Category Archives: Blogger

#amwriting: Blogging is writing too

People wonder why I go to the trouble of blogging regularly. As an indie author, there is no better way for me to let the world know I am here. When a prospective reader googles my name, this blog is the first thing that comes up. WordPress’s stats tell us that over 409 million people view more than 20.3 billion pages each month.

That, my friends, is a LOT of potential readers, and every time I post a blog, I tap into that pool of readers.

So how do you go about getting a piece of that pie for yourself?

‘Life in the Realm of Fantasy’ is a WordPress blog, i.e. I use WordPress because it is a free, open-source blogging tool and content management system.  I also have several other blogs on Blogger (Blogspot), also a free, open-source blogging tool and content management system. I prefer Blogger for ease of use, but I love the way WordPress looks when you get to the finished product stage.

There is a small learning curve for each. But with very few skills, I have a decent-looking blog at no cost to me, using the fine tools and templates provided by the wonderful people at WordPress or Blogspot–and you can too. What you need to know is quite simple, and I’ll provide you with steps and screenshots below.

The thing that is so awesome about both these products is you have the option to use them in what my husband-the-programmer calls ‘wysiwyg’ (pronounced wizzy-wig) or ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get.’ The user does not have to know any programming or coding–all that is done for you already, and you just organize it the way you want it, within certain limitations.

  1. If you want to use WordPress visit the WordPress home page and select the ‘Sign Up’ button to register for a WordPress account. You’ll need a valid email address (that has not been used to create another WordPress account) to sign up for a new WordPress account. Follow the steps and bam! You have a blog.
  2. But you can also do this via Blogger (blogspot), Google’s free blogging tool and content management system, also an extremely simple process.
  3. I suggest you use your author name. I used Connie J. Jasperson:  https://conniejjasperson.wordpress.com. This links your author name to your blog, which is why you are doing this in the first place. Pick a title for your blog–this one is Life in the Realm of Fantasy.
  4. Once you have your blog set up, and the catchy name picked out, etc it’s time to start writing. Both offer you ability to use html (Text) if you choose, which I don’t have a clue about, or to go with the Visual (what you see is what you get). Unless you are a programmer, stay with ‘Visual.’
  5. In WordPress, choose a category now for your post–do it first so you don’t forget to do it. I published this post in the categories of Blogging, Self Publishing, Writing.  Each blog post may have a different category, but you decide what your categories are. If you should forget to choose the category, it will go into the ‘uncategorized’ pile–the dreaded WordPress slush-pile where blogs go to die.
  6. Also in WordPress, chose a few TAGS now, if you know what you’re writing about, so that you don’t forget to tag the post.That button is below the Categories list. Chose tags that most represent the core of your post, so that searcher for that subject will find it. For this post I am using ‘blogger, blogspot, blogging, how to use blogger, humor, self-publishing, WordPress, WordPress blog how-to.’
image © cjjasp 2015

image © cjjasp 2015

  1. If you are using Blogger, PICK YOUR LABELS NOW–Blogger doesn’t use categories, so your labels are very important. On the right hand side, click on ‘LABELS’ and simply type your key words into the BOX, separated by commas. In Blogger, LABELS are what TAGS are in WordPress, so use words that represent the core of what you are blogging about so that interested searcher will find your blog:

Blogger screen shot

Now that you have that out-of-the-way, it’s time to blog!

  1. Hook me with that catchy blog post title!  Today’s post is called “Blogging is writing too.” Pretty boring.
  2. Put that catchy title in the White box at the top of the page, and DO IT NOW so you don’t forget to give your post a title.

Now there are two paths for you.   You can wing it, keying directly into the post box as I sometimes do, or you can write it on a WORD document and copy and paste it into the body of the post. I have to do that for these posts, but don’t like to because word is rife with HINKY FORMATTING. Sometimes that screws up your blog posts for both Blogger and WordPress, and then you have to use the handy “REMOVE FORMATTING” button that is located in the ribbon (tool box) of both Blogger and WordPress:

WordPress new format screenshot remove formatting tool

Both Blogger and WordPress have spell check functions, and both will save at times as you go, but spell check only picks up misspelled worlds, not other errors.

Now we want to add a picture. In WordPress, place your cursor in the body of the blog post and click once at the spot where you will want the image. Then scroll up to the left side of the ribbon (tool box) and click on the little picture in the ribbon (when you hover your mouse over it, it will say ‘insert image’ This menu will appear:

WordPress new format screenshot insert images

 

WordPress new format screenshot insert images 2

If this is your first blog post, you won’t have anything in your media library yet, so click on “Upload Files.” Practice uploading images and inserting them, playing with it until you feel comfortable and know how to ensure the image will appear where you want it, and will be the size you want it to be. Then, once the image in the body of the post you click on the picture, and a new toolbox opens up. That is where you make your adjustments for positioning and size. You can even add captions:

WordPress new format screenshot insert images 3

In Blogger you also click on the little picture in the ribbon (when you hover your mouse over it, it will say ‘insert image’). A pop-up menu will appear, and then you will upload the image, decide the placement and the size.  This nearly foolproof simplicity is why most people who have “never done this before” like Blogger more than WordPress.

