Blog - 2024

Blog

Susan Berliner is the author of six supernatural thrillers ("DUST," "Peachwood Lake," "The Disappearance," "Corsonia," "After the Bubbles," "Soldier Girl"); three short story collections ("The Sea Crystal and Other Weird Tales," "George's Mother and Other Weird Stories," "Crash Effect and Other Weird Stories"); and a memoir ("Doing the Write Thing"). If you have any comments or suggestions, please contact me.

Early evaluation - May 18, 2024

I've finally finished writing the first draft of my dystopian thriller, The Resolve (including the epilogue), and have started rereading the manuscript. However, as I posted below, the book is very messy—containing plot holes, missing details, and needing research.

So far I've reread the first 8 chapters and here's what I think: I liked chapters 1 and 2; felt chapters 3-5 dragged, and thought chapters 6-8 were better. I'm not surprised that the manuscript is so inconsistent.

I'm noting the problems along the way and will make corrections and add missing information after I finish this first rereading round. That's when the real work will begin.

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Drecky draft - May 12, 2024

The first draft of my dystopian thriller, The Resolve, is finally done (except for the epilogue, which shouldn't be lengthy). It's taken me a very long time to write this manuscript, which is in really bad shape. But the good news is that this is only the first draft so I can edit it and fill in the many missing details.

Unlike many authors, I don't enjoy doing research so I've avoided most of that work, preferring to forge forward with my writing rather than take the time to gather necessary information. I'll do the research after I've reread the first draft and addressed the many issues.

But at least I'm making progress and I can visualize The Resolve being published by the end of this year—fingers crossed.

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Event evaluation - May 6, 2024

On Sunday, I participated in my first spring event with fellow author (and hubby) Larry Berliner. Although it was a cold and rainy day, we were indoors where, even with the heat on, it was cold.

Because it was a 2-day event and Larry and I were only there on Sunday, we had no say in where our table was placed. While all the other 12 or so vendors were situated around the periphery of the room, we were in the center. "Everyone will see you," said the organizer.

That was true. Everyone saw us, but many visitors avoided our table. I guess the thought of books can be pretty scary. Nevertheless, we had a good time and even sold some books. You can see the photos here.

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Children's book business - April 30, 2024

In my last post on April 24, I wrote about the need to publish my long-planned fictional children's book about a flying car before those vehicles become a reality.

Soon after, I received an email about the "future of children's literature." According to this message, I can now "create high-quality children's books effortlessly," with a new gizmo called the A.I. Children's Book Maker, a "powerful web app" that uses "cutting-edge AI to write and illustrate stunning children's books in mere minutes." And here's the kicker: I "don't need any experience in writing or drawing."

So my years of procrastination about writing a children's book doesn't seem to matter. All I have to do is get this new A.I. tool and the work will be done. Isn't technology wonderful?

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Fear of flying (cars) - April 24, 2024

I saw another article about the progress of flying cars, this one titled "Are Flying Cars Finally Here?" in The New Yorker. Stories like this make me nervous.

Why? Because I've written a fictional children's story about a flying car, one I dreamt about nearly twenty years ago. But during that time, I've concentrated on writing novels and short stories for teens and adults. I haven't moved forward with the flying car book.

Although flying cars don't yet exist, they will be here eventually, especially since, according to this article, 400+ companies are working on the technology. The article's author estimates the first flying car won't arrive for another 20 years. At least that gives me time to publish my book.

Airplane Car Original illustration of a flying car. Great for Airport parking lots. flying car stock illustrations

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Nutty numbers - April 18, 2024

I've posted before about strange fluctuations in my TikTok views, but this week's numbers were really weird: Two videos were shown to 700-800 viewers, one reached just 50 viewers, and the others were in my "normal" 200-300 viewer range.

What makes the platform so impossible to figure out is the two videos that drew the large numbers of viewers aren't new; I've posted almost identical videos many times. One shows me holding books (the dystopian Touchers series, After the Bubbles & Soldier Girl) and the other video shows pages of my time-travel novel, The Disappearance being turned.

You can see all my BookTok videos here. If you have any answers to how TikTok works, please share them with me.

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Review relish - April 12, 2024

A "fun, clever page-turner"

Those are the concluding words of a recent 5-star review about my monster fish thriller, Peachwood Lake.

As I've posted here numerous times, I find it wonderful to get positive feedback about books I've written. Unfortunately, it doesn't happen often. It's not that most readers don't enjoy my books; it's that very few readers take the time to write a review.

