Friday, March 29, 2013

Job Fail

Just a little warning: This is something of a rant, but most definitely a learning experience for me, and maybe just a little bit of advice for you future online bosses out there - maybe.

Recently, I took a stab at trying to support myself with an online writing job. No worries I'll try again, but this one was an epic fail.

My assumption - yeah you know what they say about assuming - was that I would be given a bunch of information that I would then organize and put into some sort of readable content. for the first part, I pretty much did just that. I was handed a document and told how to expand it and what to look for in order to do that. I didn't realize just how much of a work in progress that had been before I got it. The work ended up being about two thirds longer than it was originally, I think - I'd have to count the pages to say for sure - not really important for this though.

Then there came the next project started from scratch. My assumption still holding up after a fashion, I was given a list of links - it ended up being somewhere around fifteen links. They all went to his website and particular pages, and all but two of those pages had a Google Earth picture and a blurb about that picture. I will not discuss the contents because the privacy part of my contract still holds.

Okay, so I started my lists and located these sites on my own Google Earth, which I had to load onto my computer. With no further clue as to how to organize this, I backed off a bit (on the map) and took a look. Three different areas were covered but they look to me to be roughly the same kind of stuff, so, allowing the linear nature of me to decide, I organized my document by location in line around the map. I then took the information from the webpages and copied and pasted pictures and blurbs to my document in that order. Now everything was in one place and I could expand from there - or so I figured.

My next discussion consisted of "maybe we should do an outline" and then some discussion about an introduction. I was also given another link at this point to add in. No problem; thanks to the wonders of writing on a computer, content can be added, expanded, and even moved around with ease. So, I wrote up a brief outline, thinking it was for my use only and really of little importance in the grand scheme of this document, because as I thought, content could be easily added or moved around to achieve the necessary and desired flow.

It took me a chunk of a day to write up this introduction and get it just the way I wanted, knowing and planning that it too would be expanded as necessary during the whole process of working on the body of this work. I even had something of a conclusion started.

Rather than sending the whole document to him again, I merely copied the intro into an email along with assurances that I had made the additions he'd asked for. Come to find out, by return email, he'd wanted the outline and he even sent me a document showing me what he expected. Yeah, it was the whole 'I, A, 1., a., (1), (a)' deal - a very formal outline. Um okay, I haven't done such an outline since I was in maybe Junior High School, though I might have done one in High School. I do remember learning how, but not exactly when - way back then anyway.

Sigh, well if that's what he wanted. Here I am wanting to get my teeth into this document and learn more about the fascinating subject, but maybe it's for the best; it's not as if he can look over my shoulder and see what I'm working on. So I go back to my Google Earth, my document, and that list of links, and I assemble an outline. It ended up being two full pages long by the time I was done with it, and happy with how it looked, so I sent it off.

What I got back was a six-page document filled with red additions and he only did the first couple items. Granted some of that was spacing between the different levels of the outline, but it wasn't the length of the document that dumped me off the deep end, it was the additions themselves. Added to my outline was information vital to the document to be sure, but information I wasn't given. Herein begins my bit of a rant. How am I supposed to include information into any kind of a document, if I don't know that I'm supposed to go find this information? How am I supposed to go look something up if I don't know that I'm supposed to do that. Point me please.

It wasn't the amount of research he expected me to do either, but apparently I was supposed to do it on my own somehow. I was suddenly inundated with the feeling that I needed more than one college degree in order to have an inkling that some of this information might need to be looked up and discussed. I could have taken this suddenly horrendously incomplete outline and used that to complete the document, but I was supposed to come up with all this information myself first. I still shake my head in disbelief at the magnitude of information I was supposed to come up with for this outline with only a handful of links to draw it from. So here I am, hanging by a writerly thread, over an ocean of virtual information, and I'm expected to swim my way, not only to shore, but to the head of a specific river with no land in sight and without a compass. Talk about in too deep.

My small bit of advice for you potential bosses out there in the www. If you want someone to write your book for you, make sure they have ALL the information they need first, along with a clear explanation of what you expect. For me, in this case. I needed this outline. With this outline, plus the handful of links, I would have had the direction I needed. With this outline, I would have known what I needed to look up and I could have taught myself what I needed to know in order to write this document. Asking me to come up with this information, is kinda like asking me to find my way to the headwaters of a specific river in the dark without a compass.

Oh, and while I'm at it, what is the going wage for ghost writing?

