Monday, November 30, 2009

Guinea Hen Gets Bathed

My husband recently rescued a Guinea Hen from a farm down the road. She was in dire straits and had he not brought her home for some R&R, I doubt she would have lived through the night; her feet were freezing and she couldn't walk. In the spring she'll go back to the farm, but meanwhile, her and her friend Mr. Rooster are our guests; Mr. Rooster was being pecked by the occupants of the hen house and too small to defend himself. Who knew hens could be so vicious. I kind of feel bad that I don't have a pic of the rooster. Maybe tomorrow.














































Meanwhile, my friend Christopher Hoare has been entertaining me with stories, so I coaxed him into sharing one with us today. Chris, a frequent guest host, is the author of The Iskander Series. If you haven't bought a copy of one of his books and you love S/F, you're missing something. If I had to list in three words or less why Chris's books are so entertaining, it would have to be:  STRONG WOMEN CHARACTERS.

Here's an excerpt from the first book in his series titled Deadly Enterprise:


"Gisel turned away quickly. Two wings of the building stretched away from her. Both echoed with the sounds of running feet. Which way? One stretched away into darkness, the other had an open loft door at the far end. The daylight meant outside – maybe the stable yard. A shout of alarm rang out — from the lighted wing. She launched herself forward.

Then a pistol shot, the woof of a black-powder weapon. Gisel sprinted the whole length between fresh stacked bales of hay. More shots — Yohan’s revolver this time. She dove for the edge of the hay loft, and peered over the wooden sill. A groom in the stable yard struggled to hold two frightened horses as he backed them into an alcove. Across the far side, Yohan stood beside an open door. His back was to the wall – his pistol in his hand. He twisted his body to peer inside. From a window behind him the head and shoulders of a man appeared. Six feet away from Yohan. He raised a flintlock pistol, tilting the firing pan uppermost like a good cavalryman.

Gisel raised her automatic and fired in one motion. She swung out of the opening. The man cried out and clutched his shoulder. His pistol hit the ground."

Now here's Chris and Shirl's latest adventure in frugal shopping:

Careful, considered, frugal shopping.....

Well, not quite. One day, many years ago, we went into town to buy a pound of butter and ended up buying a house. Not quite as reckless as it might sound, perhaps, because it looked to be an ideal revenue property that with a little fixing up could easily earn its keep in rentals. And, for awhile it did.

Eventually, after a regular turnover of tenants we found that – unlike the relatively civilized tenants we’d had when we were in the city – these small community, rural, people had different ideas on renting. The damage deposit was really intended to be part of the last month’s rent when they moved on without giving notice. Defrosting a new fridge was fast and efficient if you used an ice-pick on the cooling system. It was merely a family custom to ram one’s spouse’s head through the drywall. Landlords probably like repairing doors frequently after tenants lock themselves out (or spouses looking to keep their heads out of the drywall locked them out).

After a couple of years we called the experience further education and sold the place. I don’t think we lost anything, but didn’t end up much over break-even. By the way – we didn’t forget the pound of butter.

Fast forward to today. We had received a letter from Ford about a recall on our 14 year old Explorer, so arranged to take it in for the 15 minute job this morning. While waiting for the vehicle to be driven inside for the job we took a stroll around the premises. My wife liked the look of the Mustang GT in the showroom, but this was no more than casual tire-kicking.

The salesman was lonely so he came past on his way to the popcorn machine, and I went for some too, to keep him company. We stood around talking cars and the price of watermelons for awhile and no doubt mentioned that the old Explorer is holding up well, but has over 306,000km on it. It makes some odd noises that it never did when it was younger – but what the heck, so do I.

We advanced to the topic of almost new Fusions – just like those two silver ones over there that are just off lease. We took a walk around the lot outside – just for a bit of exercise, to shake the kinks out. I was merely looking at practical things, like the claimed fuel economy and whether they had intelligent, European design, lever handbrakes instead of those despicable North American sh*t flingers operated by the left foot. (The Explorer’s is a joke since it has such a puny amount of force spread over the rear disk brakes. Don’t trust it on anything steeper than a 0.1% grade.)

Shirl had been sitting in another senior’s new Ford Escape the day before, and so the topic of smaller, more economical SUVs than the Explorer came up. A car is nice, but we really need something that can pull a light utility trailer – to collect firewood, and pick up coal from the local Hutterites (that I’ve forgotten to phone about yet again). Salesman pointed us to the money offered for turning in our old clunker, but hold on – it’s years from being a clunker yet. We looked at the used Escapes (I balk at buying new and taking that big hit from the sticker price) as well as a Saturn SUV that had escaped from the GM lot. It was three years old, with 95,000 km for only $11,999. Interesting but no tow hitch – and how much weight could it handle back there?

Strolling over to the shiny silver Fusions I looked at a much more sober red Focus – only a year old. We asked and found out it had just over 10,000 km and had been traded by a young couple who’d had it new for less than a year. With 2 kids already, wife became pregnant with twins. A Focus might be called cute, but not with four squalling kids in the back – they’d gone for an Expedition to house the family. The Focus, asking $12.999, with oodles of warranty left and a four cylinder engine that promised 48 mpg in the country – where we live – it seemed worth taking for a drive. (The Explorer was still not inside for its 10 o/c appointment – gee, should I be suspicious?)

Not bad for room, not bad for pickup and hill-climbing – since my racing days are long over. Front wheel drive, so it should be able to get out of a snowbound driveway as easily as the Audi we had when we first moved down this way. Manual transmission – which had ruled it out for all the amateur drivers. We’ve only ever owned two vehicles with sewer-pump transmissions. The Explorer is manual and Shirl has been driving her brother’s BMW a lot since he went into a lodge – so she managed her trial trip without too much nonsense (only stalled it once and only hit 5000 rpm once when shifting from 1st to 2nd). But she likes it.

“We really need two vehicles in the country.”

“I can keep the Explorer for knock-about trips after firewood or taking the dogs. So we don’t need another 4WD with load capacity.”

48mpg will look good when the price of oil tops $200 a barrel next year. We’d better check at the bank that we can still access the line of credit I used to have when I ran my own business. Whee, 3.75% interest, and we can choose our own repayment schedule as long as the monthly payment covers interest and other expenses. With Canada’s biggest customer looking more and more like falling off the edge of the world next year it’s a good time to turn dollars into necessary utility. In high inflation economies it makes more sense to be a debtor than a creditor.

We pick up the Focus tomorrow at 1 o/c.

Chris Hoare

http://thewildcatsvictory.wordpress.com/
http://thewildcatsvictory.wordpress.com/reviews/

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Writing Advice from author JUDITH MARSHALL


Please welcome today's guest host Judith Marshall.

Judith Marshall is a author of Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever, winner of the Jack London Prize awarded by the California Writers Club. She is currently working on her second novel, Staying Afloat, the story of a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother who morphs into a sex-starved adulteress.


SOME DO'S AND DON'T ABOUT CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:
Do pay attention to your characters. Remember story is as much (if not more) about character as about plot.

Do make your characters original. The beauty of this approach is that your plot will often grow out of a unique character, instead of vice versa.

Do use a less expected way of describing your character; instead of saying her eyes was were “blue,” you could say, “Her eyes were the color of the lake behind her.”

Don’t use stock, cliché, or outrageous names. You will either look lazy or like your trying too hard.

Don’t introduce too many characters at once. Figure out a way of staggering them or focus on one and ignore the others. You can switch the focus later.

Don’t describe just the usual characteristics, such as eyes, hair, and face. Go farther. “The sun reflected off his bald head.” “The skin on her face was drawn tight across her cheekbones, eyelids stretched smooth, forehead shiny and line-free -- all the signs of recent cosmetic surgery.”

Remember readers don’t want the ordinary, the everyday; they want to be captivated. Ask yourself: Are my characters interesting? If not, there’s more work to be done.


