Category Archives: Self Publishing

#Amwriting: The Coordinating Conjunction

In grammar, a conjunction is a connection: a part of speech that connects words, phrases, or clauses.

What are coordinating conjunctions and why should you care? For one thing, conjunctions are like any other essential part of English grammar. They have a particular use, and when they are used correctly, they blend into the background.

The Fount of All Knowledge, Wikipedia, says:

Coordinating conjunctions, also called coordinators, are conjunctions that join, or coordinate, two or more items (such as words, main clauses, or sentences) of equal syntactic importance. In English, the mnemonic acronym FANBOYS can be used to remember the coordinators for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. These are not the only coordinating conjunctions; various others are used, including “and nor” (British), “but nor” (British), “or nor” (British), “neither” (“They don’t gamble; neither do they smoke”), “no more” (“They don’t gamble; no more do they smoke”), and “only” (“I would go, only I don’t have time”). Types of coordinating conjunctions include cumulative conjunctions, adversative conjunctions, alternative conjunctions, and illative conjunctions.

Here are some examples of coordinating conjunctions in English and what they do:

For – presents rationale (“They do not gamble or smoke, for they are ascetics.”)

And – presents non-contrasting item(s) or idea(s) (“They gamble, and they smoke.”)

Nor – presents a non-contrasting negative idea (“They do not gamble, nor do they smoke.”)

But – presents a contrast or exception (“They gamble, but they don’t smoke.”)

Or – presents an alternative item or idea (“Every day they gamble, or they smoke.”)

Yet – presents a contrast or exception (“They gamble, yet they don’t smoke.”)

So – presents a consequence (“He gambled well last night, so he smoked a cigar to celebrate.”)

We use and, or, and but as connectors of words, phrases, clauses, or sentences of equal rank.

  • apples and oranges
  • apples or oranges
  • apples, but not oranges

In a sentence, we can use “and” and “or” to join strings of nouns or strings of verbs:

  • Apples and oranges and bananas (are tasty).
  • Wash and dry (the dishes).
  • Apples or bananas or oranges
  • Apples and oranges, but not bananas
  • I love cooking and my pets and my family.

I would prefer to use serial commas to connect my string rather than conjunctions:

  • Apples, bananas, or oranges
  • Apples, bananas, and oranges
  • I love cooking, my pets, and my family.

Yes, I said I would use a serial comma. I’ve seen people launch into rants against serial commas, claiming it’s too many and looks awful.

That argument is hogwash.

For whom are you writing? Are you writing only yourself or are you writing for an unknown reader who may one day buy your book? If you are writing for your own eyes only, do whatever you like. But if you expect others to enjoy your work, you need to think about the reader. Using serial commas will make your work easy for the reader to understand what you are saying. Other aspects of commas may escape me at times, but the serial comma, also known as the Oxford comma, is one I adhere to in my own work, and heartily wish other authors would too.

But enough about the commas–let’s get back to conjunctions.

The word “but” is a little different from “and” or “or.”  It is a coordinating conjunction, and we use “but” to join two words:”

  • (I want you to) sing, but loudly.

“But” is also a connector that indicates contrast.

  • I like black but not white.

“But” can connect just about any kind of word or phrase that “and” and “or” can connect, with one difference: it can’t connect nouns in phrases.

  • Consider Betty and Judy (went shopping). We wouldn’t say Betty but Judy (went shopping).

However, “but” can connect noun phrases to other phrases:

  • Betty and Judy (went shopping) but I don’t know who drove.

When I speak, I have a habit of beginning my sentences with the conjunctions “and,” “but,” “because,” and “so.” Because these words are conjunctions, connector words, some people will say this is wrong.  I disagree with them, for this reason: in this case, these conjunctions are connecting ideas.

On page 257, The Chicago Manual of Style says this rule has “no historical or grammatical foundation.” The CMOS further points out that William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and the authors of America’s Declaration of Independence freely began sentences with those four conjunctions.

These people were well educated, and we can assume they understood grammar as well as anyone. Consider the following sentence, written by Abraham Lincoln:

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground.” (Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address)

As he was a lawyer as well as a respected public speaker, we know Abe was a well-educated man.

Get It Write Online says:

“Most likely, many people believe they should not start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction because their grammar teachers in grade school discouraged them from doing so. Yet such a rule is completely unjustifiable. When grammar teachers teach youngsters the essentials of sentence structure, they most likely explain that coordinating conjunctions are used to hold together elements within a sentence. Therefore, they may discourage students from starting sentences with coordinating conjunctions because they are trying not only to explain conjunctions but also to help their students learn to avoid sentence fragments like this one:

She was a nice girl. And smart, too.

In this example, using “and” after the period is wrong because the second “sentence” is not really a sentence at all: it has neither a subject nor a verb.

So, just like the ubiquitous (but often unnecessary) “comma before the word because” and the silly debate over the incredibly important serial comma, we will likely have this disagreement for many generations to come.


Sources and Attributions:

Wikipedia contributors, “Conjunction (grammar),” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Conjunction_(grammar)&oldid=771179901  (accessed March 28, 2017).

Weird Coordinating Conjunctions: Yet, For, and So, © Mignon Fogarty, Grammar Girl, July 10, 2014, http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/weird-coordinating-conjunctions-yet-for-and-so, (accessed Mar. 28, 2017).

University of Chicago (2010). The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.). Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-226-10420-1.

Starting Sentences with “And” or “But,” © 03/26/2001 Nancy Tuten,  Get It Write, http://www.getitwriteonline.com/archive/032601startsentandbut.htm  (accessed Mar. 28, 2017).

Advertisements

23 Comments

Filed under Self Publishing, writing

#amwriting: the hyperlinked Table of Contents

When I read an ebook, I like to be able to easily navigate within the story by using a hyperlinked table of contents. This is also called a “Smart TOC” (Smart Table of Contents) and every one of my ebooks has one. A Smart TOC easy to create when you are formatting your ms for publication. The only difficult thing about creating one is, it’s time consuming. In my experience, it’s best to just sit down and get it all done in one session so you don’t lose track of where you are in the process. Therefore, I pick a time when I know I will have two or three hours cleared to do this because I get distracted easily. I don’t want to be called away from this task in the middle of it.

