Monday, November 29, 2010

E-Book Published

I've been threatening to do it for some time. I've finally uploaded my test book to It will be transformed into an e-book for anyone to read. Anyone who wants to part with 99 cents, that is. I couldn't do it for free, although that was what I wanted to do.

This is a simple chapter book of only 6,000 words. It's designed for early readers who enjoy a bit of mystery and a spunky female main character. I've promised my granddaughter (the model for the protagonist and the cover) that I'll share any profits with her, provided there are any with the additional requirement that she read the book and give me a book report. (She doesn't like to read and she dislikes writing even more.) But she likes to earn money, so I'm hoping there will be a nice carrot to dangle in front of her to convince her to read it.

If you'd like to contribute to the cause, the title is SCARY NIGHT MUSIC. It's not loaded up yet from Amazon, but it should be before too long. Once it is, I'll probably come back here and add a link to make it easier.

Thanks for your support.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Have you published an e-book?

I'm going to try something here and see if it works. It may. And then again, it may not. If you're reading this, chances are that it worked, otherwise, I would have deleted it. Duh!

Okay. Here's the deal. The Linky below will allow you to enter information. If you've published an e-book, and you'd like to advertise it here, just enter your information. On the line where it says: NAME, just enter one of the following categories:

Picture Book / Chapter Book / Middle Grade / Young Adult / Adult

After that, put a hyphen, and add another descriptor of your choice, such as:

Urban Fantasy / Thriller / Mystery / Literary / Whatever

Finally, give us the link to it. If your book is available on, or Smashwords, or Xlibris, or wherever, go to your book page on that site and copy the web address. You can paste that in and it will take us there when we click on your listing.

We'll see if it works. If not, I'll make some modifications until we get it right. I'm excited! Maybe some of you can network and purchase either other's work. What do you think?


We've discussed e-publishing several times on this blog. If you'd like to catch up, just visit the archives and see what you might have missed.

Now it's time to take a look at the other side of the coin. The e-readers that people will use to download and access your work. There are several options from which to choose. The top four (according to my research) include, in no specific order of popularity:

1. Kindle
2. iPad
3. Nook
4. Sony

Kindle is probably the oldest in this group, having more or less started the e-book reader industry several years ago. iPad may be the most recent entry into the field. I know the iPad is a great product, but it has way more features than most people are looking for in an e-reader. The backlighting is also an issue that apparently causes eye strain. This blog wasn't created as a technology review site, so I feel like I've said enough about that already.

However, since my wife recently mentioned that she'd like to have a Kindle for Christmas, I'm beginning to look at the options. I received an email this morning from Kindle regarding their $139 price tag. Tempting, it is. But before jumping at the offer, I wanted to get some input from my readers. So, here's the question of the day:

Do any of you have e-readers? If so, what brand? Do you like them? Would you recommend them? And does any know what features Amazon has taken away from the Kindle in order to price it at half of what they typically sell for?

I'm listening.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Aiming for December 1st Release Date

In a concentrated and complex effort to encourage a reluctant reader (and test the ebook market) I've just written a 5,000-word chapter book. I've checked the reading level and it returns a 2.5 grade level. I'm thinking that's close to what I was aiming at.

The cover on the left is one I created last night. The model is my nine-year-old granddaughter (Samantha Brooke, the reluctant reader who I'm trying to encourage.)

So, when I finish editing it, and sending it to my beta readers, I will upload it and publish it as an e-book. Just to see what happens. We're shooting for a December 1 release date. We'll see how it fares at the .99 price point. I've told Brooke I'll split the money with her if she reads the book and gives me a book report. (And a review.)

So, don't get upset if I keep reminding all of you to get your very own e-copy. By the way, you can download a free Kindle for PC or Kindle for MAC on the Internet and enjoy any ebooks you'd like to acquire.

Friday, November 19, 2010

More on e-publishing

My good friend and fantabulus editor, Jodie Renner, emailed me a great link to a very informative article over at Blood Red Pencil. It involves everything you ever wanted to know about e-publishing. It also contains a great list of publishers who pay royalties for e-published books. Good stuff.

Check it out. Here's the LINK.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Maximum Ride by James Patterson

I went to the library yesterday and picked up a couple of new items. One of them was titled Maximum Ride by James Patterson. The reason I selected it was because of the prologue which pretty well captured my attention. After getting it home and starting to read it, I noticed the first chapter was much shorter than I imagined it would be. Same with the second chapter. It turns out this is a Chapter Book—a 420-page chapter book with 134 chapters. I found that quite unusual and very different from most of the chapter books I have read, based on it's overall length. I've found out recently that Mr. Patterson is one of the most successful ebook publishers in the industry.

