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Showing posts from September, 2011

Be My Guest: Jane Yolen and Debby Harris

Jane Yolen and Debby Harris Today, please welcome Debby Harris. She edits for the marvelous author, Jane Yolen , who has written over 300 books in various genres, but is perhaps most famous for her award-winning children's and YA books. I asked Debby to share with us what it's like to work for such a prolific and accomplished writer, and here is what she has to say: 1.  Debby, how did you meet Jane Yolen? I first met Jane Yolen in person in London in 1989, at the 14th World Fantasy Convention. I had recently read her short story anthology, aptly named Tales of Wonder , and having been bowled over by the experience, was agog to meet the tale-spinner herself. I begged my friend and writing mentor Katherine Kurtz to introduce us, and she very kindly obliged. Ironically, Jane and I might easily have crossed paths much sooner and much closer to home. Our geographical nexus was the ancient Scottish burrough of St. Andrews, home of golf and birthplace of Scotland’s olde

Be My Guest: Nash Black Part 2

Death, Publishers, Intellectual Property Rights, and the Probate Court When the owner of a publishing firm dies, what happens to the intellectual property rights of the individual authors whose works were purchased and publish by the firm? The simple answer is they become not the property of the author, but the assets of the owner’s estate, which is subject to settlement by the Probate Court. A sole proprietorship is what anyone can have who files their income tax using the small business Schedule C form under their social security number. It requires no other official documentation. IF Publishing, owned by Irene Black, is such an entity and has existed for nearly twenty years. E-books have made this form of publishing venture attractive in recent years. The only things an individual needs to start their business are a computer and a group of ISBN numbers (10 for $250) registered with Bowker . Plus a working knowledge of the various platforms formats used in the e-world. Then y

Be My Guest: Nash Black

Today, we welcome Irene Black, who is half of the Nash Black writing partnership. I first connected with her at Murder Must Advertise during a group discussion about the legalities surrounding the death of a publisher. I invited her to share her expertise here, so today and tomorrow, she'll discuss important issues every writer should consider... before they die. The Business of Dying Mystery authors analyze death, dissect it, examine it, and explore it. What we neglect to do is prepare for it as it relates to our own lives. Death also has ugly companions–disability and dementia. It is our unalienable right to take responsibility for our own lives, which includes our demise. Make a complete inventory of personal obligations to other individuals/pets, possessions owned out-right or jointly, assets such as bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, insurance policies or pension rights with their location, business entities, and financial obligations. Each individual is different, bu

Pre-Writing Preparation

You'd rather be writing, but first you have to... 10.  Reach into the freezer and get something out for dinner.  WARNING: You may discover things in your freezer older than your youngest child. This has happened to me. This brings up all sorts of other issues that may further delay your writing. 9.  Organize your desk  - including all the drawers. This could take hours, if you're lucky. But don't think of it as luck, think of it as being thorough. 8.  Vacuum the cat . Yes, scratches and a certain amount of blood loss with probably be involved. However, you can use the pain and suffering to enrich the detail in your current work. 7.  Do more research.  You're not wasting time, you're getting your details correct. Keep repeating this - it helps alleviate the guilt. 6.  Have a snack.  Go to the kitchen to discover you are out of snacky foods. Go to the grocery store. Don't forget you're out of milk. And cheese. And toilet paper. 5.  Reread your previous f

Be My Guest: Linda Yezak

Thank you, Linda, for guest posting today on the Blood Red Pencil. The Laws of Physics–er, Writing by Linda Yezak He eyed her from head to toe. She hit him. He smirked. She thought he called her a name. Sounds like a scene from a novel, doesn't it? In truth, these lines are derived from different novels in which the author presented an unanswered action. “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” This, the third of Sir Isaac Newton's laws of physics, should be the first law of writing. Whenever a character does something, there should be some sort of reaction. The examples are from novels I've read where the author left me hanging after an action was portrayed. The first one, especially, yanked me out of the story: "He eyed her from head to toe." Since we were in her POV, we should've seen her reaction (even if we weren't in her POV). Believe me, a woman reacts to being scoped, and how this one reacted could've solidified her

Be My Guest: LJ Sellers

It’s great to be back on Blood-Red Pencil as a guest. For the last year as a full-time novelist, I’ve been focused on writing, publishing, and promoting. When my fiction readers started commenting about how much they enjoyed my blog and my nonfiction articles, I took notice and added a few ideas to my to-do list. After mulling it around, I decided to combine the best of my nonfiction—including all the blogs I wrote about my journey to become a full-time novelist—into a book. I thought my readers would enjoy getting to know more about me, and authors would find the writing, editing, and promotion advice helpful and inspiring. Most of the blogs I wrote for this site while I was a member were included as well. The title was easy. I named the book after my blog and personal motto, Write First, Clean Later . I adopted the slogan in early 2008 when I was laid off my editing job with an educational publisher. Since then, I’ve penned five novels and published eight, in addition to writing hu

