Saturday, December 18, 2010

Query this...

Oh my gosh, queries are rolling in and I've yet to make a call for submissions -- which is a good thing.

It is time to once again talk about the query process. There is information all over the internet about how to query an ms. I have several books on the topic on my book shelf. I've also thrown away several highly recommended books on the subject. The information is not a guarded secret. It is readily available.

This week there was a long blog post, on what literary agents want in a query letter, sent out on one of the industry wire services. I almost posted the link, but the piece was horribly boring to read, and quite honestly, there was nothing new included about what not to do when querying. Tip: Read the submission guidelines and follow them.

Here is what is important to me as a publisher: Make sure your ms is well written. A little bit of telling goes a long way. To write well, you need showing and lots of it. Showing puts the reader into the story and hooks into their emotions. It makes the setting and secondary characters become 3D (three dimensional), so they can support the storyline and the actions of the main characters.

Goodness, there are tons of books, classes, and seminars on how to write well. No one has the time or interest to read an ms that is not well written. Tip: do not send a draft.

I no longer read submissions that are not in ms format. If it isn't important enough to do it right, then don't expect it to be important to read it. There is an industry standard for the format - use it. Tip: Manuscripts are double spaced and synopsis are single spaced.

I know that I'm being blunt, but that is basic stuff. I'm not looking for people who write as a hobby or even those who are storytellers. Tip: I'm looking for writers who can write well.

At the very least learn the basic elements of writing. I can overlook some grammar problems, but not writing elements. After all, how many people actually know there are 48 prepositions, much less what a preposition is? If you really want to impress me, then get direct addresses correct in the dialogue.

Anita is the line editor for Cactus Rain. She can fix the grammar issues, if the ms is worth fixing.

It is simple common sense not to send a query that is addressed to another publisher. I'm all for recycling, but it is basic good manners to address the query to me when you write to me. If you can't bother to do that, then it is likely I can't bother to read the submission -- after all, you aren't serious about this time honored industry procedure.

I remember what it was like to send query letters. I do ache for writers who pin their hopes on being done with the process and on their way to fame. The best thing to do is to make sure your ms is polished, the writing is professional level, and the query follows the submission guidelines.

Big tip: If you seriously want to be published by Cactus Rain more than any other publisher, then buy Kathryn’s Beach and The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister and use those to see what we like to publish.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Doc meets the BBC

The saying goes, write a great book and the world beats a path to your door. I'd say J.K. Rowling would agree with that.

The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister is flying off the shelf.

Seems now, that the BBC has discovered "Doc" and an interview is forthcoming.

Still time to order and have it for Christmas in the States.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Amazon Kindle Books Now Available As Gifts

Customers can now email a Kindle book gift to anyone, even people without a Kindle eReader.
The emailed gift can be read on a Kindle eReader or Kindle apps on iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, Mac, PC, BlackBerry and Android devices. Visit the Kindle Store, click "Give as a Gift," and you can email the gift.

Galley Cat

The book to buy:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Big News!

There is so much news about The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister, that I don't know what to tell first.

One little bit is that for the second print run, there will be changes to the back cover. No big deal to make the change, however...that makes the first books printed into a limited edition.

"Hello eBay!" some time in the future for the lucky ones who got on it and bought the book hot off the press. There are less than 50 of those left divided between what Glyn has in France and I have here in the states. Best be getting after it, if you've been putting off buying.

So what is the change? Well, it is now posted on the Cactus Rain Website, link at the bottom and the purple bit on the sidebar. Go read it there!

Now the bigger part of what brought about the change is very exciting news. We needed a new back cover because (ta-da!) I've been working with a friend, Joy Collins, who also has a couple of publishing companies -- remember the one who has a book that was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize?

We have struck a deal for her imprint, Coyote Moon Books, to digitalize Cactus Rain's books.

That means that the Cactus Rain Publishing books will be published as eBooks by Coyote Moon. The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister will be available on Amazon's Kindle, Apple's iStore for the iPad and related apps, Barnes and Noble's Nook (they have a color version of the Nook due out shortly - great for reading children's books) and the Sony eReader. I'll post the links when I get them. They will also be on the Cactus Rain website.

Just a note for those not in America, Barnes and Nobles reminds me of the UK Waterstones.

So those of you wishing for an eReader for Christmas or daring enough to have the apps to read books on your phone, in about a can buy Glyn's ebook.

Now there is still more news...can you take any more of this???

I just got off the phone with a friend who was on the Theatre board the same time I was. Seems like she is interested in looking at Doc for a stage production. It will take some time to adapt Doc to a script, but I am thrilled at the prospect and do plan to save my pennies to attend opening night some time next year.

All of this certainly points out that small presses are not to be discounted. Goodness, a Pulitzer Prize nomination for Chalet Publishers, and now this for my debut book as a publisher. Look out baby, we are stepping out strutting our stuff!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister by Glyn Pope

a bit more of the story...

Latymer turned to the gathered spectators. ‘There’s nothing to see.’

Nobody moved.

A policeman was leaning against the counter in the refreshments room. Gaunt and thin, Sergeant Simmons spent most of his duty time at the railway station. During the war the duty was particularly important, as it could have been one way for spies to enter the country. Sergeant Simmons never apprehended anyone, mainly for two reasons: one was that he didn’t know what he was looking for, and secondly, he spent most of his duty time standing where he was now, chatting to Cyril and Cyril’s wife, Dot. Simmons drank tea and ate bun after bun without putting on an ounce in weight. He left his post only when he needed to relieve himself.

‘Hey, Sarge?’ said Cyril.

Simmons stopped mid-bite. It wasn’t often he was interrupted whilst eating.

‘There seems to be quite a crowd gathering.’

‘Ooh, I wonder what’s going on there?’ Dot was a nosey woman and didn’t miss a trick.

Sergeant Simmons looked in the wrong direction.

‘Over there.’ Dot pointed with a cup she was drying.

‘Ah yes.’ Simmons spoke as if he had known all along. ‘Best take a look.’ Simmons put his shoulders back, so he looked more like a figure of authority, and strode purposefully towards the crowd.

‘Now then. Now then. What have we here?’

‘This man has injured his arm. He trapped it in a carriage door. I’m trying to take a look at it.’ Latymer told the policeman.

‘I see,’ said the policeman, full of self-importance. ‘You trapped this man’s arm in a carriage door? I shall need your name, sir. There may be further proceedings.’

The crowd murmured their disbelief at the crime committed by a doctor.

‘I’m Dr Latymer. I didn’t trap his arm. I’m trying to help him.’

Carefully scrutinising Reginald, Sergeant Simmons said to him, ‘Now I need you to answer truthfully. Did this man,’ turning to look in the direction of Latymer, ‘who looks too young to be a doctor in my opinion, shut the railway carriage door onto your arm?’

Sergeant Simmons paused for a moment to let the gravity of the situation sink in, whilst the crowd collectively held their breath. ‘I warn you that anything you may say could be used in evidence.’

‘This is ridiculous,’ exclaimed Latymer, wishing he were in a taxi on his way to his first medical practice.

‘As far as I know,’ replied Reginald, as if he were at the Old Bailey surrounded by aging varnished brown oak, and men and women in grey wigs representing centuries of law, ‘it wasn’t him.’

There was a sharp intake of breath at the doubt expressed.

‘I was in a different carriage. I came here to help him.’ Latymer corrected Reg’s information.

‘He sounds very guilty,’ said one of the expanding group of people.

‘A terrible thing for a doctor to do,’ replied another.

‘I saw him, the man who says he’s a doctor, get out of the carriage up there. Three carriages away from where the man screamed like a woman,’ said one man moving to the front of the pack.

‘I did not scream like a woman,’ Reginald protested.

‘Yes you did,’ said the ten-year-old boy as he stepped forward from the other observers.

