K. M. Weiland gives us four interesting research tips when writing legal fiction. Thanks so much for the advice!
On television crime dramas, DNA comes back in three minutes, crimes are solved in less than forty-two minutes, and defendants always confess to everything right there on the stand in front of judge and jury.
While I can see the entertainment value in this type of show, I often want to hurl my remote at the television. Why? Because none of it is an accurate portrayal of the judicial system and how it works.
As someone who’s worked in the legal field for over two decades, it’s beyond frustrating.
When I got the idea to my ‘Council Of Twelve’ series, I considered doing some research, start with finding ‘experts.’ I talked to two people I considered experts: a nun and a monk.
Unfortunately, both were not as good as experts as I had hoped. The nun is an amazing, wonderful personality with a huge golden heart, selfless, helpful, pious – and an avid reader and a big fan of fantasy books. I could not ask even one of the many questions I had; she didn’t stop talking, telling me about all the fantastic books she already read. By listening to her, I had the impression, in her imagination, she actually wrote my entire series. It was an enjoyable, interesting afternoon, but I got home with nothing than a headache.
The priest was a different kind of expert. He answered most of my questions with quotes directly out of the bible, and he was not at all a fan of my idea for that series. He found, the fight Good versus Evil should be left to our Lord. I can only agree with that, but I had not planned to single-handedly fight Hades and the entire Underworld! I was only planning to write a book, for Heaven’s sake, and we’re not talking about a non-fiction reality report. We’re talking about a fantasy book series. Towards the end of that conversation, I had the impression if I ever wrote that ‘Council Of Twelve’ series, my ‘expert’ would do anything to get me excommunicated and not only that; I would be going directly to the Catholic ‘jail’ and my soul would be grilling in the inferno for all eternity.
I cured that headache too and decided to write the series anyway, even without Father Thomas’ blessing.
The wonderful thing about fantasy books, as compared to history books (or all non-fiction, of course) is, that the creation of worlds, characters, and magic does not need as much research as the book that entwines around existing facts. The Council Of Twelve series bases on values, the Christian values I grew up with, and a few of the characters that cement my beliefs.
Since I now got the few already existing characters, I started adding up with more figures and creatures on the good side…
However, the evil side needed more of my attention. In my book, it exists, but it’s not like I’m an expert on that side. Therefore I went on a research crusade. I needed demons… I needed to ‘build’ a picture of the evil side. And I had to build antagonists…. not one, but uncountable ones.
An inexhaustible source of information in my case was ‘Wikipedia’. I got quite a few lists from them. Theological Demons and their classification, Demonology, a list of fictional demons, and a list of legendary creatures. Occasionally these lists helped me while writing.
It not only gives the name of the respective demon but also its look, what kind of demon it is, what command it’s under, and the legions of minions under its control. Now…
I know that the evil side exists, just as I know the good side exists. That is rooted in the beliefs I grew up with. But I’m writing fantasy books for young adults. I have to keep it simple. This list is not a fact list… I, therefore, permit myself the freedom to use the respective creature I need – and I don’t feel very guilty adjusting the demons a bit in order to be useful for my current scene.
With a little bit of my own spicy humor, I allowed myself to object the common existing demon-name-lists by leaving the fallen Archangel Lucifer’s name as it was and positioning him on the top of the seven thrones of Hell. Experts on that might kick my butt for that, but no matter how many ‘bad guys’ there are, in the series, I’m working on fighting them. I figure, one more isn’t that much of a drama.
Also, I did not forget that Evil tempts with softness, with the illusion of love and with beauty… Demons in my books rarely look like leathery wings carrying, flying, and walking horror creatures…
Lucifer is a beautiful as a personified sin… and so are his minions in the form we humans can understand… But when they are home… where they live… in their place and their environment… that’s different. Then the entire extent of the evilness they hold becomes obvious – and visible.
During my research I found there are about as many definitions of ‘creativity’ as there are people. For example:
Henry Rollins says: “Starting with nothing and ending up with something. Interpreting something you saw or experienced and processing it so it comes out different than how it went in.”
