Updates! Updates! Updates!

UPDATES!

As many of you can see, I've been a pretty terrible blogger lately! What can I say...Life.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Poll #1 Results: Have you ever tried to get published and how?


Poll #1 has just ended and I am so pleased with the results! They're all across the board which just proves how differently motivated, creative, and unique people we all are. The poll asked if you have ever tried to get published and how. Seems that most of you have tried to get published at one time in your life which I think is AWESOME!!! Way to put your work and YOURSELF out there!

Now, let's talk about how you tried to get published. Most of you, including myself, have published your work on an online community. I personally discovered that this was even possible on October 9, 2008 when I joined WEbook.com and from then on I was addicted and all over the place. I posted years of poetry, the two novels I was working on, and later a few novellas I have been playing with. I currently help judge for the Writer's Guild Competitions and have entered WEbooks own Challenges here and there, earning myself a month where I was a Featured Member and an honorable mention in the Cheating Challenge with my piece of flash fiction called "Broken Pieces Fall Apart."

WEbook has been one of the greatest things that has ever happened in my writing career. (Others include taking creative writing classes in college, submitting work to "Exposures" a county wide art and literary magazine, and recently being published in WEbook's poetry anthology from 2009.) Trust me, I have tried other writing websites since joining WEbook (such as Authonomy, Mibba, Fiction Press, and Protagonize) but none have compared to how easy WEbook is, how much feedback and support I have gotten there, and how many online friends I have made.
Just to name a few...

djpr, our wonderful Donna at http://djpr2001.blogspot.com/
Beruthiel at http://www.webook.com/member/Beruthiel who constantly assists me with my historical fiction
Bennyboi at http://www.webook.com/member/Bennyboi who is the moderator and creator of the Writer's Guild Competitions
Freewrite at http://www.webook.com/member/Freewrite278 who is writing "One Thousand Miles," one of my favorite ongoing novellas on WEbook
...and so many many more.
Matt, I would mention you here, but we didn't meet on WEbook. Neverthless, you can find Matt at http://blessidmerc.blogspot.com/

Anyway, WEbook is awesome. Go there (after you finish reading this post)! :)

The next route you guys have been taking is either literary magazines or other. Now, I'm not rightly sure I know another way to get published maybe newspapers? or broadsheets? (Although, I don't think people print broadsheets anymore. If they do, let me know because those things are fascinating!) Neverthelss, however you are doing it, wright on! (Hehehe!) Literary magazines are great! That's where I was first published and they're great for poetry and short stories.

Lastly, the some of you tried to get published via a major publishing company (such as Simon and Schuster, Random House, Scholastic Press, Little Brown, etc.) or self-publishing companies. For those of you who tried to get published via a major publishing company, I COMPEND YOU! You are so BRAVE! I think we should be sending our manuscripts up the WAZOO to these people. I know it's hard and a lot of work, but boy is it a dream! Now, self-publishing I personally have an issue with. I know a lot of people who have self-published. I know it can take a lot of money and patience in finding the right publishing company. (Make sure you guys find the right ones! There are so many corrupt and STUPID!!! self-publishing/print-on-demand publishing companies out there that it makes me just SICK!) But the one thing that bugs me the most is edits, Edits, EDits, EDIts, EDITs, EDITS!!! I want to be an editor more than anything right now and it kills me when I read something that is fraked up! The punctuation is wrong, something isn't capitalized, grammar is not considered, blah-bitty-blah-blah-BLAH! GIVE YOUR MANUSCRIPT TO ME FIRST AND I WILL SPARE YOU AT LEAST SOME OF THE HUMILIATION!!!

I am going to take this time now to apologize for all the exclaimation marks, side comments, and caps. I'm sorry I'm so passionate today.

And for those of you who have not tried, perhaps you are not writers, or perhaps you just don't know how, or perhaps you just haven't tired. I will forgive all but the last! If you are not a writer, it may not be your thing. If you don't know how, learn how, ask me, GOOGLE IT, YAHOO IT, BING IT, WHATEVER IT! If you haven't tried, SHAME ON YOU! GET OUT THERE YA LAZY LUMP!

Thus concludes this poll and its results. :)

Finally, and in conclusion, please direct yourself to the bottom of the page for poll #2.

This way, please.
 l
 l
 l
 l
 l
 V
Keep going! You're not there yet. Scroll for goodness sakes!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The History of Men with Scruples

It’s good to expand our horizons and learn random facts.

Scruple. A feeling of doubt or uneasiness, a pricking of conscience.

This is derived from the Latin “scrupulous,” meaning a small stone or pebble. When Roman soldiers were on their long marches, sometimes small pebbles would become lodged inside their sandals, causing discomfort or unease. Our word “scruple” comes from this same awareness of something bothersome.

(Information provided by “The Complete Footwear Dictionary: Second Edition” by Dr. William A. Rossi, 2000.)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Book Review #4: “The Forest of Hands and Teeth” by Carrie Ryan

Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Author: Carrie Ryan
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Edition: First Trade Paperback Edition: 2009
Back Cover Summary: In Mary’s world, there are simple truths.
The Sisterhood always knows best.
The Guardians will protect and serve.
The Unconsecrated will never relent.
And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village. The fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.
But slowly, Mary’s truths are failing her. She’s learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power. And, when the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness.
Now she must choose between her village and her future, between the one she loves and the one who loves her. And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded by so much death.

*******

As usual, I didn’t know what to expect from this book. It sounded like some creepy cult that hid itself out in some creepy woods so that they could live in solitude and avoid the harshness of the real world. In a way, I was right. No cult, but these people are hiding out from the harshness of the real world. Just so happens that that harshness is a horde of Zombies they call The Unconsecrated!!! How cool is that?!

High Notes: Zombies!!! Zombies are always a high note. At least, for me they are. They add just the right amount of terror, gore, and heart-pounding-scream-your-head-off-running-scared-action! Loved it!

The general plot line was also a high note. Basically, the world has been infected and now only small villages, outlined by chain link fences, secret underground tunnels, and fenced off pathways, are able to protect themselves. Of course, the fences must come down eventually or else, when would the real storyline begin.

