Wednesday, July 4, 2018

July 4th: Becoming a Less Meaningful Holiday?

I describe my blog posts as about reading, writing, publishing, and my occasional musings. Today, July 4, 2018, is a musing post.

It could simply be the perspective of an (ahem) older adult, but the Fourth of July did not arrive with my usual feeling of gratitude for our freedoms. As a child, I lived in a community with a morning parade and an afternoon of picnics and games. You sort of needed the water balloon toss to get cleaned up after the egg toss. Fireworks at night, of course.

A couple of years I won the essay contest for my age group -- always related to democracy or freedom. I don't remember the topics, but I kept the little plastic trophies for decades.

Now I live in an apartment complex on the edge of a larger city. There will be fireworks tonight, and parades probably pop up in surrounding towns. Neither are necessary to maintain pride in my country, so what am I missing?

I'm the only patron in Starbucks wearing anything red/white/blue. (After an hour-and-a-half a girl about eight came in wearing tie die colors. So, two of us.) I have on a flag and another button that is a peace sign in flag colors. One barista has a bandana with stars. Symbols are only that.

Words matter more. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence said it well:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Actions matter most. I think one reason I love Star Trek is that its characters and a number of plots embody the concepts in the preamble. I do recall a Klingon objecting (in Star Trek VI) to the term 'human rights' as racist. Since we humans have not been able to discuss the preamble concepts with people from another planet, I think it works for now. 

If only we could agree that all people have unalienable rights.When white colonists wanted to be free from what they regarded as European oppression, they wrote the preamble, and meant those words -- for themselves (not nonwhites or women, of course). We've made some progress, but not without a lot of protest and pain to get there.

Unalienable rights are those that cannot be taken away or denied. In the U.S., it seems they are still largely for people who have or can claim power. They aren't for those those some people regard as alien, even if they are far more brave than many of us are.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

In the Shadow of Light -- Learning to Put Kids First

Most of my books are lighthearted cozy mysteries. I don't shy away from real-world issues -- Jolie Gentil heads a food pantry, the protagonist in Falling Into Place has PTSD. People confront such things every day, so I include them, often adding a bit of humor.

I steer clear of politics and religion (except for jokes between a couple of men of the cloth) because readers pick up my books for entertainment and escape.

And then the U.S. government started taking kids away from their parents and I felt a more visceral anger than I'd ever imagined could be directed at politicians. How dare they inflict such cruelty on kids, many of whom are escaping terror in their homelands? I cried.

And then, because logic could not possibly matter to decision-makers who would do such things, I wrote.

In the Shadow of Light is the story of Corozón and Kyra, one Honduran, one American, both taken from their parents. Readers know the depth of Kyra's parents' grief, but not that of Corozón's mother. In the real world, most people don't care about women like her.

There are touching moments in this 20,000 word novella, and some parts of the ending are happy. I hope reading their stories will help people feel more empathy for refugees (because that's what people fleeing terror are) and devise better ways to treat them with dignity.

I don't want to lose readers by giving a voice to these children. But had I been too timid to stand up to blatant bullies, shame on me. I wouldn't deserve loyal readers.

You can find In the Shadow of Light in ebook and paper, at major retailers. Large print (and more retailers) available soon.
Amazon  BN   Amazon International GooglePlaSmashwords

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

When Authors Put Kids in Books

I love the sense of humor many children have. Sometimes it's intentional, sometimes adults smile because of a child's literal interpretation of the world. I still remember a niece asking to see the frog I said I had in my throat.

Putting children in a story can be a challenge. Their thought processes need to reflect their age group; their humor or beliefs can't be those of an adult. Most of all, they need to have a role to play, not simply be literary trinkets.

I placed pre-school Jessie in Falling into Place as the companion Grandpa Everett was most comfortable with. Children don't judge, and an adult who is ill-at-ease with other adults can have a chance to shine with a child who loves them. 

