Zowie – I’m famous! – Part Two.

9 Dec

In October, 2016, I sort of stumbled into a fabulous part-time job. Considering my age, this was nothing short of miraculous, in my opinion, but it was the work itself that was so intriguing! To this day, I think it’s the best possible job to utilize my very idiosyncratic skill-set.

To be sure, I’ve been busily (and happily) writing since grade school, and even flirted briefly with many other careers since then. The 1990s were my big writing years, as my first two books were published, and I was busily writing more. Eventually, all five of my books were published by traditional publishers. (I’ve since self-published all of them when the original rights reverted to me. )

From 2002 until 2012,  I did a LOT of writing: mostly about classical music and opera, plus women’s sports. So there were two of the three big things in my life. I’d done a piece or two about the third thing — cars and or racing, but not much.

So, here I was interviewing at a  local manufacturer of automotive aftermarket gauges and such – a perfect match for my goofy background! Of course, these were gorgeous digital LED instruments – a far cry from the plain old-fashioned needle type gauges that were in the vehicles I raced or drove or sold or whatever. The company is Intellitronix and is based in Eastlake, Ohio.

They wanted me to write the installation instructions for their various products, which suited me to a T! During the interview, the owner asked if I’d be willing to appear in videos for their products. Well, of course! Why not?  I’ve had a lot of audio experience, including radio and taping books, so microphones held no fear for me.

As far as I knew, there was no reason to fear a camera, either. (I’ve never scared a horse, after all!) As long as they didn’t intend for me to be silly or goofy in any way.  No worry on that score, the owner thought that ‘Grandma’s Garage’ might be just the thing! So we did it. This one is not for a gauge, but for an Ignition Box. Mind you, I’m not sure exactly what it does, but I don’t really need to know, either. It was great fun, and I’m hopeful of doing more of them!  So, as they say – without further ado – here it is!

Grandma’s Garage — Opus One!   Grandma's Garage-ok

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B1FFaUkDDLR5QktGcHRXOVp0SWM

(click on the above link)

Happy Holidays to all of you! Wherever you are. I wish you Peace and Joy!

 

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Put your words where you want them — In a book!

24 Nov

pages wo title

bookmechanic@gmail.com 

 

The ‘Howevermany’ Commandments for Writers

1 Sep

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a first-time published author will automatically become a source of magical information to all his/her writer wannabe friends – so that they, too,  may become published ASAP!  With all due respect to Jane Austen who wrote a similar opening sentence to one of the BEST books ever published  – Pride and Prejudice  –  for the revised version above, which I first put on paper in February, 1996. Yep. 1996. My first book had been published some 2½ years previously, and for some reason that seemed to gain me ‘instant oracle’ status in my writing circles.

So, my first thought then (as it still is today) was ‘I could write a book about that.’  I did start one, too, and have been playing with the notion since then.  One thing that’s not changed in all the intervening years is the title for this gem: The “How to Write a Book” Book.

I was then, and still am for that matter, totally amazed by how many people approach me to say they want to write a book, but don’t know how to get started. It always seemed easy to me, even if I didn’t do it myself all that often. You plunk yourself down in front of a (then) typewriter or (today) computer, and have at it!  Sure beats writing with a feather, as the Sainted Jane did two hundred years ago!

My original thought was along the lines of ‘The Ten Commandments for Writers.’ That didn’t last very long, as my list almost immediately expanded to Fifteen Commandments.  Finally, I settled on ‘howevermany’ as the best description. And I’m going to stick with that!  I’m still working on this book, but of course, the almost twenty years since I started it have seen a revolution in not only writing instruments and methods, but also the publishing world.

However, no matter how you slice it, there are still many very basic and important things that have not changed one little bit.  (By the way, I’m still working on this book, and it will see daylight in 2016, or else!)  Actually, when I started this blog in April, 2010, it was with the intention of using some of the blog posts for the book.  Following is the list I comprised in 1996.  What do you think?

First Preliminary Outline for Contents of: The “How to Write a Book” Book     2-4-1996

The 15 (or howevermany) commandments for writers. Or, how to produce a salable manuscript, assuming, of course, that you really can write.

