Archive for October, 2013

Happy Halloween

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

It’s a Curse Giver kind of day

Happy Halloween

Have a fun and safe Halloween.

D.

Words of Wisdom for New Writers

Monday, October 28th, 2013

The SeacrestFacebook Cover Art

As many of you know, I’m a sucker for a great romance. My guest today is Aaron Paul Lazar, who is celebrating the release of his heart-warming romance, The Seacrest. The Seacrest has been compared to Nicholas Spark’s evoking novels. Warren Adler, bestselling author of The War of the Roses and Random Hearts, says that “The abiding power of a first love resonates throughout this compelling story of loss and redemption.” I can’t wait to read The Seacrest! Scroll to the bottom for a peek at this powerful story and help us drive it up to the top of Amazon’s charts by buying it today at http://amzn.to/16pjh4i.

And now, some very wise words of wisdom for new writers everywhere.

Enjoy!

D.

****

Quit Your Job?

Maybe not just yet.

Words of Wisdom for New Writers

By

Aaron Paul Lazar

(Who really, really knows what he’s talking about!)


Aaron Paul Lazar author pic

The stages through which writers suffer in their careers are unique compared to most professions. Yet, strangely enough, these experiences can be startlingly similar from one writer to the next.

I’m reminded of this as yet another talented new writer has “found” me through the Internet and turned to me for advice. We’ve been exchanging regular email, and have covered questions from copyright to agents to query letters and beyond. I believe in helping writers whenever possible, and always try to make time for them when I can.

Why?

Because that’s what S.W. Vaughn, R.C. Burdick, Mary Emmons, and other generous folks did for me when I was just starting out.

I remember it so clearly. The angst-riddled beginning: when I’d just turned out my first novel and imagined it on the best seller’s list. I secretly hoped it would be snapped up in a few weeks, but feared at the same time how deluded I probably was, and feared I would be outed by the critics as a poor untalented slob who would never get into that elite club of “real writers.” Even though my family and friends said they loved my books… they had to say that? Right?

Time passes. More books are written. Agents get interested. Skills improve. And among the piles of rejections and torn hair and crumpled rewritten query letters, books eventually get sold. Maybe not to the big boys in the top five companies with all the promotional money, maybe not through agents who finagle six figure deals, but stuff happens and one’s readership expands.

People write to you from out of the blue. Regular people. Lovely people. People you befriend and learn from and cherish. People who say they’ve changed the way they read to their children because of your book, or who tell you they read to their dying mother and that your book comforted her. Those moments are supremely satisfying. And humbling. And so precious.

The first review comes in from a high profile literary critic. This one comes out of the woodwork, without solicitation. And he praises your work like you’ve never dared imagine. He GETS you. He really GETS you. And for the first time in your career, you feel totally validated. I’ll never forget that first time. His name was Thomas Fortenberry, and I remember the email, word for word. I opened it early on a dark Sunday morning–before dawn–and I lay in bed with the laptop humming with tears of joy on my cheeks.

It floats you to the moon, and validates you, and keeps you going. Until, of course, someone dares criticize your work. Of course, eventually it will happen, whether it’s a minor critique or a full blown trashing. You can’t make adoring fans out of everyone!

But thankfully, the really bad review ends up being written by someone with a humongous grudge on your first publisher. Someone who makes it his first order of business to drag down authors from that company. So, the sting lessens. A little.

The first book signing comes and goes. Becomes a frequent event. Book clubs contact you–and you get to meet gangs of your adoring fans. It feels good. Really good.

Maybe it’s a sign that you don’t really stink as bad as you fear? (see, that angst still hangs around for years and years.)

Libraries contact you for event after event. And suddenly–here you are, having to turn down events you only dreamed of as a novice.

It’s rather strange, and equally wonderful. And so the story continues.

Coming fresh from dispensing advice to my new friend, I’ve jotted down a few thoughts to share. Words of wisdom, I guess you could say, or at least philosophies that seem to work for me. Here they are, in no particular order:

1) Keep writing, independent of which agent or publisher you have in your sights or in hand. Write as many books as you possibly can, and grow your skills as you grow your stable of books.

2) Improve your current proficiency–continually–by befriending a few good critique partners and by reading as much as you possibly can. Great writers will be your best teachers.

3) Don’t quit the day job unless you have the luxury of doing so financially. Plan to work indefinitely until you’ve sold over 100,000 copies of your first book. Really. I’m serious. (which means most of us will keep the day jobs forever) Then, wait to see if your second book flops or follows the trend of the first. There are plenty of one hit wonders out there! After two “A” movies have been made (I’m picturing about a half a million for each), then you can consider quitting the day job. That is, if you’re good with money and feel as if you can keep churning out books for a very long time. Remember, if you’re–say fifty years old–you might need to support yourself (and maybe your spouse) for another fifty years. You’d need several million to keep yourself going at a reasonable income level for that long. So don’t quit the day job yet!

