Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ten Tips for Writing to Sell

We all want to, right? But it's not easy and I don't know that there's one specific recipe for success. So all you can do is write the story you're passionate about and hope you hit a nerve in your audience.

Ten tips for helping you on your journey:
1. Grab 'em hard and don't let 'em go. It's like going fishing, because they call it your hook. Begin where the story actually starts, without giving me a weather report or some backstory before I get to some action. I want to be dragged in, kicking and screaming if necessary, and not want to be let go.

2. Be clear about who your characters are and their relationships to one another. If a main character's best friend is also a relative, boss, co-worker, whatever, tell us up front, instead of calling them one thing one time, another the next. It's easy to confuse your reader right out of the story.

3. Pursue a clean line of action for your characters, and know where you're going with them. They should each have a clear goal, even if it changes further in to accommodate character arc.

4. Use the element of surprise. If you've come up with an immediate ending to your story, it's probably been thought of by other writers. See if you can 'what if' your way into a more surprising ending or a twist we didn't see coming. Kind of like the movie Sixth Sense.

5. Remember things happen because of something else. It's called scene and sequel, cause and effect, action and reaction. If someone does something, there should be a reaction or response shortly after. From the moment your story starts and something happens, something else will happen because of it. Make sure you use it properly or you'll leave us unhappy.

6. Structure your story for maximum punch. The three-act structure used in screenwriting and fiction works for a reason. People like it, it keeps your story on track and gives you guideposts to keep you going. Act 1 is the set-up, showing us your characters and what's going to happen, Act 2 is the progress of the set-up and what obstacles confront your characters, making it seem like there's no way they can win, and Act 3 is the resolution of the story, how it ends satisfactorily, hopefully.

7. Make your dialogue count. Don't have your characters talking about nothing. Every conversation, every word uttered should be to move the story forward. But don't have talking heads or maid-and-butler dialogue - you know, where someone says "As you know..." and tells the reader something they should know but wasn't made clear somewhere else. Hate it - and most everyone else does too. Makes the reader feel stupid.

8. Leave out the extras. I mean all those extra people who have no business other than to give us one line of information or open the main character's door or whatever. Every character is in the story for a reason. I'm not saying you can't have one or two throw-aways. I think everyone does. But each character should have a specific function to move your story along, so don't overpopulate your writing.

9. Formatting, grammar and spelling. Come on, people. You've got a computer with spell-check and grammar-check, right? Nowadays, there's really no excuse for not having perfect formatting, grammar and spelling. There are online tools to help. Ask a friend or relative or, heck, even an English teacher to check your writing. They don't have to know anything about writing or story mechanics to fix typos and grammar.

10. Don't leave a smoking gun on the mantle. Never heard this one? I hate a movie or book that has the character using or focusing on an object with undue description or detail, which makes me think it's going to be important later. And guess what? The object never appears in the story again. So I'm left wondering why that object was so important and why the writer didn't tell me. I go away dissatisfied with my experience.

Hope these tips help you tighten and tone your story.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - Magical Gemstones

I don't usually do Thursday Thirteen - so this is a new experience. I hope you enjoy.
Like spells and candles, gemstones are also said to have magical properties or uses in casting and wicca. Here are thirteen gemstones you might like to use.

1. Amethyst is a healing stone and was used by citizens of ancient Rome to keep from becoming intoxicated. It is said to be good for meditation and calming, maintain emotional balance and help heal a grieving heart.

2. Aventurine, a stone in various shades of green, brings luck to its holder, much like a four-leaf clover. It can be used to divine the future in matters of money, protects the heart and lungs, and balances male and female energies to promote relationships.

3. Bloodstone, also known as heliotrope, is green with red spots that look like drops of blood - it was believed in the time after Christ's death his blood had dripped on a green stone, creating bloodstone. It gives its wearer the ability to banish evil, and cleanses the blood.

4. Cat's eye, so called for its deep amber and brown colors, is for luck and insight. Also a protection against evil magic, it brings wealth, clear thinking and luck to its wearer.

5. Hematite, a black steel-looking stone, is another protective stone. It stimulates focus and memory and is worn by people who believe in its healing powers. It also strengthens and fortifies the blood.

6. Jasper comes in many colors and enhances relaxation. Psychically used for astral projection/travel, it also promotes balance of the digestive system, and the liver and gall bladder.