(Not necessarily in this order, either.)

1  Learn to write in English. If you live and write in this country, or intend your work for an English-speaking country:            grammar, spelling, punctuation, plurals / possessives, to use or not to use?  The dangers of dialects!

2.  Figure out what you want to write, then read, read, read, and read, some more. Read all varieties of things, but especially in your chosen area.

  1. Show, don’t tell. Keep the reader as an active participant.
  1. Viewpoint. Who’s telling this story, anyway? (Viewpoint has nothing to do with tense, or voice.)
  1. Homonyms. One of two or more words that have the same sound, and often the same spelling, but differ in meaning.
  1. Styles. This can be a rather tricky one, but many writers wouldn’t think of putting a word on a page without a manual of style readily at hand.  Each publisher has its own style regarding punctuation, grammar and continuity.  So, if you gear your work toward one publisher and end up going with another, you may have to make lots of fixes, depending. Sometimes the difference is in words: toward  and towards being a common glitch. Fiction and non-fiction may also differ, but not usually within the same house. Some of the more common manuals of style are:  Chicago Manual of Style, New York Times Manual, AP Manual and The Elements of Style by William Strunk.
  1. Reference material, research, resources. How and where to find what; how to use what you’ve found, and how much to use.
  1. Basic presentation – putting it on the page. Plus – what’s the difference between a synopsis and an outline, and which do you use when?
  1. Using real people in your fictional world.
  1. Writer’s groups. Finding the right one for you, and just how helpful can they be, anyway?
  1. Sense(s) and sensibilities:  touch, taste, sight, sound, smell.  Mixing genres. Details, details and more details.
  1. Editor turn-offs and pet-peeves.
  1. Do you really need an agent? How do you find one?
  1. Suspension of disbelief. Yours, ours, theirs.
  1. Other markets and types of publishers.

Non-fiction

Poetry

Script-writing

Commercial publishers

Subsidy/vanity publishers

Self-publishing

Epilogue – a Reminder –

What’s past is prologue,  now it’s up to you!

That last has NOT changed.

Questions?  Additions?  Comments?  Write to me at: bookmechanicATgmail.com   Thanks

A new book-of-the-month plan?

19 Aug

book

I nearly fell out of my chair earlier this month when I saw this cartoon (FREE RANGE by Bill Whitehead ©2015, distributed by Creators.com) in our local paper. Why? It brought back the memory of a letter I wrote in June, 2001. (Yes, 2001.) Before the ubiquitous cell phone and/or e-book/reader, etc., proliferated to the point that many people have multiple devices at hand on which they can read a book, listen to music or watch TV or even a movie! Obviously some things have changed: some have not. My sentiments have not changed in any way. I meant it then and I still mean it today.

This particular letter came about because of a dispute between The Association of American Publishers (to which it was sent) and public libraries regarding the copying of copyrighted materials.  But at least libraries pay for the material they acquire. If anyone is concerned about copying material, then all copying devices of whatever variety—book, audio/video cassettes or any other facsimile—should immediately be outlawed.

Back then, I was on my high horse about the abundance of Used Book Stores – the kind that advertised a book for sale as used, the very day it was released by the publisher. Or maybe even the day before! My campaign at that time (which I still propose, by the way) is that no book should be sold as ‘used’ before it’s at least a year old. Why?

Simple. People seem to lose sight of the fact that the author/writer(s) of the book, who have literally exuded blood, sweat and tears plus sleepless nights over the production of their progeny make not one penny on the sale of a used book, in the United States. Other countries are more protective of their creative artists, and ensure that at least a token payment is granted to the creator of the sold item.  In addition, in the UK, for instance, authors earn a royalty from every book borrowed from a library.  Imagine that! Why can’t we do something like that in this country? Don’t tell me that it’s too hard to keep track of things. Believe me, there’s a computer program for EVERYTHING imaginable. Or maybe it’s an App. Who knows?  I refuse to believe that one or other of these so-called Smart Phones couldn’t do this, with one hand tied behind it’s back!