Blogger screen shot 2

All you have to do now is post your links to Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler and all other  social media you can think of. It is quite easy to set up, and you rarely have to refresh those connections. This is where WordPress really excels:

WordPress new format screenshot sharing

Voilà! You are a blogger. It will take a long time for you to build up good traffic. Posting regularly and frequently gets you more visits and likes, which raises your visibility. This is your opportunity to write a 300 to 1000 word riff on whatever you are doing or thinking about. In my case, it is writing, and all aspects of book culture.

I highly recommend blogging if you are serious about being a author, as it helps develops your writing craft, especially when you have to go in and edit out your mistakes (use the preview option). People expect blogs to be a little rougher than other work as it is usually written on the wing, but try to do your best work—you want people to buy your books, and they won’t if your blogposts seem illiterate.

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Book signing events, the art of Paul Cornoyer, and inspiration

From left to right, Sechin Tower, Lindsay Schopfer and Connie J. Jasperson at Forever Knight Games 5-16-2015

From left to right, Sechin Tower, Lindsay Schopfer and Connie J. Jasperson at Forever Knight Games 5-16-2015

The signing at Forever Knight Games in Olympia went well. I met several wonderful authors I hadn’t had a chance to meet in person: Sechin Tower, Jolene Loraine, Rachel E. Robinson (Maquel A. Jacob), and Erik Kort. We were joined my my good friends, authors Lee French, Lindsay Schopfer, and Jeffrey Cook. These wonderful people write great books, and I was privileged to be counted among them!

We had a great time, and it was a good first event at that venue. I want to thank all my friends for coming out and meeting my favorite local authors. Tower of Bones was my big seller–which makes me happy.

paul cornoyer rainy day in madison square

Rainy Day in Madison Square, Paul Cornoyer

But then, after the big party was over (and it was a party–believe me) I had to drag myself back to reality. As I said the other day, sometimes my head isn’t in the right place for reading. At the event this last weekend, a friend asked me how that inability to read without the editor in my head making noise affects my ability to write. I had to answer that it does affect it to a certain extent.

The reason being in an editing frame of mind affects my writing is that while I am creative, it is like my creativity has to go through a maze to get to the ends of my fingers and into written form.

It’s a sloooooow process.

Paul Cornoyer Winter twilight along Central Park

Winter Twilight Along Central Park, Paul Cornoyer

I do a lot of things to jumpstart that creativity. I  clean things I don’t really care about under normal circumstances.  Something about a really orderly environment gets my mind relaxed enough to work properly.

Sometimes I write flash-fiction, 100 to 1000 word short stories.

I find great art that really makes my mind click–Wikimedia Commons is awesome for that.  Today I came across a download of a picture that, two years ago, sparked a 250 word flash-fiction. That  image, which I will get to later, was painted around the year 1910 by an American artist, Paul Cornoyer.

Paul Cornoyer -Gloucester

Glouster, Paul Cornoyer

His work is quite intriguing, and much of is done in an impressionistic style.

According to the Fount of all Knowledge, Wikipedia, Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement. Impressionist painting characteristics include relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.

The thing about the impressionists that so inspires my writing is that they don’t give you all the details–they give you what they saw including the mood of the piece.

Paul_Cornoyer_-_The_Plaza_After_Rain

The Plaza After Rain, Paul Cornoyer

In so many ways, good literature is like good art–all the important things are there, everything the eye needs to have a perfect vision of the mood, the setting, and characters–everything is there within the piece, but with economy. When you limit yourself to expressing the complete idea of the story in less than 300 words, you discover just how well (or how badly you can write.)

This last picture is the piece that inspired one of my better, short pieces of Flash Fiction, which will be featured later this month on Edgewise Words Inn. I will post links to that here when it goes up

It is called The Plaza After Rain. I love it because, even though it depicts New York City in a different time, it shows the way rain is in the springtime. The sky is dark, but the trees are just beginning to leaf out. The streets are wet with rain, but a hint of blue is showing through the dark sky. When you see this painting, you feel like sunshine could happen any minute.

That is what we try to convey in flash fiction, and that is why it’s so important to practice writing in short, complete bursts. You never know when one will become a longer tale, so you will have a backlog of  fodder to fuel your creativity when you need a good story idea. Being able to create an entire story in 3 paragraphs is an art. Sometimes I can do well at that, and sometimes not so much.

 

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Darker Places, Shaun Allan

My Writing LifeOne of my favorite people is Shaun Allan, author of the bestselling novel, Sin–he  can write circles around me. Actually, he can write circles around ANYone.  Shaun has a new book out today, Darker Places. I was fortunate to be asked to edit this book, and I’m just going to say, very little effort on my part is ever required with Shaun’s work.