Has anyone run across other examples of this? Is there a standard length for chapter books? Your input would be educational.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

All around the web

Things are going on, here and there, as usual. Over at Authoress's site, tomorrow is the day to enter your logline and first 250 words of your YA or MG novel. It's a pretty big deal, and a pretty good opportunity to get your work in front of agents. Of course, Authoress always has something good going on. You should check it out. On a regular basis.

Nathan Bransford is still writing his blog, although he has given up his agent hat and moved on to the tech world at CNET. I've always found his writing to be top notch and his blog topics quite timely. In fact, if your interest has been piqued by the posts on this blog the last few days, i.e. ebooks and POD options, Nathan has a ton of posts on those very subject. Check them out.

Mary Kole has a new wish list, or at least one I hadn't seen yet. I may have to query her. Check it out if you're a MG or YA writer.

And if you're somewhat confused, or just interested, in what the differences are between MG and YA, this article from Upstart Crow will be most informative.

Now, since I have little else to lay upon you this day, leave a comment and let me know what type of writing contest you'd like to be involved in. It's time we did another one. Perhaps a query letter? Maybe a 250-word opening (with a great establishing shot like we discussed earlier this week?). What about a contest for the scariest paragraph, or most emotional paragraph, or funniest paragraph? You decide.

After I review your comment, I'll put up a poll in the right sidebar, perhaps tomorrow, and we can have a little voting on that. And if there is a particular agent you'd like to have judge it, indicate that in your comment as well. It will be much easier to talk them into it if I can say "Hey, all my readers asked you to judge this." You have to be a little creative sometimes. Didn't we have a blog post about creativity a few days ago?

I'm waiting to hear from you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Agents, Editors, and Publishers

Please feel free to comment on the previous post. Everything written in that narrative is merely opinion based on history. Your comments and predictions are welcome. We'd love to hear the news from the inside.

The Shape of Things to Come?

Today's post is somewhat of a follow up to yesterday's. But before I propose the question that's burning in my mind, let's hop into the Wayback Machine and take a trip back to the early 1970s. I want to start there and come forward. We're going to pass through two additional environments before we make it back to today.


Ah, the 70s. Things were quite different back then. Leisure suits. Platform shoes. AMC Pacers. (Who came up with that design?). And the publishing industry was a bit different back then as well. Jackie Kennedy was working as an editor at Doubleday. I know that only because, somewhere, I have a rejection letter with her signature on it.

During what I will call Phase 1, writers typically used either an IBM Selectric typewriter. After you had printed a final copy of your opus, you could mail it to your publisher of choice. The great thing was that in those days most publishers were much more open to unagented solicitations and would willingly accept manuscripts from anyone who could write one and mail it to them. The query letter wasn't that big a deal or a hard-and-fast requirement in those days either. You just mailed the manuscript, along with a SASE, and waited to hear back.

Time passed, and somewhere along the way we entered Phase 2. Things changed. The Personal Computer (PC) became popular. Bill Gates became famous and ended up rich. Or the other way around. Steve Jobs developed the Apple, and our word processing and desktop publishing programs improved to provide us significantly more power and higher quality. Formatting became simpler. Text could be copied and pasted effortlessly.

Agents arrived on the scene and, somehow, mysteriously, became a necessity if you were ever going to become a published author. Publishing houses all but stopped accepting unsolicited manuscripts. Some even began nixing query letters from unagented writers. But we stopped using the postal service at some point when email came into our lives and became the primary delivery method for our work.

Then Phase 3 arrived when someone was smart enough to take the vanity press idea and merge that need with the new digital printing technology. The days of costly typesetting of manuscripts, creating page dummies, keylining multiple-page layouts, shooting film and burning metal plates, (and the exorbitant cost involved in each of those services) ended.

POD was born. It offered writers a new and marvelous opportunity to bypass the agents, the editors, the publishers, and even the offset printer. An eager author could get their manuscript transformed into a printed, bound book and into the hands of their reader in a very short time span with little or no upfront cost. What a concept!

And that's where we find ourselves today. So let me play the Devil's Advocate in my conclusion. Are the days of the literary agent numbered? Are the brick and mortar publishing houses going to crumble and disappear as technology moves us further into the digital domain? Would writers and readers prefer to have their book on the shelves in two weeks rather than waiting 18 months? Possibly. And it's highly probable that is the direction in which things are going. But it's not going to happen overnight.

