Category Archives: author guest post

Guest post: Why 140 Characters isn’t the Limit, by Liam O’Dell

Yes, I know, I’m a day late this week, but that’s just the way things have worked out. Anyway, better late than never, right? And I’m thrilled to be able to introduce Liam O’Dell, who is an aspiring writer who is starting up a site that provides tips to bloggers (like me). And we all could do with a hand, right? Well, I could, at least. :)

Without further ado, here he is:

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Why 140 Characters Isn’t the Limit…

 

Ah, Twitter, the quick and to-the-point way of social-networking. The site where people can share opinions, comments and critical viewpoints, all under 140 characters. But we’ve all had to make one grammatical or spelling error in order to allow us to write what we need to write. However, when writing a tweet, have you ever felt like you could write more than 140 characters?

For those wondering why I have omitted Facebook from this, it is because there’s no such limit to what we write on Facebook, and as well as that, only Twitter allows us to post opinions to the big wide world, rather than Facebook only allows you to post to “friends”, who already know what you think. However, what I’m going to write about today can apply to both sites. In fact, it can apply to anything. What I’m going to write about today is the idea that anyone can blog, but in particular, those on social networks.

A post on Twitter, Facebook etc. starts with an idea, but everyone knows that an idea can be developed. This is where a blog comes in. If there is a topic or idea that you could write endlessly about, then blog about it! 140 characters isn’t the limit on a blog! So, start a blog, and feel free to write!

 

The Blog Event – imPRESSive:

Thanks for reading my guest post, I really appreciate it! In case you didn’t know, I’m running a blog event, called imPRESSive (see what I did there?). imPRESSive hopes to provide tips to bloggers, but also aims to inspire more people to set up blogs. For more information and to view the blog post, click here!

But wait, there’s more! You can do me a massive favour and do some of the following things:

  1. “Like” me on Facebook!
  2. “Follow” Me on Twitter
  3. Tweet the Hashtag: #DocPRESS
  4. Confirm that you are “going” to my Facebook event
  5. Let me spread the word by Guest Blogging on your blog!

Thanks!

Liam

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Thanks Liam! The blog certainly sounds like a great idea, so I urge everyone to go check it out. In the meantime, if you’re not blogging already, why not give it a go? It’s not hard (proven because even I can do it) and it can open up a whole new world to you. :)

 

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Guest post: Dance to your own rhythm, by Linda Lee Greene

Today I welcome Linda Lee Greene, author of two novels, Guardians and Other Angels, and Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams (co-authored with Debra Shiveley Welch), both rated 5 stars on Amazon. Linda has written a wonderful blog about burnout and how she deals with it – something I’m sure we can all relate to. So without further ado, here she is!

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Guardians and Other Angels, by Linda Lee Greene

Guardians and Other Angels, by Linda Lee Greene

Recently I experienced a serious case of burnout, the worst one I’ve encountered in many years.  It was linked to my obsessive online attendance since the release of my latest novel, Guardians and Other Angels in May 2012, a presence calculated almost wholly toward the marketing of my book.  I took to heart the advice of my publicist.  “A lack of a social media presence on your part each and every day translates to low book sales,” she said, and I believed her.

As a professional woman, I understand the importance of taking periodic breaks from work-life, and I approached this new venture with the idea that I would apply the same standards to it.  But the thing about marketing on social media is that one thing leads to another, and then another, and still another and another and another, until you’ve created a mountain of responsibilities, culminating in an avalanche that smothers you.  A further complication is that you get hooked on the people you get to know this way, fascinating people all over the world with whom you would never have a chance to interact otherwise, so pretty soon, not only are you marketing ceaselessly, but you’re also chatting like there’s no tomorrow!  A still further complication is that the devices for all of this (laptops, cellphones, tablets, etc.) are all portable and go on vacation with you.  The upshot is that never is a real hiatus possible!

After seven, intense months of this, I crashed.  And I mean big time.  Although my mind incessantly urged me to log on, I couldn’t do it because my soul had taken a powder, and it would not come back.  You see, one of the things I’ve learned about my soul during my long tenure in this life, is that when I feel such fragmentation, what I’m really going through is a spiritual crisis.  Inevitably, my soul is trying to tell me that it isn’t just fatigue that I’m experiencing.  My cure isn’t only to put my feet up and read a good novel or watch some favorite DVDs, or to take my grandchildren to see the Christmas lights at the zoo, or to spend a weekend at a spa, or to go on a diet, or even to get a facelift.  The bigger problem is that I’m on the wrong path, and no matter how many leisurely activities or cosmetic treatments in which I partake, my soul digs in and refuses to participate until, and unless, I also correct my course.

I call my soul “Koko,” which is short for “Kokopelli,” an ancient kachina, or spirit-being of Native Americans that predates the Meso-American ancestral pueblo people of the southwestern USA.  He is a storyteller par excellence, as well as a hunchbacked dancer and a flutist, this aspect of him implying that in order to function at our peak, we must find our authentic rhythm, and once found, to follow it faithfully.  In addition to these, and other, aspects, he is known for the tricks he plays.   My soul emulates Kokopelli in so many ways, not the least of which are the ploys with which it manipulates me—ergo, its most recent one of turning, and keeping, me discontent until I found my natural rhythm again.

Henry David Thoreau has nothing on me when it comes to a love of solitude.  I am, after all, an artist and a writer, two vocations that require long stretches of aloneness.  Therefore, my natural rhythm is slower and quieter than the average bird.  It is also essentially private.  These are three qualities that seem antithetical to traditional practices in social media.  The obvious unknown regarding my relationship with social media is how to continue to participate effectively in it in a way that will allow me to express myself genuinely and thoroughly while also pleasing my unhurried, calm, and reserved soul.

