travel grant through the NB Arts Council to London, England to the writers workshop at Polytechnic Institution  on Marylebone Road, aptly across the street from Madam Tussauds wax museum.  Stephen King would be a panelist, along with authors P.D. James, Robert Parker and some others.  I was eager to hear all the celebrated authors, but I’d flown all this way from New Brunswick, Canada to see and hear Mr. King.

He came into the large room through the back door and I swear I knew the instant he did.  You couldn’t miss the rising buzz of the audience, of course, the shifting of bodies as people turned to look, but I also felt the change of energy in the air. On stage, Stephen King joked about his ‘big writing engine’ and I had heard (within my third eye – yes, it can hear) its power, its purr.   Or maybe there’s more to it.

As he talked to us about writing, he spoke about seeing with that third eye.  The eye of the imagination.  He told us to imagine a chair.  Then he said it was a blue chair.  I saw it clearer now.  He added the detail of a paint blister on the leg of the chair.  Now I saw it close up, with my zoom lens.  We hung on his every word.  He was funny and brilliant and entertaining, and we learned. Everything he said was not necessarily something brand new, but were reminders to pay close attention to details.  To always tell the truth in our writing.  I even got to ask a couple of questions.   And his answers to all our questions were thoughtful and insightful.   I try to pass along a few of those lessons to my own students.

Stephen King has been teaching creative writing to aspiring and even established writers for decades, long before his wonderful book On Writing came out.  Such a gift to writers that is, regardless of the genre you write in.   I am gushing.  I don’t mind. It’s true.

I have been fortunate to have had many highlights in my life –  an anniversary trip to Niagara Falls with my wonderful husband, the births of my children and grandchildren, great-grandchildren – a trip to the Bahamas with my eldest son – my own first novel published and several more after that – and I have to say that that workshop in London, England, where Stephen King spoke to us about writing, is right up there.  Thank you, Mr. King.

I want to leave you with a quote from an interview with contributing writing for the Atlantic, Jessica Lahey, published in The Atlantic,  Sept  2014.  She asked him if teaching was craft or art.

“It’s both,” he said.  “The best teachers are artists.

Stephen King is an artist on every level.   He tells the truth.  In his fiction.  And in his teachings.

~~

Joan Hall Hovey, Photo: Cindy Wilson/Telegraph-JournalIn addition to her critically acclaimed novels, Joan Hall Hovey’s articles and short stories have appeared in such diverse publications as The Toronto Star, Atlantic Advocate, Seek, Home Life Magazine, Mystery Scene, The New Brunswick Reader, Fredericton Gleaner, New Freeman and Kings County Record. Her short story Dark Reunion wasSONY DSC selected for the anthology investigating Women, Published by Simon & Pierre.

Ms. Hovey has held workshops and given talks at various schools and libraries in her area, including New Brunswick Community College, and taught a course in creative writing at the University of New Brunswick. For a number of years, she has been a tutor with Winghill School, a distance education school in Ottawa for aspiring writers. She is a member of the Writer’s Federation of New Brunswick, past regional Vice-President of Crime Writers of Canada and International Thriller Writers.

Website URL:  http://www.joanhallhovey.com

Facebook URL: https://www.facebook.com/joan.h.hovey

Twitter: https://twitter.com/joanhh

Why You Promote With a Long Tail by C. Hope Clark

2014-06-1316.56.56            A common reason authors use for not going with New York is how these publishers throw a book out in hopes fans will break down doors and stand in lines to buy the title. If such activity hasn’t happened in, say, two months, the title is forgotten as New York moves on to the next. They operate via a long-tail marketing approach that emphasizes big sales up front then a residual decline over time. It looks like this:

 

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Picture by Hay Kranen / PD

 

As a new novelist of a new release for a new series, I entered the publishing world afraid if I did not perform, my publisher would drop me like a hot coal. So I toured the country, hitting 26 events in nine states in nine months. Luckily I sold enough books to receive another contract. Rinse and repeat.

