Tuesday 30 April 2019

A Few Dos and Don'ts for #Writers new to Twitter

If you've just started writing your first book, or if you've recently published and have heard that Twitter is a good place to spread the word, you're probably wondering how best to go about it.  I've seen lots of new users asking for advice lately, so I thought I'd compile a quick, easily accessible list.  Please note: it is mostly applicable to writers who have work published, but it's all worth bearing in mind!

There is so much conflicting advice, on blog posts and in 'how to' books; I've read some articles by social media 'experts', and wondered if they actually use the site at all.  One I read recently advised the busy writer to 'do' Twitter quickly each morning by going down their feed and 'liking' all the posts...  😬

I make no Twitter 'expert' claims, but I have over 90K followers, have run very successful promotions for my books and gained lots of readers via the site, for both my books and my blog.  I have also made good friends in the writer/blogger community, some of whom I have met in real life, too.  If all or some of this is what you are aiming for, I hope you find the following helpful - it's not much to take in all at once, just basic dos and don'ts in bullet points.

  • Be friendly, and take an interest in others' work.  Be generous; share and retweet your followers' posts.
  • Be genuine, and helpful.
  • Tweet about stuff other than your book.  Places you've been, photos you've taken, TV shows and music you like, observations, a funny cartoon, a helpful or interesting article.
  • Ask questions.  Most writers and bloggers are happy to share their knowledge/experience.  But not those 'What do you prefer, breathing or yawning' ones, unless you want to alienate anyone who has more than one brain cell.
  • Follow, follow, follow ~ not just other writers, but book bloggers, avid readers, and those who share your interests outside the book and writing world.  If all your Twitter activity consists of cheerleading with other writers, you won't reach the reading public.
  • Make your profile picture a photo of YOU, preferably smiling, or at least looking approachable (or cool, if you're very good looking!).  Not your dog, or your child - save those for Facebook.  Not your book cover, either - this gives the impression that you're only on the site to sell your book.
  • Block anyone who is needlessly rude to you.  Don't engage, just block.
  • Retweet, don't just 'like' ~ clue's in the logo and name; Twitter is all about spreading the word.  If you have found a tweet interesting/funny/useful, chances are your followers might like to see it, too.
  • Understand that Twitter is not Facebook ~ it will not be possible to interact or keep up with everyone.  In a way, it's a numbers game; out of all those you follow and who follow you within a week, a few may become people you talk to regularly, while most won't.  But that doesn't mean they won't be interested in anything you tweet about, and vice versa.
  • Take it slowly; at first, have a look at what other writers do.  Find them on hashtags like #WritersCommunity, #WritingCommunity, #Writers, #amwriting #writerslife - but, as mentioned previously, don't get too caught up in discussions about what your MC might like for breakfast, or those threads that ask you to post a gif expressing what your protagonist's third cousin might think about you getting a book published.  There's a whole world out there.
  • Pin a post to the top of your page, by clicking the little arrow at the top right hand of the tweet.  Change it often, at least once a week.
  • Add pictures to your tweets; you can add up to four, or one gif.
  • Make sure, if promoting a published book, that your tweet contains links to where it can be looked at/bought.  Sounds obvious, but you'd be amazed how many Twitter newbies smother the book promo tweet with hashtags, but leave the link off.  No, people won't go to Amazon and look it up.  If there is no link to click, they'll move on to the next tweet. 
  • Enjoy it.  If you don't, if it becomes a chore, it's possible that Twitter is the wrong site for you. That's okay; I've never been keen on Facebook, and this year I finally decided to close my account.  Different strokes, and all that.
  • Retweet stuff that isn't about writing and books, too.  Beautiful scenery, interesting articles, funny one-liners, etc.
  • Try not to do too many retweets all at once.  It can put off followers who don't want to see a hundred tweets by people they haven't chosen to follow.  Yes, I know, I do too many, sometimes; it's an easy practice to fall into.  Incidentally, if you want to follow someone but don't want to see all their RTs, click onto their page, then onto the three little dots by the 'follow' button.  This gives the option to turn off their retweets.
  • Reply, if someone gives you a bit of advice you've been seeking.  Don't just 'like' the tweet; it only takes a couple of seconds to say thank you, and this will make all the difference to the person who tried to help; they may help you again, but are less likely to do so if all you could manage by way of thanks was a quick mouse click.
If you do all this, you will develop a following and, hopefully, find people who are interested in your work. 