MARKETING IN THE DIGITAL AGE
I attended the subject webinar recently, sponsored by Digital Book World.  Since I'm knee-deep in promoting my new novel, "Husbands May Come and Go but Friends are Forever," I was quite interested in the topic.  The panel included  Jane Friedman, Publisher & Editorial Director, Writer's Digest, Diana Vilibert, Web Editor, Marie Claire, Dan Blank, Director of Content, Reed Business Information, and Patrick Boegal, Director of Media Integration, Media Logic.  The highlights follow:

1)  If you blog, be sure to use your personality.  Posts should be either entertaining or useful (i.e. for non-fiction).
2)  Bloggers should post two times a week and be consistent.
3)  Book store owners check out blogs.
4)  Use analytics (even the free ones from Google) to determine your ROI for blogging.
5)  Facebook offers an "incredible opportunity with fan pages."
6) Twitter is becoming more powerful every day.  Writer's Digest requires each editor to participate on Twitter.  Authors should be use it, along with Facebook to build an audience.

As much as we authors hate to take time away from our writing, being involved in social media is a must.  Deal with it!  BTW, I hope this post was useful, if not entertaining.

WRITER'S BLOCK can strike at any time in the process – when you can’t finish a book or when you can’t send it out into the world. According to Dr. Jane Anne Staw, author of “Unstuck,” anxiety is at the root of writer’s block.

To remove some of the obstacles to writing, Dr. Staw suggests:

1) Ask your inner critics to leave
2) Don’t think to big (i.e. thinking about the whole novel or casting the movie)
3) Write on a regular basis, so you don’t have to keep starting over
4) Think small – pick a moment and write about it for 15-20 minutes. The best writing is small – the details are essential
5) Remember, writing is about revision: 1st stage – get it down, 2nd stage – flesh it out, 3rd stage – check the flow, 4th stage – polish and fine tune (word choice and syntax), 5th stage – punctuation and line editing, 6th stage – self-dialog.



Friday, November 27, 2009

Why Show and Not Tell ...

Courtesy of Janet Reid, Literary Agent and Bill Cameron, here's a video from the University of Ottawa. Some things must be viewed to be truly appreciated.

Show don't Tell.



Song: I Got a Feeling by Black Eyed Peas


Some of my upcoming guests are:

Judith Marshall    Chris Hoare     Katherine Swarts       Phyllis Zimbler Miller

I'm also doing a series of interviews with 5 of today's best marketing and promotional gurus in December. Monday, Nov 30 I'll be interviewed at Novel Works with host Marta Stephens. I'm guest blogging on Karen and Robyn's blog on Dec 7th. And that's just the tip of the iceberg for December. Stay tuned, folks.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

HAPPY THANKSGIVING AMERICA

We're very grateful that you were all able to share our big day with us yesterday. Thank you for all the good wishes. It was indeed a proud moment seeing our son dressed in the official Vancouver 2010 Olympic suit and carrying the torch. What a thrill.

In honour of all my special American friends, my dear buddy Kathrine Neff Perry has written a post in celebration of Thanksgiving. Enjoy. And have a wonderful Day.




            When I was a little girl, I used to sit on the front porch with my Grandmother and tell her stories. To this day, I can still hear her laughter. She used to ask me to repeat the story when my Grandfather came home, because she thought they were so funny. When I tried, he would look down his nose at me, shake his head at both of us because my Grandmother was rolling on the floor laughing again. He though we were both crazy.
      When my own children were young, I made up stories to entertain them. From the time they were tiny, it was expected of me. To make them laugh. There were times when I could be pretty convincing, especially to my son. He would look at me with those big brown eyes and not move a muscle. Waiting for the tale to continue. My daughter was a little more reluctant to believe all my stories.
      One Thanksgiving Day, I got up about 4 a.m. Cooking and singing. I was just happy to be alive and happy that we were having family and friends over to celebrate the day.
      When the turkey was carved, the potatoes mashed and all the dressing and other dishes were on the table, we all gathered in the dining room to eat.
      I blessed the food and everyone dug in.
 My son, who was very small, maybe five or six at the time, leaned against the table. His little head just above the plate and said in his sweetest little voice.
      “My Mom used to be a pilgrim. She came on a boat for the first Thanksgiving.” Proud he remembered.
      My Grandfather glared across the table at me, nodding his head. She’s still telling stories!
      Blessings and Hugs and Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Our Son: Vancouver 2010 Torch Relay Bearer


Thank you to all our family and friends, to the well-wishers at Deadly Prose, Muse Conference, KatLogicBookClub and Novels Chat Online for your warm congrats to our son Cory. If you would like to watch Cory's run, you can receive live feed at http://www.ctvolympics.ca/torch/follow-torch/index.html. Cory's run takes place today in Gagetown, New Brunswick at 3 o'clock Atlantic time.

Wish we were there, Cory.
-- Mum and Dad

Cory carrying the torch, November 25th, 2009



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Latest News from Cluculz Lake



This is called an Inukshuk and it is one of the logos for the 2010 Olympics, held in Vancouver, BC, Canada. While it symbolizes the strength and fortitude of the Inuit people, it also says, "You are on the right path."

The torch below was designed to be representative of our our nation during the Olympics.





My family and I are thrilled to announce that our youngest son will be carrying the torch November 25th, 2009. If you follow my blog then you know that Cory, who recently returned from his 7-month tour in Kandahar, Afghanistan, is stationed in Gagetown and has served his country diligently for 11 years. He was chosen to carry the torch, and we couldn't be more proud and excited for him.

You can view the relay live at: http://www.ctvolympics.ca/torch/follow-torch/index.html











Keith Pyeatt, author of STRUCK won the 2009 New Mexico Book Award for Mystery/Suspense Novels; deservingly so. 










My article TROUBLED BY POINT OF VIEW? PARTICULARLY OMNI? is the featured post on Selling Books today.

If you have any news and would like to add it below, let me asap and I'll post it.

* cluculzwriter at yahoo dot ca

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dogs are Good Teachers by CHRISTOPHER HOARE


My guest today is Christopher Hoare, author of the Iskander Series: Deadly Enterprise, The Wildcat's Victory, and Arrival. Chris lives with his wife, Shirley, and two shelter dogs, Coco and Emmie, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. Although, Chris and I live only a day's drive apart, have never met, but we've worked together for over 10 years. Chris is a colleague and a friend. Please welcome him, and leave a comment if you can. We writers live a solitary life, and hearing from readers is a joy unmeasured.

That solitary life might be another reason we love our animals so much.


Dogs are good teachers ...

... they live in the moment; but that doesn’t make them calm, Zen introspectives. They react to every moment fully and never hide their feelings.

Our two dogs came to us from the local humane society shelter. Coco, a border collie blue heeler cross was first. She acted as surrogate mom to a whole succession of puppies that my wife fostered and house trained so that they would become more adoptable. She accepted their rough treatment, biting her ears, crawling over her, and all the other mischief puppies get into with great patience and acceptance.

The last of the foster puppies was Emmie, the runt of a litter born in the shelter, of no determinate breed, with one lazy eye that responds to light but cannot close down to protect against strong glare. She also has a delicate stomach and is given to timidity and freaking out – to thunderstorms, rifle shots, and even the lid of their food cooking pot when I offer her a lick. At first, she was frightened of me – would not let me feed her or go to the outside door with me. She was too timid to find a new family home, so she stayed with us. She also has a jealous streak, which meant we couldn’t take in foster puppies any more.

The one time my wife tried her out for a trial adoption with another family she freaked out within the first two hours when the man tried to take her outside on leash – broke her collar clasp and ran away. This was in a February while she had a shaved belly from her spaying operation. It took us four days to recover her. We had help from the local radio station and from everyone who reported seeing her at various locations. When we went to check out the ruined mine buildings at the edge of town the owners of her sister, also one of Shirl’s foster pups, came along to see if she’d come to her litter mate. No luck, she was too frightened to come out of hiding.