One of the things I’ve decided to believe about social media is that there is a way of using it that is well-suited to every type of personality.  The trick for each of us is to develop one that is a good fit.  I am also an interior designer, and if I can design a beautiful, comfortable, and functional home-setting for my clients, surely I can craft an online presence for myself that is better for me.  At this juncture, the only thing I know for certain is that my strongest ally on my new path is the authentic Linda Lee Greene, and that our task is to dance together to our own rhythm despite possible risks and rewards.  Koko will like that!

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Linda Lee Greene

Linda Lee Greene

Linda Lee Greene was born in the farmhouse bedroom of her maternal grandparents located on the rim of the famous star-wound in Peebles, Adams County, Ohio, USA known the world over as the Great Serpent Mount Crater.  Mother of a son and a daughter, and grandmother of two grandsons, she resides in Columbus, Ohio.  An award-winning artist, an exhibition of some of her artwork can be viewed at www.gallery-llgreene.com.

In the year of 2000, Linda wrote the original draft of the murder mystery/historical novel, Jesus Gandhi Oma Mae Adams, a manuscript that evolved into a co-authorship with Debra Shiveley Welch, and upon its release an Amazon best-seller.  Greene has written two additional books in the Oma Mae Adams series, a murder mystery titled, “My ‘Aumakua” [In Hawaiian, “A Spirit Guide”], and a story of an expat-American who finds new meaning in life, as well as love, while on a spiritual odyssey in Australia, titled Garden of the Spirits of the Pots.  Both books are in queue with her publisher and are slated for future release.

Linda’s current novel, Guardians and Other Angels has inspired two other books on which she is currently working, one of them a non-fiction sequel to the novel titled, “I Received Your Letter …,” as well as a book for young readers titled, Bussy Gaffin and His Champion Roosters.

Linda’s five-star rated novel, Guardians and Other Angels is at amzn.to/PUOXl9.  You can find her Amazon Author Page at http://amazon.com/author/lindaleegreene.  She would also welcome you as a friend on twitter at @LLGreeneAuthor.  You can find her on Facebook, Goodreads, LinkedIn and other online sites.

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Guest post: Thinking About Dialogue, by Holly Kench

English: Parallel dialogue (2008)

English: Parallel dialogue (2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Today I’m thrilled to welcome back Holly Kench, who has agreed to do another guest post for me. You may remember Holly’s last guest post for this blog, and the several plugs I’ve given to her website (because it’s, well, awesome). Today she’s giving us her thoughts about dialogue, which in my experience always comes in handy when writing fiction. Take it away, Holly!

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Writing effective and convincing dialogue is difficult. Great dialogue seems to come effortlessly to some authors, but for most of us, it takes a lot of hard work and attention.

It’s important to realise, though, that even the worst dialogue writers can eventually learn to write good dialogue. Like most professions or hobbies, writing is the performance of innumerable skills, and while some of these skills might come naturally to certain writers, they are ultimately accessible to anyone who has the endurance to keep working at it. And writing is nothing if not a study in endurance. As is so often the case when working on writing, reading is the best way to improve one’s dialogue. Take note of the dialogue you read. If it’s good, what makes it good? If it’s bad, why? Read, think, learn and rewrite.

Make your dialogue great, because it is essential for making your story enjoyable and convincing. In the meantime, don’t forget to carefully consider the stylistic choices you make regarding how to contain that dialogue. The mechanics of your dialogue, the dialogue tags and beats (or action tags), that hold your dialogue together are an important part of the flow of your narrative. They pull the dialogue into a scene. Furthermore, fixing and improving your tags and beats is so much easier than working on the dialogue itself, once you know what you are doing.

As almost every writing style guide will tell you, avoid overly complicated dialogue tags. The simple “said” option is usually best because, as readers, we ignore the tag while comprehending the speaker attribution. I’m not as fussy as some readers and editors when it comes to this. Some people suggest that “said” (and possibly “asked”) should make up your only dialogue tags, that you should let your dialogue do the rest of the work. However, sometimes other tags are useful. For example, consider:

“Cute,” Lucy said.

“Cute,” Lucy squealed.

“Cute,” Lucy said, with a squeal that pierced my ear drums.

All of these can work for the same statement with a different purpose. The first would work best as part of a dialogue heavy scene, in which the statement “Cute” is the purpose, but the second contributes to Lucy’s characterisation. The third affects the characterisation of two characters, but focuses on the response of the narrator. There is nothing wrong with the second option though because it affects our understanding of the character and the development of the story. Just make sure that, if you choose to go with a more complicated tag, it has a purpose. And no, mixing it up is not a satisfactory purpose.

Of course, speaker attributions are not always necessary and sometimes they act more to disrupt the dialogue than contribute anything. A simple “Cute.” might be all you need. Equally, dialogue beats are always useful. They can act to provide speaker attribution, place dialogue within a scene, provide a rest between lengths of dialogue, contribute to characterisation, move the story forward with the assistance of and yet outside of the dialogue, etc, etc. Consider the option:

“Cute.” Lucy sprinted towards a pair of red Manolo Blahniks, before picking one up and clutching it to her chest as though it were a new born baby.

Providing movement with your dialogue mechanics is also a good way to keep your scene from feeling stale as dialogue progresses. I have to admit that, because of their clear potential, using dialogue beats can become somewhat addictive, particularly for those more comfortable writing narrative than dialogue.

