Archive | July, 2013

Whose art is it, anyway?

30 Jul

Once you’ve written your whatever it is, if you want to self-pub it, it’s very easy these days.

But listen up — first! This is important!

Writers are so danged paranoid about sending their work off – someone might steal it! Someone might copy it. Someone might plagiarize me!  Hah. If you’re a first-timer, chances of anything of that nature happening are none and never. You have to be well-known to have your work appropriated (remind me to tell you my story about that later) or else you were naïve enough to send to a well-known entity with no protection. That’s as opposed to sending it to a publisher or agent. They have tooo much at stake to make off with your work.  Or even to think of trying to.

But funny thing here. Writers are so paranoid about their precious words, yet they’ll turn right around and snatch a piece of artwork from a book or a web-site and think nothing of it! Hey! Who created that art? Not you? Then put it back, and leave it be where it was.

What you do in this case is go looking for clipart.  Royalty-free does necessarily mean it’s no cost. It might mean that you pay one time up-front, and use it as many times as you like with no further payment. Of course, it’s not yours, it still belongs to the artist, so it can be sold again (legally) to someone else. It’s that possibility that helps to keep the prices affordable. Unless, of course, you want something exclusive. Remember: Exclusive = Expensive.  Most likely, anyway.

On the other hand, you might be a decent photographer and can provide your own artwork. I’ve provided a photograph for two of my editing clients for their covers: Late Night Stories by Gloria Hanson and Unplanned Journey by Judy Wallace. I intend to use at least part of one of my photos for my next Kindle release, which will happen sometime in the next week or so. My first exclusive Kindle release (not in print yet) is The Writing Class (hint: available now at Amazon.com!) and I found the exact clip-art that I wanted. Isn’t this cute? Image

I had no idea it would be so easy. It was not expensive (not free, either, but that’s not a complaint!) and I merely added the title of the book and my name to it. Easy? I couldn’t believe how easy it was. The artist may well want to know what your purpose is, and I suggest you be very up-front about it. I did ask before tweaking it even that little bit, and was given the go ahead. The site I found is: http://www.clipartof.com/  and I found them very easy to work with.  I hope to use them again. Many times, even!

Some clip art sites may state that you can use the art for personal projects, but cannot charge for the project. So, it’s important to pay attention.

To settle one long-standing quibble about copying. Anyone may make ONE copy of anything for their own personal use. The problem is: you may not do anything else with it, just look at it. You may not do anything to make money from it. I don’t think there’s a restriction on how many people might look at it – as long as it stays in your own home or office, and you don’t charge admission for the privilege of viewing.

As far as I know, most authors are encouraged to make as many copies of the covers of their own books as they’d like – for promotion purposes. Another author may not appropriate that cover for another book, however, the publisher can – and has!

So, please think twice before you pluck that piece of art out of wherever to appropriate for your own purposes. Someone else has struggled to create it, just as you struggled to write your masterpiece. That artist deserves credit, too!

While I was writing this, a friend told me her tale of cover art (she said I could add it in here, too!): “If you find some artwork you like (in my case it was a painting that appeared in an online gallery catalogue) you can try writing to the auction house, art store, gallery or whatever, to ask to use it. I didn’t eventually use the painting (primroses) but the gallery gave me permission and wished me well. The artist was actually unknown, and it was a very minor work priced at £200. I was not charged at all, so trying this approach is worth the effort.”

And there you have it! Just remember – if you want others to protect your words, you also need to protect the work of other artists!

Happy Writing!

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How long is long enough?

17 Jul

What is the right length for a story?

How long is a piece of string?

Believe it or not, there IS a correlation between those two ambiguous questions. There are multitudinous answers to each, any of which is 100% correct.

One long-time answer to the first questions is – however long it takes to tell the story properly. Well, that’s okay, as far as it goes, but some stories just simply demand thousands and thousands of words, and others can’t be bothered to stretch themselves out beyond the bare minimum.

In the ‘olden days’ (sorry!) when printing was done with printing presses (not a computer), a sheet of paper would be rather on the large side, and after printing on both sides, would then be folded and cut (maybe) into smaller book-sized pages. These pages were known as a ‘folio’ or ‘signature’ and would hold separate printed pages in multiples of 8. Some folios were those 8 pages (both sides) while some might be 16, 32 or even 64. Thus a book would be perhaps 184 pages or 222. If the story didn’t quite fit into that exact size, the font might be enlarged or shrunk, and margins would get the same treatment, but eventually, if it still wouldn’t fit – words would be cut. Or added.

We’ve all read books like that – they were so rushed at the end, we were left spinning by the velocity! Or it was so fluffy, you might have thought you were in padded cell. Neither was ideal, but that tradition had carried on very well for several centuries

(The above is my simplified explanation of a highly-technical system. There’s more to it than just this, trust me. For a more accurate and complex explanation visit the American Library Association.)

