Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Rules for Finding the Title to Your Story

Finding the title of your short story, novella or novel can be frustrating and difficult. 
It took me several months of trying to finally arrive at the title Seraphym Wars. There are certain guidelines that help and bloggers have suggestions all the time. So I’m going to throw in my two-cent’s worth.

  1. Look at titles from your genre in the bookstore and online (Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com). Jot down your favorites.

  1. Keep it short and simple – one to three words works best. You may use a subtitle, but it’s not a requirement.

  1. Create a list of as many titles as you can think of that relate to your story’s theme, genre, characters, plot, setting (especially if you world-built). Use a thesaurus.

  1. Survey family and friends to choose their favorite three titles from your list. Narrow the list and resurvey until you have about five to choose from.

  1. Make sure it relates to the genre of your story.

  1. Use the title in conversation. Create a title page. How does it look and sound? If you don’t like it, change it. (I went through about four titles)

  1. Create a mock-up book jacket. Place the title on the spine and front. How does it look? Try this with the other four until you find one that displays well.

  1. Try using this link but don’t rely completely on it; use your own judgment. 

  2. http://www.lulu.com/titlescorer/index.php (mine got a ‘22.9% chance of being a bestselling title!’ Which was the highest ANY of my suggestions got.)
What are some of the best titles you’ve come up with for stories?
What are some you came up with but didn’t use because they didn’t fit at the time?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Interview with YA/MG Author C.K. Volnek

Hi Everyone. C.K. Volnek here. I’m thrilled to be a part of Teen Word today. Rebecca has asked some great questions. This is just a little about me and my books.

Where did the concept for your current book come from?
I love a good ghost story and mystery, especially when the mystery is based on true events. When I read an article about the Lost Colony, where in 1587, 117 colonists disappeared without a trace, the story of Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island just seemed to come to life. There has been a lot of speculation as to what happened to those missing colonists but the mystery is still unsolved….

That is until my main character, twelve-year-old Jack Dahlgren moved to Roanoke Island and discovered that something evil is haunting his side of the island, something left over from the days of the first colonists. With the help of Manny, an Indian Shaman, and an elusive giant mastiff, Jack must discover what happened to the lost colonists and stop the evil, but can he do it before the evil stops him.
Want to know my version of what happened to the Lost Colony? Guess you’ll have to read Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island to find out.

How long have you been working on your latest book (concept to editing)?
The actual writing of Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island took about seven month. But I admit I labored about a year and a half in rewriting and editing it. Needless to say, Jack was getting a little impatient with me.

How many books do you have published?
Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island is my first novel being published by MuseItUp Publishing and will come out early fall, 2011. I also have two more that will follow soon after. The Secret of the Stones is a Merlin fantasy and is the first of a series titled The Lost Diaries of Northumberland and will debut in December 2011. A Horse Called Trouble is a tween horse story and will be published in April 2012.

Do you use the same publisher for all of your books, if multiples? Why or why not?
I feel like I have found a new home and wonderful large family at MuseItUp Publishing. Everyone is so helpful and encouraging. Being a fledgling published author, I think it is important to be close to those you trust and support you. I couldn’t ask for anything more from Lea and her staff at MuseItUp Publishing.

How many WIP (works in progress) do you have? Are any of them nearing submission?
Yes. My muse keeps me quite busy. I wish I could type as fast as she thinks. I think I will be busy writing for quite some time to come. As I said in a previously, I have the first of a series coming out. So I am in the throngs of book two now, The Secret of the Wood. I am also working on a YA about a young girl involved in a school bus accident. This is a fictional story, but based on a true story. Very emotional.

How is being an author different from what you thought it would be like? Up to this point, I have only focused on writing, which I still want and need to keep as a main focus. But now with three books coming up, I am challenged to learn everything I can about publicity and marketing. I have so much to learn!

When you decided to pursue publication, did you realize what marketing and promotion would entail?
No. It’s a whole new creative beast. But it’s fun. Web Pages, book trailers, twitter, facebook, my space, blogs... oh my. The authors at MuseItUp Publishing are so gracious to share what marketing has worked for them and how to do it. It’s definitely challenging.