However, the flow of your dialogue is the most important thing to consider. Avoid using any of the above options too frequently, and instead attempt to create a balance between tags, beats and dialogue without attribution. Mix it up so your reader doesn’t become bored with your scene.

The most beneficial process you can utilise for your dialogue is to read it aloud. This is worthwhile advice for all forms of writing. Often the words we write sound fabulous in our minds but when we read them aloud we are more able to hear the flaws. Reading dialogue aloud is all the more important as the rhythm of our dialogue attributions becomes apparent.

Rhythm, flow and variety are the keys to dialogue mechanics that will ensure your dialogue is read in the best possible light.

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Thanks Holly! For those who found this useful, Holly is planning a follow-up post on internal dialogue, to be published later in the year. :)

Holly Kench is a writer and feminist, with a classics degree and a fear of spiders. She enjoys writing fantasy and humor, and is convinced we can change the world with popular culture. Holly writes about her life as a stuffed olive at www.stuffedolive.com.au and manages “Visibility Fiction” for the promotion and publication of inclusive young adult fiction at www.visibilityfiction.com. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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Guest post: To Write or Research? by MCV Egan

Today I’m thrilled to introduce MCV Egan, author of The Bridge of Deaths, a love story and mystery centred around a plane crash off Danish shores just prior to World War II. She has very kindly agreed to do a guest post for me, and even offered her blog for me to post on as well! (You can find my post here if you are interested.) Anyway, you don’t want to read me rambling on, so without further ado, here she is!

MCV Egan

MCV Egan

To Write or Research?

Research in the 21st century is as easy as a quick Google search, watching a film or reading a book. Is it really that easy? I personally think it is not and that many of today’s writers suffer when their work is not backed up by the key component KNOWLEDGE.

As nonsensical as it may seem knowledge is the key component to writing a fabulous and concrete piece. Knowledge comes from experience and research. Is this too absurd, too obvious? Unless you have the educational background in what you write about and stick to just that ‘one subject’ it is not.

If you create a fantasy world to make it believable you need knowledge of how the key components of your landscape and atmosphere will affect the story line, the way the characters breathe, move, feel and exist.

If you write about a certain era you need the clothing, vernacular, and setting. Was that building there in 1890? Was that expression used?

Even in a story of the day, if you have a character of a certain age, how do they speak?

As wonderful and easy as the information superhighway is at providing facts and data right at our fingertips, it has also done so for our readers. The availability of information today has made it far more difficult for a writer; any bored reader can look up a thing or two. The very reader can besmirch your name by blogging about your lack of accuracy!

I personally like to use a wide variety of sources and some are on-line and some are old-fashioned magazines, newspaper microfilm, books, movies, documentaries and interviewing or observing people.

For my WIP I am hooked on Psychology Today. I had not touched a copy in years and I find that old copies are full of fantastic articles that have helped me enhance story line and have also provided some pretty cool and quirky ideas. I also people watch a certain age group; I do so in cyberspace as well as at Starbucks. I am not writing about 53 year old menopausal women fighting hot flashes. If menopause gets any worse I probably will soon!

I believe there are countless fantastic writers out there. In this era of blogging and the ease of communication I see it every day. The one key component that will make anyone standout in the fierce competition of the 21st Century wordsmith is knowledge. This goes to every aspect of a story; Characterization, setting, plot.

Get to know your characters in a level of familiarity that far supersedes what the reader will see. Understand what would make them tick even in areas that are not what you are writing about.

As a writer your awareness will guide the reader to experience the moment, the sound and the feel of it all.

When you have that feeling of eureka with the first draft be your own worst judge when you re-read and look up any fact that you could possibly question, as simple as would a 16 year old today, in the 1990s in the 1980s talk, dress or dance that way? Or as complicated as at what altitude does the thin air in a mountain make a climber hallucinate?

So what do you think? Was I that absurd and obvious?

 

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The Bridge of Deaths

The Bridge of Deaths, by MCV Egan

MCV Egan lives in south Florida in the United States and is fluent in four languages. From a young age she was determined to solve the mystery of her grandfather’s death, which resulted in The Bridge of Deaths, the culmination of nearly twenty years of research and analysis. If you like the way she thinks, please go and follow her blog and, even better, check out The Bridge of Deathswhich can be found at Amazon and a number of other booksellers. She can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Guest post: On writing Illusion, by Dy Loveday

This blog entry was first posted on Beth Cato’s blog Catch a Star as it Falls. Beth is Dy Loveday‘s critique partner, and she  (and Dy) have very kindly given permission for me to re-blog it. Dy’s first novel, Illusions, was released last week by Liquid Silver Books and is available from there and Amazon as an ebook.

In the interests of full disclosure, I will state here that I work with Dy’s partner, so I’m doing my best to give her and her book as much publicity as possible. I’ve started reading it and it’s incredible so far, so please give it a try.

Anyway, take it away Dy!

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Illusion, by Dy Loveday

I remember sending my first 50 pages of the novel to a crit buddy I’d met on the Online Writers Workshop (OWW-SFF). She gently told me I’d made some of the same mistakes she’d made when first starting out, and proceeded to show me exactly what needed to change to get the manuscript into shape.