The upstart 20th century however, turned that wonderful old system upside-down and inside-out with the invention of the computer. Indeed, there are still printed books that conform to that tradition, but the possibility of finding ‘uncut’ pages is now a rarity. (There once were special ‘book knives for’ cutting the pages, and these are now a highly-prized antique!) With the advent of POD printing, a book can be as long (or as short) as it needs to be.  So other criteria for judging length has now entered the picture.  E-books have changed the book world even more.  Screen size, adjustable fonts, any number of factors can now be considered, and are.

So. Back to the original question.

What is the right length for a story?

Now that we know a book can be almost any length you want, the determining factor is STORY.

Some stories demand thousands of words, while some are happy with mere hundreds.

In my humble opinion, I think the minimum for a full-length novel – that means fiction! – should be 50,000 words. That gives you a reasonable amount of space to tell a good (if not great) story. It depends a lot on your writing style, as well. Sparse? Descriptive? Grandiose? Whatever.  Non-fiction, by the way, has its own requirements. We’re talking strictly fiction here.

Believe it or not, there are some rules.  There are different titles/categories for fiction length: short story, novelette, novella and novel. Clever, eh?  Each publisher (including you) can bend these descriptions to suit their own purposes. One publisher (mine, for instance) posts these requirements:

Under 7,500 for the Short Story category
Between 7,500 and 17,500 for the Novelette category
Between 17,500 and 40,000 for the Novella category
Over 40,000 for the Novel category.

Another one is a bit more definitive:
Their short story is  1,000 to 7500 words.
Novelette is 7500 to 20,000.
Novella is 20,000 to 50,000.
And a full-fledged novel is 50,000 to 110,000.
But they also have an additional category – Sequels and Epics  — 110,000 and up!  This would certainly include Fantasy which can easily wander over the 300,000 word count!

Another site lists Flash fiction as up to 1000 words, with short story as 1001 to 4000, and long short story as 4001 to 8000.

Of course, if you happen to be Stephen King or Ken Follett, these rules mean absolutely nothing to any publisher!  (Note: those names are already taken, so don’t try to borrow either one.)

Therefore:  how much do each (or any) of these stories cost?

Remember the second question above? There’s your answer!

As always, comments are welcome at: bookmechanic@gmail.com

Possums in the bedroom . . .

3 Jul
My Rube Goldberg contraption!

My Rube Goldberg contraption!

No, that is NOT some kinky new romance, I promise. Anything but!  However, in all the time I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve not ever posted any of my own external writing. I like to think I can write anything — fiction, non-fiction, reviews, etc., but lately I seem to be branching out into humor. Sometimes, situations are so extreme that the only way to handle it is with humor. That said — here we go! I hope you can enjoy my adventure! I can laugh now, too — now that it’s hopefully a thing of the past.

One recent Thursday night was the WORST I’ve spent in several years — here or anywhere else. I’d had the feeling for the last couple of days that there was another critter in here with me. I live in a mobile home – all by myself. Or so I’d thought. However, that night, I was proven right. That I’m still alive today testifies to my good, sturdy heart. Honestly, if I ever write a mystery story, it may well be ‘Death by Critter’.

Last November I embarked on the seemingly endless task of replacing my elderly oil-burning furnace in favor of an all-electric unit that would also be an A/C. BIG MISTAKE. It does work, but it would work so much better if the installation was complete. At the end of June (EIGHT months later) it still isn’t all finished. Doing me a big favor(?!) the installer guy removed the old furnace from a cabinet in the hallway of the trailer, right outside the door to my bedroom. I asked if the hole in the floor would allow critters in here. NOPE, he was definite about that. He was as incompetent in that answer as he was with the rest of the project, but that’s another story! A friend told me to just cover over the hole with some boxes, and all would be well. Hah!

Anyway, at 1 am on that particular Friday morning, I was awakened from a sound sleep by a scritch-scratch sound over in a corner of the closet. (It’s important to keep in mind the entire bedroom is a whopping 8½ x 9 feet! – so everything is pretty much right on top of everything else.) It sounded like someone crumpling up old-fashioned waxed paper. I threw a hard-soled slipper in that general direction, went to the loo, came back and tried to go back to sleep. Nope.

At 1:30 the noise came from the other side of the room (the wall that backs up to the kitchen.) Threw another slipper. Half an hour or so later, a shoe fell off the dresser. Well, not really a dresser, but a pair of Reeboks were there, one atop the other, and had been there for more than a week without moving. So, in the middle of the night, the top one falls off — unassisted? I think not. 