First make your table of contents. For ebooks you don’t need page numbers. Page numbers are like prisoners—they just weigh you down, and have no meaning as ebooks don’t use page numbers to navigate.

Once you have your final manuscript proofed, you should turn it into two separate manuscripts, one for the ebook, and one for the print book. This post pertains to the ebook manuscript.

If your book is a novel, your print manuscript will most likely not need a TOC as most large publishing houses don’t waste precious pages on such things. Technical manuals and textbooks must include a TOC.  As an indie, every page you can do without when publishing your novel in paper form will keep the final cost down and make your paperback more affordable for your prospective reader. Very few people will pay $18.99 for a book by an unknown author.

ref_TOC_screenshot1

The first thing you want to do is create a bookmark.  First highlight the words  “Table of Contents” and then go to your ‘Insert’ tab.  Click on ‘Bookmark’ in that ribbon. Type in the words ref_TOC

Then click “Add”.  In every ms it is important to name the Table of Contents bookmark exactly that, including the underscore: ref_TOC, because that’s what Smashwords looks for and it is simply a good practice to have a uniform system for naming files.  See the next picture for how it will look:

ref_TOC_screenshot2

Now it’s time to bookmark the first chapter, or the prologue if you have one. This particular book will be called Billy’s Revenge, so the initials BR will be in all my bookmarks in this ms.  Billy’s Revenge doesn’t have chapters but is broken into eighteen parts. Scroll down to your prologue or first chapter and do it exactly the same way as you bookmarked the TOC, but for this ms I will name it BR_prt1. (Billy’s Revenge Part 1)

You will name yours with your manuscript’s initials and the word prologue or chapter 1: MS_chapter_1

See the picture below:

ref_TOC_screenshot3

As long as you have the chapter title highlighted, click “insert Hyperlink” on the ribbon. On the left of the menu, you want to click Link to:  Place in this Document.  That will bring up your bookmarks. Select ‘ref_TOC’  and click OK.  This will turn your heading blue, which is called a ‘hyperlinky’. You will need to test it, so press control and click on the link. This will take you back to the table of contents heading. Once you have used the hyperlinky it will turn purple.

ref_TOC_screenshot5

Now that you are back at the Table of Contents, highlight either Prologue or Chapter 1, which ever you are starting your book with, and click “insert Hyperlink” on the ribbon. Again, on the left of that menu, you want to click Link to: Place in this Document, which will will bring up your bookmarks. Select the bookmark for your first section, either prologue or “MS_chapter_1” and click OK.  That will turn it blue. Press control and click on the link. it will take you back to the heading of your prologue or the first chapter. Once you’ve used a hyperlinky, it will turn purple.

Scroll down your manuscript to the next chapter, and highlight the chapter heading, just as you did the first time. Repeat the steps you did for the first section.

Do this for the entire table of contents, always remembering to link your chapter heading back to “ref_TOC”, and test each link as you go.

As I said earlier, creating your hyperlinked table of contents can be time consuming, and it requires you to pay attention, but it is a simple process and makes your ebook a nicer experience for the reader.

ref_TOC_screenshot6

4 Comments

Filed under Self Publishing, writing

#amwriting: holding indies to a higher standard

Hamlet Poster Benedict CumberbatchI haven’t been able to read as much lately as I normally do and I miss it. However, time spent editing for clients and then trying to write has seriously cut into my ability to read. When I am editing for a client, I can’t disengage my mind from that mindset, which means I have a terrible time reading for pleasure. In fact, I haven’t written a book review in months. Lately, I am lucky to read two or three pages before falling out of the book. Thus I have been reading poetry and resorting to audio books.

When I am in an editing mindset, I notice things a casual reader might not, and I can’t just enjoy the book. And I am not talking indies here—I mean books published by the Big 5 traditional publishers. I keep finding things they could have phrased more actively, or should possibly have cut. These are things an average reader will never notice, and are examples of why authors must have a thick skin.

Typos and editing mistakes are pretty much taken for granted when left in mass-market paperbacks by the Big 5 Publishers, but woe to the indie who neglects to notice a repeated ‘and’ or any other editing error. Also, the Big 5 publishers are allowed to take questionable chances with “style,” such as Alexander Chee did when writing The Queen of the Night, allowing lazy habits we indies could never get away with.

I was unable to actually read the book, as it must have been too tiring for him to use closed quotations to indicate dialogue. The reader has no idea someone is speaking until they’re halfway through a conversation, and have to re-read it. I loved what I could read of it, so I had to resort to the audio book, which was the only way I could get through it.

As an editor, it’s incomprehensible to me why an editor for a large publisher would accept a manuscript that is as annoying as that one flaw makes this otherwise remarkable book.

It is also proof that large publishers (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in this case) are just as guilty as indies when it comes to making strange decisions that can negatively affect sales. They may have done this to elevate it to a “status” read, a must-buy literary name-dropper for those who wish to appear fashionably cultured. If so, it’s a disservice to work that is brilliant despite a flaw that would be fatal if it were to appear in an Indie author’s work.

However, though we can’t take avant garde chances with style, indies DO get to take chances with content, writing and publishing stories that traditionally published authors most likely wouldn’t be allowed to do. If a book might not sell, it won’t be published by a large publisher, because that is what they are in the business to do. However, once an indie has a best seller with a plot the Big 5 would deem sure to fail, traditional publishers will leap on it and the market will soon be glutted. (Can you say Fifty Shades of Grey?)

George R.R.Martin bormatting issue 1 via book blog page views, margaret ebySometimes the errors and flaws in the work sold by the traditional publishing houses are hilarious, as we saw in the first Kindle edition of George R.R.Martin’s A Feast For Crows. That was a formatting error, not an error on Martin’s part, so some poor intern probably got raked over the coals for it, as the book had to be pulled, reformatted, and republished as quickly as possible.