Writing Illusion wasn’t easy. It took me around 6 months to get the first draft down and another 18 months of hard slog to revise structural problems. Writers often focus on the line edits or nits, misspelled words or agonize for hours over paragraphs of text. But the real problem usually lies in the harder to fix structural issues: boring main characters, superfluous secondary characters, a clichéd or obvious plot line, and my particular bugbear, the wrong point of view. I recently wrote a short story and it just didn’t work. Until I realized I’d been telling it from the daughter’s point of view when it was really the father’s story. Thankfully, it was only a short story, but still …. *bangs keys extra hard for emphasis*

Major revisions can also be enjoyable. During the revision of Illusion, I found myself fleshing out characters, giving them stronger goals and motivations, cutting entire scenes and adding new ones. Maya became less sarcastic and more vulnerable, more specific in her reactions as events in the scene moved her further away, or closer to her goal. I wanted the climax to be exciting, so I spent extra time foreshadowing events, creating decent causal links and giving Molokh a clear agenda. By the end of the book I hoped that even if the reader didn’t like Maya, they’d understand why she did the things she did, and find her interesting and believable.

Working with my OWW crit partners helped a lot. I think every writer needs to surround themselves with a good writing community, because let’s face it writing is a lonely existence. Writers spend so much time in their head it’s easy to forget there are others out there, trying to do the same thing. The virtual support community was essential for me and helped me to develop the skills of the craft. I say ‘develop’ because despite various workshops and writing degrees, I’m still learning. That’s the great thing about writing. It’s such a complex art, you can only get better.

I revised Illusion with the reader in mind and focused on four questions:

1. What contract with the reader did I establish on the first page?

2. What anticipation is this scene creating?

3. Is this causally related?

4. And most important of all, did I fulfill the contract with the reader? Did I deliver what I promised to deliver?

Thank you Beth for hosting me on your site and for helping me with Illusion. Your unique blend of encouragement, humour, gifted writing and ability to find the answer to plot holes was immeasurably helpful, from those first 50 pages to the final product :-)

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Thanks Dy, and thanks also to Beth for allowing me to re-host this. I hope that you all check out the book, and importantly leave a review! :) As a first time author, Dy needs all the support she can get so please do your best and share the love a little. I promise, I’ll do the same for you.

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Guest post: Get out of the way, by Paulette Mahurin

The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, by Paulette Mahurin

When I was writing my story, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, I did a lot of research into the time period when Oscar Wilde was imprisoned, 1895, going off on tangents about the Donner Party debacle, France’s divide on the Dryefus Affair, Booker T. Washington’s Atlanta address turning racism on its head at that time, on down to the minutia of the landscape of Walker Lake and the Nevada terrain, where the story took place, etc. When it came time to incorporate my research into the story line, I wrote, and wrote, filling pages, that would make any grad school thesis chair proud.

It was such a happy time until I sat down to do my first read through. The first three chapters were fast paced and really got me into the story, but when I came to the fourth chapter, I was jerked, like whip lash, from the fast paced, interesting plot, into details about historical facts that were as boring as any college level text could get. My heart sank as I removed line after line, still wanting to keep in enough text in to show what a “smart” writer I was, all to the detriment of the flow of the story.

I battled with my insides, my head saying, You put in a lot of time, this is interesting and important history while my gut screamed at me, you idiot, any intelligent reader will see through this. People don’t want to read about your efforts they want to read a good story. Get that junk out of there. And, so I did get it out, every single thing that was about me showing off, about me in the way of the story, about how I wanted the attention, and I let the characters guide me in their voices for what to keep and what to let go of. I hated letting go, knew I had to do it, like exercising—don’t want to do it but when I do I feel better.

When the rewrite was finished and I sat down with the manuscript before me to do another read through. I went from chapter one through twelve, then stopped, not because I was bored or pulled off the story, but rather I was tired and it was late. There were no big chunks left to cut. That was my last creative rewrite. After that it was line editing and tightening up grammar, the structure so that the house of the story didn’t look unprofessional, which again would act as a distraction.

I learned that when I got out of the way, and let the story flow, when I gave up the struggle to want to show off, it bettered the story, and the characters came alive, as if to say it’s our story, not yours. Next time, stay out of the way!

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Excellent advice, Pauline! I’ve found it always helps the story if you impose yourself on it as little as possible. And, I must admit that now I’m very curious about the book!

Paulette Mahurin

Paulette Mahurin, an award-winning author, is a Nurse Practitioner who lives in Ojai, California with her husband Terry and their two dogs–Max and Bella. She practices women’s health in a rural clinic and writes in her spare time. Her book, The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap, is about homophobia in the late nineteenth century, at the time that Oscar Wilde was so famously imprisoned for sodomy. All proceeds from the book are going to the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center (see, I used the American spelling!) in California, which is the first and only no-kill shelter in Verona County, where Paulette lives. This is a cause very close to her heart so please consider helping out by purchasing the novel.

To whet your appetite, here’s the blurb:

The year 1895 was filled with memorable historical events: the Dreyfus Affair divided France; Booker T. Washington gave his Atlanta address; Richard Olney, United States Secretary of State, expanded the effects of the Monroe Doctrine in settling a boundary dispute between the United Kingdom and Venezuela; and Oscar Wilde was tried and convicted for gross indecency under Britain’s recently passed law that made sex between males a criminal offense. When news of Wilde’s conviction went out over telegraphs worldwide, it threw a small Nevada town into chaos. This is the story of what happened when the lives of its citizens were impacted by the news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment. It is a chronicle of hatred and prejudice with all its unintended and devastating consequences, and how love and friendship bring strength and healing.

