Extremist? Guilty as Charged!

Seems a lot of writers talk too much. Not in person. But as the narrator.

I’ve been going over a manuscript (well… six or eight) and getting them up and running on Amazon as ebooks. Reading through, and yes, reading aloud, I find I’m quite talkative outside the quotes.

I had noticed this before, so after a seminar on dialogue and dialect I paused. I pondered. I paced. Until one day I plummeted into the deep end of dialect for dummies and came out with quote marks all over the pearly-white page.

I had lost my voice. My characters had taken over. And I loved it!

Have you ever heard someone say something stupid? I’ll figure that’s a yes. Now, write it down and respond. See? You have two characters. Keep them talking, bantering, chatting, schmoozing, or gossiping. Now do that for let’s say… five hundred words. Are they done yet? My first attempt was with two men who bantered and belittled and bickered for 2,700 words. No narrative. No taglines.

I wrote one story where five characters cussed, cheated, and often became cantankerous. They kept me laughing for 5,700 words!

I’m not saying you should write in all dialogue, but an exercise in all dialogue will help you see how easy it is for the characters to tell the story without the narrator trying to hog the scene.

Got that dialogue written?

Okay, now go back and put in some brief descriptive narrative. Just enough to let the reader see each character’s expressions, mannerisms or physical attributes, and to let them hear each character’s tone of voice.

Now, if you want to plumped it up, without using fillers, GMOs (okay, I stole an acronym and reassigned a new meaning–Grossly Manipulative Oration), or unnecessary taglines, you can add narrative to describe the place and/or time this dialogue occurs.

Example? Yep. 543 words in the original, all dialogue story.

*

Fair Trade Agreement

“Whatcha got there, Ollie?”

“Well, Danny, I got me one’a them new fangled thingamajigers. I seen it over to the county fair and just had t’have me one.”

“Whatcha s’pose t’do with it?”

“I ain’t figgered that part out just yet.”

“Then what’d y’buy it for?”

“Cause I knowed it’d look good in my yard.”

“Well, Ollie, I’d have t’agree with’ya. It don’t look half bad.”

“I’m figgerin’ on puttin’ it over by the mailbox and paintin’ it a real nice shade a’blue and maybe plantin’ a few petunia’s ‘round the bottom of it.”

“Martha oughta like’at.”

“Can you keep a secret, Danny?”

“You betcha.”

“When I hauled this thing over here Martha was so damn proud’a me that she poured herself a nice hot tub’a water. She’s in there now, soakin’ in the bubbles. Said she’d have somethin’ for me when she was done. Alls I hafta do is move it just a little closer to the mailbox and then I’ll be ‘bout ready to head in a get my su’prise. I’ll leave it at that and let you do the figgerin’ on what she’s got waitin’ for me when I go back in.”

“Maybe she’s gettin’ all clean and sweet smellin’ for a li’l wrestlin’ on the ol’ box springs.”

“That’s what I’m a’hopin’, Danny. It’s been a little cold ‘round here of late if’n you catch my drift.”

“Speakin’ of drifts, it’s been damn near blizzard like over t’my house, but if I had me one’a these maybe Bertha would warm up a li’l.”

“Fair’s gone. I seen ‘em pull up stakes and head out yesterd’y.”

“I don’t think I can wait another year, Ollie.”

“I don’t see no way ‘round it.”

“Hows ‘bout we put this one on my side of the mailbox and that way we can both get a li’l pleasure from it.”

“I s’pose Martha might like it even more if’n she don’t have to mow ‘round it.”

“Bertha won’t mind mowin’ ‘round it if she gets t’ look at it all the time, and anyways, I got her one of them self-propelled mowers and it’s made her life a whole lot easier.”

“Whaddya mean, self-propelled, Danny?”

“I mean Bertha don’t hafta push it.”

“Damn. How ‘bout we just trade even-steven. I’ll let you have this here yard orn’ment and I’ll help you haul it to where’ev’r you wanna stick it if’n you let me have that mower so Martha won’t hafta be pushin’ one no more.”

“I think we got us a fair trade, Ollie.”

*

Okay, I’ll add just a bit to the last scene.

*

The door squealed open and Martha stepped out, her muumuu catching on the duct-taped screen. Placing her feet to reflect her vast shoulder width, she eyed him up and down, then placed her hands on ample hips. “Did you do like I told you, Ollie?”

Ollie put his hands up and gulped for air. “Yes, Martha. You go on an’ put that pipe wrench down now so I can come in.”

She glanced around the yard. “What’d y’do with it?”

Ollie turned to see if there were witnesses, then cupped one hand beside his mouth. “Seems Danny took a likin’ to it and wanted t’use it for a yard orn’ment.”