The most I considered the kidlet question was in creating three-year old twins for the 11th Jolie Gentil book. Lance and Leah don't solve any part of a puzzle, but they do add color and the occasional sense of contemplation. I quickly decided several things:

  • Children are better added when they can function somewhat on their own, otherwise the adults have to constantly cater to their needs. 
  • Two kids can be better than one (if reasonably close in age) because they can amuse one another.
  • Kids can limit the danger parents are willing to place themselves in. What sleuth wants to leave a child without a mom or dad? For a mystery, parental caution doesn't always contribute well to suspense.
  • Readers have different perspectives on what children of a certain age are capable of. They may pause to think "would a four-year-old really do that?"
The last point came up several times in my critique group as they read Underground in Ocean Alley. Consensus seemed to be that the three-year olds were way too verbal. That led to several discussions with my family members. 

I finally went with what my sister and I agreed on. Lance and Leah were just like most of the kids in our family -- toddlers who were smart, funny, and quick to speak. I couldn't bring myself to use 'baby dialect' or limit their vocabularies.

That's not to say I'll never create a shy child who doesn't have conversations with adults at age three. My bottom line is that I have to be comfortable with continuing child characters, far more so than adult personas. And I like the fact that smart child characters can sometimes outsmart me.

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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Memories of Family Who Served and How They Affect My Writing

As the daughter and niece of World War II veterans, I grew up very aware of the importance of what they did and how it affected them for the rest of their lives. Like many veterans of that war, my father (Miles D. Orr) never spoke of tragedies he witnessed -- except once, to my brother shortly before he died. And he said his stories could not be repeated. 

Instead, his family heard about the time near the end of the war when he was in Switzerland -- by then out of North Africa and Italy, serving as flight engineer for a general. A shutterbug, he took pictures, but then left his camera on a train. Without a name on it, he never expected to see the camera again.

However, someone on the train found it and remembered the GIs. Somehow the Good Samaritan figured out where some U.S. service members were staying and returned the camera. A happy memory.

I have all those pictures, including one with a group of Italian children, smiling but clearly showing the stress of war, some in tattered clothes. On the back, he wrote, "All my children." When asked, he said he had given them his chocolate.

Miles led a 'normal' life -- suburban home, assistant boy scout leader, (a not very good) girls' softball coach, purveyor of coffee and donuts after church for many years. He also spent hundred of hours in a small, dark room in the basement, where he wrote happy stories about families, a lot of poetry, and a novel about "Long Gone Decker" -- a Marine who survived killing and lived an almost idyllic life. Brighter than the dark room to which Miles sometimes retreated. 

World War II Family Service

Miles and two brothers put together two Model Ts to make one driveable car, and set out to see the U.S. in the mid-1930s. They sometimes visited their sister's house in Washington, DC. Good to see family and free food. It makes sense that they enlisted in 1940, when they had ended up in Florida. Note his postcard informing the family. Lots less structure as the nation scrambled to pull together resources to defeat two heinous war-mongerers.

Miles D. Orr served in the U.S. Army Air Corp, which preceded the USAF. He served in North Africa and Italy, and later as the flight engineer for the general who took over as Commander of the European Theater when Dwight Eisenhower became Supreme Allied Commander.

William Tom Orr served in the U.S. Army and received the Silver Star for directing traffic (a.k.a. men and weapons) on the beach at Normandy, on D Day. He had not expected to do that, but saw others with that responsibility mowed down. No one was moving and he decided, "Well, I'm an MP, so I better do this."

James Harold Orr served in the U.S. Army, in Panama and the Pacific, including time as an air base mechanic. His sister Kat said that he was very different after, near the end of the war, being assigned to transfer the bodies of killed service members from bags to coffins, which were then sent to families.

Dwight Seneker, husband of Elizabeth Orr, served a a contractor who inspected radios for ships. He moved his family to Philadelphia to do this -- very different from rural Missouri.

Curtis Jackson, husband of Katherine Orr, enlisted in the Navy. Prior to enlisting, he had a sign in front of his Mount Vernon, MO gas station that said, "Turn your rubber heels into fighting wheels."

Otis Goodwin, husband of Florence Orr, enlisted in the Navy near the end of the war. As an aside, Florence roomed with Rita Rooney in Washington, DC, which is how Miles met his wife.