‘Are you prepared to swear to that?’ asked the policeman.

‘This boy has been taught to tell the truth,’ said the boy’s keeper.

‘Look, Constable,’ said Latymer.

‘Sergeant,’ Simmons corrected.

‘Sergeant. I need to see what this man’s injuries are. I have somewhere else to get to.’

‘Meeting a woman, are we?’ Simmons said.

‘My practice,’ said Latymer growing annoyed.

‘What you do in your private life is of no concern to me, as long as long as His Majesty’s Law is kept intact.’ Simmons glanced at the station clock and saw it was time he was off duty, ‘Right, sir, I’ll take your word for it. I’ll disperse the crowd.’

‘Thank you, Sergeant.’

‘You could trust a doctor in the war,’ said one of the onlookers as she moved away.

‘You can never tell,’ said another.

‘Can you slip off your coat?’ Latymer turned to Reg.

‘You’ve asked me that once.’

‘So will you do it?’

‘It’s still a bit cold.’

‘Come on, Reg. Do what the doctor wants. He can’t look at you.’

Reginald stood up, and with his wife’s help, took off his coat, ‘Ayah,’ he complained as he did so.

‘Let’s see. Can you bend your arm?’

Reg managed to do that.

‘Good. I don’t think there’s a lot wrong.’ Latymer paused as if thinking deeply. ‘Hm, you need a doctor to look at this.’

‘You said you were a doctor. Were you telling fibs?’

Latymer ignored the question. ‘You need your own doctor. Do you have far to go?’

‘Stocking Farm. Dr McFadden’s our doctor.’ He looked at his wife as if it were something to be proud of.

‘That’s where I’m going,’ said Latymer. ‘We’ll share a taxi.’

Thursday, November 11, 2010

You be the judge

Most people who know anything about me, know that for years I was a child abuse investigator. More specifically, I was the lead investigative social worker for suspected sexual abuse.

Unless anyone is totally clueless, let me mention that sexual abuse of children leave lifetime scars that do not go away - ever. With the right treatment, they are manageable, but let me repeat, they do not go away -- EVER!

Now read this:

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister

Latymer heard a piercing scream rise from amongst the general sound of the station. He took it to be the whistle of an engine. As he looked around his eyes set upon a man clutching his arm. Could this be his first patient, so soon after his arrival?

‘The stupid sod.’ The voice sounded shrill.

‘Now sir, watch your language, there are ladies and children present.’ His uniform gave the porter the prerogative to sanction.

‘Yes, Reg.’ The lady with the injured man spoke, attempting an air of authority.

Reg replied, ‘Are you standing here with a broken arm?’

‘No, it’s just that–’

‘Shut your gob then,’ Reg told her.

‘Reg,’ the lady pleaded, ‘stop the palaver. Don’t speak to me like that.’

The porter moved to intervene.

‘Fight a man with one arm, would you?’

‘Reginald. Calm down.’ The woman was firm with her husband.

‘What was the idiot doing,’ Reg whined, ‘slamming the door on a train full of people?’

‘I don’t know.’

‘I bet he’s in the station bar,’ said Reg, ‘cosy with a whisky. That’s what I need, a whisky for the pain.’

‘I’ll get you one.’ The lady looked around and shouted, ‘Porter!’

‘Don’t give him anything.’ Latymer purposefully strode to the small gathering. Full of self-importance he said, ‘I’m a doctor.’ Every young doctor has the desire to utter the statement, I’m a doctor, and answer the emergency.

‘Thank God for that.’ Reg spoke, with a miserable groan, as if his life needed saving. ‘A doctor.’

‘He may be in shock. No alcohol.’ Latymer repeated the instruction while he looked into the man’s eyes.

‘What the doc means is he may need an operation.’ The porter made a sawing motion across his own arm. ‘His arm amputated.’

‘Oh no! Oh no! Milly, I’m going to have my arm cut off. You’d better get me that drink.’

The porter walked away and left them to it.

‘You’re all right. Pull yourself together. Let’s take you to a seat and have a proper look.’ Latymer pointed to a bench.

His wife led Reginald to the nearby seat.

At the end of the bench was a narrow space, perhaps large enough for Reg to sit. The rest of the bench was taken by a lady of large proportions with a scarf tied tightly to her head. Next to her was seated a schoolboy.

‘Move along and let the gentleman sit down. He looks a bit pale.’ The woman gave the boy a nudge.

‘Where am I going to sit?’ asked the boy.

‘You’ll have to stand. The train will be here soon,’ the lady said kindly, seeking to appease him.

‘I’ll have to stand on that, as well,’ the boy shot back.

‘Stop being cheeky. Here you are, sit down, duck.’ She gestured for Reg to take the empty place that the boy, flouncing and sighing, had gone to great pains to make.

Reginald made a show of sitting down as if he were a hero.

‘Well it can’t be because of the war,’ the boy gave a sideways nod towards Reg, ‘it’s been over three years now. Why can’t we get proper food? I was reading in The Times that they’re better fed in Germany and they lost!’ He stood petulant in his schoolboy’s uniform, speaking as if he were talking about a game of football.

‘We don’t want that kind of talk,’ said the lady minding the boy.

Latymer looked at the boy and said, ‘You’ve got a politician there. How old is he?’

‘Ten. He sees, hears, and reads everything.’

‘Is that so? Very bright,’ answered Latymer.

‘So his parents say. I’m seeing him back to school.’

What a precocious child, Latymer thought, but doctors are taught to never give away their true feelings. ‘Anyway, thank you for letting this gentleman sit down. He’s been in an accident.’

Reg nodded his head, affirming the situation.

‘Yes, I see that,’ the boy went on. ‘His arm isn’t broken though. At the worst it’s a slight sprain. If he moves it carefully, it’ll free itself. He’ll be right as rain in no time.’

Years of hard work training to be a doctor, Latymer despaired looking heavenwards towards the vaults of the railway station, and a ten-year-old diagnoses my first patient.

‘His mother and father say he wants to be a doctor.’

The boy confirmed the statement, pronouncing his words as if he had a plum in his mouth. ‘I do want to be a doctor.’

‘Well, there’s a lot more to it than guesswork.’ And to show that he was very serious, Latymer spoke in a voice that was a few decibels below his normal one.

‘How long have you been a doctor then?’ the boy asked.

Latymer ignored the question, but carried on with his explanation. ‘There’s seven years hard training, difficult examinations.’

‘There’s nothing wrong with most patients you see as a GP that wouldn’t cure itself,’ said the boy pompously.

Latymer knew the boy to be correct. ‘How do you know that?’

‘I read it in The Lancet – last June’s issue. I can send it to you if you give me your address.’

‘You read The Lancet ?’ Latymer gave the boy another look.

‘Like other boys read the Beano,’ the lady told them rather proudly, as if she were his mother.

‘Yes, so do I,’ said Latymer, foolishly with pride in his voice.

‘You read the Beano, Doc?’ asked Reg. ‘I can let you have my back issues.’

‘No, The Lancet.’

‘That’s why he knows more than you,’ said Reg.

‘He doesn’t know more than me. This arm could be broken.’

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Day Three

Day three of being a publisher. Someone please, pinch me! After years of thinking about this and working on it, it seemed a bit unbelievable when my retail licence arrived last Saturday.

How about a sample of The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister by Glyn Pope?

Chapter One

Peter Latymer stepped from the Great Northern carriage at Belgrave Road station. The concourse was unusually busy for late afternoon on a chilly October day. The secure glow of warmth from the fires of the train engines and the heavy smell of oil and coal, bound up with the crowd moving as if all were on a new journey. Peter stood, reflecting for a moment on his new start.

