Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving today, and every day.
May a thankful heart color every moment of our lives.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Will Bookstores Come Back?

Only people who have never had a conversation with me would not know my feelings about books; paper books, that is. I don't care what anyone says, ebooks are not books, they are digitized manuscripts. (I bet that comment makes me lots of friends.)

This book was published in 1848. That's a book!

I'm fairly certain that an ebook won't last 158 years. Just saying...

Here is another of my treasured books to share with you. This was my mother's book of Bryant's Poems. I loved this book during my teen-aged-poetry stage.

And this little book of essays was published in 1907.

The copyright is on the front cover...I hope you can see it. I can click on the picture to make it larger. Can you?

Back to my point. Amazon is opening a physical bookstore in Seattle, Washington, on November 3rd -- yes! It is a bit ironic that the online book seller that helped fuel the end to many bookstores has brought the industry full circle. 

Check out the article here! Amazon opens Bookstore 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Steve Mwase: 2015 Winner of The Voice Achievers Award!

Steve Mwase won The Voice Achievers Award: Outstanding African Writer Award. The award will be presented on October 22 and 23, 2015, in The Netherlands.

"Mr. Mwase, you were a unanimous choice because of your tremendous contributions to the development, advancement and general awareness as a writer from Africa, blending your new cultural environment, the Netherlands with your African heritage, exposing the beauty of Africa. You are an exemplary leader and a rare breed of excellence whose quality of character and sincerity of purpose places you on the platform of a role model and a mentor to African youths." 
The Achievers Voice Award Committee wrote in their letter to Mr. Mwase on 4 September 2015.

STEVE MWASE was born in the district of Busoga in Uganda. He joined the army in 1979, as a cadet officer following the fall of Uganda's renown dictator, Idi Amin Dada, and served in the army for fifteen years. In 1995, Steve relocated to The Netherlands where he developed a career as a writer. His first novel, LIFE AFTER A DICTATOR, was published in 2011. DUNIA is his second novel. He is currently working on a third novel, Exodus.

We at Cactus Rain Publishing are extremely proud to be witness to Steve's success.
To learn more about The Voice Achievers Award, look at this: 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Achieve Greatness!

Two weeks ago I was interviewed on the topic of inspiring others to greatness. Not that I'm an expert, but I am a student of the topic and I have endeavored to be self-aware enough to improve every day. On the days that I fall short, then I begin again, renewed in effort. 

I believe that an empty vessel cannot fill another vessel, so it is important to find things and people and beliefs that nurture. 

At one point I gave a reference to a video that I watch frequently. The premise is simple. It takes just a bit more effort to achieve greatness than to be average.

It goes something like this: 211 degrees is hot water. At 212 degrees water boils. Boiling water makes steam. Steam powers a locomotive.

Watch this:

That is all you need to know. One extra degree of effort makes all the difference; it makes greatness.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Slow Down! Sloooow Down!

While it makes sense in the human perspective to be excited that you've come to the point of submitting your ms for review, try not to rush through this exclusively important piece of the process.

You get one shot at a "First Impression," so don't blow it.

When I open the sample chapters and see a wonky looking file, I wonder what else you've rush through about the work.

Have you read it aloud from a printed format? You should. That is what I'm going to do if I have any interest in your work after reading the first page.

Use Control + * (in Word) to reveal hidden formatting symbols. Even without doing that and looking closely at your ms, you should notice that some of the quotation marks (especially the ending ones) are backward. Fix those.

I understand that quite a few beginning writers don't know that the first line of a new chapter is flush with the margin. I can overlook that. It is an easy fix.

But, you all should know that paragraphs begin with an indent; tab not spaced over with the spacebar. The idea of letting the software dictate your format is absolutely silly. If you've allowed the software to add a space between paragraphs with no indent for the new paragraph, that isn't the fiction format.

Look at the print novels from major publishers that you have on hand. Do they have a space between paragraphs? Nope. Now, go find a text book and look at that layout. Spaces between paragraphs! And by the way, we do not publish text books, so back track and fix your formatting...even if you are querying a literary agent or some other publisher.

You want to get things as right as you can because of that First Impression thing that happens when we first open your file.

Yes, of course, we read your sample chapters. We look for all of the elements that make a work great. However, we are small and if the formatting is going to be overly time consuming, we might pass if we have other works in the queue.