7. Malachite, a dark green banded stone, protects children and travelers from harm and accidents. It also serves as a shield from the evil eye and witches, and is often called the 'mirror of the soul.'

8. Moonstone was exchanged between lovers to ensure ongoing passion and fidelity. It comes in many colors, and brings success in personal endeavors, including love. The most potent time to use moonstone is during the full moon.

9. Opal also has many color choices, the most popular being whitish with rainbow iridescent glimmers deep within. Opal assists in spiritual journeys and dream creating. It awakes your intuition and heightens clairvoyant properties.

10. Ruby and rose quartz are said to be love stones, the color red echoing the human heart and blood. A stone of nobility, its intense energy is used to strengthen the aura, and the physical and emotional heart. Rose quartz encourages self-fulfillment and inner peace.

11. Sapphire is generally deep blue, like the engagement ring of Princess Di and now Duchess Kate, but also appears in other colors. Meant for protection and prophecies, it is closely tied to human destiny. It shields those who go on long journeys and brings hope and joy to its wearer.

12. Tourmaline, another stone of many colors, promotes understanding and corrects certain conditions, like dyslexia and paranoia. It is also said to attract prosperity and inspiration, great for writers.

13. Unakite contains both quartz and feldspar, as well as green epidote, so the color is mixed greens, reds and browns. It is known as the 'stone of vision,' used to open the third eye of your chakra for visions and psychic healing. Some use it to protect gardens and promote health, and it is also believed to clear "electromagnetic smog" from computers, televisions and other devices.

These stones had many uses in history, and even today are revered for their acclaimed properties. And there are lots of great stories and legends surrounding them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How Do You Name a Demon?

Marissa Dobson of Sizzing Hot Book Reviews recently sent me a series of questions for my upcoming interview on her site. Since The Last Soul deals with a demon realm I've created, she asked a few intriguing questions about the rules I made up for this world, and how I named my demon characters. Along that vein, I thought it would be fun to explore demon names and their meanings.

I won't repeat what I've already touched on HERE. Suffice it to say I took some liberties with the assigned roles for demons whose names I used in The Last Soul and its sequel, Hunted, coming in July from Evernight Publishing. (Shameless plug over)

The Demon Names page of Angels and Ghosts is where I went first when I was researching demon names for The Last Soul. It's a nice jumping-off place because of the links at the side take you to related sites. In addition, if you go to the "Back to Demons" link at the top, it takes you to the rest of the site where you can find all sorts of information on angels and demons alike.

Weird Encyclopedia is a useful site, although most of the names here are also in the Angels and Ghosts. There's some awesome artwork on this site.

Gods-and-Monsters comes with a warning never to say a demon's name out loud. OOPS. Hope that doesn't apply when one is reading one's WIP out loud as an editing tool, or discussing the work with a friend. (Why doesn't anyone tell me these things??)

Angelfire had some interesting names I didn't find anywhere else. Plus the red text on black background is really fun to read.

And speaking of awesome backgrounds, Mountain State Spirit Seekers Society has my top vote.

Since I'm all about naming the characters, I find this research one of the best parts of starting a new project.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Magical Animals to Write About

Since I've previously noted our group seems to like lists, let's talk about some magical animals you could use to make a good story better.

Afrit: Afrit are the most powerful Arabian Djinn, and they are evil. They can take any form. Afrit translates as "unclean spirits".

Barometz: Half plant, half animal and shaped like a sheep, it screams when picked and blood flows from its stems.

Dryads: Dryads are tree nymphs, the tree in question most often oak. They are shy creatures, tied to their homes and supernaturally long-lived. The hamadryads were so connected to their trees that if the tree died, its hamadryad associated died too.

Fuaths: Scotland's waters are said to be home to these creatures who are green, have no noses, with the mane and tail of a yellow horse. They are said to drown unsuspecting swimmers.

Hippocampus or hippocampi: Known as horses of Poseiden, these creatures were said to have the front of a horse and the rear-end of a fish/whale, kind of like a mer-horse.

Jotans: In honor of Thor, the new movie, the Jotan are Norse frost giants who live in northern Europe.

Nia: Nia are air spirits from Africa, prayed to before journeys.