Darker Places is a dark, literary fantasy, comprised of thirteen poems and 13 short-stories, in the same vein as Dark Places,  his book of short works that was published in 2012.

Shaun has consented to answer a few questions about his writing life for us:

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

SA: Early life…  Can I remember that far back?  I’m not sure I can…  I can’t think of a time when I haven’t been writing.  I’m told (by my mother who also tells me I was a little terror as a young child, which I can’t quite believe) I used to write stories and draw the pictures to go along with them.  Nowadays, my artistic skills are probably somewhat lacking.  I’m hoping my writing skills have improved, though.  At school, English was easily my favourite lesson and I loved writing the essays.  I was a big fan of science fiction, back then (I still am a fan, of course), so read lots of Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov amongst others.  I moved on to fantasy, with David Eddings and Terry Brooks and then brought in horror.  All these found their way into my writing, with horror and the supernatural becoming the mainstay of my subject matter now.  I feel, without the darkness, you can’t appreciate the light.

CJJ: Those are books I loved too. Tell us about your most recent book.

SA: Darker Places, my new book, is the follow up to Dark Places.  It’s an anthology of 13 stories and 13 poems which walk the reader through the shadowy passages of my mind. There’s ome humour in there (with Gremlins and Little Dead Riding Hood), some touching stories (The Crow and Stolen Moments) and much darker ones (Home) where I kill off a number of my old school friends, with their permission!  And, we get to see what happened with Sin before the events of his novel.

CJJ: I have to say that is an awesome story–Sin is an amazing character. And Home is one of the best, short stories I have read in a long time. Now we come to the question people always want to know:  How did you come to write this novel?

sin - Shaun AllanSA: Sin took me ten years to write.  As it’s a very personal book, I occasionally had to step away and wrote short stories.  Many of these were collected together in Dark Places, which was prompted by a comment a writer friend of mine made.  As my mind tends to write what it wants rather than what I want, and another friend, who lives in Australia, was very forthcoming with writing prompts I couldn’t refuse, Darker Places became more and more a reality.  I mean, if you’re given a starter sentence of “The bird fell and the sky was silent,” how can you not work with it?

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

SA: Oh, I wing it.  I know wonderful writers (Connie) who outline, but I can’t.  I’ve tried, but my mind doesn’t work like that.  It goes where it wishes, my Muse being a right royal pain in the posterior.  I sat down to write some of Mortal Sin and ended up writing a Christmas story about Rudolph, for example!  Sometimes, as with Mr. Composure, I can write the start and almost immediately know how it will end, with ‘only’ the path it takes to figure out, but often, I start and I have no idea at all.

CJJ: How does your work differ from others of its genre?

SA: I think because it’s personal.  There’s aspects of me, my life and my darkness in everything.  There’s also my sense of humour.  I set the stories where I live.  When I was starting, and everyone was saying “write what you know,” I struggled somewhat.  What did I know?  Where I lived seemed boring, for a start!  But then I read a Clive Barker book (Weaveworld, I think) and he described going down back alleys in a town.  I didn’t know, but felt it could have been the alleys where he grew up.  It wasn’t boring.  So I moved my stories to Grimsby and Lincolnshire – the places I knew.  Once they came home, they allowed me more freedom.

CJJ: Your work is dark, but you are such a cheerful, light-hearted person. Why do you write what you do?

SA: Good question.  Though I can write silly children’s poetry as well as paranormal and psychological thrillers, it’s the darker work which I find easiest.  I find it therapeautic.  I can get stresses and bad memories out and turn them into something I and others seem to enjoy.  As I say, without darkness, you can’t appreciate the light.

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

SA: I did try to be ‘properly’ published, but, with the indie route, I’ve made some amazing friends and reached people all over the world.  I have full control over my work and the only deadline (in most cases) is the one I set myself.

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

SA: Well, you have to go for what you feel is right, but I have to admit, though the indie route is hard work, its immensely rewarding.  I’d definitely recommend giving it a go.

~~~~~~

Thank you Shaun, for taking the time to answer these questions, and for being here today!

DarkerPlaces_96dpi_100%DARKER PLACES by Shaun Allan

What if you could steal the final moments from the dying? What if you had the darkest secret, but couldn’t think what it might be? What if you entered the forest in the deep of the night. Who is the melting man? And are your neighbours really whom they appear to be?

So many questions.

To find the answers, you must enter a darker place. Thirteen stories. Thirteen poems. Thirteen more doorways.

 ~~~~~

 

Shaun AllanA creator of many prize winning short stories and poems, Shaun Allan has written for more years than he would perhaps care to remember. Having once run an online poetry and prose magazine, he has appeared on Sky television to debate, against a major literary agent, the pros and cons of internet publishing as opposed to the more traditional method. Many of his personal experiences and memories are woven into the point of view and sense of humour of Sin, the main character in his best-selling novel of the same name, although he can’t, at this point, teleport.

