Oregon writer, Rain Trueax, and Oregon painter, Diane, co-author Rainy Day Thought, where they write about ideas and creativity. Diane posts on Wednesdays and Rain on Saturdays. There may be extra days or changes as situations warrant. Comments, relating to the topic, are welcome as it turns an article into a discussion, but must be in English, with no links (unless pre-approved), use of profanity, or threats.

Painting in header by Diane Widler Wenzel.




Saturday, October 19, 2019

learning as I go

by Rain Trueax


As a writer, every now and then something comes along that makes me rethink what I believed I already knew. I value such times. I've often thought how cool it is to have creative challenges at my age. This week had such a time, and it led to this blog-- and rearranging what I had planned for today.

Writing is about the idea, the craft, and then if you want your work seen-- marketing. The latter is the bad word no one likes to talk about where it comes to creative work. It must be pure goes the refrain. On the other side of that is-- write to market or forget it.

What is the market? It's the customer. It's the one you are asking to exchange the dollars they have worked to earn for the object you have created. Put marketing down at your peril--if you want a career as an artist or writer. If it's a hobby, then play away as you only have to please yourself. Hobbies can be very healthy-- maybe healthier than careers when it's involving something as subjective as the arts.

One reason writers like to see their books sell is it's an affirmation of what they've done. It's all very well to say-- I am a serious writer-- while you hide the work to be sure no one can critique it. Put it out, market it, and I guarantee you will get critiques, and they won't all be friendly.

So with the idea of marketing for my contemporaries, we are trying some ads... very few for now but to test the water. Dip a toe in. There is a LOT to learn there. One thing is finding target words. Those can be aimed at the genre, say romantic suspense, but also other writers whose work is similar to yours. Your ad, depending how much you are willing to spend and how many want to be there, will show up as sponsored content under their books. Sometimes it will only be seen by someone who scrolls through all the other ads-- and yours might be five pages back if not farther.

In finding those writers, other than ones I already knew, I began doing searches to see who else was in say romantic suspense. Then to see if the writing was anything like mine, I'd look at the samples. What I learned, to my surprise, is a more and more of what is popular right now in contemporary romance seems to be in first person. To keep it simple for what that means, I found this from Grammarly:
First, second, and third person are ways of describing points of view. First person is the I/we perspective. Second person is the you perspective.Third person is the he/she/it/they perspective.
Everything I have ever written has been in third person. It's what I also prefer to read. I avoid first person books as I like to see different points of view. I began though to consider what my contemporaries would look like if they were in first person. Is this an age thing-- young tending to prefer first person and old third? What we are used to? What If, this winter, I took the time to rework my contemporary suspense into first person? It'd be a lot of work, but they aren't getting attention as they are. 

One other issue is those briefly-surveyed contemporary romances, unless they were sweet, they tended to have 'bad' language in them.  How do you feel about that? Some words okay and others not so much?