Martha pecked her head back and forth quicker than seven hens at one feeder. “Bertha’s gonna tan him a new hide for puttin’ that ol’ water heater on her front lawn! He’s still tryin’ t’grow one back from the beatin’ he got when he bought her that damn mower! Self-propelled my ass! Damn thing don’t even have a motor!” Martha beat the air with the one finger she pointed at Ollie. “You ever bring one of ‘em home like’at and you’ll be the self that’s propellin’ it!” She furled her brow and pulled her chin in. “What’s that look on your face, Ollie?”

Ollie gulped, then ran his hands up and down his arms. “Just got a sudden chill is all.”

*

Plumped up with no GMOs.

You can take any dialogue and change the tone and setting by adding your own narrative.

I didn’t name a place, but in my mind this is one of them there trailer parks where old car tires are used to hold on the roof and to keep the flowers in place. Swing is optional.

Supper calls. I think I’ll rustle up some ramps. That kind’a food goes well with this story.

Write, write, and write some more!

Arena

Square peg round hole doesn’t work. How about a lizard? (A brief reprieve from formatting)

My kittens bring me lizards. I try to save the lizards, but the kits follow to witness the release and proceed to recapture. I’ve found a solution. Instead of an instant save and release I keep the unlucky lizard in a one quart Ziploc food storage box (with holes). The kits watch the box, bat the box, play with the box, and the lizard provides entertainment from the safety of said box. The kits take a nap and I release the lizard, rattled but lively, without witness.

I work for my kittens. They’ll be three years old in June, but just as my children will always be my babies, my cats will always be my kittens.

Annie and Gus were the runts of the litter, Gus being smaller than Sister Annie.

Annie is my raindrop. She’s a medium haired, black and gray tabby with an animated tail. Small and sleek, Annie is the cattiest cat with which I’ve even had the pleasure of sharing an abode. She owns her environment. I live here by her leave and I’m sure the only reason she allows this is my ability to open cans. My lap is her throne and my hands do her bidding. When she assumes the position she’s a perfect little package. My raindrop.

Gus looks like a cat (very long-haired orange tabby with a leg on each corner and a long graceful tail) and that’s where the similarities end. He owes a lot to his sister. She taught him cattiness and he applies some, but not all, of her lessons to his daily activities. Gus is the Raggedy Andy of cats. He prefers the floor to my lap and when he decides to take a nap (one of his cattier traits) he plops down, sprawls out, and snores. My puddle.

Annie was a good two months ahead of Gus on the learning curve of all the how-to-be-a-cat categories. She learned to jump on the counter, unroll the toilet paper, uncrochet a crocheted shawl, climb up a post and down the other side to escape from the yard, steal popcorn from the bowl, attack from the top of the refrigerator, and bring me small presents (most still breathing) not long after she took up residence.

Once Annie perfected any particular cat talent she was able, in time, to instruct Gus on these finer points of cattiness, most of which he has perfected in his own sweet way.

If Annie catches it and brings it in, it’s alive. If Gus brings it in it’s as likely to be a flower, stick, leaf, rock, coat hanger, or a newspaper, as it is a living, breathing captive. He’s the perfect son: always bringing his mother gifts.

Annie prances and steps lightly: my priss. Gus stomps: my lug.

Annie gets under the covers and snuggles up to me. Gus plops down on my head, or feet, or any part that I’d rather keep free for movement and comfort.

Annie runs in when it rains. Gus lumbers around to see how long it takes to get dripping wet.

I’m getting away from my little story. Okay, two stories.

I work a lot. They get bored. I try to find new ways to keep them entertained.

Mini marshmallows make fun toys. They roll and are easily subdued on a claw. They’re fun to lick and they bounce. Annie played with hers for a good twenty minutes. Gus lost his in five.

I got on my hands and knees, Gus standing right beside me, and looked under the table and chairs and woodstove. No mini marshmallow. I looked under the fridge, again, Gus standing right beside me. I looked under the wine rack. Forlorn, Gus looked at me and I started to console him and was about to offer him a new marshmallow and that’s when he decided to sit. And I found it—his mini marshmallow—stuck to his tummy!

The next time I wanted new entertainment I googled cat toys. It seemed the most talked about was a box with a lot of holes. I’m cheap. I made one. I took a flat box, 12”x18”x3”, and put twenty 2” holes in the top. I filled it with noisy toys already in their possession. An instant hit!

Jingle bells jingling, little balls rolling, fuzzy toys flying about as they retrieved them from the box. It’s the perfect toy. It brings out the hunter instinct in them and they don’t quit until all the toys are captured. Refill the box and it starts all over.

Let me turn this into a full-circle post and end where I began.

Gus has learned a cat trick of his own. He brought me a lizard. I wanted to put it in the Ziploc box (with holes). Instead, Gus dropped him into one of the twenty 2” holes in the 12”x18”x3” box. End of lizard. End of story.

Don’t know why, but I got a hankerin’ for alligator for supper.

Annie calls! I gotta get these opposable thumbs busy!

‘Til the kits allow,

Arena

Wax On

I haven’t been remiss in my postings. I’ve been in hibernation. Yes, yes. I know what’s going through your mind. Who does she think she’s kidding? She lives in Arizona!