Now, I'll balance this out with some advice about what not to do....

  • Expect to obtain lots of followers, book sales and reviews within a couple of months.  Building up your 'platform' on social media is a long game.
  • Introduce yourself to people by providing your book links, either by tweets or DMs.
  • Send auto DMs to new followers, with links to your book/blog/website/Youtube channel/Patreon/requests for votes in an online competition/offers of a free book if they sign up for a newsletter/anything else at all.  This is a huge Twitter no-no, and a large number of people unfollow those who do it.
  • DM/tweet to new followers/strangers/random people asking them to read/review your book.  Everyone moans about this.  Yes, you may get the odd taker, but these will be far outweighed by the amount of people you piss off.  Seriously.  Just don't do it.
  • Make your bio all about your book, and (even more don't!), never use the words 'check out book here', 'buy book here' or anything similar in it.  This is your bio, not a 'buy my book' desperation headline.  Also, don't write it in the 3rd person, as this gives the impression you have someone 'doing your social media' for you; at the very least, it looks a bit pretentious.
  • Take notice of those who send those auto DMs - especially not dodgy looking profiles that try to sell you book promotion, claiming thousands of readers in your genre, or whatever.  Often, they just want you to pay for advertising space on their site, or tweets that you can do yourself.  Scammers of all types have been cashing in on the Kindle gold rush since it began just over 10 years ago - please don't get sucked in! (See item 2 of the article on this link for others to watch out for)
  • Communicate mostly in the blurred gifs you get by clicking 'add a gif'.  Most are pretty lame, and Twitter is about words, first and foremost.
  • Make it all about getting reviews.  Some people do general tweets offering a free copy of a book in exchange for an honest review.  It's up to you if you want to do this or not.  But it's a bad idea to ask for them in a promotional tweet.  Even if the book is free; never, ever tweet anything like 'please download and review'.  Wait until someone has read your book and told you that they've enjoyed it, of their own accord; then you can judge whether or not it's okay to ask them to review it.
  • Call yourself a 'best selling author' if you're not.
  • Hard sell.  If someone expresses interest in your book, just thank them and answer any questions.  If they want to buy it, they will.  If you hard sell (i.e, by telling them how much they'll love it, quoting from reviews, offering them free copies of other books if they buy it), it may put them off.  Most of all, don't ask them to review before they've even bought it.  They might not like it, or might not read it for six months, and it's too pushy, anyway.
  • Engage in a gif game with one or two friends, while 48 other people are tagged in.  Nobody wants to log on to find themselves tagged in 30 blurry gifs of 1990s sitcom stars/yawning chimpanzees.  You want to play gifs - untag everyone else.  Yes, I know they can mute if they don't want to see (the mute option is in the little arrow, top right of a tweet), but it's nicer if you do the job for them.  If you're mentioned in an #FF (Follow Friday) tweet, untag everyone else before saying thank you.  All too often I log in to find myself with over 100 mentions, the majority of which are people I don't know talking to other people I don't know.  Lots of people moan about this - untag, untag, untag!  You do this by clicking on 'Replying to' and unticking the box 'Others in this tweet', and saving it at the bottom.
  • Ask strangers for retweets.  You know, you follow someone back and within a couple of hours you get a DM saying 'Hi, thanks for following!  I'd be so grateful if you could retweet my pinned tweet.'  If you want retweets, do retweets.  With luck, others will reciprocate.  Oh, and please don't ask for them in your bio.  This is super-naff!
  • Ask people to follow you back.  If they want to, they will.
  • Overdo hashtags on your tweets.  I'd say two or three max for a book promotion tweet.  More if it's an advice post or one of general interest, because you want it to reach the right people, but don't go overboard. 
  • Hashtag hijack - by which I mean checking out the trending hashtags, and adding them all to your tweets in the hope that this will improve your 'reach'.  Yes, more people will see you, but they will also wonder why this idiot is tweeting about his book on a hashtag that's for football fans, or whatever.
  • Let your stream become nothing but endless streams of book promo retweets, with one pinned tweet about your own book at the top, without ever interacting.
  • Forget the 'social' in social media!