I borrowed a fox trap from Fish and Wildlife and set it in one of the mine buildings, baited with puppy kibble. I checked it two hours later and found her inside. I thought it best not to try to get her out myself, I called Shirl and waited for her to arrive. When we let her out of the trap she went to Shirl and the two of them went into the back of the Explorer and both cried.

I’m reminded of this because I finally found a good home for my brother in law’s golden retriever the other Saturday. I was told about someone near to where I walk the dogs about a couple who had lost a pet to old age a few days previous. I went and knocked on the door, asked if they’d like to see her and left about a half hour later with only two dogs again. These people are real animal lovers, with one other dog, four house cats and numerous others in the barn - they live in a wooded acreage beside a river and take the dogs for two walks a day. Susie is now in dog paradise.

So are ours. This three was definitely a crowd – the dynamics never worked. Coco has always been alpha dog, and the two year old 70 pound puppy was beginning to challenge the old lady’s seniority. Well, Susie is nearer 60 pounds now with a strict diet and lots of exercise, but her very presence was stressful to the others. Emmie played with her, but with less and less enthusiasm as time went on. The games were terribly one sided with Emmie outweighed about two to one. Our Explorer lost most of its cargo space to a great monster that took up all the space behind the seats (with 3 dogs on the back seat they squabbled over space) and stomped all over anything placed there.

Since Susie left, I’m able to take our dogs for walks in the countryside around the community – which was hard to do when I couldn’t manage three dogs on leash. Susie had been eyeing cattle with a view to chasing them, although she did come to the whistle, but there are fewer chances to offend where she is now. And now Coco will come in more readily when called to the back door. With her bad leg, it’s getting too cold for her to stay out long, but she was clearly reluctant to come inside while Susie was there.

An overweight puppy that sometimes forgets to ‘go’ in the right place and uses its excess weight as a battering ram to claim too much space in the house is no pleasure to have around. People who like Golden Retrievers must have better ones than my brother in law bought. The Goldie down the road that sometimes goes for walks with us is a far nicer dog. I really hope Susie fits in well in her new home, because it’s not her fault her first owner was incompetent to train her or that her disposition was at odds with the original residents here.

Both dogs and humans have noticed a big improvement in ambiance since Saturday. Coco and Emmie play gently together. Both dogs can visit Shirl as she sits in her chair and enjoy an uninterrupted back scratch. Yes, the dogs are much more relaxed at home now – they clearly have feelings too.



Emmie



Coco

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ON YOUR MARK, GET READY -- WRITE

Generally, swans don't venture this close to our side of the lake. They stay on the other side where there is wildlife, but minimal human threat. During the night, they move about, often floating closer to the homes of year-round residents; their honking penetrates the darkness.

The lake has a circumference of 14 kilometres, giving the swans plenty of room to roam. This morning, we heard them before sunrise and waited until there was enough light to snap a photo. As soon as I stepped out onto the deck, they started moving away from the beach. I managed three rapid shots, but only one turned out.



Neither of these are clear photographs, but everyone knows that swans are beautiful, elegant creatures. Think swan and an image of serenity comes to mind.



I just finished an interview, and one of the questions forced me to think back to those early years (1984) when I started my first book. It's the book I wrote while convinced I could tell my dad's story and thus have him live forever. Seven years later, I shelved Always Father's Child and began work on Dead Witness.

Back in those days, I didn't know where this novel writing would take me, only that I had to write. I never considered  where the desire came from or how deep it went. Writing gave me pleasure, so it seemed logical to continue. How much time it would take to write another book didn't matter. Like seeing swans close enough to photograph, I had a story to tell and nothing was going to stop me. Certainly not a busy family or a full time job.

Sound familiar?

My protagonist Valerie, her last name didn't come to me until later, had occupied space in my head for several months. I didn't know much about her, except she had a problem, a story to tell, and wasn't about to go away.

My Valerie (McCormick) was 38 years old and looked identical to Cheryl Ladd when she was that age. Valerie lived in Prince George with her husband and three daughters. She loved and was loved; so much so that her elder daughter sneaked one of her short stories and entered it in a writing contest. Valerie won and that changed her life forever.

I began Dead Witness in 1991, finished it in three months, then spent the next ten years editing and revised it. Dead Witness was released July 1, 2008.



Is my process towards publication any different than yours? I'm sure it is. But that doesn't stop me from wanting to know how; I'm nosey. Besides, I think new writers out there need to see that while we are all unique and special, and with our own story to tell, we have similarities too.


How long did it take you to write your book? How long from the day you began to the day it was released? I  bet  there are lots of writers out there who would love to know.


Monday, November 16, 2009

CHUGGIN MCCOFFEE - How to Market Your Novel Online


Chuggin McCoffee is a coffee fanatic that has spent the entirety of his career cultivating and studying all of the best uses and brewing styles for optimal coffee and espresso flavor. His specialty site for all coffee needs, supplies, and Commercial Coffee Makers can be found at www.thecoffeebump.com.



How To Market Your Novel Online

by Chuggin McCoffee

If you are hoping to gain more exposure for your novel, then it actually pays off to use all of the tools available to you on the Internet!

One of the best ways to begin is to focus on Amazon.com. Obviously, this is a site that so many people use to purchase books, and this will directly affect your novel sales. It is important to begin to get reviews for your novel on Amazon.com, which will entice other customers to follow suit and purchase your novel. Even if you have a great book, people may not review it right off the bat. One thing that you may need to do is give away free copies of your book in exchange for reviews on Amazon. This is a wonderful way to let people experience your novel, and then they can provide their honest feedback directly on the website. This will gain several reviews for you, which will work to give credibility to your novel so that other people will purchase it. If you do have your own blog or website, you can also link directly to Amazon so that your readers can review your book if they liked it.


But you don't have to stop with Amazon! Another innovative way to market your novel online is through the use of a sample or promotional e-book. This is something that readers interested in your genre can purchase for a nominal fee, and it will allow them to have an idea of what your novel is about. If you are hoping to market your novel online, then this is a great way to reach your Internet customers. For instance, if these same customers are hoping to download your novel to a Kindle or iPhone in the PDF format, it will allow them to read a portion of the novel in the e-book form.

E-books are definitely all the rage, and your readers will appreciate this opportunity given to them in the form of an easily downloadable e-book. This will also allow them to try out your book before they buy it completely. One effective way to market this promotional e-book is either in Google Ads or directly on your own website if you have a blog. If you already have a blog with loyal readers, then you can use the opportunity of a low-cost promotional e-book to entice your readers into buying your novel.

Overall, the Internet is full of numerous marketing tools for your novel, but it is helpful to know where to begin. Positive reviews and feedback will work to gain circulation toward your novel, increasing your sales dramatically.

Friday, November 13, 2009

AUTHOR JOE MOORE: I'd Rather Have a Root Canal.

I'D RATHER HAVE A ROOT CANAL
by joe moore

The dreaded synopsis. It’s the nasty part of writing fiction that everyone hates. After all, if someone wants to know what your book is about, just read it. Right? The synopsis is right up there with getting a root canal. It’s painful and taxing. But it’s also a fact of life that you’re going to have to produce one sooner or later. Especially if you’re a first-time author. Most writers feel that creating a synopsis is harder than actually writing the book. I agree.

Clare touched on it with her July post. Here’s another look at the task we love to hate.

So what is a synopsis?

It’s taking your book’s 80,000 to 120,000 words and condensing them down to a few pages—a brief description of what your book is about. Imagine draining 99.9% of a human body away and still convey the person’s looks, thoughts and personality. A daunting task at best.

How do you get the job done? First, start by accepting the fact that you have to do it. In order to successfully market your new book, you must be able to tell the story in just a few paragraphs or pages. Barring any unusual submission requirements for a particular agent or publisher, a formal synopsis usually runs a page or two. A great time to write your synopsis is as you do your final read-through before declaring mission accomplished—that the book is done. As you finish reading each chapter, write a paragraph or two describing what happened in that chapter—what was the essence of the chapter as it relates to character, motivation and plot. Keep it short such as: Bob and Mary met for the first time. She thought he was a bore. He thought she was self-centered. They had no choice but to work together.