The daylight failing, there were lights shining as hadn’t been enjoyed in three years. There had been a brief glimmer of hope earlier that year when the Olympic Games were held in London. But that had been London. In the rest of the country the celebrations hadn’t made any difference. The aftermath of the war existed. It was still dark. A new age had yet to dawn.

Latymer heard a piercing scream rise from amongst the general sound of the station. He took it to be the whistle of an engine. As he looked around his eyes set upon a man clutching his arm. Could this be his first patient, so soon after his arrival?
Oh yes, I'm milking this...I'll share more in the next post.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cactus Rain Publishing publishes debut novel

Cactus Rain Publishing is a boutique publishing company in central Arizona, USA. Its mission is to bring the world to readers -- one book at a time -- by publishing the finest English language novels by authors from around the world. The writers write in their native language; British English, Colonial English, and American English.

Nadine Laman, owner of Cactus Rain, says, "We heavily vet our books and work closely with our authors to cultivate their voice and story into a uniquely enjoyable reading experience."

The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister, by Glyn Pope (France) is the debut novel for Cactus Rain.

Doctor Latymer arrives on a council estate in Leicester, England, full of hope and the innocence of youth. He quickly becomes the local miracle worker. But without a grasp of the realities of life, he sets out to right injustices that he doesn't fully understand. In the process, he unravels the delicate balance between rich and poor, and the struggling post-WWII British economy still reliant on rationing and the black market.

Cactus Rain's books are perfect for readers who want novels that bring new reading experiences.

The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister goes on sale November 1, 2010. Order your copy direct from the publisher,

Sunday, October 17, 2010

24-hour day

In my recent newsletter, which posted today on my website,, I wrote about the 24-hour day quote I often use.

It is quite simple to me that we have the same length of day as do the people we admire, our heroes in history and those around us in our daily lives.

My kids grew up hearing this. (Yes, they still talk to me!)

It isn't meant to do anything other than to inspire people, myself included, to think. Nothing is impossible if we truly want to achieve it.

It is unlikely and certainly unusual that someone as dyslexic as me would write a novel. Much less that I would write three, and they are fairly well received books. Even more unlikely is that a dyslexic person, the class dummy who was sometimes put in the re-tard class, would start a publishing company.

But I did that too. The debut book is at the printer. It will carry a publishing date of November 1, 2010. For those who know these things, that is a holy day in my religion. (It just worked out that way, but I think it is a good thing.)

The debut novel is The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister, by Glyn Pope.

I hear a lot of people say they want to write a novel, and some even start, but it is never done. I don't know what they're waiting for. My blog and hundreds of others tell how to write. There are probably thousands of books and courses on writing well. (Yes, it is more than taking a grammar class ~ sorry.)

So the point is, quit talking and start doing (didn't Yoda say that in StarWars?).

Nadine Laman

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Drama Anyone?

The other day I watched several interviews. Actors were discussing the movies that most impacted their careers. They each mentioned older movies, many are today's classics. Hands down, they all said it was the drama that appealed to them.

When they listed actors who were most influential in their careers, they said the quality of the acting set them apart; that they could carry the scene single handedly. They discussed dramatic acting, not good looks or athletic bodies.

They discussed modern movies with computer generated special effects and exotic settings, too. But they kept retuning to one theme - drama. It was made up of two elements: story and acting ability.

To translate that into print, it brought me back to story line and character development. Both have to be well rooted in technique, but not so rigidly that they lack substance. Just like acting has to be well presented and believable, so does writing. Books can't rely on big explosions that fill the theatre with sound and lights.

The single biggest mistake I see beginning writers make is tiring of the edits and rewrites before the drama of the story line comes through in polished form. Both the story and the characters have to be something the reader can relate to on some level. People want to see a little of "me" in the story and the character so they can slip into the unreal, but real-like world of fiction.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rivals and Friends

This is a story about two women in competing businesses in the same town (just happens to be Phoenix, Arizona). There is no denying they are in direct competition with each other.

However, beyond the surface is the fact of friendship. The two women tip each other with information that is useful to both. Despite the fact they should be fierce competitors, they are more likely to assist each other.

As time has a way of doing, personal hardships came and went, and the two women helped each other through those too. They went to lunch and talked shop. They participated in industry activities together - these competitors.

One day one woman emailed the following to the other:

One of our books, Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge, has just been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The other is very happy for her friend and rival. If you haven't visited here, then you should right now.

Please celebrate with me for my friend and Phoenix Publisher, Joy Collins, her business partner and authors. Best wishes to all.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Author Photos

How do these measure up?

Kathryn's Beach:

High Tide:

Storm Surge:

Now compare them to these:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I Dare Ya!

Most people admire those who dare to do things that we'd like to do, but for whatever reason, don't.

We love to read adventure books where the main character does exciting things and risks everything, including self, to resolve the conflict of their journey (storyline).

So why is it we aren't daring with our writing? I thought about the people I know who would read my books and left out elements I knew they would not appreciate me writing. In retrospect, that wasn't daring of me.

We tend to write in third person, a recognized safe place, because that is what most people do. We write more or less the same stories over and over. (Oh yes, we do. There are several well respected books that recommend comparing our ms to books already published.)

While we will grumble about an injustice or the woes of the industry over a cup of coffee, we rarely dare to do much more than grumble.

This is one exception on two counts. One to dare to write about contemporary topics in YA books, and the other is the support of fellow writers.

Please read:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Andrew Revels Remembered

My kids came to visit for the holiday weekend and we talked about Andrew. They had met him, so his passing was more to them than reading my blog - which they don't do.

As it turned out, Andrew's uncle posted a comment on my blog today. See below:

Hi Nadine.....I am Andy's uncle and just wanted to share that on August 28th Live Long, Live Strong, a celebration of Andy Revels took place and was a great success. 10 bands played until the wee hours, the local news was on hand, we were able to videotape the final episode of Andy's PRTV, and 100's of people shared Andy's memory. It will take a month to edit the final PRTV but I will let you know when it gets posted. I am sending a youtube link to a slideshow from the event and from will be in the final PRTV, but I decided to share a sneak peek. Enjoy and I will keep you informed on the release of the full episode in about a month.

You might want to go back to the original post and refresh your memory, listen to Andrew read his poem on YouTube I posted. Here is the link:

This is the YouTube Andrew's uncle mentioned. I will post the final version.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More about cover art

Some time back I posted concept sheets for Cactus Rain's debut book. Most who commented were quite pleasant. However, I assure you there were unpleasant comments in email. Ouch!

The thing about hiring a profession book cover artist is they will ask for a concept. That might not be what we stay with, but that is the beginning point.

Recently there was an article on cover art. I thought I'd pass it on to my readers.

Frankly, I'm not sure I'd pay for any of these covers. They aren't the type that would reach out to me in a bookstore.

Here is the link. Which one do you like best?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Give Credit

Sometimes we strive so hard to find clarity that we overwrite. We write, "He got the smell of ___________ in his nostrils." Not to be a smart mouth, but where else would one get a smell?

Watch for things like "flattend it down," simply write that it was flattened. (Honestly, how would one flatten it up?)

We have to give our readers credit for being smart. It is a delicate balance not to overwrite, yet not to leave out something that results in confusing copy.

While I honestly think that one produces the best story by NOT editing while writing the first draft, I believe as strongly that editing needs to be more than proper punctuation.

A perfect way to deflate an excellent scene of showing is to tack on the end an obvious statement of telling. At times we almost can't help ourselves. We've written an emotionally charged scene, then to make sure it is understood, we explain it.

Suddenly the forward momentum we had created falls flat and the reader thinks, "Oh duh!" While that does elicit a reaction from the reader, if they are saying, "Oh duh" about us [and not something the character did] then we haven't quite edited properly.

I think a good deal of that happens when we self-edit our draft as we write. The only thing to do is to read aloud the finished first draft [for content], before worrying where the comma goes in a direct address.

