Philosophy to Fantasy

September 11, 2009 at 1:53 am | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment

I have a certain image in my mind when I think of a professor of philosophy who has published articles and written various academic, philosophical works.  He is wearing a corduroy blazer with leather elbow patches.   He doesn’t pay attention to trends, whether in fashion or politics, preferring what is tried and true to whimsy.   He is pale from hours spent pouring through dusty tomes, with watery, pale blue eyes and round spectacles perched on the end of his nose.

Phil Smith is breaking out of the stuffy professor mold, delivering a fantasy adventure set in the medieval world. S  mith says he has always had an interest in fiction and fantasy stories and in 2003 he began writing “The Heart of the Sea.”  Encouraged by his wife to continue, he finished the first draft in 2005 and the novel will be published as an ebook this summer. How does a professor of philosophy find time to write? Smith worked on his book during school breaks and advises “It’s a matter of sticking to it; coming back to it… characters kind of come alive on you.”

How to Write a Fantasy Story

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Writers – Fake it to Make it

August 24, 2008 at 4:58 am | Posted in Writers Write | 1 Comment
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Writing is a tough gig. I can certainly understand a writer being tempted to elaborate their resume or exaggerate their experience. However, some authors have done irreparable damage to their reputations and careers by misrepresenting themselves and their work.


Oprah Winfrey has been caught in the middle of two media messes. In 2006 James Frey’s bestselling “A Million Little Pieces” was found to have fictionalized elements and Random House agreed to refund readers over $2 million. Clearly the publisher bears partial responsibility for the misrepresentation, but I wonder how much.

Do writers succumb to pressure from editors or do editors rush through promising manuscripts without due diligence?

According to Samuel Freedman, a professor at Columbia University Journalism School, “Editing is more than just line editing,” he says. “It also requires the editor to ask the writer, ‘Where’s the corroborating evidence? Where are the other documentary sources for this?’”

After the scandal and Oprah’s wrath, you would think other memoirist would stick to truth. And yet…

Misha Defonseca, author of “Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years” confessed that it is “nothing but pure fiction.” How did a story of living with a pack of wolves to escape the Nazis and trekking 1900 miles across Europe not raise a few eyebrows?

Or Laura Albert, who posed as Jeremiah “Terminator” LeRoy. She created a backstory of prostitution, drug addiction and vagrancy, prior to the publication of his first novel in 1999. Albert went so far as to dress for the part to attend press conferences and book readings.

Nasdijj, the Navajo author of “The Blood Runs Like a River Through My Dreams,” a father’s story of his son’s death due to fetal alcohol syndrome; was actually Tim Barrus. In this case, both the author and the child were fictional.

Margaret B. Jones is another author to fool with Mother Oprah. Her memoir, ‘Love and Consequences’ tells the story of a half white, half native American orphan living with a black foster family in South Central LA. Come to find out, Ms Jones was a fictional character created by Margaret B. Selzer; who grew up in Sherman Oaks and graduated from an exclusive private school in the San Fernando Valley.

It was Selzer’s sister who called the publisher, Riverhead, with the truth and the promising book, released to rave reviews was recalled. According to a statement from the publisher, “Prior to publication the author provided a great deal of evidence to support her story: photographs, letters; parts of Peggy’s (i.e., Seltzer’s) life story in another published book; Peggy’s story had been supported by one of her former professors; Peggy even introduced the agent to people who misrepresented themselves as her foster siblings.”

She had to know the truth would come out with publicity. We can only wonder why a talented writer would gamble on a no win situation.

How to Write a Detective Story

August 17, 2008 at 4:58 am | Posted in Writers Write | 1 Comment
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If you want to write a detective story, you’ll have to begin with a little investigation of your own. There are several different sub genres in this category of mysteries; from hard boiled detectives to amateur sleuths.   Your detective could be anyone, a little old lady, a cynical ex marine, a teen girl with a knack for mischief, a chef, even a couple of cats.

The first detectives of popular fiction were amateurs who solved murders like a parlor game outwitting the incompetent police.  Dashiell Hammett, a former Pinkerton detective, took a more realistic approach to crime solving, with classic detective novels like “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Thin Man.”  Raymond Chandler once said “He (Hammett) put these people down on paper as they were, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes. He wrote scenes that seemed never to have been written before.”

