Friday, March 7, 2014
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
I’ve recently been on a book tour for my latest crime comedy, The Goddaughter’s Revenge. Book tours are expensive. You travel around to independent book stores and you sell some books and sign them. It’s fun. You meet a lot of great people. But it’s expensive. And I’m not talking about the hotel tab and the bar bill.
I should have just stayed in the bar. It was leaving the bar that become expensive.
Nice night. We decided to go for a walk. It was dark, but I had on my brand new expensive progressive eye-glasses, so not a problem, right?
One second I was walking and talking. The next, I was flying through the air.
WHOMP. (That was me, doing a face plant.)
“OHMYGOD! Are you okay?” said my colleague.
I was clearly not okay. In fact, I was splat on the sidewalk and could not move.
“Fine!” I yelled into the flagstone. “I’m Fine!”
I tried to lift my head. Ouch.
“That must have hurt,” said someone helpfully.
I write mob comedies. So I know a bit about mob assassins. It may come in handy.
A crowd had gathered. Not the sort of crowd that gently lifts you off the ground. More the sort of crowd that gawks.
“Couldn’t figure out why you were running ahead of us.” My colleague shook his head.
I wasn’t running. I was tripping and falling.
“That sidewalk is uneven. Your foot must have caught on it.”
No shit, Sherlock.
By now I had tested various body parts. Knees were numb. Hands, scraped. Chin, a little sore.
But here’s the thing. I hit in this order: knees, tummy, boobs, palms. My tummy and boobs cushioned the fall and saved my face.
Yes, this was going through my mind as I pushed back with my tender palms to balance on my bloody knees.
“Ouch!” I said. No, that’s a lie. I said something else.
I stood up. Surveyed the damage. My knees were a bloody mess, but the dress survived without a scratch. It was made in China, of course. Of plastic.
The crowd was dispersing. But the pain wasn’t over.
Next day, I hobbled to the clinic. The doctor, who probably isn’t old enough to drive a car, shook his head. “Progressive glasses are the number one reason seniors fall. They are looking through the reading part of their glasses when they walk, and can’t see the ground properly.”
Seniors? I’ve still got my baby fat.
“Get some distance-only glasses,” he advised.
So I did. Another 350 bucks later, I have a third pair of glasses to carry around in my purse.
Which means my purse isn’t big enough.
So I need to buy a new purse.
And that’s why book tours are so expensive.
You can follow Melodie’s comic blog at www.melodiecampbell.com.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
"You have to meet her and hear her story," my friend insisted, and what a story it was.
While studying at Bryn Mawr College, Deborah Ahenkorah started an organization whose mission it was to send books to Africa. The organization was collecting and sending thousands of books to over thirty countries and Deborah was pleased. She had been an avid reader as a child growing up in Ghana and she wanted to open that opportunity to as many African children as possible. As the books came in and went out, Deborah noticed something. One in one thousand featured African children. This disturbed her so much that she was determined to find a solution and the Golden Baobab prize was born.
|Illustration by Tina Kugler based on a study by the CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center)|
Fast forward four years and Deborah and her team (I know she would want me to indicate that she does not do it alone) have taken the Golden Baobab prize to the point where they are able to have a small staff, an office, AND offer prizes totaling US$20,000. The organization now offers four prizes for literature and two prizes to illustrators.
I am so proud of Deborah for the contribution Golden Baobab has made and will continue to make in the area of African literature. It is so important that writers support one another towards a common goal of producing quality reading material for our readers and this prize is all about achieving that goal.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
|James R. Callan|
The Dialog Signature
Most of us recognize the significance of our signature. It is, or should be, a unique representation or identification of who we are. In Mexico, where we spend time, signatures are an art form. They may not clearly show the various letters in a person’s name, but they are unique and they identify the person who has put down his mark.
Signatures count. Look at the bottom of the Declaration of Independence and one name stands out. It isn’t Th. Jefferson, although he was very important in the process. John Hancock’s signature draws the eye to it, and even today, we say, “Put your John Hancock on the dotted line.”
So, what does this have to do with writing? Am I talking about the way you autograph a book?
Ideally, each of your major characters will have a signature, a dialog signature. Your written signature identifies you. The dialog signature of your character should identify him or her. It should be as unique to the character as your signature is to you. And just as your signature tells us something about you, the dialog signature of each character should tell the reader a lot about the character.
When you make up a bio for one of the people in your book, you should include his or her dialog signature. How do you do this? Ask yourself these questions.
• What vocabulary does she use?
• What is her diction?
• Does she have a regional dialect?
• Is English a first or second language for her?
• What cadence is normal for her?
• What are her marker words?
• What is her normal sentence structure, or does she have one?
• How verbose is she?
• What mannerisms does she exhibit while speaking?
• What body language does she show?
• Does speaking come easily for her?
• What circumstances make her nervous when speaking?
Answer these and other questions and you will have a dialog signature for the character. Keep this handy when writing dialog for this character and you will make this person consistent. The reader will recognize the speech patterns. In many instances, you may not even need an attribution when she speaks.
In my book How to Write Great Dialog (Oak Tree Press, 2014) I devote a chapter to the dialog signature, giving examples of how to use marker words, the use of sentence structure or the lack of it, and many other aspects of a dialog signature. And I give many examples to show how different characters would say, or convey, the same information.