Things can get muddled as we work through rewrites and focus on a paragraph, a scene, or even a sentence and we can have bits no longer fit in the big picture. I've already talked [some weeks back] about the UK book where the mother-in-law clutched her pocket book through thick and thin, only to have it drop out of the story during the arc moment and never mentioned again.

I remember one book I read in a sci-fi series. The captain was walking down a hallway toward a certain cabin on the spaceship, then was coming up the hallway. It read like a camera angle change, but really seemed that somehow she had changed direction and doubled back from the narrator.

I get a chuckle when someone has left a scene and mysteriously spoke in the conversation while they weren't present.

The point is edit carefully. Give the reader credit for knowing that people smell with their nose. Keep track of when people leave and don't let them continue talking after they have left.

Content editing can be a lot of fun, so don't get too serious with it even though it is work. Keep focused that it is about making the best story out of the first draft.

What things do you see in books that you remember long after you've forgotten the title and author?

Monday, August 16, 2010


What is a mid-list book? In fiction, according to me, the list works like this: Best selling authors on one end of the list (top) and classics (old and new) on the other end. The stuff in the middle is mid-list.

Everyone starts mid-list. Everyone.

The book and the author [each] have to prove themselves from there. No one knows for certain if a book will take off. Adapting a screenplay from a book doesn't guarantee that either the movie or book will be a success. A celebrity or political figure can be photographed reading a particular. Still it is the regular people who read a mid-list book and love it, tell their friends and they love it. Suddenly sales rise and the book gets noticed - and other good things happen.

Sometimes a well known author will have a really bad book. (Well they can't all be best sellers!). What do they do? They grin or laugh about it and write another book.

There comes a time in the writing process when the story gets old (it has been through a dozen rewrites and read-throughs) and confidence lags. I've spent one weekend cutting 5,000 words from Kathryn's Beach because it all looked bad to me.

The giddiness and self-indulgence of the early draft writing days turns to a seasoned writer, an author. Like any artist, then they can see the true beauty of their work.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Next new best thing...or is it?

Just so you know what is going on out there, look at this after you read my post:

Because I purchase ISBNs from them, I was on their email list, with lots of other publishers and self published authors, to get the notice (press release?) about this new service.

I won't be looking there for new authors/mss. I can't imagine anyone having the time to scroll through sites or blogs looking for the next best selling title.

Like Ann said in her blog (link above) there isn't a short cut to querying. I know we all hate the process as writers, but as a publisher it works for me. I can tell a lot about the writer by their query and synopsis.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cactus Rain news

Before the press release goes out about the launch of our boutique publishing company, I thought I'd mention it looks like we might be ahead of schedule on the publication of our debut book, The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister.

Author Glyn Pope gets the credit for the title. I admit, I wasn't sure I'd ever get the spelling right, much less say it without getting my tongue twisted after months of calling it "Doc."

Glyn is quite brave to go with an unknown publisher. Even more daring is to try a new system where there are no royalties. Yes, that's right. No royalties.

With Cactus Rain the author gets all the income above expenses. By our calculations, that should equate to more than royalties would normally work out. Expenses are set and except for pre-agreed upon unusual expenses, there will be no surprises to any of us.

How's that for a novel idea?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Help Please

Several years ago, I met Celise Downs at an author function in Phoenix. Celise writes YA (young adult) fiction. She has returned to school for more writing classes and needs help to complete one of her assignments.

During the month of August, Young Adult fiction author Celise Downs will be allowing readers to give their "two cents" on the first five chapters of her YA work-in-progress. For more details go here (

I meant to put this in my newsletter for August and just now sent it out without this request. Please pass this info on to others.

BTW, my newsletter is now posted on my website,

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Some time back, I posted a screen shot of the draft for the Cactus Rain website. (Link at the bottom).

We are just about to launch the site - any day now, perhaps even tomorrow. I'm just about to burst with excitement. There have been so many details to get to this point. In addition to all the particulars of starting any small business, there has been many tasks specific to publishing.

I've had a lot of help along the way. From strangers on the phone explaining the Pinal County sales tax requirements (I was in Maricopa County), to Joyce my right hand in much more than website design, and friends who helped or encouraged me along the way. And Jean who mentored me and laughed a lot. Thank you everyone. You mean the world to me.

At the time I'm writing this, points to my website. Sometime in the next 24 hours it will be launched and point to the new website. Once it launches, feel free to tweet, facebook, tell your office mate, and all your reading friends about Cactus Rain Publishing.

The galleys have arrived for Cactus Rain's debut book, The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister by Glyn Pope (France).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Andrew Revels

Five years ago I met a young and talented writer, Andrew Revels. He is one of those people who can crank out a novel in a few weeks, and his first draft is nearly perfect without editing. He has such a knack for story telling that his characters jump off the page.

Andrew has a ready, slow smile with a twinkle in his eye. He is always up for a gag and usually one of the instigators. He has a very strong sense of family, and community. He gave aspiring artists a boost with his online interviews.

He loves Halloween and planned to marry this October with the guests in costume. I still haven't sorted my costume.

He is just a year or two older than my oldest kid, so one day I wrote to him that he would understand when he was older. Within minutes he sent me a poem, "I Know What It's Like." I realized that he was right, he was old beyond his years.

This morning I woke to an email from Andrew's mom.

I am so sorry to inform you that my son, Andrew Revels died unexpectedly today, Saturday July 31, 2010. He was out on a boat with some friends and was being pulled on a wakeboard and fell off. He tried swimming back to the boat and was pulled underneath a barge on the river here in Wisconsin. I wanted to thank you for all your input and help mentoring Andy and just know that he thought the world of you. Thank you again and I am so sorry to have to deliver such tragic news. Laura Revels Stedman (his mom)

Andrew died like he lived, swimming with all his might. Please take a moment to follow the links and meet this incredible young man, my friend, Andrew Revels.

Andrew at the blog party:

From Andrew's website:

Andrew talking about his books:

Here is the link that was added to the comments:

Andrew left a gentle footprint on my heart.

A note from Andrew's mom.
I just want to say again what an influence you had in my son's short life. He truly admired you. Without your help and support he wouldn't have gotten as far as he had in his career. He definitely would have made it on his own, but knowing you speeded things up.

He surely touched a lot of people. At his celebration of life on Thursday we had to end the receiving line because of time constraints. The funeral parlor was completely packed full with people crammed into every nook and cranny and the whole front lawn outside. Even though they couldn't hear anything out there they wouldn't leave. The funeral director told us he wouldn't be surprised if 700 people didn't attend. Amazing, huh?

I have just started to go through some of Andy's things and these two quotes of yours were in the first box.
There are 24 hours in a day. What we do with each hour ....defines us.
It isn't how long one lives, it is how wide that really matters. How true.

Have you checked out his facebook page or planet-revels lately? Or anything associated with him. I am getting so many e-mails and facebook messages that my computer can't keep up.

There are many benefits and concerts and fundraiser's in the works coming up, all either in his memory, in his name or for his benefit. It's mind boggling.

On Aug. 28th, there is a concert with a lot of the bands he interview and some he hadn't got to yet. So far there's 7 of them and more offers keep coming in. They are all donating their time. They will be selling t-shirts, live long, live strong wristbands, a silent auction and much more.

The proceeds for that will go to Juvenile Diabetes. Another benefit will be for the family to help out with costs. Another one will donate a scholarship to a young author. (He so would approve of that one)

We are going to keep Hoops for Hope alive and already have had so many volunteers. I really don't know how he kept up with all he was involved in. It's very comforting to know that he will never be forgotten.

Once again Nadine, I want to thank you for all you did for my son. He truly loved you.
His very proud mom,
Laura Stedman

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister

Glyn Pope and I've hinted for months now that his book, The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister, will be the debut novel for Cactus Rain Publishing. It is his third novel.