Chandler’s Philip Marlowe epitomizes the hard boiled private investigator, a incorruptible, hard drinking, tough guy.  Chandler created a feeling of believability with his characters and stories.

Amateur sleuths are usually not held to the same standards. It can be tricky justifying the presence of your  protagonist especially if you intend to serialize the character.  Remember the Angela Lansbury character from Murder She Wrote?  Every where she went a murder was committed.  I would seriousily reconsider a friendship with this type of sleuth.  Your detective has to have a legitimate reason to be involved and something personal at stake.  They may have been accused of a crime or the victim of a crime, they may be protecting someone else or they may have a professional interest in the truth, such as: journalists, lawyers or writers.

Once you’ve decided the type of detective story you wish to write, focus on the crime and facts of the case.   More than any other type of story, I believe the detective story will benefit from a detailed outline before you start writing.  There are certain rules you must follow to meet your readers’ expectations

1.  Introduce the crime early on, preferably within the first three chapters. It is the crime and subsequent clues that hook your reader.  The crime should be significant enough that your reader feels invested in the outcome.  Most detective stories involve a murder or kidnapping.

2. Introduce the detective and culprit early on.  You’re not playing fair if you don’t include the antagonist in the line up of suspects.

3.  Provide clues along the way so it is possible, though highly unlikely, that your reader could solve the case themselves.

4.  Don’t provide enough clues along the way so your reader solves the case before your detective.  A detective story is a race between your protagonist and your reader.  If the reader wins, the victory will be bitter sweet.  Your readers want to be challenged, but in the end, they want to be outsmarted.

5.  Wrap up all the loose ends.  Readers will remember every red herring you threw in their direction.  If a clue wasn’t relevant, make sure you provide a reason why it was included.    Each plot point must be plausible, and  the action even paced, without getting bogged down in back stories or subplots.

6.  Your detective must solve the case using logic or scientific means.  CK Chesterton wrote the following oath for all writers of detective stories: “Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow on them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?”

Of course, the best way to learn how to write a detective story is to read detective stories.  Pay attention to how clues are revealed, when key characters are introduced and when revelations are made.  Detective stories are fun to read and fun to write, but if you don’t play by the rules, you won’t stay in the game.

How to Write Articles

July 25, 2008 at 7:17 pm | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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If you want to earn money online, you’ll need to generate traffic to your site.  It’s just that simple.  How do you generate traffic?  Well, that’s where it gets a little more complicated.  When a customer is searching for a specific item, they’ll type in certain key words or a phrase to find that item.  Search engines such as: Yahoo, MSN and Google, use complex algorithms to rank pages according to their relevance.

 

The key to being relevant is to research various terms and then write content targeting these terms.

 

Begin with an article on your site and use the key word or phrase in your title.  You will then build links pointing back to that article from other sites. You build links with supplemental articles and link with the key word or phrase.

 

For example, don’t include a link that says yoursite.com.  Instead, link to your site from the key words, ie: How to Write. 

 

Publish these articles at sites like Peoplefuel, Expurt or WordPress. All of these sites will host your articles or blog for free.  Peoplefuel and Expurt also offer revenue sharing.

 

Here are a few tips on how to write articles

 

1. The more articles you write the better.  Keep them brief and to the point.  You want to provide good information but there’s no need to cause eye strain.  500-600 word count is ideal. 

 

2. Each article should contain relevant, original content.  It is a bit of challenge to write 3 or 4 articles on the same topic and maintain originality but it’s absolutely necessary. Google filters out duplicate content from their search results so it’s a waste of energy to post it.  This is another reason to keep your posts brief – to have something left to say.

 

3. Lists work well.  People who like to get to the bottom line quickly know exactly where to go when they see a numbered list.  The internet is crammed full of information and most of it isn’t worth reading, which is why people skim content. If they can’t find value at a glance, they’ll move on with little time wasted. 