Yes, I do. But I don’t tolerate temperatures much below 70 degrees, so after several nights of single digit temps and several snow storms I decided I’d had enough and pulled an Uncle Luke.

Okay, maybe an explanation is necessary.

Uncle Luke was a great-uncle on my father’s side who practiced the time-proven method of keeping warm in the winter. Lard up, then put on your Sunday (or only) union suit and don’t even think about takin’ off them drawers or bathin’ ‘til at least April! Better yet, May!

Okay. I didn’t go that far. But I have been busy at other things.

I’ve been formatting.

I’ve had several calls from the same woman over the last couple of months. She asks the same questions every time. She wants to know if I can format for Print on Demand to Createspace requirements. She wants to know if I can format for epublication to Amazon KDP and Smashwords requirements. She wants to know if my work looks amateur or if it looks professional. She wants to know if her manuscript is going to look like an indie publication. She doesn’t want it to look like an indie publication. She wants it to look professional.

I’ve answered her questions in a polite and professional manner, but I have a few comments that I haven’t shared with her. This is my favorite.

“I can put a wax job on a Vega, but it still won’t show like a Corvette.”

My point?  What am I starting with?

  • Can I tell where an intended time lapse is supposed to be, or did she put a space between every single stinkin’ paragraph?
  • Did she use the tab key or space bar to indent her paragraphs instead of the handy-dandy paragraph format tool?
  • Did she use the enter key to start a new line instead of letting the program wrap to the next line when necessary?
  • Did she use the hyphen once for a hyphenated word, twice for an em dash, and three times just because two didn’t seem like enough in some places?
  • Did she put cutesy little flourishes here and there that leave code even when deleted and wreak havoc on the format of an epublication?
  • Did she number every page manually? (Go ahead and laugh. I’ve seen it done.)
  • Did she copy and paste headers into the body of the document? (I’ve seen this done. It didn’t make me laugh.)

That’s the short not-to-do list. Some of which I can overcome and work forward. Some I cannot. I have no idea the writer’s intention when it comes to time lapses, or paragraph beginnings and endings, if the writer doesn’t first prepare the manuscript in a professional manner.

I have formatted the book What Would Judy Say, by Judge Judy Sheindlin. It’s available at Amazon in print and ebook.

I have formatted books that have made the Amazon top 100, and one of them, Drive Me Wild: A Western Odyssey, is nominated for the 2013 Colorado Book Awards.

I can’t take credit for the writing, but you can’t drive that Corvette through a pig wallow and expect it to win best in show.

Talkin’ about pig wall’rs and lard has my taste buds screamin’. How ‘bout we cover a couple ½ pound burgers (rare) with a couple strips of crispy bacon and all the fixin’s, then slap them bad boys on plates with a large side of fries and blue cheese dressing for dippin’? You’re buying. Right?

See you around the barbeque grill,

Arena

Cover Girl

All of this because someone asked, “Why should I ask you to do the cover if I have to provide my own artwork?”

Long answer: Sure. I’ll be your Cover Girl. I’ll contend with the font placement, color, size, and effects for the title, sub-title, author name, and tease. I’ll format the spine to include your name, title of the book, and your logo if you have one. I’ll place your picture and a brief bio on a coordinating back cover along with any endorsements, blurbs, or book description as space allows. Nothing of importance will be chopped off or covered up by CreateSpace when they trim the book and place the bar code on the back.

Now, a couple of questions (and a little commentary).

How long did it take you to name your characters? Did you name your hero after someone you admire, pine for, or long to be? And your bad guy? Does his name evoke someone you despise?

I bet you’ve followed these guys around for years. You’ve written down everything they’ve had to say and know every move they’ve made. You know their idiosyncrasies, their hang-outs and hang-ups. You know their monikers, their good-luck charms, their thoughts.  You’ve given them a voice and with it they’ve made you laugh, they’ve made you cry, and if you’ve done them justice, they’ve made you laugh and cry at the same time.

And I wonder if somewhere along the way you tried to talk one of them into an altercation, apology, or attraction they couldn’t or wouldn’t abide by. It’s your own fault, you know. You’ve given them morals.

Where do they live? Are they nestled in comfort amidst the rolling hills or secluded beaches of Virginia? Maybe comfort isn’t an option as they roam the ghettos of New York City, or the hills of Appalachia.

When do they live? Are they witnessing the birth of civilization, the birth of a nation, or the end of an era?

What do they live in? A two-story colonial, a cave beneath the sea, a cardboard box, or a crater on the moon?

There are so many places, personalities, and predicaments that affect your plot. Can you narrow it down, or sum it up with one picture?  Is that picture in color, black and white, or sepia? Is it a photograph, a water color, a pen and ink? Realistic or abstract?