Here is an example from my suspense book A Ton of Gold (Oak Tree Press, 2013).
“I think Eula is right. Bessie didn’t start the fire. Could you get a forensic pathologist to look at the body? Do a complete autopsy?”
Glothe cracked the knuckles of his left hand. “Do that sometimes. Pretty good guy in Tyler. Doc Haas. Course, usually Willa suggests it, calls him.”
Mark didn’t say anything.
“Maybe get Doc Simms to call Willa. Make her think it’s his idea.”
“Good. How about not letting it out that Eula is alive?”
“That’s a bigger stump.”
The sheriff Glothe doesn’t worry about complete sentences, or subjects or verbs, for that matter. Mark, on the other hand, has a more structured speech.
There’s definitely more to dialog that copying what you hear in the post office. Make your novel sing – and sell – with great dialog.
Amazon Author page: http://amzn.to/1eeykvG
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
But ASI's other operations are more difficult to detect.
Take Writer's Digest, for example. Whatever you think of the quality of their advice, WD has always been about helping writers, right? Unless you decide to take advantage of their indy-support publishing service: anything submitted to their Abbott Press goes straight to Bloomington. Americana bedrock Reader's Digest offers LifeRich Publishing to hopeful new writers—another pipeline to ASI. Feel-good inspirational publisher Hay House feeds ASI through their Balboa Press. Guideposts does the same through Inspiring Voices. And Thomas Nelson, the nation's largest Christian publisher, calls their ASI chute WestBow Press.
The major houses play, too.
It may not be surprising that Penguin's Book Country press for new writers is actually ASI—Penguin owns ASI, after all. But Simon & Schuster's new-writer-friendly Archer Publishing and Harlequin's Harlequin Horizons imprint are both ASI as well. Perhaps most disturbing to me was the discovery that companies that do support—or have in the past supported--indy writers have partnered with ASI. Bowker Identifier Services's editing and layout packages and a whole slew of editorial and promotional services offered by Lulu are really ASI. So what's wrong with a vanity press? Sure, ASI charges authors for services they can get elsewhere, but they offer the convenience of packaging them together, they're entitled to make a little money doing that, right? The Kirkus Review carries a lot of weight with libraries and bookstores. Anyone can buy a review in Kirkus for $425. The review will be honest—there's no way to buy praise the ms doesn't deserve—so Kirkus doesn't publish the review until you release it. The review will then appear on their website and be included in their e-mail newsletter at no charge. Some reviews are selected by the editors of their print magazine; there's no charge for that, either. However, if you want the review in the print magazine you can pay for its inclusion. You can also buy Kirkus ads and have your title and review distributed to the booksellers in their database. Want your book reviewed by Kirkus Reviews, maybe featured on their website and mentioned in their newsletter? Kirkus offers promotional packages for $1,500. So figure $425 + $1,500 = $1,925; pretty solid exposure from a respected source for less than $2,000. Of course you can get exactly the same service through any of ASI's services for (and this is from the Lulu site) $3,199. In other words, the convenience of not having to deal directly with Kirkus will set you back $1,200. Am I saying don't trust any of the small publishers who say they want to work with new independent writers? Of course not. Even though—contrary to the victory cries of hundreds of indy publishers—the big traditional houses aren't going anywhere, these little, independent presses have a lot to offer both readers and writers. If you're not going to publish yourself, seek them out. But don't sign a thing until you've done your homework and know who you're really dealing with.
Monday, February 17, 2014
Saturday, February 15, 2014
So, when I’m ready to sit down and write for a short while, and particularly after I’ve been working on the current novel project for a bit, I’m increasingly turning to alternative venues. The local branch of the public library is almost always my first choice. It’s close and quiet, and there’s just something about sitting among all those rows of bookshelves that almost always succeeds in kick-starting my writing motor.
And then, there are those places you visit which end up inspiring your writing. Parks, museums, art galleries, historical sites, ball parks and famous or unusual buildings have all fed the muse at one time or another. For me, such a place is Union Station here in Kansas City. Celebrating its 100th birthday later this year, the station had largely been closed for many years due to deterioration and dwindling train passenger traffic. After a massive restoration and renovation effort, it reopened in 1999 as both a train station and an entertainment destination, with restaurants, shops, a movie theater, a youth-focused science museum, and spaces for traveling museum exhibits.
I fell in the love with the station the first time I set foot inside it. Along with our Liberty Memorial and World War I Museum which sits just across the street, it’s long been my favorite city location to visit, and I always encourage friends visiting for the first time to check out both landmarks. You’re welcome for the plug, Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association. As for the station itself, it has many areas where visitors can sit and watch the world go by, including a great open café right in the middle of its vast “Grand Hall.” I’ve availed myself of that cozy little eatery on numerous occasions, enjoying my lunch while writing or editing a manuscript.
Once, just to see if I could do it because I had decided to write a story for submission to a local magazine, I sat myself at a table with the “task” of writing from scratch a story set there at the station. A few hours, one lunch and several glasses of tea later, I had a near-complete first draft of what ended up becoming "Absent Friends," which I eventually sold to that magazine. Since then, the station has continued to serve as a place where I can go and immerse myself in my writing.
So, when you’re looking to escape from home so that you can write for a bit in relative peace, or because you're hunting for inspiration, where do you go?