Thursday, March 31, 2011

Left Coast Crime: Publishing Part 2

In yesterday's post about publishing, everything focused on print vs digital. However, I neglected to give a nod to audio books, which is yet another way a story gets from author to "reader."

I should also mention POD, which once had the same bad rap as being self-published. It's important to remember that POD stands for "Print on Demand" and has nothing whatsoever to do with the content, or its quality. It's simply a technology—a way to put a book into print. Given the problems with bookstores finding shelf space for books, or publishers having to gamble on what size print run to produce, it's quite possible that more and more books will be printed on demand—that is, when a reader places an order.

I was going to discuss the panel on research today, but yesterday afternoon I discovered that an interview I did for the Kindle Author blog was posted. The blog owner, David Wisehart, asked some very interesting questions, and since it's a blog about Kindle books, and going the indie route, I thought it would fit with what I've been discussing. I hope you'll pop over there and read the interview.

Tomorrow is Friday Field Trip, and we're going to—where else—Santa Fe.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Left coast Crime: Publishing Panels

What I'm reading: Daphne contest entries

Thanks to Ellis for yesterday's post reminding us to love our characters.

Back to Left Coast Crime reporting. One of the 'fun' events was the opening reception. In keeping with the flavor of the meeting, the Rocky Mountain MWA sponsored the entertainment, a buffalo dance by young dancers from the Ohkay Oweingeh Pueblo. (I tried uploading a video I shot with my cell phone, but no telling if it worked.)

video

There were two panels on publishing at the conference, and I attended them both. The first was made up of professionals on the publishing side of things—agents, editors, booksellers, and publishers.

They discussed writing for traditional publications, and pointed out that different publishing houses have different areas of expertise. If you write a book on gardening, then it's not smart for you to approach a fiction publisher. Likewise, a fiction publisher shouldn't try to publish a gardening book if that's going to be the only one of its kind they put out. In addition, they echoed what's been said so many times: Don't write to trends.

They are also not afraid that digital will replace print. There's room for both. But both panels agreed that the big decline will be in mass market, and that the e-book market will rise to fill the gaps.

One thing I noticed at this panel, was that the speakers seemed to generalize when they spoke of things digital. When they quoted figures, they used royalties and pricing of legacy publishers who controlled the digital formats to their e-books. There seemed to be a blanket assumption that self-published books weren't edited, and were of lesser quality.

In contrast the second panel was made up of authors who had chosen to take their books and publish them as indie-publishers. Here, one pointed out that part of the decline in print books, especially mass-market paperbacks, is due to a change in the tax laws. Bookstores are required to pay taxes on inventory at the end of each year. To avoid higher taxes, they returned books. Publishers followed by remaindering books. Thus, authors who in times past could have a publisher behind them while they grew a following, found themselves left in the cold.

These authors are choosing to go the independent digital route. But unlike the comment made at the first panel, they all spend money on professional editing. They also say they publish in as many formats as possible to make their books available to the widest possible audience. Most pay others to have them formatted for each market as well. Some use services to create print books, but all agreed that their print sales were a tiny fraction of digital sales.

When asked if they made money, one panelist said that for the first time in her writing career, she was able to pay her mortgage with her royalty checks.

I'll be back tomorrow with more.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Have You Hugged Your Characters Today?

My guest today is author Ellis Carrington, who's telling us about the importance of loving your characters.

I recently acquired a fabulous audio book called Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee. I love it for two reasons: The first is that the author’s soothing voice never fails to lull my kids to sleep at naptime, but also it has a TON of fabulous principles that can be applied equally well to those of us who write books as well as screenplays.

One of those principles has to do with the importance of a writer loving their characters. Makes sense, right? He points out that sometimes you can really tell that a writer hated a particular character when they write it, and that’s no good. “Absolutely,” I murmured, as my head bounced in agreement like one of those bobble-head dolls. “Why would you write a character you don’t like?”

And then one day I am reading critique notes from a fellow writer on a novel I had written. “Your protagonist is dull,” he tells me. WHAT?? Why I never… Oh, but wait a minute. He’s right. All along I had known that there was a little something missing from the character and I couldn’t put my finger on what, but that was it: I didn’t like him.