My crystal ball is in the repair shop right now, so I can't predict the future with any degree of certainty. But, what is likely to occur during the transition to the Next Phase is that savvy entrepreneurs will step in to fill the roles previously held by publishing company employees. And that's already begun.

Editing and proofreading services have been available on the Internet for some time now. (I offer that service myself, as do many others.) In addition, you can easily find a design firm that will take your Word document and import it into Quark or Adobe InDesign and create a beautiful, professional document, along with a custom cover, that you can forward to Lulu or CreateSpace and have your book for sale within 24 hours. These digital POD services can also furnish you an ISBN, a bar code, and a Library of Congress listing number as well as distribute your books to Ingram's, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. What's missing? Other than the traditional advance on royalties (which I understand is still continuing to decrease) not much, really.

At the same time, ebooks continue to grow in popularity. In fact, you can download a free Kindle for Mac from the Amazon site. It takes less than a minute and you can then download free books or buy anything that's available from their ever-expanding digital library. It's all instantaneous in today's fast-paced world of high technology, and it's extremely affordable.

So where will we be a year from now? It's really anyone's guess. But I'm betting the self-publishing and POD market segment is going to increase dramatically during that span of time. In fact, I'm thinking about looking into the POD option for a couple of manuscripts. Or maybe buying some stock in one of those POD companies. What are you thinking about?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another avenue to self-publishing

The publishing industry is a business. Traditional publishing has been around for many years, and recently those iconic houses have been forced to examine their business models. It's an economic issue. So, while the publishers figure out what they're doing, others involved directly and indirectly in the publishing industry are offering other options to the authors and the readers of their work.

The experts at those brick and mortar houses consider your submission and try to make an informed guess on whether they can make a significantly generous profit on their efforts to put your work in the hands of the readers. Many fine submissions are turned away, passed on, simply because of the numbers and the database predictions. Many of those writers who have been shunned by agents and editors have decided to turn to other outlets to get their work published.

For some time now, companies with recognizable names like Lulu, CreateSpace, and Smashwords, to name a few of the most prolific, have provided a needed service and have offered writers an alternative to traditional publishing. Borders has now joined the bandwagon as an additional route to self-publishing and POD for those writers who wish to pursue that option.

So, if you're looking into the possibilities of self-publishing or POD, here's a LINK that will take you to the Borders Bookbrewer site where you can read all about it.

If any dear readers have actually jumped on the POD or self-publishing train, please leave a comment and tell us how it went. Also, if you're considering it, and you have some additional info the rest of need to know, comment on that, too.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Those Pesky Characters

You've come up with a fabulous idea for your new book. You're excited. It's an absoluetely wonderful story with great characters. And you know them well. You can rattle off their age, their hair color, birthdays, favorite colors, where they live, what's in the middle drawer of their dresser, and the names of their best friends. But something is dreadfully wrong. The readers in your crit group aren't seeing them the way you do. They don't get them. They're giving you feedback that includes words like "flat" "cardboard" and "one-dimensional." Are they just idiots, or what?

Obviously not, if you're getting this type of feedback. They're not just jealous or trying to be mean or discouraging. There's a problem and you need to fix it. So, how do you exhale the breath of life into your characters? How do make them jump off the page and into the mind of the reader as a vivid, colorful, real character?

Well, if you really want to know, Jessica Page Morrell has a fabulously informative article on just that subject. Click HERE. She offers some great answers to those difficult questions that writers often face. Things like:
  • How do I make my character unique
  • Ingredients of a great character
  • Using action to reveal character
  • Larger-than-life characters
  • Naming your characters
  • Showing off your characters
  • Creating emotional impact
So carry on. Write on. And keep tapping out those words. If you have any tricks to share on how you create your characters, let us know. Just leave a comment below. We'd love to read it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Plotters and Pantsers

Ok. It's time we got this debate underway. Or under weigh, as we say in the Navy, or as Richie Armstrong said when he boarded the Seahorse for the first time and he and Kuko and Angus Callahan headed for Cannibal Island. (An upper middle grade steampunk adventure yet to be assigned to an agent. Hint. Hint.) But I digress yet again.

Back to the subject for today in which we will explore the opposite ends of the spectrum for the novel writing modus operandi. It's an old battle and it continues today with the same vigor it always has. It's the Plotters vs. the Pantsers.

So into which group would you place yourself? Are you a Plotter? Do you have to know exactly what's going to happen before you begin writing that opening scene? Do you have an outline containing every scene in the entire story? Do you have a character sheet with details on your cast, down to their birthdays and favorite colors?