The main character was a win for me. She’s curious until the end, never allowing fear to prevent her from finding out what is beyond her strict and secluded village. She seeks love where she cannot have it and adventure beyond anyone’s protection.

Low Notes: Sometimes (meaning most of the time) things don’t have to be explained more than once. However, some things are explained more than once in this story, like the fact that no one knows, except possibly the sisterhood, how the unconsecrated got to be all zombie like, that the main character loves the idea of the ocean, and that perhaps if the main character hadn’t been holding hands with some guy by the river, her mother might still be alive. If you read the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about. We lived through all this with the main character so we don’t have to be reminded much.

There were several times where I would get frustrated, either because answers to questions are hanging too long or because you’re screaming at a character for trapping themselves in an attic when they should have gotten the frick out! Nevertheless, the author could have meant for these kinds of frustrations. In that case, I say “Good on you Mrs. Ryan! Ya got me!”

Ratings:

Character Development: 4.5/5
Dialogue: 4.5/5
Prose: 4/5
Believability: 4/5
Style and Grammar: 4.5/5 (I gave this rating only because I’m not the biggest fan of first person, present tense. I prefer first person, past tense. It feels more natural.)
Overall Rating: 86% Enticing!

*******

If you enjoyed this book and/or my review, please check out the companions to “The Forest of Hands and Teeth”…

"The Dead-Tossed Waves"
and
Coming Soon!!!
"The Dark and Hallow Places"

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Day Seven of Art Week: Painting

If you've been following my art week you've probably noticed me mention once or twice that painting and color have not really been my things. I've had less experience with them, but that does not mean that I have not attempted the medium, I've just skirted around it, playing with the idea before diving in completely and becoming the master of all mediums (joking).

So, this concludes the final day of art week (day seven) with Painting.


I painted this in high school with watercolor. I found it in my closet about a week ago. I forgot that I even did this and was surprised that I actually like it. Sometimes I find old work and cringe (much like I do when I find old writing). Anyway, for this piece, I started with the colorful horizon, then slapped on the mountain in the back, and finally added the trees using the good old (and FUN!) technique of blowing into a straw in order to push the medium across the paper in random, yet organic, directions.




I also complete this piece in high school and it was later printed in an annual county wide arts magazine. (It got an entire page all to its own. It's a big deal!) It was carved out of scratch board and then painted using watercolor. (For those of you who have not worked with scratch board, it's FREAKING amazing and a great way to start painting because you don't have to worry about getting color outside the lines!) I love the way the feathers turned out.


This was one of my favorite projects to do in high school and it's a great idea if you have a friend who is really into art as well because this kind of work needs two or more artist to complete. You start by finding a reference that you would like to paint. You then split that reference however you want. Then, you paint one half while another artist paints the other half. Finally, you put the pieces together and POOF! you have a completed work of art. For this piece, I did the left half and my friend Sarah did the right. We both started with a half of a photograph taken of our friends Sean, Jenna, and Dane. We both worked with acrylics paints on compact board.


To start, for those of you who don't know (Like me just a few months ago) colored pencil is considered a painting medium and a complete piece is considered a painting. So, this is a painting of a lily. This piece was completed a few months ago when i took a colored encil painting class. It's the first art class I have taken in almost 3 years and it was so nice to be back on that horse. I still love it! In the class, we explored different types of colored pencils and techniques you can use with each. This lily was painted using water soluable color pencils. (They're awesome!) You just add the pigment to your paper and then take a paint brush, loaded with water, and move and blend the pigment in. I love the way the petals turned out on this piece, but I am less than pleased with the leaves. I have very few water soluble colored pencils, meaning less pigments to work with, so the colors just didn't work out.

This is a painting of a beautiful flower. (The name is excaping me at the moment. Maybe one of you knows.) this flower is also from my colored pencil painting class. it was created using Verithin pencils. (Not exactly recommended because Verithin pencils are very hard, but their point is nice and small for detail work. However, I suggest you use Prismacolor pencils for this kind of project. They're expensive, but much softer.) I started this piece in the middle, with the really bright fuscia/magenta color. I used a technique called burnishing where you apply the pigment, go over it with white, apply the pigment again, go over it with white again, pigment again, then finally cover it with a non-pigmented pencil (which is like a clear coat). The result is very saturated and shiny. For the softer pink parts of the petals I applied pigment and then moved and blended that pigment using rubber cement thinner or turpenoid on a q-tip. this flower was my favorite out of all the flowers we did in that class.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day Six of Art Week: Ink Wash

Day six of art week is all about Ink Wash.

Ink wash is one of the coolest mediums to work in, and, for me, was the perfect transition between pencil drawing and painting. it's still black and white, allowing you to focus on one color gradation, but you can't erase. (Technically, you could scrape some paper off with an electric eraser, but only if you have premo paper that won't fray.



This is an ink drawing I did in my Drawing II class a couple years ago. It was done using quill and ink. (Yes, that still exists.) We had to set up our own still life using 3-5 different items. My items were a mod photo album, a dried rose, and a black beaded necklace. When using quill and ink, you learn to use different nibs which control the amount of ink that is going to flow onto the paper. You also learn different techniques. Probably the most familiar would be pointillism which I used for the shadowing. I can't really remember what the other techniques were called, but basically that build different textures that allow the stem and petals of the rose to look three-dimensional and that allow the beads on the necklace to look like light is reflecting off of them.

This is something I made up when I was bored one day and found all of my old ink wash utensils. Instead of using the full concentration of the ink, I watered it down and used a really loose nib that allows a lot of medium to flow onto the paper. Then, when the ink was semi-dry I went over it with a wet paint brush and smudged some of the lines so make it look more abstract and add some depth. When the sun image had completely dried, I wrote the lettering using the quill and a tighter nib.
Like the last piece, this piece was done on a whim. it might have even been the same day. For this, I used a loose nib with a full concentration of ink and scribbled in the corner of the paper. I then dropped water over the top and blew on the scribble, forcing the water to spread and blur the ink until I formed a border. Then, using the quill and a tight nib, I wrote the lettering.

