Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye, Hello

As we say, "Goodbye" to 2009, I've heard no one say it has been a great year, even though some good things have happened to each of us. Nearly every adult and most children have had concerns about the anemic economy. I'm sure we will have learned a great deal from these times.

In a few hours we start again, hopefully different from last year, much wiser. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best when she said, we have the world we agree to have. Perhaps we can agree to have a better world, one with a bit less "me" and "money," and a bit more "compassion" and "charity."

Maybe the Beatles had it right, "All we need is love."

My sister-in-law, Jan, sent an email that had the quote below as the final comment. I wish I knew who wrote it. I couldn't find it searching quotes (if you know, let me know - I like to give credit where credit is due).

From Jan's email:
"Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about the one's who don't. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it."

Have a happy and good new year in 2010.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Oh MY Gosh!

I totally love this! Providing it has the standard key action, I'm going to track down one of these babies!

Isn't that wild! Wow!

Found it here:

That notice thingy: I didn't get anything, not even a cup of coffee, to post this blog. However, if they want to give me a keyboard to test (play with) I am not too proud to take it (hint-hint).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

eBook Expert

By now most people have figured out that I try to gather and pass on industry info, in addition to the off the top of my head gabbing found on random days at First Draft. I know people are busy and this industry is like a room full of toddlers, there is a lot going on. Catching up from a beginning writers' point is time consuming. It is a bit like herding cats -- not all that easy. Thus, if you can wade through all the other jabber-walkie, First Draft is the preliminary stuff before the intro -- prologue? (Have I misnamed my blog?)

One thing for sure, I'm the least knowledgeable 'authority' on eBooks. My books are not available as eBooks. The closest I come to making an eBook is the pdf of my newsletter. I'm pragmatic about the pirating issue for eBooks, as you will be once your book is published (if you are a beginning writer). There is that 'green' thing about eBooks that makes me fall off my chair laughing. I have enough university science credits - from my nursing studies prior to switching study to social work -- to know that whole line of thinking is a bunch of hoowie. In some respects, they are kinda green, but not really-really green. They are the future, or some form of it though.

(I'm doing an anti-resume thing here, in case you were wondering.)

A couple of weeks back, I did post a link to a resource that reviewed the (more than you'd think) list of eReaders. I thought some of them looked and sounded (in the reviews) cool. It isn't in my budget to buy them or to get somewhere I could explore them side-by-side. And there is that old BETA vs VHS thing going on with the formatting (yes, I know of the resource that will produce eBooks in several formats).

The real issue for me, besides I worked hard to earn the ability to read a book, is that reading eBooks is starting over - they are difficult for me to read. It shouldn't seem that way considering the amount of time I read my computer monitor, but I take lots of breaks. It is frustrating for me to take the breaks necessary when reading digital content of a book. Short articles, no problem. Long texts, big problem. I do better with a printed book.

Nonetheless, I think it is important for readers and writers to glimpse info about the digital book conversation in the industry. Therefore, here are some links to bring you up to speed, if you aren't already way ahead of me.

The links in brief:
A big time author sells his digital rights to Amazon, thus separating his print rights from digital rights (and his print publisher). The thing here to keep in mind is that one large publisher is trying to retroactively claim digital rights to its backlist books that are pre-digital era. There is a big discussion going around about this. At the same time, another large publisher is delaying the release of digital books on selected new books. A bit less of a discussion going on about this, but it is still out there. There was some valid mention of the need and ability to market both in a joint fashion so both feed off each other. So the question needs to be considered, before you sign your first publishing contract, where do you stand on the digital rights of your promising ms.

This link just drives home the fact that most midlist books have a short shelf life in the bookstore. It says eBooks live forever (they must not have a bunch of files stored on the huge floppy disks -- or the old punch cards -- that they are never going to be able to retrieve, but can't throw them out). Nothing new, but thought this was nicely written.

This one has me back to thinking on the format issue. Interesting and informative, even though a bit techy-talk. Read the comment section too.

In the previous article, I didn't know what DRM was, so I looked it up. If you don't know, here is the link.

OMGosh! Did you hear about this?

Wow, it feels like I've just written a public service announcement. It might be a boring post, but I've done worse. Do ck out the links. There will be a pop quiz next week. (kidding)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Vanishing Book Reviews

Just so we're totally clear on this, I ask permission to reprint the email below, so here goes...

Last week, ReaderViews sent out an email to authors whose books they had reviewed. ReaderViews is a book review service in Texas. They sell review packages (and other stuff) or they have a list where you can sign up for free reviews. Basically, they have volunteer (vetted) readers around the country who read books and take the time to write a review. Then RV posts the reviews on several website where reviews are typically posted, including their own website.

The thing I think that adds credibility to their reviews is, if they can't honestly write a good review (they have a second reader take a look too) then they go back to the writer. I don't really know what happens next since it has never happened to me. I don't speak for ReaderViews, so go to their website for more (and better) information. All I know is I've gotten a square deal from them.

Here is the email:
For the past year, Reader Views has been posting reviews on as another source of getting publicity for author's books. However, a disgruntled person has reported Reader Views as being in violation of GoodReads' rules. Following its investigation, GoodReads told Reader Views:

Goodreads is all about reader reviews, not professional reviews.
You are using our site commercially.

We are addressing your breach of Goodreads Terms of Service (, which clearly state: "Subject to the terms and conditions of this agreement, Goodreads grants you permission to use the Service for your personal, non-commercial purposes only."

We feel strongly that the Reader Views profile on Goodreads falls firmly on the "professional reviews" side of the line, which we reserve the right to delete.

In light of this, and upon checking GoodReads site, I noted within a few minutes 10+ other "commercial sites" are posting reviews there. When I informed GoodReads' that Reader Views wasn't the only "commercial" site posting there, it requested I send them the links of the other reviewers that were in violation so it could investigate. It is not my intention to be the gatekeeper for GoodReads, and as reviewers we support each other and are not out to destroy each other. We are here to support the authors so they can in turn increase the sales of their books.

Unfortunately, Reader Views has been targeted and removed from GoodReads. This also means that if we posted a review of your book on its site, the review was removed. I tried to maintain Reader Views' account, and even explained that removing the reviews would be punishing the authors, but that did not seem to concern GoodReads.

I'm sorry I had to write this email to you. I did try my hardest to maintain the reviews on the GoodReads site.

If you are not happy with GoodReads' decision, you have the option to let them know at
Irene [Irene Watson from ReaderViews]

My take on this is:
It is no big deal to me what goes on at Goodreads. I can't spend time everywhere and Goodreads is one of the places I don't go very often. Let's face it, I'm more of a writer than a reader. It does seem odd to me that they would remove some of my reviews. It does seem strange that they wouldn't want all reviews, ya know, that is if they are the "go-to" place for reviews -- that was my understanding of what Goodreads was. More books, more reviews, more traffic? Maybe not???

I guess I just don't get it. We read 'commercial' book and movie reviews in newspapers all the time. Then we make up our own mind anyway. I don't think anyone would be off put when they see reviews and link back to the reviewer to find they were done by a review service. If I'm missing something here, enlighten me.

Goodreads, Amazon, NothingBinding, all of them use OUR books and the reviews of them for 'commercial' purposes. Let's face it, we can always self publish, but where would the industry be without writers? We are being used commercially by just about everyone and we are more than willing because we want readers to notice us and read our stories.

I just don't understand the need to remove the reviews, it isn't like I have lots of resources on the internet for my reviews. Sure I get that it is a rule, I just don't get the need to have the rule -- especially with the new FTC rules.

If you do go to Goodreads often and have an opinion on this, do voice it to them. The link is in the email above.

Just so we're clear here. I paid ReaderViews for reviews of Kathryn's Beach and High Tide. I did NOT pay for the review of Storm Surge, but ask that the same reviewer who did the first two do the third, if possible. I do get the newsletters from Goodreads and ReaderViews -- and about a million other newsletters. Oh and Irene donated several copies of her book to the blog party - as did about 20 other writers (no strings attached either direction, but I did want them autographed). I don't know what any of this means in the big picture of things, but I'm trying to meet the FTC guidelines and be totally clear on all of this.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

To all of you, I wish you a good and joyous holiday season.