You've put a lot of time into your ms, present it in the best light possible with a darn good query letter, synopsis, and polished sample chapters.

Give yourself and your work the chance you deserve.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

First Edition

Because it is so easy to self-publish, both ebooks and paper books, people leap before they look. The only problem with that is if the work isn't professional level, it won't gain traction.
I casually collect first editions. It is all the better if they are signed. While getting a personalized signature from an author seems the way to go, unless the author and I know each other, I'd just as soon that they don't personalize it to me. But that is my preference. I'm not a serious collector, so I'm free to do it my way.
Nonetheless, as a publisher, I'm less enthused about publishing a second edition than a first edition. Of course, it depends on the circumstance of the first edition, but it does weigh heavily in our decision to move forward on a project.
What is a first edition? It is the first publication of a book. These days, that includes ebooks, though I find ebooks a bit difficult to add to my library of first editions because they fall over on the shelf (kidding), so they don't interest me (true).
Obviously, a first edition is not the first version of a book. They start as a manuscript and hopefully by the time it is submitted in a query, it is not the first draft.
After the ms is under contract, depending on the publisher, a galley copy will be printed; printed, not published. This is an extremely small print run; extremely small. This copy is sent to book reviewers and sometimes to book purchasers for major book retailers. It is a rough copy of the book with the purpose of introducing the work to reviewers who will later help "put the word out" about the book that is timed with the actual publication.
The reason that Cactus Rain rarely prints galley copies is that very few small time reviewers, bloggers, or even book reviewers for hire, understand that this is not the finished product. They may comment on the grammar or some other non-item for a galley copy, whereas professional book reviewers understand that the purpose is to get the basics of the story into their hands. It is like tasting the cookie dough. It isn't a real cookie yet, but a preview of what the cookie will taste like when it is baked.
(If you're interested in collecting galley copies of books, some can be had at used book stores in NY City.)
Fast forward through a lot of dusting and polishing of the manuscript (ms) and designing the cover art, and a proof copy is printed. After revisions or corrections, ta-da! the real book goes into print and that is ... the first edition.
Querying a work that has already been published is a bit like going to the dealership to buy a new car and being shown the used car section. You might find a good car, but it isn't a new car.
Want to know more about first editions? Look here:

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Synopsis Writing

Quite a few people are realizing their dream of writing a novel. We have been inundated with queries in the last three or four months.

There are two things that beginning authors fail to do before they query:
  1. Dust and polish their ms. (I have written several blogs over the years about this, and no doubt, I will write about this again.)
  2. Write a professional grade SYNOPSIS.
After hours, days, months, and often years writing the ms, it is worth the time to research what comes next. I just googled SYNOPSIS and found many useful links regarding synopsis writing.

Here is my version of the basics to a synopsis in a nutshell:
  1. A synopsis is a one page document
  2. It is single spaced lines
  3. It is written in third person
  4. It tells the summary of the whole story from beginning to end
  5. Yes, it tells how the story ends
  6. It introduces the main character
  7. It tells who the antagonist is
  8. It tells the conflict that starts the story for the main character
  9. It tells what the goal is for the main character; what they need to resolve and why
  10. It tells the barriers to reaching that goal; the antagonist's actions
  11. It tells the setting
  12. It tells the time period
  13. It tells the genre
  14. It tells the word count
What a synopsis is not:
  1. It is not a vague paragraph about why the ms was written
  2. It is not about the author or their writing experience
  3. It is not the back of a book blurb
It has come to the point that we are not responding to queries that do not have an adequate synopsis. Previously, I wrote a reply asking for a synopsis. Sometimes the person would respond that it was in the query letter -- um, no it wasn't or I wouldn't have asked for it and it is a standalone document.
Since we are receiving so many queries that we could spend the whole day with that one task, we are not moving past the inadequate synopsis to read the sample chapters. We are a small publisher. We don't have time to spend on an incomplete querry -- sorry. I think of Cactus Rain Publishing as a proving ground for the writer to gain experience and move on to bigger and better things.
We are not a "for hire" publisher. Our money goes into publishing our books. Honestly, writing to us that your lover, parent, or high school English teacher loved your ms isn't the same as them putting their money and expertise into your project. I don't care who else loved your ms, what has to happen is that Judith and I love your ms.
We don't publish a ton of books a month. We don't crank them out like some sort of paper version of a puppy mill. What we publish is damn good. We contract out some pieces of the process to experts in that area. Again, what we publish is damn good.
We are looking for writers who read the submission requirements on our website:
We are happy to work with first time novelists. However, we do expect that person will present us with their best, professional quality work. 
Write your best work. Give it your best pitch to us, another publisher, or a literary agent. You can do this. This is the next step.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Query: Speed Dating?

