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Bernhardt Profile. What a Dozen
Years of Fiction Writing Have Taught Me, by Peter BernhardtNow and then during my twenty years of
composing legal briefs and reports evaluating federal agencies, I expressed my
desire to write a book. Little did I know that my wife would call my bluff when
we moved to Sedona in retirement.No longer did I have the excuse of a
demanding caseload and supervisory duties that bound me to courtroom and desk at
the U.S. Attorney's Office. Nor could I plead lack of time since running and
playing tennis only take up so many hours a week.
So after a year of
procrastination and having run out of excuses, I enrolled in a workshop for
wannabe authors.The workshop was a bust, but it
did push me into tackling my first book, The Stasi File-The Stasi File – Opera and Espionage: A Deadly Combination, in which, following
the age-old advice to “write what you know,” I wove together the unlikely
combination of a German upbringing, a lifelong love of opera and my experiences
as an attorney.As I struggled with an outline and the first chapter, I
realized that I needed to seek counsel from more experienced writers. Point of
view, filters, dialogue mechanics, narrative voice, passive voice, subjunctive,
nominative absolute—these and endless other writer's tools I learned in our
Sedona Writer's Group.Let me emphasize that not all
critique groups are the same. Puff groups (praising your work like your mother
would) will do more harm than good.
Receiving honest, critical feedback is
crucial to your goal of improving your writing. A group that offers such
constructive critique is The Internet Writing Workshop [IWW].
Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, short stories, memoirs, poetry, or other
genres, it offers a critique group to meet your needs. IWW’s Writing Group’s
spirited discussions gave me a new understanding of writing topics.
Group members hail from the far and near corners of the English-speaking world.
Their honest and constructive critiques will improve any manuscript—that is
certainly true for the three novels I submitted, chapter by chapter.Many proclaim that a first novel seldom
Due in large measure to the things I learned at IWW and in my local
critique group, I managed to craft The Stasi File – Opera and Espionage: A Deadly Combination competently enough for it to be named a finalist for Book of the
Year by the British Arts Council sponsored website, You Write On, which ranked my book a
bestseller. The novel was also a quarter finalist in the 2011 Amazon
Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.
After the above writers' groups helped
me put the sequel,
Kiss of the Shaman's Daughter, into publishable shape, my muse whispered a new cast of
characters into my ear. Real-life events inspired me to come up with the story
line for Red
Romeo. Over forty West German government female employees were
convicted of spying for communist East Germany for love. They fell for the
charms of Stasi Romeos trained by one of the greatest spymasters of all time to
seduce lonely single or divorced secretaries with security clearance.
Red Romeo has
now undergone the vetting process and is currently available as an ebook
preorder. You might ask why put a book on preorder when you can publish it upon
final editing?The answer to that question leads me to
mention one of the rare writing workshops I've ever attended that was worth the
time and money: Ebook Publishing
Intensive, recently given in Phoenix by Mark Coker, founder and CEO of
Mark made a convincing case for using preorders through which retailers
accept customer orders for your book in advance of your official on-sale date.In May 2015, Smashwords found that
during the preceding 12 months, 7 of its 10 bestselling titles were born as
preorders and 67 percent of its top 200 bestsellers titles started out as
preorders. Yet, surprisingly, only about 10 percent of authors avail themselves of this powerful marketing tool. Read a detailed analysis here.The potential buzz building and the fact that most retailers credit on the on-sale date all accumulated preorders convinced
me to put Red
Romeo on preorder before its publication date of November 7, 2015. You'll find the blurb and a sample of the first 15 percent of the novel at Smashwords Book Review.The ebook can be preordered at a special price at the following retailers:
Barnes & Noble.Kobo.
In twelve years, I've not only learned the craft of writing by joining the writers' groups I mentioned, but the best ways to self-publish by giving my newest baby the greatest possible chance of a successful birth.Twitter.
Your manuscript will shine after it has undergone honest and constructive critiques, whether by one of IWW’s groups and/or your local writers’ group. And once you have polished your novel into publishable quality, consider releasing it as a preorder.
Peter Bernhardt, Sedona Author.