Friday, March 22, 2013

Vampires, Werewolves, and Sex

Briefly this morning I thought of something to blog about today, but for the life of me I can't remember what it was. Got a writing job and I've been concentrating on it pretty hard. I forgot all about it being Friday and my needing to post something. So to inspire me, I was surfing around Facebook looking for maybe a random writing question or comment that could spark a post. As you can see from the title, I kinda sorta did.

Is it me, or is it the crowd I've manage to fall into, or is it all the rage lately? I'm thinking it's the rage, making my simple little books seem kinda dreary by comparison. I mean, none of my characters (yet) change screamingly into fiendish hairy beasts hot for human blood especially women who they then fall in love with. None of my characters die and then walk among the living (probably not ever), seeking the opportunity to drain an unsuspecting someone of their life's blood, unless of course they fall in love with them first. Ah the complications. And sex??? Now that's a different story, but, well, my style there is very different. Hot and steamy, maybe, but only in your imagination.

The other things I see is the occasional horror stories, but you know, I don't think I've seen one science fiction story (not counting mine). Whatever happened to intelligent computers and space travel?

Yeah, okay, so I'm rambling. As a treat, I'll post a sample from The Mystery of Planet Wer. Yeah, that's intentionally misspelled. You see, while I was writing that book, my computer kept taking exception to my preferred used of Were, telling me it wasn't supposed to be capitalized, and then I found somewhere that the word werewolf used to be spelled werwolf, so I adopted that for the title. Besides, it reads better (I think).

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Attention all passengers, standard orbit around Planet Wer will be achieved at oh-six-hundred hours tomorrow morning. All passengers wishing to disembark for the surface need to have their luggage checked and be ready for boarding shuttle Alpha by oh-eight-hundred hours. We will remain in orbit for eight days while trade goods are exchanged. Planet Wer is a quarantine planet. Lieutenant Radolfuss, a native of Wer, will be in the commissary for the rest of the afternoon to answer any questions you might have.”

The message was repeated and the silence that followed magnified the clear voice of a tiny girl. “Is it true, mommy? Is it true that everyone who lives there is a werwolf?”

No one heard the answer, if there was one, because everyone chose that moment to spread any and all rumors and gossip they had heard about the mysterious planet called Wer.

Moments later, another wave of silence crept into the room as a tall, very unusual man strode through the commons on his way to the commissary. Irresistibly, every person in the room watched him walk by, and seemingly by compulsion, they followed, heading for the commissary in his wake.

The clear voice of the little girl echoed through the now empty commons again. “But mommy, isn’t that what a werwolf looks like?” There was no one left to hear the response, if there was one.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 I just realized, Justin doesn't change screamingly either. For him, it's just flexing his muscles (and his bones) a bit. And, there's no blood lust either. Well dang. I guess my werwolf is kinda tame like the rest of my books hahaha. Ah well. I like what I write. I read what I like, so I guess that tells you what kinds of books I generally buy, not that I don't try out some written by my friends, but I probably won't be buying too many. Since I got my Kindle, I have a handful of all of the above, courtesy of my wonderful on-line writer-friends. And yes I actually bought most of them. Since I was concentrating on filling my kindle, I didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on eBooks, so I went for the $.99 ones mostly. Some of the more expensive ones that looked really appetizing I put on my wish list. I'll get them eventually, when I get more caught up with reading. You can look forward to book reviews here.

Just a reminder, I'm running a poll over on my website to see which book you might like to see published next. Have you voted yet?

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Blurb

King by Right of Blood and Might

I would like to present you with my first endeavor, a book that I have written titled King by Right of Blood and Might. It is a story about a young prince who must learn how to run a country from sources other than his father. His father, the king, had been a paranoid recluse ever since his own father died and he ran his family accordingly. During that time, the infrastructure of the country collapsed and many of its citizens were enslaved and taken away.

Knowing that he couldn't teach his son the things he wanted and needed to know, King Aidyn sent his son to foster with the neighboring king to the south.

After my young hero learned the things he needed to learn, he had to assemble an army and return home to reclaim and rebuild his own country. His unique friendships afforded him an unprecedented opportunity to do that. All that remained to be seen is if he can hold it all together long enough to achieve his goals.

During this time, we watch his mother descend into insanity and his love for his betrothed grow. We also learn more about how things in the country reached this state and more about his family.

written by Anna L. Walls

Prince in Hiding; Book 1 of The Making of a Mage-King series

What would happen to you if you lost your parents at 17? And then...

what if they weren't your parents at all? When Sean loses his parents within a year of each other he can't see past the tragedy...

until he finds out his father isn't really his father...

and Sean isn't who he thinks he is. Follow Sean through his journey to a magical world where he is royalty and his powers are only beginning to bloom...

and family is a relative concept - evil uncles and all.

