Saturday, January 28, 2012

Do You Make Any of These Mistakes?

Image: Stuart Miles /

I'm going to don my editor's hat for a moment to talk about a few mistakes that authors make that date their manuscripts and let editors know that it's a been a while since they've brushed up on grammar and punctuation. Young writers should be learning these rules in their classrooms.

Let's see how up-to-date you are:

I always put all periods and commas inside quotation marks.

You may have been taught that the following is correct: Whenever I read the poem "Leaves", I cry. Nope, not any more. The correct way to write that sentence is Whenever I read the poem "Leaves," I cry. The old rules no longer apply. Every single comma and period goes inside quotation marks. No exceptions. Yeah, it's sad, but true.

I always type only one space after a period.

If you put two spaces between your sentences, editors figure you were probably trained on a typewriter rather than a computer. Have you ever noticed those green squiggly lines between sentences when you have grammar check on? The computer is warning you that you should only be using one space after a period. Computers automatically adjust the amount of space between words and sentences; typewriters did not. Do your editor a favor and send your manuscript in with only one space after every period. It's amazing how many authors, even multi-pubbed ones, are unaware of this. Believe me, your copy editor will love you.

I use "an" only before words that begin with a silent "h."

If a word begins with an "h" that is sounded out, use "a." For example, "an herb" is correct. So is "a historical building." Not what you learned in school? It's time to brush up on your grammar and punctuation. English is a growing and changing language. Writers, who use the language daily, should keep up with those changes.

If you've been out of school for a while or if you answered no to any of the statements above, pick up a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style. It's what most publishing houses use to edit manuscripts. If you weren't aware of these new rules, you may want to check out the CMoS website and glance through their "Significant Rule Changes in The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition." Many of the changes above were found in the 15th edition. The 16th has additional changes. You can also sign up for the online version. Then when you have a question about grammar or punctuation, you can look it up. It's well worth the price.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Launch time – well almost...

Hi again – great to be back.
This time I come to you for advice...
But first, I just thought I’d update you on what’s happening on the other side of the world. ...

Yesterday was our national day – Australia Day. Typically, it’s a day of bbqs and picnics , boating and various public festivals. Sadly, it’s not a day I love because that day always signals the near end of our summer break. This year it was indeed the end. In my state, teachers return today, and school resumes on Monday. It means back to work for me – and as always presents a huge stress as to how I juggle everything - and still keep up my 3k word daily output. I’ll keep you posted on that...

We’re about two thirds through summer, though this year hasn’t been typical. It’s been cool and damp, with the odd scorcher thrown in. We’re more used to lots of scorchers, and I have to say I’ve missed them.

The sun’s peeking in through the slats of my wooden blinds this morning though, so I’m hopeful that after I’ve completed this and my words for the day, I’m going to be able to dive into that much ignored pool.

And no doubt most of you will be hoping to cuddle up by the fire. Isn’t the world an amazing place?

So, as said, this time I come to you all for advice...
You see, my next YA novel, Dead, Actually, will be released here in Oz on March 1st – yes, just a mere 5 weeks or so away. And I’m still planning the launch.
Here’s the blurb:

Willow's having a bad week. A dead body, a funeral and now she's being haunted by the star of it all, the dead queen of Ruth Throsby High herself, JoJo Grayson.
Being dead hasn't made JoJo any nicer. She's still venomous and vacuous and, unfortunately, determined to stick around unless Willow finds out what happened.
But the mysteries keep multiplying. There's a missing phone. An anonymous blackmailer. Dirty secrets that won't stay buried. And the blame is being cleverly pointed right at Willow.
The only good thing? The gorgeous Seth Pentecost. He's got his own agenda but it looks like he's going to help Willow out. Could JoJo's death be what it takes to finally bring Seth into Willow's life?

Sadly, at this stage, it’s not available in The States, but that’s something my agent is working on, so who knows and fingers crossed.

This book is special to me because, believe it or not, despite having over 60 books in print, I’ve never really had a big, proper glitzy launch. My other YA’s were released in the States and not out here, so while I celebrated, it seemed a bit pointless to host a launch for a book that wouldn’t be available for sale here.

And then the ones that were released here were smaller books and while we had small celebrations to send them off into the world, the timing was never right. I wasn’t here at release time, the dog needed de-fleaing - or I was having my hair washed that day... The excuses go on and on – but this time, I’m in the right place at the right time and we’re making the most of it.

The book is being published by Allen & Unwin, one of the biggest publishers here in Australia – and I couldn’t be more excited. They have been my dream publisher for eons and so far I haven’t been disappointed. So, how can I make the most of it?

I’m going to share the short synop so you know what it’s about – roughly – and I’m hoping you might be able to help me come up with some fabbo ideas.

The great thing is that I feel no guilt in coming to you because most of you won’t even be able to purchase it – so it’s not even remotely a sales pitch. It’s just what it is... A plea for your ideas on what you think:

A) makes a great launch
B) makes a disastrous launch
C) would be a fun thing to add
D) or maybe share the best launch you’ve ever been to
E) even share the worst

I’m not heaping all the responsibility on you. I ‘have’ done some research. My clever writer friend Angela Sunde, had a launch for her YA novel, Pond Magic (when you click the link above, go to her 2010 entries for some great pics) that featured a French theme. So she had all things French, of course. Food, music, girls dressed in berets. That was great fun. My theme? Dead....