Also be aware of any emotional threads running through the chapter; love, hate, revenge, etc. and make note of them. But always keep it short.

Once you’ve finished the read-through of your manuscript and making subsequent notes for your synopsis, you will have created a chapter-by-chapter outline. (Don’t you wish you had had it before you began writing your book?) So what you’ve done is condense your manuscript into a manageable overview that hits on all the important points dealing with character development and plot. And it contains the emotional threads that make up the human aspect of your story.

Next step: read your chapter-by-chapter outline and determine the most important elements in your story. If you’ve correctly noted what each chapter contains regarding character, plot, and emotions (motivations), it shouldn’t take too many reads to determine the items that were critical in moving the story forward. Again, keep this new set of notes short and simple.

Even after you’ve completed this task, your fledgling synopsis is probably too long and a bit disjointed. So what you have to do next is blend all the key points together into a short narrative. Here’s one way to do it. Imagine that it’s your job to write the cover blurb that goes on the back of your book. You need it to contain enough information that anyone reading it will become interested in reading the whole book. Begin with your main character and the crisis that she faces. Explain why your character behaves as she does. Touch on the main elements that moved the story forward by referring to your chapter-by-chapter list of events. Always make clear what’s at stake—reveal the “story question”. Remember that you have to tell the whole story in the synopsis. Unlike a real cover blurb where there are no spoilers, the synopsis is going to an agent or editor. You must tell them how the story ends. This is no time to be coy. Tell it all.

A synopsis is a selling tool. It must tell your story in a very short amount of words and still get across the essence of the tale. But even more important, it must show that you can write—it is an example of your skill and craftsmanship. It confirms that you know what your story is about and can express emotion. That you understand plot and character development and human motivation.

What a synopsis is not is the classic elevator pitch or the TV Guide one-sentence description. Instead, it’s the distilled, condensed soul of your book in a few paragraphs.

So, you writers out there—do you enjoy writing a synopsis? Any additional tips on getting through the task without slitting your wrists? Once you’ve been published, does your publisher still require a synopsis before they issue a contract on your next book? If so, do you stick to the synopsis or does the end product differ from the original?

* * *

Joe Moore and his writing partner, Lynn Sholes are the authors of The Grail Conspiracy, The Last Secret, The Hades Project, and The 731 Legacy.   

Joe is a former marketing and communications executive and two-time EMMY® winner with 25 years experience in the television postproduction industry. He has written articles for national and international trade magazines covering the field of professional sound recording and video. As a freelance writer, he reviewed fiction for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Florida Times Union, and the Tampa Tribune.

Joe serves on the International Thriller Writers board of directors as Co-President. He writes full time from his home in South Florida.

The dentist pic is compliments of The Kill Zone and Joe Moore.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm Choked, But I Can Still Breathe


I'm choked. Some cyberpunk hacked into my computer, stole my addy and is now sending crap to other addies under the quise of it being from me.

I know I'm not alone. And this has happened before. BUT this particular email address is on my bookmarks, business cards, not to mention thousands of copies of my novel Dead Witness.

So, why am I bothering to blog about it?

It's my way of advance-apologizing for any garbage you may receive in your inbox, apparently, addressed from me. I'm on a Mac, so while these emails are a pain in the butt, they aren't viruses.

Hopefully, s/he has already grown bored and has moved on to someone else. Sorry about that, somebody else. Or maybe s/he was struck by conscience and has decided to do something productive with their lives.

Thanks for listening; I'm feeling a bit better now. If you do receive an email from me and it looks suspicious, please forward it to me as an attachment with full headers. Meanwhile, I'm changing my password. I suggest everybody do that at least twice a year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

LEST WE FORGET

My family and I have celebrated Remembrance Day since I can remember. My grandfather served, my father, my brother and now our son. In honour of them and of all our fallen soldiers, I have posted several videos from YouTube on my facebook. If you want to search for your favourite, go to YouTube and type in Remembrance Day. I hope your favourite is among them.
















 

Our son Cory, during his tour in Kandahar

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blogging Tidbits by Author JO ANN HERNANDEZ

Your response to Jo Ann's guest blog was so positive that I've asked her to come back regularly. Okay -- she was coming back anyway. That you appreciated her advice was icing on the cake. Oops, cliche-alert.

Here's some tidbits of knowledge via Ms Hernandez:


Things I’ve Noticed

Everyone who follows BronzeWord Latino Authors posts and links from @LatinoBookNews knows that I love doing research. Usually I go to a blog and look for their email address and their Twitter name so I can contact the owner and invite them to participate in what I’m doing. Or if I am twittering their article, I want to use their Twitter name so they know that their post had value.

Because of my constant searching, I have seen a few things that work well and a few things that are enough to cause me to want to pull my hair out. Most people will search casually and if they don’t find a way to communicate within a few minutes, they go somewhere else. Here are a few thoughts.

If you have a blog, you want people to connect with you. The email can be protected easily by using words for the @ and (.) like AT and DOT so that your email can be on the front page and look like BronzeWord1 AT yahoo DOT com. Also this information needs to be what the expert calls “above the fold.” The part of your blog that a visitor will first see when they open your blog.

Also, many people who use Blogger will put their email on their profile where the person has to click on the word “email” and an email page opens separately. First, when I had an older computer and really old software, the separate email page never came up for me. Also, because I have a very slow computer, the page takes forever to download. And because this separate email page is from Outlook, an email service I don’t use, I can’t send a message from that page because if they response by clicking “reply” they will go to an account I rarely check. Instead, I copy the email address and post it on a doc page that I will get back to when I am ready to send the invitation. That’s a lot of work to capture one email address. Most people won’t wait for the tedious response.

If you have a blog for people to connect with you, please post your email address in your “About Me” section or in the top of the screen that shows when you open your blog. Allow people to express their gratitude or thanks for what you offer on your page. Or they may have something to add to what you offer. If a big corporation looks around the web, comes across your blog, and likes what they see, they have no way to contact you. They will not bother searching and waiting for separate pages to open up. They won’t.

Most everyone has a Twitter account. Everyone posts the widget that says, “Follow Me” with the little blue bird. Hardly anyone post their Twitter account name. The little blue birdy isn’t enough.

For one thing, when you click on the blue birdy, you are taken to another page. If the person wants to follow you, they have to sign in to their Twitter account to do so. Once they are there, do you think they will go back to your page? Or do you think they will decide since they are there, they will check for messages or what’s going on in Twitter cyberspace? If you had a product to sell, or wanted to interest them in your product/book/music/whatever, you’d lose that opportunity. Completely.

There is a cute blue birdy that has your account name and the number of your followers on the widget with a “Follow Me” message. A visitor could get your name and save it to follow you later when they move on from your blog page. And that’s the key. They stay on your page. This widget can be found at twittercounter.com . I don’t have any connection with them. You can see the widget on my blog.

Or you can use the title section of the widget to post your Twitter name, like: Jo Ann @ BronzeWord with the widget underneath.

I am a major non-techie. On my Wordpress blog, when I enter a link, I am asked if I want it to open on my page or a new pop-up page. A new pop-up page keeps the visitor on your site as they investigate the new page and doubles the chances of the visitor returning to finish reading your article or browse the rest of your blog.

Please investigate Google Alerts. This is an easy way to see who is writing about you or your product or talking about you. Just go to Google and sign up. List the names that are your company, blog, and product names and let the cyber angels do the rest. Use quotes around your name or your product’s name. You will find that some little blog in Nebraska liked your article so much they are telling their 15 followers to go check you out. That will enable you to respond to that blogger to say thanks or make an offer and find out that those 15 followers have thousands following them. Wouldn’t you rather know what is being said about you on the Web?