A writer of multiple genres, including horror, humour and children’s fiction, Shaun goes where the Muse takes him – even if that is kicking and screaming. He has written for NBC Universal, and regularly holds writing workshops at local schools.

Shaun lives with his wife, two daughters and two cats. Oh and a manic dog. Though his life might, at times, seem crazy, he is not.

Honest.

~~~~~~

To see more of Shaun’s work, please visit Shaun’s author page at Amazon.com.

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Friday Interview: Carlie M.A. Cullen

Photo of CarlieAs I promised a while back, today Carlie M A Cullen, author of The Heart Search trilogy, has consented to answer a few questions for us. She is a lovely, talented woman who has been one of my editors for several years now!

CC: Hi Connie! It’s lovely to be here. Thank you for the tea.

CJJ: Hello, and you’re welcome! Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

CC: I grew up as an only child. My parents worked full time and both had second jobs. As a result I was left to create my own entertainment. I loved the tales of Hans Christian Andersen and started to write my own fairy tales. I found myself disappearing into the stories I created and it made me feel less lonely. From there, I progresses to writing longer short stories and poems. It’s something I’ve continued to do into adulthood.

CJJ: As you know, I love this series. Tell us about your most recent book.

CC: I hope you’re not after any spoilers, Connie! [laughs] Heart Search: Betrayal is the final book in the trilogy and takes Remy and Joshua’s story to its natural conclusion. However, it’s not all hearts and flowers – far from it. There is a traitor who is passing copious amounts of information to someone who has a massive grudge against the coven, and who they are in league with. But there are four possible suspects. Which one is it and can the coven discover their identity before it’s too late? There are many twists and turns along the way, some good and some terrible. Certain characters really shine and there’s the discovery of new talents along the way. Unfortunately there are casualties, some of which may shock my readers.

CJJ: The story line in Betrayal is quite divergent from the previous two books. How did you come to write this novel?

CC: When I reached the halfway point in the first book, Heart Search: Lost, I knew there was too much of a story for just one. It was at that point I realized Heart Search would turn into a trilogy. I couldn’t leave the world I’d created and made the decision to complete the trilogy before moving onto other stories I had in my head.

CJJ: I always have that problem too. I think some stories are just larger than we originally thought. So, do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

CC: It depends on what I’m writing really. With Heart Search, I had the first twelve chapters meticulously outlined, but around chapter five my characters decided they were going to take over and make me tell their story their way. I threw away the outline and have ‘winged it’ ever since. As I wrote this based on current day, it was easy to do.

With my next book, I’ve had to do some extensive world building and creating magic systems and the like before I began writing. However, as far as the story goes, again I’m winging it and seeing where my muse and characters takes me.

CJJ: Well your muse is taking you to some wonderful places! In your opinion, how does your work differ from others of its genre?

CC: I can only really talk about the Heart Search trilogy here. In the first book you have two POV’s: Remy in first person and Joshua in third person. Their stories run parallel to each other and every now and then they softly bump before going off again. I believe this is what makes it unique. In book two, I brought in extra character voices and gave them their own POV’s in third person. The final book takes even more POV’s into the mix, always in third person, whereas Remy has maintained a first person POV throughout.  I also believe (going by the reviews I’ve read) the storyline itself is completely different to what others have read before. Put all this together and that’s what I think makes my work so different from others in its genre.

CJJ: So now we get down to the question that I always wonder: Why do you write what you do?

CC: As I said earlier in the interview, I loved the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales and that was a huge influence in my writing. Growing up I tried reading different genres, but I always came back to fantasy. There’s something so intriguing about the characters you can create, the worlds you can build, and adding to that those mystical creatures we all know so well: fairies, goblins, dragons, vampires, et al. It seemed only natural for me to write in this genre. It’s where I’m in my comfort zone.

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

CC: Originally, I wanted the dream of getting an agent and a decent publishing deal, but I was new to the industry and quite naïve. After a few rejections, I decided that after all my hard work on the book it would be nice to give people a chance to read it. In addition, I had people I knew asking me for it. It was about that time I joined Myrddin Publishing. Everyone was so supportive from day one so I published it through them and haven’t looked back since.

Now I know more about the industry, I’m really glad I’ve taken this path. I have so much more control over where my books are sold, what sort of cover I want, what price to charge, and how much I want in royalties that I think I’d now be too stifled by a major publisher.

CJJ: I agree! Being a part of the Myrddin Group has been a blessing to me too, considering the assistance we give each other in every aspect of bringing a book to market. And the fact that you really are in control of your own work and profits makes this an adventure!  So what advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

CC: This is a tricky one to answer because what’s right for one person isn’t necessarily right for another. I think the best thing they could do is talk to other authors, some who are indie and some who have gone the traditional route. Ask them about the pros and cons of both and then they can make an informed decision that’s best for them.