Be My Guest: Jodie Renner

What’s in a Name? Naming Your Characters Have you ever read a book where the name of the main character was jarring to you, seemed inappropriate, or just wrong? Or have you mixed up two characters because their names were similar? Or said “Who’s that?” because suddenly the author started using a character’s nickname or first name, when previously all you knew was their last name? What you choose to name your characters can be the difference between annoying/confusing your readers and having the story flow naturally, with all the little details falling into place to make a seamless, believable story world. A few years ago, I did a critique of a novel in which the cruel, abusive father was named “Danny” and his eight-year-old abused son was named “John.” I definitely thought “Danny” sounded much more like a nice kid than a nasty adult, and why not give the young boy a more kid-like name, like “Johnny”? Switching the two would have worked fine, too. Here are some tips for naming your

Be My Guest : Susan Malone

Please welcome our guest blogger today, Susan Malone. She is a terrific editor and writing coach, and we are so happy to have her join us as a guest every month. Writing's Worst Monster By far the biggest pitfall I see with writers has nothing to do with style, technique, characterization, plotting, and pacing—i.e., the nuts and bolts of actual writing—although those bugaboos persist. Nor does this pervasive and killer problem have to do with talent. All of these must be present to fashion a decent book. But none comprise the dragon that guards the gate of truly good writing. Rest assured, however, this beast will slay you every time until you face it. The number-one stumbling block I see with writers, especially new ones, is getting into too big of a hurry. Rushing. Wanting to see your work in print at all costs, and most importantly, wanting to see that happen NOW. Most of the questions I get from folks just completing novels revolve around marketing and publ

Be My Guest: Terry Odell

Many thanks to Terry Odell for stopping by The Blood Red Pencil to share some tips for writers. On The Cutting Edge Our language evolves, but at glacial speeds. Also, usage varies depending on where we live. I think if you're pursuing a traditional writing path (by that I mean, not trying to break ALL the rules, like omitting all punctuation or capitalization), you should consider what you put on the page. One pet peeve: The use of "alright" to mean "all right." I was taught that there's really no such word as "alright", at least in standard usage. And although I'm finding a few places that say it's becoming an "acceptable" alternative to all right, I'm not convinced it's smart to use it. Not until those glaciers show up in your neighborhood. Perhaps the confusion arises because we're used to using already as well as all ready. However, these have totally different meanings. If we have a group of people and we&

Be My Guest: Lauri Kubuitsile in Botswana

Botswana’s Copyright Law and How it’s Killing Writers By Lauri Kubuitsile I got a message from someone that a school had photocopied one of my books for their students. I called the Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) and the helpful lady there told me that they couldn’t do much for me even if they had started registering members (which they haven’t yet) because the law allows the photocopying of books for educational purposes. The copyright law in Botswana is relatively new, passed in 2000, and COSBOTS only set up last year. The part of the new law on photocopying of books for educational purposes is shockingly vague. Basically it says they can, it does not include any parameters. This is the problem. Botswana is a small country, 1.8 million people. In Botswana, there are no trade publishers. All of the publishers in Botswana are educational publishers. There are a handful of locally owned publishers who must fight it out with the big internationals. Before the establishment

Guest Post: NetGalley

Recently, I posted about NetGalley and today we feature Kristina Radke, Community Concierge, who sends frequent updates and information about all the latest book offerings from small and large publishers who have joined their service. I find this to be a wonderful way for book reviewers to get new titles via direct downloads and have used them myself. I asked NetGalley to answer a few questions in detail, and here are the responses: What is NetGalley? NetGalley is a service that delivers digital galleys to professional readers such as reviewers, bloggers, librarians, booksellers, media, and educators. If you read and recommend books, you can request digital galleys from over 100 publishers for free! If you’re a publisher, you can offer secure digital galleys to the NetGalley community (over 36,000 members as of today) and/or to your own list of contacts. Who started it? NetGalley was created by Rosetta Solutions, and was acquired by Firebrand Technologies (who offers various

Only Seventeen Syllables

Some days I don’t feel like writing, and I start to wonder why I bother. I mean, what’s the point? In a couple of billion years we’ll all be space dust anyway, right? When these thoughts grab me I try to remember that writing puts me in touch with my “Creator Spirit,” even though I can’t define what that is. Writing makes me whole, even when I write badly. (Even bad stuff needs a creator.) When I don’t write, I’m not whole or in touch. It’s a survival thing for me. Yes, I know how grandiose this sounds. Who am I to think I am an artist whose work will last for centuries? I’m not Shakespeare or Michelangelo. I should pay attention to my little life and let all those high-falutin’ (my grandfather’s term) ideas go. I don’t have time to write, anyway. Some days there are pressing concerns in my life that get in my way. (You know, like laundry or tweezing my eyebrows.) About twenty years ago, I read a book about writing. Unfortunately I can’t remember the book’s name or author. (I rea