Scylla: A scylla was said to be a young girl raised by wolves who was used by a man she thought loved her, and drowned trying to swim to his boat. When she sank into the water, Poseiden changed her into a nymph, only it only worked on her upper half. Her lower half changed into a six-headed wolf.

Ziz came from chaos at the beginning of time as a giant bird.

Hopefully, you've gotten some good ideas - or at least learned something today.

Happy writing.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Surviving May 21 - Armageddon or the Rapture or whatever

This is your Otherworld Diner service announcement - for emergencies only! :)
So you're maybe wondering if something is going to happen tomorrow, and in honor of May 21st's momentous expectations, here are some tips on surviving Armageddon:

If you're going to be worrying about whether things will be the same after tomorrow, get to the store and lay in a week or two supply of non-perishable food. Ideally, you've already been stocking up a bit, but don't forget water. Water is the most important thing you need, so start filling up those empty water bottles, milk jugs and two liter soda bottles while you can.

Make sure you've got a radio with plenty of batteries (a hand-crank radio is even better), flashlights (battery or hand-crank) and matches/lighters to make heat or light.

Next, you'll probably want to stay put unless you're right in the big middle of it - because if something happens, the roads will probably be overcrowded with others trying to get away too. If it's possible to hunker down where you are, do it and stay safer. You don't want to get stuck on the road.

Have some cash on hand - bills and coins - because the banks may not be accessible and if you have to buy food or gas or anything, you'll need some.

Hopefully, if you're staying in, you have a basement. If you don't, you'll want to secure an inner room and stock it with everything you'll need for a few days. Make sure you have blankets and pillows and a can opener and anything else you may need, including an improvised toilet (a five-gallon bucket works well), just in case. Trash bags will be needed - preferably heavy duty - to package waste until it can be disposed of, so it doesn't draw insects.

A first-aid kit is a necessity, and face masks might be needed. You'll want to have bleach and alcohol to purify water and clean any wounds. Rolls of plastic sheeting may come in handy, and protective clothing. Hand sanitizer and wipes are also good to have on hand.

So be prepared, like a good Boy or Girl Scout. I went to see the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie today, just in case.

This has been your Otherworld Diner service announcement.

See you on Sunday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fight Scene Snafus

Remember the fight scene between Jackie Chan and Jet Li from Forbidden Kingdom? (This link will refresh your memory. )
Or perhaps you’d rather imagine the scene in the Princess Bride when Inigo Montonya introduces himself to the six-fingered villain who killed his father. (at this link )

Wish you could write a scene that good? I do, but I know I’d need the help of an expert—someone like Rayne Hall who is our guest today.

Rayne Hall writes dark fantasy and horror. She has published more than twenty books under different pen names in different genres, and her stories have earned Honorable Mentions in 'The Years' Best Fantasy and Horror'. She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing, and teaches online classes in 'Writing Fight Scenes', 'Writing Scary Scenes' and 'Writing About Magicians'.

To whet our appetite in crafting fight scenes, she gives us this list.

Header courtesy of samulli

Thirteen Mistakes Writers Make With Fight Scenes

1. Nothing at stake.... as if the characters put their lives at risk without purpose

2. Absence of emotion... as if the fighter didn't feel fear, fury or despair

3. Generic setting... as if the fight took place in 'white space'

4. Making it easy for the hero by giving him a superior weapon, superior armour, superior strength and superior skills... as if he couldn't rise to a genuine challenge

5. Fighters holding a leisurely conversation with long, carefully articulated sentences.. as if they had plenty of breath to spare during the swashbuckling

6. Implausible fight skills... as if the situation instantly granted the Regency damsel a black belt in karate

7. Inventing a fancy weapon for the hero... as if a gimmicky-shaped sword stood a chance against a blade of tried-and-tested standard design

8. Long sentences... as if fighting was a leisurely, slow-paced activity

9. Lots of adverbs... as if any sense of speed created by a verb must be squashed instantly

10. Weapons from the wrong period ... as if an ancient Greek would use a medieval greatsword, or a Norman knight a 19th century cavalry sabre

11. Weapons performing tasks they can't do ... as if an epee sword could split skulls or a small pistol stop a running target at a thousand feet

12. The character thinks deep philosophical thoughts... as if fighting off deadly blows were so easy that he could concentrate on something else

13. The fighter observes what his mates are doing at the other side of the battlefield and the sun setting on the horizon... as if the immediate danger didn't require all his attention

If you have questions about these 'mistakes', or about writing fight scenes, feel free to ask. I'll be around for a week to answer questions. And as always we appreciate your comments.