Mary Frances (Orr) Schnake and husband Ed moved to California to work in a munitions plant. The money they saved let them buy a farm in Lawrence County, MO, which became the family gathering place for decades.

Marguerite (Orr) Harlowe and husband Clarence had moved to Washington, DC in the mid-1930s, and their home was the family hub during the war. Widowed mom Jessie (Cochran) Orr and youngest daughter Florence lived there sometimes during the war, in part because Jessie figured none of her sons could get to Missouri if they ever had leave, but they might get to DC. Clarence's income kept a lot of people solvent.

Paul Henry Orr, oldest son and husband to Ruth Hood, was older, and did not serve. He farmed and raised poultry in Missouri. Someone had to feed the country.

Beyond World War II

Several of my first cousins served before or during Vietnam. Douglas Seneker became an MP in large part after paying rapt attention to his Uncle Tom Orr's stories. Doug also served in the reserves. Tom's son Glenn served in the Air Force for 30 years, much of it in the nuclear missile program. He retired as a colonel. Doug's grandson joined the Army in 2016.

Harold's sons Pat and Sid served in Vietnam and then had full careers in the Air Force. Sid also did an early stint in the Marines. After retirement, he taught for years in the soldier-to-teacher program in Georgia.

Miles' grandson, John R. Fisher, decided on September 11, 2001 (a day shy of age 10) that he would serve in some capacity. He is with the Air Force and has been posted overseas and in the U.S. 

Interesting to note is that Miles soured on the Vietnam War -- not those who served, as he often said -- and didn't want his sons to be drafted. That from a man who was thrilled when he found out he and Rita could be included in the Columbarium in Arlington National Cemetery.

Memories and Stories Inform My Writing

I've never based any characters on real people. That seems far too limiting. Possibly because I grew up appreciating what my dad and his brothers did, I have featured veterans or their families in some of my books.

First was a young adult novella, Biding Time. A DC teen focuses on his MIA uncle, his namesake, who was lost in Vietnam. In some ways, that loss saved the nephew, Franklin Myers.

In the Jolie Gentil series, two homeless veterans feature in several books. One, Max, sustained a serious TBI. It is only through the support of the Ocean Alley crew that he can have an independent life, and he has some memorable scenes in The Unexpected Resolution. I wanted homeless vets to be part of the story line, so we never forget.

By far the most prominent vet in any story is Everett, in Falling into Place. He served in North Africa during World War II, and came home with what we would now call PTSD. That affected his life and family, but this Iowa-based novella is the story of his close-knit family as much as him. Everett evolves with humor and grace. Falling Into Place took more than fifteen years to finish. It had to be just right.

Sharing Miles' Letters and Reflections

Miles wrote poetry all his life. None specifically addressed his time in the military, though a poem that talks about drifting through life probably benefited from those experiences. Before he died in 1994, I did a booklet of his poems, and later made it into a self-published book on his behalf.

Then, of all miracles, when Aunt Marguerite (a.k.a. Aunty or Jack) died, her daughter Barbara found a pile of letters Dad wrote to her family during the war. He talks about everyone, often as a result of what she said in her correspondence. He mentions what he can of his life, though letters were censored to be sure soldiers didn't reveal any war information.

Prior to this discovery, we had a box of letters he wrote to our Mom. He met her at his sister's house near the end of the war, when home on a brief leave. Those were fairly short love letters, with little mention of what he was doing or other people in his life. 

The treasure trove of lengthy correspondence HAD to become a book, so I combined his poetry and letters into a paperback, Portrait Through Poetry: Poems and Letters. (A Kindle version was recently revised to include the letters as well as the poems.) In addition to life and loneliness, he and his sister talk about books!

There can never be a better gift. I've just redone the cover, and I think it better reflects his life. The little boy on his lap is USAF grandson Jack, who would only climb up there for French fries.

Celebrating Memorial Day

When I grew up in Maryland, we had no family graves to tend. Everyone was in Missouri or Kansas. When I moved to the Midwest in 1994, I decorated family headstones, often those of my husband's family in Iowa. Many have military plaques. 