Um Houston? I’m sensing a problem...

Another, Aleesah Darlison had a book set in Hawaii. It was for a series of books aimed at the 7-10 group, and at her launch the attendees came dressed in tropical garb. Very cool. Very colourful and very fun.

Yet another had the police commissioner launch her crime book. Call me unadventurous, but I can’t see a funeral director having the same wow factor or audience pull...

So, I’m throwing myself on your mercy. What would you do?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Times Are Changing...

Spend any amount of time reading about the publishing industry and you know things are in flux. Big deals are still happening, yes. But authors have many avenues. Digital formats are becoming a larger piece of the puzzle and royalties may or may not be getting into the hands of authors as they should. Agents are diversifying, becoming e-publishers of their clients backlisted material. Midlist authors are struggling to find their place, as the publishers cut their marketing money, and brick and mortar stores cancel orders. 

All of this just leaves authors scared, confused, and wondering:

“Should I consider self-publishing? Small presses?”
“Is this the right time to be in this crazy business?”
"Can I find an agent, editor, publisher?"
“What does the future hold?”

Some newbies are worried about their future as authors, and established authors are just as concerned.

Personally, I think the change is all good for writers. We have more options then ever before. Digital format is bringing MORE books into the hands of readers. Small presses are bridging the gap for some authors who are struggling to find their path, but are not ready to consider self-publishing for various reasons. There is a place for every option. 

Yes, it is a great time to be a writer. That is, if you are willing to grow and change as well. The key, in my opinion, to thriving as a writer during this changing environment –


Let me say it again – being flexible. In times like these, writers need to look at ALL of the options for getting their work into the hands of an ever-hungry consumer. Diversification can help the new (or existing) author make use of all of the options now available.

Maybe you can self publish a short story, use a small publisher for another work, and go the traditional route with yet something else. The possibilities are endless.

So rather than be afraid or anxious about these uncertain times, embrace them. Now is a GREAT time to be a writer!

What do you guys think?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Geekalegal and the Supremes


This isn't too geeky but it is definitely legal, and something all author's should know about. Last week the Supreme Court, in Golan v. Holder, ruled that Congress had the power under the Constitution to restore copyright to foreign works that had previously fallen under public domain in the United States. Sounds a bit strange? And what does this mean to you as an author?

A bit of history here. Prior to 1976 you had to go through formal hoops to receive copyright privileges under the statutes and that included the renewal extension. Many if not most foreign authors of original works did not comply with those formalities and their works fell into the public domain here, even though they were and are still protected in their own country. Under the Berne treaty, the U.S. agreed to give the same recognition to those authors as they had in their own native country. Since that treaty had no real enforcement clause, it wasn't until another set of negotiations when an agreement with trade sanctions came about that the U.S. was pressured into actual compliance with those terms. The legislation, the Paraguay Round Agreement Act (“URAA”). This legislation “restored” any foreign work that had not complied with the pre-1978 formalities or the pre-March 1989 notice requirements. This restoration was to whatever term they would have had under U.S. law.

The legal arguments as the case wound its way to the Supreme Court turned around the First Amendment, analysis of the treaties and the essence of what is copyright from a constitutional stance. The Supreme Court's opinion, as has been its trend over the past decisions, was supportive of Congress's right to legislate copyright as it sees appropriate. Here the Court said there was no time limitation on Congress for copyright, which I interpret simply as “If Congress can extend the time forward, then it can extend the time backwards.” The Court upheld the Statute, and thus a great chunk of foreign works fell out of the U.S. public domain.

I do think using the term “restoration” is confusing. How can you restore copyright to a work that never had it, and is in the public domain? Yet that is what has been done. I haven't read the treaties, but it seems that the more universal fairness approach would be to honor the copyright terms of whatever the author's country provides. What is even more confusing in reading the varied comments emerging on the recent case is the view that this legislation will have a chilling effect on creativity.

The law says that if someone is using a work that was in the public domain (e.g. such as say, an Alfred Hitchcock film) then there is a year grace period for a derivative work and then, if the author files a notice that this is a copyrighted work, one must cease or pay reasonable royalties. If someone is making money by reproducing a now copyrighted work, then after a year that must cease, unless of course copyright is assigned or some other agreement is attained.

For you as an author this could be problematic. What of the quotes and excerpts that once were so easy to use in a book? Now you and/or your editor or publisher must make sure that the work is still in the public domain, and free to use. Or find the copyright owner, get permission and/or pay for the right to use. The old adage, “When in doubt, don't” could well apply now. The problem with this is that it may be difficult to track down the copyright owner of some foreign works, to arrange the permission for use. It would be helpful if there were some sort of international clearing house for the many and varied works but the enormity of such a project makes that project costly. Yet at the same time, as copyright holders, we can sympathize with the owner of a foreign copyright that has to date, been refused the benefit of their work after complying with the laws of their own country. Would we want our own copyright from the U.S. to be honored elsewhere? How would you feel if your work was considered public domain in other countries simply because you didn't comply with the formalities of each and every nation?

One last analysis on this case for you to ponder. The Constitution provides that the purpose of Copyright is to encourage creativity and to promote the creation of new works. With this law, many of the works that were once in the public domain here in the United States, are now possibly out of reach due to the costs or impossibility of obtaining the copyrights. Does this mean the end of that Constitutional intent? Some authors believe that this ruling is the beginning of the end of public domain works and with that, a stifling of new works. Yet others believe that as an international community, we must give comity to the laws of other countries. Are we being arrogant Americans to want it all on our own terms with this, or is has the Supreme Court ignored the Constitution's simple mandate on copyright in an effort to avoid trade sanctions? Is there any balance between the two?