The thing is, errors do creep into even the most carefully examined texts and manuscripts. Usually, no one dies from it, but sometimes there are consequences, as in the case of the infamous Wicked Bible. The publishers paid a hefty price: Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the royal printers in London, were fined £300 (£43,586 as of 2015) and deprived of their printing license.

Indies are held to a far more rigid code by most readers than the traditional publishers are because the internet is rife with disparaging rhetoric pointing the finger at us. And while the Big 5 traditional publishers are just as guilty of rushing-to-publish unreadable crap, the truth is, many new self-published authors haven’t yet gotten the hang of the publishing business, and often their books are rife with things they will later wish they hadn’t been so eager to publish.

Having learned my own lessons the hard way, I have made changes in how I review my own work. Besides working closely with a professional editor, I now have a solid group of friends who comb my completed manuscripts for errors and gross cut-and-paste errors. We can only hope we have caught them all. When you are an indie, it takes a village to help you get your book fit for the public to read.

Anyway—my editor’s hat is firmly on my head these days, and that means I can’t enjoy casual reading for a while more. This mindset slows my own writing output to nearly nothing because I am stupidly self-editing instead of just letting the words flow.

When I am editing I am looking for all varieties of mistakes–not just structural, grammatical, and glaring punctuation errors. I am also looking for things that will interfere with formatting the final manuscript for upload to Kindle or Smashwords, and I hope I find them all for my client, but it makes writing my own work challenging.

joyce corrections on his msAs an editor, I do my best. But, nothing is ever sure, and I won’t see the manuscript after I send my client the final suggested corrections. Mistakes can be made right up to the last minute while the client is making those adjustments, so someone else will have to proof-read her work.

Remember, you, as the author, have the responsibility for the final eye on your manuscript. So when my client has finished making revisions, she will have her posse check the manuscript over for the slings and arrows of publishing fate.

I will be done with my current editing project soon, and I plan to take a break from editing for a short while when that happens. Then I will let my mindset slide back into the joy-of-reading mode. I look forward to resting my editorial mind and over-indulging in the work of my many favorite authors.

5 Comments

Filed under Self Publishing, Uncategorized, writing

#amreading: Night Watchman Express by Alison DeLuca

Alison DeLuca HeadshotOne of my dear friends is author Alison DeLuca, who is the main driving force behind Myrddin Publishing.  Alison is the idea woman, and has the follow-though needed to successfully run the equivalent of a small publishing house these days.

Alison is a superwoman. Not only does she guide 25 authors through the wild west of indie publishing, she is the mother of an active pre-teen, a working author and blogger, and is one of the finest editors I know.

My husband and I share 5 children, and so we have “a passel” of grandkids, as my grandma would have said. While I generally write books more geared for adult readers, Alison has written a young adult Steampunk collection of books, the Crown Phoenix series.

She has written several other novels, and numerous short stories more geared for mature readers, and if there is one thing I can say about Alison, everything she writes is classy and well-crafted.

I am always looking for good, challenging books for my grandkids to read, ones that will keep their interest and stretch their minds, so I was thrilled when I met Alison and discovered her young adult work.

night watchman expressThe first book of hers that I ever read was the Night Watchman’s Express. I loved this book. The story never stops moving until the last page. Miriam, an unhappy young girl is orphaned when her wealthy industrialist father dies. With no other family, her father’s business partners, the Marchpanes, become her guardians. The Marchpanes immediately move into Miriam’s house, and take over her father’s rooms. (Mrs. Marchpane is deliciously evil.) They make their attempt to gain full control of Miriam’s money and her father’s company.

Gradually, Miriam begins to find common ground with the Marchpane’s son and their other young ‘guest’ when a nanny, who is both wise and skilled in certain magics, is hired. Mana is a woman who is of a race of people, who are considered to be second-class citizens, and contrary to the Marchpane’s hopes, she turns out to be exactly what both Miriam and the two boys needed.

There is a reluctant camaraderie that develops between Miriam and the two boys. The three of them do a certain amount of exploring the grounds of the estate, and discover a strange machine that her father has constructed. Another interesting thread is also Miriam’s strange emotional attachment to her father’s typewriter-like machine, which she has claimed for her own since his death, and keeps hidden in her room.

This book was so good for a rainy-weekend read that I read it twice. And guess what? It’s currently a free download for your Kindle, but if you are into paper, it also available in that format for $12.99.

This month, Alison is participating in The #BigBookGiveaway, which starts today, July 1st. For avid book lovers, this is an awesome deal! Sponsored by Girl Who Reads, two boxes of books donated by multiple authors and publishers will be given away through Rafflecopter, and the link to enter that contest is here: #BigBookGiveAway via RafflecopterJust click on that link and it will take you to the contest page, and you too could end up with a large box of books to while away your summer with, and Alison DeLuca’s Night Watchman Express is only one of them.

Christmas O'clock 2013Girl Who Reads is a great resource for avid readers like me, as it’s a website where you can find balanced book reviews, many of them indie books. Books are being offered in this giveaway by many wonderful authors, several with larger publishers, such as Penguin Books and Random House. Alison is also including a copy of Myrddin Publishings children’s’ anthology, Christmas O’Clock.

I did pen one of the stories in that collection, a little thing called A Christmas Tail.  I loved writing that tale—I was in a Toad Hall mood apparently, and Ratsy’s adventures with his friends are reminiscent of that wonderful series of tales.

Alison is one of the easiest people to work with I’ve ever known. We began this publishing adventure in the summer of 2012 as refugees from a bad publishing situation, and while it was rocky in the beginning, we have never regretted our decision to go indie. Our publishing cooperative began with a great group of authors who were all as committed to the indie way as we are, and every year we have gained new authors who bring new ideas and new fire to our collective. Alison is the glue that binds us together.

