Monday, March 23, 2015

Writing Advice from Donna Scofield

I’m giving advice to writers today. Oh, I know you’ve heard it all so many times you just want to throw up, but this advice is special. It’s made special by the pathos in which it’s written. No, not bathos…pathos. It’s based on my own sad, sad experiences. So here’s my advice:

1.    BACK UP! BACK UP! Sure, I had my stuff backed up when the CryptoWall pirates attacked my computer. Unfortunately, computer genius that I am, the back-up was plugged into my hard drive 24/7, so when all the important documents on my computer were locked up with a special code…ditto the back-up. I clicked to open the book I was working on and received a curt little message telling me that for a ransom (they actually used that word) of $500 in bitcoins, which evidently can’t be traced, they’d provide me with the code to free my locked files. The pirates also warned not to waste time consulting a tech because he couldn’t help, and the ransom would increase the longer we waited to pay. They were right about the tech being unable to break the code. He warned that other techs had told him about owners who’d paid the ransom but didn’t receive the code. I didn’t pay the ransom.

Eventually I stopped fantasizing about armed drones attacking offices in Russia, where the pirates are supposedly located. I bought a new computer, changed internet provider and all my passwords, and decided I was through writing. Forever. 

I realized it was karma. I’d just finished a book for the grandkids about a mouse family sailing down the creek in a toy boat to the big summer fair in Mouseville. Since only family would see the book, I felt safe in pirating (oh, that awful word!) illustrations from the internet. Everybody from Beatrix Potter to Little Golden Books contributed. My manuscript was encoded before it could be printed out in hard copy. Karma is a cruel mistress. Finally, I spat in karma’s face and started writing again.

2.    BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR. Make sure your love of writing is stronger than your distaste for what comes afterward, in case your dream comes true and a publisher actually gives you a contract.

 I just wanted to write a story about an 1880s young couple who went to Montana to homestead after their disgraceful shotgun wedding. Folks in my writers’ group called it “your Little House on the Prairie for grownups.” Now I’ve got to get a website, learn how to blog and tweet and build an author’s platform, arrange a Thunderclap and try to get in on an email blast, whatever that is. 

I’m in the process of filling out the six-page questionnaire for the publisher. One item really has me stumped. They want to know what actors would be suitable, if my book were to be made into a movie (Hah! When pigs pilot jets!). I’ve searched pages of internet photos of young actors and actresses for resemblance to two wholesome country kids of the 1880s. I want a sweet but hardy, pretty girl and a raw-boned, rangy blond boy, but all I’ve found are voluptuous Lolitas (if you remember that far back) and pretty boys.  

But there’s a bright spot in this gloom and doom. I got my first royalty check from the agency yesterday, my share for the to-date sales of the book of Christmas stories by twelve of us newbies. It was $38.92. What’s pitiful is that I paid part of my own royalty. I bought twenty of those books for Christmas gifts.

But I’m just new enough to the game to be excited by $38.92. So it’s back to the computer, either to search for Hollywood’s fresh new faces; work on the new book; or try to duplicate the summer adventures of the mouse family, complete with pirated illustrations.

Let my pain be your gain. Write on!                

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Bill Gates (Sr.) and Me

 I live in Washington State, home to Microsoft, Nintendo and Amazon all of which are located on the other side of the mountains, as we dry landers tend to describe the route to the populous Puget Sound area. Their world is as foreign to me as a trip to the moon. In other words, I do not hang with the rich and famous. At least that’s what I thought. Turns out, I’m too clueless to know when I’m actually rubbing elbows with said famous people.

On Saturday, March 7th, I had the honor of attending a celebration of International Women’s Day at Heritage University. I joined a number of women artists and writers who were the featured guests. For those of you not from this area, Heritage is located in the lower Yakima Valley, nestled in the middle of hop fields, vineyards and apple orchards. Its mission has always been to offer education to the underserved. Over 70% of the student body is comprised of women, mostly Hispanic and Native American. Many of them are single mothers. The event on Saturday was a fundraiser for scholarships to the childcare center and the featured speaker was Jackie Bezos, mother of Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos.

When I arrived Saturday morning and took up my position behind a table displaying my books, the room was buzzing with energy fueled by hundreds of wonderful, supportive women taking part in the event. After handing out cards and answering questions, I joined my sponsor at her table to listen to the speakers. Several introductions followed. A particularly lengthy one listed the many accomplishments of Mimi Gates, seated at the table next to me, along with a distinguished white-haired gentleman. As she got up to speak, the neurons in my brain finally began to fire and form a pattern like a connect-the-dots puzzle. I whispered to the woman next to me, “Are we talking about that Gates?”  She grinned and nodded.

When the speeches concluded, I hurried back to my book display and that’s when it happened. Bill Sr. stopped by my table, chatted to me about my books and picked up my business card! Squee!
Back at home, I related the incident to my husband. When I mentioned Gates was accompanied by a young man who stuck to him like glue, my husband said, “Private security. Bill Gates Sr. is the father of the richest person in the world. What do you think would happen if he was kidnapped?”