I wish I’d done that in the beginning as I was so green it was ridiculous, but I was one of the lucky ones who met some wonderful indie authors who helped me along the way.

But going back to the question, do your homework and don’t make any snap decisions or judgments that you may later regret.

CJJ: Very good advice! Thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to visit with me, and for sharing your wisdom!

Alice in Wonderland Tea SetCC: Thanks so much for inviting me, Connie. I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you. Now, is there any more tea brewing?

CJJ: Yes, actually. This is a lovely citrus Lady Grey, I hope you like it! This tea set is my Alice in Wonderland set, which my children gave me last year!

>>>—<<<

Betrayal front coverCarlie M A Cullen was born in London. She grew up in Hertfordshire where she first discovered her love of books and writing.

She has always written in some form or another, but started to write novels in 2011. Her first book was published by Myrddin Publishing in 2012. She writes in the Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genres for New Adult and Adult.

Carlie is also a principal editor for Eagle Eye Editors.

Carlie also holds the reins of a writing group called Writebulb. They have published four anthologies so far, two for adults and two for children, all of which raise money for a local hospice.

Carlie currently lives in Essex, UK with her daughter.

>>>—<<<

Links for Carlie M A Cullen

Website: http://carliemacullen.com

Twitter: @carlie2011c

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CarlieMACullen

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=240655941&trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B009MWVL5A

About.me: http://about.me/CarlieCullen

Wattpad: http://www.wattpad.com/user/CarlieCullen

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6550466.Carlie_M_A_Cullen

BOOKS:

Heart Search, book one: Lost: http://smarturl.it/HeartSearch-Lost

Heart Search, book two: Found: http://smarturl.it/HeartSearch-Found

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Hyphens, style guides, and writing conventions

adult-footie-pjsYou need a good style guide. No, I am not suggesting that you need help with your wardrobe–those footie pajamas are awesome, and are the perfect uniform for the dedicated author. What I am suggesting is that you develop consistency in your writing, and there are guides to help you with that.

English is a completely wonky language, even for those of us who grow up speaking some form of it. My dialect is that of the western United States, specifically the Pacific Northwest, near the Canadian border. As in every other part of the world, we speak informally in our homes and with friends, but in writing, we should conform to certain standardized rules, or those who speak OTHER versions of English will not be able to follow us, despite the many similarities in our dialects.

Kathleen Cali, in an article at Learn NC, says: “Conventions are the surface features of writing — mechanics, usage, and sentence formation. Conventions are a courtesy to the reader, making writing easier to read by putting it in a form that the reader expects and is comfortable with.”

Since I am a US citizen, I use American writing conventions. In the United States, many non-journalistic professional writers use The Chicago Manual of Style, and this is the manual I use.

elements of styleA classic style guide for new authors and the general public is Strunk and White’The Elements of Style. This is a popular reference among writers just beginning in the craft. I sometimes use this guide, but as I have advanced as an editor, I find myself referring to the more in-depth Chicago Manual of Style. However, either one is excellent for the US author, and for any Europeans editing for a US author in this era of the internet and the global market for editing services.

Any author or editor who tries to tell you that one particular style guide is “the only” style guide is simply voicing an opinion, and if they are obnoxious and defensive about it, ignore them. Each style guide is an excellent reference tool, and each one plays to different requirements. But all of them are for the benefit of the reader.

chicago manual of styleThe Chicago Manual of Style is one of the oldest and most comprehensive style guides available, and for me in my role as an editor, it’s an indispensable tool because it contains information that I can’t find anywhere else. While I could easily access it all via the online version, I do like having my large book at my fingertips.

As a writer I rely on a style guide because  it often feels  like every rule has an exception, and knowing what those are makes huge difference in a manuscript’s consistency and readability.

For example, sometimes we don’t know if we should hyphenate or not. Or, we are unsure when to capitalize a direction or an honorific. When this occurs, our work becomes uneven and hard to read, because it’s rife with  inconsistency, hyphenating words in one place but not another. This happens because not every set of words needs to be hyphenated, and how do you know which to decorate with that dear little dash?

There are answers to these questions, in the handy-dandy style guides we have available to us.

So how DO we employ those little morsels of madness that work their way into every corner of my manuscripts? I love them!

Unfortunately, hyphens are not toys. As I discovered when creating my world of Neveyah for the Tower of Bones series, they are the gate-way drug to writer’s hell. Take my advice and do not use a hyphen unless it serves a purpose. If a compound adjective cannot be misread or its meaning is established, a hyphen is not necessary.

  • An English-speaking country
  • A time-saving device
  • A thirty-floor building
Some compounds are created on the spot to fulfill a specific need (on-the-spot creations). Permanent compounds start out as improvised compounds, but become so widely accepted that they are included in the dictionary as permanent compounds. Examples of temporary compounds that have made the transition to permanent compounds are words like  know-it-all, heart-stopping, free-for-all, and down-at-the-heels.