OMG!! How did I not realize that??? And as Robert McKee said, why did I create him if I didn’t? Well I think the answer lies in the big mistake that a lot of rookie writers make. I created a character in my own image. Not entirely, of course (he’s a vampire for crying out loud, whereas I routinely enjoy sunlight), but many of the things I didn’t like about him were things I didn’t like about myself and I wasn’t really giving him the respect of his own personality. Moreover, I felt pity toward the guy. So I wasn’t willing to torture him sufficiently to give her story the tension it needed.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Left Coast Crime - Forensics

After a very interesting weekend at Left Coast Crime, I'll try once again to provide highlights and recaps of the conference. My panel, Sex & Romance in Mysteries was one of the first sessions, and I was pleased that we had a good turnout. We talked about a lot of the topics I've already discussed here in various posts, so I'll move on to another panel. If anyone has questions about the Sex panel, leave them in the comments, and I'll be sure to answer.

One of the panels I made a point of attending was "A Dose of Reality: Forensics"

Panelists

Zulema Seligsohn, who translated "Poisons in Mysery Literature" by Alfonso Velasco Martin, which focused on usage in the Golden Age of Mystery.

Dr. Doug Lyle, author and forensics expert.

Priscilla Royal: author of mysteries set in the 13th century.

Thus, we have quite a span of time covered in the panel, which was fascinating. (And because Dr, Lyle was there, laugh-out-loud funny)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Everglades National Park

Last week my son and the Hubster went to Florida, to the Everglades National Park. Jason was leading a photo safari, and Hubster went along to pick up some pointers. He's graciously agreed to share some of his pictures this week. The pictures come from Shark Valley and Anhinga Trail.











Thursday, March 24, 2011

Homicide - Hussey: Sex and the Badge, Part 2

I'm still in Santa Fe at Left Coast Crime. Here's Part 2 of Detective Hussey's Sex and the Badge,as promised.

As the years went by, there would be more and more instances involving deviants. There was the guy who got his penis stuck in the intake line of the swimming pool at the Holiday Inn. He must have been really enjoying himself, until his member swelled up and stuck in the pipe.

Try as he might, he was unable to free himself, even when the pump's timer shut the pump off. He was just too swollen. His skin resembled hand-tooled saddle leather. Hours later, an unsuspecting man and his wife walked to the pool area, then ran back to the lobby to call the police. When the officer arrived on the scene, the man was reported to have said, "It's not what it looks like."

What most cops learn quickly is that usually, it's exactly what it looks like. It was.

1n 1985, I went to car fire in the Meadows subdivision, south of town. When I got there I saw the charred shell of what had been the car, being hosed matter-of-factly, by a sleepy firefighter. The driver was perched on all fours, on a gurney in the back of an ambulance, with his naked rear end stuck high in the air. As I approached I realized that the rectal area and his scrotum had been badly burned.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Homicide - Hussey: Sex and the Badge

While I'm at Left Coast Crime, I'll be sharing a couple of posts from the files of Orange County Deputy, Mark Hussey. Since my panel is "Sex and Romance in Mystery", I thought it would be fun to re-post Detective Hussey's post about "Sex and the Badge" from July, 2009. It's a two-parter, so come back tomorrow for the rest.

I won't be able to respond to comments in a timely fashion, but I hope you'll tweet the blog, enter my contest, and if you're into voting for things, the cover for What's in a Name? is up for an award at an Alternative Read. Since Jason did the cover, it would be cool if he got a few votes in recognition of his handiwork. The voting is on the right hand sidebar of the site, and if might take a while to load, so I also appreciate your patience if you vote.

And on with today's post from Detective Hussey!

I grew up in a relatively conservative community in West Orange County, Florida, outside of Orlando. It was an area that prior to 1971, when the Walt Disney Company invaded the area, was a quiet, southern, almost backwards place. When I was in high school, sex consisted of maybe some light petting, through the clothing, and a lot of fantasizing. So when I went out into the world and became a cop, I was again shocked when I encountered some of the ways people amuse and abuse themselves -- get off, as it were.