This piece was also done in drawing II using only pure ink wash techniques. The ink was always watered down and mostly added to the paper with a paintbrush instead of a quill and nib. This is the closest I got to actual painting for a long time. After all the ink was added to the paper, I went over the darkest parts with charcoal in order to add a bit more drama to the piece.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day Five of Art Week: Portraits

Day five of art week introduces Portraits.

I've always loved doing portraits. The human face is so interesting and I love drawing hair and getting the eyes just right. (Eyes are the most important, I think. If you get them wrong, nothing looks right. Plus, they're the hardest part for me at least.) For the longest time, my portraits weren't looking "right." They looked fake. One of my teachers kept telling me that I had to get rid of the lines. I had no clue what she was talking about. How can you eliminate lines in a drawing? Anyway, something clicked one afternoon. I really don't know how to explain it other than the classic idea that a million light bulbs just turned on. I understood what my teacher meant and voila! Presto-changeo! My portraits changed dramatically for the better and I'm very proud of them.


This is a portrait of Kate Bosworth from the cover of "W" magazine (I love "W" magazine. It's the only magazine I subscribe to besides GameInformer, which I accidentally signed up for, a relatively short story, but I won't get into it.) Anyway, she was wearing this gorgeous gold dress with matching earrings and I knew I wanted to draw it, even though I knew I wasn't going to use color. I just used a plain old Ticonderoga pencil. I love this pencil even though it is very light. I also had a blending stub (my new favorite tool) which I used for any shadowing and soft outlines.







This is a portrait of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow from the cover of Rollingstone. So much care a detail went into his costuming. I loved the scarf, beads, dark eyes, and rings. It was too much fun to pass up. Unfortunately, it's wrong. I'm certain it's in the eyes. (Like I mentioned before, they are the hardest things to draw and it's all or nothing when it comes to the eyes.) I've tried to go back in and fix it, but the paper is wearing thin. I'm afraid that if I go in and erase again, the paper will tear and I will cry. Perhaps one day I will start all over again instead.


This is a picture of Angelina Jolie from a photo shoot in "W" magazine. I think the reasons why "W" is a great magazine to draw from are because the pages are large and the lighting is dramatic. There is always a really beautiful contrast and awesome shadows. This portrait was done the day after I finished the Kate Bosworth portrait. I was really on a roll that week and drew for hours. Again, this was done with only a Ticonderoga pencil and a blending stub. It's one of my favorite portraits because Angelina has great hair and the angle of her face, looking over her shoulder, was a real challenge.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Day Four of Art Week: Graphic Design

Like I mentioned a few posts ago, I originally went to college for graphic design. It's something I enjoyed to an extent. I liked graphic design when I could do a lot of the stuff by hand and it didn't all have to be done with a computer. I also found a lot of success in graphic design, but in the end, it wasn't perfect for me. I knew I wouldn't always be able to do what I really wanted to do in that industry. Plus, not every graphic assignment in the professional world is as fun as the assignments in class.

So, today's method is Graphic Design! 

Every year my community college hosts a Buffalo BBQ and on their fiftieth anniversary they also hosted a poster contest for all the local high school students. The idea intrigued me because at the time, that's what I wanted to do. Well, I wanted to design movie posters, but this was close enough at the time. I ended up winning first place with this beautiful poster. I started by painting the background with acrylics and then I hand painted the writing. The center silhouette was first built on the computer and then I printed it out, taped it to black construction paper, and cut it out using an exacto knife.


This piece was an exercise in color schemes. It's a monochromatic color scheme. This is another project that I made by hand. Nothing was compiled on the computer. Instead, I collected magazine clippings, cut them out using an exacto knife, and placed them in an order that looks natural.

In my InDesign class, every student was given the opportunity to design the cover for an adult alphabet book. Then, when all the student projects were completed, everyone in the class voted for the cover they liked the best. The winner's design would be printed as the cover for the book. Unfortunately, I came in second, so my design was not printed, but I was very proud of it. This piece was compiled by hand and on the computer. The background and the letters are magazine clippings that I pasted together and then scanned into the computer. Then, I modified the color of the background and added the title and student names using InDesign.

This is the page I designed for that same adult alphabet book. My prompt was "O is for Optimism." One thing I always loved to do as a kid was take someone's name and use the letters to spell other words that were the characteristics of that person. Using the same idea, I found synonyms of "optimism" and used them as the design. Again, this piece was done partially by hand and partially on the computer. I started by printing Optimism in big black letters which I used as templates to cut prettier versions of the letter out of textures I found in a magazine. I then scanned the letters back into the computer and added the black background and remaining text.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Photography

I know photography was yesterday, but I found two other photos I took recently that I really liked.

This is a picture I took just outside the cottage we stay at each year. It's just down from the Mackinaw Bridge on the Lake Michigan side. I wish that the land didn't turn out so dark, but the clouds and sun rays are very pretty.
This picture was taken in a State Park in the Upper Peninsula by Indian Lake. I was riding a small raft across the spring that feeds Indian Lake when I took this picture of the spring's shoreline and drop off. The water is perfectly clear and you can see the sand dance on the bottom where fresh water is pushing up through the sand. It's one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in nature.

Oh! and that smudge in the top left hand corner would be my finger. That just tells you what a great photographer I am. Personally, I think it adds a bit of character and will probably stay there until Photoshop invents a tool that removes fingers just like it removes red eye. :)

For a little more of my photography, click here!

Day Three of Art Week: Doodles

Today's method is Doodles!

I mostly doodle when I'm in class and it's a lecture day. Believe it or not, doodling really helps me concentrate and I don't get bored. :) However, these doodles were not done during a lecture. There was more of a point to them. Plus, I don't have any of the doodles I did during lectures in digital form.

This doodle is what you would call Gestures. This was always one of our warm ups for my art classes. Basically, one of the students would stand in the middle of the class, strike a pose, and hold it for anywhere from thirty seconds to four minutes. All of these were held for only two minutes. In that time we had to get the basic outline and then add as much detail as possible. it sounds simple, but the time goes by so fast.
Other similar exercises involved never taking your pencil off the piece of paper, looking at an object for only a brief moment and then drawing it without looking at it again, or trying to draw something blindly without looking at your paper.