shark memeContext determines whether or not to hyphenate.  Ask yourself, “How will the words be interpreted by the reader if I don’t hyphenate?” Wikipedia offers the following examples:
  • Man-eating shark (as opposed to man eating shark, which could be interpreted as a man eating the meat of a shark)
  • Wild-goose chase (as opposed to wild goose chase, which could be interpreted as a goose chase that is wild)
  • Long-term contract (as opposed to long term contract, which could be interpreted as a long contract about a term)
  • Zero-liability protection (as opposed to zero liability protection, which could be interpreted as there being no liability protection).

And finally, especially if you are writing in a fantasy genre, as you are writing your tale down and creating your world, also make a style sheet that pertains to your manuscript noting what words must be capitalized and what the proper spellings for invented places are.

Refer back to it frequently, updating it as needed. I learned this the hard way. Whether it is handwritten or a WORD document, a simple directory of compound words and phrases that are unique to the world you have created will be as invaluable to you as your copy of The Elements of Style.

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Don Quixote

Don Quixote in the library Adolf Schrödter 1834

Don Quixote in the library by Adolf Schrödter 1834

Lately I have been on a Don Quixote binge. Published in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615, volume I, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha, and volume II, The Ingenious Knight,  written by by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedrais considered the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon (a body of books traditionally accepted by scholars as the most important and influential in shaping culture.)

As a founding work of modern Western literature,and one of the earliest canonical novels, it regularly appears high on lists of the greatest works of fiction ever published, such as the Bokklubben World Library ( a series of classical books, mostly novels, published by the Norwegian Book Club since 2002) collection which cites Don Quixote as authors’ choice for the “best literary work ever written.” It is also said that the two parts of this masterpiece have been  translated into more languages than any book other than the Bible. 

Don Quixote had major influence on the literary community, as shown by direct references in Alexandre DumasThe Three Musketeers (1844) and Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).

The Story:

Alonso Quixano, the protagonist of the novel (though he is not named until much later in the book), is a retired country gentleman nearing fifty years of age, living in La Mancha with his niece and housekeeper. Although he is mostly a rational man, his excessive reading of books of chivalry has produced a skewed view of reality and what we might consider dementia. In keeping with the theories of the time, not sleeping adequately–because he was reading–has caused his brain to dry. (I LOVE that!) As a result, he is easily given to anger and believes every word of these fictional books of chivalry to be true.

Don Quixote’s niece commits, what is to me, the most heinous crime–she and the Parrish curate burn his library, and lie to him, telling him it was the work of an evil magician. Criminal!!!

He decides to become a knight-errant in search of adventure. To these ends, he dons an old suit of armor, renames himself “Don Quixote”,  and renames his poor old horse “Rocinante.” Cervantes was a genius when he penned the horse–Rocinante is not only Don Quixote’s horse, but is a reflection of Don Quixote himself, ungraceful, past his prime, and in way over his head.

Don Quixote asks his neighbor, Sancho Panza, to be his squire, promising to make him governor of an island. Sancho agrees, and the pair sneak off in the early dawn. At this point their adventures begin, starting with Don Quixote’s attack on the windmills.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra created a wonderful, hilarious masterpiece when he penned Don Quixote. Even in today’s society the plot is relevant and and the characters leap off the pages. The extremes of the human condition are all laid out in glorious prose that has been beautifully translated to English in 2003 by Edith Grossman. The New York Times called Grossman’s translation a “major literary achievement.”

In the original version of Don Quixote there are basically two different types of Castilian Spanish: Old Castilian is spoken only by Don Quixote, while the rest of the roles speak a modern version of Spanish. The Old Castilian of Don Quixote is for comic relief – he copies the language spoken in the chivalric books that made him crazy; and many times, when he talks nobody is able to understand him because his language is too old. This comedic effect translates well to Modern English when the translator has Don Quixote use  Shakespearean English phrases.

I write fantasy, and I read widely. But to those purists who decry the work of genre fiction writers as being “created for the masses,” I would like to say this: it is quite clear that the modern perception of “fantasy” as having no literary merit is complete hogwash when you look at the books that make up the western cannon of great literature. ALL of them are fantasies of one sort or another, beginning with Don Quixote and going forward, and all of them were created for the enjoyment of the masses.

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Heart Search 3-Betrayal, Carlie Cullen

Betrayal front coverI read voraciously, in all genres and one of my not-so-secret vices is the occasional lust for a good paranormal fantasy.

One of my favorite authors in that genre is Carlie M.A. Cullen, who just happens have a new book coming out in her Heart Search Trilogy. Today she is revealing the cover for the final book in the series–and as with the first two covers, I  really love it. It totally speaks to the book’s dark theme. Her cover artist is Nicole Antonia Carro, who is one of the best indie graphic designers in the business, and an accomplished author in her own right.

I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to read this manuscript, and it is quite the finish to a bold trilogy.

