Thank you, Princess Leia

When Star Wars came out in the summer of 1977, I was 20 years old. I enjoyed the movie but I didn’t get Princess Leia. Princess?  Really?

princess-passes-away

Carrie Fisher, our Princess, passes away.    StarWars.com

She didn’t look like a princess.  She didn’t wear sparkling gowns to the ball.  She didn’t even go to a ball! She didn’t cry when she was captured.  She didn’t swoon when she was rescued. She did none of these.  She took charge.  She grabbed Luke’s gun and shot an escape route right into the garbage pit, and then jumped in head first.  What kind of Princess does that?

Truth is I don’t remember watching any shows with Princesses when I was growing up.  I liked action and heroes so I watched WESTERNS!  Bonanza, The Rifleman, and High Chaparral, to name a few.  Handsome men and daring adventures.  If you’ve seen any these series, you know that women had one role—to marry the male lead and then promptly die.  Shot by a stray bullet during a gunfight was the usual culprit.  That gave time for one last kiss before dying in the male lead’s arms. Sure there were the occasional barmaids like Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke, but for most women in westerns, their roles were to die.  What was the reason behind these oft-repeated 60-minute courtship/marriage/death scenarios?  This was the 60’s remember.  Men didn’t cry on TV or in real life.  Not unless they had a good reason and a dead wife was a good reason.  Dead wives gave the male leads a reason to cry or seek revenge or go temporarily insane. All of which made for great TV but wasn’t much of a role model for impressionable preteen female viewers like me.

Carolyn on her big brother's shoulders, probably watching westerns and pretending to be a cowboy.

Carolyn on her big brother’s shoulders, probably watching westerns and pretending to be a cowboy.

Then came Star Wars and things changed.  The most popular motion picture on the planet had a pretty young Princess who wasn’t just as a plot device.  She didn’t wear ball gowns or worry about her hair.  She didn’t pine over a boyfriend or worry about her wedding. She was tough! She challenged the men who captured her and bested the men who rescued her, all the while never losing who she was by trying to be just one of the guys.  She never lowered herself in an effort to seek popularity or approval.

Forty years later, TV and movies have a slew of tough young heroines:  Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, Rey and Jyn Erso in the latest Star Wars movies.  And writers are emboldened to have strong female characters, too.  As the author of KINGSLEY, I know a thing or two about writing powerful female characters.  I have heroes and villains, scientists and tradesmen all who are women. (per the Kirkus Reviews … KINGSLEY sports “a strong cast of varied and complex women.”) It’s actually the guys that need rescuing.  I like to think that Princess Leia would be proud.

Kingsley1A2 boy and honeycomb 1

 available on Amazon.com

 

 

Marketing My Book: A first-time author’s journey

Notice something different in the title of this blog than the title of my July entry?  In July, my blog was “Marketing My Self Published Book: A first-time author’s journey.”  A fine title but does being self published really matter anymore?

 

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, Act 2

If the term self published bothers you, drop it.  You are an indie author.  Your imprint is Create Space or Ingram Publishing Services or whatever publisher puts ink on paper for you.

Part Two:  Book Festivals

All literary festivals have applications to fill out and deadlines to meet.   Be sure to read the rules and guidelines before submitting your book.  If your book doesn’t comply with their requirements but you have your heart set on hobnobbing with the other authors, it’s worth contacting the director.

I had my heart set on being part of the Virginia Festival of the Book.

Since KINGSLEY wasn’t coming out until November 8th and the Virginia Festival of the Book deadline for submission was October 1st, I asked permission to submit the final draft of my novel instead of the finished product.  I was very fortunate that they agreed.

The sad fact is that most Literary Festivals aren’t welcoming to indie authors.  When they are, they seem to give priority to indie authors living in their state.  This is where doing some legwork before you publish pays off.  I was an active volunteer for many years with the Virginia Festival of the Book, and I’d moderated and participated in panels.  I can’t say for certain that this is why I was accepted but it might have helped.

The Virginia Festival of the Book is a multi-day literary festival in Charlottesville, Virginia. The festival invites authors and publishing experts from all over the country.  Most of the events are free so they draw a good crowd.  The festival is held in March, which means weather can be a factor in its success.  A lovely spring day attracts more attendees.  Rain or snow is a real wet blanket.   My panel was scheduled for a Friday at a popular library.  I was looking forward to it.