Their could be some sanity questions regarding going with an unknown publisher. I think, though, Glyn is fine with his choice.

This still isn't the official-official announcement of "the deal." I'll get to that when the CRP website gets launched. More on that at a later date.

Let's talk about what it was I liked about "Doc" that made me offer Glyn a contract. I like the title, but it was a long time in coming and we had a [different] working title for about 6 months (longer for Glyn).

I wasn't requesting submissions at the time Glyn queried his book. (Honestly, people need to work on their query letters. Even I'm getting more picky about that - just a tip for aspiring writers.)

What I liked about Doc: Glyn was certainly enthusiast about Doc. He pitched the project with all his heart. That got my interest right away.

Another thing in reading the ms was that he really put the reader back in time to post WWII, England. The story was 100% believable. It fit with what I knew of history, meaning it wasn't heavy laden with historical facts for history geeks; it was readable for a general audience.

The characters were well developed and there was a good balance of secondary characters for the main characters to stage with. He balanced age and youth, wealthy and regular (normal) people. There was greed, innocence, and the vicar was funny. Basically the characters mirrored real life quite naturally; nothing was forced. There was a good amount of dialogue, which is a commercial element too.

Certainly there was a need for rewrites and I'm sure I must have seemed demanding at times, but Glyn always got to work and did them without complaining or arguing. Let's face it, arguing with one's publisher is a fast way to get dropped.

There were formatting issues which I probably won't have time to deal with in future acquisitions.

Overall, Glyn's attitude and his writing carried the day and here we are 9 months later sending the galley to the printer.

I've turned down far more mss than I've accepted. Two broke my heart because I thought the themes had great commercial potential, however the writers thought they knew everything and that a first or second draft was ready for print. Um, NO!

There's a bit of a glimpse inside Cactus Rain acquisition mindset and a really quick peek at Doc. Congratulations, Glyn...we're almost there!

Monday, July 26, 2010


Last Friday was our first furlough day. That means our next paycheck will be for nine days rather than ten. I put my three day weekend to good use prepping Glyn's galley.

In the industry there are galleys, ARC (pronounced 'ark'), and proofs. Some people use the terms [nearly] interchangeably. There are distinct differences in the three. You can google them for more information (which varies from source to source), but in a nut shell they mean:

Galley is a rough out of the coming book. It is gross (as in rough) formatted. There is no cover art. Only a handful of galleys are printed. One for the author, of course. A couple for advance reviews. It likely has not been fully edited and certainly not line edited (proof read).

Most people in the industry who do book reviews understand that this is about the storyline, not about the polishing yet to come. Amateur reviewers will comment on grammar or typos. Professionals don't. They know galleys aren't the finished book.

ARCs are advance reading copies. They are generally nearly the done deal and are often the final book. They have cover art. Some printers print 500 of these give away books for their better known authors. They are strategically given to key people with the understanding they are to promote this book. As you might guess, Cactus Rain Publishing does not print ARCs. They simply aren't in the budget.

Proofs or proof copy or proof books are just that - the final version of the book. It is the last chance to see the book before the print run. Very few corrections or changes are made at this point. Those should have been caught by now.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New video

Switching gears to another media, here is the new YouTube video I made. This is from a PowerPoint presentation. I have to say, I don't plan to ever convert a PowerPoint to YouTube video again. Of course, that doesn't mean I won't; it means I don't plan to do it.

I am very surprise that Microsoft didn't consider that people would want to upload their PowerPoint projects. It must be a proprietary thing that there wasn't sharing between the two companies.

Well, anyway the thing that I didn't like about the project was that the slide transitions available on PowerPoint were not available on Windows Movie Maker. You'll notice that I didn't use them in the video and it does make for an abrupt transition in places.

The music file was much easier to add in Movie Maker. It wasn't difficult to embed music into PP, but it was tricky to figure out how to package it so the file would play the music on other computers.

Both programs were easy to learn and with patience can produce good results. The key to making any of these projects is the material must copyright free. If you want to use someone's music or photos, you must get permission in writing. Email is fine, but print a couple of copies and keep it in a file.

So here is the end result. Thank you Carolyn Sheppard for the use of your song, Broken Rock.

Please watch:

Comments, please.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The story behind this post is my friend Joy commented on my hair cut post. My hair was cut two more times in the week and I was going to add to the post a current photo. I tried to upload it twice and Blogger said it had done the deed. However, I have no idea where or to whom it was done. Therefore, I posted this pic.

Soooo, this is me after working all day and a bit of rain this morning. Now the ceiling fan is messing my hair. A glamor shot, it ain't. Just messing around. It looks like a hand puppet? (I really need to buy photo shop if I'm not going to put in much effort staging shots.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I'm not ignoring that I didn't post on Monday. I deleted it because the aspect ratio of the YouTube wasn't fitting on the blog page. I went back to the blog party, almost a year ago now, and have looked at the coding for the YouTube items posted then.

The changes have been made to the post for Thursday. I didn't save Monday's post.

Glyn, his graphic artist friend (I'm not sure if I'm supposed to say his name), and I have been discussing the next edition of his book cover art. It is a much more detailed task than most people realize. I really appreciate the efforts being made and can't wait to show everyone the new version.

In the mean time, I'm posting the PowerPoint project that I converted to Window's Movie Maker so I could upload it to YouTube.

The biggest disappointment to me in the project is that the slide transitions in the PowerPoint were awesome and nothing really compared as choices in the MM software. After several weeks of working on it, I simply removed all the transitions except the first one, which was not in the PowerPoint.

The project is a collection of unsolicited comments about my books from some of you. All were used with permission, of course, and most of them are on my website. There are some of my beach photos too, for you to enjoy.

The headliner for me is Carolyn Sheppard's song "Broken Rock" recorded by the UK band, Shave the Monkey.

Please watch and listen. To view a larger version, click on the video and view it on YouTube or go to

Thursday, July 15, 2010

more covers...

One thing about it, my first drafts of cover concepts sure inspired others. Here is one sent to me (below). I like the seeming simplicity of the background, it doesn't rival the people. Keep in mind that these artists have not read the book, so they are working off of my concepts.

In the book, the people are the story. There is little discription of the estate. I'm sure I'm not the only American with a somewhat lacking understanding of British estates or council estates as I'm learning to call them. That might even be where we borrowed the idea of HOAs - Home Owner's Associations that govern the basic conduct of the area (housing development).

So back to art... this is balanced. If I could, I'd remove the larger tree on the left because I'm thinking less about art and more about getting the copy on the back cover to pop out to the shopper. On this one, I'd probably transluse the spine and back cover background. Lots of nice space on the front for the title, but not sure about where the author name goes.

There is a bit of unwritten rule about author names. If you look at the big name writers, their name is almost always larger or as large as the tile. With lesser known writers, the pitch is to have a catchy title and use it to sell the book more than the author's branding.

I like the people placement on this one because the story is the doctor (the guy in the middle). Gotta have doc's feet in the scene though. That drives me nuts to have him standing on his lower legs.

This one takes Glyn's background photo and fixes many of the elements that drove everyone crazy with my concept drafts. The focus in the title and the photo needs to be on the doctor. He is very much the main character. Nice artistic touch to reverse the light/dark on the spine from the light/dark in the background. I don't think I would have thought of doing that. That makes the spine text tricky and it certainly needs to have the author name on the spine and a copule other fixes. Ignore the fence post, we aren't going to leave that, but drafts are concept pieces, the details get worked out later.

This one takes the background and moves it to a residential setting. Either works for the storyline. I rather not have a pink tint, but that is easily fixed. Mostly the same issues exist in this one as the others, but as I said, this is a concept stage of development.