(Greeting made by my friend Andy in France.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Tis the Season...

I wish for each of us, Peace on Earth.

Regardless of which, if any, holiday you celebrate, enjoy this video. At the very least, I bet it is the gift of a smile.

Something special for you tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Oh Baby!

This is the time of year when the new lists of popular baby names come out. I like to read them with the curiosity of a writer. Sometimes I take a name I'm considering for a character and find out the meaning for their name. For example my name comes from the Slavic, Nadia (Hope).

The problem is it is easy to start reading how my name went with the Germanic tribes to the now UK and my family adopted the transition name, Nadine, and has passed it down on the Welsh Evan's side of the family. Well, I'm the end of the line for the name, it appears, in this Stewart/Evans family tree.

(Of course there are name generators for the SciFy writers among us.)

The thing that is different about this list (link below), for those interested, is it predicts the top boy and girl names ten years from now, 2019. Whether you want to be the one to bring a name to popularity or to gamble that using a popular name will endear you to the lit agent you hope to woo, that is up to you.

All I know is Kathryn started out with a different name and it just didn't fit. So, back to the whole unscientific idea that stories will talk to their writer and tell them what they are or what they want to be (the drunken muse theory).

Okay, I made that up. Really, don't believe everything you read. There is no "Drunken Muse Theory."

Monday, December 21, 2009

About agents (for Peggy) and all debut writers

Unless you're satisfied with being published by a small press, you must romance literary agents until one falls in love with your ms.

Here are some links on the subject.

Nope, no idea why the last link looks like a tome. There is LOTS of info at these links. It should keep you busy for days.

And some very good news for debut authors: (must read this)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Log Lines

Can you sum up a book in one SHORT line? Some people are better at this than others. Log lines come from the Hollywood practice of logging scripts into a, well, a log book. There needed to be an economy of words and yet set each script apart, so it could be found quickly when wanted.

Writing log lines is good practice for elevator pitches. It isn't all that likely that most of us will be in an elevator (lift) with an agent and have the opportunity to pitch our wonderful, fabulous ms to them on the spot. However, perhaps we can pitch to a potential reader, so it is good to be ready.

On the sidebar, I want to add log lines for my books. A tease, but a truthful tease, about each book is what I'm after. I went to day two of the blog party to see if anyone had tried their hand at a log line for my books. Nope. No help there.

I did one for the blog party book. It isn't exactly a log line, but it will do.

So now, what about this trilogy of mine? After a while, as most of you will discover, a few million edits and rewrites, the whole thing becomes elusive to sum in a few words.

Here is what I've come up with for each book. I'm not sure I'll keep them. I usually tinker with things a few times. (I think that is learned during the rewrites stage of the process.)

KATHRYN'S BEACH: Kathryn goes home to face the haunting past.
HIGH TIDE: Kathryn begins a new life.

Yep, nothing on that one. I think it is perhaps the best book of the three. Maybe it wouldn't be so great if the first two hadn't set it up for the third. I donno. The real question on Storm Surge is whether Kathryn will be alive at the end of the book. As I wrote it, I didn't know whether she would or not. Maybe that is partly why I like it so well. When I write, I don't want to know the story until it unfolds. It is like reading, but with a keyboard and busy fingers.

Well, we'll see what I come up with. Might just do one for the whole trilogy, though I think not.

Just to show you how good Joyce, my web designer is, I asked her what she though of what I did to the blog part book...though I had no control where the text went, and this is what she sent back to me. If you don't get this service from your web designer, you have the wrong one.

It looks okay. Doesn’t line up perfectly but okay. If you put (a html code she wrote that won't show up in this post - duh) after the form button and before your text it will force it completely below the image. (don’t copy and paste that code. Type it in because the quotation marks are different here.) Joyce

So anyway...back to thinking about log lines...
If you have suggestions for log lines for my books, be my guest. Funny is okay too.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My 200th Blog Post!

Here it is! My 200th blog post and not a bright idea for something stellar to write. Sheesh!

All I can say is that it has been quite a year that began April 2, 2009. Of course, the blog party comes to mind as one of the memorable moments. I still can't believe the size of the Blog Party book. We really did have a grand time and it is because of everyone who participated that it was such a success.

I certainly went out of my comfort zone to do this blog on my own as much as possible, since I rely so completely on my web designer, Joyce over at She fixes things I do all over the net, not just my own website, which I think is fantastic (this is my third redesign for She did some of the graphics on the sidebar of this blog too.

I've laughed at the fact that I rapidly gained 45 followers and when I go over that mark, people un-follow. Hope it isn't personal???

FIRST DRAFT was my official coming out as being dyslexic. In many ways, it is no big deal to me since this is my normal. In other ways, it was admitting a point of embarrassment as a child and sometimes a reason for abuse by my teachers and a few peers. I hope though, in the end, it shows that if I can write novels, and write them well, that anyone who aspires to be a writer can be, if they pay their dues and pursevere.

In my typical sloppy sentimental way, I want to say 'thank you' to everyone who takes the time to read my blog and my books. You have made the time FIRST DRAFT takes well worth the journey.

Now I look forward to starting a small publishing company in 2010, Cactus Rain Publishing, that is different from any other company I know. It is a new model and there will be more innovative projects coming in the years ahead. I hope you will take this journey with me as we laugh at my goofs and celebrate all of our successes.

I love you guys. Sounds strange, but even though many of us have not met, I do love you.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Win another book...

My friend, Erin Collins, (remember her from the Blog Party?) sent this email that I'm sharing with everyone.

Hi everyone. For those of you who have not purchased my book, Shadow Walk: The Gathering, I am having a Christmas contest! Yes, until December 24, 2009, you have the opportunity to win a signed copy of my book. Just email me at and put contest in the subject line. One lucky winner will be chosen at random. Be sure to include your name and mailing address in the email. This will be for the contest only. No other use of your address will be used. Good luck! Erin Collins Author, Shadow Walk: The Gathering

Good luck! Go win yourself Shadow Walk: The Gathering. Let's face it, after the holidays, you will need new books to start the new year!

Erin at the Blog Party. Learn lots more about Shadow Walk: The Gathering here:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

12:00:42 AM

Forty-two seconds after midnight Pacific Time yesterday an email arrived with the details for the famed Google Book Settlement.

From the very beginning of this mess (several years ago) I've thought this was handled poorly, but that is the American way: Go piss off a bunch of people while mindlessly looking to make a buck, act like you are doing some noble thing when someone grumbles, and trust that most people won't notice, care, or bother to think about what is happening.

While it is so easy to blame all of this on Google, that is just nuts. There were libraries at fault too who gave Google permission and access to scan books when they did not have the rights to do so (and they probably should have been joined in the suit). There were publishers who did the same (I had a fierce argument with my publisher at the time).

When the situation went into litigation, there were writer groups who took it upon themselves to speak for all writers in one of the lamest negations I've ever read. In my opinion they only had the right (duty?) to speak for their members when they filed their amicus brief, then patted themselves on the back as they spoke for writers everywhere - not only American writers.

And you want to know what really ticks me off? Most writers still don't have a clue what I'm talking about, what the issues of the case were, and won't read the settlement to know how it will effect them in the future.

Except for the pirating problem worldwide, and sorry to say, primarily in Asia; the fact that some lame brain in corporate America didn't have the basic understanding of the book industry to consider who the copyright holders of these works were/are; and the theft of moneys to be made from these books by persons I will leave nameless, I have no problem with books being scanned.

But most of us have slept through this whole debate like village idiots. That is why I'm not summarizing this incident. Some things are worth learning for oneself.

My admiration goes to the President of France for saying, "NO!" Other governments raised their sleepy heads long enough to respond in a watered down fashion.

On the high road, scanning books can bring them to people who are so remotely located that they otherwise have no access to them for the purposes of furthering their education (online).

And the "OOPS! We forgot this bit" link:

(Hey, I warned everyone in my beginning post that I probably shouldn't blog because I have an opinion on everything. This is one of the examples of my ability to think for myself and state it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Win a free book tomorrow

The holidays are almost here. Money is tight worldwide. Need a book as a gift? Or maybe you need a new book to curl up with on the sofa since you have everything done and are totally ready for the holidays. (Yeah, that would be me.)