I’ll format your cover. One cover is all you need. The ebooks will use the front only. The POD will have a coordinating spine and back. But I won’t choose the art. And here’s why:

I’m going to format this manuscript for you.

I’ll see the chapter heading, indents, centered text and italics. (Please, no underlined words. And when you use bold you’re just yelling at the reader. Most people I know tend to avoid people that yell at them.)

In your POD manuscript I’ll be adding proper indents, headers, footers, front matter, Table of Contents (in some cases), page breaks, widow and orphan settings, along with font styles and sizes.

In your eBook file I’ll be taking out tables, tabs, and text the size of Texas. Page numbers will be eliminated along with any footnotes or headers.

There is a chance I’ll see a name repeated and think to myself (-; this might be the main character!  But I won’t get an image of him. I won’t know his or her ideals, hopes, dreams, or dilemmas. I doubt I’ll discover where they live, or how they live.  But I’ll know the indents are .3 or less.

People judge a book by its cover (at least that’s where they start). Do you want that cover art to be chosen by someone that has never had the opportunity, or pleasure, of reading your book?

I didn’t think so.

Don’t have a camera? Or maybe you do, but the mermaid won’t stay above water long enough for you to get a decent picture. The gravity, or lack of, on your planet affects your shutter speed. The Anasazi are no longer available for a photo op. It’s cold outside and you don’t want to change from your pajamas to a snowsuit, and if you live in North Dakota there are only three days of the year when it’s warm enough to venture outside without said snowsuit.

There are options!

Search stock photo sites. There are a lot of them out there and you should be able to find just the right picture for that book you’ve worked so hard to complete. Be sure to read their information about exclusive use, non-exclusive use, royalty free, and any restrictions on use. No snowsuit required.

Short answer: You provided the text for me to do the formatting.

I should get back to writing. At this point, if someone tried to make me eat my own words I’d starve to death!

Wish I had some chicken wings from Yuk Yuks and Joe’s! (An Eastville, Virginia Gem!)

Happy photo op,

Arena

 

 

 

 

 

 

Required Reading: Don’t let your dots dangle and other useful information.

Someone asked me if POD stood for P!$$ Off Debora.  Guess it depends on when you ask. So, to keep the veins on my neck from popping and the vessels in my eyes from doing the same, I’m going to make this blog post required reading for prospective clients.

Okay, here’s the deal. For me to get your manuscript from a simple Word .doc to a realized dream, a hold-in-your-hands book, a fruit of your passionate labor, I’ll need you to help me make this as painless as possible. You see, I don’t have health insurance and I tend to go a little Vesuvius when things get out of hand and most of the words that erupt from my mouth cannot be used in the game of scrabble.

Number One: Did you finish editing? Again? Again? Feel secure it’s good to go? You’re not gonna pull the rug out from under this process by sending me a revised Word .doc after I finish formatting the original?

Number Two: Did you finish editing? Oh, I just asked that one. But that’s the one that comes back and bites me you know where making it impossible for me to sit at my computer and finish formatting your manuscript in a timely manner so that you can realize that dream of becoming a published writer. (I’d say author, but an author is someone who has written a book. You want to be someone who writes books. Right? So, You’re a writer! Let’s get your work out there!)

Number Three: Two formatting nightmares are em dashes and ellipses. An em dash is not two hyphens in some places, one in others, or three here and there. It’s one long dash. Originally called the em dash because it took up the width of an ‘m’.  Search your programs help feature for how to insert and em dash and use this feature. It will eliminate inconsistent hyphen usage and keep me from throwing stuff. If you’re not sure how to properly use and em dash I suggest you go to this link http://www.smashwords.com/book/view/44540 and buy the book. Punctuation for Writers is a gold mine of information on how to use punctuation to affect the reader in a particular way and cause a particular reaction—an intended reaction.

Okay, now the ellipsis. Think smart. Don’t leave your dots dangling. That’s what will happen if you place a space between the dots of an ellipsis. Ereaders are different sizes and have font size that can be manipulated to suit the reader. If you put a space between your dots your ellipsis will be free to wrap, one dot here two dots there and so forth, to a different line of text than the rest of its friends. And, if you don’t anchor that ellipses to the word in front of it, and only the word in in front of it, that ellipsis you thought so poetic might get word wrapped to the beginning of the next line of text. Not very poetic any more. Just plain ugly.  An ellipsis is formed by placing three, unspaced dots one after another, and anchored to word before it. (Stole that last line from Punctuation for Writers. Our secret. Right?) If this ellipsis is meant to be the end of a sentence, then a fourth dot, a question mark, or an exclamation mark is used to end that sentence. Again, no space between the ellipsis and the ending punctuation. It’ll look a bit odd to have a question mark, standing all by its lonesome, starting the next line of text.

People used to judge a book by the cover. They dig deeper now. Make the appearance of your manuscript worthy of your story. A poorly formatted book is something you use to prop up one leg of an uneven chair. Not something you put your name on.

