July 26, 2011

Verbiage Vigilante

Several years ago, I was in a writing group where we helped each other learn enough about writing to reach our individual goals. Some wanted to write their journals in an interesting manner. Some wanted to write family histories for private publication. Most wanted to be commercially published. Success has been met in varying degrees.

Every meeting encompassed both a lesson and a critique session. Each author had different strengths and weaknesses in their writing. The group leaders had us take turns teaching those things we knew and learning what the others had to teach. The group was a mix of published and unpublished authors.

Janette Rallison was our resident expert on Point of View. She could find minute errors and point them out to us, even when we had looked for mistakes and couldn't spot them. She painstakingly taught us how to avoid POV problems when writing. I was often guilty of "head-hopping" and other such literary sins until Janette taught me a better way to write. We used to call her the "Point of View Police".

Anne and I were referred to as the "Continuity Police". We were the ones who would catch the little details like the character sitting down on a chair, then suddenly being across the room leaning against the fireplace without having gotten up and walked over there. One character in a book we were proof-reading for a friend came downstairs to greet her date - in a one-story house. The professional editor did not catch this, but we did.

One of my readers is extremely good at pointing out sentences which are longer than they should be, and use too many adjectives. I think that in all sincerity and gratefulness for her service, I ought to give her the title of the "Verbiage Vigilante". What do you think?


July 22, 2011

Tanella's New Look

The book has been in print only two years, and just over a year for the ebook; why does it need a new cover? It's more than just a face lift.

My first covers were made using CreateSpace's wonderful cover creator tool, which made some really great covers for our books. They looked very nice, and I liked them a lot.

When I was ready to release the novels as ebooks, I discovered that because I had used their template and just plugged in my own information and photos, CreateSpace held the copyright on the cover, while I held the copyright on the interior only. In other words, I couldn't use the cover from my print book as the cover of the ebook. I quickly made some rather bad covers for my ebooks and released them, but I was never really happy with them.

A year later, I decided to do something about it. I bought a photo editing program that would do what I needed it to do, and spent time learning how to use it. I know I'll get better with more practice, but I already like my new covers better than the old ones. The best part is that because I am now making my covers from scratch, I own all the rights to them. My ebooks and print books can now have the same cover - which will help people who have seen one version find the other one at the store.

This also means everyone who bought Tanella's Flight in print now has a collector's item, an autographed first edition with the original cover, which is now out of print. The book is still in print, with the new cover, but the original black cover is no longer available, ever.

Within the next month, I will be replacing the cover on Fabric of the World, so if you want to get the original cover before it's gone forever, I recommend you purchase it before August 1, when I plan to take it off the market to work on the new files.


July 19, 2011

Are You a Reader?

Part of being a writer involves having a large vocabulary available without having to keep looking up other ways to say something. I think it's part of being a reader, too.

There are different levels of reading. I am not making fun of anyone's ability or choices, just observing facts as I see them; in other words, stating my personal opinion without judgment of any individual. I've noticed these groups:

1. People who cannot read because of limited mental capacity or physical impairment. For example, a man I know has MS. Reading is painful for him because of the difficulty of moving signals along his nerves.

2. People who cannot read because they have never been taught how. People who cannot read in the dominant language of the country they live in because they do not speak the language well enough.

3. People who can read, but do better when reading aloud, tracing with their finger, or sounding out words aloud or silently. This includes people new to reading or a language. It also includes those with a mental or physical reason for not reading well; such as dyslexia or the host of problems lumped together as "learning disabilities".

4. People who read well, but only for learning. They read assigned materials for school and work, and no more.

5. People who read fiction and non-fiction for fun. They usually have a larger vocabulary than any other group. They are also generally well-versed in historical and cultural references, so they understand inferences faster than others.

Notice that the difference between groups 4 and 5 is based on choices; not education, practice, or physical or mental conditions. I call the group who reads because they enjoy it "readers". I know ten year old children who are readers, and adults who are not. I've found I prefer the company and conversation of readers. Not all of the readers I know are people who would be considered of "normal" physical or mental capacity.

The man with MS I mentioned before was never a reader, even before his illness made reading painful and nearly impossible. Because of his physical impairment, he now spends most of his day watching television. The lack of historical and cultural references he could have picked up by reading limits his full enjoyment of the programs he watches. He sometimes has to have the plots explained to him.

By contrast, I know a young woman of limited understanding who loves to read. Just from surface association, I wouldn't expect her to be capable of understanding the nuances of plot. Because I see her several times weekly, I got multiple updates of her progress as she read Tanella's Flight. She enjoyed the book immensely, and from her commentary, I could tell she had no problem grasping all the layers of the plot. She's now joined the crowd demanding the sequel. I think she really just wants to find out what happened to Liammial and whether he gets away with murder.

Are you a reader?

July 15, 2011

Wow! I feel Famous!

I was recently interviewed by David Wisehart about my book Deadly Gamble. David produces the Kindle Authors Newsletter on a daily basis to showcase new authors and their books. You can read my interview at the following link.

Kindle Author Newsletter Interview: A M Jenner


July 14, 2011

I'd Like to Make an Announcement

One murder, followed by three attempted and two actual murders committed by way of "cleaning up the mess", too much gambling, cheap women, an Old Italian Family, police officers and detectives, a private security company, Indians, a little bit of light romance, one cool diner, and a hot frying pan to the head later, A M Jenner is proud to announce Deadly Gamble; a novel of suspense.