I just really think the author should be entitled to his/her share of the book sales at least until the book has its first birthday. After that it will probably not sell enough copies to be harmful.  After all,  just consider please – without authors, there would be NO NEED for publishers, editors, cover artists,  publicists and the myriad other employee categories created to share the author’s work with the rest of the world.

Well, that was then. This is now, and not everything has changed.

Of course, publishers also suffered through that ‘used book’ craze. And the publishers would have been right to protest. But they didn’t. They went in another direction. In order to jack up the sales, they started paying mega-bucks as an advance, and higher royalties, thus making it even more difficult for the author to earn out.

If this practice is allowed to continue, here is a little peek into the future. Let’s say it’s now June, 2010.  (Sorry, I was a bit ahead of myself with that date!) The new load of book is now available at the bookstore. Yes, that is book. Singular. So which author is the author for this month? It is certain to be one of these or the newer version thereof; Stephen King, Mary Higgins Clark, Sue Grafton, Danielle Steele, John Gresham, and others of that ilk. There will, of course, will be only one publisher, publishing one (paper, not e-type) book per month. Genres will take turns: one month, mystery; the next suspense, etc. One month of the year might be devoted to non-fiction, such as biography. All of these will naturally be in hardcover.

The price for this book will be a minimum of $100. (US) of which the author may get a whopping $2.50, because, of course, the distributor for these books will demand a discount of 75% off the cover price, leaving the publisher the pitiful balance, out of which must be paid the acquiring editor, who will probably be the publisher, himself. There will, of necessity, be no editing or proofing done, as it isn’t cost-effective to do so. Disgusting, to put it mildly. Since there will be only one book per month, there is no need for cover artists or promotional staff. The text will go straight from the author’s computer to the type-setting computer, thus eliminating several more persons from the chain. There is probably no need for bookstores either. Libraries will, however, still function, and still be buying books, probably hundreds or more copies of each title, to satisfy those readers that are still left out there, but who can’t afford to actually buy a book. Imagine the waiting lists!  Eegads.

But. Out of the ashes of this fiasco, there are sure to be rebels who will fight and resist and go back to doing things the old way. The old way, in which the reader was the most important element in the process. Books are published for readers, after all. Aren’t they? Wouldn’t it be great if all these organizations found their way back to reality? And treated authors with the respect they deserve? After all—no authors equals no new books. What an awful world that would be!

And finally, I would be very wrong to not mention the Kindle Library that is available through Amazon.com.  When you publish your book as an exclusive Kindle e-book, and allow them to put it in their library system, you will earn royalties as people borrow your book to read. This is as close to the UK library system as anything I’ve seen in the last few years, and I freely admit, I’m all in favor of it.  Now, if only Amazon would stop with the used print books before their time, I’d be almost entirely happy with the behemoth.

Comments, quibbles or questions?  Please write to me at  bookmechanic AT gmail.com

Projecting confidence —

5 Aug

I think by now y’all know I am a big-time sports fan. Even if I really don’t know much about them, or understand their reason for being, I can still appreciate the time, money and energy invested in the effort to be the best in the world at whatever it is that you do. This applies in life, too, especially for someone in a creative endeavor.

You cannot succeed in any measurable fashion without such an investment. Of course, you don’t run around telling anyone who’ll listen “I’m the BEST!!” Well, unless you are, of course. But you’d better be able to back up your statement.

In 1992, when I was a member of Romance Writers of America, their national conference was held in Chicago. I was pleased beyond words to have a ribbon attached to my badge that said “First-time author” or something similar. Maybe it was “First Sale”. As I walked through the Literacy Book Sale (which I hoped to attend the next year, with my own book for sale) I stopped to buy a book from Nora Roberts.

I will never, ever forget her attitude when she saw that ribbon on my badge. Her face lit up as she smiled and said “Hey, Congratulations on your first sale! What kind of book is it, and when will it be available?” Holy cow! The queen of romance was interested in me – and my book? Well, if she wasn’t really, she was certainly a top-notch actress, as her enthusiasm surely seemed genuine. I literally floated through the rest of the conference. I know I stood straighter after that, and walked the same way. Ms. Roberts made me feel as though I’d just been nominated for a Pulitzer!