I said two nightmares. Make that three. Never, never, ever use the tab key! Yes, I can get rid of all those pesky indents and spaces that were made by the touch of that obnoxious key, but it ain’t always easy.

Number Four: I will get your manuscript to the finished-but-have-a-look state and send you a PDF of the file. I will remind you that odd numbered pages will print on the right, even numbered pages on the left. I will remind you that blank pages with even numbers are intentional. (Most books start a new chapter on the first, right-hand, clean page. Remember, that’s an odd numbered page.)

I will ask that you take a long hard look at your formatted, almost-ready-to-hit-the-publish-key novel. I will ask you to note the page number of any potential problems you happen to see. Maybe even the paragraph where the problem occurs. Don’t make me search for an hour to take an h out of a word so it reads sit instead of… instead of…. Hey, look! An ellipsis!

Send me the list. (But, remember? You’ve edited this manuscript, so it will be a very short list. Right?) Give me some time to make corrections. I’ll send the corrected file, let you have a look see, and upon approval, submit your file to Createspace.

Number Five: (And you thought we were done here.)The cover! Are you committed to your title? How about your sub-title and tease? I hope so. If you’re not sure, you’re not ready to publish. If you need to, poll your facebook audience, ask a friend, phone an expert. Make that million dollar decision. Is this your final answer? Commit before you have me start your cover. Do you want your picture on the back with a brief author bio? Do you have a logo? Do you have any blurbs, endorsements, short description of your book, or other pertinent information for the back cover? (Please be advised: There isn’t enough room for the King James Version of the bible. Although, the last time I was in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, I was told it could be carved into a piece of rice. Didn’t buy it then. Don’t buy it now.)

What font do you envision for your title, sub-title, tease? What color font? We’re close to the finish line!

Number Six: (And the list goes on and on.) Price? What price do I set for my book? I hear this all the time. Go to this website, http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=6818, and look around. Not only will you find pricing information, you’ll find a wealth of information on indie publishing.

Okay, let’s review:

Edit. (Don’t make me throw stuff ‘cause you skipped this step.)

Edit. (Just in case you didn’t read it out loud the first time read it out loud this time. The neighbors already question your sanity. Give them what they want. Strike a Siddhasana pose on your front lawn and emote. If you stammer and stumble through your manuscript imagine what it will do to your prospective reader.)

Buy Punctuation for Writers. (Or, at least go to the writer’s website www.harveystanbrough.com and peruse his blog posts. You’ll find all kinds of stuff to help you become a successful writer.) Yes, you can have twenty exclamation marks on a page, but please don’t put five in a row! A clean manuscript is easy on the eyes. He’ll teach you this, and more.

I’ll send you the PDF of your manuscript. Don’t assume it’s perfect! We know what happens when you ass-u-me. Right? Read through it. Is it formatted the way you intended? Did you take the h out of sit before you sent it to me? Yes. Because you edited! Right? And please don’t ask for a file so that you might make a few corrections on your own. If I fix a file and you fix a file, then we have two completely different files! I need all the corrections on one file. The file I keep. Send me a list. I’ll make the corrections. File done. You’ll see it before it’s submitted.

Now that I have a completed file I now know the number of pages in your book. I need that information before I can finish the cover. Why? I need to know how thick the spine will be. Remember all the work we did for the cover design. Now we want that cover to fit this book. We want this to be a book you’ll be proud to have your name on. (Use someone else’s book to prop up that unsteady chair.)

Okay, don’t relax and pat yourself of the back yet! Order your Createspace proof. Ahhh, yes! Hold that smooth cover against your cheek, smell that ebony ink on those beautiful white page, kiss that enchanting picture of you on the back cover. Now… READ IT! Yes. I yelled at you. Please, read your proof. It’s not too late for necessary corrections. Necessary. That’s the key word. No rewrites.

Once you’ve approved your proof it’s on to the next phase. Ebooks! The first hurdle, the POD, was the biggest. The rest is a walk in the park.

A disclaimer here. If you’ve read this and found mistakes it’s because I don’t edit! I format. But, I’ve yelled at you. I s’pose you have the right to yell back.

All this yelling has worked up my appetite. I need a pick-it-up, shove-it-in-my-mouth, let-the-juice-dribble-down-my-arms, kind’a sandwich. A side of slaw would be nice. Better yet, just pile it on top!

Write what you know. Edit what you write. Polish it up with good formatting.

I’m gonna polish off that sandwich.

Arena

P.S. In case you got the wrong idea, I love to format stuff!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stupid Motorist Law

I live in Arizona—home of the Stupid Motorist law. For those of you not familiar with this particular law let me give you a glimpse into the need.

We don’t get a lot of rain out here in the desert southwest. We replace dry rotted windshield wipers at least once a year in hopes that we’ll get to use the new set when monsoon season kicks in around the middle of June.  Sometimes we get to use them. Sometimes not.