His comment put it in perspective for me. One pays a price for fame and fortune. Loss of privacy is at the top of the list. With that in mind, I'm grateful for my anonymity, my lack of fame. I'm free to bumble along, writing my books, enjoying friends and family, without the constant presence of a bodyguard. Yes, life is good. 

 No doubt my business card is now residing in the depths of an extremely pricey garbage receptacle, but that’s okay. Bill Gates Senior, you’re a nice guy and, in my humble opinion, niceness counts for a lot. You certainly made my day!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Adima Rising - Book Giveaway

Meet brand new author, Steven Schatz. Steve has been a cook, tour guide, manager, comic, and university professor. He hitchhiked around the country for two years, seeing how people have figured their path through life. Through it all, he has written – poems, short stories, songs, and books. Adima Rising is his first published novel. Let’s learn more about Steve, his determination in the face of rejection and his path to publication.

B.B. - Would you consider writing Adima Rising a long, hard road?

Steve: Yes and no. It started pretty easily – little vignettes and actions. Then at some point it grabs you, possesses you and when that happened, it was hard to do anything but work on it.
Editing was difficult. They say you have to kill your darlings and it’s true. I started with 175,000 words and ended up with 72,000. Everything that didn’t move the story forward had to go. However, a lot of it ended up in the richness of the characters. I had written their back stories, cut them from the book, but kept the character history with me so I truly knew what each would do and say.

B.B. - Did you feel like giving up?

Steve: When I was writing – no. I felt there were messages in the book that had to get out. In the publishing process – many, many times. I stopped counting at 100 queries, but it was probably more like 200. In all those, only one agent asked for a full copy, said it was brilliant, but needed editing and she would help me, then disappeared.
B.B. - Any lucky breaks?

Finding Absolute Love Publishing. Sarah did an amazing job editing. Caroline really knows her stuff. Every decision, from cover to naming, improved Adima Rising. When I first talked with Caroline she said this book will sell, but it will take some time for it to grow. A smaller house has the time to let that happen. A big one doesn’t. Now I’m finding how good Denise is at getting the word out.

B.B. - What is your writing process?

Steve: Writing is hard. Going from brain to page is hard. It’s hard to get started every day. Cutting and cutting and cutting is very hard. So, I make a deal with myself that I’ll write for 10 minutes a day. It usually grows to more, but that is all I must do. Every day. Little bites.
I don’t try to edit while I write. I try to get the whole thing as a single object. Then, I start chopping and changing.

B.B. - Do you follow an outline or fly by the seat of your pants?

Steve: I start writing little pieces. Then there comes a time where I sew the pieces together and let the book grow from there. Then there’s a magical time when the book takes over and I just have to listen. I know the main story before I start, but never was an outline person.

B.B. - Any suggestions for new writers?

Steve: Don’t be a writer unless you really love the process. If you do, don’t try to copy what’s popular. By the time a book comes out from a big house, it’s usually at least 2 years old, so you’ve missed that boat. Write, write, write, but write what you love, what you want to.
I tend to span genres and my books tend to be about several things. Adima Rising is fantasy, but is an alternate reality against our real world. It’s about life purpose and friendship and deciding for yourself what is sacred and important, so was a harder sell. It’s YA, but people over 60 have loved it.
Finally, be patient and persistent with selling the book. It’s been three years of trying to sell Adima Rising before it was the right time. It took honing the novel to it's absolute best along with finally identifying with the right publisher.

B.B. Here's a blurb from Adima Rising. Scroll down to enter book giveaway.

For millennia, the evil Kroledutz have fed on the essence of humans and clashed in secret with the Adima, the light weavers of the universe. Now, with the balance of power shifting toward darkness, time is running out. Guided by a timeless Native American spirit, four teenagers from a small New Mexico town discover they have one month to awaken their inner power and save the world. Rory, Tima, Billy, and James must solve four ancient challenges by the next full moon to awaken a mystical portal and become Adima. If they fail, the last threads of light will dissolve, and the universe will be lost forever. Can they put aside their fears and discover their true natures before it's too late? 

Book Giveaway

 One lucky person will receive a copy of Adima Rising. There are several ways to qualify. 1. Leave a comment. 2. Follow Book Blather. 3. Like my author page on Facebook. Good luck!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Update from Marilee Brothers

After writing six books for the young adult market, I’m delighted to be writing for adults again. Fortunately, I’ve connected with a new publisher, Boroughs Publishing Group, who just re-issued one of my earlier books, The Rock and Roll Queen of Bedlam. Boroughs editor, Camille Hahn, and I collaborated to update the book throughout. I think the new cover is fabulous! There’s been some talk about making The Queen of Bedlam a series. Hopefully, that will happen. The book is now available on Amazon here:

Looking down the road, I plan to resurrect another of my earlier books, Castle Ladyslipper. I’m talking with a cover artist and will publish the book myself, under the title, The Curse of the Rose. If you like a historically accurate medieval romance with a touch of magic, this book is for you. I plan to have it up on Amazon by spring.