Daniel Pink‘s definition is: “Giving the world something it didn’t know it was missing.”
The English Oxford Dictionary‘s definition is: “The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.”
Now, according to ‘Psychology Today’ creativity cannot be taught. In 2011 they wrote, you can teach everyone how to use a hammer or knitting needles.
But knowing how to use a hammer or a knitting needle doesn’t make you creative. Visualizing, dimensionally manipulating or modeling the chairs you build in your mind’s eye won’t necessarily make you creative either. Whether material or mental, these tools just provide the techniques and materials that make creative outcomes possible.
Seven years ago many states started calling for tests to find out about the student’s creativity, Massachusetts and California ahead.
Psychology Today does believe that tools for imaginative and creative thinking can be exercised and that habits, behaviors and strategies within the creative process can be taught. But they don’t believe creativity itself can be taught.
Neither do I. Let’s take a look at the quote I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I found many more quotes like these and each one of them included words like “imagination”, “fantasy”, “ideas”, “invention”, and “mind-wandering”. None of these habits would go with a person uninterested in inventing a creative process, creative thinking or any creative mind.
Wharton University of Pennsylvania wrote an article in 2014, about 4 feet long, including tons of complicated words, unnecessary studies and quotes, and at the end came to the conclusion that creativity cannot be taught. I had to read the post twice to be sure of the result. (Source: Wharton)
Monica Malhotra, Managing Director of the MBD Group, an interior designer and decorator without a technical degree, clearly declared in 2016: “Creativity cannot be taught to anyone. It’s a quality which is god-gifted. People can help you polish this quality but no one can imbibe it into someone,”
Even Steve Jobbs said: “When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
How do you teach fantasy, imagination, vision and painting pictures in your head to someone? I believe it’s as simple as that: “You can’t.” I’m with Steve Jobbs and Monica Malhotra on that. Creativity is a God given talent that cannot be taught nor learned.
Share your opinion about this conclusion in the comments, please. I’m curious.
Right now, with the first book of my series about to be published, I’m keen to read about good marketing tips and tricks. This week I found many really helpful blog posts and articles covering this topic.
Lately, I met an Irish woman whose first name I simply love: Mairead. She told me it’s the Irish version of the name Margaret. I was fascinated. Margaret is a great name, but to my ear, Mairead sounds mysterious and a bit magic.
After a little bit of research, I found out that it’s believed the meaning of the name is ‘pearl.’ I’m convinced in one of my books a character called Mariead will show up.
That coincidence is one of the very few occasions so far that I met a person whose name I plan to use in one of my books.
Most of the time I have a ‘rough plan’ about a particular new character in my head already. Before the ‘fine tuning’ I most of the time need a name. In my head, I can only imagine a character as a person if he or she has a name.
XY is often in a fit of violent temper.
XY is well trained in controlling himself and playing a peaceful and prudent man.
XY occasionally twirls his beard when…
and so on. These things don’t work for me if I cannot address the person properly.
Erik is often in a fit of violent temper.
Wilbur Carstairs is well trained in controlling himself and playing a peaceful and prudent man.
Grandpa Ben occasionally twirls his beard when…
That’s much better. My head has a picture of Erik, Wilbur and Grandpa Ben now.
Imagine now I created a beautiful Irish woman with light skin, black hair and bright blue eyes. She’s filigree, but no matter how tender she looks, her magic makes her strong. Nobody knows what powers slumber inside of her.
Before going deeper into her character, find out her flaws, build her in detail, I want to be able to think about her as a person, not merely a ‘picture’ or a ‘draft.’ I have a good basic idea of how she will be. What I need now is her name. A name that in my opinion, matches her looks as well as her character (and what I have hidden inside of her).
My research will look like this. First names on the left, last names on the right. I researched the names and the meanings.
After taking notes of the basics, I’ll leave the paper for a while and later on I’m trying to figure out what I like about the names, how they match. I keep scribbling onto the note until it looks like this. (And of course my favorite is red).