Monsoon is when the thunderheads build to gully washing capacity and dump their bounty onto the usually desert and filling the usually dry washes, creeks and rivers. When the clouds let lose many of the washes swell to overflowing in a matter of minutes crossing roads and moving at a swift pace. There are signs all over the desert southwest that many tourists laugh about. ‘Do Not Enter When Flooded’ and ‘No Fishing From the Bridge’ are just two such signs. But they’re no laughing matter.

Enter a flooded wash and you’ll be swept away in seconds and it could take months to find what’s left of you, if any trace at all. It’s fact. It happens every year. Someone thinks they can beat the odds and just go for it. Those lucky ones who are rescued incur the cost of that rescue. Ambulance, helicopter, hospital, police and rescue teams all need to be paid and you’ll be the one footing the bill. That’s the law.

The same is true for publishing your own novel, memoir, poetry, or non-fiction. Adhere to the signs! Many writers think they can beat the odds. Jump in with both feet and come out with a best seller. Those are some mighty slim odds—about the same as entering a flooded wash and coming out on the other side with a smile on your face and dignity intact.  It ain’t gonna happen.

Want to do it right? Hire an editor. Hire someone to format. Hire someone to design a cover. Okay, editor first, please. And listen to him!

You can shop around for someone to format while the edit is in progress, but don’t give a rough copy to the formatter and expect them to format and put in edit after edit after edit. The editor edits. The formatter formats. Once the file is in the formatter’s hands it’s tweaked, reshaped, front matter is added, author info is added, so if you find you used ‘crazy’ on page thirty-eight and now you wish you’d used ‘insane’ and want the formatter to make just that little itty bitty change while they’re at it, well, it’s no longer on page thirty-eight. How can the formatter ever finish formatting if they’re editing?

The editor edits. The formatter formats. The file that you give to the formatter should be a clean, ready to go, no changes needed file. You should have your author bio ready to place at the end. You should have credits ready for the front matter. You should have a dedication prepared. You should know if you want the chapters to start on the first clean page or the first clean right-hand page.  Do you need a Table of Contents? All of these things needs to be decided before the formatting process begins.

And while we’re on the subject. Ebook? Of course you want your work available for kindle, nook, apple, and just about any tablet, PC, Mac, or Android. But the formatting is different. And, once again, you need to start with a clean file. Chances are the person doing your formatting can do POD and ebook.

And the cover? Do you have a photo? Artwork? Is it digital? Sub-title? Author picture for the back cover? Logo you want to use on this and future works?

Think about the end result. Think about all the other writers who have jumped in the raging waters of self-publishing and have been swept away because they didn’t adhere to the signs. They are buried in the sand of the remains of others who didn’t adhere to the signs.

So what’s it gonna be. Jump in, and then call for a lifeline when your sales and returns wash each other out and hope it’s not too late and that you haven’t disgruntled too many readers? Or are you going to do it right the first time and build a reputation as a writer with a good read—a writer who earns the respect of the reader and keeps them coming back for more.

Read any article on self-publishing, and then adhere to their tried and true advice. Put your best into everything you write. Hire an editor and listen to what he has to say. Hire someone to format your work so that it will be accepted into premium catalogs for better exposure. Hire someone to design a ‘pick me up and read me’ cover.

Now, I bet you’re wondering how you’ll make any money if you hire all of these people to help you adhere to the signs. Sure, you have to pay them. An edit—several Franklins. Formatting—a couple more Franklins. Cover— a Grant or two. A reputation as a writer worthy of a Hamilton? Priceless.

It’s not hydroscience. It’s just good common sense. And you’ll come out on the other side of the river with a smile on your face and dignity intact.

Oh, and the ‘No Fishing From the Bridge’ sign? I’ll take catfish over flounder any day of the week! Fried of course.

Gonna get off of here and dig out the fishin’ pole,

Arena

 

 

 

 

Tilt-A-Whirl

 

This is a two person task. One person is to read the following paragraph while the other counts how many times the reader’s head spins around.

Susie stands still and let the emotions wash over her. She feared it would be worse. She thought she was going to be left behind. She needs this job to get her into her new life. Connie is an amazing friend and has promised to help her reconnect with her only surviving family, Dean, her spirited brother, is out West. She has to find him. Her friendship has nearly cost her the dream. She swallowed her fearful tears and gets back to work.

Nope. I checked. I copied it word for word except I changed the names. Did you feel as though you’d just gotten off the Tilt-A-Whirl? Maybe a little nausea was starting to creep in?

That is an example of present tense narrative. At least it’s supposed to be. Seems the author got a little mixed up along the way.  Present tense is annoying when written well. It’s not natural. And when written poorly, present tense is down- right throw-the-book-out-the-window aggravating!

I downloaded the novel and after the first page I was dizzy, but I felt I owed it to the author to read the entire story. You know. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Yep. I knew better, but I did it anyway. I won’t need to go to Disney World for a long, long time.