Even if you've never wielded a weapon, you can write an exciting fight scene. Rayne will show you how, in her workshop on 'Writing Fight Scenes', which starts on 1 June 2011:
It’s a fact of everyday American life, waiting. Has been for probably a hundred years. The big difference between then and now, is that we, as a culture, do a lot of that waiting in our cars. Not a new idea, “standing” in line while sitting in your vehicle is at least as old as drive-in restaurants. The whole American love of the automobile back in the 1950’s gave birth to those drive-in restaurants, drive-in movies, and the new hobby of driving aimlessly to show off the car or to just because.

Now Americans drive everywhere. To shop, eat, visit, sit in line, to exercise. Yep. Instead of walking places, we drive. Then we drive to the gym. What’s the most used piece of equipment in the gym? The treadmill, of course. But it’s the waiting in line that’s become the great American pastime, waiting in line while sitting in a car. What’s the problem? What isn’t the problem.

First, there’s the lack of exercise. Why is there an obesity epidemic? Why are blood clots becoming more common (sitting for long periods predispose a person to blood clots)? Second, there’s the needless blasting of exhaust into the air. Killing the environment, just one more reason why fast food isn’t good for you. Third, there’s the irritability factor. Waiting in long lines, smelling exhaust, lack of exercise; all things that tend toward irritability in a person.

Of course, businesses love in-car waiting. Saves room inside the business, there is less need for parking spots, and one person can handle the entire line. Win for them, and I understand that. Drive-up business is also great for parents of young children and for folks who are disabled. But for the rest of us? Not so good.
If we all got out and went in, we could change everything. Less obesity, fewer blood clots, less exhaust in the air. Healthier for us, healthier for the environment. And more jobs because businesses would need more workers to handle the inside lines.

I doubt American culture will change much over the next few years, but each of us make a choice every single time we sit in our car instead of getting out to stand in line. If you’re culture isn’t like this, more power to you. Do what you can to keep it that way. The rest of us, step away from the car!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The ‘IT’ Factor – Debut Author Hannah Jayne

Under Wraps
March 2011

Book Blurb:
As a human immune to magic, Sophie Lawson can help everyone from banshee to zombie transition into normal, everyday San Francisco life. With a handsome werewolf as her UDA boss and a fashionista vampire for a roommate, Sophie knows everything there is to know about the undead, the unseen, and the uncanny. . .

Until a rash of gruesome murders has demons and mortals running for cover, and Sophie finds herself playing sidekick to detective Parker Hayes. Dodging raging bloodsuckers, bad-tempered fairies, and love-struck trolls is one thing. But when Sophie discovers Parker isn't what he seems, she's got only one chance to figure out whom to trust. Because an evil hiding in plain sight is closing in. . .and about to make one wisecracking human its means to ultimate power. . .

Don’t let the cover fool you (a lot of readers have been complaining about this over on Amazon). This is not an urban fantasy novel with a kickass heroine. Well, sometimes Sophie imagines herself as Laura Croft or someone from CSI, but then reality smacks her up the side of the head and she’s back to being plain old Sophie Lawson, administrative assistant at UDA (sort of a social security/DMV for paranormal beings).

Thumbs Up:
Humor. Sophie is in no way qualified to run side kick with a cop on a supernatural murder investigation, but because she can transverse both worlds she’s the best candidate for the job which makes for some very funny situations. She also goes off on little fantasy jaunts in her head, either imagining herself on CSI or her and Hayes in steamy romance novel situations. Very snort-worthy. She has a troll for a stalker (imagine a 3 foot moldy lounge lizard complete with gold chains) and her roommate’s vamp nephew is a 16-year-old Dracula wannabe attitude. Lots of fun, snarky dialogue between the characters keep the humor running smoothly throughout the book without getting too silly.

Thumbs Down:
There were a lot of little nitpicky things that bothered me:

  • There’s a big deal made about no footprints on the carpeted stairs at the first crime scene she goes to and yet at least 3 people had already been upstairs to see the body before she and Hayes got there. There would be footprints and this clue (or red herring) never pans out and is never brought up again.