In Paulette’s words:

“The story was inspired by a combination of factors all coming together at once. I had been dealing with a friend in the closet when I took ill with Lyme Disease, and in that time there was little else I could do but write. When I felt better, I took a writing class in which the teacher presented with a stack of photos. We were to pick one and write a ten minute mystery from it. The photo I picked was of two women, standing very closer together, looking extremely sober, fearful, dressed in circa twentieth century garb. It screamed out lesbian couple afraid of being found out. When I started the research into the history of homosexuality and societal views documented on the net, I found interesting data to set the stage, for instance the news of Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment, which did go out over telegraph wires and was in an article in The New York Times, April, 1895, which was a homophobic write up, disdaining not only Wilde but homosexuality in general as immoral. Attitudes toward same sex relationships changed from a civil tolerance to overt hatred and hostility toward gay men. I also found out what that time period was like for a lesbian couple, and again an instance is women could have friendships, even live together as spinsters if they could afford to, but were a woman labeled a lesbian she was considered (diagnosed) insane and thrown into a mental institution, her treatment (cure)was rape at the hands of her physician directly or indirectly, to help her enjoy a male. This research coupled with the photo and my personal experience in dealing with women through my profession as a Nurse Practitioner (that one person in the closet I was working with had been severely traumatized sexually and to this day, as an older adult is afraid to come out), culminated in the story, moved the story, and has given me the energy to continue to promote it, all in the name of tolerance.”

If you’re interested in knowing more, you can purchase the book at Amazon US and UK in paperback and e-book. You can read more about it here, or read the book blog here. Alternatively, Paulette can be found on Twitter (@MahurinPaulette), Facebook and Google Plus.

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Guest post: The tarot, by Richard Long

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Richard Long, author of The Book of Paul, a cross-genre thriller. This post is part of the Novel Publicity Blog Tour for the book, so if you read all the way to the end you’ll see how you can win some amazing prizes including a Kindle Fire and a US$300 Amazon gift card. Richard has written a guest post about the Tarot and how it has influenced his novels. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll be intrigued. If you’re not, well it’s still a fascinating read. Take it away, Richard!

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Richard Long

Laura gave me my first tarot deck. It was a Crowley. A lot of people get creeped out by Crowley decks, much as they would have been creeped out by Crowley, I imagine. He called himself ‘The Great Beast.’ To me, he seemed more like a big joke.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law!”

Stop it, you’re killing me.

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You just read the opening lines of The Bone King, a prequel to The Book of Paul. They happen to be true. Laura gave me my first deck. I still have it and use it. In fact, I’ll be using it shortly to provide Skype tarot readings for two lucky winners of my Whirlwind Blog Tour. I’m looking forward to the readings. The winners? I suppose that depends on which cards come up.

Actually, I don’t give scary tarot readings, I just write about scary tarot readings. People have enough fear and stress in their lives without me throwing more gas on the flames. Besides, the three scariest trump cardsThe Hanged Man, Death and The Tower–can all be interpreted in very unscary ways. Most of the time.

William, the narrator of The Book of Paul, lives in the East Village/Alphabet City of New York in the years before gentrification made it a much less fun and frightening place. He makes a living doing tarot and numerology readings, same as the author did at the time. Like me, he is also a collector, but that’s where the similarities end. He collects ancient occult codices, some covered in human skin. He collects other things that are even more…disturbing.

The mythology of The Book of Paul is based largely on my very unique (so unique you’ll never see it anywhere else) interpretation of the twenty-two trump cards of the tarot. As William endeavors to unravel Paul’s nefarious intentions, he discovers an arrangement of the trumps that reveals the true story being told. In the following excerpt from one of William’s journal entries, Paul congratulates William on his discovery (which is not revealed, so no spoiler alert!) and rewards his efforts with a very special gift to add to his collection, and the promise of an even greater prize.

A fabulous tarot reading from Richard Long? A Kindle Fire?

No, William isn’t as lucky as three of you wonderful readers.

He’s about to have his very first look at The Book of Paul, a gift that comes with a very hefty price tag.

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The Book of Paul, by Richard Long

“You’ve done exceptionally well here,” Paul said, “but you’re never gonna get to the bottom of this no matter how many of those old books you poke your nose into.”

“And that’s because…”

“For starters, those writings were deliberately intended to disguise the truth in countless metaphors and scrambled codes to keep the idiots at bay. They’ve been translated, and re-translated back into the original demotic, Coptic or Greek countless times, every scribe adding his own pontifical touch in his glorious interpretation. Of the more accurate writings, there’s more missing from the tracts than what remains, as you’ve seen in the Drivel of Mary. You’ve about as much luck hitting pay dirt in those dustbins as those literalist born-agains have of seeing the Rapture. However, I have a gift for you that should prove far more enlightening, if you apply yourself with half the dedication of these research efforts.”

He reached deeply into his pocket and told me to close my eyes. “Don’t go using yer second sight and spoil the surprise.” I nodded and felt him place a large rectangular object in my left hand. “Okay, open ’em.”

It was a tarot deck. Older than any I’d seen. The paintings were incredibly detailed and absolutely exquisite. I turned them over one by one, The Hero, The Herald, The Oracle—all the trumps labeled with Paul’s titles. “These are amazing!” I said, awed and yes, flattered by his incredible gift. I had a hard time spitting it out, but I managed to say, “Thank you.”

“You’ve earned it,” he grunted, taking the cards back before I had a chance to look at the rest of them, setting the cards down gently on the table. “But don’t stay up too late gazing at them. This deck can be quite…entrancing.”

“Is there something else I should know about it?” I asked apprehensively.

