Thursday, July 28, 2011

Writing Days

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow; I took a vacation day from work so I could focus on edits for a project. I may have to run a couple of errands, but it should be useful to have several hours to work on a project instead of just a half hour or hour at a time.

How often do you take a whole day just to write or edit? Do you find it productive, or do you procrastinate? I admit it's all too easy to goof off when you have more time; sometimes pressure can be a good motivator too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Just Awful...

This story happened last week, but I just learned about it from Writer Beware. Days after a self-published author posted her novel on Amazon, she received a series of e-mails purporting to be from an agent at Writers House. The "agent" not only offered representation, but then claimed to have sold her book for a six-digit figure to a major publishing house and urged the author to announce it on her blog. You can see the e-mails on Writer Beware. The author learned the next day it was a hoax, most likely personally directed at her by someone she'd encountered on Twitter. The author publicly admitted she'd been scammed and even offered some tips on how to recognize a scammer. But who can blame her for getting caught up in the excitement? It's the kind of deal every author dreams of. But sometimes you have to ignore the excitement and listen to your head. My sympathies go out to the author. Hopefully no one else gets tricked like this.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Just a Reminder....

That I'm willing to participate in blog tours and interview authors. If you're interested, please e-mail me at sandra(at)sandraulbrich(dot)com. A couple of people have already contacted me about possible author interviews next month; if you're still interested, please let me know. Thanks!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Building the Perfect Bookstore

So, what type of bookstore do you like? An enormous one where you can get lost for hours, or something small and intimate? New or used? General or specialized?

For me, while I want a bookstore with a large SF/F section, it doesn't have to be dedicated to the genre. (By large, I mean big enough to carry not just the most current books, but a midlist author's backlog. After all, if I stumble upon Book 3 in a series, I want to be able to get Books 1 and 2 first). Perhaps a mix of new and used books would best suit what I'm looking for. I want to be able to browse for as long as I want. I want comfy chairs, tables and outlets so I can work on my laptop, and a cafe where I can get tea and treats. Although free Internet would be nice, I might get more writing done without it. That's about it.

What would you change or add to this list?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bye-Bye Borders

I'm sure by now you've heard the news about Borders liquidating. It's sad news, both from a reader's and a writer's perspective. Hundreds of bookstores closing may leave lots of people without a brick-and-mortar bookstore close by. And with publishers losing money too, they'll take on fewer writers and try to get even more money from the ones they work with. (This Angry Robot podcast might be quite the eyeopener for you about recent changes in the publishing industry.)

What do you think the book industry will look like after a few years, when things settle down? Do you think the fall of Borders will allow for the resurgence of independent bookstores? (Maybe in some areas, but I doubt every Borders will be replaced by another bookstore.) What will be the proportion of paper books sold to e-books? (I predict e-book sales will continue to rise. Yeah, that's probably a safe bet.) Will more writers take the self-publishing route? Are you going to change your long-term plans for your writing career based on what's happening?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Character Appearance and Stereotype

In books, if women are described as wearing nail polish, it's either a demure French manicure (to show that they're rich or sophisticated) or scarlet to indicate their sex appeal. It's almost never in between, and they never switch shades.

In practice, although my favorite shades are rosy, I've worn French manicures and red. Sometimes I've even done my fingernails with one color and my toenails something different. (As a matter of fact, I just tried a completely new shade for me on my toenails, though I'm not sure yet if I like it.) I guess this is one way real women are more complex than fictional characters.

In my own stories, I've shown strong women making nail polish color choices that reflect their careers and personalities. A starship captain wears dark blue nail polish to match her uniform; the Japanese head of the ISA (International Spacefaring Association) has black-and-white nails painted with Japanese characters.

Do your female characters wear nail polish? If so, do their color choices reflect or deny the stereotypes?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Guest Post: Get Thee To An Editor (Maria Zannini)

The following post was written by Maria Zannini as part of her Indie Roadshow.

If you self-publish and can invest in only one thing, hire a good editor. You can get by with an average cover, zero advertising, and glitchy formatting, but you can’t escape unscathed if you publish with poor editing. A bad editing job will haunt you forever. Although I have phenomenal critique partners, including two who were editors at their day jobs, I didn’t hesitate to hire a freelance editor for my first foray into self-publishing. It was my only large expenditure, but worth every penny.

When you work with an editor (particularly on developmental edits) you’ll discuss, argue, and compromise on a thousand and one points. Working with an editor is a relationship, and the best relationships have chemistry and trust. Your editor will not make you do anything. She will offer suggestions and alternatives. It’s up to you to make the final decision.

A good editor is professional and keeps all information about your manuscript confidential. She is a good communicator and will explain her edits clearly and succinctly. She also makes herself available after the job is done. Don’t expect her to hold your hand, but do expect that she will be there to answer questions about any suggestions she made.

But how do you find an editor and how do you know s/he is the right person for the job?

If you’ve been published elsewhere you have an advantage. Not only do you have experience working with an editor and what an editorial review entails, but you have some understanding of what you want and need from this relationship.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to work with various editors yet, don’t fret. There are ways to find and evaluate potential editors for your work. Here are a few tips.

• Don’t Google for editors. Chances are all you’ll find is some corporate house of cards that’ll stiff you for nonessentials with people who may or may not be qualified.

• Get recommendations. When you’re ready for an editor, talk to your friends or peers whose published work you admire and ask them who edited their last novel. Many editors freelance even when they have a steady day job with a publisher.

• Once you have the names of several editors, engage each of them in a dialog. Ask them about their services, fees, and turnaround times.

• Ask if they offer a sample edit. Many editors will provide one or more pages of edits of your manuscript for free. This is useful when you want to learn more about an editor’s skills, or you’re not sure what an edited page will look like.