I promised the guys when I started this book that I wouldn't go into too much detail about the sexual exploits of the boys in blue. Suffice it to say that there were always girls around, literally hanging around the police station, drooling at a chance to hook up with a Lakeland cop. Also suffice to say that the "ladies" were never disappointed, no matter what they looked like. There was always someone willing, if not when sober, then after a couple of beers, to satisfy a cop groupie.

Most of those situations, however, were "relatively" normal. Cops are known to be kinky but not perverted.

The difference, an old cop once told me is this: "Kinky" involves the use of a feather during a sexual encounter. A "pervert" uses the whole chicken. I met a lot of chicken users over the years.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Conference Tips

First - a reminder that I'm giving away an ARC of WHERE DANGER HIDES. There's almost nothing to do to qualify, so please take a minute to check the contest tab and follow the directions to enter.

Due to unforeseeable circumstances, my scheduled guest is unable to join us today. So, here's the added information on conferences I mentioned yesterday. This is based on a post I did a year ago, but I think it's worth repeating.

Conferences are great ways to refuel. Writing is a solitary occupation, and sometimes we need to get out and among people who understand what it's like to have voices in your head. It's also a great opportunity to see how other people handle all the aspects of the craft. No two people do things the same way, and what works for one doesn't work for all. However, there's always a tidbit to be gleaned, and usually a way to adapt it for one's own writing process. Kind of like 3 days of blog-crawling, but with live people.

On that note, I'll share a few things I've learned from attending conferences, in no particular order of importance.

1. Have copies of your receipts. Nothing like finding out they've lost your registration or meal choices or room reservation to start things off on a stressful note. And, the way my life works, if you have them, you won't need them.

2. Bring your own tote if you have one. Although most conferences hand out tote bags, they all look alike. If you bring one from a different conference, you're less likely to have it picked up by mistake. (I also bring my own badge holder—the kind with compartments from another conference, just in case they give you a simple plastic one. This way, I've got a secure place for my badge, meal tickets, a little cash and other vitals—like bookmarks.)

Monday, March 21, 2011

To Conference or Not To Conference?

What I'm reading: Dying for a Date, by Cindy Sample

In two days, I'll be on the road to Santa Fe for the Left Coast Crime conference. It's the first time I've attended this one, and I'm looking forward to meeting new authors, many of whom are names from internet groups.

Why go to conferences? They're expensive, after all, and unless you're a big enough name to be a featured speaker, you're going to have to pay for transportation, lodging, meals, and registration fees. But there's a lot to be gained as well.

What should you look for?
What's the target audience of the conference? I lean toward romance conferences, because that's where my books fall, but I also attended SleuthFest, a mystery conference for years, because my books all have mystery themes. Left Coast Crime is a relatively small, regional conference, and since I couldn't get back to Florida for SleuthFest, I decided to try this one. The fact that it's driveable helped a lot. (I admit that when I signed up to attend, there was the distant hope that I'd be joining the ranks of mystery writers, but that didn't happen). But even though my books fall into the romance genre, I still consider them mysteries.

Is the conference geared toward readers or authors? Reader conferences tend to be geared toward 'fun' and they're a way to meet readers as well as authors. Publishers might showcase their authors, there are games, meet-and-greets, and a lot of social events. Author conferences are geared toward the professional side. Agents and editors often accept pitches, so you can try to move up a rung on the ladder toward publications. Sessions cover professional and craft topics, so you can learn more about all the aspects of writing.

How big is the conference? Are you going to be a small fish in a huge pond? Large conferences might be overwhelming, but this might be your chance to meet a LOT of industry professionals. Smaller conferences won't have as many agents and editors, but there's less competition for slots, and you might feel less like an outsider if you're new.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Fonthill Castle

This week, more photos from Jason. These are from Fonthill Castle

Fonthill Castle was built at the turn of the 20th century by the eccentric Henry Mercer. Mercer built the castle as a modern twist on medieval architecture. Fonthill is built from reinforced concrete and has modern (for the time) amenities like running water and electricity.

