James Fant
James Fant

6Ws with Author James Fant

James Fant, an author from Charleston, South Carolina, is a member of my BooksGoSocial team. His latest novel is COED, which explores whether a man and woman can be best friends without crossing that line to intimacy. Yes, I read COED eBook Coverand enjoyed his novel very much.

Here are James’ responses to my 6Ws — who, what, when, where, how, and why. (Yes, how does end with a W.)

Who is author James Fant?

James Fant is a creator of fake worlds that make real people ask interesting questions. For example, in my latest novel, COED, the reader will ask: Can a man and a woman be just best friends without at least one of them wanting more than mere friendship? I love to entertain readers; however, I also like to make them think.

What does he write?

I write romance, science fiction, historical, and even mystery. I guess, I’m just a storyteller. I tell stories about everyday people because I want my readers to relate. I write stories about flawed people because aren’t we all striving for perfection and making mistakes along the way. So if I write about a character with a specific flaw, and I show how that character dealt with his/her issue, perhaps readers can identify and say, “Hey, I should approach it this way.” Also, I try to keep it spicy. Keep the prose moving. Give my readers something to look forward to as they turn the page, or swipe the screen.

When does he write? (Alternative question: When did he begin writing fiction?)

I started writing fiction professionally in 2006. I started off with short stories; in fact, my first novel, AN ODE FOR ORCHIDS, was originally a short story called Shawties. I began writing and the characters told me that they had a lot more to say than the confines of a short story could contain. So that story turned into a novel and in doing so, took me completely by surprise. If you would’ve told me that I was going to be writing novels when I graduated from college in 1999, I would’ve laughed at you. Hey! There’s an interesting idea for a novel: a time-traveler going back in time to tell someone that they were going to do X, Y and Z and they were amazed at this because they’re busying doing A, B and C. Hmmm…

Where does he write?

I write wherever I can get to an open document. On the express shuttle while on my phone. In my home office. In the recliner beside my bed. I write while I’m standing in long lines at the grocery store. Wherever! That’s why I am so happy to have cloud computing in my life. Man, where would I be now if I had to lug around a flash drive wherever I roamed. I write it on my phone, it’s saved to the cloud, and I can pull it back up on my laptop. The cloud is where it’s at!

How does he write?

My first draft is always written with my heart. What do I mean by that? Well, one of my favorite movies is FINDING FORESTER, which starred Sean Connery (William) and Rob Brown (Jamal). In the movie, there’s this scene where William and Jamal are writing and Jamal is just sitting there. William asks what’s the matter and Jamal says that he’s thinking about what to write. William admonishes him to just start typing. The first draft is written with the heart, basically whatever your mind tells you to write at that moment. No thought. No pondering. Just write. That’s what I do. Of course, I have a rough outline that I follow. But for the most part, I just start writing without stopping to think about the words I’m typing. Then, the second draft is written with the brain, analyzing what my subconscious mind delivered freely. Keeping things. Deleting things. I love writing in this way because there is essentially no writers’ block. Every day is productive, even if I delete what I wrote.

Why does he write?

I write because I want to make people smile. I write to brighten people’s day. I write to entertain. But above all else, I write to edify.

 Here’s the synopsis of COED.

Can a man and a woman be best friends without somebody catching feelings? Travis Barber and Sade Styles are best friends of the opposite sex. Despite what everyone thinks, they are not getting busy…yet.

Co-owners of a popular barbershop/salon named CoEd, Travis and Sade spend the bulk of their days together. But when Sade’s apartment lease runs out and Travis offers her the spare bedroom of his newly built house, will they end up sharing more than just the utilities?

Best case scenario, nothing happens. Worst case scenario, they get to know each other a little too well and end up hating each other! Are Travis and Sade making the best move for their friendship?

Other works: Simon’s Splinter, Fourteen Pages, An Ode for Orchids, The Mended Fence, The Secret Branch, and Close the Door.

More about James Fant

Website: jamesfantbooks.com

Facebook: Facebook_JamesFantBooks

Twitter: @jamesfantjr

Blog: jamesfantbooks.wordpress.com

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/jamesfant

Goodreads: goodreads.com/James_Fant

PURCHASE LINKS

Amazon: Amazon_James_Fant

Barnes and Noble: barnesandnoble_James_Fant

Kobo: Smashwords_James_Fant

 

 

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The Serial Comma on Trial

The comma became a recent internet sensation when a court in Maine kept a lawsuit alive in which dairy drivers are seeking $10 million in overtime pay. I’m rather proud to say the comma was a key piece of evidence for my suit in small claims court although at a much, much smaller amount.

In the Maine suit, the ruling rested on the lack of the so-called serial comma, which was missing between “packing” and “or” in the phrase “packing for shipment or distribution.”

What’s a serial comma? It’s the one used after the second to the last item in a list of three or more.

David Baron, the circuit judge in Maine handling the case, is quoted as saying, “For want of a comma, we have this case.”