Here is the deal. The give away is 15 December, tomorrow, so I'm telling you now. Win a free historical novel, easy-peasy.

A Glimse at Happiness, by Jean Fullerton

When Josie O'Casey returns to London after twelve years in America, she is overjoyed to discover that her childhood sweetheart Patrick Nolan, who she believed to be dead, is alive and well. But Josie's happiness is short-lived - Patrick now belongs to another. Heartbroken, Josie vows to forget about Patrick and settle back into life in the East End, but she must decide if she is willing to forsake everything for the man she loves...


Anita Davison gave me the head's up on this.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On Faith...

ask no questions. Click on the link below. (A bit of fun to start your weekend with a bang.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009


It was 22 hours without electricity up on the Mogollon Rim this week. With the fireplace going it was below 50 degrees F indoors. Two and a half days with no internet. Phones still out. I'm glad I'd written a week's worth of blog posts as the snow began. Smart! I'm replacing the one scheduled for today with this - below. Please read.

This is really important for everyone to read. I'm hoping to hear lots of comments.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Kip Cosson has a new book out. My copy just arrived, so I reread his first book, Ned Visits New York and the new one, Ned & Meece Wheels of New York.

Like the first book, as soon as I heard about Wheels, I emailed Kip and reserved a copy. These are delightful books geared for ages 1 - 10. The art is bright and colorful, drawn by Kip. His first book is about making new friends and seeing new places (New York City). The second is about all the things with wheels in NYC. Each page is written in six languages: Spanish, Japanese, German, French, Italian, and American English.

The other great thing about these books is Kip makes children's wear that has some of the same art on them. His children's clothes have been in some pretty big name publications. Check his website for specifics.

Our friendship pre-dates the books, and I'm honored to be Kip's friend. Maybe I'll come visit New York one day and be able to use the check list in the back of the books.

So to you, my friend Kip, congratulations on both your books!

Compensation? I ordered Wheels, but when it arrived, the price was marked out and it was a gift from Kip. However, he doesn't know I'm writing this blog. I just like to celebrate books and especially those by writers I know.

Kip's website:
Kip at the world's most awesome book blog party:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

For teens

Honestly, most of us try not to embarrass our kids in public. My kids have been very tolerant of me being a writer and not the recluse every teen hopes their parents are, if not a famous superhero.

I've said many times that there isn't enough money to get me to return to being a teen. Perhaps it is even more complicated now days. Thus, I'm going to remind everyone of another Blog Party writer, Jeannine Garsee. Remember her Y/A books?

Jen does a fabulous job of writing about "today" topics for teens. In Jen's debut with BloomsburyUSA, Before, After, and Somebody in Between, Martha wants to be much more than her white trash beginnings. School is tough, but home life is tougher. Martha has a mouth on her. She doesn't go slumming, she is from the slum ~ with a big dream to be a professional cellist. Is foster care her chance to shine as a musician?

Jen's second book with BloomsburyUSA is Say The Word. Following up on yesterday's blog topic, What if your parent is gay? When I beta read "Say The Word" I fell in love with the story. Shawna is a typical suburban teen, headed for the front row seat at medical school (more what she 'should do' rather than wants to do). Her parents are divorced ~ typical. What isn't typical is her dad. He says absolutely horrible things about her mom and mate (girlfriend). To my delight, Shawna's step-mom helps her... I'm not telling the rest. Oh and to be clear, Jen's straight.

Both books are wonderful stories and I would not want to label them, but the topics are real life issues for teens and perhaps along with the entertainment of the read will come new information and insights. Even so, if you want to read a fantastic writer's works, get Jen's books.

Jen Garsee at the world's most awesome book blog party:'s website:
Check out Jen's blogs:
and this blog:

There was no compensation for this post.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Coming out later in life

Remember the blog party last summer? (The only correct answers is, "YES!") Remember Susan Gabriel? Remember Seeking Sara Summers? Links below, if you don't.

If my memory serves me right, Ellen DeGeneres was the first celebrity I remember who came out and was accepted by everyone, the public and the Hollywood gang. It was no big deal to me, she was still funny and generally her humor is intellectual. I tend to prefer intellectual humor/humour to slap-stick, so I was and am still a fan of hers.

Long ago, a friend -- a nun, to be more specific -- took me to lunch and came out. I have to admit, I probably didn't give her the response she was expecting. She said she was gay and leaving the convent. She was a great nun, so my mind was racing with, "What? You're leaving the convent?!!!" You know those guys are celibate, (well the nuns are more than the priests, it seems), so what did it matter which gender she preferred as a partner. Right?

She might as well have said, "I'm gay, so I'm giving up chocolate!" I totally missed reacting to the gay part of the conversation. Giving up chocolate? She was leaving the convent? Well anyway, she did. She left the convent, not the chocolate thing.

Last week Meredith Baxter, 62, came out. I watched the interview video. It was sweet and I felt for her as it was obvious she is a private person and that personal stuff on TV was difficult. Bless.

So from there Susan Gabriel was one writer the press located to interview on the topic of late awareness of sexual preference. In Susan's book, Seeking Sara Summers, by accident Sara discovers the solution to her dud marriage. She has done all the expected things, expectations she shared, like marrying her childhood sweetheart, raising a family, becoming a teacher in her hometown high school, but breast cancer pushes her to ask, "Is this all there is?" Sara's life wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. See the link to my review of Seeking Sara Summers, below.

As far as marketing goes, this topic with Meredith Baxter is pie from the sky for Susan. As a fellow writer, I wish her well. Buy her book, Seeking Sara Summers, if you want to understand this topic better.

I guarantee each of us know someone who is going to say..."I'm gay and I'm giving up chocolate." So be ready to pay attention and understand.

To be fair to guy celebs let me mention George Takei from the Original StarTrek and David Hyde Pierce from Frasier. There. Done.

Interviews of Susan Gabriel:
Susan at the world's most awesome book blog party:
Book review of Seeking Sara Summers:
Susan Gabriel:

I forgot to say, there was no compensation for this post.

Friday, December 4, 2009

More Doodles

Quite a few people either posted comments or emailed about their doodling in response to my post on doodling.

Laura is the graphic designer who did the logo for Cactus Rain Publishing. Check out the kind of doodling she does.

Some of these look like book cover art -- don't you think?

I forgot to say, there was no compensation for this post.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ya gotta love this...

I have to say that I am much more likely to gently, lovingly run my fingertips over the edges of a book like this more than I would feel the love for an ebook in my hand. That's just me, I'm a tactile person.

Where I found this link:

I forgot to say, there was no compensation for this post.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


It is no secret that I'm not all that into eBooks. For one thing, it took me years to learn to read and I took lots of mean spirited teasing in the process.

I want a book, a real one. I like the feel of a book in my fingers, or resting against my chest as I curl up with it -- lost in the writer's world between the pages. I like the smell of the crisp yellowed pages of the 100+ year old books I own. I like the wonder when I open the proof copy of one of my books.

eBooks don't do anything for me. I can't hand write notes in the margin and draw a line to the print that spawned the idea. My laptop doesn't fit in my purse. I won't spend the money for an eReader (though they all look really cool). The readers don't have a universal file type - remember BETA vs VHS, and now Blu-ray? That pirating thing really hacks me off - bet they cheated in school too. Okay, the pirating thing is my biggest issue.

And don't give me that GREEN business. I've been recycling for years. Our recycling bin is always twice as full as our trash bin - try that with a family of five.

The ebook might be digital, but it took energy to produce it on a computer, most servers are on regular energy (iPower hosts on green servers), and don't think the satellites were launched into orbit without using just a bit (okay a whole lot) of energy -- including the lights on inside the sat companies where all those smart people work. Even reading on a phone or PDA isn't all that green, if not on satellites, they are sending the signal from towers that were smelt in factories...blah, blah, blah.

But mostly, I set out to publish a book, not a digital file...and I am so not with the times on this at all.