4) While you’re waiting for this elusive financial success, and you’re writing book after book, submit your manuscript and queries to all levels of publishers, but only to the top agents in NYC. (my humble opinion) Consider a small high quality press to get started, especially if the big publishers haven’t snapped you up in the first year, or five.

5) Don’t define your success as a writer by how many books you sell or how fast your novel(s) get picked up. Or even IF they get picked up. Define your success by the readers you win over, whose lives you may even change as a result of your writing. Cherish their comments, and realize that if you can make one person smile, or brighten their day, or give them an armchair adventure that whisks them away from their troubles – then THAT may be worth it, and all you need to be validated.

6) Although it takes time away from your writing, build a strong, genuine network of writers with whom you can share, grow, learn, gripe, vent, and just share the common angst and jubilation that comes with this long process. Do the same with your readers who fall in love with your book(s) and are willing to help you along the way.

7) Start on the next book before the first is accepted anywhere. Don’t look back. Keep going and follow your heart.

8) You must believe it “will” happen. It’s just a matter of time. Although my books provide a nice subsidy at this point in my career, I firmly believe that some day my books will sell enough copies through my high quality small press (Twilight Times Books) to catch the attention of a movie maker or giant publisher with deep pockets. And now, with my new love story just released, I’m picturing the film for The Seacrest in full living color. ;o) And I know, I believe, I see in the future–eventually–that both of my series will some day be commonly found across the globe. Maybe it’ll be when I’m dead and gone, and perhaps my grandkids or great grandkids will benefit. That would be just fine with me!

About Aaron Paul Lazar

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, writing books, and a new love story, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys. Visit his website at http://www.lazarbooks.com and watch for his upcoming releases THE SEACREST (2013), SANCTUARY (2014), and VIRTUOSO (2014).

ONLINE LINKS:

www.lazarbooks.com

The Seacrest 3D Image Of Coverhttp://amzn.to/16pjh4i

All About The Seacrest:

They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Finn McGraw disagrees.

He was just seventeen when he had a torrid summer affair with the girl who stole his heart—and then inexplicably turned on him. Finn may have moved on with his life, but he’s never forgotten her.

Now, ten years later, he’s got more than his lost love to worry about. A horrific accident turns his life upside down, resurrecting the ghosts of his long-dead family and taking the lives of the few people he has left.

Finn always believed his estranged brother was responsible for the fire that killed their family—but an unexpected inheritance with a mystery attached throws everything he knows into doubt.

And on top of that, the beguiling daughter of his wealthy employer has secrets of her own. But the closer he gets, the harder she pushes him away.

The Seacrest is a story of intrigue and betrayal, of secrets and second chances—and above all, of a love that never dies.

****

Want to know more? How about a sneak peek at the first chapter? http://www.lazarbooks.com/theseacrest.htm

The Seacrest is a poignant love story that will have you reaching for the tissues. Every woman needs a Finn McGraw!” – Victoria Howard, bestselling romantic suspense author of RING OF LIES.

“At a time when many authors seem to crank out fiction by the numbers, Aaron Paul Lazar invests his whole heart in every book he writes. His stories shine with sensitivity, compassion, and the richness of deeply personal experience.” – Michael Prescott, bestselling thriller author of GRAVE OF ANGELS

“…Beautifully drawn, The Seacrest explores twin mysteries of past and present tragedies that combine into a fascinating tale in which a young couple overcomes life’s misunderstandings, while reaching for the truth.”  – Sheila Deeth, author of Divide by Zero

Help us drive THE SEACREST to Amazon’s top rankings by purchasing it today, Monday, October 28th at http://amzn.to/16pjh4i.

A Review of Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone Audio-Book Edition

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Hello everybody!

I love to listen to a good story. I find it comforting, relaxing and fun to hide in a quiet corner, plug in my headset, and bask in the wonders of a great tale. My love affair with audio-books probably began early on as a child, when my parents shared their love for books by reading aloud to me. I remember thinking that it was such a treat! I then read to my own children and learned to relish not only the great children’s books of a new generation, but especially, our time together. Reading aloud to our children is not just fun; it’s also a loving gift and a lasting legacy. Look at me. I’m still craving the story that the voice tells. Or is it the voice that tells the story?

Audiobookjungle.com is one of only a handful of sites dedicated exclusively to audio-books. As a disclaimer, I will say that I don’t know the principals and only discovered it by accident, when my publicist submitted Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone for review. It is a treasure find, packed with helpful reviews, discussions, articles and tips for audio-book addicts. So if like me, you love to listen to your books as you commute to work, wash the dishes or before you turn in for the night, don’t miss http://audiobookjungle.com.

As luck would have it, audiobookjungle.com did review the first novel of the Stonewiser series and, to my utter delight, found it worthwhile. So here it is, audibookjungle.com’s brand new review of Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, audio-book edition.