For more advice for debut authors, here is a list I compiled of useful articles:
List of Useful Articles 

If you would like to read more about how to use social media, I particularly like this article by Emma Lombard, which gives practical, up-to-date advice on how to use Twitter. 

Monday 29 April 2019

Lately I've Been Watching.... (with trailers, for your enjoyment!)

A few TV and film recommendations for your viewing enjoyment... or not, as the case may be!  Most on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.  

For more short TV recs and reviews, click the 'Lately I've Been Watching' tag a the bottom of the page :) 

Film: Do you trust this computer?

Utterly brilliant - everyone should watch this.  It shows where technology is really at, and it's terrifying enough for me to realise that the world as my generation knew it is already the halcyon days of long ago, and be glad I was born when I was.  Products and processes that seemed like something out of a science fiction film even 20 years ago are now in use—and the implications of this, and the ever accelerating speed of change show how reality is much more worrying than fiction.

5 stars plus 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Series: Black Summer

New zombie apocalypse show - and it's terrific, and exceptionally brutal.  Someone I know said it makes The Walking Dead look like Midsommer Murders... it's very fast paced, little dialogue, not much character build-up, but it's thrilling.  It dots between time frames and characters; this might irritate some people, but I liked it.  The zombies are much more of a threat, as they can run, and people 'turn' the minute they are bitten.

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Series: Escape at Dannemora 

Based on a true story, about two inmates of Dannemora jail who were aided in their escape by a civilian woman who ran one of their workshops - and who was having sex with both of them.  Patricia Arquette is brilliant as the delusional, dissatisfied Joyce Mitchell.  Riveting.

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Film: Dragged Across Concrete

Mel Gibson stars as a suspended, bitter nearly 60-year-old cop who wants to make life better for his family, and goes down some dark roads with partner Vince Vaughn.  Running alongside is a story of an ex-con getting involved with some seriously nasty people.  Racism/perceived racism theme.  It started off just quite good, watchable, and got better and better, as a superbly well-placed side story about a bank clerk who can't bear to leave her baby and return to work made it something more than just another cops and robbers tale.  I ended up on the edge of my seat, all through the second half.  Laurie Holden (Andrea in TWD!) also features, as Gibson's wife.

4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Series: Bosch (Season 5) 

Love Titus Welliver, Jamie Hector and Madison Lintz in this; enjoyed the season as much as ever.  Only knocked off half a star because one strand of the 3-tier plot I found a little confusing (couldn't remember who everyone was) and not so compelling, but, with Bosch going undercover and a former lover of his trying to ruin his career, there is some thrilling stuff, and I'd definitely recommend.

4.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Series: Veep (Season 7)

As funny as ever, and you get the feeling that it's telling us more than we'd probably like to know about what goes on behind the scenes in electoral campaigns.  Last season, I believe.

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Series: The Victim 

Stars Kelly MacDonald (Boardwalk Empire) as a woman whose son was murdered by a minor; the accused's identity was hidden.  She discovers who she believes him to be, and a campaign of hatred is launched against him, for which she is put on trial.  I enjoyed it, but I find MacDonald a bit irritating, and the end was predictable and disappointing.

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Film: The Professor and the Madman

I expected this to be better than it was - Mel Gibson stars as the professor who compiled the original Oxford English Dictionary, and Sean Penn as the disturbed academic who helped him.  They were both great, and I did quite like it, but somehow it was not a memorable film.  Not helped by the casting of Natalie Dormer, who I usually love, but was totally wrong as the down at heel mother from the slums; her fake Eliza Doolittle accent was painful.  Even her face looked wrong when she was saying things like 'I fink' instead of 'I think'.

3 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Series: Chambers

Average sort of YA type supernatural story about a teenage girl who has a heart transplant, and finds herself haunted by the girl who the heart belonged to.  But that's not all, of course.  Fairly watchable at first, I quite liked it, but after half way it seemed to go on and on and on, repetitively - the plot itself could have been fitted into at least 2 less episodes.  IMDb described it as terrifying; I beg to differ.  Set in Arizona; gorgeous scenery.

2.5 stars ⭐⭐

Series: Curfew

Amateur drivers from all over the world compete in an illegal night time race.  Someone recommended this to me, as I love Sean Bean.  It's horrendous, with lots of ghastly faux 'Saarrrf Larndon' accents, and dreadful dialogue that made even actors like Bean and Harriet Walters look wooden and clichΓ©d.  Abandoned after one episode.