  • Her werewolf boss has her chain him up every night in his office so he won’t go all wolfy and hurt anyone and yet he has a swanky home somewhere else? If he works all day and spends the night chained up at the office, why does he need a house because he's never there?

  • Sophie is attacked and left unconscious but not taken to the hospital to be examined? Plus there’s no assault report filed, she’s just sent home?

  • Her apartment is broken into and she’s not asked to look around to see if anything is missing or to file a police report (again).

  • She’s obviously now a target but she’s left alone with a broken lock on the door? Oh, wait. Hayes gives her his gun to keep her safe. No cop would do this. It would get him fired. And no, the excuse that’s she’s now working for the police department didn’t fly with me. She’s helping them with the case. She’s not a cop, she’s an administrative assistant. While the scene of him teaching her to shoot is humorous, the reality behind it tainted the enjoyment for me.

PG. Very PG. There’s a kiss and some semi-nude snuggling but that’s it. If you like your books hot and steamy, this one is not for you.

The ‘IT’ Factor:
The humorous chick lit voice mixed with an urban fantasy-lite feel is probably what sold this one. It’s not deep. It’s not rocket science. But it’s a fun, breezy read if that’s what you’re in the mood for.

Magical Oils and how to make them

Many herbs are considered magical and are often infused into oils for ease of use. I've been doing some research into this and have come up with how to make infused oils easy and convenient in your home kitchen. So get witchy!

The approximate ratio of herb to oil should be about 3 tbsp herbs to cup of oil. There are two ways to do this. You can use a crock pot on low, or you can use a stainless steel mixing bowl above a double boiler. You don't want the oil to get too hot, so it's important to keep your eye on the infusion, so it doesn't turn rancid.

Mix your herb and your oil - I suggest something very light in taste and smell (in other words, no extra virgin olive oil, unless it's called for). I like safflower, but canola works too. Set mixing bowl over water (or pour into crock pot). Let heat/simmer for about 30 minutes (the crock pot may take a bit longer). Once the mixture is finished, strain through cheesecloth to remove the pieces of herb (again, this keeps the oil from turning rancid too quickly). If you're using the oil for cooking or decoration, it's fine to leave the herb material in and just bottle the oil. Store in airtight glass container (do not leave in direct sunlight as this will continue to reheat the oil, allowing it to spoil sooner).

Here are some websites you may find helpful for your magical plot or story:

Happy writing!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Candle Magic

Last summer I read a wonderful contemporary romance by Joy Nash titled A Little Light  Magic. The book was a 2010 RITA nominee for Contemporary Single Title. The heroine of this book, Tori Morgan, casts seven candle spells for seven different situations. I was fascinated with this concept and decided to explore further. I even have my Nephilim hero, Dagon, doing a bit of spell-casting himself in Hunted, the sequel to The Last Soul.

Candle magic is the practice of burning candles as part of rituals designed to accomplish a specific goal. Ideally you want to use candles made from soy or beeswax because they contain natural ingredients, helping to bring you closer to the sprit of the universe. Although there is disagreement among practitioners about which colors are best to use for specific spells, these guidelines were universal among the resources I found.

Red = the element of fire. It is common in spells to maintain health, increase strength, promote passion, or employ defensive magic.

Pink = relaxation, love and friendship. Pink candles are commonly used in rituals to promote self-love. They are also ideal for spells related to weddings and emotional unions.

Orange = energy. This candle is used to attract specific influences or objects when casting a candle magic spell.

Yellow = air. Yellow candles are recommended for spells which are intended to heighten visualization abilities. Yellow is also the color of intelligence, confidence and eloquence.

Green = money and prosperity. This candle color can also be used in spells for fertility, healing, growth or abundance.

Blue = water. This color is used for spells to affect sleep or to awaken the psychic mind.

Purple candles enhance spiritual activities and increase your magical powers. When combined with blue candles, they can be used in healing rituals.

White = protection and purification. Linked with the moon, white candles contain all colors and are used for positive purposes.

Black = outer space. Black candles absorb negativity. Black is the absence of color and is often associated with evil magic, but black candles are used for positive rituals such as those to absorb illness or stop bad habits.

Brown candles are burned in combination with other candles when spells invoke animals.

Do you dabble in candle magic? Share your stories with us.