Enjoy!

D.

Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone Audiobook Review by Audiojungle.com

Written by Dora Machado, Narrated by Melissa Reizian Frank

Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone by Dora Machado Audiobook Review

Who is the author

Dora Machado, the author of the Stonewiser trilogy is relatively new to the fantasy scene, at least that’s what I gathered from looking her up online. At the time of posting this review she has written four fantasy novels which seem to be well received from the readers. The first book in the Stonewiser trilogy, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone is the one I read and I’ll certainly be grabbing the next one as soon as possible. It’s really good. No wonder it won the 2009 Benjamin Franklin award for best debut novel.

What does stonewiser mean
The title sounds a little mysterious because the word stonewiser is fictional and you don’t know what to expect until you start reading. I’m usually the type of person who would do minimal or no research regarding a book I’m about to read, as I don’t want to see any spoilers or get my judgment of it’s quality swayed. The problem is that if you do that with authors new to you it takes awhile to get used to their style and get a feel of what the book is going to be about. Dora Machado throws you straight into the action from the first chapter. You immediately learn that stonewisers are gifted people that can imprint stones with information and read it. You also learn that there are some kinds of stones that are not supposed to be wised because The Guild forbids it. That’s good writing right there – you get the essentials right away but you want to know more, right now! :)

What’s the premise of the story?

Find out more at http://audiobookjungle.com/

What I liked

The writing. It’s well crafted, easy to follow and engaging. While the basic skeleton of the story isn’t groundbreaking (a rebellious heroine that kicks ass and changes the world) it has fresh and intriguing bits. I appreciated the occasional dark and gritty scene that surprises you with it’s violence without becoming uncomfortable to read. The characters were vivid and interesting and here’s where the narrator should also get a portion of the credit. Melissa Reizian Frank does an excellent job. I also appreciated that the audiobook didn’t end with a cliffhanger and the ending provided enough closure to even look at The Heart of the Stone as a stand-alone novel. That doesn’t happen a lot these days, especially with fantasy novels.

What I didn’t like
This may seem a little nit-picky but it bothered me noticeably and it’s something I think an editor should have noticed. The use of ‘Meliahs, help/save us’ as an exclamation (Meliahs is the goddess of the sacred stones) was overdone and appeared too often in scenes where the characters were distressed in some way.

Final thoughts
If you’re looking for a fresh and well written fantasy audiobook, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone is an excellent pick. I hope it gets as much of a following and readers as it deserves.

A Quick Guide to The Stonewiser Series

Get your copy on Audible:

Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone by Dora Machado Audiobook Download

On Amazon:

Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone by Dora Machado Audiobook Review
Written by: Audiobook Jungle
4.95 stars
http://audiobookjungle.com/

The Power of Repetition: A Guest Blog by Scott Eder

Monday, October 14th, 2013

I’m delighted to introduce my friend and Twilight Times Books fellow author, Scott Eder, whose first contemporary fantasy novel, Knight of Flame, was just released to great praise and excellent reviews. In his blog today, Scott shares his search for an irresistible first chapter. So it’s only fitting that we should begin with a gift from this talented author, the first five chapters of Knight of Flames, free, right here, at your fingertips:

http://www.twilighttimesbooks.com/KnightofFlame_ch1.html

Enjoy!

D.

***

The Power of Repetition

By

Scott Eder

I’m always looking for ways to take my writing to the next level. Classes, books, podcasts, conversations… the list goes on. As a perpetual student, I’m learning and practicing every single day. But some lessons are tougher than others and require multiple strikes of the hammer to drive a single point home. In my case, the single point I struggled with was grabbing the reader right out of the gate. It’s a simple concept, really. A story needs to grab the reader’s interest as soon as possible, and refuse to let him go. Compelling characters, barbed hooks, unique conflicts, scintillating writing, and a crisp, unique voice combine to clamp onto the reader’s imagination, tightening his interest with each turn of the page.

Easy, right? You’d think so, but it took listening to a panel of agents and editors at DragonCon for the meaning to really sink in.

When I first started writing, I thought I had time, story time that is. I opened at a soft, descriptive pace that gently introduced the reader to my setting and characters. After that, I stirred in the conflict, ratcheting up the stress and intensity, until eventually achieving resolution. I thought this approach meshed with the fantasy genre. I needed time for world building, and to introduce the uniqueness of my characters, right? So why didn’t I get any interest from the agents and editors I queried? The form rejection letters didn’t help, didn’t tell me what I needed to fix.

I realized that I was missing some critical piece to the story-telling puzzle, and made the decision to seek professional help. (Hehe. I felt a little crazy at this point.) After taking several classes where the instructors helped me understand that I needed to get to the conflict sooner, that I needed to hook the reader up front, I thought I had it. Instead of getting to the action within the first few chapters, I streamlined my writing, introduced setting, characters and conflict in a more compelling way by the end of chapter one.

