Publishing Blog

Can’t Judge a Book…

Posted by on Jun 17, 2014 in Writing | 0 comments

We hear it all the time, “It’s not what’s on the outside that counts, but what’s on the inside”. There are any number of other ways of saying the same thing, including “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” While it is true that the outsides aren’t always a good judge of what’s on the inside, we still have to start somewhere, and that’s where the outside comes in. We have to be interested in the outside in order to take a look or make time to explore what’s on the inside. I am, of course, talking about books. I’ve purchased and downloaded literally thousands of books. I have books to my right, books to my left, books stacked taller than me, boxes of books everywhere. Obviously, I have an addiction, I need a twelve step program. They say the first step in getting over an addiction is admitting you have a problem…well, I have a problem. I digress. The reason I’m talking about my…not so secret illness isn’t actually to effect a change, it’s to point something out: We judge books by their covers. We pick out visually stunning books, unusual books, oddly-shaped books, not because we know what’s on the inside, but because of what we see on the outside. Now, I’m not actually saying this is a bad thing. We use our senses to see traits we desire. When we look at a person, we look for symmetry in features, we look for indications of disease, indications of genetic abnormalities, qualities we like, etc. We use our eyes for all kinds of clues. This isn’t exclusive to looking at people or books. We use our eyes for almost everything, but it’s especially important for books. We can’t smell a book to see if we’re going to like it. We can’t taste it, or feel it to let us know whether we’re going to like the contents, and that’s even more true when it comes to e-books. All we have to judge the books by are the covers and the descriptions. Now, I’ve read some truly great books without looking at the cover, but it’s rare, and I often forgo those books for others that have intriguing covers. When picking a cover, make sure to look at other books in its genre. Look at the bestsellers. What makes them popular? Think about why you would want to pick that book up. We’ve already discussed titles, so moving beyond titles and author names, what else on the book would make you want to read it? Think about these things before creating a cover. Once a cover is created, take a look and see what your first impression is of that cover. Usually, your first impression is correct, so if you look at the cover that you created and your first thought is “Amateurish”, it probably is, and you may want to reconsider it. If you look at the cover and think “I wouldn’t pick that up,” you should reconsider your cover as well. Most of the time, the cover will click when it’s right. There are a lot of blogs and tutorials about picking and creating a cover, so I’m not going to go into that, but they are not unlike the saying, “You have to kiss a...

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Posted by on Jun 2, 2014 in Living, Writing | 2 comments

I’ve been remiss. It’s been almost a month to the day since I actually posted anything, and for that I apologize. The funny thing is that I’ve probably thought about 30 or more subjects that I could talk about, and even in the height of desperation, downloaded an app on my phone to help me out. The problem wasn’t the subject matter, or even that I’ve forgotten how to write. It was the fact that I allowed other things in my life to get in the way. This, in and of itself, has a lesson: there are always other things that we could be doing. We could be attempting to climb the corporate ladder, looking for a new job, staring at the ceiling, watching movies, staring at a computer screen. We could be playing the newest game that comes out, washing our dog, blow drying or cats, even daydreaming about what we will do when we hit the lottery, become the next big thing, make lots of money, buy a house, etc., but there is only one way we will ever achieve this: by doing. Not only do we have to do what it is that is going to make us rich, happy, healthy, whatever, we have to do it consistently. If you are writing, you have to set a specific time or day and consistently write during that time, and unless your house and or equipment is/are on fire, at that time, you should be writing. The same goes for just about every other goal that you have. So, here is my goal and/or my promise: I will write a blog post either in this blog or my other: Just Blogging Time (, every Monday. I am certain that there are times that I will miss, but this is my goal, and I will attempt to keep it. If you would like to take this commitment with me, please post your goal below and how you plan to achieve it. Good luck to us...