No way is this book that fat, but nice pitch for the concept.

The main point of posting this exercise is to make writers aware that while it is easy to upload to one of many online DIY sites, just plopping a cover on a template isn't all that great of an idea.
Anyone who wants to play with concepts for this cover, be my guest. Send them to me in an email, preferably as a pdf file.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Evolution continues

Your comments from yesterday were helpful. I played around a bit (mostly with fonts - I have hundreds of them, most I've acquired slowly over the past 10 years).

We aren't finished yet. At any time could scrap the whole thing and start over.

The differences in this one from yesterday (scroll down to the previous post) is the front cover and spine font. Plus the gentleman on the left has been lightend to mirror the man on the right, thus leaving the Doc in the center, darkest.

On this one, I took the background and played with it. The original file was rather small, so there is only a certain amount of enlarging before it gets grainy (pixelated). I totally forgot to deal with the distracting fence post, but that is easily fixed. I lost contrast on the synopsis text and no, can't do the text in more than one color. I removed the boxes from behind the guys. Actually, I simply moved those layers below the background so they are out of sight. The background is full, no translusing. Yes, I think I did make up that word.

I could make each word in the title a single layer and change font sizes with the articles a smaller size. Might do later. No time tonight.

The font is Bernard MT Condensed in case you want to goggle it. Hmmm, let me see if I can make a screen shot of that enlarged for you. BRB

(The red line running through the middle is the spine area, so this isn't what it would look like at all.)

Okay - now that I've looked at it 'big,' I'm not loving it.
Right, well comment and let's see where we go from here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Cover Evolution

Glyn wanted to run this by everyone for comments. You saw the cover synopsis the other day. Here is the book cover that goes with it.

Glyn sent a photo of the snow last winter, then the three men (and some others). So this is what we have at the beginning.

I thought the men needed an anchor, something so they weren't just pasted on top of the background, and also so they didn't get lost in it. So I put them on black boxes.

It was still too monochromic so I translused the background by 50% and changed the boxes to burgandy color. Looks more real with the spine text and the ISBN box, doesn't it?

Here is the synopsis as it stand now:

Doctor Peter Latymer, full of innocence and hope, arrives at his new position on a council estate in Leicester. He quickly becomes the local miracle worker. Without a grasp of the complexities of life, he sets out to right injustices that he doesn't fully understand and unravels the delicate balance between nobility and poor, and the struggling economy still reliant on rationing and the black market in post WWII England.

And Glyn's Bio:

GLYN POPE lived on a large council estate in Leicester, England. He studied theology at Nene University. Glyn and his wife and daughter moved to France where he pursues a full time writing career.

This isn't close to finished, but there is your sneek peek.

Or there is this...please watch.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

July newsletter

The july newsletter is posted on my website. If you'd rather get the notice emailed to you, sign up on my website I don't always remember to post the notice on my blog or I have something else to say and never get to it.

Friday, July 9, 2010

POP Quiz

This is just a fun activity with two purposes: 1) To familiarize yourself with industry terms; 2) To give away handmade bookmarks I was given for my birthday.

As always, following instructions is important. Post a comment that you have entered the quiz, send your answers via email to

Prizes (bookmarks) will be given to each person with 100% correct answers until I'm out of bookmarks. I'll need your mailing address and a real name in the email.


1) What is the difference between a galley and a proof book?

2) Define the following terms: Literary Agent; Acquisition Editor.

3) What is the difference between editing and rewrites?

4) Define a content editor and line editor's role?

5) My books have a theme. What is each theme? (Hint, look on my website if you don't have my books).

I'll post the answers when the entries cease.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Test, mic check...

Well, this isn't really a mic check and no band is going to start playing shortly. However, this is a test. Would you read this book after reading the following?

Why or why not? What works and doesn't work in this blurb for the back of a book. Please comment.

Set in post WWII England on a country estate, a doctor arrives full of hope and the innocence of youth. He quickly becomes the local miracle worker. But without a full understanding of the realities of life, he sets out to right injustices that he doesn't fully understand and unravels the delicate balance between good and evil, rich and poor, and the struggling economy still reliant on rationing and the black market.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Worthless Moment

I've done no work on writing or publishing - not even house work this evening.

I've had cut 13-14 inches of hair and donated it to a place that makes wigs for kids on chemo. I've done my nails, messed with my short hair, thought about many publishing tasks waiting for my attention, but tonight I've been on holiday being all girly. (The photo is right after the cut, before I did "stuff" to my hair.)

This is how I look on my work ID badge:

Remember that look?

Anyone remember when it was this short?

Media Marketing

Several months ago, you might recall, the Scottsdale Microsoft Store hosted an event for Arizona authors. I created a PowerPoint presentation, per the list of requirements sent to us.

It was my first time to use PowerPoint, but it wasn't hard to figure out. I should say, I use 2007, the one with the ribbon toolbar. Carrie Sheppard gave me permission to use her song, Broken Rock. I imported a font that not everyone has, but I thought added to it. I've attached the first slide for you to see.

The problem was that I wanted to use it elsewhere and not everyone has PowerPoint on their computer. The other problem is that PowerPoint doesn't upload to YouTube.

I called my buddy who runs a media company. He said they could make the PowerPoint into a Flash file for $80 an hour and it would take about 6-8 hours. Now my PowerPoint is pretty good, but probably not that good for that amount of money, at least not with my current budget.

Being the geek that I am - kidding, I learned to use Windows Movie Maker when I needed a video for something else several years ago. Those files easily upload to YouTube.

Once again, PowerPoint doesn't just drop in to Movie Maker and convert. With some research, I learned how to make my PowerPoint slides into jpg files and began the process of rebuilding my presentation in Movie Maker. I'm almost finished with it. Hopefully, I'll have the YouTube to show you when I post next time.

So why am I saying this? Because writers need marketing skills. They aren't hard to learn if you're a patient and inquisitive person. The point is, people will watch a short YouTube, 3-5 minutes (the max that YouTube uploads is 10 min). Those can be linked on a blog, website and nearly everywhere else on the internet. Plus, it is a good idea to put the link in your email auto signature.

The only thing to remember is that all the content of your YouTube must be used with permission or under your own copyright. The other thing is that an enterprising American has trademarked the terms, "Book Trailer," so you can't use that because they do pursue people who do.

It is never too soon to think about the media promotions you can make for your book.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Rose by Any Other Name...

The rose bit might work for roses, but it doesn't work for genre definition.

It has been a busy week at Cactus Rain Publishing. My day job allowed me only a few minutes in the evenings to attend to Joyce's emails ( We have been through seven test pages just to get to the point of having a fairly decent (awesome) opening page from which she can build the website template for Cactus Rain Publishing.

Now we have some working links and back pages to the site. I'm getting jazzed as this takes shape. In polling the Cactus Rain authors, the general opinion is thumbs up. Now how many authors get input or even sneak peeks at their publisher's website?

For those who are curious, I'm using the site at the link below to define the genre for the titles on the Cactus Rain Publishing site. If some of you are having trouble deciding what genre you write, look here. There are tons of these lists on the internet, but this is the one I've used from the beginning. If you are thinking of querying Cactus Rain, then use this genre list when specifying your genre in the query letter.

I've seen query letters where the writer has no sense of what genre they have written, for example, historical-horror-fantasy. Nope, don't go there. For one thing, historical and fantasy don't actually go together. Pick one.

I write, as I've said before, literary fiction. It is one of the hardest genre to pitch (and sell) to an agent and publisher. People want fast reads, like adventure or thriller, things that skim the cream on the top. The storylines cover short time periods and the voice is quick - page turners. Literary fiction is a meandering style. It is more sensual in the exploration of the characters and setting. It isn't a mindless diversion from real life.