I've said this green stuff before and I only dare do it again while Carolyn Howard-Johnson isn't looking. But here is an expert:

and a great overview of eBook readers -- really cool:

I forgot to say, there was no compensation for this post.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Rose by any other name...

Besides the bit about some new ideas on how literary agencies do things, there are things going on with big publishers - the New York Suits, as I call them.

Surely by now anyone who follows the trade news has heard about Harlequin Horizons. Right? Harlequin is a major romance publisher in the US. They have decided to offer a self-publishing option to their slush pile writers. They have partnered with Author Solutions (the group that is made up of iUniverse, Author House, and several other self-publishers).

A couple of writers' organizations have pitched a fit about it and want [demand] Harlequin change the name of this new venture. They don't want the name "Harlequin" used in the name of the new company. It seems they don't like it because it is self-publishing that they don't want the name of a "real" publisher attached to the process.

I hate to spoil the fun, but self-publishing with these Author Solution (and other) companies has been around for ages, they sprung up like crazy after POD technology was invented. Not to mention Nelson Publisher did the same thing a few weeks back and there was hardly a word raised in complaint by anyone.

Several writers' groups have pitched a fit about the name more than the concept that seems to me akin to the diva bullies on the playground when we were little kids in grammar school. Seems these writers' groups are now banning Harlequin from their 'best friends' list.

The first one I heard who pitched a fit was RWA (Romance Writers of America). Seems for years Harlequin was invited (pockets lighter of tons of donations) to the RWA (et al) conferences. (I wasn't there, I'm going by what I read in every respectable trade news outlet.)

What gets me is that who do they (the writers' groups) think they are to tell any other business how to run their business? If I was a member of one of these groups, I'd be totally embarrassed by what the leadership has done -- make them all look like silly spoiled children. And gosh, every time I think about joining a writing group - hefty memberships included -- they pull some bone-head stunt that totally turns me off.

I can't believe that Harlequin is letting these groups push them around and are changing the name of their new venture because someone outside their organization is pouting. I thought the whole thing was inventive and forward looking by Harlequin execs. Too bad they don't believe in their brilliant ideas enough to tell the writers' groups to mind their own business.

See the link below for one take on the matter.
Look in the November posts for the new name of Harlequin Horizons and more info on the Nelson company mentioned in the other link.

I had some links to articles about the RWA, MWA, and SFWA organizations said/did regarding Harlequin Horizons, but realized they are subscription only, so just google and you'll find stuff out there, elsewhere.

Oops! I forgot to say, no compensation was made for this post.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Literary Agents

I thought the post on the link at the bottom of this page was interesting. Good lit agents work with a writer if the ms is promising, but a bit rough around the edges. It takes a lot of time to review and make suggestions, and even more time if the writer is a stubborn goat. (No offense to goats intended.)

It's maddening to spend the time and tell a writer exactly what they need to fix to make their ms competitive, at least as competitive as possible, only to have them argue the point and not budge.

It is time lost that could be spent with an equally good product and a much more willing writer.

So the question has been raised, in the link below, should lit agents charge for this service; for content editing? They charge for messenger service and such, but not ever for reading. I don't think they should charge for reading, that is part of their job. However, it takes hours and hours to work with someone to flesh out a ms, usually belonging to a debut writer. Content editing is a different process than reading to offer a contract, or not.

I am still thinking this one over, but I'm leaning toward the idea of charging a fee for content editing. These people do know the industry and what is being bought at the moment, as well as the particular interests of specific acquisition editors at various publishing houses.

The reason I'm leaning in favor of the lit agents charging for this particular services is that they could be, as I said, working with an ms that needs less work. If they could know that the time spent fleshing out promising mss was not lost, then we might see a lower rejection rate. They might accept more mss, if they knew it wouldn't be a total loss to take a chance.

Isn't that what every writer wants -- someone to take a chance on them and their ms? Who knows, some of the passed up mss might be exactly what the acquisition editors want or more importantly, what readers would like (given the opportunity) to read - if lit agents could afford to invest the time in them.

Decide for yourself. Here's the link:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


There are a million and one ways to not write.

One way is to buy writing software or go to a name generator online and play for hours deciding on a name, plot, or some other writing related detail. You can get great ideas from these.

Another thing some fiction writers do is outline the entire story, write extensive bios on the principle characters, research, research, and research some more.

Besides all the legitimate reasons that get in the way of writing, especially for moms/mums, I doodle.

When the writer's mind is gone for the day, yet I want to feel a pen in my hand (I write on the computer), I doodle with pen and ink. I don't use anything fancy, just a regular gel pen and printer paper and lots of circles and short lines. A different view of this doodle was in my December 2008 newsletter

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm taking the rest of the week off!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Retro look

Several years ago, I read an ms for Nidhi Dhawan. Nidhi is an ENT surgeon in India. Recently Nidhi and I were talking (email) about her book and I ended up designing a cover for her.

First of all, so much for my memory, I knew there was a tree in the book that figured prominently throughout the lives of two little boys, one Hindu and the other Muslim. While I was waiting for Nidhi to tell me the type of tree it was, I took a quick look in her ms for a clue.

I mocked up a cover using a tree I had drawn some time ago - see tomorrow's post. As it turned out, I had the wrong tree in mind. Then I set out to draw a Banyan tree and redo the cover since she had liked the general idea of the cover. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a good thing I got confused about the trees, as Nidhi liked the use of the Banyan tree over the Neem tree.

Take a look at the picture of these book covers in the link below. Then look at the one I designed above.

Some things never go out of style such as simple straight forward cover art thinks. Sometimes a book will tell you what it wants. Perhaps on another day I will post the transitions of this cover.

Special thanks to Lecter Johnson for permission to use his font, xxii arabian onenightstand, in the cover art for Nidhi's book.

Friday, November 20, 2009

FREE Blog Party 09 Book

With Thanksgiving Day (in the USA) coming next week, I thought I'd offer a copy of the Blog Party 09 Book FREE as a 'thank you' for all the years of good times in this industry. The blog party was the perfect example of what I often refer to as the writers' community.

There are times this industry is difficult and times of serendipity. We share these times with each other. Take a moment and scroll through any page on the Blog Party (click the party icon on the sidebar) and see what I'm talking about.

So here's the deal. Anyone, absolutely any one is eligible to get the FREE Blog Party 09 book. This can be your first visit to my blog or we can know each other. All you have to do is send me an email, before the end of November, telling me why you want a copy of the book. FREE is free, including free shipping - world wide.

All you have to do is send me an email saying why you want the book. Easy-peasy. Put in the subject line something like, free blog party book.

Always, always, I autograph books I send.

Email address: NadineLaman [at]

Ready, set, GO!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Supporting Characters

Everyone knows that in a novel there is at least a main character (MC) and their antagonist - the person who makes the MC's struggle real - and secondary characters, their friends or sidekicks.

One set of characters some novice writers forget to add judiciously are the background characters - the extras in a movie. These are the people on the street, in the restaurants, or neighbors. These people help flesh out the MC.

Since I can use my books without anyone's permission, I'll use them for examples. In Kathryn's Beach there is a convent. The most prominent nuns are Sister Elizabeth and her sidekick Sister Theresa. However, other nuns walk in and out of scenes, perhaps say a line or two, and leave. It wouldn't be very believable that Saint Mark's was a real convent with only two nuns. To tell the truth, I had to keep a list to remember which nun was the school principal. They weren't that important to me or to the story to remember their names. But they played an important role in making the convent and the two main nuns seem more real.

The same goes for the mention of the traffic on the freeways in Los Angeles. I don't make a big deal of it, but it would be lacking to not mention the traffic problem that caused the detour Kathryn and Sister Theresa took that lead to Sister Theresa's big question to Kathryn in High Tide. Wouldn't it seem odd to drive all over LA and never mention traffic?

Also at the airport in High Tide, even though Kathryn couldn't go to the gate now like she did, she could when the ms was written (pre-September 11, 2001). It makes sense for the traveler to bump Kathryn with their carry-on bag and the people she encounters on the escalator. LAX is a very busy airport. There had to be people in it for anyone to believe Kathryn was at LAX. Whereas, Kansas City International (KCI) closes down early and no one is around when you get off the plane - very spooky!