Regardless of whether an author is invited to participate in a panel, they can still rent a table at the Omni Hotel on the last Saturday of the festival to sell their books.  I rented half of a table, which cost $110.  Virginia Festival of the Book 2015

Bottom line: Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your book or to rent a table if your goal is to be part of a book festival.

Once I had advance reader copies of KINGSLEY, I began submitting to other Literary Festivals.  At that time I didn’t realize how slim my chances were of getting in.  Most of the festivals I applied to required several copies of my book, which meant more trips to the post office.  Money going out and none coming in.

I was rewarded for my hard work with acceptance to the Dahlonega Literary Festival in Georgia.  This festival was scheduled for the weekend before the Virginia Festival so March was filling up with opportunities to talk about my book.  I was to be part of a panel that wrote science fiction and fantasy.  I had high hopes so I rented a space for book signings and sales.   It only cost around $35.  Not bad, but attending the festival in Georgia meant renting a hotel and a couple tanks of gas to drive there and back.2016-03-12 08.47.16

Was it worth it?  Not in sales.  But both festivals allowed me to spread the word about KINGSLEY, sharpen my presentation, and focus my pitch.

And as the saying goes,

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

“Practice, practice, practice”?

Next up: Practice makes perfect (or at least better).  Watch for it in  2017

Marketing My Self Published Book: A first-time author’s journey

Part One

After spending years writing KINGSLEY, I felt like everyone knew everything about my novel.  Family and friends had heard about it, read excerpts, and even backed my Kickstarter campaign to push KINGSLEY through the final steps of publication.

 

A month before KINGSLEY launched, I contacted a local book store to host the launch party.  The date was set, invitations sent, menu planned.  About 50 people attended, filling the small bookstore.

Certainly by now, everyone in the world had heard about KINGSLEY, right?

All I had to do was watch the sales numbers to learn the truth.

Over my next few posts, I will lead you through my meandering marketing of KINGSLEY.  My failures, my successes, and what I learned along the way.

Let’s start at the beginning.   I decided to publish KINGSLEY through Amazon (eBook) and Create Space (an Amazon company that prints paperbacks.)  I found both easy to use and cost effective.  Their websites are clear and their technical support is great.  Need help in a hurry?   Create Space gives you the option to input your phone number on their help page and receive an immediate call back.

The upside to using Amazon and Create Space is obvious.  Amazon is the largest book seller in the world!  This meant I could market my novel to the entire world.

Theoretically…

Good luck with that.  It’s hard enough getting people in your town to buy your book, let alone readers in France or Japan to purchase an unknown book by an obscure author written in English.  But at least by using Amazon, readers in other countries have the opportunity to buy my book.

The downside of using Create Space to print your book is that some bookstores, including Barnes and Noble, won’t work with Create Space.   Amazon is their competitor. If you find a way to make a deal with Walmart, Barnes and Noble, or Costco please let me know and I will pass it along!

Now that I’ve told you what you can’t do, stay tuned for ideas on how and where to sell your self-published book.  

Publishing: Where Art joins Business

by Carolyn O’Neal

UPDATE:  Celebrate Earth Day with KINGSLEY!  

 

Enter for the chance to win a copy, shipped to your doorstep, for FREE.

goodreads-icon-150x150

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/182002-kingsley

 

 

 

Writing a novel is a long, meandering journey, more akin to kayaking  unexplored waterways than jetting to a known destination. Carolyn Kayaking Writing KINGSLEY took years.

Plot and character.

Revising and editing.

Critiquing chapters with my writing groups and sifting through their suggestions.

 

A thoroughly enjoyable adventure from start to finish.

That was writing.

Publishing is a very different adventure.

Publishing is where art and business join …  and I knew I needed help.

Let me back up a bit.  It was clear from the first time I met Bethany Carlson that she was a rare talent.  Not only did she have the rich imagination of an author but she also had a practical head for business.  I remember one writing group meeting several years ago in which I prophetically told her she should go into publishing.  That’s why I take partial credit for the success of her company, The Artist’s Partner.