I’ve recently finished a book tentatively titled, Affliction, a romantic suspense/fantasy. The protagonist is twenty-two year old, Honor Melanie Sullivan (Mel) who considers her ability to look into a person’s eyes and read his/her soul an affliction. The book’s setting is Bend, Oregon where Mel experiences her first real relationship with the Harley-Davidson riding William Henry McCarty (Billy the Kid). Together, they stumble upon a human trafficking/baby-selling scheme. Fingers crossed that we will see this book in print in 2015.

That’s it for now. Best wishes to you all for a wonderful new year. Remember, the best kind of blather is Book Blather. Happy reading!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tips to Better Self Editing

My guest this week is Dori Harrell, a former award-winning journalist with more than a thousand articles published in newspapers and magazines nationwide. She now freelance writes and edits and enjoys working with indie authors. She also edits for Gemma Halliday Publishing, Out West Press and a large print-on-demand company. And like many authors, she tends to agonize when revising her own writing. But she's stumbled on a few things in her career that have helped ease her revision anxieties. I’m delighted to have her visit Book Blather this week. Welcome, Dori!

Tips to Better Self-Editing

“I am in revision purgatory and really need a fresh pair of eyes.”
I recently received this statement in an e-mail from indie author Anne Carrole, writer of romances with western settings.
If your words are swimming before your eyes when you revise, it’s time to contact an editor. If you’re confident that there’s nothing anyone can do to improve your book, it’s time to contact an editor. If you’ve revised multiple times and doubts about your abilities are setting in, it’s time to contact an editor.
But if you’ve just finished your first draft and are writing the words “The End,” you might want to hold off a bit. Do spend some time on revisions before sending your baby off to its editor.
As owner of Breakout Editing, I now edit full time after an award-winning nonfiction writing career. I was fortunate enough to receive a formal writing and editing education at the school of journalism at the University of Washington. (Journalists, by the way, receive training in fiction writing techniques also.)
One of the first things pounded into me as a writer was: no author should be the final editor of her own writing. With more than a thousand articles in print, both as a journalist and freelance writer, I’ve never been published without my stories undergoing editing—my own and another pair of eyes or two. Currently, I’m writing my first novel. I’ve already hired a story-line editor and have made contact with a copyeditor. I practice what I preach—an editor is essential to writing success. And I’m sure Marilee thoroughly edited this blog post before she published it. I’m counting on it, in fact.
But before your manuscript proceeds to its next pair of eyes, there are steps you can take to improve your self-editing techniques. From my perspective as both writer and editor, I thought I’d offer my top-three suggestions. They won’t necessarily keep you out of revision purgatory, but they may ease your suffering once you’re there.
1.     After typing “The End,” give your manuscript a rest. I mean, completely set it aside and don’t look at it again. For novel-length, I’m not talking about a day or two, like with an article. I’m talking at least two weeks. Novellas, at least one week. I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s such a vital point in producing a top-quality story that I’m making this my number one point. I know, I know. You have a self-imposed publishing deadline. My recommendation is to work that rest period into your deadline. Why is this resting period so vital? Because when you revise after a resting period, inconsistencies, typos, and story-line deficiencies will jump out at you. Try it just once, and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll be a Dori convert in this. (And as an editor, I always give a manuscript a rest before the final look-over, for the same reasons.)
2.     Invest in a style guide. In publishing, the standard today for most fiction and nonfiction is the Chicago Manual of Style. I am in no way recommending you try to learn or read the entire one-thousand-plus page tome. But familiarize yourself with the comma section, or with terms that are particularly pertinent to your writing style (say, parallel structure). And you don’t even have to buy the hard copy. CMoS offers an online subscription with a great search field. I use it nonstop in editing and writing. Barring that, pick out one or two (no need to get excessive here) grammar websites that offer helpful tips you can easily refer to, such as The site offers useful examples that will aid any writer. And one of my favorites—Robin Simmons’s Grammar Bytes provides all kinds of simple explanations from verb-subject agreement to adverb clauses. Here’s a link to her terms page: I’m not suggesting you turn into a grammar buff. I’m merely saying that familiarizing yourself with certain technical skills that work with your writing style will enhance your self-editing abilities, which will improve your story. And when you have a question about style, you’ll have an answer at your fingertips.
3.     While reading through your manuscript, if something you’ve written leaves you with a feeling of unease or trepidation, rework that section until you’re comfortable with it. I’m referring to a scene or paragraph that’s unsettled you to the point that it follows you to bed and to your doctor and to conversations with your friends—and not in a positive way. Do not hesitate to revise based on a persistent, strong negative feeling.
And could I go on and on with tips about spell checking and pinpointing problem areas (for me, it’s typing “you” for “your”)? You bet—and many other editors and writers have done so. But as an author and editor, I find these three steps immensely helpful when editing my own writing. And I’d love to hear your top-three suggestions!