Reviews are so important, especially to indy authors like myself. Encouraging words like the ones above inspire me to keep on writing. So if you enjoy one of my books—or a book by another author—please write a short review on Amazon. It's incredibly helpful.

Here's more from the new Peachwood Lake review:

"Berliner’s characters are true and likable, even the creeps, and the pace of this enjoyable novel is just right. Sure, it’s hardly the first story you’ve heard about a killer in the water. But the villain of Peachwood Lake is all its own, as is this fun, clever page-turner."

                                                                                Peachwood Lake

TikTok talk - April 6, 2024

I'll never understand how TikTok works. I continue to post BookTok videos daily. Most of them promote my books, but I also include a smattering of fun, writing-related videos. No matter what I post, nearly all the videos get between 200 and 300 views.

However, last week, one video about my novel, The Disappearance—with text I've posted countess times—got 650+ views (and a good number of likes).

Why? Only TikTok knows. You can see my videos here.

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Writers write - March 31, 2024

As I've posted numerous times, I'm trying to finish the first draft of my dystopian thriller, The Resolve. But starting this week, I'll also be working on a freelance educational project, which entails a totally different kind of creative writing.

However, both projects have one important thing in common: Each involves writing. Yes, my novel is a book geared for teens and adults, while the freelance project involves creating short, simple reading comprehension test passages and questions for Texas English Language Learners (ELL) students in grades 2-5. But both formats give me an opportunity to write.

And no matter the type of writing or the subject matter, a writer has to write.

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Social media movements - March 25, 2024

It's amazing how little I know about social media. In my "TikTok for Authors" Facebook group, a woman this week posted tips for making videos more attractive to younger BookTok viewers. And since I write YA books, I'm always interested in attracting young readers. Her advice included adding two details I'd never heard of: the "millennial pause" and the "Gen Z shake."

After watching examples of these trendy movements, I was not impressed. The pause is a brief wait before a video starts to allow the poster to put down a phone, supposedly to show casualness. The shake involves a jolting motion at the beginning of the video, again to show it's not contrived.

Of course, both actions are completely contrived—things I would ever do—and the shaking is downright annoying. Also, the woman who posted this "helpful" information on Facebook isn't even an author; she's a PR person. Her viral videos are all about current events and social issues, not books.

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Killing a character - March 19, 2024

I'm writing Chapter 22 of Part 2 of my dystopian thriller, The Resolve, and I continue to hope this will be the final chapter before the epilogue. That means I have to kill the villain.

But he's been elusive. Every time I think he's going to die, he somehow escapes. It's getting exasperating. As I've mentioned, I even wrote the final death scene—but I can't get to that point.

It's not as if this bad guy has many redeeming qualities: He purposely killed mostly everyone on Earth so I don't feel sorry for his eventual demise. I just want to get there.

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Better blurbs - March 13, 2024

Last week, I attended a webinar on how to write better book blurbs. While I work hard on creating good descriptions for my novels and short stories, I know I can improve my blurbs—and sales.

Although my last two books (a memoir and short story collection) have atypical blurbs, The Resolve, which I expect to publish this year, is a more typical genre: dystopian thriller. Hopefully, this webinar's advice can help me optimize the book's description for the back cover as well as for Amazon ads. I'm going to try to incorporate the blurb recommendations as I continue to write the book.

According to the webinar presenter, I should work on the blurb, and keep revising it, before I finish the novel. In fact, the man mentioned one author who wrote the book description before even starting his thriller. His cover contained the following tagline: "Should he kill his wife to save his daughter?" The book was a major success.

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Funky phone - March 7, 2024

Unlike my computer, which is always reliable, my iphone is funky: Suddenly, it will stop doing tasks it has performed in the past, probably because it's an old model (6S).

Recently, however, the phone is once again doing tasks it had stopped performing. Why? Who knows? I haven't changed or updated anything.

Here are some of these positive changes:

* TikTok - For about a year, my cellphone had stopped giving me "Insights" on how my videos were doing. Now, I'm getting that analysis again.

* TikTok to Facebook - For a similar period, the phone refused to connect my TikTok videos to Facebook, refusing to recognize my correct password. But when I tried again recently, the sign-in worked.

*Wordle - Again, for a long time, I couldn't do the Wordle puzzle on my iphone, but I tried again a few days ago—because of the above recent successes—and Wordle worked again. (For the first time, I got today's word in 1!)