If you're the type who plans, then start with the genre and write from there. For those who are even more of a business planner, research the market and try to anticipate where it will be three years from now - there you go, a nice little weekend project - or maybe not.

Just so you know, this is post number 299! Not bad for someone who didn't want a blog. I let the first anniversary of First Draft (April 2009) pass quietly.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Salt of the Earth

When my grandfather said someone was the "Salt of the Earth" it was a sincere compliment. I'm pretty sure saying something is the "Meat and Potatoes" of it, is also from that era.

Glynis Smy is one of my favorite bloggers. There are tons of blogs by aspiring writers. Many of them I find boring. But Glynis' blog is unpretentious thoughts and questions of an aspiring writer. I love reading her blog.

While there are many people near and dear to me, I have to say that Glynis is one who is always supportive of my antics - and loves me anyway.

I think it is wonderful that Glynis has opened the door to the experience of writing in first person. I often speak of first person writing as an actor getting into character, for it is just that, experiential. It is on a level that I find hard to describe to someone who hasn't written in first person. It is sensual. I think it is a risk [worth taken] to examine the character from such a personal level.

While readers take a bit to adjust to the style, I think the writer/reader connection is greater. There is less emotional distance, less safety in being so exposed. But I think the experience for the writer and the reader is well worth the risk. Why the industry clings so tight fisted to third person, I cannot understand. Go for it, Glynis. I believe in you!

The meat and potatoes award is posted on the side bar. Please visit (and follow) Glynis' blog.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Weekend Cometh...

It's finally Friday. In Arizona, it is too hot to be outdoors for long, which makes it a good time to read. Lots of people have electronic readers or apps for their phones to read ebooks.

The general consensus in the publishing industry is that money can be made from ebooks. Of course, the details of how to make money from ebooks varies from source to source.

Cactus Rain Publishing does not offer ebooks. The current ebook climate is too disorganized, in my opinion. In some cases the ebook isn't stored permanently on the eReader, so there is a second fee to "download" it again. Some systems store the ebooks in "your" library on the retailer's server, which reminds me of paying to borrow a library book.

The readers are totally cool. There are tons of options of handheld devices to chose from for those loving gadgets. I think there is something else coming once we cycle through the "more of the same" phase and someone comes up with a new idea.

I'm working on something that I think makes ebooks actually work better for the [human] reader. This project has been in the works for four years. There are all kinds of technical issues, non-disclosure agreements, patent processes, and of course, the big one - funding.

In a nutshell, [whoops, nope, I can't write that on the internet and have someone with more money than me - nearly anyone you can think of who has a hand in ebook delivery - take my project and keep it for their device only].

The main point is, Cactus Rain may eventually offer ebooks in a new design, but for now, we are stuck with good 'ol printed books.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Inside Scoop

We will be 'rolling out' the test pages of Cactus Rain Publishing's website soon. I need four or five people (don't have to be in the US) who check their email daily and want to give feedback on the test pages.

Email me if you're interested. Sorry, no pay, but you can have bragging rights!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Query Letters

The weekend was spent working on Cactus Rain projects. I kept thinking that I must stop and blog, but I didn't.

One of the things that I rarely discuss is the query letter. I have written some of the world's worst query letters, so I'm not the person to ask for help. Although I can say it is much different reading them as a publisher.

One thing I've noticed is that since query letters can be sent as email, not as much attention seems to go into them. It is still a business proposal. I've found that many of the ones I've received are much too lax and casual. Draft them and sit on the a few days. Clean up the grammar and spelling. I know I'm dyslexic, but even I notice that stuff. What do you think the big New York agents think when they see a query - that it reflects how the writer writes, that's what.

Another thing, don't pad the query with hollow credentials. It is not impressive to win some little known award, especially from a writer's group. I know books and articles about writing queries say to list all your writing 'credits' and activities. Frankly, I'm just fine with someone who doesn't go to critique groups. It is worth listing if you've gone to a workshop or conference and met the agent there or at least heard them speak.

You must work on your 'elevator pitch' so that you can tell the whole store in 4 or 5 sentences in the query letter. Trust me, no one cares what the middle name of your character is, leave it out unless it is vital to the story. Besides, that is simply boring to read and you want some excitement happening, if you're going to compete with the other query letters.

During the blog party at First Draft last year, we did an exercise of writing log lines. This comes from when scripts were logged into a catalogue at the movie studio and there was only one line to write enough so that one script could be identified from another.

It is a good exercise to practice log lines and the paragraph size synopsis. You'll need to be able to do these not only for the query letter, but for when you're interviewed or someone asks, "What is your book about?"

If you dare, then practice them in the comments. I know Glyn and DJ have books coming out this year, and both of them will probably have something to say - yes, I'm putting you on the spot. How about some of the rest of you? Glynis, Peggy, Carol Anne? Or, I guess you could write something on one of my books, if you've read them and rather not expose your book blurb yet.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quality vs Quantity

"It would be nice if the quality of book mattered rather than just what you can afford, with respect to exposure on Amazon, one said."

I've taken the above quote out of context, because I want to discuss the topic of quality. This is why I'm so picky about what Cactus Rain will publish. This is a quote from an article I'll link at the bottom, for those interested in the whole article. The issue [to me] isn't about Amazon, it is about having the money to "buy your way" to success.

There is no doubt in my mind that everyone can think of a book they've read that they couldn't finish because it was simply bad writing, or at best needed a few more rewrites and edits.

It amazes me, and a know a few people who do this, that anyone would continue reading a book they didn't like - this is probably left over from childhood when we were told to clean our plate (finish what we've started).

Writers labor hours, months - or more likely - years to get their ms into marketable shape. I can think of only a few who crank out books like rabbits have babies.

There are some publishing companies that will publish anything for a fee. It is simple to understand how the established publishers feel about them when the pros spend time and money to make sure books with their logo are quality works. This is only what readers deserve, the best book possible.

I like the good old fashion way a book rises to popularity because it is good, not because of the money behind it. Maybe I simply don't think it is fair for a really good book to prematurely fall into obscurity because someone with a lesser book can afford more advertising bling.

Seems to me that buying-in is a hollow reward in the end. That's the way I see it. What do you think, would you rather your book is a bestseller, regardless how it got there?


Monday, June 14, 2010

Tempus Fugit

Yes, time flies. Mostly it files in manuscripts when the rewrites are done and things get moved around, like scenes and such. Or worst, when the novice insists on editing while in the midst of writing the first draft.

The best way to write a novel is straight through, beginning to end. Never, ever go back and read more than the last paragraph before starting to write each time. Please don't jump around in the ms making changes. It is a habit worst than nail biting to break, but to move from novice to professional writer, it must be broken.

I have a friend who is one of the most stubborn women I've ever met. Honestly, when I read her ms I can tell that she has jumped back and forth while writing the first draft. Not only are there gaps and time flying involved, the tone of the characters zig-zag until I'm certain they must be schizophrenic with the number of mood changes occurring.

It is a bear to fix the time changes and gaps. One way that works (and is a lot of work) is to go through and read the ms in a printed copy - away from the computer and temptation to change other things. Write it in the margin every time change, (Friday, Tuesday, two weeks later, morning or afternoon ...something very clear). It usually means an extra read-through because it is hard to focus on too many things to check at once. But if beta readers are making notes that say, "What day is it?" then it must be done. You can bet that an agent or their reader will catch it and it might be the final blow to getting a contract offered.

That is the easy part compared to sorting out an unintentional moodiness in characters that comes from jumping around while editing or writing the first draft. I've know some who write scenes; keeping them in their own documents then stringing the scenes together with bridges. That equates to the biggest mess I've ever seen. I won't read those mss, it is just not a good way to create a storyline for fiction.

Seriously, only work on your ms from beginning to end. Regardless of whether you are writing the first draft or in the rewrite process, never jump around in the middle. Your readers might not be able to put their finger on what it is that isn't quite right, but people in the industry will see it right off.