Take a look at the books on Amazon. The genre is clearly stated, and it’s nice to know, before you buy, that it’s the kind of book you enjoy. Right? Suppose the genre wasn’t listed. You might end up with a horror story when you really wanted a good romance, (Yes. Sometimes they’re one and the same, but we won’t go there. At least… not today.)  or a science fiction when you were in the mood for a good western. And yes, Cowboys and Aliens is a bit of both, but I’m getting away from the point I wanted to make.

A writer is allowed his own style (between the book covers it’s his world, and no one has the right to change his world), but in all fairness to me as a reader (a lowly creature who helps keep the lights turned on for the writer), the writer should, at the very least, as a courtesy, state the tense in which the story is written. Give me, the reader, a chance to decide which writers I’ll pay so they can afford to keep their lights on, day and night, to supply me with endless good reads, and which writers (I hope) keep their day job so they can afford a class or two about writing in the natural voice of narrative—past tense.

Just my humble opinion.

And if anybody wants to know, I’ll take a county fair, or carnival, over Disney World any day of the week. There’s enough material to be gleaned from the locals who flock to the tents, fun houses, and parking lots to keep a writer busy until his real lights go out. And who can resist funnel cakes, elephant ears, or a dribble-down-your-arm Indian fry bread Taco! Not me!

I’m hungry, so I’ll shut up now.

Debora

(Debora goes to the refrigerator. She pulls out the refried beans and puts them in the microwave. She salivates as she thinks about Indian fry bread tacos. We can only hope she trips over a cat, hits her head on the counter, and remains unconscious until her brain is rewired to write narrative in past tense.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arizona’s Natural Wonders

Arizona is chock-full of natural wonders and I’ll bet the first one to cross your mind is the Grand Canyon. I’ve never been to the Grand Canyon. The last time I asked someone to take me I was told it was just a big hole in the ground, nothing more, no need to see it. I think that was my proverbial straw. That’s when I finally realized I’d dug myself a big hole, climbed in, and handed the shovel to the wrong person. I needed to find a way out of that big hole. I needed to breathe fresh air. I needed to see some of the natural wonders of Arizona whether others recognized their beauty or not. I wanted to be the beholder. I wanted a chance to form my own opinion.

Climbing out of that big hole wasn’t easy, but I’d done it before. It takes a lot of paper, one sheet on top of the other, but it works. Here’s how I did it. I started writing again. One page became twenty. Twenty became two hundred. I was closing in on two thousand pieces of paper before the air began to clear and breathing was, once again, a joy and not just a reflex.

I might not ever see the Grand Canyon, but I’ve seen quite a few of Arizona’s other natural wonders. They are the writers who call Arizona their home. I’ve seen, met, and read the writers of Arizona. I’ve been to the Wrangling With Writing conference, I’ve been to the SSA forum, and I’ve been to numerous Writing the Word seminars. I don’t think I could go anyplace else on earth and find anything more wondrous than the encouragement and knowledge these talented writers share with anyone who finds themselves in a big hole.

Still have that shovel handy? Find an enabler. Find someone who understands that a closed door, or crossed arms and furrowed brow while staring at a blank computer screen, means ‘Do Not Disturb’. An enabler will place a fresh cup of coffee on your desk and you won’t even know they’ve entered and exited the room. An enabler will read your rough draft, your second draft, your fifteenth edit and give an honest opinion in an encouraging manner.  An enabler will place a pen in your briefcase and plant a kiss on your cheek as you go out into the big, wide world to your first, second, fifteenth seminar or conference. An enabler will put that shovel in the shed, or use it to prop the refrigerator door shut because they understand why you don’t have time to fix it.

Enjoy Arizona’s natural wonders. Read local!

I can’t end this way! I haven’t mentioned my favorite topic(besides reading). Another Arizona wonder: The chimicanga!

Happy reading, eating, and WRITING!

Arena

 

 

Food for Thought

I’m sitting here with a large jug of mixed nuts. I have my favorites but, as with most other foods, I don’t discriminate. However, there are a few foods I avoid at all cost.

I’ve never been a fan of headcheese. Now don’t go thinking it’s a squeamish thing. At least not when I’m talking about good American cuisine. I love boiled pigs feet, cow tongue, and mountain oysters. The best part of a soft crab is the legs that temptingly splay or dangle, depending how I chose to order. I’ve eaten any edible part of a deer, squirrel, pheasant, elk, or anything else my father bagged. I don’t mind sushi, but like Alan Jackson I prefer mine southern fried.

I’ve never liked green olives. I don’t mind black if they’re battered and deep fried, or as a topping for pizza. I’ve tried to like the green ones. Stuffed with jalapéno. Stuffed with garlic. Stuffed with almonds. Nope. Just don’t like them and you can’t dress them up to suit me. I don’t throw them at the cook. I just move them to the side of my plate.

That’s my short list of foods I’d rather not see on my plate.