Woohoo! With my newfound skills, I’d break into the biz in no time. My stories rocked. Or so I thought. But the growing collection of form rejections told a different story. If one of those editors or agents would take a minute and give me something, a hint, a bit of advice, anything to clue me in as to what was missing, I’d have a chance to fix it. Nope. Just a thanks for playing, and have a nice day.

Crap. Now what?

One of the things David Farland mentioned in his class was that you could meet editors and agents at certain conventions. I checked the Interwebs and found DragonCon. I’d heard about this fabled event, but never attended. Once I found several editors and agents on the guest list, I booked my travel plans.

DragonCon has an excellent writer’s track. Panels conducted by authors, publishers, agents, and editors, with topics ranging from writing basics to more advanced publishing concerns, run all day, every day. One of the most heavily attended is the combined editors and agents panel. I got there early, but by the time it started, it was standing room only. It turned out to be more of a question and answer session, than a formalized presentation, which was fine, because I had a lot of the same questions other aspiring writers in the throng dared to ask. And then it happened. The crowd disappeared, the lights dimmed, and the panelists turned to face me, metaphorically anyway. Their comments hit me hard.

One agent said, “Look, you need to draw me in right away. Like on the first page. With all the submissions I get, I don’t have time to read pages and pages, waiting for something interesting to happen.”

An editor chimed in. “Yeah. I’m rooting for you, but unless you hook me within the first page or two with something, and it doesn’t have to be your primary conflict, but something to make me keep reading, you’re done.”

“Hell, you need to grab me in the first paragraph or two,” said the agent at the far end of the table. “I’ll give you a little more time if you have a nifty voice, but not much.”

I blinked a few times as the import of their words sunk in. The first page or two? Hmm…The chatter continued, but I zoned out, churning over how make my first few pages addictive. I wanted the reader turning the pages of my book as if he’d just popped the top on a fresh can of Pringles.

After several iterations, and an enthusiastic thumbs-up from my critique group, I sent it back out. This time, it sold!

And all it took were several books, a few teachers, and one panel at a convention to make it stick. Never stop learning. Make it a part of your writing process to seek out new techniques and information. You never know which one will make the difference between rejection and acceptance.

Have fun,

Scott

Against the Shadow, burns a noble light.

***

Knight Of Flame

Fire. The most chaotic of the primal elements. When wielded properly by the Knight of Flame, it burns like the sun. Otherwise, it slowly consumes the Knight, burning away his control, driving him towards dark deeds.

KnightofFlame_med (1)

“In Knight of Flame Scott re-imagines traditional fantasy and forges something new from old metal–a fast-paced thriller that delivers a healthy dose of wonder. As enjoyable as it is engrossing.” – David Farland, International Best-Selling Author of The Runelords

Knight of Flame is available today for only $2.99!

Buy Links:

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/knight-of-flame-scott-eder/1116911291

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/Knight-Flame-Knights-Elementalis-ebook/dp/B00F7SXQ8I/

About the Author

Since he was a kid, Scott wanted to be an author. Through the years, fantastic tales of nobility and strife, honor and chaos dominated his thoughts. After twenty years mired in the corporate machine, he broke free to bring those stories to life.

Scott lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida.

Website: www.scotteder.net

Twitter: @Scotteder

Blog: https://madmuncleforge.blogspot.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/knightselementalis

My Interview with Karen Swart

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Hi Folks,

Here’s my brand new interview with South African paranormal and urban fantasy author, Karen Swart, where she asked me all kinds of interesting questions, including whether my books had a hidden message. You know what? I had to think about that one.

Enjoy!

D.

****

Hi Dora! Did you always wanted to be a writer?

Hi Karen. Yes! I’ve wanted to be a writers since as far back as I can remember.

When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?

Good question! I think I only began to call myself a writer after my first book, Stonewiser: The Heart of the Stone, was published.

How long did it take to get your first book published?

About a year from beginning to end. It felt like a century!

Do you do another job except for writing?

Not anymore! These days I’m lucky enough to write full time and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in fewer than 20 words what would you say?

My latest book is called The Curse Giver. Twenty words, eh? Why, let’s give the old logline a try: An innocent healer condemned to death must ally with the cursed lord pledged to kill her to defeat the curse giver who has already conjured their ends.

Who is your publisher?

I’m a very lucky gal. The Curse Giver was published by Twilight Times Books, an independent publisher based out of Kingsport, Tennessee, that specializes in publishingcritically acclaimed literary, mystery and SF/F books. A dynamic, top-of-the-line, quality-oriented publisher, TTB has more than 140 titles in the 2013 Spring Catalogue and is the home of a talented and friendly bunch of authors who have enriched my publishing experience. Check out TTB at http://twilighttimesbooks.com/

How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?

It takes me about four months, give or take a little. Keep in mind that the time invested is not always consecutive when you are working on a novel. Sometimes I’ll advance one project and then shift to another novel, before going back to complete the first one.