 

4.  Write to your mother.   Keep your language simple and conversational.  You don’t need to be perfectly polished  to post.  Only my 8th grade English teacher cares about perfect punctuation and dangling participles.   Keep your content rated G to PG when you’re writing articles to market your site.  There are obvious exceptions, but for most business ventures slang or foul language just seems unprofessional.

 

5. Always leave them wanting more.  I will follow my own advice and keep this post brief.  Sure, I can think of more tips, but I have 3 or 4 more articles to write on the same subject.  If you want to learn more on how to write articles you’ll have to follow me down the rabbit hole.

Get Paid to Write

July 24, 2008 at 10:04 pm | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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When you decided to be a writer, did you think you were going to write a novel or screenplay?  Did you imagine yourself as the next Stephen King or Hollywood “It” Kid schmoozing with celebrities and getting comfy on Oprah’s couch?  I imagined writing terrific mysteries, releasing a new best seller every year and living comfortably doing something I love. 

 

I do get paid to write, but it’s not quite the vision I had years ago. While you wait for that publishing contract and big advance, you might find yourself hustling for freelance jobs.  I’ve written articles for others to post on a wide variety of topics.  I might not be passionate about solar energy or knitting, but I am passionate about writing. While the topics don’t nourish my writer’s soul, it does put food on the table.

 

I’ve heard my fellow writers complain about the dismally low pay scale for writing articles.  It does not pay as well as print because site owners need to update content daily, not weekly or monthly.  They need quality content but they also need quantity content.  The budget only stretches so far and many of my customers are small business owners.  If you can’t stomach the idea of earning only $20-$30 an hour, there are other options

 

1.  Write for your own site.  This is appealing because you can write about the topic of your choice (such as writing) and you will reap all the rewards. Just be prepared for the three W’s…

 

Hard Work

Lots of Writing and

A long Wait

 

As you build content on your site, you also want to build links. You can do this by writing supplemental articles, NOT duplicate articles, and placing them on sites like WordPress or Peoplefuel.  These sites will host your articles or blog for free and Peoplefuel also allows revenue sharing. This makes the article doubly beneficial because it provides a link to your site plus displays ads to collect extra income.

 

If you decide to write for your own site you should consider how you will make money once you’ve generated traffic and established yourself as an authority.  This brings me to…

 

2. Write an e-book.  The hottest products for online entrepenuers are e-books.  Consumers are ravenous for information and e-books are ideal for satisfying their appetite.  E-books are inexpensive to publish and distribute and they will keep generating revenue long after they’re written.  Non fiction or How To e-books have been accepted by the online audience but fiction e-books still struggle to find a readership.  I don’t know why one genre is more successful than another, but it’s something to consider when planning your e-book. 

 

3.  Ghost write – similar to writing articles for others there is demand for ghost writers to write e-books for others.  There are sites that connect writers and clients with jobs ranging from resumes, essays to e-books and novels.  I haven’t done any business with these companies, so I’m not endorsing them, just letting you know they’re services are available.  The best endorsement for a potential client is an example of your work. Most of my contacts have come from the articles I have posted.  Did I mention that when I write an article for others I ask to include a link to one of my sites?  The best way to get work writing is to write. 

 

4. Pay per post – You can also earn money if you write a review or article about a specific product and post it on your site.  You can pay $10.00 a year for a domain name and find hosting for free.

 

You can get paid to write. It might not be quite what you envisioned, but it is possible. The opportunity is there, you just have to take it.

 

 

Get Paid To Write

Get Paid To Write

How to Write a Story

May 13, 2008 at 4:31 am | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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I think all writers should look to their favorite authors for guidance.  If you’re wondering how to write a story, study the work of writers you enjoy reading. How do they convey mood, describe a setting or build characters?  I’ve read authors who describe a character’s wardrobe, down to the color of socks. Stephen King paints an extravagant landscape with his words; describing an eerie labyrinth or deserted towns.  He sculpts characters through their past experiences and preferences. Once you’ve identified the techniques in use,  practice applying them in your own work. 

 

Write short stories or flash fiction to explore different styles, perspectives or genres. The elements of plot, setting and character development still apply but you must be more disciplined in the execution.  Every word counts, so plan ahead with a plot outline.