For now, as authors, you are in the tough position of making sure that if you use any quotes or work that you think is in the public domain, you double check to insure it is still available and free to use. Otherwise you might be infringing on a valid copyright.

See you next blog. As always, if you have any question, send me an email:

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The High Price of Low Cost: Why 99 Cents isn’t a bargain

I was looking at feeds on Facebook when I came across this illustration by Kilu Zamana which, if you find it, is worth sharing on your feeds:

I couldn't stop thinking about it days later because it brought home several points most authors don't like to talk about. Creative people often toil for years on work that may never find a home, and even when they do, the payment may not be in proportion to the time invested.  We pay for classes, perfect the craft, attend conferences, invest in computers, printers, and all the supplies that go with it. We contribute to the bottom line at Apple, Dell and HP, at the art store, the office supply store, and the post office.  While publishers pay salaries and benefits packages to their editors, marketing staff, I/T department, and clerical staffs — authors and illustrators (the engine behind those companies)  work without retirement packages, health insurance, or paid time off.

Bottom line: businesses expect to profit off an artist’s work, but expect the content creator to give it to them for a negligible amount or worse -- free.

It's as if people believe that artists simply create beauty out of thin air. As if the talent exhibited requires no practice, no hard work and no investment in time or materials.  Photographer John Mueller’s blog entry said it better than I could. He estimates that the cost of producing the photo shown on his blog was $6,612 (seen at this link:)  This Photograph Is Not Free:

Mueller gives his breakdown as follows: 

“$12 in gas to go from work to this spot and then home. The camera I took this with cost $2500. The lens was another $1600. The Singh Ray Reverse Neutral Density filter was $210. The Lee Wide-Angle Adapter and Foundation kit was another $200. The Slik Tripod was another $130. The shutter-release was another $60. When I got home, I uploaded it to a computer that cost me $1200, and then I used Lightroom 3 which I got for $200. I then exported it and tinkered with it in Photoshop which costs about $500."

I calculated the cost of creating FLOW at $5,000: a used Imac desktop, a printer and discount ink, internet access, software including the Adobe Suite, website and book trailer development, assistance with cover design, week-long writing retreats, conferences and professional memberships.  If you count the value of hours spent writing and revising over two years, the cost is much higher even when calculated at minimum wage.

Prior to the Internet, e-books and digital delivery, authors made the least amount of revenue from their books. 10% of retail on average. Or less. The shift to digital delivery was supposed to change that. To give artists a fighting chance to earn a decent living from their work. To let content creators earn a fair percentage for their work. But as with all things, theory didn't match reality.

So what happened?

The market flooded with authors and publishers staking a claim in the new territory.  It became harder and harder to stand out.  It wasn’t good enough to simply offer a sample - indie authors began offering their books for 99 cent and then dropped them to "free" in the hopes of building an audience. 

At 99 cents, Amazon takes most of it: 65 cents leaving the author with 34 cents per book. It the rumors are true, and Amazon adds a surcharge overseas, then Amazon makes $2.65 and the author still makes 34 cents.  At free, Amazon and the author get nothing.  All this for a book which - if printed, would retail for approximately $16.99-$19.99.

I followed the blog of a colleague who was honest enough to post the real numbers from his ebook sales in all venues. With multiple titles available he had distributed close to a half million copies when he made them available for “free” but only hundreds to a few thousand when he sold them at a $2.99 price point.  His net after sales worked out to be less than minimum wage over the course of six months.

Which begs the question? Are we driving demand and reader expectation to the point where we won't be able to make a living from our work?  

We don’t ask AMC or Cinemark to let us see a movie for free.  We pay $9 or more for a combo meal that includes 5 cents worth of popcorn and 10 cents worth of carbonated syrup.  We don’t ask for a refund for a $10 ticket if the movie sucked. We critique red carpet designer outfits worn by celebrities whose mansions we helped pay for with our ticket purchases.

But we often ask struggling artists to forgo a living wage because we somehow think that art should be free and that creativity comes without sweat or effort.  Free art works if you have a trust fund to pay the bills. It doesn't if you have $50,000 in college debt from your art major.

99 cent isn’t cheap. It's the price point that will destroy the market and drive talented artists out of the business.

So how about this: once a month, support an author and or artist at a sustainable price: $2.99 or $3.99.  That's the equivalent of a cup of coffee (or tea in my case).  It’s less than a trip to a fast food restaurant.  But it might mean the artist or author can make the rent, or keep the heat on. It might mean they can pay the tuition at college due after all the scholarships are accounted for.  It might mean a decent meal instead of ramen noodles, a shot at a retirement plan, or money for health insurance.

It might save a life.

At $2.99-$3.99 an indie author makes about $2.00 - the same royalty $ they'd earn if their hardcover book sold at $19.99. The author remains viable, the reader gets the content at 80-90% off retail.

Once a month buy a reasonably priced ebook or piece of artwork from a not-so-famous person who deserves it. Someone who really works at craft, takes the process seriously, has skin in the game.  At that price, you get a bargain and the content creator gets breathing room to keep creating work you love.