“Indeed, there is. Get a good night’s sleep and meet me in the chapel tomorrow. I’m bumping you up to the advanced class, so make sure your eyes are bright and your head is clear. You’ve earned a little taste of the Gospel according to Paul.”

——————–

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About The Book of Paul: A cross-genre thriller that combines the brooding horror of Silence of the Lambs with the biting humor of Pulp Fiction. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author:

Richard Long is the author of The Book of Paul and the forthcoming young-adult fantasy series The Dream Palace. He lives in Manhattan with his wonderful wife, two amazing children and wicked black cat, Merlin. Visit Richard on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

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Guest post: You’re probably a fan, you just didn’t know it, by Eric Swett

 

I cannot remember a time where I did not enjoy reading fantasy. I have gone through periods of time where my focus had shifted to science fiction, and I will occasionally read a historical fiction, but I always come back to fantasy. For a long time I was unaware that fantasy could be subdivided into sub-genres. It was all fantasy to me. A few years ago a friend of mine gave me his book to read and I loved it. One Right Tricky Bastard was the story of a wizard in the modern world who had to deal with all of the troubles of modern life with the added complication of magic and monsters being real. I was  hooked. I asked if he knew any other books like that and he turned me on to Jim Butcher‘s Dresden Files series. I tore through those books as well and started hunting for others. I had been pulled into the Urban Fantasy sub-genre.

So what is an Urban Fantasy? The major defining requirement for an Urban Fantasy revolves around the setting. A traditional Fantasy novel tends to include fantastic creatures and/or magic in some sort of a medieval setting. The Urban Fantasy will include the creatures or magic, but the world is modern (or at least post medieval) and usually revolves around a town or city. Whether the fantastic elements are out in the open or hidden from most people does not matter, as long as it exists. This in itself is a rather broad definition of the sub-genre, and it bleeds into a number of other sub-genres (especially horror), but is the most direct definition of Urban Fantasy.

It is almost impossible to avoid Urban Fantasy lately (not that I would recommend avoiding it), so let’s take a look at a few different books, movies and television shows that would fall into the Urban Fantasy category.

Movies:

Wow, the possibilities here are endless, but as an example I could use Fright Night, Drive Angry, or Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark as examples. Each of them is a story told in the modern world and involves an element of the supernatural (which is really just another way of saying magic and monsters), but an even more direct example is the 2011 film, Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. The main character is a private investigator who works amongst the monsters that lurk amongst every day people. Vampires, werewolves, zombies and magic blend together with a modern world that is all too willing to not notice their existence. The movie itself was mediocre at best, but it is a perfect example of the genre.

Urban Fantasy

Television:

Two prime examples of Urban Fantasy on television are the long running Supernatural and Grimm. Both involve monsters, ghosts, and magic in the modern world. Both shows cater to the idea that the world is filled with supernatural entities that people are just not aware of and the heroes do the best they can to keep it that way. Secret Circle and Vampire Diaries are a couple of examples that fall into the genre, but they are also categorized as paranormal romance or even teen drama, but they are set in a modern world and involve magic or monsters (yes, the vampires are sexy, but still monsters). Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and American Horror Story are all examples of Urban Fantasy shows on television.

Books:

I could list plenty of books here, but instead I’m going to name two series that fall into the Urban Fantasy genre, even though they are regularly considered part of different genres.

Harry Potter is one of the biggest Urban Fantasy series of all time, though no one ever thinks to call it that. There is magic and monsters in every book and the inclusion of those elements in the modern world definitely qualify the series for the genre. The Twilight Saga, traditionally classified as Romance or Fantasy (as well as Young -Adult), also qualifies as Urban Fantasy with its heavy dose of vampires and werewolves.

As you can see, Urban Fantasy is everywhere, so what other Urban Fantasies have you found hiding in plain sight?

 

—————————–

Apocalypse Rising, by Eric Swett

Thanks Eric! Food for thought indeed, as I too had never really thought to split fantasy stories into sub-categories. He is absolutely right, though, and it’s amazing to think how many well-loved books, films and television series fit into this sub-genre. If you’d like to see how Eric puts his love of Urban Fantasy into practice, check out his book Apocalypse Rising, available as ebook or paperback on Amazon.

———–

Eric Swett started writing a story at 100 words a day in the spring of 2011 as an exercise while he worked on his novel. One year later and that exercise turned into his first novel, Apocalypse Rising. He has started another 100 word project (which can be found on his blog here) and the sequel to his first book.

He is the husband of Tracy and the father of Zachary and Connor. He works in the IT industry and is a recent transplant to North Carolina. He loves all things science fiction and fantasy and openly claims the title of geek.

 

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Guest post: Online Self Publishing (part III), by Peter McLennan

Hello all! Today I’m thrilled to be bringing you the third and final installment of Peter McLennan’s guide to self-publishing. If you missed the first two, you can find part one here and part two here, and I thoroughly recommend checking them out. If you’ve ever considered self-publishing but didn’t really know how to go about it, then this series is a must-read. So, without further ado, here’s Peter.

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eBook printing experiments

eBook printing experiments (Photo credit: proboscis)

Part III: After Uploading

In previous articles I’ve talked about laying the foundations  and formatting your manuscript  for on-line self-publishing. In this final article, I’ll outline some tactics to help with checking the results of your efforts.

Checklist

Checking multiple document formats multiple times is obviously repetitive. To speed things up and help me focus on likely problem areas, I produced a checklist of issues to look for. If I get enough encouragement, I could be convinced to put it up on my web site.

