Friday, January 15, 2010

Fabulously Fun Friday: The Right Pen Name

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Going into Space--Cyber Space, That Is

AC is honored to present a guest post from author Gail Pallotta. Gail, who once worked as an editor and a copywriter, has published one hundred freelance articles and two books. While some of her articles are included in anthologies, two of her historical pieces ended up in museums. In 2004, the year she published her first book, Now Is the Time, the American Christian Writers Association named her a regional writer of the year. Her most recent book, Love Turns the Tide, an inspirational romance with a bit of mystery, was released this past August, by Awe-Struck E-books. Gail’s Web site is http://www.gailpallotta.com and her blog site is http://gailpallotta.blogspot.com.

Today, Gail is giving us a peek into the wave of the future: the world of electronic books and publishing.


A computer klutz, I’m the last person who should be let loose on the internet. But one day two years ago I was surfing the web and found an E-publisher, Awe-Struck E-Books. They were sponsoring a contest for an inspirational short novel. Since I had worked very hard on a Christian romance and had neither a publisher nor an agent, I asked myself, Why not enter? The odds that I’d win the prize, publication, were slim. If I did I could easily figure out the technicalities of e-books, couldn’t I? A few months after I sent the manuscript I received a contract. After I gasped in surprise and wondered how I’d find my way around cyber space I started my adventure. For those who would like to cross the threshold into the world of e-publishing here are a few tips.

Before submitting your work read about the publisher online. Check the categories they feature to see if your book falls into one of them. Once you’ve decided it’s a good place for your manuscript read the publisher’s guidelines carefully.

Even those who have a stellar memory shouldn’t simply read over the directions
for submitting and try to remember how to do every task. Instead, print out the instructions and complete them one step at a time.

After acceptance read the contract carefully. If you have questions ask. A good publisher will not mind answering them. Once all the paperwork is completed you’re ready to enter the big E.

Get better acquainted with the computer. Create a manuscript about something, such as a trip to the grocery, that won’t be a big loss if it floats into cyber space and never returns. Using it, experiment with the icons on the toolbar at the top of the screen. I once believed that touching them would cause them to self-destruct. That’s not true.

After successfully learning the functions of the icons on your throw-away story pull up the real book, story or article and begin working. Just for good measure save an extra copy.

Don’t get discouraged after you have switched, changed and altered the pages only to find you need to do one more thing, and you don’t understand how to do it. That happened for me after I finished my manuscript, following all the instructions for indentations, paragraphs and spacing. I was ready to wrap up my book and send it, when I read the name of the person who should receive my Word document. What was Word? My book was in Works. I got a sinking feeling. After all that work I needed a different computer that saved files in Word! But I told myself, Don’t panic. I mentioned my predicament to a friend, who explained that I could find Word under the “Save As” tab. I changed the book in a flash. Ask for advice, when you need it. If there’s anything people need to share nowadays it’s their knowledge of computers. I doubt any one person corners the market on all of it.

When the publisher requests that you use something you can’t find on your computer, look for it in a different way. It’s probably just hidden. For instance, my program has a tab for copy and paste. When I converted my manuscript to Word, I couldn’t find it. But once again I called on a friend who said, “Highlight the passage. Then, click in the middle of the page. When you can’t find something on Word, always click in the middle of the page.” Thankful for this direction, which I never found in my computer’s “Help” category, I tried it, and it worked.

Not everyone speaks the same computer language. Here again, if you don’t understand a term, ask. Not long after my book had been accepted I read a memo to all the authors from the editor. It said those of us who had Web sites could have buttons on our Web pages, so visitors to the sites could click on them and order books. When I asked about the button, I learned it’s another word for a link.

About E-Books. Since E-books use no paper the cost of producing them is less than it is for print books, so an E-book publisher can afford to pay a higher royalty. However, E-books sell for less than print books. My publisher, Awe-Struck Publishing, pays forty-five percent royalty on E-books, which sell for $4.99. Awe-Struck E-books are copyrighted and have their own ISBN number, so they can be tracked in cyberland. Not only can E-books be downloaded to a number of reading devices, including the Sony Reader and Kindle, they also can be downloaded as PDF files to a computer or laptop. They can be transferred to a disk and stored easily for traveling. The disks are ideal for military personnel who are often in areas where they can’t get a download, and they don’t have enough room to pack thick printed books. The future of E-books is as big as the internet.

I’ve been asked if I think E-books mean the end of print books. I doubt it. There are a number of people who prefer to hold a book in their hands. Some say they like to feel the paper while others enjoy the smell of a book. But, I do believe the first time someone downloads an E-book to his or her laptop or puts a disk in either of them, kicks back, props up and clicks the pages, he or she will be hooked.

The fringe benefit -- probably most importantly, be happy with the new-found way of communicating. I’ve met so many people. My internet friends include a great publishing staff and other authors at Awe-Struck. But that’s not all, there are even more writers with interests similar to mine on many Web sites and blogs in cyber space!
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Monday, January 11, 2010

And the Beat Goes On: Action Beats in Dialogue

Dialogue. It’s one of the most important tools used in story telling, yet for many it is a thorn in the side. The problem doesn’t come from within the quotes, but in the little areas outside them that tell us who is talking. There are several ways to tag dialogue, but I want to concentrate on the action beat.