We’ve all heard stories of how a company hears of a complaint on Twitter and resolves the issue for the customer. Now you can be as cool as Twitter and do the same thing by having a Google Alert on your name.

Thank you for allowing me to voice a few things I have noticed during my travels through cyber space. I hope these tidbits assist you in growing your blog audience.

Thanks,
Jo Ann

Jo Ann Hernández
BronzeWord Latino Authors
http://authorslatino.com/wordpress
BronzeWord1 AT yahoo com

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Guest Blogger: Author JO ANN HERNANDEZ on Revising

Please welcome today's guest blogger, Jo Ann Hernandez. There isn't enough room to list Jo Ann's qualifications. She has a Masters of Arts in Writing at the University of San Franciso. Her work has won awards and recognition throughout the United States. Her novel White Bread Competition and The Throw Away Piece continue to this day. I've worked with her since the mid 90s, and nothing she accomplishes surprises me anymore. Bravo, Jo Ann. Thank you for being such a pain when it came to editing my prose.

A little R and R for the Writer (Revise and Revision)

I love to write. I find writing to be fun, enjoyable, and thrilling. Don’t worry. I outgrew that quick enough. I didn’t consider it a career because it was too easy to do. Should a person’s life work be tedious, boring and darn hard? Isn’t that what the pilgrims said? Then some friends told me that the universe needed my voice. Well, hey, who am I to argue with the universe? I did what I always do when I approach a new subject: I read a thousand books, attended conferences, kissed up to, met agents, and finally went for a Master’s in Creative Writing. C’mon. Ask me what my GPA was. Please ask me. I have so few things to be proud of about myself that I have to tell you. A university professor said I was being an amateur by telling it. Being the literary-minded individual with a 3.8GPA, I retorted with a “So?” Actually writing is still fun for me. Takes me to some fantastic places. When, in Joylene’s home, her son complained that I was annoying him. She explained, “I met her on the internet. Haven’t I told you how you had to be careful of the things you get off the internet?” Dry humor wins every time.

The mostest fun part of writing is revision. Be warned that the all-explosive editing shown here should not be done at home without supervision.

In my revision, I break the manuscript into parts. There are many parts and I can only mention a few here. I guess you’ll have to hire “Fresh Eyes” for more. Oh, oh, a plug. Is that allowed?

I do a search of every single 75k word that ends in –ly. You can color them, highlight them, or work on them as each comes up. Up to you and how you work best. That’s the thing about showing and teaching; what works best for you may be different. I tend to work each one as they come up. Thoughtfully. Fantastically. Inherently. Secretively. I secretly hide my faults. Hmmm I secret my faults. I fault my secrets. Hmmm I do secrets with my faults. I hide my secrets. Ohhhh I bury my faults like secrets in my heart. Dang, I’m good. I absolutely love my job. Isn’t this fun?!!!

Then I go on to the really, really hard words. The articles. When I taught a class, I discovered the OWL of Purdue website of grammar. If you don’t feel like writing or aren’t producing, go there and look around. There are little pictures to go with the lesson. They had a stick man jumping IN to an empty pool. There was a kitchen table with a glass of milk ON the table. Can’t quote you the rule or where you can find this, and the pictures are in my brain for life. The vs. A. “A” meaning general, out of a whole bunch. “The” being specific to one of its kind. Amazing isn’t it? To vs too. There are so many more.

Oh sorry, couldn’t forget my pet peeve. Be specific. Specificity is in the details. Did the cloth feel coarse or smooth? How old is old? How fast is swift? Did they fall like a sack or did they fold when they swooned? Details are what make the picture tune in clear. Details are what give the reader the sense of being there inside of the story. And too many details kill the flow of the story in a heartbeat. Ain’t this job fun?

As sport coaches say, learn each movement, each detailed step of the process then forget all you have learned and do it in one fluid graceful movement. Like learning how to drive a standard car. Any of us here remember those?

Ah, the biggie. I have only heard of this in a couple of places, and I was saying this long before then. Crutch words. Everyone has Crutch words - like the stick you put under your arm when you break your leg. If you think you don’t use Crutch words, please wait before submitting your manuscript to an agent so you won’t be disappointed. And the miserable thing about Crutch words is like having allergies. In your home, you’re allergic to dust. At your sibling’s home, you’re allergic to milk. Whichever house you visit, you are allergic to something different. Every single book or story you write will have a different Crutch word. You have to hunt them out.

Crutch words are those little words that show up about every other third word. In writing your first draft, you allow them. They are actually helping you write your first draft. Lately, my Crutch words have been: so, really and just. So I’ve been really writing a lot to just have a few. Then here comes Revision, able to leap tall buildings in a single vowel. You discover what your Crutch words are. It’s helpful to know there are usually only two or three Crutch words in each first draft of each book. As you search, you go to each one and revise, either deleting it or rewording it. Simple. Takes only about four to ten hours. Heh!

Have you seen those “only” sentences?

If you have gained weight.

If only you have gained weight.

If you have only gained weight.

If you have gained only weight.

Got it. Having fun? Isn’t this the best business in the world?

Just two more and I’ll be out of your hair. Clang. Clang. Cliché. I learned about these two words in my two million thousand years of therapy. When using the word “not” you are actually encouraging the person to do what you don’t want them to do. Do not touch the doorknob is translated in the brain to do touch the doorknob. What’s a “really” big hoot is thinking about what you are saying (or writing) without using “not.” I’ve found that my speech and my writing becomes much more positive. Go ahead. Take one day and be conscious of preventing the use of the word “not” in your vocabulary. You’ll surprise yourself with how affirming it can be. And Fun!!!

The other word I learned about is “but.” What I was told is that everything that comes before the “but” is false. “I love you, but…” Oh, I was told that a lot by guys I dated. “I agree with your theory, but…” Can you sense it? “You look nice in that dress, but…” Bash him along side of the head, Ladies. Think about it for a while. I bet you’ll understand, but…..

Okay, my last one. Joylene knows I’m a stickler for this one. There have been quite a few articles out in cyber space about reading your novel aloud to yourself. It’s supposed to help you find errors that your eyes don’t see any more. That’s cool. Go ahead.

What I encourage you to also do is to get someone else to read your manuscript aloud to you. They read along on one manuscript. You follow along with another manuscript and a highlighter in your hand. When there is a mistake, keep from disturbing the reader and highlight what was read differently or awkwardly. Every place where the reader has trouble is a spot that needs to be fixed. Guaranteed.

I have also noticed that when I read aloud from my manuscript, I sometimes still miss problems like missing or repeated words because I know what the text is supposed to say and my brain corrects the errors without my noticing.” http://querytracker.blogspot.com/2009/10/was-blind-but-now-i-see-text-to-voice.html

This guy talked about software that would read your manuscript to you on the computer. I’m looking into that right now. The other thing I’ve found when someone else reads your manuscript is that – especially in the dialogue – the person will read it as it is spoken and not as you have it down on the page. Highlight that part. Jot a note if you are fast. That’s an important correction you will want to include to make your dialogue sound natural. How it’s spoken is how you want your dialogue to sound.

One suggestion I keep making is if you have teens in your home or close by, they can earn extra money by reading to you. Also if you have a certain type of character in your novel – military, financial, accountant – and you can find someone in any of those professions to read your manuscript aloud to you, I bet you’ll find ways to improve your manuscript from the way the words automatically come out of their mouth. Don’t believe me. (Get the not?) Find someone and try it.

There is so much more Fresh Eyes can do. I tend to write too much, and before I go, I have to tell you about a book. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner should be mandatory reading in every writing class and MFA program. A new edition is coming out soon. She is an agent now accepting only non-fiction submissions. This book is not a how-to. It’s a how-come. Talks about the industry and why things happen the way they do. The chapter on rejection is inspiring. You come away from this book with the feeling that you can do it after all. On the last page of the book, she tells a sweet story about waiting for her grandmother at a train station. Her grandmother’s train has been delayed. When the grandmother finally arrives, the granddaughter asks her if she had been lonely. The grandmother answers, “When you have a book with you, you’re never lonely."