The Artist’s Partner is a coach for artists becoming entrepreneurs. We provide crowdfunding consulting, and have helped artists raise over $90,000 for their creative projects through Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

We work with arts companies and non-profits, authors, musicians, filmmakers, theater production companies, crafts persons, and other artists who seek to raise funds to professionally produce and distribute their own work.

 

One of her first Kickstarter campaigns was for  Bob Perry’s biography Bowling for the Mob.  Not only was his Kickstarter campaign a stunning success –  complete with a professionally produced video to entice backers – but his book, now renamed Redemption Alley, How I Lived To Bowl Another Frame – was  picked up by Rodale Books!

I had seen Bethany’s work ethic and her insightfulness.  I had seen her honesty, her deep patience, and her eternal optimism.  These were the qualities I needed if I intended to go from private writer to public author.  When I felt ready to publish KINGSLEY, I contacted Bethany.

Bethany Joy Carlson

Bethany Joy Carlson

First thing she did was establish a clear timeline.

Bethany guided me through how to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign.  We discussed the intense prep work needed, then blocked out the time  for editing and cover design, and then we set a target date for proofing the final drafts, distributing the books to my Kickstarter backers, and finally, publication.

As I began prepping for the campaign, Bethany set up a meeting with local director Michael Duni to shoot my promotional video.

My Kickstarter campaign ran one month, raised over $5000, and presold close to 100 copies.  Even more important, the campaign spread the word and built excitement.

KINGSLEY was coming!

Bethany put me in contact with Graphic Artist Mayapriya  Long of Bookwrights  to discuss the cover.  Honestly, that may have been the best part of the entire process.  Here are a few of the iterations…

Cover design

 

 

 

 

KINGSLEY is available on Amazon.com

Final cover for KINGSLEY. Now available on Amazon.com

She contacted copy editor Betsy Ballenger for the final review and then, KINGSLEY hit the presses!

The launch party for KINGSLEY was held on November 8, 2015 at Over the Moon Bookstore.Over THe moon Logo

It was a huge success and a wonderful experience!  Here are some fun photos from the launch:

11214270_949560598449455_2219504517921639436_n20151108_16151212219531_1062431593767435_3872466266559842479_n20151108_16535612208694_949693998436115_1437400485545441089_n

 

 

Guest Post: Writing Fuel

This post is courtesy of Phyllis A. “Maggie” Duncan, novel and short story author.

If you believe the Facebook memes about the writing life, writers are solitary creatures, shuttered in our writing caves, subsisting on caffeine, and keeping distractions to an utter minimum. To an extent, that’s true, but biological and psychological needs conspire to push us into the non-writing sunshine, where we get inspired to write again.

Maggie book1

Available on Amazon.com

A key aspect of inspiration for me is my participation in two writing groups.

But, you say, going to writing group meetings takes time away from writing, and what possible good are they, anyway?

My answer:  A writing group consists of people who respect each other’s work and who are interested in each member’s success. How do I know this?

I retired six years ago to write for myself rather than Uncle Sam, but, frankly, I would have been content to sit in my office and write only for myself if not for my writers groups.

When I first joined the Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta Group of Writers (SWAG Writers), our meetings were social gatherings only. We met in a bar—of course; we’re writers—and chatted about what kind of writing we did and what we hoped to achieve. Then, a member had a story accepted for a literary journal, and that prompted me and others to try the whole submission thing.

SWAG was the place where I shared the news of my first acceptance of a story for publication, where I could do readings in a comfortable environment and could argue the efficacy of the Oxford Comma.

Along came National Novel Writers Month and the Shenandoah Valley Wrimos, a Facebook group where we encouraged each other and lamented our lagging word counts.

From that group developed the year-round writers group, Shenandoah Valley Writers. We have online short story discussions, writing sprints, and other craft-related fun. Mostly, however, we celebrate each other’s writing. We share each other’s publishing successes and commiserate over rejections. Though our primary interactions are online, we have occasional in-person get-togethers to talk writing and/or eat muffins, along with consuming large amounts of that writer’s fuel, coffee.

From both of these groups I get validation as a writer, I get encouragement, and, well, I have fun with writing. In short, without my writers groups, I wouldn’t have had anything published (including two recent releases, a novella, My Noble Enemy, and a novel in stories, The Better Spy), wouldn’t have won or placed in any contests, wouldn’t have evolved as a writer. I’d still be sitting in my writing cave, writing, revising, rewriting, and being the only person in the world to read my work.