So to share how that could be done and maybe get some feedback from readers as to how they feel about points of view, I rewrote the first chapter of Evening Star. If you stick with me, you will see what the published version looks like in third person-- followed by the same chapter turned to first person. One thing I was aware of, in rewriting this and then reading both, is there is some distance and maybe even softness to third person. With first person, even in past tense (I'd never write present tense-- can't stand to read it either), there is an immediacy, even a sharpness. So, if you can take the time to read through these, which is best in your view?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Marla Jamison's heels clicked on the terrazzo flooring as she walked across the large entry hall of the Justice Center, barely making it to the elevator before the doors closed. A fleeting smile for the quick acting young man earned her a protracted view of his overloaded day. She smiled without sympathy, thinking whose isn't?  Before reaching her floor, she had fended off his invitation to dinner, and managed to hang onto her smile.
In her office, she threw down her briefcase with a force that didn’t begin to ease the frustration she felt over the interview she’d just had. Instead of providing her the information, Diane Worth had hinted she had, the young woman looked away as she whined about the unfairness of the world. She moaned again how the drugs had not been hers. Of course, she wasn’t dealing. Finally came the expected request-- couldn’t her bail be lowered?
The DA wanted Diane right where she was but lowered bail wouldn’t have helped her. She was not only broke but in debt. Diane had picked a loser for a boyfriend, worse for her was the connection that loser had to Gus Torrantino.
Repeatedly in the last year, Torrantino had been connected to small banana drug dealers like Daniel Fields.  With Torrantino, someone else always paid the price. He laughed at the legal system, at the very thought that someone would nail him. He was behind not just the drug trade but a considerable part of organized crime in Portland. She knew it. Her boss, the DA, knew it, but knowing it and proving it were two different things. She had hoped she’d come back from her meeting with valuable information, something to pass onto her boss. Phooey.
She poured herself a cup of coffee and glanced in the wall mirror. There were dark shadows under her eyes— not enough sleep for too many nights in a row. A make-up stick would cover them for today. She had to put an end to one of the reasons. She wasn’t in love with Paul; she needed to quit going out with him. Her work was her priority. She couldn’t afford a boyfriend—especially one who wanted more than she did in the relationship.
She redid her make-up between sips of coffee. At twenty-five, she could get away with late nights, not at thirty-five. She ran a quick brush through her hair debating if she needed to make time for a salon trim.
Sitting at her desk, she opened her computer and read again Diane’s background, adding her scanty notes from the morning’s meeting. What kind of woman would not care that her two little children were in foster care, and she’d be lucky ever to get custody back? None of that, of course, made it into her notes. Not relevant except on a human level.
Anger didn’t do her any good, but she couldn’t stop feeling it. Diane was a prime example of a woman who should’ve, at the least, waited to have kids. Then she made it worse by involving herself with a worthless man like Fields. Disaster was waiting with the only question being where it would fall. Marla wished she had some magical answer. She didn’t.
A growl in her stomach reminded her she had skipped breakfast. If she didn’t get something soon, she’d be in her afternoon meetings with no breaks before early evening. She wasn’t going to settle the Worth situation no matter how long she stared at the monitor. The truth was she didn’t even know if Diane had real information, anything that would put Torrantino behind bars. He operated through a chain of command that protected him from any connection to the lowest levels. How far up the chain could a lowlife like Fields have traveled? How much might even he know?
She had suggested several times that Diane Worth talk to a defense lawyer, but the young woman alternated between denial and panic. It was thought Torrantino’s organization had people at many levels of power. Possibly Diane believed as much. Could he have penetrated the DA’s office? Might that explain why she had not been permitted to offer Diane immunity regarding her own offenses in return for helpful testimony?
When her stomach growled again, Marla grabbed her jacket from the hook and headed out the door. At the corner deli the room was packed. She stood in line for tea and a tuna pocket sandwich, before seeing a vacant seat, almost hidden by broad, blue clad shoulders.
“Is this spot taken?” she asked as she sat in it. Not that she cared because no one was occupying it; and if possession of a chair was not nine-tenths of the law, it ought to have been. Then she managed not to gape when the man lifted his head and she found herself staring into pale blue eyes, rimmed with thick dark lashes and set into a face that was as much a work of art as any sculpture. His face was angular perfection, high cheekbones, every feature aligned by some benevolent stroke of genetic good fortune. Black hair, slicked back but still fighting to form waves, framed the work of art. Good God.
"It is now," he said answering the question she'd already forgotten. His voice was husky, deep and resonant. White teeth flashed in a tanned face, dimples crinkled at the corners of his mouth. It took Marla a moment to remember her food.
"I'm Randy O'Brian."
"Marla Jamison." She took a bite of her sandwich, hoping he wouldn’t waste her time with shallow chat. She needed to be preparing her thoughts for her afternoon presentation.
"I don't think I've seen you here before," he said.
"Likely not," she agreed, chewing another bite of her sandwich, determined to make this the fastest lunch she'd ever eaten as she took a swallow of tea.
"I've only been here a few weeks... in Portland that is."
She nodded.
"You lived here long?"
"Quite awhile."
"It's a nice town, Portland," he said. "I think I'm going to like it a lot." The glint in his eyes made it clear that meeting her was adding to his enjoyment. She wasn’t surprised he was coming onto her, not with that Adonis face.
"How nice," she said coolly, concentrating again on her sandwich.
"You work around here?" he asked, a smile in his voice.
"The DA's office."
She glanced up in time to see his dark brows rise. "A lawyer?”
"An assistant DA... one of many." Finding her sandwich had changed to cardboard, she sipped tea, her gaze now caught by his.
"Hmmm, I never met a lady lawyer.” Those pale, almost turquoise blue eyes were rimmed with a darker blue.
"Amazing," she quipped. "What planet do you come from?"
"Let’s see was that Mars or Venus?” he asked with a bit if a drawl.
“I have no idea.” She put disdain for the book into her tone and resisted the temptation to ask from which one he came. She was experienced enough to recognize a attracted man when she saw one, and Randy O'Brian was showing the signs, not that she understood why. He had to be ten years younger than she--which not counting the other strikes against him, not the least of which that he was a cop, made him strictly off limits.
“I’ll probably see you around since I start officially Monday.”
Odd way to phrase that. "You're new to police work?”
"New to Portland's."
"You worked in law enforcement on that other planet?" she asked with a wry smile.
He laughed the sound pleasing, making her want to hear it again, before she caught the urge and stifled it. "Something like that.”
Pushing her sandwich away, she took one more sip of tea before she stood. "It was nice meeting you."
"Maybe we'll see each again," he said. Before she could make her exit, he rose. Good grief he's tall, she thought looking up from her own five foot seven. He had to top her by a head.
"Not likely." She reached for her tray. "I normally grab something on the run, if I eat lunch at all."
"We could make it a point to meet," he suggested, looking down at her and still smiling faintly.
His ready suggestion came as no surprise. Get someone your own age, she thought. Aloud she said, "I have a hectic schedule."
"That busy, huh?"
"Always." She gave him her own brilliant smile, not that it was a match for his.
His eyes told her that he knew he was getting the brush-off. "See you around then.” He turned and dropped off his own tray before he made his way from the deli.
Marla couldn't help observing that every female eye in the place had left their food and was on the broad back, the narrow hips, almost a horseman's swagger to his stride. A cowboy. Good God. She shook her head as she placed her own tray on the cart.

