Two Special Memories of Writing Following Rain
by Darrel Nelson
In the fall of 2013, Marsha and I visited Seattle to conduct research on the novel that would become Following Rain. I had two specific goals while there:
1) visit a homeless shelter to get a realistic look at the facility, and
2) interview a TV investigative reporter to get a better understanding of the job.
I felt that visiting a homeless shelter would not be difficult. We would simply select one, knock on the door, and ask to speak to the director. Accordingly, we chose a homeless shelter near the Space Needle and walked up to the door. It was locked. We rang the buzzer and an older gentleman answered. I explained our purpose and he invited us to wait in the foyer, near the director’s office. She was currently meeting with a client, he explained. As we waited, a woman came down the stairs and into the foyer. She held a brand new baby wrapped in a soft blanket. She walked directly up to us and extended a hand and introduced herself. She was friendly and welcoming and seemed to exude a spirit of peace. She indicated she had a teenage son who was at school but would be back later in the day. Here she was, the mother of a teenage son and a beautiful little baby, living in a homeless shelter, with nothing but the clothing on her back, and she was welcoming us. I could only wonder at her story. I never asked, of course, but I named the fictional homeless shelter “Welcoming Hands” in her honor. She will never know this, I suspect. But hopefully, her kindness and friendliness will live on to some degree through the pages of Following Rain.
Interviewing a TV investigative reporter, I decided, was going to be more difficult than visiting a homeless shelter. Where did one go to find a reporter, anyway? I resigned myself to foregoing that and just making stuff up for the character in my novel. During our stay in Seattle, we took a guided bus tour of the city. It turned out that Marsha and I were the only passengers that day, so the guide said he was at our disposal and he would give us a special tour. He was detailed in his explanations of the city and was very accommodating. When we drove up to Kerry Park, which overlooks the Seattle skyline, I noticed a TV News van sitting beside the curb. What luck! I told our guide that I had hoped to interview a TV investigative reporter, and our guide told me to go for it. He waited while I approached the van and spoke to the reporter, who was sitting inside typing on a laptop. I explained my purpose and was told he was too busy to answer my questions right now but I could call the next day and speak with him longer. He gave me his card and told me to look at some of his blog interviews. Accordingly, I called the following day and, fortunately, caught him in heavy traffic so he had lots of time to talk. He patiently answered my questions and provided great information that helped flesh out the main male character in Following Rain. I am still moved by the good fortune I had in arriving at Kerry Park at the exact moment the investigative reporter was there preparing a feature. Destiny or coincidence? I’ll let you decide. But I know how I feel about it.
It’s been a three-year journey to get Following Rain ready for publication. I think the story behind its publication can almost rival the story itself due to unexpected events and setbacks. But here it finally is. The book is only available on Amazon and on Kindle—it won’t be available in bookstores, sadly. But at least is has finally seen the light of published day, and I’m excited to introduce the book to you:
When Paul Blakely, a successful investigative reporter, visits a Seattle homeless shelter on assignment and meets Rain McKenzie, a mysterious young woman who is living with a painful past, he could never imagine the life-changing experience it will become for both of them. As he uncovers her secret, he makes an important discovery about his own life. And so begins an unexpected journey that will challenge everything they think they know about life and love.
I would like to announce the release of my new novel, The Return of Cassandra Todd. Like my debut novel it is a love story, but it is a bit of a departure. Set in modern-day Denver, The Return of Cassandra Todd addresses the issue of spousal abuse and its effects on the lives of the principal characters.
The back cover reads:
When the popular girl whose friends bullied him in high school suddenly reenters his life, little son in tow, Turner Caldwell must put the past behind him if they are to survive.
Turner Caldwell works at a local motel as a handyman while attending college fulltime. On his way to class one day, he is shocked to see Cassandra Todd and her young son in town. The sight of her brings back powerful memories of being bullied in high school—she was the popular head cheerleader and he the target of her friends’ mean-spirited pranks.