What can we expect from you in the future? More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?

You can expect more stories from me in the future, more dark fantasy romance, a dark contemporary fantasy with a Latin twist, and more about the world of The Curse Giver in its companion novel, The Soul Chaser.

What genre would you place your books into?

The Curse Giver falls into the fantasy genre and fits well in the subcategories of epic fantasy, dark fantasy, fantasy romance and romantic fantasy.

What made you decide to write that genre of book?

I’ve always been intrigued by the fantasy genre. I love the genre’s creative freedom, the opportunity to rethink, redesign and reinterpret the human experience, the creative challenges that that arise from world building, and the mysteries that magic brings to the human equation. I grew up in the Dominican Republic and my life always felt kind of magical in many ways. I’ve always straddled different worlds. Fantasy is a perfect fit for me.

Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?

I do. I think it’s a tossup between the main characters, Bren and Lusielle. I’ve always been a sucker for the underdog, the reluctant hero and the tortured soul. In The Curse Giver, Bren, Lord of Laonia, is all of those. He’s got the makings of a hero, but his circumstances make him an outcast and a villain in his own mind. He is weary, bitter and troubled, but he’s also dutiful and determined, and he will not betray his people. As the story begins, he rescues Lusielle from the pyre, but only because he’s hunting a birthmark she bears. To defeat the curse that has obliterated his family and is killing him, he has to murder the woman who bears the birthmark in the foulest possible way. But as he escapes with his prey in tow, she is not what he expected. He faces yet another dismal choice: Can he murder the only woman capable of healing more than his body, his soul?

Lusielle is also one of my favorite characters in The Curse Giver, but for a totally different reason. When the story begins, she’s been betrayed by her greedy husband and condemned to die for a crime she didn’t commit. After years of abuse and slavery, the false accusations destroy her bleak but orderly world. As she flees with the bitter lord who has rescued her, she finds herself in an impossible situation: If she’s going to survive, she must help the mysterious lord who is determined to kill her to defeat the curse giver who has already conjured their ends. What I like most about Lusielle is that she has to change; she has to muster the courage to free herself from her tragic past and find the strength within to thrive in a world she doesn’t understand.

How long have you been writing? And who or what inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing for publication for about seven years now. I’m inspired to write by many people and many experiences, but ultimately, I write because I can’t stop writing. I swear. I’ve tried. I just can’t. My mind is powered by this story generator that keeps on going and won’t quit.

Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? Do you listen to music, sit in a certain chair…?

I’m one of those people who prefer to write in silence. I guess my mind is way too noisy as it is! I have a writing studio in my home, a cozy little room that opens up to a veranda that overlooks a beautiful, spring-fed river. It’s quiet and peaceful, and it’s my favorite place to write. I like to sit on my favorite chair, a Scandinavian ergonomic design that offers excellent support for the long hours of writing.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book, then choose the title?

I usually discover the title of my novels at the very moment when I write it for the first time into the story. It can happen early on, during the opening paragraph or late in the process. It’s really neat. It’s always a “wow” moment.

Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals such as those in Aesop’s Fables: “The moral of this story is..”)

I don’t strive to preach any kind of morality in my stories, but I do write a lot about conflicting situations, injustice, opposing beliefs, and the meaning of concepts such as truth, faith and prejudice. Sometimes, the storyline leaves me and my readers thinking about things. For example, in The Curse Giver we join with the characters as they discover how reason, knowledge and awareness are the main components of our personal sense of strength. We don’t have to be magical to be strong. We just have to believe in ourselves.

Which format of book do you prefer, e-book, hardback, or paperback?

I’m partial to the indestructible, beach-proof, throw-it-in-your-bag, good old-fashioned paperback. I love the feel of a book between my hands. But I will confess—albeit reluctantly—that my latest e-reader has been growing on me. The idea that I can carry ALL of my favorite books around in my purse is irresistible.

Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is your favorite/worst book-to-movie transfer?

I think that books and movies are two different and distinct media. I usually approach them with different expectations. What makes a book great is not the same thing that will work for a movie. The translation is particularly challenging for science fiction and fantasy. There are an awful lot of great SF/F books that have been made into terrible movies. I used to say that I never wanted to see my books made into movies. That is, until I watched George R. Martin’s Game of Thrones on HBO. It might be time to rethink the old prejudices. . . .

Your favorite food is?

Cake. I know. Not a good one. I like carrots too. Does that help?

Your favorite singer/group is?

That would be a long list!

Your favorite color is?

Blue.

Remember to check out today’s spotlight to find out more about Dora and The Curse Giver.

http://authorkarenswart.blogspot.com/

http://authorkarenswart.blogspot.com/2013/10/book-blitz-curse-giver-by-dora-machado.html

Why Texting is a Tool of the Devil and Proofreading Your work Matters . . . A lot!

