About Dawne

Dawne Knobbe is an author, editor, Freelance Writer and Publisher. She has a B.A in Creative Writing and an M.A. in Professional Writing. Her work has been published in the L.A. Times, Fairfield Source, Kite Tales and many other periodicals. Her teen adventure novel Runaway Storm, received two Moonbeam Children’s Book awards in 2010. Dawne has a background in advertising as a Copywriter, Creative Director, and Marketing Specialist. She also owns a small press that has sold over 15,000 See into the Sea, Color and Learn books, but you won’t find them in too many book stores. An active Board Member for SCBWI-LA. Dawne leads many writers and Illustrators “Down the Rabbit Hole,” on adventurous writing field trips and works to inspire students, teachers and librarians in her Creative Writing Fun-Shops. If not off adventuring around the globe with hubby John and children Alexandra and James, she now hangs her hat in Huntington Beach, California.

The Strangest Things Happen on the Way to My Desk

This is February’s post, so look out your window and imagine rain or snow pelting down, especially if your in the North West. I meant to write this post on time, just like I plan monthly  to dedicate myself to writing, to make it a priority. I realized the other day that I may not have been putting fingers to keys, but in my brain I was still gathering information. Tidbits of real life that will enrich my writing. Unusual flaws and traits I experienced in the real characters I have met recently. And in times of boredom, I realize I often pull my stories and characters  to the for front of my mind and think about where they have gone and where they should go. So, I am making no more excuses. I think I have been wearing my observation hat quite well. Here are a few of the things I have slipped into my writer’s gear bag recently.

When he gets nervous he drums his thighs. Two fingers on each hand tapping his jeans in rapid succession. He’s a security guard, but used to be a plumber. He sharpens knives on the side.  He quits drumming and pulls out his hunting knife to show off the smooth flat blade. “Sliced open a lot of things with this,” he says.  “It’s so sharp I could fillet a bear before he he to the ground.”

She smokes the shortest marlboro reds one after the other. Her pink plastic cup doesn’t hide her margarita as well as she thinks. Tequila from yesterday wafts from her pores to mix with todays blend. She drums her cup with four fingers eyeing the man with the knife.

 

At 7 she is crow-like. Can’t resist shiny things on the ground. A nickel, a nail, a piece of glass if the sun makes it shimmer. She grasps them tightly in her pocket. Hidden treasure to worry till her fingers bleed.

He looks over-confident as he saunters over. His gait is wide and bowed like a cowboys. Like he thinks he is cool. It is actually caused by partial paralysis from back surgery. His gate gets wider as his spin disintegrates.

He never lets the small scar on his wrist heal. Picks at it as soon as it seals. A reminder of something?

As soon as anyone asks her a question her eyes dart to her father’s. A half nod from him and she will speak. If he narrows his  eyes, she remains silent.

He plucks his eyebrows until they are close to hairless and red and swollen. It’s 85 degrees outside and his ski hat doesn’t cover the damage. This is meth addict behavior. (Who Knew)

Please share any gems you have observed recently too:)

One Simple Truth About Self Publishing

D. E. Knobbe

Unknown   You’ve heard this before “Publishing is currently undergoing rapid and monumental changes.” That makes it an exciting time to be a writer because there are so many more publishing avenues. From ebooks to POD’s (print on demand) the world is your publishing oyster.
     You can create an ebook and have it up for sale on Amazon within a few hours. You can contract with a POD company and pay minimal set up fees, which means you no longer have to print several thousand copies to keep your price per book within reason. Yes, even children’s full color books can be printed on demand now. Sounds wonderful, rosy, extraordinarily easy. Where do you sign up?
     Whoa! Best to put the breaks on that runaway best seller, you’ll need to acknowledge one simple truth first: Each POD book is “printed AFTER it sells.” Yes sells. That is the one simple truth that hasn’t changed in publishing. For your book to be read in any form, it still needs to be sold. No matter how brilliant your pages read, or how glossily the cover calls, it is not going to sell itself. And neither Amazon, Lulu or any other publishing platform is going to sell it for you. They’ll put it out there, but, alas, it could end up just gathering dust on a cyber bookstore shelf.
If you decide to self publish you must switch your point of view and see it as a product. Then you must educate yourself in online book marketing. Be prepared to devote countless hours to this process. Blogs, tweets and instagrams, won’t increase sales if there are no interested parties on the receiving end.
     I am not trying to discourage self-publishing. I am saying educate yourself first.           Before your publishing date arrives, have a marketing plan ready to launch along with your book. Know who your readers are and who buys for them. Target you audience directly.
     In the past there were many “Vanity Presses” who preyed on naive authors looking for self-publishing help, now, there are “Book Marketers” who sell hundreds of general packages that probably won’t increase your sales. If you want to hit your target market aim your efforts directly at it and keep shooting. You’re a lot more likely to get hits, than shooting (read dollars) aimlessly into cyberspace. You may not have piles of books unopened in your garage, but it will still take an average of 300 sales to break even, so spend your marketing dollars wisely.