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Late Night Epiphanies

Posted by on May 2, 2014 in Writing | 1 comment

I’m usually up a lot during the night. Most nights, I’m up just staring at a computer screen until I can no longer see straight. I will work until either my eyes stop focusing or I do. Now, I’m not saying this sympathy’s sake, I’m saying this so that the rest of what I’m going to say will make sense. When you get to the point of near delirium, sometimes things that you were trying to figure out all of a sudden become clear. There’s that “Aha!” moment when you sit back, look at something, and can’t believe you never saw it that way before. One of those events happened around 2 a.m. on a rather uneventful Thursday night. I had been working on the business for almost 14 straight hours, and my brain had turned to pudding. I couldn’t have remembered my name if someone had told it to me, then asked me to recite it right back to them. I was pretty useless at that point, but not so utterly exhausted that I could collapse into bed and fall into a dreamless sleep for 6-8 hours before waking up and doing it all over again…so I did what I almost always like to do when I’m too tired to think but not to sleep: I looked at books and read reviews. It’s no secret I’m addicted to the written word, so it should come as no surprise that even when I’m at my most mindless, that’s still what I come back to. Anyway, I decided to read the reviews on a memoir that I had found a fantastic read, and noticed that there were quite a few bad reviews. I was devastated. How could these people not see the genius that this story was? Were they even reading the same book? Did they not see the way the person triumphed at the end? Did they not feel the pain the person had to go through to come out a winner on the other side? Then, it  hit me. It was so simple that I couldn’t believe I didn’t originally see it: They didn’t. They honestly didn’t understand. The people who didn’t like it, didn’t get it. They didn’t understand because their experiences weren’t similar to the author’s. They didn’t understand the feelings that the author was feeling because they’d never experienced them. I know, it’s not brain surgery. It’s really a simple concept; almost too simple actually. However simple this concept may be, though, it’s not something that we as authors remember when we get a bad review. Most of us want every person who reads our stories to like them, love them even, but that’s completely unrealistic because not everyone has had the exact same experience. Not everyone will get it, and that’s okay. Not everyone should totally get it. They haven’t walked the proverbial mile in your shoes, and you can’t realistically write emotions you don’t understand. On the flip side, your readers, if they haven’t been in the situation that would bring about the emotions you’re trying to convey, it’s basically like trying to tell a fish what living on dry land is like: A lot of effort for no reward. This isn’t meant to be a discouraging blog post, really it isn’t. My...

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In the Twilight of Exhaustion

Posted by on Mar 7, 2014 in Writing | 0 comments

I wish I could say I came up with that title, but it’s actually the title of a friend of mine, Aaron Little’s, poem. I read it almost ten years ago and the title still sticks with me. When I first saw it, I thought, “I know how that feels.” I immediately understood the beginning of a descent into the darkness that is exhaustion. I’ve been there more times than I could ever count. It was amazing, without any further explanation needed, those five words made a connection. Now, will they make a connection with everyone? No. That’s simple logic. What resonates with one person doesn’t necessarily resonate with another. However, the fact that it has stuck in someone’s head for over ten years should lend credence to a simple grouping of words I had never seen put to paper that way. As writers, this is what we do, or at the very least, what we intend to do. We don’t necessarily have to have an entire book give us line after line of prose that our readers will remember forever, but every author wants to resonate with their reader on some level. It’s what makes great stories great. Movies depend on one liners, on emotional catch phrases, something that will make them memorable. Walk up to any fan of Monty Python and announce, “It’s just a flesh wound!” and you’ll see my point. So, the question becomes: How do we make it memorable? How do we resonate with readers we have never met? It’s simple and extremely difficult at the same time: We pour our emotions onto the page. I say it’s simple because we as writers are usually compelled to write. We pour ourselves out on paper all the time. We write in journals, we put acid thoughts on paper where nobody can see them. We type out crazy, imaginary scenarios to help us better understand what’s happening. We pour out our emotions on paper until there is nothing left. It’s cathartic and it keeps us sane. The hard part comes from sharing those emotions with other people. It’s one thing to rip out your soul and put it in a journal where nobody can see, it’s another thing to bleed our emotions out, to rip out our beating hearts, and show them to the world. We may not want to do that, but in order for our readers to feel the authentic emotions we want them to, that’s exactly what we have to do. Emotion resonates with everyone. Describing emotion (i.e. I was mad, I was sad) doesn’t. I’ve written about this before, but I’m revisiting it because it’s so important a point. We have to show our readers what we’re feeling in order to have them know and understand. They have to sympathize with the character, to understand. If you can do that, there are a lot of things a reader will overlook…not that I’m saying to forget everything else, mind...