These two girls are from a phase I went through where I wanted to be a fashion designer. So, I was looking at fashion designer sketches and they all looked so effortless and beautiful. I wanted to be able to draw like that as well. Suffice to say, although I feel that these girls turned out pretty, they don't look effortless, or loose, but I have never been loose with my drawing. I like control. That's probably why I draw mostly with pencil and not oil paints. These girls were doodled with crayon. :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day Two of Art Week: Photography

Today is day two of my little art week and the method I am featuring is Photography!

I've always enjoyed taking pictures, but the one thing I like taking pictures of the most is the beach. Where I live, you have to travel twenty minutes east or south to get to water, but you only have to drive a mile or two north or west to reach water. So, there's lots of shoreline all around me.


This photo was taken about three winters ago. It is a picture of the ice caves that form every year between December and February. Each year they look different. This day my friends and I were lucky to find a sunny day in which we could go out and explore.











This is a picture of the same beach. Except this picture was taken in late summer and it's a view of the northern coastline instead of the southern coastline. My friends and I went to the beach to watch a storm roll in, but we didn't stay for long because the wind was whipping the sand everywhere. We all had to go home to get the sand out of our hair.


I couldn't find many of my photos. They're all in photographic form instead of digital. So, I found a picture of my bunny! This is Sir Orin Phil Jefferson Gazebo the First (My best friends named him) but I just call him Orin or Ori. He's a Blue Otter miniature lop. He's extremely curious and has a temper to boot.

Here's another picture of Ori. I really couldn't get him to stay still. He doesn't like it when you just stand there without petting him and he would not stop nudging the camera.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Day One of Art Week: Drawing

For my first two years of college I was focused on getting an art degree. I have always enjoyed art, especially drawing with a simple pencil, and after high school I was certain that I wanted to pursue it as a career. However, a fine art degree, although it is a fun degree to work on, isn’t exactly practical. That is, unless you are what some people like to call “Financially Independent.” So, I switched to a graphic design degree. I was very happy with it for a while, until hours upon hours of trying to get a computer to do what I could do with my hand in seconds began to wear heavily on me. Eventually, I knew it was time to make a change. That’s when I switched to an English degree and I am very happy about that change.

Nevertheless, I still love art and I practice it whenever I can. So, I’m going to share a few pieces with you guys.

I’ve decided that all this week will be “Art Week” and each day I will pick a different method/medium and show you different pieces of my art that fall within that area.

Today’s method is Drawing!

All three of these drawings I did in my Drawing I and II classes. The subjects are boring, but the drawings turned out a lot better than I expected. (Sorry for the bad photography. The lighting in my rooms sucks.)

This is a form of subtractive art. I started by rubbing grated graphite all over the background. This is used as the medium tones in the drawing. Then, to get lighter tones, you erase or subtract the medium from the background, and to get darker tones, you add medium over the top. Everything is done in pencil/graphite. The focus of this piece was glare and reflective surfaces.









This is just a normal pencil drawing. I didn't start with a background, just plain white paper. The focus of this piece was matte surfaces and shadows. About five different lights were pointed at this still life in order to create all the criss-crossed and layered shadows. This is also one of the best pieces I drew in those classes.








This drawing was done using Conte crayon. It's a chalky-waxy kind of pencil that requires an aggressive hand, but allows you a limitless amount of control. I started with a grey sheet of paper and then added to it with black and white Conte crayon. The focus of this piece was metallic surfaces, hence all the tin and aluminum objects.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Interested in Getting a Novel Published? Here's How You Can Get There!

With the first WYE? poll coming to an end, I thought it would be nice to find an article that would compliment it. So, for those of you who have never tried to get your novel published, or perhaps don't know how, here is a great bit of information to get you started! Also, if you haven't voted on the poll (located at the bottom of this blog) please do so! It will be over in the next few days and a new poll will be replacing it.

Anyway, here's the article...

WARNING! Be prepared for some work!

How To Publish Your Book: Advice for Writers Interested in Publishing Their Work.

The very biggest publishers won't look at much of a manuscript unless you have an agent, but even they will have a quick glance at non-fiction work. And most of the medium sized to small publishers (which often are much better choices for a first-time author) are happy to look at manuscripts "cold." So don't think you need to shop for an agent just yet. (On the other hand, you might want one, since an agent would do for you all of the arduous work I am about to describe - for a fee, of course.) Without an agent, you first need to do research on presses. You then prepare a package to submit (about which more later) and then make follow-up calls. After that, it's a question of the book's merit and luck.
Oh! Buy a notebook and keep records of all your interactions (what days you send a package to whom, who you talk to, etc. If you submit to 30 publishers and have four interactions with each, you're not going to remember when so and so's secretary asks when you sent this, that or the next thing.

A. Finding Appropriate Publishers

***NOTE: If you don't know where to start, look on your own book shelf or in your favorite section in the bookstore. I bet you will find the kind of publishers that will fit YOUR book***

I'm afraid I can't shorten your work for you by suggesting the obvious publishers for your book. But here's how to go about finding probable publishers:
Visit a good bookstore and a very commercial bookstore (I'd go to Borders and to Atlantic) and scour the section that shelves books the most like yours. You should find as many as you can that are comparable to the book you're writing/written. Look on the spine for the name of the publisher. These, obviously, are the publishers most likely to be interested in your work, since they know the market to whom they can sell it. These publishers should form part of the list of publishers you will contact. You can get their addresses and phone numbers by...
Visit a library (any university library) and look through both of the following reference books, in their most current editions. First, Writers Market, which lists all the publishers in the country and the sorts of books they put out, as well as gives advice about how to submit. It gives phone numbers and addresses. It's divided into topics, so you can go right to the sections you thinks your book fits (Women's? Health?) and skip over shit like Agriculture. The second book is Literary Market Place (LMP), which is more or less the same thing, but a little less user-friendly, since it's organized from the publisher's rather than the writer's point of view.
From these two sources you friend should be able to compile a fairly good list of publishers likely to be interested in their work.