Prince in Hiding by Anna Walls is the first in the Making of a Mage King series that follows young Sean from boy to Mage King!

written by Bruce Sarte

The Fortunes of Magic

Liam moved with his parents to a planet that had yet to become a full-fledged member of the empire; in fact, it was so new that it had yet to earn a name, still being classified as Planet 663-457. They came to study the people and their society, and judge their readiness to enter the empire.

The people of Planet 663-457 were happily lodged between the Iron Age and the Machine Age. The only, and by far biggest, difference between these people and the people of Earth was the fact that they were about four times the mass of the normal Earth human. This, however, didn’t stop twelve-year-old Liam from making fast friends with three local boys and they were soon inseparable.

There was one aspect about the planet and its people that Liam’s parents didn’t find out about until their son was irretrievably submerged in it - magic. Many people of Planet 663-457 had some modicum of magic, but few were strong enough to be able to access it. Those that were strong enough were brought to the masters for testing, and if they passed the test, the masters took on their training.

Join Liam as he tries to lead a normal life while those around him try to control or regulate the magic that is as much a part of him as the very air he breathes.

written by Anna L. Walls

The Speed of Dreams (kindle only so far - working to rectify that)

When all hopes of peace were shattered, Pilot Aaitt'Kaz was assigned to a new style of ship. It was built for speed and maneuverability, but Kaz had no time for admirations. Everyone was scattering, scrambling to get back to their command before being shot out of the sky. The ship had coordinates for him and then she had sleep for him - a very very long sleep.

A hundred thousand years later, after leaving his refugees to their best devices on a green and blue miracle of a world, Kaz woke again. The last thing he expected to do was fight to protect the descendants of his refugees from the carefully-cultivated warlike nature that had led to the destruction of his home world. The only way he could protect them was to prevent the military scientists from learning the hidden secrets of his DNA.

written by Anna L. Walls

White Star; Book 2 of The Making of a Mage-King series (when it makes it that far)

 When the long dead kings gave Sean their approval to wear the crown, they also gave him a mission.

...the thing is, they didn't tell him what it was.

Feeling like a giant hand was pushing him between his shoulder blades and pulling all his nerves and muscles into a hard fist in the process, Sean is driven... accomplish what?

All he knew was that he had his dear uncle's mess to clean up and he only had until the snow flew to accomplish it all.

written by Anna L. Walls

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

These are mine and in the order they hit the stands, or Amazon actually. Forgive me for a little shameless self promotion; I did add links to Amazon. Yeah, I'm hanging my head is chagrin.

But that was not the point behind this post. The point is, what is it about a blurb that might make you pick up a book? Oh sure, first your reader will need to pick it up, and that's the responsibility of your cover and title - and eye-catcher of a picture as well as a hooker of a title, but what do they find when they turn the book over.

See my first book? Isn't it embarrassing? "Here, this is my very first book." That right there will likely cause 90% of readers to put the book right back down. Most first books are truly cringe-worthy, I know - I've struggled through quite a few of them since I published that book. Sadly, I can honestly claim ignorance on the matter. Me, an avid reader, but yeah. Once I made it past the subliminal cover-title hook, I'd look at the back and then the first page or so. As soon as the price was paid and I started reading, I was doing good to remember anything about the cover and title, and certainly not the author, and the back - long forgotten. They all did their thing though, and my reward was the story between the covers - that was the cream on top of the (insert favorite) pie.

Should by some slim chance, a reader make it past that shameful intro on the back of my book, the rest might not be so bad, but it is still amateurish. Imagine my surprise when reviews started showing up, and they were pretty darn good reviews. Now, some of those reviews were solicited after a fashion but none of them were paid for, and there's even a few left there by people I didn't even know bought the book. So, all things considered, I'm kinda proud of that book. It's not bad for a first. But even so, it's going to get a facelift one of these days.

Blurbs can be hard to put together. Prince in Hiding's blurb was written by my publisher. It's okay, and frankly I can't think of anything better. It does kinda grab your curiosity though.

The Fortunes of Magic was the easiest because I didn't have a word restriction. Well, I did, but it wasn't something I worried about until after I had a cover and it turned out my blurb fit.

The Speed of Dreams, I was given a word limit to stay within. Now that was a hard one. Expressing the dilemma in just so many words is hard. I ended up going pretty much sentence by sentence and judging each one. How vital - can it be shorter - is it already said - you all know the questions we ask. We tend to do it all through our manuscripts, but the blurb is intense, or can be.