OR first person…

Hearing my heels click as I made my way across the terrazzo flooring, I barely made it to the elevator before the doors closed. To be polite, I smiled for the quick thinking young man who had held them for me. Unfortunately, that led to a protracted view of his week. I managed another smile as I thought—whose week isn’t overloaded. Before we reached his floor, I held onto my smile as I politely fended off an invitation to dinner.
In the office, I threw my briefcase onto the desk, which did little to assuage my frustration. It was all about my interview with Diane Worth. Currently being held on drug charges, Diane had promised she knew something about Gus Torrantino. I took time, of which I had precious little to waste, to interview her. She pulled back. Fear. I got that. She made excuses over the drugs—nor hers. Of course they weren’t. They never were. Then came the real reason she wanted to talk-- lower her bail.
As a lowly assistant DA in Portland, I had no such power but wouldn’t have done it anyway. Diane was better off in jail—for now. All her excuses for how unfair life was ran through my head. It was always that way for women who picked losers for boyfriends. Her choice, Daniel Field, was worse than a loser with getting tied to Torrantino, Portland’s biggest and most vicious crime boss.
My boss wanted Diane right where she was. If she got out, her boyfriend was likely to beat her up again. What could she do to improve her life or was it too late for women like her? What about her two little kids? Innocent collateral damage.
Unwillingly, I thought about Torrantino, who again and again, skated even when underlings got charged. The DA’s office knew he was not just behind the drug trade but every other illicit but profitable crime in Portland. Sure, he was small potatoes compared to a Capone, but he was enough to make law enforcement want him badly.
Delaying writing my report, I poured a cup of coffee and glanced in the wall mirror. God, there were dark shadows under my eyes. Can't afford to lose sleep at my age-- twenty-five and I could get by. Not at thirty-five. Erase would hide them for now but soon they’d be real bags. 
The problem wasn’t the work. It was work and Paul. I was not in love with him. Why go out with him? Just to have someone? Work was my priority. Boyfriends had to go—especially one who wanted more than I did. I didn’t feel good about any part of what I’d let happen there.
Between sips of coffee, I redid my make-up. A woman could not afford to look old. Not if she wanted promotions. Running a quick brush through my hair, I made a mental note to call the salon. Denise knew how to trim it to keep it looking youthful or at least try.
At my desk, I opened Diane’s file to add the little I’d gotten with the interview—which was virtually nothing. How to understand a woman like her. She’d given it all up, including her children, for some worthless boyfriend. Not that I had a maternal streak, but she obviously had at some point. She still wanted to protect that asshole. What made a woman go so crazy over a man? It was beyond my experience.
With my job, I had to stay emotionally above it. It was all about facts and where they led. Still, as a woman I had let myself care about Diane. I told myself it wasn’t my problem. Of course, it wasn’t. Her children's fear-filled eyes came to my mind. They had no security, maybe had never known much. Their future was likely going from one foster home to another. No grandparents to step in. Logically, I could make the case that they were better off. Emotionally, I could not. I wanted a magical answer. Life had taught me there were none. 
Hearing my stomach growl reminded me I’d skipped breakfast. That had to happen soon or I’d be into afternoon meetings. Snapping my computer closed, I tried to put Diane from my mind. It was impossible. The most disappointing thing in the wasted interview was once again no description of Gus Torrantino. She said she'd never met him. Had she lied?
There were no mug shots for a crime boss, who never got caught. The ones who had met him either didn't talk or ended up with accidents. He operated through a chain of command. One level never met another. How far up that chain had Fields even gone? If we caught him, what could he reveal? So far, he’d disappeared. 