This week I was showing off the proof book for GRAVE. My friend has no writing or publishing connections, but had good questions about the process. The analogy that queries were like speed dating was made.

I have no experience with speed dating, but perhaps it is a good analogy of how books are selected. Then again, maybe not.

Judith and I read every query letter, synopsis, and sample chapters. We both have to agree on the merit of the work before we go forward with the project. We've never discussed our style, but this is how it looks for me to read the submissions:

The letter:
What's the tone? What does it tell me about the ms and the author? Does it look like they read the submission guidelines?

The synopsis:
Does it follow the industry standard for a synopsis? Those of you who know to put the character names in all caps get extra points. That tells me that you have done some research on how to write a synopsis. 

The sample chapters:
There should only be three chapters. I'm looking for a quick hook that isn't a tease. I'm looking at style and voice. I'm looking at dialogue and whether everyone speaks exactly the same, or hopefully not. Good grammar and a working knowledge of punctuation is a plus. But, if everything else grabs me, I know that our certified proofreader Anita Beery will correct all of the errors. 

This is where the speed dating comes in, I guess. I click "Show/Hide" (control and *) to look at the level of computer skills of the writer. This shows if there isn't a page break between chapters, it shows if things are centered with a million spacebar (or tab key) strokes, it shows if there are two blank spaces between sentences, and it shows the random spacebar stroke between words or at the start of paragraphs. 

Besides the show/hide thing, I look at details like the backward quote mark (caused by a space between the word and the quote mark). This is just one example of the things the writer should have caught and corrected before they submitted the sample.

This makes me think that the writer did not look at their work before they sent it. Or maybe they think they are so wonderful, that they are exempt from doing a good job.

I don't know what that means in the big scheme of things. Are they sloppy? Do they rush through things? Are they not taking this industry seriously? Do they think small publishers have lower standards?

When you're asking a stranger to fund your book, do look at what you are submitting in the light of a business arrangement.

Write your best story. Give it every chance of success by taking the time to make sure that you submit your best sample of your ability and your ms. This is your one chance to impress us.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

No News is Good News

I have no idea where all of the queries come from. We do no advertising, no ad words, no ANY-THING, but we get tons of queries each month. It started out that 9 out of 10 queries were horrible. But that isn't the case now.

If we haven't sent an email saying that we are passing or it isn't a good fit, or we don't publish that (didn't you read the submission guidelines???), then Judith and I are working our way though the stack and your submission is still pending.

I suppose the only good thing about that is we don't take vetting lightly and we give your submission a serious reading.

So chin up. Keep sending out queries (don't put all your eggs in one basket) and keep the faith.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Boring writing

My friend Irene Watson and I would have long conversations about writing and the publishing industry. (She has passed now.) I found one of her posts that I want to pass on to everyone about boring descriptions.

First, (or firstly if you speak British English), whether or not you've taken writing classes at uni, you have some sense of pacing. It happens in everyday conversation, music (tempo), and even how we walk.

In writing pacing is driven by telling and showing. It is demonstrated by the length of the sentences and paragraphs, and even chapter length.

One of the most common edits that I do to an ms is cut the wordiness and make the sentence content straightforward.

Here are a couple of examples:
  • Some 20 or 30 feet away... change that to one or the other number of feet and delete "some."
  • It was about 9:00 pm...change that to it was 9:00 PM.
You get the picture. Most writers have pet words that get infused into the writing too often. They are vague words that keep the writing from being crisp and fluid.

Every word and every sentence needs to be purposeful. If it doesn't move the story forward, then cut it. The same is true of characters. If they don't serve a purpose to move the story forward, they need to be in some other ms.

Anyway...check out Irene's blog.

(I'm not sure why that didn't turn into a clickable link. It is worth copying and pasting into your browser. Give it a try.)