You can find Alison and more of her work here:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/alison.deluca.author

OR http://on.fb.me/TNWEfb

Twitter – http://twitter.com/ – !/AlisonDeLuca

Google + http://bit.ly/ADGoogle

Amazon Author Central:  http://amzn.to/ADeLucaAuthorCentral

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/alisondeluca/

4 Comments

Filed under Books, Fantasy, Literature, Self Publishing, writer, writing

#amwriting: Setting and keeping your preferred font in Microsoft Word

Fonts in all their gloryOkay. We all know that Microsoft Word is a hinky behemoth of a program, but it is what many of us are using. Publishers all want their manuscripts in a serif font, and will usually specify Times New Roman .12 or Courier .12 and want it double-spaced.

Microsoft Word comes with Calibri .11 as the default font, set at 1.5 spacing which is not wide enough for most editors and publisher’s purposes. Also, Calibri is a sans serif font and does not comply with the requirements of publishers and editors. Reading it large chunks is difficult as the spacing between the letters is identical and it is hard to distinguish some letters.

One major problem with Calibri font is a visible homoglyph, a pair of easily confused characters: the lowercase letter L and the uppercase letter i (l and I) are virtually indistinguishable.

Font differences in sentences

Publishers hate confusion.

If the manuscript is not formatted to their requirements as posted on their submissions page, your work will not be considered.

So to comply with their guidelines, we format the manuscript according to their needs. Most use what has become the industry standard fonts: Times New Roman or Courier in .12.

These are called ‘Serif’ fonts because they have little extensions that make them easier to read when in a wall of words.

209px-Serif_and_sans-serif_03.svg

To change your fonts, open your manuscript document, and Click on the tab marked ‘Home’.  In the upper right-hand corner of the ribbon across the top of the page in the editing group, click:

select> select all. This will highlight the entire manuscript.

Select all printscreen

With the ms still highlighted, go to the font group, on the left-hand end of the ribbon. The default font, or pre-designed value or setting, will probably say ‘Calibri (Body)’ and the size will be .11.

You can change this on the home tab by clicking on the little grey square in the right-hand corner of the font menu and accessing the drop-down menu. Scroll down to Times New Roman, and set it to .12 as that is easiest on the eyes. Click on that and the font for the entire ms will be that font. Follow these steps to reset your default formatting, but only click “set as default” if this is what you really want. You can reset it to what you you want if you find you don’t like your new settings. Once you are satisfied with your changes, click save.

Format paragraphs printscreenBut, you say, you have done that and every time you go to insert a word into the body of your document the font for what you are inserting has automatically gone back to Calibri size .10! And every new document is still formatted with Calibri.

On the home tab, in the Styles pane (click on the lower right-hand arrow of the styles box), click the Manage Styles button. In Word 2016 that is on the bottom of the list, the far right-hand button (just before the word options).

Word 2016 font change steps

On the Set Defaults tab, specify the settings that you want. The changes will apply to the current document, but if you select “New documents based on this template” before clicking OK, the settings will be transferred to the attached template. All your documents after that should have your preferred font as the default font. In my case, it is Times New Roman .12, double spaced, with a .03 indent. You may want a different font, single spaced and a different indent.

Word 2016 font change steps 2

But say you need to format your manuscript differently, for a unique purpose.

To change your fonts, open your manuscript document, and Click on the tab marked ‘Home’.  In the upper right-hand corner of the ribbon across the top of the page in the editing group, click:

select> select all. This will highlight the entire manuscript.

With the ms still highlighted, go to the font group on the left-hand end of the ribbon. The default font, or predesigned value or setting, will show up, and you will change this by clicking on the menu and accessing the menu.

Scroll down to the new font, and set it to the desired size. Click on that and the font for the entire ms will be that font. Again, any errors can be undone by clicking the back arrow. Once you are satisfied with your changes, click save.

Standard manuscript format means margins of 1 inch all the way around, indented paragraphs, and double-spaced text. For more on this subject, see my post of Feb. 27, 2015, Formatting a submission-ready manuscript.

Do not justify the text. In justified text, the spaces between words, and, to a far lesser extent, between glyphs or letters (known as “tracking”), are stretched or sometimes compressed to make the text align with both the left and right margins. Justifying gives you straight margins on both sides, but this is not the time or place for this type of alignment.

For my purposes, I have found it is easiest on my eyes to use Times New Roman .12, aligned left, double-spaced, with a 0.3 indent for all my work, so that is what my default settings are. I always reformat my manuscript to comply with whatever the requirements are for every magazine or publisher I submit my work to.

2 Comments

Filed under Publishing, Self Publishing, writer, writing

#amwriting: A Writer’s Armamentarium by Jennifer Vandenberg

armamentarium coverWe all have times when we are at a loss for an idea. I love books that will give the creative muse a little kick in the pants. An intriguing little book in the writer’s arsenal is available for pre-order now.  A Writer’s Armamentarium, by Jennifer Vandenberg is a nifty little compendium of lists and writing prompts–things to  nudge your muse when you are a little bit stalled and blocked.

I came to know Jennifer through the online community of the Lewis County Writers Guild, a wonderful group of people I met at the 2015 Southwest Washington Writers Conference

CJJ: A Writer’s Armamentarium is an awesome title for book. What exactly is an Armamentarium?

JV: An armamentarium is a collection of resources used for an activity. It is often used in a medical context, but I loved the idea of creating a collection of lists that writers could use when they needed a bit of inspiration.

CJJ: Who did you create this book for?

JV: At first I created it for me and all the varied topics I’m interested in. As I started getting remarks from beta readers I learned that writers were more interested in these lists than non-writers so I included the chapters that writers would find most interesting. I hope that all writers, from hobbyists to professionals, can find inspiration for their stories among these lists.

CJJ: What made you decide to embark on such an ambitious project?

JV: I had dreamed of creating this book from my personal lists for about four years. I finally felt I had collected enough knowledge to fill out a book and I was excited to get started. Cleaning up and fact checking these lists took longer than I expected, but I loved every minute. This book is definitely a passion project for me.

CJJ: I was fortunate to read an advanced copy of this book, and loved the list of unusual words. What is your favorite unusual word, and why?

