Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Interesting Rule

In our day to day lives, we all observe rules--sometimes we call them laws, sometimes suggestions, but whatever we call them, they're there to keep our lives orderly. Many of these "rules" we learn in early life as we learn to speak the language, so they are so ingrained that we don't even this about them. Recently I heard about a rule which I've been observing most of my life without realizing it. And I'll bet that you have incorporated it into your speech as well.

I'm told that this rule used to be taught in school, although I don't recall Ms. Billie Casey doing so, and I consider my education to be pretty complete. When describing something in detail, we often observe an order (although we may not realize it). That order is usually opinion, size, shape, color, origin, purpose. So if I ask if you've seen the ugly, oversized, rectangular, dark brown purse it sounds better than pointing out the dark brown, overly-large, rectangular ugly purse. We don't think of the rule. It just sounds right the first way.

Do you agree with this rule? Why, or why not? What other "rules" can you think of that we observe without thinking of them? I'd like to know.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Veterans' Day, 2019

Today is Veterans' Day. It had its beginning as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, commemorating the armistice that was signed to end the first world war--at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year.

Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, and should not be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in military service. I'm proud to have served, and always feel a special thrill when someone recognizes that I'm a veteran and thanks me for my service--even though it was quite a while ago.

We'll fly our flag today, as we do every day. Because brave men and women fought for our right to do so. When you see a veteran today, thank him or her for their service. It will bring a smile to your face and theirs.

Friday, November 08, 2019

Writing: The Ear Knows

Ever see a word or phrase written and immediately think, "That doesn't seem right?" Then, when you say it out loud, you find you're correct. We learn a language by seeing it, by hearing it, and by repeating it. And our ears gradually learn what is correct--and incorrect--grammar. For this, as well as other reasons, the ultimate test of what we've written is, "How does it sound?"

This was brought home to me by listening to a book I have written, as preparation for putting out an audio version. I have to confess that I often write what sounds right in my head, but then when I hear the narrator say it, I think, "You know, I could have expressed that better."

There are many ways to self-edit your book, but the one that most of us skip is probably the most effective one--reading the book aloud. It will often pick up errors in writing that we tend to skim right over when simply looking at the written words.

Authors, have you found reading your manuscript aloud to be helpful? Or, as is the case with some of us, was it too much trouble? Let me know what you think about this technique.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Christmas is A-Comin' (Already?)

Wow, here it is November already--and (no surprise), I haven't done my Christmas shopping. My wife has started, and I'll probably depend on her to guide me through the maze.

Since we have family in Texas (near and not-quite so), Virginia, and Nevada, we'll probably expect them to visit us sometime between Thanksgiving and sometime in 2020, but the days of having everyone together for Christmas are probably gone. But we'll be glad to see them, whenever they come.

How about you? Are you looking forward to shopping? Do you still send Christmas cards? Will you celebrate on one day or a bunch of them? Let me know.

PS (commercial announcement): for those of you who like to give (or receive) books for Christmas, you might want to consult this catalog for ideas. (Hint: Bitter Pill is on p. 23, and the catalog URL is  https://joom.ag/M3Se). If you or a friend are into audio books, there'll soon be an audio version of Bitter Pill.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Writing: Questions For An Author

I thought that perhaps it was time to give you some of the questions and answers that go with the writing business.

How to you get your ideas?

I used to say from “ideas.com” until I found there really is such a site. The truth, as is true for most writers, is that I take the things going on around me and then wonder what happens next. Alternatively, I ask the question Al Gansky taught me: “What if…?” Then I take it from there.

Do you need an agent? How do you find one?

If you want the editor of a publishing house to offer a contract, you'll need a literary agent representing you. Often, we find someone who would be just right as our representative, usually when we meet at a writing conference. If we’re fortunate, we ask them, and they accept. In rare instances, the agent will ask us. All this has been made somewhat moot as more and more writers see the handwriting on the wall about the publishing world and decide to self-publish their work. Do you need an agent then? If you’re not established, yes. An agent will give you advice...and if you're just starting out, you'll need it.

How do you go about getting published?

If they’re offered a contract, I think a writer should carefully consider signing with a publisher. Later they might decide to branch out and become a hybrid author (one who’s work is put out both by a traditional publisher and independently) but having that publisher behind you for the first several books—especially the marketing expertise and “muscle”—is quite helpful. Of course, some people start out "indie-publishing," but that's tough, because much of the time we don't know what we don't know. Confusing? Yep.

Once you “go indie,” do you no longer have to worry about editing the manuscript?

No! No! No! One advantage of self-publication (which no longer carries the stigma it once did) may be that you don’t have to write a synopsis or please an editorial board, but it does not free you from multiple revisions, including hiring an outside editor. This may be for a macro (“big picture”) edit, line editing, and/or proof-reading. It’s important for the indie author to put forth the best possible book. And this means using a professional for editing, as well as cover design and execution.

Aren’t all authors rich?

I suppose if your name is Clancy, or Child, or Rowling, you’re probably able to put food on the table by your writing. For most of us, our royalties are welcome surprises that we receive every three to six months but aren’t nearly enough to support our families or allow us to quit our day jobs. Authors get an advance against royalties, and this has to be earned out before we get a penny of additional royalty money. Some small presses don’t even give advances, so the royalties are bigger—but not huge.  

Other questions? Let me know.