Monday, May 4, 2015

Catching my attention

Every acquisition editor has their own style. It is 50% subjective and 100% business decisions.

I recently read that publishers will pass on a great story by an unknown writer for one nearly as good by an author who has a following and a good track record of sales; which makes sense on the business side of things. Name recognition (branding) counts in retail.

Just like any reader, the opening has to hook me. That's one reason that I don't care for prologues. I've said many times to start the story where it starts. If the prologue is important, put it into the book proper. Is that a hard-fast rule with me? Apparently not.

Raise your hand if you've heard a million times not to start a story like this: "It was a dark and stormy night," Paul Clifford, 1830, by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. I like that imagery. And I love the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities, 1859, Charles Dickens.

Here is what I loved at first sight about the Cactus Rain Publishing books.

The Doctor, The Plutocrat, and The Mendacious Minister, by Glyn Pope. This story opens at a train station where the main character is introduced though an incident with one of the most colorful locals, Reg. It is a great opening and full of British humor. The difficult thing about writing anything humorous is that once the punch line is known, it isn't as funny. While not intended as a humorous book, it is very funny in the way that I've come to expect from British sit-coms. It shows the naive young doctor's attempts to "do good" in the post WW II village and actually unravel the structure that holds things together. Sorry for the spoiler, but unfortunately, this book is out of print because it was pirated. There are a few remainders. If you want to purchase one, email me at 

The Lacemaker's Daughter, by Diane Keziah Robertson. I love stories about strong women, even though this is about a strong young girl who overcomes difficulties to keep herself and her younger crippled brother alive. It shows the kindness of key people in the village. At times it is one step forward and two back, but as tired as she gets, she carries on and does what is required of her. It tells of sibling love. And it has a fairy tale ending. I do love books that have a feel good sense about them.

PASSENGERS, also by Diane Keziah Robertson. It revisits the setting of The Lacemaker's Daughter, but what is interesting to me is how Diane weaved the six passengers' lives and story throughout the novel. I've read books published by big publishers that tell the story of multiple people and hated them -- did not finish reading any of them. While PASSENGERS was complicated to edit, it is not complicated to read. Diane is a fantastic story teller. The characters are well developed and the pacing is great. As much as I loved the main characters, there are several secondary characters I'm hoping that Diane includes in a next novel -- hint, hint, Diane, if you're reading this.

Damsels of June, by Kira Vorobiyova. This is a mischievous story about a young girl in Kiev, Ukraine. She and two friends from dancing class run about the city chasing a mystery, only to be surrounded by colorful underworld characters. There is adult content, but if you're expecting 50 Shades of Grey, you'll discover that there are only hints at what the spinster piano teacher does in her free time. But the ending reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock's style. Fade black. Drop the curtain. Then sit back and wonder what just happened. It's all there, read it again.

Dunia, by Steve Mwase. See the previous post for a video interview with Steve. Dunia is the Swahili word for "world." What I like about this story is the "grass is greener" thought process of the north and south peoples. The idea of conquest is the first thought, rather than one of collaboration between the two cultures. It is just as distressful to read about the sensless meanness as to watch a bully in action on the playground. It is a timeless story that is playing out now.

GRAVE. by J.C. Dreger. Coming soon and well worth the wait. Right off this reminded me of a Clint Eastwood movie. It isn't a western, but it has the mysterious stranger who comes to town and quietly gets everyone's attention -- one way or another. He is steadfast in his sense of right and wrong. He chooses issues rather than sides. He takes risks to fight for the weak. And there is this quizzical guy with a white parasol who watches from afar. He reminds me of the old man in Milagro Beanfield War, 1988, Universal Pictures; based on the book of the same name by John Nichols. Once again, it is a story of good overcoming not so good. Everything about reading this book plays soundtracks of great movies in my mind.