B: Finding Out Who to Send To

***2ND NOTE: A lot of publishers have all this information online***

Call each of the presses on this list and speak to the secretary in order to get the name of the appropriate acquisitions editor (even if it's listed in the LMP or the Writer's Market, your friend should call again. These things change quickly) for the subject you're writing about (again, I'm not sure. Women's Health? Fashion?). Ask if there are any special protocols for a submission from an unpublished author (sometimes there are weird things, like only send to this PO Box, or only mail by UPS, or only proposals, no finished manuscripts, or something else. Usually not, but if so, the receptionist will surely tell you). Ask, as well, how they like to handle follow up inquiries.

C. What to Send

Obviously, if anyone gives your friend explicit instructions or advice, you should follow it. Otherwise, a package should include:
A cover letter. or proposal, describing the book, what your friend thinks is good about it, what strengths it has and so on.
A good sample chapter/section or the entire manuscript if it's in good shape.
If you want materials returned, you should include postage etc. It's a little tacky, however, so unless you're sending really expensive photographs or something, your friend should be prepared to lose the materials you submit.

D. Send a Package to Everyone on the List

E. Follow Up

The point of a follow up call is simple: to make sure that the editor who will decide on your book, or pass it along to the person who decides, takes a look at it and gives it some consideration. Your friend cannot persuade someone to publish your book if they don't like it, or don't think it fits in with their line; the follow up call is not, in that sense, a sales call. But you should find out if they've looked at the manuscript. If no, you describe the book (make it sound interesting, but be succinct) and convinces them to take a look. If yes, you can, maybe, ask why they decided to pass. And you may get some valuable feedback this way.
Follow up even if the secretary told you when you called that you shouldn't follow up. You have nothing to lose, so long as you're polite.

F. If All Else Fails

If your friend is getting bad feedback, you should start thinking about getting some editorial assistance (people who help with writing, or packaging a book) or perhaps even consider joining a writers group. If it gets to that, let me know. I know some good editors here and in New York.

GOOD LUCK!

Original link to this article: http://books.eserver.org/nonfiction/how-to-publish.html

Friday, November 19, 2010

8 Basic Writing Blunders (According to Writer's Digest)

Here's a pretty interesting article I found the other day. While reading it, I knew the kind of scenes that the author of the article was pointing out. I'm sure I've tried to use some of these scenes at some point, but now they are what I like to call "cheating" in writing. It's as though the author doesn't know how to explain something to their audience or they don't know how to start a chapter so they "cheat" and pick something easy. Hopefully, I will get a chance to write more about this idea. In fact, I will add it to the agenda. :) But, for now, please enjoy this article...


8 Basic Writing Blunders
By: Jerry B. Jenkins
1. Morning-routine cliché
Clichés come in all shapes and sizes. There are just as many clichéd scenes as phrases and words. For instance, how may times have you seen a book begin with a main character being "rudely awakened" from a "sound sleep" by a "clanging" alarm clock? Have you written an opening like this yourself? Wondering where to start, you opt for first thing in the morning. Speaking of clichés, been there, done that. We all have. Don't ever do it again.


Compounding that cliché is having the "bleary-eyed" character drag himself from his bed, squinting against the intruding sunlight. And compounding that is telling the reader everything the character sees in the room. What comes next? He'll pass by or stand before a full-length mirror, and we'll get the full rundown of what the poor guy looks like.


Are you cringing? I've done the same kind of clichéd scene. Resolve to leave that whole morning-routine cliché to the millions of writers who'll follow in your footsteps.


I know you want me to suggest alternatives to those hackneyed constructs, but inventing fresh ways to start a story and describe a character is your job. If an early-morning routine is endemic to your plot—say your character is wound tight and sleepless because of a crucial morning meeting—put him on the commuter train with an unsupervised child darting about. He doesn't know what she's doing amidst all the businesspeople, with their noses stuck in newspapers or laptop screens, but she points at him and says, "Don't you comb your hair?"


Mortal dread. Is it possible that, in his hurry to catch the last train that would get him to his job interview on time, our hero actually skipped a step in his personal routine? Now he has to find his reflection in the train window or the aluminum back of the seat in front of him. And then what does he do?


2. Answering-the-phone cliché
Another deadly cliché is how people answer the phone. This happens even in the movies or on stage. Be aware of yourself the next time your phone rings. It's such a common occurrence that we don't even think about it. But one thing you likely do not do is look up, startled. You don't turn and look at the phone. You know where it is; it's been there for years, and you've heard it ring before. You simply rise and go answer it.


If your character gets a phone call, resist the urge to have her look up, startled, then rise, cross the room, pick up the receiver and say,


"Hello?"
"Hi, Mary?"
"Yes."
"This is Jill."
"Hi, Jill. What's up?"


(Or if you're a mystery writer): "Hi, Jill. Is anything wrong?"


Enough already.


3. The clutter of detail
Here is another problematic phone scene, from an unpublished manuscript:


The tinny ring echoed through the dark house. The shiny white receiver waited on the stone countertop. Another outburst. Chester, handsome, dark-haired, and taller than normal, craned his neck to look at the ringing reminder of his loneliness. After the phone's third cry for attention, Chester stood up and strode purposefully toward the kitchen. His long legs were encased in brown corduroys, which swished in the silence as he moved toward the phone. Ring four. He knew the machine would click on if he didn't move quickly. He plucked the receiver delicately from the cradle with his bronzed hand and said in warm, resonant tones, "Hello. Chester here." "Hi, Chester. It's Mary."
You get the idea. Here's my version:


Late that night, Mary phoned.
Give your readers credit. If you tell them Mary phoned Chester, they can assume he heard the ring, stood, moved to the phone, picked it up and introduced himself. You'd be amazed at how many manuscripts are cluttered with such details.