Thank you Joylene for allowing me to invade your pages and spread my sick humor. I’ve enjoyed myself immensely. I hope you have too.

Jo Ann Hernández
BronzeWord Latino Authors
BronzeWord1 AT yahoo com

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Guide to Self-Publishing by Charles Jacobs

Charlie's Choice
Weekly Tips to Help You Write,
Publish & Promote Your Work

MORE WORK, HIGHER RETURN - A GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING

You’ve made the decision to self-publish your manuscript as it nears completion. You recognize that it will require far more effort than simply turning your manuscript over to a POD house, but you also realize that the financial return can be far greater. However, it does require an outlay of money up front.

Self-publishing is growing in popularity among experienced authors and even some wanna-bes. The sense of satisfaction you receive from having overseen and accomplished the entire process by yourself is an additional bonus that many authors cherish.
There is an important transition you have to make if you’re going to be a successful self-publisher. You must doff your artist’s cap and become a businessperson, for you will be dealing with financial decisions and a variety of chores that must be completed. You can tackle these on your own or hire and direct someone else to do them. In either case, you and you alone are solely responsible for every aspect of producing your book.

None of these tasks is terribly difficult, and professional book coaches stand ready to assist you on the two chores that really demand specialized talent: designing your book’s cover and formatting the interior text. Although it is possible to use templates for the cover and to learn to format, I strongly recommend that you hire professionals for these.

The appearance of your book, both inside and out, is a key factor in attracting sales. Far too many self-published books are amateurishly designed, and that’s the primary reason top reviewers and booksellers are often leery about reviewing or stocking them. However, if your book stands out because of its professional design, you can overcome that stigma.

Pre-pub Requirements
Self-publishing may be done either digitally or with offset printing. The choice depends upon the length of the press run you require. But in all cases, the pre-publication work today is essentially the same.

The first decision you must make is to determine the actual size and shape you want your book to be. The most popular sizes are 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches or 6 by 9. This is referred to in the industry as “trim size.” Most book printers can handle either size. Other sizes are available, but they are used principally for specialty books.

Your next consideration is the cover. The quality of your cover will strongly influence the number of books you sell. There are three segments of a good cover, and each one has a specific function. The spine is the first element a shopper sees when perusing the books on the store shelf. It contains the name of the book in large letters, followed by the author’s name and that of the publisher.

The front cover represents the first “stop” the potential buyer makes. That’s only a three second stop to examine the title, author’s name and if you have done your job obtaining endorsements, a very brief blurb from a recognized person. If that quick look intrigues the customer, he/she will turn to the back cover. This is your selling tool, but again you have only a few seconds to convince the customer to read further.

The several sections of the back cover should include a brief précis of the book, excerpts from reviews, endorsements from worthy sources, a short bio of the author, plus the required ISBN, barcode and the category listing in the top left corner. If the back cover functions well, the person will next flip to the table of contents and glance through the text. The $300 to $600 price for a cover design is perhaps the best investment you will ever make in your book.

Visit the library or your local bookstore. Study the covers on books similar to the one you plan. Next, search the Internet under “Book Cover Designers.” Most of these web sites will offer a gallery of cover designs the artist has created. Review them carefully, and narrow down your selection to three or four. Interview each designer before your make your final decision.

Your next concern is to format the interior text of the book in a style that is easy and comfortable to read. This means selecting a pleasant and inviting type font, spacing out between the lines (called leading) and shaping the computer text to the book’s page. It also involves creating interesting chapter headings and page footers (the page numbers and chapter identification found at the bottom of the page). Professional formatters are expensive, but very valuable. Formatting a book of approximately 300 pages will run between $800 and $1,200.

Smaller But Vital Tasks
Every book that is to be sold to a library or a bookstore must have an ISBN. This international identification number should be placed on the back cover along with a complementary bar code. These are easily obtained from the R.R. Bowker company by clicking onto its web site HYPERLINK "http://www.bowker.com" www.bowker.com.

Library of Congress Cataloguing is another necessity. (You will find this in the front section of a book.) It can be obtained directly from the Library of Congress, but is not always available if you have written only a single book. The alternative is to click on the Donohue Group, and they will prepare it for you. You can find the company at HYPERLINK "http://www.dgiinc.com" www.dgiinc.com and click on PCIP.

It would be very wise to officially copyright your book. Although your words are technically covered by copyright as soon as you place them on paper, that designation will not stand up in court. Obtain a complete copyright from the government to protect yourself from any piracy or plagiarism. It is easy to obtain by clicking on “Copyright” in your favorite search engine. Simple instructions and an official application will appear. It is very inexpensive.

You have the option of creating a Table of Contents yourself for your nonfiction book or you can use one of the available software programs on the Internet. Whichever path you take, enter the chapter heading and then highlight some of the important issues discussed in the chapters beneath the heading. Of course, you can’t add the actual page numbers until you have completed all revisions of your text.

If your book is nonfiction, you may want to include an Index and/or an Appendix. These are easy enough to develop yourself. For the Appendix, list references to any material that you think will help your reader by supplementing the information you included in your text.

The Index is a bit more time-consuming to assemble, although not terribly hard. As you do the final edit of the book, each time you come to a subject that should be included in the Index, jot it down. When you have completed all chapters, categorize each of these entries by subject. List them under the appropriate subject heading using a one or two-word designation and the page number. Many authors feel this is too time-consuming and prefer to farm the job out to a freelance indexer. These can be found on the Internet.

Next steps are, of course, the printing of your book and its distribution. It will be your task to select a quality printer and to arrange distribution through a wholesaler and/or distributor. Those topics we’ll leave for future articles.

This column is an excerpt from the blog of Charles Jacobs, book coach and author of “The Writer Within You,” named a Best Book of the Year seven times and winner of both gold and bronze medals. The book can be ordered at HYPERLINK "http://www.retireandwrite.com" www.retireandwrite.com. For coaching, Charles can be reached at HYPERLINK "mailto:carosbooks@gmail.com" carosbooks@gmail.com.

* * *

Here's an excerpt from Charles' book THE WRITER WITHIN YOU:

"Most of you are familiar with the word genre, as it is used to depict distinct types of literature. Although the fundamentals of creation are essentially the same for every category, you will learn in succeeding chapters the approach does vary somewhat. So it is up to you to determine what it is you want to say, the genre in which you want to present it and how best to frame your work. Should you tackle a full length nonfiction book or begin with an article on the subject? Can the message you want to deliver be more effectively presented as a parable or a longer fictional story? Would you be better served by writing an essay? These questions aren’t difficult to answer once you have carefully thought through your project. Often the choice is inherent in the subject matter you choose to write about. Be sure it is something with which you are completely comfortable, for you and your project will be intimately wedded for a substantial period of time."

Thursday, November 5, 2009

POD, THE MOST MISUNDERSTOOD CATEGORY OF PUBLISHING by Charles Jacobs


Charlie’s Choice
Weekly Tips to Help You Write,
Publish & Promote Your Work


Some call it just plain ”publishing.” Others claim to have self-published their books when they use Publishing on Demand (POD). Actually neither designation is completely correct. Yes, it is a kind of publishing, but a very special kind. It is not self-publishing, a process that differs substantially and requires far more expertise and involvement.

POD is an outgrowth of the huge changes that occurred in printing technology when digital printing was developed. For the first time, authors were not forced to use offset printing with its minimum press runs of 1500 to 2000 books. For the first time, an author could order only the number of books he/she needed with this new technology, and was able to fill in small quantities as future needs arise. This was a great boon for beginners who were feeling their way in the publishing industry and for memoirists who wanted to distribute books just to family and friends.

The novice writer enjoys the advantage of having the POD house handle all of the prepublication work that is required to produce a book. And that service is available at a very minimal initial outlay of money for the services one receives.