What I find most intriguing about this series is that it revolves around people who have become vampires, and who no longer think the way humans do. But despite the real difference that having the kind of power they have makes in the way they view the world, they are family oriented and deeply committed to each other.

I’ve never considered writing about vampires and likely won’t, as my creativity doesn’t turn that way right now, but I confess I am curious about many things in regard to the conception of this series. To that end, I will be interviewing Carlie at a later date, and she has promised to answer most of my questions.

In the meantime here are the particulars for this book that is so beautifully covered:

Blurb for Heart Search: Betrayal

One bite started it all . . .

Joshua, Remy, and the twins are settled in their new life. However, life doesn’t always run smoothly. An argument between Becky and her twin causes unforeseen circumstances, an admission by Samir almost costs him his life, and the traitor provides critical information to Liam. But who is it?

As Jakki’s visions begin to focus on the turncoat’s activities, a member of the coven disappears, and others find themselves endangered.

And when Liam’s coven attacks, who will endure?

Fate continues to toy with mortals and immortals alike, and as more hearts descend into darkness, can they overcome the dangers they face and survive?

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Carlie M.A. Cullen, Author

Photo of CarlieCarlie M A Cullen was born in London. She grew up in Hertfordshire where she first discovered her love of books and writing.

She has always written in some form or another, but started to write novels in 2011. Her first book was published by Myrddin Publishing in 2012. She writes in the Fantasy/Paranormal Romance genres for New Adult and Adult.

Carlie is also a principal editor for Eagle Eye Editors.

Carlie also holds the reins of a writing group called Writebulb. They have published four anthologies so far, two for adults and two for children, all of which raise money for a local hospice.

Carlie currently lives in Essex, UK with her daughter

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You can find Carlie’s books at:

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You can connect with Carlie via these social links:

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Do take a look at her books–if you are a fan of paranormal romances, these books are a fun read, filled with characters that are larger-than-life, and adventures into the dark and mysterious world of the immortals who surround us.

Editors Note: I did make a typo in the Title of this post.  It is Heart Search : Betrayal, not Betrayed as was originally posted.

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To blurb or not to blurb

Blurb definitionOne of the things that sucks about being an indie is that you have to sell your books. I know that seems pretty obvious, but but it’s harder than it looks! In the old days, every book had a blurb on the back of it, or inside the flap on the dust jacket, and that blurb gave us just enough intriguing insight into the book that we bought it.

Here in the US, the word blurb originated in 1907. American humorist Gelett Burgess’s short 1906 book Are You a Bromide? was presented in a limited edition to an annual publishers’ trade association dinner. The custom at such events was to have a dust jacket promoting the work–they did things right in those days! His definition of “blurb” was “a flamboyant advertisement; an inspired testimonial.”

Blurbs can and do sell books.

wool by hugh howeyBut what will sell books? Let’s take a look at Wool, by Hugh Howey:

This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

f scott fitzgerald The Great GatsbyOr F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s classic novel, The Great Gatsby:

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

He didn’t say any more, but we’ve always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, I’m inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men. Most of the confidences were unsought — frequently I have feigned sleep, preoccupation, or a hostile levity when I realized by some unmistakable sign that an intimate revelation was quivering on the horizon; for the intimate revelations of young men, or at least the terms in which they express them, are usually plagiaristic and marred by obvious suppressions. Reserving judgments is a matter of infinite hope. I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parcelled out unequally at birth.

There are huge differences in these blurbs:

Hugh Howey (an indie) tells us about the plot of his book-and it is intriguing. I bought it based on that blurb.

(Charles Scribner’s Sons) (Fitzgerald’s original publisher) used the opening lines of the book–and that was intriguing as well.

Choosing to use the opening lines for marketing is dangerous–it could be an epic failure, for those who want to know what the book is about.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Back Cover of Mage-Guard of Hamor by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

Even more dangerous than that is the increasing trend toward eliminating the blurb and going with nothing but recommendations mentioning other works by that author.  Let me just say now, I HATE THAT! For the love of Tolstoy–talk about the book I am going to buy, please! Any blurb, even a bad one, is better than glowing reviews by paid reviewers. 

But this trend just proves to me that the BIG PUBLISHERS are just as much as sea in the this regard as we poor indies are, small comfort though it is.

I will be writing blurbs for my own work again soon, and so I am looking at blurbs on the covers in my library, and trying to see what it was that attracted me to that particular book. I admit that many times it was the cover art, and not the blurb, but when I picked up a book by an author that was unknown to me, I read the blurb, and considered carefully whether or not to spend my dearly earned wages on that book. I was taking a risk–because what if I hated it?

It’s a conundrum.  Perhaps I can go with “One ring to rule them all…”

No… I suppose that’s been done…but it’s an awesome blurb, short and to the point….

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Sinking the Hook