I have to admit, that it took more than one failure for me to learn this lesson, and I am still learning from my successes and mistakes. I would love to hear what has worked for you and what hasn’t.

Do take the publishing leap. Do go forward. You can do it.

In the words of Norman Vincent Peale:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

turtleMania_cover-2     P.S. My name is Dawne Knobbe. I run a small press called The Nature Kid along with my two awesome partners Molly Peckels and Svett Bycovec. We specialize in fun Color and Learn books about ocean creatures. We found a marketing niche for our products within the National Parks and we work it. To date we have sold over 45,000 books which can be found in 12 states, and thankfully, they are still swimming out the door:)

                       lol—Be sure to check us out online at thenaturekid.com

No Butts About it!

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I have no New Years resolutions, but that’s because I was not very successful in fulfilling last years. The problem, I find, with writing is that it is so easy to get distracted. I can find a zillion other things to drop my writing down my daily list of “to do’s,” until it slides right off the end of the page. So this year, I plan to go back to the basics—

 

1) Butt in chair equals writing.Unknown

2) Create first, edit later.

3) If there’s no flow, just write any way,(Butt in chair still

equals writing, even if it’s Gobble-de-gook.)

 4) I hereby promise to finish one manuscript before I begin another. (just have to choose which unfinished one I should start with.)

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5) I have decided that “slow but steady (writing) wins the race, not creative spurts here and there, that I think are pure genius until I look back later with an editor’s eye. (As I am working on a Sea Turtle book, I think that is quite apropos. )

I love motivating sayings. If you have a favorite, please post it. We all need help to get over the bumps and through the potholes in our New Year writing journey!

I wish everyone a brand new start, and great success. Reach for your goals. You can do it in 2015!Unknown-2

That’s SO Cliche’!

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I am Queen of the cliche’. I worked in advertising as a Copywriter and Creative Director.  Using snappy sayings and refurbishing cliche’s was a big part of the business, so I am always tempted to use them.  My writers group also knows that I am very good at spotting those sneaky ones and most often suggest rephrasing the line.

But what exactly makes a phrase a cliche’ you ask?

It’s very simple, over-use. In the beginning the expression was probably regarded as clever and unique—so much so that it started getting repeated, and just like the Faberge shampoo commercial …I told to friends about it, and they told to friends and so on and so on and so on! The phrase took on a life of it’s own loosing it’s originality and depth of meaning.  In the words of  French poet Gerard de Nerval: “The first man who compared a woman to a rose was a poet, the second, an imbecile.”

 So why shouldn’t you use cliche’s?

They are no longer interesting or very effective, and of course, they show a lack of originality. Of course ,sometimes they work in dialogue or in special circumstances but, generally your unique descriptions will have far stronger effect on your reader.

 Is it easy to fix cliche’s?

Once you have identified a cliche’ try to change it so your reader will feel what you are trying to express. A thesaurus can help. Look up the action words and try to replace them. Dive into your characters head and choose words she would use from her environment and sense of the world.

 Example:

Cliche’: She avoided Anna like the plague

Instead: She stepped off the path every time she saw Anna coming; the blackberry thorns were a better friend.

 Are you up to the Challenge?

Now you know how to avoid them, let’s have a little fun. Do you have a few favorite cliche’s? Here are a few of mine strung together.

Cliche’s are about as useful as a lead balloon. They bug the heck out of me, so don’t be all talk and no action.You may have to work like a horse to weed them out of your writing, but at the end of the day when the eraser dust has  settled, it was all in a writing days work!

(I showed you mine, now you show me yours.)

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Love Your Characters, but Not Too Much!

I had been stuck on the sequel to my YA novel Runaway Storm for a long time. I couldn’t figure out what the problem was, but I knew something wasn’t clicking. After completing almost an entire draft, I had decided the story was too edgy and dark. It had drifted far from the fun boys-against-the-wilderness coming of age storyline into a drug-addled world of abandonment.  No! No! I could not let this happen to my beloved main character David. I threw away about half of the manuscript and re-plotted. After all, what kind of a disenchanted adult would David grow up to be if he lived through so much horror? I slashed the darkness through the pages until it was only ankle deep. No steep mountains, no black bat-filled caves or murky oceans.  And I had succeeded. David would grow up without worry lines etched deeply into his young face. He would indeed be a very fine young man… just not a man of very good character. Oops, I mean, he just didn’t make a very good character anymore. In loving him so much, I had made him unlovable. By taking away all the challenges and dangers, I stopped worrying about him. (Ah, Mom relaxes.)  But as a book character, I had made him bland and uninteresting. A pretty flat character that even I couldn’t care about, so no reader would care either.

It was time to re-examine my intentions. I was now a good mother and a lousy writer. But wait had my worlds merged? Was it truly reality that had intruded into my story and my character? Aha! That was the key. Subconsciously, I think I had transferred my own teenage son into my character. How could I let anything bad happen to either of them? And where is a good “Writing therapist” when you need one?

Fortunately, I was able to figure it out. I had to separate the “real boy” from the character. I had to jump back into David’s head and I had to let him fall off a cliff and struggle to climb back up.  I had to remember that the darker and harder the challenges, the stronger my character would become.