Or do you write by the seat of your pants, i.e., a Pantser? Do you just start typing and thoroughly enjoy whichever direction the story goes. Do you allow your characters to determine their own fate and simply type in what they tell you? Do you have to check back to a previous chapter (where was that?) to make sure you've given the correct address for your character's apartment, and placed them behind the steering wheel of the same car? And was that scar on his his left or his right hand?

So tell us. Which are you? And why? Try to convert us to your style of writing by giving us the details on why it's the best option. Go ahead. It's your turn now.

Friday, November 12, 2010


Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm a movie lover. Always have been. Perhaps my love affair with film is the reason I write the way I do. When I write, I visualize my scenes and my characters. In fact, when I start a new project, one of the first things I do is to search the Internet for photos of actors that I feel would be perfect for the characters’ roles in the film. Before acquiring my Macbook and Scrivener, I used to print the photos out and tape them to the wall in my writing area. Life has become simpler with new technology and now I’m able to import them into my Scrivener resources folder so I can look at them any time I wish. It’s kind of handy and inspiring to gaze into my character’s eyes when I’m wondering how he or she would react to certain situation.

In addition, at the very beginning I try to create an “establishing shot.” Just like they do in Hollywood! This is like the opening scene in the movie version of your book. It provides a description that will help to put the reader into the scene by offering all the sensory input they need in order to be right there with the characters involved in the scene. Filmmakers did this much better back in the 40s and 50s than they do today, in my opinion. But, as a writer, if you can create a dramatic and dynamic establishing shot, you can pull the reader into the scene rather than leaving them on the sidelines as a casual observer. (And this is directly related to our earlier discussion on opening lines from some time ago.)

Admittedly, creating a perfect establishing shot is sometimes not the easiest thing to do, and it requires practice. A lot of writers want to give the reader a lot of backstory. Film directors don't typically fall into this trap. In film, it's all about action. So take off your storyteller's hat at the opening and put on your director's hat. If you can create a dynamic establishing shot, your writing will come alive from the very start and grab the attention of your readers. True, it's not easy, but it's actually easier for a writer than it is for a film director. As a writer you have the ability to bring in not only the visual images and the sounds, like in film, but you can also add the senses of smell, taste, and touch.

Once you've created the establishing shot, you still need to play the film director when you're switching scenes. Transitions are critical in keeping the reader’s attention — especially at chapter endings. And doing them well is the difference between a good writer and a great one. If you can leave your spunky character with a bit of a sticky wicket at the ending of a scene (chapter) it will encourage page turning. Which is exactly what we're striving for, isn't it?

As a final thought, I'll leave you with this. Sometimes it's helpful to listen to some audio. If you're writing a spooky scene, the right orchestral arrangement can add to your creativity. If it's a love story, violins usually do the trick for me. So keep that in mind as you write. If you add a little sensory input, it can help create a little more sensory output. 

I hope I've inspired at least one of you to think like a film director and try to create a dramatic establishing shot. Let me know what you think and what works for you. Other readers would like to hear your tips, tricks and (ssshhhh!) secrets. We're all in this together.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Creativity and Observation

Writers, along with musicians, artists and actors, fall into the category that most people classify as "creative." How wonderful for us that we're placed in such a special category. But before we start feeling so very special, we need to remember that creativity is not dished out only to those who work in those fields. Mothers can be creative when they come up with a new game to play with their children, or a new recipe to share with their family. Fathers can utilize creativity when they figure out a way to stretch the income to cover the bills. Even children can be creative, and sometimes quite quickly, when questioned about a broken vase or a spilled drink.

Whatever creativity is, it's floating through the universe at this very moment and landing on everyone in varying degrees at various times. It's a bit like the "Dust" that Lyra Silvertongue was obsessed with in The Golden Compass. And even though it may be everywhere, like money, some people just seem to have more of it than others.

So how does one go about tapping into that well of creativity? How do you get some of it? Maybe those with a large amount of it have had some experiences that the rest of us haven't had. Perhaps some event in the life of Suzanne Collins, something that may now be no more than a faded memory to her, provided the basis for The Hunger Games. What did Stephen King experience that gave him the embryonic idea that resulted in the creation of Needful Things? And where did that lightning bolt scar on Harry Potter's forehead have its basis for J.K. Rowling? I could go on with more examples, but you get the point.

Perhaps everything that happens in our lives leaves a footprint in our memory. Some prints may be deeper than others. Many may be fleeting things, events or thoughts that leave little or no impact and a very shallow mark in the sand of our gray matter. But even the lightest footprints leave a mark. At least temporarily, and sometimes permanently. Most of those events might never be called upon for future use, but one of them may be a catalyst that causes other thoughts to rearrange and finally gel into a unique combination that results in a best-selling novel.