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Can’t We Just Get Along?

Posted by on Feb 20, 2014 in Living, Writing | 0 comments

Today, I read an article that really got my dander up. Yes, I just said that. I could say “ticked me off”, but it doesn’t hold the same weight. Yes, I’m angry. I’m frustrated. Were the Internet a book, I would tear some pages out, rip them up into minuscule pieces, then set each piece aflame. Why, you ask? Because no matter how much people of similar interests and similar hobbies need to band together to ensure that their interests survive, I find in-fighting everywhere. It’s not the Internet’s fault, the only thing the Internet has done was to make the prevalence of this epidemic much more real. News is posted up to the minute 24/7. People blog, they tweet, they put statuses up. They troll. People say rude and hurtful things more on the Internet than in person because the Internet is so impersonal. Anyone can sit behind a computer screen and anonymously post hurtful remarks about people they don’t even know. The article I read today was about a male science fiction author taking a stab at a female science fiction author. He didn’t comment on how well she wrote the book, or even how badly she wrote the book. He discredited her for the way she dressed. The first question that hit me was “What does how she looks have to do with her talent as a writer?” Even today, there are many people who will question the credibility of another by what they look like or their gender, rather than the talent of that person. I’m not just talking about writing either. I see it everywhere. In science fiction conventions, people thumb their noses at other convention goers because their costumes are not authentic enough, or they question others’ motives as to being there. In every profession, there are people who are judged harshly because they “just don’t belong”. Women snipe at women because one is jealous of the other, or one’s clothing doesn’t look like the other’s, or they have different values. Men look at women as things to show off on an arm or a piece of property instead of intelligent human beings. Women let them. Women look at men as breadwinners or money makers, instead of intelligent partners. Men believe their worth is in their pocketbooks. When does it end? I apologize. This is a rant that’s been building for some time, but it affects everything we do every day. It doesn’t matter where you are, or what you’re doing, someone is judging you, and most likely, finding you lacking. I’ve seen it several times just attempting to become a successful publicist. I’ve seen it in authors who are trying to write their breakout novels. People take stabs at everything in order to keep another person from attaining their goals. If someone wants to be a singer, they are told to get a real job. If a person works at a chain store for minimum wage, they aren’t good enough. People working in the service industry are constantly bombarded by other people venting frustrations that aren’t even related to what the customer wants from the service worker. The list goes on and on, which leads to my question: Can’t we just get along? One person is not better than another. We all...