Storm Surge switches settings requiring a whole new group of background characters had to be cast, like the gardner. Some of them had been introduced in High Tide, so the trilogy carried over from one book to the next. Otherwise it would be like Kathryn had been plucked out of the two previous books and plunked down into a different story all together.

Keep in mind camera angles and you won't forget the background characters. There is always a wide angle or pan to show the other people in the location, then it narrows onto the principle characters per that scene. Pay attention to that when you watch TV and translate it to your writing - don't forget to cast a few extras in your novel.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Location, location, location...

Nope! I'm not looking to buy or sell property. However, location plays a major role in the setting for mss. (Actually, it applies to more than novel writing, any form of fiction needs a setting or set for scripts.)

Even though location plays a backstage role in most novels, it can have a huge impact on the believable factor for the reader. You can take the average main character (MC) and move them from one location to another unrelated location, and their behavior will adapt - or should.

While the characters, particularly the MC and the antagonist, play the largest role in getting the reader to dispense with reality and buy into your story's reality, a well done setting can help the process along.

I'm visiting in Pine, AZ, in the Tonto National Forest. This isn't the typical mountain living, like in Flagstaff or one of the Colorado mountain cities. This is where cabins are sparely placed in the forest. Many of the roads are dirt and rugged.

One thing I've learned in the short while I've been here is to scan the horizon for smoke every time I go outside. Forest fires are frequent in the Arizona forests (and in Southern California).

As we were driving up the 500 feet elevation from the town where shopping is done here, we noticed a yellow-brown haze hovering over the next ridge ahead of us. It was the kind of thing found over many US major cities, but we both scanned for the source of the smoke. Once we found the chimney of smoke was narrow and from the east of where we were headed, we resumed our conversation and proceeded up the mountain.

The point is, there are behaviors that locals do particular to their environment. Don't go overboard, but if you can add something to convince the reader who has lived in a similar location that this is true, you are one step closer to moving them to dispense with disbelief.

The converse is true. Hubby's great aunt remarked once how a fairly famous writer had the moon rise over the Mid-western plains at 2:00 AM. She threw the book in the fireplace. The moon does not rise that late in the central plains states. Actually, it should be beginning its descent by then.

While I don't want novice writers to sweat blood over every detail, do pay attention to particulars that the locals would know are pure fiction, if you're asking them to move into the world you've created in your novel and believe it is real.

On the other hand, in SciFi or fantasy, it is sometimes useful to take a known item from our world, like the moon rising, and have it behave differently. That gives the novel an other world quality. So, maybe you want the moon to rise at noon. Then you can have the characters react to that, such as saying it will be clear for the battle or the journey at hand. I think it is handy to take an element from the setting that is familiar and guide the reader to translate that item into the unreal world.

Make sure what you add to your story is there for a reason, not just filling space. Write well, enjoy the process, and take your readers with you.

TIP: Get travel videos from the library and watch the locals in the background of the host.

PITCH: I rarely pitch, but Kathryn's Beach is an excellent example of setting contributing to the character of the MC. The link to purchase is in the left sidebar of this blog.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Industry News!

Sheesh, what's happening to me, I'm writing industry news two days in a row? Well this interests me because of the German idea that books' prices can't be undercut. That messes up the whole idea of the price war that I mentioned a few posts back, which isn't a bad thing for writers who actually would like to have a bit of change in their pocket for their efforts.

There are pros and cons about price fixing. One one hand, there is the 'what the market will bear' and on the other hand, there is the idea of the need to make money to stay in business.

I'm not taking sides in this, but it is interesting as Amazon's Kindle goes world wide. The other e-readers are sure to follow.

Read about it here:

Monday, November 16, 2009

News Flash!

I'm not THE SOURCE of industry news, but I thought I would pass on that there is more news about the Google Books Settlement.

The lawsuit is a class action suit. Like everyone else who was a potential member of the class, I was notified of the lawsuit and given the option to opt in or out of the class.

There were writer's groups who filed Amicus Briefs, and somehow, ended up speaking for more than their members and negotiating a settlement for all of us.

The thing is, while I'm not totally opposed to scanning books, it seemed to me that the libraries did not have the rights to the books to consent to scanning to be used outside their library system, especially to generate money for the scanning entity, without regard to payment to the rights holders.

Then the thing went off on orphan works. You'll just have to read the stuff to figure it out. I opted out of the class which means I can bring my own suit rather than rely on the agreement reached in this suit.

Since the deadline to opt in or out came long before the agreement to a settlement, it was in my mind, agreeing to an unknown. I'm not saying the settlement is good or bad, I just didn't want to agree to something undefined. That is a lot like signing a blank contract.

So the lesson here is that as a writer, it is important to be aware of the industry news. That is what being part of something means - you know what is going on.

Read the Google blog here:

And there is this:

And there is this. I'm surprised about the extract comment since originally my understanding was full books - way back when (a couple of years ago):

As I recall, long ago, when my first books went on Google Books, the revenue went to my publisher and there was (according to him) no plans to split it with me -- not Google's fault.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What is Cactus Rain?

Cactus Rain is a boutique publishing company. It is registered with the Arizona Corporation Commission. That makes Cactus Rain a small press.

Cactus Rain publishes international fiction for the American market. The stories are inspiring as well as entertaining. The writing is strong, the characters are often ordinary people on a quest that leads to a heroic act.

Cactus Rain is not a DIY company. It is a new concept, taking the best from the existing models.

There is a vetting process. The specific submission details will be on the website when we finish building it. A query letter and synopsis will be required. There will be no electronic submissions, at least for now. If a full or partial manuscript is requested, that can be submitted electronically in MS Word or WordPerfect.

There is no set-up fee. There is no advance. There are no royalties. What? No royalties? Royalties means the profits are split with someone.

It is a very simple concept. Once an ms has been accepted, it is formatted, given an ISBN, and a cover at no cost to the author. The author pays for items like the US Copyright fee - and keeps the copyright. With the ability to print any size run, there is the ability to control cost and inventory to meet the demand for the book rather than large stacks of boxes of books sitting in storage.

When books are needed, the author pays the cost to print the book, plus a little something for me to recoup my expenses, then keeps the profit when the book sells, minus expenses like PayPal fees.

The books will be listed in the Cactus Rain catalogue and on the Cactus Rain website and [probably] The author can sell books from their website or out of their car. As the catalogue builds, other means of distribution [bookstores] will be pursued.

It is all a process - creating a business, developing a website, all of it. More information will be forthcoming. Submissions will be accepted in early 2010.

Why did I create a publishing company when I have one of my own for my books? Simple. I am tired of writers who are not with a traditional publisher barely making any money for the hours invested in writing a novel. Being a person of action, I created a company that does for others what my company, Nadine Laman Books, does for me.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Characters You Love

Am I the only one tired of me writing about writing? Yawn.

Tell me about a fictional character you love, one that you sympathized with and found it easy to make the leap to believe they are/were real. What was it about them that makes them stand out in your mind, even now?

Indicate in the comment section below the title and author, the character's name, and a brief bit about what you like about them. It's your turn to do the writing and give us all a break from me.

If you don't want to entertain me and rather read more about how to write, read this (sent by Susan Gabriel).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Recently I was watching a crime show on television. The story was pretty good, but as I looked at the clock and they only had 15 minutes left (including commercials), I began to wonder if the crime was going to be solved.

It was a complicated crime and the characters were interesting. There were several unrelated suspects and the stars kept following leads well into the show.

Then it came. The forensics expert came up with information that came out of no where to solve the case. There had been no hints. It was as if this information was from another script entirely. In writing that is called dropping alligators (answers) over the transom.

I can't say that I'm thrilled with the endings of Kathryn's Beach or High Tide. Storm Surge ends much better. Good thing that it does because it also carries the weight of ending the trilogy.

The end of the story is just as important as the beginning. There is tons of material about writing killer first lines. Not only does the first line have to hook the lit agent or publisher, it has to hook the reader.

Then it goes from there, the next few chapters have to set that hook firmly. The middle has to keep 'em reading, and the end has to deliver satisfaction.