Although I do not want my son to suffer quite so many challenges, I do know that fiction and reality run parallel. Both teenagers, real and imagined, have to grow through their own experiences and learning to fix their own problems, as painful as that can be for both mothers and writers.

Taking Your Character Out of Context

By Dawne Knobbe

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I am sitting across the table from 17 year-old Grace in a Vietnamese restaurant.
She’s chewing on a hangnail instead of digging into her pho chicken soup.
“Lets play the portrait game,” I say, hoping it might start her talking. “How about that guy in the corner. Think he’s having a text fight with his girl friend?” I ask.

Grace shifts her eyes over to the man then back to her hangnail. “I’m just glad he’s really there. I’m never sure about the guys lurking in the corners.”

“Still seeing things in the shadows?” I ask.

She drops her hand and her stealth blue eyes freeze in on me. “They don’t stay in the shadows anymore. I can hardly tell the difference unless I bang into them.” She snickers. “Which means I don’t bang into them ‘cause they’re really not there.”

“Have you talked to the doctor about it lately?”

“Yeah. You should be proud. He gave me some meds and I even took them.”

“No change?” I ask.

“They made me feel stunned and I think I slept 20 out of every 24 hours. Does that count as improvement?”

“That sucks.” I pick at my salad. I don’t know what else to say.

Grace picks up her spoon, digs into the broth and slurps up a long strand of the noodles. She’s turned her attention toward the guy in the corner and I am relieved. I learn more about her condition every time we sit down and chat but it’s never an entirely comfortable situation.

Grace is back to chewing her hang nail between furtive glances to the back of the restaurant. “That guy isn’t talking to anyone,” she finally says. “He doesn’t want to look like an idiot with no friends out having lunch by himself.”

“Hey,” I say. “If that’s self-referral then I don’t count for being here at all.”

“No,” she says and her mouth flips into an actual smile. “You’re just some uninteresting character from outside of this book…”

Grace is a character from an Unfinished novel by Mar-lou Elders and myself. Her environment along with her problems and challenges have changed numerous times as the story has evolved, but the nut of who Grace is, has always been there. The more I take her out into the world, the richer her character becomes in the story. Soooo—

Now it’s your turn. You need to know how your character will react in every situation you put him or her in, so take her out for coffee or lunch. Then tell us…What does he order? Does she care who’s around? Is he nervous in public? Have a conversation. I promise your character will take on a whole new depth and I can’t wait to hear what he or she is saying, so be sure to post a paragraph or two here.

Sharing My Addiction

In the writing industry, I have taken on many roles. Those that come to mind at the moment: fiction writer, non-fiction writer, copywriter, creative director, editor, publisher, freelancer, news-and-magazine reporter. I’m not so much crazy as…addicted.

Since I penned my first poem as a girl, I have become addicted not only to the act art of writing but also to the business and the science of it. In an industry where so little is certain, one thing I am certain about is that, if you want to be a successful writer, you’d better be an addict!

And it’s not easy being an addict, as any addict will tell you. I also am a wife, the mother of two teens and three dogs, stepmother to three adults, Grandy to five delightful tots, a dutiful daughter, a field-hockey timer and so on. Yet every day, in every direction I look, it’s the writing I feed. In every occupation I undertake, I find promising characters and potential plot lines to fuel my addiction.

In the sauna at the gym I am approached by a withered, bone-thin woman wrapped in a rough white towel: “Do you have a band-aid?” she asks.

“I’m afraid not,” I answer.
She twists her neck from side to side. “How about a comb?”
I begin to wonder if she is homeless and somehow managed to sneak in to use the showers. Perhaps she is the locker thief we have been warned about and is living in the supply closet.
Oops, no. Someone gives her a band-aid and now she is pulling a designer sweater over her head.
End of story? Not for me. I like my scenario better. As I dress, I outline my homeless-locker-thief plot. The old woman might slip into another story. Or maybe I’ll use the thief plot and turn her into a–.

I pick up my teenage son, who is text-fighting with his ex. I sneak a peek at the screen: “I guess I just don’t mean anything to you.” Ah, love gone wrong for a future locker thief. Another plot kernel pops.

Years ago I found out I an not alone in my affliction. I joined The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and got a wonderful gift: a community of sane people who just happen to be crazy in the same ways I’m crazy. I’ve learned much from my peers and my experiences. And perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is one I already knew, albeit intuitively: If I want to master my craft, I must completely immerse myself in it.That’s not crazy; that’s just good research.

I run into a cafe, my writer-vision goggles telescoping around me. I watch flakes drift onto an expensive black suit; a huge ruby glows in the mouth of a skill ring glaring from the gnarled hand that brushes away the dandruff. I activate my other writer senses and detect whiskey on the fermented breath of the man in the line behind me. My writer’s radar picks up a snippet of hushed, urgent conversation….

Welcome to our blog. Now tell us, what dastardly plots and skulking characters did you come across today? Pull up a chair, get comfy and spill. Who knows how we’ll be able to use whatever you tell us about yourself.