• Ask for their credentials and references.

• Don’t be intimidated by the fee. Professional editing can be expensive. (A good editor is worth it.) If you can’t afford a full developmental edit with comments and corrections, ask about a developmental edits letter, or a proofreading edit to catch grammar nits.

• Love your editor, but don’t be afraid to cheat on her. Using a second set of eyes can catch anything the first editor missed. Also, if you used a particular editor for the first manuscript, try a different one for the second and compare the final results.

Types of Edits: Edits are generally divided into two camps: developmental edits and copy edits.

A developmental edit will analyze the story, the story arc, the characters, where you need more information and where you need less. Developmental edits are usually the most costly, but it’s the one edit I wouldn’t want to ignore. Between my critique partners and alert readers, I might catch minor typos and missing punctuation, but a developmental edit is all about the story.

Copy edits cover things like grammar, typos, and punctuation. If syntax is not your forte, get thee to a copy editor.

Fees are generally negotiable. While you’re in negotiations, ask about package pricing, or select services. Fees vary widely. Some charge per page, others per word.

Below are a few editors you can query. SF authors might recognize Deanna Hoak. She’s edited quite a few outstanding novels.

Precision Editing

Mason Canyon

Deanna Hoak

Anna Louise Genoese

Talk to your published peers. Ask for recommendations. Exchange a few emails with the editors you think you might like to work with and get a feel for them. An editor is one of the most important people to have on your side. Choose wisely and you’ll find it’s the best money you ever spent.

Back to You: Does anyone have any specific questions about finding an editor or what an edited page looks like?

I hope you’ll follow along with the rest of the Indie Roadshow as I share the things I learned on my road to self-publishing.

The Devil To Pay is available at Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99. It is the first book of the series, Second Chances.

Synopsis: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad tequila. Shannon McKee finds herself at the end of her rope, and she bargains her soul in a fit of despair.

Shannon’s plea is answered immediately by two men who couldn’t be more different from one another. Yet they share a bond and an affection for the stubborn Miss McKee that even they don’t understand.

When Heaven and Hell demand their payment, Shannon has no choice but to submit. No matter who gets her soul, she’s not getting out of this alive.

Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions. Occasionally, she writes novels.

Follow me on Facebook or my blog.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Internet: Help or Hinderance?

The power was restored at work yesterday (it was knocked out Monday morning due to a severe storm), but we still don't have Internet. That limits some of the things I can do, especially since I'm waiting for some important outside e-mails. On the other hand, I finished a report that I've been working on for a while.

Do you get more writing done when you're online, able to brainstorm with your friends, research a quick fact, or use Write or Die? Or do you end up spending too much time blogging or playing games on Facebook? (I can distract myself just fine without the Internet, thank you.) Feel free to leave a comment. Just don't be surprised if I save my comments for the evening.Link

Monday, July 11, 2011

Setting Writing Priorities

Writing isn't always just sitting down at the keyboard and pounding out words. There's research, outlining (if that's your method), revising and editing, and submitting your work to markets. Plus there's also reading (need to keep up with what's happening in your genre, after all), blogging and/or Twitter (preparing your posts and reading others'), and, if you belong to a crit circle or workshop, critiquing others' work. How do you find time to do it all, especially if (like me) you work full-time and have a family?

If you run out of time before you run out of things to do, then it helps to set priorities. While I'd like to offer some guidance about how to set priorities, flexibility is key. Some days your crit partner may need immediate feedback, while other days your blog may be more of a priority. Sometimes it's more important to revise a story instead of drafting a new one.

Lists can be a good way to manage projects. Writing things down can help you decide how urgent a particular writing task is--or at least help you remember everything you need to do! For me, marking items off a list gives me a sense of accomplishment.

Another way of managing priorities is to match your activity to your energy level. For example, if you know you have the most energy in the morning but less at night, you may want to save your proofreading for the morning and your social networking for the evening.

Finally, if you find yourself hit with a lot of things to do at once, you may want to find ways to add more writing time to your day. This may be something simple, such as choosing to skip TV for a few nights, or something bigger, such as asking your family to give you some space for a few hours or even using vacation time from work. When you're used to working for an hour or less each day, freeing up a half or whole day can be freeing. However, it's also tempting to procrastinate when you have more time than normal, so you have to take care to avoid that trap.

How do you set your writing priorities?

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ringo!

I don't think I've featured Ringo on my blog before. This song is off the Ringo album and was written with George Harrison. I'm not normally a fan of country music, but I do like the jaunty beat of this song. Plus, the sunflowers featured in this video give it a summery feel.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

2011 Reading Update

With the year half over, I thought I'd take a quick peek back at what I've read so far. I have nearly one hundred items (ninety-six, to be exact) on my list, with only one item in progress. Here's a quick breakdown by category:

Magazines: Thirteen completed, one in progress. They're evenly divided between Scientific American, which I read in paper format, and Locus, which I read on my Kindle. My Locus subscription just ended; I'm debating if I want to renew it.

Book Format: Not counting magazines, I've read thirteen books in paper. Everything else (sixty-nine!) has been in Kindle format. I haven't completely switched to e-book format -- I may never do so -- but it sure predominates my reading.

Genre: Some of these books could have fit into multiple genres; for example, much of the YA could have also been classified as science fiction. (I tend to read these books more for the SF aspect than the YA part.) But here's how I categorized them:

YA: 8
Mystery: 6
SF: 11
Fantasy: 37
Non-Fiction: 14
Other: 7

It's pretty obvious which category is my favorite.

Despite all this reading, my to-be-read paper pile and Kindle collection are larger than ever.

I'll do another reading wrap-up at the end of the year. In the meantime, how many books have you read so far this year? Have you noticed any trends in your reading?

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