For a production payment of as little as $300, the house will produce a finished book and in most cases do it extremely professionally. The high end of that scale—a ceiling of about $1,000—represents lots of bells and whistles that the house will try to sell you, but which frankly are of little or no value. You can receive a top quality book for an average investment of under $500, and that’s the level you should be at when dealing with this method of publishing. Use the company’s basic program, nothing more.

The Process

You turn your manuscript over to the POD house, along with an initial production check. In return, the house art staff produces a professional book cover. That alone would normally cost you anywhere from $300 to $600 if you were to hire a designer yourself.

The text that comes off the computer, of course, is not what appears in a finished book. It must be formatted to conform to the page size, produced in a type font that is conducive to easy reading and leaded (spaced between the lines). This requires a high level of skill. You can learn to do it, but I strongly recommend a professional formatter. The cost depends on the length of the book. Formatting a 300-page volume, for example, can cost between $800 and $1200.

Every book requires an ISBN number if it is to be sold to bookstores or libraries. This is an identification number that is assigned exclusively to a single book. Barcodes are needed to accompany the ISBN. In addition, Library of Congress Cataloguing is a necessity if you plan to tap into the huge library market. All of these are obtained for you by POD staffers.

The POD House will then print your book, bind it and register it with a major wholesaler (usually either Ingram or Baker & Taylor), a requirement if you are selling to libraries and bookstores. The book will also be placed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble.com and Borders.com. Further distribution and promotional activities are your responsibility.

Be Aware

Two words of caution: Most houses do not obtain a copyright for your book. But that’s not a serious problem. You can do it yourself for just a few dollars. Search for “Copyright” on the Web. The government’s copyright web site will come up and explain each step you must take. It will also supply you with a formal application form. Completing everything is perhaps a 15-minute task and very easy to accomplish.

The second matter you should be aware of is that when the ISBN is ordered by most POD houses, it is listed in the house’s name. You must understand that the entity that owns the ISBN controls all of the finances of the book. So when you read in the publicity, “You control the book. All decisions are yours,” it is a bit misleading. Don’t construe this to mean that you lose total control over your book. It is yours by copyright.

In fact, on the finance side, you do have the right to decide how much of a royalty (percentage of the profit of the sale of the book) you wish. But the reality is that when it sells your book, the house will insist upon taking a certain flat amount, which is usually quite substantial. As a result, if you select a high royalty, the retail price will shoot up above the competition. With a lower royalty, you will make very little money. Nonetheless, at any level of royalty, you have managed to publish your book with no more money out of your pocket than the initial production fee. That’s a pretty fair deal for what you’re getting in return.

The only negative, aside from the minimal compensation, is that there is still some reluctance to handle POD books on the part of the better book reviewers and some book sellers. This a carry-over from the old days of the vanity press, when the level of quality was so poor and from the sloppy, haphazard work y turned out by the charlatans who infected the POD world when it first began.

Today most of the reticence has faded. People judge POD books not by the publisher that produced them, but by the quality of the book itself. POD creations have reached the best seller lists in some cases, and they are available through the majority of bookstores. Even if they are not stocked on the store shelves, they can be ordered quickly.

Finding a POD House

Most POD publishers maintain web sites. Click onto “POD Publishers,” and you will find a number of them. Read their sites carefully, and discount the meaningless extras (the bells and whistles I spoke of above). Be extremely careful if you go to contract. Study the document before you sign or better yet ask a literary lawyer to review it. Think ahead. What impact will each of the conditions of the contract have on the sales of your book. How easily can you leave the POD house and either self-publish future editions or contract for them with a traditional publisher?

While I am reluctant to evaluate the different houses that I have not used, I leave that task up to others. There are a number of sites that make these evaluations. The one I recommend most strongly is www.bookmarket.com/ondemand.htm. The site is owned by John Kremer, a highly respected publishing guru, and supplies information on a large number of publishing on demand houses.

Another site I recommend to you is www.sfwa.org. This extremely informative site is maintained by the Science Fiction Writers of America, but its information is applicable to all genres. Although I do disagree with the site’s contention that POD is not the best choice for a beginning writer, I find the rest of its counsel excellent.

Click on the site, scroll down to the box near the bottom that states “Writer Beware.” Click on it. Over on the left side of the next screen, you will find “Print-on-Demand, Self-Publishing Services.” Click on that, and read it carefully.

POD publishing may not be ideal for every author, but it is a worthy alternative for beginners, family memoirists and in fact anyone who strikes out with traditional publishers and and has a burning desire to make his/her book available to the public.


This column is an excerpt from the blog of Charles Jacobs, book coach and author of “The Writer Within You,” named a Best Book of the Year seven times and winner of both gold and bronze medals. The book can be ordered at www.retireandwrite.com. For coaching, Charles can be reached at carosbooks@gmail.com.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

SLEEPLESS IN CLUCULZ LAKE

Slept poorly last night. Bandit's girlfriend stopped by for short visits between 11:40 PM and 3:14 AM. Consequently, every time she left, Bandit had a fit. He howled and cried and even barked. I bet my neighbours were impressed. Bandit is generally a quiet dog, but in the last few weeks, he can't eat, sleep or think beyond his girlfriend's next visit. Reminds me of when my sons were teens. Do I want to live those days over again? NO!



If I knew where she lived, I'd call her parents and ask if they could keep her in at night. Or at least chained. A good night's sleep is worth its weight in gold. If he was in his right mind, I'm sure Bandit would agree.

* * *
NOW for my latest news:

On Oct 17th I signed with Theytus Books to publish Broken But Not Dead. I'm currently waiting for them to assign me an editor.

Oct 20th, my husband got his moose. It's currently taking up residence in our freezer.

Nov 3rd and every Monday night at 6 PM thereon, I'm reading from one of my books on 93.1 CFIS FM. To listen, you'll need to click the link. Until they upgrade, their signal isn't strong enough to pick up on your radio.

Nov 25th, our youngest son Cory carries the Olympic torch in Fredericton, (Gagetown) New Brunswick.

Some of my upcoming guests are: Jo Ann Hernandez, Charles Jacobs, Phyllis Zimbler Miller, Katherine Swarts, and many more.
--
joylene

Monday, November 2, 2009

Interview with author NERINE DORMAN



J: I understand the idea for Khepera Rising came from an incident on Fish Hoek Main Road where a stranger said to you, "Jesus loves you" and you wondered what if you were the thing she feared most. I have to admit, I heard that story, Nerine, and I was fascinated. Is your protagonist James the thing this lady would fear most? Can you tell us why he needs or craves that reaction?

N: To be quite honest, I had absolutely no idea who or what my protagonist would be up until that moment. I had vague inklings that I wanted to write about minority culture in my stomping ground but had no clear ideas. I knew there would be magic and alternative dream realities involved but no knowledge as to how I'd execute the story. Jamie provided the conflict just by being, well... Jamie.

I found it ironic that this lady stopped me in the street... or tried to, with her preconceived notion that I needed or would welcome her brand of "help". Jamie is a conglomeration of all the terrible stories you'd hear about "those evil satanists". However, he is highly intelligent and does have a great deal of empathy toward living creatures. I'd say he's most closely based on the concept of La Veyan satanist, however, with a more fervent belief in his magical arts in the sense of a ceremonial magician. He wouldn't hurt a living, sentient being but if a human were to cross him, he'd not shrink from gaining revenge. He is completely decadent and, as SA author Sarah Lotz put it, "deliciously morally ambiguous", and thrives on creating a stir wherever he goes.

Of course he is just setting himself up for a fall and that's most of the novel, really, about Jamie putting his life back together and deflating some of his ego. I guess he craves the reaction from other people because of the hatred and the boredom he feels when faced with what he considers their perenially dull lives.

J: From that moment on Main Road to finding your publisher, how long did the process take? What was the most difficult part of your journey as a novelist?