As I contacted the office yet again to insure books would arrive where I’d be, my publisher asked what the heck I was doing. Heart in my throat, I point blank confessed I fought to remain keep-able. As I almost cried in relief, I learned that most publishers these days, especially since smaller presses have gained such power and reach, prefer a long-tail approach to marketing their authors. I was familiar with the above method, but my publisher soon explained to me that this is the long-tail they prefer.

 

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Picture by Hay Kranen / PD

 

I could deal with this. As a matter of fact, I was more than familiar with this concept via my freelance brand FundsforWriters. As a freelancer, I’d entered the writing world with the goal to increase my image and notoriety over a period of time, one step at a time on a daily basis until people remembered who I was and told somebody else about me. In FundsforWriters’ 15 years of existence, my readership grew from a dozen to over forty thousand with that mindset, garnering ten thousand in five years. Writer’s Digest chose the site for its 101 Best Websites for Writers 14 times. Why couldn’t this day-to-day ritual work for my fiction?

I’d made a novice’s mistake thinking that mid- and small-sized presses functioned much the same as New York. Turns out they understand there’s more money to be made in continually putting an author out there one book at a time, one right after the other, until the name recognition catches on.

Word-of-mouth is a simple long-tail example. Blogging is another. Frankly, anything you can do promo-wise in this profession aids your long-tail advancement. So why do so many authors fail at becoming known and selling books?

 

They do not promote daily.

 

Why don’t writers keep their noses to the grindstone when it comes to promotion? Through conversations with my peers, I’ve learned the thoughts are:

  1. A big event (i.e., conference, signing, blog tour) goes a long way and warrants a reprieve.
  2. A couple of hard promo months allows time to coast.
  3. A peak in success means those fans are solid.
  4. If a reader buys one book, he’ll always buy the others.
  5. Hard promo should create immediate success or it’s not worth the trouble.
  6. Having been famous means you remain famous.

 

Promotion takes consistent drive to work and take you up that graph. Those who stop promoting, or do so only after a new book, or perform hit and miss efforts every few weeks, never gain serious ground. The gaps kill the momentum.

HopeOKsigning3Authors never reach a point they don’t have to market. Too many others never stop. The authors making daily splashes, over time, becomes the authors that pop up in a search or find themselves on a recommended reading list.

In my first mystery series, I struggled sliding my foot in the door of bookstores and libraries because I was a novice fiction writer. However, I continued on as if I had a strong HopeEdistoBookstoreSignanchor in this profession. I spoke in front of groups as small as two and blogged on many a site with no resulting comments. I spoke on radio shows where nobody called in. I ate lunch with potential readers, media people, librarians, and other authors every chance I could.  I handed out postcards and hung six foot banners where I appeared. I did not see immediate results from any of these efforts, but I kept telling myself that one day I might.

Today I can’t count the numerous situations where something I did, someplace I appeared, or someone I spoke to led me to a bigger opportunity from a meeting that occurred, weeks, months, even years earlier. A radio show led to a book club invitation which resulted in two banquet keynote addresses. A panel appearance led to a reporter taking my picture which triggered a women’s club asking me to be their keynote for a major event. An obscure book reviewer in an online magazine asked for a review copy, showed the review to a film agent who fell in love with the books and signed to represent them. A reporter saw me at a local country festival and asked for a feature interview in the newspaper. The same event landed Palmetto Poison as a book club selection of the month. A twitter announcement landed me another television interview. Never underestimate a connection, and never forget to put yourself out there somewhere on a daily basis.

To keep readers, feed them. Sure you wrote a great book five years ago, but what have you written lately? The long-tail approach works only if you keep pushing it forward, which means not only the daily promo but also producing new material to maintain your fans. You have to feed these hungry people. Otherwise they’ll starve and hate you for it, or find other source of food.