Life goes on. Things are happening around us. Some of them happen to us, and have an impact, either good or bad. Other events are merely changes in the landscape we're passing through, and we are nothing more than observers of the action as it unfolds. We're witnesses to small snapshots of life as it continues. Those snapshots are like pages in a family album, each a single frame in time and in a life that goes on after the event, usually.

There are stories behind those snapshots. Some are frightening. Some are funny. Others are heart-warming and bring tears of joy. And any one of those may be a story that someone with a little creative talent can write. The great news is that the shutter is clicking continually, every second of the day, everywhere. We're all on a level playing field as far as the input is concerned. The only variant is in how observant we are and how creative we can be in putting the story together.

We need to be watchful. Look at that child, sitting in the grocery cart and crying as her angry young mother pushes the cart down the aisle. What's the story behind that? See that older man leaving the office building and loosening his tie as he shuffles toward his car? Did he just get fired? What will he do this evening? Is that dog running across the highway going to get hit before he makes it to the other side? Did someone dump him? Why is that police car sitting in front of my neighbor's house? Have they had another fight? And why is the ambulance there?

There are a million stories out there, and they're happening every day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

And on we go - at the one-third mark.

By now, those of you who have joined in on the Nanowrimo project are probably nearing the 10,000-word mark. If so, that's fabulous! Truly. If not, that's still okay. You have ample time to pull it together before the final bell sounds. And even if you don't manage to write those 50,000 words by the deadline, that's STILL okay, because you're writing, and that's the important part of the whole project. Obviously.

So, let's take a brief respite and relax for a few minutes. I mean, really. You can't pound those pesky keys every minute of every day. Seriously. This little break will hopefully recharge your batteries and give you the will to go on (just in case you're starting to waiver and your original enthusiasm is beginning to fade like an old bleeding Madras shirt from the sixties. Remember those? But I digress.)

Here's what I'd like you to do —
Write a comment to this post and answer one of the following questions:

1. My Nano project is going great, and the next thing my MC is going to do is . . .
2. My Nano project is sucking right now because I can't figure out what to do about . . .
3. I'm not sure how my Nano project is going because I just keep writing. I'll figure it out later. But I am a little concerned about . . .

There you go. Leave a comment and tell us where you are on day 10.

Happy writing!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Macbook Acquisition

Okay. I considered it for months, not wanting to spend the money but knowing that, in the end, that gorgeous aluminum clad laptop was going to come home with me. So, on the way home from work last night my car turned into the parking lot and parked itself in front of the Apple Store in Leawood, KS. An hour later I was driving home with a beautiful new Macbook Pro sitting in the passenger seat. And so far, I'm loving it. It's quite obvious that Apple builds quality into their products.

I opted for the iWork software rather than spending the money on Microsoft Office. The Apple word processor is called Pages, and it seems like this is going to be a better option than Word, actually. Apple has built a ton more features into their word processor than MS did with Word. Plus, you can still save your documents as .doc or .rtf or .pdf files.

The next phase is going to be to download Scrivener. That's probably a task for tomorrow. There are a great many video tutorials on this product online, and I've been spending some time this evening listening to a lot of them.

So, being a new user on both the Mac and the iWork Pages software, I'd love to hear comments from fellow users. Any tips, tricks, secret things you've discovered? I'm all ears.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Update after Day One!

How did it go? How did you do? Do you have an idea? Do you have a story? Do you have a first chapter, or a first paragraph?

I'll begin. I have an idea. Not a complete idea, but a start. An idea that takes off and gives us a setting and two characters and something that's going to happen. Nothing is etched in stone yet, but it's a starting point. I missed the required number of words for today, but I didn't get started until late, so I'll try to make it up in the next couple of days and get back on track. Currently at 1,015 for day one.

Unfortunately, I'm one of those who can't help but edit as he goes. It's a habit and it's my writing style. I've always done it that way. I did it that way last year, but still had my 50,000 words by day 10. That probably won't happen this year unless this idea takes off during my sleep and points me in the right direction.

So what's your story. Leave a comment and tell us what's going on with your Nano entry. We want to know.

Monday, November 1, 2010

What's your story?

It has begun. Nanowrimo is underway.

If you've signed up, you're probably too busy writing right now to read this, but if you've taken a break, let us know what your story is about. Talking about it might spark other ideas of where to take it, in case you don't know.

We'd love to hear the details.

And if you haven't signed up, here's the LINK.