A writing group challenges you, not merely to write, but to write better, to question your own writing toward the end of making it the best it can be. If you don’t have one, find one or make one and watch your writing blossom.

©Phyllis A. Duncan:

Bio:

MaggiePhyllis Anne Duncan is a retired bureaucrat with an overactive imagination–at least that’s what everyone has told her since she first started making up stories in elementary school prompted by her weekly list of spelling words.

A commercial pilot and former FAA safety official, she lives and writes historical thrillers in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. A graduate of Madison College (now James Madison University), she has degrees in history and political science. Her love of politics continues to this day.

Her first print collection of short stories was the 2000 paperback, Rarely Well Behaved, which, in 2012, became two separate, reissued books, Blood Vengeance and Fences. In December 2012, she published Spy Flash, a collection of espionage flash fiction stories. In 2015, a novella, My Noble Enemy, and a novel in stories, The Better Spy, were published.

Other short stories have appeared in eFiction Magazine in 2011 and 2012; in the 2013 Blue Ridge Anthology; and in the 2013 1 x 50 x 100 Anthology, a collection of 100-word flash fiction; in the 2014 Skyline Anthology. A short story, “Marakata,” submitted for WriterHouse’s 5th Anniversary Short Story Contest, won third place. Her short story “Man on Fire” was a finalist in the Press53 AWP Flash Fiction contest and later published in Prime Number Magazine. A short play, “Yo’ Momma,” won the Ampersand Arts Bar Hopping Contest and was staged in April 2014 in Staunton, VA. Her story, “Reset,” will appear in the premiere issue of Ink Ribbon Press in 2015. Two contest winning stories, “Dreamtime” and “Blood and Guts,” will appear in the 2016 edition of Skyline.

Ms. Duncan has studied writing at the Gotham Writers Workshop, Writers.com, and Tinker Mountain Writers Workshop. Her freelance, feature articles on life in the Shenandoah Valley appear occasionally in the Staunton News-Leader. She is a member of WriterHouse, James River Writers, Virginia Writers Club (1st Vice President), Blue Ridge Writers, Shenandoah Valley Writers, SWAG (Staunton/Waynesboro/Augusta Group) Writers, and the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

When not writing, reading, or reviewing books, she takes delight in spoiling her grandchildren.

Websites:

Writing blog: www.unexpectedpaths.com

Author Website: http://phyllisduncan52.wix.com/phyllisaduncanauthor

Social Media:

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Phyllis-Anne-Duncans-Author-Page-136645693053020/timeline/

Twitter: @unspywriter

 

 

Navigating Your Writing Life: Balancing Craft and Business

In August, 2015, the Virginia Writers 



Who is BACCA Literary?

Local writing group BACCA Literary knows from experience: Writers benefit from a small group of similar-minded folk. Yet finding a group that works is a challenge. On August 1st, BACCA Literary will guide Navigating Your Writing Life: Balancing Craft and Business Symposium-goers in a fun and educational, hands-on mixer that will break the ice and start the process of building a writing community.

  Bethany Joy Carlson is a screenwriter and owner of The Artist’s Partner, a business consulting firm for entrepreneurial authors, filmmakers, musicians, and other artists. She is a founding member of BACCA Literary and Vice President of WriterHouse. Her eclectic career includes teaching math at the Renaissance School and casting for film and television with arvold. She is originally from Seattle, WA but has loved calling Charlottesville home since 2010.

 

AM Carley  AM (Anne) Carley has published nonfiction articles on arts, education, technology, and social policy, and is currently writing the fictional story of a Midwestern journalist named Andie Jordan. A founding member of BACCA Literary, Anne is an editor and book developer. Her company, Chenille Books, helps nonfiction authors complete and polish their books, including The Art of the Q, by Charlie Van Hecke, Sassy Salad Secrets by Bobbie Jo Lieberman and Kenny Weber, Making It Up As You Go by Isabel McNeill Carley, Dead, Insane, or in Jail: A CEDU Memoir by Zack Bonnie, and Records to the Rescue! By Christine Ballard.