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Part Two of my Interview with Proofreader Extraordinaire Linda Au

By

Dora Machado

Please allow me to reintroduce my friend and proofreader extraordinaire, Linda Au, who shared her insights with us on my previous blog post, regarding the ins and outs of her profession and why an author wants a little OCD in his or her proofreader. With an incredible eye for detail, a questioning approach and an uncanny ability to find even the most cryptic of errors, Linda is an incredible asset to every project she tackles. I know. I’ve worked with her many times and benefited from her professional OCD, which as we’ve learned, doesn’t always extend to all other parts of her life, like cleaning the house.

In the second part of my interview with Linda, we tackle some of the hottest issues facing authors today. As the writing world changes and publishing gets both simpler and also more complicated, Linda shares her thoughts on what’s the real current state of spelling in the  world and why proofreading matters . . . more than ever!

Enjoy!

D.

Welcome back, Linda. Writers today face so many hurdles and expenses. Why should having a manuscript professionally proofed be a priority?

In this rapidly evolving publishing world, everyone can call themselves writers by simply typing in a Word document, finishing with “The End,” and uploading it to Kindle Direct Publishing. Bingo! You’re published. Offer your “book” for free and you might even skyrocket to an impressive sales ranking for the day. But you’ll soon realize that even readers who download e-books that didn’t cost them a dime have standards. Their time is worth something. The general reading public is a lot smarter than the general writer-wannabe gives them credit for. They might download your first freebie book, but if it’s riddled with errors, typos, and bad formatting, they won’t care how good the story is (if it’s any good—and you can bet I’m skeptical about that). They won’t bother to download your second one.

The publishing slush pile used to be on the publisher’s desk. Then it moved to the agent’s desk. Now the whole slush pile is right out there for sale on Amazon.com. How can a serious writer stand out with all that competition? I’m convinced that what’s going to separate the men from the boys in the new publishing world is professionalism. Good writing. Good content editing. Good typesetting for print books and formatting for e-books. Good copy editing and proofreading.

By the way, as a side note: I am sometimes vexed that readers expect e-books to all be free or ridiculously cheap. A good, professional book still costs money to produce. The writer, editor, copy editor, publisher, and proofreader all still charge money for their services (and it’s a lot less than you think it is—none of us are retiring to the Caribbean any time soon). The only cost savings with e-books are with actual physical production: printing, binding, distribution. So yes, e-books should be cheaper, but good stories still cost money.

You are a writer too. What kinds of books do you write? Do you proofread your own books?

The two books I have out now are collections of humor essays, written under my maiden name/pen name of Linda M. Au. Although the essays are fun to write, switching gears and being funny in so many different little “stories” can feel burdensome when I’m putting one of the humor books together. I’m collecting ideas and essays for a third book, but I’ve got no personal deadline for it. Next up instead are a few of my NaNoWriMo novels, some of which have won awards (in whole or in part). Fiction is really my first love.

And yes, I do proofread my own books. (I also typeset them.) But I also run them through beta readers when they get close to being finished. That’s as much for content as for spelling and error-checks. Any problem a beta reader can point out helps me be better. I often cringe if it’s a typo or a missing word, of course, since that’s been my bread and butter for decades, but I’m relieved they’ve helped me be as good as I can be when I go to print.

What’s the hardest thing about working with writers?

The extremes in my clientele. It’s tough to have two very different clients at the same time. For instance, one writer might think she’s being helpful by throwing all sorts of formatting into her Word document manuscript, treating it almost like a layout program (which it’s not), or by learning just enough publishing jargon to be dangerous. Manuscript formatting has to be basic, especially if the next step is page layout or e-book formatting, both of which do not play nicely with overly formatted Word documents.

At the other extreme is the writer who still doesn’t seem to care if he or she spells words right or punctuates sentences properly. I’m not talking about a writer who struggles with these issues—I can appreciate the struggle and I really love helping such writers. But I don’t have a lot of tolerance for writers who insist that they are too busy being “creative” to learn the boring, nitpicky details of how to punctuate or spell. To me, that would be like a carpenter saying he’s too busy trying to create a beautiful rocking chair to learn how to use a hammer and saw.

If you’re a writer, words and grammar and punctuation are your tools. You need to learn to use them properly if you want to be taken seriously. And, I guarantee you that, once you learn these things, the creativity will still be there. In fact, it will be freed up and much more accessible to your readers because the mechanics will have become second nature.

In your opinion, what’s the current state of spelling in the world?

I think texting is a tool of the devil.

Seriously, I think that text-messaging has its place but has greatly reduced the regard for spelling conventions. I do writing coach work for eighth graders, and I see a lot of them slipping into text-messaging language in their essays: “ur” or “u” … stuff like that. They don’t even realize they’ve done it until I point it out.