1 star ⭐

Sunday 28 April 2019

The Park on the 28th: April - Mid-Spring #Trees #Nature

The park where I go for my walks, photos taken in roughly the same places, on the 28th of each month, to observe the changes in the seasons: the trees, the flowers, the light in the sky.  Each month seems to have its own feel, regardless of what the weather is doing on that particular day.

Massive changes this month!  The trees have gone from bare to green - I didn't realise how different everything looked until I clicked on the March pictures.

This morning the skies were very grey when I got up, but blue sky was already showing through by the time I went out.  When I set out it was still cold enough for me to wish I had a jumper on, but even by ten a.m., when I started the walk back, the air was jacket-off warmer... just.

Click month to see previous posts:


This picture was taken later in my walk 
but the blossom was so beautiful I had to put it first!

These trees were still bare last month!

Daffodils and crocuses all gone now, but little blue flowers remain :)

These trees have been bare since October ~ lovely to see them green again
Daffodils of last two months replaced by the odd bluebell
So glad I didn't miss the pink!
Leaves back on the red tree, making it look like autumn
Skies are still changeable...
Couldn't resist a lying in the blossom picture πŸ˜‰


Thursday 25 April 2019

6 Ways To Create Characters That Readers Care About.

This is something I've been thinking about a lot over the past few weeks, as I start a new novel and am working on getting inside the heads of my new characters.

I'll start by saying that I have no Masters in Creative Writing, and have never been on a writing course - what I do have, though, is nineteen published books, with many, many reviews that talk about my character realism, so I hope some of this advice will help new writers who aim to achieve similar.


1. Develop a clear idea of who your characters are

Sometimes I have to write a few chapters from my characters' points of view before I really get a feel for them.  Most of my novels are written from a few 1st person POVs, and, during the beginning of the first draft, I may be unsure of exactly who they all are; it's not unlike when you first get to know someone in real life.  The more you explore the inside of their heads, the clearer the different aspects of their personalities become.

When I start a new novel, and I've, say, written a chapter from Evie's POV, then one from Hemsley, then one from Byron, I will re-read Evie's first chapter to reacquaint myself with her before starting her next chapter.  I do a lot of re-writing in the 1st draft!  Similarly, when you're writing a sequel, or the next part in a series, it's a good idea to read the whole of the last book through before you begin the next one.  It will remind you of all those little idiosyncrasies of speech that it's so easy to forget, and it keeps the flow going.

Now and again, I find that the personality I decided upon when I was planning the story out doesn't quite fit the plot, so I have to make some tweaks - and these tweaks need to be made all the way through.  For instance, if you realise, in Chapter 10, that Byron needs to be less introverted than he has appeared so far, you'll need to go back to the beginning and modify his actions, reactions and thoughts, even how communicative he is, all the way through. This is how you keep the characters real, and believable; readers pick up on sudden, inexplicable personality shifts.

2. Are you sure your main character is worthy of star billing?

In Tipping Point, the first book in my post apocalyptic series, the main character is a 34-year-old mother called Vicky.  When I began the 2nd book in the series, Lindisfarne, I'd already decided that it should include several points of view, one of which would be Lottie, Vicky's 16-year-old daughter.  I soon realised that I adored writing Lottie, the words just spilling out of my fingertips— and that, whereas Vicky was absolutely the right main character for Tipping Point, she needed less centre-stage time in Lindisfarne.  In the 3rd book, UK2, she didn't need very much at all, whereas Lottie was blossoming.

Think about it: how many times, when reading, have you loved a secondary character more than the protagonist?  It's possible that you won't realise until you start writing who the most compelling characters actually are.  I'd planned the series around Vicky, but Lottie became far more colourful.  Reader-wise, I was delighted to find that everyone loved her—Vicky, less so.  Don't be afraid to change your mind!

3.  Take care not to 'lose' the character within the action

In the past year or so I've read a few novels in which the protagonists have been little more than a vehicle for a fast-moving plot.  I haven't believed in them; they've been just a name on a page.  Even if your novel is plot rather than character driven, the MC still has to be three dimensional; if the reader doesn't care about a character, they won't care about how the story develops.  