N: The incident took place late in 2006. I spent most of 2007 writing but then I lacked a lot of focus so the novel grew in fits and starts. At that time I was still fooling myself that I should write and sell short fiction, so I was constantly distracted. At the start of 2008 I finished the first draft then spent the next four or so months editing. I had a brief connection with a SA-based literary agent but in the end the two of us didn't see eye to eye, so I started looking overseas. The South African publishing industry still considers genre fiction to be below its notice so I knew well not to waste my time locally. Besides, my target market is mostly the US market, in any case.

The most difficult thing was dealing with rejection. I queried goodness knows how many agents. The dozen or so who requested partials or fulls said thanks but no thanks, with most of the reasons for rejection being that they weren't quite sure how to sell this novel. After this I started querying the small presses and was pleasantly surprised to have an overwhelming YES from Lyrical Press, Inc. Although technically it can be argued that I didn't need a literary agent now that I had a publisher, I still felt it prudent to return to one of the agents who'd initially seemed sympathetic to my cause. The lady in question agreed to representation, so I'm feeling happier for this that I have someone to look over my contracts and offer legal advice. But, ja... the rejection. It was horrid. Luckily I have a thick skin after working in advertising and newspaper publishing for a number of years.

Now the most difficult part of being published is finding the time to edit. I also work as a genre fiction editor, and it's not always easy balancing a demanding day job at the papers with my writing and freelance editing. I burn the candle at both ends at times, which can have a negative impact on my health when things get too busy.

J: You said there are two major themes dear to your heart, could you elaborate a bit on what they are?

N: Plainly put, I'm an iconoclast. I grew up in a highly conservative environment from a religious and cultural sense, so am quite passionate when I see persecution of minority religions and cultures. I tend to cheer for the underdog, be he pagan, Wiccan, heathen, Thelemite or satanist. I have a great love for spiritualities that are off the beaten track and believe there is strength in diversity. People should not be shaped from cookie cutter faiths and I feel it is up to the individual to find out for themselves what they want out of life. Other people mustn't dictate. Having had a highly conservative Afrikaner upbringing during South Africa's apartheid years probably contributed a lot to my current state of being.

As for the other, I always get a bit passionate about the topic of drug use versus drug abuse. I wanted to show a character who was able to transcend his dependency on narcotics through his own efforts without leaning on some organisation as a crutch. People close to me have either succumbed or gotten over their problems with addictive substances. Those who now shine have been able to do so by finding the strength within themselves to overcome their issues. Having people close to you addicted to drugs is not a nice situation. You love them but you also realise that there is very little you can do to help them.

J: What prompted you to start a writers' guild for speculative fiction writers in Cape Town?

N: Frustration, really. I felt as if I was totally alone. The only other genre fiction writers I knew back then were people overseas and yet I yearned to have face-to-face contact and people to commiserate with. I also knew that the local publishers were never going to start taking genre fiction in South Africa seriously unless we started somewhere, working toward improving local fiction as a whole. And hell, when I read about all the conventions overseas I grew rather jealous. I wanted that kind of excitement here in my home town.

Three years down the road I can definitely say our efforts are paying dividends. Two of our members have sold short stories within a month of each other and we've maintained monthly meetings, as well as outings. I've just convened the literary element of the SA Horrorfest, and a number of our members were ready to put their work in the public eye. We've also brought out our first anthology and are busy with our second.

J: Nerine, soon the world will be reading your work, praising and criticizing the story and characters. How does a writer prepare for that?

N: Go into it without expectations, good or bad. I create without lust for result. That way if there is a deafening silence, it doesn't phase me. However, having a thick skin in this industry is critical. Realise that you cannot please all of the people all of the time. While some will love what you do, there will also be those who'd like nothing better than to denigrate what you've created.

J: As a soon-to-be-published author, do you have a marketing plan in the works? Or is your publisher taking care of everything? Were any of their requirements difficult to fulfill?

N: As a author with a small press, I'm well aware that a lot of the marketing will fall on my shoulders. To that effect, I've started building an online presence blogging, as well as maintaining a group on social networking sites such as Facebook. I'll be handling some give-aways once the novel is released but I'm also planning a launch party here in Cape Town. ePublishing is all but unheard of here in South Africa and I'm excited to be at the forefront to spread word of the digital revolution that's currently transforming the publishing industry. Most of the books I read nowadays are onscreen and, although printed books will never fall out of favour, digital publishing is giving many authors an opportunity to put their work out there.

It's my feeling that nowadays authors no longer have an excuse to be hermits. They have to take an active role in promoting their writing, be it book signings, blogging, interviews... Marketing is only limited by one's imagination.

J: Which is more fun and why: writing, revising or marketing?

N: I love outlining and writing. Editing can be a pain due to time constraints. I simply do not have enough time in the day. My magic two hours are my daily commute to and from the Cape Town CBD, and I spend that time busy with my first drafts, all written by hand. Marketing can be fun. I come from a marketing communications background so I'm always full of ideas when it comes to that. Right now I'm relaunching my website. Next month I'm planning my launch party, including belly dancers, divas, live suspensions and wine tasting, if all goes well. I'm surrounded by creative people so there's never a lack of opportunity for a bit of collaboration and mutual promotion of the arts.

J: In your bio it says experienced penguin wrangler. When I was a child, I helped round up chickens. It was dangerous work. Nerine, what the heck is a penguin wrangler?

N: During 2000 there was a terrible oil spill. The Treasure ran aground in Table Bay and more than 17 000 African penguins were directly impacted by this disaster. These were laboriously rounded up and I spent a week working to tube, feed and wash penguins. It was one of the best experiences I've had, seeing how people can work together for a greater cause. And the penguins, yes... little chaps in their tuxedos. No matter how many times the ungrateful wretches bit me and narrowly missed removing vital bits of my person, I worked until late each day to save their lives. And there's quite an art to catching and working with penguins. If ever there were to be another disaster of this scale, I'd book myself off for a week to jump right in again. But, let's hope that's not the case. I feel very strongly about the environment and take a proactive role in doing what I can to lessen my impact.

J: I've yet to meet a writer who isn't plagued with the fear of being discovered a fraud. Have you suffered from that? If not, can you help the rest of us learn how to lighten up? If so, have you discovered a solution?

N: Ah, hell, I sometimes do have my dark teatimes, as I like to call them. Usually this is when I've taken too many physical and emotional knocks from the world, and these things do tend to happen in waves, so it's a case of learning to weather the storm. Thing is, when this happens, I have to remind myself that I write the kind of stories that I like to read. I may not have a masters degree in literature but I pride myself on constantly looking for ways in which I can improve my writing. The trick is to remember WHY it is that I write. If an author is writing because they want acclaim or make loads of money, stop right there.

I write because I have stories to tell and, chances are, if I can find a medium to share them, then other people who like my kind of stories will be entertained and hopefully learn about my world.

My advice: write without lust for result. Write the kind of prose that makes you want to sing or cry. Write what makes you happy, be it fanfiction or epic supernatural thrillers, but overall, just write and be glad for bringing some creativity in a world chiefly filled with consumers.

J: Can you tell us a little about The Dead of Night?

N: The Dead of Night takes up from Khepera Rising, about four months after the climactic events at the end of book one. Although, technically, it's a sequel, I've written it so that it works as a standalone novel. I've tentatively thought up a third and I'd like all these books featuring Jamie to be read in any sequence. The Dead of Night is perhaps darker and more blood-drenched than its predecessor. Jamie has more control over his magic, and he's mastered his demons, emotionally, physically, intellectually and magically, but events take place outside of his sphere of influence that drag him into trouble. It's a race against time for him to solve the savage, ritualistic murders of teenage girls, while trying to track down a demonic entity that threatens to destroy him.

J: Thanks so much for the interview, Nerine. I have a feeling your answers will help a lot of new writers. It's a scary road and sharing your experience has already made it a nicer place, I'm sure. Best of luck with Khepera Rising and all your future endeavours. Please come back when you're touring with The Dead of Night.
--
joylene