If technology did not exist, would you still pursue writing and publishing?
My muse has been pestering for many years. I’ve written all kinds of things from medical newsletters, country western music newsletters, newspaper articles, and children’s stories. I even had a story published in Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul titled ‘Just Another Day.’ My muse won’t let me stop. I’d still be writing and seeking some kind of publication but I am happy that technology has made it easier for me.

Do you prefer publishing fifty years ago when the big houses ruled or today when eBooks and POD allow anyone to publish?
I guess I prefer today’s methods over published books from so many years ago. I admit, I’ve read some books today that I wasn’t crazy about, but then I think of one of my favorite quotes… ‘To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may mean the world.’ I believe this is true as well to each book. I think every book has a purpose and will mean something to someone.  

Do you think self-publishing demeans the title ‘author’? At what point can one consider oneself an ‘author’? How does that differ from being a ‘writer’?
I don’t feel it demeans the title ‘author’ at all. An author is someone who takes pride in their written word. And each person is looking for something different in that word. What I may like, is not what another will like. I’m just excited to see so many so passionate about the written word and feel blessed to be among those with published word to my credit.

If you’ve never written Non-Fiction, but your publisher requires it, what subject would you choose and why?
I think I would choose to write a biography. People are so interesting and even the most simple person has a wonderful story to tell. My dad was a very simple man but he taught me so many lessons in patience, perseverance and love. A biography would be an honor to write for someone such as this.

If you’ve never written a children’s picture book, would you consider doing so?
I have a couple of stories making the rounds in the children’s book arena. I love writing for children. It’s fun to create colorful characters and put them in situations a child can identify with. My story Naughty Noni, is a story about a young elephant that is jealous when a new baby elephant becomes more important she is. Something that almost every child will experience at some time or another.

If you’ve only written for children and teens, would you consider writing a mainstream fiction novel?
I would. I have given it some thought. It’s just that my muse has too many stories moving in the Tween and YA arena right now.

Do you have a job other than writing? What is it? Or are you retired from a career – what was it? Yes, I do have a full-time job. I work for a business organization as their computer manager/design artist. I’m really blessed to have a great job that allows me the opportunity to still go after my passion of writing, though sometimes I wish there were more hours to the day… or that I didn’t need to sleep or eat or clean house.

If you had to work at something else, would you rather have had a career as an author only and why?
I’ve always wanted to be an author. If I could have had the perfect life, it would have been to have had the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mother to my children and write, write, write. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do. I never lost total sight on my dream and feel blest to be able to go after it now.

If you have children and write, when do you find time and how do you manage it?
I didn’t have time when they were young. I have always worked full-time and between that and raising my children, it didn’t leave a lot of extra time. I did dabble, but was never able to sit down and write the novels I truly love to write. Until now…

How do you find time/manage writing while attending school or working full-time at another job?
I don’t think I could manage to find time to write  if I wasn’t a night-owl. There are too many other things demanding my attentions during daylight hours. I’m lucky my muse works best at night.

How does your spouse/significant other respond to the demands writing takes on your time, energy & finances?
 My hubby is pretty special. He supports my writing, without really fully understanding why I do it. But knowing that it’s what I love, he is happy to indulge me.
He’s an early bird and I’m a night owl. So we share our afternoons and early evenings. He understands when I start looking at the clock, that it’s his cue to go to bed. Then I write as late as I can or want.

Who was your greatest influence on your writing? Do they know it?
I don’t have just one great influence. I’ve had many teachers, family and friends that have taught me so much, offered kind words of support, encouragement, and brutal critiques that have only made me better. And I’m embarrassed to say they don’t know how I feel about them. I guess I need to work on that and make sure to pay homage to them.

What is your favorite genre of book to read? Has that influenced the genre you write?
I don’t think I have any one favorite genre. I’ve read YA, MG, PB and adult books that have moved me, made me laugh, made me cry, made me think. Books I’ve just plain enjoyed. That’s what I hope my stories accomplish… no matter what the genre.

What interferes with your muse and what do you do about that?
Life interferes with my muse. Chuckle. There’s always something to do, something with the kids, something with the garden, work, the phone, etc., etc., etc. So, I do most of my writing after 9:00 p.m. Since I’m a night-owl, it works great for me.