Whether the MC is busy falling from an aeroplane, getting banged up in a scary South American jail or having tea with her mother-in-law, you still need to know how they think and feel, and their development within the story needs to be feasible.  For instance, it is unlikely that a cossetted, stay-at-home wife who, previously, wouldn't say boo to a goose, would suddenly be able to converse with members of the criminal underworld with ease, just because that's the way you want the plot to go.

Another way that it's easy to 'lose' the character is in a long stretch of dialogue, written when you need to convey certain information.  It's so easy to end up talking in your own voice, rather than the character's, because you're so anxious that the reader will absorb the points.  But Evie might not explain it as eloquently as you would; she might not have as large a vocabulary as you.  Jay might have difficulty expressing himself; Ozzy might use slang words that you wouldn't.  Never forget that it's the characters who are talking, not you!

4.  Avoid over-description of appearance

Mostly, as long as you know if a character is short or tall, fat or thin, fair or dark, if you know their nationality and age, you form your own picture of what they look like, and we all see them differently.  This is why, when books are translated onto the screen, people disagree about the casting choices—and why you don't need detailed descriptions of what people look like, or intricate detail about what they're wearing.  Hands up who skims over long descriptions of outfits, rooms and scenery in books? ✋✋✋✋✋✋ ... and it's a good plan to avoid those appearance description clichΓ©s.  You know; flashing emerald eyes and unruly auburn curls for a girl who's a bit feisty.  Jawline that could cut glass and intense velvet brown eyes for the hero.  I once saw someone complaining about the phrase 'heart-shaped face' that she kept reading in romance novels, which amused me.

5.  Writing in multiple POVs?  Make sure they have difference 'voices'.

I've read so, so many books in which I sometimes forget whose POV I'm in because the 'voice' is exactly the same as the previous character.  When you're re-drafting, make sure they don't all use the same words—for instance, it took my 2nd test reader for the book before last to point out that 3 of my characters used the word 'grubby' for someone who was dirty.  Yes, it's a common word, but it's unlikely that they would have all used exactly the same way of describing someone.  This is what your (my!) thesaurus is for. πŸ˜‰

Different people will use a variety of expletives and slang - for my series, I had a list up on the wall of the words that characters did and didn't use, so I wouldn't have both Dex and Doyle describing Verlander as a 'dickhead'.  But it's not just individual words, it's attitude, sentence patterns, an optimistic or pessimistic feel, whether they use sarcasm, levels of education, usage of slang phrases, profound thought or a more flippant approach... they should 'speak' as differently as people you know in real life.  

6.  Avoid the dreaded 'telling not showing'

Readers don't get to know a character by being told that she has a stand-offish demeanour, or that he speaks hesitantly because of his experiences in the war.  Characters comes alive because of their thoughts, actions and words.  Describing their thoughts is easiest if you write them in the 1st person, of course, but 3rd person can convey them just as well, if you write in 'deep POV', i.e., from inside the character's head, rather than in the form of a narrator.

  • 1st person: Just knowing that I'm going to see Joe after all this time is making my stomach churn; please God don't make me still be in love with him. Please.
  • 3rd person (deep POV): Her stomach churned; would seeing Joe again, after all this time, be as gut-wrenching as she dreaded?  Most importantly of all, was she still in love with him?
  • 3rd person narrator: She dreaded seeing Joe again after all this time.  The very thought made her stomach churn; she was so scared that, after all this time, she would find that she was still in love with him.
Either of the first two make you, as a reader, 'connect' with the character more than the third example, don't they?  Stacks of books and articles have been written about the whole 'deep POV' issue; this is just an example to show those who are not aware of the difference.  I usually write in the first person, anyway, so the question doesn't arise so much.

Most of all, I think, you write good characters by slipping into their head as you are writing them.  Becoming them, so you know what they are feeling, how they are seeing a situation; it might be quite different from how you would see it yourself.

Good luck!

Saturday 20 April 2019

Writing lessons learned from Magic City vs #TheWalkingDead #writerscommunity

Being a TWD addict and blogger as I am, I'm always interested to see my favourite actors from the show in other stuff they've been in.  Recently, I've been watching the 2012/13 series Magic City, starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

I did enjoy it, but when I analysed it I could see why it was not a hit, and thus cancelled after just two seasons.  I recognised some years ago that watching TV drama can teach you so much about writing, particularly pacing and the building of suspense, but considering the weaknesses of Magic City (as opposed to The Walking Dead, now renewed for its tenth season) gave me a few reminders about similar pitfalls in the writing of novels. 