  Carolyn O’Neal is a passionate environmentalist and a daring storyteller. Her first novel, KINGSLEY, is a creative and intriguing eco-fiction to be published in November 2015. Her short story, SILENT GRACE, won 2nd prize in The Hook’s prestigious 2013 short story contest, judged by bestselling author John Grisham. Carolyn is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and is active in the Oyster Shell Recycling Program. She is a founding member of BACCA Literary. Carolyn was born three blocks from the Chesapeake Bay in Norfolk, VA. She now lives in Charlottesville.

 

C. E. (Claire) Cameron is a writer and educational psychologist. Her academic scholarship examines how children learn and develop. Her fiction and non-fiction further explores how we change throughout life by revealing individual stories of transformation.  Claire E. Cameron will begin a position in Fall 2015 as Associate Professor in the Learning and Instruction department at the University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education. Her primary research examines foundational cognitive skills (e.g., self-control) in early childhood and how teachers can better organize classroom environments for learning. She is also a non-fiction writer who seeks to understand how researchers can effectively communicate, both within academia and to the public. She edited Braver Than You Believe: True Stories of Losing Love and Finding Self (The Last Play, 2013), by Sue Mangum. Claire is a founding member of BACCA Literary.

 

The 2015 Symposium will be held at the Dickinson Fine and Performing Arts Center, Piedmont Virginia Community College, 501 College Drive, Charlottesville, VA 22902  Learn More and Sign Up HERE

 

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  And watch for news about BACCA Literary events at the Jefferson Madison Regional Library!

Creativity within Constraints

Bethany, Anne, and Carolyn.... 3/4th of BACCA Literary. Sadly, Claire couldn't make it this year.

Bethany, Anne, and Carolyn…. 3/4th of BACCA Literary. Sadly, Claire couldn’t make it this year.

What a wonderful way to welcome spring!  “Creativity within Constraints” was the theme of our Publishing Day: Meet (or Create) Your own Writing Group presentation on March 21st… and it was FUN!

After introductions, Anne stepped the audience through a hilarious fill-in-the-blanks word game!

A writer group is a partnership between CARS and MOUSTACHES that is designed to help BEAUTIFUL writers reach his or her PUPPY.

It is a step-by-LOLLIPOP process that creates clarity and PINETREE-filled moments.

Here are some of the mental, emotional, and IRRITATING benefits of writer groups:

  • Discovering your inner OVEN and allowing it to play.
  • Celebrating a transformative MEZZO SOPRANO experience.
  • Learning the art of HYPERVENTILATING.
  • Learning how to change CURIOUS thinking.
  • Learning how to express yourself HALTINGLY.

 

The relationship between a writer and their writer group transforms BUZZARDS and enhances the members’ VOLUMES.

True, it takes a commitment of time, and LEPRECHAUN, and BELLYBUTTON. And the writer group doesn’t always turn into friendship — it turns into something more powerful and AROMATIC.

A writer group is a great way to meet WEASELS and learn more about yourself, your DAY, and your WOODPECKERS.

After the laughter died down, Bethany hosted a mixer where attendees could meet each other and take the first steps to a creating a new writing group.

Writers meeting Writers at the Meet (or Create) Your own Writing Group event

Writers meeting Writers at the Meet (or Create) Your own Writing Group event

We’d handed a questionnaire to each participant at the beginning of the event to help shy writers break the ice  I joined in and met writers from all over the world.

I met new writers tiptoeing  into the writing group process and long-time pros who’d just moved to Charlottesville and wanted to make contacts.

Question asked at the end of the event included

How does an existing writing group select a new member?

Where can I meet other writers?

Bethany telling a writer  where to find other writers

Bethany telling a writer where to find other writers

Anne and Bethany did a bang-up job giving thoughtful and meaningful answers.

The only thing more fun than our 2015 Festival of the Book event was planning it!

The members of BACCA Literary

Carolyn O’Neal, AM Carley, Bethany Joy Carlson, Claire Elizabeth Cameron planning BACCA LIterary’s 2015 VaBook session.

Hope to see you next year at the 2016 Virginia Festival of the Book!

Proofreading and Editing

Like every reader, I’ve come across typos and small continuity errors in novels and short stories, but few created the world-wide uproar as the error found on page 667 of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the First American edition, July 2000.