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Nothing Personal

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Writing | 2 comments

I hear it all the time: “It’s nothing personal.” What does that mean anyway? Usually, that phrase is connected to strong emotions from the person being told it, and rightly so. If it was nothing personal, it wouldn’t need to be said. This actually isn’t a vent about the phrase, nor is it a plea to some unsuspecting person to not take something personally. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. As writers, we are told to write what we know, and there’s good reason for this advice. We cannot faithfully write something that we know nothing about. A reader’s reasonable suspension of disbelief will go right out the window if we have not studied our subject, if we do not know what we are talking about. That includes emotion. One cannot write emotion if one doesn’t understand emotion. If we’ve never experienced love, heartbreak, embarrassment, hate, anger, happiness, how can we convey those emotions to our readers? My last post was about observing emotion in other people, how it makes them look. With this blog, I’m turning it inward. So, here’s my proposal: Take it personally. Feel the emotions you were granted as a human being. Explore what they mean. Describe them. Write them down if you can, when you are feeling them. I’m not saying to take your frustrations out on anyone, I’ve been in the customer service business long enough to know one person can wreck your entire day, and most of the time, their anger isn’t even directed at the person with whom they are yelling. What I’m saying is to feel your emotions. Take a moment to assess what a particular emotion does to you. Therapists call it being in the moment, and sometimes, it can almost be described as a spiritual experience. Be the observer of your own emotion. Think about where you are. Think about what your muscles are doing. Did you hunch your shoulders? Did you thrust your chin out? Did you feel pulsing in your forehead? Did you hear the blood pounding in your ears? If you have a mirror, take a look. Is your face red? Is it pale? When you start feeling an emotion, stop and take a look at what it does to you.  Have you ever laughed so hard you felt like you’d just done 50 crunches? What was your face doing at the time? Did you squint your eyes? Did tears run down your face? What thoughts ran through your head when you were in that moment? No matter how ridiculous those thoughts are, observe them. I remember being angry and frowning so hard one time that I worried I would have permanent frown lines. I was surprised that other people had the same thoughts when they were angry. Writers are tasked with the incredible burden of tearing our souls out and putting them on paper. It’s a long, sometimes extremely painful, process, but if we do it right, our readers will feel what we feel, they will identify with the characters in our stories. They will want to read more. A reader isn’t stupid or unobservant, though. Most readers can spot contrived emotions and scenes paragraphs away. The only way to sound truly genuine is to be truly genuine, and we can only do that if we...

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Showing Emotion

Posted by on Dec 15, 2013 in Writing | 0 comments

I know I’ve talked before about showing and not telling, it’s an incredibly important part of the craft of writing. Showing something instead of telling brings the reader into the story. It makes them feel the character. It makes them empathize with the hero or heroine. It takes them into the emotions, transports them into the world you’ve created. To reiterate, showing versus telling is the difference between saying, “She was sad.” and “She took a shuddering breath as tears continued to course down her face. She hugged herself as she tried to regain control over herself.” I could continue that line, but I think it illustrates my point. Showing emotion is one of the most complex and difficult parts of good writing. Just like when we watch actors on the big screen, we can see through awkward parts where the writing is forced or unrealistic. We look at the character as a whole and say, “He’d never act like that,” when the hero, who’s been calm and collected, even humorous at times, all of a sudden goes completely insane, throwing things, or panics and cowers in a corner. It immediately takes us out of a story when the main character does something completely not…him or her. All reasonable suspension of disbelief suddenly goes out the window. So, what am I getting at here? First, I want to emphasize that consistency is extremely important, especially when talking about characters’ emotions and actions. Without consistency in characters, there is no story. There is nothing that will turn a reader off faster than a character doing something that they just wouldn’t do, and especially without reason. Second, I want to talk about getting the readers to feel the emotions on the page. How do we do that? Practice. But how do you practice emotion? Simple. Watch people. Watch them when they’re happy, when they’re sad, when they’re angry. Watch unguarded moments between two or more people. Don’t just look at their faces, but look at the full picture. Look at the way the person stands, look at where their arms are. How do they move? What type of movement is it? Is it a jerky movement? Is it precise? What do they sound like? Look where the tension is. Did they bunch up their shoulders? Slump them? Write down the movements, the impressions, the feelings. This is best done in the real world, not on films or movies. Actors are wonderful. They have to think about and then conjure up emotions that they may not be feeling and make an audience believe it. However, to really see emotion, one has to see it in real life. Watching people is a skill just like any other and it takes practice to understand what’s really going on, but being able to capture authentic emotion is one of the most difficult and important tasks a writer has to complete when creating a world. Without the reader being able to empathize with the characters, the story goes...