JV: I have so many favorite words that it is hard to pick just one. My favorite word from the Writer’s Armamentarium is omnology, which means the study of everything. I consider myself an omnologist, which sounds better than “someone who can’t decide what to focus on.”

CJJ: Let’s talk about your other work. Tell us about your Travis Eldritch series of short stories. Who is Travis, and how did you come to write about him?

JV: I love my Travis Eldritch series. He’s a private detective living on a moon in a system that has thirteen moons. In this system everyone is given a Problem at birth by the gods. Travis’s Problem is that he turns into a statue at random moments. This Problem has both advantages and disadvantages. Travis follows his gut more than his brains, but he and his partners manage to stop the bad guys eventually.

Each story is about 9,000 words. Six books have been published so far as eBooks on Amazon and in total there will be twelve books. Each story stands on its own, but there is an overarching subplot that connects all the books.

I’m a discovery writer and sometimes I just sit down and start writing with no idea of what is going to happen. I had this Sam Spade-like character talking to me so I started writing down his thoughts. Travis was born and he continues to tell me about his adventures.

CJJ: You have also written a book, Goofy Tips for a Happy Disney Vacation. What inspired that book?

JV: For three years I wrote a Disney travel blog at www.agoofyidea.com. New posts came out on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. At the end of each post I wrote a Goofy Tip, a quick suggestion to improve the reader’s Disney vacation. I put all of the tips from the first year of the blog into a book so people could access helpful tips in one source.

This July I will be overhauling A Goofy Idea. I am creating a serial that is part fantasy, part Disneyland travelogue, about a teenage girl who was born in a book, but now lives in our world, and her fight with story spirits that want to pull her into their worlds. This story will be published on the website one chapter a week. It will be free to anyone who loves Disneyland and great stories.

CJJ: I love serials–some of the best work out there began as a serialized novels. I look forward to reading this. But, what has been the largest hurdle for you as an indie author?

JV: I love to write but I don’t love to market. My largest hurdle is balancing my time between the creative end and the business end of indie publishing. If I could have someone else do my marketing I would, but instead I’m working at finding techniques that are both successful and enjoyable.

CJJ: It is indeed a business, whether you are indie or traditionally published. The indie has a more difficult path as they must finance the entire endeavor on their own, and nothing happens overnight. So what advice do you have for the author just embarking on the indie path to publishing?

JV: Join Facebook groups. Join both virtual and in-person writing groups. Sign up for helpful blogs. Writers love to talk about writing and you can learn so much, but more importantly you need to surround yourself with a group of people who will support you as you embark on this exciting and sometimes difficult path.

CJJ: If you had it all to do over again, what would you do differently?

JV: I’d write more. Every day I didn’t write set me back from achieving my publishing dreams.

CJJ: Finally, where can the reader find your books?

JV: All of my books are published as eBooks on Amazon. All my books are listed on my author page.

CJJ: Thank you, Jennifer, for taking the time to talk with me today about your forthcoming book, A Writer’s Armamentarium.

This intriguing little book is a fun and useful little guide for the author who may need a little jump-start to their creative muse. Once Jennifer has it in paperback form, it will also be a nifty little book to have on the coffee table as a conversation piece, or as a gift for anyone who likes odd little self-help books.

>>><<<

steampunk Jennifer - CopyGeology student, National Park ranger, secretary, tax preparer, swim instructor, Hallmark sales associate, school aide, library assistant, children’s bookseller, merchandise supervisor, property curator, volunteer, food service employee, farmer, and blogger. Jennifer has had all these jobs and she’s not even old enough to receive social security. However, no matter where she worked, Jennifer has always been a writer.

In 2014 she won the Short Fiction Writers Guild Flash Fiction award for her evil Christmas entry, Advice from Siblings. She was a panelist at 2015 Left Coast Crime and gives writing workshops around her southwest Washington community.

Check out her website www.jennifervandenberg.com to learn about all her various writing projects. She has turned her Mattie Garrets/Jackson Pierce mystery series into a podcast on iTunes and will be starting a YouTube channel in summer 2016. She also plans to publish her first non-fiction book in May and start a fantasy/Disney travelogue serial in July. There are no limits to Jennifer’s imagination.

You can find Jennifer at:

Jennifer’s Author Website:

2 Comments

Filed under Literature, Self Publishing, writing

#amreading: Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions

IndieGuideCoverOne aspect of an author’s career that we are often temperamentally unsuited for, is the book signing event. Many of us are, by nature, not outgoing or able to sell our own work. But the book signing event is crucial–it is is a way for you to meet with potential readers in person, and for them to develop a sense of connection to you and your work.

A book every indie author should have in their arsenal is Working the Table, by authors Lee French and Jeffrey Cook.  The advice within those pages will pay for the book many times over, because whether you are an indie or traditionally published, most likely you will have to sell your book, and a way to generate a little bit of a buzz is the good, old-fashioned book signing. You will also attract readers at conventions, if you are careful to select cons that play to your genre and your style.

I had the chance to speak to Lee and Jeffrey over the weekend about their book.

CJJ: Working the Table is a useful book in the indie author’s arsenal. What made you decide to embark on such an ambitious project?

Jeffrey: Honestly? Other authors were responsible. Take a look at the dedication page — the people named there were some of the primary culprits, but not the only ones. We’d do shows; people would see us putting up the table, arranging it, putting out set deals, and then handling customers, and tell us we needed to write a book.

For quite a while, we laughed at the suggestion. Then we got an ultimatum at Orycon last year — “You guys write it, or I will.”

We still laughed. Then, that same night, staying with Madison Keller in Portland, I couldn’t sleep. I stayed up until 3:30 AM jotting down notes and ideas. I didn’t know it, but Lee would be up not long after I finally went to bed.

We compared notes on the drive home and got started.

Lee: Even at that point, though, it wasn’t a done deal. The speed with which the book came together is what really made it happen. This project could easily have been one that festers and simmers and takes a while, especially with the demanding publishing schedule both Jeff and I maintain. But it took almost no time to write the first draft between us, and we did a few shows in the middle of the revision process where we turned to each other and said, “The thing that just happened needs to be in the book.” Two days later, it was in the book.