In general, you need to look for errors in font, text size, page alignment, paragraph spacing and alignment, indentation, line breaks, pagination, character formatting and special characters (eg, ellipses, m-dashes, non-breaking spaces and ‘smart’ quotation marks).

CreateSpace

CreateSpace produces hard copies, but you can check the contents well enough using on-line tools and/or the .pdf download.

Unfortunately, the only way to be sure that your cover is okay is to actually buy a proof copy of the book. If you order a proof copy, you aren’t permitted to continue with publishing until the book has been printed and dispatched to you, so if you’re in a hurry you might want to risk-manage this.

Kindle Direct

Checking your KDP conversion is easy, since Amazon provides a free program for this. You should see what your eBook looks like in different versions of the Kindle (which the program lets you do), since not all Kindles are created equal.

Smashwords

Smashwords eBook conversions are the hardest to check because of the plethora of possible formats and the limitations of the Smashwords converter. I found it best to look at each format in at least two eBook readers since the readers themselves can be idiosyncratic: if you only use one reader, you can’t know whether an anomaly is inherent in your eBook or just the reader being quirky. Here are the readers I used and the formats they handle:

Some file types and viewers do not allow the use of multiple fonts, and some are unable to render bold and italics. If you’ve used such formatting to emphasise or clarify things in your text, you need to ensure that your meaning remains clear in the absence of such cues. Alternatively, you can opt not to publish your work in those file types that don’t meet your needs.

Unfortunately, some eBook formats, or conversions thereto, are so crude as to be unacceptable. For example, .pdb turns all your smart quotes, ellipses and m-dashes into gibberish. I didn’t need any more gibberish in my book: I’d already written enough of it. Rather than further dumbing down my formatting (which would have detracted from the more popular eBook formats), I chose not to publish a .pdb version. Some writers publish separate versions for the less capable formats, whereas others just sell defective documents (check out a few .pdb files on Smashwords and you’ll soon see what I mean).

 

.pdb silliness: note the inconsistent font sizes in the table of contents and the incorrect special characters

In addition to eBook files, Smashwords also produces two formats for on-line reading. These often have formatting errors that are not present in any other format. Here are two examples:  the preliminary material on page one should be centred, and the first paragraph of the story should have the same font as the subsequent paragraphs. Such errors are distressing since this is the format that a prospective customer is most likely to view prior to purchasing, and they make the author look amateurish. Further simplifying the styles in the document would probably fix these problems—but at the expense of the ‘real’ eBook formats. I chose to maximise the quality of the latter.

.html silliness: note the inconsistent font face and size

 

Smashwords will automatically insert your cover image into some of the formats, but not all of them (most notably, .pdf). If you want your cover image to appear in all formats, you need to insert it into your Word document. Supposedly the Smashwords converter is smart enough to detect this and avoid duplicate covers, but I could never get this to happen. Ergo, I had to choose between having two covers in some versions or no cover in some versions. I opted for the former.

Smashwords strongly encourages the creation of a table of contents since some distributors insist on it. These can be especially problematic. Several eBook formats couldn’t handle the character formatting I needed for one chapter heading, forcing me to rename the chapter.

Repeat

When you’ve looked at every combination of format and reader and made appropriate changes to your manuscript, you need to upload the new version and repeat until you’re happy with the results. For Smashwords, I needed four such cycles.

Marketing

With over one million eBooks for Kindle, and 38 million hard copy books on Amazon, the odds of your book being discovered by a simple search are negligible. Judicious use of metadata to describe your work will help, but marketing is essential. Each self-publishing site provides some recommendations and facilities to help with this, and some other eminently sensible advice is here.

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And speaking of marketing…

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But Graham’s got other ideas.

Jason’s got a fight on his hands.

—————————–

Peter McLennan

Peter McLennan served for 28 years in the Royal Australian Air Force, where he focused on strategic planning. He has tertiary qualifications in engineering, information science and government, and a PhD in planning for uncertainty. He has had several non-fiction monographs and papers published.

Peter now writes fiction from his home in country Victoria, Australia. His hobbies include playing computer games badly and developing software badly. You can find Who Can Save the Planet? online in print versionKindle, and other eBooks.

Thanks, Peter! I certainly feel like I know a LOT more about self-publishing than I did a couple of months back, before I’d read these. If this has helped you out at all, I’d really appreciate if you left a comment thanking Peter for sharing his experiences, because let’s face it, the more we know about this sort of thing before going into it, the better prepared we are.

 

 

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Guest post: Online Self Publishing (part II), by Peter McLennan

Today we have Part II in YA author Peter McLennan’s three-part series on the hows and wherefores of self publishing. If you missed Part I three weeks ago, I thoroughly recommend you check it out if you have ever considered self publishing, or even if you are just curious to know exactly what’s involved. I know it was an eye-opener for me, albeit a welcome one should I ever decide to go down that path. Anyway, if you have read the first instalment you’ll be wanting me to skedaddle so you can read Part II, so without further ado … here’s Peter!

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English: A variety of laptops, smartphones, ta...

English: A variety of laptops, smartphones, tablets and ebook readers arranged. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is the second part of my trilogy on on-line self-publishing. Now that you’ve laid the foundations , you’re ready to reformat your work so it can be digested by the sites that will convert it into things people can buy. (Of course, you should keep a pristine copy of your manuscript safely tucked away, and only work on copies for each submission.)

Documentation on how to reformat your work is available on each of the self-publishing web sites. I’m only going to mention tricks and traps that aren’t otherwise clear or are easily lost amid the eReams of information available.