My cousins have watched over our ancestors all their lives. With families more spread out than ever, it may be hard to visit (or even appreciate) ancestors' resting places. Thanks to Find-A-Grave, you can look at the graves. 

Seem morbid? I don't think so. The more sound our perspective on those who came, and served, before us, the more strongly we are rooted in today. The better we can serve our country in whatever way we choose.
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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Making Your Words Count

I tend to write in a fairly sparse style -- not a lot of description, to-the-point dialogue (unless a character is a chatterbox), and verbs that hold  their own.

In grade school, my seventh grade teacher told us to minimize 'helper verbs.' She was talking about "to be" and "to have," as I remember, and her words slid from my memory. I should have paid more attention. In trying to become a better editor of my own work, I've become a fiend about getting rid of forms of "to be," especially the word 'was.' 

"He was going to find out" becomes the more precise "He intended to find out." Better would be, "He intended to learn."
"She was looking for the lost dog" becomes "She searched for the lost dog."

In both of cases, you lose a helper verb and a gerund -- a twofer. I think my critique group may be tired of me making such suggestions.

Sometimes simple past tense works better. For example, in the second paragraph I said "she was talking about." Why not "she talked" about or "she discussed?"

I've never been much of a metaphor user. I figure if you can't describe something in and of itself, maybe the description needs to be reworked. If you listen to a lot of audio books, as I do, you notice authors who use metaphors a lot.
Grammarly defines a metaphor as "a figure of speech that describes  an object or action in a way that isn't literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison." 

Often metaphors use the words like or as. "The waves on the sand moved as fast as an ant carrying a treat." Equally unnecessary (to my thinking) is, "The hot sun shone like a ball of fire."

Metaphors can simply be used to call to mind something other than the item being described. One of my least-favorite metaphors is "milky white breasts," closely followed by "death's vise-like grip." I suppose both of those also qualify as cliches. 

I was going to mention the author I think most over-uses metaphors, but thought better of it. Who am I to criticize someone who sells millions of books? I love the author's plots.

So much to learn, so little time to edit...
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Monday, April 30, 2018

2018 Chanticleer Conference

The April 20-22 conference of Chanticleer authors in Bellingham, Washington, was an opportunity to meet writers from around the country. The mix of conference workshops and awards celebration made for a special weekend. I'm posting a few photos of those I learned from.

Sessions addressed writing and post-publication activities. Wendy Kendall gave an overview of social media marketing, while Janet Shawgo stayed in the real world.
Janet Shawgo
She has had great success working with wineries who cross-promote their products and her books. She also suggested authors look to grocery stores, noting that Kroger in Texas is especially hospitable to local authors.

Elizabeth Craig was among those who talked about the need for authors to use YouTube or other visual methods to get their message across.

Several others talked about using two programs -- Audacity and Animoto. Dawn Groves noted the average attention span is 30 seconds. That is a good amount of time for an author book trailer that uses images rather than videos. 

Still images can be made with PowerPoint, with Audacity providing the voice over. I have much to learn.
Ann Charles writes three mystery series, and talked about creating a world for each one. She also gave me a smile when she mentioned being cited twice as a USA Today best-selling author, and not realizing that she was one until she looked it up.  She is shown with one of the tri-folds that describe her series.

I enjoyed talking to Matthew D. Hunt, author of Solar Reboot. He produces short movies as well as writes, and his perspective was informative. I've also been reading the book and like it.

B.J. Craige, E. Orr, S. Tate
Though I was disappointed not to win a Murder and Mayhem award for Demise of a Devious Neighbor, I sat next to Betty Jean Craige when she won for Fairfield's Auction. Fun to watch her win, and to discuss writing with another author for whom it is a second career.

Back to writing. Demise of a Devious Suspect (River's Edge series) just went to its publisher, and Underground in Ocean Alley (Jolie Gentil series) is underway. 
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Friday, April 20, 2018

One Site for Multiple E-Readers

I often write about publishing books on multiple sites, but which site helps readers with multiple devices?