Feeling guilty that everyone, including me, wanted to use Diane, I had again suggested she talk to a state appointed defense attorney. She alternated between denial and panic. Did she suspect Gus reached into the legal system with his power? It could explain why I had not yet been permitted to offer her immunity regarding her own offenses in return for helpful testimony.
This kind of thinking was not helping Diane or me. I grabbed my jacket from the hook and headed out the door. The corner deli was packed. Standing in line, scanning for an available seat, I finally was able to order a tuna pocket sandwich and tea. One chair had been vacated, almost hidden by broad, blue shoulders. 
“Is this taken?” I asked to be polite though the rules were finders keepers.  Looking up as I sat, I had to make sure my mouth hadn’t fallen open. I was staring into pale blue eyes, rimmed with thick dark lashes and set into a face that was as much a work of art as any sculpture-- angular perfection, high cheekbones, every feature aligned by some benevolent stroke of genetic good fortune. Black hair, slicked back but still fighting to form waves, framed the work of art. Good God.
"It is now," he said answering the question I had to work to remember. His voice was husky, deep and resonant. White teeth flashed in a tanned face, dimples crinkled at the corners of his mouth. It took me a moment to look down at my sandwich, which had lost its appeal. I should have brown bagged it.
"I'm Randy O'Brian."
"Marla Jamison." I answered the unspoken question to be polite—hoping he was not going to waste my time with shallow chat. I needed to be lining up my afternoon presentation and usually used eating to finalize it.
"I don't think I've seen you here before," he said.
"Likely not," I agreed, determined to make this the fastest lunch I’d ever eaten. The tea burned my tongue when I took a sip.
"I've only been here a few weeks... in Portland that is. You lived here long?"
"Quite awhile."
"It's a nice town, Portland," he said, taking a sip of iced tea. "I think I'm going to like it a lot." The glint in his eyes made it clear that meeting me was adding to his enjoyment. It didn’t surprise me he was coming onto me--- not with that Adonis face.
"How nice," I said concentrating again on my sandwich.
"You work around here?" he asked, a smile in his voice.
"The DA's office."
"A lawyer?” There was now surprise in his voice.
"An assistant DA... one of many." My sandwich had turned to cardboard. I sipped my tea and looked at him again, my gaze caught by his.
"Hmmm, I never met a lady lawyer.”
"Amazing. What planet do you come from?"
"Let’s see was that Mars or Venus?” he asked with a bit if a drawl.
“I have no idea.” I tried to put disdain for the book into my tone and resisted the temptation to ask from which one he came. He wanted a flirtation. I did not. Odd that he was attracted as he appeared to be when so much younger than me-- at least ten years. Being a cougar held no appeal-- and neither did the kind of fling that would doubtless all he could want. Even if he’d been my age, the suit he was wearing told me he was off limits. I would never let myself get close to a cop.
“I’ll probably see you around since I start officially Monday.”
Odd way to phrase that. "You're new to police work?”
"New to Portland's."
"You worked in law enforcement on that other planet?" I asked and then asked myself what the hell did I think I was doing.
He laughed, the sound pleasing, making me want to hear it again, before I caught the impulse and stifled it. "Something like that.”
I took one more sip of tea before standing. "It was nice meeting you."
"Maybe we'll see each again," he said. Before I could make my exit, he rose. Good Lord, he was tall, and I was five seven. He topped me by a head.
"Hardly likely." I reached for my tray. "I normally grab something on the run, if I eat lunch at all."
"We could make it a point to meet," he suggested still smiling faintly. His ready suggestion came as no surprise.
Find someone your own age, I thought, but politely said, "I have a hectic schedule."
"That busy, huh?"
"Always." I tried for one of my own brilliant smiles—no match for his.
His eyes told he recognized he’d been brushed-off. Good. "See you around then.” He turned and dropped off his own tray before he made his way from the deli. It was impossible not to see that every female eye in the place had left their food and was on the broad back, the narrow hips, almost a horseman's swagger to his stride. A cowboy. Good God.