CreateSpace

CreateSpace is the print-on-demand supplier to Amazon. Since the ultimate product is a hard copy, you need to reformat your document so that it looks like a book. This involves adjusting the page size, margins, pagination, etc. CreateSpace provides templates that you can use or refer to, but be careful: these can be defective, with inconsistent font sizes, etc.

While CreateSpace accepts uploads in .doc format, I found that this didn’t always get the page alignment right. The solution was to convert the .doc to .pdf using Word 2010, and then upload the .pdf.

The hardest part about using CreateSpace is cover design (unless you use one of their prefabricated layouts). Since the cover must be printed, it needs to be done in high resolution: at least 300 dpi. Worse, because it may not be printed and trimmed precisely, it has to be larger than your book, there are areas you can’t use, the spine width depends on the page count, there has to be a barcode on the back, and so on. Fortunately, CreateSpace also provides templates for covers.

I used PaintShop Pro (~A$45 here) to do the artwork, then PrimoPDF (free) to convert it to .pdf for upload.

eBooks—General

You’ve slaved over the formatting of your masterpiece until it’s perfect. Bad news: eBook readers (the gadgets, not the people) aren’t as smart as word processors. Worse news: they’re wilful. They’ll reformat your work as they see fit, they won’t get it quite right, and they’ll all do it differently. Regardless of the sophisticated formatting in your word processor file, eBook readers will happily place section breaks at the top of a page, start a line with an m-dash, make your block quotes look the same as the rest of the text, etc. While your aim is obviously to minimise such problems, you won’t be able to eradicate them entirely. If you’re a perfectionist (and you probably should be), this is rather galling.

The good news is that eBooks require smaller covers, so you can easily downsize your CreateSpace cover for them.

Kindle Direct

The main problem I experienced with the Kindle Direct conversion was that I wanted to use a sans-serif font for block quotes to distinguish them from regular text. However, Kindle refused to grant my wish so I had to resort to other tactics such as indentation, italics and font size variations. You can see an example on page 1 of the free preview here (compare the paperback and Kindle versions).

A block quote as printed: note sans-serif font

 

A block quote in Kindle

Smashwords

Smashwords is ambitious: it tries to create nine different formats of eBook from your source file. It’s also relatively crude, and may require you to dumb down your formatting and do things its way. In particular, you’ll need to master the use of ‘styles’ in Word. Unfortunately, I’d already mastered them too well and was using a sophisticated hierarchy; eg, my ‘para-first’ style was based on my ‘para’ style, which was based on my ‘normal’ style.

My first Smashwords conversions were poor. Distressingly, as soon as you upload something for conversion, Smashwords assumes the results are perfect: they go public straight away and are queued for distribution to other sellers (Apple, Barnes and Noble, etc). You don’t get to check them first. As a result, potentially defective copies of your work are offered for sale, only to be replaced with the next trial potentially within minutes. (Smashwords does provide an option to ‘unpublish’ your work which minimises the duration for which dodgy versions are out there, but there are dire warnings against doing so.) Because of this, I recommend that you be as prepared as possible when commencing the Smashwords publishing process, avoid excessive experimentation, and be ready to fix errors and upload corrected versions in quick succession once you’ve started.

To avoid spamming the world with defective eBooks (and there’s enough of them already), I quickly succumbed to doing things the way Smashwords recommends rather than trying to gently massage my masterpiece. This drastic process involves stripping all the formatting from your document and then putting it back in again—but in the Smashwords-approved manner.

Actually, I still cheated a bit. If you’ve already used multiple paragraph styles (and you should have), you can keep track of them by prepending the style name to the paragraph mark (¶ ) for the relevant paragraph; eg, ‘Chapter 1’ becomes ‘Chapter 1#CHAPHDG#¶ ’. This makes it much easier to apply Smashwords-friendly styles after you’ve purged the formatting, especially if you use ‘Find and Replace’ to automate the process.

In addition to applying styles, you also have to reinstate character formatting and some special characters.

Even after this radical surgery, my lean-and-mean document still confused Smashwords slightly. I suspect that it inherited some non-standard customisations from my Normal.dot template. If this may affect you, I recommend renaming your current Normal.dot (or .dotx) for safe keeping. Next time you run Word, it will create a nice vanilla one which will be more to Smashwords’ taste.

Part III …

…of this series will provide some tips for checking the results of your conversions.

Shameless Advertisement

Who Will Save the Planet? by Peter McLennan

If you’ve found this information useful, then you probably wouldn’t like the novel that yielded it. But you might have kids, nephews, etc, who would! It’s about a fourteen-year-old named Jason who can’t work out how to get climate change fixed—until he saves the life of the mysterious and powerful Graham. Graham promises a reward, and Jason asks him to do something to stop climate change. The request is caught by the media, so Jason thinks the man’s trapped and has to keep his word.

But Graham’s got other ideas.

Jason’s got a fight on his hands.

—————————————–


Peter McLennan served for 28 years in the Royal Australian Air Force, where he focused on strategic planning. He has tertiary qualifications in engineering, information science and government, and a PhD in planning for uncertainty. He has had several non-fiction monographs and papers published.

Peter now writes fiction from his home in country Victoria, Australia. His hobbies include playing computer games badly and developing software badly. You can find Who Can Save the Planet? online in print versionKindle, and other eBooks.

Thanks Peter! This is all really interesting information. I’m looking forward to seeing what you have to say in Part III (due for publication on Friday 27 July).

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