Voldemort and Harry’s wands had met in battle and the result was Voldemort’s ghostly victims spewing out in the reverse order that he killed them, that is, his last victim coming out of his wand first. When Harry’s parents appeared, his father came out of the wand before his mother.Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

My son was seven years old in the summer of 2000. My husband, my son, and I were reading aloud this fourth book in the beloved Harry Potter series and we immediately realized the mistake. Since it was Lily Potter’s love of her son, Harry, which destroyed Voldemort, she should have come out of Voldemort’s wand before Harry’s father. See http://www.hp-lexicon.org/about/exp-wandorder.html for more details about the wand order problem.

What lessons did I learn?

Primarily, I learned that even one of the bestselling authors of all time makes mistakes! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_fiction_authors).

Secondarily, I learned that writers must utilize many proofreading tools to minimize typos and continuity errors.

Here are a few of my favorite proofreading techniques:

One:  Read what you’ve written and then read it again. And again.  Read it until you can’t find any errors. But don’t submit yet. Your proofing has just begun.

Carolyn at her desk

Carolyn O’Neal. Editing, editing, always editing.

Two: Read it out loud. Hearing your words is like turning on the light in a dim room. Errors shine in the spotlight of the voice. Words should flow off the page. If you stumble as you read your own writing aloud, imagine how it will sound to others.

Three: Record your voice as you read what you’ve written. My favorite way to record my voice is with my I-Pod. Under Extras, I select Voice Memos. I record a piece and listen to it over and over until I catch all the elusive logic and continuity errors.

IPod Shuffle, Nano, Classic, and Touch
IPod Shuffle, Nano, Classic, and Touch

Four: Ask others to read your work. This is when being a member of a great writing group REALLY pays off. Having three or four or five other people read and discuss your work helps you find everything from simple typos to major plot problems. Yes, you can ask your parent or spouse to read your writing, but can they give you objective feedback?  Probably not. For more information on creating a great writing group, go to https://baccaliterary.com/how-to-create-a-writing-group/ the BACCA Literary logo

All of the above works well for small pieces.  Short stories or poems.   But what about novels?   Reading 80,000 words aloud would be exhausting.  The answer:

Five: Text to Voice software. Text to Voice software converts the words you’ve written into a natural sounding voice. This is especially helpful when listening to multiple chapters. I use NaturalReaders. A downloadable free sample of NaturalReaders is available at http://www.naturalreaders.com/download.php.

NaturalReader is a Text to Speech software with natural sounding voices. This easy to use software can convert any written text such as MS Word, Webpage, PDF files, and Emails into spoken words. NaturalReader can also convert any written text into audio files such as MP3 or WAV for your CD player or iPod.

 

 Additional proofreading suggestions

from guest contributor

Constance Renfrow,

courtesy  of DIYMFA

Constance Renfrow

Constance Renfrow is an editor at Three Rooms Press; an editor and publishing consultant at constancerenfrow.com

What to Know Before You Submit Your Novel

 

Check for Dumb Mistakes

It takes the trained eye approximately 0.02 seconds to notice the glaring typo on page one of a submission. And sometimes we editors are so stressed/exhausted/cranky that reading, “The tour-tooted animals” instead of the four-footed ones in the manuscript we’re looking at on our 4 p.m. lunch break is just the dose of hilarity needed to dissolve us into a dripping puddle of laughter-tears.

Read It As An Educated Reader

Now it’s time to read over your manuscript for anything an editor may find problematic enough to make her beg St. Francis de Sales for instant death. Are you making sexist/racist/controversial statements that have absolutely no bearing on the story? Get rid of them. Do you spend an entire chapter claiming your senator eats paint? Prove it with facts or rethink it. Does the book rely on stereotypes? That’s boring. No one wants to be bored and editors have especially short attention spans.

Exterminate all clichés. Even if they’re fairly new to the vernacular, just imagine how many times an acquiring editor sees them. I never want to see a person’s face described as a “mask of” horror/terror/ugliness/anything ever again.

Another thing. Pay attention to how many times you repeat words or phrases. Have you ever said a word so many times in a row that it loses all meaning? That’s what the editor will feel like if you use the phrase “so-and-so snorted” 381 times in a two hundred-page novel. I once had an author who used “shared” instead of “said” every single time, and I still can’t say/hear/read/think the word without wanting to throttle whatever good Samaritan is sharing her fruit platter with the rest of the office.