Even in a period piece where the baking of a cake from scratch is an engrossing trip down memory lane, the good writer gives readers credit for thinking. While she may outline all the steps the heroine goes through to make the cake, she'll avoid having her rise and stride to the kitchen or even pull open the oven door—unless there's something about that oven door novel enough to include. If the character has to use a towel to lift the iron lid, fine. But if she does that, we know she had to stand and walk first.


4. Skip the recitals of ordinary life
We all get dressed, walk out to the car, open the door, slide in, turn the key and back out of the driveway. If your character backs into the garbage truck, that's a story. Just say it:


That morning, as Bill backed out of the driveway, his mind was on the tongue-lashing he had endured the day before from his boss. Only when he heard the ugly crunch and scrape and his head snapped back did he realize he had not bothered to check his rearview mirror. He had plowed into a garbage truck that looked half as big as his house.
5. Don't spell it out
One of the clichés of conversation is feeling the need to explain more than once what's going on, as if the reader can't figure it out on his own. I actually read a novel in which, when a character said something quirky like "promptly, punctually and prissily" (which was actually funny and fit the personality), the author felt the need to add, "he said alliteratively."


Other writers have a character respond to a diatribe from another with "Yep," or "Nope," or a shrug. Perfect. I love to learn about personalities this way. The character is a man of few words. But too often, the author intrudes, adding, "he said, eschewing small talk."


If you create a character who backs into a conversation with tentative phrases like, "Oh, I was just wondering," or, "I don't know how to say this, but if I, well, let me say it this way," we get it. We understand this is a timid, nervous person, afraid of saying something wrong, sensitive to others' feelings. Avoid the temptation to explain. Don't follow that with, "she began nervously, unsure how to broach the subject."
Maybe the responder to that speaker says, "Is there a question in there somewhere? What are you saying?" That tells us all we need to know. You don't have to explain with, "the insensitive jerk said."


6. Pass on the preachiness
If your whole reason for writing is to pontificate on, for example, the dangers of certain habits or lifestyles, you risk sounding preachy. I see this problem in many manuscripts: all talk, straw men, plots contrived to prove a point but little that grabs and subtly persuades the reader. If your theme is the danger of alcoholism, simply tell a story in which an alcoholic suffers because of his bad decisions and give the reader credit. If your story is powerful enough, your theme will come through.


As you might imagine, preachiness is the bane of too much writing today (especially in the inspirational market). We're trying to make the same kinds of points, naturally, that preachers do. But preachers are supposed to preach. It's what they do. No one complains that his preacher is too preachy. That would be like saying a ballerina is too dancey.


For some reason, however, preachiness on paper offends the reader's sensibilities. If you're like me, you like to be given some credit as a reader and thinker. Even as a child, when I heard the story of the boy who cried wolf, I got it. I didn't need someone saying, "So you see, Jerry, if you lie often enough, no one will take you seriously when you're telling the truth." That's the beauty of morality tales; they make their own points.


Preachiness doesn't need to be as obvious as stopping the story to say, "And so, dear reader, as you travel down life's highway, remember... ." Sometimes obvious point-making comes when the writer of a first-person piece tries to shift gears without engaging the clutch and writes, "That was the day I learned that if that little girl could be so brave in the face of that kind of danger, I could certainly face the uncertainty of... ."


A rule of thumb? The Golden Rule. Put yourself in the skin of your reader. Read your piece to yourself and imagine how you'd feel at the end of it. Does the story or nonfiction article make its own point? Has the writer (in this case, you) added a sermonette to the end? When in doubt, cut it out.


7. Setting the scene
Because of the proliferation of all sorts of visual media these days, it's more important than ever that novelists write with the eye in mind. Fortunately, just as in the days of radio, what can be produced in the theater of the mind (in our case, the reader's mind) is infinitely more creative than what a filmmaker can put on the screen.


Be visual in your approach. People buy tickets to the movies or subscribe to cable channels hoping to see something they've never seen before. A good novel can provide the same, only—because of the theater of the mind—millions of readers can see your story a million different ways.


Although I'm encouraging you to be visual, I eschew too much description. I loved it when great potboiler writer John D. MacDonald described a character simply as "knuckly." A purist might have demanded hair length and color; eye size, shape and color; height; weight; build; gait. Not me. "Knuckly" gave me all I needed to picture the man. And if I saw him thinner, taller, older than you did, so much the better. MacDonald offered a suggestion that allowed his readers to populate their own scenes.


I recall an editor asking me to expound on my "oily geek" computer techie in one of my books in the Left Behind series. I argued: (1) he was an orbital character, and while I didn't want him to be a cliché from central casting, neither did I feel the need to give him more characteristics than he deserved; and (2) he was there to serve a purpose, not to take over the scene, and certainly not to take over the book.


The editor countered, "But the reader will want to see him, and you haven't told us enough. Like, I see him in his 20s, plump, pale, with longish, greasy hair and thick glasses."


What could I say? "Eureka! You just proved my point! All I wrote was that he was an oily geek, and look what you brought to the table." Every reader has his own personal vision of a computer techie, so why not let each mental creation have its 15 seconds of fame on the theater screen of the mind?


8. Coincidences
In real life, I love coincidences. I'm fascinated by them. In fiction, more than one in each novel is too many, and even the one has to be handled well. (In comedies, sure, coincidences are fun and expected. How many times in "Seinfeld" do the characters run into the same people they tangled with early in the story?)


Say you invent a yarn about two people who marry, come to hate each other and get divorced. Years pass, and each fails at yet another marriage. Available again, they run into each other thousands of miles from home at a bazaar in Turkey. Bizarre is more like it. People won't buy it. If the couple reconnected at their high school reunion, that would be plausible, or if they both chickened out of that event at the same time and ran in to each other at a fast food place nearby, that would be an interesting, more believable coincidence.


So you see, dear reader...oops. OK, I'm going to give you some credit for getting the point.


This article can be found through this link: http://www.writersdigest.com/article/Beyond_Basic_Blunders/

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to Punctuate Dialogue

This is the kind of thing I see a lot of youner Grammarians struggle with. Dialogue can be a tricky thing at times because its rules for punctuating differ just a bit from punctuating normal prose and may seem strange at times. However, I'm going to attempt to make it feel natural by explaining why it is the way that it is.

