Thursday, June 18, 2015

My Editor Says That These Two Words I Use Make Kitties Cry

The short of it:

My editor finds an innovative way to point out my repetitious writing habits.

How it began:

I handed in draft number umpteen (that's an understatement) of my 1920's horror novel, Flickers. A short time later (geologically speaking) I received the edited version all marked up in Microsoft Word. All was well and I even laughed when I came across this:


So I dutifully changed it to this:





Then a few pages later this appeared:


Another uproarious laugh exploded from my lips. Exploded, I tell you! This is the kind of back and forth authors love with their editors. And on the next page I found this:


Aha! Game on, I thought. Game on! So for fun, I changed it to this:

And the next one I changed to this:

But something horrible happened. The kitties kept coming. A calvacade of crying kitties. 







A cry of pain strangled itself in my throat. The horror! The horror!
There was only one logical response:




**No editors were hurt in this process. 17 kittens in total cried. Only one author was slightly damaged.


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Friday, June 05, 2015

The 1st Page Critique Offer

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Let me read your writing!

The first page of your writing project is the most important. It's where you hook the readers. This is the same truth whether it's a short story, novel, or non-fiction piece. So I'm offering to do a critique of the first page of your piece of writing for anyone who's a subscriber to my newsletter. The actual offer will be in my next newsletter (to come out on June 16th) and will be available until June 30th, 2015.

Hmmm. The word critique bothers me. It implies criticism. Instead I should call it here-are-my-humble-suggestions-take-them-or-leave them. I've been doing this sort of work for over twenty years. In fact I just finished spending nine months as a writer in residence. The most important part of my job was to go over the writing of other writers, mark the work up line by line, then have a one on one discussion (we talked out heads off).  I read everything from memoirs, to poetry, to fantastical fiction. Oh, and one engineering paper.

So this is my way of offering a similar virtual experience to you. You can even submit the 1st page on behalf of someone else (a student, your offspring, an elf...even literary pets). Just sign up in the handy dandy box below.
   

My Clever Newsletter

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The newsletter itself is monthly-ish and has lots of goodies for fans, readers, teachers and other humans. And there's often a prize and competitions. I have so much fun putting the newsletters together--it's the perfect way to procrastinate.

So, please hop on board. And if there's anyone else you think might enjoy this offer (and the newsletter) just click and share on the links below.

Keep on rocking!

Art

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Writing lessons from Mad Max: Fury Road

*minor spoilers follow
Totally Understated 


Mad Max: Fury Road is an understated movie. Oh, I know, I know it's perhaps the greatest action/car chase/things-blow-up movie in existence. But it's also very understated and that serves to make it more powerful.

One of the things I think about when writing is the relationship with the reader. Am I telling the reader too much (IE the ol' show don't tell rule). Am I trusting the reader to put two and two together (and make four, of course) or am I not trusting them and telling them too much backstory (again!)? Readers become more engaged if they are allowed to participate in the story. To not have every scene and emotion handed to them. As writers we must give them space and just enough information to figure out for themselves what the character is feeling. We must keep the story tantalizing.

That's one of the brilliant aspects of Mad Max: Fury Road. Charlize Theoron's character, Imperator Furiosa (love that name), has a disability. She is missing an arm. But the director doesn't give us a long shot of her missing arm and dwell on it. In fact we see her several times before we get a hint that she is using a prosthetic. And even once it is clear that she is missing an arm no one makes a note of it. In fact it's a non-issue (and makes her cooler because of her metal arm). No boring forced dramatic back story. We just know that she has been scarred by some past event and has risen above it. We are allowed to come to that conclusion on our own.

Max himself has a back story. We are told in frightening micro-second flashbacks that he has lost his family. But we aren't hit over the head with a long backstory. He doesn't stop to shout out "My family is gone and that's why I'm so messed up." Again, the viewer is allowed to come to that conclusion.
The world they live in is a dystopian world. Again, there isn't a long dramatic voice over telling us all the horrible things that happened to make it that way. We are just thrust into the world as it is and have to figure out the rest for ourselves.

Throughout the movie we are given just enough information to flesh out the characters or the background of the world we are inhabiting. But not once are we slowed down from our pursuit of the story.

And what a relentless story it is.

Friday, May 01, 2015

10,000 Copies Sold! Now I Can Retire

Well, my total eBook sales across all platforms is now 10, 016 copies. I'm happy to have reached this magic milestone and have now ordered a yacht for my backyard. All hands report on deck! Or perhaps I should write about about how to sell ebooks for the YA and Children's market. It could be titled: How To Sell 10,000 Copies in Fifty Months!

All kidding aside I'm glad that this ebook adventure has been (sometimes) a tidy little addition to my regular income. All of the books that I'm selling are either out of print editions that I've re-issued in various countries or collections of new work (for example my short stories). And the work I did at the beginning of this experiment has paid off. Basically, I don't have to lift a finger to keep that income trickling in.