Monday, May 9, 2011

We like lists

I usually post on Sunday, but it was Mother's Day, so I gave myself the day off! I hope all of you who are moms had a wonderful and loving Mother's Day.

Lists seem to be a part of everyone's life - the shopping list, guest list, chores list - just about everything lends itself to a list. I'm going to be exploring a few lists for you paranormal writers and readers out there.

Today's list - spells your character might use if she's a witch!

Banishing spells - Banishing spells are meant to remove someone from your life, basically, but can be nuanced in several ways. A general banishing spell would basically prevent that person from being around you. Sounds easy enough, yes? There are always ways things can go wrong, of course. Banishing spells may include a binding, to prevent someone from doing magic against you or others or even themselves (The Craft has a binding spell in the movie). It could also be a cleansing spell to banish something bad from your house, your city or your workplace... or anywhere else such nuisances occur. The banishment may remove a curse or hex against you or someone you know, or keep bad luck away. It might even remove emotions - love, hate, despair or fear. Pretty handy to have around, don't you think?

Truth spells - Truth spells can be fun .. .and dangerous! You could cast a spell to learn the truth, to get someone else to speak the truth (whether they want to or not), to gain trust or find out if your significant other is cheating. But remember, sometimes - you can't handle the truth! - or sometimes you learn things you'd rather not know (like what someone else has been doing in your shower). But again, it's a good thing to know what the truth is about some things, so playing with a truth spell can be fun, but also funny.

Bad luck spells - Another fun one - you could give someone bad luck (just make sure it doesn't bite you back), change your own luck or protect yourself from evil. All part of bad luck and the bad things that can happen because of it. Bad luck spells are often considered curses or hexes, and they say you get back what you send out, times three, so be careful about these, because they can cause all kinds of problems down the road.

Love spells - Everyone's favorite is the love spell, where you can make someone fall in love with you, or fall in love with someone else, or even fall out of love with you or someone else. These are matters of the heart, though, so caution is advised. You can enchant or obsess anyone and cause the most delightful - or hateful - chaos around you. Sometimes it might be fun to watch, but playing with the heart is always a challenge. Make sure you're not the one getting hurt.

Lastly, there are Weather spells, meant to keep Mother Nature at your command. Of course, like the heart, Mama Nature isn't always pleased to be at your command - watch your back of you may find yourself with only your striped socks sticking out from under a house somewhere.

Anyway, today's list is meant to enlighten - and warn - you, all to promote your reading and writing pleasure.

Have fun.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Movie Quotes That Stick like Bubble Gum

Remember when farmer Ray Kinsella strolled through his Iowa cornfield and a voice whispered, “If you build it, they will come”?
Can you picture the baseball field that came into his mind? I’m guessing, if you were among the millions seeing "Field of Dreams," you can.
Some phrases have lasting impact. They stick in our minds, long after they’re uttered.
What makes these lines so memorable? That's difficult to say, but I bet you’ll be able to, not only remember many of the following 13, but where they came from.
Want to give it a shot? I’ll start easy.

Here are 13 phrases from some of my favorite movies:
1."Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
2."Here's looking at you, kid."
3."Show me the money!"
4."You can't handle the truth!"
5."After all, tomorrow is another day!"
6."You're gonna need a bigger boat."
7."Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."
8."I see dead people."
9."Say hello to my little friend!"
10."Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make."
11."Go ahead, make my day."
12."Nobody puts 'Baby' in a corner."
13."My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you."

Please post your answers in the comments. Then, if you stop by in a day or so, you can check your answers. Thanks.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Donald Maass Agent Amy Boggs on the Menu

I've asked Agent Amy Boggs to take questions from the diner and she has graciously agreed to do so, so here we go again.

I'll be posting a bio for Amy in the next few days. I did ask her if she represents urban fantasy and paranormal romance and got an enthusiastic "yes!" So if you have questions, start thinking about them now. I'll post when we're ready for questions and you can ask away - and Amy's answers will be posted when she is done!

Hope you enjoy - and I'll be working on getting more guests, so keep those questions coming!


Monday, May 2, 2011

Self-Publishing Your Backlist

Today, I’m not going to post my usual Debut Author ‘IT’ Factor post. Instead, I’m going to talk about something valuable I learned at the writer’s retreat I attended this weekend. It doesn’t affect me (yet), but it could impact a lot of published authors out there who are looking to jump on the self-publishing bandwagon with their out-of-print books.