Because I publish books on all sites, I have a Kindle, Nook, Samsung device, and an Android phone. I also bought an older iphone so I could use its Internet capability to see ibooks. I'm an equal opportunity device reader, but I'm not about to buy multiple copies of a book if I can avoid it. 

Enter Smashwords.The site lets you purchase a book (generally by self-published authors) and download it in multiple formats. Books are also available as text and PDF, should you not own a reader and want to read on your computer.

Smashwords has a lot of fiction, but also a great deal of nonfiction, including literary criticism and how-to guidance. A number of books are free. I have a couple of free short stories on the site. However, I write for me and publish for income, so I'm not big on constant freebies. Many authors are.

Try a new author or search for new ones.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Finding Your Nonfiction Angle

When I'm stumped by a plot or character, my mind wanders. I might write a blog post or work on other nonfiction. I don't think of it as easier writing, it's simply what I did most of my life so it's sort of relaxing.

Everyone is an expert on something. But unless you are the first Martian to land on earth (that we know of) and want to talk about the reception you received, your nonfiction book or article will not cover new territory. That's okay. You'll have a different perspective or perhaps better way of presenting something.

Even before you begin to do background reading or jot ideas for an outline, think about why a reader would pick up your book. It’s the “who is your audience” point.
Everything from vocabulary to sentence length is determined by your reader base. Your vocabulary has to match the readers’ level of interest. A book on plumbing repair is very different if your audience is new homeowners or plumbers studying for a certification exam.

There may be one hundred recent books on how to travel on a budget. It’s okay to believe you can write a good one. If you want to sell that book, it’s essential that you let potential readers know why yours is better. It can be comprehensive, shorter, clearer, based on your trip in which you visited seven countries and spent only $2,000 – anything that makes you stand out. 

Once you have a potential topic, you want to see what else has been written. Keep in mind your writing can make a difference. If you don’t believe this, you’ll feel defeated as soon as you start seeing what else is already out there. 

I still have “why do I bother?” moments from time to time. Ironically, they are more likely to come about when I’m in an art museum than a library. 

How do you go about seeing what’s already in print or online? It might be tempting to start with a search on Amazon or BN, but I suggest you take a trip to your local library. A library’s digital catalog will often list a lot more books on a topic than an online retailer, which usually only lists what they sell. At the library you can also look at a book’s table of contents and peruse the chapters. 

What the online retailers have that libraries may not are self-published books. Since the Kindle became affordable in 2009/2010 (depending on your perspective of affordable), many of us have taken our fiction and nonfiction directly to readers. If you decide to self-publish, these may be your primary competitors – especially in terms of digital price. 

Finally, do an online search via Google or Bing, or any search site. This will turn up blog posts, possibly magazine and journal articles. 

I suggest that you make notes about what’s out there, but make no effort to read much of it. You’re in a discovery phase. You don’t want to become discouraged or tailor your topic to what someone else has said or not said.  

Your goal is to write your top-quality article or book. 

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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

How Much Dialect is Too Much?

A character's dialect encompasses pronunciation, inflection, even word choices. If a story is set in a region with a strong dialect, the author's choice becomes how the characters should portray it.

When readers think of dialect, they tend to think accents.

An author might say that a visiting grandfather has a strong southern accent and then throw in an occasional y'all. Or the choice could be to emphasize every southern inflection. "I'm not sure what you people are talking about" becomes "Ahm not sure what y'all are talkin' about."

I tend to work first with word choices. For example, in the Midwest, a house could be referred to as of frame construction (wood as opposed to brick), while in New England that's a clapboard house. And how is it pronounced? It's clabberd. That's not a word I would spell phonetically, though when working with a narrator for an audiobook, it's a word I'm sure to check.

One of my earliest books (Secrets of the Gap) was set in England with a mix of American and British speakers. I decided to inject occasional British terminology (shed-ule instead of schedule) rather than have different English language pronunciations for Americans and Brits. (Plus, I would have flubbed it.)

When deciding how much local dialect to include, I think of authenticity and distraction level. I want to recognize there may be a distinct way of talking, but I don't want readers to get tired of constant spelling variations. I also don't want readers to spend time critiquing how I chose to portray a speech pattern. I want them to focus on the story.