Obviously, there is a theme to the books that Judith and I select. Check them out at

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Set in a past that parallels the present and future, this is a story about a land called Dunia mothering two races of people – the light-skinned and the dark-skinned. A large body of water bisects Dunia into two parts. Each part becomes a sovereign state at the center of cultural, spiritual, political and military rivalries caused by climate change.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Planned Writing

Most first-time writers start writing when inspiration strikes. Rarely does someone sit down and plan their first book. (Maybe not rarely, but it seems that way to me.)
In the heat of inspiration, the novice writer grabs their tablet and starts writing furiously. Every time they come up for air, they think, "Wow! This is really good!" It probably isn't "really good" because first drafts aren't that good.
We all know the misconceptions a novice makes about being an author, getting their book published, and what they will say when they make the rounds as a guest on all of the hottest talk shows. (The word "misconception" is a clue here.)
Here are a few basics for those who aspired since childhood to be writers and are planning their first work. This is not an exhaustive list.
  • Select a genre. Romances have a specific formula for success, but all story lines are basically a bell curve. Everyone, except  me, says to read A LOT to learn to write. There is probably some value to that, but I drive A LOT and I am not a mechanic. My thinking on reading to learn to write is that it is a good way to mimic another writer, particularly if they have several books published and you've read all of them. I'd rather see a fresh and authentic voice on the works submitted to Cactus Rain. There are tons of genre lists that came up when I ran an internet search for genre -- try it yourself. This is the one I use.
  • Determine the reader. Thinking that the answer to "Who will read this book?" is "everyone" is all wrong. Not everyone will like every book. Define who really will like the book you're planning to write. Do research. Talk to the local librarian about what is popular and with whom. Look at how many books of the genre you selected are in the local bookstores. Research what the big publishers are publishing. You can't write to follow the market, because by the time your book is written and published, it will be two years from now. However, with research you can learn the trends and their shelf life so that your expectations are realistic.
  • Be unique. There are a finite number of plots, so what is unique about your story? This goes back to learning to write through writing classes and books on how to write rather than reading other works to learn to write.
  • Name it! Experience writers have a WIP title for their manuscript. WIP stands for Work In Progress. Usually the title is shortened to its initials. Try not to totally love the title because it is highly likely it will change. Everyone knows that the publisher has the right to rename a book and almost always does just that. I come up with titles rather quickly as I read manuscripts (and usually a cover image). If you're going to self-publish, search the planned title to make sure it has not already been used. The idea of using a popular title so that people accidentally find YOUR book is flawed. If your book isn't the one they were hunting, they will move on as soon as they realize it is the wrong book. Besides, while titles cannot be copyrighted, they can be trademarked.
  • Cover Art. If you are planning to get published by a publisher, you are likely only going to have the cover design shown to you out of politeness. You won't have much voice in the cover design and that is a good thing. Keep in mind, it isn't your money being spent to publish the manuscript, and the publisher knows a lot more about what the cover should look like for the genre (for marketing appeal). It is more complicated if you are going to self-publish. Check out the colors of that genre in the bookstore. Most young adult novels have a picture of a teenage girl on the front. Chick-lit is more cartoonish looking. The rules can be broken, but they rarely are because it is all about marketing and people DO judge a book by its cover.
  • Voice. Brush up on basic grammar and select a voice for the story. Who is telling the tale? (First person narrative is more difficult to write because you can't write anything the main character didn't witness or wasn't told by someone.) 
  • Set the pace. Pacing is what makes a book a page-turner. Action has a faster pace than literary fiction. The pace is determined by word choices, length (actually, shortness) of the sentences and paragraphs, and in some cases the length of the chapters.
  • The basics. Of course, you have to have interesting characters and "good" names for them; interesting setting, AND a well written story.
Hopes this gives you a few things to consider. Write right. Party on!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

About Cactus Rain Publishing's People

Years ago I was one of many moderators on an international writing forum (now closed). During that time, I content edited (for free) a ton of manuscripts.

What happened next was that the writer chose not to pay to have it line edited by a certified proofreader. (I am not a certified proofreader.) For whatever reasons, several of them put their manuscript in the hands of a pay-to-publish company or uploaded them to a free publishing online company.

They proudly sent me a copy of their new book and it was sad to see the poor quality of the end result. The formatting was horrible, the proofing appeared to not have happened at all, and the cover was butt-ugly.

Several of my friends encouraged me to set up a fee-to-publish company, since after all, there were tons of them on the internt, right?

I'm old school enough to value the traditional publishing model. The writer sends a query, someone vets it and likes it, and it goes through a horribly long process to get published. However, it was vetted and selected as worthy to fund.

So using the traditional model Cactus Rain Publishing was created in 2010. Considering the economy at the time, I chose not to get a business loan. It was and still is a pay-as-you go business.