Not Right For Us At This Time

The Blood-Red Pencil would like to welcome guest blogger Nancy Martin, the author of some fifty popular fiction novels. If you are currently submitting manuscripts to agents and editors, pay close attention as Nancy shares rejection letter translations skills she's gained over the course of her prolific career. “Sorry, this manuscript isn’t right for us at this time.” "We will pass on this one but please send us more submissions." Have you received one of these emails after sending a manuscript or partial to an agent? This kind of rejection note generally means your writing is good, but your story idea is one that the agent can't sell. The real message? Put this manuscript in a drawer and write something fresh for us because your writing isn’t the problem. Part of the frustration of the submission process—which always comes with a disheartening amount of rejection—is trying to interpret what secret message might be contained in a gentle refusal to represent yo

Leave a Tip Today on The Blood-Red Pencil - Share What You Know

As on every second Tuesday of the month, it's Leave a Tip Day today on The Blood-Red Pencil. I don't know about you, but in Illinois we've been experiencing great Fall-type weather, energizing me and making me want to finish what I put off during the hot Summer months. Many of us are on different levels in our writing careers: beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Wherever we are, there's always room for improvement and ways to share what we know. My tip: For authenticity, don't be afraid to use reference material, whether printed or online. I, like many authors, hit roadblocks. I'm geography-challenged, and horrible at directions, yet while working on Forever Young-Blessing or Curse I needed to figure out what places my heroine traveled, beginning at Scottsdale, Arizona, in her efforts to flee her pursuers. I could have picked fictional towns, but decided to use real ones. Fortunately, I happened to own an Amtrak schedule from a visit to the area in April.

Story Trumps Innovation

Lately, I have been talking to some writers about innovation. These are talented writers I've had the privilege to work with and for. They are constantly trying to up their game, develop their craft, and think about ways in which they can do something totally unique, totally different. As a writer, I enjoy seeing that enthusiasm. It excites me and actually gets me motivated to do my own writing. As an editor and writing consultant, however, I always preface this discussion on innovation with the need to remember the story . Then after that big, broad statement, I offer three questions to consider: Are you really being innovative? A lot of the "innovation" writers work to develop in their stories has already been done. Usually, when a writer proposes some avant-garde structuring or development for their story, I point them toward authors that have done something similar...if not the exact same. Although others might see it differently, for me, writers looking to be &quo

Cues from the Coach: Engage the Imagination

What if…? These two little words are the most important words of all to a fiction writer. How so? They inspire story. What if that crying toddler in the stroller you just passed is a kidnap victim? What if the little old man sitting on the bench at the bus stop is the illegitimate son of a British king? What if the lady limping along the path in the park is a former ballerina whose partner dropped her? What if those two teenagers in Gothic makeup who just entered the bank are really robbers? What if the man who just moved in next door is in the witness protection program? What if the little girl who disappeared while walking home from your school years ago is the clerk who checks you out at Safeway? Get the idea? Observation opens your eyes to potential stories all around you. Then engaging your imagination can turn an ordinary situation into an extraordinary book. What about nonfiction? We have less latitude when we report, as Joe Friday said years ago on Dragnet , “just th

Editors Know Nothing

Editors know nothing – and that’s a good thing. When I say, editors know nothing, I’m not talking about their ability to edit. I’m talking about your manuscript. When it comes time to turn to a professional to edit, mark up, offer suggestions, and work with you to fine tune and improve the work, you want someone with “fresh” eyes, someone who hasn’t read previous versions of your manuscript. Your beta readers have been reading, offering ideas, marking up the pages. You’ve probably made changes based on their comments. You’ve made improvements. Now it’s time to turn to someone who knows nothing … about the changes or what the story looked like in the beginning. You may end up paying multiple editors to look at your work. Most writers only pay one. That one needs to be someone with experience and knowledge in editing and coaching -- someone who will tell you the hard truth. The good news is that person is a professional. They’re not going to be hurt when you disagree with them.

Time Out For a Little Fun

Thanks to humorist and friend, Tracy Farr, for letting me share some of his humor here. It is always good to just stop all the work for a few minutes and de-stress with a little chuckle. Enjoy.... What was that again? Putting together a newspaper, whether it be national or small-town, is a BIG JOB. Millions of words have to be spelled correctly, names have to be right, photos have to match stories, headlines have to entice the reader to read -- and all of these are subject to criticism by us, the reading public. It's not right, but that's just how it is. Speaking of headlines...I ran across a few headlines recently in my local daily that made me pause and ask, "What was that again?" They just hit me as funny, or confusing, and I thought I'd share: American orders 460 new airplanes I thought to myself, "Holy cow, that must have been some wealthy American." Preparedness net stretched taut across county Shoot, how could I have missed THAT?