I think the tricky part is to do the end. Write the first draft through, beginning to end, without going back to edit. Honestly, that see-saw back and forth of trying to edit as you write really shows, you aren't fooling anyone. It is like putting on the second coat of paint on one part of the wall when you don't have the first coat done on the whole room. It shows when the paint drys - oh yes, it does.

At the first time through with rewrites and edits, look at the end bit. Was all the solution heaped in a pile? If so, take each section and divide it up. The telling part should be sensibly placed throughout the ms. Best to scatter it through in dialogue or bits of scenes. Then when the solution/resolution of the subplots come, it isn't a huge surprise like a bucket of cold water in the face.

Most of the time we want the reader to be surprised in the right way, the way that they are delighted and satisfied that everything came together logically. We don't want them surprised like I was in that show I mentioned in the beginning of this post. All the subplots don't have to wait until the last chapter to be resolved. Some can be completed sooner and used for the main plot to stand upon for its resolution.

It is hard to see the trees for the forest in our own writing. Get someone you trust to be honest and helpful to dispassionately discuss the story with and be honest with yourself if you need to hire a content editor. Don't be territorial over each precious word. The point of writing is to give the reader a good story.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Most people use the term "self-publishing" rather loosely. What they mean is usually a company that is paid a fee -- the lowest one I know of the fee chargers is $499 USD -- and they put the book into print using some form of Print On Demand technology (POD). That set-up fee does not include anything more than putting the ms into an auto formatting software and creating a cover for the book, plus placement on their website. World distribution is most often simply uploading the book onto one or more third party online vendors.

If you look around there are several free companies. They recoup the free part in the price of the book to the author. Of course, it is the usual situation of what you put in is what you get out. It doesn't fix things for you. You book is printed exactly like what you put into the software.

Whether a set-up fee is paid or not, the success of the book is totally up to the author to drive sales. There are a million and one (roughly) companies that sell authors (glassy-eyed authors) packages for marketing and goodness knows what else. Their pitch says all the things everyone wants to hear and can empty the writer's pocket quickly -- but I've written about this several times, and I'm not the only one who has.

What self-publishing means in the strict interpretation of the term is that the author causes their book to be published. They either do the work themselves or hire it done. What work would that be? Goodness, where to begin. Basically, self means self. It includes everything from editing to binding choices, paper weight, formatting, cover art design...and EVERYthing in between, including paying fees to be listed online. This is total financial responsibility for the books, so the best shot is to learn everything needed and spend the money to get it right the first time. The author better believe in their book because the investment won't be recoup'd overnight.

Frankly not every ms is destined for the big NY publishers. This is a business industry and just because the writer's spouse, mom/mum, or Aunt Edna loves the ms doesn't mean it will be published and a best seller.

The good thing about so many ways to get published from the largest imprints to the smallest of presses is that a savvy author can best target the publication route that fits the ms' potential audience. While I do like the folk art quality of some self-initiated books, I also like a book that is commercially driven, if the writing is sound in both cases.

I found the following in the comments on Galley Cat's blog. I added the bold to the text.

"...The reason self-publishing won't kill traditional publishing is that most authors can't edit their own stuff and/or aren't willing to hire someone competent to do it for them. A lot of readers are willing to put up with bad grammar and awful spelling on social networks, but how many are going to want to read whole books that way? Anyway, it's not just a question of grammar and punctuation: editors help with plot development and characterization too..." Paula_B

Excerpt came from the comments here:

BTW, Galley Cat has always been a good blog to follow.

Monday, November 9, 2009

RSS Feed

Way back in the dark ages when some people (not me) had those huge satellite dishes in their front yard, a west coast or east coast feed could be had and thus a greater choice of when to view certain shows.

So knowing what a feed is isn't rocket science. I've spent a couple of months (not full time) looking into doing an RSS feed of my blog onto my filedby page.

I read about it, I ask my friends about it, and I Googled the daylights out of it. I usually read the Wiki entries on topics of my searches. My web designer, Joyce from sent me two links of instructions.

Finally I followed the instructions and put the magic combination of letters following www into the filedby slot and waited. Nothing happened, which is usually what happens when I do stuff on the internet, so it wasn't that much of a disappointment.

Silly me, this isn't StarTrek and things take a while to do their thing. The next time I went to filedby for something else, I saw that my blog had migrated to that page. I'm not sure how I did it, but it seems a month's of posts are on my filedby page. I think that is pretty cool. Go look!

I half expected to see the orange RSS logo automatically appear on my blog -- and it still might. In the mean time, I fiddled around and put something on the left sidebar that seems to be RSS.

Goodness, NO! I haven't clicked on it to see what it does, I just put it there and think that was as much as I dare mess with the thing for one day.

That Disclaimer thingy about compensations and endorsements:
The Google search was free, RSS Feed was free, my page at was free, the advice from my friends was free, and the hours of entertainment this effort has provided said friends who laughed their butts off was free, though I might start charging for the front row seats to my agony.


Saturday, November 7, 2009


I noticed a few things I forgot in recent posts. Just goes to show what happens when I'm writing without notes.

In the posts about manuscript formatting, the cover sheet info should include the genre and word count.

In the synopsis heading or in the first line of the synopsis, add the genre and word count. I like it in the heading best.

And finally, we live in an international world. If you plan to query in the US and live elsewhere, keep in mind that our letter size paper (8.5 x 11.5 inches) is standard. When I print items that are A4, depending on the format, it prints wacky. I have no idea why a literary agent would print something sent electronically, but if they do...have your ms set to the right paper size.

I've added this info to the posts.

Friday, November 6, 2009

How to get Published

I've put a lot in this blog for writers. This is the $64 question: How to get published.

1) Write well. (refer to all the ways I said to do that in this blog's posts, and get info from others too.).
2) Research your target (learn about the industry, so you know what you're doing).
3) Write a great query letter (Jen Garsee is going to do a guest post on this topic).
4) Write a great synopsis.
5) Don't rush the process, wait until you have your best work ready to go.

Most querying is done online these days, keep in mind that if you are querying in a country other than your own, if you send an attachment change the paper size to match the common use in that country. They might want to print your synopsis and pass it around the office because they love the concept of your ms.

Well, that's it in a nut shell.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

MS Synopsis

The point of the synopsis is to tell the whole story of an ms in a way that interests the reader (a literary agent or publisher you want to wow) in one page. A good synopsis can lead to a request to read a partial or full of your ms. A synopsis is a combination of book report (remember those?) and a book review, but a bit different.

The format is universal with a few personal variances per agency or publisher. The sensible approach is to go with the basic format, then make the changes necessary to comply with the specific preferences of your target.

Start with setting your word processing software like this:
*One inch margins all around (top, bottom, sides). One inch is 2.54 cm.
*Single space lines.
*Font is usually Times New Roman or Courier, 10-12pt. I like Tahoma 11pt.
*Center the title, which is Synopsis: title. (If you manage to get the job done in less than a page, then put synopsis and the title on two lines - followed by a blank line.)
*Word count. This is generated by the software, but you'll have to type it in where it goes. There is a mathematical formula for estimating word count. I generally use 300 words per page and do a ballpark of how many chapters end short of a half page. I bet there is an A4 formula out there somewhere, but I've never needed to use it.

What to write:
*Regardless of the POV of the ms, a synopsis is always written in third person.
*Focus on the main character (MC), not all the minor characters. Indicate the MC's name, but honestly, unless they are referred to by their first and middle name by everyone in the ms, then no one cares what their middle name is. For example, I have two friends named Mary Ann. One goes by Mary Ann and the other by Mary. On the second one, no one would care about the middle name if she was the MC.
*Tell the setting, genre, time (contemporary, historical or future -- by indicating the date)
*Tell the whole story. Write the beginning, middle, end of the story. (YES! Tell the end of the story.)
*Tell only the major twists.
*Use active language, rather than passive.
*Don't get poetic, cute, or clever.
*Do not talk to the reader, ie, using second person, YOU. "You will love this book" NO. "You will be scared spitless." NO!
*Don't pitch. None of this: Everyone will love this book. That's a bad pitch anyway, but pitches don't belong in a synopsis.