Basically, since it is my money at risk and I have NO ONE to answer to about my decisions, I have total freedom to do as I see fit. We don't have a  million books in print, but what we have are exceptionally good.

Sometimes mss are turned down because, well, they are simply horrible. Sometimes I'll suggest that the author aim for a literary agent because their ms is that good.

We go with good writers who need their work dusted and polished a bit, and who are committed to marketing their book. (They would have to market their book with a pay-to-publish service, too.) CRP does some marketing, but the writer has to believe in their work enough to sell it.

Over the years (honestly seems like more than 5 years because of the years of content editing before becoming a business) ... over the years several people have offered to help vet mss because they like to read. Mostly the offer was because they wanted to earn a little extra money. Not one of them finished a whole ms because vetting isn't the same as sitting down and reading a book on a Sunday afternoon.

This is a business, not a charity. The mss have to be properly vetted.

Judith, my friend of 20+ years, came onboard and has been wonderful to work with. She checks out the mss before I do. That saves me so much time. We are a fantastic team.

Someone who has worked with me since 2005, is Joyce. She is more than a web designer. She handles almost all things internet related for me and CRP. If you are looking for a fantastic web designer, check out Joyce at: I highly recommend her.

Another member of the CRP team is Anita, our proofreader. She is a CERTIFIED proofreader, even though I call her the line editor half of the time. She is amazing. She knows grammar rules that I've never heard of (and those I know, too.). She has proofed 6 books for us now. We met at a writer's conference in Phoenix in 2005. I cannot imagine having anyone else proof the CRP books. Check out Anita at

The newest member of the CRP team is Junior at Junior's Digital Designs. We have worked with several graphic artists, but Junior raises the bar high. What I like about working with Junior is that he understands the concept that I'm after and produces it in a few days. (And he doesn't tell me if he laughs at the concept sketches that I send to him.)

I think these people are outstanding. If you want to do your own book, contact these professionals for help.  I highly recommend them.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Literary Agent Blogs

Rather than reading the trade papers for what's hot in the industry (yes, I do read them anyway) the place with the finger-on-the-pulse is literary agents' blogs.
Some things never change, for example, the nasty comments about really bad-bad query letters and the insane things people write in them. Note: A query letter is a business proposal, not a pen pal letter.
While Judith and I tend to be approachable and not terribly snarky with replies to query letters, that doesn't mean that I don't eye-roll on occasion. Sorry about that. I know "this ms" is important to you.
I love the sencerity when someone writes that their mum, 92 year old former English teacher, lover, or stranger they met at the dog park loves their ms and I will, too. Keep in mind that neither Judith or I are any of those -- especially not 92 years old!
A query letter is a business proposal that in the end is designed to get us to spend OUR money to make YOUR ms into a marketable book.

The first thing you are after is to get us to finish reading your query letter and the synopsis. Next is to get us interested enough to read the first three chapters that are requested as part of our submission guidelines.
You should throw a huge party if we ask for the full manuscript. We probably read the full manuscript on 5% or less of the submissions. I don't know if that is a normal per cent for the industry or not, but there are only so many hours in the day and very few of us to read mss.

There are no guarantees that an offer of a contract will follow a request for a full ms.
Most people get the middle of their ms going full steam. The beginning is the part I have trouble with, especially if there is a prologue. Yes, we have published a couple of books with prologues. That doesn't mean that I like prologues. I feel strongly that if that information is important to the story, then put it in the story. (Judith is a lot more patient with prologues.)
Even so, I think the end is the most important piece of the whole work. That's the bit that props open the reader's mind and won't let the door close on the characters. They linger. They come into one's thoughts, they provoke thought, they are real people.
If anything, the lack of a satisfying ending has been the cause of several missed contracts.
The point of all of this is that when asking someone to fund your project (book) then you have to let go of the title, this bit and that bit, and be willing to do rewrites.