I realize that language is fluid, and it’s a living thing, blah blah blah. But, there’s a big difference between language changing for practical reasons (such as “Google” becoming a verb) and language changing because too many people got lazy and misspelled a word or phrase for so long that the powers that be gave up (such as “alright” instead of “all right” slowly becoming more acceptable, though it’s not actually correct yet). Language changes that come from a lazy, uneducated populace bother me. It’s not quite the downfall of civilization, but I bet every civilization that fell had already started mistaking “its” for “it’s.”

Why will proofreading matter in the future?

As indie publishing/self-publishing becomes the norm (and it’s careening headlong in that direction already), what’s going to set the professionals apart will be their continued attention to detail and their pride in their work. And that has to include the use of the language. Not just pretty words, but properly spelled, properly punctuated pretty words. After all, writers are selling their ideas, expressed through their words. Why wouldn’t they want them to go out into the world as polished as they can be?

What’s your best proofreading advice for authors everywhere?

If you have to get yourself a grammar textbook or a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, do it. If your first experience with a proofreader turned up ongoing issues and concerns—words you habitually spell incorrectly or grammar or punctuation issues you still don’t get right—then study and learn. It’s difficult to learn creativity or imagination, but it’s relatively easy to learn grammar and punctuation.

But never think that referring to a textbook can replace actual proofreading. Your own eyes are too forgiving of those words you missed or misspelled. Someone else’s objective eyes just may catch them … and you’ll be a better writer for it.

Language is your only tool as a writer. Learn to use it properly, and you can write anything well.

Thank you so much for this interview, Linda. I really appreciate everything that you’ve shared with us. I had a lot of fun talking to you.

***

Linda’s short humor essays have garnered numerous awards. Two books of her humor essays, Head in the Sand…and other unpopular positions and Fork in the Road … and other pointless discussions, are currently available on Amazon.com and BN.com.

Linda has worked behind the scenes in publishing as a proofreader, copy editor, and typesetter since the late 1980s. She has worked with many independent authors, as well as publishers such as Carroll & Graf, Shoemaker & Hoard, Crown & Covenant Publications, Christian Publications (now WingSpread/Zur), Pegasus Books, and F+W Publications.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Linda-M-Au/119278508108217

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaMAu

Blog/Web site: The Other Side of the Desk

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/austruck/

FITR-frontfinal (1)
HeadintheSandPRINTfinal-FRONT

***

Dora Machado is the award winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at www.doramachado.com or contact her at Dora@doramachado.com.

Subscribe to her blog at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/ and sign up for her at newsletter at http://doramachado.com/newsletter.php,

Facebook and Twitter.

For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit  http://twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCurseGiver_ch1.html.

The Curse Giver from Amazon

Amazon: : http://amzn.to/13oVu2P

What a Proofreader Can Do for You and Why OCD has a Role in the Profession

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

An Interview with Proofreader Extraordinaire Linda Au

By

Dora Machado

Linda Au has the distinction of being one of the funniest proofreaders in the business. I mean it. She divides her time between her passions, advancing the cause of clean writing and spotless manuscripts while also writing hilarious fiction. Over the years, she and I have worked on many projects together. She has always impressed me with her eye for detail and her uncanny ability to find even the most cryptic of errors, mistakes that often evade authors altogether, despite our  best efforts.

As the writing world changes and publishing gets both simpler and also more complicated, I wanted to get Linda’s take on the impact of her profession. Below is the first part of my two-part interview with Linda, where we talk about what she does and how she does it, the most common mistakes she finds when proofreading manuscripts, and why a touch of OCD might be a very desirable quality in a proofreader.

Enjoy!

D.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background and how did you get started in the business of proofreading?

Should I mention that I have in my office a spelling trophy I got in fifth grade? That should have been the first tip-off that I was doomed to this life forever.

I realized I was good at proofreading while working as a secretary in a small publishing office in 1987. The editor asked me to look over a printout of that month’s issue to see if I could find any mistakes, and I handed back pages full of red ink. I’m still proofreading that magazine every month, in addition to work I do for various publishers and independent authors. My philosophy, strangely enough, is more like a theology. I rely on the doctrine of Original Sin. That’s how I know I’ll always have work. When I get a manuscript or book layout, I already know there are errors because nobody’s perfect. My job is to find those errors.

A good healthy dose of “Question everything” goes a long way, too.

What exactly do you do when you get a hold of a manuscript?

I grab a hard copy of one of my job sheets (something I created in PageMaker years ago to keep track of my hours, back when everything was hard copy), and I scribble all the details of the job on it: deadlines, special instructions, etc. I also add the project to my gargantuan white board. Then I look it over to make sure I don’t have any questions for the author, such as, “Why won’t this file open?” or “Why did you send me a file set completely in Brush Script?” or “You want this when?”

I keep a style sheet on the back of each job sheet—it’s where I jot down any author preferences I pick up along the way: Are we formatting this as “OK” or “okay”? Does the author prefer “toward” or “towards”? Those are things that don’t have a set grammar or spelling rule. It’s not hard to remember them individually, but once I’m working on multiple projects, it’s essential to keep track of what each author prefers.