And here we go: Welcome to my book, Aideen Brady.
Do you think this is too complicated? What is your process to find your character’s names? Are names really worth such efforts? Let me hear your thoughts, please.
Hey Guys! Wow. It’s been a long time. I miss you all!
*waves to readers and sits on virtual sofa*
This article started out extremely long but then I realized how necessary it was to keep this short and simple.There is so much information out here for Independent Authors and so many made-up commandments it isn’t funny. Everyone has an opinion on what the new author should and shouldn’t do. Everyone has a piece of advice to give or stones to throw. If you move this way you are doing it wrong and if you move that way you are still doing it wrong. There are more laws for the Self-Publisher than there are in the bible. There is something to say about everything. This is why I humbly advise each person to experience everything for themselves and to do their own research. Sometimes you don’t need to…
I have been thinking about Author Pictures lately. I know very well what I have on my Social Media accounts right now isn’t a great thing to do. One of the main reasons for these overexposed profile pictures is the fact that I don’t like it to be on pictures. And from what I heard this can be seen in the picture.
No matter how often I’m told the pictures look great, and I’m supposed to be pretty, I don’t believe it. This does, in fact, have a psychological root which was planted in my childhood, but I think this is another subject and doesn’t belong here.
Now, since one day I will undoubtedly be published I will sooner or later have to think about my author picture, and that’s why I went for another round of research.
One of the first interesting and informative articles I found on Huffington Post where Heather Hummel talks about the relevance of a professional author photo. She not only talks about the quality of the picture but also shows certain problems that can come up and presents the respective solutions. For example, does she mention the expression on the picture, the quality, the background and presents some final thoughts. (Read the entire article here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/heather-hummel/the-relevance-of-a-profes_b_4498575.html)
By going on with my research, I found “The Review Review.” Written by Randy Susan Meyers the article “Look Great In Your Author Photo” gives you tips and tricks on colors, clothes, and makeup and also describes what you can do to hide certain flaws and how to choose your photographer. I thought it is a great helpful post who I would recommend reading when someone needs a (new) author photo. (To read the post click here: http://www.thereviewreview.net/publishing-tips/look-great-your-author-photo)
On the Author Media website, I found a fantastic post, written by author Thomas Umstattd. He clearly states that his article is not for the author, but for the photographer! And I think he did an amazing job. Even though being an author I learned a lot by reading his article, and I might even be able to show it to my future photographer if necessary, to show him what I need the picture for. The article is enormously useful to us ‘clients’ too! (It can be read here: http://www.authormedia.com/how-to-take-portraits-for-an-author-website/)
The last impressive article I found on “Book In A Box,” written by Tucker Max, Chairman & Co-Founder at Book In A Box. He shows what’s good and what’s bad and not just said, some pics are good or bad but also explains the reason in clear, simple words. He provides us with different examples and gives us great advice on what not to do and what he would recommend getting a great picture. I decided to provide you here with a small part of his article:
The Author Photo Rule That Rules Them All
Here’s the thing that makes author photos so hard to give advice about: There is not one “right” way to do it. Like I talked about above, the “right” way all depends on what you’re trying to achieve. But there is one overarching rule that you need to sear into your brain when it comes to author photos (or any profile photo):
Know what you want to say to what audience, and make sure you signal it properly.
This is the key to everything. The author photo for a CEO of a Fortune 500 company should be totally different from the author photo for an up-and-coming comedian. Why? Because they are signaling different things to different groups.
Generally speaking, the CEO’s author photo should signal professionalism, effectiveness, reliability, and trust. The comedian’s photo could be wacky, pensive, goofy or even serious, all depending on his comedic style and what he wanted to signal.
I have to say I learned a lot by reading these four articles, and I’m sure I’ll find a great photographer who helps me. But then, maybe I’ll just hide under a stone and rather provide the world with my stories than my face.