While there, I attended a workshop on Digital Publishing led by the very savvy Angela James, Executive editor of Carina Press. A multi-published author in the audience who is in the process of getting the rights back to her out-of-print books asked about self-publishing her backlist. Now, I’m sure we all know authors who are doing this and why not? All of the hard work is done. The manuscript is written and it’s been professionally edited and revised. It’s just sitting there gathering dust and all they have to do is format it for Kindle and Smashwords, upload the file, and voila, it’s available as an e-book to a whole new audience of readers and fans who are ravenous for an author’s backlist. Plus they’re now getting a whopping 70% on each sale. Sounds great, right?

“Not so fast,” said Ms. James (and I’m paraphrasing here). Guess what? Depending on what’s in your publishing contract, chances are you may not own the rights to the finished book. Say what?! You heard me right. It is entirely possible that when the rights to a book revert back to you, you only get the rights back to your “original” work -- that typo-filled, unedited, unrevised, hurry-and-get-it-in-before-the-deadline version. Unless your contract says differently, you may not have the rights to the “edited” work. Any edits and revisions made after you turned in that manuscript belong to the publisher.

There was a collective gasp in the audience. I guarantee to a person none of us had ever thought about this possiblity.

Now I’m sure most authors know that they don’t own the rights to the cover art. That’s why authors’ self-published backlists on Amazon and Smashwords often have a generic cover with stock art. It’s because they aren’t allowed to use the snazzy cover the art department came up with for their printed books – they don’t own the rights to it. Note: If you are an author using your old cover art on your self-published books, you better fix that fast! Another little tidbit mentioned is that you don’t own the pretty formatting your book was printed in. That’s right. You need to change the layout and typeface of the entire book before you upload anything. You also don’t own any of the cover copy. I’m assuming this means the back cover blurb, but don’t hold me to this. Everyone in the audience was still too stunned about the not owning the edited version part to ask to have this clarified.

So what does this mean? Is an author’s publisher going to hunt them down and sue them over this or demand compension for every copy sold? Probably not, especially if the edits were minor. But they could and it’s probably only a matter of time before they do it to somebody. After all, they paid the editor and everyone else who had a hand in taking your novel from original paper manuscript to finished print book and they’re not going to give all that hard work away for free.

So what’s an author to do? First, check the fine print in the reversion of rights clause of your contract. Ask your agent or a literary attorney to look into it if you’re not sure. Because digital publishing was a thing of the future when contracts were written 5, 10 or more years ago, this thought probably never crossed the legal department’s minds and may not be addressed at all. However, chances are contracts signed within the past few years will have clauses regarding this. So what happens if your contract says you don’t have rights to the edited version? It may be possible to buy it from the publisher. Don’t ask me if they’ll agree to do this or how much it will cost. This type of thing is going to vary from publisher to publisher.

Now I'm not an expert on publishing contracts (and I don't play one on TV) and this was the first time I'd ever heard about this issue. It just goes to show that in this age of ever changing publishing technology, each of us needs to be knowledgeable of how this industry is evolving and how it might affect us -- if not now, then later on in our careers.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May means it's time for the Brenda Novak Auction

May 1st is the beginning of the Brenda Novak auction. It only lasts a month, but you can bid on just about anything. There are trips, crits by agents and editors, jewelry, books and more books. Like I said, just about anything. I donate a read of the first three chapters every year, because this auction is to benefit diabetes, which I have. And I hope someday they'll find a cure.

One of the bigger items is a meet-and-greet and tickets for Celine Dion in Las Vegas. Wow, if you're a fan, that would definitely be a once-in-a-lifetime thrill. There is a listing called Once in a Lifetime items. You could bid on a chance to have tea with Meg Cabot in New York, a style makeover, or a limited edition Kate Middleton dress. Or how about a four-pack of tickets to visit the set of THE BIG BANG THEORY?

There are categories just for jewelry, just for readers and, most importantly, just for writers. You can bid on networking, agent or editor evaluations of a manuscript or partial, contests/conventions/conferences and much more.

I would encourage all of you to go to and check it out for yourself. You'll enjoy browsing, even if you don't bid.

Good luck, and happy writing.