The Literate Movie Goers Guide

Books into Movies…

Why some movies CAPTURE or IMPROVE the author’s work

While others turn a night at the theater into an expensive nap  zzzzz…

“What Book to Movie translation is your favorite?”

Mike:

Lord of the Rings.  Lord of the Rings PosterThe three Lord of the Rings books were very descriptive and well defined (honestly, sometimes to the point of tedium). This level of description gave Director Peter Jackson ample  material for his creative team at Wingnut Films. The acting, special effects, and the musical accompaniment combined to capture the feel of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Hobbits, Kings, and Wizards. The classic trilogy translated well to the screen.

Don:

The GodfatherThe Godfather Poster.  The Godfather was Mario Puzo’s pulp novel about gangsters. However, in the loving hands of Director Francis Ford Coppola, this dime-store story became a classic film trilogy equal to the great Shakespearean dramas about family and betrayal.  The story of Don Vito Corleone and his corrupt children became a twentieth century King Lear.

With both the Lord of the Rings and The Godfather, the movies increased the fan base and boosted book sales.

But this isn’t always the case….

 

“What Book to Movie translation DIDN’T work?”

Don:

The Book Thief PosterThe Book Thief. The movie had the major plot points but didn’t capture the emotion of the book. Even worse, it didn’t capture the unique voice of the author. So much of The Book Thief is about the author’s writing style, but the movie had none of that. The take home is that words do matter, not just the plot.

Carolyn:

The Book Thief. No novel since To Kill A Mockingbird has captured the lives of young people caught in a tragic world of prejudice and death like Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. Set in Nazi Germany during World War Two, the narrator is Death, and he’s busier than he’s ever been. But Death takes a liking to a young German girl and her adoptive family. A riveting plot, yet there is much more to love about the novel. The author’s unique point of view character allows the reader to experience tragedy and hope on the same page, sometimes, in the same sentence. The movie version of The Book Thief only hinted at the depth of the emotional impact of the book. It never ventured into the stories within the story that provided much of the character development. Hitler and the Holocaust are barely mentioned in the movie, yet they are in every chapter of the book, as if the movie version thought that telling this side of the story would be too much for viewers.

Carolyn:

The Firm.  John Grisham gave readers an exciting tale of moral ambiguity, even among the  heroes.   The movie sanitized the hero and changed the last third of the story, leaving viewers with a hero that didn’t change from the beginning of the movie to the end.   Isn’t that one of the primary caveats of a good story?  That characters change?

Mike:

The Watchmen.  Once again, the movie version sanitized the source material, this time a Hugo Award-winning graphic novel.  The novel was weirder and more political, and had a stronger ethic than the movie.

 

These opinions belong solely to the O’Neal family.  Read the books, watch the movies, and decide for yourselves.   Add more titles in the comments!

 

— Carolyn O’Neal

The 5th Annual Hampton Roads Writers Conference – Day Two

September 18, 2013, Virginia Beach, Virginia

Day Two

To read about Day One, click here!

8:30 am:

Bestselling Author Lisa McMann

Lisa McMann

Lisa McMann, Author

Day Two began with introductory remarks by New York Times bestselling author Lisa McMann.

Lisa is the author of the WAKE Trilogy, the VISIONS series, the UNWANTEDS series, and other books with tween and teen characters. She talked about her road to publishing success. She spoke of the joys of balancing a writing career with her life as a wife and mother.

She also spoke of the abuse she faced after becoming an author, such as bad reviews and hateful “fan” mail.

9:45 am:

The First Ten Lines Critique Session

Conference participants (including me) could submit the first ten lines of their manuscript (anonymously, thank goodness) for professional – and public – critique.  The critiquing panel consisted of the three visiting agents – Ethan Vaughan, Jeff Ourvan, and Dawn Dowdle, as well as author Lisa McMann.