Back to bed. This time, the noise was from the nightstand beside my head. The surge cord moved and ended up falling down behind it. Really? I must have been up half a dozen times checking here and there, banging on the walls, even in the bathtub (on the back side of the closet). Persistence should have been the critter’s name, although I truly had no idea exactly what IT was! Then.

This went on every half-hour or so until maybe 3:30, when I felt something run up one leg, cross over my tummy and start down the other one. I hasten to add here that I was under the blankets, etc., and IT was on top of them all. When I felt it, I must have moved, because it jumped! Landed on the floor, then I heard it skittering across the kitchen floor.

By this time, I was quite certain I could not sleep again in that bed at that time, so I went out to the living room, which as usual, looked like a tornado had just blown through. However, I moved everything off the sofa, grabbed my great big fleece blanket and nestled in. The critter was then quiet or busy somewhere else, because I heard it only once more, over by the sink (20 feet or so away). Just as I was finally dozing off about 4 am, I recalled that today was trash day, and the big trucks that empty the dumpsters would be here about 6. Dang. 

Actually, the trucks were a tad late – it was 6:30. So up again for the loo, and back to my own bed again, where I slept quite peacefully until 8:30. I felt like left-over crud all day. Ended up not doing much of anything at all, because it was in the 90s and if I turned the A/C on, and drown the patio! I swear if I ever get my hands on that furnace guy again, I’ll strangle him, too! He has yet to install the drain tube for the unit. Grrrr.  

Midnight or so, as I was getting ready for bed later that same evening, I decided to check that the hole in the floor where the old furnace used to be, was totally closed over. Well, not quite, as there – in the front right corner – a space of perhaps 2 inches square was at that very moment filled with a small, white, fur-covered snout with a pink tip. The tip was wiggling. Oh my gosh! Now I knew what the problem was – Possums! I grabbed the nearby broom and whapped it one with the bristle end. Understand, this action could not possibly have damaged the owner of the snout – but it did make a nice noise. The broom, that is. The creature was silent.

I put the broom aside, and went back to the space, carefully removing the two boxes that had been serving as weight on top of the thin cardboard box that wasn’t quite big enough to completely cover the hole. As I gingerly lifted the box, there was the entire critter, hunkering down in the space that was slightly larger than a big baked potato. It was white with black spots!

Whap! The broom went down again! “Get out of there! Go on, go back to where you belong, which is NOT in here!” I shrieked at the critter, which needed no second warning. I spent a few minutes looking for an appropriate-sized piece of wood to entirely cover the hole, but it was difficult, as I didn’t want to leave the hole uncovered while I looked.  So, I propped a large piece of thin wood (I’d formerly used it as a project table on top of the ironing board, to make a larger temporary work surface) in front of the open space. It was too big to stand up tight against the door frame there, so I propped it up with a pair of Reeboks – one shoe on each side.

This seemed to work fairly well, at least temporarily. I found a couple of shelf pieces that more or less covered the entire gap, and again decided to barricade the space, which I did. I had no more than climbed into my bed to read and try to calm myself a bit before entertaining the notion of sleeping, when KA-BLAM!!! A noise from the hallway. I knew what it was, as I got out of bed only to discover a really fast-moving object! I shrieked at the critter (a different one this time – dark gray or black – I couldn’t tell, exactly, but the same size) which had obviously come under the bedroom door, and into my room, just as both my feet hit the floor.  

I’m not sure which of us was more startled, but it beat a path back the way it had come in, and around that corner so fast, you’d have thought it was the current NASCAR champion! Sure enough that big piece of wood was now flat across the floor! I said, ENOUGH, ALREADY!!!  

   sneaky lil' critter!

sneaky lil’ ritter!

After putting it back up, again, I found two more pieces of wood to put in front of it, but then I had to figure out how to keep everything there – at least until morning. I found a bungee cord and while there was a lip on one side, there was nothing on the other. But the good old trusty broom did an excellent job of keeping everything in place. It’s still there, too.   

The final trick, however, might have been the best. Possums are nocturnal, and I was really hoping that meant they truly didn’t like bright lights. So, I left the overhead hall light on all night.

Ahh. Peaceful silence and a mostly decent night’s sleep. Hooray!

That doesn’t mean I’ll allow them to continue their residency here, in my basement. FYI – mobile homes don’t have basements – they have a crawl space underneath. No matter. The critters will just have to vacate. Or else!

P. S.  One of my neighbors – a retired Park Ranger – came over to be sure the space did not harbor any more critters – dead or alive – and showed me how to totally block any and every entrance into the trailer from down below. Thank goodness for Brian!  Sunday night was totally calm and quiet and I slept like someone hit me over the head with the broom!

Hooray.  (apologies for the photos and/or captions not being where they’re supposed to be!  They’re more unruly than the critters! )