I'm on a technology roll! I guess you can get an old phone to do its old tricks.

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First draft blues - March 1, 2024

"I never reread a text until I have finished the first draft.
Otherwise it’s too discouraging."
—Gore Vidal

I thought I'd have finished the first draft of my dystopian thriller, The Resolve, by now. But I haven't. And when I'm finally done, I have so much more work to do, that the situation is, to use Gore Vidal's word, "discouraging."

However, unlike Vidal, I have reread some of the text along the way. I always do. I needed to drastically revise some of this book's beginning, which originally was going to be a post-coronavirus story. But that didn't work and I also had to rewrite some early scenes in Part Two.

Unfortunately, I've left so many important details out of this first draft that my first revision will take forever—and that's discouraging too. But I'd still like to get to that point.

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Review of The Institute by Stephen King - February 24, 2024

First, I have to warn potential readers that this novel centers on child abuse. Kids with telekinetic or telepathic abilities are kidnapped and taken to the Institute—a quasi-governmental facility in the middle of nowhere in Maine.

The children imprisoned in the Institute are subjected to horrible experiments. They are drugged, exploited, and ultimately destroyed, all for supposedly the "good" of mankind. Luke, the 12-year-old hero, is a likeable genius and we root for him and the other trapped kids who become his friends.

Despite the depressing theme, this novel is a terrific read. The only thing I didn't like is the book's beginning. The first 40 pages are devoted to an important (but minor) character, who doesn't reenter the action again for about 300 pages. I would have preferred for the book to begin with Luke and for King to insert the secondary character's background story sometime later in the novel.

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The dreaded apostrophe (for the last time) - February 18, 2024

Although I've blogged about misspelled headlines in February holiday ads for many years, this will be my final post on the subject. Why? I'll explain later.

But first, a short history (and grammar) lesson: When I was a child, we celebrated the birthdays of two presidents: George Washington's (February 22) and Abraham Lincoln's (February 12), with a school vacation day for each birthday. However, in 1971, to create 3-day weekends, the government established a new holiday on the third Monday of February to honor Washington and, in most states, Lincoln.

This redesigned February holiday is called "Presidents' Day," with the apostrophe signifying that we're celebrating more than one president (not President's Day, which would honor just one leader). It's also not "Presidents Day," because it's a "Day for Presidents," which requires the possessive apostrophe.

For many years, retailers and car dealers ran newspaper ads promoting their holiday sales and a majority of the ads contained misspellings. But now, there are barely any ads in newspapers—and I read two New York City dailies. In fact, this Saturday's 20-page main section of the New York Times had just two tiny ads.

So it's not that advertisers are getting this apostrophe right, it's that they're not running newspaper ads. However, I did find one print misspelling: "President's Sales Event All Month Long!" by Nissan of the Bronx.

Online ads are another story since many web advertisers don't seem to care about punctuation. For example, Macy's and MattressFirm are both having a "President's Day Sale."

But my favorite 2024 online ad is by La-Z-Boy. A Google search turned up a "President's Day Sale" and when I clicked to the site, it boasted a "Presidents Day Sale." La-Z-Boy managed to spell the name of the holiday wrong twice!

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Crawling to the finish line - February 12, 2024

I'm coming to the end of the first draft of The Resolve, the dystopian thriller I've been writing for more than a year. At least, I think I'm nearly there. For some reason, Part Two of this book has been a struggle and when I finally finish this draft, I've still got tons of work to do.

But today I wrote a scene I really like and that gives me hope. Also, when I get closer, I've already written two scenes involving the bad guys. Of course, I have to get to that point. And then I have to write an epilogue to tie up any loose story lines.

I can't wait to get there!

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Bookless in Queens - February 6, 2024

Each February, I participate in a Military Bridge card game with long-time friends and about thirty other people in Queens, New York. And every year (except for the pandemic period), I sign my newest book for Harriet, one of the participants.

Here's a photo of the two of us in 2023 when I signed two books because of the pandemic break:

Last week before the game, Harriet rushed over to me, smiling and asking for my latest book.

"I don't have anything for you," I said.

"Oh," she said unhappily, putting her wallet back into her bag. "I was looking forward to reading your new book."

That experience (plus today's Facebook memory of a picture of me with Harriet taken seven years ago) was a reminder of how slowly I'm moving forward with my dystopian thriller, The Resolve, which I'd hoped to publish in 2023. But I still haven't even finished the first draft. I'm now trying to write more each day, two scenes instead of one.