My Mama would have been proud, had she been able to see me, after all her years of admonishing me to “stand up straight!” Ms. Roberts gave me a wonderful gift that day. She instilled in me a sense of confidence in myself as a writer. I’m not sure it had really hit me yet, that by next year’s conference I’d have a book of my own to sell.

I’m forever saying that even just writing a book (and finishing it!) is not easy. Getting it published is even more of a task. But you have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing or you’ll never succeed. Has everything I’ve written been published? Mostly, yes. Those books or stories that I’ve finished, have been published.

Last weekend, ESPN was all about a fight between two women for a major title. The expected winner certainly did just that. In 34 seconds this time. Her last four fights have totaled exactly 130 seconds from start to finish. Eeegads! From looking at her, you can easily tell that she’s very serious about her training, etc. She’s also drop-dead gorgeous, but that’s beside the point.

One of the many fringe stories about her was her support group – they were labeled ‘the four horsewomen’, in a photo. Even with no caption, it’s easy to pick out the champion. Her bearing, her posture shout it out. She really is the best in her world right now, and I expect for the future, as well. Her confidence radiates from her, and why not?  What do you think? Which one is the champ?

4-horsewomen

So, start thinking about yourself and what you do. Are you successful? If not, do you want to be? Think about it for a while, then put your shoulders back, and your chin up, and look at the world head-on. Stand in front of a mirror and tell that image, “I AM good.” The sooner you believe yourself, the sooner you will be just that. (You can substitute the word ‘great’ for good in that statement, if you wish.)

Questions? Comments?  Please write to me at: bookmechanic AT gmail.com

P.S.  Ronda Rousey is on the right in the above photo. The other UFC fighters are from left, Marina Shafir, Jessamyn Duke, and Shayna Baszler. (Screen shot taken from ESPN.com – photo credit: Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News.)

Punctuation: friend or foe?

21 Jul

Last time out, I talked about re-reading something I’d written a long time ago, and my astonishment at what I’d written.  Then, I ran into a slight road-block on my way to re-publishing this book by its original title That Room at Ardenwycke rather than the shorter title selected by the publisher that first time around: Ardenwycke Unveiled.  I needed a new cover, and couldn’t think of one. So I went to the second of the two books  – this one being the first book I ever wrote (and completed – important distinction, that) Bertie’s Golden Treasure.  It’s a Regency Romance, and a cover illustration popped into my head almost immediately, so I decided to go with that one first, and then come back to Ardenwycke.

Bertie-cover

A funny thing happened as I re-read Bertie, using the file from which the previous print book was made. I have always been profligate with punctuation, especially commas. To my distress, there were almost no commas in this book! Sentences were either really short, or ran on for seemingly forever before they finally came to a full stop. I put a lot of commas (and some other punctuation, as well) back in there.

It dawns on me that very likely the use of punctuation is an ‘age’ thing. Most older folks learned how to speak in an understandable fashion (not at a rate of 500+ words per minute) and write comprehensibly, because they  also learned the proper use of punctuation. Then the minimalist trend hit. ‘Why is that comma there? It isn’t needed, so get rid of it!’

To me, however, it is needed there. For someone who reads aloud, or is on radio or even TV, punctuation is a necessity! It tells you when to breathe! It’s that simple. No wonder many of us older folks are continually telling all-too-many  younger folks to ‘slow down, please’ or ‘I’m sorry, could you please repeat that?’  (Hopefully, us older folks also know the value of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, when used appropriately.) And yes, I do believe that last comma there is in the right place. Commas do not always go inside quote marks.