I was amused because I used the humble but meaningful comma to my advantage. I claimed the insurance company that sold us an extended warranty should cover the cost of repairs after the engine block on our Subaru cracked.

Naturally, the company said no. It wasn’t going to dish out the nearly thousand bucks we paid to get the car back on the road.

That was years ago, but I recall blowing up a photocopy of the contract — with the significant comma — as evidence the repair should indeed be covered. Yes, it came down to a serial comma.

The judge at the small claims court agreed with me.

I guess the company saw the error of its ways because it sent someone with a check to the hearing.

(I also brought along the cracked engine block. The mechanics were amused but supportive when I asked for it.)

During my 30-plus years as a journalist, I will admit to having a very casual relationship with commas. They don’t appear in news stories as often as they do in other types of writing.

That includes serial commas, which are not used except when absolutely necessary. My theory is that long ago the guys in the pressroom decided to save on ink by eliminating most commas.

Admittedly, commas have a more important role in my fiction, which has taken over my writing life. It meant I had to study their proper usage. Fortunately, I found numerous online sites. Yes, I have the venerable “The Elements of Style.”

I refer to them when I find myself slipping into my old ways.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That was a delicious cake Betty at Op. Cit. Books in Taos had at my reading March 25. Yes, she had the bakery put the title of my new novel, The Sweet Spot on the top. How fitting!

And for those wanting a copy of The Sweet Spot here it is on Amazon.

 

 

 

 

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The Sweet Spot

Readying for a Reading

I will be sharing something I love — the written word — at a book event in Taos on Saturday, March 25. Specifically, I will be reading from my recently released novel, The Sweet Spot.

The reading and signing will be held 2 p.m. at Op. Cit. Books in the John Dunn Shops in downtown Taos.

For those who don’t regularly follow my posts on this website, The Sweet Spot is the first of my hilltown novels to be published.

Here’s the two-sentence synopsis: Most in Conwell love Edie St. Claire, the widow of a soldier killed in Vietnam, until her affair with his married brother ends tragically. She tries to survive this small town’s biggest scandal through the help of her rough-sawn family and a badly scarred man who’s arrived for his fresh start.

At readings for other novels, I’ve been interviewed by a fellow author and had a friend play music — The Beatles on the bassoon no less. I’ve served brownies sans pot. Once, I had a slideshow of images taken from a middle grade book. This time, I will be strictly chatting and reading aloud.

Right now I am deciding the passages I want to share Saturday. I want people to get to know Edie St. Claire, the novel’s main character, so I might start with the opening scene.

There are two more crucial characters in The Sweet Spot. One is Edie’s married brother-in-law Walker St. Claire. Their affair ends horribly for both of them. Then there is Harlan Doyle, the scarred stranger who moves next door for his fresh start.

The Sweet Spot has two fun characters: Edie’s father, who is a delightful old coot, and Leona, her no-holds-barred aunt. They offer a humorous counterpoint to the novel’s tragic elements. Plus, they are wonderfully rough-sawn in a hilltown kind of way. I must find a way to share them with listeners.

I am fond of one scene I find hilarious — when Edie’s softball team debates what constitutes a good man. Would listeners be lost because it has so many characters? I will have to figure that one out.

Although there are scenes later in the book I’d love to read aloud, I don’t want to give anything away, so I will stick with those in the first part.

My job for the next few days is to rehearse the selected passages. I want this to be a fun event.

For those who live in Taos, I hope you’ll join me Saturday. Live too far away? Please be there in spirit. I could use your support.

And here’s the link to The Sweet Spot on Amazon

 

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The Sweet Spot

My 25-Year Writer’s Block

People ask if I ever have a writer’s block. My answer is no although I did have one that lasted 25 years. That’s an awfully long time, but I put it to good use.

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But to inject optimism into this post, the block did break and since then I’ve been writing like crazy and have published three books, including my latest, The Sweet Spot.

I discovered my potential as a writer in college, focusing on poetry largely because I didn’t know how to sustain a thought in prose. I am not making this up.

Then I started having babies, lots of them by modern standards. I don’t blame my six kids for my writer’s block as I happily spent my creative energy loving and caring for them.

Yes, I did make attempts at writing prose and a bit of poetry, a genre I’ve since dropped. I even attempted novels. But, alas, I got nowhere.

Funny, I still thought of myself as a writer, so instead I decided to learn how to be one.

The first thing I did was read what others wrote. I brought home piles of books from the library wherever we lived.

Then I got a job as a correspondent for a daily newspaper in Western Massachusetts. (I had only five kids then.) I reported on the town I lived, Worthington, population about 1,200. It has one store, one stoplight, one church, one school, and one bar. But the hilltown generated a bit of news as I covered government meetings, profiles of interesting country folk, and whatever news, say a house fire, happened.

Soon I was covering three hilltowns plus handling regional stories, including one that took me to the White House. (The hilltowns of Western Massachusetts are the setting for The Sweet Spot.) At first I was paid by the inch, then by the  story.

Reporting was the best thing I could have done. I listened to the way people talked and watched how they behaved. I paid attention. I wrote that all down.