CJJ: Authors are by nature rather introverted. But you two both have a strong presence when you are behind the table at an event. How did you develop the persona you have for events?

Jeffrey: Frankly, I’m not an introvert. I’m not an extrovert either. I like my space and quiet time, but in this job, I have a reasonable amount of it. When convention or activity time rolls around, I’m pretty happy to talk to people.

As it notes in the book, that’s part of what I bring to the partnership. I like talking to people. I’ve traveled all over the US and Canada between moving and a lot of road trips when I was younger, and I’m fairly good at dealing with new people.

Part of the presence you mention also has to do with developing a coordinated plan based around our soft-sell approach. When people come up to the table, our primary aims are to make them feel comfortable there and to match them up with the book or books they want, instead of trying to push any particular thing.

Lee: While I’m on the introvert side of the scale, and I have some moderate social anxieties, I’ve found that being behind the table is a relatively comfortable place. There’s an expectation for behavior and interactions not present in other types of people encounters.

My job at the table is a known quantity, both to myself and to people who approach. When you walk up, I want to help you find a book, and you know that’s what I’m going to try to do. That makes the interaction much easier to pursue. No one walks up to an author table expecting to talk about anything other than books, writing, publishing, the surrounding environment, and whatever fandom is dearest to them. With those boundaries pre-established, and the subjects (mostly) ones I can speak on with a certain amount of expertise, the anxieties inherent in relating to strangers are significantly lessened.

CJJ: How do you select the convention with the right buyers for your work?

Jeffrey: Right now, we’re doing a lot of different conventions. Comic-cons, scifi/fantasy cons, street fairs, literary events, etc. Next year, we’re hoping to narrow down the field from about 32 planned events this year (for me, anyway, though most of those are working with Lee) down to about 18 of the best. Then maybe 12-15 in years beyond that.

We know that we both primarily write science fiction and fantasy, so we definitely favor events with a strong scifi/fantasy convention audience and tend to do the best at those. Thankfully, that’s a big market in the Pacific Northwest.

Lee: When I first started looking at picking conventions, my first question was, “Which conventions would I like to attend?” Like most writers, the things that interest me wind up in my writing, making my audience people who are, at least generally, like me. That means gaming conventions are high on my list, as are general fantasy and science fictions shows of all types. Then it comes to subgenre niche conventions, so long as one of us has something in that subgenre, we’ll try it. I actually do well at steampunk conventions despite not having steampunk books because I share a table with Jeff, who has some high quality steampunk. But I wouldn’t go to a steampunk convention by myself.

CJJ: What has been the largest hurdle for you in most dealers’ rooms?

Jeffrey: The unpredictability of some of these shows can be frustrating. We’re pretty good at selling books as long as there’s an audience. Sometimes there’s just not. The long, slow periods can be kind of difficult too, especially because you at least need someone at the table looking engaged and interested, no matter how long it’s been since someone came by.

Lee: Getting into them in the first place. Some conventions are very popular and getting in requires sacrificing your first born child under the full moon with a sprig of fresh mistletoe… Once you’re in, you’re usually in as long as you want to be, but jamming your foot in the door can be challenging. The best bet is usually to keep submitting and when you do get into something, be excellent to the volunteers and staff. Word about vendor behavior gets around.

CJJ: What advice do you have for the author just embarking on the roller-coaster ride that is the dealers’ room?

Jeffrey: Keep your expectations reasonable. When you’re just starting out, conventions aren’t going to be a big money-maker. You’re trying to get your book out there, but also start connecting with fans and potential fans. The investment of time and money can still be worth it in the long run, but you need to look at it as exactly that: an investment.

Lee: That’s also my number one piece of advice. The goal of working conventions is to break even, not to have fabulous financial windfalls. It’s not an end-all, be-all marketing tactic, it’s a piece of a larger picture. One of the most important things we do at conventions is hand out business cards and meet people. Selling books matters, because we have to make enough to afford to do this. Making connections matters more for the long term.

CJJ: If you had it all to do over again, what would you do differently?

Jeffrey: In broad general terms, I’d have liked to have been better about listening to my editor and her general advice. She had a lot better perspective on some things early in my writing career, and I’d be better off and further ahead today if I’d been a better listener.

In terms of shows and conventions specifically: I’d have loved to have spent some serious time learning how to use media better. Press releases, getting newspaper attention, etc.  It’s important and helpful – and something I’m still not great at.

Lee: For the bigger picture of publishing, I’ve made a number of horrifying mistakes in my career that I wish I could go back and do right the first time. It would take to long to discuss them all. For those considering jumping into this madness that is writing novels, I definitely recommend getting your feet wet with short story publication before throwing your first novel out there. Short story writing teaches the art of brevity, a skill many novelists struggle with.

CJJ: Finally, where can the reader find you two this summer?

Jeffrey: In May, I’ll be at Lilac City Comiccon in Spokane with Lee (May 14th), then Gearcon Day Out in Portland (May 21).

In June, I’ll be at Oddmall in Everett from the 3rd through the 5th, working with Freevalley Publishing, then Maple Valley Days, all of 7 blocks from my home, from the 10th through the 12th. Our books will be at the Brass Screw Confederacy (also the 10th through the 12th), and then we’ll be at the Fremont Solstice Festival from the 17th through the 19th.

In July, we’ll be at Westercon in Portland from the 1st to the 4th. Then we’ll be running our own book fair at Evergreen State University in Olympia on the 16th. Then I’ll be on my own one more time at the Fairhaven Steampunk Festival in Bellingham on the 23rd as a guest of Village Books.

Finally, in August, we embark on the epic road trip — which we’ve kind of planned the year around. We’re still waiting on hearing about a show in Minnesota, but we’re confirmed for Gencon in Indianapolis from the 4th to the 7th, then Malcon in Denver from the 12th to the 14th, and finally, the long haul of Worldcon in Kansas City from the 17th to the 21st.