(As a for instance here. For fifteen years, I read for the Cleveland Sight Center, which operated a small, closed-circuit Radio Reading Service for the visually-handicapped community. For two hours each Wednesday evening, with a partner, we read from the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Shortly after beginning this venture, I also began to record books for the Library of Congress Talking Books Program – and at least one of them is still there!  Through those years, I taped more than 100 books for the Sight Center and Cleveland Public Library. Also for a while, I was the Saturday announcer on our local classical music station. Later, as a writer, I was selected to be one of five or six reviewers chosen to attend classical music performances in the area, and then write a review, which would be taped the next day at the station for broadcast during the coming weekend. It took me little time to learn that – at my reading speed – 475 written words equaled just less than 3 minutes pf spoken words – the max limit. Actually they were to be 2 minutes, 57 seconds worth.  Believe me, the value of punctuation was never more apparent than during this exhilarating adventure!)

If you write mainly for yourself, you may, of course, do whatever you wish, even if you self-publish. If you wish to be published by a commercial publisher, however, that publisher will have already established its own ‘style’ of punctuation and other elements of the written word. This may include font, font size, spacing on the page and whether headers and/or footers are used, etc. In this case, the publisher wins the argument, and a wise author will agree.  It’s really quite simple. If you don’t agree, you may forfeit the right to be published, or possibly, the changes will be made without your knowledge or consent. Not fair, but thems the rules!

Just for fun,  the cover for Bertie, which I hope to have available at Amazon’s Kindle site later this week – or early next is shown at the top of this post. Ardenwycke is still in the proof-reading/create-a-cover process.

As always, questions or quibbles should be sent to me at: bookmechanicATgmail.com     Thank you!

Did I really write this?

8 Jul

Just as parents are supposed to love all their children equally, there are times when it doesn’t happen that way. Authors are thought of in the same way. Not true.  Not all kids are loveable all the time, and it’s when they’re the most unlovable that they need the most love.

Books, however, are a tad bit different. They’re not all created equal, and I suspect it would be a strange author who didn’t have a favorite of their works, even if there were only two of them!

I did love my first book, a Regency titled Bertie’s Golden Treasure. I loved Regency (still do – big time!) and this book came about in such a strange fashion, it was hard not to love it. The next book is definitely not my best, so we’ll just ignore it. Maybe it’s the step-child off in the corner, but I don’t think it’ll ever get to another ball.

The next book was the first of mine to be published. Secret Shores was a joy to write, mainly because of all the research I did for it. I had a list of more than 60 books that I’d consulted by the time I was ready to start writing. And other than a short hiatus while I recuperated from a ruptured gall bladder, the book progressed fairly smoothly, other than a very pushy mother of the hero. I promised her a book of her own if she’d just please retire to the other room and me let get on with it. She did as I asked, and I fully expected the next book from me to be her story. She was Windsong.

A funny thing happened however. The day after I finished Secret Shores was the chapter meeting of our local RWA Chapter. . . .   In case you’re thinking, “gee, this sounds familiar,” you’re right. I wrote about this on March 23, 2011. Four years ago, already. It’s here, in case you missed it the first time around.

https://bookmechanic.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/unveiling-ardenwycke/

Well, last year my most recent publisher Ellora’s Cave decided to phase out their non-erotica lines, and all of my books fell into that gap. So I now have the rights back to all of them, and will definitely be re-issuing at least Ardenwycke Unveiled and Bertie’s Golden Treasure during the next month or so. And therein lies the foundation of this particular post.

Having been going through the manuscript, checking for formatting and other glitches, I’ve been reading it as I go along, and I keep saying, “WHERE on earth did this come from?” Darned if I know. I can’t believe some of what’s in here. It absolutely belongs, and I think it makes the story much stronger, but how did I know some of this stuff? I mean, I’ve led a fairly sheltered life, and to the best of my knowledge have only encountered a ghost two times. And that ghost was nothing like the ghost in Ardenwycke!

Well, to be very honest, I haven’t a clue. But I still really like this book a lot. I think it is my favorite of all my books. At least so far.  It’ll be ready to go sometime in early August I hope. I’ll keep you posted! By the way,  I’m changing the title back to my original one – That Room at Ardenwycke. I think it makes more sense, although it is longer, but that’s okay, too.

Questions or comments? Please write to me at bookmechanicATgmail.com