How do you get it?

For those with Kindles, you want to go here.

If you have a Nook, you want this link.

All e-reader formats are at Smashwords, and will be shipped (shortly, I hope) to Apple, Kobo, Sony, and other e-stores.

If you just can't live without the smell of a newly bound and printed on paper book, you're looking for this link. For those who purchase paper books, email me with your order number and address, and tell me who you want it inscribed to, and I will send you an autographed book plate to stick in the front of your book. If ebook owners want the bookplate, I'll send one to you too, but I'm not sure what you're going to stick it on.

The ebooks are $2.99; the print book is $14.99 because paper costs more than electrons.

There's some interesting photos and info about the writing of the book on its page at my website, and a hilarious but absolutely true story about creating the cover art in this blog post.


July 05, 2011

Going Green

For centuries, books were paper of some sort. There was no other sort of book. The paper was made with pulp from some sort of plant. Before easily made movable type was available, books were copied out by hand, or each page was carved from wood and they were printed. In fact, the word manuscript literally means hand-written.

Even after printing became easier, books were still written by hand. Every revision and draft was re-written by hand. Can you imagine waiting for, say, the next book in the Harry Potter series if J K Rowling had to write every draft of every 500+ page book by hand? Those 500 printed pages are single-spaced. Most manuscripts are double-spaced, to give room between the lines for making corrections. One page of typed, double-spaced text is roughly equal to two pages of hand written, single-spaced text. Most of my manuscripts go through two major revisions and four to six minor ones.

Mark Twain was the first author to write a manuscript on a typewriter, for which his editor was probably very grateful. My grandmother was a writer, and typed her things with three sheets of paper and two of carbon paper in the machine. If she made a mistake even on the last line of the page, she had to re-type the entire page.

Writing always has taken a lot of paper to produce a book, but that is changing. I write with my computer. If I make a mistake, I back up and it automagically disappears. My computer keeps track of all the changes I make. It can put it back the way I had it in the first place if I decide I don't like it. I can carry a hundred manuscripts on a flash drive in the palm of my hand.

Working on Tanella's Flight, we printed out the manuscript at each stage, using about a ream of paper. We sent printed copies to no less than fifteen readers. We probably went through at least two cases of paper preparing one book for publication.

Fabric of the World was only printed once before publication. Your eyes and brain process information differently when you read on a backlit screen and when you read on paper. We had to print the manuscript once to read it on paper, and find the last million mistakes you never notice on a computer screen.

With Deadly Gamble, the book was written, revised, read, and checked without being printed out even once. We did the final "paper test" with an ebook reader. When you're reading on an e-ink device such as a Nook or Kindle, your brain processes it like paper. People who buy an ebook copy of Deadly Gamble will get a book that has never been printed on paper. We think that's pretty awesome.

We still offer print copies for people who don't have, don't want, or can't afford an ebook reader, and those who prefer paper books. It's certainly easier (at the moment) to get a paper book autographed. We are not against paper books; we have a huge library full of them. We still think it's absolutely cool to be able to produce an entire book without using a single piece of paper!


July 04, 2011

Progress Report

Publishing a book is a game of hurry up and wait. With Deadly Gamble, the first draft was written in 27 days in November of 2006, then put on the back burner in favor of other projects. In 2009 we pulled it out for evaluation. A timeline was created, and a frenzy of work ensued to make the book fit the timeline. It was sent out to test readers in January 2011. A second rewrite was completed based on the recommendations of the readers. By mid-June, it's formatting time.

First, I format the page size and interior layout for the print book. When I know how many pages the book contains, I create the cover for the print book. I upload the print files to our distributor and have to wait while they check the files.

Now that I have the cover, I can use the front for the ebook. I have to make separate size images for each of the three ebook distributors I work with. I format the interior files one way and leave it as a word document for one distributor, and turn the entire thing into an HTML file for the other two.

I get an email from the print place that the files are ready for printing, and I order a proof copy; the first time the manuscript will see paper.

I upload the files to two of the distributors. Smashwords has it up for sale in minutes. Amazon has to review the files first. Barnes & Noble has put a hold on my account. (I mentioned this in the last post; they still haven't called me back.) I check my mailbox, and my proof copy from CreateSpace isn't here yet. I don't expect it until the 8th, but I keep hoping.

I go into the Independence Day weekend with dismal thoughts about it being Tuesday before I can really do anything more on my book.

July 4, 3:30 AM. I wake up, and know I won't be getting any more sleep tonight. Out of habit more than anything else, I check my author dashboards at all my sites. Even though it's a holiday weekend, the computers never sleep. The Kindle copies have gone live. (They're available here.) I update my website to provide a link to my book's page at Amazon. Smashwords still doesn't have any ISBN's, but expect to have them available on Thursday. The hold is inexplicably gone from the Barnes & Noble account, and I upload Deadly Gamble. Now I get to wait again while the files are inspected, before they go live. Links will continue to be provided on my website, and announcements made as each format becomes available, but most of my attention will turn to Tanella's Flight on Tuesday as I add a map of the Ten Kingdoms and redesign the cover.