White Star was kinda different. This version here might not be the last version, but it's been submitted so maybe it will be - we'll see. What I was aiming for was the same feel as the first book, and I'll try to do the same for book 3.

Am I getting better at book blurbs? I don't know. I was kinda hoping, seeing them all lined up here together, I'd be able to tell, but each one had their issues and differences (not counting my first one). If I go by sales, they'd be ranked like this:
Prince in Hiding - first place by a land slide
King by Right - second place merely due to longevity, though sales of eBooks have really picked up
The Fortunes of Magic and
The Speed of Dreams are both tied for 0 sales and so are tied for last place. But then they both only came out last month, so we'll see.

Well darn. This project ended up being something of a bummer, but no worries. I'm not worrying about it. It is what it is. I'm doing what I can, and can do no more. My books are there, and more will come one day soon (yeah that's plural). So my publishing future is bright.

So - Just curious - how do you handle your book blurbs? Do you do them yourself? Do you leave them up to your agent or publisher?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Satan's Chamber by Molly Best Tinsley and Karetta Hubbard

Satan's Chamber. That is such a gripping and intriguing title. There is one place near the end where we find out exactly what Satan's Chamber is, but really, it could apply to the entire country. Most of this story takes place in the Sudan, in Africa, mostly along the Nile River, and if descriptions are accurate, it's way too hot for me. I start melting at around 70F and it sounds like this place is easily twice as hot most of the time. No thank you. I won't be visiting any time soon.

The story is a fascinating glimpse of how the major movers and shakers in the world can manipulate events and the gathering of information for personal reasons. Of course, those we see in the news every day are mostly the front - the ones who get seen - not that they don't do their fair share of manipulating, and for personal reasons. However those aren't the people we're talking about in this book.

Satan's Chamber is an intricate, multilayered story where most of the main characters are carrying on a double identity of one sort or another. It is, of course, hard to figure out the motivations behind the actions, but it wasn't hard to keep up with who was who, as soon as you got to know who was who.

That being said, I'm not giving this story my highest rating because the get-to-know was a bit rocky for me. It was like walking into a crime scene investigation room and being handed a fistful of photographs, and you have no idea what any of them have to do with the others, at least for most of them. The story starts out with a large cast of characters, and for a good chunk of the story, their interaction with each other seems pointless, and yet you know they have something to do with the big picture, else they wouldn't be there. Some of these characters start coming together way later in the story, and the whole thing comes together at the end in a really awesome finale.

Through it all, key people remain impossible to figure out. Right doesn't seem right for the right reasons, and neither does wrong. It's all very 'human nature' in some of it's most twisted ways. The most honest and true person is the biggest target in the book - go figure. Why are people like that? I'll never understand, though I know it's true.

Well enough of my philosophizing about the story. Now onto why I won't give it a higher rating:

This issue stems from the formatting. It took me a while to catch on to where chapters actually began. Yes, there is a graphic at the end of every chapter, but those become like page numbers, they're there, but not really noticed. The same with chapter headings. They are there, but they really need to be noticed at least a little. Perhaps the graphic over the chapter heading would have been better, but I am merely speculating.

I can only think that formatting this book had to be a nightmare. You see, page numbers were on the top outside corner of the page, except new chapter pages, where the page number appeared on the bottom of the page. No biggy; page numbers are only that. Trouble is, the chapter headings were also only a number. Yes, they were always on the left (I think), and they were twice the size of the normal text, and I think Arial Narrow font, but they were only a number. What's the difference between one kind of number and another kind of number? Since page numbers appear at the top of the page too, the chapter number blended into the background along with them. Yes, there was a long underscore to mark it as a chapter heading, but what is a line? And yes, sometimes, under that line was the date, location and time of day in italics, but really, that too simply became background to me. I was forced to pull myself out of the story in order to notice these chapter headings and their subtext in order to keep up with the changes in scenes. In other words, since most of the chapters were really quite short, I needed to keep distracted in order to pay attention to whether there was a new chapter on the next page, which was my clue to the scene change. In other words, the little graphic at the end of the chapter wasn't enough of a clue, though I learned to use it as such.

My advice to writers: Make your chapter headings different. Center them. Bold them. Box them. I know numbered chapters are popular, but precede them with 'Chapter' if you must use numbers - anything to make them different from page numbers. I prefer to name my chapters for that very reason. To make them noticeable - to make the clue obvious. "A change is happening here"

Maybe it's because of this habit in my own work that made this formatting issue in this book so hard for me. I like consistency. All the page numbers in the same place (I prefer the bottom, but that's just me) All the chapter heading centered and usually bold - noticeable.