Here's an example to get us started...

Incorrect: “Hello.” She greeted.
Correct: “Hello,” she greeted.

Now, the first is incorrect because "she greeted" is a continuation of "Hello," and by putting a period at the end of "Hello" one cuts "she greeted" off from "Hello" when they want to be connected. The second is correct because the comma replaces the period and allows "Hello" and "she greeted" to work together. The "s" in "she" is also lowercased because it is technically located in the middle of the sentence. (This only applies where a period would be used. To find out what to do when the quoted phrase requires a question mark or exclaimation point please read on. Also, remember that punctuation always goes inside the quotes and not outside.)

Incorrect: “How are you?” He asked.
Correct: “How are you?” he asked.

In the case of a question within quotes, a comma cannot end the quotes because it does not signal reader to raise their voice at the end like one would do when asking a question. Therefore, the questions in quotes must end in a question mark. However, the "he asked" portion of the sentence is still working with "How are you?" so the "h" in "he" needs to be lowercase. (This is one of those strange rules that may feel unnatural when writing, but it is grammatically correct. In addition, the same rules would apply to the use of an exclaimation point.)

Incorrect: “I wondered about that,” he turned away from her.
Correct: “I wondered about that.” He turned away from her.

This is an example of an instance where the quoted sentence and the sentence outside the quotes are not working together. They are two complete and seperate sentences. Therefore, the statement in quotes ends with a period (or a question mark or exclaimation) and the statement outside the quotes is capitalized.

I hope this made sense and is something many people can learnt oapply in their work. If anything is confusing, please feel free to ask questions.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Book Review #3: “Pretty Little Liars 1-5” by Sara Shepard


Title: The Pretty Little Liars Series (Pretty Little Liars, Flawless, Perfect, Unbelievable, and Wicked)
Author: Sara Shepard
Publisher: HarperTeen
Edition: First HarperTeen Paperback Edition: 2007
Back Cover Summary: Everyone has something to hide—especially high school Juniors Spencer, Aria, Emily, and Hanna. Spencer covets her sister’s boyfriend. Aria’s fantasizing about her English teacher. Emily’s crushing on the new girl at school. Hanna uses some ugly tricks to stay beautiful. But they’ve all kept an even bigger secret since their friend Alison vanished.
How do I know? Because I know everything about the bad girls they were, the naughty girls they are, and all the dirty secrets they’ve kept. And guess what? I’m telling. -A

*******

Disclaimer #1: The Pretty Little Liars Series has 8 books out so far. I have only read the first 5. So, this book review will only cover the first 5 books. I’ll cover the last 3 when I read them.

Originally, I was attracted to these books because of the “Pretty Little Liars” television series ABC Family aired based off of these books. I honestly haven’t enjoyed many shows on ABC Family…ever. And the one show I adored, the hilarious remake of “10 Things I Hate About You,” was cancelled after its first season. (Bad move ABC Family!) Anyway, I was in no mood to watch another show based around teenage sex and pregnancy where some stupid girl gets knocked up, then falls in love with another guy, who is really in love with her little sister, who ends up impregnated only days after her older sister gives birth, but not by the guy who knocked up the first sister or who loved the younger sister, but the mysterious foreign exchange student for Switzerland who’s really a… I’m getting carried away and that sentence is not grammatically correct, but it doesn’t deserved to be fixed. You get the point.

The point is that I was skeptical of the “Pretty Little Liars” television show, but I was willing to give it a go. What I found was clever, funny, and intriguing. So, I continued with the show, watching every single episode, and when it ended (soon to return on January 3rd) I turned to the books to fill the void.

The first book followed the show to a tee and I was quickly getting bored. However, the second book veered off course entirely! Soon, I found that the book and television show were two different entities with only minor similarities and there were things I enjoyed and disliked in both.

High Notes: One of the best things about the book is the number of different perspectives you are able to read. Each chapter focuses on one of the girl’s point of view, allowing you a deeper look into their inner thoughts and schemes. The girls definitely develop differing personalities that are more unique than the ones in the show. There is also so much more detail in the books than there is in the show. (Obviously! Books always go into so much more detail.)

Disclaimer #2: Nearly all the low notes have to do with elements I enjoyed in the show that were not present in the books.

Low Notes: It is rare, especially in the first four books, to read about all four of the girls hanging out together. A lot of time, each girl is on her own, dealing with her own problems by herself. However, in the show, they are always together, working things out with each other. There is more ground for camaraderie and you feel like these girls truly were the best of friends at one point in their lives, and are now finding their way back to each other.

Also, the love affairs in the book are more scandalous and less believable in the books, especially the relationship between Aria and her teacher. In the books, their relationship just feels like two people’s hormones firing at the same time, but in the show, they meet, find common ground, and then begin to fall in love. It feels less wrong in the show because they knew each other before they knew they were student and teacher.

The final thing that really bugged me was all the brand dropping the book does. I mean, Prada this, Chanel that. It gets old after a while.

Nevertheless, I have enjoyed both avenues, especially since the show and books have begun to differ more and more. It’s as though I am getting two different storylines to imagine instead of duplicates.

Disclaimer #3: I know I have mentioned a lot about the television version of “Pretty Little Liars” but my ratings are strictly based on the books.

Ratings:

Character Development: 5/5
Dialogue: 5/5
Prose: 4/5
Believability: 4/5
Style and Grammar: 4/5
Overall Rating: 88% Entertaining!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Naomi" Banners

So, Dawn Zhang was the second person to ask for banners, this time to promote her story "Naomi" which is now available to read on WEbook.com. Go check it out if you get the chance. Any of the banners below will connect you to the page.

Originally, Dawn had this very pretty and dark picture of a girl holding a rose (It's currently the main cover for her book) but the image was unfortunately too small and I wasn't able to turn in into a banner without the image pixilating. However, I told her not to worry because I could replicate the same feel wtih different pictures. All three banners have at least three to five pictures that I layered on top of eachother in order to get the full effect. Then, I inserted the text which is the name of the story, "Naomi," and a poem Dawn really wanted on it as well. Enjoy!