Lee: I don’t have any additional appearances beyond those Jeff listed scheduled at this point. I’ll just note the name of the book fair on July 16—CapitalIndieBookCon—for anyone interested in a book fair in Olympia.

CJJ: I will be at the CapitolIndieBookCon also, putting your wisdom to work! Thank you, Jeffrey and Lee, for taking the time to talk with me about Working the Table.  In my opinion, any author who intends to get out and do book signing events or work the dealer’s rooms at conventions should consider purchasing this book. The advice contained within was hard earned and is priceless. I have my copy and it is already looking a little well-used!

>>><<<

Jeff1Jeffrey Cook lives in Maple Valley, Washington, with his wife and three large dogs. He was born in Boulder, Colorado, but has lived all over the United States. He’s the author of the Dawn of Steam trilogy of alternate-history/emergent Steampunk epistolary novels, the YA Sci-fi thriller Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets, and the YA Fantasy novel Foul is Fair. He’s a founding contributing author of Writerpunk Press and has also contributed to a number of role-playing game books for Deep7 Press out of Seattle. He is part of a speculative-fiction authors’ co-op, Clockwork Dragon (www.clockworkdragon.net). When not reading, researching, or writing, Jeffrey enjoys role-playing games and watching football.

You can find Jeffrey Cook’s books by visiting his author page at Amazon.com:

Jeffrey Cook on Amazon.com:

  • Dawn of Steam: First Light
  • Dawn of Steam: Gods of the Sun
  • Dawn of Steam: Rising Suns
  • Foul is Fair
  • Street Fair
  • A Fair Fight
  • Sound & Fury: Shakespeare Goes Punk
  • Once More Unto the Breach: Shakespeare Goes Punk 2
  • Merely This and Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk
  • Mina Cortez: From Bouquets to Bullets
  • Airs & Graces (Angel’s Grace 1)
  • There But for the Grace (Angel’s Grace 2)
  • Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions

www.Authorjeffreycook.com

www.Clockworkdragon.net

Jeffrey Cook on Facebook

Dawn of Steam Trilogy on Facebook

Follow Jeff on twitter: @jeffreycook74

>>><<<

Lee1Lee French lives in Olympia, WA with two kids, two bicycles, and too much stuff. She is an avid gamer and member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending too much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don’t get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.
You can find Lee French’s books by visiting her author page at Amazon.com:

Lee French on Amazon:

  • Maze Beset #1: Dragons In Pieces
  • Maze Beset #2: Dragons In Chains
  • Maze Beset #3: Dragons In Flight
  • The Greatest Sin #1: The Fallen
  • The Greatest Sin #2: Harbinger
  • The Greatest Sin #3: Moon Shades
  • The Greatest Sin #4: Illusive Echoes (coming soon)
  • Spirit Knights #1: Girls Can’t Be Knights
  • Spirit Knights #2: Backyard Dragons
  • Spirit Knights #3: Ethereal Entanglements (coming soon)
  • Damsel In Distress
  • Shadow & Spice (short story)
  • Al-Kabar
  • Working the Table: An Indie Author’s Guide to Conventions
  • Into the Woods: a fantasy anthology
  • Merely This and Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk
  • Missing Pieces VII: short stories from GenCon’s Author’s Avenue (coming in August)
  • Unnatural Dragons: a science fiction anthology (coming soon)

www.authorleefrench.com

www.Clockworkdragon.net

Lee French on Facebook

Clockwork Dragon on Facebook

Follow Lee on Twitter: @AuthorLeeFrench / @DragonClockwork

14 Comments

Filed under Books, Publishing, Self Publishing, writer, writing

#amwriting: Valley of Sorrows

Map of Aeoven Centaur font full color harvest colorsOn May 1st the final book in the Tower of Bones series, Valley of Sorrows,  will launch. I can’t tell you how much this means to me, to have Edwin’s story complete.

This story winds up two threads, and takes place partly in the Braden Gap, and partly in Aeoven. That gave me the opportunity to draw some new maps, which really made me happy.

And, this book may wind up Edwin’s story, but there will be more tales set in Neveyah–I love that world and the people too much to just walk away from it.

Valley of Sorrows spawned a spin-off book:The Wayward Son. That book is on the editor’s desk and set to be published in August 2016. It is a companion book that takes place concurrently with Forbidden Road and details some, but not all, of the events that occurred in Aeoven during Edwin’s absence.

BradenThe way I ended up writing a companion book is that the original manuscript of Valley of Sorrows was really two separate stories. I didn’t want John’s thread to take away from Edwin, Freidr and Zan’s story, but his background is intriguing–so I took him back to the day he returns to Aeoven, the same day Forbidden Road opens.

While the two stories dovetail in some places, and characters make cameo appearances, this book is not so much a book about the action as it is about a man learning to live again, despite his battle related PTSD.

Two years ago, when I pulled Tower of Bones and Forbidden Road for re-editing I made a bold move–I changed the name of a once-minor character, from Marta to Halee.  I did this, because she suddenly had a major role to play in the both the Wayward Son and the last quarter of Valley of Sorrows. and her name was only one letter off from Marya’s name: Marta…Marya–and they were often in the same scene together. Both books have been selling fairly well and so far, if anyone has noticed, they have not complained.

I really like the way Edwin’s story has gone. In this book he is a good, decent man, who has been pushed to nearly the breaking point, but he is still doing what he has to. As I said, this story ends very differently from what I had originally planned, and I wrote the ending both ways. If you really are curious as to how it ends the book is available for preorders now at Amazon and will go live on May 1,2016:

>>><<<

LAUNCHING MAY 1, 2016:

The long-awaited conclusion to the Tower of Bones Series

VOS sword left graphics no tower front Cover copyBook III, Valley of Sorrows

A grieving man whose life has gone to hell in his absence,

A son whose action sealed his father’s fate,

A crippled warrior facing his future,

A broken soldier seeking redemption for an unspeakable crime…

Driven by prophecies and racing against time, four mages sacrifice everything in a final bid to save their world from the Children of the Bull God. Can Edwin Farmer  raise the new shield before Lourdan and the Legions of Tauron arrive to conquer Braden?