Action beats can be multi-functional. For instance, they not only tell us who the dialogue line belongs to, they also provide movement for the characters and keep the reader in the scene. However, when they are over-used–when action is tagged onto every single line of dialogue–the conversation between characters becomes cumbersome and encourages your readers to just skim through things you’ve painstakingly written. Action is usually best sprinkled gently, like a strong spice to a delicate dish.

In the following scene, Claire and her sister, Nina, are preparing their products for a county fair while discussing the disappearance of an elderly friend:

“I bet Mason has something to do with Bessie’s disappearance.” Claire tested the seals on her homemade jams and jellies. “There’s just something about the way he acted that just makes my skin crawl.”

At the kitchen table, Nina stopped attaching price tags to her beaded jewelry to stare at her sister. “You don’t really think he would do something to his aunt do you?"

“I don’t know what to think, but I wouldn’t put anything past him.”

“Oh, come on. I just can’t see it.” Nina rested her forearms on the table, her jewelry forgotten for the moment. “Why do you hate him so much anyway?”

“You mean his getting our brother arrested isn't enough?”

“I was too young to know what all that was about.”

“It burns my biscuits every time I think about it.” Claire leaned a hip against the counter. “It was back when Bobby worked for the Stanfields’ timbering business. A lot of money went missing from the company, and Mason pinned the blame on Bobby. Marcus had Bobby arrested and wouldn't let him out for Daddy’s funeral.”

“It always bugged me that he wasn’t there. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Bobby didn’t want you to know.” Claire turned back to her jars.

The scene is fine as is. The action beats tell the reader who's speaking and provide a sense of movement. But they aren't playing a third role of illustrating the characters’ emotions. If, instead of leaning a hip against the counter, Claire had squeezed her lips into a thin line, the reader could feel her emotions better.

When used to enhance or contradict what the characters are saying, action beats can pump up the tension. In this conference scene, Debra has just presented--as her own work--a brilliant marketing strategy that she had nothing to do with, and her dishonesty has been discovered:

When the meeting broke up, [Debra] slid her pages of notes into the portfolio. Below the dais, Barbara Bastille lumbered toward her, her bracelets jingling as she waved for Debra’s attention. In velvety tones unexpected from such a matronly figure, Barbara said, “Great presentation. Do you have a minute for another question or two?”

“Sure, Barb.” Debra stepped down from the platform and stood eye to eye with the woman who’d waited thirty years for the promotion Debra had gained in five. “What can I do for you?”

“I couldn’t help but notice some of my thoughts being presented this morning.” Barbara picked a stray hair from Debra’s linen suit coat and dropped it as though it were a rat she held by the tail. “I didn’t realize Pete had discussed my idea with you.”

“Your idea? No, actually, he never mentioned you at all.” Debra flicked her fingers across the shoulder Barbara had touched. “What exactly was your contribution to the plan? I’ll be sure to have Mr. Whitfield give you credit for it in the next sales meeting. Maybe this time you could get the Sales Rep of the Year Award.”

Barbara’s eyes narrowed. “Perhaps it would be easier to tell him what your contribution was. No, wait–” she sneered–“we already know what it was.”

With that, the woman turned and rumbled out of the conference hall like a satisfied hippo.


Written this way, Debra's activities enhanced what she felt. The same scene can show a contradiction between what Debra says and how she feels about it:

"Sure, Barb." Debra stepped down from the platform. Her eyes flickered towards Barbara’s, but Debra couldn’t hold her gaze. She’d gained in five years the promotion Barbara had wanted for thirty, and Barbara had never forgiven her. If not for the situation Debra was ensnared in, she couldn’t have forgiven herself. “What can I do for you?”

“I couldn’t help but notice some of my thoughts being presented this morning.” Barbara picked a stray hair from Debra’s linen suit coat and dropped it as though it were a rat she held by the tail. “I didn’t realize Pete had discussed my idea with you.”

“Your idea? No, actually, he never mentioned you at all.” Debra rubbed her shoulder, soothing away the burn of Barbara's touch. “What exactly was your contribution to the plan? I’ll be sure to have Mr. Whitfield give you credit for it in the next sales meeting. Maybe this time you could get the Sales Rep of the Year Award."


As a quick final note, remember that action beats can also set/keep the pace of a scene. The fewer the beats, the faster the dialogue reads. When high stress levels are necessary, the speakers should occasionally be tagged simply, using the word “said,” so the beats can be kept short and at a minimum.

Dialogue action beats can multi-task with the best of them. Put ’em to work!

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Friday, January 8, 2010

You're Kiddin', Right?


Agent Chip MacGregor used this book as an example of self-publication quality, though he admitted not all SP books are this . . . curious--

Product Description (from Amazon.com)

I think constricting anus 100 times and denting navel 100 times in succession everyday is effective to good-bye depression and take back youth. You can do so at a boring meeting or in a subway. I have known 70-year-old man who has practiced it for 20 years. As a result, he has good complexion and has grown 20 years younger. His eyes sparkle. He is full of vigor, happiness and joy. He has neither complained nor born a grudge under any circumstance. Furthermore, he can make love three times in succession without drawing out.

In addition, he also can have burned a strong beautiful fire within his abdomen. It can burn out the dirty stickiness of his body, release his immaterial fiber or third attention which has been confined to his stickiness. Then, he can shoot out his immaterial fiber or third attention to an object, concentrate on it and attain happy lucky feeling through the success of concentration.

If you don't know concentration which gives you peculiar pleasure, your life looks like a hell.
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