The diligent work for a compelling query letter continues. I have created multiple drafts submitted to published friends for their feedback and I think I FINALLY have a strong contender. I’m happy with it. I just sent out my first query letter email to a literary agent who was referred to me by one of my friend who works for a PR company. Fingers crossed everyone who’s rooting for me. The Extra Innings Trilogy is about to make its mark not he world. Thank you for all those who’ve sent me emails of how they enjoyed book 1 (The Diamond Thieves). Hopefully I can find the right agent who believes in this trilogy and its characters as much as I do.
The Diamond Thieves
I would be remiss if I didn’t catch you all up on some of the conversations I’ve been having with fellow writers and poets. The predominant topic of conversation has constellated around expressionism and the subjective aberration of emotions in order to spark moods and/or ideas. I believe documenting these sparks in a journal is the key to engaging your mind with the creative writing process. To render a subsequent cache of the current mind’s fleeting stream of thoughts, phrases and original ideas is worth its weight in gold. There are certain excerpts from my Extra Innings books that were scribbled down in my journal long before they ever appeared on the pages of The Diamond Thieves, Race of the Gemini or A Hero Among Thieves. Likewise, I’ll do the same with my next novel: Sheldon’s Falls.
Where I have found the most value in this practice of documenting original ideas is in my songwriting and poetry. Thoughts, phrases and ideas may spark from conversations with friends, images seen throughout some of my travels, or perhaps while I’m on a casual walk, etc. In fact, I get most of my ideas while sitting on a plane or at an airport waiting for a plane – but that’s just me.
The concept of the “engagement diary” exists when you find a particular idea or emotion that truly captures your attention above the rest. This is typically one involving a broader scope and, therefore, begs for more development. Once documented in their journal, the writer and/or poet should then leave additional space so when they have time to revisit this particular idea they can continue writing more. This is exactly the practice that fostered my initial developments of The Extra Innings Trilogy. I began with concept of identical twins; including what they looked like, personality traits, hobbies, emotional struggles (considering they were facing puberty), etc and developed the story’s plot(s) from there. In order to do so, I really needed to get engaged with concept of these characters, revisiting them day after day and, in the end, these journal notes made formulating the story much less governed and restricted by in the moment calculations and head-scratching writer’s block as many writers I’ve spoken with find to be their primary struggle.
As oxymoronic as this may sound, writing should feel like an engaged freedom. The writer should feel comprehensively involved in the telling of the story while, at the same time, experiencing a sense of liberty with their prose. Having this journaled inventory of thoughts, phrases and ideas has certainly helped to furnish this sense of liberty and engagement in my writing, for whenever I get stuck in a writer’s rut and don’t how how to proceed, I have a backlog of original ideas to revisit to help get things moving again. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think.
You’ve all heard of the “Golden Ticket” from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – right? In this classic children’s story by Roald Dahl, kids all over the world are rushing to the nearest candy shop to by a Willy Wonka Candy Bar anticipating the extraordinary odds of discovering a golden ticket inside! Imagine how excited that moment must have been for each of those five lucky winners. That ticket would have been their most important possession. Imagine if any of them would have lost their ticket. What an absolute tragedy. Imagine if your business card symbolized a similar value. In essence, you would be the Willy Wonka of your industry or in your local market. What yielding effects this would have on your sales results!
Obviously, some may be thinking: Brian, don’t you think you’re exaggerating a little? But in my professional experience of apprenticing along side a host of very successful leaders in business, I’m not exaggerating at all. My MISSION is to CONNET AND INSPIRE. I try and remain cognizant of this in my writings (including my first novel Extra Innings: The Diamond Thieves), my music and my poetry.
I have fifteen years of experience in coaching individual sales reps and sales teams to become top producers. The most important step in any sales process is connecting with your customer and/or audience. This is something that needs to occur throughout the sales process. In The Diamond Thieves, I try connecting with people about flaws in our country’s societal values through the character of T.J. Writers should consciously try and connect with their readers throughout the stories they tell. Salespeople are charged with the objective of connecting either in person or over the phone. I’m going to share with you a formula for mastering this skill in person in conduction with optimizing the moment of sharing your business card.
First I want to share my overall observations of this encounter. I refer to most business chard exchanges as a “blind transfer.” Business cards are most often just routinely handed off. There is no salient moment where a memorable connection is made reinforcing the value of the other person possessing your business card (Golden Ticket). Print marketing companies all over the country are focusing their creative intelligence on designing a unique business card that stands out above all the rest. However, if everyone has that specially uniquely designed card – then doesn’t the collection of individual uniquenesses eventually all cancel each other out. Don’t most business cards end up in a pile with dozens of others? Your ability to connect and establish an outstanding value with your client will earn your business card a position at the top of the deck – or even more effective a permanent place in your client’s wallet or smartphone. (Side Note: I personally like the app Evernote).
How do you do this? Like I said, it’s all boils down to your ability to establish a genuine connection. ONLY after you feel this has been established should you even consider ramping up for the exchange of your business card. Here is a simple formula to follow:
STEP 1: Establish a Genuine Connection (refer to previous blogs on connecting).
Step 2: Pay them a compliment by appealing to their pride. Make sure that compliment is based on the conversation you two have been having. For example, “Bob, I like hearing about your passion with helping people find better ways to communicate to their employees.”
Step 3: Ask For Permission to share your business card.
Step 4: Get Confirmation that they are interested in receiving your business card.
Step 5: Then … and only then … Hand them Your Business Card (Here’s an additional tip: write something on the front or back of your business card to make it stand out even more. Make it pertinent to the connection you two have established. For example, if you know of a website, author’s name, book, magazine, or something that is pertinent to what’s important to them that they would find value in referencing in the future.