During the past years of activity on ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest,’ and the inquiries to publish posts and interviews for different Blog Tours I promised myself once I find the time I would do research on ‘Blog Tours.’ What is this? And why is it so important to writers? Who does organize them and if I have to do that myself, how to do it best?
What is a Blog Tour?
Alessandra Wike writes on “PR by the book”: The age of the internet gives authors the opportunity to connect with thousands of people. Taking advantage of these seemingly endless possibilities, blog tours provide great publicity for a new book without the hassle (or expense!) of travel. Instead of an author traveling from bookstore to bookstore and city to city, an author’s book can travel virtually from blog to blog and garner hundreds, if not thousands, of views in a short amount of time.
A blog tour is very much like a traditional book tour, where the author would go from town to town to sign their books and meet new readers; except this time, you go from blog to blog. There are countless fiction and non-fiction blogs that have emerged in the past few years, all written by passionate readers who want to share their love of books with other readers. They post book reviews, launch announcements, and interviews with their favorite authors. To continue reading the article on Reedsy, click here.
“Bookmaster” for example gives us a hint on what it means to work on a Blog Tour by writing:
A blog book tour can be set up by a publicist, but if an author has self-published and doesn’t have a publicist, they can do the leg work themselves. The key is to find blogs that are relevant to the topic of the book that are interested in participating in the blog book tour. For example, cooking blogs would be the target if you wrote a cookbook and relationship blogs would be the target if you wrote a book that provided love advice. Depending on the topic of the book there could be an unlimited number of blogs, or there might only be a handful if the topic is extremely niche. Each book tour should include a manageable amount of blogs, as the tour requires a significant amount of time from the author. Even though it’s not an in person tour, there is still plenty of work that needs to be done. (The article can be found here)
Now: what interested me most is: How do I really organize a Blog Tour? Of course, there are several hints, tips, and tricks from different writers; the basic work seems more or less the same – several have apparently had super-success while others complained that their echo was insufficient.
One article that impressed me was an article, published by Penguin Random House.
For example, does the post answer important questions like:
• What are the benefits of putting your book on a blog tour?
• What types of books work best for blog tours?
• How can an author ensure his or her blog tour is a success?
• How can an author work with his or her publicist to set up an effective blog tour?
• What are some best practices when preparing for a blog tour?
By researching further into the topic, I found another impressive and informative post on Joel Friedlander’s Book Designer’s Blog. He published a guest post, 7 Top eBook Blog Tour Sites, written by Greg Strandberg.
Greg informs about seven eBook Tour Sites, gives prices, information and his opinion to them. I think it’s worth checking them out. He as well links their names to their websites. (For copyright reasons I cannot do this below.)
1. YA Bound Book Tours
2. Xpresso Book Tours
3. Enchanted Book Promotions
4. Bewitching Book Tours
5. Goddess Fish Promotions
6. Sage’s Blog Tours
7. Rockstar Book Tours
If you like to read his opinion about these Sites, please check them out on his article by clicking here.
Finally, after hours and hours of research, I found an excellent post, provided by Mixtus Media on
They not only provide us with an 11-step-guide on how to organize a Blog Tour, they as well provide us with a free Blog Tour Worksheet.
STEP 1: IDENTIFY YOUR IDEAL READER
STEP 2: RESEARCH
STEP 3: CREATE A LIST
STEP 4: DETERMINE YOUR RESOURCES
STEP 5: FIGURE OUT YOUR TIMEFRAME
STEP 6: CONTACT BLOGGERS
STEP 7: Stay ORGANIZED
STEP 8: CONSIDER GIVEAWAYS
STEP 9: ANNOUNCE THE TOUR
STEP 10: FOLLOW THROUGH WITH THE DELIVERY
STEP 11: FOLLOW UP
Each step is carefully described. To download the Worksheet, which I did, you are first subscribing to their newsletter. But I doubt that’s a problem. They do have more interesting information on their blog. (I didn’t have problems to download their worksheet, just in case your virus program is sensitive. Mine is, and it has carefully scanned the file and found nothing.)