Monday, November 15, 2010

This Is the Coolest Thing...and a Great Tool for Writers!

This coolest thing is called "Wordle!" I originally discovered Wordle when WEbook, an online writing community used it to discover which kinds of words writers were using the most. It's really easy to use and it will tell you the most common words you use in any piece of your work.

Here's how you get started...

1. Click on this link: http://www.wordle.net/
2. Click on "Create your own."
3. Select a piece of your writing you have saved on your computer. (I usually try to chose a rather large piece, over 1,000 words at least. I think the website can handle quite a bit more though. I once analyzed 60 pages of one of my novels once.)
OR
You can enter the URL to your blog.
4. Copy your piece (or URL).
5. Paste it in into Wordle.
6. Click on "Go" or "Submit."
7. Let Wordle work its magic!

I allowed Wordle to analyze my blog and here it what it came up with...


I look forward to seeing your Wordle creations!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The History of the Grieving Widow

Another interesting look into etymology!

Grieving Widow. A saddened woman mourning the recent death of her husband.

From ancient Etruscan times to the 18th century, soldiers wore protective leather or cloth leggings called "greaves." When soldiers died in battle, their widows back home then earned their living cutting and sewing greaves for other soldiers. They became known as "greaving widows," which later evolved into "grieving widows."

(Information provided by “The Complete Footwear Dictionary: Second Edition” by Dr. William A. Rossi, 2000.)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The 7 Main Plots in all of Literature

So, I assume all of us have heard someone say that there are only 7 main plots in all of literature. I've certainly hear it many times. However, I always wondered what those 7 plots were. I did some research and came up with this...

The 7 main plots in all of literature:

1) [wo]man vs. nature
2) [wo]man vs. man
3) [wo]man vs. the environment
4) [wo]man vs. machines/technology
5) [wo]man vs. the supernatural
6) [wo]man vs. self
7) [wo]man vs. god/religion

In addition to the 7 main plots of literature, I also discovered articles that mention the 7 basic needs of any plot...

The 7 basic needs of any plot:

1) A hero: the person through whose eyes we see the story unfold, set
against a larger background.

2) The hero’s character flaw: a weakness or defense mechanism that
hinders the hero in such a way as to render him/her incomplete.

3) Enabling circumstances: the surroundings the hero is in at the
beginning of the story, which allow the hero to maintain his/her
character flaw.

4) An opponent: someone who opposes the hero in getting or doing what
he/she wants. Not always a villain. For example, in a romantic comedy,
the opponent could be the man or woman whom the hero seeks romance
with. The opponent is the person who instigates the life-changing
event.

5) The hero’s ally: the person who spends the most time with the hero
and who helps the hero overcome his/her character flaw.

6) The life changing event: a challenge, threat or opportunity
usually instigated by the opponent, which forces the hero to respond
in some way that’s related to the hero’s flaw.

7) Jeopardy: the high stakes that the hero must risk to overcome
his/her flaw. These are the dramatic events that lend excitement and
challenge to the quest.

Link to further information: http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=210539

I guess the question that begs to be asked is, does this actually apply to all literature? Does this apply to any story you have ever written?

*******

As an exercise, I am going to take my novel "Unclaimed Darkness" and see if I can't identify a main plot and an example of every element from these lists:

"Unclaimed Darkness" by Aubrie Anne

Summary: When solar flares knock out Chicago's electrical grid, Talis Dodson's world falls into darkness. Chaos ensues in the streets as her and her family try to flee the city. But when her mother is murdered, her father goes missing and her brother is kidnapped, Talis is left alone and surrounded by strangers. And when a misfitted organization of thieves offers her a place to stay, she finds herself struggling to not only save her brother, but also differentiate between her enemies and her allies.

Main plot:

Woman vs. The Environment and Man

7 Basic Needs:

1) A hero: Talis Dodson

2) The hero’s character flaw: She won't allow anyone to become close to her. She's deathly stubborn, set on accomplishing her only mission: to find her brother, Jensen.

3) Enabling circumstances: She feels that everyone she is close to is taken from her. The world has literally fallen into darkness and the notrious Border Gang has kidnapped her brother.

4) An opponent: Phineas, the old man who uses children to do his thieving for him, or Valin, the leader of the Border Gang.

5) The hero’s ally: Brenner, her best friend at Phineas' warehouse. Reif, the only person who knows where her brother is.

6) The life-changing event: After arriving late at the warehouse too many times, Phineas eventually kicks Talis out, forcing to her to survive on her own once again.

7) Jeopardy: In order to get her brother back, she must drop her walls, allowing Reif to trust her and vice versa. She also must cut ties to the warehouse, no longer depending on it or its inhabitants to keep her safe.

*******

Wow! Everything does end up fitting pretty nicely into this list of basic plots and elements. I'm curious to see you guys do the same. Tell me how your stories fit the map. This will also be a great way for me to get to know more about what you are writing, if anything.

Friday, November 12, 2010

What Words Should Be Capitalized in a Title?

I found myself thinking about this frequently in the last few days. For every blog entry I write, I usually give it a title and sometimes I would have to stop for just a moment and ask myself "Should this word be capitalized?" Finally, enough was enough! I had to look it up and this is what I came across.
The rules to correctly capitalizing a title:
These are the words that should be capitalized...

  (1) The first and last words of the title

  (2) All nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives

  (3)  Any conjunction or preposition of five letters or more

These are the words that should not be capitalized...

  (1) Articles (the, a, an), unless the article is the first or (less likely, of course) last word of the title

  (2) Prepositions of four letters or fewer (unless the preposition is the first or last word of the title)

  (3) Conjunctions of four letters or fewer (unless the conjunction is the first or last word of the title)

  (4) The particle "to" used with an infinitive (unless the "to" is the first or last word of the title)

So, there we go! Now, none of use will ever incorrectly capitalize a title again.
Information orininally found at this link: http://grammartips.homestead.com/caps.html