Critique groups and beta readers are great resources for assessing speech patterns and word choices. I wish I had a dollar for every time a critique group member said, "They wouldn't say it that way." I could buy a new car. Or go to six writers' conferences a year.
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Friday, March 9, 2018

Picking Blogs to Read

I used to follow a number of blogs and tried to read each post. After all, I selected them because the topics or their authors appealed to me. Eventually, I would skip one or two (when notified via email) with the intention of catching up.

You can guess what happened. I created a backlog and reading the blog posts felt like homework.

As a former analyst, I decided to create criteria. Though most people reading this blog will have a range of interests, I'll start with the assumption that we are readers and writers, and the writers would like to see their books in print someday.

Considerations for blogs to read are:
  • Those to learn about new books. For me, these are cozy mystery blogs such as A Cup of Tea and Cozy Mysteries or Lisa K's blogs. I also found a list of top ten cozy blogs and several look quite good. If you prefer another genre, just google "thriller blogs" or "literary fiction blogs" -- your choice.
  • Topics to make you laugh. I look at The Onion (which has a political tinge) a lot. Check out this list of 100 humor blogs.
  • Those to learn about publishing trends. Two favorites are Terry Odell's blog and that of Jane Friedman. Jane's is more for those who really want to study a topic. Terry is especially good at sharing marketing tips.
  • Blogs that relate to your books' subject matter (if an author) or topics about which you like to read.
  • Friends' blogs. Most people who blog don't expect fans to read every post -- unless you follow the blog. Be selective about who you follow. I unfollowed an acquaintance and she asked why. It was simply because I didn't read it a lot, but, gulp.
More so than in the past, people who might have blogged have started Facebook groups. If you are looking for a more interactive way to read about a subject, those are an option.

Whatever your interest, you'll find people blogging about it. Have fun!

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Self Publish or Seek an Agent?

I sometimes respond to questions on Quora, and thought one of my recent responses would be of general interest, with some modification. The question dealt with self-publishing versus looking for a literary agent.

Self-publishing is always an option, but if an author self-publishes a book, they will probably not be able to get an agent to represent the same book at a later date. There can be exceptions -- if a self-published book has really good sales, a traditional publisher may be willing to produce a second edition. That's rare.

If an author decides to self-publish (or send a proposal to an agent),
it is important to remember we only get one chance to make a first impression. I suggest any author (but especially new writers) work with a critique group or get comments on a draft from other authors. That way, a book is the best it can be before it reaches readers.

I’ve self-published a lot, and one reason I did so was because of my age (now mid-60s). Why wait?! Probably because I had a track record through self-publishing, I was able to get a publisher for another series. I chose to look for a small publisher. Many small publishers can be approached without an agent.

Jane Friedman is a respected expert on many aspects of publishing. She did a recent article on finding a literary agent. It’s excellent.

I think it's worthwhile to look for an agent before making the self-publishing decision. Set a timeframe, and submit to several agents simultaneously. Some agents don't like that, but you don't want the process to drag on for a year.

If an author does self-publish, I suggest going beyond just Amazon. It’s a very good publishing partner, but why limit sales options to one retailer? I use Smashwords, which places books on several other sites. Authors don’t have to work with lots of sites, but they can still sell books at these sites and get royalties via Smashwords.

A number of my author friends use Draft2Digital, which performs the same services as Smashwords. Companies that put your books on multiple sites are called aggregators. 

I offer a free online course called “Thinking Through Self Publishing.” Info is at ElaineOrrWritingClasses.

I learned a lot by attending writers' conferences for years -- I still go to several per year. If you can't do that, there are lots of blog posts on these topics, and a number of free or inexpensive books on Amazon. Writers are always willing to help one another. Just keep writing!
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Monday, February 12, 2018

Have You Ever Had One of Those...Months?

I'm usually Ms. Get Up and Go -- even when I have trouble getting around. After six weeks of back surgery and then the flu, I'm kind of Ms. Where Can I Take a Nap? Enough of this!