 

Beginning – Start with action, a change in the status quo and a character in turmoil.  You need to grab your reader immediately.

 

Introduce Conflict – This is the question to be answered or problem to be solved. Without conflict there is no point in telling a story.  You need to challenge your character so they are transformed by the end of the story.

 

Obstacles – Your protagonist takes action to resolve his or her conflict, but it shouldn’t be too easy. Be sure to throw a few obstacles in his way to build the tension and urgency.

 

Confrontation – Occurs when your character meets his nemesis, the conflict head on.  

 

Resolution – This is when you reveal the result of the conflict. Did the character succeed or fail? 

 

End – Take your time to develop a solid ending. Don’t rush to close the story or leave loose ends.  If you plan ahead you’ll know exactly where you’re going and what to do when you get there.

 

Individual style, pace and voice set writers apart and imitation, while the greatest form of compliment, is a hallow substitute.   The most important tip for how to write a story is to be willing to be yourself.   There are only a few stories and millions of aspiring writers, the best way to distinguish yourself is by honoring your unique perspective of the world. This is all we writers offer.  

Writers – Before you mail your manuscript

March 18, 2008 at 8:31 pm | Posted in Writers Write | 1 Comment
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You want to be a writer.  You’ve devoted months, perhaps years to writing your novel.  Now is the time to take a little extra care and prepare it for submission.  It will be well worth your effort to make a positive first impression.

 I highly recommend you seek the services of a professional editor.   No matter how many times you have read your manuscript; searching for misspelled words or grammatical errors; scouring for passive voice, dangling participles and mismatched adjectives; it will benefit from professional services. Sometimes we are just too close to see what is right before our eyes.  An editor will offer a new perspective, unbiased and sincere.

While you wait for feedback, research your market.  Find a list of publishers for your genre.  You can either look at books by your favorite authors; usually the publisher is noted on the first or second page before the Title Page.  Sometimes an author will include acknowledgements, and thank their editors and agents.  There are also several resource books available, with current contact and address information.  Consider the following: 2008 Writer’s Market, Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market 2008 or Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors & Literary Agents 2008, which include details regarding specific agents or publishers who are seeking submissions. 

Only when your manuscript is perfectly polished and you’ve done sufficient research on your market, will you be ready to submit your book for consideration.   Most agents / publishers will request a query before asking for the entire manuscript, followed by a cover letter, chapter synopsis, story synopsis and author resume are the second.  Enclose a self addressed stamped envelope (SASE) for a reply.   Once asked, and only when asked, you may submit your complete manuscript.  The first page is a Title Page.  Include your name, address, phone number and email address.  In the upper right corner add word count. Vertically and horizontally center the Book’s Title, double space, Author’s Name.  Your book will begin on Page Two.  Include a header with your last name / book title and footer with page number.  Each page should have at least 1” margin, lines double spaced, font Times New Roman or Arial.  Use good quality paper and print on one side only. 

Pay attention to the spelling (especially your contact’s name!), content and appearance of these “selling” documents.  You are not only selling your manuscript, you are also selling yourself. You need to present yourself in a professional manner. Writing is art and books are business.  Agents and publishers are in business and they will be looking for professional partners to sell books.  If you appear needy, demanding, difficult or unprofessional you’ll lessen your chances of securing a contract.   

Writers Bloggers – Create a Blog

March 5, 2008 at 7:57 pm | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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I started writing because I loved to read.  It was with equal parts admiration (How do they do it?) and disdain (I could do it better) that I crossed the threshold from reader to writer.  What did I find on the other side?  To my dismay, not a mob of eager agents or publishers clamoring to sell my book.  Instead I found a crowd of cynics:  aspiring authors who had been burned by con artists.  I was burned too, (moderately singed), and so I can certainly understand the need to guard your most precious treasure.

Not your book.

Your HOPE.

You can sell your book, whether self published, e-published or traditionally published, but the key is to SELL your book. Even before it is published, you want to generate buzz about yourself and your work.  You can do this if you create a blog and drive traffic to your site.    