These days, “digging right in” means either digital scribbling on a PDF or using Track Changes on a Word document. I leave that choice up to the author. Track Changes can look strange if you’re not used to it, though it saves an author time because there are no individual changes to input. PDF scribbles look a lot like hard copy used to: red arrows everywhere, notes in the margins. I even use rainbow color-coding for ongoing issues.

One helpful tip for those who use white boards: If you’re having trouble erasing a project from your white board—and you definitely used the dry erase markers—that means you’re WAY past your deadline.

What are the most common mistakes you find when proofreading novels?

I’m constantly surprised at how few writers really know the basics of punctuation and formatting. Quotation marks and dialogue seem to be a real sticking point. Also, I still encounter authors who don’t seem to like fact-checking. For instance, one novel had a scene set in the 1970s where the main character played a song on a CD player, long before CD players were in use. I might have expected this from a young writer, but this man was a multi-published author who’d been around for decades.

Beyond that, the big errors are the typical ones: they’re/their/there and to/too/two, loose/lose, your/you’re…. And sadly, those sorts of casual errors are way more common than they used to be.

What do you like the most about your job?

Aside from being an introverted night owl who can set her own hours and doesn’t have to interact with people around a water cooler, I get a strange kick out of getting a manuscript from an author who assures me it’s “really pretty clean already,” and then finding a lot of things wrong. The author’s gratitude (after he or she gets over the shock) is great feedback for someone whose work is essentially solitary and can feel perpetually negative. Don’t get me wrong: A lot of the authors I work with do send me tidy manuscripts, especially if they’ve worked with me before. But no writer should hand anything to a proofreader and mention that there aren’t any mistakes. You’re asking for trouble—and a huge dose of snarkiness if you keep mentioning it.

And, because I find words so powerful, and so essential, I enjoy helping people polish their words so that they communicate as clearly as they can. There’s nothing quite like the frustration of being misunderstood because you haven’t expressed yourself well. I like to think I help people avoid some of that.

What are the most important qualities that a writer should look for in a proofreader?

A writer needs someone who is easy to communicate with, someone who can clearly explain the reasons for any suggested changes, someone who can roll with the punches (and there will be punches). Despite having definite opinions about what’s right and wrong in print, I also know that the author (or publisher/editor if I’m working with a company) has the final say. My corrections are sometimes just suggestions, and I have to let it go if they decide not to incorporate some of my scribbles.

It also helps if a proofreader knows as much as possible about the changing trends in publishing. There’s a big difference between someone who can eagle-eye a manuscript and someone who can also nitpick a complete book layout in final form or who can look for glitches in an e-book format.

Beyond that, a proofreader has to be a stickler about the language but yet flexible enough to change with the times. I’m still learning how to do this. I hate to admit it, but I’m still getting over the fact that “anymore” is now one word. But, at least buying new dictionaries is a tax deduction for me.

Now, tell us the truth: Are all proofreaders OCD?

OCD? Ha ha ha! You should see my house! I think I am word-OCD or print-OCD, but not generally OCD. I like tidying things up in print. I like knowing words are in a better order, are being used properly, or are in a position to make a difference now. I confess that some of this OCD spills over into my daily life. I rearrange the throw pillows on the sofa a lot more often than I used to. But, I still don’t wash the baseboards, so there’s hope for me yet.

Don’t miss part two of my interview with Linda Au right here next Friday, where Linda talks about texting as the work of the devil and why proofreading your work matters now more than ever! D.

***

Linda’s short humor essays have garnered numerous awards. Two books of her humor essays, Head in the Sand…and other unpopular positions and Fork in the Road … and other pointless discussions, are currently available on Amazon.com and BN.com.

Linda has worked behind the scenes in publishing as a proofreader, copy editor, and typesetter since the late 1980s. She has worked with many independent authors, as well as publishers such as Carroll & Graf, Shoemaker & Hoard, Crown & Covenant Publications, Christian Publications (now WingSpread/Zur), Pegasus Books, and F+W Publications.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Linda-M-Au/119278508108217

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaMAu

Blog/Web site: The Other Side of the Desk

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/austruck/

FITR-frontfinal (1)HeadintheSandPRINTfinal-FRONT

***

Dora Machado is the award winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories. She lives in Florida with her husband and three very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her novels, visit her website at www.doramachado.com or contact her at Dora@doramachado.com.

Subscribe to her blog at http://www.doramachado.com/blog/ and sign up for her at newsletter at http://doramachado.com/newsletter.php,

Facebook and Twitter.

For a free excerpt of The Curse Giver, visit  http://twilighttimesbooks.com/TheCurseGiver_ch1.html.

The Curse Giver from Amazon

Amazon: : http://amzn.to/13oVu2P