Henry Mercer filled his castle with archeological finds that he collected during his lifetime, including ancient Babylonian tablets. The ceilings in many of the rooms are decorated with tiles from the Mercer Tile Factory nearby.












Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day in Northern Ireland

What I'm reading: The Tycoon's Perfect Match, by Christine Wenger; The Switch, by Sandra Brown

I realized yesterday afternoon that it's St. Patrick's Day today, and I thought it would be appropriate for my daughter, Jessica, to be a guest today. She lives in Northern Ireland, and can offer some insights into how the holiday is celebrated over there. I thank her profusely for stepping in with a post with virtually no warning. Welcome, Jessica!

St. Patrick's Day is truly a world-wide holiday, and here in Northern Ireland we celebrate with the best of 'em. Belfast puts on a big carnival-style parade, complete with floats and musicians. Most people have the day off work and schools are closed. The bars and pubs will be teeming with people, as you might expect. It's a big day out for adults and children alike. And with any luck it won't rain that much. But a little rain rarely dampens the spirits of the locals.

Yes, as you might expect, there is a bit of a political problem with the event. You will always have a small minority of people out there trying to prove some point by being disruptive. However, the police expect that and for the most part, the big celebrations go off without a hitch. I have a few friends who make a habit of trying to catch any "misbehavior" on film, as I know many amateur photographers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ins, Outs, Ups, Downs

What I'm reading: More Deaths than One, by Pat Bertram

Thanks to Jane for yesterday's post. I expect I'm not the only one itching to get up and go somewhere.

In a follow-up to Monday's topic on the marketing side of writing … a brief follow-up to sales after Read an eBook week is over. No longer am I getting ten or twelve purchase notification emails from Smashwords every few hours. Since Sunday, there has been no action on any of my titles there. As discussed on Monday, that promotion was a "loss leader" and I can only sit back and wait (or find more venues of promotion) for people to read the book, like it, and buy something else.

Curiously, on Amazon, one of my short stories, A Summer's Eve, has had a few sales after a long dormant period. Promotion seems to be a crap shoot at best. And patience is rule #1.

And now a brief sojourn into more of the ups and downs of the business. Some of you might remember that I had a project underway for a cozy mystery series. I'd written a sample, my agent made suggestions, I made changes, she submitted it. The editor came back with a request for revisions. (She wanted the discovery of the body delayed) I made them. My agent loved it. She submitted it. The editor said "although the changes were exactly what I asked for, and more, I've decided it's not right for me."

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Souvenirs That Don’t Need a Suitcase

Today I'm welcoming Jane M. H. Bigelow to Terry's Place. Jane is a fantasy writer and part-time librarian in Denver, Colorado. She loves writing, traveling, gardening and music. She has one novel published and is wrestling the rough draft for a second novel in that Arabian Nights world, into submission.

I love traveling to faraway places. I love it in spite of the cost, the frustrations, and the need to remove my shoes (and sometimes more) at airports. I love it in spite of the other things I have to give up to do it. I love local travel, too. Denver’s close to mountain passes, historic railroads, and the annual sandhill crane migration.

One of the reasons I love travel is the way it changes my life, and my writing.

It shakes up assumptions I didn’t know I was making. Sometimes it’s only a little assumption, such as street signs. We directionally challenged persons rely on them.

A man in Morocco was puzzled when I asked about the frequent lack of signs. “But why would you need to be told at every crossing what the street is? It’s the same street!”

Monday, March 14, 2011

To Market, To Market

What I'm reading: Restless Heart, by Emma Lang

Writing is more than writing these days. Today's post is a frank overview of my experiences with a small facet of the marketing side of things.

Last week was "Read an e-Book Week." I participated, and the results were interesting.

First, I'm not a marketing person. Between this blog, Twitter and Facebook, plus a number of Yahoo Groups, I have what in the overall scheme of things, is a relatively small, 'niche' market. A good number of the people I reach, at least as far as I can tell, would fall into the 'writer' category, whether they're published, aspiring, or simply interested in the craft.