The final clue that I was really out of it occurred last Friday, my first day back in the swimming pool. I went into the men's locker room to take a shower. And it took me a few minutes to notice. Fortunately, it was a quiet time. If I hadn't left my glasses in there, I wouldn't have had to ask a trainer to go look for them. My secret would have been safe.

Sigh. At least the staff at the pool had something to laugh about.

I'm back writing, but at three in the afternoon, I still want a nap.

So, here is the opening line to the promo for the next Jolie Gentil book, which will be out in May. "Jolie Gentil has sworn off butting into other people’s business. I know, right? Sounds as far-fetched as finding used bubble gum on Mars."

Sound like something you want to read? Okay, I need to finish writing it.

Friday, January 12, 2018

How (and where) to Publish an Ebook

     I answer questions on Quora, a site that lets you post any query – and often get a response. I generally respond to questions on writing and publishing. The week, someone asked “how do I publish an ebook?” Pretty broad question.

     I responded on two levels. First was the where you do it, second was the how. 

     Companies such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google Play, and Smashwords make it possible to publish your ebook — for free.  You need to load honest information about who you are (even if you use a pen name) and how you will pay your taxes on the income. You also need to provide a bank account (or in some cases a Pay Pal account) so you can be paid.

     You could consider loading only to Amazon and an aggregator. Smashwords is an aggregator and they load your book to a bunch of sites, such as BN, Kobo and more. They save you a lot of work. Another aggregator is Draft2Digital, but I pretty much use Smashwords.

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
Nook Press for Barnes and Noble
Google Play Partner Program
     All of these sites have instructions about how to prepare your book, and how to load it to their site. Study these carefully.

     I learned how by relying on the Smashwords Style Guide, which is written in an easy-to-understand format. All style guides and instructions are free to download from their respective sites.Smashwords Style Guide, an Ebook by Mark Coker

     Instructions are largely similar, but there are some differences. For example, Amazon wants you to do the Table of Contents (required for most books) one way, and Smashwords another way. You can list links to your other books, but Smashwords requires that all links go to your own web page or blog. Why? Because the sites to which they publish don’t want you mentioning their competitors’ websites. I get that.

     I suggest you start with Amazon. It’s easy and you can preview your book immediately. You need to preview to make sure it looks as you expect.
     I have prepared a (free) short course called Thinking through Self-Publishing. Lifelong Dream. There is a second course (Writing and Publishing When time is Scarce) on the same site with lots of practical how-to info on writing, publishing, andmarketing ($29). However, you can learn what you need by studying free info at the sites. You can also go to this blog index, where you will see lots of how-to articles. All those are free!
      Sometimes it will seem like a lot of info to absorb, but you can do it. If you get frustrated, take a break and come back to it.
     One final point. You only get one chance to make a first impression. Do not publish the first draft of your book! Put it in a drawer and come back to it a bit later so you can be a cold reader. Ask others for comments, but do remember, all choices are yours. If you can, pay for an editor.
     Good luck!!
     For more of my articles on Quora, go to
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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Making a Commitment to Short Stories

Short stories have never been my bag. Not since high school. Guy de Maupassant's The Necklace had me spellbound, and I was convinced that O. Henry's Gift of the Magi would end differently. Jonathan Swift's Metamorphosis was not a fun read, but since I still remember it, clearly a superb one.

Given my relatively short attention span, I'm not sure why I gravitated solely to books for fiction. However, last spring I attended a conference at which we were given an issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and another of  Alfred Hithcock's Mystery Magazine. I devoured them on the long train ride from Washington, DC to Chicago. And then didn't pick up another short story until recently.

So, 2018 is going to be the year of the short story for me. I picked up a couple of articles on writing them, because I like to assess fiction as I read it. I don't know much about short story pacing. And I need to get away from the idea that everything I write (or read) has to be a mystery.

I went to the used book store and bought some short story anthologies, one classics and another of the wonderful books that Sisters in Crime does periodically. Lots of authors whose books I like to read.

Suggestions? I'll read a bunch and review them here. All ideas welcome.