WE ARE THE 99% and survival means taking care of our own.

Live long and prosper.......H.C. Lawrence

Monday, January 23, 2012

Generating Story Ideas

For the last week, I’ve devoted myself to coming up with proposals for cozy mystery series, writing the series overviews and brief synopses of three books for each of the three series. Nine books in all! Hopefully, the literary agent who has requested to see them will like them. It was quite an exercise coming up with all those ideas, me who believes that ideas are her weakest point. How did I do it in less than a week? I wondered if I could break the process down, so that I could help other people.

1) I tried to play on some current trends – Jane Austen, blogging, hoarding, malti-poo dog breeds, scones, unemployment, cruises

2) Then some current controversies – McMansion subdivisions in undeveloped areas of natural beauty; whether pit bulls are inherently dangerous; puppy mills

3) Then I mixed in some of my own life circumstances – raising young children, facing the prospect of a job ending, having Irish relatives, adopting animals, and volunteering at an animal rescue with my daughter

4) I brainstormed suspects in each mystery by typing out a list of possibilities. By the time I reached five on my list, I usually had one, or I had to sit and let the list gel for awhile until I came back to it. By that time, I would usually have a clearer sense of what would work

5) I did research on the internet, following Chris Baty’s (National Writing a Novel in a Month) rule about setting a five-minute limit on research, otherwise it can take over, and you find yourself distracted from actually writing

6) I did research on my public library catalogue, putting holds on books that I thought would help with background information or fiction with similar topics that could inspire me

7) Once I had a first draft of a series, populated with the characters, and the basic outline of each book done, I would show it to my husband, my mother, and my critique partner. They each have different perspectives but all came at it from the “big picture” view rather than word-smithing. The added benefit of seeking their input was that it forced me to let ideas digest awhile longer, so that while I waited for their feedback, I was working on something else. When I went back in to add in their feedback, I had other tidbits of my own to mix in as well.

In all, this was a big accomplishment for me, coming up with so many ideas in such a short period of time and building them into a coherent form. How do you come up with ideas? What strategies work for you?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

True Confessions

True confessions: One of my favorite pastimes is eavesdropping on conversations.
I’m a very dialog driven writer, and I get so much inspiration from the little tidbits I overhear just doing my normal routine. Whether I’m at the grocery store, the mall, or out to dinner—I always find myself getting sucked into the conversations of the people around me. I’m a bit of a word sleuth, so I have a tiny little book that I use to capture the conversations. They are great for lending an authentic voice to my writing.

A word of warning: You have to be subtle or you might get caught. I’ve had a couple of close calls, but my book and pen are so small that I can stash them away quickly. Plus, it’s amazing what a pleasant smile and fast feet can save you from.

Here’s the first of a series of posts highlighting my favorite conversational tidbits. 
 The things you hear while shopping at the grocery store—especially the snack aisle!
“What are we doing here?”

“I need a sugar fix.”

“But I thought you wanted to fit into those awesome jeans you bought to impress Shawn?”

“No problem.”

“Umm, you’ve got about 5,000 calories in your hand.”

“You’re such a buzz kill. Okay, what about these?”

“Are you kidding me?”

“What’s wrong? They’re diet.”

“Right. Did you see the serving size? I know you won’t stop at one.”

“I’m beginning to question why I asked you to come with me.”

“Because you need a conscience.”

“Well, why don’t you take my conscience out to the car so I can buy these double chunk cookies in peace.”

So if you're ever stuck on dialogget out there and eavesdrop. Just don't get caught!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ways to Promote Your Book!

You've written your book and it's been out for a few months. When it first was released you probably had a big party and you went on a lot of blog tours. For me my book came out as an ebook, so I had a big blog party and then a book signing where I live and in a larger venue with book postcards. I then went on practically every writing group available to promote my book and now I get email from both LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Yet, the sales didn't really go up even though my reviews are 4 and 5 stars on both Amazon and Goodreads. I have over 1400 Facebook friends and I'm increasing my Twitter followers every day! However, I'm still not sure enough people know about my book and my sales rank on Amazon is way too low!!

So how I do I promote my book? I carry my book postcards around with me wherever I go. I tell anyone I meet about my book and give out a card that I sign for them. You would be surprised how many people are excited to meet a real author. This week so far I have given out four or five cards. I gave one to the eleven year old daughter of the cake maker I visited to get my daughter's birthday cake and signed it for her. Two weeks ago I gave a card to the nurse who helped me with my colonoscopy. Today I was with my daughter for her endoscopy and I started talking with these two women in the waiting room. I handed them each a card and told them I would sign it for them. They were so happy to see I was an author and they were thrilled to have me sign it for them. One of them wanted my website.

I have gotten some of my paperback books from my publisher and I plan to go to as many independent book stores as possible. I will also probably drop into the school that was interested in having me visit and bring them a copy. I have sent an ebook to the National Eating Disorders Association and I will be sending them a paperback copy for their library. I will be sending a goodie bag to a book fair and I continue to give out free copies on my blog and other people's blogs.

I think when you bring promoting your book into your daily life you can find lots of places where you can promote it. So next time you are wondering how you can promote your book think of using your own life and let the people with whom you come in contact with know you are an author. 