Your blog should be relevant and meaningful to you and to your prospective audience.  Believe it or not even writers lose interested in writing if the topic is boring to them.  I couldn’t write a blog about car maintenance, even if my main character is a super hero welding a wrench.  It may tie into my book, but it has no long term appeal to me as a writer.  Subjects that interest me are Writing, True Crime, Reading, Self Help (motivation, setting goals, positive thinking) and Reality TV.  If it’s relevant to my work as a writer, I’ll post it on Fictionway.  I never run out of things to write about because this interests me.  My target audiences for my books are mystery, suspense and crime readers.   And if they’re like me, they’re also curious about the process of writing. 

Once you know the theme of your blog, you will need to drive traffic to your site.  A good way to do this is to post articles that provide good information and directs your readers to your blog.  Simple right?  The only trick is knowing where to place your articles so you get the most exposure.  There are lots of sites that allow you to post articles with links back to your site, including: Squidoo, HubPages and PeopleFuel.  Some allow revenue sharing, which is icing on the cake.  Explore these different sites and find a few (yes a few) that are easy to use and build links to your site. Without spreading yourself too thin you want to have links back to your web site from multiple sources.    How thin is too thin?   

You should probably try to write 3-4 articles a week for placement outside of your own blog.  You don’t need to add fresh content every week, but it will help you build a readership.  That is in addition to your own blog, which should have a minimum of 1-2 articles a week. This is where you want the bulk of your information.  I started with a couple of WordPress Blogs and then PeopleFuel.  This is enough for me.  There is a lot of information available for creating a blog, optimizing search engines (SEO), targeting key words and creating links. This is just a way to start and I’m sure you’ll get more proficient with time. 

Don’t give up hope.  You dreamed of writing a book, and you achieved it.  You dream of selling your book and you will achieve that too. It just takes belief, perseverance and plenty of patience.

Dean Koontz

February 7, 2008 at 7:23 pm | Posted in Writers Write | Leave a comment
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Dean Koontz has long been one of my favorite authors.  I have accompanied him on his journey from shocking horror master to supernatural guru.  At times the path was messy with blood and gore and at other times, inspiring. Over time,  his work has become increasingly formulaic: 2 parts ordinary hero thrust into a hopeless situation fighting omnipotent villains, 1 part supernatural activity, 1 part faithful companion and a dash of spirituality.   While the recipe has created plenty of tasty treats: Odd Thomas, The Good Guy and The Husband, are all somewhat bland in their predictability.   Whispers Dean Koontz

 

 

Koontz is a wonderful writer. He is a master of language, commanding words to create breathtaking images or heart thumping scenes.  Similar to Stephen King, Koontz creates flesh and bone characters, so well developed they feel like friends, family or lovers.  His protagonists are flawed yet brave, loners yet likeable, reluctant yet forced to take action.

 

“Anyway, only a fool or a madman goes looking for adventure in picturesque Moonlight Bay, which is simultaneously one of the quietest and most dangerous communities on the planet. Here, if you stand in one place long enough, a lifetime’s worth of adventure will find you.” Seize the Night

 

 

Koontz’s break through novel was Whispers published in 1980. The main character, Hilary Thomas, is repeatedly attacked by Bruno Frye, even after he is killed.  Hilary represents the classic Koontz heroine: brave, alone and victorious.

The Servants of Twilight, published in 1988, is a fan favorite. The story is about a mother, Christine Scavello, who must protect her son from crazed cult members who believe her child is the Anti Christ.

 

His work became noticeably darker, beginning in 1991, with Hideaway.  Hatch Harrison was clinically dead for eighty minutes and was brought back to life by a pioneering doctor.  He begins to have violent visions of a serial killer, called Vassago. Other works published in the 90’s feature sadistic killers: Intensity, Dragon Tears and Tick Tock. By the late 1997, Koontz began to explore characters with diabilities. Chris Snow is featured in a trilogy of books beginning with Fear Nothing. Snow suffers from the rare disease called XP (xeroderma pigmentosum); he is allergic to sunlight. Supporting characters may have Down’s syndrome, they may be agoraphobic or blind.