If I help someone with their synopsis, I want them to tell me nothing about the story before I read the synopsis. The synopsis has to stand on its own. It has to tell the story honestly, but engagingly. Cut out the non-essential rambling. Some people accept a two page synopsis, but if you can do it in one page, then you have done it correctly. The standard is one page. The grammar and punctuation should be perfect.

Give the synopsis to a few reader friends. Listen closely to the questions they ask after reading it. It is likely the agent or publisher will have those questions too. Don't dismiss the questions. Fix the gaps. There is only one shot per target at getting this right.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday Rant

Not that I don't always have an opinion, but this is worse than usual. Maybe it is because I wrestled the devil all night or maybe one cup of coffee in the morning is now too much for me.

Junk mail. Yep. It is such a waste of time. Sometimes I send myself junk mail -- only I didn't send it -- and no matter what the subject line says, it is for off-the-grid prescription drugs. I can't even report it as spam or I'll block email from myself. That would screw up sending the newsletter notice to 'me' and blind copying it to everyone else. Technology, sheesh! I'm not on any medications, so it is lame to target me.

Tiny URLs. Yep. So what's wrong with such a brilliant idea as tiny URLs? Some of those URLs I add to my blogs are real monsters. Well, mind your manners. The only place tiny URLs are appropriate is (IMO) in tweets. And only then because of the character limit to the messages. I rarely click through a tiny URL in an email, even when it comes from a trusted sender (see above about trusted senders not always originating the email). I want to read the address before I click on it. Sure the full URL could look innocent and reroute to a porn site. But it rarely does. I want a clue to where I'm going before I click on the link. Save the trust games for corporate retreats.

Authors get rich promos. This is most of my spam email. Authors, especially indie authors, are a cash cow. Everyone has a service to promote YOUR book to thousands of readers. None of them give actual sales numbers of a real book, none of them give the name of unknown authors who have used their service and made back the membership fee. One of those spam adverts came today. It only costs $200 a year to showcase my books on their website to thousands of readers. Most of the time, they don't have thousands of readers. Finding readers is like herding cats. They come when they are good and ready. Readers are such an mix of people, how does one target them? No one knows. There are other sites that range in price much higher than that one -- and they think writers can't do math? I've watched these websites come and go. Yeah, and would I like to buy the Brooklyn Bridge too?

There are (book) PR firms around that say all these sensational things about what they can do. They say exactly what the novices want to hear. The only problem is after years of watching their websites, I've not seen them actually do anything more than make a living off of the fees from authors. In this business what isn't on their website is just as important as the advertising copy on it. If you don't see a list of client books that you can trace to other locations (besides on line retailers) then it is unlikely they have actually made an author any money. Exposure, maybe, but money??? I think we would have heard about that phenomena, just like we heard about The Shack selling hundreds of thousands of books. That success can be found in unrelated, independent sources.

So, what works in marketing books? Mostly it is endorsements from trusted sources.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

All the HIP PEOPLE are going to HATE this post.

I just can't get into this social media gig. I've tried. It doesn't flip my cookie. I don't think it is fun, and fun isn't the reason I'd do it since I 'do' real fun rather than virtual fun.

I have talked with people who are in marketing for their real job. For me and my type of writing the time vs outcome factor just doesn't come out mathematically in my favor.

I know I look like the high school nerd without a twitter, facebook, or the-flavor-of-the-day logo on my website and blog. To me, those sites are like walking into a room (or the stock market pit) where everyone is shouting at once. I can't deal with that.

I know some people enjoy it, or think they do. I know it works for some people, or they think it does. By my analysis, it doesn't work for me by the numbers or by my personality. So, I'm just saying, assess it for yourself and make sure it isn't taking more than you get from it.

Just passing on a link on the topic:

Monday, November 2, 2009

the price war...

Believe it or not, I am not surprised with Walmart, Amazon, and Target's action to devalue best sellers - called 'lost leaders' and books are the perfect choice.

Amazon surely knows how the publishing industry works, but the other two are probably clueless, like most people on the outside of the industry. I understand that Amazon reacted to what Walmart did. That's business. It isn't my philosophy, but most people aren't like me. (Thank God?) I like to make my own business decisions, rather than let others define me.

This is a quick publishing industry overview, certainly I can't write how the industry works in one blog post - nor would I be fool enough to try.

There is a long and complicated process involved in acquiring books. But let's say that has been done. There is THE LIST. At the top of the list are the best selling author's new works. They usually pay handsomely for those books, but the books earn their keep. What else they do is cover the cost of the books that aren't great earners. Some of the mid-list and bottom list are fillers; stuff you have to have to make a well rounded list. Some are slow, but steady earners.

The list pays the salary of all the people it takes to make a book, royalties to the author, contracted services, like printing, shipping, and warehousing. Besides the people any business would have, there are book industry specific people: Acquisition editors, line editors, cover artists, marketing, advertising...blah, blah, blah, who are paid by the earnings of the best seller books.

Money spent on advertising, marketing, and PR is proportionate to the expected earnings of the book. Sometimes the publisher is pleasantly surprised. Sometimes they lose their shirt.

So when Walmart (are we not surprised this company did that?) sells expected best sellers at a loss, the worry is that 1) the public will devalue books and come to expect books to be that price at their local bookstores; 2) that publishers will be forced to reduce their list price (the price on the book cover) because of the changed perception of value by readers; 3) small bookstores will be hurt the hardest and many long standing family businesses will close (Watch the movie "You've Got Mail" with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan).

The worry about the small family owned bookstores is the one that I think is the most likely to happen, if this pricing war continues. These stores (Walmart, Amazon, Target) can afford to sell the 10 or so best sellers at LESS than they paid for them because they hope in the process other purchases (marked up per usual) will be made at the same time. The small bookstore, or Indie bookstore, is banking on those best sellers to do what they do for the publishers -- cover the cost of less selling books.

If you read my newsletter then you know my trilogy is on When those three books sell I will make minus $3.13. Yes, I will lose $3.13. As you can see, I can't really afford to do that for long before I write more books that cost me less to print and ship. I do have a plan to fix that bleed and I could suck it in and compromise quality by putting the books on amazon another way than the way I am.

I don't think readers will believe that best selling books can be had or should be had for $9.00. Besides readers trade books with each other and read them for free. Same with borrowing them from a library - free. Same with garage or boot sales - nearly free. It isn't like the author is getting royalties on anything past the first sale.

So what is the bottom line? Well, it is likely not going to last. Sure some people will go for the deal, others won't. Most likely people in the industry like me won't shop those places for those books simply on principle. But I do shop those stores regularily.

There is still lots I omitted: coops, sell through numbers, and remainders for example. You can google those. If you want to know more about this, google something like: book pricing war. I had links, but you're capable of researching this, if it interests you. If you are a writer, this should interest you.

Friday, October 30, 2009


The Festival on LYRIS 5 by Nick Daws

Wow! I've read some of Nick's non-fiction works, but until the Blog Party, I didn't know Nick wrote fiction for publishing.

The Festival on LYRIS 5 is certainly a fun read. Nick adds humor in word choices and the precarious situations Rick Barrett finds himself in this fast paced galactic adventure. There is the perfect amount of SciFi 'stuff' to satisfy fans of Science Fiction, yet it isn't so hard-core to be off putting for any reader of any age.

As to be expected from Nick, LYRIS 5 is well written and engaging from the first moment to the last. I didn't see the big twist coming at the end and would have never, ever imagined it.

This is a fantastic little book (novella) which is complemented by the wry illustrations of Louise Tolentino. If I did book reviews The Festival on LYRIS 5 would get a galaxy full of stars.

Nick Daws is a professional freelance writer in the UK.
Visit Nick's fantastic blog:
Purchase The Festival on LYRIS 5 here: or go to and search by author or title.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Manuscript Formatting

To continue the list I started last week:

These things can be set up to happen automatically:

a) 1" margins all around. Top, Bottom, and both sides;
b) Double space lines;
c) Number pages, either top right or bottom right - you wouldn't believe the number of people who don't number the pages;
d) Header on every page, the order varies, but the header should contain the working title and the author's name (or at least last name);
e) Title page should include contact information in the lower left corner, (name, mailing address, phone number, email address, genre and word count);
f) It is my personal preference to have widows & orphans turned OFF, but probably most people accept either format. I think it looks less 'neat' with it turned on, though be careful about them. Google or go to 'help' in your software and learn what Widows & Orphans are -- especially if you are going to self publish and have to do the formatting. They really make a book look self-published (in a bad way);
g) Use a sensible font and pt size. Agents read such a large part of their day, make it easy on their eyes. Don't get cute with fonts. Besides, if it is online rather than in print, your font might not be supported by their software. Someone once used a font I didn't have (hard to imagine, I have tons of them) and it was $29+ to purchase it -- I passed.

