Where Do Good Stories Come From?

Young-Buddhist-reading

Great Writers Agree
“Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun.

“Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

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Read, Write and Recognize
I try to follow good advice like that. I often do so without realizing I’m following anyone’s advice at all. Heaven knows I’m a voracious reader (so does my long-suffering bride). Over the years I’ve read thousands of books and have been a willing witness to some really great … and some equally shitty … examples of the craft.

But, as an author, I find that when it comes to judging my own writing it can often turn into an exercise in futility. Of course I wrote that in a compelling way. Don’t I always?

Well, my wife thinks so; so does my mother (even if she wishes I wouldn”t swear quite so much). Readers Favorite liked one of my novels. So did Kirkus Reviews.

Still, while I’m writing it’s sometimes hard to know for certain the stories are doing their job. That the characters seem alive and like real people … not cartoons or caricatures. That my dialogue sounds like real conversation instead of contrived bullsh*t.

At least, I find it’s hard to convince myself of that, even when others say it seems to be working.

I think part of the reason for that is an indie author must, by necessity, be a jack-of-all-trades. You’re not only required to be the author, you’re called upon to be a publishing entrepreneur, proofreader, editor, publicist, marketer and social networker.

You have to be. There’s no getting around it.

How you fulfill all of these roles, or fail at them, has a direct effect on your brand and, by extension, the success or failure of your book. You simply must get people talking about your writing.

They say a good way to self-promote is to offer samples of what you’ve done. With that in mind, below are excerpts from each of my books.

What do you think?

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It was widely accepted that Charlie, if you let him, could sell anything to anyone. Freezers to Eskimos and oil to the Arabs, that kind of thing. But it was also a generally held conviction that it was hardly a reason to condemn him. People should be held responsible for their own foolishness, after all.

When he stepped into the bar that cold night in December, Charlie acted as if Flanagan’s was definitely not the first stop he had made. If anyone had asked, everyone, and I do mean everyone, from me to Mayor O’Reilly, would have said Charlie looked like he had been partying since noon. Still, he somehow maintained the dignified presence that seemed to follow him wherever he went.

As Charlie smiled and wobbled his way slowly through the tables, I shook my head in wordless wonder. Charlie ignored many empty seats and finally plunked himself down at the bar.

He took the stool right next to old Beelzebub…

~ from my story THE DEVIL AND CHARLIE BARROW in the award-winning fantasy collection ZEBULON

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It was late August, 1962, when I first saw Albert Parker. After all this time I still remember the year quite distinctly. It was my second teenage summer, part of life’s first great transition, and I had been waiting months for something special to happen, something magical. Something like having Marilyn Monroe show up on my doorstep, wearing that flouncy white dress she wore over the subway grate in “The Seven Year Itch.”

In my dreams she would ask me, in her breathless whisper, to “take her.” At the time, I wasn’t even sure what that meant. Hell, it didn’t matter. Just having her show up would have been enough, as long as the rest of the gang saw her. Of course, Marilyn never came to 722 Reichold Street in Brickdale.

Albert did.

~ from my Gold Medal Winning novel REICHOLD STREET

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Some of the men I stood in the ranks with were the meanest, nastiest, dumbest and craziest people I ever knew. Many, I came to find out, had been given the choice of military service or prison, just like Albert Parker.

Some, unlike Albert, probably really deserved it. I remember looking around at the bunch of them and recalling one of the droll sayings my grandfather had been particularly fond of…”Mixing the good with the bad was like mixing shit with ice cream…it doesn’t help the shit any, but it sure screws up the ice cream.”

~ from my new Five-Star rated novel ONE WAY STREET (sequel to “Reichold Street”)

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The barn stood on a high, rocky rise, and was visible over the gnarled old apple trees to the north of the old farmhouse. While the basic structure was almost as run-down as the house, the hayloft in it was fairly new, with fresh-hewn flooring and a new outer door.

I liked it in the loft. With little effort, I could see north as far as Sam Prichard’s fish pond and south all the way to Newt Pearson’s General Store.

I looked south now, and strained my eyes to see in the waning light. There were a lot of cars at Pearson’s. That was not unusual. Many men, mostly those I never saw at the New Bethlehem Church on a Sunday morning, gathered regularly at the store. They arrived from various directions on the old gravel road and plunked themselves down on produce-crate chairs.

Soon, a thick, blue haze of tobacco smoke floated in an endless galactic swirl, while lanky young forms waited a turn on the tattered pool table that graced the center of the room…

~ From my short story SHARON ANN in the collection TINKER

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You can find my books as eBooks or paperback on Amazon, or at Barnes & Noble. You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

 

 

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