When Cassandra and her son check into the motel where he works and she asks for his help in eluding her abusive husband, he finds himself entangled in a dangerous drama that will require him to forgive and draw on every skill he has if they are to survive.
I was honored to have Lena Nelson Dooley write an endorsement. She said: “I loved Darrel Nelson’s debut novel, but The Return of Cassandra Todd is even better. The multilayered characters, complex relationships, and strong suspense thread kept my attention until the very last page. This one is a keeper.”
Ace Collins was kind enough to write: “This tale of suspense builds page by page as a wife and little boy must depend upon the wits and courage of the ultimate underdog to escape the wrath of a man consumed by hate born of ego and desperation. This is a book that is impossible to put down and a story that lingers long after the final page has been read.”
And Eva Marie Everson wrote: “I became riveted by the story line, the characters’ dilemmas, and the real-life dialogue. I read every free minute I had, often so fast I could hardly keep up with myself because of the heart-stopping action and emotion. In other words: I loved it! I’m a forever fan.”
I appreciate the positive endorsements and hope readers will not only enjoy the book, but think about the issues addressed in the novel and be uplifted as well as entertained.
I was asked to contribute an article to Family Fiction magazine on writing romantic fiction as a male author. I'd like to share the article with you. It's written in reference to my new novel, The Return of Cassandra Todd, but it applies to my writing in general.
I had a book signing in Denver on December 1 while my wife and I were down from Alberta, Canada, visiting our two daughters and their families who live there. My two daughters were my “campaign managers,” and they sent out invitations to their friends to attend. I arrived a little early and set up and began trying to do some “cold sales,” that is presenting my books to people in the store who didn’t know me or my book. I had no success. But then my daughter’s friends began to arrive and the sales went well. We sold all the copies in the store and then spent the evening running around Denver, buying up additional copies to satisfy the demand. We were grateful for the support.
But the experience gave me pause. Had I gone to a store without any advance preparation or publicity, it would not have been a successful venture. Because I’m not a JK Rowling or a Stephanie Meyer, I cannot rely on mass interest and support. I attended a Stephanie Meyer book signing in Denver a couple of years back, and it was like going to a rock concert. Hundreds of screaming teenage girls queued up to get their books signed. My book signing experience was not like that! But things picked up immeasurably when my daughters’ friends began arriving. That’s why careful planning and advance publicity are so important. It’s no fun sitting at a table where store customers go out of their way to avoid you so they don’t get “drawn into” a discussion with an author they don’t know and a book they aren’t particularly interested in reading at the moment.
What made the signing special for me was that my grandchildren who live in Denver donned their “Grandpa’s Book Buddy” T-shirts and walked around the store to help promote the event. I sure appreciated their love and support.
I was asked this question recently in an interview and thought I’d share my answer with you. It’s been an interesting journey because I didn’t start out writing romance fiction. As a youth I was into Tarzan and Buck Rogers, and so I wrote jungle adventures and outer space odysseys. I created a character—Zip Carter—and he many a wild adventure, I can tell you. But in time, after I met and married my wife, I discovered that I liked watching romantic comedies and dramatic love stories with her. My thoughts turned to stories about relationships, and, before I knew it, I was writing love stories.
So what do male writers bring to the table when writing romance? Well, this may come as a shock but . . . men and women are different! They think and communicate differently. They express their emotions differently. I’m not going to make any sweeping generalizations—like men are more about physicality and women are more about emotionality—but I think male writers bring a different perspective to the table. They have a different way of looking at relationships and a different way of presenting them. No one can think more like a man than a man. Similarly, no one can think more like a woman than a woman. (Although my wife claims that she knows me better than I know myself.) So it’s that difference that allows male writers to bring another perspective to the table. A woman who recently read my first novel, The Anniversary Waltz, commented, “I could tell it was written by a man. Not that it’s a bad thing. But I could just tell.” So even though the difference in perspective is discernable to women readers, thankfully it’s not a bad thing.