The point is, no matter how small the venue or effort, put yourself out there each and every day. No matter how big you once were or how hard you worked on one book, continue to produce works. This is a path that never ends, but the rewards of putting one foot in front of the other are joyous, rewarding, and satisfying beyond belief. Because you can’t see success on the horizon doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

 

BIO – Hope Clark is author of two mystery series published by Bell Bridge Books, The Carolina Slade Mysteries and the newest Edisto Island Mysteries. The first release in the new series is Murder on Edisto due out in September 2014. Hope is also editor of FundsforWriters.com, renowned throughout the industry for its resource information for writers, from crowdfunding to grants, contests to freelance markets, agents to publishers. She is frequently asked to appear at conferences and events, but lives on the banks of Lake Murray or visits Edisto Beach, both in beautiful South Carolina. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com

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Grey Dawn: A Dulcie Schwartz Feline Mystery By Clea Simon

Simon Clea Grey DawnGrey Dawn: A Dulcie Schwartz Feline Mystery

By Clea Simon

Severn House

June 2013000_Clea.glasses

Harvard Square on a late November night would not have seemed so ominously spooky had Harvard graduate student Dulcie Schwartz not been spending her evenings transcribing the haunting ghost story of a handwritten manuscript possibly written by the author central to Dulcie’s doctoral thesis.  However, the need to grade the student papers that she had forgotten in her office sends her back to the campus building and has her braving the lonely night and jumping at the sound that seems all to reminiscent of a wolf’s howl.  A startling confrontation with her advisor Martin Thorpe frightens her into a sprint home, a childish reaction that seems all too sensible when she learns the following day that a woman was attacked that night barely two blocks away and Thorpe denies ever having been present nearby.

Even more disconcerting is Dulcie’s discovery that the woman had red-hair like herself and eerily enough like the “flame-haired” character in the manuscript.  While Dulcie’s boyfriend Chris Sorenson attempts to reassure her she is extremely disturbed by the combination of her melodramatic mother’s prophetic warning to be wary of the wolf and the possible ghostly cautioning by Dulcie’s beloved cat Grey.  Grey may no longer live in this world but his protective spirit has never left Dulcie and continues to guide and appear whenever she needs him the most.

Simon perfectly combines gothic elements with an academic mystery to create a completely unique and compelling novel.  All of the characteristics of classic gothic mysteries that are present in the manuscript Dulcie studies come vividly to life in her own world, but she is comforted by the thoughts of her new kitten Esme and the always protective spirit of Grey.  Just as entertaining are the infighting and political machinations that exist in an Ivy League college and have her advisor’s position at risk to more popular academics with impressive published accreditations to their names.  The relaxed pace of the novel appropriately falls in line with a classic gothic novel and builds up to a surprising confrontation that threatens both Dulcie’s life and the work she is determined to complete.  This is a very unique mystery that blends aspects of gothic novels and academic mysteries and will please readers with affection for compassionate and protective animal companions.

There was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron

There was an Old WomanThere Was an Old Woman

by Hallie Ephron

ISBN: 978-0-06-211760-1

A William Morrow April 2013 release

304 pages

Reviewed by Carl Brookins

I could hardly put it down. Creepy, tension filled, elegantly crafted, filled with emotional turmoil and characters that seem to rise from the pages and sit beside you while you read. Not a mystery in the usual sense, not a novel of slam-bang adventure with bodies dropping on every other page. This elegantly crafted novel demonstrates a mastery of story-telling, of how to feed tidbits of information to the reader in a way that not only keeps one glued to the book, but step-by-step raises gut-wrenching questions of life and death and reality.

Somehow, Ephron has plumbed the dark recesses of the mind of an elderly woman named Mina Yetner. Independent still at ninety-one, and living in a small New York City neighborhood on the edge of a salt marsh, she’s sound of mind if physically frail and she’s determined to live out her life as she has always done, to the very end. Mina is a wonderful fresh character and readers shouldn’t be surprised if her voice comes, unbidden to mind while they turn the pages.

In this time of aging baby boomers, of rising concerns about privacy, rampant mortgage offers, retail development, and uncertain government, here is a universal crime novel that should be read by just about everybody on the planet.