My book, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor is the 2nd place winner of the Young Adult category of the Preditors and Editors Poll for Best Book of 2011. So, maybe this will bring up my sales. I do believe in doing things gradually, so maybe my one to one promotion will pay off for me.:) See if it works for you

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thoughts on 2012 So Far

Blog of Jan. 19, 2012
Greetings All!
American Idol, the eleventh season began last evening. I’ve been watching it since the first season so, of course I wanted to watch the auditions. I had been having a not-so-great day so I wasn’t sure I wanted to watch it. Well, after I watched it I was inspired to continue to follow my dream because isn’t that what all of these people are doing? Following their dream? I may no longer be as young as they are but a dream is a dream and I am not going to give up on mine. My bad day turned itself around and I felt like I could conquer the world of writing again. After thinking about it I decided it was because I finished the last edit of my faerie novel, LORE OF FEI, set to be published in April, 2012 by Muse It Up Publishing. I am always sad when I finish a book.  Does that ever happen to you?

I finished editing my YA Dystopian WIP. I think. *scratches head* In any case, I’m leaving it alone for a while. I am still deciding if I want to enter it in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award at the end of the month  or not. LINK IS HERE:
I entered FITZROY: THE BOY WHO WOULD BE KING last year and it made it through the quarterfinals. The issue I am having is if I enter it I can’t send it to my agent until June! Yikes! If I don’t enter it, I can send it to her right away and she can get started on sending it out to publishers/editors. So. . .what would you do?

I’ve been reading zombie books. And watching zombie shows/movies. In fact, The Fades, BBC ‘s new show about zombies came out Jan. 14th and this is what I thought of it: Interesting but not taken with it right away. I’ll watch more of it to give it a chance. I mean, it is BBC America after all.
Of course I love the AMC show, The Walking Dead and can’t wait for the Feb. 12, 2012 debut of the next season.  So, any “new” zombie show has to live up to my expectations of it being as good as TWD.
And I have to say that Resident Evil movies 1&2 are my fave zombie movies so far. I guess I prefer the more serious type zombie movies.  Wait, isn’t that an oxymoron?

I placed #12 in the Preditors and Editor’s Readers Poll of 2011 for IF IT’S MONDAY, IT MUST BE MURDER and at #19 for FITZROY: THE BOY WHO WOULD BE KING.  I am happy with the results. I was hoping to place in the top ten because then you get a cool badge for your website/blog/Facebook page. I am grateful for all those that voted!

I wrote a short story (8,000 words) in two hours, edited it and sent it out to a competition. I need to write more short stories. I like to write flash fiction but I haven’t written anything in a while. Give me a picture or a short phrase and I’ll write a story about it. I call these writing prompts. My short story was inspired by a nursery rhyme.  I want to do more of these. They are fun and keep your writing chops sharp. Give me three words and I’ll write a flash fiction story about it. Any ideas?

I got invited to speak at a high school creative writing class about being a writer and I’m so excited! I am going to talk about my first novel, WITCH HUNTER and the process I went through to get it published. I have a mug with the cover on it and the book itself as a giveaway. The teacher can decide if she wants to do a raffle or not.

I changed my desktop screen saver to a sign that says: I AM A CERTIFIED WHOVIAN. I changed my FB profile pix to be: HOLD ON TIGHT AND PRETEND IT’S A PLAN. I’m also a Browncoat.

Take Care Until Next Time,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Creating Your Creative Paradigm