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South Carolina Writer’s Workshop

Posted by on Oct 30, 2013 in Writing | 3 comments

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of going to South Carolina as a guest speaker there. I prepared for weeks, I put together note cards and went over exactly what I was going to say. I made a mental list of everything I was going to pack. I usually write it down and check it off, but since it was one day not three like I usually do, I figured I could survive. I forgot a few things, but I did survive. We drove there, which even the drive up was nice. The event was wonderful, the hosts were gracious and kind. I had a lot of fun. I can’t thank the hosts enough for their generosity and warmth. They had never met me, had only talked to me in email, but they treated me like I was one of their own. The sessions went swimmingly and the participants had great questions. What I didn’t expect, and I totally should, was how much I learned. Let’s face it, presenters are often in a room either alone or with a few presenters. We don’t often go to other people’s panels because we’re busy doing our own. When the final panel came around, it was time for everyone to present at the same time on his or her particular field, and answer whatever questions arose. I think, no matter who presented there, the other presenters got information that they could take home with them, and that speaks a lot about the presenters there. We were all writing things down or filing things away as information to be used at a later time. That is the sign of a good, even great, symposium, when the presenters learn things from each other. So, South Carolina Writer’s Workshop, thank you! I hope to see you again next...

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What is an author?

Posted by on Sep 3, 2013 in Writing | 1 comment

I was going through some of the stuff I used to write and thinking about how much I love and miss it when I’m not doing something creative. I miss my characters, their antics and their lives. I miss the imaginary world they live in and the “what ifs” of it all. That got me to thinking: What makes an author? defines an author as: “the maker of anything; creator; originator”. Authors are the creators of worlds. They are the imaginers, the people who look at the world and wonder. They create futures. They end worlds. Being an author isn’t easy. It’s not a path most people choose, it’s chosen for them. There are ideas constantly swimming in their heads bugging them day and night. An author understands sleep deprivation. They understand that if they don’t have pen and paper by their beds, they need to get up and write down what’s going through their heads or else it will be gone forever. An author understands losing time when writing, losing hours and even days; of forgoing sleep and food because the story has them by the throat and won’t let up until it’s done. An author looks at things as they would relate to stories. An author could see something on the side of the road and think of a thousand ways to use it in a story. An author has hundreds of story ideas, notes scribbled on the backs of receipts, papers stuffed in nooks and drawers. Every sentence is ripped from our beings like a physical limb. Words and sentences we put on paper are part of us, part of our experience. We put ourselves into everything we write. Our emotions go into our writing, our lives. We sometimes pull pieces of our souls out in order to connect to our audiences, and if we get bad reviews, it’s like we as people are being judged and found wanting. And yet, we still need to put words to paper, we still need someone to share our pain and our troubles, our trials and the trials of our characters. Authors are gluttons for punishment, but when we finally have a finished product, when we have finished one of the numerous stories haunting us, have sent it off for better or worse, it makes it all worth...

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Warning: Do Not Feed the Readers

Posted by on Jun 27, 2013 in Writing | 0 comments

It’s a common mistake, one we all make when trying to find the balance between assuming the reader knows nothing and assuming the reader has a Master’s Degree: We all feed our readers. It’s sometimes difficult to put into words what we see in our heads, so we try to explain a character’s feelings instead of showing them. We tell our readers He was angry instead of something like His eyes flashed and he balled his fists. I watched the mottled red creeping up his neck and into his face as he spat, “Get the hell out of here.”  We tend to cheat when it comes to how a character will react. We get into their heads when convenient instead of once again showing the reader what we’re talking about. When we have something unusual happen in a story, instead of feeding our readers: He was utterly shocked at the result of the experiment, why not show it: He stood up and brushed the ashes off his now-charred lab coat. As he looked around, wide eyed at the destruction, the melted glass and debris of his once-pristine lab, he said, “Well, that wasn’t supposed to happen.” Not only does showing and not telling involve the readers more, it can endear the characters to the readers. We don’t want to know every thought in every person’s head, especially if there is a villain. It takes the fun and the mystery out of the story. By showing our readers clues about the characters, we reveal so much more about our story and our characters than putting their emotions and thoughts on a plate, handing it to our readers and spoon feeding...

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