Where do you perform your best writing? Why?
For many years, my muse had to take the back seat to my family. I think she understood though she did get cranky from time to time with me. But about six years ago, after watching and encouraging my children to go after their dreams, they turned around and gave me my very own laptop to go after my dreams of writing my novels. Though the laptop was the present in the box, the true gift was their support and confidence in my writing. And with this gift, and the laptop, it freed me to be able to take my writing wherever I want. Since I write late into the night, my favorite place to entertain my muse is in my favorite, comfy chair in the family room. Notes and books litter the floor next to me and there is always at least one Papillon puppy lying on the ottoman next to me. (It gives the ego such a boost to feel the love they have for me, just wanting to be near me.)

What is your greatest fear about being an author? What about in life?
I think my greatest fear is that I won’t do my characters and stories justice. I feel I have a message with each book, whether it be just to entertain or to reach someone at the spiritual level. I just want my reader to be touched in some way, to help them become the person they are meant to be.

If you wrote a futuristic book, what might you invent for your future that doesn’t exist today?
I had to come back to this question. I had no idea what futuristic project I might think of. But your question later about what would happen if I couldn’t speak or type, gave me the answer. If I couldn’t speak or type, my muse would go crazy. I would have to invent a machine that would read my thoughts and put them on paper. There’s my story… a wild and crazy genius that develops this machine and all the trouble it would cause when everyone’s thoughts, good and bad, would be put into print. Utter chaos.

What even might you change from history if by writing it into a story it could happen?
That’s a tough one. There have been such terrible events happen… 9-11, Auschwitz, etc. All those innocent deaths. But I pray that those deaths have not been in vain. For instance, my inspirational YA book I’m working on is based on the true story of a local school bus crash that left three students and one parent dead. It was a horrible tragedy, but there were so many miracles that came out of it, stories of courage, of love, of support and community comradery that I do not feel these people died in vain. The ones that died saved others, physically, emotionally, spiritually. They helped those people become who they are today. Should I wish it didn’t happen? So those that were saved spiritually, weren’t? It’s a hard one to call.

Which of your books would you like to see made into a movie and who would star?  
Of the books I have finished, I can see Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island being a movie on the Sci-Fi channel. It’s a fun ghost story, creepy and edgy and even teaches some valuable lessons in forgiveness and tolerance based on real-life situations.
Of the books I’m working on, it would be the story about the bus-crash, titled The Three-O’Clock Hour. That one has the message I would love to share with the world.

If any character from any of your stories could come to life, which one would you recommend and why?
Since readers have not been able to meet any of my characters yet, I think I will save that question for later. I have some fun characters, some that grow in leaps and bounds, some that kids can really identify with, or others that I hope the reader will just want to root for. They have all been modeled after people I know… the good the bad, the accomplished, extroverts,  introverts, etc.. We all make great characters if we get down to the bones.

Using your initials, write the title to a book. (Rebecca Ryals Russell – Random Rude Remembrances) C K V – Custer’s Kissing Victory

What is your greatest fear about being an author? What about in life?
That is another toughy. As an author, I just want to tell my story and have my readers take a message away from it that can help them in their life, whether that message is to laugh more, to persevere, to not be afraid of challenges, etc. But I fear that some readers might misconstrue my stories and not accept them for what they are.
Acceptance is a big issue and one I write a lot about. I still struggle sometimes, even as an adult, with not being accepted. Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are, what they have to offer. They want to be loved and feel special. And it’s difficult to feel that when one feels shunned, excluded, or made fun of. Very difficult. That’s when you have to believe in yourself and look to the bigger picture.

What would happen if you lost the ability to type or speak?
Lose the ability to speak … it would be hard. I love to sing, and I can be a talker if I get on a subject I’m really crazy about. But I think I could handle losing that over the ability to type. My muse would go crazy if I didn’t have any way to get my stories out. If I lost both of them, I guess I would have to find someone to invent a machine that could capture my thoughts to paper. There’s my futuristic project. Smile.

Write a Twitter tweet about your next release. (140 characters)
Can Jack Dahlgren solve the mystery of the Lost Colony and destroy the evil haunting Roanoke Island, before the evil destroys him?

Write your own six-word memoir.  
C.K. Volnek – Celebrating Life Through Writing

Web page:  http://www.ckvolnek.com
Email:  ckvolnek@yahoo.com