"Read an eBook Week" reached a much wider audience. I'd decided, based on what might have been faulty logic, to offer one of my novels for free for that week. This decision came because previous discounts hadn't garnered much interest. Most of my discounts, which had ranged from 25% off to free, had yielded fairly low sales numbers. I chose When Danger Calls, hoping that people would like it enough to get them interested in Where Danger Hides (a gamble because that book will be hard cover only, so it's like comparing apples to hamburgers, but I know there are readers who read a variety of formats, myself included). I also hoped that if they liked that book, they'd buy another of my books or stories.

To my surprise, When Danger Calls reached #3 in Romance on the Smashwords Best Seller list. By Saturday, I'd sold well over 200 copies. But I sold only one copy of my other book, and one short story on Smashwords. I had two or three sales at the Amazon store. None at All Romance eBooks.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

And the Winner is ...

Maris Soule has used her random number generator to pick her winner. And the winner of the ARC of AS THE CROW FILES ... is ... Annette Briggs. Congratulations. Annette has been notified, and her prize is on its way.

Speaking of contests, there's still time to win an ARC of WHERE DANGER HIDES. Click the contest tab.

And -- those of you checking in today get the jumps start on my next blog guest openings. I'm ready to schedule guests for Tuesdays in May, June, & July. Email me at blog at terryodell dot com if you'd like to schedule a slot, and I'll send you my guidelines.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Field Trip - England, Scotland

Daughter Jessica was kind enough to step up with some images. She lives in Northern Ireland now, and she manages to get around. The batch she sent was from England and Scotland. And, just to keep things interesting, they're not in any sort of geographical order.


Durness Chapel



Culloden Fields




Culloden Cairn



Thursday, March 10, 2011

Handling Back Story

What I'm reading: Swept Away by Marsha Canham; Magnum Force Man, by Amanda Stevens; Irresistible Forces, by Brenda Jackson

Three books? I'd always been a finish one before starting the next, but I've got books on my NOOKcolor, which is my go-to 'read in bed' "book." Then, since I just got the recumbent bike, and it's set up downstairs, I keep a book in its basket to entice me to haul myself down for a workout. I decided not to bring it upstairs, but rather use it as a 'reward' for exercising. And, while running errands yesterday, I found myself waiting in the car while Hubster did the recycling, and mailed a box at the Post Office. I hadn't thought about bringing reading material, but with books on my phone, I can pass the time rather than get in and out of the truck.

I've also added a $50 off referral code for your printing needs. Check the Deals and Steals tab. (I suggest you check it regularly, as I'm trying to keep it current.) Likewise, my Contest tab. Entries are low—your odds of winning are very good.

Judging from page views and comments, yesterday's topic about that three-letter-word, was, hit home for a lot of people. I think readers don't really care. I know I became much more critical of what I read after I started writing. I'm always looking at construction, word choices, and all the other "rules" as I read, wondering how I would say the same thing. It's often been said, that once you start writing, you'll never read the same way again. So while part of my brain says, "I wonder what an agent/editor would say to that?" another part is trying to figure out why it works.


Recently, I read a book that had my "writer as reader" radar humming. I know back story and info dumping has been a topic, not only here, but all over the blogosphere. We've all been given advice about the following:

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

What WAS That?

What I'm reading: Borrowed Time, by CJ Lyons

Thanks to Maris for her post. Remember, you can comment on her post until Friday to be eligible for her drawing. But you have to check back Saturday, or include a contact email in your comment.

Read an e-book week continues. You can find mine at Smashwords, The Kindle Store, (click on the Kindle books link) and All Romance eBooks

As I worked my way through my manuscript, culling crutch words and looking for weak (I refuse to say passive) writing, I couldn't help but consider books I've read.

I remember signing with my first agent, and her policy was to do a fairly rigorous edit on her client's first manuscripts before submitting them. When she sent mine back, she'd circled every occurrence of "was" in the first three chapters, with a note that said although she knew you couldn't write a manuscript without using that word, or other forms of "to be", I should try to eliminate as many as possible.

I wonder what she (and many other agents, editors, contest judges, reviewers—anyone who goes by the "using was means passive writing" dictum) would have done if she'd received the following submissions. All the below are opening lines/paragraphs. For fun, if you'd like, consider it a quiz of sorts. Can you identify the source? No rules; answers at the end of the post.

1. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

2. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

All right, you say. Those are "old" books and times have changed. So let's look at some more contemporary examples.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Writing and Moving

I'm turning my blog over to my guest today, while I'm over at Barbara Vey's Publisher's Weekly Beyond Her Book Blog. Graham Harrigan from NOWHERE TO HIDE is joining me, and he's bringing his Death By Chocolate Cake in honor of the mystery theme of the day. Lots of prizes and giveaways. We'll be in and out all day along with lots of other authors. Drop by.

Today, I welcome Maris Soule to Terry's Place. Maris has had 25 romances published by Harlequin, Silhouette, and Bantam (Loveswept); has been a RITA finalist twice; and has won or placed in several contests. She is now writing for Five Star Publishing, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. This past year has presented new challenges.

March 2010 my husband and I purchased a place in Florida. That prompted a decision to sell our Kalamazoo, Michigan home, and move into our condo near Lake Michigan (which used to be our summer retreat). We plan on spending eight months of the year in the condo, and four in Florida. The last twelve months, however, have given me a new respect for any writer who has to move and still manages to keep up with his or her writing schedule. My schedule went down the drain.

A year ago I thought I would find time to rework a story that had been rejected by two agents. (That didn't happen.) I did have copy edits that had to be read, (Had to do that.) cover art to approve. (Thank goodness I liked what was proposed.), and later, advanced reading copy to read. (Another stage that had to be done.) In between the copy edits and ARCs, I packed and labeled boxes going to Florida; hauled books, clothes, etc. to the condo; held two yard sales; closed accounts; and visited a chiropractor on a regular basis (because all of this packing and moving was irritating a compressed disc).

Monday, March 07, 2011

Order, Order

What I'm reading: Worth Dying For, by Lee Child

Anyone notice the new tab above? "Deals and Steals" - check for bargains and special offerings.

In conjunction with Read an eBook week, which runs from March 6-12, I'm offering WHEN DANGER CALLS for FREE at Smashwords. Use coupon code RE100. And don't forget to check out my March contest--an ARC of WHERE DANGER HIDES, the sequel to WHEN DANGER CALLS, could be yours.

Why I will never write out of order again.

If you've been following my posts, you'll know I've been working on edits for my WIP. This one is kind of a departure, because for the first time, I've given my villain a POV. Although this slides it across the mystery boundary into "suspense" territory, it seemed a given. The heroine is running from an abusive husband. She's got something he wants. Stands to reason he's going to be looking for her. There's nothing "secret" about who he is, and allowing him a few POV scenes can ratchet the tension.

Now, when I started writing (non-plotter, remember?) I didn't know I was going to bring Victor into the book at all, much less as a POV character. But about 5 chapters in, I hit a wall and letting him have his say seemed a way through it.

Side note: A lot of times, it helps to write something, even though it won't end up in the book. You need to get in touch with your characters, and this can help. The late Barbara Parker suggested this to me when we were talking about my early draft of Finding Sarah. I told her I'd been playing around with a short story based on Sarah's history with her husband before he died. She encouraged me—quite enthusiastically—to pursue it, saying that once I "knew" how Sarah felt, it would come through in the rest of the book. So don't shy away from writing—it falls under that "you can't fix a blank page" dictum.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Read an e-Book Week - Read Mine Free

In conjunction with Read an eBook week, which runs from March 6-12, I'm offering WHEN DANGER CALLS for FREE at Smashwords. Use coupon code RE100.

And don't forget to check out my March contest--an ARC of WHERE DANGER HIDES, the sequel to WHEN DANGER CALLS, could be yours.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Friday Field Trip - Eastern State Penitentiary

It's my day at Author Expressions today, and I'm discussing setting and character viewpoints.

And here, Jason's taking us to the slammer, with some fantastic images. As always, I suggest you click on the images to enlarge -- and, better yet, go to Jason's gallery (link at the end of the post) Enjoy!