If you're unwilling to change any part of the submission, then we probably aren't the right publisher for you. We will "kick the tires" and if they need air in them, we will want you to do that; put air in them. (Email me if you don't get what kick the tires means. Tire=tyre.)
As the unpacking for the move last year moves forward at such a slow pace that it is unnoticeable, I came across an article that I printed from the internet in 2005.
To get you started reading literary agent blogs, here is the link to one of many good ones.
Knowledge is power. Learn everything you can about the industry, about writing, about submissions.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Fresh Start: MS Word

Before discussions about plot, character development, and pacing, let's start with the software. If you are serious about being a writer you have to hone your computer skills.
Way back in the beginning, computers had punch cards. I don't personally remember those days, but I have seen the punch cards. It is basic. Binomial. A collection of zeros and ones in groups of eight or sixteen. (I'm going on memory on this. Research it if it interests you.)
Fast forward to today. If you learned to use a typewriter (boy, are you old!) before you transitioned to a keyboard, you need to throw out most of that knowledge except for the letter placement on the keys.
Computers use codes for their instructions on character placement. You don't have to learn coding, but you do have to understand the functions of the software. Remember the saying: garbage in, garbage out?
If you want to center the title, use the center function. Do not use the spacebar or tab key to eyeball where the center mark is on the page.
The same is true with indenting the first line of a paragraph. Do not use a random number of spaces (spacebar), use the tab key.
The same is true with the end of a line of text, let it wrap to the next line. Do not use the enter key. Set the line spacing to double spaced lines.
The same is true with starting a new page for the next chapter. Do not use the enter key to go down the page until you reach a new page. Use the page break function.
Unless you use the correct procedure to center, indent, or start a new line or page, you can expect the results to be fluid. If you want them fixed in position, you have to use the correct function. I want them in fixed rather than floating/fluid positions.
If you don't know how to do these things, then take the time to learn them. One way is to go across the menu bar and see what each item on the dropdown menu does. Watch YouTube tutorials. Buy a book and follow the instructions on your computer.
I prefer mss that come from a computer, desktop or laptop, rather than from a tablet (any brand, but expecially not those that require converting the file into MS Word).
If you expect Cactus Rain Publishing, any reputable publisher, or literary agent to take your work seriously, fund it, and add it to their catalogue (reputation) then you have to be serious about the format of your work.
It is that simple. Write right. Have fun.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Polish and Dust your MS before Submission

When sending a query to a literary agent or a publisher who doesn't require a lit agent, make sure it is your best presentation. I can't stress this enough, however, it amazes me that I need to mention it at all.
Trust me on this, a query letter isn't two lines long that basically says "go look at the attachments" with an attitude that you are doing me a favor. You aren't doing me a favor. Seriously, you're not.
There is tons of information about writing a synopsis on the Internet and I've mentioned how to write one many times on this blog.

Out of idle curiosity, I might look at a synopsis even if the query is lacking, but I won't look at the sample chapters if the synopsis doesn't grab me. (A word to the wise on that.) I think Judith is better at looking at sample chapters that I wouldn't bother to read. In the end, if we both don't love-love your work, then we cut bait and move the boat.
We request that submissions are sent in MS Word. The first thing that I do is turn on the "show/hide" feature to see if you know how to use the software. This isn't a typewriter, so don't tab or spacebar the title to the center of the page; use the feature that centers the line. It is basic that there is only one space between sentences. Paragraph indents are made with the tab button, not a random number of spaces.
The sample chapters cannot read like a first draft. While I can content edit and fix any ms, I don't want to spend that kind of time on a sloppy ms. Whether it is true or not that a sloppy ms reflects on the nature of the writer, I think that it does.
We get enough good queries that we don't have to accept messes.
A query is a business proposal for Cactus Rain to fund your book. CRP is not a charity. We are a business. Our kids don't cop an attitude and we don't work with people who do. It is that simple.
If you believe in your work with a writer's passion, we will notice. Make yourself proud, present your best work. Good luck and write right.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Website Improvements

It's time for spring in Arizona. It is warming outside and things that grow green are setting on buds. Winter here is not a deep sleep; it is a power nap.
In a crazy mix of first of the year "fresh starts" and spring cleaning, we are dusting and polishing the Cactus Rain website.
Check it out and see what our web designer has been doing. Click on the links because some of them lead to different locations than they did previously. Come back a couple of times -- we aren't finished yet.