I found stories wherever I went.

So when did my writer’s block end? After I became an editor. Being a reporter sucked a lot of my creative energy. Manipulating other people’s writing — I have a light touch — didn’t. One day I began writing fiction, yes, prose, and it became a part of my every day.

The writer’s block broke about 16 years ago like an ice dam in a river after a profoundly cold winter. One could say it was the winter of my discontent, with apologies to Steinbeck. Since then I’ve written five adult novels, three in a middle grade series and three in a bilingual series for young readers. Three of those have been published.

Currently, I’m in the midst of a mystery (a first solid draft completed) and the fourth in the middle grade series.

Thankfully, I won’t experience that winter again.

Speaking of The Sweet Spot, here is that novel’s quick synopsis and a link to it on Amazon.

Most in Conwell love Edie St. Claire, the widow of a soldier killed in Vietnam, until her affair with his married brother ends tragically. She tries to survive this small town’s biggest scandal through the help of her rough-sawn family and a badly scarred man who’s arrived for his fresh start.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: That’s me in college when I was convinced I would be an author.

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The Sweet Spot

Ah, the Business of Writing

As I often tell would be authors, there’s writing and then there’s the business of writing. When I began writing novels in earnest 17 years ago, I had one model in mind: I get an agent, the agent gets me a contract with a publishing house, my book is a hit.

As for that model, I made it to the first step twice and almost to the second. Yes, I expended a lot of energy trying that route and querying indie presses.

Ah, but the industry has changed with eBooks and the ability to self-publish successfully. So for the past year I’ve been doing it myself with the encouragement of a fellow author who’s been successful at it.

(By the way, my lack of success achieving that model didn’t stop me from writing even though until last year, I had full-time jobs as a journalist. Besides the three I have published, I have three other adult novels, a middle grade series, a bilingual series for young readers, plus a mystery I’m working on now.)

I’ll say up front self-publishing is a lot of work. And the big lesson I learned from the first novel is that I need help marketing the second.

Here’s what I’ve done in the past year. I published in paperback the first of a bilingual series for young readers, The Cousins and the Magic Fish/Los Primos y el Pez Mágico, with a translation by another author friend Teresa Dovalpage. It’s a bit of magical realism with characters one might find in Northern New Mexico where we live.

Next came Peace, Love, and You Know What, a fun romp inspired by my own experiences in college, in eBook and paperback.

Did I make any money on Peace, Love, and You Know What? In terms of what I dished out, I would say I broke even. Of course, I’m ignoring the reams of paper and printer ink, plus the countless hours I spent writing and rewriting the novel.

Admittedly, the writing and rewriting bring me such great pleasure, so I am still ahead.

I am grateful to those who have read the novel and even posted reviews because they enjoyed it. (It has 11 five-star reviews that were unsolicited.)

I just released The Sweet Spot, the first of my hilltown novels. (I’ve included the synopsis below.) For the paperback, I opted this time for a matte cover, paid for an image I felt represents the novel’s contents, and chose a slightly bigger font. As I’ve posted before, I read and reread that novel countless times as my own editor. Of course, my designer worked her magic. It’s a pretty book for those who like paper in their hand or on their screen.

I followed suggestions of having a great cover and posting social media leading up to the launch and after. The blog posts on my website featured characters and themes with excerpts from the novel. I scheduled a reading in Taos, where I live, for later this month. Copies of my novel are in the local stores.

So how’s the business of writing going? I’d say on the modest side. But this time, I don’t plan on being so stubborn about it.

Upon the recommendation of yet another author friend, I have turned to BooksGoSocial, to get the word out. This outfit, based in Ireland but with an office in the U.S., aims to gives an author’s book a much broader reach via social media than certainly I could ever muster at what I believe is a reasonable price. (My attempts at Kindle and Facebook ads were flops.) It also offers training in marketing via social media.

The BooksGoSocial promotion for my novel The Sweet Spot started March 10. They will be tweeting the heck out of it and giving advice on what I can do. I will let you know how it works out. My mission: more readers and income from my writing.

By the way, I am giving a presentation on publishing options at the inaugural Taos Writers Conference by SOMOS, the next day, March 11. I will be glad to pass on the lessons I’ve learned.

As promised, here’s the synopsis for The Sweet Spot:

Edie St. Claire is smack in the middle of what’s going on in Conwell: her in-law’s general store, the Do-Si-Do Bar, and this small town’s biggest scandal in years.

Her father is a crusty so-and-so who runs the town dump. Her wisecracking aunt is as fiery as her dyed red hair. Both live next to Edie and her young daughter.

Edie is a woman on the go, pretty and direct, but she holds onto an old sadness: the death of her husband in Vietnam. She tries easing her grief with his married brother, Walker.

But when the affair comes to a tragic end, Edie does her best to survive the blame with the help of her rough-sawn family and a badly scarred man who’s arrived for his fresh start.

Here’s the link on Amazon:The Sweet Spot

 

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