Here are a few pointers about submitting to agents:

  • Number one rule for all agents is  FOLLOW SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. Agents are looking for reasons to say “NO,” and incorrect formatting, misspelling the agent’s name, sending attachment when explicitly told not to send attachments are all reason to instantly reject a query letter and sample.
  • Grammar is important. Hire a proofreader, especially if grammar is your weak point.
  • Avoid clichés.
  • Make sure your verbs carry the emotional weight of the story. Stay away from adjectives and adverbs.
  • Avoid lengthy italics. An overuse of italics in a manuscript looks amateurish and is a symptom of unpreparedness.
  • Vary short and long sentences to create tension for the reader.
  • Don’t quote unknown or obscure books. This pulls the reader out of story.

11:00 am:   

Getting Ready for My Very First Pitch to a Literary Agent (Yippee!)

The Hampton Roads Writers Conference offered the opportunity to meet with one of the three visiting literary agents and present a ten-minute pitch. I jumped at the chance. This would be the first time I’d ever met with a real-live literary agent, and obviously, the first time I’d pitched my manuscript. Yes, I’d written query letters and attended agent roundtables at the Virginia Festival of the Book, but this was my first sit-down, face to face meeting. I was meeting with Ethan Vaughan of Kimberley Cameron & Associates. I had only ten minutes with Mr. Vaughan, beginning at 11:15 am., but I was ready.

. . . Or, at least I thought I was ready before I’d attended Chantelle Osman’s Perfecting Your Pitch session  (See day one.).  According to Ms. Osman, I’d done several things wrong. I’d written my pitch (and even made a copy for the agent.  Talk about being overwritten!)  I’d practiced my pitch until I could recite it in my sleep, and I’d even timed it perfectly. If I didn’t pause, it would take eight of my ten minutes, leaving me two minutes for questions and answers.

Wrong!

Wrong!

Wrong!

Ms. Osman explicitly said that pitches shouldn’t sound rehearsed.  Oh well, too late to change it now.

I arrived at the small conference room on the second floor of the Westin Hotel early. One table, two chairs. Mr. Vaughan wasn’t there yet. No one was there. I was his first pitch of the conference. Was that a good omen or bad? The timekeeper – the man who’d tell me when my ten minutes were up – arrived.  He told me I could take a seat but I declined. I wanted Mr. Vaughan to choose which seat he wanted first, and then I’d take the other. I didn’t want to do anything to make him feel uncomfortable. (I felt uncomfortable enough for the both of us. )

Waiting, waiting - photo of a clockface

Waiting, waiting

I watched the clock. 11:00… 11:05… 11:10. I paced the hallway outside the conference room, practicing my new Tai Chi moves. Part the wild horse mane, white crane spreads its wings, needle at sea bottom. 11:12. . . . 11:13. I could hear people coming down the hallway, talking. 11:14  . . . 11:15. I hurried back to the room, notebook with the copies of my pitch in hand, big smile on my face.

Introductions

I eagerly shook Mr. Vaughan’s hand and told him how impressed I was with his literary agency, Kimberley Cameron & Associates, their book list, and their well-known dedication to their authors. Mr. Vaughan enthused about Ms. Cameron’s devotion to her agents and her clients, which I found both heartwarming and endearing.

photo of Ethan Vaughan

Ethan Vaughan, Literary Agent

I glanced at the clock. Eight minutes left! No time for small talk. I plunged in. I read my pitch as fast as I could. Head down, monotone, my mind blank.  AND I MEAN BLANK!

If you’d asked me at that moment what my book was about – the book that I’ve worked on for years, the book I’ve dedicated my life to, the book I’ve dreamed about, the book I’ve given up being with family for — if you’d asked me at that moment, I couldn’t have told you who the main characters were, let alone the plot. I was as stiff as a robot.

I looked up to take a breath and knew I’d made a mistake. My pitch was too long and too detailed.  I’d given him more of a synopsis than a pitch. Mr. Vaughan was very kind. He asked questions and I tried to answer. I told him this was my first pitch ever and I was very nervous. He says I did a good job (proof that literary agents do indeed tell lies) and gave me a few suggestion for the “next time” I pitched to an agent.

I left knowing I wouldn’t get a contract but proud of myself for giving it a shot. I’d met many writers who were too shy to pitch their stories, or too afraid. I was shy and afraid, too, but I learned something very valuable in the process. Mr. Vaughan was polite, considerate and helpful. He gave me suggestions for the next time I pitch my  story, which was a very generous gift, indeed.

— Carolyn O’Neal

Carolyn O’Neal is a co-founder of BACCA Literary