Make Sense? This is so important versus simply shelling out your business card because it’s the standard business practice.
REMEMBER: Being the exception versus the norm will move your business light years ahead of your competition and earn your business card that “Golden Ticket” – like status.
In my July 13, 2014 blog I shared 3 Key Qualities to a Successful Blogger. One of those qualities was Attention to Detail. For the sake of time, I am going to narrow this topic down to ONE specific detail regarding Historical Fiction: Character Names.
Generally speaking the objective of historical fiction is to capture the particular period in history during which the story takes place. One important detail that shouldn’t be missed is the authenticity of character names. Many names that are popular today were not always popular and in some cases did not even exist. For example, in my book Extra Innings: The Diamond Thieves, one of the main supporting character’s is Charlie Blair. In the original version of the story, he was written as Ryan Blair simply because I liked that name and though it fit his persona of being a pretty boy. However, according to my research the name Ryan did not appear as a first name until 1946. Previously, it had only been known as a last name. My story begins in 1947, at which point my “Ryan Blair” was thirteen years old. Fortunately, I caught this oversight and then had to begin searching for a fitting name to this character. Social Security online has a designated section for popular boy and girl baby names for each specific year in history (you can also search by decade). This site was very helpful through the Extra Innings trilogy since I can search by state and the story takes place in Mississippi. (NOTE: If your book takes place in another country you may try using a site called Baby Name Wizard. This allows you to search for popular boy and girl names by country). Through my searching I was able to happily settle on Charlie which was one of the top 10 boy names during the 1930’s in the American South. REMEMBER: Search using the decade or year in which your character was born NOT the year in which they are a young adult or adult in your story.
Now I’m going to switch perspectives. Although it is critical to capture authenticity when representing a specific period in American History, or anywhere in the world, you may also choose a unique name to one or a few select characters. This may help to give your book some global popularity when it comes to search engine uniqueness. Although it was not my initial intention with one key character, T.J. was certainly not a popular name until later on in American History. The only reference I could find was in ‘Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry‘ by Mildred D. Taylor. One of her characters was a 13 year old boy named TJ Avery. I debated whether or not to change T.J.’s name to a more popular black name of the Old South but ultimately believe it was best considering how significant and unique of a role he played throughout the books.
Lastly, is surnames. This is another area you don’t want to miss. Make sure you to your research on popular last names AND how they were spelled as spellings may be different in certain regions of the United States as well as specific parts often world.
This extra step of research will have a significant impact on how your book feels to its readers. Even if your target market was not alive during that particular era, an accurately selected name, especially one unique to that time period, may trigger a memory of a grandparent or great grandparent that will help boost the story’s overall credibility. The last thing I would want is for my readers to comment: “I loved B.W. Gibson‘s Extra Innings story but I couldn’t get past that Ryan Blair character. I’m from the South and Ryan was just not a name that was ever used back then.”
“What the heck is favorable attention?” a friend asked me today. My respond was simply: “It’s a conversational game-changer.”
Of course, this begged more question, so I commenced with a more in depth explanation along with some examples. Favorable Attention is all about appealing to your listener’s pride. So what does appeal to pride mean? Look for something that is of importance to your listener and compliment them on it. For example, did a positive change recently occur in the life of the person you’re talking with? This could be a new job, promotion, engagement, new home, recent vacation, accomplishment of a goal, new car, etc. Or is there a known quality about that person that you admire? If any of these exist, acknowledge and compliment them on it. One of the best examples of this is actually given in my book “The Diamond Thieves” of the Extra Innings trilogy when the character Pastor Cook is trying to get the attention of the adults who are in an uproar over T.J. playing in the 4th of July baseball game because T.J. is black and their sons are white. (Remember this trilogy takes place during the late 1940’s to early 50’s in the Deep South and encompasses the theme of social injustice. Cook compliments the feuding men by calling them “intelligent men” and goes a step further by acknowledging that “everyone here knows that about you.”
Imagine the opposite. What would happen if you’re initiating your conversations with an insult? Immediately, your listener would become defensive. For example, if a manager or supervisor was trying to counsel an unproductive or insubordinate employee and starts off the conversation with: “I don’t know what’s come over you? You use to be our top producer and lately you’re sales are worse than some of our newbies.” Versus if the boss starts the counseling like this: “You have more integrity than most anyone I’ve ever worked with and historically, I can always rely on you for outstanding results. Help me to understand what’s been getting in the way of your performance lately and let’s see if we can work together to get you back on track.” You’ve appealed to the listener’s pride by complimenting them on their integrity and past reliability to perform. There is nothing about this sentence that would trigger the listener to become defensive. This allows them to continue the coaching session with an open mind and without the distraction of a defensive wall.
My father, Wes Gibson is who taught me about Favorable Attention. He was a VP with Goodyear and is a master at this skill. He learned it from his father, my grandfather, Charles Gibson who had a successful career with the Singer Sewing Company. This skill, like most, is not developed overnight. It takes continuous practice. When mastered, it will take your conversation skills to a whole new level and allow you to leverage any conversation to ensure that your listener receives a clear message from you with fewer distractions. It also allows the listener to walk away feeling good about the conversation. Remember the Maya Angelou quote from my last blog “A Writer’s Worth of Mouth.” Maya said: “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” So why not say something that makes them feel good about themselves. This will also keep you in a positive light in their mind and allow for a better connection between you and them. Appeal to their pride with a compliment and this will gain you the Favorable Attention you need to make a more positive lasting impression and get your message across without any major roadblocks.