I'd like to have a book for Harriet to read by next February.

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TikTok trend - January 31, 2024

I belong to a Facebook group called TikTok for Authors, which sometimes gives me video ideas for that perplexing platform. Recently, a young British fantasy writer posted about one of her videos going viral and since it was a simple idea (and a simple video), I decided to copy the idea.

The author's short video shows her sitting in front of a computer, a puzzled look of her face, and text that reads: "When you're editing and get to a character you don't remember." As of this writing, that video has 292,000 views and 23,000 likes.

A few days ago, I posted a video of me sitting in front of my computer, a puzzled look on my face, and text that reads: "When I sit down to write, but my characters don't talk to me..." Thus far, my video has garnered 320 views and 32 likes.

I've made another video like the one above, which I'll post this weekend. Maybe it will generate more views.

Although the author with the viral video said her book sales haven't increased, I'd still like to get 200,000+ views. It can't hurt.

You can see my TikTok videos here

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Review request - January 25, 2024

I received a message today from a company offering to find readers to review my books—for a price, of course. But that's not something I want to do. Firstly, I don't sell enough books to afford this service and, secondly, I dislike the idea of paying people (even indirectly) to review my books.

However, book reviews are important, especially to indie authors. You'd be amazed at how much a few kind words on Amazon help writers like myself. So I'm making a request: If you've read and enjoyed any of my thrillers or short stories—or if you've loved another indie author's works—please take a few minutes to post a short Amazon review. It really does generate sales.

Thanks in advance!

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Resourceful characters - January 19, 2024

I'm crawling to the end of the first draft of my dystopian thriller, The Resolve, and a few days ago, one of my characters said she had a plan to distract the villains. The trouble, however, was that I had no idea what her plan was.

This happens to me sometimes when I write: My characters know more about what's going to happen in the story than I do. Yesterday, although I still didn't know the mysterious plan, I was able to write another scene.

But today, I needed to write the scene with the plan I didn't know. I sat down at the computer, started typing, and voilà: My character set up her plan—and it was pretty good.

Thank goodness for my resourceful—and clever—characters!

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College mixer - January 13, 2024

The second part of my dystopian thriller, The Resolve, mostly takes place on a Utah college campus. To make the book more realistic, I like the idea of using an existing school for the setting. However, as I write, I'm finding that plan too limiting.

As a result, I thought about shifting gears: Maybe I should create a mythical Utah college for the book. Such a plan would give me total flexibility to have a college fit the needs of my plot. But I like the authenticity of working with a real school much better.

My latest thought is a compromise. I'll use the name of the real college and the names of many of its buildings, but fictionalize everything else about the campus: a mix and match of reality and fiction. I'm hoping this approach will solve my problem.

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Out of order - January 7, 2024

I'm getting near the end of the first draft of my dystopian thriller, The Resolve. At least, I hope this is true since I've written 54,000 words (many of them not very good).

But in the last few weeks, in addition to writing scenes in normal plot progression, I've written two scenes out of order, both at the conclusion of the novel. The last time I remember working out of order was more than ten years ago with my second novel, Peachwood Lake, when I suffered from writer's block.

The two scenes for The Resolve both involve confrontations with the book's villains. Both times, I thought of the dialogue quickly and rushed to the computer to transcribe the characters' words and actions. 

Now to finish the first draft, I just have to write everything leading up to these final scenes. I'm hopeful I can reach this point by February. Fingers are crossed.

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Writing resolutions - January 1, 2024

I'm continuing my tradition of posting writing resolutions that I hope to accomplish each year. My thoughts for 2024 are similar to last year's:

* I resolve to finish writing my dystopian thriller, The Resolve. Although I resolved to finish this book last year, it's been a slow process.

The good news is that I'm nearly finished with the first draft. The bad news is even after I finish it, I still have loads to do, including extensive research that I've been putting off. Lately, I've been working backwards—writing scenes at the end of the book. Now I just have to work my way forward to that point.

* I resolve to finally finish my children's picture book. I've had the idea of a flying car in my head since I dreamt about the story more than 10 years ago. However, I've read that flying cars will be a reality in a few years, so if I don't complete this picture book soon, it will no longer be fiction.

I hope to have different resolutions for 2025. Meanwhile: Happy New Year everyone!

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