The only way I know to fix a mixed up moody character, when that wasn't the plan and really doesn't work even if it was, is to get help. You're either going to have to hire a professional content editor or owe your best friend something very special.

Print two copies of your ms. Get your friend and some snacks and settle in for a long weekend of serious work. Don't think you can pawn it off on your friend, you have to be involved or shell out the big bucks for a pro. Read the ms aloud, but not so fast that it isn't being heard by either of you. The friend's job is to notice, if you don't, when characters are out of character. Then you have to decide if it adds to the story or is simply sloppy writing. Be honest. If a character is talking in a way that they should develop into later (you jumped around), then it has to be fixed. If a character knows something they shouldn't know yet (you jumped around), then it has to be fixed.

I know some people think it is okay to bank scenes for later and write to them. Fine, but know this: very few writers can pull that off and the tone (your voice as the writer) will show as it change from one scene to another with the "bridges" between, especially if the scenes were written out of sequence.

I bet after this, no one will write out of sequence again. That is my hope anyway.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Something useful

Whether it is researching the business end of things from trends to licenses and legal issues or being on the creative side of the mind, patience is the key. One of the things I find the least exciting is building a business plan. There is very little motivation behind it because with this [USA] economy and the state of the industry, no bank is going to loan me money for a start up publishing company.

Patience to plan and save the funding for each step of the process to build a business, any business, is a slow process. When I think of creating the web content or the more creative aspects of the company, it makes the mundane more manageable.

The same is true when writing fiction. The first draft is the worst draft. It takes nerves of steel not to jump the gun and push an ms through the process before it is ready for the light of day. Almost everyone I know dreads the third or fourth or twentith rewrite, never mind editing. But once into the process, it isn't so bad and usually takes on a momentum of its own as the ms becomes refined.

Same is true for the query process. The pre-query research is mind boggling. Where to start? How to know if the agent is a good one or a dud? Do they shop the type of ms you have? Do they already have one like it under contract?

It gets tempting to ship it to the quickest, easiest online printer that can be found. I have several books in my collection that look amateurish. I have one that is out right horrid and I ache for the author. But on the other hand, they 'knew it all' and it shows in the finished product.

My Godmother once told me patience was only a virtue if it was difficult to wait. Maybe. But in this industry it isn't about waiting, it is about methodically going through the process and not stopping when discouraged, because everyone gets discouraged at some point from first word to first royalty check.

Keep the faith - keep writing.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Publishing Industry of the Future!

I chuckle at the industry news that says the publishing industry is changing, needs to change, or the really funny ones about the look of publishing in the future - as if they know the future.

First off, the industry - as any other - is changing daily. Glyn Pope mentioned in the comments the other day about a book he was reading from the 1930's and how the writing style was different from now.

Besides writing styles, the technology is ever evolving. From a better ink for the monks to use to today's digital presence, we are always looking for a better way to publish books.

When I get an ms to read the first thing I notice is the formatting. I don't know how searchable it is on this blog, but learn about formatting - it is paramount. (There are posts that cover this on somewhere in First Draft.)

Over the years, I've received some real ms messes and spent months working with the writer to get their ms in shape to query a literary agent. With Cactus Rain, I won't do that - there isn't the time. The mss have to arrive in good shape -- in writing and formatting, and the correct file type.

It is extremely important to understand how to use your software (MS Word is practically the industry standard - because it used to come installed on new computers so everyone had it for free).

With a typewriter, which some of us began with, what you saw was what you got. While the results and some of the procedure are (or can be) the same with a computer, the difference is the dynamic language of the CPU.

Because computers 'think' in a binomially language from the DOS-prompt years, (I'm sure you know, but it is a two 'letter' language for the computer that is two numbers, one and zero, often grouped in multiples of eight digits), it does not 'think' like a typewriter. Right, a typewriter does not think. "BINGO!"

A computer computes in its one's-and-zero's-mind with a 'language' called codes - you've heard of coding for websites - yes? What you see may not be what you get. Remember the time something looked fine on the screen and printed out differently - e.g., badly?

Tabbing to center something isn't the same thing (to the computer) as using the center code command to position the text. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to use the 'enter' key like the typewriter's return to get to the start of a new page.

The problem with that during editing is, if enough words are added or deleted to change the number of lines in the chapter, it will move up or down the following lines (in the next chapter). That is why it is REQUIRED to use the 'page break' command at the end of each chapter. Note that I wrote REQUIRED. Please don't forget to number the pages.

After putting the ms in basic format, such as chapters starting on a new page and double spaced line, then I am ready to read. I add paragraph and scene breaks as I read as well as turning on track changes for the comments and suggestions I make - which is basic content editing.

In the years I've been doing this for people (for free), I've seen some of them grow as writers and a few who won't take any direction from anyone, who then self-publish a book they aren't happy with in the end.

A couple of months ago someone suggested that I download a free software that is almost like Word. (Are you kidding me?) Why would I want to put extra software on my computer? I bought MS Word and Corell WordPerfect - the wantabe writer needs to provide their ms in the correct software file. Don't go all diva before it is time. Buy the correct software to be a real writer - your competition will, every year thousands of writers do this stuff correctly and get published.

Please don't send mss to me to content edit. I don't have the time. Once I announce that I'm accepting unsolicited mss, feel free to send a query in the usual, industry standard manner.

While I don't do formula writing, there is a 'formula' or industry standard to getting a book from the first draft to the published book. Research my blog and other sources of information and learn how to do it right, so you succeed in your dream to be a published author.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

June Newsletter

The June newsletter is posted on my website now. Some of the notices with hotmail addresses bounced back, if you're wondering why you didn't get the notice, that might be why.

Friday, June 4, 2010

'Tis true!

Today is my birthday. To celebrate, I'm putting my books on sale on my website for the whole month. Click the link in the side bar to get there from here.

(I took a road trip last weekend - bet you get that song stuck in your head)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where's the purse?

There is a saying in fiction: "Dropping alligators over the transom." I've been told it doesn't make sense except to American's. (I'm not sure young Americans have any idea what a transom is either.)

My explanation is this: Prior to air conditioning, buildings had a small window above the door that could be opened. With the exterior window open, perhaps a fan or two, and the transom open the room could be tolerable with the cross ventilation and the door could be locked.

Obviously, alligators are not going to get into the locked room unless someone heaves them through the transom. The point is, writers shouldn't drop solutions to problems in their ms out of the blue.

On that note, my friend from England was here and read to me several scenes from the book she was reading. It was an English book, so it was grand to hear it read in English, complete with the appropriate dialect for the characters. Through several scenes in a cursed camping trip, the grandmother clutched her purse - no mater what the disaster was. She even fell in the wet ground and slipped toward the cliff - clutching her purse. When the worst yet (in the story) disaster struck and everyone barely escaped with their life, there was no mention of the purse. Had it gone over the cliff in the caravan (camper) or did the old woman manage to take it with her as she jumped and fell to the ground?

That still bothers me. What happened to the purse? I know it is insignificant in the big picture of the storyline. But the author had made such a point of mentioning it with every mention of grandmother, that I can't believe the editors at the publishing house (traditionally published, so there were editors) didn't catch that.

It would be easy to fix. After safeguarding the purse with such determination, one of the family could have a peek and fine there was nothing in it, or her false teeth (not sure she had false teeth, I'm just making this up) or it could have been lost when the caravan went crashing into the sea and some mention of what was in it.

This is the type of thing that I'm very particular about with the Cactus Rain writers - just ask them. This is why having good beta readers is so important. Perhaps it wouldn't matter to an agent or an acquisition editor at some big publishing house - it seems not to have mattered in getting this book published. But why take the chance? I think it was sloppy writing. What do you think?