 

“The girl stamped her left foot on the ground, causing the leg brace to rattle softly. She raised her left hand, which proved to be deformed: The little finger and the ring finger were fused into a single misshapen digit that was connected by a thick web of tissue to a gnarled and stubby middle finger.” One Door Away From Heaven

 

While the human characters are important to the story, there is often a canine character who steals the spot light.  Koontz is an animal lover.  His friend Trixie, a golden retriever, graced several book jackets, co authored a few books and even provided a pseudonym to which Koontz published.

Dogs played a prominent role in many of his works, including: Fear Nothing, Seize the Night, The Taking, Watchers, Dark Rivers of the Heart, Dragon Tears and One Door Away from Heaven.

“The dog also knew what the ringing meant. He padded out of the shadows into the candle glow, and stared sorrowfully at me. Unlike the others of his kind, he will hold any man’s or woman’s gaze as long as he is interested. Animals usually stare directly at us only briefly – then look away as though unnerved by something they see in the human eyes. Perhaps Orson sees what other dogs see, and perhaps he, too, is disturbed by it, but he is not intimidated.He is a strange dog. But he is my dog, my steadfast friend, and I love him.”   Fear Nothing

None was more prominently featured then Nikki, a rescued golden in The Darkest Evening of the Year.  I was disappointed by the book, finding the plot and character development lacking. The book is also burdened by Koontz’s own political and social agendas. Of all his works, I still love Lightning the most.  Published in 1988, the story was inventive, surprising and romantic.  The most important moments in Laura Shane’s life have been punctuated with lightening, which happens to coincide with the appearance of a stranger.

Anne Rice

February 5, 2008 at 5:05 am | Posted in Writers Write | 5 Comments
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Anne Rice is an author who has become a cult figure in the vampire subculture.  She transformed the image of vampires for a generation of readers, from mysteriously foreign to conflicted, seductive characters.  Born in New Orleans, a city rich with diverse religions and superstitious beliefs, Anne grew up Catholic.  She was fascinated with the symbolism of the church.  Anne’s mother struggled with alcoholism which created a sense of dread for the children, never knowing if she would be “sick”.  Her mother died when Anne was fourteen and a year later her father remarried and moved the family to Dallas.    

 

 Anne wrote stories from a young age.  She explored ideas that conflicted with her strict religious upbringing, so she left the church.  At 19 she went to San Francisco, lured by the promise of an artistic, hip community.   She married Stan Rice in 1961 and moved to Texas, but they were back in San Francisco a year later. They had their first child, Michele in 1966.   Michele at 4 years old was diagnosed with leukemia and she died two years later.  During Michele’s illness the couple turned to alcohol to cope. 

After Michele’s death, Anne’s alcoholism took over her life and drove the couple further and further apart. Anne went to Texas to stay with Stan’s family and six weeks later she returned for a fresh start with her husband.  In late 1973, she returned to her work. She began with a short story, Interview with The Vampire.  At the end of five weeks she transformed Interview into a novel.  The manuscript was rejected repeatedly, but finally in 1975 it was bought for $12,000.  The film rights sold months later and then paperback rights soon after.    

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The intense sexuality, homosexual undertones and philosophical questions were different than anything on the market at the time.  It was met with critical distain and luke warm success.  She gave birth to her second child, Christopher,  in 1978.    The money she received from the sell of Interview allowed Anne to write full time.  She and Stan quit drinking and Anne published three erotic novels under a pseudonym.   She also wrote a sequel to Interview, “The Vampire Lastat” which reached the best sellers list within two weeks.  The San Fransisco writing community shunned her and disregarded her success.  

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In 1988 “The Queen of the Damned” was published. It was the third installment of the vampire chronicles.  The family moved to New Orleans.  Rice was inspired and wrote “The Witching Hour”.  Rice’s fans are diverse, from disenfranchised teens to suburban mothers. Anne played a role of gothic queen, wearing costumes and arriving in a coffin to book signing events. By 1993, Rice had written 15 books.

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Her first book, Interview with The Vampire was being made into a movie, with Tom Cruise in the lead role.  Rice didn’t approve of the casting choice, but when the movie was released, she recanted her doubts.  She continued to write prolifically, releasing nearly a book a year.   

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In 1998, Anne fell into a mysterious coma. She was diagnosed with diabetes and had to slow down her frenetic pace.      

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