I recently visited some friends in Philadelphia where we spent a weekend doing "casual" photography. One of our stops was Eastern State Penitentiary. This prison opened in October 1829 and was one of the first institutions built to put inmates in a solitary situation "solitary confinement and labor." It uses a radial floor plan, with each cell block corridor extending outward from a central hub. By 1913, the system of "confinement with solitude" was abandoned in Pennsylvania.

Some of ESP's famous inmates include Al Capone, who spent eight months at the facility in 1929-30. His cell was well-furnished via his "connections" and it has been refurbished. Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot sentenced Pep, a "cat-murdering" dog, to ESP in 1924 for allegedly killing his wife's cat! ESP closed in 1970 and has been decaying ever since. It is open to the public for tours. If you want to photograph at ESP, there is a $10 tripod fee for photographing in public areas. Given the low level of light inside, a tripod is a good idea for photographers planning to visit there. You can also arrange a tour of the non-public areas, which is where many of these images were made.


Prisoner's Cell



Capone's Cell (restored)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Editing: The Next Step

Yesterday I mentioned printing out your document in two columns, using a font different from the one you use to write your manuscript. The advantages: Your eye sees things differently. First, the line breaks will come at different places. This means the words line up differently, and things you haven't noticed will jump out at you. Also, the narrower columns mean your eye can take in a whole "line" much more easily.

I also said I prefer to print it out single-spaced, and I use an 11 point font which is still easy to read, but saves paper. The idea on this read is to read the manuscript like a book. I'm reading for story. Here, I'll try to read in larger chunks. I keep my red pen handy, and a stack of Post-Its.

(Confession – I started this manuscript while we were in the process of moving, and didn't use my tracking board. So I was actually going back and doing a lot of what I SHOULD have done as I was writing – but either way, it gets the job done.)

And, because I hadn't used my tracking board, I read each scene and then summarized it on a Post-It. One thing I do leave in when I print the manuscript is the page break between chapters. This gives me room for my Post-Its and also any other notes I think will be helpful. I also decided that I'd never write another manuscript without my tracking system. Saves a lot of effort in the read-through.(And if you click to enlarge the images, you'll know why I don't write longhand!)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Back to the Edits

Wow! March already. I've got a new contest running, so check the Contest Tab above. And check out Daily Cheap Reads. WHAT'S IN A NAME? was a February Best Seller. Do you have a copy yet? Only $2.99 (click the 'books' tab for details)

Thanks to Rachel for her blogging tips. I'm guilty of rambling, even when I try to keep things short. In an effort to avoid posts that go on and on, I did manage to cut Monday's post "short" with a promise to continue.

When I closed on Monday, I pointed out that jumping from crutch word to crutch word doesn't mean you can simply hit delete. You have to check back and forth at least a few paragraphs.

For example, in my seek and destroy for 'just' (which bugs me when I find there are 208 of them, because I swear, I try not to type them at all), there are places where it's used for emphasis, or another character repeats it, and if you delete it in one place, you lose the feel for the passage. Here's why you need to look a little further. The heroine has just discovered that the hero is more than a single dad who flies rescue missions for the local fire department. She's met up with some of his covert ops teammates while they're trying to keep her safe.

This passage appears, and I debated cutting the "just": "Do you … did you … do stuff like Dalton and Ryan? With guns? Or were you just the pilot?"

But if I delete it, then the next sentence loses all meaning: He controlled the immediate reaction to 'just the pilot.'

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Bloggers Beware

Rachel Firasek is an urban fantasy and paranormal romance author by night, and an office manager by day. She began her world of serious blogging in November of 2010 and has since found the key, or so she thinks, to a successful author blog. The jury’s still out on that one, but she has figured out what type of blog she loves to read and which one she’ll skim past. Here’s what she’s discovered:

1. Keep your posts short. I’m busy and unless you’re giving me the secrets on how to create the perfect author banner, perfect story, perfect anything…I’ll probably skim you if I have to scroll too far down the page to finish the post.

2. Try to find the humor in whatever you’re writing about. Sure, some posts are more serious than others, but a serious blog all the time will bore me. My third grade teacher had the best teaching method ever: Entertain first, teach second, and children will absorb more. She taught for over 30 years… I still remember that lesson.