I’m sitting here with my kindle.(It goes well with nuts). I have a favorite genre, but I don’t discriminate. However, there are a few I avoid at all cost.

Okay, present tense is a style, but I don’t enjoy it. I have to push my way through anything written in present tense. It’s annoying. It’s not natural. And the few I have pushed through, well, the author slipped up and threw in a past tense and I ended up all over the place. Sometimes in the same sentence!

I don’t read many horror stories, or vampire, or paranormal. I have my nightmares for that and they sometimes work overtime as it is.

I do enjoy a little science fiction now and then. And classics. Jane Austin and Edith Wharton come to mind, but there are countless others I enjoy. I can lose myself in magic realism for an afternoon, or day, or week. Anyone who hasn’t read a classic or magic realism should give them a try.

If you’ve poked around my website you might have noticed that I mention westerns quite a bit. They are my favorite. There are modern day cowboy stories, romance westerns, historical westerns, and historical western romance to name a few sub-genres. I don’t read many modern day westerns, but I have read a few and enjoyed them. The historical westerns are at the top of my list. The Dan Baldwin books listed on my page are excellent examples of a good read and he has more in the works. I also enjoyed the Steve Dancy Tales by James D. Best. If you really have to have a little (or a lot) of romance I recommend Under the Desert Moon by Marsha Canham.

Okay. Why am I telling you this? Read! And if you have an eReader many of the books won’t cost you a dime. Amazon lists more free books every day—classics, westerns, romance, horror, paranormal, magic realism, children, young adult, and more. Free! Did I say free? Nada, zip, zilch!  Put down your remote. (How much is your cable bill?) Go to amazon.com or smashwords.com and download some free entertainment for the whole family. If you’re not into classics, then try a book by an independent publisher. Save a trip to the library and never worry about late fees. Go ahead. Download a free book. When you find an author or genre you like, then take the plunge and buy a book. Don’t want to pull out that credit card over and over again? Join amazonPrime and for less than a month of cable you get a year of instant access to thousands of kindle books. Okay, you also get instant streaming of movies and TV shows and free two day shipping for all those amazon deals you keep finding, but don’t forget to read!

My favorite food? Bacon!

‘Til next time,

Happy reading

 

 

 

Dine in, delivery, or carry-out?

“Wow! What a great idea! And they all work well for everything from chop suey to pizza to gourmet meals.”

How many times have you come home from an exhausting day at work, opened the fridge, then picked up the phone. “Delivery, Please. Yeah. An extra-large super-supreme with the works.”

Twenty agonizing minutes later the doorbell rings. By now you’re stripped down to you comfy clothes, cold beverage of choice in hand.  You place your beverage on the table next to your recliner and hurry to the door.  You sniff the air as you accept the familiar cardboard box, then caress the lid with anticipation. “Thanks, man. Didn’t feel like drivin’ and didn’t have a thing in the house that looked appetizing.”

Back at your recliner, box in your lap, you caress the lid once more. A smile crosses your face as you lift the lid and breathe in the intoxicating aroma of melted mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, green bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, pickles (hey, you were the one that ordered and extra-large super-supreme with the works). Okay, you get the picture. But wait! Don’t you want a good book to read while you eat that pizza?

“A good book? Sounds like a great idea!”

Nothing on the shelf you haven’t read. Don’t feel like going to the library (your pizza would get cold). Go back to the title of this post.

“Dine in, delivery, or carry out? What? I thought we were talking about books!”

We are. Swivel that recliner so you’re facing your computer. Now, go to smashwords.com and type in the type of toppings… I mean… genre you prefer.  Check out those reviews! Check out that cover! Check out the cover tease!

“Wow! Look at that! Just the kind of book I’ve been searchin’ for!”

Now, if you want it as a side with your pizza just have it delivered. Yes, you heard me. And it will take less time to get there than the pizza. Under a minute. I can see by the look on your face you don’t believe me. Try it. Push the button that says deliver to my kindle (or another eReader, your PC or Mac). Take a deep breath. Now read!

“Wow! There it is! That was easy!”

Try it again. Download a horror story, a magic realism, a western, or that romance novel you didn’t want your friends at work to know you wanted to read. Go on. You know you want to.

“But wait a minute. I saw your website. You promote POD.”

I promote reading. If you want it now, order an eBook. If you can wait a few days, order a Print On Demand and have it delivered to your door. There are a lot of independent authors out there who write a heck of a good story. Support them. Write a review for them. Visit their websites, blogs, and Facebook pages.

Dine in the next time you’re near a library. Pick-up the next time you’re near a bookstore. Or just have it delivered (as you sit with your piping hot pizza and cold beverage) by visiting smashwords.com or any number of other eReader friendly sites.

I see you’ve picked Caldera by Dan Baldwin. Good choice! I think you’ve got the hang of it! Mind if I have a slice of that pie? Okay, I know that look. I’ll let myself out.

‘Til next time,

(maybe we’ll do chop suey and a mystery)

Arena