Hey all,
I figured on sharing a neat post by a very successful and intelligent author, Randy Ingermanson. Yes, he gave me permission (see below). So, without delay...
Getting your first draft written is a major strategic goal in writing your novel. But how do you get there?  You need what I call a "creative paradigm" -- a method for doing your creative work. Creation tends to be messy and chaotic and hard. Your first draft is all about creation.  Once you've got your first draft written, you'll be able to focus on editing, which is a whole other game. But you'll never have anything to edit until you've first created it, so in this article, let's worry only about the creative part.  When I was writing my book, WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES, my editor believed that there is one best creative paradigm to get that first draft done. She thought it was "obvious" that you should write an outline first, then write your novel sticking tightly to the outline.  If that were the only possible creative paradigm, a lot of great books would never have been written. Plenty of authors simply can't write a novel from an outline. Their brains aren't wired that way.  In my book, I identified four common creative paradigms for getting to that first draft. Here they are:  * "Seat of the pants." When you write by the seat of your pants, you don't know how the story is going to end. You typically don't even know what's going to happen on the next page. You just sit down and start typing.  Stephen King writes by the seat of his pants, and he's done all right with it. So has Jerry Jenkins, author of the LEFT BEHIND series of apocalyptic novels. This is a very common road to the first draft.  If you're a seat-of-the-pants writer (often called an SOTP), then don't try to change yourself. There's nothing wrong with you. There's nothing wrong with your method.  However, when your first draft is done, there'll be a lot wrong with your manuscript. It'll be a big brick of paper with a wandering story that had no planning, and so it's going to need major revisions. That's the biggest problem with writing by the seat of your pants.  Most SOTP writers love the revision process, so they aren't intimidated by the fact that they're going to have to do a lot of it. Once the first draft is done, for them the real fun begins.  Sometimes the SOTP creative paradigm is called "organic" writing. In my view, this label really doesn't make any sense. Seat-of-the-pants writing is no more natural than any other creative paradigm and it doesn't produce inherently better final products.  * "Edit as you go." This creative paradigm is similar to writing by the seat of your pants except that you don't go very far before you stop and edit what you just wrote. Maybe every page. Maybe every scene. But you edit it. And edit it again. And again. Until it's perfect. Only then do you move on.  This is a fairly slow way to write a first draft, because you may revise a single page 20 times before you move on. It may seem like your progess is frozen-slug slow. But when the draft is done, the book is done. It's as perfect as you're going to make it.  That's one of the nice things about the edit-as-you-go creative paradigm. You don't have a long extended phase of revisions to do after you finish the first draft. You just turn it in and move on to the next project.  Dean Koontz is a well-known edit-as-you-go writer, and his results speak for themselves. This method is fairly rare, but if it's your style, then it's your style and you probably can't imagine doing it any other way.  * "Outlining." Many writers simply can't face the idea of writing a first draft unless they know where they're going. All the way, in detail. So they first write an "outline."   This is NOT the multi-level outline that you learned in fifth grade, using bullet points labeled with Roman numerals, letters and numbers. Instead, a novel "outline" is a synopsis, a narrative summary of the story, told in present tense and focusing on the plot, but possibly including some discussions of character development.  Your outline may be a short synopsis of two pages, the typical length that you'd submit to an editor when trying to sell your book. It may be a twenty page synopsis with every scene sketched in. It may be a 150 page tome that functions as a very short first draft.  Robert Ludlum was famous for writing enormously long synopses for his spy novels. Many other writers over the years have found that they can't write a novel without an outline.  If you're an outliner, then outline and be proud of it. Don't let anyone tell you that you're somehow more rigid and less natural than an SOTP. Write your novel the way you want to write it. If outlining works for you, then use it.  * "The Snowflake method." If I'm famous for anything, it's for inventing this creative paradigm, which I named after the famous "snowflake fractal" from pure mathematics.  The main idea of the Snowflake is that you start small with one single story concept and then flesh it out in a succession of steps, each time adding more detail. You alternately work on the plot and the characters until you've got a strategic plan to guide you in writing your first draft.  In early 2003, I posted an article on my web site spelling out the Snowflake method. I had used the method to write my first published novel, and it just felt natural to me. (I used a very early version of the Snowflake to write my Ph.D. thesis in physics when I was at Berkeley back in 1986.)  I've been pleased that the Snowflake has taken off massively all around the world. The Snowflake article on my web site has been viewed over 2 million times. Clearly, it struck a nerve. But I'm the first to tell you that it's not the only way to write a novel. If it works for you, then use it. Otherwise, find another road to nirvana.  How do you decide what creative paradigm you should use to write your novel?  I suspect that in reading the descriptions of the four paradigms above, one of them seemed natural to you and the others seemed unnatural. In that case, try the one that sounds natural. It's a good bet that your brain is wired to use that method.  You may find that none of them seem natural. In that case, try each one for a month or so. See what works.  When your book is published, nobody is going to know or care which creative paradigm you used to write your first draft. They'll care about whether your story works.  Your story has the best chance of working if you write it using a creative paradigm that suits you.  If you want to know more about each of the four paradigms, then feel free to consult chapter 4 of my book, WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES, which has much more detail than I've had room for here. 
This E-zine is copyright Randall Ingermanson, 2012.
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.  Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 29,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit  Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Blahs

That's where I am right now. Deep in the depths of The Blahs.

The Blahs may not be a real place, but they sure feel like one sometimes. They're the place where the sky is cloudy and the weather's cold. Where the stories don't flow, or at least don't flow smoothly, and the water does--usually out of a pipe that it shouldn't be flowing from.

It's winter here, and I think a lot of people find themselves in The Blahs at this time of year. The daylight hours are short, and this winter we don't even have snow to make the leafless trees and browning lawns look prettier.

Under my top-secret pen name, I had three deadlines to meet during the past week. I've met them all, but doing so sent me further into The Blahs, and has also caused me to sadly neglect the young adult novel I should have finished writing by now. Knowing that I haven't been working on that as much as I should have isn't helping me get out of The Blahs.

But...I met those deadlines, and I am over halfway finished the YA novel. I know what happens in the rest of it, it's just a matter of getting the words on the pages. I have another YA project planned for when I finish this one, and I'm really looking forward to it. And I tentatively have another YA release scheduled later this month.

So there's a lot to look forward to, and I won't be in The Blahs long. They're just not much fun while I'm here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Dreamed I Was A Horse

On Sunday, my heart raced as I ran and danced with Lusitanos, Arabians and Painted Horses in a magical forest.  At least, that’s what I felt as I watched Cavalio’s production of “Odyesso” in Atlanta, Georgia.  Cavalia is like the Cirque du Soleil with horses.
Picture a blazing white tent almost the size of Hogwart’s quittich field.  Inside the tent, the performance area has three sides like a standard theater with its fourth wall open to the audience.  Here under the big tent nothing will exist but the magic of the story.   And for awhile I journeyed with a company of artists and horses to be moved by their relationship based on trust and love.
The opening scene began with total darkness.  Then dim light from behind a see-through curtain evoked the signs of dusk waking up the forest.  Nine horses take the stage.  Alone. 
As if looking through a peep hole I watched horses roam free and wild.  They danced, noozled each other and ran with their thick manes and tails trailing behind them.  Then six men entered the stage.  Both creatures curious of the other.  Dancing and running together, they tested the boundaries, never touching and always free.
Joy surged through me with tears ready to be released by the beauty of what I was seeing.  I wondered why it was so moving. Perhaps, it was the spirit of the horses as they were meant to be.  Whatever it was, I will remember it as the day I dreamed I was a horse running free.