If you're curious about reading this adventure from the beginning click:  beginning.

Oh, why don't we look at the handy dandy chart?


It does look a bit like a patient who has flatlined, doesn't it? Except for that little burst of life at the end there. To quote Monty Python: I'm not dead yet. I think I'll go for a walk. The basic story to the graphic is this: when I started selling eBooks in 2011 you could give away free books then when you switched your book back to being paid it would (sometimes) rocket up the charts. That's why there are those two big mountains at the start of the chart. But in 2012 Amazon changed its logarithms so that this "trick" didn't work as well. And from that point on the books sold whenever someone stumbled across them. The smaller "mountains" are when I lowered the price to 99 cents and the book gained a bit more traction then went back to selling 10-30 copies a month again. And that's why the graph begins to rise at the end. One of my books (DUST) was on sale and briefly went up the charts. The graph will drop back down again this month. I'm certain of it.

I have 16 different books for sale and the majority of my sales (90%) have been to Kindle. Dust has sold the majority of the copies (6500). I think that's because it's a book that crosses over from YA to adult reading and the majority of ebook sales are to the adult market. And it has the most reviews.

  
The Hunchback Assignments are in second place. My self published versions are only sold in the UK (because publishers in other countries own the erights). The four books have totalled 1600 in sales. That's a tidy sum over time for very little extra work on my part.



Anyway, as I said, I'm pleased to have reached this milestone. And it's still my experience that in general books for younger audiences sell a lot more copies in paperback than they do eBooks unless they are able to attract adult eyeballs online. I do plan more experiments in the future, including a How to Write Kid Lit book and other "manual" type books to test out that part of the market.

Until then...tally ho!

Art

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Hootsuite

I rarely rave about products, but I must say Hootsuite just keeps getting better and better. If you're one of those social media crazies like me...well, you have far too much to keep track of. But Hootsuite.com allows me to track my Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram...(actually the list goes on) all at once.

 

And it's allowing me to write this blog directly to my Blogger account. So I'm just testing it out.

 

I get no money from Hootesuite. In fact I'm paying them for a pro account. But it really is saving me time...

 

End of product placement portion of this blog.

 

Art

Hootesuite

 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Last Minute Ideas

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 So this is my second day in the office as WIR at the Regina Public Library (WIR stands for writer in residence--I like the acronym…it sounds like things are whirring around me). I’m here every Wednesday from 1-9 PM. My day started out with the two and a half hour trip from Saskatoon. This is office time, too, because I listen to audiobooks as I travel. Today’s book was a BBC version of the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. It…ummm…sounds very ‘70’s at times but certainly captured my attention and is classic science fiction. I was reminded that when Asimov pitched this series he’d already set up an interview with an editor (I guess you could do that in the old days) and was on the bus on the way to his appointment when he realized he had no ideas to pitch (nothing like waiting until the last minute). He happened to be reading Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and thought, why don’t I pitch a series of novels about a galactic empire that is in decline? That’s what he pitched and that’s what the editor bought. And the rest is history. Or psychohistory…for those who’ve read the books. It’s an example of how sometimes the big ideas can come at the last minute and from a simple concept. It’s the work of the writer to find those ideas and turn them into a story that readers will want to read.

 One more note: I took the above shot on the way down. There was an overwhelming abundance of clouds in the big blue sky. The STOP sign is important. Is it telling you to STOP what you’re doing and start writing? Or is it telling you to STOP and look around and capture the moment? Technically it was telling me to STOP and LOOK before turning onto the highway. An important thing to remember.  
  Art

Friday, July 18, 2014

Creating with Createspace: Print on Demand

    I've been curious about Createspace's print on demand book publishing options for some time now (It's just one of the many arms of the Amazon). Since my novel Megiddo's Shadow was out of print in the US, I decided to use it to try out Createspace. It is a relatively easy way to self publish a book. All you need is a Word file. They provide a template that I just copied and pasted my novel into (there were a few hours of fussing a fidgeting to get things right, but I expected this).

The actual book cover design system is also very easy to use. They have a variety of covers and styles that you can use. Since the novel is inspired by my grandfather's experiences in WW1, I decided to use his picture. Again this took me at least an hour of fussing--if I had better design skills it probably would have gone faster. And finally I submitted all the files and ordered my proof. It arrived a month later (there was some odd delay and when I informed them that it had been a month Createspace immediately sent new copies of the books to me). Here's what it looked like when I got the books:


Overall I was quite happy with how the book turned out. The font is perhaps a little small for my ancient eyes, but the whole process cost me less than $30.00 and now people in the US & UK can order physical copies of the books for $8.99. Which means I still make $2.41 for each copy sold. I don't expect to sell many copies, this was just an experiment to see how it worked. I also hope that it will actually help sell more ebook copies of the book because the ePrice looks better by comparison. Am curious to hear anyone else's experiences with Createspace or other print on demand publishers.

 Art