I've always said, the appearance of your document is important. Here is one example. However, now that you've been warned to watch for the chapter numbers and their subtext, by all means read this book. It really is a very good story. And they do save the world and the girl in the end.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Author Spotlight - Kathleen Toomey Jabs

Does that name sound familiar? It should. A couple weeks ago I finished a book written by this wonderful woman and was completely taken away on Navy wings. By all means read all about it here. In the mean time I'd like you to meet Kathleen.


I was a reader before I was a writer. I was lucky enough to have parents who were both readers and our house was filled with books. Now that I have my own house, it is still filled with books!

I left for the United States Naval Academy in July 1984 with the intention of becoming an oceanographer or majoring in some type of math/science studies. Once there, I fell in love with my English classes and became an English major. My adviser, Professor Molly Tinsley, encouraged me to sign up for Creative Writing and I enrolled in her class. I loved every exercise, each writing prompt and all the outside reading. I finished three short stories during my time under her tutelage then graduated and headed out to perform my Naval service. I kept my writing dreams alive although I didn’t have much time to write.

In 1995, I left the Navy and enrolled in the University of Hawaii program for creative writing. I had no idea what I was getting into! My thesis was a novel, which I should probably burn. The main character never came alive for me. I was busy with a new baby, my husband was up for military orders, and then I was pregnant again. My main character spent a lot of time walking and trying to uncover her past.

When my children were pre-school age I again enrolled in a university writing program. My professor there challenged me to write about the military or to use the military as a setting. It sounds crazy, but it hadn’t occurred to me to “write what you know,” at least in the military sense. I wasn’t sure how to approach the military language, culture, acronyms or even how to people the stories. However, once I started, I really wanted to explore the military world. I knew it and I had characters who came alive.

One day I was walking across campus when the sentence, “Audrey Richards wanted to fly” flashed through my brain. That was the beginning of Black Wings for me. I had to find out who was Audrey and why/how she had died. Soon I was listening to conversations between Audrey and Bridget (the two main characters) in my head.

Black Wings took ten years from start to finish. I worked on it every spare moment I had. I revised it. I restructured it. I told the story chronologically then broke it up. Finally, I sent it off to agents. A few were intrigued. One loved it, sent it around, then fell out of love with it. My heart was broken. I tried to revise again and although I kept sending it out, I was losing faith. I relegated Black Wings to a drawer, but like my first novel I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away.

I suffered mostly in silence. I hadn’t told many people I’d been working on a novel. Inside of me lurked a failed dream. Like Poe’s character in “Telltale Heart,” I had something hidden. In my case, it was a “novel-in-the-drawer.” Sometimes, it felt like a heart in my bedroom, pulsing out the words: failed dream, novel-in-a-drawer. I went back to work full time, consoling myself that the public relations work I did fulfilled my writing dreams. Of course, I was rationalizing.

About four years ago, I reconnected with Molly Tinsley, my USNA adviser, via Facebook. We talked about writing and she mentioned that she and her friend had written a book and opened a publishing company called Fuze ( dedicated to getting books out into the world which mainstream presses were ignoring. She offered to read Black Wings.

“I have some good news and some bad news,” she told me. The good news was that Fuze would publish Black Wings. The bad news was that before they would I needed to revise Black Wings, break up the flashbacks and speed things up. All I heard was publication. I signed up. Over the course of two years (I was working so I only had weekends) I took Black Wings apart, restructured it, and filled in gaps. All the time and effort was worth it. Working with Molly again was incredible.

Black Wings was published in December 2011.

Over the past year, I’ve been busy trying to market it. I’ll be heading to the Virginia Festival of the Book in a few weeks to be part of a Crime/Thriller panel. After that, I’ve told myself I need to start writing again. Get back on a regimented schedule and detail Bridget’s next adventure. I’ve been taking notes and I have a pretty good idea of the setting and conflict. Now, I need to just write.

Thank you for the opportunity to tell my story!

Stop by her fan page and say hi from me

Check out this book trailer too. You don't really see to many of these, but this one is pretty enticing. Too bad they don't show book commercials on TV. Now wouldn't that boost sales.

I hope you enjoyed your visit with Kathleen; I know I did. She says she's getting brave and trying to work something with that other book in her drawer. I think, after reading this book, we should really give her some encouragement. What do you think?

You can do this too, Kathleen. I know you can.