 




4 comments:

Diane Widler Wenzel said...

I prefer the second version but abhor going back and changing previous novels. Sounds like a dull task. If it is like paintings, when I go back to change one element, I end up having to change other aspects of the painting ending up with repainting the entire thing. First person offers the compelling revealing of changes in the main character.
Keeping the integrity of the painting sometimes requires starting out fresh with more or less the same theme.
About strong language depends on the target of your readership. Just my opinions. Go for what speaks to you and is your personal pleasure.

Rain Trueax said...

Interesting. I kind of like it also. It'd be an easy book to redo since the points of view were her or the villain's. Such fun to imagine writing a villain in first person ;). I was surprised that I liked writing in first person for that second version.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I can see where a mystery written in first person might be a good perspective so none of the plot is given away and there would be no way the reader could figure out who dunnit. But in a romance, I want to get both the perspective of the heroine and the hero, especially if there is doubt about how one of them feels about the other and if one of them has a secret they keep from the other (for a "good" reason.)
Just to ruin your day, I liked the first one regarding perspective, but I liked the second one for the quality of the writing. So go ahead and shoot me now. LOL
This is your story and you should write it your way. Experiment and see what turns up.

Rain Trueax said...

lol Sarah. I like that too. I did not have his perspective because I wanted the reader to not be sure who he really was. It's the only book I did that way. I am still unsure whether I like the first person with it :). thanks for an honest opinion