And just who gives me the best feedback on the aspects of my books that are from a female POV? There’s no question about that. My wife! She is my biggest supporter and toughest critic. Everything I write I bounce off her to get her opinion, especially in regards to my female characters and their thoughts, feelings, and actions. Sometimes she laughs at my efforts, and sometimes she just rolls her eyes. But when she doesn’t have a list of suggestions to offer, I know I’m on the right track. Also my editor, Lori Vanden Bosch, is amazing in helping me with the female POV. I wouldn’t dare send anything to my agent for submission to the publisher without first obtaining my wife’s and my editor’s stamp of approval. (But sometimes it sure is hard to come by!)
I was happy to see that my book, The Anniversary Waltz, received a positive review in Saturday's "Good Reads" section of the Lethbridge Herald.
"Nelson has a simple, unaffected writing style. His characters are believable, the conversations sound genuine, and settings are described with a few well-chosen details."
The Importance of Consistent Promotion
By Darrel Nelson and Rebeca Seitz
I was lamenting to my publicist, Rebeca Seitz of Glass Road Media and Management, the other day about the challenges of getting myself as an author known. I live in a small town in Alberta, Canada, and I still have friends and neighbors come up to me and say, “You’ve had a novel published? I didn’t know.” And that’s in my small hometown! What about people in my county, province/state, country, and continent? What about people in the world in general?
How do we as authors get the word out there about our books? Are the majority of us condemned to labor in relative obscurity?
Rebeca wrote this encouraging response that I would like to pass along. I hope it helps. She said:
Wailing raises the hair at the nape of your neck. Long, low moans produce gooseflesh along your arms. Gnashing of teeth. Pounding of keyboards. Breaking of pencils.
Yep, it’s tough to be a writer these days.
It’s also glorious to be a writer these days!
As the owner of an all-service firm catering to writers of story-driven products, I hear a lot of worrying and fretting from authors. How will they break out from obscurity? With millions of books on the shelves – and more being added all the time – how will anyone know any one, specific book exists?
Some have tried an initiative here or there. A blog tour. A media campaign. A snazzy new website. Something with Facebook. A radio blitz. They see a blip up in sales for a few days, then back to flatline. Did anything make a difference? Is there a way to truly catch the attention of the market and hold it?
There is a magic bullet. A mystery known by many but practiced only by a select few authors. A piece of wisdom that, when applied, breeds contentment and – more often than not – increased sales.
No, you do not have to call an 800 number or send me four easy payments of $19.99 to learn it. I’ll share it right now, right here, on Darrel’s blog. Ready?
Consistent production and promotion.
Seems too simple, doesn’t it? Way, way too easy. Just keep doing the same thing? Keep plugging away? Where’s the gusto in that? The glory? The triumph of achieving the summit?
I’ve been in the publishing and entertainment industries a long time. Launched more authors than you can shake a stick at (it’s a Southernism, stay with me). The majority of those are now bestsellers and/or award winners.
Please go back and read the last three words of the first sentence in the paragraph above.
Write them down.
Tape them to your keyboard/desk/screen.
Those three words are why the majority of them are bestsellers and/or award winners. They stuck with it for a long time. With each book’s release, they did a bit more promotion, a tad more research for the story, a little better writing. The work of each previous title built upon itself.
I tell authors often, “Do not determine success or failure after book one. Do not assess whether you should keep doing this when book one hits the shelf. Don’t decide if you really can secure a fan base a year after book one has been on the shelf. Don’t use book two for assessment, either. By book three’s release, you might, possibly, maybe, perhaps have enough information to decide what works and what doesn’t with regard to promoting your specific genre and writing style. Do those things for the next two books, while remaining open to new initiatives as well. By book five, you know if you should keep doing this.”
It’s not sexy.
Won’t make you feel all famous and special.
But it will get the job done.
Each book’s promotion builds on the last one. With the release of Title One, you begin to make a name for yourself by visiting book clubs, calling/visiting libraries, and posting on Facebook about the process of being published (and pestering your friends and family to death so they know you’re serious about this). With the release of Title Two, you have a bigger audience to whom you can speak. Friends of those pestered friends and family members have responded to Title One, so you let them know – along with the audience from Title One’s promo campaign – about the release of Title Two. Title Three benefits from the larger audience built by Title Two. And so on.