Till next time,

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Priest and The Peaches

  1. Joining the Downtowners today is Larry Peterson to tell us about his new release The Priest and The Peaches. Welcome, Larry, tell us about your current project. I have started writing the sequel to “The Priest and The Peaches”. This will see the younger boys go to rural New Jersey for their summer vacation to stay with friends of Father Sullivan’s. Things will happen and we shall delve into the paranormal, no vampire or zombies, but rather a good vs evil thing. That’s all I can say right now.
  2. How do you respond to a reviewer if its not favorable?
    Unfavorable reviews should be welcome (unless they are all unfavorable—then you might have a problem) because you can learn from them. It is nice to get a different slants or POVs from people you do not know. It can only help you as a writer.
  3. How do you advertise your work?
    Well, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and, of course, these type of reviews and guest blogs and interviews etc. I am weak in this area but hopefully I’ll get better at it as time goes by.
  4. Do you have daily writing goals you set for yourself?
    Not really. Some people want to make sure they do so many words a day etc. I can’t do that. ---my goal is to write something and to discipline myself so as not to be distracted by ‘stuff”. When you work from home all sorts of things go on and you have to stay on track as best you can. So, sometimes I can throw down 10k words. Other times I might get two paragraphs done. I am what I am and that’s me.
  5. Do you belong to any writing chapters and how do you feel they help you?
    I belong to the Catholic Writer’s Guild and I do post a blog for them about once a month about writing. I listen to the feedback and it helps that way.
  6. What books of yours are currently for sale and where can a reader buy them?
    My children’s book, “Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes” is available in hardback and all of the e-apps. and “The Priest and The Peaches” is available in all the e-apps. You can also go to for both of them.

Larry's Information:
Larry Peterson's blog:

Larry Peterson's Facebook:!/larrytpbx

Larry Peterson's Twitter:

Tribute Books website:

Tribute Books Facebook:

Tribute Books Twitter:

The Priest and the Peaches Book Summary
Historical fiction novel set in the Bronx in the mid-1960s

Take a seven day journey with the five, newly orphaned Peach kids, as they begin their struggle to remain a family while planning their dad's funeral.

They find an ally in the local parish priest, Father Tim Sullivan, who tries his best to guide them through the strange, unchartered and turbulent waters of "grown-up world." A story that is sad, funny, and inspiring as it shows how the power of family love and faith can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Larry Peterson's Bio:
Larry Peterson was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. A former Metal Lather/Reinforcing Iron-worker, he left that business after coming down with MS. He, his wife and three kids moved to Florida 30 years ago. Larry began doing freelance newspaper commentary after graduating from Tampa College in 1984.

His first children's picture book, Slippery Willie's Stupid, Ugly Shoes was published in 2011. In 2012, his full length novel, The Priest and the Peaches was released and he is presently working on the sequel.

He also has a blog ( where he posts weekly commentary. He lives in Pinellas Park, Florida and his kids and six grandchildren all live within three miles of each other.

ISBN: 978-0-9837418-4-8
ISBN: 978-1-4658-6327-0
Pages: 285
Release: January 1, 2012

Kindle buy link

Nook buy link

iBookstore buy link (coming soon)

Smashwords buy link

PDF buy link

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Writing for Glory, Gain, or Fun

Image: Pong /
Many people write because they dream of publication. Some even hope to be famous or long to be immortal. Others say the only reason to write is because you love it, because the muse grabs you and won't let go, because you won't be fully alive unless you get the words inside you down on paper.

Writing advice contains so many either/or propositions. You must choose: Will you stay true to your art or prostitute yourself by doing hack writing? Will you go with a "legitimate" publisher or choose self-publishing? Each question is posed as if there's only one right answer. Everyone knows that a true writer only writes for the joy of it, never takes on hack jobs, and never, ever self publishes. To do otherwise means you aren't a "real" writer. Or does it?

Years ago a well-known YA editor once posed the question to a group of us at a conference: "Would you rather be known as a literary writer or be a commercial success?" He went around the table and people made their choices. Interestingly enough, those who chose money over craft felt the need to defend their preference. When he came to me, I said, "I'd rather be both at the same time." Everyone just stared at me, including the editor. Apparently, no one had considered the two did not have to be mutually exclusive. Since then, many YAs have been written that are both literary and bestsellers, so it isn't an impossibility.

As creatives we should be the last to embrace an either/or mentality, but should always look for ways to be inclusive. What is brainstorming? Coming up with off-the-wall, unusual ideas and then making them work. So why can't we do that with the traditional dos and don'ts of the craft? Expand our viewpoints to include all of the above?

This may be a rather long-winded way of  introducing myself and my rather checkered writing career. I've tried to do it all, which means that I've been traditionally published, done ghostwriting, worked for hire, and written for the sheer joy of it. I've written fiction and nonfiction, have both e-books and print books, published for both children and adults, and been on both sides of the editorial desk. I've written under multiple pseudonyms and under my own name. I've struggled doing other jobs (teacher, children's librarian, restaurant cashier, business owner) while collecting publishing credits that paid in free copies of the magazine or journal, and I've also spent the past 6+ years totally supporting my family through my writing. And if there's one thing I've learned--it's OK to do it all. The truth is that I want it all: glory, gain, and fun. Don't you?