book-cover-middlemarchThe books that ring my bells all start out with a really great hook–in some cases the first line is the clincher, but most definitely by the time the first page has passed, I am hooked and ready to be enthralled.

Some of the best first lines ever: George Eliott’s Middlemarch starts, “Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.” That line makes you want to know Miss Brooke. And who is the observer who chronicles this?

How about this first line from Ulysses, by the king of great lines, James Joyce: “Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.”

pride and prejudiceOr, take this quote from the Guardian regarding the first line of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” The one everyone knows (and quotes). Parodied, spoofed, and misremembered, Austen’s celebrated zinger remains the archetypal First Line for an archetypal tale. Only Dickens comes close, with the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light etc…” 

Good first lines are critical. They have a singular duty, to involve the reader and kidnap them for the length of the book. Our first lines must make the reader beg to know what will happen next.  We have to think about that first line, those first paragraphs, and how to land our reader.

TheEyeOfTheWorldDoes your first line have to introduce your main character? I think not. Dickens introduced an era in his opening lines, and it works. In his Wheel of Time series, Robert Jordan frequently opened with a glimpse into the side of evil, illuminating that which Rand Al Thor must somehow prevail against, and that always hooked me.

Regardless of what you introduce, the hook MUST pertain to the tale. It must reveal something about the book in such a way that it sticks with the reader. Do not waste time in getting to the plot, because even a good hook cannot save a bad novel.

The first pages of books that intrigue me introduce a “dramatic question” and even if the reader doesn’t realize it, that question can often be answered with a yes or a no–will the hero succeed? Will good conquer evil? Will love triumph? What the hell happened to drive Lews Therin Telemon mad and what will happen next?

Consider these things when writing the opening paragraphs:

1. The opening lines set the tone for the story

2. The opening lines introduce the dramatic question that is the core of the story

3. The opening lines introduce the sense of place, the setting of the story.

Ask yourself where the story truly begins, and start there. What came before that can be cut from the final draft, as it is just background information that is necessary for your reference.

I think it’s good to read books outside your genre, and read them with the idea of understanding what makes them classics. Read literary fiction, read romance, read sci-fi–read widely if only to see what a different genre is about, how it is different from what you write. In all fiction, the first pages are the ones that kidnap the reader. Covers and blurbs may sell the book, but the first pages plunge the reader into your world.

 

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The author’s voice

Brunhild_(Postkarte),_G._Bussiere,_1897All authors have a voice, although many can’t sing. I have 8 good notes and I’m not afraid to use them in singing the odd song now and again. Tad Williams can sing, and has the cd to prove it.

But what do I really mean when I speak of an author’s voice?

We become attached to certain authors because when we read their works, we hear their “voice.” We hear them speaking to us.

Each author writes with a certain style, or in other words, the words he or she habitually uses that makes his or her writing unique. “Voice” conveys the author’s attitude, personality, and character.

You have all heard me say that having a manuscript properly edited before publishing it is crucial for the indie author’s credibility. You may ask, “what is this process, and how do I retain my voice, and control of my work when someone else is intent on hijacking it?”

First of all, a good editor will never try to hijack your work. Writers intentionally use symbolism and thematic consistency. We sometimes intentionally repeat certain words for emphasis. These things are significant to us, and a good editor will recognize that.

So what does an editor look for in a manuscript?

Indies are looking for an editor who “helps a writer develop a book from idea or outline or initial draft. Makes sure the book will meet the needs of the publisher and its readers. Will work with the author through any number of drafts. Often works with writers of non-fiction. Guides the writer in topics to be covered in or omitted from the book.” quoted from the Editors Blog.

In other words indies want a structural editor.  What will this editor do for them?

The professional freelance editor will read your manuscript, looking for the rough spots and inconsistencies that work their way into every final draft. They will suggest you correct certain grammatical errors and habits that interfere with the flow of your work, and give you an idea of how those corrections could be made. They will also point out things that are unnecessary background–info-dumps that have slipped through, and suggest you remove them.

Also a structural editor may suggest that a section be moved to a different, more appropriate place in the manuscript. This editor will devote a month or more of their time to your manuscript. This is a hefty commitment on their part, and is one that is not lightly made.

Raymond chandler quote split infinitivesA good editor will not try to take over your manuscript and erase your voice.

You, as the author, have the final say on your manuscript–it is after all your intellectual property. If you don’t want to change something you feel is intrinsic to what you are trying to express, you don’t have to.

Sometimes editors don’t see the forest for the trees–and a good conversation with the author will straighten those areas out. If your editor does not respond to your emails, or indicate in some way that they have heard your concerns, you should not work with them.  

The best part of being an indie is having the control of your work. A good relationship with your editor is crucial to turning out a good product.

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