By Title Five, you have a basic, solid fan base that no longer needs persuaded to buy your titles. They simply need to be informed when a new title releases. They’ll buy it if they know it exists. Now, they need to be persuaded to tell others.
The thing a bestselling author has that a first-time author does not: a large audience who likes his/her stories and does not need to be persuaded to buy new ones or tell other people about the stories.
So, dear early authors reading this post, take heart. You can do this. Don’t hang everything on book one or year one. Let the pressure roll off your back. Being a successful author requires long-term approach, commitment, and perspective.
Keep producing and promoting consistently.
You’ll see results in the end.
Rebeca Seitz is President of Glass Road Media and Management, which provides promotion, production, and management services to storytellers. Learn more at http://GlassRoadMM.com.
I had a wake up call last week that I would like to share. And I need to thank Martha Rogers and Lori Vanden Bosch for providing it.
Because I majored in English in university and have written novels, plays, articles, and songs for over thirty years, I thought I had a fairly good feel for sentence structure. What a surprise I received when Martha kindly looked over my most recent manuscript and pointed out a grammatical error I consistently made throughout the book. Lori, my editor, confirmed the error, and I had to do some fast editing to correct it.
The error involved participial phrases (or “ing” sentences as Martha describes them). For example, Tiptoeing down the hallway, she went into the bedroom. In my mind this sentence showed a transition from one place to another. First she tiptoed down the hallway and then she went into the bedroom.
Martha accurately pointed out that the sentence is chronologically impossible. You can’t tiptoe down the hallway and, at the same time, go into the bedroom. A simple fix would be to rewrite the sentence: She tiptoed down the hallway and went into the bedroom.
Lori sent me an article entitled “Participial Phrase Abuse.” I swallowed hard when I realized just how I was abusing participial phrases. The article stated:
“Participial phrases lend themselves to a host of grammatical ills, including dangling participles and chronological impossibilities. The most common problem associated with participial phrases is the dangling participle. Swimming in the ocean, the cool water refreshed him. The sentence, as written, tells us that the water is swimming in the ocean. Let’s fix it. Swimming the ocean, he felt refreshed.
“Chronological impossibilities are also common. Consider the following sentence: Walking down the hallway, he stopped to tie his shoe. Someone cannot walk down the hallway and stop to tie his shoe simultaneously, so this sentence needs revision. A possible fix: Walking down the hallway, he noticed his shoe was untied and stopped to tie it.
“When you come across one of these phrases, ask yourself two key questions: (1) Does the action expressed in the participle link up with the main clause correctly? And (2) Can these two things happen simultaneously?”
Well, that’s the grammar lesson for today. A giant thanks to Martha and Lori. I am a schoolteacher by profession, but in this area I am clearly the student—a student who had to hit the books and brush up on basic sentence structure. What did I learn? I need to be on the watch for those tricky participial phrases continually. I need to use them with care and use them sparingly. And, most of all, I need to review the basics regularly. Perhaps we all do.
The fun part about being in a parade is that you get to see the spectators. The only drawback is that you miss the parade. But this year was definitely worth missing the other entries because Marsha and I participated with “Grandpa’s Book Buddies,” our ten grandchildren!
Our float (promoting The Anniversary Waltz) may have been small in comparison to the professional commercial ones, but it was big in the excitement it generated in our family. We worked for hours to decorate it. But nothing prepared me for the thrill of driving the parade route with our ten grandchildren aboard and laughing as they picked up candy by the handful and shouted to the crowd, “If you want some candy, make some noise!” Surprisingly, it was the adults who cheered the loudest!
After the parade, I held a book signing, and it turned out to be my most successful one to date. I was deeply touched by the show of hometown support.
I am a schoolteacher by profession and a writer at heart. I have always loved to write, be it stories, poems, songs, or novels.