After all the information I had found on Blog Tours I would love to hear from experienced writers how they had found it to organize their blog tours. Is it easy, is it hard? Do you mind providing us with some extra tips, tricks, and hints?
A couple of months ago, visiting a successful and experienced writer friend he told me, he read one of my pieces. I still am honored and flattered he took the time. He has an amazing way of complimenting and encouraging me – but also bringing on constructive criticism which I apparently deserved. Just this time I had no idea what he meant when he told me: “You have only one character voice.”
— ?? —
I was a little shocked. Not that I didn’t believe him, I just couldn’t believe it.
He is a wonderful mentor and of course took the time to explain to me what he was talking about:
All of my characters talk the same way. I frowned. I know my characters in and out, I know their looks, their abilities, their character, and personalities, whenever I write about them I can nearly hear their voices in my head – and still, they all talk the same?
After my visit I went back to the piece he was talking about – and I wasn’t half through I thought I understood now what he was talking about.
Jackie Cangro has published a blog post on “The Writer’s Block” blog, providing us with the seven elements of our “character’s voice”:
She defines each of the elements in details and delivers descriptions which are easy to follow. I very much appreciate the easy read and learn-part of this blog post. The entire post can be found here:
Lately, I’ve been asked by a fellow writer if I read his book and would be prepared to write a review. Even though I know how much work, effort, and heart blood a writer invests into books, I know as well, a writer is honored by a review. I was told this numerous times already. I read truckloads full of books since my childhood and of course, couldn’t review all of them. (Let’s not talk about the school book reports). And I found, even if I didn’t like a book too much, it wouldn’t be nice to ‘rip it to shreds.’ It might not be a bad book – just not the right book to read for me.
I liked what I read this time, and I agreed to write a review. If I only knew how to do so. This needed some research.
I started and found hundreds of articles, books, blog posts and lists. Are they all different? No, more the opposite! They all seem to be similar, some more simple, some more detailed, some complicated and long, with little variations. So I picked what I needed from some of them.
The purpose of a review
I find it very important to learn what exactly the purpose of what I’m writing is. What is a review for? One of the first articles, referring to “reviews” in general, more than book reviews, in particular, was written by Karol K, a freelance blogger, and writer. He writes:
to learn the pros and cons of a given product
to find out if the product is meant for them
to find out if the product is of high quality and easy to use
to find out about alternative solutions
to find out about other users’ experiences with the product
to ultimately learn if the product is worth buying.
With those needs in mind, let’s look at what you can do to craft a truly valuable review.
Neal Wooten, author, writer, blogger, and comedian published an article on the Huffington Post Website, using six tips to writing Amazon reviews and in my opinion did a great job. At least to me it seems valuable, especially considering the “start” use of the Amazon rating.
Additionally, he mentions something quite powerful: The responsibility that goes with writing a review. Let me give you a couple of examples I picked from his article:
What if a car manufacturer was to drop off a brand new car to a person’s home, completely at random, and explain they had 24 hours to drive the car? Afterward, they would take the car to another home at random and do the same thing, and repeat for three months. They only asked that the homeowners/drivers would write a review of the automobile. What do you think would happen?
I suspect most of the drivers would do exactly what they should. They would write intelligent and informative reviews about how it handled, how it drove, gas mileage, the comfort, the power, the sound system, etc.
But there would be some drivers who would abuse this privilege. It’s human nature. Some wouldn’t even drive the car. Some would complain about everything from the visors to the texture of the floor mats. Some would complain about the color of the free car they were provided. Some would get drunk, drive 100 mph, wreck the car, and then write a bad review.
And that sums up Amazon reader reviews. While most are very helpful, many are just people exercising their basic nature to be useless. So here are some tips.
You BET! I’m a writer myself, of course, I one day would like to get positive reviews for the book. I want to honor the author, his ideas, his talent, his magic, his story, his efforts, his work and his masterpiece. I want to make others read the book I loved so much. I don’t want to spoil it for the other readers.