The Gods are at War, and Neveyah is the Battlefield.

Click here to pre-order Valley of Sorrows

><<<

Happy Earth Day!

I will be celebrating Earth Day in Olympia, Washington at the Procession of the Species and the Arts Walk. Local authors Shannon L Reagan, Jeffrey CookLindsay Schopfer, Lee French, and I will be down at The Pet Works at 4th and Adams for both days of Arts Walk, which runs 5 pm-8 (or maybe 10) on Friday, 4/22 and also from 12 pm-8 on Saturday, 4/23. We’ll be signing books and generally having a blast. A lot will be happening in the parking lot, and several other artists will be sharing the space with us.

3 Comments

Filed under Publishing, Self Publishing, writer, writing

#amwriting: the truth about blogging

Who are youNothing improves your writing chops more than writing every day. Deadlines can be daunting but say what you will about not being able to write under pressure—I think that is when I do my best work.

Blogging regularly offers me that mix of self-imposed deadlines combined with the opportunity to riff on my favorite subject—the craft of writing. Much of what I have learned over the past four years has been through researching topics for this blog.

When I first began, I was only blogging under duress—my former publisher was forcing me to. This, he said, would help get my name out there, and give me a regular platform for my opinions. That blog is long gone, and those posts were pathetic attempts to write about current affairs as a journalist, something that has never interested me.

It wasn’t until I stopped trying fit into a mold someone else had designed for me and began writing about my interests that I learned to love the craft of blogging. That is also when I began to grow as a writer, because I have to work hard to proofread my own work and then publish it. If I am not vigilant, it posts with “warts and all.”

I don’t like warts in my work.

RALPH WALDO EMERSON QUOTE meme copyBlogging has made me a “thinking” author, as well as a “pantser.” I can write using the “stream of consciousness” method as I am now, or I can write it several days in advance by putting together a quick outline about whatever is interesting me at the time. I just do the research, and the post begins to write itself.

I use WordPress for this blog—and many of you know how aggravating I have found some of the changes recently implemented by WP. I am a contributor to two other blogs hosted by WordPress, and the other authors I am working with tend to find WordPress technical “support” just as exasperating as I do.

Giving me a list of canned questions and redirecting me to threads filled with complaints by other users is not “tech support.” It is, instead, clearly an effort to maintain separation from the user and any real-life problems he/she may have with using their product. (See my post of March 2, 2016: wanted: flatiron for curly quotes and other blogging twists.)

And just today they have introduced a new “less invasive” way of inserting links into the post, by which I mean with fewer options (unless you know the magic trick) and less useful. However, although it is evident the fine people at WordPress are not done messing with our heads, I am still not going to change this blog to a different platform—yet.

Instead, I will continue to work around things until they force me to switch to a platform run by people who are genuinely involved with their users and who care enough to respond to technical questions with more than circular, canned responses that go nowhere, like a snake eating its own tail.

I am a contributor to several blogs hosted on Blogger (Best In Fantasy is one), and I do like the way Blogger does NOT keep changing and fixing what isn’t broke. But I’ve been here at this little corner for several years now, and I hate moving so this will remain a WordPress blog.

I have made many friends through blogging, people all over the world who I may never meet in person, but who I am fond of, nevertheless.

This place is where I develop seminars on the craft of writing. I find that talking to you about my obsession helps me organize my thoughts. And, although I hate to say it, my first publisher (Lord Voldemort) was right about blogging. Blogging regularly does get your author name out there and showcases your work and your voice.

But only if you are passionate about what you are discussing.

I recommend blogging to anyone who has a craft they are fired up about. For novelists, I also recommend publishing short pieces—flash fiction. Little off-the-cuff pieces of less than a thousand words are fun to write and often find their way into your larger work, as they are a great way to brainstorm ideas.

If you want to know more about getting your own blog up and running, see my post of December 14, 2015, Blogging is Writing TooThis post talks about how to use the new default system here at WordPress so that you can insert pictures and make a nice looking post.

  • Keep it down to about 1000 words more or less.
  • Use the spellchecker tool to look for obvious errors.
  • Write in draft form and don’t publish it right away–come back and read it over again, and make corrections.
  • If you use information found elsewhere, quote it and credit the author
  • Use images that are either public domain, or that you have the right to use
  • Put links to other informative sites in the text

Rule number one: be consistent. I began by blogging once a week on a now defunct site—but my actual posts were more often made only once or twice a month. I dreaded it and didn’t want to do it. My blog stats were in the tank because I wasn’t applying myself to it.

One day it occurred to me that because I am a hermit and spend all day writing, my only way of communicating with my potential readers was through blogging. And it also occurred to me that communicating with other writers in the process could only benefit me.

I hated the thought of it but sucked it up. Once I realized that I could talk about whatever I wanted, Life in the Realm of Fantasy was born. My first posts stunk like last week’s garbage, but they were a beginning. With every post I wrote, I felt a sense of accomplishment, and the next post was better.

Kahlil Gibran MemeNow I am writing three posts a week on this blog, and at least one post a week for each of several other venues. I spend Sundays putting my blog posts together and look forward to the time I spend here, exploring the craft of writing.

Life in the Realm of Fantasy has evolved over the years because I have changed and matured as an author. Four years ago I would never have felt comfortable publishing my poetry. Now, I regularly post short works and poems on Fridays, some bad and some worse—but all them exercises in creative writing.

At first it took courage to lay my work out there because letting people see my work unedited by my editors made me feel like I was a teenager all over again, getting ready for the prom and hating my hair. I feared the flaws I saw in it.

Now I feel more like I am sharing it with my friends and I feel good about it.

To repeat myself ad nauseum: If you really want to grow as an author, you must write. Try to write daily, even if it is only a paragraph or two. Consider writing that paragraph as a short blog and dressing it up with a picture or two. Someone will read and enjoy it–and you may have made a fan.

2 Comments

Filed under blogging, Self Publishing, WordPress, writing