About the Author

After careers as a teacher and children’s librarian, Laurie J. Edwards moved into editing and writing, where she freelances for a variety of publishing houses. She writes for both children and adults under several pseudonyms. In addition to having more than 1800 magazine and educational articles published, her most recent releases include Pirates through the Ages (Cengage, 2011), Rihanna (People in the News) (Lucent, 2009), Summer Lovin’ (Wild Rose Press, 2009), and the 5-vol. Encyclopedia of North American Tribes (Gale, 2012). She is also ghostwriting an MG action-adventure series and a YA historical fiction series. Other WIPs include a YA fantasy trilogy, a YA historical set in Ming China, and several adult novels.

Friday, January 13, 2012

What’s a Goal, Anyway?

Wow, my first post for the Downtown YA-ers! I’m super, super excited to be here – and given that I’m the token Aussie from way Downunder, it’s an even greater honour. I look forward to getting to know you all – and you getting to know me.

And because you have no idea who I am, let me start with my name: I'm Kaz Delaney. I'm as said, an Aussie living on the beautiful Central Coast district of NSW and the beach is at my back door. I've written over 60 titles for midgraders and YAs, and some of you 'may' remember my titles from Dorchester's Smooch line: 'My Life as a Snowbunny' (a lead title)and 'Princesses Don't Sweat'. My latest YA is with Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin and will be a March 2012 release. It's entitled: 'Dead, Actually' -= and I can hardly wait to see it on the shelves.

So, to kick it all off - Happy 2012! I love even-numbered years - I always think they're more successful for me - so here's hoping. Of course my preference makes no sense given that I was born in an odd year and on an odd-numbered day!

Not that I’m superstitious. Or anything... Much... Okay, so I might be. A little bit. Like, I won’t put new shoes on the table, walk under a ladder, walk on pavement cracks, raise an umbrella indoors, step in front of a black cat, drink from a cup held in my left hand, eat green M&Ms, wear red – not even cherry lipgloss – on any day starting with a ‘T’ or share body fluids with anyone born under the Capricorn sign.

Superstitions? Really? I much prefer to call them quirks. And hello???? I also won’t wrestle a crocodile with my bare hands - and we’d hardly call that a superstition, would we? Point made. Right?

Okay, one thing I DO, is make goals - and given that it’s a brand new year, I’ve been doing a bit of that lately. In fact yesterday, my crit group met at my house and we sat out by my pool (yes, we’re in the throes of summer here) and pondered what we’d like to achieve this year.
That’s when the fun started. It began when someone said they wanted to sell three books this year, and someone else (not pointing fingers, dobbing or mentioning any names here, KL!) responded that, selling three books wasn’t a goal, it was a dream. And so ensued a lively discussion on what actually constitutes a goal.

And here’s what we decided. A goal must be:

I guess this means you can’t be namby-pamby about it. So for me that means I can’t just say, ‘I’m going to write this year’. I need to say, ‘I’m going to write 2 YA novels in the Dead series, and begin a new midgrade series’.

No, this doesn’t mean measure if it’s a big goal or a small goal. (Surely someone thought that, right? Someone else? Right?)

Okay, well just in case someone (else) really did think that, I’m here to tell you that’s not quite correct. A measurable goal is one that has a measurable limit placed upon it. After all, if we don’t know when we’re supposed to have achieved this goal, or how much we’re supposed to achieve, then when will we know if we’ve been successful?

Quantifying our goals gives them purpose and makes them achievable. So, instead of me saying, I’ll write every day, I need to place a specific measurable limit on that. So, my goal ultimately read, I’ll write 3k words every day, because that will get me to my target.

This also allows me to check my progress – which of course is non-existent. So far.

Yes, it’s already mid month. And yes, that cracking sound was indeed my head hitting the desk.

This is the biggy really, and the biggest definer of whether we’re spouting goals or dreams. Let’s go back to the girl who wanted to sell 3 books. Dream, right?

Why? Because it’s something she has no control over. Now, if she said she was going to ‘write’ three books – then that’s totally different. That’s a goal.

Why? Because it’s attainable, achievable – it’s within her control.

Short definition? Make sure it’s something YOU have control over – and then it’s a goal.

This is the one I’m still stinging over... Come on people! Like, can you really say that Brad Pitt will never call me up and invite me to dinner to discuss the movie he’s going to make of my next novel? Never? Really?
That’s so harsh...

Time Sensitive
This is the ‘when’ part of the equation. When do you expect to achieve your goals? By now I was dragging out my calendar. So, by end of January, I’ll have the first draft of the first book in the midgrade series completed. It’s the thing I have to work towards. Or against, depending on how you cope with deadlines.

Considering my next novel is well and truly underway, I’m also quietly targeting the end of March as the completion date for my next YA novel.

So, there you have it. Goals 101. And yes, okay, time to ‘fess up. Of course this is the definition of SMART goals – and no, we didn’t really make them up.

Phew – so glad I got that off my chest. I make a point of never telling whoppers on any days that have an ‘s’ in them. Not that I’m superstitious or anything...

Are you? Care to share the weirdest superstition you’ve ever heard? If you’ve never heard any weirder than you just read here, maybe you’d just like to say ‘hi’. I’d love to hear from you.

Till then - have a great 2012! I’ll be here on the 13th and 27th – mark it in your calendar. That way you know what days to come by – or which ones to avoid... ;-)