Likeable Characters
One of the reasons for TWD's enduring popularity is that we love Carol, Michonne, Daryl, etc.  We want to know them.  We're gutted when bad stuff happens to them.  I realised, thought, towards the end of the second season of Magic City, that the only character I actually liked was JDM's Ike Evans.  Generally, the rest of them were pretty objectionable.  Ike's two sons were a) self-righteous and sulky and b) underhand and sulky.  The women, almost without exception, were self-serving and bitchy, even when they were misunderstood victims.  The baddies were not multi-faceted, like TWD's Negan and Simon, or those you end up feeling sympathy for, like Dwight and Merle, but just one-dimensional assholes.  

Lesson for writers: 
Your novel needs at least a few likeable characters, even if it's set in the dark world of crime and gangsters.  There are few characters more fascinating than a 'baddie' who later reveals more tender traits, or a 'goodie' who shows his or her flaws.  It's hard to like or get under the skin of one-dimensional stereotypes—and it's very risky to make your main character unlikeable.  If readers don't have anyone to root for, they won't care what happens to them.

Plot Threads Left Dangling
Magic City contained the beginnings of some great storylines, but they weren't carried through.  For instance, JDM's dancer wife took amphetamine shots to enhance her performance, and went to a voodoo practitioner in order to increase her fertility; these ideas, among others, just petered out, undeveloped and with no consequences, as if the writers had forgotten about them - unlike in TWD, when a plot thread/storyline is seen through or picked up on later; the results are often felt seasons down the line.

Lesson for writers:
All sub-plots need to be woven into the main plot to become a part of the whole.  A side-storyline has to have relevance to the basic plot, or at least have an effect on the lives and development of the characters' story arc, or it can end up seeming superfluous, an unnecessary diversion from the main story.

Unnecessary Sex Scenes
By the beginning of the second season of Magic City, even my husband (who is, you know, a bloke) said he was fed up with seeing naked tits and arses in every third scene.  Very little was left to the imagination.  Now, here's the thing: it doesn't add anything to the plot.  It takes you away from the story.  Like 95% of sex scenes in books, these were unnecessary, sometimes cringe-inducing, and, to be honest, a bit 'TMI'.  Something else I love about The Walking Dead: there is no sex.  I loved Rick and Michonne as a couple, but I have no desire to watch them shagging and, thank goodness, I never had to.  The closest we've ever seen is a hint that 'it' happened at all.  No thrusting buttocks, no heads thrown back in ecstasy.    

Lesson for writers:
Fifty Shades is yesterday's news.  You don't have to add erotic moments into your otherwise non-erotic novels.  As in TWD, you can convey the feeling between two people - yes, and all the passion - without a step-by-step guide to the gory details.  For all the glamorous, erotic scenes in Magic City, I never sensed the depth of love between any of the characters like that between TWD's Rick and Michonne, Maggie and Glenn, Abraham and Sasha - or Negan and Alpha.

<<< not this.... this>>>

Gorgeous women
In Magic City, every single woman was beautiful.  Perfectly groomed, full-on gorgeous at all times, even when depressed, at home alone, whatever.  I get that it was a high glamour show, but isn't that whole Dynasty thing so over?  I believe viewers like to see a bit more realism, these days.  I get that you can't compare the post apocalyptic world of TWD to 1950s Miami (couldn't be more different, really!), but the main point is that not all the TWD women are beauties, and not all the men are drop dead gorgeous.  Most of them are fairly ordinary-looking; we can relate to them. 

Lesson for writers:
Your main characters do not have to be beautiful/incredibly handsome, especially if not called for by the plot; forget all those heart-shaped faces, jawlines you could cut glass with, rosebud lips, cascades of unruly auburn curls, and other such clichΓ©s to convey great beauty.   Your men and women may be kind of attractive, because we all like to look at and read about attractive people, but they don't need to be drop-dead gorgeous.  The vast majority of people aren't.  Take a cross section of the people you know.  Think of 10 friends.  I bet only one or two of them would turn heads.  Most people are attractive in their own way to those who know and love them, and that's about it.  

And finally ... don't let your stories peter out with no satisfactory ending, like Magic City did.  That goes for blog posts, too.... πŸ˜”πŸ˜•πŸ˜‰