Monday, January 19, 2015

More of the SAME

Tax season seems to last longer than the monsoons. Actually, it is all year long and I kick myself if I fall behind in the spreadsheets.
But this time of year is more than collecting figures for my wonderful tax guy -- Mr. CPA. (Don't google that, it isn't his real identity.) It is also the time to get this year's spreadsheets dusted so that none of that afore mentioned kicking happens next year.
I've spent the weekend setting up new spreadsheets, adding 'this and that' to the items tracked. It goes well to do this on the weekend when it is quiet. My cell phone doesn't work at the office -- yes, I know it is time to change providers. Texting works and I can use the office phone, if needed.
Working on the weekend goes something like this: Call oldest son and ask how to fill repeating formulas down the column in Excel. Take lots of notes from my geeky-smart kid. Get back to work.
Clean out my email address book. Back to work.
Delete photos that I shouldn't have kept in the first place. Back to work.
Organize my computer files and delete a lot of old stuff that I haven't used in years. Back to work.
Figure out how to change my photo on this blog. Back to work after not liking several photos that seemed like a good idea at the time.
Let the cat out -- not my cat. Sit on the patio and watch the cat do cat things. Collect the cat and come inside. Back to work.

Look at the ms that Steve sent. Get stuck reading for a bit. Back to work.
Try this 'focusing technique' if you get writer's block -- not. Alright, back to working on the next Great American Novel. Enjoy. Write your best work.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tax Season

Just a reminder to the new writers among us, be sure to talk with your tax preparer about your writing business. Yes, business. Unless this is a hobby and your writing is never going to see the light of day, it needs to be treated as a business.

In addition to making sure you don't screw up your taxes and have 'Uncle Sam' at your door, you also need to check into state and local business requirements, business licenses, retail licenses; if you plan to sell books at a book signing event you may need a license from the city.

It's complicated and I don't dare say more than do your research.

The same is true regardless of where you live, even outside the US, ask an expert and get set up correctly, then get back to writing the next Great American Novel.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Best wishes to each of you.
We hope that you have a healthy and happy 2015!

First off, it always surprises me how many queries we receive because CRP does no advertising, none. We are not on social media. (Oh, the sin of not being uber connected in such a way.)
The constant stream of queries points to the talent and skill of our web designer and the meta tags or whatever else she does that I don't fully understand.
Nonetheless, must be quite search engine friendly, because we certainly get more than enough queries to keep Judith and me on our toes and more or less out of trouble -- not that I'm complaining! Oddly too, we are getting much better works submitted to us. Thus, we are requesting more full mss and rejecting fewer mss.
It seems that this year quite a few writers decided that 2015 would be the year their ms would be published. In the last month, we've had a ton of queries.
Sadly, one person mentioned that their publisher is requesting fees after the ms was accepted. That made me think about how different Cactus Rain is from some small publishers. These thoughts are what this post is about...
It's a new ballgame to enter the query phase of the writing process. Querying is a bit like saying, "I love you." You can't take it back once it is out there. You are sharing a personal part of yourself with a stranger and hoping for acceptance, and at times, fearing rejection.
There is a lot of time spent searching for a literary agent or perhaps a small publisher who doesn't require a lit agent; it is an investment. It can be discouraging. That is why I usually make an effort to explain why an ms was rejected, so it doesn't feel like a personal rejection.
Cactus Rain only publishes fiction. We don't have the resources to fact check non-fiction. We most often pick up mid-list mss from not-quite-ready-for-prime-time writers. We look for great stories, and for writers with heart rather than attitude.
We don't have a huge catalogue, but what we published is very [very, very] good. We believe in the mss enough to put our money into them. We take the time to explain why we want the changes that we request, in the hope that our writers learn to be even better writers and go on to bigger publishers in the future.
We don't work with stubborn know-it-all writers. Once the ms is under contract, it is our property, as it is with any other publisher. That said, we are careful not to change the voice of the work. About half of the time we change the working title. It is all about marketing. If the title doesn't appeal to readers, they aren't going to purchase the book.
We do not pay an advance and many publishers are getting away from advances because they are borrowed against the future earnings. Advances are sometimes subject to repayment. We think that advances slow the process of getting royalties into the writer's hand.
We are supportive of authors who want to self-publish. Learning all the things needed to publish successfully is quite a task. We applaud them. Sometimes we buy their book for our library.
We are cautionary of pay-for-publishing situations. However, I know a few people who have been quite successful with that route. And yes, we buy some of those books for our library, too.
Writing is a craft and an art. Write your best work. Aim high.