These things have to be done manually:

a) One space (only) between sentences.
b) Insert page breaks at the end of a chapter so the new chapter begins at the top of a new page. Do not hit the 'enter' key repeatedly to do this, you have to use the page break function or you are totally screwed when you edit or do rewrites.
c) Center Chapter heading, use the center function, do not tab over and guess at the center. A computer might seem like a modern typewriter, but it behaves differently if you don't use the computer functions.
d) Use the tab rather than the space bar to begin a new paragraph.
e) Technically the first sentence of a Chapter is not indented. I ignore this because I begin my books (always) with a line of dialogue.

I'm sure I've forgotten a thing or two. I do these things automatically because I have done them for years. Sitting here looking out the window at the snow it is a bit harder to think of them for a list. Review their website, many agents and publishers list specific guidelines for submissions. These serve two functions, they want things that way and they want to see if you can follow instructions.

This stuff is for fiction mss, not for non-fiction...though a memoir is not fiction, it is done in a novel or fiction format.

Additions to this info or questions about it are welcome in the comment section. We're all in this together. Like Nick said yesterday, don't obsess - but do remember you are applying for a job as a novelist against tons of other applicants. Look sharp. Write well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More on Manuscrips (mss)

The question continues on the 'single' or "double" quote marks for dialogue in UK mss. I asked UK writing guru, Nick Daws, his opinion since he is my "go-to guy" and head moderator of writer's forum.

Nick said:
Both single and double quotes are used in Britain. I would say that single quotes are still more common, but double are widely used as well. Of course, quite a lot of books we get here are by US authors originally. I guess their UK publishers don't think it's worth bothering to change all the quotes from double to single!

In the end, a lot of it probably comes down to house style. An independent UK publishing house I've had some dealings with, Tindal Street Press, uses single quotes in all of its books. Large, multi-national publishers often use double, though. I suppose it's more convenient for them to apply one style in all the countries they operate in.

I followed up with asking what he would do if he was submitting an ms to a UK literary agent and here is his answer:

Personally, with a UK publisher, I would use single quote marks unless there was good reason for using double. But really, I don't think it's that important, as long as you're consistent.

So there you have it.

I've thought more about formatting mss, since I don't want to short sheet the information that I can share.

It is far easier to set up your word processing software in the beginning than to go back and fix everything after the fact. If you are the hands on type of learner, here is an easy tip:

Paste a page of your ms into a new document. Then go through the menus at the top of the page (or ribbons if you are using MS Word 07). Go through each drop down menu item, even if you know what "print" and "save" is. Take your time and when you get the print window, explore each thing that you can click on to customize the features. You don't have to waste a ton of paper, but do look at each item and explore what it does.

Continue methodically working your way though each function until you come to something new. Learn it. If it is a simple task, move on to the next item. It is a waste of time to go through this quickly and not really learn the new functions.

This will take a week or maybe two, but you should know a whole lot more about your software and be able to command the functions you need to produce a professional looking ms after you've mastered your software.

I use WordPerfect and can customize my tool bar. One of the things I did was to change "save" to "save as" so that I would be prompted rather than accidentally overwrite something in haste...or fatigue. Most likely you can do this with MS Word, though I am only aware of the small tool bar at the top left that can be customized. However, you need to learn and master the software you use.

Tomorrow I'll make a more comprehensive list than I mentioned last week.

Meet Nick Daws, professional writer and contributor to the Blog Party:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Last Draft

One of the things I wasn't going to do with my blog was write about how to write. For one thing, there is tons of stuff on the internet about writing - not to mention all the books on how to write.

Well, anyway - I've gone and done it, haven't I?

Okay...the next tip is to put away the perfect little ms and research the literary agents or publishers for a list of where it will be submitted. When that gets boring, work on query letters.

Then pull out that ready-to-go ms and read it aloud. Is it really ready to go? Listen to what you are saying. If that ms was written by someone else would it really be finished? Best go through it with an objective eye. You only get one shot to shop that ms to each of your targets. Make it a good one.

Some people say the most common error is shopping an ms before it is ready for a professional to read it. I agree. Put your best foot forward.

Get everything ready, your ms, your query letter, your synopsis, and your list of targets (agents or publishers). Then begin to query.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dialogue Tags -- according to...ME!

Keep in mind that I write literary fiction. It isn't something many people write and for good reason, it isn't all that popular.

More or less, though, there are writing skills that cross the genre. This is, of course, my take on how to write. The popular wisdom runs the gamut on dialogue tags from zero, nada, absolutely never to use what is needed.

It is one of the most annoying things I've found in reading is to lose track of who is saying what in a conversation. It annoys me so much that the second time I have to stop reading the story to count down and figure out who said a particular line, I toss the book in the trash bin. So here is my take.

One thing that should help is it is unlikely every character talks like every other character. That helps with keeping straight who is talking. For example, in High Tide, Shasta is a six year old who lived on the street with her homeless family. Now what are the odds that she is going to speak well? Slim. So Shasta throws in a double negative every once in a while, because that is how real kids talk. The nuns, on the other hand, generally speak in full sentences. Other's speech is determined by their ethnicity. And, if you've read my books, the Parade Lady really plays a trick on Kathryn with her Southern Rural Appalachian dialect. So number 1 on the list is make the characters speak like they would in real life according to how you have described them.

Another thing that can be done is to make the narrative surrounding the dialogue clear enough about the situation that it is clear what is happening and the conversation makes innate sense. Don't go overboard and make the narrative boring or the reader will never get past it to the dialogue.

And finally, the basics:
a) When the dialogue is a short conversation of 6 or 8 lines between two people, it is probably going to be easy enough to follow without dialogue tags;

b) When person 1 and person 2 take turns, it is easy to keep track in a short conversation that goes 1-2-1-2-1-2. But if someone speaks outside of that ping-pong style, if someone interrupts and takes two turns, like 1-2-1-2-2-1 then it might be necessary to tag the switch up. Certainly give that conversation a second or third going over to make sure it is clear to your reader;

c) When it is a two person conversation that is rather long, add a dialogue tag once in a while as a benchmark to make it easy for the reader to be certain who is speaking.

d) When there are more than two people in the conversation, then it is likely dialogue tags will be needed to make clear who is saying what - maybe not on every line. On occasion a third person can jump into a two person conversation, say a line and leave with it clear what happened. For example, and this isn't the world's greatest example, two people are on the street arguing or at least disagreeing about where they are going. When they hop into the taxi, person one says to the driver a destination and the cabby replies his one line in the whole scene, then person one continues to talk with person two.

Now the nuts and bolts of dialogue. In the USA we use double quote marks at the beginning and end of spoken words, with single quote marks for something quoted within a spoken text. In UK English, single quote marks are used where we use double quote marks.

In the US, commas and periods (full stops) are usually placed inside the ending quotation marks. Colons and semicolons are placed outside quotation marks. Question marks and exclamation marks are placed outside or inside the quote marks, depending on the sentence structure. (Look up that one, if it applies.) Just keep in mind to review American punctuation rules if you aren't an American writer, but plan to shop your ms to the American industry.

Keep tags simple. There is nothing wrong with saying 'said'. The best thing you can do for dialogue is read it aloud. If you say something different from what you wrote, what you said is probably better than what is in print. Swap it around.

Most publishing houses have their inhouse standards on dialogue tags. There is probably lots more on this on the Internet. There are probably plenty of writers who disagree, but this is my take on dialogue tags.

The main thing is that your writing is not work to read; not for agents/publishers or for your readers. You want your ms read clear through. You want your book published. You want readers to love your book so much that they tell others about it.